At the very core of living a fulfilling, meaningful and contented life is the ability to live your life as authentically you with resilience and self-assurance. However, there is one big thing that gets in the way and stops most of us from living our best life - and that is the fear of not being good enough or accepted for who we truly are deep down.
You are far from alone if you find yourself thinking I’m too scared to try. I’m afraid to fail. What will people say about me? What if I’m not good enough? What if they laugh at me? What if people think that I am crazy? And so forth.
Truth is, the fear of failure and what others will think is one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to manifesting and living the life of our dreams.
Our second lesson in the Everyday Miracles free online course is about beginning a new chapter in life were you dare to embrace your inner truth so that you can live your life authentically, on purpose and to the fullest of potential.
Firstly, I would like to introduce a phrase I heard recently on Brené Browns Podcast called “Unlocking Us” where she was talking about having a "Strong backs, soft fronts and wild hearts"
For me, these words were so inspiring and powerful that they breathed right into me and hit me hard in the heart.
Strong back, soft front and wild heart is now my daily mantra – reminding me that when life gets tough the most important thing I can do is remain calm, centred and authentic so that I remain strong enough to stay in a space where I still belong to myself – even if the outside world wants to challenge, reject or hurt me.
Truth be known, life’s struggles, hard-times and critics have caused many of us to put up the armour around us in order to protect ourselves, and we are certainly not alone when we experience those thoughts that make us think we are not enough or have come up short yet again.
I am guessing for most of you, you have heard of Brené Brown, for her work on the subject of vulnerability, authenticity and living bravely is some of the best out there. I have had some of my greatest A-ha moments while either reading her books, listening to her talks or tuning into her podcast. If you don’t know who she is then I highly recommend you check her out.
To be truthfully honest, as I delve into this subject today I have to credit Brené Brown for much of the inspiration. While most of what I am going to share with you today is based on my own life experience and reflections, I do need to recognise that Brené’s work has played a big role in helping me unearth my own path to living a life with full authenticity.
If you listen to the episode “Strong Backs, Soft Fronts, Wild Hearts” on Brené Browns Podcast “Unlocking Us” you will discover that this beautiful mantra was both inspired and adopted from a conversation Brené had with Joan Halifax. Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, author and is well-known for her compassionate work with the terminally ill.
I highly recommend you seek out Joan Halifax and her work, including many free inspirational talks such as her TED talk on Compassion And The True Meaning Of Empathy
Throughout much of Joan’s work you will notice that one of her core messages is "strong back, soft front," which, she explains, "is about the relationship between equanimity and compassion. 'Strong back' is equanimity, resilience and your capacity to stay balanced during tough times. 'Soft front' is opening to things as they are." She teaches this practice to help people become stronger when learning how to deal with grief, loss and the end of life.
However; I personally have found it equally important to integrate it into my everyday practice. Hence, why I absolutely love how Brené Brown added Wild Heart when writing Braving The Wilderness [a book I highly recommend] – making it such a powerful personal mantra to help thrive through the ups and downs of the day.
Before we go into why it is important to show up in life with a strong back, soft front and wild heart I want to share something from Roshi Joan Halifax about the meaning behind having a strong back and soft front
“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we risk having a front that’s soft and open…. How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft-front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly- and letting the world see into us”
When we cultivate a strong back, soft front and wild heart within ourselves we are embodying wholeness. We are empowering ourselves to not only be brave enough to feel and experience life at full throttle but to be seen and heard for who we truly are.
It requires stepping out of ego and into the true self, where we have the awareness and ability to live our truth while being able to maintain a calm mind, emotional awareness and mental resilience. It enables us to be grounded, rooted and strong while remaining flexible, soft, adaptable and open to change – especially through the tough times, struggles and loss.
In order to create everyday miracles in your own life and attract abundance you need to stop living small by trying to fit in with the crowd, fearing rejection and trying to please others. You need to step up and be brave enough to truly live and speak your own truth, however you also need to have an inner resilience within that will enable you to be soft and gentle during the hard times.
When we cultivate a strong back, soft front and wild heart within ourselves, we can weather the storms of life with strength, wisdom, grace and an open heart. Our priority in life becomes about getting to know the true inner-self, developing self-awareness and mastering the art of growing and evolving throughout all the seasons in life – even through those times of struggle and uncertainty.
Standing Tall With A Strong Back
A strong back is about trusting your own self-worth over needing to be liked, validated or accepted by others. It’s about being able to drop the need to please, prove and pretend. Instead of letting other people silence you, it’s about growing strong enough to step into your own truth with resilience, compassion, self-love and self-respect.
What I’ve noticed in my own life and in others is that we tend to have a hard front and weak back. As a result, when things go bad or not as we planned we tend to get offended, defensive, reactive, bitter or we take it out on our self with negative self-talk.
For many of us we stumble to stand tall, self-assured and resilient when we are required to embrace authenticity, vulnerability and times of uncertainty. Our backs are not strong enough to stand alone from the crowd or to brave criticism, fear and pain.
The true definition of a strong back is in the ability to be resilient and fragile, happy and sad, brave and fearful. To allow yourself to become all these things requires living with both vulnerability and courage, its being strong yet gentle and kind.
A strong back can handle the tension of staying awake to the hardships and struggles in the world, fighting for justice and peace, while also cultivating its own moments of gratitude, tranquillity and joy.
A strong back can handle the pain and injustices found in the world, it does so by not drowning it out with addiction or denial, but by choosing to become a beacon of light and hope.
