An Overachiever’s Guide – What am I Proving by Achieving?

Since making my most current breakdown public, I received a lot of support and advice from friends and peers. One of the pieces of advice I received was to read the book by Heather Whelpley titled: An Overachiever's Guide To Breaking The Rules: How To Let Go Of Perfect and Live Your Truth

I’ve read self-help before, but what the hell, why not another book! 

I bought the book and then ignored it for a good week.  When I finally started to read it, my initial thoughts were ….. very Midwestern ...... “she has it much worse. I shouldn’t be worried about myself. Time to move on and get over it.  There are so many more people worse off than me.” 

This may be a default reaction for many; however, I have been told that downplaying your suffering because someone else has it worse is a very Midwestern trait. Seeing as how those were my first thoughts, I apparently wear that badge proudly!!!

You see, right away, Heather shared some stories of her growing up.  Of her being at the top of her class, of crying on the kitchen floor, of pushing herself WAY past her limits. She was much more of an achiever than I was at that age.  I always made sure I was above average, but I never strove or pushed myself to be THE best.  So therefore, I'm not that bad.  Time to move on. Mission accomplished. Achiever-ness resolved. Hard work done.

Or not. Going back to my last meltdown, the work is most definitely not done. And now I realize why I haven’t done the work in the past. I haven’t allowed myself to be ‘workable’. I haven’t admitted that I need help. I have prevented myself from doing the work because ‘someone else is suffering more.’ And because of that, I have tricked myself into believing that I am in no need of improvements. I’ve got it figured out more than others. It’s a shame for me to not accept that. Or, now seeing it a different way, I'm not worthy of improving. 

Ha, what a joke!  I now see this as a defense mechanism that my brain created. Created to keep me safe. Created to keep me in my current situation. Created to ensure that I remain in my current status quo.  Making it that much more difficult for me to take a step forward.  

Not this time. This time I’m allowing myself to be worthy of improvement.  I am going to do the exercises, and not just half assed. I'm not only going to do the 15 minutes of continuous writing to dig deeper into my thoughts and feelings.  I’m ALSO going to do the extra painful, extra pokey, extra exhausting, part of the exercise – the analysis and discovery. 

I am going to dedicate my time with this book to ACTUAL self-discover and self-improvement. Crazy concept, I know, actually do the work the self-help book encourages. 

And I'm going to write it down and share it with you because I’ve realized that I process A LOT through writing. So...... here we go.......

Heather’s first step is doing a writing exercise to uncover “What am I proving by achieving?”

Here’s what my brain threw out, word for word: 

I am proving that I am worthy. I am proving that I can do it on my own. I am proving that I'm worthy of being loved. I am proving that I am perfect even though part of what I'm telling  people/plan to show to people is that no one is perfect. I am proving that I can have it all. That I've figured ‘it’ out. I'm proving that I don’t stink. That I am good at everything. That I am right. That I am in control. That it's my way or the highway even though I push and encourage collaboration and other’s opinions. I'm not really being open to them unless they match mine. I am proving that I can make more money than you. Be more important than you. Live a better life than you. Be nicer and humbler than you. I can get you to notice me. To be jealous of me. To want to be like me. To recognize that I'm better than you. To prove I'm more important than you. To prove that I can have it all. And then generously give back to you so you will like me. I want to be liked. I want to achieve being liked, but part of my past experience proves that achieving makes people not like me. So, I only want to achieve a certain point because otherwise, people start to not like me. So, I succeed and then I sabotage myself so as not to go past the point of likeability. I am proving that you all must like me. I want to be liked. I want to have friends. I want to be rewarded and recognized so I can say, “oh, it wasn’t a big deal.” I want to be special but be humble. I want to be allowed to be noisy. If I’ve achieved something, I’m ‘given permission’ to be outspoken, to be ‘right’. To be smart. To be taken care of. To be taken seriously. To be cared for. To be given help. I can’t receive help until I've proven that I'm worthy. I can’t ask for help until I've done something worthwhile. No one wants to help and support a nobody. I don’t want to be a nobody. I want to be somebody. I want people to understand me. Even though when I achieve, I see myself as someone separate from everyone else. A loner on an island of success. No wonder I struggle to achieve. I don’t want to be alone. I want to be important. For everyone to see that I'm important. To be loved. For people I don’t know to love me. To know me. 

