What’s the deal with our weird cultural obsession of always telling people how “fine” we are? “I’m fine!” “Everything’s fine!” Because guess what? Sometimes shit isn’t fine. Sometimes you’re stressed out and overwhelmed and filled with self-doubt to the point where you’re absolutely positive that the best course of action is to quietly set your life down, back away slowly, and go into hiding in a pillow fort until all that fine-ness leaves you the mother fuck alone.
Are you with me?
Right. So let’s take a quick second and dispel a few happiness myths, okay? Being happy doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time. Pursuing things you’re passionate about doesn’t mean you’re passionate about them all the time. Loving your job and your family and your friends and your city and your cat doesn’t mean you love everything about all of them all the time. AND THAT’S OKAY.
Sometimes the things we love stress us out. Sometimes the sheer force with which we want to accomplish our goals leaves us pacing in circles half the night while desperately trying to figure out the best next step. And sometimes we have to take fourteen steps backward before we’re able to get enough perspective to shift even one tiny step forward. AND THAT’S OKAY.
So, listen, here’s what’s going on with me right now: I have an emotional hangover. In short, too many things I desperately care about are happening at the exact same time, and, because I’m human, I’m able to feel multiple emotions at once, which can be unbelievably draining. That’s happened to you, right? You’re simultaneously really excited about something while being really anxious about how it’ll turn out and fearful of how people will respond, and so much more – all at the same time?
Here’s an example: Jamie and Ash and I launched Brandgasm 101 today, a ridiculously fun, easy, and entry-level DIY design & copywriting course that I fully believe will be the game-changing missing link for hundreds of businesses and bloggers in 2013. So, it’s obvious to see why I’m excited about it. And that’s usually all people say about launching new things – how excited they are because ohmygosh isn’t everything amazing all the time forever?? Uh, no. Because here’s the secret underbelly of excitement: at the same time, you’re also feeling other emotions – anxiety about doing something that’s never been done before, pride about being part of such an amazing team, fear that some detail has been overlooked, pressure to deliver an unbelievable amount of value (even when you know you will), and more – right alongside that happy-dance of excitement. But, people don’t talk about that, do they? Because somewhere along the way we decided that in order to be successful, you have to appear fearless and completely in control, even though I’ve never met a single honest person who feels this way all the time. We’re human! We can experience a whole tornado of different emotions simultaneously, and even if the strongest emotion is a positive one, it doesn’t mean it’s all positive, all the time. AND THAT’S OKAY.
Same goes for everything else in my life right now. I just wrapped Bloggers in Sin City registration (anticipation! joy! pressure to make the last one the best one!), my mom’s dear friend died last week (sadness, wanting to be there for her), my aunt just had open-heart surgery (fear), my dad is undergoing physical therapy that might lead to surgery (concern), I just ran my highest mileage week ever (exhaustion, relief), and there are only 12 days left until I attempt to break 2-hours in the half marathon (!!!!) and I just, I HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS, YOU GUYS.
Like I said, it’s an emotional hangover.
And just like the fact that a real hangover is often the side effect of drinking too much alcohol, an emotional hangover is often the side effect of going all-in with your goals. Drink a lot of alcohol, and you’ll wake up with a splitting headache, raging nausea, a spotty memory, and the desire to pull the blankets over your head forever. Similarly, if you work hard enough at something you really care about, one day you’ll wake up with debilitating fear that you’re on the wrong path, intense anxiety that you aren’t good enough, a fuzzy memory of why in the fucking fuck you’re doing what you’re doing, and an equally strong desire to pull those same blankets over your head from now until forever.
Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. Maybe you’re experiencing it right now. If so, I have a damn good pillow fort you can borrow – and we can hole up in there together and wail about the fact that even when most of what we’re feeling is great, emotional hangovers are real and they totally suck.
But, unlike real hangovers, at least the emotional kind usually means you’re on the right path. In my experience, the closer I get to my goals and the more I truly want something, the stronger the emotional hangovers become – which brings us back to today, to the fact that at 5am on a Morning morning I was sitting at my dining room table, in the dark, feeling a paralyzing number of different emotions at once, eyeing my to-do list as if it were a poisonous snake, soaking my blistered feet in a bowl filled with Epsom salt water and hydrogen peroxide, trying to visualize what it would feel like to run a sub 2-hour half marathon, and reminding myself that it’s okay to not be okay all the freaking time.
It’s okay to not be okay all the time.
And here’s the funny thing: once you accept that it’s okay to not be okay, suddenly you feel SO MUCH BETTER. The haze clears, you cut yourself some much deserved slack, and you’re finally able to drop-kick that perfectionism nymph who’s been calling your name and whispering that everything needs to be perfect if you don’t want to fail. Because guess what? She’s an asshole. And guess what else? She’s wrong.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Fear isn’t the opposite of success – it’s a necessary counterpart – and you can’t have one without the other. The key isn’t to pretend we’re “fine” and it isn’t to try to be perfect and it isn’t to ignore the fear and anxiety and overwhelm that hits as we’re going after our dreams. No, I’m pretty sure the key is to give ourselves permission to be fucking messy and human and filled with feelings and not okay all the time, even when things are mostly great, and to just keep going and keep doing the best we can, fear and all, one day at an effing time.