It feels silly to put out my usual newsletter talking about values and personal growth, with what is going on in Ukraine as we speak. But I’m committed to sharing this newsletter each month, and I have nothing to add to the conversation about Ukraine, no value to offer in terms of educating people or offering them hope or providing an alternate perspective. I suspect I am in the same position as many people reading this, simply feeling heartbroken and helpless and afraid of where this is all headed.
Wherever you are, and whatever the importance of being informed on this issue, I hope you are making some space for yourself away from the news, and taking time to celebrate what is good and hopeful in your own little world.
A theme that’s been on my mind lately is that, while I firmly believe living our values is the path to a meaningful and fulfilling life, doing so is not always fun. In fact, acting on our values can be deeply uncomfortable at times.
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I shared a piece of writing last week about a complex issue going on in Canada. I felt compelled to share my thoughts, and the piece that was forming in my mind wouldn’t leave me alone until I had finished with it and put it out in the world. I shared it on Friday morning and felt immediate relief that I had done what felt right and important to me, even if it also felt difficult and risky.
Right away a few people reached out to thank me for writing it, to say they felt the same way as I do, and were grateful to see their own views being given airtime. And then a close friend texted to say that she disagreed with virtually everything I’d said. We went back and forth, both sharing things that the other had not heard or considered about the issue, and both of us (I hope) realizing that neither of us had a full (or unbiased) picture of what had gone on.
Being disagreed with, and potentially criticized, is the nature of putting my thoughts and opinions out into the world. I know this is an inevitable part of using my voice, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when it does happen. In these situations, a frightened little part of my brain immediately jumps in to say “see, this is why you shouldn’t say anything” or “unless you know absolutely everything there is to know about something, you should just keep your mouth shut.”
It’s the same voice that has kept me from writing and sharing for much of my life, and it’s always ready to jump in and make me feel ashamed or regretful. In essence, the voice says that if I can’t do things perfectly and I’m not able to please everyone, then it’s best to just not act at all. Perfectionism and people-pleasing are core fears that hold so many of us, especially women, back from fully living our truth, so as much sway as that voice wants to have over me, I remind myself that being held back by fear is not how I want to live my life.
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Talking to another friend yesterday who had been in a similar situation, I was able to offer her so much more wisdom and grace than I’d been able to offer myself. I told her that I thought she was brave for speaking up on a complicated issue, and that being able to recognize when we’re wrong and have the humility to acknowledge it is much more powerful than not speaking up in the first place. I told her that while having difficult conversations or being made aware of our own blindspots is uncomfortable, it is unavoidable if we want to speak our minds in this world.
Learning is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Talking with people who have vastly different perspectives and opinions than we do, is uncomfortable.
But uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable emotions and experiences are how we grow. We must move beyond our comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory if we want to expand beyond the confines of our current selves.
So just a little reminder to lean into the discomfort, or at the very least, not to run from it. Also a reminder to give some thought to your values, as those can be signposts to help you know when you’re on the right path, even if things feel uncomfortable in the moment.