Unshackling from people-pleasing and codependency

On March 10th, 2023, I hit a critical threshold in my recovery from people-pleasing and codependent tendencies. Knowing my beliefs and values weren’t going to be universally accepted among my colleagues during professional development at work, I still stepped into my power and spoke my truth in a very direct, public way.

Something in my body knew nothing would be the same after that conversation. Prior to my chance to speak, my leg shook like crazy. My heart beat rapidly. I couldn’t focus.

I excused myself to take deep breaths and watch the snow fall through the school entrance. I channeled my “Rebecca-from-Ted-Lasso” energy and made myself ferocious in the bathroom, silently roaring at myself in the mirror.

I quit shrinking; I made myself big to advocate for the change our students need and deserve. And for the first time in almost a decade at my job, I didn’t know where I stood with every person in the room. 

Immediately afterwards, I felt shell-shocked. My mind didn’t know what to tell my body to feel. I went to debrief with my soul sister work wife and ended up sobbing hysterically. The breakdown was about so much more than humane, equitable grading practices – it was knowing I lost my most coveted survival mechanism at work, and that I could never go back to shrinking myself to prioritize the comfort of other adults.

After carrying me through the most intense stretch of my breakdown, she shepherded me to another beloved colleague who helped me unravel and re-ravel the chaos in my brain and body. She listened non-judgmentally and helped me recognize the feeling that came up: anger triggered by a feeling of urgency.

Anger? That feeling I never let myself feel for long before slapping a happy face sticker on it and sweeping it under a rug? What was it doing at work? 

I’ve always been triggered by others’ showy anger and couldn’t believe that mine had made some of my colleagues that I love, respect, and admire uncomfortable. I couldn’t shove it back in the box though. She’d been freed from her shackles, and I knew we would be walking side-by-side for a long time.

Wiping tears away, I asked my colleague where she puts her anger when it becomes too much. She simply opened her palms wide and simply said, “In God’s hands.”

I stopped crying and set down my lovingly prepared cup of calm tea. Nothing ever resonated so deeply in my soul before. 

Since that conversation, that’s what I’ve done. When my anger takes over, I cry. I find a quiet place, get on my knees, and beg God to carry it for me before we burn up together. And it works.

I’ve found myself shattered and on my knees more times than I can count since reaching that critical recovery threshold, but I love the me that’s rising from the ashes on the other side.

She’s empowered, strong, and activated. She feels her feels and calls out injustice every single time, not just when it’s safe and convenient.

I trust her. I trust us. I trust me.

22 Ways I Grew in ’22

1. I learned the difference between reacting and responding.

…and every day since has been a practice in choosing to pause, breathe, and respond. In creating that space, I give myself the freedom to choose how I show up, rather than letting my triggers dictate my direction.

2. I found joy exploring my spirituality.

Religion and spirituality aren’t synonyms, which was news to me. I found peace and purpose exploring my spirituality through discerning adult eyes. In abandoning the intolerant and sexist religious doctrine of my childhood and embracing a god of unconditional love and infinite grace, I’ve found healing.

3. I experienced true body neutrality.

Breaking up with diet culture started before 2022 for me, but this was the year I spent an entire 365 days enjoying the freedom that comes with accepting my body exactly as it is. I dress my body in a way that feels right and comfortable, and I feed myself when I’m hungry.

4. I practiced being the watcher of my thoughts and feelings.

I am not my loneliness, my guilt, my anger. I am the one watching a part of me that feels lonely, guilty, angry. And as the watcher, I can validate that feeling, practice non-judgement, and show compassion to that part of myself without letting it become me. Much easier in theory than practice. Right now, reaching this level of consciousness requires solitude and silence in my closet. Maybe someday, I’ll be skillful enough to carry this practice into the rest of my day.

5. I discovered Internal Family Systems.

… and found power in isolating warring parts of myself to identify triggers and survival coping mechanisms that kept me safe as a kid but are no longer serving me as an adult.

6. I boundaried up.

A lack of boundaries had me accepting responsibility for everybody else’s emotional states and needs while leaving me completely blind to my own. I read the books, practiced the scripts, messed up, and tried again. I’m still terrified of being rejected every time I have to set a boundary and have the hard conversation, but I’m pushing myself to do it anyways.

