“Authenticity is the practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
– Brene Brown
When I was trying to sort out my own truths, and get really clear about what I wanted and needed, I was constantly struggling with trying to hear the “yes’s” and “no’s'” in my life.
I couldn’t tell the difference between my voice and someone else’s voice. I couldn’t sort out what part of my answers were a result of wanting to please others, and what part were a result of not knowing myself and what I wanted and needed.
I had been such a people pleaser for so long that it was difficult to make decisions for myself. Was I saying yes because it was something that I really wanted, or was I wanting to say yes because I thought it was what someone else thought I should do?
I began to notice that every time I stopped to really find the answer from within, and was committed to wanting to know what was true for me, answers came – right on time!
They began to show up clearly for me each time I looked within myself, but every time I was looking outside of myself for answers, confusion around my decisions prevailed.
It was a new way of thinking for me – to consider that the answers I had been looking for were possibly within me, and not outside of me. That meant that someone else didn’t know what was right for me or how my life was to unfold.
It was brave new territory to begin to claim that I might be the one who knows what’s right for me. As I began exploring and questioning that possibility, the answers I needed showed up for me in the most ordinary circumstances and ways.
I was watching Oprah one afternoon and she said something that immediately resonated with me. It felt like divine confirmation that I was on the right path. It was so beautifully simple, and I have used it as a guideline for making decisions ever since.
She said, “doubt means NO!” She explained that we all know what a YES feels like. It’s a resounding feeling, a jumping in with both feet – no hesitation. A pure YES!
But doubt means NO. It’s that simple. When you are making a decision, if you don’t have a resounding yes – the answer, at least in that moment, is no.
I began looking for that resounding yes by paying attention to what it felt like in my body. In her book Steering by Starlight, Martha Beck explains it as feeling either SHACKLES ON or SHACKLES OFF.
Imagine literally what it would feel like if you had shackles around your feet – it weighs you down, feels heavy, like dragging your feet. That is what your body feels like when it’s saying no – SHACKLES ON.
And imagine the shackles being taken off your feet. It feels light and easy to move, liberating and free. That is what your body feels like when it’s saying yes – SHACKLES OFF! That’s what your resounding YES feels like.
Sit with your decision, and imagine saying yes. Which way do you feel when you say yes? Is it freeing, or is it heavy? SHACKLES ON or SHACKLES OFF? And if you’re feeling uncertain, just remember that doubt means NO.
Your road to joy, to discovering your biggest self, and living your fullest life, will always be to follow SHACKLES OFF – light, easy, liberating and free!