This is month 8 of my 1-year journey to figure out what I want. I’m on a mission to be happy and content every single day.
A Break From Self-Improvement
My husband (very innocently) asked me the other day how my contentment journey was going. Through gritted teeth, I explained to him that I gave myself a little break from all things self-improvement so I could focus on growing a baby and not puking every day. In all fairness, his question was relevant to our conversation and so genuine. But in my defense, I have been very, very sick.
So I took a break. I tabled all the hard questions and the striving for a few months. And though I know taking care of yourself is really important as a mom, this little project didn’t feel like self-care. It felt like work. And the whole human growing thing was already enough extra work on top of my actual job. That said, I have learned some things in the past few months.
Expectations, Meet Your Match
One of the first lessons I learned about myself as a self-reflective adult was that I have extremely high expectations. Of myself and of other people. I worked really, really hard in the first year of our marriage to shift that. I discovered that the more grace I had for myself, the more grace I could find for others.
And honestly, I did a really good job of it. I eased up on what I expected out of me and in turn, I was kinder to others (mostly Travis). So I kinda put it in a box and said, “All done!” But this year has me pulling out that box, blowing the dust off the top, and renegotiating some old bad habits that have crept back up.
I have found that the more stressful my work becomes, my expectations of myself crawl higher to meet the stress. And as they crawl, my patience for other people falls. HARD. It’s very simple: if I’m working hard and pushing limits, then I want others to do the same. But not only is this unrealistic, it’s completely unfair.
Because then those expectations spill over into my personal life. I expect people to give the same amount as I give, care about the same things that I do, and invest their time where I think is best. That’s not a relationship, that’s a dictatorship. And no one wants to hang out with a dictator.
Which Leads Me To Boundaries …
For someone who preaches the Good News of Brené Brown on the regular, I do a pretty shit job of following all of her teachings. She loves a good boundary and I’m pretty terrible at setting my own. Because a lot of those expectations I just talked about are truly boundary issues. I over-invest myself in other people’s lives to the point where I feel entitled to dictate (or at the very least judge) their choices. I feel responsible for their shortcomings, in addition to my own. It’s a shame spiral that I can get trapped in all too easily.
But the last few months? I was incapable of doing a single thing outside of my job. If someone was paying me for work, I delivered. But everything else was off-limits. I literally lived on the couch, apologizing to my husband for the 65th night in a row that I couldn’t help with dinner or bedtime. I couldn’t extend a helping hand to anyone. I couldn’t even write this monthly blog!
But it was a good lesson in boundaries. When I don’t have the capacity to constantly do, give, or expect, I’m happier. My physical limitations led me to some serious revelations about what I want my life to look like and how I want to spend my time. Shocker: it’s with a healthy balance of giving and taking.
A + B = C
Appropriate expectations + Good boundaries = Contentment. Did I just solve it? Is that the equation I’ve been looking for all along? Maybe. But knowing a formula and implementing it are completely different things. How do I set appropriate expectations? How do I draw good boundaries? I think it starts my prioritizing what’s important to you. So when everything was stripped away during the first 19 weeks of pregnancy, I saw what was important to me:
My amazing husband. This flawless, unicorn of a man. I could go on, but that’s enough.
My child(ren). They need to be fed, loved, snuggled, and paid attention to.
My family. They are like the whole reason I moved across the country. And it was a great decision. They are a huge priority for me.
My clients. I want to keep them happy because I really do love and value each and every one of them.
Me. With all that couch time, I read so much the past few months. I took two trips to Florida because why not be sick where the sun is at least shining. I said no to maternity clothes and yes to expensive skin care. Also, sour candy. So much sour candy.
This is just a list. But if I look at it every day and say no to a lot of things that aren’t on it, I think I’m on my way to implementing the contentment formula.
My Round-Up of #TheContentmentFormula Resources
A life book I loved … The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This fiction book just cracked my heart right open. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down (recommended by the one and only Kate Baer, who is the only person I listen to about fiction books).
A business book I liked … The 16-Word Sales Letter by Evaldo Albuquerque. I am admittedly only halfway through this book and it is admittedly very expensive for a thin paperback. But it’s so good that I’m confident to recommend it already. I love the thoughts, the honesty, and the fresh takes on old practices. If you write copy at all to sell things, buy this.
A nonfiction book everyone should listen to … Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. Really fascinating book that is so good on audio. It is more like a podcast than anything else. Not only is he one of my favorite authors, he’s one of my favorite thinkers.
Two podcasts I loved …
Death, Sex, & Money … Between Friends: Your Stories About Race and Friendship // My friend sent me this episode and it was so interesting and eye-opening to listen to. Made me check myself and question myself and vow to constantly try to do better and listen more.
The Good List … Routine Isn’t A Bad Word // This relatively new show from Tsh Oxenreider is right up my alley. Short episodes, packed with great ideas and tangible ways to implement them. This lil guy was all about routines. Why have them? What do other people do?