Words by Stephanie Anderson
My brain has been going 90 miles per hour since the minute I took my first breath. It is a cluttered, jumbled mess of thoughts, worries, and to-do lists that I have been trying to de-clutter and unravel tirelessly throughout the years.
I was born a perfectionist and an overachiever, having meltdowns about my imperfections since I can remember. In second grade, I had a panic attack because I did not know the meaning of Arbor Day. I got one C on a test in 5th grade and it still haunts me. It’s an exhausting way to live. To add to the exhaustion, I have a brain that tells me I must “do it all.” I joined every club, activity, group, and class that I could be in. I had to be the captain, the lead, and the president of everything.
When you live a life of “perfection,” every minute of your day is spent covering your tracks, hiding your mistakes, and hiding your scars. Your world is guided by what you believe others will view as good or successful. You choose the career that pays the most money, you strive to get the body that others view as beautiful, and so on. You run this never-ending marathon trying to get to perfect and there is never a finish line.
All of this is a result of living in your brain. I cannot tell you that living this way is all bad. I have celebrated many achievements in my life because of my continuous efforts for perfection and achievement. I use my overthinking and anxiety to constantly move forward. I keep going because my mind won’t let me stop. There’s a steep cost to this life.
I have sacrificed some pretty important moments in my life. I missed saying goodbye to my grandfather because I had a test to study for. I missed being by my sister’s side when I almost lost her and her whole family in a horrific car accident because I couldn’t “afford” to miss time from work. These decisions will always haunt me.
Each time I heard my heart telling me to go one way, my brain would force me in the opposite direction. I know that person is sick, but I have to get an A. I know that person really needs my help, but I need to pay my bills. Every time my heart would softly speak up, my brain would talk over it.
I can honestly say that despite my ability to overthink everything, I have also made some pretty poor decisions following my heart. I have stayed in destructive relationships for way too long. I convinced myself that what I felt was love. I followed my heart down some long, winding, dark rabbit holes. I wanted to be loved so much that I sacrificed a lot of myself to get it. I quieted my logic and reasoning to pretend that life was good.
I have learned a lot about how my heart and mind impact my feelings. When I feel overwhelmed and anxious, that is my brain talking to me. When I feel sad and angry, that is my heart talking. When I feel productive and accomplished, that is my brain talking. When I feel peace and joy, that is my heart.
I can tell you that every time that I have struggled mentally or emotionally, it is when I was forced to be someone else or actively chose to live someone else’s life. Living an inauthentic life has manifested so many negative outcomes in my life. It led to an eating disorder, debilitating panic attacks, and even staying in bed for days at a time. The most amazing part is that I was so good at being someone else that most people would be shocked to know the struggles that I faced.
I am unburying and unburdening my heart and mind slowly. I can recognize when I am ignoring my heart. It is when I feel empty or like something is missing. For years, I can tell you what I was missing was time with family and friends. I missed too many years of great memories because of my career. I still struggle, but I make my family my priority. I make conscious decisions to ensure that at least one full day a week is with them. They bring me joy and I find that life is more peaceful when I am around them more often.
I can recognize when I am ignoring my mind because I stop thinking about consequences. I make irrational decisions, I miss deadlines, and I have no plan for anything. It can be a fun ride for someone like me that is always overthinking, but it has disastrous results if I follow that path for too long.
The heart and mind sweet spot happens when I become clear about what brings me joy, when I focus on being grateful for the things that I have, and when I am able to live as my true self with no fear of what others think. That starts with my heart daydreaming of the life that I want. Then my brain comes up with a plan of small goals that I can achieve that will get me closer to living the life I dream of.
Stephanie Anderson is a writer living in Connecticut. She and her husband, Neil, spend their time looking for their next travel adventure and the rest of their time is spent being crazy dog parents to their rescue pup, Samson. She has an obnoxiously loud laugh and always seeks out the humor in every situation.