I was chatting with a client the other day and she said something that’s been resonating with me ever since. She said, “ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to be exceptional at something and I never was, so I decided to be exceptional at restricting food.”
This comment hit me hard because I was once that woman who needed to be the best at controlling food and exercise. This was driven by my need to receive validation from external sources in order to feel worthy.
Growing up, I was always terrible at sports (my head attracts balls), last place in gym class and my athletic abilities rivalled a 3-toed sloth on NyQuil. When I found dieting and the elliptical, it was finally something I could kick ass at.
In my former career as a dieter, I was THE BEST at restricting foods for set periods of time. I had unstoppable willpower when it came to exercise and hit the gym more than anyone else I knew. I was praised for this and it would give me a temporary state of bliss that I confused with feeling exceptional.
I continued to push myself to achieve the false feeling of being exceptional that could only be gained from someone saying, “I’m so jealous of your willpower” or “you look like Gwen Stefani!” (it was the early 2000’s) To which I would always reply, “whatever, you need to get your eyes checked.”
When I look back on it, this has been an ongoing story in my life. In my former corporate life I needed to be the best at getting perfect performance appraisals and moving up the ladder as quick as possible. I was a champion at creating excel files and powerpoint presentations that would give Mark Zuckerberg a boner.
I needed external validation to feel that sensation of being exceptional. I need to be better than everyone else in order to feel good.
And none of these things made me feel worthy, fulfilled or at peace so the self-loathing battle inside my head continued.
Deep down what I was doing was keeping myself trapped in the comparison game in an all-out effort to chase a sense of worth.
I think we all crave that feeling of being exceptional, but we often look for it in the wrong place – through our yearly performance appraisal, whether or not we did better than the other women who are the same size as us on that 5km run, how smart our kids are (“we’re so proud of Lincoln, he’s in MENSA and he’s only 16 months!”) and praise from others (“OMG, you look so gorgeous…you must be doing that Goop cleanse!!”).
Feeling exceptional can only come from inside of you by seeking alignment with the person you already are.
It comes from breaking up with perfectionism and trying to gain validation from everyone and their second cousin’s boston terrier. Choosing to be exceptional on your terms and no one else’s.
Owning who you are (your imperfect messy self), is your key to experiencing the freedom and peace of being the exceptional woman that’s already inside of you.
One question that I have started to ask myself with each choice I make is, “am I doing this to prove myself to others or because this feels right for me?”
It’s a simple question that can shake the ground you’re standing on in the best way possible.