It doesn’t matter to me. I can take the classical-psychology approach, or the New Age version of the topic; the lessons about Living Bravely are going to be the same. Whether I’m ignoring Who I Really Am because my Ego’s at the wheel, or, because I’m not listening to my Inner Being (ergo, the wisdom of Divine Guidance)… the outcome’s going to be the same.
Living Bravely means living authentically. But ‘bravely’ and ‘authentically’ might be open-for-interpretation-words for many people. Me included. In fact, I tend to get tripped-up and bogged-down by too many words – one of my noticeable shortcomings / annoying habits when you meet me in real-time. Also, the meanings of words are always shifting. Ever since Disney created the “Frozen” franchise, I can’t think of the word ‘Brave’ without music and animation.
So I’ve found that, since Living Bravely is most definitely an active-participation-required creative art, the best way (as with most artistic creations) to experience whether or not I’m living authentically (bravely, true to myself, authentically) is to not overthink, but to feel.
I don’t really need to use my mind at all, to gauge whether or not I’m truly living and living truly – just my body. I reflect on all of the aspects of my Life that reveal just how engaged I am in this experience: sleep issues (too much or too little), and health issues (strength, immune system, weight) are biggies. Also in the mix: How satisfying are my relationships? Am I bored-anxious-depressed and ready to self-medicate? (Chocolate, cocktails, Netflix, sixteen-hour workdays – I’ve tried them all.)
Every day, all day, our bodies are sending us signals and signs as to how grounded we are in who we really are. Early in my short blogging experience I wrote a Post about why “Just Do You” (one of the major self-help slogans or mantras of the past decade) feels so hard. I speculated that (and still believe) the urge to “go along, to get along” – which women, in particular, are susceptible to – is largely to blame or credit for keeping us from following our natural instincts. The Ego wants praise and acceptance, above all things. From a New Age perspective, it’s much the same: we haven’t been taught to listen to our Inner Being because we believe that the reality in front of our noses is ‘more real’ than anything we could ever come up with in our hearts.
But the mind-heart connection is strong. When we lie to ourselves and / or to others, we introduce toxins to our bodies. When we pretend to be what we aren’t, or choose to ignore the people we know are ‘fake’, our hearts get swallowed up by sadness and despair – even as we force that sadness down and away. If we choose the job, or person, or whatever-option we know in our gut is not right for us, the feelings are going to pop to the surface sooner or later, just like a cork in the water. They might appear as tears, or sleeplessness, or gluttony/starvation, or paralyzing anxiety.
One of the most helpful ‘tricks’ I’ve used, to avoid doing what’s not in ‘alignment’ with who I am when I’m faced with an important choice or decision, is to allow myself time to feel the answer. How many (!) instances there’ve been, where I needed to take a beat. The new job – more money and prestige – but at great personal cost; an offer of marriage from someone I felt I didn’t fully know; taking something or someone at face-value, while my instincts flashed yellow caution lights. Anything that causes a little intake of breath, or ‘butterflies’, is the quiet whisper of my Inner Being: Wait. Breathe. Feel. The people and opportunities of greatest value will wait for us, while we Bravely check-in with who we really are, and what we really want…living out our right to act on those desires, no matter our age or circumstance.