Living a Wholehearted Life
I was feeling lost. I needed inspiration. I was a new mother who had just put in her resignation to stay with my aaaamazing daughter for at least another year. Things were just starting to get interesting with Miss Dot! Plus… my social work career wasn’t fulfilling me like I wanted it to in the past while… I needed to reevaluate my career and what truly fed my soul. A social worker with no work. Uh oh.
I thought – “Who, in my life, is rocking it right now that I could learn from?” The answer came to me in a flash – my personal trainer and good friend Nicole (Stay Inspired). Nicole truly was ROCKING it. She picked herself up after heartbreak, quit her job, soul searched, and started her own fitness/nutrition/wellness business! I sent her a message saying “Please… recommend some feel good reading material. I need a boost”. She did even better than that. She lent me a pile of books.
My first book in this journey for insight and motivation was “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life” by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. First of all, I felt it was a sign that the first book I picked up was written by a social worker. What were the chances? Second, the idea of perfection has froze me or discouraged me at many turns in the past. I struggled with writer’s block throughout my education, as well as professionally. Papers. Paperwork. The bane of my existence. Once I complete my tasks, I do well! But man, getting past that initial anxiety and my good’ol avoidance tactics (my apartment was always SPOTLESS during term paper crunch)… though work. So, Brené help me out! Because for some god forsaken reason I have decided to WRITE as a path of self-discovery… and this first post has got me trembling in the knees and somewhat nauseous.
Brené (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her such) is a qualitative researcher who, through many years of interviews, found certain people to be living “wholeheartedly”. These people tend to share characteristics.
They DIG deep –
- Deliberate in their thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply setting their intentions;
- Inspire to make new and different choices;
- Going.They take action.
The book goes on to discuss the ten guideposts of living a wholehearted life. The guideposts are about what to embrace, but also what may hold us back. Shame and fear are huge themes, which I totally get. I had a little breakdown with my partner JW recently where I shared that I just wasn’t feeling like a competent person… I wasn’t doing enough… I was a sham. He meant well, but he actually laughed (I hope not AT me) and said – “oh Amanda… everyone feels like a sham.” I’ll be honest, it wasn’t overly validating or helpful in the moment – but he’s right!
I enjoyed the book’s structure and how concise the guideposts were. Brené shared just enough of herself to illustrate her points. Having an extensive clinical background myself, I was reminded a lot of the work I have facilitated in addictions therapeutic groups. I truly feel I was in therapy myself for the years that I facilitated a 21 day treatment program. Walk the talk. I didn’t learn anything “new” through this book, but it definitely got me fired up to just DO BETTER (not in a kicking myself kind of way, but in a being kind to myself kind of way… haha)
I won’t go through each guidepost, but here are a couple that stood out for me:
Guidepost #6 – Cultivating Creativity, Letting go of comparison
Oh boy. This is a tough one for me. I have joked many times that I’m not overly artistic, but consider myself more of a muse. I know this is just my cop-out. I’ve always wanted to be musical (piano lessons growing up were hell)… I can sing… I have rhythm and can dance decently… But my anxiety gets in the way of just embracing music. JW is a musician. A true, has had albums, won awards, toured musician. He says he’s just always been smart enough to surround himself with musicians more talented than himself. He admits to not being naturally gifted to music, but had to teach himself and practice, practice, practice (“It’s math”). I think JW’s greatest asset was that he just doesn’t get embarrassed… he goes for it… Forgot the words? Who cares. Off key? Keep singing joyfully. When I tried to learn ukulele last year, I would get so anxious about getting it just right that my neck would hurt from the tension I was holding. My heart would beat faster. I felt like I couldn’t breath. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t joyful. I gave up.
I did do a challenge in January where I painted every evening. I dabble in watercolour. Though I still felt “stressed” painting every night, it got easier and easier as the nights went on. I was proud of my paintings. I was finding a voice. Then my attention was focused on an online course, so painting went to the side… again… I’d like to bring it back into focus. So – one of my goals I am reestablishing after reading this book is that I will paint one night a week for the next six weeks. I think this is something I can accomplish. I may do an online course for this one night a week, as I do better with a bit of structure.
Guidepost #9 – Cultivating Meaningful Work, Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
As I have mentioned before, I’m at a crossroads. My daughter is 10 months old and I decided not to return to work. I love motherhood. I love reading and researching about child development and parenting. I love just living in the moment with Dot day to day. Perhaps THIS is my meaningful work… for now… but I can’t help but worry about what I will do in a year or two. In this guidepost it’s written “squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives”. I’ve been feeling SO guilty about parenting not being enough for me… for needing ‘more’… so THIS idea of distress was a huge relief. I have gifts. Gifts outside of my household and my daughter, that I still want to use… NEED to use… Ok! Yes! Awesome! Sooooo… could someone just tell me what my gifts are? Sigh. I love to facilitate groups. I love to teach. I love to help. I love working in the community. My goal over the summer is to explore what meaningful work may be for me at this stage of my life.
I’d like to think I’ve been living a wholehearted life for some time – with courage, compassion and connection. If I’m scared of something that’s meaningful to me… I tend to move towards it. I love myself while accepting my flaws, attempting to rise above them. I work hard to maintain my friendships, my connections, as well as make new relationships. Thanks to this book, I was reminded that I’m doing ok! I can always do better, but I’m doing ok. Turns out I “AM” a competent person after all. PHEW!
Paint 1x per week for the next 6 weeks.
Explore what meaningful work may be for me at this stage in my life. I will do this through researching job postings, volunteer opportunities and maintaining this blog of reading/writing/growing.
So readers! I’d love to hear from YOU! Have YOU read this book? If so, did anything truly speak to you? Did you make any goals? How’s it going? For those who haven’t read this book, are you intrigued? What books have inspired you?
Thanks for reading! I’ll update you all on my two goals next week 🙂 I’ve also moved on to the next book – You are a Badass by Jen Sincero if you want to join me in discussion soon!