A strong back lives with gratitude, knows joy but does not deny that there is struggle in the world. It is about setting the ego aside and learning to deeply love and accept all aspects of life. From the happy moments to the moments of deep suffering. Also, learning to love the ones who are not easy to love.
A strong back does not expect it to always be easy or comfortable but does trust in its own strength and wisdom to navigate through the dark seas. It also knows that there is great strength in kindness and gentleness, and the importance of trading the need to be right for being kind.
In a selfie culture that encourages “look at me” it’s about having the courage to rise above the superficial nonsense and need for outside approval. Instead it is about getting back to what truly matters and that is to graciously serve others. For when we drop the importance of “I” and focus on “we”, it is only then that we find our life’s true calling or purpose.
Most importantly a strong back learns to gracefully let go of the things that are not meant for them. In a world where competition is fierce, and everyone is fighting amongst themselves to be better than each other, a strong back can detach from all outcomes, and live in a space of just ‘being and allowing’ rather than being on the constant path of striving yet never arriving.
Loving Freely With A Soft Front
The soft front is about opening to things as they are. It’s about accepting life as it is rather than longing or worrying about the future and wishing things were different. Cultivating this quality within ourselves enables us to remain open to life without shutting down or collapsing.
Many of us close our hearts and resist life as it is. Then over time our front hardens to protect our heart from heartache, pain and disappointment.
To be honest, it is so hard to keep the front soft when there’s so much mean-spiritedness and cruelty in the world today.
While an armoured front feels like protection, it causes us so much pain and suffering in the end, because ultimately it requires that we hide and runaway from vulnerability, meaningful connections with others and our own true selves.
When we allow the hurtful words, actions and behaviour of others to affect us, we give other people the power to tell us how we should feel, act and be. Do not disempower yourself by giving other people the power to dictate how you feel within, instead draw from your strong back and wild heart to give you the strength to keep your soft front
When we let tragedy, injustice, disappointment and despair fill our heart with hatred and hopelessness, our hearts become heavy, sad, bitter and cynical.
The price of choosing to armour up in order to protect ourselves is high. Its heavy, exhausting, damaging, restrictive and most importantly stops us from becoming who we truly are.
If we embrace vulnerability we will soften the front, which then ultimately makes us stronger. For when we are willing to open ourselves up, expose our emotions and experience vulnerability we also have the power to become more courageous than we ever imagined.
I want to share with you some words from Theodore Roosevelt called The Man In The Arena. These words are etched on my heart and act as inspiration during those times where I am afraid to speak my truth or walk in authenticity.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Living Bravely With A Wild Heart
A brave heart knows that today is a new beginning, it is a new chapter waiting to be written, an opportunity to start living a life with purpose. Where there are new questions to be asked, new experiences to be felt and more wisdom to be gained.
A wild heart lives within those who are seeking more. The ones who have a desire to become the best expression of themselves.
They are the seekers, the storytellers, the creatives, the compassionate and the ones who dare to think for themselves. The ones brave enough to speak their truth even when it means they may walk alone.
A wild heart starts by listening to the world around them and choosing to have the difficult conversations. It’s about seeing the ones who are unseen, speaking up for those that can’t or won’t, and recognising love, connection and unity where others see fear, hate or indifference.
A wild heart will always choose connection over followers. It’s about not following the crowds, but rather, listening to the internal compass that guides us and reorients us back to our own inner truth.
To live with a wild heart, you must thrive on ethics, intention and conscious decision making. Have the humility to see the world as it truthfully is- while believing that a change for a more kind and just world is possible.
It’s about rising up and becoming a warrior for the things that matter most. Intentionally choosing kindness over having to be right. Having the heart to live at the edge, the wisdom to admit mistakes and failures and the courage to start again.
It requires keeping an open mind to everything yet attached to nothing. It makes trusting the process work for you, rather than control you.
Last but not least, a wild heart will reject complacency, rise above the status quo and challenge corruption, nastiness and injustice. They will always do what’s right, not what’s easy or socially acceptable.
To sum up living with a strong back, soft front and wild heart, I suppose the question we all must ask ourselves is, are we on a life path that is authentic to who we are or are we instead choosing a path that is non-confrontational simply to gain acceptance from society? To answer this question honestly, we need to take some time to examine the path we are currently on. We need to ask ourselves questions about why we do the things we do and get really honest about why we seek the things we seek. Questions like:
Am I doing things just to fit in with society?
Do I do things because they are labelled as "the so-called norm"?
Am I brave enough to speak my most authentic truth?
A strong back, soft front and wild heart doesn’t need external validation and it does not walk through the world looking for confirmation that they are not good enough or don’t belong. Truth is, if we go looking for the places where we don’t fit in or are not approved of we will always find it.
It is hard to stand on our own and live with a strong back, soft front and wild heart. There are always going to be those times where it feels too hard or we doubt our ability, as there is always going to be the critics who hurl judgement and the naysayers who say you can’t do it.
When doubt casts its shadow on you, take a deep breath in, drop the armour and embrace vulnerability. Stand a little taller, soften your chest and keep walking forward with your fierce yet kind wild heart.
I want to leave you with a phrase I love from Brené Brown in her book Braving The Wilderness, if you haven't read the book I gently urge you do. Brené writes:
"Finding our way back to our own natural state of being is the spiritual practice of belonging to ourselves so deeply that we can bravely share our most authentic self with the world and find peace in both being accepted by others and standing alone in our own truth when others judge and dismiss us. Finding your true authentic self doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to share with the world who you truly are"