The Power of Imperfection.

When people ask me about my disability, I am quick to tell them that it has afforded me many lessons, and that even if I could change it, I wouldn’t. But it wasn’t until last week, while I was sitting in a meeting with my supervisor, that she asked me to identify the specific lessons my disability has granted me. Up until that point, these lessons had remained undefined. They were abstract, yet they had a strong presence in my life, for I feel they had guided the many choices I have made. So, as I was sitting there, and as she waited intently on an answer, I stated “imperfection.” Imperfection, and the necessity of it in our lives, is one of the most profound lessons that living with a disability has taught me.

By definition, my body is imperfect. As much as I could try, I will never be able to hide the way I walk- my legs always have, and always will, move differently. My body will always be imperfect, and it was in the process of truly accepting this, that my lesson was found.

If you were to look for words synonymous with “imperfection” you would most likely find words like defect, deficiency, blemish, fault, weakness, limitation, and so on. Words slanted with negativity which tend inspire feelings of “not good enough,” shame, and self-judgement. Words and feelings that foster disconnection, separation, and which give strength to the fear that often makes us retreat and isolate. But here’s the thing: Imperfection comes with being human. We all have unique imperfections, visible or invisible. Imperfection is inexorably intertwined with the human experience. It is universal, shared, and normal, and it is by truly recognizing this, that the negativity we often associate with imperfection is dissolved, and it becomes devoid of its power to keep us small. Instead, imperfection becomes the basis of personal authenticity and connection- it becomes abundantly powerful.

When we recognize that there is nothing inherently wrong with our imperfections (because we all have them), we grant ourselves the freedom to love ourselves for our imperfections. We embrace ourselves fully and allow ourselves to just be, because we recognize that imperfection is the birthplace of beauty, unique perspective, and creativity. Fearlessness is inspired because we give up our preoccupation with “looking good.” Risks are taken, days are seized, and our lives are lived without hesitation.

Becoming fearlessly unapologetic about our imperfections also fosters connection. Being open and honest about our perceived “flaws” makes us relatable. When we are open about who we are, the mistakes we’ve made, and the struggles we’ve endured, we unconsciously give others permission to open themselves up too. It lets people know that they are not alone. Empathy thrives because we become aligned in our likeness. We feel unconditionally accepted and embraced for our imperfections, and true compassion is cultivated.

Imperfection isn’t to be denied or shamed, because there isn’t anything wrong with it. It is to be celebrated and embraced. So… give up the pursuit of perfection that confines you- it’s not attainable. Give yourself permission to accept yourself for your imperfections- they are what make you real, and it is what makes you real, that makes you loveable.

 

 

  

The Vulnerability Remedy.

A few months days ago, while having a conversation with a good friend of mine, I crossed a boundary. I used a story which wasn’t mine to share, to illustrate a point.  Although the story fit with the nature of the conversation we were having, as soon as the words left my mouth I felt utterly disgusting. I knew, based on the physical reaction I was experiencing that I had made a huge mistake. I immediately went into shame mode. Narratives akin to “I am a horrible person” started to swirl in my mind. I felt that what I had done was in such stark contrast to my core guiding value (fierce compassion) that I couldn’t take it. I literally wanted to crawl out of my own skin and hide. Huge, huge shame.

I let a few more minutes of conversation pass.

The thoughts kept going. “What is wrong with you?” “How could you have been so careless?”  “You are a bad person.”  On and on. And, I knew that these thoughts would continue for days. I would punish myself in this way for hours on end until I felt that I had paid for what I had done. Interrupted nights, and days spent in a bad mood to follow. This cycle was all too familiar to me.

I desperately didn’t want to go down that road. So, instead of condemning myself for days, I decided to purposely break the cycle: I called on my self-compassion. I instantly knew what I had to do. I had to bring this up. I had to get vulnerable. And so, I brought it up. I told my friend, that I was very uncomfortable with what I had said and that I was experiencing some heavy shame about it. I told her about the thoughts that I had been having in the last few minutes of our conversation.  She listened, and I immediately felt better. I told her that I was fearful of her judgment of me, and that what I had done was out of alignment with who I want to be. The more vulnerable I got, the better I felt. She responded with compassion, and assured me that we all make mistakes and that what I had done, she believed was not a reflection of my character.

