By the time you read this, I’ll be in California taking my EFBA clients on a horse whispering adventure.
It’s part of their year of transformation, where they build their EFBA muscles (that’s epic fucking badass, loves) in tiny and huge ways.
But right now it’s still Tuesday and I’m working on my tan (ahem, make that my wrinkles) and breaking in my new horse whispering hat.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage.
What makes someone an epic fucking badass?
There are only two requirements as far as I’m concerned:
Tell the truth, and refuse to quit.
Telling the truth is definitely the hard part.
Most of my clients are terrified what will happen if they actually say out loud (or even whisper quietly into a handkerchief) what they really think and really want.
This is not because they are wimps.
It’s because they are very smart indeed and they have been paying attention and therefore they noticed that there are enormous social and emotional costs to departing from the tribe’s way of doing things.
Most of my favorite women realized really early on– maybe even before they could talk– that there was a lot of bullshit afoot. They also learned that it would behoove them to never, EVER let on that they had figured this out. It’s pretty scary to be a little kid and realize that what you see is not at all what the people around you are seeing. Or maybe they see it but they just pretend? Who knows? In any case, clearly it’s safer to fly under the radar. Blend in. Pass.
These are pretty healthy coping mechanisms for a kid who cannot clothe, feed, or house herself. The problem is when we carry these coping mechanisms on even once we’re adults. They keep us small and confined and scared, and many women carry these behaviors well into adulthood before it gets too painful to continue. (That’s when I get to talk to them.)
We are all taught in a million subtle and overt ways that we don’t know the truth for ourselves.
Oh no honey, we weren’t fighting, we were just having an argument.
Of course you don’t really feel that way.
Go on, give Uncle George a kiss– go on.
You don’t mean that.
You’re imagining things.
This is just part of our corporate culture.
Nice girls don’t feel those things.
Don’t be so sensitive.
In this family, we…
Are you premenstrual? Because you cray.
Oh come on, that was funny!
Say you’re sorry.
These messages mess with our inner knowing. They literally skew our internal wiring. We learn to mistrust ourselves. With no inner guidance, we have to rely completely on external cues. So we copy, we follow the rules, and we earn the gold stars.
But the longer we do this, the more we feel unmoored. That’s because we’ve become disconnected from our own moral compass, our deepest bearings.
Is this true for everyone? Nah.
Most people aren’t paying that much attention.
But what distinguishes the women I work with is that as far back as they can remember, they could see through things. They always knew when things were off. They had a clarity of vision that no one expected in a 3 or 13 or 23-year-old. It scared the people around them. It put them in danger. Sometimes physical danger; more often the danger of isolation, or tribal shaming. So these canny brilliant girls, they quickly learned to pretend. To go along with the charade. To please the people around them because they needed to be safe.
When you live your life like this, you have two choices. One is to go along until you numb out completely. You choose food or booze or gossip or politics or or tv or status or some other recreational drug.
The second choice is to take the risk of looking crazy to everyone you know.
This is what distinguishes the kindred spirits I have the honor of working with.
At some point, they decide to do something else. Something brave. Something unpopular. Something revolutionary. Something that scares the shit out of the people who love them.
They are the visionaries. Some of them do big public work out in the world. Others work in intimate, private arenas. They are all changing the DNA of what they pass on to their children and community.
They are willing to do things that scare them because they care so deeply about bringing something better into the world than what they grew up with.
They are my heroes.
But the bravest things they do always start in the dark. They start small. Tiny. This is the part that requires the most courage, because no one else can see or applaud or cheer you on. But it’s the seed. And it always starts with telling the truth.
So go tell the truth about something today.