A story about honesty, authenticity, and finding your forcelight. From Bethany Toews and Ayesha Ophelia.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt that what stands out most in a room full of people isn’t what they are saying, but what they aren’t saying. As a child it seemed the most natural and uncomplicated choice to say what I was actually thinking or feeling. But boy howdy did I find otherwise! Time and again the offering of my undiluted truth was met with resistance, or blatant disapproval. The dropped jaw. The shaking head. That look. The dreaded report back to my parents. Once in Sunday school after listening all about the glories that awaited us in the sky when we die, I uttered my honest response, “Heaven sounds boring.” Let’s just say that didn’t go over well.
My stomach hurt ALL the time. A war waged inside between myself and the rules that threatened to crowd me out. Between what I was told and what my whole body felt. It was a hell on earth — feeling that the only way to survive was to learn to lie. When all of me just wanted to tell the truth. But slowly, I learned to edit myself for safety’s sake. Authenticity can feel downright dangerous sometimes.
I am still recovering.
We are taught the virtue of honesty while repeatedly being shown the art of the lie. From Santa Claus to standards of beauty. We are raised on fiction. Smiling strangers on the screen tell us a cold beer will win us friends and a new car will make us more adventurous. Politicians and people in power perform perjury with such regularity that we have come to expect it. The news reports and contradicts at a steady clip and the line between information and disinformation grows hard to discern. While seeking the truth is gutsy, it can make for a lot of indigestion. Sincerity sounds pleasant in theory but is often messy in action.
Getting real can get really awkward.
As I grew, I continued to bump up against sharp edges in the heartfelt admissions that continued to slip out. And I did grow tender enough to try hiding for a while. And that, my friends, felt like a slow and steady form of dying. I spent my twenties shut in and shut down. I didn’t feel close to anyone. I was more intimate with a jar of peanut butter than my so-called friends.
I was desperately lonely. Clinging to life while struggling to feel what made it worthwhile. I was disconnected. From my truth, and therefore from myself, and therefore from everyone and everything else. In letting the gentle hypnosis of the realm of acceptability lull me into compliant silence, I had no choice but to leave myself behind. Sure, I was met with less protest. And yes, I made fewer people feel uncomfortable at dinner parties. But I wasn’t at the table anymore.
When we alter our truth to avoid offending another, we offend ourselves. When we don’t say how we really feel so as not to be rejected by someone, we are rejecting ourselves. When we choose not to voice our beliefs for fear of being judged, we have judged ourselves. If we don’t risk sharing the fullness of our being, only parts of us experience belonging. The other parts go into hiding and we become cut off from wholeness in the process. Words like “depression” and “anxiety” are often applied as pathology to what I find is the sane response of the grief and tension born from disallowing all of our being to find its welcome place. What is diagnosed as “sickness” is perhaps more aptly seen as a healthy homesickness for self. A deep desire to reconnect with the cast out parts. So much of our loneliness is our longing to be welcomed back home to ourselves.
So how do we welcome ourselves home when so much of what we’re shown and taught is to do the opposite? For me it has felt crucial to befriend those courageously claiming themselves — their truth, their bodies, their right to be here. In surrounding myself with others devoted to integrity and openheartedness, I don’t have to constantly question my own desire to live devoted to the same. My huge-hearted friend, Ayesha Ophelia, is a dazzling example of this. A force. A light. A forcelight (a word I just made up because it’s like a flashlight, but better). It is so refreshing, so encouraging, and totally comforting to watch her shine. And what happens with all her generous illumination is that she emboldens everyone else to shine.
The space Ayesha creates feels like a home for finding freedom from every single time you tried to fit into a room full of people but ended up an awkward shape you couldn’t recognize yourself. She’s the party inviting you to come as you are. A much needed oasis in the current divisive desert we’re all choking in. I am so grateful for what she is offering. Every time I talk with her, every time I find something she’s added to her library of love on Instagram, I feel less isolated. Less “crazy” for feeling the way I do.
And when I struggle to speak my heart, I turn to Ayesha to be reminded of what I already know, but so easily forget: liberation is the consequence of saying what’s true. Sure, it can be scary. But it is also so empowering to stop pretending and to welcome your whole self back into the room. Because I know it’s not often easy, I asked her to share some of her wisdom and insight with us.
Have you always felt free to speak your truth?
I haven’t always felt free but I have realized (fairly early on) that any limits are ones that I have put on myself or adopted from the dominant culture. As time has passed I have seen that any silencing has been a safety mechanism and as I have shed old outdated beliefs so too has my ‘voice’ strengthened. So much so that validation happens by just listening to my heart. I don’t need much outside of the satisfaction of listening to my higher calling. It feels extremely freeing and not based on passing trends or likes.
What helps support you in your openness?
It may sound magical but to me openness is the same as being willing to let creativity move through you. It’s not a force you can cajole or demand from. I feel supported by it supporting me in so many ways. Outside of that I feel really supported when I am myself. The real ones come out when I show my truth and they are always the most human, free, amazing people.
What revolution would you like to see in the world?
I would like to see a return to living from the heartspace instead of the headspace. Heartful humans do life in a different way. I think we are suffering from an epidemic of broken hearts who yearn to know how to return to a sense of wholeness even amidst life’s inevitable storms. When we are heartful we thrive on our instinct and intuition. We have empathy and compassion and we are connected to a broader sense of what this world may be. All are included, including Mother Nature.
What advice would you have for anyone trying to find their voice?
Try on many different ideas of yourself. Travel. Adventure. Bless and don’t be sorry.