I have a question for you…

How much do you hold back from showing the world all of you?

How many true words have you swallowed because you feel that if you truly said what you felt, really allowed yourself to express the fullness of who you are, shadow and light…

that love would be withdrawn from you and the people you love would be disappointed?

Do you sometimes feel afraid to put yourself out there with your great work because you’re afraid that people might see that you’re not always perfect and therefore see you as a “fraud”?

If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone.

I’ve certainly felt that way many times as my business has grown.

And I’ve coached nearly all of my clients through similar feelings.

And I find it to be one of the biggest obstacles that holds back most future visionaries and thought leaders from really succeeding in their great work and making the impact they want to make.

One of the things I teach to a lot of my clients who want to stand out from the oversaturation of coaches and entrepreneurs out there right now…

is that what truly makes our business stand out, what truly makes our great work unique and recognizable, what truly allows us to make impact…

is embracing ALL of who we are–shadow and light–and not being afraid to show that to the world.

When we can do that, our leadership becomes incredibly powerful.

We liberate others into doing the same and embracing all of who they are.  And very often, when one of my clients has this breakthrough and stops “hiding” in their business, they will simultaneously begin to experience the success they always desired.

Leadership, success and impact all starts within.

It is an inner game, more than it is a game of templates and blueprints.

Because how can you apply everything you’ve learned, studied…all of the programs you’ve purchased and all the “gurus” you’ve studied with, if you’re too afraid to truly put yourself out there?

A few months ago, after leaving my Lead Mastermind Retreat and arriving back home, one of my clients had one such breakthrough.  She had a powerful experience about the very thing I’m talking about and wrote about a secret she had been keeping to herself for years.

After leaving the retreat, she was finally able to write about it publicly for the first time.  Even though she had known for months that it was time to share with her community.

The responses to her post were astounding.  The post went viral with many people identifying with what she was talking about.  I saw what a nerve her post about her secret hit with everybody and I asked her to share it with us all today.

This is one story you will not want to miss.

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The Lead Retreat in Panama changed my life. I cannot adequately use words to describe the retreat location. The connection I felt to nature was unlike anything I have ever felt; the land where we stayed was like a beautiful blanket of calm. The energy was serene. We were surrounded by waterfalls, luscious greenery and the most open sky I have ever witnessed.

In addition to the beautiful scenery was the beautiful group of women. From the first moment, we created a sacred, present, open circle. This allowed me to go deep deep within – to places that I avoided my entire life. And within just a few days, I moved past blocks that I had been working on in therapy for a good 15 years.  I learned to love my shadow.

Our outward persona – the way we present ourselves to the outside world – is so often our perfect, happy, evolved self; full of love and light.

But deep down (or not so deep down), we have a dark side. The side that we are ashamed of; the side society has taught us is unacceptable and inappropriate – our shadows should be hidden.

On the retreat, Lisa asked me this: what happens when a picture has no shadow?

The answer, at least to my artistic eye, is that it has no depth, it is flat – it is dull, to be honest.

No one wants to talk about this. I never wanted to talk about it. Well, that part of me – that angry girl I uncovered at Lisa’s retreat (my hidden little vampire) – she needs to be heard.

Most of my life, I struggled with minor depression, anger, perfectionism. I judged myself constantly. I told myself over and over that I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough or cool enough.

I certainly wasn’t skinny enough (coming from the tiny gymnast who would eat less than 1,000 calories a day while training 5+ hours per day). I was a nationally competitive gymnast for 15 years, and when you are performing half-naked in a leotard in front of thousands of people live and on TV, of course you want to come off as perfect.

When our only goal is to score a “Perfect 10.0” – and we learn this at the age of 6 – anything less means there was something wrong with your performance – “perfect practice makes perfect” some coaches would say.

One minor slip or bent leg would haunt me for weeks, months even. I would dwell on all I did wrong; rarely acknowledging the things I did well – the accomplishments I still achieved with the bobbles or falls, including competing and qualifying to the Junior Olympics in high school; understanding and embodying that you could still “win” with mistakes.  I judged that girl in me who could not appreciate or even acknowledge the positives of a situation.

