Kindness is a virtue often bestowed on people who give it away.
We’re inspired by people who seem to ooze goodness and readily share it with the world. But you want to know who really inspires me? It’s women who are doing their best in every facet of life. They are taking care of themselves, their families, their businesses, their health, and their relationship with themselves and with God. All while being kind to others – and themselves.
There is no true balance between all of these things. There’s just a beautiful constellation made up of each of these things.
When I meet a woman who is really rocking this, the characteristic which seems to bind her success together is the kindness part. She knows how to dole it out while keeping some for herself.
For many years, I misunderstood what it meant to be kind to myself. Because of that, I missed out on being able to feel and show true kindness to others.
I sure did fake it really well, though.
Striving to be a good example of kindness is not kindness. Only by practicing kindness toward yourself, does it manifest in genuine ways toward others.
Instead of inner kindness, here’s what I did instead:
I studied and behaved like a solid (but not perfect) mom, at least in the eyes of others. Checking off all the boxes which made me the Proverbial “good wife,” I kept the children busy, clean, clothed and happy; running the household with efficiency and beauty, the while the husband traveled, worked, golfed, dined and played in foreign countries, etc. I stayed home (meaning I worked from home), yet drove everywhere, all the time. My strong suit was “flexibility” and selfless resilience.
Business was good when I ran my content marketing agency out of the back room. I was the most reliable business owner/content creator for my clients, meeting every deadline and communicating with goodwill. Business was built on integrity, so even when some of them forgot to pay me for my work, and missed scheduled phone meetings, I showed up. (That’s just the life of the freelancer, right?) I took all the social media marketing classes from the gurus to stay on top of marketing strategies for my business and clients.
When it came to friends and neighbors, I went out of my way to be a reliable person, and donned whichever hat seemed necessary, providing helpful hands at church and school. I stayed physically fit, did Jazzercise, provided healthy food and a clean house for family, company and friends. My children knew I’d be at school functions; I was room mom several times. I threw Christmas parties and always brought food when people invited us over. I did not miss birthdays. I strung lights and baked cookies.
It wears me out just reading over this.
Where was my failure then, if I succeeded in all of this? I was not happy and calm inside. In fact, I was seething under the surface. While giving my best to everyone else, I was unkind to the most important person – myself.
Shooting for peace, and missing.
Yes, I journaled, I prayed, I kept my endorphins happy five times a week through social events and workouts. And still… I was not really honest with myself, forgetting my own boundaries, saying yes to most things, and accepting bad behavior and dogma from people and institutions that let me down.
While I can live with that, there is another side of this story that I had to make peace with.
Those same people and institutions let my children down, too. School, church and extended family upheld their rules of engagement with my kids and me, while we struggled to play to their standards. I never let up. If I had to perform, well, then, we ALL had to perform. What a sham. I still have some mom guilt over this…
I see where I missed the connection. And the blame is mine. There can be no authentic relationships with people, schools or churches, when you’re not being honest with yourself.
Then, I did something. I finally stopped digging that hole that was shadowing me and my family.
Taking responsibility and turning the corner…
A turning point came when I stopped drinking wine in the evenings. I never could see quitting drinking as the “Event” it really was until a couple of years after my sobriety date. At the time, I thought I was just letting go of my “me time” to be a better mom.
I looked up from the hole, is all, and caught my son giving me a look I had never seen before. I decided to practice responsibility and accountability to my kid one evening on his first day of high school, nothing more than that. (That’s another story.)
Now, I know that I was ready. I had what they call a high bottom in the world of “gray area drinking,” as Jolene Park names it in an interesting Ted talk.
What really happened was I started practicing kindness.
What does it mean to step out of the hole and start practicing real kindness, when you’ve been behaving AS IF all along?
Kindness in Your Professional Life
First, doing business feels different, more genuine and authentic.
- You start doing work you want to do, the way you want to do it.
- You understand that there is room enough for everyone to do exactly what they want to do, and be rewarded for it.
- You stop taking jobs because someone asks, and gravitate toward opportunities aligned with your heart. If you’re an employee, you may even find that you need to leave your job, because resent and dissatisfaction cost more than they’re paying you.
- You start appreciating people who are happy in their work because they give you hope that you’ll feel the same one day.
- You start paying attention to what you value because you are trying to replace the fake fun you had before with something that lasts.
- You notice that you participate more fully in work relationships and the flow that comes from work you love.
- You stop hurrying to get work out of the way because you actually begin to enjoy it.
- You may even develop your entrepreneurial side because you are more in touch with yourself than ever before.
