Worried that people will reject or criticize your vulnerability? Read this.

I wrote a while back about my tendency to pull out my machete (It’s a metaphor! I don’t actually chop heads.) when my feelings are hurt.

But right before publishing that, a voice in my head said:

“If you do this, from now on, whenever you tell someone no, or create a boundary, they’re gonna prattle on about how you’re making wack choices because you’re stuck in your pattern of rejecting people. This will give people license to pathologize your no, and that’s mighty dangerous.”

Thankfully, another voice in my head said this:

  • You can talk about your struggles without being defined by them for all eternity.
  • You can acknowledge an unhealthy pattern of behavior and then make a ton of choices in that same area that rise above that pattern.
  • You can acknowledge that you’re a work in progress without becoming a project that people need to psychoanalyze or ‘heal’ unrequested.

And also: So what if they disrespect your choice?

I’m here for truth – not to be the class favorite.

“No” is a complete sentence. People can judge or make fun of it as much as they want, but that doesn’t the change that you said it, and (assuming that you meant it) it’s valid and stands.

So friends, in a nutshell:

Please share whatever you want. Speak your truths out loud. And if someone tries to chain you to any of it, come borrow my machete. Anytime.

She thinks I’m a raving ganja smoker. I’m totally good with it.

She walked into the house shortly after I’d burned this sage and yerba santa bundle, and she thought the smell was weed.

Her religion says marijuana is an evil drug so she was visibly upset at the thought that I could be a toker.

My immediate instinct was to say, “Oh no, it’s sage! Spiritual medicine n’ stuff!” but I literally bit my tongue to prevent me from speaking.

Because I knew those words were about trying to prevent her from looking down on me the way she looks down on green smokers.

I was going to say it as a means of getting back into her good graces; getting her approval.

But for the rest of my life, I will fight like a mother lion to re-teach the tender part of me that thinks I was born to be convenient and appropriate.

People-pleasing is wired into us, but every day we have the option of choosing to reinforce those ideals or whether we want to go another way. Today, I went a different way.

And now that person thinks I’m a raving ganja head and I’m completely good with it. #puffpuffpass

Part 2 of the editing story:
It’s not about you.

A while back, I told you about that former editing client whose agent asked her to re-format her entire book.

Here’s what I didn’t tell you:

The stylistic change the agent recommended was almost exactly what I suggested to my client right when we started working together.

She heard me out, and decided she liked the format she’d chosen, so she declined my suggestion and went ahead with the style that most resonated with her. I didn’t belabor the point. It’s her book, after all, so she can write it however she likes. We moved on with the editing process and didn’t talk about it again.

Then, after hundreds of hours of work, based on her agent’s suggestions, she was now going back to the drawing board to make the changes I’d suggested months prior.

Whenever I think about her, I remember this situation and one of the biggest reminders that it offers me.

There’s no room for “I told you so” or petty validation-seeking, because despite all the additional work she’s now putting in, I don’t think she did anything ‘wrong’ at all. She did not waste her time. She did not sabotage herself. She did not screw up the chances of her book’s success.

What did she do? She trusted herself.

And whether it’s business or it’s your spouse or your sister, if you really want the best for someone, that’s the first thing you should ever want for them – for them to trust their instincts, value their impulses, and for them to believe in the worth of their own ideas.

It’s not about you. They’re living and choosing based on what feels right for where they are, and no matter what implications or problems you might see in it, their choice should be respected because at that time, it’s their truth.

I’ve built a career on telling my stories and giving people advice based on those stories, but whether you’ve got a job like mine or not, we all need to plug into this truth for the health (not to mention, longevity) of every single one of our relationships.

Speak your mind, without being attached to how others engage with your words.

Offer support, without fixating on whether or not they grasp your extended hand.

Give what you have to give, and then let go.

 

Strong boundaries – without becoming a coldhearted monster.

I’m not a naturally forgiving person.

When my feelings are hurt, my immediate response is to reach for my metaphorical machete – not because I want to cut a bih (not a natural fighter either) but because I want the other person to clearly understand my intention, which can be summed up with “Get the fuck away from me!”.

Some people try to pull the other party closer; their instinct is to reach across the divide to reconnect and realign the relationship. I have no idea what that’s like.

I do not ease into softness and second chances. I harden. I pull up the drawbridge to my castle and delete your number. I’m done so fast.

And let’s be realistic – there is enormous power in our “No”.

A strong, boundaried response can be healthy and serving and it’s helped me in a ton of situations, so I’m not throwing away my machete. AT ALL.

But the world would probably be a better place if that feisty blade spent more time in her sheath and less time being wielded in these streets. 🤺

This is one of the most important things I’m working on.

Holding onto my high standards (because I’ll never apologize for them) while also giving humans more grace to be human.

Boundaries and compassion.
Discernment and empathy.

It’s complicated as shit, and most days, the urge to revert to my machete moves is the loudest voice in the room. But this is a fight we should all be fighting.

