It took me more than 10 years to find “my happy.” And, like everyone, I’m still a work in progress.
I’m a wellness coach/concierge and a Pilates instructor. I work with ambitious brides-to-be to set attainable goals and create a personalized lifestyle plan for their wedding journey and beyond. Each individualized plan optimizes a bride-to-be’s time and covers everything she wants and needs - fitness regimens, nutrition guidance, beauty treatments, photo shoot bookings, self-care strategies, date night ideas, and the like.
The goal is to have you looking and feeling your personal best. To feel focused, confident, sexy, empowered, and just ultimately, well...happy.
I spent the past couple months interviewing 20+ young, ambitious women living in and around New York City, and I discovered a common theme. When asked what their ultimate goal is, everyone’s response was “to be happy”. Wedding countdown or not. And when asked what that meant, they said total inner calmness despite five million things going on around them. They pride themselves on productivity because they’re “type A” personalities (as am I). But they want to feel like they’ve got this. They want to be able to breathe fully along the way. But they’re afraid that if they slow down to breathe, they won’t get it all done. It’s a catch-22.
I can 100% relate to this. As I spoke with these women, I realized that these women are me. I’m them. And if I’m meeting 20 of them for coffee, I bet there are 20 more right next to us at that Starbucks. We’re all in the same boat, especially living in a fast-paced city like New York.
So how do we “get happy”? Do we have to sacrifice success in order to be mindful? Will we lose our competitive edge if we slow down?
Here’s my story.
After graduating college, I decided I wanted to be a talent agent. My father worked in sports entertainment and marketing, and my grandfather was a sports agent. I decided on my own volition that I should follow suit but focus on film, TV, and theater. I knew I would be great at it. But I never took the time to think, “Will I like it?” But I remember the proud hustle of an eager 21-year-old who just moved to New York City. I spent a whole day at the New York Public Library with a huge book that listed hundreds of talent agencies. I mailed letters to the ones that popped out at me - blindly applying to hundreds of hypothetical jobs.
I worked hard, and I landed great positions working at top entertainment companies for about 10 years. It all looked pretty impressive on paper, but deep down I was struggling with anxiety...as I had been for most of my life. I was too concerned with what other people thought and had difficulty living in the moment. I thought if my life looked exciting and cool to others, then it was. It was like living in a Facebook highlight reel.
Because I was living to please others, I was aimlessly running around, unaware of what I really wanted. And I never stopped to think about what I really wanted.
It took the moments right before and after my wedding to trigger a re-evaluation.
The funny thing is, I was never one of those girls who fantasized about her wedding (even when I was really young). That might seem surprising, because I was such a "girly-girl" - obsessed with dancing, gymnastics, dressing up, Barbies, you name it. But when my wedding countdown became a reality, I felt inspired and excited. The process allowed me to focus on a fitness routine, nutrition plan, schedule hair trials, photo shoots, dress fittings, and everything in between. I stopped suppressing who I really was and became that "girly-girl" again. For the first time in about a decade, I felt positively invigorated. Something felt right.
So to recap: I worked at companies because I thought I should, not because I wanted to. I was feeling lost and uninspired. Then I finally felt what I’d been missing when prepping for my wedding. So everything should be perfect now, right?
The wedding process started out fun, but then I became too obsessed with looking perfect. I had to suffer to look good. It had to be one or the other. I worked out like a crazy person and replenished my body with way less than what I was burning. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was working crazy hours and had no time or energy left to spend with my fiancé. But, thankfully, I eventually backed off a bit as the wedding drew nearer because something inside me broke through all the overwhelming preparations I was doing and told me to fully enjoy this once in a lifetime moment. I introduced foods back into my diet and lightened up on the hardcore exercises...and I didn’t gain a pound.
My wedding ended up being absolutely magical - hands down the best weekend of my life.
But in the months after our wedding and honeymoon, I plummeted from cloud 9 as I returned to corporate America. I no longer had the distraction of my own bridal boot camp.
I was still looking for my happy.
Here’s what finally put it all together for me. I engaged in a thoughtful coaching session with my mother-in-law (who is also a certified life coach), and I realized that I never took a moment to think about what I wanted from my life. And since I didn’t know, I was checking off a lot of boxes, but I was chasing after the wrong things. We had an honest conversation about what makes me truly happy, and a light bulb went off. My perfectionism was making me live a life to please others and partake in extreme health goals. I knew I had to make a change, so I left my job and went back to school for coaching.
The decision to enroll in NYU for my coaching degree not only changed my profession...it changed my entire life.
Throughout the coaching program, I learned how to use active listening and employ strategies and techniques to propel others forward towards attainable goals. But most importantly, I learned the importance of stopping to figure out personal values, living life in accordance to those values, and practicing mindfulness and self-love every single day.
I now know that nothing good can come from over-indulgence and then abstinence...and back and forth and back and forth. It’s really about optimal balance. If I don’t do anything, I’m unproductive. If I do too much, I’m stressed out. If I do enough, I can fully enjoy the benefits of the journey and the outcome. I can feel empowered, confident, sexy, relaxed, and vulnerable. I can accept that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Sure, I lost a bunch of weight for my wedding...but I sacrificed my happiness for most of the journey. Now I realize that I can get fit, eat foods that sustain my energy, and feel good all at the same time. I don’t have to deprive myself. I can slow down and still get the job done...probably more efficiently.
Basically, I can give myself a break. I can allow myself to be okay doing the best that I can. And the more I allow my personal best over perfection, the more present, clear, and calm I feel.
What’s “my happy”? Treating myself better and being more mindful everyday. The more I do that, the happier and more successful I feel.
Practicing balance and self-love is hard work because I was wired to think differently my whole life. But the more I practice, the more it becomes ingrained, and the more my anxiety takes a back seat. So it’s 100% worth it. If only I knew all of this leading up to the best day of my life. It would have made it even more amazing.
Although I’m no longer a bride, there are so many brides who I’m sure are feeling as overwhelmed and scattered as I felt. So I thought to myself, "How great would it be if I could introduce the importance of mind-body balance to women during the wedding process?" Because if you can do it during the stress of wedding planning, you can do it any time. You’re starting a new life together as husband and wife, and a wedding can be that motivator to reset and recharge.
If you sign up to join my community, I will be happy to share a free step-by-step introductory "Happy Bride Wellness Guide" that shows how I went from an extreme, stressed out dieter to a happier, calmer, fit go-getter. The guide includes my personal fitness routine, meal ideas and recipes, self-care strategies, and date night ideas with your fiancé. Obviously everyone is different, but these strategies and actions worked for me and can be used every day - wedding countdown or not. This introductory guide is my gift to you free of charge. Think of it as a peek into how I could help you prepare for your body and mind for your wedding day and beyond. If you find if helpful or thought provoking or insightful, imagine how much better and more useful a personalized program built around your current state of mind and the “happy” you want to achieve would be.
So, to come full circle...How do we get to our happy? Do we have to sacrifice success in order to be mindful?
My personal answer is that mindfulness is required in order to be successful.
Forget your to-do list and all those unanswered emails for a second: Are you happy? Do you feel like you’re struggling to stay ahead of the pace of your life, but you still feel unfulfilled? Did you relate to my story?