I Know What It Feels Like to be Anna Duggar

There are a lot of things I can’t understand about what Anna Duggar is going through right now. I’ve never lived in the public spotlight, for starters, or at least not to the extent she has, and is, as we speak. I’ve never had national media outlets be the one to break the news to me about my husband’s past indiscretions, or current infidelity or sexual addiction.

These things are enough to deal with in the privacy of your own marriage, let alone with paparazzi, publications like The New Yorker and the rest of the world glaring in.

I can’t understand that.

But there are a few things about her life I do understand.

To start, I understand what it’s like to grow up in an environment where women were taught to put themselves beneath men, keep themselves behind them and always support them, no matter what. Thankfully, my parents empowered me to make choices for myself and also encouraged me to focus on my education. Also thankfully, I was immature enough for long enough that I didn’t get married until my late twenties.

So I had to learn to take care of myself.


But still, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I found myself constantly deferring to the men around me, assuming I had to wait for them to dictate my decisions, rather than making choices for myself. Rather than deciding if I wanted to go on a date, I had to wait for him to ask. Rather than deciding if I wanted to have sex, I had to wait to see what he wanted to do.

Rather than choosing for myself what career I wanted to pursue, I had to think about what schedule I would need to be a good mom.

Like Anna, I grew up in an culture which taught women to submit to men, to wait for them, to look to them as the leaders and the holders of the wisdom, and when in trouble, to expect a man to come and rescue her. My worldview was shaped by Cinderella and romantic comedies and religious communities, and let’s be honest, a group of men who recognize that women holding power means they might lose some.

Just like Anna’s.

I understand what it’s like to find out, after being romantically involved with someone for a long period of time (nearly 4 years with a boyfriend, in my case) that there are things you don’t know about them. And, while I can’t say this is true for Anna, for me at least, a large part of this was that I didn’t want to know, or didn’t let myself know.

But still. This doesn’t take away from the shock and the searing pain of the whole thing.

It doesn’t take away from that awful feeling of being so small and worthless—because for some reason, what I am worth is directly correlated to what a man thinks about me.

I know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship (not my husband, thankfully). And because of that, I know that abuse can be subtle, so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s happening. I know abuse is often a two-way street—one person playing the role of the villain, and the other as the victim—and I know how torturous it feels to know, everyday, that you’re submitting yourself to his subtle insults and under-the-radar put-downs, and his blatant neglect and unfaithfulness, again and again.

It’s awful to be manipulated and humiliated. It’s even more awful to know you’re choosing to be put down and manipulated.

And this whole thing is sad for many reasons.

But one of of the greatest reasons it’s sad is because it makes a girl feel like she just doesn’t have many choices.

I know what it feels like to think you don’t have choices, to feel trapped, to be depressed because for all intents and purpose, it doesn’t seem like there is anything you can do. Every option you play over in your head has unspeakable consequences. You can’t leave… where would you go? Who would take care of you? What about your children? Besides, “divorce” is a bad word.

But if you stay, and if things stay like this, you know you’ll have to continue to divorce yourself from yourself.

And there are few things in the world more painful than that.

A lot has changed for me since I was in a relationship like Anna’s.

But when I read the articles which describe the Duggar scandal (even though few of them focus on Anna at all) it all comes flooding back to me—what she must be feeling, what I was feeling back then, what hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women all over the world feel when they find themselves in a one-down position to the men around them.

And for that reason, in a way, I wish I could talk to Anna Duggar. Not because I have all the answers. I don’t. But because I’d like to tell her a few of the things I wish someone would have told me when I was in a position similar to her.

Here’s what I would love to say to Anna Duggar.

You don’t have to stay. There will be a lot of people who will tell you you do. They’ll say staying is the sign of a strong woman and that faithfulness will honor your husband. But here’s what will really honor your husband: you honoring yourself the way he should have honored you; by becoming a living, breathing, walking picture of what it looks like for a woman to walk in her indispensable value. I’m not saying you should leave. I’m not saying you should stay. I’m just saying you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. The power of choice is your greatest asset. Don’t lose it.

