Healthy, Whole & Free

Text and photo by Hanna Balemi.

As I sit down to write this, I’ve just finished a cup of almond-milk cocoa and thrown my sweaty yoga gear into the wash after a ‘glistening’ 90 minute session. Our apartment is quiet, the pace of the day is gentling down, and the crease between my eyebrows (hi, 30!) is relaxing. If I had told my extroverted self a few years ago that this reality was in the cards for my future, I probably would have panicked, texted at least seven friends to remind myself I mattered, and run for the hills.

But I’ve decided to allow the grace to whisper to myself (and now you) that nights like this are actually my bliss, times to remember the rhythm of my deepest core and give myself the gift that only I know how to give: the kindness and self care that I actually need.

Caring for ourselves is not something often spoken of in leadership contexts. We are taught to be selfless, to give our time and energy to worthy causes, to consider others as more important than ourselves — and to each of these, I give a resounding yes. But underneath these ideals lives a reality that says this: virtues do not develop in a vacuum. They develop in each of our very human souls, that live in each of our very human bodies. If we want to lead well, these traits must be part of our core, emerging as natural fruit of the hard work of self-reckoning and self-care.

A few years ago, my best friend Jacki and I decided on our birthdays (which are conveniently close together) that we would name the upcoming year the year of “healthy, whole and free.” We both love people and were finding it way too easy to fill our lives with good things, and much harder to give preference to the practices that actually gave us life. The catch was that without those things, we were showing up to all of our good endeavours less and less alive.

I believe that our worlds don’t need more leadership junkies — the well-meaning, but often one-dimensional crowd who wake up ready to tackle personal development checklists through gritted teeth. Our worlds need us to be healthier, more whole and free. Armed with the courage to value our own unique story, we can then show up and give good gifts to others from the abundance of our deepest selves.

Of course, as with most worthwhile things, this is easier said than done. The road to health, wholeness and freedom is rarely stickered with gold stars, and the mirrors required to truly see and know ourselves can often feel a little too revealing. But life is too short to be a leadership junkie. The hard work of self care will add texture to your deep self and build a brand of leadership deep in your spirit that simply can’t be faked.

 Note: Neuroscientist Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter has been a helpful tool in the pursuit of health, wholeness and freedom!

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