Because love.

Because cultivating kindness instead of doubling down on exclusion and rejection is what we came here for.

But mostly… because love.

The part of my story I’ve never shared before.

Can you remember the last time you had an epiphany?

I think about epiphanies all the time. Breaking points. Lightning and thunder moments that bang! change your life in an instant.

I probably think about them so much because I’ve had so few of them.

Most of the big transitions that mark my life didn’t pop up like a fast blaze. Their heat was a long time coming. A little friction. A little question mark. A little resentment. And then more and more, until it felt like my skin was sizzling from the discomfort of the situation, which eventually made me desperate enough to do something about it.

This is how it was when I made the decision to figure out why I hated my body and how I was going to un-hate it.

People often talk about the shame and pain of body insecurity. I definitely felt that, but the breaking point that pushed me to finally take action wasn’t either of those things.

It was the exhaustion.

Almost every waking minute, I was conscious of how my body looked from multiple angles.

Whenever I went out in public, I assessed the eyes and facial expressions of the people walking by, searching for a glimmer of disapproval in their brow or cheek.

It was pretty much a full-time job managing the lies and excuses I used to turn down invitations, or I’d commit to something but then cancel at the last minute.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired.

Maintaining the facade of being ‘fine’ when you’re actually judging and criticizing yourself nonstop is EXHAUSTING.

I carried Exhaustion like a necklace of concrete blocks until I just couldn’t anymore. I released it because I was tired of being tired.

I’m sure the time those older kids laughed at me for wearing shorts to a dress-down day at school was also a factor. And the time a relative suggested that I have a can of Slim-Fast for dinner. And the time a boy I loved told me I needed to run more. I’m sure those were all factors too.

But Exhaustion was what changed me.

Exhaustion wore me down until I had no more fucks to give.

“Sure. Go ahead and scorn these thick thighs. I’m done with giving a shit.”

I was defensive if anyone said anything about my body. (I still have a dose of that in me, and it feels honest and healthy, so it’s staying, but back then, it was gushing out like a firehose gone berserk. Ragey and resentful.)

And then… Well, I guess I did sort of have a breakthrough moment, although I can’t name a date or place, but there was definitely The Time Before (when I thought my body was the field of a silent, internal angst) and The Time After.

In The Time After, something pried my eyelids open and I saw a truth I’d been blind to.

How you feel about your body is how you feel about your life.

The body impacts more than our fashion and our sex. The body impacts everything.

When we’re in pain and shame about our bodies, we carry those things into our businesses, relationships, the way we eat, the way we think about money, and our political and social engagement (or lack thereof).

The body is not siphoned off into a separate category. The body is in EVERY category.

Because I’d been believing that I was too much (too tall, too big, too opinionated, too passionate, too emotional), I hadn’t just silenced myself physically. I’d silenced myself in every way.

  • I made career choices that kept my creative ideas and ambitions on pause, year after year.
  • I made friend choices that filled my life with people who only wanted a sliver of me, because I’d been believing that no one could truly want (aka: handle) all of me.
  • I made romantic choices that stifled my opinions, my sexuality, and my biracial identity. More accurately, my most frequent relationship choice was to avoid relationships altogether, because they required a level of visibility and vulnerability that terrified me.

Exhaustion made me stop fixating on what you thought about my body.

But The Time After made me determined to go beyond the defensive rebel posture, and instead create a whole new body dynamic.

Seeing that my body was directly tied to stifling myself professionally, creatively and romantically, made me obsessed with creating the opposite body experience – for its own sake, and also so that those life areas would in turn start to evolve too.

Instead of detachment or even neutral acceptance, I wanted connection, trust and hot-damn-feels-good-to-be-alive-ness.

Where Exhaustion made me throw my hands up and declare I was done with the body, The Time After made me want to meet her, make her a cup of tea, and help her heal and move forward.

If I didn’t figure out the root of my body insecurities and then DO SOMETHING with that awareness (a lot of us think that awareness is sufficient in and of itself, but it never is), I don’t actually know what would’ve happened. I can’t imagine it.

I can’t visualize an existence where I sank into another layer of silence, hiding and feeling so utterly alone – again. And I’m glad I can’t see it, because I didn’t come here for that life.

You didn’t come here for that life.

We’re here for so much more. More aliveness. More joy. More creativity. More bliss.

We’re here for the MORE.

xo
Annika

[This post originally appeared in Issue #13 of The Unmistakeable Effect]

What to do when the self help stuff sounds a little too woo woo…

If you were raised in a conservative and generally cautious community…

If you grew up in an academically-obsessed family or culture…

If practicality is a high value for you…

Some of the body love and other personal growth practices out there might sound a little cray cray to you. But here’s a thought:

  1. Put your actual risk in perspective.

    Really, what’s the worst that could happen? You trying a body practice that sounds a little woo-woo is not going to cause a landslide, or hurt the puppies. The puppies will be just fine.

