Today I choose to be present to my feelings, aware of my needs, and accepting of my self… this however, was not always the case.
Hi, I'm Brenda,
For many years I was…
How I came to truly love myself…
I grew up in small town Alberta, with a close family and interconnected community. Looking from the outside, one wouldn't suspect that I was struggling. Yet in my teen years, I felt very insecure about myself. I desperately wanted to be liked and spent most of my time wanting to be accepted and feel like I belonged. I floated through school, often more concerned about relationships than my studies. I was so concerned about fitting in, I slowly lost sight of who I was and what I needed in my life.
As relationships came and went, I found myself separated from long-time friends, and seeking out anyone who might accept me. I found refuge in new circles of friends, but at the same time felt so lost within myself. In my final year of high school, my life was more about the next party and longing for a relationship to make me happy, than it was about what future possibilities were available to me. I was dabbling with drinking and drugs, and by the time I graduated from high school, I found myself addicted to heroin.
After one year out of high school, I made my way into college. It took a couple of years, dropped out once, and changed programs, until I finally graduated with a banking certificate and landed a career in financial services. I was a highly functioning addict; I worked hard, but I played hard. While I continually fought to overcome my addiction of heroin, I was constantly pulled back in from that desire to be included.
I struggled to see myself as an individual with strengths and value, yet I knew the life I was living was not how I wanted to be.
Finally just after turning 21, I found the courage to leave the circles of friends that had kept me addicted, and I stopped using heroin. I felt empowered and liberated, but was struggling to know who I was and how to really take care of myself. A good friend encouraged me to go to the gym to rebuild my health. As I began frequenting the gym, working out and focusing on my health, I could see an impact physically as my body began to change, and I felt stronger. I assumed if I kept it up, the way I felt on the inside would change too. Yet, there was still a feeling of emptiness.
Meanwhile, I was working my way up the corporate ladder of a major Canadian bank, connecting with people and offering financial advice and services. I felt content in my work. I was making a difference in peoples lives, helping them manage their financial needs. This, coupled with the sense of stability in the financial world, and some emerging self-confidence, kept me anchored to the bank and its people for many years.
Yet, I often I felt like a chameleon. In my social life, I was constantly changing myself to fit into the groups of people I met. I didn't have a solid understanding of who I was, what was important, and what was possible for me. I kept following what I thought I should do, not completely connected with what I wanted.
By my late 20s, I was working full-time and completing my Bachelor of Management Degree in the evening. I was still frequenting the gym, but spending a lot of social time binge-drinking and dabbling in other drugs from time to time. I never went back to heroin, so I told myself I was doing fine.
I felt good about myself at the gym, I found the weight-lifting and cardio workouts I had done over the years had increased my strength and kept me feeling healthy. Then one day I discovered a Yoga/Pilates class. I was attracted to the continued growth in strength, but also to the increased flexibility. It began to enhance my body awareness, in ways I recalled from my youth of figure skating, and slowly guided me to more self-awareness.
Then in late 2009, my Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. He went in for surgery about 10 days later, but unfortunately they couldn't get it all. I was shocked, confused, and afraid. My weekends turned toward my family, travelling the 2 hours back home almost every weekend to be with my Dad and help his wife, but still finding ways to escape my inner-reality by connecting with old friends and going out to the wee hours of the night. I wanted to be my best self, but I was still so uncertain how.
On new years of 2010, I remember coming home from a wild night out and looking at myself in the mirror, I was distraught with what I saw and who I was. I was living a life that didn't feel like my own. I was desperate for change, but didn't know what to do. I recall standing in my bathroom and asking the Universe to please show me the way, because I couldn't live this way anymore. Five or so days later, while looking up my year-end bonus details, I ended up in the job listings. I saw my same position available on 17th Avenue in Calgary. I immediately knew I had to apply. Less than 2 months later I was living and working in Calgary, determined to change my life. I thought stepping away from certain social circles as I had in the past would help me. Though it had a slight impact, later I'd realize the change I actually needed was one from within.
