To achieve any dream or goal, you have to put in the work.
You want to ace that test? You study. You want to get into your dream university? You give them the best damn application you can. You want to get that dream job? You put in the hours, you make the best resume, and you go into that interview with your head held high. But you know what you don’t do?
In any of these scenarios, when you are working towards any life goal big or small, you do not burn yourself out. You do not drain yourself of all your energy, you do not exhaust yourself of any life, because you will feel nothing when you reach your goal. You won’t be able to dance or scream or cry tears of joy—you will just want to go to sleep. And would all the hours you put in be worth it? No. Because here’s the truth that everyone seems to overlook.
There are productive days and then there are rest days. You cannot hustle 24 hours straight for seven days a week. You need rest. And you need to stop bullying yourself for taking the rest. You need to stop treating rest as a sign of weakness and stop feeling guilty for taking the rest. And don’t you dare compare the amount of rest you need to another person in your life, because what you are going through is different to them and everyone’s rest looks different. The whole point of resting is to take care of yourself, so stop concerning yourself with how it may look to others or what others are doing and take the rest.
Because the rest days are even more important than the productive days. Because without the rest days, you wouldn’t have the productive days.
You would not get the promotion or the new internship without the rest. You wouldn’t ace your exams or qualify for graduate school without the rest. Stop romanticizing working yourself to death, because it isn’t cute or pretty, it’s wrong. It’s not romance, it’s horror. So it’s time. Take the damn rest.
Say a prayer, chant a mantra, spray some lavender mist, close your eyes, and take the rest.
Moving forward from today, your life holds endless potential. You can make a difference, you can choose to go big, you can shine unapologetically and make that big, bold, beautiful impact that deep down you know you were meant for.
You have it in you to lead. Lead in your own life. Lead by example. Lead in front of the community that is waiting for what you have to bring to the table.
You know deep down that every word of this is true and applies to you. But there it is again, that hesitation that creeps up and tells you that maybe you can’t. Maybe you’re not good enough. The excuses bubble up, creating roadblocks, slowing you to a crawl and sending you back into hiding.
Where does this come from? One moment you know better—you see and feel the potential—and the next you’re stuck repeating old patterns and habits of inaction and disbelief. The keyword here is “old.” The hurts, big and small, from the past have a way of creeping up and affecting what we believe we can do today.
I began here by writing “moving forward from today,” and that was intentional. When you meet yourself where you are today, you can grow, expand, explore, and rise. However, when you fill today with reminders, examples, and hurts from the past, you let that past tell you that choosing to not lead today is the safest way to repeat what you’ve been through before.
So, how do you move forward? How do you let go and carve a new path for yourself? Begin by taking a look at what’s been holding you down. Flip those past hurts and examples into how you want to stand up and do it differently for the younger you who went through something hard.
This is stepping into your role as a leader by choosing to lead for yourself first. Show your younger you that there is a new way forward.
How? Look back, acknowledge, and accept that the past was hurtful but that today doesn’t have to look the same. Choose a new path forward. Here are seven examples of common hurts from the past that can hold you back.
1. You were misunderstood in primary and high school.
Maybe you were different, unique, or a little awkward. The other kids, struggling to find themselves, didn’t treat you with the kindness and acceptance you so badly wanted. Show that younger you some acceptance and love now. Your uniqueness makes you special. It puts you in the perfect position to lead. Shine bright. Stand true in you. You’ve got this.
2. You failed at something you really cared about.
Jeez, that hurts. Yes, falling down is unpleasant, but you’re older now and know how to stand back up. Your past is not your future potential. Failure is a part of the journey to the future. What separates “winners” and “losers” is getting back up, learning a lesson, making a change, and being willing to go after what you want. You’ve got this.
3. You let someone who mattered down.
It’s time to forgive yourself. Past you made mistakes. You didn’t necessarily deal in the best way, but you have another chance. You can take what you learned and use it to create healthy, strong relationships now. You can let others in. You can lead and know you’ll do your best, that you’re human, you may make mistakes, but you’ll move forward with care and the desire to do good.
4. Someone who mattered let you down.
Trust was broken, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trusting again. You have you to help you and see you through, but it’s safe to let others in too. You can’t control what they do, but choose to give people a chance again. Trust anyway, knowing you can step away from what isn’t good for you.
5. You had to look to others for answers.
The best leaders are willing to surround themselves with others who are driven and have knowledge beyond their own. You are meant to work with others. Yes, you will never know everything, but there will always be someone out there who knows a little less and could use the lessons you have gained so far. So, don’t be afraid to share. You are valuable.
6. Progress or success didn’t come easily.
Progress doesn’t need to come at lightning speed as long as you keep moving forward. You improve a little with each day. It’s not how fast you do it but that you give yourself permission to keep going with things you care about.
7. You’ve always been different
That desire to fit in is strong. Here’s the thing, though—every human is unique and has something different about them. Those who come to enjoy life the most, those who stand up and claim their truth and authenticity, find a newfound comfort in their skin. Be different. Call to those who are willing to stand by you and be inspired by your genuine self. It’s safe to leave behind those who can’t accept you for who you really are because who you really are is beautiful.
Keep searching through your days. What hurts, excuses, hesitations, or roadblocks that you see today really belong to yesterday? Acknowledge them. Send the younger you and the present you some love. Talk yourself through why you can today. Reclaim your potential. Take one baby step forward at a time.
