This morning, I rode my bike to work while listening to the self-help podcast, “Your Soul Purpose.” During today’s episode, the host—Dr. John Filo—was interviewing best-selling author and happiness expert, Marci Shimoff.
During the episode, I was so moved by something I heard through my tiny blue earbuds that I slammed on my brakes, jumped off my bike, and pulled out a notebook to scribble down the epiphany before it got lost in my busy mind.
She started by sharing a pedal-pausing quote by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Damn, that’s deep.
I had no problem answering this question, even though I was cycling against the wind on a busy bridge. The first most important day of my life was January 26, 1977, when I was born. The second most important day of my life was March 16, 2010, when I gave my very first speech to a room of 250 working mothers.
I shared my doubts, fears, and insecurities, and instead of everyone there rejecting me as I feared, they thanked me instead. After that luncheon, I drove back to my day job in advertising, crying the whole way. I sobbed because I’d finally realized why I had been born. Without ever having heard that Mark Twain quote, in that moment I told myself, “This is what I was meant to do with my life.”
Have you ever had a moment like that? If you haven’t, if you don’t know what you were put on this earth to do, then perhaps you’re not doing the right thing. Yet. The tricky thing about discovering your purpose is that you have to get a taste of it in order to name it. You must experience it to make it your way of life.
The bad news is that you must also confront your doubts and fears to find your purpose. After that first speech, I could never look at my advertising career the same way again. I’d seen something better. I’d experienced something more meaningful. I’d felt something bright and beautiful, and I couldn’t un-feel it.
That small but meaningful realization was a game-changer. I vowed to find a way to make that feeling my own, and four years later, I became the proud owner of a company called The Mom Complex.
After quoting Mark Twain, Marci went on to explain that as human beings, our highest calling is to be teachers and help others grow. And, according to Marci, “We end up teaching others the very thing we most need to learn.”
Suddenly, it all made sense. Right before that first speech about motherhood, I had analyzed a research study of 5,000 mothers from 16 countries. The findings of the study indicated that the number one emotion that all mothers have in common—regardless of age, income or geography—is doubt. More specifically, self-doubt.
This insight struck me as profoundly true—and sad. I wanted to scream from the rooftops: we need to stop doubting ourselves! And on March 16, 2010, I did just that.
Six years ago, I felt the need to help mothers decrease their self-doubt and increase their self-compassion, because I so desperately needed to hear that very message myself.
By admitting my struggles in front of 250 mothers, I couldn’t avoid them any longer. By helping myself, I’m now able to help thousands of other mothers. We teach what we most need to learn. Marci then dealt a blow that almost knocked me off my bike. She said that as a teacher, you have to be Okay with an especially disturbing fact: Your mess is often your message.
My mess has always been my message. My own self-doubt, second-guessing, and people-pleasing insecurities created the mess of my life, but I taught myself out of them, teaching other moms valuable lessons along the way. We were all put on this earth to grow beyond our mess and to help others grow beyond theirs, too.
Maybe as mothers, we should stop looking at our mess like it’s a liability.
Maybe our mess is what will eventually make us stronger. Maybe we should be grateful for our mess and not ashamed of it. Maybe our mess is part of our mission. On my 22-minute bike ride that morning, I realized that I was put on this earth to help reduce the suffering of mothers and that my own mess was never a burden, only a blessing.