From the outside, I’ve always looked like I had a “perfect” life. I could share with you my ~accomplishments~ but the takeaway: every since I was little I was a goal setter + dream chaser… + many, many times I was able to manifest what I wanted out of life. I would like to say that I attribute everything to my faith in God, but the truth is — I worked really freaking hard.
I lived a “happy-go-lucky” life… up until college when I experienced bullying for the first time + significant relationships abruptly ending. As you can imagine, the bullying was extremely hurtful + damaged my self-worth — but the relationships ending took a toll on my soul. All the relationships ended for different reasons, but through all of them, I was traumatized for 6 months to a year after. As you can imagine, this wears a person down. I started thinking that I was the bad egg — Am I unlovable? How could one of my best friends completely change? Do I have any real friends?
It was all trauma that I delt with on the inside, not sharing the details with barely anyone because I didn’t want to gossip + hurt that person. So, through both real life interactions + instagram, I still seemed to “have it all.” In reality, I was suffering + eventually became numbed out because it was too painful to deal with.
My most recent “significant relationship” end was my boyfriend of six years. This was the first time it was my choosing, rather than the other way around — however, like the others, it was abruptly. I had accumulated so much pain through the years of friendship breakups, numbing out, hiding my true self in the shadows… all while being praised as a “CHAARG leader,” but ultimately feeling like a fraud. I told him that I needed to find myself again — I needed to find self-love.
I was so thirsty for a “quick fix” — I can find self-love quickly right? It can’t be that hard. I devoured all the self-help books I could get my hands on, trying to gain “wisdom” from outside sources. I started journaling daily. I soon realized how painful it was to acknowledge the depths of myself that I don’t like. It’s so much easier being numbed out.
Six months into the breakup, I was still agonizing on if I made a bad decision [I now know that there are no *bad* decisions — there are good decisions + learning decisions]. Why did I just end things abruptly instead of trying to work things out? In all the other friendship endings, I wanted to work it out with the friend — yet here I was, being a hypocrite. I couldn’t forgive myself. At the same time, I knew in my gut that this was what I was supposed to do.
In January, I scheduled an appointment with an integrative medicine doctor. I was having horrible jaw pain, couldn’t sleep through the night, developing rashes on my skin, + having insane thoughts — both on death + running away to a cabin + hiding. My mental state was not well. I alternated between the “victim” + the “judge” — feeling sorry for myself, then judging myself for feeling what I felt. Again, I kept this to myself out of fear.
Unfortunately [but — also fortunately], I couldn’t get into the doctor for another NINE months. Yep… my appointment was in September. This doctor must be good.
Finally, I realized…
I have to heal myself.
Man, oh man, it’s been a journey. But — I’m proud to say that when I finally went to the doctor’s appointment… I was like, honestly, I have none of the “symptoms” I had when I originally made the appointment. I healed myself. The following week, I had my first reiki sesson + the healer told me that I’m extremely balanced — very grounded [she even said almost *too* grounded, #whoops] + connected to my highest self. I wasn’t surprised with what she said — I do feel balanced. I do feel much closer to my true self. So — what did I do?! I got you ; ).
#1] Pray. Meditate. Read. Podcasts. Journal. Repeat.
I’ve always been a self-help junkie. I started purchasing self-help books like crazy… so much so that I’m not allowing myself to purchase anymore books until 2018 [maybe 2019 ; ) seriously!]. My favorite books have been A Return To Love + The Four Agreements. I enrolled myself in two meditation courses, + mediate daily. I don’t go to bed without praying. I journal throughout the day — random bits of inspiration, priorities for the day, thoughts to myself on how I’m feeling, etc. I listen to wellness podcasts [right now, my fav is The Balanced Blonde’s Soul on Fire]. A quote I recently heard that I’ve really resonated with is:
We don’t need more people reading//writing about prayer. We need more people praying.
I feel this way about self-help, too. There’s SO MUCH info about self-help — but, the best thing you can do is look inward. Start a self-care routine based on what feels good for you at the moment, + watch how the work you do creates a ripple effect in the life around you.
#2] Slowed the eff down
My role at CHAARG has changed drastically from the early days when I used to have my two hands + feet in every single detail. I was a stickler for making sure everything ran smoothly, + I defined myself by everything I did for CHAARG. Even a year ago, I would notice if something on our website was .00005 cm from perfect [lol at The Wonder Jam, sorry about that]. Fast forward to now[ps//our five year birthday is this week… WHAT!], ++ obviously… my role has changed.
We have 50+ universities, 300+ college leaders, 15+ post-college leaders, three full-timers. For awhile, I was grasping to the “old ways” — I missed having a relationship with everyone personally [which I realized stemmed from the fear “if I’m not needed, I’m not loved”] + being in the know at the exact moment of every change + challenge + cheer. I had to let go of my need for control + trust in my leadership team — which I do 100%. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in my new role — one that is more involved in coaching, researching, visioning, + writing. I had to learn to stop hustling, + instead stay in the moment longer —struggling with an idea or blog post, rather than distracting myself with “tiny fires” [aka emails]. I had to realize that I work best in short, intensely present periods in the early morning + late afternoon, rather than the typical 9–5. I had to be okay with stepping away from the computer, + going to church, meeting someone for coffee, taking a yoga class — knowing that these activities #ReCHAARG me, + ultimately make me a better leader + human.
