WHERE DO YOU GO TO CONNECT WITH YOUR MOST AUTHENTIC SELF?
Monday morning after an early OrangeTheory workout, I returned home, sweaty and bundled up in my green puffer coat that has become my only reliable coping strategy for frigid, Utah winters. I had 45 minutes until Benj would wake up so I sat on the gray swivel chair in my upstairs office and began my 3-minute Headspace meditation.
The soft light from my desk lamp lit the room and I felt the silent, sleeping world around me. This particular mediation was focused on “Restoration,” and the calm, British male voice took me through a visualization with sunlight. I closed my eyes and immediately transported myself to Maui.
I sat on the black rocks that line the shore between Front Street and Wahikuli Wayside Park, a small picnic area just off the main highway in Lahaina that I used to run to from my house. My meditation was just like my actual experience there. I was wearing running shoes, a tank top and basketball shorts (I hadn’t discovered real workout clothes yet). The sunlight beamed on my arms and shoulders as I took deep breaths that smelled of sea salt and grilled pineapple, wrapped in a bun of humidity.
WHAT EXPERIENCES SHAPED WHO YOU ARE TODAY?
In my last blog post on cultivating authenticity, I mentioned how I often refer back to my “Maui Manda” self. The 21-year-old version of me who first discovered herself while living in Maui. My adventures there are best saved for future blog posts, but in terms of the life experiences that shape who we are, the summer of 2007 in Maui was monumental for me.
My time there wasn’t fancy. I didn’t frolic around The Four Seasons at Wailea and drink piña coladas by the pool, I lived in a sizable 4-plex home with roommates whom I didn’t know prior to my move there. Our washing machine sat outside on our back patio and we line-dried our clothes in our bedrooms, waking up to the sound of roosters crowing and a dusting of tiny insect wings on our blankets (I never figured out how those got through the screen windows). The house was hot during the day, very worn, and the occasional cockroach encounter brought me literal chills and nightmares, but also some tear-jerking belly laughs that I’ll never ever forget.
I remember several moments of emotional struggle while in Maui. It wasn’t the “perfect” summer of my life, although it could certainly be disguised as such. I had moments where I felt very alone, misunderstood, like I didn’t belong or like I wasn’t enough. Feelings, I’m learning now, that are just part of life and part of my story.
But something I did there created a peace and truth inside me that has guided me through new struggles for the past 10 years. I was intentional about finding time to be present with myself, completely grounded in nature, and reflecting on how far I’d come while dreaming of where I’d go next and who I’d become. (You can picture me in a cross-legged yoga pose at sunset, but I never actually sat like that.)
WHAT FEELS TRUE FOR YOU?
I remember a few weeks before coming home, I was making plans to return to school to get my degree, looking up a 5k or two that I could train for and feeling not just content with myself, but excited about who I was. I didn’t just KNOW myself, I had fallen in love with myself in Maui. I owned my story.
I knew that I valued the simple things in life and I was proud of that. I didn’t need all the material things that were constantly in my face on the mainland (I loved being a “local” and referring to the rest of the country as “the mainland”). I knew I was imperfect, but I believed I was lovable.
I didn’t have the emotional vocabulary back then to put words or definitions to my values, but I always knew how they felt to me:
- Family is eternal—love unconditionally.
- Faith is power—act on it.
- Courage defines character—embrace it wholeheartedly.
- Authenticity breeds connection—let yourself be seen.
- Humor bonds us together—encourage it.
These 5 values make me feel the most alive. They are each deeply threaded throughout my life and make me who I am.
VALUES LIGHT THE WAY.
I’ve been lost several times between Maui Manda and “Nowie Manda” (I know, I’m so clever). Whether it was changing my major, staying at an unhealthy job for too long or starting a fashion blog and completely losing myself in the desire for perfection, I’ve regrettably forgotten some of my values at times.
But when Brené Brown’s work inspired me to find a therapist last fall to continue working through my issues, one of the first exercises we did together was a clarification of values from Brené’s The Daring Way curriculum. I later signed up for The Daring Way group class and have been building on my core values, making changes to re-align my life to them (capsule wardrobe anyone?) and I’m so happy to feel authentically me again.
It’s still hard some days. I can’t take my lunch break on the beach and pretend to be thousands of miles away from my shame triggers, the things that cause me to fear I’m not enough. But I am developing some rituals to more easily connect with my values every day (Headspace app being one of them) and I encourage you to do the same (more to come on this).
As I learned from Brené, “There are no guarantees in the arena. We will struggle. We will even fail. There will be darkness. But if we are clear about the values that guide us in our efforts to show up and be seen, we will always be able to find the light. We will know what it means to live brave.”
TAKE THE VALUES CLARIFICATION EXERCISE
When I started opening up about my struggles with perfectionism, that I’m seeing a therapist, and how passionate I am about Brené Brown’s work, several people requested to know more about the values exercise I did that sparked all this change. I’ve put together a simple download that’s adapted from Brené’s curriculum, using my own experience with the exercise. If you want to get clear about what values you hold most important, be sure to sign up for the free download below!