For years, whether I pursued my artistic or business passions, I thought I needed to work harder, while ironically thinking no matter what I did would never be enough. But as I let go of working harder and aimed to work smarter, some advice led me astray from my heart’s desires. And I eventually needed to find my way back to my inner guidance.
In the self-help new age culture, feminine qualities are often defined as being ‘intuitive, in the flow and emotionally wise’ where as masculine qualities are defined as ‘intellectual, analytical and strategic.’
One business coach once offered me a marketing prescription governed by the idea that my “feminine” qualities of creativity need to be supported by “masculine” qualities of planning, strategizing and implementing (which I happen to excel at). So I promptly orchestrated a marketing and social media plan which I felt reflected my values, practices and offerings under a beautiful design. Meanwhile, I had little time left to do engage in my heart’s desire which was to write my memoir.
While making distinctions between masculine and feminine qualities may be helpful in understanding the patriarchy we were born into and help us honor our innate intuitive and emotional strengths as women, I believe we’re doing ourselves a disservice creating a separation in ourselves that qualifies ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ qualities when it comes to being the fullest expression of ourselves.
What if these so called masculine qualities of being strategic, analytical and intellectual are integral to our success…go against the concept of being guided intuitively in all of our actions? And if we’re in love with our work while being guided intuitively how can we get any closer to success than that?
Another time, I was guided by a coach, to wear fake glasses and tie back my hair when I gave a talk. The coach reasoned women in the audience would identify with me more and take me more seriously. Apparently studies have shown that women selling to other women have a higher success rate when they wear glasses.
This advice not only went against my nature, it was is in direct conflict with my mission to break out of the societal box that panders to the belief that a woman who embodies her feminine nature is somehow less relatable or trustworthy.
Another coach urged me to “be more visible” and write about my personal life on-line at least once a day. As someone who values my privacy, I choose to be discerning in sharing about my sexual experiences and romantic relationships in my blogs, with the intention of being a catalyst for healing in others. But pushing myself to share these truths actually inhibited me from being the most pure, raw version of myself in my writing – which is my own unique process as an artist.
I’m not discounting the value of working with coaches. I still work with coaches and benefit tremendously from being supported with insight that I might not see on my own. And it doesn’t negate the tremendous benefit of feeling supported while forging a deep relationship of trust in one’s self.
What I’m questioning is the act of adopting strategies that have proven to be successful or the act of being pushed to move through a fear (which in the coaching world can also fall under the banner of “sabotaging success”), both of which may actually lead us to ignore what John O’Donohue refers to as the ‘wisdom of your clay’:
“Humility” is a derivative of the Latin word “humus”, meaning “of the earth.” In this sense humility is the art of being open and receptive to the inner wisdom of your clay….Now, like the silent earth, the cradle of all growth, you, too, can watch the stirrings of a new springtime in the clay of your heart. You gain more courage. You become surer about who you are, and you no longer need to force either image or identity. When you come into rhythm with your nature, things happen of themselves.” – Eternal Echoes by John O’Donohue
Fully embodying our essence – which I also refer to as love – regardless of our gender, life experience or race, in my mind, requires only one thing: to express love while be connected to our life force energy (our sexuality and creativity).
And if we value our creativity, isn’t that the best kind of productivity?
To let go of ALL the ways I’ve been taught towards ‘securing’ and ‘ensuring’ the success of my heart’s desires in the form of outside advice, it meant letting go of a big part of my identity that’s been taught to negate the intelligence of my essence – or the wisdom of my ‘inner clay’.
Whether it be prescriptions related to our work or our relationships, trusting more deeply in our own unique expressions of love is where it’s at.
Here are two exercises I like to work with to let go of an old identity and foster guidance via inner wisdom:
1 – To let go of the part of your identity that believes you need to do something a certain way to have what you want, close your eyes. Feel into your heart and take deep belly breaths without a pause in between breaths. I like to do this for 30-45 min, which gives enough time to release any pain through the breath. For more details, see Practice #4 and #5 in the self-guided course The Passion Guide.
2 – First ask yourself what would be empowering. Then imagine how your heart’s desire feels in your body. Make a list of things that would need to be in place for you to feel that way. When your mind comes up with some ideas of how to move forward, check those ideas against the feeling you’ve cultivated in your heart and body.
By surrendering to the limitations of our minds, we open to an intelligence that’s far greater – own unique expression of love.
The more we can be driven by love in work or in our relationships, instead of wagering for the security of what we ‘think’ we need, the better chance we have of satisfying our unique longings for joy.