“I’m the strong one, I’m not nervous; I’m as tough as the crust of the Earth is.”
That’s the perfectionist’s dream, isn’t it? To get it right every time, to hold it all together, to need almost nothing.
But there’s a shadow side. I know because I’ve lived it, and because of what readers write to me: “I try so hard to do everything right and not screw up. Caroline, do you know how exhausting that is? I think you do; that’s why I’m writing to you.”
They’re right; I do know. I know how exhausting it is to be “the responsible one”, and I also know how it feels like an imperative.
It’s been your survival strategy for years, hasn’t it? Just keep going, keep fixing and saving and staying up late to get it all done. Keep on meeting others’ expectations, filling out those Valentine’s for your toddler’s class while putting aside your own creative time.
That’s what a good person does, right?
But of course this is exhausting. Secretly you yearn to take a break and do nothing. The problem is, when you actually get some time to yourself, slowing down and resting feels wildly uncomfortable. Taking the pressure off triggers big-time anxiety.
You’re just being lazy! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
That’s so selfish! Who do you think you are just laying around?
You have to take care of other people! You have responsibilities!
So instead of getting much-needed rest, you take on another huge project, and the cycle starts all over again. Once more, you’re holding yourself to impossible standards, burning out under the weight of obligations and perfectionism.
“Under the surface, I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus.
Who am I if I can’t carry it all?”
On some deep level, you believe that this is how your life is supposed to be. So you keep going past the breaking point. You keep going until you simply can’t anymore. And that’s terrifying, because who are you if you’re not the strong one?
Is This You?
- You’re strong, smart, capable … and you’re tired and secretly suffering. You don’t let most people see how bad you feel.
- You have this pressing desire to go inward, to figure out why you keep repeating the same patterns even though you don’t want to.
- You feel like it’s time to finally heal the part of you that’s been suffering and scared ever since you can remember.
- You’re less interested in productivity and outer work, and more interested in inner healing work.
If so, I get it. Me too.
I had my first anxiety attack in the first grade. When my teacher returned my paper with See Me written in red ink instead of the usual Excellent, I felt such paralyzing fear that I almost couldn’t breathe.
It wasn’t until years later that I wondered: Why, at six years old, was I so terrified of failure? How did I acquire this near-primal need to be perfect?
The answer is complicated. Some of it goes back to family of origin dysfunction, my younger brother’s autism diagnosis, and how I took on the role of the Golden Child. Some of it goes back to the cultic church of childhood where I worked very hard to earn God’s favor.
Growing up, I won awards and accolades and fought against failure with everything I had. When my brother started getting violent, I held it together in public, then hyperventilated and cut myself in private.
When I got into a serious car accident on the way to high school, I insisted on going right to class afterward. (Trauma? What trauma? I’m fine!)
I showed up as a problem-solver, yet in my secret heart, I feared that I WAS the problem. What’s wrong with you? was the shaming mantra in my mind, appearing at the slightest sign of weakness.
I believed that trying harder would save me, when in truth it kept me stuck. I tried to reason my way out of deep fear, and it simply didn’t work.
The thing that did help – the thing that saved me, really – was learning to bring love to the parts of myself that were hurting and terrified. Doing deep inner work helped me to shift the patterns I learned from abusive relationships.
Instead of carrying around a bunch of old pain and wasting a ton of energy, I learned how to heal. And it made all the difference.
Along the way, I wrote the book I needed: You Don’t Owe Anyone: Free Yourself from the Weight of Expectations (Broadleaf Books, 2021). The book has sold over 5000 copies and has been translated into three languages.
Can you imagine what YOUR life would be like if you lived like you don’t owe anyone? If you set yourself free from the weight of expectations?
“If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy? Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?”
You can have that.
You can have joy, relaxation, and simple pleasure.
You can have a sense of ease and freedom.
You can take the pressure off and enjoy just being human.
How do I know? Because I see it happen every day in coaching.
As a coach, I help smart, capable people who are high-functioning but secretly suffering. I help people who are really good at doing what they’re “supposed to” do, start doing what they’re MEANT to do.
Enter: Progress on Purpose
Progress On Purpose is a 9-month private coaching program for people who are ready to give themselves permission to LIVE.
In this one-on-one coaching program, we help you to heal on all levels of self: body, mind, heart, and spirit.
With Progress On Purpose, you’ll learn how to …
- Find a true sense of confidence and alignment with every decision you make
- Trust yourself and maintain healthy boundaries, even when you feel guilt
- Move past perfectionism (aka fear) and take empowered action
- Prioritize rest without guilt or shame
- Finally do what lights you up!
All the while, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a safe, loving space that frees you up to access your deeper feelings, hopes, and dreams. We’ll walk this road together, and you’ll be amazed by how much that makes a difference.
Progress On Purpose is a 9 month program that includes:
Two hour-long private coaching sessions per month (18 calls total, with recordings available)
You’ll change old patterns, connect to your true self, and chart a course for a life you love
Ongoing email support between sessions, plus customized monthly pocket coaching
You’ll stay on track with your inner work and feel supported every step of the way
Admission to three hour-long Insight Intensives, online gatherings for private clients only
You’ll come away with the exact aha moment you needed for your journey, and connect with kindred spirits too
There are two ways to come into Progress on Purpose. Financing through is available.