In late 2010 I went on my first ever solo vacation to Costa Rica. It profoundly changed my life. I was introduced to yoga and meditation in a more traditional form, and learned how to surf. While the surfing boosted my self-confidence, the yoga and meditation opened my mind to new practices and self-introspection. When I returned home, I began to study and practice meditation and yoga in a new way. I found a local Calgary studio and began to cultivate my practice. I started meditating daily and over the months ahead I saw more clearly the world I had been creating for myself.
I began noticing how I was talking to myself and how some of my decisions in my social life were impacting me. There were glimmers of self-love and truth, but they were hard to hear and clouded in wanting to be accepted and loved. I was again spiralling through cycles of binge-drinking, while wanting to be happy and healthy, and somehow love myself.
Just before the summer of 2011, a close friend asked me where I thought I’d be in 5 years if I kept living the way I was. I was already 33 and this question shocked me. By the time I drove the 2.5 hours home that day, I knew I needed to stop the cycle I was living. I quit drinking that day.
A month later I lost my Dad. I fear the thought of how I might have handled that loss, had I not found my sobriety and felt so committed to it. I remember telling my Dad I had quite drinking and how happy he seemed about it, even if he wasn't quite himself with the chemo and drugs he was taking. I am still proud I was totally there in mind, body, and spirit, when he did finally leave. My Dad taught me so much about empowered living and how it is really up to us to go after our dreams. While at the time I still had a long road ahead of me, embracing his support has been an important backbone in my life. I'm so grateful for the time we had together, and I know he's still watching over me.
In the coming months, I dove into many self-help books seeking the answers to find inner clarity and soulful happiness. What I found were my hidden shadows of fear and worry and a deep longing for self-acceptance.
I realized I needed additional help to deal with these shadows that were influencing my life. After previous years of working with psychologists trying to overcome my addictive behaviours, I ventured down a different path when I found a shamanic life coach with an approach that seemed to fit. Through our sessions, I discovered the emotions I was hiding from and how the choices I had been making in my life were stifling them. Working through unearthing these buried emotions was very challenging for me, but I was determined to see it through.
Over the next year, I found how accepting and welcoming my emotions was awakening and healing. I came to know myself on a deeper level and understand the needs that went along with my emotions. I took courageous steps to discover my truth and gained awareness and tools to be present to my emotions as they arise.
By this time, I was deep into my yoga and meditation practice, eating healthy, and feeling the best I could ever remember. I was sober, making different choices in my social and work life, and opening up to new possibilities in my future.
With mindful attention I changed my life to align with my truth, who I am on the inside. This experience was empowering and I felt brave. I took on new challenges of personal growth, I opened my heart to love, and I found clarity and trust in my life choices.
I learned to listen to my body, mind, and intuition in making decisions. I enrolled in a Yoga Teacher training program to follow one of my passions, fell in love within a couple of years of discovering my self again, and changed my career to align with my desire to help others feel fulfilled and in align with their true self as a Certified Life Coach.
Since then, I have continued on my journey of honouring my feelings, learning to ask for what I need, and loving myself in a whole new way. I have reintroduced alcohol back into my life, but I have a new relationship with it, because I have a new relationship with myself. It took some time to come to this place of self-awareness, trust, and self-accountability, but so far I feel I am on track. The more awareness I have, the more I am able to be honest with myself and make necessary changes to ensure I am truly honouring myself through my actions.
Reflecting… it all came together with a choice to be present to all of me.
One of my hardest and most valuable realizations during my personal transformations have been to find presence with myself. It took looking inside myself and honouring the feelings I had been avoiding, to help see the light of the amazing person inside me. Through self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love, I've discovered my path to continually grow and learn on this journey. It is certainly not over, but I feel more grounded in myself, trusting of myself, and confident I can meet what each day brings.
What I gained from learning to love and honour myself…
With courage, I changed my life to reflect the truth I felt inside.
Now I want to help you reconnect with your self
so you can discover truth, clarity, and harmony in your life.
Does my story resonate with you?
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