When life gets confusing, and you don't know why you're doing what you're doing, or you can't seem to figure out what to do next, the best thing to do is listen to yourself to find the answer. But what happens when the confusion and inner (and outer) chaos drown out your inner voice?
When attempting to inspire and motivate people to follow their dreams, it can be easy to paint a utopian picture. I see it all the time - entrepreneurs and motivational figures sharing their $80,000 weeks, posting pictures of themselves working from their beachside villa, or in some cases, lying about their life in order to convince others that they’ve “made it.”
I’m no exception. As I’ve made my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve had some big wins, but I’ve also had some big losses. And while I don’t outright lie about my life, I’ve chosen to keep parts hidden because, honestly, I’m scared. “How can I inspire others if I’m struggling? I need to show people that the choice to follow their dreams is worth it.” That’s the belief that I carry around, and I’m sure many other entrepreneurs do as well.
But that changes for me today.
In the pursuit of your dreams via the self-help world, you’re bound to come across the Law of Attraction, made mainstream by The Secret.
The premise of most manifestation work is to put yourself in the mindset of the life you want, by way of your thoughts, in order to make it true. When people can do this, it works. There are countless stories out there if you need proof.
But what happens when your mind is, for whatever reason, predisposed to think about the worst case scenario of any given situation?
Choosing to chase your dreams is hard work. I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s not hard in the sense that I have to drag myself out of my bed every morning; when I wake up to create my dream life, I practically jump out of bed.
No, the hard work I’m talking about is deeper.
I didn't know how I got so lucky as to have landed this “dream job” within a year of graduating from grad school.
Perhaps because of my perceived luck, my rose-colored glasses were a little more rosy than others’ might have been. When things started to happen that should have alerted me to the job’s wrong fit, I justified them. Hard.
I know starting something new can be really intimidating, especially if you’ve never expressed yourself in this way before. Just remember, starting is the scariest part.
Change is the only constant in life. Whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or relational, it’s the one thing we can all guarantee is going to happen, so why are we all so bent on avoiding it?
Usually, when I make art, it’s out of necessity. There’s something that needs to be said, and art is the only form of communication that will make it known.
Art-making is a skill I’ve been developing my whole life, and it’s become another language for me. It’s more than a simple hobby… And it’s more than an avenue to hone my technical skill. My soul speaks through creative expression. My truest and clearest voice comes through in my art.
“I don’t have enough time to do self care.”
The following ten self care practices can be completed in five minutes or less, so both you and I can stop using lack of time as an excuse to neglect ourselves.
I have four mantras that I’ll be using throughout the new year, and I encourage you to use them as well if they resonate with you. Write them on sticky notes and put them on your computer. Jot them down in your favorite planner. Download my digital wallpapers to see them whenever you open your phone. The more you see them, the more you’ll live them.
Ever made plans to do one thing, only to discover it's not really working out? It can be so hard to break free from what we thought "should be," but at the end of the day, you've got to do what feels right in your heart. It's okay to change course. It's okay to change your mind. It means you're growing.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between self care and selfishness. When I work with people, I encourage them to take time for themselves - to find a consistent and effective self care practice. I’m usually met with resistance.
Most of the objections boil down to this myth: “If I take time for myself, I’m selfish.”
Selfish! The ever-avoided plague of a word (and a label).
Nobody wants to been seen or perceived as selfish. To be selfish means to care ONLY for oneself - to have no regard for the needs or experiences of others. A world full of selfish people, only serving themselves, is a miserable place.
So why I am advocating that people pay attention to their own needs first?
Because self-care and selfishness are not the same thing.
Selfishness is a parent feeding themselves, and neglecting to feed their child. Self care is a parent feeding themselves so that they have energy to feed and care for their child.
Selfishness is a business generating revenue, and neglecting to care for their employees, contractors, and customers. Self care is a business generating revenue to cover costs and earn a profit so that it can take care of its employees, contractors, and customers.
Selfishness is a tree who grows tall and fast, blocking out the sun for the rest of the forest. Self care is a tree who soaks up the sun, rain, and nutrients from the soil to grow as strong as it can for the health of the forest.
(I realize this last example of selfishness is a little ridiculous, because trees can’t be selfish. Selfishness doesn’t naturally occur in nature. It’s a human invention; one might argue, a Western invention… But that’s a tangent I won’t pursue today.)
When I encourage people to do things for themselves, to listen to their bodies, to stop ignoring their mental health, I’m not saying, only focus on these things. I’m saying, if you pay attention to and fulfill your own needs, everyone around you will be better off for it.
Because when we actually start paying attention to ourselves, and acknowledge all parts of ourselves - positive and negative - we start seeing ourselves in others. We start recognizing our interconnectedness. When we have compassion for ourselves, we can have compassion for each other. When we recognize and forgive our shadow parts, we can recognize and forgive the shadow parts of others.
Problems happen (see: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, climate change denial, abuse, etc.) when we deny parts of ourselves. When we don’t take the time to get to know ourselves enough, we push those unwanted parts of ourselves out into the world.