And, there it was: my ticket to freedom. It was in her speaking those words that I knew that the next few days would not be colored by self-punishing thoughts.

Healing happens in the space of vulnerability.

Yes, vulnerability is uncomfortable. That’s why it’s a reflection of courage, not weakness. But as uncomfortable as it may be, it comes with the greatest rewards life has to offer. It allows us to feel connected, reassured and united. Vulnerability is deeply empowering and enabling. It is the birthplace of freedom, because it is inherently risky, and what is risky is profoundly liberating.

 

 

 
 
 

 

Why Death is One of Our Greatest Teachers.

 

Living life with the end in mind is the most powerful route to personal freedom and authenticity.

I absolutely love the work I do. Companioning individuals as they grieve the loss of a loved one has been the most powerful, heart-wrenching, enlightening, and meaningful “work” I have done. Bearing witness to one’s stories of loss and heartache is an absolute honour and privilege, for I know that delving into the depths of one’s grief is the hardest thing one can ever do.

Doing this work has made death a constant companion. It’s ever-present reality in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that one day my life will end. At first, admitting this was terrifying. It evoked panic and a feeling of being trapped, with no hope of escape- and truthfully, it still does on some days. But, with loss comes forced reflection and subsequent insight.

It is for this insight I am extremely grateful for it has made clear to me that this life is a gift, never to be taken for granted. We are privileged to be here and to be given the opportunity to become the fullest expressions of who we are.

Here a few of the radical shifts/insights that have occurred in my life:

  • Everything is a miracle.

Living with death as an all too tangible reality renders everything and every experience miraculous. The “little things” become the “big things”, and material things lose their value. We also begin to recognize the mere chance by which we were granted this life, and as such we can see with greater clarity that we are not here by accident.

  • Gratitude expands

When we recognize life is a privilege, gratitude expands. Everything of which our life is composed becomes “thank you worthy.” We become grateful for what we have, and especially for the people who surround us. Death also allows us to become less inhibited, and simply say what’s in hearts. It becomes easier to declare our appreciation for the people we love, for we recognize that there may not be another chance.

  • Love and connection becomes all that matters.

Death makes love, and our expression of it, our highest priority. It becomes infused in everything that we do, in every choice we make, and in every interaction we have with others. It allows us to recognize that our attentive presence is what counts, for it through this attentive presence that our love is conveyed. It becomes about fully engaging with every single moment by acknowledging that time is a finite resource. We recognize that one’s time (an expression of love) is the most precious gift one can give another, for the giving of one’s life in this way, signals that the other matters-and that’s all we want to know at the end of the day anyway.

  • You are here to be the fullest expression of yourself.

Authenticity becomes fundamental. Death allows us to disengage from the (false) fear-based thoughts that so often limit us, thus allowing us to become the fullest expressions of ourselves- in an unapologetic way. We recognize that are here to learn, to teach, and ultimately, to expand. As such, living out our passion becomes essential to our personal sense of well-being.

 

Living Outside of the Assumption Box.

 

Life with a disability. Something I wouldn’t change even if I was given the choice. I have said it time and time again, my disability (if we really have to call it that) has been the birth place of numerous insights and reflections for me. It has opened the doors to a sense of personal liberation that has come as a result of the embrace of the imperfection that is this body I live in. It consistently pushes me to examine my priorities, and dig deep within myself to figure out who I am and who I want to be.

That’s the thing about living outside of the realm of “normal”- you often get put into a box built of labels and assumptions. It’s safe that way, because the labels and assumptions give other people a road map. It gives them a vague understanding of the rules of interaction- what to say, what not to say, what to do, and what not to do. Or at least, that’s the intention of the labels and assumptions- they are supposed to be helpful, and keep everything in the realm of the non-offensive.

For the sake of familiarity, let me ask you, what kind of images, words and associations do the words “disabled” and “disability” conjure up for you?

