A manifesto on integrity

Want to listen to this instead?

I’ve recorded this letter as a podcast which you can listen to here.

This is a letter to those who are tired of fitting in boxes – boxes of your own making, or boxes that have been crafted for you.

I offer this letter as a rallying cry, an invitation, a manifesto, whatever you need it to be. This is from my heart, to your heart. There is nothing filtered here. There is nothing sifted. Let it be abrasive. Let it soothe you. Let it be what you need it to be. Burn it. Drink it up. Throw it in the trash. Print it and slip it under your pillow as a permission slip. Or, simply curl up around the fire, blanket draped over your shoulders, and let me tell you a story.

Something hasn’t been feeling quite right in my business lately…

I’ve been feeling trapped, cornered, inside a box of my own making, born on the foundation crafted by all the stories and beliefs I’ve been handed down by my family and society more broadly.

Two years ago, all I wanted was to be an “Instagram therapist”, sharing my knowledge of mental health with the world. I dug into creating that identify for myself, that identity I so craved. I had a hugely successful first year on my Instagram account, and I loved the content I was creating and sharing. I know, reflecting back, it felt genuine then. But I also realize now that so much of the excitement I felt was less about my own internal drive and passion, and more about the praise I was receiving and the objective “success” I was achieving. I was swept up in the numbers and the endorphin rush of waking up to a thousand new followers overnight.

The last few months have felt different, harder. I’ve started to notice the chinks in my armour, the ways I show up that are no longer an outward manifestation of my own authenticity. I recognize my internal people-pleasing, good girl in action. To maintain this, I’ve been swimming against the current, struggling to stay afloat, and I didn’t realize the strength of the rip tide I’d been pulled into until recently.  

My success on Instagram came, primarily, from my hand-written journal pages with quick and easy-to-follow mental health tips.

They were fun to create, and they got picked up and shared by some bigger accounts. Which, I am of course grateful for. But, this overnight “success” I encountered, also meant that almost immediately there was a box within which I believed my content needed to fit. I was the “journal page” girl. Did I want to be the journal page girl? Not really. But, my goodness, did it feel so lovely to lap up the likes, to see engagement numbers on my posts in the thousands. Finally, I was popular. And it felt so good. Until it didn’t.

I noticed the strain all this was putting on me some months ago, and I changed my style a little bit, switching from handwritten to graphic text posts. I hoped this would ease the content-creation-exhaustion I was feeling. But instead, I was shaken when a number of my followers told me that I was no longer “original” and I had become “generic”. They told me they were “only here for the journal pages”. And so, the little people-pleaser inside of me reeled me right back into the box for safe keeping. I stopped being me and became who they wanted me to be instead.  

I don’t want to be inside that box anymore.

I don’t want to be an “Instagram therapist”. There are so many people who do this so well. There are so many phenomenal accounts out there that you can follow for the quick tips and suggestions that so many people crave as we frantically scroll through this feed looking for our fix… whatever that looks like for each of us.

I’m done with this box. I’m done with these labels. I just want to be…. me. Is that not enough for you, dear world? What would it be like in this space if I was just me? How would it feel? What would be different? What would I say? Would you still listen? Do I even care? (Answer: yes, but trying to let go of that).

When did we learn that being ourselves wasn’t enough?

I’ve been trying to fit into the box of “Instagram therapist”, and I’m done with it. I’m burning down the walls that have kept me contained and breaking down the barriers of my own making. Instead, I want to just be me. I want to be my human self. I want to stop forcing the creation of content because I think it’s what you, my dear and so appreciated reader, want to hear. Instead, I’m going to write what I desperately need to tell you, and create what my soul desires, because ultimately, I think that will serve us both so much more.

I’m done with the box. I don’t want to fit in the box anymore. I don’t want to fit in anyone’s box. I want my own box. No, I don’t want any box. I want to run free and post what I want to post when I want to post it because my soul craves it. I don’t want to think about algorithms and what’s going to get more saves vs. comments, or what it looks like on my grid (though I know I’ll get hung up on that one for a long time).

Instagram is just another manifestation of the broader world.

We’re all trying to show up wearing these faces; we don facades that keep our vulnerable under bellies protected. We show off carefully hand-selected parts of us. We try to hide so much. Here I am telling you I’m this professional therapist who knows her shit… and I do. Certainly. I know my shit. But I also want to be this flawed, imperfect human who is just living my life in the woods and trying desperately to find the joy in every day even when the world is literally burning.