Re-reading that is rough. I’m kind of a bitch at the beginning. I want to be better than everyone. To have people be jealous of me. Jeez Louise. I’m mean. 

And then in the middle I pivot a bit and achieve because I want to be liked. I place a lot of emphasis on this - “I want to be liked”.  I am even willing to dumb down my own success in order to be liked.  Wow.  Looking back on my life I can remember specific times that I did this. I pretended not to know something, or I deliberately did worse in a sports situation so that more people would like me. Or at least I was perceiving that more people would like me because of that action. I remember the pain and frustration of being called a “know it all” or a “goodie two shoes”. Those were not terms of endearment and each time I heard them I was reminded that I was being too much, and I wasn’t being cool.  I was trying too hard and that wasn’t cool. I was succeeding too much and that wasn’t cool. I wanted to be cool and liked. 

Towards the end of the dialogue above, I feel a strong sense of not feeling worthy.  According to myself, I'm not even worthy enough to receive help. If I don’t achieve, I’m a nobody and people don’t help a nobody. What??? Really?  Everyone I know LOVES to help. 

Deep breath......

From what I've learned in the many self-help books I've read, the dialogue above is not a one-time deal.  Having written it down above does not mean that it’s the first time I’ve had those thoughts. On the contrary, those thoughts have been repeating over and over and over and over again in my head, for who knows how long.  Most likely they’ve been swirling around for decades and deep down inside these are my ACTUAL beliefs. These are my default modes. And these default modes hurt 🙁 

One of Heather’s examples in her book fits me to a T – by achieving, I am proving that I am enough. 

That is the truth that I feel from completing this exercise. I am trying my damndest to prove to everyone around me that I am enough. I crave that confirmation. I desperately want people to notice me and to tell me that I'm doing great. That I'm one of the best. Because I don’t believe it myself. I’m reaching out to everyone around me to fill that gap because I'm not willing to give it to myself. 

Heather’s book gave me some phrases or affirmations that I am going to use to re-write that dialogue above. These affirmations are: “I am enough without the accolades”, “I am enough without the praise and recognition”, "I am enough without having to achieve anything at all”, “I am enough to be loved no matter what”. 

This is the REAL truth. I am worthy of love, I am enough, even without achieving.

And the crazy thing is, at the EXACT moment I wrote “I am enough to be loved no matter what” my husband sent me a text that said: “Love you sexy”. I didn’t do anything today to ‘earn’ his love, but he loves me anyways. He loves me regardless of my achievements.  He loves me WITHOUT my achievements. So why am I allowing my inner critic to beat the living shit out of me for not achieving enough? I AM ENOUGH.

I survived

I’m a female entrepreneur and I survived my meltdown!

Many of you witnessed my meltdown last week as I posted my very emotional blog titled: I’m a Female Entrepreneur and it Fucking Sucks 

I realize that I may have terrified some of you. I terrified myself. You may be worried about my well-being.  I am as well!

I can definitely say that last week was rough. There were a lot of tears, a lot of shame and A LOT of emotions, mostly on the evil side. However, I survived.  

Writing and posting my previous blog was a bit of therapy for me. It was a way to get all those mean thoughts out of my head in order to make room for others.  So, you may be seeing more emotional, transparent and raw posts from me in the future. I’m therapizing myself. I’m a mess, so you’re welcome!  Anyways......