7. I faced my codependent tendencies.

…and found peace in accepting the reality that all I have control over in this whole world are my thoughts and actions. I release responsibility for anybody else’s happiness and healing and accept full responsibility for my own. Chronic daily guilt over what I did/didn’t do/should have done is dwindling as I work through this.

8. I parented in a way I’m proud of.

Well, mostly. I still have my moments. But this year I started practicing repair when I mess up and putting the kid before the behavior. My wildest hope is that my boys grow to be their truest, most beautiful selves. My greatest privilege is watching them learn who that is.

9. I challenged injustice when I saw it.

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, I heard the term “performative ally” for the first time. I had to sit with the yuck that good intentions can make for sh*tty allies, and there was some room for me to learn and grow in my allyship. For too long, I let fear of conflict keep me silent. I hold myself accountable to using my privilege and voice when encountering biased language and behaviors. And when I mess up, I commit to educating myself and others . As poet Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

10. I explored nature.

Joy is moonlight fractured through ice-tipped tree branches and the first warm spring breeze on bare legs. I discovered getting outside is one of my most potent, underutilized coping mechanisms.

11. I (we) broke a marital cycle.

My partner and I tackled the most toxic of our communication patterns this year. For years, we’ve known better. Now, we’re actually doing better. (Baby, there is nobody I would rather forge new neural pathways with than you. These days, I’m proud of the marriage we are modeling for our kids. We’ve got this.)

12. I rethought my relationship with alcohol.

I set some self boundaries around excessive alcohol consumption after I spent my 31st birthday on the floor of a bar bathroom, forehead cooling on the toilet bowl. I commit to continue being reflective and intentional when I engage with alcohol.

13. I aired out some shame skeletons.

Author and researcher Brené Brown writes, “Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot tolerate having words wrapped around it. What it craves is secrecy, silence, and judgment. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.” There are plenty more skeletons lurking in my closet, but the few I’ve let out left it feeling much less haunted in there.

14. I firmed up my values.

The two values I turn to when making difficult decisions are courage and growth. I’m trying to get better at pivoting quickly when I realize I’m out of alignment with these.

15. I gossiped less.

I fundamentally believe people are doing the best they can with the resources they have at the time. And I just want to move through the world embodying that way more than I am right now.

16. I dreamed seriously.

This year, I let myself want: to write. to heal. to exhale.

17. I saw other successful women as inspiration, not competition.

Prior to 2022, my ego couldn’t handle reading authors like Glennon Doyle, Liz Gilbert, and Martha Beck. I would have been crippled with envy over the successful writing careers they built by living reflective lives and writing vulnerably. These women are now my soul teachers who’ve given me the keys to set myself free in order to imagine my most fulfilling life and to pursue it relentlessly.

18. I chameleoned less.

My gift and curse is the ability to transform into whatever version of myself feels most advantageous in any given circumstance. It happens almost instinctively. This survival mechanism, coupled with people-pleasing tendencies, left me a total codependent mess with a convoluted sense of self. It may have served me as a child moving every 3-4 years from one military base to the next, desperate to belong. But as an adult, not so much. I know what it takes to be liked by a roomful of people. But it leaves me not liking me very much.

19. I started practicing mindfulness.

For years, I’ve heard of the profound impact simple behaviors like breathing, walking, journaling, stretching, and meditating can have on a person’s life when done regularly and with intention. I wasn’t nearly as regular or intentional as I hoped, but I started.

20. I flossed regularly.

(For real this time – not just my annual hack job the night before my appointment. I promise, Dr. Whilm!)

21. I carved out this little corner of the internet.

And in doing so, I built a place to heal out loud, to find my voice, to take my dreams seriously.

22. I learned I still have a lot to learn.

I would love to tie all of this up in a pretty little bow and say I’m officially all healed, case closed, thanks… ha! But the good news is that unlearning all the things I’m not and remembering who I am underneath all of the cultural conditioning is profoundly meaningful work and actually kind of… fun? I hope to carry this energy into 2023 and stumble through the new year with grace, grit, and integrity. 

I am not my mind

I’ve been in many dysfunctional relationships, but none more so than the relationship between my mind and body.

I was the tallest first grader in my class. We lined up on risers in the school courtyard, perspiring and squinting under the midafternoon island sun. I was an awkward giraffe standing between boys in the back row, a full head taller than every other girl in my class. I bent my knees and dropped a few inches right before the camera flashed.