You have so much to offer to this world. I know it might not seem like this is true in light of all that’s happened. I bet you’re in survival mode. I know that mode all too well. But there will be a light on the other side of this dark tunnel, and when that light comes, I believe we will be able to see all the dreams and passions and beauty you have to bring to this world. I can’t wait for that moment. The world needs what is inside you.

You have choices. I bet it feels like your hands are tired. And the truth is your choices are probably pretty limited right now. The options you have aren’t great. I get it. I’ve been there. But don’t ever forget that, whatever you choose, there will be people on the other side who will rise up to support you in your choices. It won’t be easy. And they won’t likely be the people who you expect. But don’t neglect taking a leap because you don’t see a bridge. The world is full of loving, compassionate, kick-ass bridge builders.

Don’t be afraid to confront him (or anyone) who disrespects you. Too many women are too timid, too apologetic, too afraid to exert their voice into the world. But you are your most valuable untapped resource. If you can discover the power you already have living inside of you, and live from that place, your life will begin to shift and change. You’ll feel more yourself. You’ll create a better future for your children. And together we can work to establish a better world for our daughters.

When you teach a woman to wait for a man to come rescue her, she does. She waits and she waits and more often than not, her rescue never comes.

Let’s teach women to stop waiting and instead to learn how to rescue themselves.

Why Most Positive Self Talk Doesn’t Work And What to Do About It

I have always been a huge proponent of positive self talk. I use it all the time in my own life.

When I have to have a conversation with someone that I’m dreading, or I’m just tired and have a long day ahead, I look at myself in the mirror and say, something to the effect of, “you can do this! You have what it takes. You’re smart and capable and savvy.”

Makes you look pretty ridiculous if anyone ever walks in on you in the bathroom—but whatever.

If it works, it’s worth it. Right?

But to be honest, I wasn’t really sure if it was working. I had never thought to measure if it was actually improving the outcomes of my life, or if it was just making me feel better.

Recently, I heard something that made me rethink my un­challenged love for positive self talk.

I was listening to one of my favorite business authors, Dan Pink present at a conference.

He’s a really smart guy who has written a few New York Times Bestsellers, including one I love called To Sell Is Human.

He said something about self­ talk that really caught my attention.

Namely, he said, it just plain doesn’t work.

At first I felt myself getting a little defensive. “It doesn’t work?! What do you mean it doesn’t work? It has to work!”

But then I listened as he went on.

Basically, he said, research shows that positive self talk like “you can do it!” doesn’t have much of an impact on performance because the self ­talk has nothing to do with performance itself. It isn’t clear or directive.

Self talk doesn’t have any clear plan to follow.

On the other hand, if you were to talk to yourself like this: “I’ve done presentations like this dozens of times before and every time I’ve told the story about that one business owner,that’s gone really well.”

Or if you were to say, “Your biggest weakness when you’re facing a hard day is you get overwhelmed too easily. So watch out for that.”

That’s the kind of positive self talk that works.

That positive self talk gives you a clear path you can follow ahead.

Positive self talk that works isn’t just “rah­rah you can do it” self­ talk but it comes with a plan.

Makes sense, right?

In case you were wondering if this works, I tried it.

A few weeks ago I had to have a hard conversation with someone I loved and I was nervous. I gave myself this positive self ­talk beforehand.

I told myself, “your biggest weakness in these conversations is that you let your emotions get the best of you and you lose sight of what you’re trying to communicate.” I also said to myself, over and over again, “Don’t forget—the objective of the conversation is ______.”

And you know what?

That conversation went better than I could have expected. I stayed cool and collected and was able to direct the conversation in the way I wanted it to go.

Turns out Dan Pink was right.

And if I can change the way I talk to myself, I just might be able to have a small hand in shaping the future in front of me.

Five Things I’ve Learned Since Quitting My Full Time Job

It’s been five full years since I quit my full-time job to go after my long-time dream of traveling and writing books. It’s been a crazy, wild, totally unexpected, sometimes heartbreaking, other times completely exhilarating, ride.

I’ve learned more about myself and about what it takes to achieve success in the past five years than I have in the rest of my life combined.

