Some days, you lie there in bed, staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, praying.
- Praying that the people who love you never find out what a fraud you are.
- Praying that you like the person you see in the mirror tomorrow better than you liked the person you saw today.
- Praying for a chance to fix your mistakes—the ones others haven’t found out about yet.
- Praying for another day before the mistakes you didn’t fix catch up to you.
- Praying you’ll be able to pull yet another miracle out of your ass.
- Praying that the love of your life will still return your kiss and not give you a cheek tomorrow.
- Praying that whatever happens, you won’t completely mess things up… again.
- Praying for innocence, and for someone to take care of you, so you can stop, just stop.
I don’t care who you are, how powerful your position, how healthy your ego, you have those nights.
When you’re growing up, no one tells you about that. They tell you about the hope, and the faith, and the hard work, and the perseverence, but they never tell you just how bad the moments are that make you need hope or faith; they never tell you about the darkness hard work distracts you from. No one prepares you for what it feels like when someone’s relying on you and you have no fucking clue how to take care of them. No one ever pulls you aside to say, “Listen, there may come a day, when someone says ‘I love you,’ that you’ll honestly wonder how that could be.” And they certainly don’t ever mention how terrifying a thought that is when it happens.
I hope you spend your entire life on top of the world. I hope you have the confidence to look your fears in the eye and tell them to fuck off as you roll over and go back to sleep. I hope you find the source of your strength early and that it always flows straight to your shoulders, and that nothing ever breaks you.
I hope you have it easy. Heaven knows, I’ve got room for improvement in this area. But one thing I do know, is that if you want to be your “authentic” self, you’re going to have nights like this. You just are. It’s not possible to find your true self without getting tested, and tested hard. Life is strong—when you go to bend it to your will, it fights the hell back. It bites, claws, kicks, and it doesn’t give up until you wrestle it to the ground and prove to it that you won’t quit for anything. The closer you get to your authentic self, the more gut-wrenching and terrifying the tests feel, too.
Take someone who you think has life all figured out, and I promise, that person knows what it’s like to experience that frozen terror that comes from living a snapshot of time that is years long and ice cold.
So let’s not kid ourselves: people can talk about being authentic online, but unless they acknowledge the sheets damp from cold sweat; unless they talk about the sixteen hours between when you send that tweet and find out if you’ve been fired for it; unless they prepare you to look in your spouse’s eyes and say, “Everything’s going to be OK” after you’ve quit but before your first client’s check’s come in, then they’re skipping over an important part that you had better prepare for.
And the best way to prepare? You might as well start with a good night’s sleep—you’re going to need it.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.