Nothing speaks louder than authentic stories. My post today is in dedication to The Skinny Dip Society, which is an incredible blog tour where 20 women join for 20 days, each sharing about her life and writing about how to feed your soul, free your body, and love your life.
When my fellow blogger Katie Den Ouden asked me to join her, I jumped at the opportunity and am so honored to be part of the ride… or should I say, the dip;) Make sure to check out this amazing line-up of my fellow Skinny Dip Society ladies.
But now, on to my Skinny Dip post:
The question that changed my life
6 years ago I found myself in NYC living a life that looked pretty awesome on the outside: I was at Columbia University about to finish a highly competitive postbaccalaureate premedical program that was supposed to get me into a top medical school. I was living with a bunch of my college girlfriends and was going on lots of dates to fancy restaurants.
What barely anyone knew, however, was that I felt utterly exhausted by the cut throat competition of my program, empty of passion and excitement for my future, and starved for real love.
What should I say? I was great at holding it together and putting on a smile.
Admitting that I hated my life would have broken that secret pact I had made with myself somewhere in between 11 and 25 that said: NEVER show vulnerability, embarrassment, or weakness.
“That’s when you look stupid, get taken advantage of and people stop respecting you,” I told myself.
And so I pushed on, studied harder, competed for better grades more fiercely, hid my imperfections, forced my body to work out no matter how I felt, tried to be that perfect cute-sy girl that any guy should want… you get the picture.
I sacrificed myself and my well-being for who I thought I should be; hiding my edges, my truth, my uniqueness. I had lost myself while trying to please the world.
The turnaround point came when my back gave in and I had shooting pain down my leg. At 25, I was diagnosed with herniated disks in my lower spine that -according to my doctor then- required surgery if I wanted to move my right toes again.
I could no longer deny the shittiness that had become my life, the obvious imbalances, the denial of my femininity and softness, the pain I was feeling on the inside.
At first I was angry at my body. Furious at my pain. Restless in my mind. Now I see my injury as the biggest blessing in disguise: My body knows. My body wants my best.
I ended up withdrawing my medical school applications and instead got my M.A. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on the unconscious. I dissected my dreams, explored my true desires, tuned up the volume on my ability to be vulnerable, and wrote my thesis on women and the mind body connection.
This was challenging at times no doubt, and yet, I L.O.V.E.D. every second of learning how to GIVE to others by becoming myself.
Ultimately this professional switch embodied a switch in my life. I finally followed my true interests, nourished my soul, and ditched the whole perfection-silliness that our society preaches into our ears often from the moments we are little girls.
As a result, I am now standing in my purpose as a life coach, am deeply in love with my fiancé (our wedding is in 2.5 weeks <squeal>), and have a playful relationship with my body (which by the way is finally pain-free). I am not saying that I know it all and life is always blissful and easy. It's not. BUT I am ok with that. I am along for the ride, excited for the future and don't beat myself up over nothing.
So HOW -with what question- did I change my life?
When I was pursuing the externally perfect life, I constantly asked myself what I wanted to GET from life?
A medical degree. Stepping into my parent’s M.D. footsteps. Money. A perfect body. Admiration. Other people’s approval. Respect. A man that everyone would want but who chose me. Love.
When I was recovering from my back surgery, I began to ask myself instead: What do I want to GIVE?
Soul healing. Creation of safe, warm, beautiful environments for other women. Reflection. Deep experiences. Aha-moments. Gratitude. Balance. Centeredness. A happy body that hosts a sharp mind. My whole authentic self. Love.
It changed my path; my life.
You see, true lasting fulfillment will never come from the things you GET. Instead it is a result from the things you GIVE.
It is a result from connecting with your authentic self: full on vulnerability, stepping just outside of your comfort zone, your heart on fire kind of authenticity.
Getting is outside of your personal power, dependent on other people, contingent on circumstance. You look at your life from the outside in.
Giving is within your personal power and originates from who you are at your core. You look at your life from the inside out.
That is the space where you will make a difference. This is your purpose.
So let me ask you: What do you want to give?
This can be a super simple, easy, intuitive, free-spirited answer. For example, I started this inquiry with I want to give comfort, warmth, laughter, healing space, beautiful dinner parties with great food, deep conversation, and lots of candles. The point is to start this inquiry and switch your mindset from “getting” to “giving.” The answers -your truth- will come from there.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and spontaneous reactions to GIVING in the comments below.
With love and in gratitude for reading my story. I deeply hope it is helpful to you.
P.S.: Don’t forget to check out the lineup of wonderful Skinny Dip writer here.
To give you a little taste: Yesterday, we heard from the wonderful Ashley Paquin, giving you inspiration about the good life and tomorrow, you will hear from Jamie Mendell, a beautiful lady who specializes on food and happiness.