Doesn’t it sound sexy to say what you’re “leaving behind” in the new year? To make a list of what you’re going to stop doing in 2020?
I know it does. I’ve done that before: written down the things I’m leaving behind, burned them in a fireplace, the whole dramatic deal.
But it’s not that simple. We‘re all human – living not just our high highs and low lows but a whole full spectrum of experience every day. Change is never as easy as leaving something behind and never looking back. Even amongst the most “enlightened” of us, it’s very likely we’ll inevitably be confronted with or fall back into an old pattern we thought we were done with. Best case scenario, we learn to mindfully navigate the situation and pattern differently each time around. But even so – it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal. Practice makes progress, not perfect.
What’s more likely iswhat happens to 80% of us: we take that one step back and shame ourselves into submission. When we live in extremes, we don’t leave room for the in-betweens, the lessons learned in those tougher moments. We tell ourselves we’re “so bad,” we messed up, we’re a failure, we can’t do this, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. The moment we create ultimatums in our minds is the moment we set ourselves up for shame and self-doubt in the long run.
In my own work and life, I talk a lot about LETTING GO instead of LEAVING BEHIND. Feels more like accountability to me. Controlling what you can and only what *you* can. Recognizing that something can (and probably will) pop back into your life but you get to choose whether you pick it up or not.
When I coach people to let go of something – a thought, a feeling, a belief, a situation, a person – I always try to frame it so that they’re letting go of it in order to make space for something else SPECIFIC.
Because the thing is: the second you STOP, QUIT, or LEAVE BEHIND…what’s gonna fill that space? If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’re going to end up right back where you began with what you’re fighting against…at the most basic level, if only because it’s familiar.
Try this way more productive formula throughout the year, but especially now as you reflect and project in Resolution Mode:
I am letting go of ((how something affects you or why you do what you do)), so I can ((what that thing holds you back from doing)).
INSTEAD OF “I will stop putting others before myself.”
TRY “I will let go of my need to please others, so I can make room for myself.”
INSTEAD OF “I am leaving behind toxic people.”
TRY “I am letting go of excusing bad behavior at my own expense, so I can live out MY journey exactly as it’s intended to unfold.”
INSTEAD OF “I will quit negative self-talk.”
TRY “I am letting go of my limiting beliefs, so that I can feel confident and grounded.”
Notice this formula doesn’t say you will always do or feel or be that thing you say you’ve been held back from doing/feeling/being. Just like there’s no ultimatums for the negatives, there’s no ultimatums for the positives. The point is to make space and define what you want that space to hold. Not to always make room for yourself, or live out your own journey, or feel confident and grounded, or whatever you created space for. But to state clearly: this is what I want, this is what I’m willing to fight for.
Burn your regrets in the fireplace if you want. Make a dramatic statement if it feels good. But make sure you do this, too. Just know that you’re a person in progress – and your life will be one long loop of letting things go and picking things up along the way. You might not get to choose what enters your world, but you sure as hell can choose what you do with it.
WANT Yourself: Now you: What are you letting go of, and what are you making space for?
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Don’t fuck with my friends. Do not hurt them or tell them they are crazy.
They are not.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t swindle, peddle, take, or steal.
And don’t you DARE break their hearts.
Don’t fuck with my friends.
Don’t lead them to believe they have bad judgement, draw negativity, attract the wrong people or jobs or circumstances. Do not take advantage of their immense capacity to feel and their great power to give. They are so very special and so extremely delicate in all their strength. Although they don’t let on, I know they’re just as easily bruised as you or I. More, even. Because to know the highest highs, one must also be capable of experiencing the lowest lows.
They know it all.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t ignore them; don’t place blame on them for your own demons.
Don’t make them cry.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t insult and don’t make them feel un-talented, un-beautiful, not-thin-enough or not-sexy-enough or not-worthy-enough of greatness. Pulling them down does absolutely nothing to raise yourself up, even though that’s your alternate agenda. It’s so much easier to throw your pain at someone else, anyone else, instead of sitting with it as it slowly transforms. And even if you’re self-aware enough to know, even if it is SO obvious that all you are doing is pummeling them with the trash piling up in your soul, they can’t necessarily see or accept that. They are IN it. They hurt.
