In nature, a tree grows stronger by expanding its roots where no one sees, beneath the surface of things. It seeks the softest soil that is open to receiving, not the hard, rigid dirt that allows little room for change. That’s what I love about nature’s resilience. Showing us by example how we gain strength from being vulnerable and open, and how essential that is to becoming whole.
For most of us though, we feel safest operating within our comfort zones, so why take risks, and be exposed to harm’s way, let alone reveal our weakest parts?
Turns out, in the framework of the human experience, it’s those moments of “cracking open” that give our lives the most meaning.
Chaille DeFaria is a former singer/songwriter turned Mental Health Consultant and Professional BFPA Coach (Body-Focused Process Addictions), who knows whereof she speaks. After attending her production of “This Is My Brave” – a live performance of everyday people sharing their personal stories of struggle and hope with mental illness and addiction, I knew we could all benefit from a touch of her soulful wisdom. Over lunch, this is where our conversation took us…
What brings you joy right now being Chaille?
Connecting, certainly with family, but also with humanity too. We’re wired for connection. I think my first big “aha” moment was when I realized I didn’t have to walk through the world alone anymore. I didn’t have to be miss independent, pull my big girl britches up and be a survivor like I was taught. The truth is, we don’t have to do it all on our own. We need each other.
Much of your work as a facilitator focuses around the importance of telling your story. How did you personally get there?
I’ve always been a seeker, with a real intuitive calling around truth. But I had to get to a place of feeling like I was enough. I had no idea how small I really felt inside. If I could own my power I knew it would be the most rewarding, fulfilling accomplishment of my life. I was far from it until I hit my 40s. I had to dig deeper and have those hard conversations. I had to stand in the discomfort, face my fears, and own my truth which meant establishing boundaries. It took every ounce of courage I had. At 15, I began pulling out my eyelashes and brows. I remember being super ashamed and terrified of being found out and judged. This disorder is called Trichotillomania. It became the elephant in the room I carried with me every day. It was my whole world, but I could never really talk about it.
I just knew how important it was for me to own my story. Shame grows, until we have the courage to talk about it. But it can’t live with words wrapped around it. That’s what I learned when I started to do the work. Being vulnerable and taking emotional risks allowed me to see that when I share my story I give other people permission to realize that they’re not so alone. The opposite of scarcity is being enough. Asking for what you need and owning your story can be the bravest part of your journey. Belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are. We get to choose. And just like you, and everyone else we know, we’re all perfectly imperfect.
What aspect of your profession do you find the most rewarding?
I love watching people grow through connection to arrive at their truth. To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than creating a safe space for someone to explore shame and vulnerability. You can’t find the light without the dark. You’ve got to pick up your flashlight, turn it on and start looking around. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
Identifying emotions and naming what we’re feeling puts us in a place of choice. It offers us the chance to transform not only the way we see and value ourselves, but also to know that we don’t have to be defined by the things we struggle with. When you think of it, at the end of our lives, we remember the people who let us see them. All of them. Their mess and their beauty. Their vulnerable side. Those to me are the brave ones.
When something happens that presses your buttons, do you have a personal process of return?
I try not to react. I hit the pause button until I can respond. I think it’s really, really, important to get past the body’s chemical rush of fight, flight. When I get hijacked I think of being booted offline. I know at this point I can’t reason, because the brain has to come back online to make sense of what’s happening. It usually takes me a couple of minutes, depending on the situation. Sometimes hours.
What have you discovered as an unexpected gift at this stage of your journey?
Thankfully, I’m at a place where I can focus on doing things I want to do. I’m passionate about being of service. That’s not a “have to,” it’s a “want to” for me. I love helping and moving people forward so that they can grab hold and embrace what they’re reaching for. And one of the most important things I’ve learned is being able to ask for help and for what you need. The human connection is really not a choice, it’s a must. Staying connected to the people in your life and in the world is like a muscle that just keeps getting weaker and weaker if it doesn’t get used.
Is there something you’re horrible at?
Accepting compliments. To me, I’m just doing what I love. I’ve been growing, nurturing and exploring this part of me since I was a young person, so it’s more about getting brave and sharing these gifts. If I were to offer myself any advice looking back, I would lean in not out. I think we tend to overlook the things that come naturally because we have been a culture of no pain, no gain. When things come easy, we sometimes set our strengths aside. But I’m working on getting better with receiving.
Takeaway Tips For Cultivating Joy This Holiday Season:
You are invited to reach out to Chaille at chailledefaria.com
Chaille’s personal message to our Intentful community.
Resource Available: The National Alliance On Mental Illness, NAMI at 866.903.3787
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