On Authenticity, Rejection and Rising from Within

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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? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Have Enough?

If character is at the heart of effective leadership, do you have enough of what it takes to lead yourself and others — with courage, discipline, commitment, fortitude, integrity, humility, accountability, insight, resiliency and faith?

Do You Have Enough?

 

The Better Part of Valor

Croix_de_la_Valeur_Militaire_France_REVERSSometimes the better part of valor comes from saying less, not more; in letting some things rest, rather than continually unearthing and dredging up that which has already passed.

Sometimes the better part of valor comes from letting go, instead of digging in; of advancing forward, instead of allowing ourselves to remain stuck in those things we cannot change.

Sometimes the better part of valor comes from forgiveness, rather than judgment; from compassion, rather than criticism, no matter how difficult the truths revealed.

Over the course of a life time, we each will be tempered by our wounds, our losses, our heartaches; our disappointments, our grievances and our failures. In the midst of our grief, we each will be tempted, too — to say more, unearth, dredge up, dig in, remain stuck, judge and criticize.

But the sheer rawness of life and universal flaws of the human condition remind me that perhaps the better part of valor comes from remembering that mindset makes the (wo)man more than circumstances themselves, and that we each have a responsibility to pave a path forward — one filled with light, hope, love and trust; with compassion, integrity, gratitude and forgiveness; with the strength of heart and mind to overcome, courage push forward and resolve to build a better tomorrow.

I’m curious…

What does the ‘better part of valor’ mean to you?

 

 

 

 

 

Saddle Back Up!

If sometimes we need to do a little Texas two-step to keep moving forward, we also need to learn to saddle back up!

A seasoned rider since the time I was small, I recall with great clarity the ease with which I once rode my proverbial horse wild and free, feeling on top of my game! I had grand vision, relentless drive and an enthusiasm that left little room for doubt. I vacillated between a Western style that afforded me more opportunity for hard-charging freedom, and the more structured and controlled nature of the English saddle.  Always prepared, I rode in environments that encouraged me to explore and expand my limits, while challenging me to step around or jump over obstacles in my way.

But even with the best preparation, things don’t always go as planned. Even with strong skills and experience, we can be knocked off our horse (though the choice to get back up is always our own).

Until the first fall, our courage, strength and resiliency remain untested. Until the first fall, we do not fully understand risk, fear or failure.

I remember my first significant fall.

stamp.phpHer name was Polly. A stubborn, yet beautiful pony. Returning home from an English hack, we stepped out of the woods and into an open field that led to the barn. “Be sure to stay together!” our leader told us. “Always maintain control!” we were again advised, for it was this time above all others that posed the most risk to riders. From the ponies’  perspective, it was a race to the finish where the reward (food) could finally be reaped.

Sandwiched in the middle of the group, Polly broke out ahead of the rest. Unable to restrain her, I was violently thrown off, lying perpendicular on the ground to the remaining ponies who proceeded to jump over me along the way. A single kick to the head could have been fatal, so I held tightly on to my hat, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited for the stampede to pass.

Shaken, tired, sore and frightened, I stood up and wandered back to the barn in a dazed and haphazard way. As I approached the gate, Polly looked up at me from her oats as if to say, “What took you so long?”  

In that moment, I had a choice: Walk away or saddle back up.

Never one for quitting, I brushed off the dirt, secured my hat, and climbed back on. I walked slowly at first to regain my footing. I reflected back on my missteps and took measures to refine my technique. Polly would smell no fear from me and I would ride again.

And so we did.

Many times.

Sometimes she would stubbornly stop short of a jump, refusing to budge. At other times, we moved seamlessly in sync. When she taunted me, I learned patience. When I struggled to hold on, I learned to dig in. Over time, I learned that fear would always undermine progress, while courage, confidence, trust and respect could take us both far.

I’m curious…

Have you ever had a time when you fell off your horse and struggled to saddle back up? What lessons did you learn and how have you applied those in your life moving forward? What did the circumstances teach you about others in the process? How did your understanding of courage, strength, resiliency, risk, fear and failure deepen as a consequence of your fall?

 

 

 

The Gifts of the Journey

Gifts of the journey_with sig

One of the great gifts of the journey are the people you meet along the way, and last week was no exception. Thanks to a year-long series of serendipitous connections I could not have foreseen, last Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of dynamic women — sharing a piece of my own story, while offering insights and practical wisdom for living an empowered, authentic life.

In truth, I was unusually nervous, though not for the usual reasons. I was nervous because people like neat, happy endings and I didn’t have one to offer — at least not in the way people traditionally like things packaged.