  2. Lead with the question, “What if…?”.

    What if great things could happen here? What if something unfamiliar could lead to healing? What if… The humility to admit that the universe is full of lots of weirdness that’s actually really good and healthful, is the height of strength.

Open up.

Try something new.

Take a chance.

Sure it could fall flat, but doesn’t the possibility that it could lead to greater esteem, peace of mind, or body connection make it worth the effort?

YOU are worth the effort.

The sacred discipline of showing up for your work in the world.

In a previous career, I edited people’s books.

I recently got an update from a former editing client. She’d sent the manuscript to her dream agent, who loved it and excitedly signed her. And then…

The agent asked her to re-format the entire book. Same content, but a whole new structure. This meant way more work on top of the hundreds of hours she’d already put in.

She haaaaated the idea of going back to the drawing board on an already completed book (plus, it’s a pretty raw, emotional subject), but after considering it, she decided the agent was right. The new structure would showcase her stories more powerfully, so she sat down, put in the extra hours, and made the changes.

I think about her choice at least once a week.

The humility to change your mind when you’ve been so certain about something for so long.

The courage to return to the dark parts of the past in order to create something to help other women heal.

The early mornings and late nights. The sacred discipline.

The SHOWING UP.

Shout out to all the writers, entrepreneurs, artists, makers and ceiling-breakers who are SHOWING UP every damn day.

You inspire me to keep going.

Keep writing.

Keep using my voice.

Keep standing up. And out.

You inspire us all.

The grand insult of telling a woman that her most magical life requires losing weight.

There are exceptions, but most of the time, I find the suggestion that a woman’s greatest confidence, radiance, abundance (in a nutshell: the most magical life everrrr!) lives on the other side of losing weight, to be majorly insulting.

It’s a diss to a woman’s capacity to have all those things at any size.

It’s a diss to women whose genetics incline them to be naturally (and healthfully) bigger than most.

It’s a diss to women who pushed humans out of their bodies and gained weight during their pregnancy.

And it’s a huge diss to every person whose weight is directly connected to a disability or medical condition.

So if you hear a teenager or a young girl, your co-worker, or even ya mama using that logic (weight loss = automatic joy and a sexy-fierce-fabulous life), I hope you’ll pause and question that thinking.

We don’t need to wag our fingers and preach at people, but an invitation, an opening, a suggestion, a “What if…” moment could bring all kinds of wonderfulness.

And we can always do with more wonderfulness.

What to do if “But your body doesn’t even matter!” thinking just doesn’t work for you.

Some people’s ‘solution’ for body insecurity is to say the body doesn’t actually matter, or it’s at least way less important than your mind or spirit.

I fully understand the comfort that might be found in this perspective. With all the societal pressure to value your body over your intellect, persona, talents, contribution, spirit, maybe minimizing the body (temporarily or permanently) makes sense for you. I hear ya.

But that approach was (and is) so wrong for me.

My early years primed me to dismiss and detach from my body because it was ‘wrong’, so as I got older and began intentionally healing my relationship with my body, Wholeness was key for me.

Wholeness means honoring ALL of me: my mental body, emotional body, spiritual body, and physical body. Instead of relegating the body to ‘not important’, I’ve pumped it up because it’s my Intuition Giver, Reliable Transport, Vessel of Pleasure, Freaking MIRACLE.

I am both flesh and soul.

I’d rather cherish all of my elements equally, instead of creating a hierarchy of worthiness.

And if this mindset doesn’t float your boat, that’s cool. I don’t care whether people think about their bodies the way I do. I just care that we think about them at all; that we’re conscious about the body’s role, because no area of your life isn’t connected to your body – NONE.

Whatever perspective helps you move forward, whatever philosophy helps you step into more body freedom and peace, that’s the path for you. I hope you’re walking it.

And even if our methods aren’t the same, we can still walk together.

Let’s walk. xo

My first swimsuit in almost 10 years.

Many winters ago, I sent this pic to my brother and sister from a Winners dressing room in Ottawa.

At the time, I hadn’t owned a swimsuit in years, and the next day, I was going to wear one in public, with like, PEOPLE n’ stuff.

It was a rush purchase and I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the suit itself.

But I was over-the-moon ecstatic (I mean, look at that eyebrow!) about the progress this moment represented in my relationship with my body.

That red swimsuit was another step beyond the version of me that declined all pool and beach invites, to one who was hastily snapping up a swimsuit so she could frolic at the largest spa in North America. #spajunkie

Moral of the Story:

Every time you do something that feels like a shift away from your old pattern, celebrate THE HECK out of it.

Tell the people who will understand the significance of it, and join you in the cheering.

Every time you choose differently, or talk back to that snarky voice in your head, throw yourself a damn party – literal or otherwise. No matter how small the action might seem, it’s actually all a very big deal.

Not only does it feel good (that’s reason enough, really), but also, acknowledging these milestones fuels us as we keep walking toward the next and the next.

Celebrate all of it.

Every little bit matters.