Gold Star Disease

One Choice Leads to Another
By Nancy Levin

Making one different choice can have an enormous impact as you move toward jumping into your new, better life. It’s the starting point that leads you to the next steps. When you do one thing differently, you break a pattern and prove to yourself that there is life beyond the familiar. I’m not going to pretend that breaking patterns is always a smooth process; often, it’s anything but. 

Poet David Whyte said: If you are living the life you are meant to live, it is inevitable that someone will feel betrayed. We can’t give our lives away to avoid someone else’s anger, demands, or needs. I did that for much too long, and it practically killed me. I had to do something different regardless of the outcome. 

As I have said, for a long time I thought divorce wasn’t possible for me. I was too frightened of the consequences if I left. It seemed unfathomable to go through the exposure of having done something terrible. 

But eventually, I had to face my terror and my shame. And guess what? It didn’t annihilate me. The ground didn’t crumble beneath me. I’m still standing… and I have more personal power today than I ever thought possible. If I can do that, so can you. And it all started with that one different choice. 

Making that first different choice gave me permission to make another new choice in my life—visualizing quitting my job. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the work—quite the contrary, it was my dream job—but there was just so much of it! I couldn’t see a way out of the stress and overwhelm beyond leaving Hay House.

Around that time, I was taking a walk in Melbourne, Australia, with my boss and close friend, Reid Tracy, the President of Hay House. I suddenly realized that my whole quest for “gold stars” had to end. I admitted to Reid that I felt overworked and overwhelmed. I even confessed that I’d been fantasizing about quitting.

“I sensed that you were at the end of your rope,” he said, “but you don’t have to quit your job. You just have to stop holding yourself to such unrealistic expectations. Support is available if you’d only take it!”

Support? What was that? I was not a woman who asked for support. “It’s not about your indispensability at work,” Reid continued. “It’s about your irreplaceability as a human.” 

Whoa. He was right. My individuality can never be replaced by anyone else. It’s about who I am, not what I do. I had been living in a long-running story that everyone loved me because of what I did for them. The truth was that people loved me simply because they loved me. When he made that statement, it dawned on me: My workaholism was driven by my ego. I had bought into the belief that I was “the only one” who could get things done because some part of me wanted to believe it. I thought that my Superwoman persona “earned” me my right to be alive. No one else required me to go to such lengths. I was the only one who felt I had to do so in order to be loved, to be acceptable. 

But the truth is that even if I do absolutely nothing for the rest of my life—accumulate no more gold stars—I will still be loved. What a revelation! 

I used to think love would come from the outside in, but I know now that it must grow from the inside first. No amount of external validation will ever match my internal expression of self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance. All the gold stars in the world cannot earn me the recognition that can only be found within my own heart. 

Essentially, what Reid said to me caused the clouds to part. Suddenly, I felt free to do the most outrageous thing imaginable: delegate! It was as if he gave me permission to give myself permission. That one different choice—delegation—paved the way for me to stay in my job and continue to do what I love without burning out. 

And guess what happened when I stopped seeking out those gold stars? The gold stars kept coming! Even after I had let go of my standard of perfection. Know that you will receive accolades for one reason and one reason only: for being you. You are lovable for who you are. 

I can’t say that I’m forever cured of the Gold-Star Disease. I think it will probably be with me for the rest of my life. But today, I’m much more aware when it creeps in, and I can make better choices each time it rears its head.

Jump…and Your Life Will Appear 

by Nancy Lev

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