A call to let go of self-imposed expectations and to embrace life’s messiness.
A few Fridays ago, I broke away from the office to enjoy a long-overdue lunch with two of my dear friends. It had been nearly six months since we’d last connected in person, and once we got through the usual roundtable catch-up on life, our conversation turned to the deeper stuff.
As we talked about the challenges of juggling all the responsibilities — family, work, relationships, health, and so on — I found myself spilling the beans about a source of pressure I’d been harboring since becoming the editor in chief of Experience Life more than two years ago. After I had put words to my fears, my friend Betsy responded, “You need to write about this. You’re human — no one is perfect.”
I’ve decided to follow her advice: As the editor of a leading health and fitness magazine, I often feel pressure (most of which, admittedly, is self-imposed) to walk the talk to a tee — to eat, to exercise, and to live in lockstep with the information we feature in each issue. I worry that if I don’t, my commitment to the healthy-way-of-life philosophy of the magazine will be called into question.
For instance, I worry about what people will think if they see me indulging in a slice of delicious cheesecake. I worry about not being fit enough or green enough, and about not doing enough in terms of personal development and growth.
I worry about not being patient enough with my kids and husband, and I feel guilty when I occasionally watch too much TV or spend too much time on Instagram. You get the idea.
In one way or another, I view nearly every choice I make through the healthy-living filter of this magazine — and most of the time, that’s a really good thing. I’ve learned so much and changed my life in so many important ways over the past decade because of it. But sometimes it can be overwhelming.
It’s also a recipe for disappointment, because no one can possibly integrate all of these recommendations. The pressure to do it all — and to do it all perfectly — is unrealistic. And yet I often find myself with this very mindset.
That is probably a worse offense for me to be making in this role. Experience Life is, after all, about experiencing life in all the messy, beautiful ways it plays out. And if I’m not doing that in my own life, what kind of example am I setting for others, including my family, my team, and you, our readers?
Since revealing all of this to those closest to me, I’ve felt a sense of relief. I’ve realized that while my efforts and actions aren’t perfect (nor will they ever be), they are in line with the philosophy of the magazine and, more importantly, my personal values the vast majority of the time. I feel really good about that.
And in the instances that my choices aren’t aligned? I am choosing to see tomorrow as another opportunity to do things a little better, and to use the knowledge I’m gaining to make small, sustainable changes — fully understanding that for every two steps forward, I may take one step back.
I am recognizing my priorities for this particular period of my life and letting those guide my choices versus forcing things that aren’t working.
And I am acknowledging that there’s no such thing as perfect. We’re human, after all. So let’s embrace life’s messiness, learn as much as we can from it, and keep moving forward — together.