My nickname through second grade was Skinny Minnie. I liked seeing myself as Minnie Mouse – my parents’ cute, adorable sidekick. One day while giggling through multiplication flash cards with my mom, she made an offhand comment that the nickname no longer fit, that I wasn’t so skinny or mini anymore. Even at the age of 7, I knew I lost something shiny. I grieved the loss of my thin privilege.

In third grade, I hated my teeth. With every baby tooth lost, its adult counterpart came in like a crooked, decrepit fence post. My face had zero curb appeal thanks to my teeth. If I caught myself smiling, I closed my lips.

In fifth grade, a classmate made a comment about mouth breathers. I didn’t realize a person could breathe the wrong way, and I was repulsed to discover I was one of them. My inner critic shamed and berated me through entire class periods while I practiced intentionally breathing through my nose, struggling to adjust to less oxygen.

Puberty made every day feel like tiptoeing on thin ice in front of an audience. Naked.

Overnight, my thighs thickened, my breasts budded. Stretch marks spread like a cracked windshield between my thighs, to my calves and hips and breasts. My body stopped feeling safe – my wayward mind equally lost.

In the battle between trusting my body or mind, puberty divided them further. My mind committed numerous sins against my body throughout adolescence and early adulthood. 

I verbally abused her. I shamed her and ridiculed her and starved her. I lectured her and patronized her and treated her with general contempt. I traded her away to avoid disappointing others just to end up disappointing myself.

I ignored her, denied her, silenced her, disassociated from her.

One time, I tried to protect her. I said no, but a boy took her anyway. Even while he assaulted her, while I froze on that bed and stared at that wood-paneled ceiling, dust particles dancing in the sunbeam shining through his window, my mind blamed my body for freezing, for not fighting harder.  

But my mind was wrong.

My mind was wrong.

My body’s quiet wisdom never deserved to be silenced, her curiosity and calm crushed by my misled mind. She deserved to be honored and cherished.

And even after all these years of betrayal and abuse, she never gave up. She’s still here.

I’m still here. 

And every day for the rest of my days, I vow to value and nurture this body who steadfastly endured so much. Never again will my mind gaslight her gentle intuition.

The most profound realization in my healing is that I am not my thoughts.

No, I am strong legs swinging higher, higher and the wind in my hair. I am the belly rush of letting go.

I am closed eyes, a spontaneous smile, cheek to the sun.

I am a beating heart and raised arms on a dance floor. I am music and movement and magic.

I am the nose nuzzled in my boys’ hair, the soft hand they slide theirs into.

I am healing.

I am peace.

I am here.

I’m a mom with no maternal instinct

While pregnant the first time, I carried a lot of worries about what life as a mother would look like. I logically knew there would be less sleep and more expenses and, like, diaper changes and stuff, but I didn’t stress too much about the parenting part. Our culture fed me this idea that once I became a mom, this “motherly instinct” would kick in and I would just inherently know the right thing to do in any given situation. After all, mother knows best. 

I took comfort in this. It lulled me into a sense of safety knowing this instinct would kick in once the baby came and all would be well. I mean, this parenting thing couldn’t be that hard, right? Lots of people became parents.

And then I became a parent. And I held this child I’d been growing in my body for nine months, and my skin prickled, and I sobbed with joy, and I knew my life would never be the same again, and I was so, so okay with that. I felt a lot on the day I met my child, but not some lightswitch of parental instinct. Maybe it would come?

When they sent me home from the hospital, I remember pretending to be prepared and confident while on the inside I was a torment of worry, wondering how in the hell I was going to keep this baby alive when I hadn’t even managed to work brushing my own teeth twice daily into a routine.

What were these people thinking, sending me home with a human? Couldn’t they see I had absolutely no idea what I was doing? Where was this instinct I’d been promised?

It didn’t get any better. Everything was hard. Everything was learned. Nothing was automatic.

Childbirth? My body may have instinctively gotten the process going, but my babies came into the world with skilled professionals and modern medicine in the form of a glorious, glorious epidural.

Breastfeeding? Latching? Trigonometry to me.

Thank god for diapers with convenient labels like “Front” and “Back” so I didn’t look completely incompetent in front of the nurse I felt like I had to prove myself to.

Even bathing my newborn at home for the first time was hard. His soft skin became dolphin-slick once wet, and I worried I’d fumble him like a football. I kicked myself for not taking notes while the labor and delivery nurse bathed him so adeptly in the hospital sink.

