All new guest episodes of Motivated AF with Katee Forbis start September 17th! Watch the full-length promo for the fall 2018 season featuring wisdom from all of my amazing guests!Read More
I love that quote. It's simple and to the point. Pain demands to be felt. Pain doesn't care who you are or if you're a good person or not. Pain doesn't care if you are rich or poor, young or old, and it certainly doesn't care whether you deserve it or not. But despite understanding all of this from a logical standpoint, I have spent most of my life trying to avoid pain at all costs.
In my younger days, I considered myself a pretty good sprinter. I decided the best way for me to avoid pain was to simply to outrun it. I would take off, thinking I had left pain in my dust, only to feel it right back on my heels, and breathing down my neck. And by the time it was, I had already exerted every ounce of energy I had left trying to get ahead of it. My legs gave out, and pain took the lead. Nobody had warned me that pain was such a good long distance runner. I was left doubled over, struggling to breathe, and wondering how the hell that just happened. I couldn't outrun my pain.
Since I couldn't outrun it, I went back to the drawing board and decided I should bury the pain instead. Running collapse aside, I was still highly skilled in the avoidance of pain, and this time I was able to keep the pain buried for years. In fact, so much time had passed that I decided the pain had finally suffocated, and it was safe to carry on with my life. And that's what I did for a while. But one day while walking, I tripped on something. I looked down to see that the pain had started to rise up from the spot where I had buried it. The pain wasn't dead. I began to panic. I grabbed a shovel and began to throw dirt on top of the pain until it was no longer visible. I was pretty sure no one had seen me trip, but now I started to worry every time I left the house. Was the pain really dead this time? I would wake up in a cold sweat some nights, thinking it was coming after me. The nightmares were starting to be a nightly thing, so I decided I needed to protect myself. I kept a shovel and some dirt beside my bed, just in case. My friends told me I was being paranoid, but they didn't understand the damage my pain would do if it ever got the chance. I started to spend more time alone because when I was around other people, all I could think about was whether the pain was still buried. What if it came back up and tripped me again?
What if it knocked me on my ass and people saw it? I couldn't risk it. I needed to be on high alert at all times. I started shoveling dirt on top of the pain daily at this point. I had even stopped sleeping because keeping this pain buried had become an around the clock job. One day, exhausted from all the shoveling, I laid on the ground and closed my eyes. I just needed a few minutes to rest, and the pain seemed to be safely underground. When I woke up, not only was the pain well above ground, it had doubled in size. I jumped up and grabbed my shovel, but when I turned around, all the dirt was gone. I had used it all. I had nothing else to cover the pain with, so I did the only thing I could think of to do. I threw myself on top of it. But still, it continued to rise. I couldn't bury my pain.
At this point, you'd think I would've learned my lesson, but for some reason, I hadn't. Maybe I wasn't thinking straight from all the exhaustion, or maybe it was my ego. (What was left of it anyway.) But hey, at least I had finally accepted that my pain wasn't going anywhere. I hadn't been able to outrun it, and my attempts to bury it had turned me into a shell of the girl I used to be. Yep, my pain was here to stay. So I had to tackle this from another angle, and I had one more brilliant idea left in me. I was going to numb that shit until I couldn't feel it. If I found something really good, maybe I wouldn't see the pain either. Third time's the charm, right?
Sidebar: You can probably see where this is going. And if this were a tv show, you'd be screaming at me.
"Oh for the love of GOD! This Katee character is an insufferable moron! Obviously none of this working, but she keeps on thinking she's got it under control! Am I supposed to believe that a grown woman could be this stupid? Who wrote this shit?! I am giving this one more episode before I move on to Kevin Hart's new tv series. At least that shit show is kind of funny."
*And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.*
I began to numb the pain. And I'll be honest, it worked like a charm. Not only was I not feeling the pain, I was feeling GOOD. There was no way this one was going to fail. How could it? Why hadn't I thought of this before? Over time, I built up an arsenal of numbing agents, some of which made me forget the pain had ever existed! I had my favorites, but if one of them ever stopped working, I could always find another one to replace it.
There was money, drugs, alcohol, food, sex, fitness, art, music, and entertainment in just about any form that I could want. I also had the option of more traditional treatments. There was love, marriage, and even kids if I wanted. I had heard through the grapevine that kids would work really well because I'd have very little time to even think about the pain. But if I wasn't ready for kids, I could always just live at work. 80 hour work weeks didn't sound especially fun, but at least I'd be too tired to feel the pain. And for a while, this system was working well. I started leaving my house and going out because I couldn't see or feel the pain anymore. I even started to get a little cocky. Okay, I'll tell you the whole truth. I was convinced I had made pain my bitch. And if that wasn't bad enough, I had moved on to trolling the pain.
