I spent most of 2017 being pretty uncomfortable in my body.
The latter part of 2016 looked like severe anxiety that often left me absolutely breathless in between uncontrollable sobs.
I was fighting the truth that I didn’t want to be with a man that loved me more beautifully than you could ever hope to be loved, and the stress of denying and clawing against that truth (and deeper layers of my own truth in general, with my nails dug into the concrete ) shed thirty pounds off my frame with almost no effort at all.
All of a sudden (literally) I was skinnier than I’d been in YEARS.
I bought new clothes because none of mine fit me anymore as my waist got slimmer and my bellybutton came closer to my spine.
Every. Single. Day. Someone said “You look AMAZING! What have you been doing?”
“Oh you know, moving more, eating less” I would say out loud.
“Watching myself waste away in a kind of anxiety that has kept me up crying in the dark for three nights in a row.” I would say in silence.
Receiving that kind of feedback around my appearance when it was a result of the fact that I was crumbling mentally, emotionally and spiritually, was traumatic in a way that I would come to realize very slowly.
My body has been full since I started rounding the corner into puberty.
I knew Victoria’s secret by the time I was in 5th grade (spoiler alert - it’s tits).
In the slow process of maturing from a girl into a woman, I landed in a body that peaks and valleys in some very, very adult ways,
long before I came into an adult psyche.
Eventually I learned how to hold the power of that and stepped into a confidence that walked into a room before I did, and that felt so easy in its lioness-like nature.
As 2017 unfolded and I started to take gradual and agonizing steps towards true self realization and wholeness, my outward appearance began once again, to evolve. I saw myself expressed outwardly, in the fullness I felt inwardly.
Let me tell you, these curves came back with a vengeance. But I didn’t feel like a lion anymore.
And I was not prepared to love this body this way.
So I spent the year meeting my faulty programming that said that my thinner self was my better self - somehow my more desirable self. Or that my body was my SELF at all. I couldn’t understand how or why my form was changing so drastically in such short amounts of time. I tested my thyroid, I followed plans to balance my hormones through careful roadmaps and restrictions in my diet, and I felt the unruly pain of filing how I nourish my body under “good” or “bad” or “reward” or “restriction” or “can” and “can’t”. If you got real about your relationship to food, the statistics around how many people struggle with some form of disordered eating would be truly startling.
Coming into 2018, I was ready to claim my body and stop hiding. I texted my friend Jen and asked her if she’d take some pictures of me. I’d gotten so uncomfortable having my picture taken, unable to bear the sight of myself in a photo, that I needed to just bound straight into it, ready to land without shame in this suit that houses my spirit - this remarkably intelligent body. On a gloomy day just like today, I laid down my mat on a friends’ rooftop, closed my eyes, and flowed. The edges between my inner and outer landscapes blurred as I just listened, intuitively guided and just…honest. Everything vibrated with the throbbing boldness that can only be described as the glory of coming home.
A few nights prior, I stood naked before a lover after being totally ravished from spirit to flesh. “Do you love your body?” he asked me as he lay wrapped in heavy white blankets, admiring the sight of me silhouetted against a distant light. I smiled “Most days.” I meant that. Most days.
What I’ve learned is that the way to best care for this thing (for me), is to trust it as my ally. It has repeatedly revealed its ability to decay, regenerate, heal, grow, and to do all of that over and over again as needed. The lesson has been to do the work to cultivate an intimate relationship of deep intuition. To listen for what it needs for nourishment - food, movement, relationship, touch, love, release, pleasure - and to understand ALL of that as care. Furthermore, that my worthiness as a human being isn’t tied to whatever that choice looks like. Whether that’s green juice or chocolate cake, there is nothing that I need to earn. It is my right to be nourished as I see fit, period.
As becoming takes place, we are invited to acknowledge that the body is just a vehicle that allows the spirit to ascend towards higher planes of consciousness, and that it just needs you to tune in and take care from a place of trust.
Dear body, thank you for holding me - from a flower to a seed, a lioness to a cub, and back home again.
