The scene: Elementary school English class. Me, sitting in my desk, legs crossed to keep them from bouncing. I am staring across the class at Valerie Carlson’s pencil case.
The teacher had asked us to take out our books, our homework, and a pencil. Valerie reached down, pulling her book from the perfect pocket it was neatly tucked in. She grabs her purple folder and matching purple pencil case, carefully selecting a sharpened pencil from its many pockets.
I stare down into my own backpack — into the messy explosion that exists there. Somewhere — probably jammed into the wrong folder or crumpled into the back lining — lives my homework. My pencil case, tucked hastily into a side pocket, has lost all the organization I carefully set up yesterday. Random pens and chunks of old eraser float about, covered in dusty shavings and bits of led.
Valerie is clear skies and I am all tornado.
And in that moment, there is a big deep part of my 5th grade self who has already been taught to hate her own chaos.
But there is also another part of me — some neurological plot twist or lucky bit of genetics — where my growth mindset sits, strong as steel.
I’m biologically wired to view every problem as a puzzle. Even on the days where I could only see my own flaws, there was never a part of myself that I believed was un-changeable.
So, the 5th grade version of me dumps her pencil case into her lap, and once again, starts to organize. Her mind paints pictures of rigid folder organization and gel pens sliding right into place. It starts there — the perpetual promise that “this time, I will be better.”
And then, that little girl grows up.
And with her, grows the storm.
So I read over 150 self-help books. I go to college and major in psychology. I throw myself into competitive public speaking because it’s a challenge and I have a ravenous appetite for improvement.
I re-organize my pencil case thousands upon thousands of times. I watch every health and fitness documentary on Amazon. I learn hundreds of strategies for time management.
I throw myself — frantically, endlessly, recklessly — into anything that I think can change me.
And fix what, you may ask? Well, everything. Finances. Weight loss. Running ability. Willpower. Study skills. Note taking. Nutrition. Sleep. Motivation. Habits. Productivity. Focus.
I make a thousand plans and don’t follow any of them. I build hundreds of spreadsheets to track my behavior and leave them in the depths of Google drive, untouched. I design hard core diet plans and intensive exercise regimens and then go to the college cafeteria the next day and eat 6 cookies for dinner.
And in this environment – in this effort to “fix” myself – in this hate-driven frenzy for improvement… I learn and absorb. I can recite strategies & explain concepts. Yet, I don’t change.
But then — during my masters degree, I mentor college students. I find myself spying problems in their lives and thinking of solutions so easily — because I’ve seen them before, in my own mirror. I’ve read all the books, I know all the strategies.
But the advice that stumbles it’s way out of my mouth isn’t filled with push or grind or try harder. It’s not about being STRICTER or doing MORE. Instead, it’s a softening. An encouragement for them to let go.
What if that’s not a problem? I ask.
What if you’re enough as you are?
What if you could love yourself, and still change?
And I am saying these words to my students. But somewhere deep inside me, the 5th grade girl who stared at her messy backpack starts to hate her chaos a little bit less. And that’s when it happens. That’s when I start to change.
My PhD is a blur. I settle into a gym routine. I give myself more grace and (shockingly) get more done. I forgive my messy bedroom and my imperfect schedule and change myself one day, one moment, one task at a time.
I find a language in mindset and behavior science — the words to capture my struggles, the objective proof that it’s not only me who feels the heavy burden of trying to change. The real evidence on how we actually make that change happen.
And I work with a nutrition coach. A good one — who encourages me to really eat, who helps me remember to fuel the future I want.
It hits me one day, in the shower:
My rage that no one taught me I could love myself AND change. My desire to be the person for others.
The gap I wanted to fill, somehow. It seemed impossible, at the time.
But I have learned how to do impossible things.
With compassion. With acceptance. With deep, fiery, relentless love for myself as fuel instead avoidance or fear or hate.
So here I am, today.
I am 28 years old.
I am the CEO of Body Brain Alliance, a soon to be multi six figure company.
For a living, I help people change.
I am passing on the lessons the younger me so desperately needed.
The other day, I told my therapist that I have no interest in living an ordinary life.
I created this company to help you pursue the magnificent dreams you have to yourself and your life, too.
One last note —
Magnificent, impossible goals don’t have to include Mount Everest or marathons.
I have a drawer in my desk now where I keep all my pencils. There’s an organizer in the drawer, with neat rows for different colors and types.
Most of the time, I keep it clean. When I grab a pen, I put it back.
And every time I do, the little girl inside of me who stared at Valerie Carlsons pencil case swells with the pride of achieving what seems impossible.
But even when I don’t, I know how to love the stormy part of me. I know that some weeks I will be a tornado of a girl and that’s okay.