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  • Nathalie Weister

pain full

While the year-end holidays can be a celebratory time for gifting and gathering, I know I am not alone in experiencing physical and emotional trials, ranging from complex family dynamics to added financial pressures to feeling stretched by gratuitous social commitments. As the festive lights twinkle with hope for the new year, I'm reminded that for some, including myself, the holidays also usher in a shadow of pain. It's a shadow that grew larger for me two years ago when the merriment of Christmas was eclipsed by the loss of my mother, echoing an earlier grief from losing my grandmother on the same day ten years before. The temptation to evade or numb those feelings is strong and even more accessible this time of year – with more events, more food and alcohol, and more excuses to escape feeling anything. Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but if I were to give one gift to myself and the people I care about, it would be a safe entry into the pain. The renowned psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung wisely said, “until you feel the unfelt thing, you will call it destiny, and it will rule your life.” How many of us are letting unprocessed negative emotions dominate our existence?

In one such unconventional space where I allowed myself to traverse the pain, I had the profound realization that so many significant decisions in my life were subconscious attempts to avoid that very emotion. If it wasn’t the grief from losing some of the most beloved people in my life, it was the unassuming agony of simply believing that I wasn’t enough. I saw that I’ve been constructing a reality of falsehood to fill that hole, but it's been like putting a Band-Aid on a broken ankle. Healing, I've learned, is an inside job. While I would do anything to bring my mother back, I would be a fool not to learn from her traumatic disease. It was only through the pain of losing her that I could see my learned patterns of masking the not-enoughness, many of which were unconsciously modeled by her, most notably self-neglect and body disassociation. From diet culture to cosmetic procedures, I sought external solutions to internal disquiet and a belief that perfection was an achievable state. But none of that generated true acceptance because, I realized, there was nothing to fix in the first place.

This narrative may seem intimate for a professional forum, but it's shared with purpose. As a female leader in male-dominated corporate spaces, my insecurities once hid behind a facade of physical attractiveness and assertive demeanor, masking my genuine self, which I perceived as inadequate. However, witnessing my mother lose everything external that she worked so hard to uphold and, more significantly, the transience of life prompted a profound reevaluation of my own self-criticism. It sparked a slow but seismic shift towards authenticity, which, I’ll admit, is a work in progress. While I do not judge anyone for the decisions they make about their bodies and their lives, and I believe we are all on our respective paths to remembering who we really are, I assert that stepping into the pain and even facing these uncomfortable truths about ourselves is the key to being better leaders and ultimately, living our most fulfilled lives overall.

Now, I stand before you, advocating for embracing our fears and discomfort as a gateway to better leadership and a richer life. Acceptance and vulnerability are not just personal virtues but professional strengths. If you're considering stepping into this arena of truth, I offer a few recommendations:

  1. Find a sanctuary for introspection with someone who can guide you, like a coach, therapist, or mentor.

  2. Engage with your body's wisdom beyond intellectual understanding through practices like meditation or mindful movement.

  3. Ease into your pain with patience, allowing yourself to experience it fully without rushing or forcing.

  4. Bring a new level of consciousness to your pain, approaching it with curiosity and even compassion rather than avoidance.

  5. Remain with your feelings, allowing them to evolve at their own pace.

  6. Let new insights flow from this process and consider how they align with your deeper values and purpose. Read more about this in my last article here.

  7. Return to a place of balance through grounding exercises like walking in nature that affirm your stability and security.

To be present in the full spectrum of life is to be fully alive. This richness is what makes us human and connects us to others. There is immense power in emotion, and in our willingness to face it, we find the keys to our spirit's expansive nature.

If these words resonate with you, and if you're ready to dive deep and emerge more authentic and empowered, I am here to support you. As a coach, I offer strategies and a partnership in navigating the complexities of leadership and self-discovery. Together, we can journey through the layers of emotion to the heart of who you are and who you can become. Let’s embrace the whole experience of life, with all its shades, and transform pain into purpose.

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