I’m writing because writing has been a solace to me for most of my life. When I feel lost, tired, unmotivated or unsure, I return to the blank canvas of my journal or this blog to understand myself a bit better.
I was studying the Enneagram, an interesting, albeit non-scientific way of assessing how certain personality types regress or progress in terms of their emotional and spiritual growth. I am a classic 4 with a 3 wing, the title for which is the ‘enthusiast’- a pretty good descriptor of how all-in and passionate I am with the things I love. They say, and I can attest, that when I’m healthiest as a 4, I gravitate towards 1 behaviours: altruism, discipline, service. When unhealthy, I get caught up in 2 behaviours: people-pleasing, anticipating, constantly assessing and obsessing. The orientation inwards can cause me great stress because in that place of stewing, I’m no longer present or in my power. Thankfully, the altruistic and idealistic side of my personality drives me towards service, supporting others and remembering that I am part of a bigger whole.
When I can pull away from the labyrinth of my feelings and set my feet concretely on the earth- through teaching, through showing up in a steady way, my actions line up more and more with my values and I am returned to what is most important.
If I wait for the moment that I feel like doing something, I can wait a very long time. Feelings come and go. This is why I’m making certain pacts with myself: to limit checking behaviours- like checking how much I weigh everyday (I ditched my Fitbit), while committing to showing up to my movement practice in community at least 3 times a week – not for the gold star, but because these things keep me oriented towards my deepest values while connecting with others.
Through pause, commitment to clarity and perspective – via therapy, mindful movement, journaling and honest self-reflection, I’m endeavouring to create a life that is not based only on external metrics for success. Being more interested in the process is frustrating and painful, but also deeply illuminating. I’m asking myself, what am I learning right now in this moment? What am I leaning into that is forcing me to step up and be clearer in my values or expressing what truly matters to me? What is giving me pause to become a better listener and move through the world with more humility and more awareness of my privilege?
I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, We Are the Weather in which he argues for regular self-reflection. This practice forces you to face all the defences you have for not dealing with reality. In the book he was advocating for honest self-reflection about the things you CAN do that can make a difference, without having to radically dismantle your life as you know it. Something as simple as not eating meat until dinner can have a huge impact on future consumption trends, that hugely impacts the planet and the climate.
If this seems a tad reductionist, maybe it is. Clearly, systems need to change in order to bring about the health and healing that is needed on the planet. At the same time, we do not have to be passively at the affect of these systems. This process is kind and compassionate straight-talk with yourself, when you clear out the excuses you have for not doing or facing what you must do or face. As Jean Vanier says in Becoming Human, “We are freed when we begin to put justice, heartfelt relationships, and the service of others and of truth over and above our own needs for love and success or our fears of failure and of relationships.”
I struggle sometimes with how to be brave with my life. I watched Taylor Swift’s Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, and though I cringed at some of her millenial-isms, I saw something in her that I could relate to: the deep need for validation and approval mixed with a deeper desire to find her own voice and stand in what she believed. Like her and so many women, especially, I have struggled all my life to be ‘good’ or ‘good enough.’
What I want now is to approve of myself- to believe and stand by myself, regardless of the deluge of feedback that will come at any given time when I share my truth or stand in my power. Practicing being brave in small and big ways gives my life meaning and orients me towards others and the common humanity we all share, because if my life matters enough to me to fight for, I will have the will and the drive to fight for others.
Between finding love and acceptance through conforming or people pleasing, or pushing away and totally doing my own thing, what is emerging is a clearer more mature path that is allowing me to be myself while serving others. By breaking free of denial and co-dependence and by cultivating healthy self-esteem and coping mechanisms, I am learning what it feels like to show up fully and authentically in my relationships (pretty vulnerable). Balancing the ‘me’ with with the ‘we’ is no small feat, but I can see no better or meaningful use of my time. I believe the greater whole depends on our individual acts of clarity and bravery, and that culture is changed through these actions that remind us of who we are: interconnected.