Well hi, friends! Here we are, this is the first episode of the Fight for Yourself podcast. Today is my 45th birthday! I decided to celebrate by, you know, doing one of the most vulnerable things that I have done to date. That’s what I have been doing the last few years. Every birthday, I’ve been doing a stretch goal so I can challenge myself, and celebrate not only where I’m at, but where I want to be in the next year. Many years, this has looked like going to a cabin, doing a solo retreat, doing art and visioning out the next year, just spending time in thought. Another year, I was crowned a Queen. So “Queen” is a status that you move into when your children have moved out of the home and you no longer have active day to day parenting duties. Rather than being sad about that, I decided to be crowned a Queen and celebrate this new phase in life. So, I went to a retreat center where there was a lot of drumming and a lot of dancing and storytelling to celebrate this phase that I was going into. I’ll probably tell you more about that later, but it was an awesome experience. One year I even travelled alone to Spain. I did a crowdfunding campaign to prove to myself, and to everyone else, that women travelling alone is something we all should do and that it is something that is safe. I wanted to celebrate that and it was quite a learning experience. I spent two weeks in Spain alone on my birthday and learned a lot about myself.
Last year, I decided I was going to run my first 5k. Now, this was a huge goal for me because I was out of shape. Many years of mistreating my body left me to a point where walking was even difficult. So, I decided to make one good choice. The one good choice was, “Let’s make a goal to run a 5k.” I didn’t love running at the time, but I was mad that I thought I couldn’t do it. And so, I made the goal, and I worked really hard to achieve that goal last year. In the 16 months since I started making those life changes and made that one good choice, I’ve lost 85 lbs and more importantly, I have changed my mindset. I’m still changing my mindset and am in the process of constantly learning, keeping an open mind, and blooming into the person that I was meant to be. It just feels like peeling away layers of an onion, and so that’s what I wanted to share with you all today.
My birthday challenge this year is this podcast project. I wanted to tell you, what I feel like is one on one, about the gems I’m learning along my journey to wellness and empowered living. I want this to be a call to wake up and work every day to squeeze the joy and meaning out of life. All of that might sound pretty cliche, but that is what I’m working so hard to do and I want to inspire you to do the same. Hopefully, I can.
A little backstory on me. I have been obsessed with self-help since I was a teen. I am blessed to come from a super resilient mother who models this behavior and kept all kinds of incredible self-help books in our bookshelf. She is a great example of always striving to be better. Both of us are not fiction readers really, we have always read self-help books that are going to progress us into the next phase of life. I was taught from a very young age that it was my mother’s job to be a little better than her mother, it’s my job to be a little better than her, and my daughter Una’s job to be a little better than me. It has really been instilled in me to progress us down the road to greatness.
So, that is what this podcast is about. It’s about working towards a better me and all of the tiny and big ways that shows up in my life.
Professionally, I am a certified Life Coach with a degree in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies from the University of Washington. I work at a non-profit in Seattle that empowers girls and women on a daily basis, and through that work, I became a body image activist. I have taught hundreds of girls and women about the relationship between their mind and their body and how to cultivate a loving relationship between those two things. That is what I teach. Much of what I explore here will cover issues around Body and our complicated relationship with it. But more about that later.
So, what’s to come? What are we going to explore here? I’ll be exploring issues, strategies, ideas, teachers around getting yourself to the next level. I’m all about looking hard stuff in the face. I believe we can look at those things that we most avoid, deal with it, and move through it. There is so much happiness and joy on the other side of that even though it is a pretty scary process. So, we will be looking at hard stuff in the face and I will be sharing the gems I’m learning along the way as I do that in my personal life. We will be looking at topics like the role of risk and how that changes the trajectory of your life. We will talk about changing your story and what that might look like. We will find out what microhabits are and what small tiny little change can do for you. We’ll be talking about retraining and managing your brain. We will be talking about Failure (with a capital F), that’s a lot of fun, but there is so much to be learned through failure and I think we should talk about it. Also, we will be talking about aging, and that is a dirty word in our culture, so we will look that right in the face and talk about aging and all the issues around that. Of course, we will be talking about body image, our relationship to our bodies, and how that affects everything else in our lives, especially as women. We will even talk about concrete strategies for wellness like sleep habits, meal planning, and budgets. All of those really exciting topics are actually super important components of a loving structure that you can build for your life. All of these things are interconnected in our lives. So, let’s talk about it. Hopefully, you’ll come with me on my journey and learn with me, because we all deserve to have an awesome life.
