Do You Love With Your Whole Heart?

Love

True love. This phrase has been drilled into our heads by fairy-tales and movies with happy endings all of our lives. It conjures up thoughts of men on white horses charging in to save the day. Teenage boys standing in the rain with boomboxes overhead and one on one basketball games for the chance to win someone’s love and affections. However, the reality of love is much less newsworthy. Authentic love requires us to love with our whole heart. When I first encountered the concept of wholehearted love it was in Brené Brown’s book The Gifts Of Imperfection: Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are. As a qualitative researcher, she spends a lot of time collecting data on various topics and then following the truths revealed by that study. From the data she gathered regarding love she came up with a definition that I think is much more accurate than the vision we currently have.

Through the data she defines love this way:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them-We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damages the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”

By this definition it is plain to see why many relationships do not thrive. Most people spend so much of their lives protecting their own feelings that they never truly open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable with anyone. I know that it has been a challenge for me to allow myself to be wholehearted with family, friends and romantic partners throughout my life and I believe that this inability to trust someone else with my feelings has crippled many of my connections. This fear of being hurt has led me to shallow friendships and uneven romantic partnerships because I found myself hustling for my worthiness instead of reveling in the fullness of who I am.

The first thing that I did to correct this imbalance was to learn to love myself by these standards. How can I expect to attract a romantic partner who exhibits these traits unless I first cultivate them in myself? How can I expect my friends and family to trust me with their inner most feelings if I am unable to trust myself with my own emotions? Loving myself, flaws and all was harder than I thought it would be and took a lot of work.  Heck I still need to remind myself to be respectful, kind and to show myself affection but I’ve gotten much better at it over the last couple of years. I’ve taught myself how to do manicures and some fun nail art, started working with a trainer to build strength, started taking better care of my skin and nutrition and when times get tough or I miss the mark I try to speak kindly to myself to get through the rough times.

During this process I also began to be more honest with my friends and family about my feelings and began to be more purposeful in communicating my feelings with them. I also began to be more open with my romantic partner about my feelings and desires for our relationship and this has created a wonderful safe space for us to explore what we mean to each other and how we want to shape our connection moving forward.  These types of interactions are still very new and nerve racking for me however I began trusting the people in my inner circle enough to share my feelings of love, appreciation, joy and thankfulness for our connection. To my surprise instead of them running from me, as has always been my fear, these connections have blossomed into deeper connections. I have also been able to extend this courage to the workplace and am now speaking up, offering suggestions and being more forthcoming with my concerns which has created new opportunities for me to advance my career within the company.

This process has shown me that there is an amazing strength in vulnerability. It takes courage to allow someone to have access to your feelings, however the reward of deeper connections far outweighs the fear of rejection. It has not been all roses during this journey. I have faced rejections, the pain of knowing that my feelings were not reciprocated or that some people do not want to form deeper bonds and I have learned that this is OK. Through this definition of love I have embraced the idea that “Love is not something that we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow”. Thinking of love in this way has allowed me to have a sense of peace because I know that I am living and loving with my whole heart even if friendships end, family connections change or romantic partners leave and that is pretty amazing.

Discovering Your Purpose

purpose

The most difficult question you will ever be asked or that you will ask yourself is “what do you want from life”? I know that I have struggled with this question for many years and I know that many of my friends and associates have as well. We often answer this question with what we think others want to hear, what is socially acceptable or what we know we can achieve without too much effort. The truth of the matter is that we will never find true contentment and joy in our comfort zones. The reason many of us shy away from our true desires is because they often lie in unknown territory surrounded by obstacles and the possibility of failure. No great achievement has ever been made from within our comfort zones. We don’t pump our fists and shout with glee when we complete a task that didn’t require much effort. I still remember the insane rush I felt when I finally solved a rubix cube and that was about 30 years ago. I can still vividly remember the elation I felt when I went up and then back down the Templo Del Sol in Mexico July 4, 1999 because I am terrified of heights but I climbed that pyramid and basically crawled back down because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and I’m so glad that I did.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can fulfill my purpose in this life and the thoughts that kept coming back to me were all of the negative things that others have said to me over the years. Instead of dreams of helping women achieve their goals and become their best selves I was hearing the words of my ex-husband telling me that I was a failure, the words of well-meaning friends who tried to discourage me from stepping out and trying new things or I was imagining what other people would think of me if I tried something new. Our minds are wired to protect us at all times and at any cost from danger both real and imagined. This is great if you are trying to avoid being eaten by mountain lions but not so great if you are trying to figure out how to use your gifts and talents in ways foreign to you.

Many times we get bogged down by the idea that our purpose has to be something over the top or grandiose in order to be a worthwhile endeavor.  That is the kind of thinking that has held me back from pursuing my goal of building women. So many time we look at the super successful people that we admire and think to ourselves “Wow I’d love to have that type of success but I’m not as talented, pretty, well-spoken, connected, etc. as that person.” We also talk ourselves out of our purpose because we may have failed or had setbacks in our lives. Maybe we have failed at previous attempts to start a business, go back to school or maintain a romantic relationship and because of these perceived failures we deem our goals as unworthy of our efforts.

