A few mornings ago I woke up to a text message I had written to myself in the middle of the night, with only three words—
Most of my life I have been desperate to hear messages like this from anyone who will offer it—teachers, colleagues, clients, coaches, agents, books, therapists, partners, parents, friends, retail associates, Instagram followers, cats.
With bated breath, I wait for the moment in a conversation, book chapter, or hot date, when I finally hear the words--
Keep going, Kimball!
You're doing great. Don't you dare stop.
Better than almost anything, praise and encouragement is an addictive high.
Criticism is a blow from which I take weeks to recover.
There isn't much in between.
But the mysterious, much-needed, midnight text felt like standing on new--and firm—ground...
This past week I received an unkind email containing criticism that I had been obsessing about for days. As I tend to do with even the smallest of less-than-glorious remarks, I started doubting basically every life choice I have ever made. I went to bed frantically searching my kindle for a book that would help me find my way again.
Could I really keep going because no one other than me, tells me to?
I didn't have to wait for a book, institution, or Michelle Obama to tell me that:
yes, I actually can?
Have my years of studying how to believe in ourselves actually...worked?
Who are we when we don't need approval to survive?
Who are we when we don't take criticism so 'effing personally?
- asks my higher self, curiously.
My intuition tells me that the next frontier is about discovering who we are—creatively, in relationships, walking in this world—when strength and encouragement are sourced as equally from within as they are from without—and criticism is simply information.
We listen better when we are not waiting to be affirmed.
We lead better when we take criticism as a sign of our risk-taking and not our personal worth.
We create better when we let go of how it will land and who will like it.
Not that I won't be taken higher when you tell me something lovely; words of affirmation will always be my love language and I am grateful for every single one of them. And I will keep paying attention, however difficult it may be, to feedback and when things aren't landing. Of course my tender heart will hurt a bit when I get an unkind email or mean comment on my Instagram.
But there is something about our devastating-awakening times that are daring me to be stronger than all of it. Daring me to wonder what's possible when external encouragement is a delightful treat instead of a lifeline.
(LIKE THE RELATIONSHIP I'VE ALWAYS ENVISIONED HAVING WITH COFFEE BUT HAVE YET TO ACTUALLY ACHIEVE).
What if our most authentic strength is sourced from within?
What if the world needs us to invoke that strength now, more than ever before?
Here is a poem. If it speaks to something—or someone, in you—I'd love to know.
w a r r i o r
Within you lives a warrior--
may you know her.
When despair feels as comfortable as the couch--
When the voice in your head convinces your heart to power down
And your artist to hang up the sign that says closed for business--
It’s too rough out there
and what difference
do I make, anyway?
May you remember that she lives at the intersection of LOVE and FIERCE
and her google calendar is surprisingly open.
Mighty, focused, determined--
Her energy is boundless and her boundaries, infallible.
She knows fear but does not let it lead.
She sees obstacles as guideposts that say
not--throw the towel in.
She protects the heart
and the tenderest places.
She doesn’t just have your back
She has your whole body.
She doesn't care about likes and retweets
She cares about what you stand for.
When you shout enough she says
we were born for this.
When the fear revokes your voice
and belittles your dreams
she says Sister, I’ve got you--
and suddenly you feel possible again.
When you can’t stop the what ifs
she says aren't you on Instagram?
Less worrier, more of me, please.
WA-rriors can be funny, too.
Within you lives a warrior--
may you know her.
Knowing her is revolution
Knowing her defies what you were taught--
not too big
not too bright
not too bold--
and the code of obedience
you were conditioned to follow.
Knowing her proves the #realfact
that you can be fire
in one same breath.
Within you lives a warrior
who is ready to rise.
I am the secret no one told you about.
Call me every day.
From the angry place--
From the tender place.
Suddenly, you hear a yes from inside your bones.
A yes inextricably your own
An ancient yes that could change the world
if only we each could hear it.
You call her.
You remember that collaboration is better than alone.
You feel the strength you have been taught for centuries to forget.
Nothing can stop us.
you both say at the exact same minute--
and you know this to be true.
Thank you for continuing on, dear ones, wherever you are, even when it feels unbearable.
I won't give up if you won't.
A little book of inspiration, frameworks, and guidance for your next creative project.