As an almost 40-year-old woman (yikes!) who has been officially divorced for close to two years, I can say without hesitation that I consider myself to be independent, strong, and somebody who has my sh** together for the most part. That being said, like everyone, I do have moments of self-doubt. You know the ones. The moments when all the questions start: "Am I enough? Am I enough for my son? Am I doing a good enough job in terms of my career? Am I really going to be okay if I'm alone for the rest of my life? Am I enough for me, let alone anyone else?"
If you are on Facebook or Instagram or pretty much any other social network, then you've probably seen someone post a quote that goes something along the lines of: "I still remember the days when I prayed for the things I have now."
Every time I see that line, I feel a little twinge inside the pit of my stomach -- because I honestly used to fantasize about living the life that I do nowadays. I truly am happy. And every single bone in my body knows that I made the right decision in leaving my marriage, and I've never looked back since.
There's always a "but." But then I wind up comparing myself to others or second-guessing whether every tiny aspect of my life is going in the right direction. It's all too easy to suddenly forget just how far I've come to reach a place of contentment.
So when Lifeyum offered to send me to its Aligned & Alive yoga and wellness retreat in Vermont, I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend getting recharged and re-centered.
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As I made the two-hour drive up to Stratton Mountain Resort, I honestly had no idea what to expect when I checked into the condo where I'd be staying with a group of women I'd never met before. Granted, I figured they'd all be pretty chill and down-to-earth. After all, the type of people who attend a yoga and wellness retreat aren't generally high-strung in nature.
And after I got checked into our unit, one by one, the other attendees slowly started to arrive. Upon meeting each and every one of them, I had a similar thought go through my brain. "Wow. She's so impressive. She's totally living the dream. She really has her act together. How did I get so lucky as to wind up in a group of all these highly successful people? I'm not so sure I stack up ..."
I wasn't putting myself down or anything like that -- I simply fell into the trap that so many of us do on a daily basis. Right off the bat, I started comparing myself to the other women. I immediately began to think about my weaknesses and flaws instead of just focusing on how thrilled I was to be at that retreat.
Oh come on, you know you do it too. Whether it be in the workplace, or in your group of friends, or as a result of things you see posted on social media every day. At one point or another, we are all guilty of looking at what others have and running comparisons on our own lives -- which usually winds up being one huge buzzkill.
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How many times have you woken up in a great, positive mood, and then you log onto Facebook, and you see an update from one of your friends, detailing her perfect house, job, car, fitness routine, financial situation, children, and/or husband who sh**s roses and can't do any wrong -- and suddenly you feel like you've been punched in the gut?
I do it all the time. And there I was, in a room full of strangers, about to start our opening ceremony for this incredible retreat -- and all I could think about was how I wasn't anywhere near as accomplished as any of them.
Our first task that evening was to "set our intention" for the weekend, as a means of keeping us focused on what our desired outcome of the experience would be. Before arriving at Stratton, we were all asked to bring along an object that was reflective of our intention, which we would place on an altar that was displayed in the room where our workshops were taking place.
This is what I brought.
"Hello my beautiful life."
I bought that little sign right after my divorce, when I moved into my new townhome. I placed it on a shelf in my bathroom, because it was somewhere I'd see it every day. And it would serve as a reminder of the courage I'd had to take a leap of faith and start my life over from scratch, in the hopes that I'd finally see the peace and beauty in it again.
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I have to admit that I felt a little vulnerable sharing my beloved little sign and its significance with a group of women I didn't know. But as the other people in the room came up to the altar one by one to set their intentions for the weekend, I noticed an interesting trend.
None of us was perfectly content with every aspect of our lives. Every single one of us had a story. Every single one of us had a struggle, whether it was something that was visible on the surface or not. And every single one of us is an accomplished, driven, hardworking, strong woman who appears to have it 100 percent together, 100 percent of the time.
And as I was listening to and connecting with these women (who I am now proud to call friends), it really hit me just how much we judge ourselves and our own lives based on what other people are doing with theirs. All too often, we let the good fortune of others make us feel like we are doing something wrong, and then we wind up feeling defeated, deflated, and sometimes even depressed.
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How's that old saying go? "Comparison is the thief of joy"?
Nothing could be closer to the truth. Every time we choose to base our own self-worth on what we see other people doing, we are single-handedly hurting ourselves, and preventing ourselves from being happy. And for whatever reason, it took being in a group setting with nine other amazing women who also have internal conflicts they deal with day in and day out for the lightbulb to go off in my head and make me realize that everyone has his or her demons -- and we need to remember and respect that.
So in the spirit of not letting comparison get the best of me anymore, I'm vowing to stop worrying about what others are doing and start refocusing my energy on my own personal growth, and more changes for the better. If there is anyone I should be comparing myself to, it's the girl I left behind when I got out of a toxic situation and began a new journey where I'm thriving and finally breathing again.
That person was not happy. She rarely smiled, and when she did, it was forced. She was drowning and gasping for air, and the only person who could throw her a life preserver was herself -- the woman she is today. Someone who is independent. Someone who is strong. Someone who is grateful. Someone who needs to be her own hero for a change, instead of relying on outside sources to remind her of her worth. Someone who is totally kick-ass and knows it and doesn't need anyone else to tell her that. Someone who knows that the best days of her life are yet to come -- if only she'll allow them to.
Hello my beautiful life, indeed.