Image by Gerd Altmann
If you looked at my life from the outside, you might be surprised to learn that I spent most of my years getting in my own way. Despite achieving many goals and building a successful career, I was often in turmoil, filled with anxiety and insecurity.
My life was all about impressing other people or attaining some image of success that I’d borrowed from society. But who was I on the inside? Who was the real me? And what did that real me really want? For a long time, I had no idea.
Comparison, Competition, and Lack
If you’re anything like I was, you’re tired of living a life based on comparison, competition, fear, and lack. You’re looking for a system that helps you live your life based on love, support, faith, abundance, and authenticity. Maybe you’re doing all the so-called right things to be happy and successful, but something’s still missing. Maybe you’re afraid you aren’t good enough. ( Join the club!) Maybe you feel like you’re going nonstop... but for what purpose? Maybe you’re asking yourself, Is this as good as it gets?
You might even have asked yourself, Isn’t there a way to shed my excess emotional pounds? Isn’t there a way to get spiritually fit so that I finally feel confident, fulfilled, peaceful, abundant, loving, and joyful?
Today, my life is eons away from where it was when I was filled with anxiety and self-doubt. Now, I own my greatness. I live a fulfilling, joyous life, and I’ve helped many others do the same. I still have to work at it, but the work I’ve done on my spirit has translated into more blessings on the outside. Every day, I’m filled with such gratitude.
My Wake-Up Call
It took a hefty wake-up call for me to change the way I looked at myself and my life. It happened on a mid-December day as I was speed-walking through Midtown Manhattan near Times Square. (Speed-walking is my usual pace.) I was surrounded by noisy sirens, rush-hour crowds, and chaos, but the mayhem and turmoil inside me were even more overwhelming.
As stressed New Yorkers hustled past in all directions, I began to feel like I was out of my body. . . and out of my mind. My breath quickened, and I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t breathe. I began to panic.
It had been just six weeks since a man I considered to be one of the great loves of my life jumped to his death, nearly a year to the day after another dear friend also took his life. Like many suicides, they came as a complete shock to all of us who loved them. There were no warning signs, no drugs, no indications of mental illness or even unhappiness, let alone depression.
Frightened and anxious, I grabbed my phone and called my brother, John, a physician. It was nothing short of a miracle that he picked up. My brother rarely answers his phone, especially during business hours.
“Babe [as I call him], I’m freaking out. I can’t. . . breathe. I think.. . I’m having a.. . panic attack or something. Can you... please call in a prescription.. . for Lexapro? I’ve taken it for anxiety before. I’m just.. .a few blocks.. .from a pharmacy.”
I managed to drag myself through the masses down Seventh Avenue to the pharmacy, breathing fast and sobbing the whole way. The good thing about New York City is that people leave you alone when you walk down the street sobbing. That’s also the sad thing about New York City — people leave you alone when you walk down the street sobbing.
When I approached the counter, the pharmacist greeted me with such friendliness that I burst into even heavier sobs. I texted my friend Lily while my prescription was being filled: “I’m crying my eyes out at a pharmacy while I wait for antianxiety medication. Yes, I’ve become that girl.”
“What? Are you serious? Are you okay? Kate, that’s not you! You’re one of the happiest people I know,” she responded.
I had never seen myself as “that girl” either, but in that moment, there was no denying that’s who I had become.
After I took the first dose of Lexapro, I texted my brother: “I just want to take the whole bottle and go to sleep.”
He texted back: “I’m calling the cops.”
“No! I’m kidding.”
“You don’t joke about things like that, Kate!”
Make The Pain Go Away!
The truth is that I wasn’t really kidding. The pain I was experiencing felt like too much to bear, and I desperately wanted it to go away, whatever that took. I had never been suicidal, but suddenly, I had fallen asleep to the truth of who I was and caught a glimpse of what my friends Sam and Raf must have been feeling when they decided to take their own lives.
As close as I was to both of them, neither one took me or anyone else into his confidence about his darkest feelings. My own saving grace was that I was willing to sob in front of that pharmacist, and I was willing to reach out to my brother for help. Other angels showed up that day and after — people I like to call “God in drag” (i.e., God in human form). As I disclosed my pain to each of them, starting with my brother, they helped me resist the urge to empty that bottle down my throat.
If I’d been like Sam or Raf, though, who were taught to keep their pain hidden and buried, I don’t know what would have happened to me that day.
The Frantic Hamster Wheel
During the six weeks between Sam’s death and that morning when I contemplated swallowing the pills, I had been going, going, going on the same frantic hamster wheel that Sam had always traveled on. I booked my schedule solid without giving myself the proper self-care or space I needed to let the depth of my pain out.
I realized I couldn’t run on that wheel any longer. I was exhausted. It wasn’t just the pain of losing two friends to suicide; it was the constant hustle of trying to prove my worth to myself and the world through an endless list of accomplishments, achievements, accolades, and awards (what I call the “four As”).
I had to face not only the loss of my dear friends but also the fears that their deaths were bringing up in me. Sam, in particular, had been like my male counterpart — like a mirror image of me. We were both known for being the life of every party and everyone’s best friend. But like so many, we placed our worth in the material world. We thought success was measured by what we looked like, how many jobs we booked, how much money we had in the bank, and so on.
