Y’know, everyone has one: those self-motivated hustlers that people count on for support, comfort, and getting things done because their lives seem put-together. For years, I found the label flattering because it felt like recognition for the efforts I’d take to ensure those I cared about felt secure and loved while still holding it down for myself. The issue I never saw coming back then was that aiming for perfection 24/7 left no room for me to feel comfortable being fully vulnerable with even my closest loved ones. When I was down bad, I couldn’t communicate how I felt or why because I dreaded the idea of asking for too much or being needy. I feared that people wouldn’t be able to handle my lows like my highs. While I’d sacrifice anything to avoid losing relationships and being alone, the feeling of loneliness in a room full of people became so familiar to me I grew used to it.
It took months of unpacking pent-up emotions, countless one-on-ones, and traveling alone for me to find peace in solitude and authenticity. At 21, I finally learned that it is completely okay to not be constantly at the top of your game and that honesty is key to establishing worthwhile connections. Figuring out how to live my full truth through thoughtful action and communication was a roller coaster ride full of losses, mistakes, and tears that have now beautifully transformed into gains, lessons, and light. I couldn’t have discovered the power that lies in candid, fearless expression without the village behind me—the people who chose to stick around to watch me go from “strong” to heartful—and for them I’m eternally grateful.