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I can hug, I can talk, I can cry alongside them. But I can’t heal them from your sickled sword and it enrages me that I’d even have to. They are stardust and sunshine, the waves in the ocean and the dew that helps the flowers grow. They are the hope of a new day and the long exhale as the week ends. They’re the birds you can barely hear chirping over the car horns and angry screams, but you know they’re there, and the knowing is a sort of comfort in the chaotic entanglement of city cacophony. They’re newsprint on your fingers, a souvenir from the adventures of a curious mind. They’re the giggle you can’t quite stuff down and the tears that come whether “appropriate” or not.
To hell with appropriate.I don’t want appropriate. I want real.
I want the laughs and the tears and the talks till 1am that can’t wait a second longer. I want the waves and the dew and the bird songs even if I can’t always hear them. I want the charcoal on my fingers, delicate stains from a morning well spent, and questions asked, and a mind expanded just by saying yes, I will turn that page.
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Don’t fuck with my friends – because they are the ones who are making this world come alive.
This post was originally published on october 8, 2012.
It’s been three days since I’ve been back from Italy and I still haven’t opened my computer. It’s not because I don’t have things I need to do (I do) or that I can accomplish everything I need to on my phone (I can’t). It’s because for two whole weeks, I was reminded of what my life was like when it wasn’t portable. And I was brought back to a time when my worth or livelihood wasn’t even remotely dependent on a screen.
I’m not an avid traveler in the least, but I know the power of what a change of space can do for the soul. Traveling, whether to Rome or Rhode Island, will rip you away from the familiar and at the same time remind you of all the things you recognize and hold dear even when the landscape is foreign. You start to remember who you were before the proverbial “world told you who to be,” and you start to wonder if you’d still be YOU if born in another time zone, speaking another language, under a different sun/moon turnover. The things you think define you fade away during takeoff, and all that’s left are your thoughts and feelings upon landing. Going away becomes a homecoming.
But back to the laptop. I know I have work to do, and I know I can’t claim “re-entry” forever. I’ve gone off the grid before. I’m down with the Vacation Responder settings. But there’s something particularly off about my tech-aversion this trip around, especially since it was all in such close, tangible access the whole time around. I could feel my laptop’s sleek, cool edges kiss my fingers as I slid it out of my bag for TSA, expecting my flight to be filled with issuing invoices and playing email catch-up. I recognized my computer’s gentle weight and thud as I landed my backpack back at home in its resident corner of our 475 square feet, fully expecting it to yell for my usage now that we were far from the coastlines and Caprese salads. I listened hard. I really did. But I couldn’t hear its call.
There was a time, you might remember, when the internet was a joyful side-dish to the hearty main course of life. But gone are the You’ve Got Mail days of delighting at a *ping!* and taking each website for its www-face value. Inbox Zero is now the goal, and a site can’t just be a SITE anymore: it’s got to be a HUB, with impeccable SEO and a whole host of press mentions and celeb-cred to prove its legitimacy. We live our lives about one-third of the time on our own and the rest of the time vicariously through influencers, and we spend hours peeling through click-bait headlines that lead us to half-baked content meant to leave us wanting more and clicking together opinions we’re not sure are even fully ours. There is so much good to the internet – connection! collaboration! insight! But somewhere between the romance of Shopgirl and NY152 and now, the internet has become the hearty main course of life that each amuse-bouche IRL experience is crafted around.