Today, I want to talk about Risk and how it has served me in my life. This obviously rose to the top of the list as my first topic because it is all I can think about as I take this huge risk and start this podcast. Anyone who knows me, knows that I thrive on coziness and routine. I park in the same spot when I go somewhere, I sit in the same spot. I just like things to be cozy. I’ve also basically built a family culture around comfort and coziness, which is great, but it also means that you are staying where you are and doing things that you are familiar with, over and over. There is a time for that, but there is also a time for breaking out of that mold.
When I look back at my whole life so far, I see a common theme of Risk associated with eras of my life where I’ve been pushed forward. When I talk about Risk, that comes with an uncomfortable feeling. So, breaking of that coziness of pattern moving into an uncomfortable zone.
I found an older journal of mine where I created a visual display of all of the times in my life where I can remember taking a Risk, going back to when I was young, about second grade. As I look back at what I call a Risk Retrospective, I feel proud of little Michelle. I just do. It made me look at things through a new lens, all of the experiences I’ve had in my life through a new lens of, “When did I take a Risk?” or “When did I hold back and not take that Risk and was that a good decision or not?” I use my life as a mini study of how Risk can dramatically change the course of your life. It really can, over and over again, and this is just fascinating to me. Before we look back into my endeavors in Risk, I just want to define exactly what I am talking about. The definition I found for Risk is “to incur the chance of unfortunate consequences by engaging in an action.” Okay, so what does that mean? That means, things might go wrong. We might fail if we try it. Geez, this drives so many of our decisions. I mean, decisions we make to stay put, to not try, to live in complacency, wah, wah, wah. To stay comfy.
It feels like life needs to be a combination of comfiness and routine and also, time when you are uncomfortable, taking a Risk.
I see it as like stepping onto a shaky bridge. You are not sure if it’s going to hold you, but you are going to try to get over to the other side where things look pretty awesome.
I call those times when we are taking a Risk and stepping on that wobbly bridge, “scratchy times.” Times when it does not feel smooth for me, it feels scratchy and out of my comfort zone. But those are the areas and the times where I am moving and progressing and doing things that scare me, but have the potential to bring new, inspirational, interesting things into my life.
Okay, so let’s go back. I looked at that journal page and I compiled 10 times that I could see that Risk had really served me in my life. I thought we’d go over them. My hope is that you will take the same action in your life and take a look back and see when times that you took a Risk changed the trajectory of your life. I think it is a really good activity to get to know a little more about yourself.
The first time is as early as I can remember, when I was in about second grade. We moved a ton. We stopped moving when I was in about fourth grade and stayed there for the rest of my years in school, but before then, we moved a lot, maybe a couple of times a year. The first Risks I can see myself taking are reaching out and trying to make new friends as a little second grader. I was constantly trying to make new friends. Always being the new girl, that’s not easy. I can just see myself really putting myself out there and taking a Risk in trying to be liked. It didn’t always pay off in the moment, there was definitely some bullying, but in the long run, I can tell how those experiences, those early experiences in that mushy brain of mine, shaped who I am today. That was a little minor Risk that I took as a second grader.
Risk #2 that I can remember is about 4th grade when i joined community theater, just I think on a whim of my mother’s. And, thanks, Mom! That is where I truly started finding my voice. I found something that I was really good at (which distilled down to singing) and it changed who I was in a real way. That led to lessons, more performances, to choirs, to bands, and frankly, that led to confidence in finding my thing. I was very shy, but I built a strong base around something that I could really do well, and that has served me so much in my life. Just trying through some summer camp, and then continuing with something that was a little spark of passion and talent really changed the rest of my life.
