How paralyzing guilt taught me that, to be happy and feel free, we must not hide our darkness due to shame, nor our light due to guilt.

I’ve officially been living in Costa Rica for 2 weeks today and will celebrate my 1 month anniversary of confirmed vagabond status in 2 days.

My first few days were full of inspiration and peace. I drank in the beauty of the nature all around me. I wrote Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 from this series. I saw my first bunch of howler monkeys. I took more photos than I’ve taken in the past 6 years.

I was so excited to share my journey and even more excited to have tropical backgrounds to my coaching sessions and to the videos for the 30 Day Self-Love Challenge. Much better, I thought, than the faded white walls of the dank Toronto basement I recently escaped.

But, then, something strange happened.

Just a few minutes before going on camera with my first client since landing, I got a deep, intense, gnawing sense of guilt.

For the first time, I wondered…

Is it insensitive to show all these palm trees when she’s stuck in snow? Is this unkind?

The question was answered for me by simple lighting dynamics. The light from behind me turned me into a silhouette, so I had to pull back the curtain. I got the same guilt about wearing a tank top to the session—guilt that intensified when she told me how cold it was and even more when she told me that she hated her job.

After I got off camera, the signs intensified and so did the guilt. The Facebook statuses from people back home about -30 Celcius weather. A picture of someone I know on a beach with the hashtag #humblebrag on Facebook.

Am I bragging?

I realized that all of my one-on-one clients, at the moment, are from the northern US and Canada.

Am I making them feel bad?

The next day, I had two more clients. They both, without being prompted in any way, admitted to hating their jobs too. Now, the guilt was 10 feet tall.

How is that even possible? How can that be a coincidence?

Am I making people hate their lives?

Used to living with my life on my sleeve, my mindset began to change.

I eyed my digital camera suspiciously before going out. I only bought a camera so that I could share my journey, because so many people asked me to share it, but now I wasn’t really sure that people wanted to see them. I wasn’t sure that I wanted people to see them.

And filming the Self-Love Challenge? I couldn’t breech that subject with myself without making all of these stories up about how it would make people’s lives worse.

My mind was all mixed up. I thought that sharing my journey would be inspiring and uplifting. Now, I was wondering…

Is my sharing the details of my life making people feel bad about their own?

Am I a self-love teacher who makes people feel insecure?

I spoke to Jamie about it, hoping that he would tell me I was being ridiculous, but he didn’t. He said there was definitely validity to what I was saying—that some people would absolutely feel that way.

“But it’s what’s happening to you,” he said, “It’s not like you’re lying. How can you be so open about the negative side of not having self-love, but hide the positive side of having it?”

I remembered, suddenly, Marianne Williamson’s words.

She said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

She said: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

She was right. I didn’t have to hide.

There’s nothing enlightened about hiding.

And, really, isn’t “bragging” talking about something we have that other people do not? Wouldn’t hiding mean that I was keeping quiet about my “specialness” and that there was, in fact, something special about me? Well, I don’t believe that. I’m not special. It’s nothing about me that’s caused these changes.

I believe that self-love and self-awareness are the reasons for everything good that’s happened to me for the past three years.

I believe that everyone has a core of love within them and, if they access it, they can do absolutely anything they want. I believe that everyone hears their inner call, however quiet it is—just like I heard an inner call to write the book, to move here, to share this very post right now.

We all get these signs and signals from ourselves, these messages that tell us what will bring us fulfillment and change the world. I chose to listen to mine. There’s no bragging about that. There’s nothing special about me that made me chose. We can all choose.

I hope that, in my work, I’m helping to build the kind of world where we all choose that, where we look at what’s humanly possible and we know, right away, that it’s within our reach, because we’re all connected, we’re all beautiful, we’re all made of the same stuff.

Self-love is faith.

I’m not special. I’m just someone who had some faith, who trusted her heart more than the dozens of voices who told her to play it safe and save for retirement. I’m just someone who followed her dreams instead of the advice of her parents, her teachers, and the conditioning of her culture.

And that’s what I want to show the world. I want to show people what’s possible.

I want to show people how sometimes being “foolish” is almost the same as being “happy”—if only we are foolish enough to trust out intuition over the outdated patterns of thought in our minds.

That’s what I want to stand for. And that’s why I’m going to keep sharing.

Of course, when I first realized this, I just spouted something like that whole speech to Jamie, while he smiled at me with that look he gets on his face when I go off like this.

I was excited. I couldn’t wait to film, to take pictures, to pull back the curtains during my sessions (when the light dynamics didn’t interfere, of course).

And it’s been a blast.

I’ve filmed 20 of the videos for the Challenge and they’re just beautiful. Looking at them now, I’m touched by how authentic they are. The wind and ocean are too loud in some spots. The camera’s shaky in others. I stumble over words.

It’s so real and I’m just me—in love with myself, with my work, with my community, with this beautiful country, with the opportunity to love life.

And, now, as I sit and reflect on these experiences, I realize something else—something that is, perhaps, the deepest lesson here. The lesson is: hiding is the opposite of love and happiness. We can’t be happy if we keep ourselves boxed up, only sharing the things we think are acceptable.

