Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.

 

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Guest Post: What If One Question Could Change Your Life?

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Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash


What If One Question Could Change Your Life?

The simplest definition of courage is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one.’ As children, we are naturally fearless. We see the world as it is, we ask for exactly what we want (whether with words or not), and we are unapologetic as we ask questions to learn. Yet as we grow older, society begins to slow down this fearlessness. We worry about what people think, we learn that not all questions have fair or just answers, and we perceive more consequences for failures. All of this leads to making it more and more difficult to be courageous.

As a leadership facilitator and coach, I talk about failure a lot. One of my favorite sessions to lead is on the topic, and requires people to consider and share their failures—without speaking about the solution. It is deeply uncomfortable and requires immense vulnerability, yet it breeds courage in a deeply intense way. Most people are great at dreaming about what their life could look like—we create vision boards, set New Year resolutions, and make three-year goals. Yet, when it comes down to it, we become afraid and frozen. What if I fail? What if my goals are too lofty? What if I’m not good enough? The definition of fear includes an incredibly important—and limiting—word in it: belief. Fear is an “unpleasant emotion caused by the belief” that something is dangerous, a threat, will cause pain, etc. So when you get stuck in fear, or feel like there is no way you can create the life you want, ask yourself one question.

What’s Stopping You?

It is a simple question, right? Yet so often we read self-help books or articles on personal growth, but we never actually do what they say to do. So if there is ONE question that can significantly help you push past your comfort zone and find courage to achieve your goals and dreams, ask yourself this one. What is stopping you? Write down your answer, say it out loud in the mirror, or ask a friend (or better yet—a coach) to ask you. Asking it once will not be enough—you might need to ask it over and over again, at every step of the process. Yet when you do, you will find that what you think is stopping you is most often a belief, perception, or fear. And by calling it out, you just might find that it is much easier to find the courage to push past it.

For me, I had a lot of fear when it came writing. I work in philanthropy, I coach and train great business leaders, and I have a deep desire to support others as they find their purpose and the unique impact they can make—but am I a writer? So a few years ago, I asked myself—what’s stopping me? For me, it was the fear that I wasn’t good enough, that people would criticize what I had to say, and that I wouldn’t have enough good ideas. Those limiting beliefs were stopping me, so I didn’t write. When I finally found the courage to apply to become a Forbes contributor—and got it—I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. And when I wrote my first article, the very first comment on a tweet I got was “crap article”. I actually laughed out loud—someone had criticized my work—and it didn’t feel so bad! I had been so preoccupied with getting negative comments, that I realized that actually getting them was not so bad. I then focused on the thousands of other people who enjoyed what I wrote, and hopefully found it useful. I continue to cultivate the courage by embracing the times that I don’t get an article published, or receive a critique—because at least I’m doing it, and I’ll continue to get better.

Get Started Now

It’s time to get started. Making a change in your life, finding courage, going after that goal—is a choice. Decide what you want, ask what is stopping for you, and consider whether it is a real or perceived barrier. Most likely, you’ll find that it’s a fear—so muster up the courage, because you will truly never know if you don’t try. The worst thing that will happen is you fail, learn, and either pivot or try again. Courage can be cultivated with practice, so the more you do things that frighten you, the more your life will open up and present limitless opportunities.

Kate Hayes
Kate Hayes is the director of Direct Impact at Echoing Green and is an independent leadership coach through Impact & Bliss. At Echoing Green, she oversees programming for business leaders who are dedicated to realizing their full potential as agents of social change. She leads retreats, workshops, and immersive site visits focused on leadership development, purpose, strategic governance, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship. In her coaching work, she focuses on helping professionals accelerate their career and their life, while understanding how to make a meaningful impact on the world. Kate is a contributor at Forbes, where she writes millennials and their careers. For more, check out www.impactandbliss.com.

What Life Should Be Like

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I’m back post-holiday to return to my blogging roots–talking about some serious business. *Queue Serious Music* I took a little break to get into the holiday spirit with my gift guide and to support a group of incredible female entrepreneurs. But now… it’s back to business as usual.