Getting my kid to sleep literally anywhere besides my arms and the car seat became a complicated scientific process of independent and dependent variables – maybe the fleece pajamas will help, let’s try white noise, maybe if I set him down so, so gently, like a bomb…

At one point, I remember googling “help i am a mom with no maternal instinct what do i do”

I felt a lot of shame about this. I really, truly believed I wasn’t a good mom because it was so hard for me and none of it felt natural.

But I’m thinking differently now.

Maybe parenthood feels so hard because parenthood is so hard. And what I believed was supposed to be instinct actually just ended up being really, really hard work on my part. And, like, a lot of love and commitment to do best by my kids.

After all, you don’t become a good parent by simple instinct. You become a good parent by showing up again and again. By trying and failing, learning and unlearning. You tap into your village and resources and commit yourself to raising the next generation to be braver and kinder and more prone to grace than judgment. Biology shouldn’t get the credit for the hard work – that was all us.

So, I proudly affirm: I have no maternal instinct.

But I am still a good freaking mom.

My Divorce Fantasy

They say each marriage goes through seasons, and mine is currently in transition after a biting, years-long winter that neither of us could say with certainty would ever end. Each storm brought the same predictable pattern of conflict, and by the time we could shovel ourselves out, a new blizzard was already in the forecast.

Our cycle of conflict was frozen on repeat, our patterns so deeply rutted, that salvation from the bitter cold felt impossible. He yelled at the sky. I went into hibernation.

He chose fight. I chose flight.

The problem with flight is that eventually you have to land, and when I did, I crashed right into my therapist’s office. I wasn’t hibernating anymore. I was jarred awake, grappling with the reality that my coping mechanisms of denial and repression had me in a perpetual state of survival mode and escape. I couldn’t stand to be present in my own home.

In the safety of my therapist’s office, I experimented, attempting validation and acceptance instead. I admitted aloud that at gut level, I believed my marriage was destined for divorce. That terrible truth, that secret shame, was exposed to the light of day for the first time.

The condemnation of my marriage came out calmly and succinctly, nothing like the emotional tornado that had been wreaking havoc inside. I thought the state of affairs was so ugly that even speaking it would destroy me, my family, and everything around me.

Instead, the opposite happened. The winds exhausted, the danger dissipated, and I was left staring at a debris-littered field, able to clearly acknowledge my reality for the first time.

In that stillness following truth, I could get curious and begin sorting through the wreckage.

Denial and repression led me to this mess, so I leaned on acceptance and courage to guide me home. Disclosing my suspicions of our doomed relationship to my spouse became my next right thing. This time, from a place of vulnerability and humility rather than blame and self righteousness.  

I set my ego aside, brought my truth to the kitchen counter, and painted my imagined life after divorce for him.

In my divorce fantasy, I answer only to myself. I prioritize making my own dreams a reality and bad vibes are checked at the door of my small, lovingly curated apartment. I have consistent solitude to prioritize my mental and physical health, and I parent with patience, instilling the values and boundaries I find most important, without compromise. After divorce, I never find my “other half” because I’m already whole. I don’t ask permission to have needs, they live inside me guilt-free.

I pause at this point and turn inward, and it’s like someone hands me glasses and I can finally see from a different perspective. With this new vantage point, I realized that those ideals I spoke of – answering to myself, taking times of solitude, setting boundaries with my kids, pursuing my dreams, feeling whole – were all needs I could fulfill in my marriage if I stopped trying to control the reactions and perceptions of those around me and took responsibility for taking care of myself.

Divorcing him didn’t have to be a prerequisite to finding me. I could prioritize that right here, right now. 

Twice now, I’d spoken honestly and directly despite the voice inside whispering, “here comes rejection.” Instead of destruction, I found liberation. The oppressive grip of codependency around my throat relaxed.

After two months of learning, unlearning, and consistent truth-telling, I’m feeling more connected to my Self. The eggshells no longer shatter under my feet and I catch myself looking longingly at my husband across the room for the first time in a long time. 

Falling in love the first time was a euphoric rush of fizzing chemistry and grand gestures and naive promises of unconditional love. It’s different this time. I’ve learned unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional tolerance and that I can only love and respect someone else to the extent in which I love and respect myself. 

