FACED WITH SERIOUS ILLNESS, SARA STOPS CHASING ACHIEVEMENT AND RECLAIMS HER INHERENT SELF-WORTH
ON GETTING SICK AND BEING MORE CONNECTED TO HERSELF:
"In 2012 I developed chronic Lyme disease. Prior to getting sick, I was chasing achievement to prove my worth and doing things because I “should.” I was living very much out of alignment with who I am and by an externally defined notion of "success." I was unhappy and stressed all the time and it affected my health. When I got sick I had to quit working and was practically bedridden for almost 2 years. During that time I did a lot of inner work and soul searching. Facing your own mortality will bring a lot of lessons to the forefront pretty quickly; what’s really important and things I think you might not realize until later in life.
"FACING YOUR OWN MORTALITY WILL BRING A LOT OF LESSONS TO THE FOREFRONT PRETTY QUICKLY; WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT AND THINGS I THINK YOU MIGHT NOT REALIZE UNTIL LATER IN LIFE."
It also made me look deeper into myself to see what was underneath all the pushing and striving for success. I could see how I had never really had a chance to be myself or know who I am - I was too busy trying to be what I thought the world wanted me to be and who I thought I needed to be in order to be “good enough” and feel safe. Getting sick was scary and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it did catalyze a transformation in me that has drastically improved my life. I’m more in touch with myself, can see that my worthiness and enoughness are inherent, can give myself the love and care I previously sought from pleasing others, and am living a life that honors my needs and desires. Through my inner work, I also regained my health (and am now a firm believer in the mind-body connection).
"I COULD SEE HOW I HAD NEVER REALLY HAD A CHANCE TO BE MYSELF OR KNOW WHO I AM - I WAS TOO BUSY TRYING TO BE WHAT I THOUGHT THE WORLD WANTED ME TO BE AND WHO I THOUGHT I NEEDED TO BE IN ORDER TO BE GOOD ENOUGH AND FEEL SAFE."
I’ve changed the career path I was on before I got sick and am now working as a career coach to help others through their own personal transformations. Our career is often the linchpin that holds everything together in our mind - our identity, self-worth etc. It’s where we do the most striving, pushing for achievement and an unsustainable amount of effort is involved. This was true for me. If we want a career (and life) that brings us joy and is in alignment with who we are, we need to start by looking at this deeper layer of things that led us to be out of alignment in the first place."
ON PUSHING THE LIMITS OF HER COMFORT ZONE FOR POSITIVE PERSONAL GROWTH:
"In a way I feel like my whole life, prior to my inner transformation, was lived outside my comfort zone. I never felt I could just be myself and was always trying to be a chameleon, fit in and do the right thing to be accepted or enough. When you live life that way, where you have to figure out all the time who you need to be, how you’re supposed to be, it all feels scary and out of your comfort zone. It’s not comfortable to feel like you don’t really belong or aren’t safe if you just be yourself. This meant I spent most of my life living from a place of fear and vigilance.
"IF YOU'RE CHALLENGING YOURSELF TO DO SOMETHING YOU GENUINELY WANT TO DO AND TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING THAT BRINGS YOU JOY, THEN GO FOR IT."
Now that I’ve unraveled and continue to let go of this old way of being, I don’t feel this way anymore (or nearly as much). I know I can be who I am in this world and it’s ok. I still do get out of my comfort zone, but it’s because I want to, because I am going after things I genuinely want and I don’t mind stretching and growing myself to get to them.
"BUT IF YOU'RE PUSHING YOURSELF TO GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND YOU DON'T GENUINELY WANT TO DO WHATEVER IT IS OR YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DON'T HAVE A CHOICE, THEN I DON'T THINK IT'S A POSITIVE THING. IT WILL JUST MAKE YOU FEEL STRESSED, TRAPPED AND UNHAPPY."
We tend to look at being outside our comfort zone as a good thing, but I think it depends on the motivation. If you’re challenging yourself to do something you genuinely want to do and to achieve something that brings you joy, then go for it. And you’ll experience positive personal growth from it. But if you’re pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone and you don’t genuinely want to do whatever it is or you feel like you don’t have a choice, then I don’t think it’s a positive thing. It will just make you feel stressed, trapped and unhappy."
