On Authenticity, Rejection and Rising from Within

Featured

RejectTwo months shy of a milestone birthday, it’s also exactly seven months since I launched my new book into the Universe, a collection of personal insights and inspiration on living and leading an authentic, purpose-driven and heart-aligned life. Embracing the theme of ‘if not now, then when’, I went into the new year full steam ahead (thank you, Jesse Stoner!), putting forth my vision into the world and fully opening my heart to new experiences, people, opportunities, and relationships along the way.

Thanks in part to the steadfast support of those who believe in my work, I took risks, challenged norms and stepped up, risking an ever-increasing degree of vulnerability in the process. I even stepped back when I felt timing and circumstances called for it, without reservation or apology. I was authentic, empowered, and determined, despite the inevitable fears that cropped up along the way.

But things didn’t exactly go as planned….

They never do.

Within 48 hours of celebrating the launch of my book, I experienced a painful heart-rejection. Not for something I had done, but more fundamentally because of who I am. It was real, raw, and caused me to retreat for a time, pulling back on putting my work out into the Universe in a bigger way. As I have done far too many times in the past, I gave my personal magic and power away, allowing another’s experience of me to invalidate my sense of self. In the wake of that heartache, the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’ set in and I questioned my ability to walk in the integrity of my own message.

Over the course of the seven months since, I experienced more of the same, both professionally and personally, and in ways and for reasons I could never have imagined (though admittedly all sandwiched between layers of goodness and meaningful opportunity that I also could not have foreseen, but which has nonetheless made all of the difference).

It was rejection at its finest and in all of its glory.

 

19989261_10155489001209655_926008012703530663_n-2To make matters worse, just as I was starting to regain my personal mojo, I went down on a high-velocity twirl while salsa dancing in Mexico during a pre-birthday celebration with my favorite group of gal pals. With no tequila in my system to dull the physical pain or news that followed, I learned that I completely shattered my left wrist and was told that if I did not have surgery or if my body rejected the hardware (one rejection I’m thankful I did not experience!), I would permanently lose all functionality of my left hand. For someone who writes for part of my living and personal pleasure, it was one of the most sobering moments of my life. One plate, ten pins, and $9k out-of-pocket later, I was forced to embrace the reality that it would be months of physical therapy before I could write again, potentially losing the expressed interest from the powers-that-be in the world of publishing and book sales. But I digress… 

However flawed my thinking, I will be the first to tell you that when you build a platform (and life) on authenticity and heart-aligned living and the very essence of who you are is met with outright rejection, it stings. Big time. But pain can be a great teacher if we’ll open ourselves up to the lessons.

Beyond the pain itself, rejection challenges you to not only become more situationally aware, but to self-reflect and take an honest accounting of where there might be misalignment of core values and/or blind spots. For women in particular, the sting of rejection can also invite deeper reflection on why we are often far too quick and willing to give our power and sense of self-worth away to others. It’s also an important reminder that someone else’s experience of us is a reflection of their own lens, values, and experience in the world and does not mean we’re fundamentally flawed or that we should stop showing up as we authentically are.

The truth is that just as none of us are perfect, we each have unique gifts and talents that have a place in the world if we’ll allow ourselves to embrace and fully own them, imperfections and all. While we may indeed be a poor fit for a particular person or opportunity, it does not need to become our undoing. Rather, it’s perhaps an invitation from the Universe to step up in a bigger way than before instead of shrinking into the smallness of our (or others’) fear and insecurity.

The year is still unfolding, but as I pause to reflect on the lessons of the season, I am grateful. Grateful for misaligned moments that have given me greater insight into who I am, what matters to me most, and all that I have to offer. Grateful for the inevitable strength that emerges when we stumble, fail, and/or fall short of the mark, yet commit to getting back up instead of staying stuck in our story. Grateful for the gift of time and perspective that remind me of all that life holds in store for each of us, if we’re willing to courageously walk with an open heart and stay open to her teachings.

I’m curious to know and ask…

How has rejection shaped who you fundamentally are? What role can adversity play in teaching you more about yourself and how you choose to show up in the world? How might rejection, when approached from a place of curiosity, enable you to grow stronger and wiser in the process? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of the Struggle

Friday thoughts on my mind…

How have your struggles shaped and influenced your personal leadership journey? How might a perceived setback actually be a blessing in disguise?

Sharon E. Reed | Heart by Design

GiftAs we journey through life, sometimes we have to struggle to uncover the gifts along the way.

Sometimes we must step away from the known, the familiar and the comfortable, before we can finally make our way back home.

Sometimes we must face fear or the temptation to quit, that we might learn to overcome and persevere, and in doing so, develop the courage to live our convictions out loud.

Sometimes we need to be challenged to finally know our value, stretched to learn our limits, and tested to understand our strength.