That never ending, bitter winter of our marriage wanes, and I can now feel the sunshine of hope upon my cheek with the promise of a stunning spring. His healing looks different from mine, but together we shelter from the tornado of our own egos. The earth thaws, exposing fallow earth, fertile and ripe for new growth. We begin cultivating it – together

We are done “should”ing

I inherited many beliefs about what makes a woman “good.”

I learned that a good girl should be compliant at home and school. She should be ambitious but not too ambitious. A good woman goes to college and gets a steady, practical job to support herself and her future family.

More important than work and education, though, a good woman should dedicate herself to attracting a financially stable partner with “would be such a good dad” potential. She should change her body, her words, her identity to attract someone who checks all the boxes. She says “I do.”

Then comes motherhood, where a good woman should be fulfilled by her family alone. Infertility is the ultimate shame because good women procreate. Of course, they would never, ever choose childlessness. That would be selfish, and a good woman is never selfish. 

A good woman shrinks. She does not want. She does not need. She gives.

A good woman disappears. 

I absorbed these lessons. I got the husband, the house, the kids, the job. I performed and pleased my way to this so-called American ideal, only to look back in a moment of breaking and wonder if I ever wanted any of that in the first place.

I felt confused. I had it all. I should be happier. Why was I so unsatisfied?

Earnestly, desperately, I asked myself: Do I even want to be married? To have kids? To teach? What else have I been “should”ing? These roles I’ve built my entire identity around – do I actually even want them? 


A good woman shouldn’t ask herself these questions, I thought.

But maybe I’m done being a good woman. 

I want to be married. But I want to be whole – not another half.

I want my children. But my dreams don’t belong permanently on the back burner.

I want to teach. But with boundaries.

I want to be a good woman. But not under its current functioning definition.

Sisters, daughters, mothers, friends – we must dismantle the narrative of what makes a woman good. These cages are getting cramped. 

Let’s forgive ourselves for “should”ing and pursue our joy shamelessly. We are done settling for being liked – we demand belonging, as our needy, imperfect selves. 

Women with the audacity to ask themselves what they want and the courage to answer honestly are the changemakers, the patriarchy shakers, the cycle breakers.

We are here. Change is coming.

Let’s normalize celebrating ourselves

Birthdays rock. It’s the one day it’s socially acceptable to want to feel celebrated out loud. On every September 10th, I give myself permission to ask for whatever the heck I want without guilt or strings attached. 

On the other 364 days of the year, I have this internal fear of being perceived as needy or selfish for the audacity of having wants and desires, but for this one special day, I get a hall pass. 

I’m having a revelation this year, though. I’m in the process of accepting that I cannot control how other people perceive me, but I CAN control how I perceive myself.

I know I can’t expect balloons and cards and thoughtful presents from my loved ones daily, but I can honor myself in small ways year round. I don’t have to wait until September to treat myself to that secondhand leather jacket I’ve been eyeing up. What’s stopping me from eating my favorite curry pad thai on any random Tuesday? I can delight in a warm cup of coffee and quiet time to write any day of the year, not just on my birthday.

It’s my own responsibility to celebrate myself.

Does wanting to feel loved and celebrated daily make someone needy and selfish? No. It makes us human. 

Can we agree to normalize vocalizing our dreams and desires? We have this one precious, fleeting life that is all ours – not anybody else’s. Pretending to be martyrs without needs just breeds resentment against everyone else.

Let’s have the courage to hold on tight to joy and stop shaming ourselves for pursuing it.

We are worthy of joy today and every day. 

Weightless: What I lost by ditching the scale

For years, I had a daily ritual. After waking up, I would stumble to the bathroom and scroll through my phone while on the toilet. I would then strip completely naked. I wanted nothing, not even a hair tie or my Fitbit, to count against me while the scale calculated my “progress.” I would then suck in my stomach, hold my breath, and step on. The screen by my toes would flash three times while I nervously waited before my weight, my score, was calculated for the day.

If that number happened to be lower than the day before? I could exhale. I am a badass goddess! I deserve confidence and love! I can’t wait to text my accountability partners! I am strong and unstoppable!

If it were higher? My stomach would sink and that prickly hot shame feeling would wash over me. I’m a failure. I shouldn’t have eaten that tortilla with my taco last night. I haven’t pooped yet, that must be why the number is higher. I’ll have to eat less today if I want to love myself tomorrow.

