Two Years of Losing Myself
Two years ago I felt on top of my game. I felt empowered and strong. I was doing speaking engagements to inspire other women to follow their dreams of being business owners and entrepreneurs. Now, I feel defeated and deflated and I operate my business on a week-to-week basis never really knowing just how many hours I’ll be able to dedicate to working what was once a fulltime+ job.
I haven’t said much because I know everyone is living with their own hard situation. In some ways there’s comfort in knowing we are all in this together and in other ways it becomes impossibly hard to find support when your entire support system is also dealing with their own pile of shit. I didn’t want to complain when others have it worse. But the reality is that whatever your situation is right now, there’s a good chance it’s pretty effing hard and you have every right to feel it and express it.
For me, the person I was just a few years ago is starting to feel like a distant memory. Someone I knew but haven’t seen in a while (much like every other person in my life). Someone that looks like me but certainly doesn’t feel like me. It’s as if she and I ate a magical fortune cookie that had us swap lives, Freaky Friday style. Except in this case, we can’t switch back because that restaurant has since had to shut its doors due to all the closures. Well, shit.
What once was drive and ambition has been replaced with drawn-out survival mode. Rather than focusing on business strategy, I’ve been focused on juggling kids and online schooling and a business and a household and none of it is going well. I feel like over the past couple of years, women especially have been asked to step up and do the impossible and not complain about it because how dare we complain about spending time with our children. After all, shouldn’t family be enough? I love my children and they are responsible for a great deal of joy in my life but no, it’s not enough for me. Yes, I’m a mother but I’m also a wife and a friend and a business owner and a creative spirit. ALL of those things combined fulfil me. All of those things give me my true identity which includes ‘mom’ but is not limited to. When you strip those other things away, it doesn’t give me more time and energy to be a more amazing mom, it breaks me. Period.
Usually, this is the point of a post where I’d try to offer a solution and help reinforce that it will all be ok. I tried to do that and was at a standstill for some time. I don’t know what the solution is and I can’t tell you when and how it’ll be ok. I’ve talked to enough women to know that this isn’t just a me feeling, it’s an us feeling. There are times where I seriously wonder if this is just the way life will be now. Sometime I wonder if I should just pack up the ambition and goals I had for myself into a neat little pile and put them in the back of my closet, along with the clothes that still have tags on them because I have nowhere to wear them, but I can’t let my mind stay in that place for too long. Instead, I try to rally the grit that I’ve relied on for so long but I’m just so damn tired of being gritty, and I’m just so damn tired.
While this isn’t some kind of magic solution, there are two things I know with certainty. The first is that there are many of us feeling this way. The number of messages and comments I have received solidifies that there is large group of women who have lost their way who perhaps would have otherwise been moving mountains over the past couple of years. The second thing I know is that we need to talk about it. For so long, I felt that this was just what I needed to do and if I complained or felt angry about it, it made me a bad mom. But the longer we keep those feelings inside, the faster we will disconnect from the person we used to be. I’m not going to say these are things that ‘work’ for me as it’s clear by the tone of this post that life is still a struggle right now, but I wanted to share things I have found to improve my mental health when things feel especially challenging.
- Be realistic with what you can achieve. Right now I’m at home with both kids also trying to navigate online school. I’ve had to remind myself that it is unrealistic to maintain even close to my same level of productivity. Of course, not everyone is in the same position with how their work is structured but I try to schedule actual work time in the day. By defining those times (even though they seem few and far between) I find that I’m less frustrated throughout the day and I can enjoy the time with my kids more.
- Find small ways to fuel your passion. Don’t lose sight of those things that make you feel whole and find small ways to hold on to them. Perhaps you can’t do them in full right now but that’s ok. Maybe it’s physical activity, or sneaking away to read a book before bed. For me, it’s been finding ways to be creative with the business. After a very serious year, it’s felt amazing expressing humour and creativity on social media more. The point is that a little self-love goes a long way right now and you deserve at least that.
- This too shall pass. I know that sounds like such a copout and we have been telling ourselves this for almost two years. But it will pass. I don’t think we can expect life to go back to exactly how it was before but I do believe we will (soon) start to make our way back to some kind of normalcy. If you’re anything like me, you hate being told to wait. When I have ideas, I want to act on them instantly. Hold on to those ideas and goals. Write them down. Don’t lose sight of them. They’re not going anywhere and will be right there waiting for you.
- Stay connected to your people. Right now is when we need our friends and our support networks the most and yet we are also all so busy and tired and maxed out that it can be easy to cut off from those we care about either because we don’t want to bother them or just because we ourselves are tapped out. Stay connected however you can. Don’t be afraid to vocalize your struggles even if you feel like they may not understand or they may be dealing with something ‘worse’. Stay connected.
- Create a schedule or a routine. This is easier said than done when we are continuously pivoting and working alongside whatever the current restrictions are but it helps. For a long time, I felt like settling into a routine was useless. It either felt like giving up and accepting life as it currently is as opposed to what I wanted it to be, or it felt pointless because things would just change again. But the things is – this is life as it is. So even if that routine has to change in a couple weeks, it will bring you some benefit now.
- Give yourself permission to say ‘this sucks’. Because it does.
If you’ve made it this far it’s hopefully because some, if not all, of this resonated with you. If that’s the case, don’t be a stranger. I see you and I’m here if you need to talk to someone. And if you read this and wondered “jeez, is Elizabeth ok?”. The answer is yes, I’m ok. But ok is not the gold standard I set for myself. I want to be excellent again. And I will be. We all will be… right?