I want to start today’s post with three quick personal stories that you or may not know from my past.
When Jason and I met in 2010, I was in my final year of college, just months shy of graduating. Truth be told, I was actually already in another serious relationship that had been going on for more than a year. I had occasional doubts about the relationship I was in, moments when I wondered about our compatibility or our future together, but I thought that was normal. I figured everyone had doubts about that stuff. That was until I met Jason. We hit it off right away and the way we were able to laugh together and talk so comfortably with one another was something I’d never experienced before. Still, I did my best to convince myself that our instant connection was nothing more than friendship, and I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut telling me my current relationship wasn’t right.
As the days went by, the more I tried to ignore my own inner conflict, the louder this voice inside started to become. I felt physically sick to my stomach, a feeling I now recognize as my body’s way of telling me I was living out of alignment with my true self. One day I woke up and finally decided I couldn’t bear the feeling anymore. I knew I had to end things with my then-boyfriend, hurting someone that I still really cared about in the process.
It was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had.
Our families with intermingled, people were invested in our relationship, and I hated the thought of letting them down or hurting anyone at all because of a decision that felt really selfish (and, honestly, kind of crazy) at the time.
Ultimately though I knew that the version of myself I wanted to invest in was the one I could be when I was with this unconventional, goofy, assertive, wild dreamer of a guy named Jason. And I told myself that I was willing to battle through whatever uncomfortable fallout would come with claiming that relationship -- the right relationship -- for my life.
Fast forward a few months after college graduation, and I found myself living in Durham, North Carolina working for a well-respected advertising agency on big name accounts like Sherwin-Williams and Nationwide (a job I had already pursued prior to my decision to start a relationship with Jason, who was living back in Jacksonville.)
A big part of me felt like I had made it. I was on the path to becoming the successful modern-day Mad Men ad exec that I dreamed about. But after the luster of my first few weeks of being a career woman wore off, the weight of the path that I’d chosen started to become a lot more clear. The people were nice and the work felt prestigious, but I hated that I wasn’t putting any of my true talents to work. I spent my days in the media department formatting spreadsheets instead of coming up with creative solutions and making things. Every morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach, and every night I went home and cried.
As Brené Brown says, “unused creativity is not benign.” Keeping my talents unrealized was making my heart ache. Again, now I can look back and see that my intuition was doing everything it could to wake me up to the realization that this career was not the right one for me.
When I thought about walking into my boss’s office to tell him I QUIT as a 22-year old kid just six months into the job, I honestly didn’t know if I could physically manage it. I felt like I was letting everyone down, and I was still so concerned that everyone around me would see me as a quitter. Still, I knew that every minute spent at that job was a minute stolen from a new life -- my TRUE life -- where I could see my creativity flourish and my talents utilized.
So once again, I knew what I had to do, regardless of how hard that moment might be. I found a new job back in Jacksonville with my new crazy partner in crime, I walked into my boss’s office, I apologized, and I quit.
Years later, finally armed with a great relationship and free of a heartless career path, I decided to start my own business, Made Vibrant. Despite being a self-taught designer, I knew that in the early days my only shot at making decent money was selling my design services while I established trust with a growing audience. Things were slow to get going but after a few months, I found my confidence and my rhythm and I was booked six months in advance.
Then, that familiar feeling arrived. The pit in the stomach. The tightness in my chest. Having the health of my business rely solely on meeting the expectations of clients kept me up at night. I worried I was never doing enough. I worried I was underselling myself. I WORRIED about everything.
That’s when Jason kindly reminded me that, as the BOSS, I was in control of my business. I called the shots. If I didn’t want to be doing client work anymore, then that decision was entirely within my power to make. IF, of course, I was willing to make a few tough calls. There were a few projects that were in motion but not yet contractually agreed to, and if I wanted to start making a shift away from client work, it meant calling up those clients to break the news and let them know they’d have to find another designer.
I can still remember my heart racing as I dialed each of those numbers to make those calls. I thought I might throw up I was so nervous. I hate letting people down, I hate feeling like a quitter, I hate not following through on a commitment. But you know what I hate more? Waking up to a life that doesn’t light me up in mind, body and spirit. That is my North Star, my guiding value, and I now know that I’m willing to protect it no matter what.
I easily have a dozen more stories like those, both big and small in scale, that detail some kind of terribly hard conversation that I had to have in order to claim a new, BRIGHTER path for myself and my life.
My point in sharing those personal moments with you is this:
To get to the life that you want, you have to power through some VERY hard conversations.
It’s simply the price of entry to the promised land of authentic living.
You have moments when you feel like you’re letting everyone down. Moments when you feel like everyone is looking at you like you’re crazy. Heck, moments when YOU don’t even really know what you’re doing.
But that’s when it’s important for you to remember that any life that doesn’t illuminate your spirit through and through is too small for you.
When you take a step back, do you really think that fear of a hard conversation should have the power to rob you of a life that feels bright and true and full?
Is avoiding an awkward break-up or family argument or uncomfortable conversation with a boss or colleague worth wondering what might have been?
The thing about authenticity is that none of us typically knows what’s right or wrong for ourselves until we experience it. We don’t know a career path isn’t for us until we live it every day. We may not know a relationship is toxic until we have time and experience to compare it to. Authentic living is a full-contact, hands-on, roll-your-sleeves-up kind of sport, and you have to know that going into it.
If our only way of discovering the right path for us is feeling our way through it, then we’re bound to make some wrong turns every now and again. And in order to course-correct, we have to speak up and make some changes. Hard conversations are a part of that.
So, my challenge to you this week is to ask yourself this question:
What hard conversations might be standing between you and your best life?
Who are you so afraid of letting down that you’re willing to stay stuck instead of break free?
And, for bonus points, I challenge you to actually HAVE that hard conversation.Rip off that band-aid and remind yourself of what is waiting for you on the other side.
It could be the relationship of a lifetime (hi, Jason); it could be a career that brings out gifts in you that you didn’t even know you had; or it could be a direction in your business that leads to a happier and healthier way of life for you. It could be a million more other things, but if you pay attention to that feeling in your gut, that ache you have will tell you it’s out there.
For all of you that have powered through hard conversations to arrive at your brightest life, way to go. The closer you get to your most vibrant life, the less of those conversations you’ll find yourself having.