(photo by Matt Clayton, look how serious I am)
I sat down a few nights ago to write the Top 10 Things I learned in 2014, and instead I wrote three straight pages about the nervous breakdown I had in 2014. Like full on, legit nervous breakdown. For fun!
I think it was good to get it all out but instead of just posting it, I decided to sit on it for a bit. I came to the conclusion that I honestly don’t mind sharing it with you; it’s just that I don’t think I feel like sharing right at this minute.
My inability to not over-share is essentially why I changed my blog (about 4 years ago) from an essay-like blog, to one that was more about crafts and DIYs and parties. But as I mentioned before, I want to get back to writing about whatever I want!
But I have a hard time drawing the line. If I’m going to share with you, I feel like I owe it to you to share EVERY LAST DAMN DETAIL.
But I don’t. I just don’t.
I love you, and I appreciate that you’re here, so don’t take this personally, but other than good content and genuineness, I don’t owe you anything.
And that brings me to
The Top 10 Things I learned in 2014:
1. You don’t owe anybody anything—except love.
Other than being a good person, there isn’t some huge debt we owe everyone. I can love you and not share every last detail of my life with you. This might sound insane to you, and you might be like, “DUH.” But if you’re like me at all, sharing is how I show love. So it just makes sense, that if I love you, or want to show you I care, I’ll just give and give and give until I’m literally left with nothing—except my aforementioned nervous breakdown.
This realization is one I’m still trying to fully grasp. Showing gratitude, and love, and generally being a decent human, is different than feeling like you’re in everyone’s debt.
I first started to kind of comprehend it when I had to figure out what to do about my insane amount of emails. Most of them were offering free product in exchange for “shout outs” on Instagram.
As my social media following grew, I got more and more offers for free stuff. These offers usually come with flattery, some false, some super sincere, but either way, I started to feel like I owed it to everyone to promote their stuff or at least personally respond to their email! After all, they were being so nice! Offering me free stuff!
BUT, as the emails and offers poured in, I realized I was spending my few precious work hours responding to these offers, or organizing them, or fulfilling them, instead of creating content, or working on things that fulfilled me or built my brand. So I wasn’t making money, and I wasn’t growing—professionally or personally. I was allowing a small minority of people to dominate the majority of my work time.
I felt so indebted to AN EMAIL, that I wasn’t completing goals, and I was spending time AWAY from my children for what? A free t-shirt? A purse? A necklace?
So by necessity, I had to start to let go of the idea that I owed everyone something. This sounds like the epitome of a “first world problem” and it is, but it was still eating me alive.
Listening to some business podcasts and reading some entrepreneur books really helped me see that I was allowing other people decide how I spent my time.
I realized: I do not owe anybody anything! Except of course love. Cause you know I believe in love.
Perhaps you’re not allowing emails to take over your time, but I bet if you think about it you’re possibly trying to pay off some debt to SOMEONE, that you simply don’t owe! It’s a huge relief when you realize you can let it go.
The email problem also helped me learn lesson #2.
2. Hire it out!
Why oh why do we feel like we have to DO IT ALL?
My business grew insane amounts in 2014, and the lessons I learned from that all crossover into my regular life—mostly because my life is my business? Oh help! Maybe it’s easier for me to handle these lessons when I’m learning them for the “business” haha instead of just thinking about them for myself.
Anyway, apparently a lot of entrepreneurs suffer from a “superman” complex thinking that they, and only they alone, can do everything for their business.
Um by entrepreneurs do they mean MOMS? Sound like anyone you know?
I was super embarrassed to hire a cleaning lady. Also I was PRETTY sure I didn’t have enough money for a cleaning lady. And it seemed downright irresponsible to hire one before we had health insurance.
SILLY ALISON. Hiring Ana was one of my best decisions in 2014. I suck at cleaning, but I’m AWESOME at working. If I clean less I get to work more! Ana and I love each other and I cry sometimes thanking her, and she cries thanking me, because she loves having her work appreciated and valued, and we don’t even speak the same language.
I think it’s a pride thing, or a money thing, that keeps us thinking we have to do it all. After Eric lost his job we had literally no money, so I know sometimes we truly can’t afford things. But I also think money is kind of relative. I just decided I could afford the help, and I figured out a way to pay for it. AND we got health insurance, unrelated but exciting.
Which brings me to lesson #3.
3. You have a lot more control over your life than you think.
In fact, you have almost all the control over your life. HA! I got really into affirmations—repeating positive phrases over and over, in 2014. Thoughts become actions, actions become reality.
As my workload and stress mounted, I knew that I needed both an executive assistant AND a cleaning lady. Greedy greedy Alison. But again, I had no idea how I’d pay for them.
I decided that I would just find them, and hire them, and then take it paycheck by paycheck.
Hiring Carla, my amazing executive assistant helped me SO much with my email problem, and also allowed me to grow the business creatively as she held down the fort logistically.
For months I ran around feeling out of control, and lesson #2: HIRE IT OUT, helped me realize lessons #3: I’m actually the one driving this crazy train. You have more control over your life than you think.
(even though I’m more about laying on tables than I am laying on couches / pic by Jessica Kettle)
4. Therapy is awesome.
WAIT! I said I wasn’t going to talk about my nervous breakdown! Well I won’t get into it too much. But for the first time in my life I went to counseling. This started a couple months ago, and it’s just like, I’m so annoyed I didn’t go earlier.
Going to counseling and accepting that help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But you know what it’s way easier than? The three months of HELL and torture I let myself live in leading up to it.
Let’s put it like this, if you’ve tried everything you can on your own, books, exercise, diet, check-lists, talking to friends, and you’re still unable to live your live like you want to be living it then get help. Because #5
(lettered by the fab Hello Tosha)
5. Nothing is more important than your physical and mental health.
Like I said, 2014 was wild. For me it was basically, take care of kids, work, cry hysterically, panic attack, pull it together, dance, take care of kids, dance, work, work, work, panic attack…repeat, repeat, repeat.
