If you had asked me about myself before my transformative journey through invasive breast cancer and divorce, I would have described myself as a working wife and mother, a homeowner, a workday commuter and possibly tired. What I would not have confessed to is what a failure I felt like at every aspect of my life at the time. I never felt good enough. I believed that I had missed the mark on all the attributes I believed a modern, “successful” woman was supposed to emulate. In my mind, these were having a happy marriage, owning a beautiful house, being a wonderful, devoted mother to her children, rocking an amazing body, enjoying a great sex life, experiencing a dynamic career and, oh yes, traveling to fun places all over the world. Not too tall an order, right? My life resembled nothing of the kind. In game show terms, instead of winning the vacation to Hawaii, I got the year’s supply of laundry detergent. Yet you would not know this, because I kept my game face on to appear happy and content.
In place of all these wonderful things I wanted for my life, I had accepted verbal abuse in my marriage because, deep down, I believed at the time, that this union was the best I could do. I honestly thought nobody else would want me, which sounds crazy to me now, but those were my unconscious sentiments. I worked in a job as an administrative assistant yet knew I was capable of more and wanted more, but the same low self-esteem and doubt prevented me from going for more. Who was I to think I was as marvelous and dynamic as the people I worked for? As for my body, I felt a continual disappoint in it as I compared myself to the media ideals, as well as to other women. My salary as an admin managed to pay the mortgage on an old home in a good town, but exotic vacations didn’t make the cut. As a mother, I was deeply grateful and treasured my time with my little son, but longed to have even more time with him rather than being away at work for 10 hours in a job that did not fulfill me. I often lamented that I was relying on others to raise him, while I could only give peripheral input.
Through my current work as a speaker and a life coach, I have met so many women who confess the same frustrations and self-doubt. From what I can tell, “Not Good Enough” Syndrome (my term for this) seems quite pervasive and affects the most beautiful, heart-centered people around. The pleasers, especially. One book that recently opened my eyes to what a common experience feeling “not good enough” is for so many, is Amy Cuddy’s book Presence (Little, Brown and Company; First Edition (December 22, 2015) . In it, she recounts research she conducted where people confess to feeling like a fraud. As in, “if you really knew me, you’d know I wasn’t equipped or qualified to do what I’m doing!” She refers to this as “impostorism.” Before learning that most people feel this way, I thought this was just my dirty little secret. It was truly comforting and eye-opening to learn that so many of us feel this way. What has also come out of this revelation for me is a much larger degree of compassion for myself and others.
I didn’t realize until all hell broke loose that I had been drinking the media Kool Aid. Nobody has it all together at the same time, despite what the magazine articles and images tell us about “having it all.” I came to learn that “having it all” is much more self-defined. That feeling of peace and comfort in one’s own skin is truly beautiful. The ability to feel gratitude at the simple things, the beautiful things, at feeling real love for myself, and therefore, real love for others, no matter what the battle we may be fighting on the inside, is a big win.
Did I come out of cancer treatment and divorce with revelations dropping at my feet? Heck, no! These two events were certainly the catalysts to set me on the path to transformation, but it has taken further study, wonderful coaches, brave thinking and action; some by my own hand and some by the hand of others or outside events, but all in alignment with my beliefs and intentions. My journey continues to inform me and enhances my work as a life coach, because I know it is truly possible to turn one’s life around and create success on our own terms. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is so worth it! My wish for you is to set yourself free from negative self-judgment and take the steps necessary to experience true freedom through authentic living!