“Quantum Physics teaches us that everything we thought was physical, is not physical. Everything is energy. That is all.” - Bruce Lipton
Everything is energy.
and the more macro manifestations of those things…
EVERYTHING is an outward expression of the energy that is moving through you, and being physically represented as you, as all things, at all times.
Energy is unchanging. The Laws of Thermodynamics - specifically the Law of Conservation of Energy - inform us of the fact that energy cannot be created or destroyed - it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.
Imagine that you have a glass of water, and you poured the contents of the glass into a bowl. The water has now changed shape, but it is still water despite being expressed differently. As I type this, it occurs to me that you could say the same about water and ice. Ice is still water, it’s just taken on a different form. Whatever the container for that energy is doesn’t alter the energy itself, and it cannot be created or destroyed. It always is. It always was.
In recent months I’ve become completely fascinated by how something as seemingly complicated and abstract as Quantum Physics, holds space for a belief that is really quite spiritual and divine - that everything is just one thing, and it is us. Like waves upon the ocean - individual representations of the same vastness.
Everything can be understood in this way. We are just one thing. Energy. Moving and vibrating and shifting and expressing what is within us - in infinite ways. Insert here, your relationship to a beloved or a dear friend, what you choose to do with your gifts in the form of work or hobbies - anything.
This is what it means to create. To direct the flow, and the expression of, the energy that we are.
Which leads me to an announcement of a project that I have to say, is probably the thing I’m currently most excited to be creating.
The Innergy Podcast.
In collaboration with my best friend - and the most brilliant creator, entrepreneur and problem solver I know - Nick Mohnacky (google “surfing entrepreneur” and you won’t find Kelly Slater - you’ll find Nick) and inspired by the conversations we have every single day, the Innergy Podcast is essentially a space for us to study energy - in the form of everything. We'll turn the volume up on the moments of awe, the life design, the travel, the entrepreneurship and creation, and the personal reflection and discovery that have not only expanded our consciousness individually, but that continue to bring us closer and to greater depths in our friendship.
This gift is one worth sharing, so here we are.
Originally, we were calling this The Wavelength Podcast, because everything in the Universe has wave nature and that’s awfully resonant for us. However, upon further discovery we realized that there’s more than a few Wavelength podcasts already out there making noise, so ignore us in this first teaser episode when you hear us make that reference.
When I found out that someone (a shit load of people) had beat us to the punch with the title, Nick immediately said
“What about INNERgy?”
Yes. 100% Yes.
We’re still a couple of weeks out from having the branding just right and the appropriate channels set up, but in the meantime we recorded an episode that we’re proud of and it’s worth sharing to introduce you to this baby.
So, World, welcome to The Innergy Podcast. Lean in.
INNERGY - ˈinər/jē - noun - the conscious cultivation and outward expression of the energy moving through you and being physically represented as you, as all things, at all times.
I woke up to a deliciously rainy Saturday morning with the first chill in the air I’ve felt in far too long for it to be officially Autumn. In my first few waking breaths, I texted my friend Jen and got the best response you could hope for on, well any morning really…
“Pancakes and coffee in 20?”
I take a look at the yoga classes happening in my hood today and there’s a restorative going on at a small, no-frills studio I really enjoy.
“Restorative at 11?”
Cue a perfect Saturday.
But alas, this is not about to be a story about a perfect Saturday. This is about to be a story about yoga. About being a teacher. About being a student. And, it’s a moment of deep gratitude and love for my own teachers, Lizzy Moore and Caroline Wybar.
This is on the heels of a recent blog post by Lizzy that got quite a bit of attention. “Dear Yoga Teachers…” she wrote, “Do you understand anatomy? No? Then stop touching people.” It was a brilliant, intelligently informed, educated and fucking bold and brave plea to teachers everywhere to refrain from putting their hands on their students if they are not anatomically aware of what they’re doing. I read it and welled up with pride to be her student. I thought of this frequently during the class I took today. Since I became a teacher myself, I practice mostly on my own or with my teachers, so it’s rare that I’m in a space where I’m not intimately known by the person guiding my practice. That gap was apparent on my mat this afternoon.
