Inside: Growth is messy and it takes courage to become who you really are. But doing this hard, stretching work leads to freedom and a sense of rootedness and calm. These three keys are essential to intentional, sustainable growth.
As funny as it sounds, it can take decades for us to become who we really are.
We’re called to sift through external and internal pressures and ideas about how we ought to be, push back against outdated messages about gender roles or familial patterns, accept the invitation to peel away layers of self-protection or identity built up since childhood which no longer serve us.
We may find ourselves thrust into unexpected transition faced with a critical choice: drown or meet the challenge head-on which requires us to dig deep to uncover strength, courage, and resilience we didn’t know we owned.
We may arrive at a new season of life and realize that we are no longer the same person we used to be – even if we liked that person and stage of life – but it no longer fits.
So we continue to become.
And it takes courage.
Looking back over the past 8 years amazes me; I’ve experienced tremendous growth and change. I am so grateful.
All along I was healing, strengthening, becoming (this is not an overnight job) – but my 40’s have been marked by profound growth. Hard, heart-wrenching, beautiful growth. I see differently. Looking back, I barely recognize myself.
I’ve put in the time and effort slow and steady, through peaks and valleys, to become who I really am.
I expect this work will continue as long as I have breath within me and now that I have a taste of what it feels like to walk in greater freedom – deeper rootedness and calm – there is no going back.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.– E.E. Cummings
Who you are matters. You are needed. And life is better when we witness the full, messy, glorious fullness of who we are, we like what we see, and understand that we have gifts to share with the world or a place of contribution (whatever that looks like).
If we say yes to life – to all of it – we cannot bypass the messy, soul-stretching work that asks us to get our hands and feet dirty as we practice new ways of showing up.
It feels uncomfortable. Uncomfortable feels like an understatement. There are times we feel overwhelmed or in pain or wonder if we have what it takes. We bump up against perfectionism, comparison, and fear – plenty of fear – and have moments of hiding and wanting to run from the work.
And we discover in the process because we do not quit, that we are brave and beautiful.
Brave and Beautiful
You may not feel particularly courageous, brave, or beautiful. In fact, if you doubt if this applies to you then you are precisely who I’m speaking to. You may be a kindred spirit.
It makes me laugh that today I see myself as “brave and beautiful.”
Not that long ago I’d have vehemently denied the possibility of me being brave and handed over reams of evidence to the contrary.
But here’s the thing – now I understand that being brave has nothing to do with having life all figured out or never questioning, wrestling, or struggling. Not at all.
And beauty has nothing to do with perfection, an easy life, or appearances.
Being brave and beautiful means choosing to forge ahead. Choosing to show up on purpose, step by step, to help build a life or world we want to live in. Choosing to offer our light even when it feels like a tiny drop in a deep, wide ocean.
It means saying yes to becoming.
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So if it Takes Courage and Feels Hard or Messy, Why Bother?
Because joy and purpose live on the other side.
Because we don’t want to remain stuck in unhealthy patterns of thought and behaviour.
We are modelling to our children what it looks like to live whole and healthy and to walk in integrity.
You want to live a values-aligned life and take responsibility for what you can control.
Because you’re done feeling despondent, despising yourself, desperate to feel like your life has meaning.
You’re tired of trying to measure up or keep up, tired of hiding, pretending, or not taking personal responsibility for what you can control.
You want to live mind-body-healthy, to be real and laugh more freely, to like yourself.
You’re ready to craft a life that feels right-sized and honest.
You want to use your hands and heart to help build a kinder, safer world – and unless you do your own internal, soul-stretching work, it is harder to make a positive impact.
You’re done letting fear, comparison, or perfectionism be the boss of you.
You see that life is imperfect and beautiful and instead of resisting the imperfection or messy bits of life, you want to say yes to all of it.
You see that growing and becoming will allow you to feel calm, anchored, and to walk in quiet confidence in your relationships, work, and every other aspect of life.
Because courage begets courage and you want to feel equipped for what lies ahead.
And simply because you matter.
BECOMING: From Theory to Practical Application
I’m always looking for practical application (this is tied to my Enneagram 1 personality). As I’ve done my own personal growth work, and as I’ve served hundreds of women these past four years, I’ve uncovered 3 key ideas that keep me rooted and which help me grow strong and brave so that I can show up fully to this life of mine.
We can be immersed in self-help or personal development, we can glean from coaches, podcasts and books for years, but it doesn’t mean the seeds we plant will put down healthy roots that anchor us and help us bear fruit in time.
Information alone is insufficient. We can drown in information if we have no way of filtering it for ourselves or making it our own.
