It was circa 2005. A late Saturday afternoon. I was getting ready to go out that night and was plowing through a pile of jeans, trying to find the pair that made my thighs look slightly thinner and my rear slightly firmer, without causing my stomach to overhang on the top.
Pair after pair I went through, and kept coming up dry.
Frustrated, my self-esteem dissolving with each pair, I reached for the miracle pair. The pair that was tried and true; had served me well during their prime.
While all the rest of the jeans were at least 2 sizes bigger, reflecting the expansion my body had gone through over the past 5 years, I held onto the hope that tonight, somehow, miraculously, these jeans would fit. My legs would slide into them, the zip would close without a fight, and my belly would stay flat even when I sat down.
Of course this dream was just a dream. I could barely get one leg into them.
This was not a surprise. They hadn’t fit for years. But in the rotation they stayed, because maybe, just maybe, today would be different.
Maybe today I would finally like myself. Maybe today I would feel confident as I walked out the door. Maybe today I would not worry about what other people thought about me. Maybe today I would let myself believe that I am just as valuable a human as the person next to me.
That didn’t happen. Not that night.
Those jeans worked a different kind of magic this time. Something more miraculous instead.
For the first time in however many Saturday nights, I finally saw what was happening. I was punishing myself over and over. Telling myself I needed to fit into those jeans in order for my life to work, for me to feel good about myself, for all my problems (including a rather dysfunctional relationship with my body and food), to go away.
Everything was riding on those jeans. They were the measure of my worth. They held the key to unlock my freedom. All I had to do was squeeze myself into them.
Until I realized, wait a second, “No! That’s all ass-backwards!” These jeans were actually my prison. They were keeping me trapped in a vicious cycle of, deprive myself of food I love so I don’t put on weight, swing over to the other side and over-eat to the point of pain, then rid myself of everything I just ate to try to reverse the damage, followed by work really hard to burn off all the extra calories.
If the jeans were no longer there to measure the performance of my body, the placeholder for my self worth, and I was no longer trying to squeeze myself into them, that’s actually when I would be free.
Everything was riding on those jeans. Except the answer wasn’t to suck myself in and squeeze into them. It was the opposite. I had to let them go.
I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief. I could finally let my belly hang out.
And so the jeans got packed up and shipped off to my 10 year-old cousin. I had grown out of them; she would grow into them.
While this was a relatively simple act, it still feels deeply profound. It was not a magic wand moment, with every piece of my life falling into place all at once. I didn’t wake up the next morning loving myself and loving life. I didn’t instantaneously jump off the deprive-indulge-control-release hamster wheel.
However, a crucial and critical shift within me happened. Call it energetic, spiritual, or psychological. In that one act of letting go, I was not just losing the jeans, I was cutting the cord that tied my self-worth to those jeans. I was hijacking the neurological pathway in my brain that said, love was waiting for me at the end of the ‘thin and fit’ road.
I was making room for the possibility that I could like myself, that others could like and love me, that I’d be accepted, emotionally secure, even with a seemingly imperfect body.
Fifteen years later I am sitting here about to do the same thing. Let go of a proverbial pair of jeans.
This time it’s not my body that I’ve been trying to squeeze into them, it’s my so-called business.
Six years ago I decided to be a Coach. I trained, I took on clients, I developed a program (that hinges on this very practice of letting go), I taught it, and I did all the things.
It hasn’t felt good. For a while. The feeling I have reminds me of the tension I felt leading up to that day 15 years ago.
Something doesn’t feel good, I want to stop, but I can’t quit. I have to keep going otherwise I’ll be seen as a failure.
I have tried to squeeze myself into the shape of a Coach that everyone can recognize. On-line, in-person, group events, one-to-one. It’s like when I went from the South Beach diet, to drinking Leek Soup, to calorie-free cookies. Each time hoping that this would be the thing that both satiates me and makes me thin.
This time I’ve hoped it will be the thing that is both fulfilling and makes me money. I’ve started things and then stopped them. It’s felt like a constant push-pull. And while I know that the entrepreneurial journey consists fully of trial and error, there’s been something more deeply familiar that resembles the deprive-indulge-control-release cycle.
I have been chasing after success and financial security, creating another prison for me.
After 6 years of thinking that this time will be different, I’m finally ready to stop fooling myself. I need to let it go.
I need to stop trying to squeeze myself into the shape of a Coach.
Fifteen years ago, after I got rid of those jeans, do you know what happened? I started playing soccer, not just running around Central Park and hitting up the gym. I discovered yoga. I started volunteering. I paid more attention to the things I actually enjoy doing in life, and did more of that.
That is what healed me. But first I had to let go of the jeans.
Life is asking me to do that again.
Since diving into coaching, uncovering this healing process I call Your True You Journey (which is available here), I of course have been challenged to embody the thing I teach; break-free from expectations I and others have put on me, reclaim the parts of me that have been riddled with shame, give myself permission to be all of my self, share my gifts with the world.
Along the way I’ve discovered, uncovered, and remembered a list of things that are a part of me that also bring some sort of hope, healing, or light to others. Some of them are unconventional, hard to describe, and don’t neatly fit into a box.
It’s been hard to accept that I am multi-faceted. Most of the advice I’ve been given encourages singular focus, which sticks like Velcro because my inner critic enjoys holding me to task to have a financially flush coaching business before moving on, and then punishing me each year I miss the mark.
As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m laying that down.
I need to be more me in how I share myself with the world. Whether through writing, music, or sharing a mystical perspective that frightens even me sometimes, there are parts of me I have been hiding because they don’t neatly fit into the shape of Coach.
Now I know I don’t have to let go of Coach just to add on Writer, DJ, and Mystic to my website, bio, or business card.
However, I know myself too well. If all I do is add on more titles, more costumes and jeans to fit into, a year or two from now I’ll be in the same place. Struggling to break-free from the limitations and expectation for success I put on myself.
And so tonight, on the night of the Full Moon, when her light is the brightest, I am claiming my light. It is multi-faceted and potent and needed.
And, just as the light of the Moon will start changing shape tomorrow, I am letting go of what shape my light looks like. And even more importantly, that the shape needs to fit into ‘success’.
What that means exactly I don’t know.
For now all I know is that the cord needs to be cut. I need to let myself be free to be Me.
As you read this, you’re invited to join me. Check-in with yourself, where are you squeezing yourself into a shape just so you can prove yourself, succeed, or ensure you are loved and accepted? What would it be like to put that down?
I get if it’s scary. I’ve been wrestling with myself all week knowing that this my next move was to surrender this. My back and shoulders and neck are carrying the tension and it feels like I’m being electrocuted every time I move.
So it’s ok if you’re not ready to wave the white flag just yet. Maybe there is just one doable step you can take. Maybe it’s turning off your email notifications an hour earlier, moving the jeans from the front of the closet to the back of the closet, or something else that symbolizes detaching your self-worth from something other than who you really are.
Set yourself free.
Let me know if you do take a step. Reach out for support if you need it.