A Letter on Personal Growth
This post will be longer than usual because I have a lot of feelings. Stick with me if you can. Skim if you must. But it's my heart talking here so bear with me.
It. Was. TransformING.
I didn't fully know what to expect going into the 4 day get-away (literally in the middle of the woods without WiFi or much cell service) except that I knew Ashley, who runs The Imperfect Boss community, would not disappoint. You want to talk about a strong community and a trusted brand? Ashley got every single one of us (nearly 90 ladies from all over the Canada, the USA and even overseas) to pay her several hundreds of dollars 10 months in advance to travel to the middle of the woods in Canada without service. Boom.
Now, I knew a handful of the ladies going through Instagram connections. I'd never actually met any of them IRL, but had connected with some of them in some way or another through social media. I was excited to meet them all, but also, the introvert in me was slightly terrified if I'm being honest.
On top of the nerves I had about simply showing up to camp, I was also asked to lead a workshop on abstract painting/connecting to your creativity, and also to live paint in front of everyone there during one of the motivational rallies/talks - yes... in front of the stage, painting on the spot with whatever my heart felt in that moment. PUKE!!
And on top of THAT... the only other artist who would also be live painting during one of the other talks was Caroline Zook (of Wandering Aimfully, previously Made Vibrant) - someone I had been following along with for years. Someone who I looked up to so immensely and who taught me so much of what I practice in my life, business, and art. So, DOUBLE PUKE.
Pulling up to camp after driving in alone, I was so nervous to be seen. That sounds a little dramatic, but it's true. It was such a strange feeling for me to show up somewhere feeling like I "knew" people when in reality, most of them if any had only really ever "known" me through an Instagram profile picture and some stories I may have shared online.
What if they don't like me?
What if I don't look the way they expect me to look?
What if I don't connect with anyone?
What if I disappoint?
What if I'm a terrible artist?
What if my live painting is awful?
What if my workshop sucks?
What if I'm not as good as (insert names of other people going to camp)?
The list goes on. All these feelings whooshed into me like a tidal wave as I pulled up to the front entrance and I wasn't expecting them. Imposter syndrome joined me and so did comparison and I didn't even know I had packed them into the car with my sleeping bag and pillow!
Fast-forwarding through the rest of the week (because if you want to know the nitty-gritty details, you should just go to camp - there just aren't enough words to capture it all), I survived. I had moments that truly surprised me. I consider myself to be pretty self-aware and connected. But... this trip brought some stuff up I didn't even know I was carrying around.
The first day after arriving was the most intense for me. It was a day of learning how to connect to my head, heart, and soul through some fun journaling (I didn't think I could be someone who journals... turns out I can because I'm the boss of me!), teaching an abstract painting workshop and giving ladies permission to create without expectation or perfection, and live painting through letting go of my own perfections, fears, and insecurities. I was EXHAUSTED by about 9pm that evening and it was only day 1.
Quite literally, I felt my body reacting, which isn't something I'm used to when it comes to fears, anxiety and overwhelm. I felt like my shoulders must be stuck up by my ears. I felt like I was walking with weights on my legs, and all I wanted to do was go back to the cabin I shared with 8 other wonderful women, slip into my sleeping bag unnoticed and zip it up over my head.
I sort of ended up just doing that, because it was what I needed at that moment. I had SUCH a transformative day that I was overwhelmed with thoughts and couldn't process everything that was getting turned up in me.
How could I want so badly to be seen, but then want to hide?
How could I step into the role of artist and be successful in front of an "actual" artist I admired for so long?
Why should anyone listen to me about giving themselves permission to create without perfection or expectation?
Why would anyone want to watch me paint live?
How did I manage to live paint one of my favourite pieces to date in front of so many strangers watching me?
How do I bring all of this home with me and into my day-to-day life?
How do I even express what I'm feeling?
Just a little overwhelmed, as you can see...
But... after cocooning in my sleeping bag that second night in the cabin after one of the biggest days I've ever had when it comes to showing up and being "seen", I was able to use my newest outlet of journaling to get some of the thoughts taking up space in my mind onto my iPad. I just wrote. Point form. Sloppy. And it felt great.
The next morning I wasn't totally refreshed (because...cabin sleeping), but I felt a little more grounded. Thankfully the third day was a little lighter (and more business-oriented), and with all my camp responsibilities out of the way, I was able to do a little more for me, which included more journaling, sitting, and going for a hike in the stunning Fall woods with my new cabin friends.