The only sane way to live is to bare all—to show the darkness and the light. And, let me tell you, they’re equally hard to share.

We just have to tap into that inner courage that is our birthright, show up, and let ourselves be seen—however we are in that moment. And, like this, we will revolutionize ourselves. Like this, we will change the world.

*  *  *

Thank you for reading and for walking with me. I’m curious to know—have you ever had guilt over sharing your joy or success, your light? I’d love to hear of how you overcame that and how it made you feel to open up!

Costa Rica Lesson #3: You Can’t Hide and Be Happy

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13 More Comments

  • January 22, 2015 at 9:10 am
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    Thanks for sharing, it is really nice to know i am not alone…we are not alone with struggles in life..well really in mind. I Always feel this way fear of sharing and or celebrating joys/successes and is such a battle I am still trying to figure out how to combat it… I know the culprit is feAR of judgement…. but, do or don’t people will judge. So why I choose to shrink is so devastating…

    Reply
    • January 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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      I think, at the end of the day, realizing that fear comes down to fearful thoughts is what rescues me every time. Thoughts aren’t necessarily true and that fearful emotion is feedback, often, on the quality of the thought. So, the function of a negative emotion is saying “Stop thinking that!” rather than giving some positive affirmation to the thought’s validity.

      Reply
  • January 23, 2015 at 2:59 am
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    My favorite aunt adored me. Once I was old enough to understand, it was clear to me that I had something she wanted – courage. I was always aware of her longing to be more, Live more. Her eyes lit up at all of my stories. Even hearing about the most tame adventures resulted in a flash of childlike excitement across her face, eyes wide and glimmering. But. Just as suddenly a look of fear and withdrawal. As if the mere imagining of herself in those places was too much, too scary. I longed to pull her out of whatever space had her feeling so trapped, scared and unworthy. I wanted so badly to pull her from that space and send her on her own adventures. Her heart spoke to me – it was aching to live. I lost my aunt last year. To put it poetically, she died of sadness.depressed and feeling hopeless and unworthy she died. I didn’t mourn the death – I mourned the life not lived. The adventures undone. When we love, we celebrate each other. We wish that our favorite aunts, and everyone else can find their adventures and LIVE THEM. Guilt free. Shame free. Vironika: Live your adventure. For all of us. Challenge us to do the same. For all the right reasons. With love. 🙂

    Reply
    • January 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm
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      Okay, Sofia, if you don’t have a book written in the next two years, I’m coming to find you and shake you into your senses! You are living poetry. I love everything you say! <3

      Reply
  • January 23, 2015 at 6:38 am
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    I originally wanted to write how ridicules it is to think of you but then all those sentences and questions you ask seem to be simply my own.

    Sometimes we all feel like frauds.
    Every time I give advice and write about how to make life better and I don’t consistently stick to my own given advice I feel like a fraud.

    How could I give advice if I don’t follow it on my own?
    “Do as I tell you not as I do?”

    Doubt may be a mind killer but where would we all be if we wouldn’t have any doubts at all?
    You shouldn’t feel bad for a posted picture with palm trees because I’m very sure this way you walked wasn’t always nice and shiny! I’m a million percent sure you had troubles, doubt, sadness and everything in between because that’s what people think about me when they see me. They think I’m always so cheerful, without any worries at all but that’s SO not true.

    I’m more sad than cheerful. Just because I don’t show that on the outside doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
    You don’t make me feel bad or my life, you HELP me a lot with your writing, your personality. Shush those voices in your head!

    I’m so glad you write so openly!
    I would do it too but somehow I hassle with it to publish myself so vulnerable lately.

    Reply
    • January 23, 2015 at 1:40 pm
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      Thank you for your honesty, Kristina! Yes, I’ve been through troubles and I know how it is. I think, to me, the key isn’t hushing the voices in my head, it’s loving them. They’re there for a reason. I can coddle them like a child, loving them and accepting them, and not accept them as true.

      I will tell you – publishing my experiences, on this blog, in my book, in my articles – it used to be really hard. But now, it’s much easier. You get used to it. You realize that there’s no such thing as someone who is “done” learning or healing. So, I can’t be a fraud, because a fraud is someone who pretends to be something they’re not. I’m on a journey. Whether I fail or win in a given moment, I’m still on that journey. And sharing is something I’ve committed to doing!

      I think it can be the same for you. We all struggle with perfectionism, and the belief that all of life is a journey, and we don’t have to wait to get to some mountaintop to share it – this is where courage comes from 🙂

      Reply
  • January 24, 2015 at 8:21 pm
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    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, it’s wonderful to hear where you are and all that is happening. 🙂

    Your post came in divine timing as I have been hiding behind my parents, and it’s not even serving me. I have always gone after my desires, manifested my dreams and followed my intentions and the more I have followed my inner calling the more my parents have belittled, criticized me for being free.