If you immediately thought of things like weak, incapable, to be pitied, unhappy, flawed, helpless, powerless, no social life, victim, unfair, unsuccessful,  no prospect of living close to the realm of “normality” etc., let me assure you that you are not alone. Many of us have been conditioned to think this way. It’s almost natural, and to some degree it is a faultless act. It almost seems harmless, except it’s not.

Labels and their associated assumptions can have severely detrimental impacts on one’s fundamental sense of self, for these labels often become internalized, and subsequently impact one’s thoughts, emotions and behaviours. For example, if a person with a disability is implicitly and repeatedly told they are incapable, through the nature of the interactions they have with those around them, it is likely that they will begin to think thoughts like “I can’t do it, so there’s no point in trying,” “I’m going to fail,” “I am powerless,” “I am a victim of my circumstances,” “There is something wrong with me,” “I’ll never be successful” and so forth. Consequently, that person may begin to experience feelings of helplessness, doubt, hopelessness, shame, defeat, inferiority, and frustration, which then directly impact their willingness to take action. As such, that person will likely begin to act in alignment with their thoughts and feelings by rarely or never taking risks or trying new things, isolating themselves, and so on, thereby never allowing themselves the opportunity to accumulate experiences to counter their thoughts and feelings. And so, a self-fulfilling prophecy ensues.

And here’s the thing, I used the example of disability here because I know it- I have seen this pattern play out within myself and with others. But, even for those of us who are not living outside of the realm of “normal” these patterns still manifest. We all carry beliefs that have resulted from the interactions we have had with others and the assumptions they have placed upon us, either knowingly or unknowingly. And, if we’re not careful, these beliefs can begin to rule us, robbing us of our sense of freedom, and rendering us fearful. Fearful of expressing our authentic selves. And so, we become confined to a prison of our own creation.

So, the question becomes, how can we get back to freedom?

  • Examine your thoughts.

Write down the thoughts that tend to dominate your mind. Ask yourself, when did these thoughts originate? From whom did they originate?

  • Recognize that these thoughts aren’t facts.

As difficult as it may be to believe (because we have been attached to them for so long) our thoughts are not facts. They are in fact, changeable.

  • Be willing to recognize humanness.

Once you have determined where and from whom your most dominating thoughts originate, ask yourself why you are giving them the power to define you. What makes their word and perception more accurate than yours? After all, they too are just human. Any power they may have is a result of your decision to give them that power. We are all equal.

  • Choose to live by your definition of you, for that is freedom.

Your definition of you is just as valid as the definition that others attempt to place upon you. Choose to live in the space of authenticity, remembering that you can choose whether or not you buy into other people’s perceptions of you. For example, just because a person is disabled does not mean they are incapable. Aligning with the assumption of “incapable” is their choice. So I encourage you to ask yourself:

  • In the absence of the limiting thoughts which hold me, who do I know myself to be?

Are you compassionate, outgoing, passionate, spontaneous, loving, hilarious, kind, adventurous, quirky, fun, bold, strong, hardworking, witty, etc.?

Choose to make your definition of you the lens through which you see yourself, and welcome freedom.

Friends who Bring Coffee.

The Sunday morning hangover. Physically not feeling great, but running through all the events of the night before in my mind and thinking about how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. Experiences had and memories made. The stuff that makes life so incredible. I turn over and look at my phone…I see a message from my soul sister- one that I have known for a majority of my life. The one who I shared a good portion of my childhood with. The one who was there for the rough stuff, the lessons learned through all those awkward times, and the countless laughs over something that really, isn’t/wasn’t even that funny (to the rest of the world anyway).  The one who just knows without asking. She asks if I want to get together.

She comes over about an hour and a half later, with two coffees in hand, and we spend the next hour talking, like we hadn’t seen each other in years. There is an ease to it, and a comfort in the feeling that neither of us has to be anybody but who we are. Pure and raw authenticity informs our interaction, as it always does. There is an unconditional acceptance of the other that lies at the foundation of our friendship. There is a knowing that even if one of us was to screw up that the other would be right there saying “I got you.”