Let me say first that you could take one hundred, 200-hour yoga teacher trainings and you’d have a different experience and absorb different information every single time. We’re not all being given the same framework just because there’s a “200 RYT” next to our names. The fact that my teachers delivered a training that was hyper-focused on anatomy as a baseline for our education, to ensure that we could safely go out into the world and teach - is a downright unbelievable gift. We spent hours upon hours upon hours learning the vast and intricate landscape of the body, and even in that, only scratched the surface. However, I have an awareness of the body that informs me of, if nothing else, one very important thing: I. Should. Not. Touch. People. If I’ve just met someone, the likelihood that they’ve given me enough information (if any at all) to make intelligent and safe adjustments to their shapes, is extremely slim. For me personally, at this stage of my journey as a teacher, I’d be comfortable saying it’s impossible. Most students aren’t aware enough on their own to even articulate those things to us. Beyond all of that, the question I’ve been taught to ask myself is: why am I touching them?
This afternoon I got an assist in a pose that I always make a modification in. Virasana - Hero Pose. I modify here because I have had reconstructions in both my knees, and to go into the full expression of the posture (reclined all the way on my back) just isn’t available in my body for now. In fact if I recline much at all, I can feel the oncoming sensation of near-explosion in my knees. So in my body, this pose looks like sitting on a block and propping myself up on my hands as I lean back just enough to invite a stretch into my quads while still getting the benefits of deep flexion in my knees. I ALSO know to engage my core and keep my tailbone long in order to avoid getting compressed as fuck in my lumbar spine. Virasana is not a backbend. If I didn’t know all of that, based on the modification I was damn near forced into today, I would be in a LOT of pain right now. As this really sweet teacher came around and made adjustments to my shape and the student next to me, I actually felt incredibly violated without having been offered any of the cues that would keep me safe in the shape she seemed to think I needed to find. As she put her hand on my shoulder and pulled me backward, I thought “why are you touching me?”
Last Sunday I had coffee with an old friend that teaches an ancient and very consciously preserved lineage of meditation. He said “the role of a teacher is to hold up a mirror”. For me that statement is deeply resonant and wrought with truth. However, I do wish to take that thought a few steps further. The role of a teacher is to hole up a mirror - SAFELY. Our job is first and foremost, to remove ourselves from the equation. This is not about us. It is about them. In this mirroring, the promise I make to my students is to meet them where they’re at. In their truth and as such, at their edge as they know it in that moment. As I cultivate a relationship of trust and deep knowing, it is then and only then, safe to offer the gentle nudges to lean just beyond that edge that invite them to expand - be that physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
Have I adhered perfectly to this rule? Of course not. I’ve put my hands on plenty of students without knowing them well enough to be making anatomical adjustments. AND, some people really love to be assisted. There are ways we can love on our students by simply placing a hand in a way that lets them know you’re there and that they’re cared for, without potentially causing harm. Today was an excellent reminder of where the line is, and an opportunity to check myself as a teacher.
As I write this I’m truly stunned at the extreme gift of being the student of my own two, incredibly humble teachers. They’ve been two of the safest places I’ve ever had to meet my edge. Every part of me has been cared for as they’ve hold a mirror up and invited me to look. My body. My heart. My spirit. Indeed I’ve painfully shed layers of fear, limiting beliefs, and ego in this journey together, but never without a soft landing place, and only at the rate of my own readiness. I could truly never say this enough: thank you. For never ever making it about you, so that I would know to never, ever make it about me.
If you are a student in the care of any teacher in any lineage of yoga, please know that you are there to be served. If something doesn’t feel good (in any way, physical, emotional, etc), please speak up. Tell us. If you are met with resistance then perhaps that isn’t the space for you to continue on your journey. It is not about us. It is about you.
May you be safely held as you are met with a mirror and offered in service to take a look.
Studies show that a startling 75% of all women have never had an orgasm.
I am not part of that 75%.
I’ve been masturbating since I was a child. (Very) blissfully ignorant of what I was doing exactly besides stumbling upon something that felt real good - since I was in single digits. I lost my virginity at the average age of 16 years old and had my first orgasms (that I was conscious of) shortly thereafter.