HOW BEING ALIVE MAKES HER FEEL VULNERABLE:
"Life itself feels vulnerable to me. Getting sick changed me and how I see the world. Everyday now I’m pretty acutely aware of our impermanence here; that we all die. And it can happen at any time. I don’t take my life or the lives of the people I love for granted anymore. And this makes me feel very grateful for the time we do have here. There’s no time to waste being unhappy, not living out and expressing who we are and sharing our love and gifts."
HOW GETTING SICK AND FACING UNCERTAINTY LED TO A PATH OF SELF-CARE & SELF-ACCEPTANCE:
"When I got sick it was pretty tough emotionally. I wondered if my life was basically over - if I’d end up in a wheelchair, if I’d be abandoned by my husband (we were just newlyweds), if I’d ever be able to do anything in my life I had hoped for and just assumed I would have the chance to. Through experiencing such uncertainty, I learned not only to appreciate life more and not take anything for granted, but I also realized that no matter what happens in my life, I’ll still have me. I’m with me until my time on Earth is up. And so I think the relationship we have with ourselves is really the most important one. It made me work on loving and accepting myself more and learning how to care for and nurture myself. Not that we don’t need or benefit from the love of others, but we often look too much for others to make us feel ok or think they’re going to be with us forever to fulfill that need. I don’t think you ever finish - deepening and improving my relationship with myself will be a lifelong practice - but so far it has been such a sweet experience. To learn that we are capable of being there for ourselves feels like an exhale."
"THROUGH EXPERIENCING SUCH UNCERTAINTY, I LEARNED NOT ONLY TO APPRECIATE LIFE MORE AND NOT TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED, BUT I ALSO REALIZED THAT NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS IN MY LIFE, I'LL STILL HAVE ME."
ON THE COURAGE TO LIVE HER TRUTH:
"It can take bravery to live your truth; to make the choices that feel most in alignment for you, even though they may go against societal “shoulds” or what you think your partner, peers, family or others expect of you. It takes guts to speak up or do what you feel is best for you, even though it might disappoint or upset others or they might not understand or approve of you. But it’s either you choose you and honor what’s true for you or you end up engaging in things that are out of alignment and trying to be other than who you are (in order to please, be enough, feel safe, etc.). We might tell ourselves that doing those things that are not in alignment is the safer option, but we can only pretend and go along with it for so long before we just can’t anymore. We’ll find we’ve built a house of cards and it all comes crashing down. So even though it might feel scary at first, to act on and build from your truth creates a much stronger and, ultimately, safer foundation for your life."
"IT'S EITHER YOU CHOOSE YOU OR YOU END UP ENGAGING IN THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF ALIGNMENT AND TRYING TO BE OTHER THAN WHO YOU ARE."
ON FEARING FEAR IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT:
"What scares me is making decisions that are not from a place of clarity; and by that I mean making decisions out of fear - letting fear make decisions for you. For example, following along with things that don’t feel good to me because I’m scared to speak up or do something different. Or taking an action that doesn’t feel good because I’m afraid what might happen if I don’t. This is fear in the driver’s seat of your life.
"I'VE LEARNED THE HARD WAY THAT WHEN YOU LET FEAR HAVE CONTROL, IT NEVER REALLY WORKS OUT THE WAY YOU WANTED AND IT ENDS UP CAUSING A LOT OF PAIN."
I’ve learned the hard way that when you let fear have control it never really works out the way you wanted and it ends up causing a lot of pain. So, I’m constantly looking at and evaluating the motivation of my choices. Not that I think it’s possible to ever be perfect at it or never make any decisions from fear, but I want to be more aware so I’m not setting myself up. I’m trying to make more decisions that feel genuinely good to me."
ON BEING A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON:
"I’m a highly sensitive person. I was born this way. I feel energies and can pick up on the energy of a person or situation. I believe everything is energy: we attract people and things into our life based on our own energy, and emotions (energy in motion) can get trapped in our bodies. It’s what Eckhart Tolle calls a “pain body” and they can wreak havoc in our life, if we don’t become aware of them. I’m learning in my training now how to work with pain bodies and release the stored energy."
ON PRACTICING SELF-COMPASSION:
"I don’t have a daily mantra, but I’m developing a daily practice of self-compassion. As we move throughout our days we often have several experiences that trigger uncomfortable emotions and old wounds. I’ve been learning to be more aware of them, aware of where the feelings are coming from and meet them with compassion and tenderness. We can be so hard on ourselves, easily believe a lot of the negative thoughts we might have and feel shame, unworthiness, despair, etc. It’s been deeply healing to develop self-compassion and meet all that with truth and with love."