Finding Your Truth

“It’s very you.”

I’m cooking dinner and as I move towards the stove, I dramatically move my arm to pick up a wooden spoon and perform a perfectly balanced turn before leaning over my chicken curry. 

My husband walks behind me with a giggle.

“It’s so you.” He says.

I pause. My chicken dish can afford the break from my excessive worries about the potentiality of its bottom burning. I can’t help but question him… “Is that really me?

You see, I no longer take for truth what people declare about me. Such a common thing to say lovingly “It’s so you.” Nevertheless, my desire to be unstained by other people’s opinions of me burns stronger than my need for external gratification. 

Yeah, sure, I’d like for this little dance step in the kitchen to be me. So let’s look into it and make sure it really is matching my truth before I stick it to my forehead as an addition to the hundreds of other labels I’ve been given in my life.

No matter how big or small, how well-intentioned or not, labels are one of the truths we carry deep into our hearts as our own definitions and adjectives to define our personality, and our perception of who we are. They are not benign.

Has anyone ever said something to you about you with such conviction, authority, or maybe even charisma that you could do nothing else but agree?

And then carried that non-truth with you as part of the definition of who you are, embodying the feelings that statement carries as the definition therefore imposed? And by definition, we all agree here that in most cases I mean limitation.

Clearly imposed limitations because words are limiting by definition. And words are our #1 communication tool. Therefore, incredibly important to you, me, and everyone.

These comments are made casually all day every day. They are so common, that the speaker often forgets them as soon as they’ve left their mouth, much more concerned about themselves than a casual observation made about someone else.

We all do it. (Is that true? I’d recommend you to be wise and question that too!) 😉

We comment, mention, judge, compliment, note, assess, and praise with the confidence of a world leader, often about people we barely know.

The nasty comments can cause long-lasting self-esteem injuries to the often unconscious and fragile listener. The nasty stuff is easy to pinpoint, and identify, even though not easy to forget.

But the compliments can be harder to track. It’s hard to turn down external validation, praise, and lovely comments about how we are perceived by others. On any given day, most of us rely on them to function, feel validated, feel seen, feel valued, and deep down… feel worthy.

Here’s the danger. When you rely on compliments to feel your own worth, you struggle to get out of bed on the day when the person(s) who give those compliments aren’t here. You can’t focus, you can’t think straight, and you certainly can’t gather the motivation to get to work on what you need to achieve that day. 

And on the day when you most need it, like a job interview, an audition, an important meeting, the day you stand on stage delivering a presentation to an audience, you end up feeling depleted of all your self-worth. 

And your work falls flat. 

And you wonder why you don’t believe in yourself more.

Your face is so full of stickers put on by other people to define you in every way possible that you likely forgot who you truly are.

You forget what is truly you, or not.

What is right for you, or not.

What you really believe, or not, and whether this might have changed since your childhood, since last year, since ten minutes ago.

Take some time to look at the stickers people might have put on your face and question them. Is that true for me, today? (the today part is essential, because beliefs, truths, and lives change, removing that word is denying the true nature of life, and that’s just insane.)

When you catch the words as they fly towards you, question them, and then make your own decision about what to stick to your face, and by doing so you’ll get closer to your truth. 

Sometimes, you’ll find that the answer is simply yes: “This is true for me”. Just like my little dance move by the stove, in fact, it made my very soul dance, and its truth rang loud in me.

For the longest time I felt I was going to die young. It’s not the kind of thing that is easy to explain or make sense of, but it was a strong feeling that lasted from my early childhood until I turned thirty-one years old. Feeling Damocles’ sword hanging above my head led me to pack an entire life of experiences in my first three decades on earth. 

I’ve studied, explored, loved, travelled the world, learned two foreign languages fluently, taken risks, moved across the globe, got married, birthed two perfect children, bought a house, built a business from an idea, bought another business and renovated it before reselling it for profit, helped countless people often for free and lived a life without much room for regrets… You know, because my time was coming. 

And my time did come, except for one important detail: I didn’t really die. I almost did. 

What happened next is too long and sad a story for this letter, so I’ll keep things simple. The virus that sent me to hospital wreaked havoc in my body and left me handicapped for life. Overnight, I was forced to give-up my entire life’s work and passion for dance, for a very frightening clean slate of a future. 

It was devastating, but the terrible news did not end when learning I would remain deaf in one ear for the rest of my life. Repeat life altering diagnosis turned into multi-layered trauma added to existing traumas from my pre-illness life… My health and life became a giant mess.

Honestly, it still is too hard some days, because I haven’t fully designed or even imagined the life I want to create for a future I never thought I was going to experience. Makes sense? I hope so.

But when I look further back than the “accident”… I can see so much life, and despite some traumatic experiences. I’ll tell you my friend… How I’ve lived! 

I tell my husband that if I were to die today, I would die with only two regrets, and those would be to not see my children grow-up and to not see us grow old together. Other than that, I’m satisfied. I know I will die in peace, because I’ve spent a lifetime preparing myself for it and when I flirted with death, it was love that stood out, not regret.

After being ill, when looking at my new state of being, at my now and future, I felt insignificant, living one day at a time, barely surviving. I just couldn’t see what I had to offer to contribute to this world, being unable to sustain the physical efforts required or being untrained in the fields I wanted to work in. My mental health degraded fast and when the relief of death was all I could think about, I finally sought out help from a psychologist with the support of my husband, children, and close friends. 

This is when my thirty years of personal development packed into three started. I meditated multiple times daily. I attended personal transformation seminars, read self-help books, and allowed myself to feel the now instead of escaping it. Until one day, I was able to reach a state of deep peace and gratitude for the growth my near-death experience brought me.

And this, my friend, is when I started to share my story…

And the more I shared it, the more I realised how powerful it was. People’s responses were incredible to witness. Many leaned on it to create significant change in their lives lasting to this day. 

I have since been coaching and inspiring people – especially women – to have the courage and resources to make positive changes in their lives, no matter what hardship comes their way, making adversity a friend, not a foe. This work has become the focus of my readings and research and a deep source of motivation in life.

Finally grounded, life brought back memories of my childhood dreams of becoming an author. I’d already published a small cookbook as well as a guide for young dancers, but never felt like an author as such. The memories came to me in dreams, in random messages from family and friends (close and long-lost) who suddenly felt the urge to reach out and remind me of my dream. It was the strangest and one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Everyone and everything pushed me to write, almost beyond what is reasonable. Life wasn’t subtle in showing me what my life’s work really should be about.

But now I’m listening and answering the call: Here I am. Alex Cownie, the dancing writer. 

My books share the life stories of inspiring women who not only survived the impossible but thrived and shined brighter because of it.

Do you also have a story aching to be told that made you greater than you knew was possible? Please visit the Stories page and apply for Alex to write your story.