I GREATLY appreciate the support that I received. Many of you commented and reacted to my article. Many of you reached out to me personally. Many of you provided reassurance that I was not alone or crazy. And I loved (after my emotions subsided a bit) the suggestions of books, articles and overall encouragement to help me get back to my bad ass self.

I won’t say that I’m 100% over the hurdle, but I am much, much closer. And I appreciate all of you for supporting me and commiserating with me and loving me still!

What helped me a lot was the reminder from so many of you of the other side.  You helped me step back and see things differently.  I want to write the other side in this blog post.  This will provide me written proof to come back to when I meltdown again. And I'm hoping it can help others recover from their meltdowns (FYI – if you are at the I’m a Female Entrepreneur and it Fucking Sucks stage, stop reading now, you’re not ready to hear this. Come back in a day or two!).

Some of the biggest help actually came from my assistant hockey coach. As you may recall from my previous post, I am coaching my daughter’s hockey team and MAN, did that trigger A lot of darkness in me. 

I shared my feelings with my assistant coach (a dad coach), and he provided some GREAT perspective. Here are his texts word for word: 

“To be honest, I bet the male coaches feel a little jealous that you can more easily connect with the girls just because of gender. So, don’t think because they have more experience, doesn’t mean they aren’t wishing they had that capability.”

“It is supremely inspiring to be a girl player with a girl coach, and they will never have that.”    

These are of course, very, very true.  When I removed my “hateful, angry, lacking” lenses, I saw myself on the ice in a very different way.  The girls react to me very differently than they do to the dad coaches. And different in a positive way. I have a different way of talking to them that helps them perform at an even higher level. That provides them with greater confidence. I can help them see that it is ‘right’ for a female to be on the ice and be a great hockey player. They can see themselves in me which provides immense value that no matter how good of coaches the dad coaches are, they can’t do that. 

And I can provide tips that the dad coaches have NO experience with, like put your hair in a ponytail because it's too frickin’ hot when you wear your hair down. But make sure it’s a low ponytail so the ponytail holder is not under the helmet. That hurts! Dads have NO IDEA about this stuff.  I have an advantage when it comes to coaching the girls.   I am now starting to see that advantage.

After going through this exercise with hockey, I figured there must be truths like this in the entrepreneurial world. There must be secret advantages to being a female entrepreneur that I can latch on to. (side note, why is entrepreneur so frickin’ hard to spell?!! Every.Single.Time there is a red line under the word. Thank you spell check!)

I’m not ready to come up with these advantages myself, so thank you google and those who have come before me for providing me with some.  Below are my highlights.

From the article - 7 Advantages of Being a Female Entrepreneur

Female Entrepreneurs Focus on Collaboration - Collaboration is an important factor when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur. Even Fortune 500 companies engage in collaboration with other companies. For the entrepreneur, the ability to collaborate — that is, to form relationships and partnerships with other businesses or entrepreneurs — can significantly impact.

Emotional Intelligence Is a Competitive Advantage - In recent years, leadership studies have found that having a high emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ, is an important factor in leadership success....Studies have also found that women, on average, have a slight edge over men when it comes to EQ.  [Sarah’s note – there is a HUGE shift in the business world to move away from micromanaging and dictatorship. Many leaders I’ve spoken to are leaning more towards being aware of their employees’ feelings, which takes an immense amount of EQ and empathy. I definitely see being able to be a leader in this space in a way that many men can’t. Empathy and Awareness are two of my superpowers!]

Women Make Great Leaders - In today's world, more and more businesses recognize the value women bring to the leadership role. A 2018 study by Deloitte, for example, showed that employees today want a leader who can balance "soft power traits" with "hard power traits." Out of the top five leadership traits identified, three are soft power traits: communication, flexibility, and patience. And these are all traits in which many women excel. Additionally, the study found that employees are also looking for transparent and authentic leaders and who can see their own weaknesses. Here, again, women entrepreneurs have an advantage. [Sarah’s note – I concur. Apparently, I'm not afraid to show my weaknesses! They were on full display in my last post!!  All 8 billion of the crazy m’fers! Oy!]

