03.04.13

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

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.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

dominique March 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

this whole post is probably too long to tattoo on my arm, and that’s the only thing wrong with it.

i have many many Feelings on the internet and sparkly illusions that people create and i would like to thank you (again) for dispelling them and proving that we are all people who operate in PRETTY much the same ways and shattering that fourth wall that seems to exist between success/good shit and real life. does that make sense? i hope so.

in any case – remember to sit in your pillow fort if you need to and breathe deeply and believe that what you produce will be amazing, because it is, duh, and that if something is 98% amazing that is still really fucking good and you’ll probably learn something valuable from the measly 2% that isn’t.

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sarah February 18, 2014 at 6:13 am

lol youre gonna get a random email for this one comment but i gotta say it… tattoo it on your back. c:

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Cassie March 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Ah, yes. Thank you very much for justifying all of my crazy. It’s nice to know there’s someone out there with a pillow fort who’s willing to share.

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Terri March 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Soooooooooooo me today. And you’re right…no one is THAT okay all the time (unless maybe they’re heavily medicated…and then that’s a whole different kind of “okay”).

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Sydney Williams March 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Couldn’t have said it better myself. And you know what’s awesome, pretty friend? Knowing that we all feel the jealousies of our awesome friends doing insane ballsy shit all the time, and knowing that they very well may feel the same thing sometimes, and that behind all of us is the fear, anxiety, and life-crippling wondering about our future and our current path.

I just busted out of a good few weeks of being completely convinced that every decision I’ve made as of late was the wrong one (with the exception of marrying B, because duh, that’s a brilliant move on my part). And reading this confirms that the blanket fort dwelling is part of the process of going after shit that really matters.

So, you know, thank you.

One of your messiest,
S

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Jena March 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Yeah, I pretty much love this post with every fiber of my everloving heart!

You know what I’m feeling, when I’m feeling it. DO YOU READ MY FREAKING MIND?

Because if you do, I love that. Thank you.

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Sarah Elizabeth Dittmann March 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Loved this post. The great thing about this pregnancy is that it gives me total justification to have as many meltdowns as I want. The terrible thing is that it forces me to have way more meltdowns than I want. If this pregnancy ever ends (which I am beginning to doubt will happen, hence some of the meltdowns), I think I am going to adopt a More Meltdowns More Often policy, because you are right. It’s totally OK to not be OK.

(I also feel it appropriate to mention here that, while going through my pregnancy-induced mania of throwing everything out, I kept a bunch of old blankets for the sole purpose that they will make FANTASTIC fort supplies.)

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Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} March 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Yep, this post is pretty much the freaking BEST! It sums up so much of how I feel a lot of the time, the constant need to be perfect or the best, always! Then I feel like shit when I don’t live up to my own expectations. Vicious circle.

I too am trying to sub-2 hour a half marathon, this Sunday, eek!

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Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} March 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I got a reply in my email from you but looks like it’s not on the blog?!?! Anywho, it’s the final race in the local YMCA Polar Bear Series. You can read my race recaps from the previous Polar Bear races here:
http://herbivoretriathlete.com/category/polar-bear-series/

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Kelsey @ Pinegate Road March 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm

This. Is. Golden. I have a phone call every so often with my best friend, and we basically go over everything that you’ve said above—without the resolutions and feeling like we’re the only ones in this boat (so silly). I’m sending her this post right now, thanks for your candid response to this! Like many of us I’m trying to juggle one too many things, and this definitely made me feel a lot better about moving forward on a possibly not-so-perfect foot, and that’s ok :)

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Sid March 4, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Good luck with the half-marathon. I’m rooting for you.
So sorry about your dad, your aunt and all the crappy things happening to your loved ones.

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Stacy Lynn March 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Not only is it extremely comforting to read this and know at least one other person has felt the way I do no, but it’s nice to see all the comments and know MANY people are going/have gone through this. I feel like I’m having a heavy quarter-life crisis. At the moment trying to make a “plan” seems like a joke because they are constantly changing, which is something I’m not used to and I am having a hard time with the uncertainty. * deep breath *

So, this helps. Thank you. I’ll be putting the quote “it’s okay to not be okay” on my wall to look out when I start freaking out. :)

<3

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Therese March 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

“… 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..”