Self care is the opposite of selfishness. It’s going to the doctor to maintain our health for the people we love. It’s feeding ourselves things that nourish us so that our bodies can function the way they were meant to. It’s replenishing our energy so that we can go out into the world to do the work we love. It’s healing ourselves on a deep level so that we do no harm.
The Hero’s Journey is a framework that I hold close to my heart.
It has validated my life journey a thousand times over, and will continue to do so until I die. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and watch Finding Joe. You’ll thank me later.
After heeding the call to action and pursuing her dreams, the Hero always finds herself in points of isolation, confusion, and disorientation. She received guidance, motivation, and encouragement and built up the courage to step into the forest on her own, blazing her own path. But there comes a point when the light from the valley behind her grows dim; she’s in the thick brambles and nothing makes sense and she begins to question everything.
I’m in the forest.
I know the forest well. Not this particular forest, perhaps, but the feeling that comes from reaching this point of disorientation. I know because I’m grasping for answers. For assurance. For insurance.
There’s a ceaseless wildfire burning inside me who’s sole job is to find clarity. She questions everything. EVERYTHING. My relationships, my life choices, the things I choose to do each day. The ironic thing is… this anxiety-provoked seeking seems to create more anxiety. I don’t know the answers, therefore, I feel more lost.
The wildfire wants nothing more than to burn the fucking forest to the ground. That would make it a lot easier to discover where I need to go, right?
What I’ve learned from being in the forests of my own Hero’s Journey is that the confusion is necessary. We are supposed to feel lost. It’s in the periods of disorientation that we have a choice to either freak out or trust the process.
Not knowing what the fuck is going on is part of the journey.
Because how are we supposed to know how to proceed? We’ve never been here before! Yes, there’s a comfort in knowing, in being sure. But the path to sureness is through not knowing. We receive little clues and tokens that we need for the rest of our journey in the forest. If we burn it down, we lose all of that.
If we accept that we don’t know, and we just sit for a minute to regain a sense of ourselves, the path always reveals itself.
So instead of beating myself up for feeling lost, and confused, and messy… I’m going to remind myself that I’m right on track. I’m going to do things that help me feel connected to myself, like practicing yoga, spending time in nature, and holding crystals. And I’m going to remember my Core Desired Feelings.
I’m going trust myself and my intentions, and I’m going to keep it pointed to where I want to go. #truthbomb.
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Wearing many people’s faces…
- May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself” (excerpt)
An astrologer once told me I’m like a large vessel with a small opening;
my birth chart aligned in a way that confirmed what I’ve always known. I hold things in my mind and body like a sponge, absorbing seemingly infinite amounts of information from the outside world. I sift these pieces through my intricate system of filters and analytics. I live with them. I let them impact me. Then, like a large vase with a narrow bottleneck, I release small drops, relieving my contents slowly and carefully, over a long period of time.
I feel that vessel now, as I write what has been building and burning inside me for so long. Every ounce of me wishes the bottleneck were bigger, and these words could flow eloquently out of me at rapid speed, but (sigh) here I sit… Agonizing over every word.
I agonize because I don’t believe in fluff. At least, not anymore. I’m at a point in my life where I have very little tolerance for bullshit (my own or anyone else’s). I hope it continues. I’m not interested in sugar coating or playing by the rules anymore; I’m intensely interested in authenticity, vulnerability, and honesty.
In this way, I think, my vessel is changing. Maybe the opening is widening. Maybe the walls are becoming more permeable. Or maybe… it’s turning inside out. This feels accurate.
For the first 27 years of life, I was more concerned with others than I was my own wellbeing. As May Sarton says in the poem above, I wore many faces. Too scared to wear my own.
Something has shifted.
From the outside, you see that I quit my full-time job. You see that I’m diving into fitness and nutrition coaching. You see that I had my hair dyed purple.
You see these things, and if you’re my parents, you may worry. If you’re my friends, you might be curious. If you’re my acquaintances on Facebook, you might be like, “what the fuck?”
Change seems to have that effect on people. It’s confusing and messy and doesn’t make sense. Until it does.
My intention is to share my authentic experience. To feel into this truer version of myself and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I believe that the unrest in the world today is a reflection of the unrest that exists in all of us. And I believe the healing that the world needs starts with each one of us accepting the whole of who we really are, and living from that place.
No bullshit. No fluff.
“The word courage is a heart word. It's from the Latin word 'cor,' meaning 'heart.' The original definition of courage, when it came into the English language, was 'to tell your story with all your heart.' I think we only have two choices in our lives; that we walk into our story, and we own our story - the good parts, and the bad parts, and the hard parts, and the easy parts - and we own our story. And we love ourselves in the process of owning our story. Or we spend our lives living outside of our story, hustling for our worthiness. And I just don't think the hustle is worth it... We own our stories, and I think that's the bravest thing we'll ever do.” – Brené Brown, The Self-Acceptance Project