Kindness in Your Relationships
Second, your friendships and relationships transform. People who don’t resonate with the new you fall away. This may sound surprising, but it has less to do with alcohol and more to do with genuine friendship. There are people with whom I never drank (or never more than one glass of wine) that I can’t even talk to anymore. Others I genuinely love, and I can still go out and enjoy their company while they have drinks at a bar.
You’ll find that alcohol is not the common denominator, as many so people would have you believe. There’s a myth that you won’t go out with people you used to drink with when you become sober. That’s not true. There’s always the possibility that your drinking takes the edge off dealing with all your (dry) friends and family… and I say that without irony. I’m not saying people don’t mean well, and you certainly can’t blame anyone but yourself for your actions, but there’s some truth in this for many people.
Genuine mutual love and care between people doesn’t fade over your decision to drink or not to drink. Just know that some people will fade into the distance as you get on with your new life. And their presence is going to be the last thing you miss.
Kindness and Your Physical Health
The three things every body needs are good sleep, plenty of water, and breath. You’ll probably notice that after a couple of nights, you’ll be sleeping better than before. What a gift to your body and psyche!
You may also find that you feel good enough to begin an exercise routine. I love to move, and have a strong emotional and physical high when I work out, whether in the gym, on the trail or in a yoga studio. That will never change, because physical movement holds me together more than anything else in life. Working out helps revive a hangover, it’s true, and I was always surprised how I could spring out of bed and hit the gym hard after bottle of wine the night before. Still, you’ll find that exercise is easier, and you don’t sweat near as much as you did when you were drinking wine.
You’re going to feel better when you get up in the morning and your eyes will become brighter, your skin clearer, and you will feel and look more refreshed, even without exercise.
The sugar in wine also causes inflammation in your body, so when you stop drinking, you will notice a decrease in aches and pains. At first, you may just want to consume more sugar in other foods, but try not to gravitate toward candy. Instead, drink more water and flavor it with vinegar, lemon and turmeric to flush your system.
Kindness and Self Awareness
An amazing thing happened when I started practicing real kindness with myself due to sobriety. I learned how to engage in straightforward self-talk. I learned to identify lies when that little lying voice speaks. Yes, it still speaks, but now I’m able to tell the voice to go back to hell, and it stops.
I am also honest when I pray now, which is absurd to me that I could even think of hiding from God, who knows every hair on my head. In hindsight the truth is shocking; I kept up appearances with my Great Loving God for a long time, you better believe it.
Surprisingly, my goals are evolving. Dreams for my future no longer mimic what I see others doing. They are my own creation, which is new for me. I am not as jealous or envious anymore, although I still struggle with that.
One of the coolest developments in my personal life it that others’ problems are not my problems anymore. When offering help or services, the outcome doesn’t matter. I can send good vibes, without overthinking things. After delivering my level best, I can leave it where it lies. I don’t have to keep trying.
If my intentions are unclear to others, it’s OK, because finally, they are good enough for me.
A few years ago, I could not have imagined how good that feels.
True freedom is possible.
The freedom that comes with feeling good inside and the way you manage your work, your relationships, your tasks, and the daily routine of life, is something that evolves over time after you quit drinking – or stop any bad habitual practice, really – and start on a new path.
Life just feels better, and you know you’re on your way up and out. That’s the good news.
The other (harder) good news is that you have a lot of reparation to do. You have to discover for yourself a new way of handling your business, and showing up for your family. That “responsible” step I took to be a better mom did not immediately fix all that ailed my relationships with my kids and their dad. I discovered that true change takes awhile. New boundaries are put in place, and we have to be patient with each other while we figure out where they are for sure.
Because, let’s face it, in the past, those boundaries could change sometimes, right?
Your past doesn’t just disappear when you decide to turn a corner. You may enjoy your children, your clients, your friends more now that you’re sober, but the foundation shifts quite a bit.
Are you ready for these lasting changes? Trust me, it’s so worth it if you decide to say goodbye to your 5 o’clock bottle of wine.
First, a word about those drinking programs and meetings…
If you think you want manage your wine better, you might try what everyone says you should do, and attend some meetings. I attended meetings and disliked them – a lot.
They did not help me stop wanting my evening wine. I did not feel free from alcohol. In fact, meetings did the reverse!
I wanted to leave it all behind me, including any discussion of it. But meetings put me smack dab in the center of my relationship with alcohol. They did not release me, and they did not help me feel freedom. In fact, I felt worse about myself after attending meetings. “I’m so not like those folks,” I’d think. I’d even feel like swinging by the corner market and picking up my daily bottle.
When I attended AA meetings, some people from the 12-step programs would even roll their eyes because one bottle doesn’t put you in company with the “real” drinkers. You’re not in the real alcoholic club if you’re just a garden variety housewife who drinks wine while playing on Facebook. Some people seemed to take pride in their alcoholic antics of days gone by, and enjoy laughing about them.