My 3 Biggest Takeaways from Camp:
Camp stirred up A LOT, but I want to summarize 3 of my biggest takeaways in hopes of helping you sort through some of your own stuff.
1) We all just want to be seen. And to be seen you need to show up.
I didn't realize that I cared whether people see or hear me in life. I mean, maybe I did, but not to the extent that I felt that at camp. I'm an introvert. I'm a "shy" person, I don't like the spotlight, and I'm usually not the first one to break the ice or approach a stranger to make a new friend. But I realized how bad I craved that connection, recognition, and reassurance when all of a sudden I was in a room with so many inspiring women making big things happen in their lives.
What I took away from feeling like this: I am seen and I am heard. Even if you think your Instagram numbers are low, or your email list is small, or you’re "wasting time" writing that newsletter that barely anyone will read... your community has seen you and you've already impacted so many lives without even knowing it. You're making waves just by showing up.
I also realized that I do quite a bit of hiding. Being seen is something I think we all really desire, but also really fear. I hide pretty easily behind client work and general "busy-ness". But if I want to make any kind of impact within my community, I need to show up and put myself out there.
Whether it was someone coming up to me to say "thank you" for giving them permission to dust off their paints at home after my workshop, or thanking me because they always thought they needed to be an "artist" in order to be "allowed" to paint for fun/release/joy, or another beautiful soul coming to introduce herself and tell me how much The Brand Planner helped her, I was reminded that I am seen. Even in those moments of doubt, someone somewhere is being impacted by what I do.
Imagine if I had chosen to hide and turn down the opportunity to teach a workshop or live paint because of my fear?
2) Making time to connect to yourself should be a priority.
I mentioned above that I didn't think I was someone who could journal because I don't love writing, especially freestyle writing. I also dreaded the idea of sitting down every night and recapping the day and how I felt about it.
Caroline taught a journaling workshop which was the first workshop I attended during the time at camp. It was amazing.
She went over ways to journal that don't have to be so strict or rigid. Journaling can be a literal script/conversation between your head and your heart (one of the ways she shared as one of her favourites), it can be a visual doodling session, it can be a brain-dump of thoughts, worries, concerns, fears, or words... it can be whatever you need it to be.
In the same way that I hoped I gave permission to people to paint for the fun of painting and not for the expectation of a masterpiece, Caroline gave me permission to journal for the sake of taking a look inwards instead of journaling for the sake of a perfect manuscript. If you need some guidance on this, check out her book Your Brightest Life: A Creative Guide to Becoming Your Best Self as a starter to journaling.
3) Growth is not a blooming, vibrant, bright flower garden. It's a dark black hole that feels very unknown.
This sounds dramatic again, but it actually caused a little giggle from all of us when it was said by Minaa during her inspirational rally. She was so right.
Personal growth is never what you expect. It happens in messy ways (like breakups, deaths, trauma, rock-bottom moments). We picture personal growth and connecting to ourselves as this beautiful thing that makes us feel so expansive and vibrant and wonderful, but that's not always the reality, is it?
More often than not, personal growth comes from a lot of discomfort or pain and it's not until we're on the other side of that black hole that we realize the shifts and growing we actually did. And maybe that's more like the vibrant, beautiful garden. But also maybe not.
One of the biggest things I realized at camp now that I'm through it and have had time to process everything that happened (although it does still feel like maybe it was all just a weird dream, so if anyone here can confirm I actually did attend, that'd be great) is that growth is both beautiful and messy, scary and liberating, being seen and also hiding.
And there's just no finish line to all of this. When we think we've reached the imagined finish line, we just keep moving on to the next one. So, if we can fill our own cups with self-love, patience, connecting to your core/soul/heart/self, and creativity, then we can start to impact others and fill their cups up too (an analogy offered by LaShonda who spoke to us about acts of service). Stay connected to the journey and be so focused on your vision that fear doesn't get in your way of showing up (a reminder from Ashley herself).
I'll leave you with that. I know it was long, so if you're still reading this thank you SO much for hearing me out. This is one of my own ways of showing up instead of simply hiding.
Thank you for being here. Please remember that you matter, your story matters, your voice matters, and you really are seen.
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