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Our almost two-week long trip to Italy was our honeymoon, yes – but it was transformative way way beyond the parameters of our relationship. During our twelve days hopping from big cities down to coastal towns and back again, my Noticing muscles were on overdrive and overstimulated to the max. I saw freshly-washed clothing being hung upon outdoor laundry lines because that’s just how it’s always been done. I heard 80s and 90s tunes covered and reimagined into dance tracks, with not one Top 40 hit or latest-pop-sensations in earshot (okay, just one – the ONLY exception was that “Juice” was playing everywhere, which as a long-time Lizzo fan made me beam with pride). I walked through thousands-of-years-old ruins while captivated by a tour guide probably half a decade younger than me who needed no notes or maps to help her and told the history of each corner by beginning with phrases like “You must now imagine…” And between stumbling upon the best meals of my life and chatting with locals filled with hometown glory, I remembered what it truly means to make an impact that lasts longer than your Self.
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And so my reluctance to touch my laptop isn’t actually about an aversion to technology itself or some newfound dogma claiming the internet is ruining our society. No: my current hesitation is because I’ve been reminded for the first time in YEARS of what it truly means to live a legacy. My laptop – my so-called digital window-to-the-world – is a tool in my legacy-making toolbox…but must never, ever be the thing I use to CONSTRUCT and DEFINE my legacy itself. Wandering the uneven streets of Pompeii and scanning out over the Forum ruins and eating at cafes on the side streets of Positano and Amalfi reminded me of something I heard a historian once say that I can only now paraphrase: No era of our civilization is inherently more or less advanced than the other. We just gain and lose knowledge along the way, over and over. When I looked out over things I’d only seen in textbooks and dreams, my overwhelming though was NOT “What on earth were the tools they used to build this?” – it was “Who on earth were these people whose minds could conjure up such a vision?” Or, to be honest, I mostly thought nothing at all. Because it was the feelings that took center stage.
The feelings I felt – and the thoughts I formed directly related to them – those were centuries of legacy in motion.
Maybe your tech-of-choice isn’t your laptop like mine is. Maybe it’s your phone, or a tablet, or the television you use to numb or learn or search the massive void of 0’s and 1’s. Or maybe the thing you use to craft your You-ness isn’t even a piece of technology at all.
But it’s worth asking every now and again: is this thing helping me articulate my legacy, my meaning, my mission…or is it deciding those things FOR me? If this thing did not exist…would *I*? And am I clear on what matter the most to me, or am I scrambling to keep up with what I think matters most to others?
I won’t be able to stay off my laptop for long – nor do I WANT to! – but while I’m in this headspace, I’m going to do as much as I can to preserve the magic I feel. I’m going to write as much as I can pen-to-paper, then transcribe my words onto the screen if I need to publish an essay or article or even just a podcast’s Show Notes. I’m going to opt for IRL meetings whenever possible instead of tying myself to my Gmail account. I’m going to take my phone, and my purse, and my papers, and I’m going to sit outside somewhere or at least by a window to work and feel connected to the world at the same time. And when I’m on a computer (like I am right now as I transcribe this piece, with just one browser tab open at a time and the intention to “get in get out and get on with my life“), I’m going to make sure that whatever I do on that piece of metal is MEANINGFUL.
Our technology could disappear tomorrow like the city of Pompeii, and we could run through the knowledge-lost-knowledge-gained tap dance hundred of more times in this century alone. But what I have to say matters. What I have to give matters. And it does for you, too. And there is no passage of time or piece of equipment that could ever change that. Time and tech will try to steal your voice and reclaim it as their own, but your impact is yours to make, not theirs. And that impact fully transcends whatever it is you perceive to be your day-to-day benchmarks of predefined success. Our legacy isn’t in the things we birth or the structures we build, but the knowledge we pass and the DNA strands we eventually return back to the stars. And leaning into that profound knowing, and letting the things that once dictated what we did and how we did it take a seat on the shelf (or the far-left corner of 475 square feet) for a while can be more than enough to remind us of who we are.
I went to Italy, sure. But you don’t need to travel across time zones and sun/moon turnovers to come back home.
“Live Your Purpose.” It’s an easily digestible, hyper-tweetable ism you’ve probably heard or seen everywhere from social media to street art. But what does it actually mean to “live your purpose?” And if a purpose is so easily livable…then why aren’t more people doing it?
