How I found the courage to nurture myself by listening to my inner voice and leaning into ME
When I first heard the term “leaning in,” I realized it was something I had bought into as a child. According to Merriam-Webster, the words “lean in” have become shorthand for “the act or process of a woman’s asserting herself in the workplace.” Assuming this can be applied to academic places as well, I became a master of leaning in from a young age, learning to “speak up” while often ignoring my quiet, more introverted nature.
I suppose that leaning in served me well in many ways, at least on the surface of things. I became a good student, pleased my teachers, played the piano in front of audiences (despite my fear), became Student Council President of my high school, went to one of the “best” colleges, got my doctorate degree in psychology, and started work at a prestigious clinical research center. But I began to feel that something deeper was missing, or perhaps had been lost along the way.
The wonderful Jim Carrey has said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” I certainly wasn’t rich and famous like Jim Carrey, but I had done what I dreamed of, what I thought would be the answer. Perhaps not the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything,” but at least the answer to my little corner of happiness. And Jim Carrey was right. It was not.
Then it occurred to me that the act of leaning in towards something requires us to lean away from something else. What was I leaning away from? Could I find the courage to practice leaning in the other direction?
Feeling a little rebellious, I adjusted my lean. I focused on areas of joy that had taken a back seat for too long. Despite going to college in New Hampshire, I had skied only a handful of times during those years and had spent little time in nature. So I skied and hiked, I swam in the ocean, walked barefoot on the beach, rode roller coasters, drank tea while knitting, laughed with friends, had two babies and subsequently experienced a level of unconditional love that was completely mind-opening (or heart-and-soul-opening to be more exact). I meditated, practiced yoga, and started my own healing practice with a focus on helping others find greater happiness by being true to themselves.
Finally, I discovered the truer, richer meaning of leaning in was in leaning towards me. Leaning into the love, joy and desire for self-care that were at my core. And leaning into my True Self by listening to her quiet voice in the midst of the world’s noise and the opinions of others. That, for me, is the answer.
Sara Mattis is a psychologist and energy healer. Contact her today to discuss your goals for healing, well-being, and positive change!