Have you heard of the phrase “lean in”? It’s been popping up (haunting me. ..ha) a lot over the last few months. I’ve been playing in lots of unchartered areas lately, and I’ve shared here and there that it has been challenging. But let me make this crystal clear (for my own personal sanity); it’s been CHALLENGING.
I originally heard of this phrase “Lean In” on a TED talk, with COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. She’s also written a book called Lean In, which is so great. I would love to say that I embraced this idea and concept as soon as I heard about it, but that’s more than far from the truth. I actually think I rolled my eyes and thought “nothing sounds worse than throwing a pity party for myself in front of a bunch of women who are judging me.” I’m sad that I thought those things, but even more sad that I felt them.
One of the main things I’ve learned through this journey of self-discovery, learning to love myself, and learning to lean in, is that we’re all the same. Not the same like we’re not unique, but the same like we all feel certain things that determine our worthiness, or lack there of. We’ve all felt judged, and at times, we still do. There has to be a magical place of transition, where we can stop judging others because we’re learning to love ourselves, and love ourselves enough to stop letting that judgement that will always be there, control our actions. There has to be a place to break the cycle. But where is that place, and how in the world do we get there?
I think this question is just another example of something that’s been asked for…ever. The chicken or the egg? How do you get to a place of self-love while still being shamed and judged, and stop judging and shaming others to make yourself feel more worthy before you have found that magical self-love place? Leaning in.
The good news is that this isn’t a battle you have to fight alone. There are women who have gone before us, who have learned to love – themselves and others, and who, I believe, have been placed in our paths by God as a safety net to protect us from hurt. Those nets have hearts that beat for helping others, smiles to share, hugs to give, kind words when you want them, and empathetic eyes when you don’t. Here’s the cool/frustrating part – God won’t force you to use those safety nets. Just like a lot of abundance we’ll never have, peace we’ll never feel, and wisdom we’ll never hear – God has provided it, but we must lean in to find it.
I’ve been pretty closed off to the world for most of my life. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might be confused – but what I’m learning is that being present isn’t the same as being IN the present. I show up, I pretend to be seen, but I always have enough distance between us that I can run for cover, hide, or fire my weapon of hurt and hate before you do. In one way, it makes what I do as a blogger, wellness coach, and virtual business owner pretty great; I can stay in the comfort of my space, doing everything possible to make an impact in your life and help you, without getting close enough to get hurt. However, it also continues the cycle of not being forced to build real-life relationships that I need to lean in to and to grow.
I’ve been feeling this pull lately to just lean in to the people in my life, and let it work, or not work, however it does/doesn’t. So.. I went for it. I’ve been open with making new friends, trying to have honest conversations, creating more posts like this one on my social media channels, sharing my raw challenges with my team, telling my husband what I really need from him, getting involved with super special groups at my church, and setting family boundaries that have been weighing on me for years. In doing so, I’ve been criticized, for sure. I’ve been hurt, unfollowed, and unfriended. My motives, morals, and judgement have been questioned. But I’ve also felt more real emotion than ever before. I’ve been shown love; the deep, honest kind that expects absolutely nothing in return. I’ve been prayed for and prayed with. I’ve been shown that stereotypes are just that. I’ve learned that no one has all the answers, but the community of figuring them out together is powerful. I’ve received messages that are priceless. I’ve been shown first hand that strength isn’t measured by power, control, or building a wall too high to let others even see in, but by falling down and owning in, by leaning in when you’re still on the ground instead of waiting until you’ve gotten up, fixed your hair, and wiped your mascara. My belief that the world is bad or people are mean has been proven wrong, time and time again.
This original thought started with me wanting to thank my sweet friend Chelsea (btw, she creates adorable custom aprons and other crafty things, which you can totally etsy-stalk) so I’ll do that now. We met randomly last year outside of an apartment community, and had that instant “we speak the same language” moment. We started having a little coffee hour together, and a few mornings ago, I was living in one of the valleys of this journey, so I pretty much took up our whole coffee time pouring out my heart and all of these emotions, while she just sat there, and listened. She didn’t offer her advice for problems that she knew I already knew the answers to, she didn’t criticize, she just listened, and smiled, and promised to pray for me. Can I also throw in that she’s 8 months pregnant, so if anyone deserves the floor to spill out emotions, it’s her. After all of that, this little bag shows up at my front door, with the sweetest note, and my newest favorite product (which I’ll post more about soon).
I will never be able to say that I’ve got it all figured out, but I can say with all certainty that leaning in to people, faith, and circumstances is the right path. I think that all humans, or at least the ones who self-reflect, find themselves asking “what’s my purpose?” Most of us relate this question to a job, a marriage, a family, or a life-event, but… what if our purpose is simply to lean in? What if God’s purpose FOR us is to lean in. It not only gives us a chance to learn and to grow, but in doing so, we allow other people to have a purpose too; to be our safety net, and maybe that’s exactly what they need. So often, we feel shame when asked to share our problems, or we feel guilty for putting them on others, but what if we start to see it as everyone helping everyone to live out their purpose? God didn’t promise money, big homes, or even passion-filled careers. While I believe that often, an abundant life includes those things too, they shouldn’t be our why. Loving people will change the world. Empathy will fix the world. Cars, big houses, titles, and promotions won’t.
I challenge you to open your heart, just a little bit, just enough to let a sliver of light shine on the people around you who can be your safety net. You don’t have to jump all at once, but put one foot out and ask yourself if you feel safe. If so, keep moving, and eventually, you’ll realize, the net CAN hold your weight and help you back up. Lean in, friends.