For most of my life, I've been what I affectionately refer to as a high-achieving (insecure) people-pleaser. I did what I needed to do, said what I needed to say, became what I needed to become in order to get approval, get accepted, and get ahead.
I had every reason to feel confident. I was always at the top of my class in school; I was a high performer working at one of the best organizations in the world (Google); I was well-rounded and generally well-liked.
And yet, no matter what I did or how high I climbed, I never could get away from the nagging feeling of self-doubt and insecurity. Of needing to be impressive but feeling like whatever I did was just never quite enough - like maybe once I did more, achieved more, was more, then finally I’d feel good.
What I came to realize was that I’d built my life - piece by piece - based on what I thought I should do, who I thought I should be, what I thought I should want.
All my life, I’d been following the path that was laid out ahead of me. It was a beautiful path, I won’t deny it. It was well-worn with lots of cheerleaders on the sides, urging me on and telling me how lucky I was and how great I was doing.
But the truth was, my momentum on the path was from my need for recognition and achievement, my drive for doing a good job and pleasing people - I’d never asked myself if that path was what I really wanted.
Inside, I felt empty, disconnected. Hollow. Like I had this hole in my stomach that I could never figure out how to fill, no matter how hard I tried or what I did. I mean, it might go away for awhile, but it would always come back.
For as picture-perfect as my life might have looked on the outside, behind closed doors, at various times in my life, I battled anorexia, bulimia, depression, perfectionism, competitiveness, hypercontrolism, feeling like an outsider, drinking a little too much...
You get the picture....
My life fundamentally changed on July 15, 2013. That was the day my 3-month daughter, Vivian, had spinal neurosurgery for a tumor on her spinal cord. No matter how perfectly I’d tried to build my life, I hadn’t put a plan in place for something like this.
As I sat in the hospital the night after her surgery, feeling so incredibly angry with the world and sorry for myself, I had a thought that literally changed my life.
It started out as a whisper - barely recognizable at first - but just kept growing louder and louder over time. The thought was:
You have one life to life.
There are no second-chances, no do-overs.
You get one go’round at this life.
Why would you spend any more time waiting to be happy?
The image that was playing in my mind was of a carousel and I realized I’d been living as though I had unlimited rides; I could just keep going around and around and around. That it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t actually happy yet - after all, I got unlimited rides so I could just keep going around until I finally got happy.
In that moment, I realized that I had been waiting.
Waiting for that perfect life, the one where I was happy, satisfied, fulfilled, to come along.
Waiting for situations to improve, people to change, that hole in the pit of my stomach to go away.
And realizing that I’d been waiting pretty much all my life.
But what scared me the most was the realization that this wasn’t a carousel ride - it was my life. And when it’s over, it’s over. No second chances. No do-overs.
Since that day in 2013, my life has completely changed. I've gotten divorced, left my career at Google, started my business to serve people all over the world and am happier, more fulfilled and inspired than I've ever been in my life. All because I commit to practicing the Art of Undoing and full-range living every single day.
My mission is to make the world better, kinder and more joyful by helping people just like you practice undoing so you can live into your full range. I truly believe we are most impactful when we are most authentic and the world needs the unique impact that each of us can make.
I would love nothing more than to teach you how to practice the Art of Undoing so you can experience Full-Range Living.
Will you join me?
Erika Gerdes is a leadership advisor, speaker and coach. She is a former 12-year Google global business executive who now works with high achieving leaders and teams from companies like Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and Time to embrace the philosophy of Full Range Living so they can take bigger risks, have more fun and make a bigger impact.
Erika is a former global business executive at Google, where she worked for 12 years before leaving at the height of her career, as a single mom, to launch her leadership development practice.
Erika has an M.A. in Organizational Communication and a Graduate Certificate in Mediation and Negotiation. She's an ICF-certified professional coach, and completed specialized leadership development training with CoActive Training Institute and Harvard's Immunity to Change framework for making transformational change. She is certified Reiki level 2 and has been speaking, teaching and coaching for 20+ years.
Erika lives in the Chicago suburbs with her daughters, Evelyn (10) and Vivian (8) and their golden retriever, Basil. Nature is her happy place; adventure travel and horse-riding are her favorite hobbies; and, to her, there is nothing better than dark-roast coffee and a warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie.