Where did I go? Or, how to find yourself when feeling lost.

I used to be one of those people who kept myself so freaking busy that it was easy to avoid knowing who I really was. I’d like to say this was an unconscious thing, but that wouldn’t be true. I was afraid if I examined myself too closely, I wouldn’t like who I’d become. 

What if I needed to make changes? What if I’d helped build a world I didn’t even want? What if I had no discernable passion, no special gifts, no real goal in life? 

What if I was just, empty?

So long as I continued to pile on the roles and responsibilities, I was exempt from ever figuring my shit out. Instead, I clinged to my achievements and busy-ness as my identity of choice. 

But it’s not who I was. And it isn’t who I am. 

Underneath all the layers of giving to others is the “me” I’d forgotten about.

Women can lose themselves after decades of wearing too many hats. For some it’s the career hat. For others it’s the mom hat. Then there are those who wear both, and still more who have the hats piled so high it’s no wonder they can keep their heavy heads screwed on tight.

Let’s face it, our instinct to nurture is just how we roll. What’s at stake, though, is who we are at our core. 

Have we forgotten what lights us up? Have we shelved the things that matter to our own personal growth in favour of helping our loved ones become successful? Have we ever bothered to look “under the hood?” Do we even know what interests us?!

Self-discovery is the answer, but that it in and of itself can feel overwhelming. In my experience, the biggest trap to keeping our true selves under wraps is time. Rather, the obvious lack thereof. 

She Walks the Walk has created a Self-discovery Curriculum that coincides with our most adventurous selves. We give you the tools to do that deep work so you can return to your life feeling free, at peace and, most importantly, inspired. 

How do we find ourselves again?

Finding our way back to ourselves is an organic evolution that happens when we stretch our bodies, open our hearts and quiet our minds. 

At SWTW, we believe rediscovering ourselves requires a longer exit from our lives. Expecting a two-day yoga retreat to have any lasting impact might be unrealistic. Taking “all this time” for ourselves is the first most pivotal step.  

Our G’WAs are an ideal backdrop… Hiking in Guatemala’s cloud forest is about as far away from the office and your unloaded dishwasher as it gets. We purposely seek out locations with a degree of remoteness, and the allure of “mostly unexplored.” We want you on fresh territory, where nothing can tug at your sleeve other than our guide showing you the way forward. 

These longer walking journeys are also designed to challenge you. (Hey, there’s no growth if everything’s a cakewalk.) Imagine feeling your body come to life again. It’s like being reborn. Physicality is the kickstart of self-discovery. 

But so is spirituality. Not in the religious sense, more in the “getting still” sense. 

We begin each day with meditation, to make space for reconciling whatever burbles up, or to welcome in new ideas about who you might really be. And while meditation is a core piece of our G’WAs, don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. We give you your own unique mantra, assigned to you by date and place of birth. To be clear, there is no audible chanting, and in fact, your mantra is highly personal and should be kept private. It will serve as an anchor point as your G’WA unfolds.  

Journalling is another activity we encourage throughout your journey. We’ve designed a special She Walks the Walk journal filled with prompts to help you turn inward, along with sufficient empty space for you to create. We think writing has the power to purge what’s clogging us up, while sparking new dreams for the future.  

Connecting with other women is a part of our process, as well. After a long day of traipsing through rivers and clamouring over boulders, bonding with your teammates is a given. We end each day with a cozy tea and some group discussion inspired by your own reflections. It might be an A-HA moment you had when meeting one of the locals enroute. Or perhaps an observation you made during your walk — how does everyone else feel? What new perspectives might our conversation generate? 

And if you’re thinking “Nah, I’m not into sharing, I’ll just hit the sack and watch this downloaded episode of New Girl…” — you’d be surprised at how quickly we lower our guards over the course of one of our G’WAs. By the end of the pilgrimage, these virtual strangers will feel like your lifelong besties. Trust builds far quicker out here than it does in your bubble back home.

Throughout the course of your journey, we’ll also provide you with ample opportunity for play. Here’s a supertruth: our culture is obsessed with productivity. Prioritizing joy, laughter and silliness ranks lower than our own quests to keep the bills paid and climb higher up the corporate ladder. She Walks the Walk believes that having fun is as important as making progress. So come prepared with your sense of humour. 

Stop looking for yourself in the midst of your chaotic life.

We combine tried and tested methodologies of Self-discovery into one epic adventure with the power to transform. So, if you’re craving an adventure unlike anything you’ve done before. If you’re ready to be stretched physically. To get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. And if you’re okay with vulnerability — our G’WAs may be a step in the right direction to finding yourself. 