Today I’m talking about shoulds, how they haunt me.

Sometimes (seriously, sometimes) I can come off as pretty collected and calm. But that’s after many years of learning to be that way. By nature I am a worrier. When I was 12 I stopped sleeping at night, plagued by insomnia and anxiety by my very *complicated* life. I was sick over old things and worried for new things and was very tightly wound. My memory of that year, and even the next couple after that, is of lying in bed every night, wide awake and troubled.

I’ve come a long way since those days. I am often able to sleep through the night and have been doing that for years. But lately, I find myself falling into old patterns. Waking in the night to start worrying and overthinking. Spiraling knowing very well I shouldn’t be. It’s odd to find myself here 18 years later.

The cause of it all, of course, is the shoulds of my life. I am straight up shoulding myself. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 this month or it’s because my life keeps butting up against serious life moments (for not just me, but my friends and family around me too) and it is causing me to look at my life and start making choices for my future in a new and terrifying way.

When I was younger all I wanted was focus and security, even though my nature is (again) the opposite of this. I crave new things, excitement, and change. To counter that I made highly secure choices and this, unlike my efforts to calm myself, has backfired into making me feel caged in and to put it bluntly, kind of a big fat failure. I keep telling myself that I SHOULD be doing X,Y,Z or that I SHOULD HAVE done X,Y,Z when I had the chance. On the surface I guess this looks a little like a midlife crisis but really it’s the return of the same fears I had at 12 years old:

What is all of this? What should life be like? 

Smaller goals over time (graduate high school, graduate college, do not starve) gave me the ability to stray from the bigger picture, the life picture, that I saw back when I was a little girl who could not turn her brain off no matter how hard she tried. No matter how tired she was at school the next day and the day after. The smaller goals are now accomplishments to be proud of,  but as I stare down the next phase of life, without any small hurdles to cross, the big questions I never answered “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What do I want to see and do?” “Who do I want to be?” are bubbling up with a ferocity of a caged animal.

The positive in all of this is that with my blinders removed I have the opportunity to start exploring the things I have always been afraid to try. And that is what I need to keep in my mind–that instead of anxiousness for the future, I can instead feel excitement for it. I am standing on a cliff and I can jump or I can worry about would happen if I did. (I hope there’s a net there…)

The answer to what life should be like is this: to not look for shoulds and instead find joy in the past we’ve survived the potential of what can be in the future.

But it’s never so easy. I’ve been here before. You’ve all been there with me and you’re probably rolling your eyes getting ready to push me off any old cliff already. I feel you. I can say it and I can write it but living that truth is so much harder in reality. I’ll keep working to balance out of course… that’s who I am and though I’ve tried not to be, that hasn’t changed. I’ve been here before and I am sure I will keep coming back to it. I can only hope it will one day result in something great.

How do you handle your fear of the future? Do you keep trying obsessively to smooth out your life or am I crazy? Curious to know.

Asking for Help Isn’t a Weakness

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Photo by Han-Hsing Tu on Unsplash

I blame my countryside upbringing for my fear of asking for help. Where I come from pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is the ultimate goal. Nothing is worth having if you haven’t completely busted your ass trying. I still feel guilty when something comes to me too easily. Without exhaustion, hard work, pain, or even, tears some things just don’t feel like an accomplishment.

It’s not the worst way to live–my ability to work non-stop, to press through pain, to forget my ego to get a task done, has always served me well– but it’s not the only way to live. In fact, there was this whole concept of asking for help that I didn’t discover until I was an embarrassingly old age.

I am hesitant to name the concept “nepotism” because of the many negative connotations for the word, especially now with Trump as President and his kids skipping along to political careers too despite their lack of, well, any civic engagement whatsoever. While I don’t find that nepotism is an inherently bad thing, it is the cause and root of many troubling things so I must instead look to define the concept I really care about, which is “asking for help.”