I stopped exercising, sleeping, and eating regular food. And it led to months of anxiety and my body shutting down.
SURE I got lots done, SURE I made more money than I’ve ever made, SURE I had some fun…as long as I never stopped moving I was fine. But it’s impossible to never stop moving (I’ve learned) and I was kind of killing myself. Dramatic but true. Anyway, this year, nothing is more important than my physical and mental health. So if I unexpectedly stop everything, you’ll know why!
6. We all have the ability to be angels.
Hahaha I’m like so insane I know. Bouncing all over the place. But in some really desperate times in 2014 I’d get a phone call, or a knock at the door. It was friends being angels coming to my aid.
One day, at my daughter’s preschool fieldtrip, I was upset because I felt like I was doing everything wrong. The kids were playing, and I was talking to my friend and I started sobbing uncontrollably. Can you even handle how embarrassing that is? Like we are at pumpkin patch, the kids are climbing hay bales and I’m snot dripping, convulsing Kim Kardashian ugly crying—in front all the other parents?
The filed trip was about done and my friend, who I was sobbing to, went over to my car, grabbed Ginger’s car seat, put it in her car, and took Ginger for the afternoon, even though I was insisting, through my tears that I was, “FINE!” And she “didn’t need to!”
We can all be angels in each other’s lives by small and simple acts. So whenever you’re feeling worthless just shut the hell up, you’re an angel to someone. Probably to me.
(lettered by the fab Melanie Burk)
7. Invest in people who invest in you.
This was part 6 of my How to Be Awesome series and it went viral on the Internets. I think that happened because at any given point in time EVERYONE is investing energy and thought in people who just don’t deserve it OR who don’t need it YET.
I’ve had to say, “Invest in people who invest in you.” to myself over and over this year. It hurts my feelings when people I know in real life don’t follow me on IG or don’t want to come to my parties. Hahaha. I’m beyond embarrassed admitting that. Because it’s such a stupid thing. But sometimes I’ll notice that old college friends, who I love, and want to stay in touch with, aren’t following me, and I get super sad. I decide they must think I’m annoying, and that they think everything I’m doing is dumb. I feel incredibly self-conscious and conclude everyone secretly thinks I’m a huge idiot. When what their not following me really means is…they aren’t following me. Hahaha. Social media is my job, but to most people it’s just social media! And that can be hard to remember. Also they might think I’m an idiot, but it doesn’t do me any good trying to change that.
I can be sad and upset all day over the offers I don’t get, the friends I don’t have, the people I feel like aren’t supporting me.
But when I do that it means I’m investing in people who aren’t investing in me, and worse it means I’m not being grateful for the people WHO are investing in me. Like you, right here, reading this absurdly long post. I appreciate it. Thank you. Almost every day I have to remind myself to choose to invest my energy in you, and not in people whom I don’t happen to resonate with or who don’t need me as an online friend.
8. Doing is different than being.
This is something my counselor helped me see. It’s so easy to define ourselves by what we do. In fact, it’s super hard NOT to define yourself by what you do.
But if you are what you do, than who are you when you’re not doing it?
I’ve had to take time to try to remember who I am, when I’m not throwing a party, making a video, speaking at a conference, putting myself out there for people online. Who am I when I’m just sitting still?
In order to do this I’ve had to sit still a bit more. And holy hell that’s hard for me. But has been so insanely helpful.
My passions became my job, my hobbies became my work—this was the goal! I did it! But then…what is left for Alison, just Alison?
I think as parents this happens a ton. We define ourselves by our role as mom, or dad, and then forget who we were before that.
Doing is different than being. I’m going to spend more of 2015 trying to BE who I want to be instead of DOING all the things I want to do.
9. Write it down.
At the beginning of 2014 I wrote down a goal. Then I wrote down why I wanted to achieve this goal, and how I’d do it, and why I deserved to achieve it. I re-read this goal to myself about once a month. And I basically achieved it. Not 100% but more than I ever thought could be possible. I plugged my friend Susan Petersen’s Goal Writing Class on Instagram, and I’m going to do it again right now. You should seriously check it out. My dad, my other entrepreneur role model and mentor always quotes the idiom, “A goal not written is only a wish, if it’s to be it’s up to me.”
But I also relearned about the power of writing down our thoughts and feelings. I talked about it a bit more in this post. But because I’m all about mental health in 2015, I want to write more on the blog or at least more for myself.
10. You can be anything you want to be, but sometimes it’s better to just be who you are.
I thought The Alison Show was going to be something entirely different than what it is. When I finally let go of the idea of what I thought it was going to be, and embraced what it is, well, that’s when things started really working out.
I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I’m supposed to do in this world. And I change my mind all the time.
I kept feeling like I had to define it for you. I had to declare, “I’m the DIY girl!” or No, no, now I’m the, “Party girl!” Oh wait, no, now I’m the “How to Be Awesome girl!” Or the “Cookie girl!” But see, I’ve come full circle. I knew in my heart what I was doing when I named this whole endeavor, that it’s simply, and nothing more than The Alison Show. It’s just me, sharing what I do, what I love, and what I’ve learned.
I really believe that we can be anything or anybody we want to be. But overall, I think it’s best to be who you are.
I can say with assurance as I embrace who I am and what I am at my core, and as I accept what my actual abilities are rather than what my perceived abilities are, well that’s when I’m most at peace and the most successful.
Here’s to 2015 friends. To being who we are, to doing what you want, and to loving yourself while you do it.
Thanks for letting me share. It feels good to write it all out. What did you learn in 2014? Any similarities?
I love you all!