007. Five Questions to Ask Your Heart + Gut Before You Press Publish
Whenever I am writing, I feel instantly at home, more at peace, and more myself. The written word has always been a place of refuge for me. Practicing my courage muscle and placing my words, stories, thoughts, and ideas out into the universe these past few months has not been without hiccups, mess-ups, or a steep learning curve. Just as I hope for this corner of the internet to be encouraging, calming, and a place of quiet reprieve, I want to share words that are thoughtful, from the heart, and filled with integrity.
I’ve become more attuned to my intuition when I am writing. I’ll begin exploring a thought or a new sentence and my words begin to take form in the same way someone would begin setting the table and preparing to serve a nourishing meal. It isn’t perfect, it’s not all the way finished, and yet it is good and whole hearted and serving a purpose.
There will be other moments I’ll be writing and I will feel a slight tug or nudge in my heart. Maybe I’m writing around my shame instead of speaking directly into it, maybe I’m writing for my ego and the applause of others, or maybe I’m wanting to prove something to someone. Whatever the nudge is, I’ve learned to trust it by either pausing and getting down to what I’m avoiding or by simply redirecting my thoughts and moving in a direction that feels more congruent and authentic.
As I write and certainly before I press publish, I hold a few questions for myself that serve as guard rails against people-pleasing, fear-mongering, and ego-dancing. I’d love to pass them along to you. I hope you too can begin attuning yourself to your intuition and that you are able to put your work into the world leading from a posture of personal integration and wholeness.
One. Am I writing the best version of the truth I know how or a cleaned up, tidier version of it?
I have never promised anywhere that I will be fully realistic or fully transparent in what I press publish on. I’ve never once considered making a statement like that because I am not interested in being fully transparent to the whole world. I think that would be asking too much of myself and my relationships. If you knew me well, you’d know that I have a close pocket of friendships and relationships that I consider deeply sacred. In keeping those sacred, that shows up as keeping them private. It’s the reason you don’t see my husband’s face on my instagram feed and the reason that I don’t talk in particularities about my work as a therapist. A lot of the stories are simply not mine to share.
While I write, I do aim to tell the truth, or my version of it at the very least. This question shows up most when I am working on telling a particularly vulnerable story and I find myself shying away from the grittiness of the experience. What I know about stories is that even if you’ve never encountered what I’m writing about, the emotions and feelings behind the story are likely themes you can connect with, such as loneliness, not belonging, grief, and shame. If I’m writing my story in a way that ties up cute bows for you and creates the illusion that the process was linear, tidy, and backed with constant motivation, for one, I’m not telling the truth. Two, the last thing I’d want to do is alienate someone into making them think they are doing something wrong or not trying hard enough if their process of growth and healing isn’t all sunshine and pearls. The road to healing and freedom look more like war zones than they do cute hikes in matching athleisure wear. As Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I really do hope to create spaces where we can all tell the truth amongst our communities about how shitty and hard and messy and upside down the road back to our hearts is. And how I can start that, is by telling my shitty, hard, messy, and upside down stories.
Two. Am I fearful of a specific person reading my words? Have I beelined certain ideas or thoughts to keep the peace and not upset anyone?
I am consistently holding this question up to the light. Authority and power have been themes of harm in my story and the fear of judgement really enjoys rearing it’s aggravating little head up and making a mess of my words. I consider myself to be my most vulnerable when I am writing, so judgement from this place of vulnerability becomes even scarier.
Whenever I do come to the realization that I am fearful of someone judging me or I actually picture the person’s face come up in my mind’s eye, I start by thanking my fear for protecting me or at least trying her very hardest. I slow down, take some deep breaths and remind myself that the only people who have power over me are people I’ve chosen to give that power to. I can take back that power anytime. And if said person does end up judging me, that reaction is their’s to hold, not mine.
I will say this: the more I step out in faith, the more at ease I become in my words. Still very much a growing process, that is hard and comes with lots of hiccups, but I can celebrate the growth I’ve seen in myself.
Three. Were my words coming from a place of internal worth and healing or from needing external validation?
This one is so important to me. I think we can all pick up on the subtle energies in a room when a person walks in who is desperate for validation. That girl used to be me, so I have immense empathy for whoever that person is. I see it most in the self-deprecating humor people use. It can be funny on the surface, but at the end of the day, a lot of that humor is just a mask for how much they are hurting and how much care they need, but are afraid to ask for. Like I said previously, I know this humor well, and I know there’s so much more underneath it.
Brene Brown does an incredible job in her book Rising Strong talking about leading from her scars instead of her wounds. She makes a point to never talk about anything on any type of platform if she needs any type of validation from the audience in her sharing the story. I mean, if that’s not a great litmus test, I don’t know what is!
So I hold that litmus test and I work hard to discern the fear that’s coming up in my body. Is it a fear of putting out vulnerable work into the world? If so, after I read it to my husband or have a close friend read it, I press publish. If it’s a fear that what I’m putting out crosses a line of vulnerability into a present, unresolved conflict in my life, that’s usually reason enough for me to pause on pressing publish. Because if I get really honest with myself, I’m likely writing it from a place of disintegration and needing validation for how right I am…If that’s the case, that publish button gets taken off the table real fast!
Four. Have I belittled myself, degraded my value, or anyone else’s in my words and stories?
God, I love kindness. It’s one of the single most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my late twenties both as a practice towards myself and others. It’s freed me up and given me so much more space to be awkward, to fumble, and to be okay with it. With my love of kindness, I’ve also developed quite the sensitivity bone when it comes to how I speak about myself and others.
I made a promise to myself that when I started this blog, I wouldn’t make apologies for the space it took up. This means I honor the work I do, when I hear a compliment, I receive it, and I work hard not to flinch or make a joke when I tell someone about my blog.
The question of have I belittled myself or anyone else holds such resonance for me because at the end of the day, people want to know they are loved and liked exactly for who they are, myself included. And I want to make space in my writing that grants myself and anyone else reading it grace and empathy for their messy attempts at working out their problems and dealing with their shortcomings. I truly believe we are all doing the best we can.
Five. Am I adding to the noise of the world or are my words grounding, quiet, and curious?
This little question has helped me decide whether or not to post so many times! I see this question as a calm, gracious, knowing light that can truly illuminate whether I move forward to post or I go back to the drawing board. The spirit of this question serves me so well by grounding me and drawing me back to my intention to publish thoughtful, meaningful content that may not be for everyone, but I trust it is for someone who needs less noise and more space.
Notice what came up in your body as you read through and processed these questions. Did your stomach drop or did your chest tighten or did your head start to spin? Did your soul resonate, did you feel peace, and feel like you had more space in your body? Ask yourself what those things might mean for you.
Your craft may not be writing, it may be art or photography or culinary work or a million different, glorious things. What questions do you hold in your heart space as guard rails for showing up with integrity and whole heartedness?
Spend time considering how you might show up more fully this week. Ask yourself honestly if there is anyone you fear when you press publish or anyone you’re protecting from seeing your truths. What might it be like to share them anyway and honor where you are at instead?
If you would so be inclined to press publish on something that feels authentically you, consider using the hashtag #honoryourquestions as a way to signal to the world that you are standing in your truth, your worth, and your light.