What I Learned on the Road to Rebellion

To mark the Radiant Rebel’s first birthday, it feels fitting to backtrack a bit and explain where this name came from in the first place and how its meaning has evolved for me. It was born out of a time when I realized that I wasn’t showing up as my most radiant (i.e. happy and healthy) self, and it reflected the lifestyle changes and re-commitment to myself that was required for me to get back to that place. A lot of major learning has happened in my life since then. 

If you are feeling any dissatisfaction in your own life, or if there are elements of yourself that you are not particularly proud of or happy with, then I invite you to read on.

Rebel:

  1. to reject, resist, or rise in arms against one's government or ruler.
  2. to resist or rise against some authority, control, or tradition.
  3. to show or feel utter repugnance.

Starting from a very young age, I experienced a powerful desire to be the best at everything I did, and to be favored and praised by my parents, teachers, and other adults for faultless behavior.

Perfectionist. Goody good. Teacher’s Pet. Square. All words many of my elementary school classmates likely would have used to describe me.  

GOD FORBID that I break a rule.

But at a certain point in my life, I decided that I actually resented this pursuit of perfection. I felt caged by it. It was boring, predictable. So, whether entirely conscious or not, I took on a new mission: I was determined to prove that I could be just as fun as I was smart. Motivated to be seen as cool, I started rebelling against the very “good girl” identity that I had spent years cultivating. I created a new me: hard partier, much more concerned with image, never saying no to a chance to have fun. For the next few years, I went with the crowd, whatever the crowd happened to be doing at that time. I jumped at every opportunity to party and have the next outrageous weekend story to top the last one.

The peak of this took place while I was living in downtown Vancouver in my early twenties as a dedicated academic pursuing a Master’s degree in Community Psychology while also working most nights as a server at a busy downtown restaurant. There was a stream of wealthy male clientele that came through the doors as “regulars,” as did their constant flow of invites to Las Vegas, fancy dinners, and late nights drinking champagne and limos. We’d have been crazy to say turn them down. 

Although I miraculously managed to maintain my straight A’s in school, there was no doubt that I was living two conflicting lives, but I refused to let either one of them fall by the wayside. Every day after university I would stop in a hotel bathroom near the restaurant where I worked to apply makeup and “blingy” jewelry, and put on the heels and skintight dress that was my uniform. Role change complete. I didn't dare let my classmates from my gender studies class see me like this, red lips applied and ready to spend my night flirting with older men for bigger tips.

I was always exhausted, but I prioritized my social life over my body’s plea for sleep. Not only was blacking out normalized, but it was also a sign of achievement. I spent every waking minute of my day cultivating my contacts, flipping through the Rolodex of people in my head, figuring out who I hadn’t seen recently and how I could fit yet another coffee or lunch date in between classes and work.

I hated being alone. FOMO ruled my life. 

Although of course I had some outrageously fun nights during this time and formed some precious friendships along the way, more and more I also experienced greater degrees of anxiety, embarrassment, self-hatred, and guilt than I even knew was possible for me to feel—all from chasing so-called fun. Interestingly, the more I did to shed my good girl reputation, the more I was aware of an inner voice that knew my behavior was not in my true best interests. I ignored it for a long time, but eventually it forced its way through. 

About two years ago, I experienced a major insight. I realized that those cringe-worthy feelings could be totally avoided. Even more than this, I realized that I had complete control over whether or not I ever felt that awful again.

I became very clear that I was done with that party-girl version of me. I only wanted to behave in ways that made me feel proud, joyful, and confident. I wanted to be radiant, not sloppy and foggy and hung-over. I wanted to have a body that was rested and nourished. I was ready to start listening to that inner voice that drew me to the Carousel Theatre on New Year’s Eve, trusting her wisdom. I was finally ready to both listen to the inner voice, and to respect my physical body and treat it as the miraculous vessel that it is.

A major overhaul of my habits and the way that I was spending time was required. It was time for a new identity. It was time to rebel against the old me and the relentless pursuit of “fun”. This time, rebelling would look quite different: my health, and personal development and fulfillment, not popularity, would be at the core of my rebellion.

I learned in my academic studies that the renowned Swiss physician and psychotherapist Dr. Carl Jung made a distinction between the “true Self” and the “false self.” According to Jung, at our core, within each of us, is a conscious, loving, intelligent energy being who is our very essence, our true identify. In Christianity, this is called the Soul. Jungian psychology refers to it as the Self (with a capital “S”), in such terms as the True Self, Higher Self, Greater Self, Deep Self, and Authentic Self. This energy being, this Soul or authentic Self, is who we really are. The false self is a social construct that we create in the formation of our personality.

