Last fall, I shared a personal post about my struggle with depression (here). Leading up to that point, my immediate family had gone through some tremendous heartaches…and, in addition to those circumstances, I was also fighting my own personal battle. I had eluded to it before and wasn’t sure if I would ever fully disclose it here. But I decided that I wanted to open up about it today because I think it’s an important message to share.
Many entrepreneurs will tell you that you have to sacrifice everything if you want to succeed. And while that may be true for a season, it simply is not sustainable long-term. Building a business should never come at the cost of having a life. If you’re unable to find and maintain some kind of balance, you will become miserable and the work that you once loved will begin to feel like a burden.
Being a driven type-A perfectionist certainly didn’t set me up to understand this when I began PPF. In many ways, I walked into it blindly & I don’t think I ever consciously intended for my blog to become a full-time job. But then, a year into it, my husband was laid off and our financial situation drastically changed. So, rather than make yet another out-of-state move, for the sake of our kids, we decided to pour ourselves into growing my site and treating it like a legitimate business to help make ends meet.
With this came some incredible opportunities and blessings that I don’t want to discount or sound like I’ve taken for granted. Being self-employed is an amazing gift – having the freedom to set your own schedule, take vacation time when you want and work from home are obvious perks. While paying for your own medical insurance, filing taxes and tracking down delinquent payments are the far less glamorous side of things.
About a year ago, though, I reached my breaking point – looking back on it now, I can see that I stayed stuck for far too long. I was so focused on work-related duties that I was missing out on events at church & my kids’ school. I had taken on too much & work became so all-consuming that I didn’t have time to meal prep for myself, grab lunch with friends, spend time with my husband in the evenings or go to my favorite Zumba class. I’d become completely isolated & the amount of time that I was spending being focused on material things was really starting to bother me. Worst of all, it began to affect my health – never again will I underestimate the negative impact of stress on my body.
My husband & I had many long, tear-filled conversations – we prayed (sometimes on our knees) & I sought advice from my mentor/life coach through several long-distance video calls. All of this led me to the conclusion that something had to change…and I was the only one who could make it happen. So, I made a decision to re-commit to self-care & to start reclaiming my life.
I began to say “no” more often. I gave myself permission to take a day off from posting on the blog so I could bake cookies with my daughter or go on a day date with my husband. I made exercise a priority again & began to schedule it into my work days. I allowed myself to rest on mornings when I woke up with Lupus pain & fatigue. I even took a full week off from social media when my parents were staying with us last winter – something that I never would have done a year ago.
Of course, all of this came at a cost – my growth pattern slowed down, I had to cut ties with the talent agency that once represented me and I was bringing in less money each month. We were forced to make some adjustments to our budget & be more careful with our spending. But, all of it felt like a small price to pay to get my life back, to have more time with my family and to not spend every waking minute consumed by work. If making less money equals having more of a life, that’s a trade that I’ll always be willing to make. One of my favorite quotes: “The price of anything is the amount of life you trade for it.”
Realistically, I still have a responsibility to provide for my family and I want to continue to be a helpful resource for all of you who have been so kind to support me throughout the years. So, while I aim to be consistent & diligent with my work, I’m also learning to give myself grace. There are times when I see what other bloggers are doing and think that I should try to create more content or work harder or push myself to post more frequently. The difficult part about blogging is that there is ALWAYS more you can do – more research on the latest styles, more posting about sales, more snapshots of your day-to-day life, etc.
But, when it comes down to it, taking a step back has been the healthiest choice for me. Maybe this won’t be a permanent change…but for now, it’s what I’ve needed & it’s been the absolute best decision for my family – one that I know I won’t regret when I look back on this season. I get to spend more quality time with my kids & be completely present when I am with them. I get to take my dog for walks & soak in the Vitamin D that my body so desperately needs. I get to give of my time through volunteering & ministry, which truly feeds my soul. Leading a more balanced life has restored my joy & it’s reminded me of what I treasure most.
The reason why I wanted to share all of this with you today is to encourage those of you who may be in a similar situation. Regardless of your circumstances, you have a choice. If your life isn’t the way you want, you have the power to change it. Here are a few things I’ve done that have helped:
1) Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s
I see other full-time bloggers who are also wives & mothers and I’m tempted to wonder how they’re able to effortlessly do it all. Do they have an assistant? a nanny? a housekeeper? But, going down the rabbit hole of comparison is a fruitless endeavor. It doesn’t matter what someone else has on their plate or how they manage. If what you have taken on feels like too much for you, then it is. It doesn’t matter if other people think you should be able to handle those circumstances. Maybe you’ve even placed unrealistic expectations on yourself. Do yourself a favor and LET. THAT. GO.
2) Write down your goals
Sometimes the task of simply putting a pencil to paper & getting your thoughts written down is therapeutic in & of itself. Be brutally honest with yourself & think about what a balanced life would look like for you. What are the things that bring you peace, joy & fulfillment? Sit down, write it all out and be as specific as possible. Make a list of short-term goals (like working out 3 times a week or signing up for a local class) and long-term goals (like saving for a vacation or building a garden).
3) Take the next step
Make a list of practical steps you can take to help you get closer to your goal. Bullet journals are great for this & can really help you take it one day at a time if the big picture feels overwhelming. This may mean making difficult adjustments in certain areas, getting creative with your budget and/or time & even potentially disappointing some people by saying no. Just remember that nothing is permanent – maybe these changes are what you need for a season to help you physically or mentally.
4) Be patient
Understand that things won’t completely change overnight – for me, having tangible tasks written down gave me a sense of hope that it was possible. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and that was all I needed to keep moving forward with one foot in front of the other.
Maybe you’re in the throes of motherhood, dealing with undiagnosed postpartum, and struggling to keep your head above water – it’s tempting to compare yourself to other new moms and feel like you should be cherishing every precious moment & handling it with ease. Maybe you’ve gone through a big move and adjusting to the new area isn’t as smooth & painless as you anticipated. While it seems like others are making friends quickly, you find yourself failing to connect. Maybe you’re dealing with a difficult season of parenting and one of your kids is facing something you never could have anticipated. It’s hard to see your friends breezing through life with their picture perfect family photos on Facebook. Whatever your circumstances, let me be the one to tell you that your feelings are valid. You are not weak. But you also are not powerless. Climbing that mountain in front of you may be hard, exhausting & frustrating…but if you’re feeling stuck & defeated, you don’t have to stay there.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through all of this is that I have to be my own advocate. This is true for my physical health as much as it is true for my mental health. As women, so often we get focused on caring for others around us that we put ourselves last & have nothing left to give. Prioritizing self-care is not selfish…it’s essential. The sooner we start loving ourselves enough to say no, to rest when we need it & to fight for what we want, the sooner we can embrace, and truly enjoy, a well-balanced life that is purposeful & meaningful.