“When you signup for any sort of moment in life, you have to go through your own initiation with it” —Alexandra Roxo
The ocean waves echoed gently through the open-air yoga deck, the air was fresh, and the light filtered through the jungle canopy in a hazy green.
My yoga music was playing, I was all alone, trying desperately to ignore the feelings and the old negative self-talk that was coming up. But like the spider webs I walked through to get there, I just couldn’t shake them.
On an exhale, I pressed back into down dog, my gaze falling on my legs.
You know that moment when you have an idea in your head about what your body looks like, and then you see yourself for real, like your thighs hanging in down-dog, and its shocking?
I was wearing shorts instead of my usual long yoga leggings. I suddenly saw how my body actually looked without the restricting fabric of pants and I crumpled to my knees. I suddenly understood what child’s pose was all about.
I sobbed into the jungle-fied yoga mat, my disappointment and shame for my own body a hot coal in my sternum.
If you’ve been reading any of my articles, you might have read that I quit my career in marketing last year and moved to Costa Rica for 3 months to begin a writing, photography and coaching career.
While I knew that trip was going to be transformative, I didn’t realize how many of my issues I’d be bumping up against there. I didn’t fully appreciate the work that would be asked of me in committing to this life change.
For a decade I struggled with bulimia, self-hatred and a serious disconnection from myself.
While I’m over two years into recovery for the eating disorder, I was still struggling with my relationship with food and emotional eating when I left for Costa Rica. Some days I had it dialed in, other days I would eat well past satiation and into discomfort and pain.
The old habit of binging to push down emotion is a hard shackle to break. Most days I was just barely walking the knife-edge of keeping it together.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was still dealing with discomfort about myself. I felt overweight; I felt unhinged and still wasn’t comfortable in my skin, dappled with cellulite and fuller than it used to be.
I was feeling old, my premature gray hair growing out against my will — I didn’t have time to cover it up before I left. To add insult to injury, my normally beautiful ringlet curls turned to fluff in the humidity.
I was dressed in jungle clothes, the antimicrobial, wrinkle proof, baggy kind, a smart choice for the humid environment, but less flattering than my Levis.
In a word, I felt frumpy.
Nevertheless, I was dropped into a beach paradise, a yogi/surfer/vegan mecca, surrounded by trim women in bikinis, cut off shorts and crop tops, with long mermaid hair, a few actual models, and handsome Tico surfer guys.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so out of place, in my Tevas, with mascara-less eyes because I thought it would be fun to embrace my face without makeup for 3 months.
What a brilliant idea that was.
My reaction to the negative self talk in my head was always to silence it, to ‘always stay positive’ and thus shut out any bad thoughts I had about myself. So that’s what I did.
Any bad thought I had about my body was shushed and replaced with some version of self-love.
When my beautiful (professional model) coworker commented on the cellulite she thought she saw in the stunning photos I took of her, I scoffed: “I don’t have the energy to worry about things like cellulite anymore.”
As I walked to the yoga deck on the day of the “sobbing-child’s-pose” (what’s that Sanskrit word again?) I was barely able to keep the awful self-talk at bay, my legs feeling big in a pair of board shorts I had to wear because my yoga pants were in the wash.
Then a man stopped me and told me he thought one of my coworkers was beautiful. I glued my smile on, feeling the pin-prick of tears, the rise in my throat. I verbally agreed with him, and in my head I told myself “she is beautiful, compared to me.”
Day after day I was confronted with my own lack. Men told me specifically how beautiful they thought all my coworkers were, and this grated on me.
Of course my coworkers were beautiful, and I loved telling them, but I always did so from a place of comparison.
Their beauty was a direct cut to my own.
Every time I looked in the mirror, my grays getting longer by the day, I was confronted with my imperfection. Things I couldn’t hide from anymore.
My awkwardness in new situations, the way my legs rubbed together in dresses and the extra pooch above my bikini bottoms. Things that are easy to cover in the mountains where I’m from, where I can dye my hair and go to a gym every day.
But all that was taken away when I shipped off to the jungle.
I was exposed to myself completely. I was forced to be exactly as imperfect as I’ve always been, and I couldn’t just mantra-it out, push it down or cover it up.
When You Set Goals, You Sign A Contract with the Universe
“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you give, you get.” –Unknown
My life was a series of events that lead to my Costa Rica trip.
Every time I broke down prior to leaving, the heaviness of my own painful words about my body almost too much to bear, I would ask the Universe to help me take it away. To help me stop bullying myself.
Every time I hit the mat to meditate, or laced up my running shoes, I intentionally focused on working out this mass of shame that felt like a tumor in my belly. I was sitting in the presence of the Universe trying to do the hard work.
I was consciously and unconsciously asking to figure out how to love myself, so that I could move through it and do the work of writing my story from a place of honesty and vulnerability.
Things were set in motion when the opportunity to move to Costa Rica for 3 months was dropped in my lap. I was driving home from the job I wanted to quit and I said out loud “I want this, I want to go to Costa Rica.”
A month and a half later I nervously heaved my 43-pound backpack and my computer bag onto my back and stepped into the airport on a frozen fall morning.
I always knew I wanted to write my story, to let the pain and struggle help someone else.
I kept working to figure out in what capacity I wanted this journey to take. Unknowingly, through all the work and the requests for help, I was sending my intention out to the Universe.