Sometimes we must climb hills to develop endurance or visit the valley of tears to know true compassion, for how can we offer to others what we have never experienced for ourselves?

Sometimes we must endure the disrespect of others on our own journey towards self-respect, or have our egos shattered and dismantled before we can learn to…

View original post 191 more words

What Inspires Your Soul?

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 2.16.45 PMThose who know me well and/or are connected with me on my personal Facebook page, know that at my core, I’m a nature girl. I am energized by the city, but it is time in nature that ultimately soothes my soul. It is the heart of my creative energy and where I draw inspiration for much of my writing and creative work. Nature, after all, is a wonderful teacher if we’ll take the time to listen to Her secrets.
Just as nature invites me into a deeper, more contemplative conversation, so, too, does the energy of people, new places, and the problems of the world draw me back in to engage in life in a larger way. Honoring these two equally powerful dimensions of my life is as essential to me as breathing air, and I’ve learned over the years that to live entirely in one domain without honor and attention to the other, is to live a diminished and divided life.
Knowing what inspires and influences our energy, whether positively or negatively, is a big part of walking our heart path. Being mindful and intentional about who and what we give our energy and thoughts to is equally important.
Consider the image for this post. Part of a creative series inspired by nature, just beyond the view of my lens and the once tranquil green I traverse on a near daily basis, is farmland that is rapidly being bulldozed to be replaced by more housing that will permanently alter the landscape of our little town. It is a reflection of our times — landscapes changing that challenge each of us to adapt and change with them, whether invited or not.
Still, though we cannot always control or change those landscapes or events in our lives that threaten to disrupt the status quo, we are free to choose what we focus on, acknowledging that mindful intention has the power to influence more than just the moment we’re in.
I could choose, for example, to focus on the unsightly bulldozers, allowing my peace to be disrupted by the physical and emotional noise and subsequent negativity that arises, or choose instead to be deliberate about what I focus on, disciplining my senses to tune in to the beauty and peace that remains in plain sight, if only I’ll pay attention.
So, too, is it with life.
At a time of tremendous turmoil and upheaval; during times of uncertainty, crisis, and the threat of constant change, it can be tempting to be distracted by the noise; to allow ourselves to become consumed by anxiety, negativity, and fear. While we cannot ignore the realities of our world, where we choose to focus our energy and the way in which we move through these things is entirely within our control.
It’s a matter of mindfulness and adopting a daily discipline of intentionality about how and with whom we choose to show up and spend our time, energy, and talents. And it is the sum of these daily choices, that ultimately create the legacy we will leave behind for others.
I’m curious to know…
How does nature speak to you? What gives you energy and/or feeds your soul? Are you intentional, mindful, and deliberate in your choices, or do you allow the winds of change and uncertainty to toss you about and throw you off course? 

Women’s Day – follow your heart

Source: Women’s Day – follow your heart

Walking the Heart Path

If life is a journey, I believe each of us must honor the sacred integrity of our own path. We must learn to lead from within, aligning our outer choices with our inner values, callings, and convictions.

But how exactly?

How, for example, do we discern and distinguish our own path from others’? How do we hear our own voice above the noise and courageously honor our own callings in the face of resistance from others?

Sometimes we lack a sense of vision, purpose or the ability to hear our calls. Perhaps we have a limited degree of self-awareness, and in the absence of self-knowledge and respect, look to the external to define our sense of worth. Sometimes our paths are laid out Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.26.57 AMbefore us by others, and we blindly follow what we are often unable or afraid to discover for ourselves. Perhaps we internally judge ourselves as unworthy or incapable of making a different choice, choosing powerlessness over self-empowerment. We allow fear to overshadow the gift of authenticity and allow the opinions of others to trample our own. Sometimes, we may find ourselves in a different role — judging others, perhaps harshly so, as if our subconscious’ way of defending the fragility of our own choices and ego.

In recent weeks, I’ve been inspired by those whose path have crossed my own; those who are not only daring to dream, but who have challenged themselves to leave the security of convention, convenience, and/or comfort to follow their sense of calling and conviction for their lives. While the stories differ in detail, what they share in common is a sense of daring and the courage to try, regardless of whether their decision to change was by choice or chance. What they share is the belief that when vision and effort are combined with core values and a deep-centered sense of faith and possibility, baby steps taken can begin to propel them toward their dreams and to live a life of purpose.

I’ve also encountered others who have shared their struggle to find their authentic voice and walk their true path, finding comfort instead in the status quo out of fear of what might happen if they dared to make a change. Not surprisingly, instead of projecting a sense of inner peace with their decision, energetically, they project a sense of dis-ease at best, and sometimes even outright anger as their internal discontent morphs into judgment and criticism of others.