I’ll leave you with some profound wisdom from a dear friend of mine. He sent me these thoughts in an email when I was having a moment of frustration. In classic “Sam” style, I was beating myself up for not being as far along in this new creation as I’d hoped. I love that he opened up about himself, making me feel even more human in my yucky state of mind. I am sure there are some real pearls here for you, too:

My map was crap anyway, and the drifter that sits deep within me has had to sit up and take note, and consider actions. Why the hell did I do that, ignore them, make that decision…omg! ‘What have I done with me life’ meets ‘what did I set out to achieve in the first place’ that then allows me to compare and consider whether a success or other.

What are we actually comparing? Who are the judges? Did I ever sit down and write my CV for St Peter when I eventually reach the gates? And what actually is retirement? Really? Just not working…what at all…just not earning money… Retirement is a myth in my book.

You stop one thing, gain some time and then kick on to the next thing, often with freedom to choose, often not because things suddenly and unexpectedly happen. Time moves so fast as you get older (true although no scientific basis!), and the temptation is to hurtle on trying as we go to reflect, think and decide whether the route is the one we expected. Instead of really meaningfully stopping to pause, reflect, consider what’s going well, what could be better and what I am learning and what my judges are telling me.

Then starting the walk again with a clear view of the next rest place where I will do the same again… and again…

My friend, mentor and coach
Jeremy, United Kingdom

The trap of careerism.

I came across a new word the other day while reading about American actress, Renee Zellweger. She was always someone I admired — her early Bridget Jones renditions were impeccable — but she seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. I watched her win the Oscar for Best Actress and became curious about where she’d been hiding. Thanks to the fine folks at Vulture and HuffPost, I stumbled on her relatable story, referencing a conscious choice to break away from the acting business in order to rediscover herself. Turns out that even hugely successful peeps can also wrestle with identity issues and depression. The article spoke of Careerism and though I got the gist of what it meant, I hit up google for more.

Two definitions jumped out at me. Wiktionary defines Careerism as: the overwhelming desire or urge to advance one’s own career or social status, usually at the expense of other personal interests or social growth. While, dictionary.com explains it as devotion to a successful career, often at the expense of one’s personal life, ethics, etc. 

Hmmmmn. It got me thinking — why are many of us so driven? What’s the point here, guys? Yes, the point is we seek fulfillment, and, we need money. Right? We compete with the masses for our own unique expression of self-actualization, which often comes in the form of a career.  And, we target the highest potential income along the way. Because, quite frankly, we deserve it.

We push. Climb. And achieve.

Yet for some, satisfaction is short-lived, so we continually chase more. I know from personal experience.  I felt inspired to dig into the subject but want to acknowledge there are many happy, gratified people who would probably tear this discussion to shreds. For some, their career is everything they hoped it would be. They have a healthy balance in life. For others, it’s intertwined with their identity, and that brings them joy. And then there are those who openly admit to feelings of emptiness and “what’s-the-point-ness”, (and perhaps a subgroup of folks who suppress these emotions). I think I’ve been in all of these categories! 

I’ve climbed two versions of corporate ladder in my life, nose-down, grinding away. The first, as an employee: my budding career in the world of Performing Arts fundraising. I had everything to prove and nothing but energy. Ever the pleaser (and also just legit eager to see what I was capable of), I poured myself into the job and quickly made a name for myself as an accomplished doer. Sam Wrenshall got shit done! I moved up through the hierarchy of titles and the infamous “salary grid” and found myself making more than $60,000 in my mid twenties. In the late ’90s, that was a lot of dough for a young person! Never mind the fact that it was the arts — reputably under paid. It came at a price, however: an expectation of increasing results. Every year, they moved the damned cheese on me. Instead of having to raise $500,000, it was $750,000 then $1M. And that went up, too. The presumption of meeting these lofty goals resulted in me literally cracking. At 26 (and just two years in), I burnt out. Couldn’t even string a sentence together. During my three-month leave, I learned a valuable albeit cynical lesson. We’re all replaceable. And, nothing changes. The workload is still there, right alongside its faithful companion: pressure

At the time, I remember feeling so let down. This vision of happy-go-lucky Career Girl felt like a crock. I was far too young to be jaded, but I was.

Like most difficult times, however, the breakdown revealed some powerful gifts. Most notably, newfound self-awareness, and the promise to create healthier boundaries given my workaholic tendencies.  