"Take that pain! HA! You will NOT defeat m--
Oh, you're trying to make me feel a little something, huh? Bitch, go ahead. It's nothing I can't numb.
Yeah, that's what I thought, pain! You ain't shit! I feel good!
Oh, so you wanna go again? Let's go. It may take me a little more to numb you this time, but I always find a way.
Okay, well that one isn't working, so I'm feeling you a little bit, but I'm not worried. I've got another one right here.
What the hell? Let me try this one. What the? Oh shit!"
I could no longer numb the pain.
My pain was demanding to be felt.
Fresh out of ideas, I looked around at the chaotic mess that was my life and wondered "How did I get here? I thought I was a good person? I thought I had this under control?" And before I knew it, I was in the fetal position. Too exhausted to run, too weak to pick up another shovel, and hurting too much to numb it away.
I woke up to find myself behind bars. Who put me in here?! WHEN did they put me in here?! I didn't know, but I knew I wanted out. I started shaking the gate of the cell. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "LET ME OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!"
I attempted to escape on my own a few times. I was smart, so most of my ideas were pretty good. But every attempt to escape only left me feeling weaker and more exhausted than the time before. What was worse, every time I thought I was crawling to freedom, I'd look up and find another wall around the prison cell.
It was finally time for me to surrender to whoever put me in this prison.
"I GIVE UP! YOU WIN!"
No one answered. But something caught my eye in the corner of the cell. Whatever it was, I had never noticed it before. I crawled over to get a better look. I couldn't believe it. Hanging on the wall, right above my head was a key! But where did it come from? Had it always been there? There was no way! I would've seen it! Was it possible that this was the key to unlock MY cell? Was this a trap? For all I knew there was someone outside the gate, waiting to kill me. Maybe they should, I thought. What did I have left to offer the world anyway? I barely recognized myself anymore. My hands were shaking, my body was bruised, and I wasn't sure what was on the other side of the gate, but I had run out of options. This was my only hope. It was at that moment that I felt a fear unlike any I had ever felt. A fear that was so intense, I was struggling to breathe.
"Maybe I should just stay in the cell."
Sure, I was miserable, but I was alive... sort of. Ultimately, I decided it wasn't a life I was living in this prison, it was a death sentence. So I took the key, and with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I turned the lock. I immediately started to feel the pain wash over me. The pain that I had tried to avoid for so long. And it hurt like hell. It wasn't long before the pain had brought me to my knees. What the hell was happening?!
"I wish I never found this damn key!", I screamed.
All I could do at this point was breathe in and out. So even though it hurt, I focused on my breath. In and out. In and out. As the time passed, with each breath, it gradually started to hurt a little less.
And as the pain began to subside, I noticed the gate was now unlocked. I slowly pulled myself back up and pushed the gate open. My face and hands were dirty, and my body was covered in scrapes and bruises. But none of that mattered to me because I was finally free. As I walked out of the prison, I was met by a group of compassionate people who rushed to my aid. They had been preparing for my arrival for quite some time. As they treated my wounds, each person told me a story of how they had gotten there. Every story was different - except for one common theme - they were all former prisoners that had lived to tell about it. They had all been wounded at one time or another, and they had the scars to prove it. But now, they were warriors. And they assured me that I was going to survive. I let out a sigh of relief. Not only was I free, but I was also on the path to becoming a warrior. And my new tribe would show me the way.
My desire to never feel pain kept me trapped inside that prison. A prison that I unknowingly had built for myself. I so badly wanted to feel love, passion, adventure, success, health, joy, and satisfaction... or so I thought. In the end, it was not the pain that held me captive for all those years, it was my FEAR of the pain. My fear had built those walls. My fear had left me for dead in that prison cell.
I had to be willing to fully feel the pain, despite the fear, before I could see the truth. Giving in to the fear had caused my weakness, and standing up to the pain had given me strength. My pain was, and always had been, the key to my release.
So what is the pain that you are afraid to feel? Is it something from your past? Is it a broken heart or the loss of a loved one? Is it the pain of self-improvement through diet and exercise? Maybe it's a number of things. Whatever the case may be, I am begging you to stop giving in to your fears. Because I can assure you that nothing hurts worse than a life lived in fear. It took me years, but I've finally learned that I can feel the pain and keep going. In fact, pain has made me the warrior I am today. So bring on the pain. It hurts, but I can handle it. And even if you haven't realized it yet, you can handle it too.
