Learning to Live Life on The Edge
There have been some interesting changes afoot in my life recently, and I’ve been curious about where the ripple started. What was that first pebble that once it was dropped into the water’s surface, it created these undeniable effects that I feel today? And these effects have been wondrous, so naturally I’m curious about what it was that sparked such positive changes.
It’s been hard to discern, too, because when I consider the pebble that was dropped, I don’t know if I could have consciously understood at the time just how significant the impact would ultimately be. What has since transpired is that I’ve been diving deep into the depths of this lake of my consciousness, searching for that nugget of wisdom, or wholehearted action, or combination of the two, that started this entire chain reaction. After much contemplation, quiet introspection, and tons of journaling, here’s what I think* I’ve discovered.
These lovely shifts began when I started speaking up for what I wanted and was able to clearly communicate that with the necessary parties involved, whether that was my partner, my friends, or even myself.
My past tendencies have been to sink into the role of people pleaser, wearing a cape of indifference with an easy-going attitude as a way to steer clear of any conflict. I wore that agreeable attitude as a badge of honor and pride. I enjoyed being the low-key friend, the peacemaker. But what happened over the years is that in staying quiet, in suppressing my own desires, I was secretly growing unhappy.
I began exploring this notion of speaking up for myself in small ways at first. Sharing when I did have a preference for dinner, or how I wanted to spend my Saturday. Not apologizing for needing to stay in on a Friday night (hey, fellow introverts, I know you understand this one!), and noticing how different I felt when I could:
Identify my needs.
Clearly share those needs with anyone who might be impacted as a result.
Slowly release any guilt I felt around stating what I needed.
It started out small, but now I’m seeing these beautiful transformations in my life and business. I believe this entire process started for me about two years ago, when up until then, the idea of speaking up was fraught with fear. I don’t think I’m alone in that many of us who were raised as young women in the South often heard the phrase growing up that, “Good girls are meant to be seen, not heard.” (This is such a problematic statement that I’ll need to write a whole other piece to aim to unpack this, but for the purpose of this article, I do acknowledge that I’m glazing over it quite quickly.) That potentially benign lesson in “manners” has had an immense impact on my life—keeping me small, quiet, subdued.
My inner work recently has been to reclaim this inherent power that I have as a human being. Even though I fundamentally don’t agree with that statement above, those words embedded themselves so deeply into my bones, into the marrow, that I am continuing to do the work of what feels like a complete soul excavation to release myself from their grip. It has been nothing short of liberating to speak my truth, and yes, it did start by simply stating my desires about considerably mild topics like how to spend free time with someone or what TV show to watch. And it has also beautifully blossomed in other areas of my life where I am already noticing that I am living with less resentment and more happiness.
Whether you find yourself relating to my particular story or not, we can all agree that we all have fears. And to that end, I’ll close with a few more thoughts and observations about how I believe I have been able to slowly work with my fears in a constructive way through this lens of learning how to speak my truth.
1. Build in reflection time as a part of your regular routine.
Probably the most impactful part of this whole equation is my commitment to a regular reflection practice, and I do mean practice, because it’s something that I have to return to again and again. I’m constantly having to flex that reflection muscle to help me cut through the illusions that my fears place on reality. When left to my own devices, my ego will take over, and it’s main job is to protect me. It wants to keep me safe, but what often results is that it keeps me small. The ego-battle is an ongoing one, but I have found that daily meditation, regular journaling and a consistent yoga asana practice have helped me find the moments of clarity so that I can see what my soul truly wants.
JOURNAL PROMPT: What might your reflection practice look like?
2. Practice wise discernment in regards to timing.
Even when I may discover that I have the clarity around what I want, I don’t often share straight away. And that’s not because I’m intentionally trying to be deceitful. In fact, it’s because I’m trying that truth on for size to see how it feels after a good night’s sleep, after the dust has settled, after I am able to remove myself enough from the initial reactions of the situation to help me see more clearly. Gifting myself this time allows me to see if there is anything underneath this newfound clarity because ultimately, if I’m not addressing the root cause, then I still won’t be able to ask for, nor receive, what it is I truly need.
