I believe life is a stage. I believe it’s okay (and necessary) to take pauses and be occasionally selfish. I believe you should create your own standards and your own normal. I know that boundaries are not just healthy, they are life saving. These lessons contradict my others-centered upbringing in small-town America, being educated in Catholic schools. Furthering the contradiction, I became my own worst enemy, before I learned to be my own best friend. Learning about self-compassion allowed me to create a new normal for myself and for my family, and even better, I finally started to live life abundantly and remembered to have fun.
Being the second oldest of four daughters provided opportunities for me to stand out and be a little controlling from the beginning. When my sisters and I were home alone, we had our own stage and our imaginations went crazy. In one afternoon, we were actresses, singers, and dancers. My older sister, Bridget was the shy, reasonable one. I enjoyed taking the spotlight from her, and she didn’t mind. Conversely, I learned loyalty early on as well. Let it be known that I can complain about or poke fun at my sisters – you can’t. When my two little sisters joined the party, they never had a chance. I was already louder, bigger, and bossier.
In college, it got worse. I was two years into aggressive pageant training, still having not made the transition toward a more balanced perspective of true beauty and health, already having won two separate titles with Miss Texas USA pageant system. Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX would be the stomping ground for my greatest lesson to date: Do not conform to the standards of this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind. My controlling nature fit well within the strict diet and exercise routine I followed. No, it wasn’t healthy, and I was headed for death. I knew I couldn’t keep going at the pace I set for myself, racing after what society demanded of me. Seeking Earthly crowns, degrees, status, and outward beauty consumed my days, when I should have been investing in my personal health, positive relationships, and defining my own standards of self-worth. I got help from a team of professionals who taught me to change my perspective a bit. We got to work on new perspectives for health, beauty, relationships, and success.
If you’ve ever undone relationships, you’ll understand the pain that ensued after making this commitment to myself. Telling someone they no longer fit into your new world is tough. Even more difficult, is shunning the activities you used to enjoy – so you thought. Getting yourself to understand your decisions is a challenge, followed closely by the difficulty of helping others understand your decisions. Despite all of the hurt, you (your health, and your well-being) matter more. Closing my pageant career, gaining 10 pounds of muscle by setting boundaries in my exercising and nourishment, and two broken engagements were some of the first decisions made within new personal boundaries. Leaving a wake of broken plans and hearts gifted me with moments of insecurity and pain; however, I carried a peace in my heart that remained unexplainable.
My 12-year corporate career came about just as it did for most college graduates at the turn of the century. When I signed on with Southwest Airlines, I knew I was in for something special. The promise of growing with a respected company seemed like a great fit for a newly-single girl in the big city. It was only about five years into my career that I realized I was on stage again. This wasn’t the pageant stage; however, titles still provided power and prestige and people everywhere were craving both. Even worse, youth and beauty were curses, and I fell right back into the quest for society approval at the risk of my own health. The long hours, demanding after-hours social life (not attending wasn’t an option), and always looking ahead to the next goal instead of appreciating and celebrating existing accomplishments, led me back toward a life of unhealthy perspectives and without appropriate boundaries. The corporate stage was ruthless, even at a good company. Remember that great lesson I received in college? I fell right back into conforming to the standards of the world instead of transforming and renewing my mind. Damn it.
Despite a successful career, being financially and socially content, my spirit was unsettled and I longed to nurture something more than just my career and social life. I employed the help of two holistic wellness advisors to help me figure out why I was still fatigued and lacking fulfillment. Together we dissected my world, perspectives, standards, boundaries, and overall well-being. We had some work to do. To be honest, before this time, I never really wrote out a list of core values, or asked the questions: “What matters most to me?” or “Does my daily agenda match up with these core values?” Sifting through how I lived my days and what mattered most to me provided answers to my non-fulfillment. I learned that up until now, I’ve ignored two key aspects of overall wellness. My spiritual strength needed work and my perspectives relating to success, relationships, and health needed toning.
At this season of my life, I really enjoyed running as my physical and mental therapy. With each distance race I completed, I felt past insecurity and pain fall off my shoulders and started creating new perspectives for my life. There’s nothing like a marathon to send you on an emotional roller coaster through your past, present, and future. With each step, I reminded myself of how blessed I was to be on a healthy journey toward my destiny. I enjoyed the fitness challenge because I was desperate to see what I was really capable of. I craved competition again, but now it was with myself. The physical challenges were great, but I really loved how strong I grew mentally and spiritually. I didn’t understand, at the time, that I was being conditioned for my most challenging title yet.
I’ll always be grateful to my former company for introducing me to my husband. I met him at the office, at a time I wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship. I just figured out how to love myself better, and I wanted to hold onto that for a bit before adding someone else into the mix. I was genuinely fulfilled, maintaining my boundaries, and challenging myself daily with my career and some new opportunities in the health and wellness industry. I never dealt with my control issues. Crap.
If there’s one thing you lose in marriage, and as part of a blended family, it’s control. While I should have allowed some more preparation time for my control detox, six months into a new marriage didn’t afford me that luxury. Since we’re being real here, it sucked at times. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, really, and looking back, we all did pretty damn great with the cards we were dealt. When I saw the struggles we were having with our new roles, I offered the idea to create our own rules. Once we decided together, as a new blended family, to design and build our new normal, our new perspectives, and our new boundaries, the gloves came off… magically. I was no longer, step-mom but now bonus-mom. They were no longer my stepchildren, but rather my bonus children. We committed to appreciating our unique family structure and the opportunities we have that others might not. My husband is a daily, living reminder of maintaining healthy perspective, balance, and a constant (somewhat aggravating) reminder to have a little fun. He keeps first things first, and doesn’t care whether or not you agree with what he considers a first thing. He is always grateful and always quick to count blessings. When I waiver on my own quest for this type of balance, he’s my encouragement.
Losing the leadership title in corporate America was difficult, as was losing the 12-year career that created a lot of my identity. Taking the leap of faith toward working for myself was the most exciting, creepy, and peaceful leap I’ve taken, second only to marrying my husband and relinquishing control over aspects of my life. Once I stopped conforming to the standards of the world and focused more on transforming my mind, my world opened up. New titles of wife, bonus mom, spokesperson and advisor have fulfilled me more than I anticipated, and I’ve just started. As Mrs. Texas United States, I enjoyed speaking to groups of young ladies about how to properly care for themselves in a holistic way – body, mind and spirit – and that no matter their circumstances or goals, create your own standards and rulebook. Never give up on yourself. Never conform to society’s standards of beauty, health, and success. Create your own normal and perform well on that stage.