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum of life, if we are to honor and embrace our authentic voice and the essence of all that we have to offer, we must learn to silence the critics, whether our own or others. To realize our leadership potential, we must also own our truths and find the courage to live our convictions however and wherever we choose to live out our leadership in our individual journeys.

Exercising the courage to live in integrity with who you authentically are and to live out your callings and convictions is at the essence of heart-aligned living. In doing so, we not only find our true heart path but help pave a path forward for others, too.

Promo_FB_AP_Quote_Launch

Yesterday marked the official launch of my new book, Walking the Heart Path: Bite-Sized Bits of Wisdom on Living & Leading from the Inside Out. It was also a day recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day.

As a way of giving back and helping pave a path forward for others, $1 of every book purchased will be donated to the Foundation for Girls. Focused on nurturing the leader in every girl, this Charlotte, NC-based 501(c)3 providing mentoring, financial literacy, STEM, and other skills-based training to at-risk girls in Charlotte. 

Fractures and Fault Zones

The daughter of a geophysicist and a long-time Houston resident (which if you’re not familiar with the city, has a massive fault zone running through it), I’ve always been intrigued by fractures and fault zones; of the seismic shifts that can occur over time and why some foundations can withstand the shifts, perhaps even becoming stronger over time, while others crumble in the wake of a single tremor.

In any team or long-term relationship, whether familial, romantic, professional, etc., there is the almost certain inevitability that at some point, sooner or later, fracture lines will form — cracks that form in the wake of too much pressure or perhaps the revelation of some fact, truth, or behavior that lay hidden just beneath the surface. Sometimes these revelations are the result of unforeseen triggers or unresolved business that may surface in our memory. Sometimes they are the result of people, events, and circumstances that we simply cannot control.

Whatever the trigger; whatever the cause, over time, too many fractures can eventually form fault zones that threaten the very stability of our foundation. Over time, too many fractures can cause us to question the integrity of intention, too, causing us to reactively look outside ourselves for answers (or blame) instead of taking time to look inward at our own role, choices, and behaviors.

So what do we do when we first see them surface? How can we create enough spaces in our togetherness or teams to allow for the natural expansions and contractions that occur over time? How can we practice self-care and cultivate the strength and resiliency needed in the event of a sudden quake or seismic shift? How can we do a better job of communicating our needs, fears, dreams, and hopes, while creating a safe space for others to do the same?

One answer is to take responsibility for our own choices, feelings, and behaviors, while establishing healthy boundaries that both honor the self and others; boundaries that reflect and defend our core values and truths, enabling us to form our own solid foundation even as we live and work in community and relationship with others.

Another strategy is to practice letting go of our need to both know and control outcomes, while allowing Faith to be our guide. So often we assume we know what is ‘best’ in any given situation — whether for ourselves or others, though this need to know or control not only damages others, but prevents us from being fully present in our own lives too. It robs us of the mystery of the moment and erodes our capacity for living from an inquisitive point of view — essential for continual learning and growth.

In the end, we cannot always predict a tremor or quake and we certainly cannot control the outcome. What we can do is take the time to build a solid personal foundation that can withstand the tests of time,  while cultivating the personal readiness and resiliency needed to navigate shifts, expansions, change and disruption, when they inevitably come our way.

Start With Where You Are

It is the eve of a new year — a time to reflect on what has passed and to set our intentions for the year ahead.

Often our resolutions are about doing something different from before, whether losing weight, changing jobs, or finally getting around to writing that book you’re just sure will be a best-seller. Moreover, if we’re really honest with ourselves, the best of our intentions often fall short of the promise of what’s possible and we end up right back where we started, perhaps feeling disappointed and defeated by the lack of change in our lives.

But what if instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water we made a choice to build upon what is already there? What if instead of spending our time dreaming of something altogether new, we focused our energy on cherishing what is, while reflecting on ways to expand and enrich the present(s) in our lives?

The best resolutions are those that honor and reflect our authentic selves.

Need to lose weight or lower your cholesterol? Start by loving your body as it is and making a mindful choice to care for it through healthy eating and exercise. Want to change jobs? Take an inventory of your current skills and environment and explore ways you might be find fulfillment by adding value where you already are. Still dreaming of writing that best-seller? Start by taking baby steps…cultivating a daily writing practice or joining a community of writers who share your passion.

Change may be difficult, but growth begins with where you are.

As you contemplate ringing in 2017, I hope you’ll consider joining me in making it the best year yet, remembering that the grass is greenest — not in some fantasy or someone else’s back yard, but where we choose to water and nurture it.

Happy New Year!

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-9-29-37-am

Postscript: Speaking of resolutions, one of my intentions in 2016 was to finally compile some of the best of my insights with original artwork and publish as an inspirational quote book. In March 2017, my new book, Walking the Heart Path, will be released and available for purchase. Click here to learn more, reserve your copy, and read what others are already saying.