I always felt uncomfortable in those meetings, and it’s why I never felt I fit into those groups. “Try another meeting,” people advised. You have to keep going until you find the one you like.
I found the one I liked. You have to choose yourself.
[Aside: Please don’t misinterpret this statement. 12-step programs and meetings do work. Just not for me and some others.]
It’s the bottle, not the glass.
Now, I could have said your 5 o’clock glass of wine, but I know what was true for me is probably true for you. I say “bottle” because I know a bottle is where a lot of us women stop drinking each evening, but you still hate yourself in the morning. People say, “well, that’s only 4 or 5 glasses, that’s really not a big deal.” Yet, it is a big deal.
It’s a big deal if you’ve told yourself you can make a bottle last two nights, but you polish off the whole thing in one. It’s a big deal if you don’t get anything done the rest of the day. It’s a big deal because even if you don’t really even feel drunk, you’re tunnel-visioned and you’re game is out of whack. I used to sit at my computer, or with a book, or some writing I was doing, and I’d go between my desk and the fridge, glass after glass until the bottle was gone. On a few occasions I’d open a second bottle, even though that was my personal taboo. I’d do this every night and tell myself the next morning, “Well, Jen, that was stupid, as usual. Don’t you know any other tricks?”
That’s what makes one bottle a big deal. Because that one bottle gets in the way of your commitments to yourself. It makes you feel like you have no self control and that you’re a liar, when that couldn’t be further from the truth! The truth is that you have so much integrity and self control, you’re probably looking at that “one bottle” as a small snatch of relief from all your responsibilities.
Find what’s true for you.
What do you believe? Do you believe that once you quit your wine habit, people in your life will fall in place exactly as you imagine? If so, you’ve overestimated your powers over others, my friend! (Wink.)
Do you think that when you’re done drinking, your job will be better, your performance in other areas will improve, and you’ll lose all the weight you want? I sincerely hope that’s the case, but I’d guess not.
Will your marriage improve, your reputation go through a transformation, and your productivity return? Possibly, but not right away.
It will be necessary to put in place some new boundaries in order to feel comfy in your skin again. That’s my guess, anyway. Expectations are what got you into this habit, and they (and the lack of them) are what will help get you out. But…
Will you have the immediate opportunity to be kind to your best friend on earth? Yes. Immediately. You can pour all the love out on her because she’s probably ready and deserving of some kindness from you. You’ll like her a lot, too. You’ll see.
It’s IN YOU to do whatever you want to do.
I totally believe in your ability to do life differently than you did yesterday. I’m counting on this because believing in the abilities of people to transform their lives is how I keep faith in the world. I’m pretty sure that the way you manage your business and life can change for the better on a dime!
You’re about to see some radical shifts. Some will surprise you and some will be of your choosing (and those may surprise you, too). You have a lot in common with many other high achieving people, and you’re about to start having more fun and experiencing more peace.
- Work: You’re going to lose some clients. You’ll probably decide to fire them, rather than the other way around. You may even switch careers altogether.
- Community: You’ll agree to stop attending functions and gatherings that don’t serve you or your kids. Going through the motions stops making sense in the new normal.
- Relationships: You may decide to end relationships or contracts, and release yourself from important, identifying roles you built your life around.
Jettisoning these large chunks of your life can be frightening, but exhilarating. It summons all your bravery…
And it requires absolute kindness.
If you’re ready to do this work of kindness toward yourself, then you’re ready to stop having that date with your wine.
It’s my honor to walk with you through this because I’ve navigated these changes myself. As a mom, a business owner, a fitness buff (I worked out harder when I was drinking, by the way, and still didn’t feel or look as good as I do now), and a friend.
You really DO have control over alcohol and yourself. That’s what I believe. The new normal is different because you’re living in true harmony with your body, mind and spirit. But you CAN decide to improve any facet of life you want to improve. Don’t let anyone tell you you have no control. You and I know different.
Let’s schedule a time to talk about these shifts. I have openings for coaching a few professional or entrepreneurial women through the beginning stages of a wine-free wellness trek. It’s a 6-month commitment and total sobriety is not a prerequisite. Just a rigorous desire to explore new ways of doing life and business. Contact me using the form below.
What’s the plan, then?
Listen, I’m not going to insist that you stop drinking wine altogether, or even occasionally. That’s not the point. It’s not even what I do. The point is that there are other things that need your attention, and together we can work on deciphering where your boundaries are, and what you’re willing to change now to move ahead in business and your personal life.
That’s the first real step in attaining total health, and healthy control.
Want to chat? Let’s set aside an hour. You’ve got this.