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Emily Bennington

Emily Bennington is the author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination and the founder of Awake Exec ™ mindful leadership training. You can find her online at www.emilybennington.com

Where You Should Be vs. Where You Are

We spend our entire lives focused on achievement.

We get gold stars in elementary school, trophies in high school, a spot on the dean’s list in college, and promotions at work.

It’s all about achievement and we’re all grappling for it.

If you work hard you should expect success, right?

But what if success doesn’t come fast enough?

I mean, what if you’re burning the candle at both ends and STILL feel lapped by others? This describes the first 13 years of my career – and let me tell you – it was brutal.

See the problem was I had a v-e-r-y bad case of “if onlys.”

  • If only I lived in New York, I would have a full life of endless opportunities.
  • If only I had been born to more connected parents, I would have a network of people who can help me.
  • If only I had a bestseller, my career would take off.
Sound familiar?

The list went on and on – not only crowding my head and causing me to judge others who had “more”, but robbing me of the ability to see the abundance in my life already. After all, I had a wonderful husband, two incredible little boys, family nearby, a comfortable lifestyle, freedom to do work I love, and everyone was healthy.

That’s success, right? And yet…the anxiety was crippling.

Specifically, I remember waking up each morning and – before I’d even gotten out of bed – I was already spinning in lack.

  • How am I going to get ahead today?
  • Why have I been working so hard and have so little to show for it?
  • Why does it look so easy for her?
To be clear, I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t medicated. And I wasn’t unhappy all the time.

Still, something had to give. The turning point happened one morning when – as usual – I was hurrying my kids out the door for school. We were running late that day and I remember yelling at my five-year-old to put on his shoes.

Then, I yelled at my six-year-old to find his backpack.

Then, I yelled at both of them to get in the car.

And as I slammed the door, jerked the gear into reverse, and turned around to pull out of the driveway, I noticed my oldest son silently crying. His face was red and his body was clenched tight as he stared at the ground, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Mommy,” he said. “You make me sad.”

That was it.

No screaming. No tantrum. Just a child who felt defeated and was clearly hurting.

Oy vey.

The tantrums I was prepared for, but this – this – was something else entirely. I looked over at his brother who met my eyes briefly – and then also stared coldly at the ground. Without a word I put the car in park, grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, and sat there in shocked silence.

Good God, what am I doing?

In that moment a wave of guilt and shame crashed over me and…. I lost it. I buried my face in my hands and had a good old-fashioned, red-eyed, runny nose, can’t-catch-your-breath, u-g-l-y cry. Eventually I figured I should pull myself together – if only to prevent scarring the poor kids any further. I took a couple of deep breaths, turned completely around in the seat and reached out to both of them.

“Take my hands,” I said. They grabbed the tips of my fingers. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I promise I’m going to figure it out and get better, okay?”

They nodded, but it was still an awkwardly silent ride to school.

That was a few years ago – the tipping point of my journey into mindfulness – but I’d been studying enough to know the first step was to get honest about what was REALLY going on.

And it had nothing to do with missing backpacks.

It was the fact that I had faaaar too much self-worth wrapped in my career and – when that didn’t measure up – I allowed my disappointment to bleed into every area of my life.

There you go folks. Brutal honesty.

Of course, the benefit of being honest is that it puts you in a position to make informed decisions.

In my case, waking up to emails from amazing leaders doing cool stuff was triggering me into a dark place that affected how I treated own family.

Ah, yes. More honesty – but that’s the beauty of this practice. It doesn’t let you hide.

And so the next step was to figure out what, specifically, I was jealous of.

I mean, what exactly do these people have that I want?

I sat with that question for months. I carved out a lot of thinking time. I made lists.

And through the process of staying honest, digging deep, and being mindful, I had a tremendous number of breakthroughs.

I learned goals can be dangerouscontrol is an illusion, and service is the real key to fulfillment. I also learned our greatest problems are often our greatest teachers. In my case, I thought I was jealous of marquee speaking engagements, bestselling status, and national media coverage. And while that’s all well and good, upon closer inspection, the only quality everyone I analyzed had in common is that they had each created a community around their message.


Turns out, I wasn’t seeking status – I was seeking connection. This is what happens when we stop turning away from our problems and turntowards them. We find the truth – and in that truth we find choice.

Once I “woke up” to the fact that it was my perception – not my circumstances – holding me back, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started seeking like minds.


