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Last weekend, during our fall retreat, the lovely Rebecca Jacobs lead us in a workshop about style. This wasn't your typical "You're a pear, wear autumn colours and avoid empire waistlines" profiling. Rebecca's approach is holistic and creative: how can you access and express your core values through your personal style so that it's the real YOU that shows up fully? This approach is revolutionary, especially if you've been stuck (I mean, 'gifted') with a body that isn't exactly proportioned for off-the-rack shopping and ad hoc style templates. This approach had us all excited, curious, and, honestly, a bit triggered and afraid. Turns out any mention of showing up as one's true self is exhilarating until you realize it also brings up all the ways in which we currently hide from doing so. I left that workshop deeply inspired by how I can embrace that approach in my style life and in my life in general and it really got me thinking.
If you'll indulge me in a metaphor:
Lately I've been examining the 'wardrobe of my thoughts'.
I realize it's long been a capsule wardrobe. Not the chic type that brings to mind elegant and sensual Parisians who nibble coyly on croissants and laugh with insouciance, but a time capsule of strategically-curated negative thoughts made solid enough for everyday use. Thoughts that fit one with another in an endless variety of effective combinations, inspiration gleaned from unfortunate past experiences, accessorized occasionally by a spiral or two into darkness for dramatic flair. A typical daily outfit would include an undergarment of "I am unworthy" to bring out that particular shade of shame that perfectly accompanies a "but not for me" wrap dress topped with an all-season overcoat of "I'm fine."
With a strong jerking motion, I pull these familiar garments out of the dark recess of the back of my mind for examining under the light of day, the light of self love. They're expertly designed to be soft and unassuming on the outside while they cut and chafe and choke from within. They're clingy and crumpled and I've been accustomed to wearing them daily for years.
Why reach for these threadbare thoughts? These ill-fitting ghosts of garments that haunt me with echoes of my every failure, insecurity, flaw?
Standing in front of the mirror, I hold one 'favourite' up against myself and am shocked to see it hang off my frame of mind, no longer holding its appeal. With a shudder that seems to reach to my very core, I shake it off, feeling its static trying to adhere to the edges of my fingertips, the creepy neediness of it trying to mould itself once again into a garment of morbid sanctuary. The pull is STRONG, Nurturers. I once felt an odd sense of comfort and safety in thinking this way, in wearing this combination of thoughts, but it's a last-ditch attempt. They simply NO LONGER FIT.
This weight, this heaviness I've lost from my soul I attribute directly to embracing creativity.
Caring enough about myself to make sure I do the things I love to do; intentionally surrounding myself with beauty and things that resonate positively with my own inner value system. It's miraculously brought about a foundation of self respect, deep love and curiosity about all parts of myself, even the ones that think self pity is still in season or that victimhood is en vogue. It's also entirely responsible for my current need to seek an entirely new wardrobe of thoughts. Thoughts that fit. Bespoke thoughts. Tailored to reality.
But, where does one order such thoughts from? How does one outfit oneself when you've spent years shopping the bargain bin of self esteem?
I find myself in some kind of thought purgatory - the old ones strewn on the ground, reaching up feebly, yet hungrily like those creatures in Ursula's grotto. New outfit possibilities abound, my hands examining each, fingers brushing the soft and transparent materials, the strength of a swath of humility, the hefty weave of integrity, the sparkle of humour, which looks good on everyone. These outfits are free for the taking but come at the expense of your pride. The fact that you must first admit that having been created in love, that love is what you are also made of is a deeply humbling one. It's a fact that I've seen myself and so many others freeze over, quit dreams over, stay small over, because of fear.
The thoughts are: who am I to go after what makes me feel alive? Who am I to chase my dreams? Who am I to show up fully in my own life? Better to hide. Stay safe. Not rock the boat. Not look like a fool. Not wear or think what makes me stand out or be vulnerable. Continue in my longing or in my jealousy of others who are doing it with seeming effortlessness (FYI I've learned there is nothing effortless about it - effort yields results, and it's usually the effort to take small actions, applied daily, therefore digestible and accessible to everyone). So, I'm echoing Marianne Williamson in her famous quote here when I say to you and to myself: who are we NOT to?
With this in mind, I challenge us all as we face a new season - may we bundle ourselves against the cold both actual and metaphorical in thoughts of care, warmth and goodwill towards ourselves. For those meantimes, or MEAN times where we are unsure what to replace old thoughts with, may we wear them loosely enough to recognize and shrug off to be replaced when needed with patience, boundless compassion, and a full heart. HOW to do this? Pick up a pencil, a paintbrush, a guitar, a whisk, a piece of clay, a magazine - whatever it is that gets your creativity flowing, and start, simply START there for the love. You'll be shedding layers in no time.