JOURNAL PROMPTS: In what areas of your life are feeling some impatience? How might you be able to give yourself permission to lean into any confusion and/or uncertainty so that the waiting game feels less treacherous?
3. There is so much beauty and self-discovery in bringing yourself to your edge of fear.
For me, speaking my truth is still something that brings me into close contact with the edge of my fear. I can feel myself creeping up towards the cliff’s ledge, peering out over the drop-off, and feeling the sensations arise in my body that tell me this is really scary and encourage me to step back into safety. But what’s remarkable about continually bringing myself to this point, is that now, I have so much more information about where my boundaries are and what it is I really want. In turn, that information allows me to more clearly speak to what it is I want and need, and then when those desires are met, I’m living in more alignment with my own truth. There’s this beautiful quote by Pema Chodron that says, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
JOURNAL PROMPTS: Where are your edges? How might you begin to explore them from a place of curiosity and intrigue rather than from blind fear?
4. Consistently meeting your edge allows you to expand your container.
The next step is to continue repeating this process and gathering information along the way. Walk up to the edge, feel that fear is arising, use that as the demarcation that there is something to explore here, and take the leap. What I’ve noticed after doing this enough, is that each time I take that leap of faith, the ground rises up to meet me. I’m not falling into the unknown. In fact, I’m expanding my container and my capacity for holding whatever is difficult and reminding myself that I can do hard things. Each new step makes it a little easier to approach the edge the next time around.
JOURNAL PROMPTS: How would you feel if you took the step off of your cliff, knowing that there would be more ground to support you? Will you allow yourself to know this as truth? Then what is holding you back from taking that step?
5. Repeat this cycle for a more honest, happy, healthy approach to life.
And pretty soon, this simply becomes a way of life. Befriending our fears, and seeing them as signs pointing us towards our truth, rather than as enemies blocking our path. Continuing to meet my edge has built my confidence and has taught me so much about my own boundaries, needs, and desires. Being equipped with that knowledge allows me to more accurately ask for and give myself what I need, which in turn creates a more loving, peaceful, and happy existence. I won’t deny that it’s tough work. There will likely be tears. You may find yourself pushing so far outside of your threshold that you energetically burn out or fall on your face. But the key invitation is begin to release labels from these experiences as good/bad, and begin to think of them as information. Be an explorer of your own experience in this lifetime. Whenever you do fall, take the time you need to get back up, and slowly work your way up to trying it again.
JOURNAL PROMPT: What might my life look like if I were to embrace this possibility of using my fears as information rather than the enemy?
If you’re feeling like you could use someone to connect with to talk about walking up to your own edge of fear, please know that I am here! Sign up for a free, 30-minute chat with me during my Virtual Office Hours. I’d love to connect and hold that gentle space for you.
*I consciously left in the phrase, “I think” because I’m intentionally aiming to stay open to there being other possibilities to this theory, or even additions to what I have shared here. I’m learning to remain open and be a curious student of my own inner landscape, where things are welcome (and encouraged!) to transmute over time as I have more understanding and insight.
Maggie Gentry Miller is the owner of MaggieGentry.com and founder of the Own Your Why®: Community. She helps entrepreneurs who are standing at a pivotal moment in their business and who are ready to make that meaningful shift with their eyes, mind, and heart open. Her unique approach blends business coaching, marketing consulting, and loads of compassion so that you walk away with a framework to grow your business in a way that feels perfectly tailored to you. She is also the co-founder of Mindful Moments ATX, a self-care event series for self-identifying women and non-binary folks working to establish their own wellness rituals. Maggie's a South Austin gal who is continually learning and exploring, always has a few books from the Austin Public Library on her bookstand, and takes way too many Instagram Stories of her cat Waffles.