I don't believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe the pain that's forced on you when shitty things happen in life can be reutilized for good. Pain often stems from awful and terrible things. Things you didn't deserve. But if you are willing to face the fear and feel the pain, you will get through it. But please do not try to do this alone. Dealing with our pain alone is always our plan A. It's usually our plan B, C, and D as well. Logically, most of us know better, so why do we still try to go it alone? Because there is a form of pain that we are ALL afraid to face, and that's the pain of vulnerability.
"What will they think of me? Who will love me? If I ask for help, they'll know I'm weak."
Right now there are people out there that have faced the fear and felt a pain that is similar to yours. They were also scared and didn't know if they were going to make it through. Their hands trembled as they dialed the doctor's phone number. Their voice shook when they told their loved one the truth. They felt anxiety when they finally left that toxic relationship. But they decided to turn their weakness into strength, and they are living proof that it's possible. Maybe you are one of those people that HAS worked through your pain. The world needs your story. The world needs to know that there is HOPE on the other side. The world needs more people that are willing to feel the pain. The world needs more warriors that choose freedom over fear.
John Green was on to something when he wrote that line. But I'd like to add a little something of my own to it.
Pain demands to be felt... because that's the only way it can start to heal.
"Hold on. She said what?!" I screeched.
"Yeah, she said she would like your help because you really seem to have your shit together."
It took hearing it twice before I could actually believe it was true.
"So... you're telling ME.... someone thinks I have MY shit together?! HAHAHA! I WISH!"
I couldn't hold back my laughter at the absurdity of it. Here I was, 31 years old, still not exactly sure what the hell I was doing with my life, breaking down right and left, and someone thought I had it all figured out. ME! The woman who just took ibuprofen with a sip of red wine while waiting for the pizza guy to show up. How far from true it was. How far from true it still is. But that conversation did make me start to really think about the illusion of a perfect life.
I think we all kind of have a vision of what our perfect life would be. In my perfect life, I am exactly the right size, I'm exactly the right amount of body fat, I'm tan, I have perfect teeth, and my hair never does that woo-hoo thing. I look great while walking in heels and they never hurt my feet, my makeup looks flawless, I eat a clean diet and workout twice a day. I also "get in a run" a couple of times a week too. (You know, because "getting in a run" is one of those things I always hear healthy people say they do.) In this perfect life, I also get paid to do the thing I love, which is motivating and encouraging others to live their best lives. I go swimming in my giant pool while looking great in a swimsuit (duh) and in my kitchen there's a fancy assortment of breakfast pastries and fresh juice out. In this perfect life, I don't feel the need to compulsively eat said pastries though. But when I do eat the pastries, they don't make me fat. Oh, and when I dance? I look cool as hell instead of like a dorky white girl with two left feet. I never get emotional over things I can't control, I always look flawless and feel sexy. And dying? Nah, in this perfect life, I don't ever worry about dying. All my family members and friends are healthy and we all just get along. Oh, and no decisions or mistakes I make ever affect anyone I love or hurt anyone in any way. I want for nothing. I desire nothing but what I already have. I don't ever have anxiety attacks or deal with depression. I'm never a selfish jerk or in a bad mood. It's all good in my hood at all times. That is my perfect life.
The problem is, that life doesn't exist. Could I make some of those things I mentioned happen? Sure. And I am working on doing just that. For example, I'm working on how to make helping others experience more fun and happiness in their lives my full-time career. But when I actually type out what this perfect life looks like in my head, it feels so silly. Aren't we just setting ourselves up for disappointment? Is wishing for a perfect life actually ruining your REAL life? I know it sure has wasted a lot of my own time. I will never have a perfect life and neither will you. Life is beautiful, but it's also a real asshole sometimes. And life doesn't really seem to care that it's screwing us over way more than we think we deserve.
Maybe you sit and daydream about that perfect Pinterest life, or you follow someone on Instagram that DOES seem to have the perfect life that you envy. You know the profiles I'm talking about. Beautiful people with beautiful spouses, perfect children, a balanced career and home life, plenty of money, and companies sending them free shit all the time.
"I just want to say thanks to IndieDarlingsRUs for the great scarf that completes my perfectly put together look that I also got for free!"
"Sometimes I'm ugly just like you regular gals!" *posts pic with no makeup but perfectly clear skin*
"I never get tired of seeing my smoking hot spouse! We will never ever find anyone else attractive or desire anything but each other for as long as we both shall live!"