By 17 I was in a relationship that would span the course of the next six years and I tallied up hundreds upon hundreds of O moments with a partner that I loved deeply. I felt safe and cared for as I got to know my body more intimately by way of our partnership, through some crucial developmental years as a young woman. Every time we had sex - I came. We’d connect and I knew my needs would be met without effort. It was almost mathematical really. Just like 1+1 = 2, Stef + J = you’re getting off tonight, sister.
It wasn’t until long after that relationship ended that I learned that not all sexual encounters result in waves crashing and gospel choirs rejoicing as your pleasure peaks. Well...that’s a bummer.
Over the next handful of years, I remained single but not necessarily celebrate (read: whatever is the exact opposite of celibate - not a slutty phase) (it was definitely a slutty phase). And it was in this season that the essential pieces of the puzzle that were this now elusive orgasm began to come together and they were two fold:
The rest of this story lives over at Nymph NYC. Check it.
On a recent Sunday morning, I called a meeting to nurture a challenging conversation, in a relationship where my stellar communication skills pretty much always fail me. I wonder if talking to your parents when they think you’ve fucked up gets easier after 27. Stay tuned.
Our relationship as of late has been pretty tense. Wrought with layers of deep hurt brought on by words that can’t be unsaid, actions that can’t be undone, energies that can’t be un-felt. The dialogue on that humid Sunday morning across our family table was a long time coming, long overdue in fact. In many ways, I’ve been readying for it for close to two years. That’s two years too long, but hey, human - guilty. Work in progress - also guilty.
As I sat across the table from the two people who brought me into the world, I asked what they wanted to get out of our conversation that morning. With a shrug of their shoulders, they more or less both expressed the same desire. A solution. What I know about us is that even with the best of intentions, we can be defensive and stubborn with each other, and from there a total shut down occurs pretty rapidly. In wanting to alleviate suffering for all of us, I knew that there was only one way to move forward if we were going to land without crashing...
And so I softened into listening. I received all of the ways I’d caused them pain. They were angry, and it's essential that there’s space for that to be felt by them and heard by me. The first step towards healing is acknowledging the sensation as it rises, and giving it a name. I’m inclined to think that the second step is being able to share that narrative with the trigger point for that sensation. In this exchange, I showed up having already committed to a place of neutrality so that the space I was agreeing to hold for them was as safe as it could be - with room for humanity in all of that. This looks like having taken the time to process my own feelings around the situation, and explored the different tributaries of responsibility off the main river of “relationship”. It also looks like asking if I can share my narrative too, and allowing myself to be “in the feels” as they say. (i.e. crying while NOT eating the Everything bagel in front of me which should clearly express to you that I was in the aforementioned feels…because a Jew doesn’t pass up a bagel on a Sunday morning)
In listening to these tales that form their current individual, and collective realities, I was inspired to share with them, a thought that has brought a cool breeze to the fiery temperatures that rise up in my own heart when I feel hurt by someone. Watching my mom in body language that was rigid and combative, her face contorted in anger and assertion, I saw her in a way that is so essential to the formula of true healing: I saw her as a human being who is having the experience of a primary, unmet need.
Let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way that I’m not perfect. But you knew that already because you’ve been doing this human-ing thing for a while and have definitely figured out by now that “perfect” and “human” aren’t exactly in the same realm as “peanut butter” and “jelly” as far as two things that go together are concerned. If not, well, spoiler alert. Anyway…I’m super flawed, BUT in the process unlearning years of faulty programming and discovering where there is healing to be done, I’ve learned a thing or two and taken note of lessons that invite more love in. More sweetness to round out times that hit my tongue with bitterness. One of those noteworthy lessons is to let compassion be the filter through which I view others who are the catalyst for discomfort, or who are perceiving me as the cause of their strife.