The scale became my Magic 8 Ball and set the tone for the day. Would I spend my shower singing or beating myself up with complicated calculations of macros and calories? Logically, I knew my weight could fluctuate daily for many reasons, including water retention, hormones, menstrual cycles, and food sensitivities. Illogically, that didn’t matter.

For years, I gave all of my power to that scale, to that number. Looking back, I can see the havoc this destructive, ineffective ritual unleashed on my self worth. 

I’ve been on a two year long journey to befriend my body again, and step one was abandoning the scale. For too long, I deluded myself that the information it gave was critical. How am I supposed to know if I’m healthy without a scale? I want to be healthy – healthy means thin, right? (wrong)

I’ve spent years letting external indicators – the scale, BMI, societal standards, the opinion of others – be the gauge of how “good” I am. By unfriending the scale, there was one less juror in the trial determining whether or not I deserved to be comfortable in my skin on any given day.  

I knew I made the right decision when several months scale-less, I had a moment of weakness “just to check in.” I stepped on, looked at the number, and it triggered that familiar sinking, prickling, spiral.

Until then, I KNEW I’d been gaining weight and was strangely okay with it for the first time ever. I was buying new clothes a size bigger. I own mirrors. I figured I was healed enough that the number wouldn’t shake me, but it did. 

I backslid a bit in my self love journey. I re-downloaded a calorie tracker on my phone. I googled intense training schedules to punish my body for growing. I avoided the mirror that my fat body was finally beginning to befriend.

Thankfully, this was a short detour. I self medicated with quotes from Sonya Renee Taylor’s book on radical self love titled The Body Is Not an Apology. I shaved my legs, exfoliated, took a bath, and painted my toes. The next day, I carefully did my makeup, donned a fierce outfit, and forgave myself for slipping up and forgetting that my worth is not so variable. 

It’s been two years since I’ve stepped on a scale and looked down at the number. I have absolutely no idea what I weigh, and that is okay. 

Did you know that you’re allowed to ask not to be weighed at doctor’s visits? You have a right to refuse any medical procedure. 

Before I declined getting weighed the first time, I obsessed over what to say and how to defend myself. I rehearsed the following phrase over and over in my head in the waiting room:

“I prefer not to step on the scale. Knowing that number triggers unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns for me.”

There ended up being no need to defend myself further, and my request was immediately granted. My prepared monologue about health at every size went wasted.

 And when I said the same thing at my employer’s yearly biometric health screening, I was treated with respect and understanding. Increasingly, medical professionals are shifting the focus from weight to health instead, and they understand that health is complicated and nuanced and can’t be defined by a single metric or a person’s appearance.

By banishing the scale, I started to take my power back and began advocating for my strong, fat, beautiful body. And now after years of shame and mistreatment, the fractured relationship with my body is healing. She is no longer my enemy. She’s my ally.

Anxious. Excited. anxiousexcited

My body reacts predictably every single time I have a lot of attention on me. My pulse quickens, my foot jiggles, my chest tightens, and I get increasingly sweaty. Like, even behind my knees. I would rather be anywhere but in my own skin and try to retreat into my brain, but the situation there is just as dire. This unavoidable pattern happens every single time I feel scrutiny.

I never over thought it before because inevitably, I could always force myself to armor up, get started, find a rhythm, and brown the whole thing out. 

Yeah, I said brown out. Like, not a full blackout because bits and pieces are still there. They laughed at something I said! I can’t REMEMBER what I said, but I remember the laugh!

The physical sensations that come along with the attention honestly suck. Nobody likes sweating their face off right before going in front of an audience. I hate the mental loop. “What do they think? Do they like what I’m doing? I just stumbled on my words. Did they notice?”

I perform a LOT.

I’ve always auditioned for the play, went for the solo, given the speech. A large audience isn’t a prerequisite to prompt the performing. Even something as simple as meeting someone new brings up those same uncomfortable physical sensations. My body gets hijacked, my extrovert self takes center stage, we “fake it till we make it,” and… showtime

I tried something different the last time I was in the spotlight. This time, I took a deep breath, cast aside my toxic “fake it till you make it” armor, and started talking about my real feelings. I admitted to 100+ of my colleagues that every time I stand in front of them, I feel anxious.

I then shared how anxiety presents itself in my body and disclosed some game changing information I read from Dr. Brené Brown’s newest book Atlas of the Heart. Those uncomfortable symptoms that anxiety hijacks our bodies with? Those are the same sensations in our bodies when we experience excitement. 

