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? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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? 

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. 

Creative Visualization

15541549_10154808096969655_9204891255238104112_nRecently I was feeling a bit silly and rather serious at the same time. Practicing a little creative visualization, I sheepishly snuck an advance reader copy of my upcoming book, Walking the Heart Path, into my local Barnes & Noble, found a few favorite authors’ books for companions, placed my own on the shelf, took out my camera, and began to snap away. No, I didn’t leave it there, but I did pause for just long enough to breathe in the moment and visualize possible outcomes . . . specifically, to envision and consider what success might look like for me.

15589980_10154808096974655_5275041062588752987_nCrazy? Perhaps; Will it work? Possibly; Has it worked in the past? Absolutely. Many times, in fact.

Too early to know for sure, what I do know is this:

We become what we imagine and believe is possible. We should therefore learn to dream with our hearts wide open. 

No, I’m not suggesting that everything is possible. If you are an active asthmatic, for example, the U.S. Air Force is not going to let you pilot their planes. Some rules  (including the laws of physics) are, at least in this present moment, what they are.

But I believe in miracles. I believe in dreaming big, working hard, and acknowledging that while not everything is within our control, the possibilities for our lives do in fact expand or diminish in proportion to our courage and commitment to our vision AND our willingness to make sacrifices and do the hard work required along the way. I believe in the power of Faith, prayer, and honest intention, too — which collectively calls us to both dare to dream and be willing to simultaneously surrender to unknown outcomes.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

If we’re not careful, fear (whether of failure or success) and its close cousin, pride, will show up at our party, often unannounced. Invited or not, letting them roam freely in our minds is the sure fastest way to sabotage our dreams. Left unattended, they will plant seeds of doubt and/or create a lengthy list of reasons why we deserve something less than we imagine is possible (or perhaps have yet to imagine), though trying to smother, silence, and bind them only fuels their fire and determination to squash our spirit.

So what is the answer?

As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests in her book, Big Magic, make friends with fear (and feed your pride some humble pie while you’re at it). Acknowledge fear’s presence, but while you’re at it, step up your Faith, paint the picture you want to see, and learn to lean into love.

That’s where the real magic resides.

I’m curious to know and ask…

Do you find it easy to dream or do you find yourself holding back? What are the biggest obstacles that keep you from pursuing (and therefore realizing) your dreams? Have you ever painted a picture in your mind and/or created a physical visual of your desired outcome? What was the result? How does creating a vision for your life (or project) help move you closer to realizing your dreams?

p.s. Want to read a great book on daring to dream? Pick up a copy of Whitney Johnson’s book, Dare, Dream, Do, and while your at it, a copy of her latest book, too — Disrupt Yourself. You’ll be glad you did.