Emily Ghosh Harris, founder of SoulMedia and host of The Soul Collective Show, shared with WANT what she notices is missing in the purpose-living process…and some questions we can ask ourselves when we feel stuck in our own way.
We’re all given an important assignment when we’re born: a core purpose around which our life unfolds. And as we learn lessons along the way, we’re meant to give back and share what we learn with the world. Many of us learn some pretty challenging lessons – and we emerge stronger and more in touch with our soul than before.
Why then, when we have a deep sense of knowing that we’re here for a reason and we’re meant to make an impact, do we have such a difficult time discovering and living our purpose?
Is there something holding you back? Look closely. Because the reason you find “living your purpose” so difficult could be that there’s an unfulfilled need or unaddressed wound standing in your way. There’s an existing wound in your history that needs your awareness, compassion and focus so you can transform it, move forward, and fully embrace your life’s assignment.
For me, a big wound that was standing in my way was the need for approval. While I founded my company with a strong vision, purpose and intention to positively impact the world, I noticed that I would keep getting pulled into projects that weren’t in full alignment with our mission.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason I kept getting pulled into these projects (that I knew weren’t a fit) was that I was lacking the courage to unapologetically and authentically express my true desires. I was afraid of judgement and disapproval. This resulted in work that was by many measures “successful”…but felt far from the full actualization of what I knew I was here to be doing. I knew in my soul that in order to live my life’s purpose, I needed to heal a subconscious need to people please and gain approval from others.
The last question is key. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the world – and yet, sometimes it feels like we can’t get out of our own way. But underneath the fear, we have a deep desire to reach our greatest potential, and an inner knowing of our capacity to expand and shine our light. As Marianne Williamson says:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
I knew I needed to give myself the love, approval and permission I was desperately seeking, otherwise I would be constantly distracted and in fear of living and speaking my truth. The only way I could truly fulfill my “assignment” was by looking deeper and finding the courage to be my full self. All of me.
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And so instead of looking at the big picture, I started observing the seemingly small ways I was showing up for myself and others. I started asking myself:
Were you present for a friend today?
Did you practice self love?
Did you try your best?
Did you exercise faith instead of doubt?
How did you stay focused on what matters most to you?
How were you patient with yourself and those whom you love the most?
What are you most grateful for today?
What I discovered is that we’re able to show up with vulnerability and authenticity in life when we learn how to embrace, heal, and fully love ourselves. Once we do, it is truly amazing how deeply we can connect to our purpose and to the world around us.
So if you’re in search of your purpose or trying to discover what your assignment is in this lifetime, look at where you may still have a wound that needs healing. Look at where you’re afraid of being seen. Our purpose is innate to us. It’s at the core of who we are. We just need to give ourselves full permission to show up in the world as ourselves.
About Emily Ghosh Harris:
Emily Ghosh Harris is the Founder and CEO of Soul Media, a socially conscious digital media and experiential marketing firm that inspires genuine, authentic connection and engagement. She is the Host of The Soul Collective, a podcast which explores the fears, challenges, joys and triumphs that unite humanity by interviewing individuals who are living authentic and purpose-filled lives. An entrepreneur, author and speaker, Emily Ghosh Harris has used her own personal pain as a catalyst for growth, igniting a curiosity and deep desire to help others navigate past limiting beliefs and common “freedom blockers” to move into greater peace, authenticity and freedom.
I knew this moment was coming. While not “big” by industry standards, my Instagram numbers were steadily growing, and between three speaking gigs in two weeks and a brand new collab underway, I was seeing an amount of traction that was abnormal for what I’d experienced thus far. I knew, also, that as my “numbers” began to grow, that so would my trolls. Maybe if I kept things sterile and serene on social, but that’s not my jam, because I believe that if you have a voice people are listening to, you should use it.
But also, I know it wouldn’t really matter either way. I could post about politics or I could post about pomegranates. I could post about body image or I could post about the best bakeries in Manhattan. I could post instrospective captions or I could post a string of vague emojis that don’t really mean anything in particular. I know that women are bullied on social media for just existing (much like in life!), and I also know that the more outwardly successful you are, the more bullying comments you receive. Just go to the comments section of anyone you deem even mildly #famous and you’ll see what I mean.
this was the pic, btw.
