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Tough No More. Tender at the Core.

by Kavita Battula, VPG Contributor

When the going gets tough…ask for help. Toughing it out on your own is hard. And unnecessary. I feel like the world is ready for a better way- one that leverages our strength as a collective, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Remember the adage, “No pain, no gain?” Perhaps there is short-term gain. But in the long term, the cost far exceeds any benefit. I’ve spent my life meeting force with more force. When something is hard, I just need to work harder, right?

It’s exhausting.

person meditating

I’m learning that I don’t want to bully my way through. I want to allow things to unfold. I want to show up with intention, be present, and lead with courage, faith, and compassion.

Ok, ok – I admit, I want to kick a little ass, too. I have an ego just as much as the next person. I identify with being an overachiever. It’s hard to let go of the striving. I’m still learning to accept the truth that I belong, that I don’t have to hustle for my worth.

I genuinely believe that we are all worthy of love and belonging. It’s so easy for me to tell this to someone else with conviction and knowledge. But for me, I’m still hard-wired with something to prove.

We are our own harshest critics.

There are days when I feel like I struggle to keep up with everyone else. I know we’ve all been there. And yet, I think many of us pretend like we’ve got it all together because if we admit that we don’t know what we are

doing, we’ll be thrown out of the club.

I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of my precious time and energy beating myself up, believing that criticism was the way to achieve results, and using my self-proclaimed inferiority to be my motivation. I think some of that is cultural. Previous generations were taught to be strict in raising children so they didn't become arrogant. The seed of motivation through positive encouragement had not yet been planted. I am working to change that.

I remember when I was first starting out in my early 20s at a top law firm, making loads of money, ruled by the billable hour, evaluating my self-worth at the end of every month. Did I measure up? On paper, sure. I made certain the metrics met the standard, that I stayed on the partner track. But at what cost? Facing burnout before I even hit 30, I was taking anti-anxiety medication for middle-of-the-night panic attacks and insomnia, trying acupuncture and physical therapy to manage severe muscle pain - which I now realize was all stress-induced.

I kept much of this hidden, believing that image is everything. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I felt woefully inadequate.

As Elizabeth Lesser wrote in her book Broken Open, we are all “Bozos on the Bus.” It’s an homage to Wavy Gravy, and the message is that none of us arrived here with a map telling us how to get from point A to point B. Instead of pretending like we know where we’re going and that we have it all under control, how about we admit that we’re learning as we go, and enjoy the ride together?

Every day I try to lean in a little deeper to surrender. I’m learning to tell the truth. I’m cultivating the courage to be vulnerable. And the payoff is meaningful connections, deeper and more qualitative relationships, both professional and personal, and surprisingly, more respect when operating this way compared to when I acted like I could do it all.

I am learning I don’t have to do it all. I was never meant to. We are all connected, and we are in this together. So, when the going gets tough ask for help. The whole world will show up to support you.

In the words of inspirational speaker Esther Hicks, “there is great love here for you.” You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be so tough.

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