Through this lens, we get to remain whole. When we break down the scenario that’s preventing someone from experiencing you as an ally and seek to understand what basic need isn’t being met, we instantly shift into compassion. If I can put my own ego aside for a second and hear the person I’m relating to from a neutral place (as in, not making anything they’re saying good or bad, right or wrong, and just receive it as information that supports me in being able to relate) then I can find a way to meet them, right there. Because of the fact that I, like them, am also a human with basic needs, I can understand what not having that need met feels like. Needs like feeling loved, feeling seen or heard, feeling safe and secure. Essentially all gaps in our ability to experience the other as our ally, rather than an enemy, can be boiled down to these basic rites of our humanity going unserved in some way.
There’s no doubt that I too, was moving through layers of hurt as I showed up to this conversation with Momma and Poppa bear. But when we’re rooted in the desire to continue to relate and to invite healing into the environment, equipped with sympathetic consciousness, we’re able to shift out of the “enemy” mindset that automatically triggers with the recognition of a pain point. What I ask myself in times of tension between myself and another is this: “What need does this person have that isn’t being nourished by this moment?” From there, we come to a meeting place that looks something like eye-level. It is only from this place that we can see each other.
The guts of this strategy though, is the choice to take responsibility for each other, even when we’re identifying with hurt. It’s not an easy choice, but it is one that moves us closer to the heart-forward world of our dreams. It is consciously stepping into neutrality in the effort to alleviate one another’s suffering.
In the scope of our humanity, there are endless possibilities in how we choose to relate to each other.
But first, compassion.
Five days ago I was sitting on a chair that looked like a fish, outside of a little burrito shack in Montauk, eating an açai bowl.
This is the last place I expected to be five days ago.
The fish-shaped chair next to me was occupied by my best friend. "What is 27 about?" he asked.
This is exactly who I expected to be asking me this question.
Today is my 27th birthday.
26 was brutal. Held in the container of 26 were the sharpest of learnings. The last 365 days have shown me the full spectrum of my humanity. To each end of the pendulum, I've swung - from absolute unbounded bliss to the deepest pain and back again.
26 was torture by a thousand tiny cuts. More than a handful of times I have been quite literally brought to my knees as I saw into parts of myself that hold the shadows we spend lifetimes keeping in their caves. I've seen into the ugliest parts of my being as a human.
I dug deep for the things I have been most ashamed to be, and I claimed them.
I am that.
26 showed me crippling anxiety, debilitating (and I mean really, really debilitating) exhaustion, cruel manipulation by way of someone else's attachment to my growth, the bottom of the financial barrel, feeling smaller and less significant than I knew I could feel, body shame, alienation, rejection, complete and utter powerlessness...
All of it, in a kind of agony that just kept growing,
26 - you beat the fucking shit out of me.
It was the best year of my entire life.
26 was when I woke the fuck up. When the veil of falseness was lifted and I learned what it means to see. I moved through excruciating revelations of the truth - THE truth - as
I shed layer
26 made me an entrepreneur. I leaned into the gnawing feeling in my belly that said "jump".
And every single time,
I've learned just how infinite my impact is. Heard how mighty my voice is. Blew the fucking lid off of my creativity. All constraint around how I offer my gifts to the world has been removed as I discover what it means to live a fully expressed life.
26 showed me just how deep a friendship could be. I am truly known. For the first time in my life, there are keepers of my tale. Reflections of my own light that have taken responsibility for me. For us. For my story. Relationship of any kind offers us a polar experience of our own truth. They reveal me to myself
In a kind of love that does not yield.
26 reshaped how I perceive abundance. I have had absolutely no money to my name and still I have been rich. In every single moment I’ve had exactly what I needed in the most basic and perfect of ways. And often, I’ve had more.
More creativity, more community, more wonder, more love, more compassion, more support, more adventure, more truth.
26 taught me unconditional love - to truly love someone without condition. I’ve fallen IN love three times in the last 365 days. Actually, I’ve fallen in love thousands of times with people I only knew for a moment - but there are three that altered me forever. In their mirroring, I saw - continue to see - deeper.
They continue to influence how I shape my reality every single day because I love them without requiring a specific container to funnel that into. Regardless of the framing, the picture contained within is the same. Pure, unbounded love.
26 revealed the magic of my body.
of my physical form has made clear the intelligence of this bag of bones.
