Our emotions are a beacon leading to what matters most—our core values.
Writing started as a pastime for me, but over time, my love of writing grew into a passion. I loved getting lost in a story and seeing where a set of characters were leading me. But more than that, I wanted to share my voice and the story I was writing with the world.
I’ve been working on my novel since the fall of 2012. That’s almost nine years. Writing a novel is not an easy task, but I really thought I would be published by now.
So why am I still writing the same book?
The writing craft is complex and I certainly have had to invest time, money, and attention into learning and growing as a writer. But mindset blocks (as some people call them) and Resistance (I like this term better) are other factors that often get in the way for people engaged in the creative arts.
These blocks or Resistance show up as distractions, the inner critic, and/or whatever personal brand of fear a person brings to the table. If you’ve been reading my recent blog posts, you know my fear has presented as shame around becoming a mom at sixteen. This shame has gotten in the way of my writing, along with something much deeper.
Alignment means living from, into, and with your core values.
Core values are made up of the things, people, experiences, and beliefs we hold closest to our hearts. For me, those things are family, connection, service, and living passionately. Because these things are so important to me, I react from a place of fear when it appears that someone or something could restrict my ability to be of service to others, dull my life experiences, or threaten my relationship with the people I care about.
Figuring this out wasn’t a three a.m. epiphany. It was a process that required deep thought and discernment, which began when I started wrestling with the question of why I couldn’t finish the novel I’ve been working on for twelve years.
We all have an internal script running through our minds and informing our perspectives, but we are not all aware of, or in tune with, this script.
I figured out that my experience as a teen mother had created an inner, critical voice that hindered my hopes and dreams. But it wasn’t enough to just figure this out. I also needed to slow down and sit with the younger part of me that this critical voice attacked. I needed to soothe her concerns before I could move ahead with my book, my vision, goals, and my passions. Ultimately, for me, the best way to do this was to figure out what this younger part of me needed—what she was protecting.
Younger Me enjoyed talking for hours on the phone and loved talking in person even more. She loved connecting with all of her friends—having sleepovers where they stayed up all night listening to music, creating those origami fortune tellers, and filling their journals with boys’ names and hand-drawn pictures of random shapes and words. This girl was more social than I remembered. The fear she was still holding on to was that of upsetting the group and becoming isolated again.
Younger Me was also more of a helper than I remembered. Helping made her feel needed and important. She loved to organize her parent’s papers and junk drawers, and her friends’ rooms. She looked forward to helping her teachers at school, and in the nursery at church. Assisting and supporting others made her feel needed, appreciated, and loved, and those feelings brought her joy. As it turns out, she also experienced these emotions as a mom, and being a mom is one of her most cherished roles.
It’s definitely a role she didn’t/doesn’t want to get wrong.
I felt what Younger Me was feeling.
I agreed with what she had to say.
But I also knew this value of service had left the adult version of me depleted, especially in recent years as my people-pleasing and perfectionist tendencies had me running all over the place trying to be everything to everyone.
I realized that if I created the writing life I dreamed of—the one I imagined and was working toward—it would require more focus on my book, which meant time away from my family to think and write. It could also include running all over the place trying to keep up my current obligations, while also trying to pursue new ones. AND, inadvertently, attaining my future goal of becoming a published writer could draw attention to my past that could cause my family discomfort. The contradictory mix of fear and passion and the sense of possible threat to my core values of family, connection, service, and living passionately were keeping me from going after my dreams.
So, what did I do in order to shift adult me and this girl-version of me to the place where I’m telling the world about my experience as a teen mom and pursuing my writing dream?
I got intentional about a new way of thinking and moving in the world. And I started by looking that younger version of myself in the eye and promising to honor her core values, her dreams, her goals, AND to acknowledge her fears. Which meant I was really promising to honor my core values, my dreams, my goals, AND acknowledge my fears.
I promised to put my family first. I am the boss of my time, and I can gauge how connected I am feeling with my kids, my husband, my friends, and even myself. This gauge is a simple question: Am I feeling connected to my husband, my kids, my friends, my community, myself? The answers to this question help me know when I am out of balance in one of these areas, so that I can slow down and refocus my energy, creating time and space for the people that I value.
I promised to honor my desire to be of service to others. Again, I can turn this into a question: Am I being/feeling in service to my family, my work, my community, myself? I hope you are noticing this all-important addition of self. I can’t offer my best service to others if I have depleted myself. I have to include my own needs in the equation. I have to make the time, and take the time to keep myself nourished (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). This is not selfish—it’s an essential step in living a life aligned with my values and goals.
Finally, I promised to honor my desire to live passionately. So I ask the question: Am I passionate about my message, my roles, and my commitments to others and, again, myself? Passion is a strong emotion. I’ll know immediately if I’m feeling it when I talk about my message, or role and commitments. And, if I’m not feeling passionate, I’ll have to dig deeper to see why it feels like I’m out of alignment. This will include asking more questions and possibly circling more of my beliefs, which could lead me to uncover another misbelief.
This work is a practice that I will need to return to again and again. I might have to question, explore, and discard more outdated beliefs/misbeliefs. I might find that there is something else I really value (an exercise plan, an aging parent, a renovation, a community service project), and I may have to adjust for a season. But this is the work of alignment that will help me joyfully and passionately live from, with, and into my core values.
Right now this practice leads me to:
Finish the book.
Publish the book.
Share the book.
And, write another one, and another one, and another one, and …
What do you most value? Family? Presence? Fun? Knowledge? Justice? Belonging? Commitment? Health? Wonder? Peace? Knowledge? Service? Or something entirely different? I challenge you to dig deep into what you value. Write your top two or three values down and post them where you will see them often—your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, maybe your car.
Then get busy living into the biggest, fullest version of you.
To learn more about Resistance check out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.