Welcome to the breaking. The unraveling. The unveiling. The truth telling. The truth seeking. The becoming.

I have dreams and ideas and so much I want to share with you. I am so lit on fire with passion for the things I want to offer. But I can’t create all of that for you if I don’t clear space for me first.

I need to tend to myself. I need to nurture myself. I need to protect my energy. I need to go inward, in order to go outward. I need to want what my heart wants. I need to tell the stories I want to tell. I need to sing my truth, loudly, and stop caring what anyone else thinks. That is what I need to feed the wild beast within me that is calling to be born. That is what we all need to create a world that is fueled by our most beautiful, loving, creative, real authentic selves.

I am done hiding. I am done being scared. I am done playing small. I am done keeping parts of me hidden away because I don’t think they are “good enough” or “cool enough” for this particular playground. Fuck “good enough” and “cool enough”. I call my power back to me now.

I incessantly check my emails every day as if my worth somehow comes from how many requests or course sign-ups I get. I check the numbers on my Instagram posts more often than I care to admit. I know, I’ll be wondering too whether or not people have seen this post, resonated with it. My toe will start tapping on the ground with the urgent itch to check, just one more time, to see what you think, to see if there is one more little heart waiting for me. “Please tell me what you think. Please, dear god(dess), have them leave a comment/rating/review so I know what you think”, I pray as if my life depends on it. Note to self: it doesn’t.

But it feels like it does. The full-on threat/stress response our bodies go through when we seek approval in these spaces a hundred times a day takes a toll. I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted from caring more about what everyone else thinks than what I think.

I can either let this be another door I walk away from, or I can let this be a portal. I choose the portal.

This is a portal into a new way of being. I’m here to invite you along for the ride. The last few months I’ve been trying to contort and squeeze my way through the narrow center of an hourglass. I’m probably still in that sticky middle bit, but I plan to get through to the other side where there is more space to stretch, and roam, to feel free and spacious.

In practice, this looks like…

…telling the stories I actually want to tell, and creating what I actually want to create. Part of this certainly falls in the orbit of mental health, but that is only one piece of my multi-passionate heart.

I want to talk about the, often rocky, journey of my own life and my deep desire to unravel myself and dance with integrity. I want to talk about living a slower, simpler, more intentional life. I want to talk about breaking out of the expectations and beliefs many of us have internalized from the broader systems of patriarchy and capitalism. I want to talk about what it means to truly, deeply take care of ourselves and tend to our needs. I want to talk about living in alignment with the seasons and the cycles of the earth, cultivating spiritual practices that are rooted in connection to Mother Earth and nature. I want to talk about how the personal can be political. I want to talk about how all of that, all of it, is connected to your mental health and emotional wellness and how good you feel.

This is the direction I’ll be moving. This is what my soul is calling for. And I’m already creating something new and profound for you, an invitation to join me on the inner circle of this journey. If you want to stay in the loop about that as it unfolds over the next few months you can do so here. This feels good. This feels aligned. This feels like my truth in written/spoken form.

I want to write more words. I want to share more stories. I’m no longer here for quick fixes and what sells. I can’t be. My wellness depends on a different approach. It depends on me being slower, more intentional, more aligned. I want to be seen. But not for any shiny façade. I want you to really see me, and know me.

These online spaces are amazing in so many ways. But they keep us from the types of community we, as humans, thrive in: communities where we truly belong, where we are truly seen and understood.

If we were in a village together, you would know me. I would know you. I know that’s not fully possible here, but I’m being called to hold up my side of the equation.

I’ve got my chisel and I’m slowly chipping away at the walls. It feels damn good. I don’t exactly know what’s on the other side yet, outside the box. I have an idea though, and for now, that is enough. I don’t know exactly what it looks like, but I know that my fear of the unknown, of trying something different, can’t be more painful to bear than this tired-stuckness I am in. So, I’m swinging with all my might to break down the walls of this box I’ve built. I’d love for you to join me.

I can taste it already, the soft edges of words slowly savoured on my tongue. I can smell the before-the-rain scent of creativity bubbling forth from the well. I can touch, fingertips gracing, the warmth of the crackling fire as I imagine myself curled up with ink and journal to write you a story. I can hear my own laughter as I breathe deeply and trust myself, for once. Perhaps. For ever.

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A Manifesto on Integrity: a letter, rallying cry, invitation to those who are tired of fitting in boxes.