We need to learn to take ideas from theory to practical application by running them through intentional filters. This is the way to meaningful, sustainable growth and becoming. And while there isn’t just one way of doing anything, I strongly believe in the transformative potential of my 3 key filters. I walk them out daily.
When working with a client, teaching a course, or in the Brave & Beautiful Membership, all shiny ideas, research, recommendations, or dialogue is filtered through my 3 keys in order to make our learning and experience far more meaningful and sustainable.
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Three Keys to Becoming Who You Really Are
This is a very brief synopsis of each big, important idea along with some questions you can consider to ponder the importance of each.
1. Without Self-Awareness, We Can’t Walk our Way to Freedom
Positive, sustainable growth and change begin with self-awareness. We must wake up to the truth of how we’ve learned to operate in this world – to create space or a pause to witness and observe, with curiosity, not judgment.
This can include using personality models to gather information about ourselves, noticing our inner dialogue, finding clarity on our deepest fears and core motivations.
Self-awareness also means getting to know yourself like a friend – what makes us happy or annoys the heck out of us (and why!), what do we truly want in life (separate from what our friends want or what society tells us we should want), what do we need to live mind-body healthy (I don’t mean broad health information but your boundaries, limitations, mental or physical health realities, etc.), what helps you feel good in your own skin?
Where do we keep meeting with resistance or pain and can we identify a pattern of thought or behaviour tangled up with this? What is our story – does it serve us or are we ready to write a new one?
While this may seem obvious to some, what I’ve experienced is that most women do not know themselves, they live on auto-pilot tending to everyone else’s needs or trying to keep up, and/or they’re afraid to slow down long enough to go inward and do the soul-stretching work that leads to becoming their whole, happiest, healthiest, truest selves.
2. Self-Compassion is Essential for Positive, Sustainable Growth
You’re already amazing, gifted, beautiful, worthy, likable, exactly as you are. You may doubt this, scoff at this, point out all the ways I’m off my rocker – but you will not shake my belief. I’ve worked long and hard to get here.
Though the distinction can feel nuanced, although my work helps people heal, grow, and become, it is not about a relentless pursuit of self-improvement or crafting a new and improved you. I approach my work and life from the perspective that you are already OK and enough. More than enough.
We’re not trying to make you better or different; we’re trying to unpeel the layers of self-protection and ego and hurt and story that keep the real you hidden. We are unearthing the real, healthiest, truest you. Can you see and feel the difference?
Bullying yourself into submission, starving yourself into compliance, beating yourself up hoping that this will lead to healthy change – it doesn’t work. People jump on bandwagons all the time and then they fall off. They try to measure up and keep up and prove their worth – but this leads to more perfectionism, comparison, and fear, not freedom.
You do not need to look, sound, talk, or live like anyone else. To dig deep and let go of what no longer serves, to stretch and mature and become, we must be kind to ourselves. We must release an all or nothing mentality – you’re good or you’re bad – you’re a success or a failure – life is all beautiful or a complete mess. You can learn to find calm and strength in the space of in-between.
There is so much room for grace, patience, gentleness, and liking who we are in progress.
3. The Only Way to Truly Grow and Become is by Taking Imperfect Action
Theory and discussion, therapy and education, without action do not lead to change. We must practice. We must get our hands and feet dirty as we apply ideas to our lives, imperfectly, learning to listen in, to shift course as we go, learning we have what it takes.
We must move toward what we say we want, not because someone else says it’s a good idea but because we understand why it matters to us, how it aligns with our bigger life vision, in a way that respects who we are and leverages the strengths of our wiring, and from a place of being anchored in self-compassion.
A really great way to live stuck or mired in fear and complacency is to wait until we see the whole path ahead of us or to feel confident and competent. Confidence and competence come in action. In imperfect action to be even more precise. Where are you stuck?
Self-awareness and self-compassion are the roots that anchor me and keep me steady. But they are moot without this third key. I cannot grow and become who I truly am, I cannot build a kinder world or a life of purpose and joy unless I have the courage to step out and show up to life and work and relationships wholeheartedly. On purpose. One step at a time.
None of us have truly “easy” lives. We all encounter struggle and opportunity to sink or rise above. We each receive the same gilded invitation to growth. Life will happen either way, but our experience of life will vary wildly depending on whether or not we accept the invitation.
Will you do the work to become who you really are?
NOW WHAT? One of my favourite spaces and ways to connect and foster positive growth and becoming is inside the Brave & Beautiful Community. Folks on my email list hear first when doors open.
*originally published Aug 10, 2019