After 6 years, I left that world and joined another — that of self-employment. I confess I was switched on by the opportunity to control my time and walk in the field of “unlimited potential income.” (Who doesn’t want that?!) Turns out these carrots were not lies, though they came with some fine print I didn’t pay any initial attention to. (1) You will work your ass off for the first five years, if you want to survive in this business, no ifs, ands, or buts; this includes evenings and weekends, no excuses and (2) The income you make is directly related to your own talents and effort. Nobody is going to hand it to you. Cue the roller coaster!  

I loved both careers for varying reasons, but the latter especially. It taught me a myriad of lessons, introduced me to clients who’ve become some of my closest friends and colleagues I’d walk to the end of the earth for. But most impactful, it showed me ongoing perspective. There’s always someone worse off, we really have zero to complain about. And, nothing like delivering a big cheque to a grieving, young widow to remind you that tomorrow is promised to nobody! Yes, I know I say this ALLLLL the time, it’s kind of my credo in life. I also really dug working alongside my Dad over the years. What a blessing that’s been. 

Yet Careerism for me was most definitely a THING. Once again, I had something to prove. Uprooting my family and taking on the role as main breadwinner meant there was a great deal on the line. I poured myself into the work with feverish commitment. Then there was the internal daughter/father pressure I felt. Never from him, more from myself — that desire to make him proud. It wore on me over the years; and even as I became more successful and recognized in the industry it never felt legitimate. I always found myself looking over my shoulder, not quite certain if I’d be “found out.” 

Along the way, I didn’t burn out, but the fragile layers of my spirit slowly eroded inside. It was so insidious, I almost didn’t notice. In 2010, around the time my kids were 7 and 2, I bumped into my first identity crisis. I was 36 years old and feared that I didn’t know myself. Like, my true self. Hiding underneath the labels I had woven into my life (Mom, Wife, Business Partner/Owner), I felt an emptiness that scared the beJesus out of me. I became convinced that the answers lie in trying to achieve greater success. 

I tried this out for awhile, and each time I met a new goal, I did not reach a new level of happiness. I’ve spoken about this before. Sure, the initial “Oh wow, I did that!” felt pretty cool.

But I knew this was all ego, and thus, fleeting.

So, what’s the deal? It’s this: I’ve been on a deliberate mission to rediscover myself on a gradual basis over the last decade. What makes me tick? What makes me happy? What are my interests? At one point, I was certain I had none, unless you count drinking wine, and that isn’t something I’m excited about admitting! 

I began to throw myself into extreme situations of discomfort wondering if any would resonate. Many did. I found myself drawn to adrenaline-filled expeditions, connecting with people from other cultures and learning to drop the facade of who I thought I should be. I was attracted to countries where the people had very little in the way of material/status possessions but appeared happy and content nonetheless. Places like Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Bolivia all spoke to me at my core.   

But unlike Renee, I never retreated from “public life” and, in fact, I’ve been quite open with my weird self-exploration over the years. Hindsight sure is a great teacher, though. Looking back, I can see that losing myself in a career of any kind was ultimately going to break me. Even if I wanted it, and I wanted it badly. Success, recognition, continual career growth. I wanted it all! I’m supposed to be this tireless Capricorn… the “hard worker” in the family. Now? I’m entering a period where I want to play. I’m refusing to forget who I am at my core. I hope to encourage others to do the same. 

To be clear, I see nothing wrong with having a career, or creating a business that becomes the pinnacle of our self-expression and in a way we can best serve others. Hey man, that’s what I’m after, too! I genuinely believe we are at our very best when we are in service. However, a career can also be a mask… a clever way for you to avoid looking under the hood to better understand yourself. Or, it can be a trap, keeping you in a quasi alive-but-dead state. Is it time for you to wake up? Are you all good there?

For those who wish NOT to be disturbed in their current career paths, or their quest for more, I salute you and wish you well on your journey. Ambition is a value of mine. I just know that for me, Careerism ensnared me over time, but only now do I have a name for it. 

Back to that Renee article. She went on to say how she needed to not have something to do all the time. She wanted to allow space in her life for some accidents. “There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in.” I totally get that. I also loved the analogy she shared from her friend, actress Salma Hayek.

“She shared this beautiful… metaphor? ‘The rose doesn’t bloom all year … unless it’s plastic.’ I got it. Because what does that mean? It means that you have to fake that you’re ok to go and do this next thing. And you probably need to stop right now, but this creative opportunity is so exciting and it’s once-in-a-lifetime and you will regret not doing it. But actually, no, you should collect yourself and, you know … rest.”

So, maybe it’s time for all you tired-out career folk to rest up?

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