    Living with them here is quite detrimental. I get criticized and shouted at by my mum and I have understood and had a lot of empathy for her and my dad, however that has held me back from continuing to lead my life from my truth. Because it’s become unhealthy for me, by being too nice and understanding I have allowed them to walk all over me, and slash my dreams. I always remember the time when I was 17 and i told my dad all i desire is to help people and travel the world, and he said you can’t do it, you have to stay in education and get a job. That broke my heart. I always desired for my parents to support me, however it didn’t work in the way that i had envisioned. I know they love me and support me in other ways however i have come to realize we are on different life journeys and being with them is actually holding me back. Being my full self seems to trigger them big time, and it pulls me back so i hide, because every time i am in open view and say what i feel and do what i feel, they respond in a very abusive way. I forgive them and love them. It’s time to jump, let go and live in my potential. I’m starting the journey now.
    It’s interesting your in Costa Rica. This week I asked the universe where am I meant to be next. I have a vision of my dream home in the forrest by the sea, wood and stone. Knowing what it all looks like inside. Costa Rica came up and i had never imagined myself there before. Looked at places and looks an interesting place to be. I asked the universe after receiving this message for confirmation and i receive costa rica again. lol There is a lot of points moving me to Costa Rica, hadn’t crossed my mind before.
    Let’s see what unfolds 🙂
    Lots of love your way xx
    Whereabouts are you based in Costa Rica by the way?

    Reply
    • January 26, 2015 at 11:29 am
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      Thank you for your vulnerability, Ana! I had very similar experiences. I left home at 17, though I was hardly living there for the last year and a half. It was a struggle for me to be myself in my family as well and, when I broke away, I swung back fully to the opposite extreme and rebelled, self-destructed, for years. Now, I’m free – both of my family and of my constant need to please them, displease them, prove anything to them. I think that is a freedom that’s allowed me to, truly, love them. Because seeing them as obstacles only objectified them. I’m glad you’re on this path. It’s an important one!

      At the moment, I’m in Playa Avellana in Costa Rica. We’re here for a month, then we’re going to Puerto Viejo for two months. I’m not based permanently here… or anywhere. I no longer have a permanent address. After this, we are going to Mexico for 3 months. I’d tell you this is my favourite place so far, but it’s the first one since I sold everything I own, so I’ll have to wait a bit to say that 😉

      Reply
      • January 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm
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        Hello Vironika,

        It’s an amazing journey isn’t it! 🙂 That’s where I’m at, loving them for who they are and no longer needing to feel like I have to please them, that’s dissolved into the past and it has even bought us closer on a soul level knowing we are on different paths. It’s liberating and they have been great teachers to me.

        My current intention is to continue to be of service, share my truth and be the light and move out soon yay 🙂 I am going to a travel show tomorrow which am looking forward to as that will be divine inspiration for what happens next. I’m an open vessel to explore. I do love the idea of staying in one place for 3 months and moving. That’s pretty much what I have done with places, experiences and jobs, always venturing into the new and enjoying every moment.

        Lots of love to you on your journey! xx

        Ana

        Reply
  • January 29, 2015 at 12:14 am
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    Wow Vironika!

    I know exactly how you feel about hiding! I moved back to home town 2 years ago after being away for 12 years. And let me say, I was transported to the 18y.o. Girl who left! I defo had tons of unresolved issues and truly know I was meant to come here to work through them.

    I have felt like such a shell of a person here and have been hiding for sure…most probably from my old self. Fears an d emotions unresolved for sure!

    Anyhow,.. I dedicated myself to going inward at the start of 2103 and although this will be a lifelong journey, I have defo come a LONG way. I have learned to face things, people, fears and most importantly not to hide or numb myself in fear of out shining others…it is so dumb to even think that!

    I am not 100% there yet! but getting back to my old confident, happy, fulfilled self has been a long and tiring journey…and One I feel I have only just begun…

    Finding the real me and connecting to my inner self love is something I always felt guilty for doing but i have decided that in shining my own bright star I will only inspire others to do the same. And if they are jealous I hope to just inspire them with humility and grace.

    I am excited to see you happy on your Costa Rica adventures!

    Pura Vida xo

    Reply
    • January 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm
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      Wow Laura! It sounds like you have lots of learning opportunities all around you right now. It’s beautiful how you are able to see the gifts in your struggles – I genuinely appreciate that.

      I get similar feelings every time I visit family. It does get better over time, but sometimes, I’m still that scared 5 year old girl too. I know how it is. It’s difficult, but so worth it.

      Pura Vida to you too, beautiful lady 🙂

      Reply
  • February 23, 2015 at 2:24 am
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    Vironika, Agree with you and want to add more. I also love myself, know things I really want and I willing to do things it take to get it. But people should commitment, consistence, look on big picture. Don’t attention to that goal so much and the key is focus on our behavior, what we feel, what we make things. Don’t matter what and always focus on improve ourselves on it.

    Reply
    • February 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm
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      Of course 🙂 As long as you keep applying those important pieces of wisdom to yourself, I am sure that you will teach this to everyone around you just by existing, Chu. Keep on your journey!

      Reply

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