This impermanent vessel housing my true Nature as Spirit itself.
In this skin I have known the sweetest, most delicious bliss.
I am more in my body than ever before,
and it is in that landing that I can ascend.
26 instilled the unshakable belief in what must be what people call God. The Universe. Spirit. Source. The Most High.
Because I’ve been to the blackest bottom amidst the most penetrating fear, I’ve leaned into the only remaining option in moments of paralyzing uncertainty and despair…
Ask for a miracle.
I get one.
In the final moment where I am one breath away from being swallowed,
I am delivered unto a miracle.
I am held perpetually in a Grace that can only be perceived as Divine.
What’s more is that I know -
thanks to 26
- that I AM that Divinity.
There is only one scope, and
26 was a tempering. A repeated thrust into the flames and a subsequent drowning in the iciest waters.
And in this tempering I knew,
the unremitting strength of steel.
26 was a deliverance to the intersection of curiosity and wonder - where Moments of Awe live.
26 was knowing with every fiber of my being
that I am
because I have breath in my lungs.
26 was breathing and believing.
I will remember my 26th year for the rest of this life.
So to answer the question of the man sitting next to me on a fish-shaped chair on a perfect day in Montauk,
who has changed my life and everything contained within it
“27 is about
Embodying a kind of autonomy I’ve never known but can feel myself stepping into.
I am ready for that shit.
27 is about
Wealth. I am so unashamed to say that I am calling in THAT kind of richness because I know - have seen and heard and felt - how important my gifts are for this world and the time for shouting that from the fucking rooftops with reckless abandon,
27 is about
Freedom. Total flow state. The path of least resistance and fullest expression.
27 is about
Showing the fuck up. Unafraid. Unbounded. Unrelenting.
27 is about
He is smiling because he knew the answer all along.
Today is my 27th birthday. Five days since the sunshine and acai and fish-shaped chairs in Montauk.
I’m in Hoboken, New Jersey in a gorgeous home on a steep hill.
The air is crisp but its edges are soft.
I’ve never heard this many birds chirping.
I’ve never been paying such close attention to this moment.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one.
I have no idea when we’re going home.
I know that there is nowhere to go.
26 - thank you for everything.
27 - I am ready to become you.
It takes me a few minutes to notice that there’s no music playing. I smile with my eyes closed. She did this on purpose.
Where’s your breath?
What’s the dialogue in the mind?
What’s the feeling?
Are you listening?
“Take this moment to set an intention for your practice if that speaks to you.” offers this friend, this sister, this teacher that my intuition led me to on this sweltering Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of practices. Hundreds of intentions. It occurs to me that I’m not sure how meaningful that feels and I’m a little surprised at my own questioning. At the honesty of it.
Is this actually going to mean something?
Am I truly resonating with this intention?
What will that really mean for this practice?
I wonder. And then…
Head over to Elephant Journal to continue reading this story.
Emotional Intelligence is a sexy sounding term that boils down to a simple awareness - tuning in to what is occurring for you, and being able to discern and label accordingly, and doing the same when reading someone else. It's a system of information processing that holds space for everyone's needs and ensures that we're communicating honestly, intentionally, from our highest Self to the highest Self we know to exist in others. If we’re paying attention, we notice that we don’t have to search hard for this information because we are all offering it up both verbally and non-verbally at every single second. This past week, I had a situation come up where I felt the need to serve up some radical honesty with a friend. Calling on some Emotional Intelligence tools (including Emotionally Intelligent friends - looking at you David) helped me navigate these waters with confidence, and a cool, caring detachment around whether a shift came through or not.
