"COURAGE is the greatest virtue of them all - because in order to consistently uphold any other, you must have courage." -Maya Angelou
On Saturday, I LIVED a dream.
My first TEDx.
It was magical.
It took courage to step on that stage. To show up. And share my truths.
It's not often you hear an Olympian talk about the darker parts of their story.
There's this thing we do - especially those of us who struggle with perfectionism. We force ourselves into boxes that are too tight. Too small to hold all our truths.
One 'bad' part - it's all bad.
One flat tire - just puncture them all?
Seems so silly - but it's this all-or-nothing thinking that keeps us from truly stepping into our magic. From living our dream.
From feeling deep joy. From reveling in our magic.
What if we gave ourselves permission to hold all of it?
To see the three whole tires. And the one that needs repair.
Owning all the parts of our story might be the most courageous thing we ever do.
It's worth it.
Because, doing so sets us free.
From the fear. And shame. And the feeling that we're all alone in it.
We are stronger together.
And courage. It's contagious.
When I stepped onto that stage with my feet firmly planted in the ground, I felt completely WHOLE - awake + alive - trusting that the message I was supposed to share would come through.
Three months of writing, reflecting, re-writing, pausing, meditating - and creating. For the last three weeks, I've been practicing my talk in the shower, in the car - even out on runs!! In so many ways, preparing for an event like this is much like preparing for a big meet. I loved it.
The work is done in the preparation.
I knew - my biggest challenge was going to be time. Fifteen minutes goes by quick when you're passionate and on a mission to pay forward all that you've learned. So I went to work. Stopwatch in hand. Cutting. Trimming. Practicing.
I was first to go off after intermission - an amazing spot. I had time to sit and soak in the first round of speakers before heading outside to rock out to my playlist, throw a solo dance party and load up on coffee.
When I stepped onto the stage, I took a deep breath and silently said the words -
I AM TRUST.
And that's exactly what happened. I trusted my preparation. I trusted my skill set.
I trusted the Universe.
On that stage, I felt deeply connected to the audience in the room.
And, they were with me.
When I stepped off stage - I felt energized, exhausted, fulfilled and so proud.
Until I looked at my phone.
Holy shit. The time.
Holy shit. The TIME.
In that split second - my entire body filled with cement. I looked at my husband for confirmation - Was I really that much over?
In an instant, I found myself in the midst of an all out shame-shit-storm.
The irony not lost on me.
A thread throughout my talk :: releasing the grip of perfection + all that is shame.
And here I was. Overcome by emotion. Blinded to all that went well. I wanted to run and hide.
Except, now I know.
I knew what was happening.
And, that awareness is what allowed me to see the storm and ride the waves.
Not this time, Perfection.
When we're overcome with any emotion - especially vulnerability - our inner critic sees an open door. An opportunity to manipulate, contort, and runaway with stories that are not grounded in reality.
It wants us to ruminate - and retell the story over and over and over - hyper analyzing + hyper criticizing - only on the areas (it tells us) we fell short.
It's an exhausting way to live. I know it too well.
I used to think that voice drove me. The truth? The only place it drove me was straight into the darkness of my own mind - robbing me of feeling joy.
When we learn to see that voice as separate from ourselves, we take away its power. We stay in the driver's seat of our life.
My days of engaging + arguing + justifying + proving are done.
If you've struggled with the pulls of perfection, I'm with you.
I want you to know, there's another way of living.
When we cultivate the courage needed to let go of the beliefs that are holding us back.
Here's the thing...
When we let the inner critic drive, it keeps these toxic (and often exaggerated / made up) thoughts on repeat.
Keeping the thought on repeat doesn't change the past or protect us from pain, it keeps us stuck there.
Set it free. Set yourself free.
Preparing. Standing on stage, sharing my TRUTHS. Connecting with the audience. Paying forward what I've learned. Making an impact.
My first TEDx was magical, exhilarating and humbling.
I loved it. ALL of it. Even the messy parts.
And THIS is what I mean about arriving.
Arriving isn't getting to this place free from mistakes and imperfections.
Arriving is owning all of our story.
And learning how to RISE.
On Monday morning, I got a note in my inbox from someone who was there - and she said
"Thank you for coming to North Adams and sharing your story at Tedx... I was truly inspired by your words. I was moved to tears to hear that there really is a way out of the darkness. "
That's what matters. That's perspective.
What we focus on grows.
Do you want what you're focusing on to grow?
Samantha Arsenault Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, transformational speaker, high performance coach, and mama of four girls.
She is on a mission to empowers athletes, forever athletes and never-been-athletes to cultivate the courage, resilience and perseverance needed to live their dreams. She helps her clients arrive at their own gold medal moments whole - opening up the door for freedom, balance and joy that transcends.
Samantha candidly shares her battles with her inner critic, depression, perfection, PTSD and parenting as a working mother because she believes in the transformative power of story – and the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone. She is on a mission to pay forward all that she’s learned to help others find joy and live free.
A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls. You can learn more about Samantha at www.samanthalivingstone.com.
You can find her hanging out in this powerful community that is the I AM CHALLENGE.