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There is an anti-negativity movement right now and I am all-in. Books, speakers, our friends, our colleagues are all calling us out on the negative self-talk that we overindulge in on a daily basis. Fighting this negativity is why I renamed this blog years ago. It’s why Brene Brown and Rachel Hollis and Oprah resonate with so many people. We need to hear that this negativity is a lie. And we need to hear it over and over again until we believe it.
But don’t confuse this collective wake-up call for judgement. Because the through-line in all of these women is a powerful and resounding “me too.” Their examples are not a finish line. They are a reminder that the race isn’t over yet, baby. The reason we can listen to them and relate to their stories is because they share them from a been-there-done-that perspective. They aren’t talking down to us. They are sitting down with us.
The truth is, we lie to ourselves. Daily. A lot of the time we are adept at calling these lies out and pushing through to our goals. Other days, we believe them. We believe them so strongly that no husband, no friend, no Brene or Rachel or Oprah can pull us back to the truth. We are tired. We are disappointed. We only have ourselves to blame. Looking at my own blog, I can see this so clearly. Half of my posts are yes! I made it! I figured it out! And the other half are, ugh I’m here again. I thought I was done with this.
Today, if you are believing the lies, this post is for you. It’s for you and it’s for me. Because this is a life cycle and that’s not to say we never improve. But for better or worse we are going to have ups and downs and accepting that as reality is the quickest way to navigate the downs. So onto the real talk.
For the past several months, I’ve been bffs with the lies. The “Andrea sucks #1 fan” if you will. I’ll be 40 this year and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. There is a lot of good in this but also plenty of wow, I can’t believe you’re still doing this moments.
You see, in November, this blog will be 15 years old. To be fair, it started as a journal for myself and a small group of friends in college to swap silly quizzes and show off our coding skills by doing things like embedding actual images and some of the first gifs ever. Yes, I’m old. But I love that I was there for this.
When I planned my wedding in 2007 and later got pregnant in 2008, I realized that people were actually making money from blogging. My mom (god bless moms) read The Pioneer Woman and said, she reminds me so much of you! You could totally do that. And while I was like woah there that’s ambitious on the outside, I was nodding my head in agreement on the inside. She’s right, I thought. I can totally do that.
I kept writing with no real direction for another year or so, telling stories about our gardening efforts or my first 5k race. When I had Oscar, it opened up an entirely new frontier for me; mom-blogging. The harvest was ripe and I was building a real brand. I had goals and attended conferences. I made some money and got jobs. I had another child.
But after a few years I decided if I was to keep going, I really needed a steady income. I got a part-time job and it turned into a full-time job. I still had the blog but it didn’t grow. I got fewer opportunities. Other newer, younger bloggers started having babies and lapping me two and three times over. The lies began.
I was a has-been. Or worse, a never-been. Or a wannabe.
Somewhere along the line, I decided to tell myself that because I still hadn’t figured out how to make a living ON or through my blog, I had failed. There was no gray area. It didn’t matter that my blog got me a book deal or that my actual full-time job came about because of my writing right here in this space. Or that I was still connecting with brands and other bloggers at awesome conferences. It didn’t matter that I was getting comped trips because they didn’t come with a paycheck.
I knew that I had failed because I wasn’t “crushing it” on SEO or gaining page views or seeing as much engagement on my social platforms like so many of my peers. I felt invisible. I felt silly for wanting this dream. The comparison was killing me. And some days, it still does. These are the lies. And I believe them at least half of the time.
A year ago, I purchased my ticket for what would be my 5th Mom2.0 Summit. It’s my favorite blogging conference and I always attend with my closest blogging buds. This was the 10-year anniversary and we decided that while this might be the last conference for a while, we didn’t want to miss it.
I declared my goal for this week would be to decide if I am going to walk away from professional blogging or keep chugging. At this point, it was less chugging and more slogging. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I would try new things and see a little growth only to have it disappear weeks later. No progress would stick despite my efforts or my pins or my comment pods. Fail fail fail.
