I’ve never shared this story before, but it’s been on my mind lately, so I think it’s about time to share it with you.
Several years ago, I was going through one of the hardest times in my life.
I graduated from college as a finance major right when the credit crisis hit, and as a result, the finance job I thought I was going into when I graduated was taken away. All of our offers were rescinded right before graduation, and I was left jobless.
My head was spinning.
Everything I had worked so hard for, everything I thought I was (the smart, “numbers” girl who was going to have this intense, sought-after job) was now in question.
I was embarrassed and angry that this had happened to me.
I was uncertain about my future and how to proceed.
I was scared shitless to go out and start interviewing again, when I didn’t even know what I wanted (did I even want to be in finance? was this my ticket out?)
Everyone was going off to their respective jobs, and I was left spinning, alone.
I was also at my highest weight. Ever.
Weight just seemed to pile on at that point.
I was overwhelmed with feelings – anger, confusion, uncertainty, feeling lost – and food was my coping mechanism.
It was my coping mechanism because I didn’t know how to express to people how horrible I was feeling.
I had always been “successful” and always had it “together”, and the thought of telling my parents and friends how I really felt was not an option.
Sure, they knew I was struggling, but I always patched on an “oh, i’m fine”, “i’ll figure it out”, “don’t worry”.
But inside, I was not in a good place.
I hated the weight I had gained, I hated my body, I hated food because I couldn’t ever feel normal around it.
And I didn’t know what to do with my life.
A few weeks after graduation, my parents and I went to Miraval, a wellness retreat in Arizona.
One of the activities we signed up for was called the “Equine Experience”, where horses are used to help you heal in some way.
My parents and I walked down to the stable, and were met by this grizzly long bearded man named Wyatt Webb, who is famous for carrying out this horse therapy experience.
Upon seeing him, I was immediately intimidated. I felt like this guy could see through me and could see the pain I was in but was so desperately trying to shove down.
The first thing he had us do was go into a ring with various horses. Every couple of people were paired up with a different horse; I was with my parents.
We had one task: Walk up to the horse, get the horse to pick up it’s back hoof, and use a little tool to clean out the hoof.
But here’s the kicker:
The reason why horses are used for this is that a horse can sense your exact energy. If it senses that you’re portraying something on the outside that doesn’t match what’s going on on the inside, it will not lift it’s foot. If you approach the horse with confidence and intention, but on the inside, you’re shriveling and scared, it knows that.
There is no manipulating or faking it to a horse.
My stomach immediately went into knots. I can lie to the outside world, pretending I’m okay, and I can lie to myself, eating away my feelings, but can I pull off lying to this horse?
That freakin’ horse stared at me and I started back, pleading that it just did what I asked it to.
That it didn’t call my bluff.
My mom went first… she walks up to the horse and lifts the hoof, no problem.
My dad … same thing.
The rest of the group… most of them were able to lift the foot either on the first or second try.
And then there was me.
That damn horse would not lift its foot.
I walked up with determination emanating from my eyes, but that horse just stared at me and didn’t budge.
Again, I walked with confidence.
Again, and again, and again. That horse wouldn’t move.
I could feel tears starting to well up in my eyes.
Everyone was watching me.
I was sweating.
I don’t fail.
Especially when everyone’s looking.
Stupid horse, just life your foot. Please.
I’m so embarrassed.
As everyone continued to watch, and I continued to show more and more frustration and it was evident I was about to cry, Wyatt came over to me.
In front of everyone, he pulled me aside and asked me what was going on.
I just lost it and started balling my eyes out, to this old man who knew nothing about me.
He handed me tissues, helped me calm down, and said, what’s really going on for you?
I told him I was having a really hard time. I was lost. I was confused. I was sad. I was really struggling with myself, with my body, with my life.
He let me cry, slowly nodding his head. I peered over his shoulder and saw my parents, staring at me, so sad to see me like this.
After I let it all out, and crying in front of all these strangers, he said, now go lift that horse’s foot.
I didn’t want to be embarrassed again, but I did what I was told. I didn’t have anything to lose at that point.
So I tried one more time.
I walked over, tears streaming down my face, feeling so exposed and raw, I looked in that horse’s eyes, bent over to pick up his foot, and up it went.
Jamie, be real. That was the lesson.
Just. Be. Real.
I had spent so much time trying to cover up what was really going on for me. Trying to shove it all down and pretend I was okay.
And that horse just shattered that. He totally called my bluff.
Lately, in my meditations, the second I close my eyes, that horse comes in. He stares at me, lovingly.
I see it as a reminder to keep being me, keep being me, more and more each day.
And that’s what I want for you, too.
I see so many women, myself included, afraid to fully be ourselves.
In all our glory. In all our doubts. In all our quirkiness. In all our sadness. In all our joy.
Instead, we eat to shove down our real feelings.
We follow rules we don’t want to be following.
We say yes when we want to say no.
We say no when we want to say yes.
We fight the natural rhythm of our bodies.
We constantly push ourselves to “do more” when we want to relax.
We put on a pretty face when we want to cry, or yell.
We act and talk in a way we need to in order to be liked.
Ever since that day with the horse, I’ve let my shields slowly fall away.
I started to express myself more; even if that meant showing people when I wasn’t doing well.
I became more real with myself, and then with others.
I discovered who I was and slowly learned to love that person.
And as I do that more and more, I feel lighter, like weight has literally been lifted off my shoulders.
I feel free.
And that’s the best feeling in the world: feeling free to be yourself.
If this is an experience your soul is craving, I would be honored to support you in my private coaching experience.
To help you claim your own sense of freedom as you embody the gorgeous, powerful, inspired woman you already are.