#3] [Almost] daily yoga practice
Yoga, yoga, yoga. I love you, yoga! I come to my mat almost daily. Yoga has allowed me to start to let my inner light shine. It’s given me courage to start peeling off the layers — the layers of unworthiness, loneliness, insecurity, + other limiting beliefs. It’s helped me understand who I am at the core — a human that just wants to be loved + love others, like all humans do. A human that wants to be celebrated + touched + heard + cared for + “in a tribe” — but that I must not wait for someone to validate me… I must validate myself. I must be proud of myself. Yoga has soothed my soul, brought me closer to God, given me new inspiration, + so much more. ❤
#4] Tapped back into my spiritual side
All throughout growing up, my Catholic faith has been a big part of my life. Post-college, I went to Mass on + off, but really just went through the motions. It wasn’t until a year ago, when I was at a breaking point, that I really got back to my spiritual side — trusting that something greater is on all of our sides [actually, within us!], wanting to guide us… but at the same time, giving us the free will to choose to listen to the small still voice within. I don’t know what prompted me to walk into the church, or how I even knew the time… but I went to my first daily Mass at Old St. Pats in Chicago. I remember crying at Mass, surrendering to God my fears + doubts. I felt an incredible calmness, a warm embrace holding me + letting me know that everything is going to be okay. One day at a time.
I’ve been going to daily Mass at least once a week since then. I’ve also been tapping into more ~New Age~ practices [crystals, Kundalini Yoga, reiki, signs, etc] ++ while my parents are little freaked out [love you Mom + Dad if you are reading this ; )], I believe that if you have the right intention, all things can be used for good. It’s important to try things on + see what works for you. What works for me, might not work for you ++ that is perfectly okay. Think of spirituality like this…
A photographer takes a bunch of pictures of you. Someone asks you, what photo is you? Of course, all of them are you! Someone then asks you, what photo best resembles you? You choose a picture that you think best fits you at that moment.
My coach shared that story when I told him I was struggling with different forms of spirituality + wanting to know what was “right” — I told him that I didn’t want to be guided by evil. There is one source, ++ that is Love.
#5] Bulletproof coffee + became aware of how I was fueling my body
Okay, I swear by BP coffee. Seriously. #1] It tastes soOoOoO good… + #2] It’s super easy to make on your own. I use a french press to make the coffee ++ then just blend it with MCT oil + butter. NOMS… + #3] I don’t have that ~hangry~ feeling throughout the morning. I’m typically always thinking about what I’m eating next, but with BP coffee, I feel satisfied + focused. This article on BP coffee is pretty on point.
In addition to BP coffee, I stay away from inflammatory foods most of the time— you can see a list here. I didn’t intentionally cut things out — I just shopped at farmers’ markets, cooked #alltheveggies, dined out less, drank less alcohol, + as you guys know, I’m obsessed with eggs, so I’ve continued to have a huge egg bowl every day ; ). I didn’t realize I was eating this way until I talked to the integrative medicine doctor, + her recommended way of eating [anti-inflammatory] matched how I was already eating. The only thing that was on her list that isn’t on mine is caffeine… because BP coffee ; ). Once you start eating this way, your body will NOTICE. It will notice toxins so much that almost instantly when you eat something inflammatory, you’ll have stomach pains + be on the toliet for the next hour… TMI.
All this being said — BALANCE IS EVERYTHING. Practice intuitive eating. Eat the freaking cake.
#6] Stopped the comparison game
Comparing yourself to others is an ugly, ugly thing that many of us do, even unconsciously. Even if you compare yourself to your “highest self” — you’ll be unneccesarily hurting yourself. I deleted my Facebook + stopped mindlessly browsing instagram. I’ve stopped holding myself to incredibly high standards… for my body, workouts, work, role as a friend + partner + sister + daughter, etc. Instead, I focus on doing my best for that moment in time — whatever that means. Every day, my best will be different. I’ve been trying my best to accept that, ++ allow myself to just be.
#7] Practice, practice, practice communication
Communication is everything. But first we must understand what we are trying to communicate. I had to ask myself — am I communicating out of fear or love? We are never upset for the reason we think. This realization came from A Course in Miracles. My mind was BLOWN. I did a lot more journaling, ++ a lot less vommiting my feelings out onto people [or, on the flip side — holding my feelings in + spinning story after story in my head]. Once I decided what I wanted to communicate, I shared it best I could. Sometimes, it would still be fear-based, ++ sometimes, it would still be confusing to the other person. So, I tried again. + again. + again. Being alone ++ living in our thoughts is easy — allowing ourselves to let others in, communicating vulnerably + listening without judgment is HARD stuff. But, there is so much joy in connection, ++ ultimately, when words fuse with intention, we are able to become closer to our highest selves.