“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love
We all have our own inner critic. That voice telling us to STOP!!! The one that makes us lose faith in ourselves and feel afraid. I called my voice my Inner Witch and in 2007 I buried her. Literally. I held a funeral on the beach where I live, close to the lighthouse, and marked her grave RIP Inner Witch.
At the time I thought I was letting go of a raving, nasty, critical part of myself that was ruining my life and preventing me from fulfilling my potential. Sick of her spoiling the ride, I decided it was probably better to thank her for her efforts and go our separate ways because, frankly, she was acting like a total bitch.
Little did I realise then, that in burying my Inner Witch I had actually killed my own best friend, a necessary part of me who was my greatest ally in the search for joy, fulfilment and creativity. Luckily for me she refused to die; she just went off in a huff and took a sabbatical!
During our eight years of separation I learned many important lessons and did some freaky, funny, fascinating things in a bid to fill the void created by her absence as I searched for wholeness and inner peace – ranging from walking on hot coals, to communing with angels, to smashing crockery in imaginary rooms (one of my particular favourites!).
And perhaps one of the most important things I learned is that ‘how to’ doesn’t work. So, in the immortal words of a wise man I once knew, please don’t interrupt me when I’m about to contradict myself!
“If how to worked, none of us would be struggling, because we are all smart enough to get how to. If how to worked we would not be the most obese, in debt, medicated and addicted human cohort in history … and mostly, if how to be happy worked, all of us would not struggle all the time with feeling that we’re enough, because we’d just follow the tips and tricks” – so says Brene Brown, one of my greatest teachers and role models.
If you haven’t heard of her, Brene Brown is an eminent social work research professor at the University of Houston, Texas, who has spent thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. Based on interviews with thousands of people she challenges what she sees as a dangerous prevailing cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness, arguing that it is in fact “our most accurate measure of courage”. She sets out the core premise of her work in one of the most downloaded TED talks ever, called ‘The Power Of Vulnerability’ which, if you haven’t seen it I highly, highly, highly recommend. Instead of following ‘how to’ Brene argues, we must walk into the difficult conversations and share our stories in order for personal transformation to happen. We must put down our armour and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
I have been studying her work for the last three years and a few months ago I attended a two day workshop in London called The Daring Way, based on her growing body of work, along with five other brave souls. The tagline was Step Up, Be Seen, Live Brave.
The course was challenging, powerful and super enjoyable and, as a way to embed what we had learned, the six of us committed to ‘twelve days of daily daring’ following the programme – a practice which involved emailing each other (plus put two wonderful facilitators Darren and Ade) every day, setting out our intentions to practice one of the twelve ‘guideposts to wholehearted living’ and reporting back on the results.
We shared small daily victories (which included things as simple as choosing to have a conversation we would otherwise have avoided), as well as our attempts to make changes that hadn’t turned out as we’d hoped, but nonetheless had given us new and deeper insights. It was a great way to start building our courage muscles and we all agreed that we’d try to keep up the practice, albeit perhaps more sporadically.
Then, six weeks later, something transformational happened. I experienced what Steven Covey would call a ‘paradigm shift’ and what Brene Brown might call a ‘breakdown/spiritual awakening’!! It happened on August bank holiday weekend and I have come to refer to it as my Gandalf Moment which, if you decide now to join me for future blogs (and I very much hope you will), I will tell you more about. For now, all I will say is that I woke up the morning after my Gandalf Moment and felt as though the world had shifted 180 degrees on its axis. I leapt out of bed (very uncharacteristically!) with a voice narrating in my head and went straight into my study and, still wearing my PJs, started writing compulsively under the title ‘Confessions Of A Personal Development Addict’.
Several hours later I had written a couple of thousand words and had also trawled back through my memory, through old bank statements and through my Amazon order history and produced two spread sheets – like some kind of crazed accountant. I calculated that in the last ten years, I had spent £20k on my own personal development and amassed a collection of approximately 200 books (of which I have only read about three quarters!) covering coaching, NLP, the power of intention, motherhood, spirituality, creativity, how to write/sell your novel, leadership, management, motivation, positive psychology, leveraging the magic of the universe, transformational change, the biology of belief etc etc. And, in the style of a parent who has funded their promising but dissolute child through university only to find they have dropped out and run off with the raggle taggle gypsy, I demanded an answer to the question SO TELL ME, WHAT HAS BEEN THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT????
And I sat there, meekly, feeling the warm wash of shame over my whole body … OMG I thought to myself I have spent all this time and all this money and all of this effort hustling for my self worth!!! I have been searching all hoping to find that perfect workshop, that inspirational quote, that wise guru, that stunning insight, that ‘how to’ formula which would give me that elusive missing link and allow me to be brave enough to trust what I know. I think personal development has become like my own special kind of numbing, my own brand of avoiding vulnerability!!!
Ok I said enough. You need to just stop now. Just let go
Two months later, on Halloween, I returned to Inner Witch’s grave to un-bury her and together, in a kind of weird pagan marriage ceremony, we swore a sacred oath to shine our light. So here I am. Here we are. As one.
I have never written a blog before and I am scared of pressing the ‘publish’ button that is just up and to my left on the screen as I write. But I know that I will. And I must.
My intention is to make a return on investment by sharing what I have learned over the last ten years. It is also to walk myself into some difficult conversations and to share my story in the hope that you will also share yours and that, together, we will become a little braver in the telling, so that we may shine our lights more brightly.
With love, LHKD xxx