People ask me, “do you ever regret quitting your job?” The short answer to that question is no.

The long answer goes something like this.

Quitting your job won’t solve your problems

There were a lot of things I hated about having a full time job and I was convinced getting rid of the job would solve them. I hated the scheduling conflicts, the office politics, the bureaucracy, the overwhelming wave of insecurity I would feel under observation.

I hated evaluations. 

I hated what felt like my boss “breathing down my neck”.

I hated not having the flexibility to take a day off when I needed—or spontaneously, because after long winter, it was finally sunny outside.

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of perks to working for yourself. The spontaneity thing, first of all. The freedom to make your own choices. That rocks. But quitting my job did not make me feel less insecure. It didn’t solve all my scheduling conflicts.

Nope, that’s just me—expecting too much of myself, thinking I could do more than I actually can.

Quitting your job does not solve all of your problems. Our problems have this strange habit of following us.

There’s no such thing as a “perfect” work environment

There are some good work environments and some bad ones. I quit a job once because my boss would yell at us—the entire team—on a daily basis. Pretty sure he thought it was motivating. I just thought it was unprofessional and unhelpful. So I quit.

But even the most wonderful work environments are not perfect.

Work environments reflect the people inside them—endearing and imperfect as they are; and truly great work environments are fought for and won. They’re built with hard work and honesty, over a long period of time.

Even when I have total control over my work environment, it’s still not perfect because I’m not perfect. It’s a little manic at times, like I am. And although it typically is conducive to creativity, it runs on stress and caffeine.

The workplace I create is a reflection of me and it’s amazing how even the people I invite into that space get wrapped up in the tornado of my gifts and problems.

No workplace is perfect.

If your workplace is awful, quit.

If it’s average or above average, ask yourself what you can do to contribute to the work environment and make it the kind of place you want to be.

We must abandon the mythology of “total freedom” in our work.

I couldn’t wait to quit my job so I would have “total freedom” to work when I wanted to work, to write whatever I wanted to write, to change plans at the last minute and to take a day off whenever I felt like I needed it.

Let me tell you, after five years of working for myself, there is no such thing as “total freedom” in your work. At least not as far as I’ve found.

[If you have discovered this secret, please email me. I pay cash money.]

The search for the elusive “total freedom” in my work has led me on more than one wild goose chase and has probably prevented me from making the progress I really desire. You’ve heard the old adage, “creativity needs boundaries”. I’d say that applies pretty well here.

The trick is finding the right boundaries so your creative energy can flow and you can thrive.

Someone has to be the boss.

I was so excited to quit my job so I could duck out form under the weight of my the dreaded “boss”. From my artistic position, even the best bosses were stifling my creative energy and preventing me from achieving my goals.

But here’s the deal. Someone has to be the boss.

Someone has to make sure the company is being productive, that money is coming in, that systems are in place to keep everyone on track, that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do based on those systems and that everyone is given permission to succeed and grow.

Someone has to be the boss.

The boss has to be concerned about wasted time and energy and about the bottom line because, ultimately, he or she is concerned about making sure everyone leaves at the end of the week with a paycheck.

Even when you work for yourself, there’s no escaping “the boss”.

The boss just might be you.

Every creative person wishes they didn’t have a boss. This is impossible. Instead, ask yourself who you want your boss to be.

I was an ungrateful and selfish employee.

I was such an ungrateful and selfish employee, taking things for granted that were huge blessings to me—like bonuses, paid days off, a 401k, a steady, regular, consistent paycheck, unending access to office supplies.

I took too many breaks and didn’t maximize my productivity like I know now I could have. I didn’t see how my actions (or inactions) impacted the company or organization as a whole.

Now that I run my own business I see it and feel it.

I feel the price of every box of pens, of every time I have to buy toner. I feel every hour I take off and every day I don’t work. If I don’t do something, it doesn’t get done.

So I see very clearly how my actions impact the organization’s bottom line, which in the end, impacts me.

So these days, I treasure every long lunch, every day off, every printed piece of paper, and every day I’m lucky enough to call this my job.