“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”
By Cindy Trevitt, Registered Professional Counsellor and Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling
I have always known that at last I would
take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.
In life and in my practice, I encounter many people who are dissatisfied with their work, home or relationships. They want something more and are tortured by an urgent need to find that elusive something – something that they cannot seem to name, see or find. This has so much to do with how little ‘self’ they know. They have not excavated their authentic selves. They have not truly connected to their world or acknowledged what their truths are. They simply float in a pool of external definitions of aesthetics, money and facades – being defined by others. I can personally relate to this tortured state. For years, I struggled to find that ‘thing’ that would stop me from feeling so anxious and frantic about never finding my calling. I did and it turns out I knew it all along; however it was buried in amongst what I thought I was good at (so had to do) or what I thought people expected of me and what I believed about what I’m capable of. What’s the difference between those fulfilled, content, purposeful people and you? They have found and listened to themselves.
Soul callings are vital to our personal fulfillment. They are the voices of authenticity calling us to realize and find ourselves. The trick is in knowing where to look. Often people make the mistake of looking outside. Is it in the mall? Is it at the car dealership? Is it in a high-end hair-do? And if only we keep accumulating these things and feel that tingling and excitement of a new experience – we’ll be distracted from the emptiness. Something shiny and expensive will bring attention and recognition – even if it’s only short-lived. The fact that it’s short-lived doesn’t seem to tell people that maybe it isn’t working. But we don’t see that and unfortunately we live in a society that places a great deal of value on accumulation and appearances. After all, it’s the cornerstone of our economy. If we don’t advertise, we don’t sell things. If we don’t sell things, no one gets paid. And where once upon a time, there was a simple exchange – perhaps food for services or shelter – now we want food, services, shelter, and lots and lots of things. Lots of shoes. Lots of clothes. Lots of attention. External endorsement. Someone to commend us so we feel accepted. And here’s the kicker. Even then, we still walk around with this low murmuring whisper that something isn’t quite right. We aren’t quite fulfilled. What is this emptiness?
It is your soul calling out to be expressed.
It requires a certain amount of personal strength to start on a journey that is exclusively for the purpose of finding self-acceptance and of discovering our selves. There are lots of books, workshops, retreats, spas, and so on regarding this subject. A lot of people simply don’t know how to do this. It somehow doesn’t make sense that the answer isn’t in an attractive partner and a high-paying job. What do I do to find myself? The answers are simple on the one hand but very difficult on the other. They require the undoing of a lifetime of habits. They require slowing down despite a world thrusting us forward. They require that we listen, without judgement, to the quiet murmuring of our true desires and wants surging deep within us. This sometimes asks us to change, or even break, the bonds we have with other people, places and things in our lives. We will no longer do what they think we should do. We want to be true to ourselves. It’s so simple. So profound. But without our willingness to value ourselves, we will never get there. The only way to get somewhere is to start going there.
So, begin with simple things. Look at some of the basic elements of your life: social, spiritual, career, family, physical, relationships, sexual, and personal fulfillment. What are you missing in your life? What priorities and values have you placed on these areas? What particular area have you been neglecting? What can you do to start feeling fulfilled in these areas? What actual choices are you making in your life right now? Start writing your answers down.
Take a true retreat for at least fifteen minutes every day. Hard to do? Important things do require our effort. But when we make sure that we stop for a few minutes every day, every few hours, we refuel and reenergize ourselves. We tell ourselves that if we just work harder, answer more emails, do more things simultaneously, that we’ll get things done – as if they’ll stop. And, hey, let’s be blunt. It’s not that you can’t truly find the time. It’s not that you’re lazy. You just aren’t valuing your self enough. How did you get lower on the priority list than your emails? Are your emails going to come see you in the hospital when you’ve collapsed into some stress-related disease? If you get in your car and try to drive from here to Nova Scotia without stopping for gas, oil, food, sleep – what do you think is going to happen? We need to be conscious of the value we place on our well-being.
And here are a few steps to increase your emotional well-being:
Make care of your body a priority. Get enough rest. Exercise, stretch and tone 20 – 30 minutes a day. Eat healthy foods. Overeating or eating the wrong foods dull perceptions and emotional awareness.
Search for feeling in your body, not your head. We are taught all through our lives how much what’s going on in our head is so important. In school we’re graded and valued on this very thing; however this distances ourselves from what we’re feeling. Our bodies are carrying those feelings and we need to honour and express them.
Live in the present. Practice this – it’s an art. Often times so many of us live far away from where we actually are by existing in our heads – about what has happened, what might happen, what we or somebody else did or said, what we wish could happen, and so on and so on. Practice sitting perfectly still and relaxed. What do you hear? Name all the sounds. What do you smell? What temperature is it? What do you see? Is your body tense or relaxed? Where? Relax any parts that are tense. Relax your brow. Lower your shoulders at least an inch. Take a huge deep breath – expanding your belly. Hold it. Then slowly release through your nose. What does your chest feel like? Describe it. What does your stomach feel like? Describe it. Hot? Cold? Aching? Experience each sensation as if it’s a cloud floating through your body and moving on into a distant blue sky. (Ever heard of a book called The Power of Now?)
Be accepting of all that you feel. Stay out of your head and simply observe what it’s like to experience what you’re feeling.
Open your heart to others.
Take action. Do things that make you feel useful and relevant.
Listen with your empathy. Listen to the feelings beneath the words. Meaningful connection and understanding of others comes from within – not from the intellectual.
Tell them how you feel. Share your heart, your gratitude, and your honesty.
Take a dose of humour wherever you go. There’s nothing like a belly-laugh to relieve stress.
Furthermore: I recommend educating yourself in the art of living well. Find self-help books that truly speak to your unique sensibilities. Here are a couple of my personal favourites:
- The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
- Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach
- Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, by Sarah Ban Breathnach
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Thanks for your friendship.