“I only take pictures if I have makeup on.”
That’s something I once told an author who tried to snap a photo of us together to post on Instagram when I was fresh off a flight in LA for a handful of hours, en route to somewhere exotic.
She looked at me like I was nuts, but I just shrugged. “I can’t post a picture of myself looking like this,” I explained.
At the time, it made perfect sense to me, because that’s where I was in my life. I felt like I had to be perfect. Everyone was watching me. People paid attention to everything I said, posted, or did. It came along with the territory of chasing my dreams, but it wasn’t something I ever particularly wanted or really anticipated. The pressure was immense. Be perfect. Be exactly who everyone thinks you are. Don’t disappoint anyone. Be the fantasy so people believe it’s possible. Don’t give anyone something to criticize, because the jackals are always circling and the haters are always waiting to take the woman on top down a peg or two.
Everyone, it seemed, loved to see the mighty fall.
And I was the mighty.
But I wasn’t going to fall.
I was strong. So freaking strong. I had strength that no one else could possibly comprehend, because they hadn’t lived my life. As wonderful as it had been, it was not without its heartbreak, tragedies, chaos, upheaval, and test after test—causing me to grow stronger and stronger, sharpening me like iron on iron until I was a force to be reckoned with.
But chasing perfection… that nearly destroyed me.
Why? Because I was chasing an upside-down society’s insane definition of perfection. Of who I was supposed to be. Who others told me I needed to be, if I wanted to be successful and stay on top.
I’d become world-famous, albeit in a small subsection of the population, due to my skill as a storyteller and author—and my savvy as a businesswoman, and my grit and faith as a dream chaser. It enabled me to live my dream and watch it come true right in front of me… but I had no idea of what the hell to do once it came true. No one teaches you that.
Instead of just continuing to do what I’d always done, and not giving a damn what anyone else thought about me or the choices I made in my life and just doing me, I did something different.
I started to care what other people thought about everything.
Suddenly, I felt like I didn’t know enough about where I was or what I was doing and I needed other people to tell me what to do. I’d never been this successful before, I reasoned, so what did I know about how to handle it? Surely, other people knew better. Right? I was a foreigner in a strange land, and for someone reason, I lost my center.
I started listening to other people instead of solely listening to myself, and while my life was amazing… something was missing.
My confidence in what was right for me.
“You have to do this. Everyone else is.”
“If you don’t do this, you won’t be successful long-term.”
“You’re not going to get more readers if you do that.”
The opinions were endless.
The only place I could make decisions with one hundred percent confidence was in my stories. I knew what was right for the story. Everyone else could offer their opinion, but I made the final decision. No one else. My word was law.
But there, I chased my own ruthless standards of perfection. Every story had to be better than the last. I had to top myself every single time. I had to give better. More twisty. More shocking. More beloved.
And of course, reach more readers.
I’ve never met another person who could have withstood the weight I put on my own shoulders.
And yet, I kept going for years.
Writing even faster.
Selling more books.
Hitting more lists.
Trying to be who I thought I needed to be and achieve the goals my ego had set.
Until one day, I broke under the weight.
My dream had become my nightmare.
I’d gotten everything I thought I wanted… and I no longer recognized or liked myself.
It took years to begin healing—all while keeping up the shield of perfection—and to figure out where the hell I had gone so wrong so I never did it again.
Trying to attain an ideal that didn’t exist.
Burying parts of myself that didn’t fit in or win approval.
Showing only the perfect parts and none of the struggle.
Trying to be the person everyone else wanted me to be.
Feeling like I wasn’t enough.
It took me even more years until I realized perfection was truly just being myself. Being all of myself. Loving all of myself exactly as am I, regardless of whether anyone else likes me or approves of me. Expressing myself as only I can. Being the me that only I can be. That’s my perfection. That’s what I came here to do. That’s the path to my divine destiny.
I’m unique. My path won’t be like anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter who someone else wants me to be or what someone else wants me to do. I tune into my heart, body and my inner guidance, and I make decisions based on what I feel is right for me in the moment, whether anyone else understands it or approves of it. I use discernment when considering the opinions of others—never just accepting them outright because that person knows more than me. No one knows better than me what’s right for me.
I got my confidence back, and I’m so grateful for the journey that life has taken me on. I was meant to go through those struggles. I was meant to learn those lessons. I was meant to have my dreams come true and then fall apart. Because only then could I have become who I am today, and that beloved self has been hard-won. I came back to my heart. I came back to my soul. And in doing so, I found my path once more. I may not know where it’s leading… but I’m going on the journey, regardless of where it takes me. Because that, my friends, is the only perfection I care about anymore.