Let me start with one important fact about myself: I suck at losing. I do not like it. I never have.
If you’ve read the blog or even just my bio you know I started playing soccer when I was 5 soccer and played through my junior year in college. In those 18 years, there were a lot of soccer games, like A TON. Now, granted, my competitive years were spent playing for the premiere team in Southern California so we did not lose a ton, but every once in a while it happened. At the peak of our success we played in a National Tournament in DC against the top teams around the country. We made it to the finals and lost to a local DC-area team and let me just say that we were crushed. The gray day and pouring rain matched our tears.
Unfortunately, loses like this happened well after my soccer career. But “life losses” as I call them are sometimes harder to spot and therefore, harder to deal with. My 20s were filled with “life losses.” I think most people’s are but I did NOT handle them well. Something I learned about myself is that I do not like to feel sad, disappointed, upset, frustrated, angry, or really any other unpleasant emotion. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Um, who does Jess?!” Yeah, you’re right, none of us like to deal with disappointment or sadness or even some of life’s hardest things like losing a loved one. If I’m being honest, I could not cope.
It took falling to my rock bottom, time and time again for me to figure out that this is not a way to live your life. I was constantly comparing myself, constantly striving to be something that I wasn’t. It was horrible. My days were filled with such pain and the worst part was that I would try my best to put on a façade that I was perfect and had everything figured out. Turns out that lying and covering up your struggles makes it worse when they’re finally exposed.
I did not like being rejected for jobs. Not a lot of people know this but I had always wanted to be on TV since I was little but I was so afraid to fail that I never really tried. I even switched majors from “in front of the camera” to production in college. And I pursued a career path that was not really identified or authentic to what I really wanted because I was too afraid to lose.
This whole “loss-avoidance” thing probably was exposed the most in my relationships. I did not handle failed relationships well, especially as I got older because I was so ashamed that they kept failing. I kept thinking it was my fault. And the truth is, part of it was. But what I couldn’t accept was that it was ok.
Another thing most people don’t know is that I checked into a trauma-focused rehab center in March of 2014 because I was fighting depression and anxiety and I just didn’t know what else to do. I can say that spending 5 weeks working on myself was the best thing I have done for myself. It didn’t “fix” me but I healed a lot. I just wasn’t prepared to fall to rock bottom again after I left rehab. **when I say rock bottom I refer to these depressive states not an alcohol or drug rock bottom thankfully.
My last relationship was the worst of my life, yet I hung onto it the longest. I knew 2 months in that something was very wrong but I could not handle failing again. So instead I put myself through hell and lost friends along the way. Brutal right? I think during that time I can honestly say it was my darkest time.
I remember each day when things were at their worst, just opening a journal and trying to write a gratitude list. I know it seems super silly but when you’re feeling crazy low and like everything is going against you it really helps. I kid you not, I could only write one thing each day for weeks and it was “Stan.” Then, slowly, I added to the list. My friends, family, work, etc.
Before I knew it was back up and functioning. But more interestingly, I felt like two major things had happened. First, I had learned an incredible amount about myself and realized that these were not “life losses,” they were failures and they were a part of everyone’s life. And second, I stopped comparing myself to everyone else.
It was a major perspective shift. It’s ok to fail. There was such relief in that. And I’m not perfect. I am going to make mistakes for the rest of my life, but I was finally learning. There was so much peace in that.
I found this old headshot I posted today and it was just before I met my ex and just after rehab. I thought I was finally on the road to an easy life where failure would be a thing of the past. That was not the case and what that taught me is that there will always be disappointments and life will actually never just be easy, it’s all about perspective and how you handle it.
In that photo, I remember being so hard on myself, always wanting to lose another 5 pounds, wanting long mermaid hair, etc. And mostly, felt like I was failing…at everything. I’m not in as good of shape now and I post photos all the time where I do not look perfect, because I am NOT. But I love showing fashion ideas, talking sports and all things game day. So I post.
With social media and how connected this world is, it is so hard not to compare myself to my traveling, married, foodie, mommy, skinny, beautiful, funny, CEO, famous friends and think “I’m losing.” In sports we learn, you can’t with them all. So how does this apply to life? I think I was looking at life as a game, one that can be won or lost. It’s no wonder I felt like I was constantly losing to the millions of people I was comparing myself to. But that is not how life works. This was my big revelation in the last year.
As a competitive person, this was extremely freeing. You mean to tell me that I am not in competition with my incredibly talented friend who is married to the love of her life, owns a home, never misses a workout, has an incredible career and is expecting her second child?! What a freaking relief! Silly right? Of course we aren’t in competition with our friends. But with social media and media in general we do this comparison/competition dance with celebs and public figures and heck, even with random people we don’t know. We make up narratives based on what we see only to feel worse about our 9-5 days filled with tuna sandwiches from 7-11 and not a fabulous mimosa-filled lunch with 15 other adorable bloggers.
We are all ok, we are all doing fine and we are all in control of our own lives. If there is something you want to change, do it. But do it for you, not for anyone else or to try to get a “win.”
If you’re struggling at all, big or small, try starting with that gratitude journal and keep at it every day. Watch yourself transform and watch how you start seeing life differently; how you start seeing YOUR life and not everyone else’s. I think we’re afraid to be selfish or self-centered but you should absolutely spend time looking at your life and loving it, changing it where it needs and making it the best for you. Save the winning and losing for sports, lord knows we endure enough (unless you’re a Patriots fan;)).
Have a great rest of the week.