These requests, small and massive, complicated and simple, culminated into that trip to Costa Rica. Without knowing it, I had signed a contract with the Universe to build the thing I’ve been striving for.
Looking back, I had to go to Costa Rica, and confront all the struggles of self-hate I had, so I could understand all the ways I was capable and worthy of doing what I am now, writing and coaching.
Goal and intention setting, begging for change, and calmly meditating through the struggle is all a formal request to the “big out there” to make the things you’re working towards happen.
Once you make the decision, things are set in motion that we can’t even begin to fathom.
But just like the Universe is inclined to hold up its end of the deal, you too are required to do some heavy lifting to bring this dream or goal into fruition.
Your Struggle is Your Initiation into Your Goal
“I used to resent the obstacles along the path, thinking “if only that hadn’t happened life would be so good.” Then I suddenly realized life IS the obstacles. There is no underlying path,” Janna Levin
We like to think that life should be easy, pleasant and pain free.
We’re told in marketing campaigns, or when we scroll through the highlight reel of other people’s lives on social media that we should feel good all the time. We’re convinced that there’s something wrong with us and our lives if we don’t feel good all the time.
But as Brooke Castillo says, life is painful about half the time, no matter what. Regardless if we get the new career, the new partner, make more money or lose 5 pounds.
Life is still shitty half the time.
We all want to achieve great things, which is why you’re reading this article now — you’re seeking insights to make your dreams come true.
But when you declare your wish to change your life, or achieve a goal, you’re signing a contract to face your fears and flaws so that you can either overcome them and achieve your goal, or not.
And working through those things in order to discover the lessons that live there is no joy-ride.
As Gabrielle Bernstein discusses in The Universe Has Your Back, these things are your assignment from the Universe. If you’re unable to show up — face your fears and accept the parts of yourself that you’ve been running from — you’ll continue running into them over and over.
Some people spend their entire lives running away from the things they fear, and thus remain stuck in place, never reaching higher levels of being or achieving their goals. But as Gabrielle says:
“Running from fear is like running around a track. You’ll inevitably wind up back in the same place again and again until you truly accept it.”
I had to be stripped bare of all the tools I used to hide my flaws from the world and myself by living in the humid jungle, miles away from creature comforts and good mascara.
I had to be confronted over and over with what I fear the most — not being enough, or worthy of love based on my looks and my weight — in order to understand all the other ways I was worthy.
The key to loving yourself is just like loving other people. Seeing yourself for who you are — a sometimes awkward woman with thick thighs and pre-mature gray hair — and inviting that person into your heart.
I realized that in shushing my negative self-talk with positivity I was closing the door on the person I was scared of being: myself, in all my flawed humanity.
2 Questions to Understand Your Struggles for Growth
I’m all about using curiosity to change here, so sit down with a pen and your journal and answer the following questions.
1. What emotions or blocks do you keep coming up against?
The idea behind your struggles being lessons or assignments is that we will keep making the same mistakes, and keep confronting the same limiting issues until we figure out a new way to move through it.
If you keep feeling stuck, or like you keep having the same issues in your life — not being able to find love, dissatisfaction with your job, or emotional issues, like was my case — reframe those issues as assignments and ask yourself what the lesson is.
Although it might seem like it’s bad luck, or that you’re pre-disposed to disappointment, or self-hate, it just takes reframing the issue into a lesson so that you can get honest with yourself and realize what in your life needs work.
2. How will this issue help you move to the next stage of your life or goal?
Negative emotions, traumas or struggles can feel overwhelming and without purpose. This certainly is not an argument to discount how difficult life can be sometimes and you might not be in a place where you can look at your struggles from a place of learning — and that’s fine.
But when you are, ask yourself how these issues, or recurring struggles are helping you to move forward in life, or giving you the tools to accomplish the goals you’ve set. Ask yourself:
What realizations have you discovered about yourself or the world because of this struggle?
What tools have you created that will help you move through this issue and can be used with future struggle?
How does this issue directly tie into the goal or intention you’ve set for yourself, and how can you use it to continue manifesting your goal?
Looking at your struggles in life from this point of view often sheds light on why things happen the way they do, and can bring you closer to your goals. It allows you to see why you needed to experience these things in order to grow or achieve your goal.
“Freedom from the past is available to you when you show up for the assignment in the present” — Gabrielle Bernstein
There’s so much freedom in realizing the struggles you’re facing are assignments on your path to your dreams.
It creates a foundation to begin the work in healing and acceptance.
I never knew that in order to do my highest work I would be forced to accept and love the woman I am right now.
I thought I had this whole self-love talk down by just replacing my negativity with positivity. But in reality I was only buffering and further pushing myself away.
I was attempting to distance the person I’m trying to be from the woman I am, one feel-good mantra at a time.
This disconnection kept me running in circles, chasing my future, but dragging my past issues like a brick.
The future can’t exist without dealing with the past head on.
But once you do, you open yourself up to the Universe that’s busy trying to help you create your dreams. You prove yourself worthy, you can add it to your spiritual resume and get on with creating your highest self.
Make massive change in your life by figuring out how you want it to FEEL every day. I created a 10 minute audio exercise to plug you into your authentic self, so you can start living the life you want today 👇