I always thought I had to do everything on my own. In high school, it wasn’t until my junior year that I took teachers up on their office hours. There seemed to be a trick to what they were doing. They were going to stick around after class to teach me one-on-one? It seemed too easy. In college I never went to the Writing Center because I was convinced there was going to be some sort of plagiarism going on because, other students were going to edit my work and help me? It seemed like cheating. And when I graduated I had family friends and family members who worked in publishing or TV or journalism, and I pretended not to know them, or  to ask for introductions because I wanted to earn it. 

In other circles, using every single resource given to you is a way of life. I saw it as making things too easy, but other kids (often from privileged backgrounds) saw this process as more work and a chance to get ahead. I was afraid to get ahead. My whole middle class life I had been taught to care for others, to stay in my lane, to not get too greedy for a life I clearly wanted. Again, not a bad way to live. But without the balance of asking for help, I was lost well into adulthood.

Enter New York City. A place where everybody knows somebody and asking for help is part of your day-to-day. Nothing is a favor because more often then not, you have something to offer in return the same day, same week, same month. New York City can be very lonely but in a lot of ways its very tribal… if you find the right tribe. I can get friends discounted hotel rooms, they get me theater tickets, another friend always has an open bar to attend. Ideally, if you work your connections well enough, there’s not very much you actually have to pay for, or line up for. I haven’t perfected that, but I see people who have.

The easiest way to get a job here is to ask your friends who they know. Ask for introductions. Have someone send a resume through. Of course, the job market is still tough, interviews still suck, and you have to rely on your own talents after the introduction, but a good introduction can be 25 or 50% of the work. Even as I write this my country background is firing off: “You sound sleazy! This is gross!” It’s ringing all the bells in my head.

But I’ll say this. When done graciously and with purpose, asking for help doesn’t have to be sleazy. Grabbing on to opportunity isn’t gross. Everything in this life is hard enough, why do you want to make it harder on yourself? You will still have failures and you’re still going to feel lost and lonely. I promise you. So don’t feel bad if, this time, it was a little easy. And yeah, there are people who abuse it, exploit it, use the system for “evil” but that’s just about every system there is. Don’t let that fear keep you out of the game.

I Know My Brand is Indistinct… And I’m OK With It

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Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Very few of you probably don’t know how I spend my time off the blog and off the page. I work a regular “9-5” job in an office in Midtown Manhattan. My official title? Marketing and Brand Innovation Manager at a hotel company. Which means I spend my days creating and honing hotel brands and then determining how we market those brands to the wider public.

So why does my personal brand seem a little…wacky and unfocused?

Well, cause I am wacky and unfocused.

My brand is me.

I once spent a lot of time trying to cram myself into different, single boxes, to make a brand work. I was going to be Fitness Amanda or Writer Amanda or Book Reviewer Amanda or Foodie Amanda. And then I tried to be all of those things at once, trying to be an expert in every single one of my hobbies. It took years for me to realize that the most authentic true brand I could create for myself, was just to let my freak flag fly and see who came running.

That means I talk openly and honestly about how tough all of this is. I sometimes cook on my Instagram stories but rarely share photos of the food I prepare on my feed because I am terrible food photographer. I workout all the time, but only post the occasional photo of what that looks like. I share poetry more often. And I share photos of my day-to-day life, of the beauty in a life that sometimes either feels too fast or too boring. I share the balance between all those aspects of who I am and I encourage my followers to do the same.

I love a beautiful brand. I love curated photos. I love color schemes and different tones of voices and I adore creating logos. (Truly!) And these are all aspects of powerful important brands and we should learn from them for our businesses. But for me, a lack of focus and a lack of breadth are just who I am. I am a little wacky. I am overwhelmed a lot. I become obsessed with something and then abandon it weeks later for something new. I am a creative nutcase and I share it. And I’m ok with that.

So tell me, what’s something you’re doing that you KNOW isn’t the “right way” but you’re doing it your way anyway? Why do you do it this way? Why is it important to you? Tell me in the comments or make an IG post and use the hashtag #cheapcourage.