I could not tell them, for example, that my journey toward authenticity has come without cost, for the costs have been plenty and some of them dear. I could not tell them of the illusory dream job, the perfect marriage, or a life of total ease, for while these words once described my own false truths, they certainly no longer applied.

Instead, I shared with them some of what I do know to be true and why the journey is still one worth taking. I told them that when we finally know who and what we stand for, we no longer need to live in fear; that when we stop looking to others for acceptance and approval, we find within what we were looking for all along. I reminded them of the power of stories we tell ourselves and others — that if we want a different outcome, we must learn the art of re-framing. Significantly, I remarked that although life is filled with detours, disappointments and distractions, as we grow in our belief in ourselves, anything becomes possible, and when we find the courage to honor our own truths and convictions, the path forward becomes clear.

(Still, even in the knowing, we sometimes need reminding of these truths we share with others.)

At the end of the program, I found myself deeply touched and moved in a way I could not have imagined. One woman told me my words resonated because I spoke from my heart; another shared her story of cancer and how my own family’s story touched her own.

As more approached, I could see from the corner of my eye a woman who was waiting quietly to speak, standing patiently off to the side. I recalled from early introductions that she was visiting that day, later learning that she had never attended before. When the room had all but cleared, she shyly stepped toward me, and then softly began:

“My whole life I’ve lived as a chameleon,” she tearfully spoke.

“I’ve watched my friends realize their dreams, as I watched my own pass me by.”

She continued as her words penetrated my heart, and I hardly knew how to respond. I wanted to say something reassuring and hope that I did, though I honestly don’t recall. For a moment we hugged, and in that brief space of time,  I knew why we’d met.

Just as my story spoke to her, her own touched my heart.

Determined to live her own voice out loud, her tears reminded me to stay the course, even when the going get’s tough; to stay true, even in the midst of falsehood; to stay courageous, even when fearful; to stay on purpose, even when my own faith is faltering. She reminded me that although our stories differ, through the gift of connection and the journey itself, we can each support the other along life’s way.

I’m curious…

In what ways have your connections with others inspired or enabled your own growth? What role has serendipity played in your own journey? In what ways has your own story been an inspiration to others?

 

 

“Trenches”

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Trenches

Falling into Fear or Leaning into Strength?

alice__s_falling_by_doucesse-d52vnca

In any given situation, we are presented with a choice: we can either fall into our fear or lean into our strength.

When we fall, it is rarely of the controlled sort.  After all, we don’t seek out and intend to fall, unless we’re skydiving, of course. And though we may welcome the feeling of ‘falling’ in love, for example, we can never anticipate the fall itself. It catches us off guard, and is often an unintended consequence of losing our footing, our balance and our center, whether literally or figuratively.

By contrast, when we lean in, it is with deliberation; an intentional choice to put the full force of ourselves in to something or to draw from something, whether strength, love or something else altogether.

Recently I was confronted with a situation that was as uncomfortable and unsettling as it was familiar. As I contemplated my course of action, I couldn’t help but reflect on similar encounters in the past, and how I use to fall into my fear, as if helpless to choose another course of action. When people crossed a personal boundary, whether of my own accidental making or not, I would either ignore it, bury it, or run away from it altogether, focused more on protection from than prevention of. I might also cry, worry or vent, and in the process, inadvertently create a new layer of ‘stuck-ness’ that was every bit as damaging and dis-empowering as the circumstance itself. In simple terms, I enabled the unwelcome, and then wondered why things didn’t turn out as I planned.

When we cease to view ourselves as victims of our circumstance, we empower ourselves beyond measure.

But in every situation, we have the power of choice: we can mindfully act from a place of self-love or recklessly react from a place of fear. We can practice learned helplessness or exercise self-assertiveness. Though we cannot always prevent and anticipate the unwelcome in our life, the mindset of victim or victor is still within our control.

This time I chose a different course of action. Instead of running away from the discomfort, I sat with it. Instead of masking my pain, I confronted it. Instead of focusing on what was being ‘done to’, I focused on personal accountability — choosing to act from a self-empowered place, instead of giving my power away to another. Most significantly, instead of falling into fear, I chose to lean into my strength. 

Addendum: Leaning into our strength begs the question of where strength itself comes from. Moreover, it raises another important question: If we lack inner strength, what alternative is there to falling into our fear? On my own journey, when (I feared) I lacked the strength to navigate a difficult situation, I leaned into my Faith. For me, they are interrelated, for as my Faith deepens, so does my courage, self-love and respect, from which strength and resiliency are born.

I’m curious to know…

As you reflect on your own life and leadership, do you tend to feel powerful or powerless? Are there specific triggers that cause you to fall into fear? How have you leveraged leaning into your inner strength to overcome these fears and build resiliency in your life?