Parenting Experience Has Entrepreneurial Benefits - Multitasking is another strength of female entrepreneurs. Most mothers have become adept at handling many aspects of their lives simultaneously—often out of necessity rather than any desire to be a multitasking wizard. This ability to manage competing responsibilities is also important for the entrepreneur, who often finds herself wearing many different hats simultaneously. 

From the article - The 6 Advantages Women Entrepreneurs Have Over Men

Intuition. They call it “women’s intuition” for a reason.  Women in general can size up another person much faster than her male counterpart. In today’s ultra-fast paced business environment, you need the ability to quickly identify the allies and the enemies. Regardless if you are a male or female, you need to trust your gut. [Sarah’s note – this is a superpower I didn’t realize that I had. It’s shocking sometimes what I notice, and other people miss.]

Pain Tolerance. Okay, initially I would have said this is irrelevant. But after watching my children be born, there is no question that my wife can handle a lot more pain than I can. And I am not just talking physical pain, I mean emotional, too (have you seen how tough children can be on their mothers?). In business, there are a lot of painful moments. A lot. Women definitely have an advantage in this area.  [Sarah’s note – Yes. “Man Cold”. Enough said. Mic drop]

Patience. Women inherently seem to have more patience. And in today’s business environment, patience is key! Aggressive business strategies are not paying off like they once did. Slow and steady wins the race in this category.

Listening. A friend of mine went to buy a new bed at a small bedding store owned by a husband and wife team. The female owner approaches my friend and asked all kinds of questions about why they needed a new bed, if they could fix their old bed, what else they were considering, etc. She asked questions and listened closely. She clearly showed that she cared about helping to meet their needs. My friend was moments away from buying any bed that she recommended. But just then, the frustrated husband on the sales team ran up and said “let me handle this.” Then he just tried to hard close the sale. He was pushy, telling them what he recommended and what they had to have. Guess what? The sale was lost the second he began speaking! They walked out. I am sure he blamed her, but it was him. The key is to ask questions and really listen. Quite frankly, any great sales person knows this, man or woman, it just seems that the ladies are naturally better at doing it.

Thank you, authors of these articles, for posting them on the internet!  They have helped me see my world differently.  There are still remnants of my past beliefs within me; however, reading and rereading these statements will help me release and break free from those old limiting beliefs. And I hope my therapizing of myself through writing helps many others as well.

Fucking Sucks

I’m a female entrepreneur and I’m in a VERY low place.

I’m sure there are many other struggling entrepreneurs out there; however, I feel as if the female entrepreneur has a unique struggle. We have a unique past and are held to unique expectations.

I do have a fear of failure (I’m a recovering perfectionist); however, I think my fear of success is even greater than my concerns about failing. 

Which sounds incredibly dumb. How can someone be afraid of being successful?  What kind of pea brain idiot is afraid of success?  I am, and let me tell you why...... 

1) Success means exposure. You have to be front and center. You have to be noticed. You have to shine.  Which doesn’t sound all that scary; however as a female entrepreneur when you’re front and center, you have to look good. I mean, a supermodel good.

I am not a fashion icon. I am not fit. I’ve actually gained 20-30 pounds since starting my business.  Age and stress will do that to you, I guess.  And I’m afraid.  I know getting out there in front of people means that I will be judged for my looks. I don’t want that. I want to be judged for my brain. I am smart and a fucking process improvement genius, I want to be seen that way.  I don’t want to be seen for my fashion sense (or let’s be real, my lack thereof).

And don’t fucking tell me that I’m being overdramatic.  Women are CONSTANTLY judged based on their looks. Take Hillary Clinton for example, why did we even need to mention her outfits? Did her male counterparts have to deal with that???  No fucking way. 

Or watch this eye opening video - What If Male Sports Stars Were Asked The Same Questions As Female Athletes?

