I love TimeHop – an app that goes back through the pictures on your phone, and the ones you’ve posted on social media, it shows you exactly what you were doing on that same day, back in time.
It could be a year ago, three years ago, ten years ago, or anything in between. So if it’s April 26th, like it was for me a few days ago, TimeHop will serve up every picture that you took or posted on April 26th, in any number of previous years.
Typically, I scroll through the app first thing in the morning or right before bed, as a way of reflecting on the past. Sometimes the experience makes me pause and realize how much my kids have grown in just four years, sometimes it serves up happy memories I completely forgot about, and sometimes it makes me burst into tears.
Like it did last night.
As I sat on the couch after putting the kids to bed, watching TV and finishing a glass of red wine, I decided to scroll through TimeHop very quickly before heading to bed myself. When I came to this image under a header labeled, “Five Years Ago Today” my heart skipped a beat, and I lost it.
Five years doesn’t seem that long ago in the scheme of things, but this picture represents more than a lifetime ago for me. If TimeHop hadn’t labeled the picture as five years ago, I would have told you it was taken twenty years ago. This image is the picture-perfect representation of the greatest juxtaposition of my life: the height of my external success meets the height of my internal pain.
The photo was taken in NYC during a glamorous ceremony held in the biggest ballroom I’ve ever seen, where I accepted a “Changing the Game” award from The Advertising Women of NYC. The optics surrounding this picture are things I would have never dreamed possible.
At the time, I was a senior vice president at a prestigious advertising agency, I was nominated for this prestigious award by the Chief Marketing Officer of one of the largest companies in the world, and the other award winners were the Who’s Who of women who had kicked ass and taken names in their career.
The advertising agency where I worked was so proud of me that they flew my husband, parents, boss, friends, and the President and CEO of my company from Richmond to NYC on their corporate jet to attend the ceremony!
And while I had climbed to the very top of my career when this photo was taken, I didn’t like the view from where I stood.
I had all the trappings of success—the titles, trophies, recognition, and award ceremonies that a girl could ask for in life. The problem was that I clung to those accolades like they were my lifeline.
The truth is, I was lost.
I didn’t know who I was or what made me happy. I only knew that when I did impressive things, other people were proud and that felt good. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’d like to share some words about what was really going on during this time in my life. I had two toddlers and a very supportive husband who loved me more than I loved myself. I never exercised, I ate horrible food, showed up empty handed to every party I went to, and I forgot just about everyone’s birthday.
I worked 80 hours a week, not because anyone asked me to, but because I borrowed my self-esteem from success and external validation from other people. I was desperate to maintain the mask and façade of perfection I wore every day.
So I burst into tears the night that I saw that picture, not because I was sad about where I was at the time, but because I was so damn happy about how far I’d come.
Fast forward five years and my life is a completely different story. I have two school-age children and a very supportive husband who loves me as much as I love myself. I’m obsessed with tofu, yoga, and meditation, I write love notes on the regular, and I forget far fewer birthdays. I own my own company, barely break the threshold of working 40 hours a week, and I have no one to impress but myself.
If other people are impressed by what I’m doing, that’s wonderful, but it’s not why I do what I do. I’m finally in it for me, for the first time in my life.
Man, what a difference five years makes.
Here’s a list of what happened during those five years that took me from successful but living a lie, to successful and damn happy. Here we go:
- I stopped hiding. I admitted I was broken on the inside in an extremely public way that’s been viewed over 50,000 times. (Tedx talk link)
- I did my homework. Learning what makes you happy and what makes you want to scream is the most important work you’ll ever do. I did it by reading these self-help books.
- I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I knew my life and definition of success was out of whack, but I didn’t know how to fix it, so I hired a life coach to help.
- I stopped putting myself last. If you find yourself saying yes to everyone else and no to yourself, it’s because you believe others deserve your time more than you do. I stopped doing that.
- I created a new definition of success. I stopped deriving my self-esteem from my career. I’m more than my job. I’m a great wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and human being with a lot to offer this world. I even wrote my new definition of success down and refer to it often.
In other words, I put on my big girl pants, did the hard work and the homework necessary to determine what matters most to me in life, and I went out and got it.
One day, one moment, and one difficult decision at a time.