I was ripe for this conference.
Little did I know (because I didn’t even look at the schedule until I arrived) that the sessions were things like, Work Smarter Not Harder, How to Be a Successful Working Mother, How to Squash Overwhelm, Slay Like a Mother, or Silencing Your Inner Critic & Overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
I listened to nearly the entire Brene Brown book, Braving the Wilderness (I highly recommend the audio version) on my flight to LA and knew I was wide open and raw. My goals were no longer to make connections. I knew this time would be a 72 hour therapy session and I was 100% right.
I knew it when I broke into tears with 3 bloggers I admire immensely (thank you again Brandi, Amiyrah & Tabitha) and then felt horrified for the next 12 hours as I processed my meltdown. I knew it the next day when in Brene’s keynote, she said, vulnerability is the only thing that leads us back to each other.
I shared this on my Insta stories and then deleted it an hour later.
What I had been feeling all of these months was a loss of belonging. It was shame, yes but more than that I felt disconnected. Speaking some things out loud hurt. I didn’t like the way I sounded. I didn’t feel strong. I was embarrassed. Yet, coming home I know that whatever happens with my best laid plans, I’m real. I’m facing my fears and I am imperfect and at the end of the day I can be proud of the fact that I didn’t hide my true self. That means something. It truly does.
The truth I am learning is that sometimes, we are meant to sit in an uncomfortable place. Naturally, our fight or flight instinct tries to take over. This is when we quit or jump into hours of meaningless tasks just so we can say, hey man I tried. But all that does is exhaust us. It’s honestly soul-crushing. Sitting with a problem sounds like a cop-out but it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am a fixer. I troubleshoot until I solve. I am hard-wired for it. But sitting? Marinating? This is not a skill that comes naturally to me at all. And that is why it will bring the most change to my one and only life.
I can achieve like nobody’s business. When I have a goal and truly go after it, watch out. I graduated high-school at the age of 16 because all my friends were a year older than me and I didn’t want to be left behind. I left a marriage I should never have been in and started a new life in NC. I worked full-time for 2 years while taking community college courses at night so I could transfer into a full-time program at NC State. I studied in Peru for 6 weeks where I hiked 26 miles to and then climbed Machu Picchu. I graduated with a BA in International Affairs and minor in Spanish. I had job interviews in New York City and fully planned to move there the summer after graduation. I listened to my intuition at the last minute and stayed in Raleigh. Two weeks later, I met the man who would become my husband.
I bought a house as a single woman. I got married and together we paid off our cars, our credit card debt and my student loans. I had two children. I survived a traumatic birth experience that ended with a uterine and bladder rupture surgery but also a healthy baby boy. I wrote a book with a national publisher. I have run four half-marathons. I was selected out of thousands of applicants to serve on the Disney Parks Moms Panel. My work has appeared on Foxnews.com, twice. I built a career I can do from home while caring for my boys and still make it to baseball practice and have mostly healthy dinners on the table each night.
And for all that, what does my brain say? It says, well yeah but that was yesterday. What are you going to do today? What about tomorrow? Or did you plan to get fat again and give up completely? Not ready to answer? I’ll wait.
And this is the epiphany. It’s not all of those things that make me belong. Those things are not the connectors. Were they (mostly) wonderful experiences with amazing life lessons? Of course. But they don’t fulfill me. Obviously or I totally would have stopped after that first half-marathon.
It’s not a race to the finish. There is no finish line. Life is a daily push and pull and it is a daily decision to decide who we will believe. When I am believing truth over lies it’s because I am committed to calling out the lies the moment I hear them. It’s hard to do. It’s easier to believe them. Think about that y’all. It’s EASIER to feel bad. Yet, when we feel good, life feels easier. But feeling good takes work. It takes stamina and it takes a village. I am here for it.
If you need a village, please join me. Lord knows, I need all the help I can get. And on those days when the lies seem so true, I will be here to say girl, no. Let’s do the hard thing together.
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