We (women) can be at the top of our game, but the only thing that matters is how we look.

These are older examples, but history is going to repeat itself. Things have not changed that much. I will be judged. I'm afraid of that judgement.

I’m fucking smart, I shouldn’t be dealing with this.

2) Success means time and energy. What if I become successful and I can’t handle my business success on top of taking care of my children? My husband is very helpful, he helps me cook, does all the laundry; however, I still find that most of my kids' wants and needs fall on me as the mom. They walk by him to ask me questions. “Mom, mom, mom.” 

I sign them up for sports, I manage their school, I make sure they get to the right places at the right time, if a babysitter is needed, I'm organizing that. All of that work takes a lot of energy. What if I become successful and end up working A LOT? When will all the family work get done?  Will I be able to sleep? I’m an 8-10 hours of sleep type of girl, how much of that am I going to have to give up to become successful?  How long can I maintain that? Can I even handle it at all?  Will I destroy my family? Will my kids have to now grow up without a mother? Am I that selfish? 

3) And most importantly, what if I’m not good enough? Women grow up being told that they're not good enough. Or that they shouldn’t do something ‘because they’re a girl’. I know we don’t want to believe this anymore, but it’s true. Yes, we've been working on this and more women and girls are in non-traditional female spaces. However, that does not take away the experiences I had when I was a kid. 

How many of you were regularly told, or felt to believe that: 

Girls shouldn't get dirty, girls shouldn’t be good at math. You’re an unusual girl because you play hockey. Oh, and by the way, girls can’t actually play hockey. And they’re never going to be as good at sports as men are, so why bother.  If you take the best female and the best male of any sport, the male is going to win. Women will never be good enough to be the best. 

I remember these messages throughout my childhood and early adulthood. These statements had an impact. I thought I was over it, but apparently, they still matter to me now. I battle myself and my inner voice constantly. I want to live in a world of equality; however, the constant pushing down that I received from society growing up (even if it was subtle most of the time) is not going away easy.

I now find myself coaching my daughter’s hockey team. We’re from Minnesota, hockey is what we do! She’s a first-year player (mini mites in MN hockey terms, 8U to the rest of the nation). Out of 20 coaches at her level, I am the only mom coach out there. Even in MN where hockey (including girls’ and women's hockey) is HUGE, there are only 4 female coaches within the whole association, which probably consists of around 100 coaches. 

I feel out of place and inadequate. I was a D3 college hockey player. In high school I played against Krissy Wendell, a gold medal winning Women’s Olympic hockey player.   I was in charge of shadowing her whenever we played her team. Skating wise, I could keep up with her. Stickhandling wise, not so much, stickhandling has never been my strong suit!!! I’m telling you this because I feel the need to prove to you that I am not a bad player. 

However, even after acknowledging that I have some hockey skills, I still do not fully feel as if I am good enough to coach first year hockey players. The ‘girls can’t play hockey’ mantra has been going off in my mind so often lately that I'm starting to believe it. I look for opportunities to prove that I am not worthy. It's not right, I know, but that is how your inner voice seems to work. It wants to prove those things that deep down you have been taught to believe.  “I am not good enough because I am a girl”. 

Not only has this impacted my personal life, but I also now see that it is impacting my business. I’m afraid. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m sick and tired of not feeling good enough for no f’in reason. 

Yes, I’m a girl. So what.........

Yes, I should get over it. Yes, I should start telling myself I'm good enough and just go f’in do it. Get over it already.

But, I’m realizing, that is easier said than done. Pushing myself to ‘get over it’ hasn’t been working. It’s brought up old and deeply rooted wounds. It’s made me want to hide even more. 

I’ve led myself outside my comfort zone and been successful. I’m fucking good at what I do. I have been told that a gazillion times; however, there is still that lingering voice reminding me that ‘I’m never going to be good enough because I'm a girl.” And I don’t think I’m alone...........


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