Years ago, when I was convinced that I needed to lose weight, I searched for the secret. The diet. The exercise. The shake. The detox. The thing that would help me whittle down my waist and finally have a flat stomach. The thing that would finally make me happy and popular and perfect.

Today, I’m no longer looking for the end-all, be-all weight-loss secret. Thankfully, I’m no longer fixated on the number on the scale, or the size of my jeans.

But I’ve started searching for a different secret. The secret to being productive. The secret to being an amazing mom who does it all, in a day: the dishes, the writing, the laundry, the cooking.

I scour Google for tips and tricks and suggestions and, of course, secrets. I wonder, does everyone know something that I don’t? It is a feeling that reminds me of being in school, and not being in on the joke. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but is actually a terrible feeling.

So I search, and search. And inevitably I wonder some more, what’s wrong with me that I can’t make this work? Other people don’t seem to have any trouble. All this wondering is followed by shame and self-doubt and a particularly loud inner critic.

Are you searching for the secret, too?

Maybe you’re searching for the secret to ageless skin, a gorgeous home, a perfect body, a perfect relationship, a much, much, much better you. You’re searching for the answer to transform the mess that you (supposedly) clearly are.

Of course, there are tips and suggestions that can make our lives easier and more enjoyable, tips and suggestions that can help us grow and evolve and flourish. These are wonderful things.

But there is no secret. There is no magic formula. And often we drive ourselves crazy looking for one. We become obsessed, a kind of tunnel vision that won’t be satisfied until we find it, until we find the one. The one answer that will fix everything. 

There is no secret. There is no magic formula.

Instead of spending so much time searching for something that doesn’t exist, maybe we can turn our attention to learning to trust ourselves. Acknowledging that we’re doing enough. Considering what we really want and why we want it. Reminding ourselves that we’re not missing out on some big truth. Reminding ourselves that we’ve had the answers all along. It’s just that it’s hard to hear yourself over the noise—the noise of others’ opinions, the noise of shoulds, and Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook standards and comparisons.

What happens when you shut down your computer and turn off your phone? What happens when you’re in a room by yourself, with no distractions; what do you hear? What happens when you finally listen to yourself?

Photo by Matt Hoffman.