For me the switch flipped when I removed myself from the equation and instead thought about how much I could help others then my focus became clear and my fear began to recede. I began to focus more on how I could best be of service to others and that is when the path became clearer. I dipped my toe into my purpose by starting this blog to help readers learn from my life experiences as well as to, hopefully, inspire people to grow beyond their pain and see beauty in all of the things that happen to us. The positive feedback and encouragement from both friends and strangers reignited the flame of my purpose.

Now you may be saying “Well that’s all well and good for you Morena I have no idea how to get started discovering my purpose.” Here are some helpful tips that have worked for me.

Instead of thinking of it as a purpose think of it as your Why.

Why do you want to start that business? Why do you want that promotion? Why do you want to be a better husband? Why do you want to be a better mother?  Then grab a piece of paper and write down all of the reasons and you have found your purpose.

For example if you want a promotion your List of Why might look like this: To have more money =>To be more comfortable financially=>To be able to save for retirement=>To be able to travel more=>To have a good savings cushion. Once you have made your List of Why then you will have the fuel you need for the next step.

What are you willing to do to walk out this purpose?

Sure having more money sounds great but what are you willing to do to get it? Will it include lots of overtime? Will you need to talk to your boss about a raise? Will you need to find a new job? Will you need to go back to school? Write these things down as well.

Connect to a support system

Finally you will need a support system. Who in your circle can you talk to who is supportive and willing to brainstorm with you? Talk to that person and have them be your accountability partner. If you don’t have people in your life who are supportive of your efforts then now is a good time to find some like minded people. The internet has made it easier to find minded people via social media or by searching for local groups who are interested in the same things as you. Reach out to them and build your circle and start living your best life ever.

If you have found yourself struggling with your purpose or have been feeling unfulfilled in certain areas of your life I encourage you to sit down and follow these steps to help clarify your purpose. Don’t think that this exercise can only work for professional goals. I have found this process to be very helpful in both my professional as well as personal life. If you try this exercise I would love to hear how it has helped you. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments.

Happy Discovery!

Hustling for Worthiness

 

worthiness

 

On a recent trip I was staying in a fairly opulent hotel surrounded by business people who were innovators in their respective fields and I found myself hustling for my worthiness. Now I like to think that I have a healthy sense of self however it seemed that in this environment where Hermès is one of the many high end shopping options in the lobby I was conversing with people who own very lucrative businesses and multiple vacation homes I found myself comparing my accomplishments to theirs and in my head I came up lacking.

The author and qualitative psychologist Brené Brown defines worthiness as “an as is, here and now proposition.” By this definition, in order for us to feel worthy in our lives we must first accept and love ourselves “as is”. That can be a daunting task when we have our own internal mix tape of failures and missteps playing in the background constantly.  When you add external pressures from society as well as our family and friends then it is no wonder that many of us live shallow unfulfilled lives. Many of us wander through life with the appearance of having it all together but internally we are a mess. This is what began to happen in my head during this trip. I began to feel ashamed that I wasn’t further along in my career.  Hell I wasn’t even sure what exactly I wanted to do professionally. I was also feeling shame about being a divorced single mom who was barely holding it together financially and being surrounded by opulence was a reminder of that feeling.

When I feel shame I begin to hustle for my worthiness which leads to more shame which is a vicious endless cycle. This time around, however, I was able to name the feelings I was having and shed light on them.  Naming the feelings allowed me to acknowledge that I was not less than but I was in fact worthy of love, belonging and success in all of its iterations. That I had, in fact, come a very long way in the last two and a half years. I was able to acknowledge that I would find my path and I would one day have a stable relationship that would not just appear to be successful but would actually be fulfilling for both myself and my partner on our own terms.  For me shame can also manifest itself in other ways that are not very productive like ignoring important tasks like the dishes or budgeting, fatigue, loss of appetite, short temper and sadness.  Therapy and reading books by authors like Brené Brown, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama and others have really helped me to shorten the time it takes for me to rumble with these feelings. Now, instead of falling into a days or months long depression I am able to parse these feelings out, name them within hours and fully process them within a few days. For me that is tremendous progress.

Women of color are often taught to hold it together at all costs. To be strong and never show weakness. Phrases like “Never let them see you sweat” and fake it to you make it” are pervasive. The problem with this approach is that it forces us to wear the mask of strength but never take the time to fully embrace our weaknesses. Failing to acknowledge our weaknesses gives them strength and power over our thoughts and actions and that is the true danger of this worthiness hustle. If we are constantly fighting ourselves we will never be able to actually be our best selves in any of our relationships, personal or professional. I want to not just have the appearance of strength but I want to feel strong and capable.

Now before you start thinking that I didn’t enjoy this trip because I was in my head the whole time rumbling with myself you can rest assured that this was not the case. I had a great time meeting new people, trying new things and dancing into the wee hours. I returned home with a new fire to narrow down what path I wanted to take in my professional life and set my feet on the path towards my newly realized professional goals. To that end I have made new professional connections via a networking group in my field and began exploring other paths that I was interesting in pursuing in my current job. When I had a hard time visualizing my accomplishments my trusted circle enumerated the many ways I have overcome obstacles that, in their words, many people would not have been able to overcome in such a short amount of time. Being able to see myself though the eyes of people whom I love and respect was an eye opener for me that gave me the courage to truly believe that I am worthy.  Right where I am. These days I am walking with my head held higher with a renewed sense of purpose and for the first time in a long time I am excited.