OH GOD I WAKE UP WITH THIS ALL THE TIME!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for helping me know & realize that HOLY SHIT it’s TOTALLY NORMAL!

Sending love your way (because I totally love you),

Therese xo

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Jo-Anne March 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

If I could show you me clapping I would but I can’t so I shaln’t just saying……..
However you rock and roll and not just down a hill………sorry don’t know where that came from………lol Ok we are all not ok all the time well I know I am not but I am a happy person and love my life and my family most of the time and that is enough isn’t it………………..don’t say it’s not ok because then I will run to my room and cry………….ok Jo-Anne you are not Leo so maybe you wouldn’t run and cry but I would be upset and yes I a know I am rambling now so I am leaving now………..backing out of the room………..hoping I am not being stared at………….

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Lauren Michelle March 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I need to remind myself this every time I go to work and end up having a crummy day. I’ve been really hard on myself lately about not being able to find a good job and not getting any responses from jobs I’ve applied to. I must take it personally, because I end up feeling all the regrets and failures and anxiety. You want to know what actually made me feel better today? I went to Target and bought a pretty little clipboard with blue notepad paper and colorful ballpoint pens. I also redid my sticky note labels in pink and green JUST to try to bring some vivacity to my life.

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Peach March 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

Yes, yes and YES. Appreciate the humorous and honest reminder that it’s okay to embrace one’s hot mess-ness and have those godawful emotional benders and hangovers…and we’re still okay. Good luck to you on your half. I’m running my first half very soon, but with zero expectation other than finishing. I know you’ll smash it!

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Valorie March 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

UGH I totally hear you right now. My grandmother just passed away (sad) but she’s not suffering anymore (relief), my job is entering our busy season (stress), I’m launching a new blog (soon hopefully)(excitement) but if it sucks that would suck (anxiety), and I’m planning a big move for later this fall (excitement)(fear)(excitement). ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Try to relax a little this weekend. :)

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Stefanie Grace March 8, 2013 at 9:54 am

Ahhh YES! This is exactly what is going on in my life right now and I CAN NOT DEAL! all the emotions. What a fabulous way of putting this.

Have a great weekend! :)

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Emily Jane March 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

I SO needed to read this today. I’m in the same kind of boat. And I *actually* make pillow forts – I think we need to crawl into one ASAP. Thanks for posting this.

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Heather March 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I can hole up in your pillow fort with you? I’m fighting through some major self doubt right now (anxiety, depression, all the sads), but I have this feeling that something big is going to happen soon (anxiety, wonder). I feel like I’m growing but am unsure in which direction I’m going. I’m learning new choreography and trying to become a better dancer (excitement, determination). Yup, all the emotions.

Take time to relax. Thank you for letting us know its okay to not be okay.

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Roxanne March 9, 2013 at 10:37 am

Thank you for being in an emotional rollercoaster too (I thought I’m the only one)… I feel so much better now than 15 minutes ago. :)

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Pure Power Panda March 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I just LOVED this post! “Emotional hangover” should be in the dictionary….

I know this is a different topic, but maybe helpful to some of you: I wrote a blog post today about 10 ways to build self-confidence.

Come over and check it out: PurePowerPanda.blogspot.com

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Allison March 13, 2013 at 6:46 am

Oh my. Jess pointed to this on her blog today and I have to say – perfect freaking timing!

I set a goal of running a 2 hour 1/2 marathon in May. I’m freaking out if I can or can’t do it because 1) I’ve never officially trained, 2) I tend to stress about the fact that I set the goal I now have to reach, 3) If I don’t reach it, I’m a loser, 4) it’s CLEVELAND and 25 degrees out. Who wants to run outside in that shit?

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erin @WELLinLA March 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Add to the list … asking people to stop saying “things are so crazy in my life right now”. It’s life – when ISN’T it busy or abnormal or filled with 30 things coming at you at once.

Maybe life isn’t crazy if you’re sitting in some igloo in the North Pole completely isolated from the rest of the world. Otherwise you’re here and dealing with the crazy, the emotions and the sometimes blissfully mundane every day of your life. Live it, feel it and be compassionate for others. ‘Cuz that’s all we have.

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