When it comes to the delicate art of productive communication, using this intelligence is our greatest ally. In action, this looks like checking in and ask what's really happening, what we're really requesting (there’s ALWAYS a request when we’re creating dialogue around our feelings), and why we're bringing voice to whatever it is that we're sharing as we ready ourselves to practice this aforementioned radical honesty. Before I step up to speak up, I ask myself some questions to tap into the abundance of Emotional Intelligence that is available to me by simply being willing to listen for my own truth. I ask myself if I'm:
So we check our ego, right? It’s okay if this is about you, as long as it supports your growth and this is the highest vibrating version of you we’re talking about here. We can serve our own needs, “selfish” as they may be, and take a stand for everyone that glorious higher Self . The other side of this coin though, is that I’m not only fully informed as to my own emotions, but that I’m looking and listening for clues that give insight as to where my counterpoints are at in their emotional space. To that end, I check not only my own energy, but theirs too. First and foremost, I make sure I’ve invited compassion to guide me through the interaction - a masterful and graceful informant, always. Then, a few more questions (already buzz worthy set in the world of EQ) bring me home to the fullest emotional astuteness so that I can activate my voice from a safe, bold and elevated place:
Tapping into this Emotional Intelligence leads me into an awareness that supports me in being able to release any attachment to my own stories or desired outcomes - compassion always, always, always, over control. It allows for me to hold people in the greatest of care as I use my entire being to get a sense of what is happening energetically, and to own my ability amplify the volume around whatever I’m sensing inwardly. And when we can speak from this expanded place, well, that’s when shift gets real.
This story lives on elephant journal. Head on over to give it a read.
Ego. What association do you have with that word? My assumptions are that it automatically makes you feel…defensive. That you’d be put off by someone who had an inflated sense of it and that you’d have to be on guard in the presence of that kind of energy. Ego feels wrong. It feels selfish. It feels untrustworthy, right?
The couple of months or so have been marked by inquiry around this particular subject as it relates to my own sense of self. Particularly, observing the energy I put out unto the world, and observing it’s receipt. In this inquiry, I’ve looked into the proverbial mirror and studied a woman who has spent her entire life comfortably identifying as confident, self-assured, powerful - and comfortably owning that. For the first time, I’ve examined this subject of ego in the scope of this woman and asked some hard questions. Sometimes that question is: Am I an asshole?
What really is this ego, anyway? If we look first at ego through the lens of Freudian theory, the ego is the part of the mind that “mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and cultivating a sense of personal identity.” That actually sounds like a positive thing, doesn’t it? My ego gives me a perception of reality that supports my function as a human being in the physical world. If we shift into study of the ego with a spiritual perspective, the ego is what keeps us aligned with fear, in the belief of separateness from the Divine. This is the ego I that I acknowledge as less powerful or positive, knowing that I can choose love over fear as my guide. But one theme appears common amongst the various associated definitions - the ego is (small) self serving and preserving.
By and large we believe ego to be a bad thing. Generally speaking when something is self-serving it generates a feeling of selfishness or disregard for the wellbeing or care of others. But I think there’s an opportunity to reframe these thoughts, and for an important distinction to be made between ego and ownership of personal power.
The latter is what I have personally always aligned with, as opposed to being what society might typically refer to as an ego-maniac. But recently I’ve had a few experiences that have triggered the questioning of where I land between the two and how that influences my interactions with others.
What is revealed as essential is acknowledging where people are meeting you within their own journey. Someone’s potential aversion to (or attraction to!) whatever you put out, is often a projection or reflection of their own experiences. Their own sense of self and how secure that is, societal conditioning that informs someone’s biases or opinions, and on and on and on. It’s not [always] necessarily about us, specifically. We perhaps just represent a trigger of some kind. Leading with compassion allows us to be mindful as we navigate. Tuning in lets us know by which of the two, ego or confidence, we are going forth from.
Indeed it is my divine right to shine, to stand in my power and to fear not in presenting myself to the world in ownership of that strength, that wisdom, that magnetism and - dare I say - badassery. What I’m starting to get clear on is that how that’s received is all quite relative, really - and checking my energy is proven as crucial here yet again. If my intention is always to use that confidence to create a space that is safe for someone to lean in, to let their guard down knowing they are in the security of a leader who knows she’s got this, whatever this is, then I can claim the value in that all damn day.
So from here we shift our perspective and as a result, our questioning. Ask yourself (myself) not, "am I an asshole" - Ask yourself "am I using my powers for good?" And if the answer is yes, then be unapologetic in the ownership of your might.