According to Jung, the purpose of life is to open up to your true Self, to enable it to emerge and shine as your radiant authentic Self, and allow the false, constructed self to fade into the background. I committed to doing just that, which would require a re-design of my life and priorities. I made the following list as to how I would do this:

  • Pursue purpose over popularity.
  • Abandon my former obsession with conforming.
  • Prioritize health over social life. 
  • Challenge the belief that following the crowd is going to bring me the most genuine happiness and satisfaction.
  • Use my precious time on this earth consciously and wisely. Not fritter away days hung-over, or accomplishing nothing in my free time but refreshing my Facebook newsfeed 500 times.
  • Structure my days so that they are filled with things that bring me closer to finding my authentic purpose in this life, that are joyful, and that ensure my body is rested and healthy, which likely means pursuing activities many of peers have no interest in, but that I am drawn to on a deep level. 
  • Trust my inner voice, the voice of my higher Self, more than I trust the voice of even my closest friends and family members.
  • Spend time alone. Often.
  • Be OK with the fact that people may question/disapprove of/judge my priorities and path.
  • Prioritize long-term health over short-term pleasure.
  • Be confident in saying no to activities I used to do and people I used to hang out with if they do not support or allow me to show up as my best self.
  • Be content (and even happy) sober while others are drunk.
  • Do nothing out of social obligation, but only out of the potential for authentic joy, satisfaction, and personal growth.
  • Do things that feel good when I put them to the test of my deep Self, as opposed to just looking good for my social self.
  • Say no to social events that I know may serve my ego, but compromise my Soul.
  • Truly listen to my body and do everything I can to nourish it.
  •  “Deciding to live a life of conscious choice, rather than one of habit.” (From High: A Party’s Girls Guide to Peace by Tara Bliss. Highly recommended!)
  • Realize that my life path is likely going to look very different from most others’ in order to mean that I’m truly following my Soul’s path, and that’s OK (and actually exciting).
  • Follow my intuition, not the status quo.

Over a period of a few months, I eventually embraced all of the above and made some huge progress. My friends adapted to my new way of being. It was a time of real homecoming—back to my body and intuition and Soul. I felt nourished. I was proud of my actions, which reflected a new level of self-love.

Thanks to this period of shifting priorities, I have become SO much less concerned about what others think of me and my path. I am significantly more attuned to my body and intuition when making decisions, as opposed to mindlessly following the opinions and visions of others (which may sometimes come at the expense of my individual well-being).

It is quite astonishing to realize how much of our behavior is dedicated to being liked and to social belonging. But here’s the kicker: a billion people thinking you are cool as hell means nothing if you can’t go to bed at night actually liking yourself. What is it worth staying out all night to be seen by the guy you like at an exclusive event when it means you are too tired and hung-over the next day to get up to do the things that make you feel best, like running by the ocean, attending your favorite yoga class, or cooking a healthy meal?

It’s hard to acknowledge that things aren’t working. It’s sad to admit that you aren’t actually proud of yourself and your decisions. It’s scary considering walking away from people you really love, but who aren’t contributing to you being your best self. It’s intimidating to realize that at the end of the day we have complete control over our decisions and must take full responsibly for our actions; no one else can change for us.

But all of this is part of growth and maturing, and brings so much potential for amazing things to follow.

I have discovered that one of the hardest things in life is to break away from people and pursuits that no longer serve us in opening to our authentic Self.

However, there comes a time that we must choose to prioritize our opinions of ourselves above anything else. Period.

This may not be easy at first, but doing so eventually gives us such power! And in order to evolve into our most radiant selves—that is, to enable our authentic radiant Self to emerge—it is actually required.

Moving away from people and situations is not a judgment of them. It is not saying that what others are doing is implicitly wrong. It simply reflects a realization that how they are spending their time is not allowing you to have the kind of personal growth and authentic happiness that you strive for. Interestingly though, from my experience, people may initially comment and criticize your new choices and new way of being, but deep down they typically have huge respect for you and may even decide to embrace some of your changes for themselves. Or, their negative words just might come from wishing they could make such change themselves, but they aren’t quite ready. Do not let this affect you.

Today, two years since that first big wakeup, I am likely due for another re-evaluation of my habits and where there are still areas that I could do a better job taking care of my body and Soul. I am very far from perfect, and we are never done with the journey of Self-realization. As Nike says, “there is no finish line.” Living consciously to me means that we must be constantly checking in and evaluating our behavior (especially our habits), ultimately having the self-respect and courage to break away from things that no longer serve us.

This approach to life is in direct contrast to living on auto-pilot, which may appear to require less effort and sacrifice, but comes with the risk that we may end up not actually liking what we are doing and who we have become. Who wants that?

So, are you ready to start rebelling?

This can involve rebelling against aspects of your current identity that do not allow you to feel radiant; or rebelling against certain habits you have that don’t leave you feeling healthy, productive, or proud; rebelling against traditions in your family that no longer reflect your own beliefs; or rebelling against someone else’s vision for your future.

Just because something works for your friends doesn’t mean it supports your best self and your best life.
Just because something has worked for you in the past doesn’t mean it works for you anymore.

I challenge and encourage you to reflect on your various social groups and to identify any accepted behaviors that you just go along with because that’s “how it has always been.” Ask yourself if they actually contribute to your good health and authentic joy. Do they help to make you a better person?

I challenge and encourage you to listen more closely to your body. It knows what it needs, what your Soul needs. Your body is the instrument of your Soul. It is the guidepost trying to point you in the direction of fulfillment and well-being.  You need only silence the opinions and influences of others for a few minutes and listen to that quiet voice within yourself. This is where meditation can help you.

I challenge and encourage you to start today by doing something outside of your usual routine in the pursuit of purpose, health and self-respect. You have the opportunity today to start living a life out of greater conscious choice, as opposed to living out of habit. Tara Bliss explains, “…instead of chasing quick fixes and falling prey to your autopilot impulses, we’re going to allow purposeful rebellion to ride up front and lead the way.” Start by making two lists:  one of some current things you would like to change in your life, and second, a list of some new behaviors that you are willing to adopt in their place.

Your authentic Self is ready to emerge. You’ve got this!