Shelley Seale Reflects on What ‘Nourish’ Means to Her
BY SHELLEY SEALE
When we think of the word “nourish,” often the first thing that comes to mind is the most literal way that we are nourished: with food. But nourish means so many other things as well: to nurture, sustain, strengthen. While we need food and water to keep our bodies going, we need to be nourished in so many other ways — emotionally, mentally, and physically — in order to be truly healthy and balanced in our lives.
Throughout my life’s journey, I have received nourishment in so many ways, both from internal and external sources. And every one of them has been vital to my wellbeing and purpose in life.
LOVE & ENCOURAGEMENT
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have an extended family who, from the very beginning of my life, has not only loved me but has encouraged me to follow my dreams. In fact, dared me to dream big and always made me feel that I could do literally anything I wanted to do. It’s probably no surprise to any of them that I’m a serial entrepreneur, have pursued my passion of writing as my life’s work, and have adventured around the globe.
Sledding down a live volcano in Central America? Volunteering at orphanages in rural India? Starting another business venture while writing a book? Yep, that’s just Shelley for you, they would say. But what they might not realize is that I’ve been able to do all these things largely because of them — because of that unshakable confidence and belief that I could do and be anything, which they instilled in me.
This is a rare gift, indeed, and I never take for granted my luck in having such love and encouragement from the moment I was born. But don’t think for a minute that this has to come from actual blood family (in fact, my own immediate family does not all share DNA. We are a blend of adoption and by-marriage), nor that it can’t be created and cultivated at any time during your path in life. Many of the people I count in my “inner circle” of love and encouragement are friends and those who came into my life later. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who encourage you, who get your magic and will help you tend it carefully.
This is vital not only to every entrepreneur, but I think just in being human. So many people have inspired me throughout my life — both those I know personally or who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and those I have never met. In almost every case of extreme inspiration for me, the person has done one of two things: exhibited incredible bravery and grace in the face of opposition (Nelson Mandela, Amelia Earhart) or advocated for others even at the expense of themselves (Harriett Tubman, Jane Goodall). Much of my inspiration has also come from my travels all over the world, as I’ve met people who don’t make history or the news but are taking actions that have a positive impact on their little corner of the world. When I see things like this, whether in my hometown or halfway across the globe, I feel again like anything is possible. They give me hope and rejuvenate my motivation, values and purpose in my own life.
We simply cannot be healthy, happy, or successful (however you define that for yourself) without nurturing ourselves regularly. I don’t care what people say about “having it all” or the exhausting daily itineraries that some people have — starting at 5 a.m. and running until late at night — if you don’t incorporate nurture as one of the most basic aspects of your life, like food or sleep, you’re going to fall at some point. You’re going to burn out or become physically ill or depressed.
I have gradually learned the importance of this, and, especially over the past 10 years, self-care has become a non-negotiable part of my daily life, from yoga to massage to hot baths with a glass of wine and a lose-yourself-in-it novel. Sometimes it’s simply allowing myself a day to do nothing. Putting yourself first in this regard — yes, before your children, your marriage, your business — is anything but selfish. You can’t give to anyone or anything else unless you are full and replenished.
Last but not least, this one simple (but often difficult) element has a far-reaching impact on your own life and on those around you. As someone who deals with an anxiety disorder and who also has inherent perfectionist tendencies, living in compassion is often one of the hardest things for me to do. But it’s important to remind ourselves, every single day, that we are only human. Things don’t go as planned, we make mistakes, people disappoint us.
This is where compassion comes in. And here’s the biggest secret of them all: As much of a gift as it is to treat others with compassion, it is by far the greatest gift you can give yourself. I am by far my own worst critic, and I don’t believe I’m alone in that. About a decade ago, I distinctly remember seeing an Ahimsa counselor, rooted in the Buddhist beliefs in compassion toward self and others. After a particularly trying time in my life, she just looked at me gently and said, “How would it feel if you cut yourself some slack? If you knew that these things happened because you were meant to learn something from them? What if you stopped beating yourself up about it, and instead treated yourself with compassion?”
Changed. My. Life. So I would invite you to ask those same questions. Go out there and be kind to one another — and don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too.
Shelley Seale is a writer, editor and adventurer who believes in living life to the fullest. Follow her adventures in her blog, Trading Places.
She is the co-founder and director of content for the Center for Higher Education Leadership.