I haven’t been happy with my body for 20 years, and it’s worse since pregnancy… My hair is falling out and I moisturise it to within an inch of its life to attempt to look better… I wear makeup and do my hair on the weekends so I feel more attractive to my husband… I feel like I need to be constantly engaging with my son, giving him attention, reading to him, getting him involved in activities like karate or music, teaching him life lessons, making sure he’s a great citizen when he’s older, attempting to parent without yelling or being negative… I always try to get a healthy dinner on the table in time for everyone’s different schedules… I wrote a book and spent about a year trying to make it ‘a success’ so that I can write full-time (which hasn’t happened yet)… I’m starting a copywriting business to supplement my income so that I can at least do SOMETHING writing related as my day job and have re-done my website three times… I listen to audiobooks about success on my drive to work and feel guilty if I listen to music… I wrote a TV pilot based on my book which I hope to get some Hollywood interest in… and once my son goes to bed, if I’m not “doing something” to further my career and change my life, I feel lazy and useless.
And you know what? I’m exhausted. I get so, so tired of trying to be better and more successful. I earn average money in my day job and have spent years running myself into the ground late at night, writing, editing, promoting my book with the hope of it becoming successful. I’ve spent $20k on marketing and promotion (and earned maybe 1/5 of that back in royalties) and yet I’m still plugging away in my day job. And right now I feel like none of it will ever happen and I’m the world’s biggest failure.
At least, that’s how I feel on a bad day.
Worse still, nothing anybody says actually makes me feel better. No matter how many times my husband or mum or friends tell me I should be proud of my achievements, it makes no difference. A psychologist recently told me I am my own ‘critical parent’. I will always feel like I’m not good enough because the negative voice in my head is super loud. Great.
Being a woman, a mother, a human adult… is difficult. I know there are plenty of people who are happy with their job and life. They come home and watch TV and relax and enjoy time with their family, and they don’t wish for more. They wear tracksuit pants on the weekend and don’t bother with hair and makeup. They have a “take me or leave me” attitude. I truly envy those people. I want a better life than the one I have. I’m aware that I have my health and so do my husband and son, and I’m so grateful to have them and we’re happy in our relationships and healthy, have food and shelter and access to healthcare etc… But I don’t want to earn average money anymore and spend most of my hours and days at work. I want more family time, more ‘me’ time, more time to write books and movies, and be creative. #firstworldproblems, I know.
My amazingly brilliant late father left school at 12 but became a self-made millionaire later in life, only to lose it all through bankruptcy (long story, but basically a few business decisions gone wrong and a couple of senior employees cheating him)… and losing his money made him lose his enthusiasm for life. He wanted to die because of his failure and the way it happened, and it crushed him into a shadow of his former self. Since he became bankrupt at 55+, it proved too late to get it back, despite him trying desperately. In the end he did die, and it’s affected me in so many ways. I avoided chasing money most of the last 15 years because I saw how important it was to him and how much it destroyed him when he lost it, and I never wanted to have something which could potentially cause me so much grief.
But lately, living week to week on our average paychecks has not been much fun, and working an (almost) full-time job makes me feel like the worst mother in the world at times. I want something different. I want something more. And so for the past four years, rather than just talk about it, I’ve been trying to change my situation so that we have more. I would love to earn enough so that I can work for myself and my husband doesn’t have to work either so he can pursue his own dreams… so I started writing my book when my son was six weeks old. I did have periods of not writing (like when I had a bit of post natal depression), but otherwise I gave up sleep and relaxation to get it finished and get it out there. I got rejected many times by agents but I kept going. I edited it again and tried again, and still got rejected. I ended up self-publishing, and since I have had a long career in marketing I decided to push hard with the marketing and ended up $20k in debt promoting and publicising my book. Yes, I’m in bookstores and have sold close to 3000 copies, which is decent for a self-published author apparently… but it’s certainly FAR from being enough to do this for a living.
So I push myself more and more. I started my copywriting business website recently (www.curlytopcreative.com) – it’s still very much under development, but when I’m not working on it, I feel so lazy and useless. In those moments I feel like I don’t deserve to be successful… but you know, I think I’ve just run out of steam. When I look at how much work I put into everything regarding my book, honestly, I feel a bit angry. I know of very few people who have put in the hard work, sweat, tears and monetary investment that I’ve put into my book, only to still be so far from success. I know I need to write more, but the prospect of writing another book while still working and mothering is truly exhausting. I can barely imagine doing it. I know people do, but I don’t know how they manage to keep finding the energy.
I’m making baby steps towards reducing the pressure on myself, like no longer wearing makeup and doing my hair for work; and allowing myself two nights of relaxation per week where I don’t sit at my computer until 11pm. But I’ve got a long way to go before I feel balanced and happy.
How do you do it? Do you feel stressed and inadequate? Or are you happy just the way you are? If so, what’s your secret?! Share with the rest of us so that we might take a leaf out of your book.