Risk #3 was when I was about 16. I decided, I got it in my brain that I wanted to be an exchange student. I wanted to travel to another country on my own. I know that many people have exchange student experiences, but for me this was huge. I don’t really know what inspired me to do it, but I signed up to be an exchange student and I told them they could send me wherever they want. I did not dictate where I went and I ended up being assigned to Colombia, South America. I’m really surprised when I think back on this. I’m surprised that I chose this as a mushy brained teen, but I’m so, so glad I did. I raised the money to go and I travelled alone to South America for months as a 16 year old. I often talk about how I left a cheerleader, and came back as a layered young adult with more of a worldview than I had before. That was a huge risk. I did not really speak the language and didn’t know what I was getting into, but it changed my whole life and was an incredible experience.
Risk #4 is when I graduated high school and moved to another state to go to college. I was bound and determined to just up and leave. Not all of my childhood friends made that same kind of choice and I do think I had the ability to do that (even though I was scared out of my mind) because of the previous Risk I had taken to go to Colombia by myself. After doing that, moving to another state was not as big of a deal as it might have been.
Risk #5 was choosing to be a mother. Deciding to become a mother at 23 was a huge risk. I had so many questions and insecurities. Thinking back to that definition and visual of Risk that we talked about earlier, and standing on that wobbly bridge, oh, so much could go wrong. But the incredible growth and love that I’m exposed to by bringing her into this world is immense and continues to shape me every day. Most importantly, this was the first time that I was introduced to my intuition. I knew it was right. A connection was created not only to her, but to my own self. So, in having her, I was introduced to myself.
Risk #6 was joining a band. I joined a band at 27. Who does that? Well, I did. I blew my whole world open by doing that. It brought me back to that center and that talent that I had known as a kid. But what a Risk! So many voices in my head and outside saying, “You can’t join a band, you’re a mother!” I did it anyway. That has changed my life and I have never regretted it. I am still a gigging musician to this day, and that was 18 years ago. Oh my God.
Risk #7 is meeting and marrying Chris, my husband. This was another time that I truly connected to my intuition. It was another time where, by connecting to someone else in such a deep way, I am connecting to myself. It’s very interesting. My gut compass told me that this super smart, kind, talented guy was here for me for a reason, and that risking my independence was 100% worth it. I was so happy that life showed me another opportunity to connect with myself and another person without losing me in the process.
Risk #8 is going back to school as an adult. At one point in my life, I had a comfy career in commercial insurance. However, I was not a fan of corporate culture and was extremely unfulfilled in those positions. I took a huge Risk, and I just quit. I quit my career and went back to finish college. It was unfinished business that I wanted to finish, and I wanted to be happy. I made no money because I went back to school. But I studied really hard and I studied what I was passionate about and had faith that it would lead me to something greater, something I was meant to do. And it did. While I was studying, I was introduced to the nonprofit that I mentioned earlier (Rain City Rock Camp for Girls). This has led me to a beautiful career. I have worked there the last 6+ years empowering girls and women through the power of music. I would have never been in this kind of dream job if I had not taken the Risk to go back to school, immerse myself in my passion, and seek out a new career that fit me so much better.
Risk #9 is Solo Spain (that’s what I call it). I felt pretty stuck in a rut personally. It really had nothing to do with anyone else, but I wanted the feeling of travelling like when I was 16 and took off to Colombia. So, a couple of years ago, I realized I wanted that feeling of fearlessness. So, I raised some money (just like I did when I was 16) and went to Spain for a couple of weeks by myself and had the time of my life. It was a really introspective trip that helped me connect to my core.
So, that brings me to, just a little over a year ago, where I decided to take a step in the directions of health and wellness in my mind and body. I made a conscious choice to share those steps on social media and with my friends and family so that I could be held accountable and so that I could possibly help and inspire other folks that could relate to me. And now I decided to take a huge risk and start this podcast. I want to take that vulnerability and sharing to the next level and put a voice to my story so that I can authentically talk to you as I would a friend.