Leadership begins with you and a willingness to guide yourself beyond your past. As you open up authentically to today, that leadership will grow. You’ll inspire others to do the same. You’ll stand firmer and firmer within your truth. You deserve to embrace the new beginning that each day offers. Go after it with love, acceptance, and leadership.
Some days, you will find me a complete train wreck. I am not well dressed. I am not doing my skincare routine. I am not eating healthy, and my place is not tidy. So during a time like this, you will find me waking up late, looking like I am all over the place, and not getting any work done—my state of mind is not the best. I am not focused or funny or creative or social or charming. I basically become my worst self, but the thing is, I am not ashamed of who I am during this time because every single time I get stuck being like this for a while, and every time I get myself stuck in a rut, I always manage to get myself out of it, and for that, I will always be proud of myself.
I have come to accept these days and to try not to beat myself up when I have them. I have to accept that I will be a complete utter mess every now and then, and that’s okay. Maybe I don’t like who I am during a time like this because I am not in control, I don’t have my day planned, and I am not doing anything useful, but my mental state needs exactly that. It doesn’t need schedules or a planned day or healthy food or a tidy place or me wearing full makeup or spending time caring about what to wear, but it needs to be in a state of just being. I know people might find this lifestyle not healthy or good, but I have come to see it as a necessity.
I fall into a lifestyle like this every now and then, and every time I feel so bad during it because I don’t like how I look or how I live. I binge eat and I binge watch Netflix. I cancel outings and plans. I cocoon and isolate myself and keep doing extremely unproductive activities. I don’t work out or pay attention to what I am eating or doing, but now I have learned to accept times like these in my life more. I have learned that just like I am proud of myself when I feel like I have my life together, I should accept and make my peace as well with the days I feel like I don’t have anything in my life together.
These days are my break from the other days I do so well on, and I have decided to give myself this time every now and then without feeling ashamed or guilty for having it. Because the more I think about it, the more I feel like this time is my own self telling me that it needs a break and that it needs exactly that — to just not care for a few days and to just take a step back in order to be able to get back to my normal life pattern.
Having days like these is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s actually part of what makes your life feel more balanced. It’s like a reset button that you need to press every now and then. So allow yourself to have this phase, even if you’re not used to the idea of being unproductive or not having your life together. Learn to just let it be this way for some time in order for you to be able to get back to your normal lifestyle. Accept the fact that you will fall behind in life for a little while sometimes and then get back to picking yourself up. Accept the idea of being a mess or not having everything in order. Let yourself get that break without feeling like freaking out because your life is not how it normally is. Learn to accept some messiness and some setbacks in order to be able to get right back on track.
Sometimes everything does suck. It just does. You’re exhausted. You’re stressed. You’re down on yourself and you’re down on everyone else and nothing you’ve done has made you feel proud or excited or enthusiastic or even anything. Everything you write sucks. Everything you do sucks. You’ve resigned yourself to a life of mediocrity, because, maybe you could be the best at being average. Or the best at sucking the least. New goal: be the best at sucking the least.
Then, you do that thing which you’re never supposed to do, but you do it anyway because, hey, you’re already down here in the pit of your self-loathing, why not make this pit even less hospitable? You feel ashamed about everything sucking. You feel like, wait, shouldn’t I know how to not feel this way? You start feeling guilty, like, you should be able to un-suck your life and now the fact that you can’t is making you feel even worse. You’ve pretty much just dug a hole inside the hole you were already in. Fun times!
So, you spend a day or two collecting evidence, like you’re Sherlock Holmes trying to crack the case of why you are The Worst. You overthink. You overanalyze. You remember Debbie back in the 5th grade and why was Debbie so awful to you? You remember all your past transgressions, your assumed failures, everything that can burrow you deeper into this hole comes to the forefront of your mind. You start to understand the full weight of when people say you are your own worst enemy, because yes and because right now and because you are, you really just are.
And then, you go on Facebook (terrible idea) or Twitter (worst idea) or Instagram (the actual worst idea) or you go outside (maybe a better idea) and you think, wait, why is everyone ok and why am I not ok? You start to develop a kind of weird embarrassment around the fact that things suck right now and, on top of things sucking, you are also being a total jerk to yourself. You think, I am the only person in the world who cannot get it together.
Everyone has it together, except me. What is wrong with me? Am I okay? Do I need help? That latent shame becomes full-on shame. It’s palpable shame now. And, you’re convinced you are the only person in the world who doesn’t do all the things they know is good for them, who breaks promises to themselves, who goes and goes and goes until they’re exhausted and broken, who tries to be the best by being the most of anything. You’re the only person in the world struggling to understand relationships, to balance friendships, to catch a breath, to learn to budget, to learn to cook, to do everything and be everything all at the same time. You’re the only person who is trying to do everything and be everything while having the feeling you should already know how to do and be those things already.
To all that. To you. To those who are struggling and then, to those, who are struggling because they are struggling. You are not alone. You are living and living is messy and it’s weird and you can be in the fog for a very long time until it clears. It could be nothing, it could be something, it could be everything. You don’t know. But, you are not alone. In the darkened corners of your mind, you may think you are. You may think everyone has it figured out and you’re the one left behind. Don’t believe it. That is not capital t Truth. That is the small voice in your mind who is being a total jerk to you.
Breathe. Have a cup of tea or some hot chocolate. Do something which you know brings your soul alive, if only for a moment. All the moments you have lived in have brought you exactly to this moment. And, while this moment might completely suck for you and all your moments have brought you to what you think is the truth of how much you suck, then, well, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. We’ll all be there again. You’re not broken. You are, simply, alive.