I have hung onto guilt for years, feeling sad for no reason, or total anger when a cab driver takes a route that I do not agree with. These uncontrollable rushes of emotion (whether outrage or weeping) puzzled me – “what do I have to be sad about?”, I would ask myself.

“I have an incredibly blessed life. I have an incredibly close, loving family, a wife who adores me, a business that allows me to travel and explore the world and help others…who the hell am I to cry? Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve to be down, to cry on a beautiful sunny afternoon at home with my family.”

You do NOT deserve to feel negative feelings, I would tell myself. You with the skinny body, beautiful blue eyes, soulmate, supportive family – you have it “ALL”. What is wrong with you that you hold onto childhood pain – you are an adult. You have been to years of therapy. So just let it go.

NO. Enough.

With Lisa’s guidance, and the women who held the space for me at the Lead Retreat, I realized that I deserve to fully feel ALL of these feelings. And I learned that when I do that, I can allow others to feel them, too.

I finally give myself permission to feel and to voice them.  For I am you and you are me, as I learned at the retreat. I am a living, breathing being and because of that it is my birthright to feel and emote unapologetically – for any reason, at any time.

At the retreat, in my 1:1 session with Lisa, when I delved deep into my “dark side”, the angry girl, she came forth with a frown and was in all black – goth-like. While Lisa guided me, we talked to her – we asked her what she needed and what I was not giving her.

Her answers were what we ALL need — she needed acknowledgement and validation. All she wanted was to be seen and heard – it was beautifully tragic that I hadn’t been giving that to her by not letting myself feel or express my feelings, telling myself everything was “perfect” so what did I have to be angry or sad about?

She asked me to speak of her. To share her in order to help others.

We then asked her why she was a part of me and what is it that she gives me. And this pure love shone through – she gives me compassion. I am compassionate to others, but I do not give that to myself. She also provides me with growth – growth in helping me to release my emotions – providing me a wide range of emotions; granting me the ability to help a vast variety of women because I have felt quite a wide spectrum of feelings in my life.

This little girl, one that I have been ashamed of and pushed deep down, has been a blessing all along…growth & compassion – what gifts. My own internal alchemist.

After communicating with her in this exercise, she became closer to me – in proximity of my vision and in connection. Her clothes turned to a light light gray – almost white – color. And then, she curled up into me, resting her head on her hands on my lower right chest; cuddled up, finally allowing herself to rest as she was now heard.

Having a few days to reflect on this since the retreat, I realized that as a total extrovert, I am more comfortable outside of myself. Turning in for too long causes pain. My body goes into survival mode and would turn numb so that I wouldn’t feel or hurt (not too surprising for in gymnastics, if you got hurt, you ignored it and kept going).

I never fully realized that by doing this, I was actually prolonging the hurt and the pain – burying it wasn’t dealing with it (intellectually, I got that, but I just lived in my head and not in my full being, so the brain was as far as it would flow internally) – so years later, the pain is still there, and all I know is I have pain, but cannot fully remember why – it was a disservice to myself and others.

Ultimately, energy could not flow past my root chakra up to my shoulders — it was like an energy-dead area — this prevented me from fully appreciating or experiencing (for prolonged periods) immense positive emotions. I thought I was just suppressing the painful feelings, but I was also preventing myself from the pleasure.

A few things I learned in Panama and am committed to practicing:

::Face the fear.

::Welcome the pain. It will pass more quickly
.

::Express gratitude for the pain because it means you are alive.

::Embrace the full spectrum of feelings and the various forms they may take. Do this unapologetically
.

::Weep & cry like a hungry baby.

::Scream with the force of a lion’s roar.

::Love intensely and fiercely with no boundaries
.

::Do not judge others around you for their emotions.

::Accept yourself – including your invisible wounds – as you are.

::Be present in every moment
.

::Be gentle and patient through this process.

And with all of this — have no shame. Babies and animals express themselves with no judgment. Allow yourself to move through the feelings – not past them in an attempt to circumvent them.

Just Be.

Be unattached to a result, the fear, the pain — it is all an illusion. It is created in our mind; a story manifested by our own individual selves – a haunting story that repeats itself over and over.

What if we changed that story? What if we were to script a new story? A tale where only positive images and prose danced like a film in front of our eyes.

Others may call you naive. I call you brave.

Be brave, my love. Release and fly.


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