Growing up I was always the girl who worried that she wasn’t enough. Hell I’ll be honest, there are a couple of days a month when that feeling still rears its unwelcome little head.
And the problem with feeling that you’re not enough is that you tend to just settle… not for what’s right for you, sometimes not even for anything remotely like what you actually want, but just for whatever comes along. Because you’re worried that if you don’t, well, you won’t get a better chance.
Of course the problem with that is that you end up settling not for what makes you feel happy, or even slightly satisfied, but for something that will do. And that way lies dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and likely a healthy dose of resentment for whatever it is that you blame on making you feel that way.
That counts for relationships, jobs, friendships, houses, jeans… just about anything really.
Because yes, sometimes choices have to be made before the right option arrives – when you’re homeless for example getting a roof over your head is the first priority, even if that roof isn’t quite the one you want. But even those choices don’t have to be forever, and even at the times you can’t make a wholesale change and, say, move house, there is always something you can change, even if that’s just a lick of paint or some new pictures on the walls to make it feel more homely.
And where the choices aren’t so urgent and you can wait – by the way romantic relationships pretty much always fall into that category – then I can’t stress enough how important it is to do that waiting until you’re truly feeling ready to make a choice, and the right option does come along, rather than tying yourself down to something that makes you feel less than happy.
Is it really what you want?
A few years ago now I was in a long term relationship that, if I’m honest, had made me feel semi-happy for quite some time. I was talking to a friend about it one day when they said: “Think about it this way, if the two of you were to get married tomorrow would you see him at the altar and want to run down the aisle because you couldn’t wait to get to him, or would you think ‘oh yeah, there he is. OK.’?”
Until that moment the decision to walk away had been hard. Hell, even after that moment it still wasn’t easy. But walk away I did, and it made me so much happier in the long run. It also meant that when another relationship went wrong my first thought wasn’t “oh my goodness, how can I be without this person?!”, it was “I’m feeling this way far more than I’m actually enjoying being with him, we all know what the right decision is.”
And that counts for jobs too. When I first started to work for myself and handed in my notice at a full-time corporate job I was offered another role. It was at a really well respected company that had won awards in my field and wanted me as part of their team, were based in a city I’d love to get to know more, and wanted to pay me a decent salary. Frankly younger me would’ve had the contract signed in a flash.
But it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I knew that the job I wanted was this one – and that even the best corporate role in the world wouldn’t feel as good as being able to help a client into a huge moment of realisation; or seeing my book in print for the first time.
I’m not married yet. But I do know of a lot of people who married someone not because they were the right fit for them and couldn’t imagine life apart, but because they simply didn’t want to be alone.
Seriously, that is not a good reason to settle in a relationship – or even to start a relationship! Instead maybe get a cat… or at least talk to someone to fix the underlying issues that cause that fear.
So what do you do instead?
This post isn’t my way of telling you to second guess every decision you make, or never ever to settle down into a relationship or take a new job. Hell no!
Instead it’s about encouraging you to take a moment with each of those big decisions you make and ask if this is really, truly what you want. Or if it’s just the best you think you can do. It’s me asking you to stop settling and start holding out for perfect.
And honestly, that idea of perfect? Well let me explain it a little more before you roll your eyes, because it’s not such a far fetched concept… It’s not, as a delightful man on Tinder once told me when I wished him all the luck in the world in finding his perfect lady: “As plausible a concept as the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny.” (It was one of the funniest messages I’ve ever received. But that’s a story for another day.)
When I talk about perfect I don’t mean the one thing above all others that everyone you know would kill to have; I simply mean the thing that’s right for you…
A lot of people I talk to tell me that this business, my job is their idea of a nightmare. But I love it – yes I’m still developing things as I learn more and more about what I really have to offer the world and what my clients want and need, but the foundations of my work are absolutely perfect for me. And I’m determined they’ll continue that way.
Over here in the UK there’s a reality TV show called Love Island on at the moment, which I’m completely hooked upon against my better judgment. The basic premise is a lot of gorgeous, heterosexual 20-something year olds heading to a gorgeous villa all with the aim of finding love; and as we near the end of the series of course they’ve all coupled up and started to fall into relationships.
Now this is TV – and “reality” TV at that – so I get that a lot of it is staged and totally fake, but bear with me on the premise. Because as I’ve watched these relationships unfold I’m noticing that idea of holding out for what’s right playing out over and over. I see people in there who would really seriously annoy me, and who I don’t personally find attractive. But to one of the other people in the villa they’re the most beautiful thing on earth and those annoyances… well they’re actually benefits to the other person, they fit really well.
Perfect isn’t about a person or situation having no faults or downsides; it’s about those things that would be perceived negative by other people actually fitting perfectly with what you’re looking for and, let’s be honest, with your own faults and downsides.
The job you’re being offered may not pay well, but it gives you the chance to really truly help other people; and while your designer clothes wearing friends may scoff at that, for you the latter is actually really important. The person you want to be with may be a huge sports fan and pretty much ignore you whenever their team is playing on TV; but maybe you’re just as big a sports fan… or maybe you really like to have a couple of hours every week to go off and do your own thing without them asking where you were.
The idea of anything or anyone being perfect for everyone is an absolute fallacy, but that doesn’t mean that nothing can be perfect for you.
And it certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold out for that perfect in favour of settling for something that will only ever make you feel “meh” in the long-run.
Of course finding that perfect starts with really delving into what that means for you – what you do and don’t want and what is and isn’t important to you. That’s something I’m really big on and something I love working on – both with clients and for myself if I’m honest.
But it really is an exercise that’s worth investing time and energy in. After all, it’s always easier to find the thing you want once you know what it is (like taking a shopping list to the supermarket!)… and let’s be honest, much easier to turn away from the wrong things when you know what they are too…