As I watch my five parentless siblings hit major life milestones — marriages, divorces, new babies, moves, career changes, health challenges— and observe their individual journeys toward emotional health and well-being, it makes me reflect on what I needed and wished I could have heard when I was their age. If I was sitting across from her now, here is what I would say to my sweet thirty-something year-old self:
• Your work is to remember who you really are. Who you are is not defined by your family history or the pains or tragedies you experienced growing up. Your parents loved in the best way they could. Moving into compassion for them can bring you to a place of liberation.
• Self-awareness and self-acceptance are the doors to freedom and peace. Don’t be afraid to become very acquainted with your fears, dreams, personality, self-limiting beliefs, strengths, shadow, and brilliance. Love all of who you are.
• Your ordinary self is enough — you don’t need to do or be more for anyone.
• Reach out and ask for help. There is never any reason to go it alone. We were designed to be interdependent. Cultivating this ability is key to your emotional health.
• Release “shoulds” and become comfortable saying no with grace and ease. And watch the universe respond with delight in delivering to you what you really want, not what the media or society dictates you should want!
• Allow yourself to be vulnerable and let people see your fragility as well as your strength. Sharing this side of yourself is transformative and freeing.
• Lastly, don’t be afraid of becoming very still. You already have all the answers within you. You just have to get quiet enough to hear them.
With the deepest love and compassion, Your Wise Self
When I lead weekend self-renewal retreats at Esalen Institute, Omega Institute and Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health — three beautiful, world-renowned retreat centers — we set two chairs facing each other in a quiet corner of the room. Between the easy chairs is a side table with two inviting tea mugs and sometimes a lit candle, often flowers. These two empty chairs serve as a symbolic invitation and reminder that the retreat is an opportunity for each woman to sit quietly and receive guidance from her Wise Self. Whether this represents God, your soul, your intuition, or a higher power, it is that which holds the highest and best for you, never leaves, and is with you always, waiting and ready to respond with wisdom and deep compassion.
When we begin to make our self-care a priority and become more integrated and whole, we spend more time with our Wise Self. As we align with our inner knowingness and act from this place, we tap into our river of well-being, and those around us feel this and respond as well. Relationships change. Parenting shifts. Households become more harmonious. Problems evolve, become irrelevant, or disappear. We all want to be heard, to know we matter, to feel connection and intimacy, and to feel loved and supported exactly the way we are — both parents and kids alike. So how do we get there? By starting with the utmost compassion for self, by acknowledging there is work to do (inner and outer), by having the courage to ask for and receive help, and by taking small steps. And finally, by remembering we’re not trying to “fix ourselves” but to come into the highest expression of who we are. Our true selves.
TAKE ACTION: If your Wise Self were to write a letter to you now, what would he or she say? From a place of deep compassion, empathy and kindness, what would he/she most want you to know about your current life stage, key relationships and your career/life path? Grab a notebook and a pen then close your eyes and take a few moments to envision yourself sitting across from your Wise Self. What does he/she look like, sound like …what are they saying? Jot down whatever flows forth and keep writing until there’s nothing else to write (it’s helpful to do this in a stream of consciousness fashion). Then share your insights with a trusted friend or mentor. I’d love to hear how it goes.
For support connecting with your Wise Self, consider becoming a RTA-Certified Facilitator or joining a Personal Renewal Group, attending a retreat or self-renewal event, or reaching out to Angela, our warm and wise senior career coach for support. We love helping men/women learn how to connect with their Wise Selves so they can hear what is uniquely theirs to do.
P.S. I’m working on a beautiful one-day, nature-infused Austin, Texas women’s self-renewal retreat for Friday April 24th–save the date!
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.