It got me thinking about the independence myth that seems to inform our society these days…the idea that we must be completely self-reliant, and self-sufficient or otherwise run the risk of being seen as weak or “needy.” The idea that dependence is inherently bad, and that if we depend on others it means that we have failed. It can make us feel that we can’t reach out, even if we desperately want to or need to, for fear of the judgement that might be laid upon us, or for fear of the judgement that we might lay upon ourselves.

But here’s the thing: humans are not wired for complete independence, and to buy into the notion that we are, is to significantly truncate the size of our lives. We thrive on connection. We are literally wired for it. The need for a sense of belonging is as essential to our wellbeing as food and water is.

We need to be dependent to be independent.

It is only through cultivating and maintaining connections with others that we are truly able to commit to what makes us shine. It is through knowing that we have people in our lives in front of whom we can show our authentic selves that we are truly able to risk, and reach beyond our comfort zone. We need to know that we have certain people in our lives who are 100% behind us to facilitate our personal expansion. Without having these people, the risks become too big and too fear provoking, because we run the risk of being completely shattered and deflated if the outcome is not favourable. We need these people in our lives to remind us that a failure or a mistake has absolutely no bearing on our worth and that we are still just as inherently valuable and lovable as we were before we fell on our face.

Life is not meant to be a solo journey.

If you’re about living big, seizing the moment, and living a life of greatness, nurture your connections. They will enable you to shine.

PS:  A note to express my deepest gratitude to all those in my life who have helped and continue to help me be the best that I can be. I love you all deeply, and am immensely grateful to you for accepting me exactly as I am without expecting anything else. You all have supported me in making necessary changes in my life, and have given me the courage to reach beyond what I thought possible. Thank you for being champions of my growth and success, and it is my deepest hope that you feel that I am the same for you. xo

Fearlessness: Deconstructed.

 
 
 
Fearlessness. I am all about it. I write about it. I speak about it. And, I try, the very best that I can to live it. But, when I talk about being fearless, I am not talking about the absence of fear, nor am I talking about the denial of it. Actually, I am talking about the embrace of it. To me, fearlessness is all about sitting with and facing fear- understanding that the experience of it is part of being human.
 
 
Fear is not inherently bad. We need it in order to survive and thrive, because without it we would have no way of identifying threat or danger. It protects us- it is needed, normal, and healthy. However, fear becomes problematic when it begins to take on a life beyond our control. When it begins to control each and every decision we make, and thus, prevents us from living life with the zest that we would like to. It can dominate our deepest yearnings by blocking us from fulfilling them, which ultimately truncates the size of our lives, keeps us small, therefore often leaving us with perpetual feelings of dis-ease, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.   
 
 
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
 
 
But here’s the thing: discomfort is really the name of the whole game. Discomfort will be present in the act of submitting to our fears as well as in the act of embracing them. It’s simply a matter of choice. Discomfort can either function as a mechanism which keeps us small, or a mechanism which allows us to push, embrace, and ultimately shine…and that is what fearlessness is. It is the understanding that we can give discomfort the power to foster growth and personal expansion, and that often, it can be used to serve us rather than to hinder us.
It’s simply a matter of going deep with the discomfort of your fear, and looking at it for what it is.
 
 Asking yourself:
 
 
·         Am I in any real danger here?
®     Could I get seriously injured or die doing this?
®     Am I putting others at risk?
·         What am I really afraid of?
®     Failing
®     Looking stupid
®     Making a mistake
®     Disappointing others
®     Disappointing myself
·         What will it mean if I fail, look stupid, make a mistake, disappoint myself or others etc.?
®     That I am unlovable?
®     That I am not good enough?
®     That I am a failure?
®     That I am worthless?
·         Is this really true?
 
My best guess is a resounding NO. It’s not really true that you would be unlovable, worthless, an outright failure, or not good enough if you failed at something, made a mistake, looked stupid in front a whole bunch of people, disappointed yourself or others etc. You would in fact be just as lovable, worthy and awesome.
 
 
Don’t let your sense of worth be defined by external factors. Understand that your worth is constant and inherent, and welcome true liberation of self. Welcome an increased willingness to grow, expand, evolve, and risk.
 
 
Embrace your fear. Your life is waiting.