Moving On and Stepping In

Hello, below is an article of mine from this month’s edition of Wild Sister magazine.  I highly encourage you to check out the whole magazine too!

Moving on and Stepping In

By Jessica Sarter

What is it about the phrase moving on that can sound so depressing? When I hear it I think about leaving something behind. Saying goodbye or letting something go. And this has a sadness to it and a feeling of loss. Which isn’t how I feel at this point in my life although I am saying goodbye to a few things. Rather than see it as the process of leaving I realize that for me, moving on means stepping into something new.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions as I am constantly in a state of looking for new things to do, evaluating where I’ve been and wondering what surprises may come. Plus January does nothing to inspire me. It’s cold, I feel chubby and I’m broke. But as fate would have it this is a transitional time for me. I am at a crossroad in several places of my life, and find myself moving on from the girl I see myself as and stepping into the woman I already am.

A recent job promotion has put me in a place of deep reflection about how far I have come and how far I can go. For a long time I had a job where I was a bit removed from the day to day and had a few layers of people between me to act as buffers from total responsibility and accountability. I now have a job where I have to make decisions that matter, where I am the actual voice and decision maker.

I’ve at least come far enough to know that this job was not offered to me by accident and to not have the fears that I once held that any success I had was a fluke.  I do know that I’m supposed to be here.   However the real change for me is matching my internal self with my external self. For most of my life I have always been somewhat shy and hesitant to speak at work.  I’m not sure I’m always perceived that way but inside it was a struggle.

I am usually the only female in a room full of men and have tried to do the tap dance of not being a bitch, not being a pushover, being attractive and not acting like I want to be attractive.  Many women will understand this constant jumping around as a way to not offend anyone, as an attempt to please everyone and as an exhausting exercise!  My fear of being wrong, my internal conversations about what others thought of me and perhaps an underlying fear of physical domination have always kept my words, my tone and my volume at bay.

I feel that I have moved on from so many things already, and left behind old ways of thinking and existing that the real challenge for me is stepping into the person that is naturally developing as I mature.  How do I merge what was and what I want? How do I mix the emerging parts of me with those that are my foundation? I don’t want to bite my tongue any longer and I don’t want to keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t want to have to speak in a way that doesn’t reflect my own inner-power. I mean it took me forever to find it. If I don’t start letting it out now then when?  Yet I feel like it all has to be packaged into some kind of mold so that I have a plan for what I’m doing.

It occurs to me as I write that perhaps my perfectionist tendencies are holding me back.  I find that I am trying too hard to define what my new role means for me as woman rather than getting in there and just piecing it together.  Like an artist that keeps sketching out outlines and discarding the pages, I keep trying to map how to welcome the woman into the girl. I feel like until I know exactly what I’m doing I just don’t want to try anything. Which, obviously, will not get me anywhere.

Perfectionism is one of those things that has been both a beneficial motivator and a detrimental force in my life.  I may win a battle in one arena only to find it then crops up in another. A wonderful teacher of mine, Louise Montello, taught me about “polarized perfectionism.” She worked with musicians to overcome performance anxiety but the parallels for myself were certainly clear. As she said, “Perfectionism isn’t all bad. It sustains the creative fire that fuels our desire to give the very best that we can. But problems arise when perfectionism becomes polarized and we reject the vulnerable, intensely human aspects of the self. “Polarized perfectionists” are those individuals who seem to be wedded to left hemispheric brain activity. They are product, rather than process oriented in their approach to learning and performing music. They rely primarily on external, as opposed to self-generated, feedback.”

Louise and I  spoke about how these tendencies could keep me from moving forward in life and how the need to be perfect can hinder our own self-development because we are so afraid of not doing it right, not being perfect that we just abandon what we want all together.  I’m trying to figure out who the new career me needs to look like – what does she wear, how does she respond to this or that, can she still tell dirty jokes or should she take a more standoffish stance?

As I grow older I care more about being able to protect myself, to be self-sufficient and to not lose all that I have worked for. These were certainly not my concerns in my twenties.  At least not to the extent that I worried about who I would become.  And I find that looking back I have slowly grown through different experiences and that I have created who I am through that.  I didn’t go into the business world with any set vision and game plan of how I would handle everything. No, I got there and took it as it came.

There comes a time where you have to shed that skin of familiarity. While it has been with me for so long, I know that it no longer fits and I don’t want to wear it anymore.  My mother used to say that sometimes when she looked in the mirror she was surprised to see the reflection looking back at her. The thoughts and feelings inside her head were those that she had when she was much younger and the mirror was a reminder that while the inside was the same, time actually was moving on.  And this is something I relate to now and something I have to fight remind myself so that I can push forward.

The girl inside of me is not what the world sees and is not who they are responding to.  I am not that young girl who BS’d her way into a job, or someone who has to take crap because I need the money or someone who has to play cute so as not to intimidate anyone. I am not the little girl teetering around the house trying to walk in high heels but instead the woman who wears the hell out heels (and nice ones too!). To the outside world I am already an adult and a woman that does great things. The woman is already there, I just have to step in.