I also want to add that this isn’t the first time I’ve been harassed online. I’ve received DMs on all platforms and seen men tag each other in my posts commenting with wagging tongues or some other disgusting emoji or outburst. But this was the first public-facing comment that was directly directed at me, whose direct purpose was to knock me down and dehumanize me.
I’d like to say I was unaffected and laughed the second I saw it. But when it showed up in my notifications, my heart dropped. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it – part of me for the last month had been whispering in the back of my mind, Wait for it… – but it still stung. After the first 15 seconds, I shook off the sting and started laughing. I’ve Made It!, I cheered to myself! And proceeded to check out this dude’s account then block and report him, not before (of course) snapping a screenshot for harassment proof and to text my friends. Oh, and blast on my personal social accounts.
I knew sharing this would be a little social experiment. How many people would laugh, how many would get angry? How many would know that this is sadly expected, and how many would be agog that this would happen to ME, “violently positive” (as I’ve been deemed by some friends) Katie Horwitch, who keeps her posts PG-13 at their racy-est and proactive at their most charged? I’ve come to expect a wide gamut of reactions based on the wide gamut of experiences and perspectives all people come into a conversation with.
But what blew me away in THIS conversation was the overWHELMING prevalence of this one comment:
This is obviously a very sad person and we should send him light.
Now, not everyone commented with these exact words. Most came to me in the form of “Wow, what a miserable life he must lead” or “What a sad person he must be” or “Laugh at their misery with compassion” or “Imagine how shitty his existence must be and how badly he must need a hug” or even “By the looks of it, this guy is clearly so sad in life and clearly needs medication.”
I’m not one to downplay mental health issues. But the overarching theme and connecting thread between all of these comments was: he gets a pass because of how hard life must be for him.
I know my friends were well-meaning when saying these things, and didn’t meant to downplay anything. I know this because I know this kind of deescalation is a conversation and perspective that’s been taught. It’s kinder than “stooping down to their level.” It’s more “enlightened.”
It’s the “high road.”
But it begs, no, PLEADS the question:
Why is our default response with hurtful men, particularly WHITE men, to play the compassion card, while when it’s a woman or POC, it’s to get angry and spew hate their way (even when they’re NOT actually being a bully, but that’s another conversation)? Why is it that the bully in the situation gets a free pass when the bully is an angry white dude?
I am strong and confident. I’ll be just fine. But some people aren’t. And saying things like “don’t let it get to you, they’re just sad in real life” excuses the bully’s behavior, writing it off as a supporting example of a greater thesis statement about that person’s life. A life that doesn’t involve you, but in this moment, actually does.
Even more than that, using excuses like “what a sad human being” normalizes pushing others down to make yourself feel better. And even MORE than that- and this is what really gets me – it makes the harrassee, on the prey, feel GUILTY for not feeling compassion for their bully.
I see it happen on a small scale in instances like this one and on a more serious scale with my black or gay friends who are told that they should feel sorry for the people who speak such hateful words about them. That, to quote Shakespeare or someone like him, “they know not what they say” and should be sent, to paraphrase, “love and light.”
Well, I call BS on love and light. I call BS on the default of putting yourself in the shoes of the oppressor, whether it’s the man catcalling you on the street or the online troll smearing your DMs with racism. I call BS on it all.
So how do we do it then? In the true spirit of how I write, and WHAT I write, and what others SHARE on this platform, how does this turn into a proactive post offering tools and insight instead of a reactive post venting and offloading emotion?
•SHARE. Brené Brown says that shame can’t live when spoken out loud. Names are shame’s worst enemy and take away shame’s power. When I share things I feel shame around or stuff people say to me that’s meant to tear me down, though, I check my intenitions behind the share. Am I looking for pity or to engage in a hatefest? Or am I posting to expose darkness, to show that this can happen to anyone, anywhere – and we must join forces to take on that darkness?