Like me, both Sam and Raf appeared to the outside world as though they had all those things and more. In the minds of most people who met them, they were the cream of the crop — successful and good-looking with enviable lives. Since Raf’s death, I’ve learned that he was harboring a deep secret and was worried his family and friends wouldn’t accept him if they knew. In other words, he was scared and ashamed to live his truth. Sam was living on a teeter-totter. A single rejection from a casting agent was enough to send him plummeting down.
Their deaths forced me to face a difficult truth: when we allow our self-worth to be defined by people and sources outside ourselves, we can never have enough or be enough. When we depend on the approval of others, we stand on the edge of a cliff, ready to tumble from even the smallest setback.
Was I on a similar path? A part of me was scared I was going to end up like them. After all, there I was nursing a bottle of pills as though it could be my savior. Who had I become?
Striving to Become “Enough”
My childhood set the stage for that woman I became, who put so much stock in what others thought. Like most of us, I grew up with the belief that other people’s opinions about me were paramount. When we think that we aren’t enough, we don’t feel safe and secure in the permanence of our loved ones’ feelings for us.
If I could just be enough (beautiful, smart, educated), do enough (achieve, accomplish, perform), and have enough (money, notoriety, “success”), my life would be “perfect” and complete. I would win the eternal love of my parents and everyone around me. I would be safe because I wouldn’t be alone.
I felt safer when I got good grades, for example, and people reflected back to me that I was a good girl. I felt safer when I could make myself pretty enough to get attention from boys and when I could be funny enough to gain popularity with girls. I felt safer when I became a star athlete, making my parents proud as I broke records as a competitive swimmer and earned an athletic scholarship to Penn State. And when I got into the best journalism school and became a writer and television anchor.
Then, when I moved to New York for a job opportunity that fell through, I discovered that I had the right physicality to become a “plus-size” model (which, according to the modeling industry, is size 6 and up). So I reinvented myself, signing with one of the biggest modeling agencies in the world, and soon became an international TV personality as well.
It’s interesting that I chose a career that’s all about outward appearances — a field that’s supposedly the final confirmation that you’re beautiful. At least that’s what most women imagine. If you become a model, it means you’re pretty enough, right?
Modeling brought out every insecurity I’d ever harbored about myself and some I didn’t even know I had. As a result, I started working even harder to try to be better, more, “perfect,” so that I wouldn’t have to face the constant rejections that my profession brought with it. But it isn’t like there’s some perfect destination that will stop the casting rejections or the negative online comments. There’s simply no such thing.
If I didn’t want to end up so caught up in what others thought of me that I couldn’t go on living, I had to stop looking outside myself for my value. I had to stop trying so desperately to achieve and accomplish in order to show the world that I was worth knowing and loving. I had to stop striving for some elusive image of perfection and give myself permission to be imperfect, authentic me.
That, I discovered, is true perfection. So I started my quest to accept all that I am — confident, vulnerable, intelligent, flawed, sassy, silly Kate. I started on a quest to connect with my spirit and become spiritually fit.
Answering the Wake-Up Call
The suicides of my beloved Raf and Sam, coupled with that day in the pharmacy, shook me to my core. To call these events a wake-up call is an understatement, and I knew my life depended on answering it. So I dove headfirst into studying, meditating, writing, praying, and working hard to find the keys to a better way of life that would allow me to generate self-esteem and contentment from within.
As a devout student of A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical self-study book and curriculum, I learned how to retrain my mind to think differently. I unsubscribed from the thought system of the world that’s based on fear and instead plugged into core beliefs based on love. I learned how to surrender my ego. And I learned how to shed emotional flab and connect with my spirit within. Slowly, I began to develop a process that felt very much like a physical workout, only for my inside! And over time, it worked.
I’m now able to live in faith rather than fear. And I no longer feel the need to take Lexapro or other pharmaceuticals. While I advocate for anyone with a serious mental illness who needs these medications, I believe that most of us are capable of getting off that hamster wheel, too.
I now operate from this core belief: I am complete. I’m still a work in progress, of course, but my life is no longer about what I do or about striving to prove my worth. Instead, it’s about who I am. And I owe all of that to working on my spiritual fitness.
Imagine a life that isn’t about how to “get this” or “do that,” but instead about being the person who naturally attracts all that your heart desires. You just have to believe how powerful you are! Increased performance and resilience, more meaningful relationships, newfound confidence and well-being, true fulfillment, and fun are available to you when you get your spirit in shape.
Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com.
The Full Spirit Workout: A Ten-Step System to Shed Your Self-Doubt, Strengthen Your Spiritual Core, and Create a Fun and Fulfilling Life
by Kate Eckman
We all understand the basics of physical fitness, and many resources teach mindfulness, business skills, and entrepreneurial chutzpah. But often undermining these goals are less-tangible roadblocks — mental and emotional baggage, deep-seated insecurity, self-judgment, and overwhelming stress and anxiety. In The Full Spirit Workout, Kate Eckman draws from her multifaceted training (as an athlete, executive leadership coach, and meditation teacher) to present a program that will empower you to break through these blocks and accomplish your goals. It’s a rewarding workout made up of daily mind-body-spirit exercises and neuroscience-based practices that bolster resilience and inner strength.
About the Author
Kate Eckman earned her B.A. in communications from Penn State University, where she was an Academic All-American swimmer. She received her master's degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She graduated at the highest level from Columbia University's executive and organizational coaching program. Kate is also a certified ICF coach (ACC) and a licensed NBI consultant.