Radical Self-Care Step Four – Authenticity

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

Our world is like a department store. There are so many choices, so many different aisles we can walk down, we hardly know which way to turn. And there is such a wide variety of items we can buy. So how do we choose? Which way do we go? We usually have more possibilities than we often realize.

tea party grrlOne of the hardest things we face can be making the choice to be different. By this I mean following a path that radically diverges from the one that is expected of us. For instance, we might go to school and get a degree in something and then decide after a great deal of work that it’s not the right career for us after all.

I once had a friend who was an MD who used to refer a lot of patients to me for massage. She told me she was looking for another doctor to share her office. A month later she said she had found someone she really liked but just when the lease was about to be signed the doctor told my friend that she changed her mind and was leaving medicine to study with her spiritual teacher. I was quite surprised by that. You can do that, I thought? When I considered the time and expense of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, giving that up seemed like an awfully big decision. But It also sounded incredibly brave for someone to change their course because of a deep longing for something else. To choose self-discovery rather than a safe, solid career was an act of pure courage. It made me curious. What does it take to be that confident?

I have been studying self-development for a long time. Since, as a massage therapist and hypnotherapist, I am in the relaxation business, understanding what makes people feel good (or not) has been of special interest to me.

This same doctor friend told me that if I became a psychotherapist she would fill my practice, since she was looking for good therapists to refer patients to. She even told me what school I should attend to get my Masters. I followed her advice and enrolled in a Transpersonal Psychology MA program. About two years in, due to an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I left the graduate program and moved my massage practice into a shopping center and turned it into a day spa. I made a very similar choice as that aforementioned Doctor. I suspended my education, where I had spent a lot of time and incurred considerable debt to pursue a different career path. The circumstances to do this made sense even though it was a difficult decision and one that many people might not understand.

Sometimes when I’m faced with a tough choice, I imagine myself on my death bed, looking back on my life and I ask myself, what do I wish I had done?

It takes me away from the immediate situation and the expectations of my peers, my family, and our cultural paradigm. I ask myself, what choice would really make my soul feel good? What is the memory I want to have when I look back on my life?

It really helps.

There are so many expectations and pressures we carry from our upbringing, our friends and teachers, that it can be extremely challenging to even know what our hearts want to do. What would we do if there was no one else we had to please? Sometimes it can be a challenge to even dare to consider a path that would greatly diverge from what would be considered, by many, the logical next step.

And yet, it is this very way of thinking that honors our most authentic self. Sometimes this can be the beginning of a most amazing life journey.

Authentic choices don’t only involve major life decisions. It’s a way of thinking that affects choices you make every day in both small and large ways. What you decide to eat, where you shop, how you spend your day off are all opportunities to make authentic choices. Ask yourself what you would do, if you could have total freedom to do anything you want. What makes your whole being want to say “Yes”?

Living as closely as possible to this ideal is honoring your truest self, an important practice of Radical Self-Care. The more you can live like this, the more you will see your life transform. You’ll find that you’ll attract different people and different opportunities.

You will also notice that regardless of anything else, you will be a lot happier, because a great weight of trying to fit into the wrong shaped spot will be lifted from you. And this will not only transform your energy, but it will change the entire way you experience your life.

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When is Enough Really Enough?

We live in a world that values achievement more than inner peace.

There is a craziness I see in our modern culture. We are constantly receiving messages telling us that we’re not enough.

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We are told that we can always do more, acquire more and create more. With this kind of thinking, people are never satisfied. They may think that if they can get 10 new clients, sell 100 more books or get a 5% raise that they will be content, but no sooner does that happen than they start to visualize a new goal to reach.

How do we feel good about ourselves and our lives when we keep thinking we should be doing better than we are?

I know people who make six figures who are still pushing for the next level. They want more business, a promotion or a new title in an endless climb up a mountain whose peak is always over the next pass. It’s nuts but they are responding to society’s expectations.

I think about this because all around me I see people who are stressed. They are living for the future,  even when, for the most part, they already have really good lives. Another reason I am writing about this is because I get caught up in it, too.

Can you relate to this?

I have to stop myself and ask, “What’s really important?”

What’s really going to make us feel good isn’t reaching a greater threshold of success. It’s appreciating what we have in our lives right now.

We have to learn how to balance the stress that is part of life. And it’s not by obsessing on achievement.

This past month, not far from where I live, a fire in Northern California destroyed hundreds of homes devastating thousands of lives. I read daily about refugees, fleeing unbearable conditions, risking their lives in a challenging quest for survival, to find a place where they can belong and live in dignity. And internally, everyone I know is grappling with some kind of struggle.

So the question I have is, what can we be grateful for exactly the way things are right now? Whatever our circumstances. Whatever we have or don’t have. What is present, in this moment, that we can be grateful for? I suggest we take a moment to appreciate those things about our lives that are soul satisfying. The people we know who make us light up. When our work is appreciated. The uniqueness about where we live and everything in our lives that makes them valuable. Perhaps many of these are things we take for granted, focusing more on how to get that thing that is out of our reach.

We all have many things that are precious and worthy of our appreciation. And that, dear friend, is truly enough.