  • I’m still not a mega-bestselling author.
  • I still don’t live in New York.
  • I’m still not rich and I don’t headline conferences.
But as I pulled out of the driveway this morning to take my boys to school, I looked at their smiling faces and realized I didn’t care anymore where I “should” be.

I’m here now. And now is what matters most.

So instead of spending your life searching for the next big achievement, why not try looking in your own back yard. Examine what you have, what you have achieved, and feel grateful for those small, or big blessings. If that still leaves you longingly dreaming for the accolades of your peers, examine where that desire comes from, you may be surprised what the real reason is behind your envy.

Above all, don’t forget that one day, you’ll be looking back on this moment and appreciating your life as it was. Why not cut out the middle man and start that process today?

So…Are You a Food Addict?

Often the holidays come with some awful setbacks.

After the dust (or glitter) settles you’re left with credit card bills, returns, hangovers, and the prospect of another year of work. Not to mention the worst setback of them all: weight gain.That dreaded feeling of excess usually kicks in right after New Years.

During the holidays it’s way too easy to indulge with desserts and baking, huge dinners, a few too many cocktails, and plenty of fatty/salty/sugary hors d’oeuvres. Not to mention all those gifts you got that include chocolate, candy, baked goods, and wine that are so easy to gobble up in the blink of an eye.

I know how it starts. Believe me, I’ve been there. You have a bite, and then another, and the next thing you know, the entire box is gone and you feel like shit. And this isn’t the first time this has happened.

You’re disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, and – even through the fog of a sugar high – you know you’re SO much smarter than this. So why can’t you stop eating?

Here’s your answer:

It’s not actually about the food!

It’s about numbing and distracting yourself so you can avoid something unpleasant. It could be anything that’s bothering you or that you don’t want to deal with. The boss from Hell, the distant spouse, trying to forget something from the past, avoiding the future…

My own food addiction in college stemmed from a deeply internalized fear of entering “the real world” with no job, no money, and $40,000 in student loans. Rather than face these fears head-on, I’d hit up three different drive-thrus, eat my weight in greasy sandwiches, hate myself for a few hours, go to bed, wake up, hit the gym, and let the cycle begin again.

Sure there was some greedy appeal in the deviously, chemically-addictive food itself, but the added appeal was that the more time I spent focusing on how out of control I was in this area of my life, the less I had to worry about the other parts. So the distraction was subconsciously intentional.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d write about this topic again. I’ve already been there, done that and I recovered a long time ago. Long enough ago that the Backstreet Boys were still together.

While I didn’t use this word at the time, I know without question that I got my life back through mindfulness.

In fact, the day I started to heal was the day I (finally) admitted I couldn’t change what I couldn’t acknowledge. Once I opened myself up to observe what was making me use food to escape my life, I began to learn that the root cause of my binge eating was actually stress.

Here’s the disclaimer: You don’t have to be a food addict to recognize the pattern of emotional eating. We’ve all reached for the ice cream at some point to soothe the pain of a broken heart or a broken dream. The difference is that addicts can’t stop. While mending a broken heart with ice cream happens on occasion, and then you move on, a food addict can’t move on and remains stuck in the same patterns.

I was definitely an addict.

Being mindful created a space for me to “kill the monster when it’s little.”  In other words, I was able to catch myself being triggered LONG BEFORE I showed up at 7-11 like a junkie – and by catching myself I was able to choose a different response.

Waking up to that choice saved me. Do I still have moments where the monster returns? I’d be lying if I said no. The Holidays in particular is rough, with the candy and snacks being unavoidable and constantly in your face.
Still, just being aware of my triggers means I can be smart about avoiding old habits. I don’t keep junk food in my home, I don’t go to certain restaurants, and I have lots of handy excuses for those cute little Girl Scouts who sit outside my grocery store. Removing temptation has been my first choice, but it’s not foolproof. There are occasional times when the ugly monster rears his ugly head, and in those times turning towards the feeling has become my second.

Mindfulness means asking yourself, “what is this really about?”

An addiction is not something that anyone would wish on anyone else and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously, but a very important lesson came out of this particular addiction. You need to start to respect yourself, and the more you do it, the easier it will become to do so.

  • Respecting yourself is the first key to being happy and in control of your life.

  • Choose yourself because you are the only person who can control it, and no one else is going to choose you if you don’t give them a reason to.

With the above tips you can truly tackle your weight loss goals for the New Year and conquer it for the rest of your life.

*Repurposed by Lesley Cornelius, a staff writer for Women Who Run It.