Okay, maybe that's not the captions they use, but I think you get my point. Some of us envy them and some of us loathe them. But no matter what your personal take is on that type of thing, I think the illusion of a perfect life is screwing us up. We beat ourselves up for not having it all figured out yet. The truth is, I'm never going to "figure it all out" and have my perfect life and neither are you. And spoiler alert: neither will the social media darlings, no matter how much free shit they get or how many followers they have.
So why do we waste precious time being envious of (or maybe hating) the people that appear to have perfect lives? Why do we buy into the lies of a few good filters and captions? Our time would be so much better spent if we stopped wishing for a perfect life and instead spent time trying to enjoy and improve the life we actually have. There's nothing wrong with striving for a better life if you are not satisfied with the one you currently have. In fact, I encourage it! But there's a difference between genuinely seeking to improve your life by taking action in productive ways and sitting around discontent because you don't have the perfect life THAT DOESN'T EVEN EXIST. The perfectionist mindset is keeping you from the life you truly want to be living. So maybe you'll never have the perfect kids that will smile while wearing 12 layers of stylish clothes like they are in Baby Gap ad. Maybe you'll never have the perfect marriage or the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe that size two is about 75 pounds away. But so what? Obsessively wishing for things to be different rarely results in anything but more misery. Do you know what you could be doing instead? Going for a walk, reading a book that could actually help you start that business, spending time with your kid while they still kind of like you, or even laughing at that new Netflix show. You could be visiting a friend, or writing a blog post (hey hey) or finally getting that bullshit report done at work.
Wishing is often the enemy of doing. So next time you catch yourself wishing for this perfect life, make an effort to silence the wisher inside. How many times has your inner wisher been there for you anyway? You wished you were thinner, you wished your parents were different, you wished your job didn't suck, you wished you were younger, you wished you didn't date that guy, you wished you didn't make that mistake. But what did all that wishing REALLY do for you? If you're anything like me, it just made you feel more depressed. I've discovered that for me, wishing is rarely productive. It just keeps me in a mindset of defeat. It reminds me of my failures. I can't wish away my current situation. I can't wish away my mistakes. More than anything, all of this wishing takes away my power to do anything about my desires and regrets. It puts me in the victim mode. While I've known some people who seem to feel safer in victim mode, I have never felt that way. The idea that my plot in life is fixed and "that's just the way it is" will never be a belief system that I can accept.
So I am officially on a "stop wishin' mission." I've decided to start making myself give an answer for why a wish pops in my head. Asking ourselves why we are feeling a certain way may not immediately change the feeling, but it CAN help us become more self-aware. And self-awareness is where we learn some of the most valuable lessons about ourselves. Learning why I have this regret or desire is the key to discovering what appropriate actions will truly get me closer to where I want to be. So I no longer "wish" I had my shit together. I instead asked myself why I didn't, which led to me (finally) learning that I have an issue with self-discipline. Though it was a hard pill to swallow, this truth has led to me taking steps towards changing this fact.
Please don't use this post an excuse to beat yourself up even more. 99% of us already do WAY too much of that. And it's just another habitual behavior that rarely gives you any real return on your investment. And boy, do we ever invest a lot of time into self-hatred. Instead, I hope this post encourages you and reminds you that you're doing just fine.
Maybe this wasn't a good day.... or week... or month... or... well, you see where I'm going with this. It doesn't matter. The beauty of life is that all of us are still here living it. And that means we can try again (hopefully in a more productive way) once we stop wishing and start doing. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be phenomenal. You don't have to be the perfect parent to have incredible kids. You don't have to be the perfect partner to have a fulfilling relationship. You don't need to have the perfect body to feel sexy and confident. (I know, I know, but stick with me here.) All you need is the willingness to be your authentic self. You may be thinking "But Katee, I don't even know who the hell my 'authentic self' IS?!" That's okay too. We're all just figuring this out as we go along. I've learned more about myself by making mistakes than I ever have by trying to be perfect.
Perfect people can't be bad asses. Flawless perfection is NOT bad ass. Do you know what IS bad ass? A flawed person who hasn't let their mistakes define them. A bad ass is inherently flawed and inherently themselves anyway. A bad ass feels the fear, they hear their inner perfectionist, but they tell it to F*** off most of the time, because they know they still have plenty to offer their friends, family, and even the world. Bad asses don't wish, they do. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a bad ass.
Here are a few songs to get you started on your next bad ass move. A special Spotify playlist I created just for this blog post is below or you can click here to add it to your own Spotify library!