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About ten years ago, I was sitting on the porch of my brand new house with my now husband (then really close friend) having one of our late night chats. I remember crying uncontrollably and saying, “I look like I have it all, why do I feel so crappy?” At the time I was working a great job making decent money. I had just bought a house in a nice neighborhood, had recently bought a new car, and had even lost those pesky 30lbs that tend to haunt me. I was doing ‘good’ from the outside, anyway. But inside I was exhausted and anxious all the time. Always looking for the ‘next thing’. Always thinking if I went to the ‘cool’ event, hung out with the ‘fun’ people had the ‘right’ job then I would be happy. I was basically running from event to event and I just felt crappy. I may have looked like a 30 year old who had her ‘&*%’ together but in reality I was a mess. I was a chameleon trying to fit in with everyone else and be what I thought they wanted me to be.
I felt like I had video cameras in my house and that some day I would be found out that I wasn’t a hip, popular extrovert who had everything together. In reality, I was a quiet, introverted, who was filled with anxiety and wasn’t doing anything ‘right’. I had bought the idea that if I do what everyone tells me to do and check off all the ‘right’ tasks THEN I would be happy.
Eventually after a couple of panic attacks and a few too many crying jags I decided to seek help. Fortunately, I found an amazing therapist who helped me figure out what I wanted for my life and how to stop living for everyone else. I realized that no matter how many items I checked off the list I would always be searching for the next item. I needed to stop running and start looking at my face in the mirror. My lovely, anxiety ridden face and learn how to love and appreciate it. I learned to implement daily practices to diminish my anxiety and get off the ‘to do’ list train.
We are told from a young age to check off the boxes:
- Go to College
- Get a Job
- Move up in said job and make good money
- Get Married
- Buy a nice house
- Buy a snazzy car
- Have a child
- Be a good parent
- Have another child
- Buy a bigger house
- Have lots of friends
No one tells us:
- The check marks never end–we can be checking things off the ‘should’ list for the rest of our lives
- That all those check marks while great, meaningful and worthwhile aren’t always enough.
Here’s the truth:
It is ok that you have checked everything off the list and that you still feel crappy. It is ok that you are tired of living by the list. Because once you admit that you feel crappy, change can occur. Once you admit that ‘wait a minute I did everything ‘they’ told me to do and I am still searching’. You can start searching internally. You can take all that great stuff you have accomplished and add to it. You don’t have to live your life as a chameleon. You can stop the feeling of being ‘found out’ and start embracing who you really are.
Life does not have to feel crappy. Anxiety does not have to rule your life. Life can look beautiful inside and out.
I would love to hear from you: How have you struggled with being a chameleon in your life? What boxes were you told to check?