Read that again. Anxiety and excitement feel exactly the same in our bodies. The difference is mindset and how we interpret those feelings. 

According to Dr. Brown, when we label these sensations as anxiety, we are more likely to have negative experiences. If we flip our mindset and reframe it as excitement, a positive overall experience is more likely to follow. 

I don’t know about y’all, but if I’m going to be saddled with sweaty pits and a skyrocketing heart rate, I might as well try to get excited about whatever is coming next. I have zero control over my sweat glands, but I CAN disrupt old thought patterns and control my mindset. 

I shared Dr. Brown’s emotions research with my colleagues and communicated that I was doing my best to reframe my anxiety as excitement. I’m no expert, but the accompanying nods of “me too, same” were reassuring. I made it through the presentation without faking it, and sat down afterward feeling damn good.

I want to keep showing up for myself and people in my life this way. I want to recognize the early stages of this bodily response coming on, stop that downward spiral, and pause…

 “Does this have to be anxiety? Or can I self talk my way into getting excited about this instead?”

And even if I only succeed some of the time, hopefully the people around me are picking up a little more excitement from me and a little less anxiety.

My life is unraveling at 30

Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing—these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt—has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

Brené Brown, “The Midlife Unraveling”

The tumultuous weeks leading up to my 30th birthday left me feeling uneasy. This arbitrary year, this closing of my twenties, had me tense and restless. 

Well-meaning friends and family blanketed me with platitudes like “age is just a number!” and “you’re only as old as you feel!” and “ just wait until you hit forty!”

But still, I remained uneasy. 

And I remained that way until I did the bravest, scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had the courage to ask myself,

“Who am I really, and who do I want to be?”

And then I faced the ugly reality that at thirty years old, I had absolutely no idea who I was or what my values were. I was in complete survival mode, just trying to make it through this day, this week, this month. I didn’t have the language to express what I was feeling, and even if I did, I would’ve been too chicken shit to speak it. I couldn’t articulate who I was outside of the ways I served others: mother, wife, teacher, friend, daughter. And each of those people got a different version of Bobbi, too. 

I felt so damn lost.

So I started journaling, going to individual therapy, reading self-help books, listening to podcasts, and now my life is unraveling. It’s painful, beautiful, messy, but unearthing who I really am underneath societal conditioning, people-pleasing behaviors, and codependency has been the most profoundly satisfying work I’ve ever done.

I have come to the conclusion that fear has been holding me back from knowing who I am and what I want.

Fear of being seen as selfish, of being judged. Fear of not living up to people’s expectations or letting others down. Fear of failure, fear of not being worthy, fear that if people saw the real, true me, they’d reject me. 

The biggest comfort in this journey has been exposing my fears and shame to the light of day. By writing my ugliest truths into existence and then sharing them with trusted people also doing their own inner work, I’ve experienced some serious healing. I am not unique in the struggle. I am not alone.

Those books I read, those podcasts I listened to, were all testimonials of other women who looked fear in the face and said, “I see you. I see what you’re trying to do. But I’m done letting you stop me, and I’m going to tell my story anyways.” Through their words and bravery, they charted road maps to find themselves and gave me the courage to start doing the same. 

So as I approach my 31st birthday, I’m going to be incredibly vulnerable with you and share my biggest, wildest dream:

I want to be a published writer. 

Even typing that, I let out an audible breath I didn’t know I was holding. Putting this dream out there in the world is absolutely terrifying. It’s the fear, man. 

The fear that you’re judging my very first blog post, that you’re laughing under your breath and thinking “good luck, she’ll never make it.” The fear that my writing is mediocre at best. That there are a million other people who are better than me. I’m afraid nobody will read my work.

Or that I’m not original enough.

Or creative enough.

That I’m not enough

And Bobbi in her twenties? She saw that fear miles down the road and wouldn’t even admit to herself that this was a real dream she had. 

Bobbi in her thirties, though? She calls bullshit. 

So to you, my friends, family, colleagues, and all of the wonderful humans who have somehow played an interlude in my life, I want to paint what support from you looks like while I give myself permission to follow my dream of writing for an audience outside of my Facebook feed. 

Read my posts, and if they resonate, comment or like. Share them. Follow me on insta. Send me ideas for topics you’d like to read about.

I saved you a seat next to me on the back of the struggle bus. Let’s grow together.