•Engage with the bully **when PRODUCTIVE and PROACTIVE.** Is commenting back going to help someone learn something or help prove a point when it comes to creating the world you want to live in? Then post away. I thought of posting a comment back to this guy to show others who might be watching how to disarm a bully (my personal tactic is humor and confusion. “I actually thought of this same joke in middle school so I could poke fun at it before any of the mean 12 year-old boys could!” would’ve done it). But this particular comment was so juvenile and nonsensical that it didn’t deserve the time of day – mine or anyone else’s. If the photo or caption had been different – maybe more sexualized or risque – I would have used it as an opportunity to assert my right to portray my body however I pleased. My right to take pride in my sexuality instead of it simply being fodder for others (men) to comment on and make decisions about.
But this wasn’t the case. It was about him leaving a nonsensical comment that didn’t have anything to do with anything except general punny slut-shaming because it’s “funny” and demeaning. It was a classic bully move. This dude didn’t follow me (I checked). This guy didn’t care about what I had to say. He wanted to come into my space, spit at me, and then leave. It would be a waste of my time to try and engage and create a comment war or generate more anger – all on MY page, mind you, which I have worked hard to build and have strict community guidelines around. Namely, don’t be a dick.
I’ve been shamed before for my choices in clothing or maybe a look that “feels” provocative. But those are my choices. I know who I am and I know what I’m doing. And I will always defend that, so that others who might not be able to find the words themselves can have a point of reference if and when it happens to them.
•SCREENSHOT and REPORT. I’m not talking about silencing voices you don’t agree with. Don’t do that. It’s a reeeeal bad look, to put it mildly. I’m talking about the old PSA of “if you see something, say something.” I’m talking about if someone is coming at YOU or someone else with toxic, malicious vitriol, take a screenshot for your records and then report that shit. Platforms like Facebook are preaching that they have zero tolerance for hate speech and harassment. At the end of the day, they’re businesses. They exist because of us. And their noble claims of being an inclusive, tolerant zone, as much as I would love to say are all about their core values, are most likely ALSO a direct result of a shift in user experience. See something? Say something. Make those platforms do something about it.
Interestingly enough, this also happened the day before the news broke about the US administration’s talks about making it illegal to recognize more than two genders in our country. I shared a post by my friend Kelsey, which I thought was so succinct and well-written. Not even an hour later, I received an extremely nasty DM from someone telling me that I looked stupid and our country looked stupid, and while I was “over here caring about stupid pronouns” there were “people dying from bombs across the world.” Apparently I wasn’t allowed to care about Trans rights *and* international warfare. ::shrugs::
And this is where it all starts to get blurry. How do you interact with, if you even interact with at ALL, people who are yelling AT you and not speaking WITH you, who slam you with hate speech and view life through a very narrow lens of their own making?
I’m still working this out. Right now, I’m thinking it’s futile to argue with people who are hell-bent on interpreting your words, your decisions, and your SELF as they see fit. As a quote shared by brilliant Vienna Pharon and @mytruthnturs said, “self care is also not arguing with people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”
But I am still learning. And next year, month, week, hour, I might feel differently. That it’s important to speak up no matter what, even if the person on the other end is determined to shut you down. Yet right now, I don’t have time for that shit. I have work to do.
When consulting with brands and “influencers,” I’ve heard people say that they feel like having a certain amount of visibility or recognition will allow them to talk about things they actually want to talk about. That once they reach a certain number or achieve a very specific self dictated level of success, the conversational doors will fly open and the soapbox will appear. When that happens, they say, they’ll talk about racial injustices, gender disparities, wage gaps, the whole shebang. When, when, when.
My question to them is always: why aren’t you talking about these things now, if those are the conversations you want to be KNOWN for having??
Post your values. Post your Self.
It’ll get rid of the noise real quick, and you’ll end up with the people who are Your People.
(**my people, for the record, believe in trans rights, believe that black lives matter, believe survivors – and while my people and i might not agree on everything in life, my people like to lean in and get curious way more than lash out and get cruel.)
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