I discovered This is My Brave shortly after starting 1000 Hearts and it was the start of a lovely collaboration. During our conversations, I shared my own experience of anxiety and when I was asked to tell my story at a TIMBA show in Mullumbimby, I readily agreed.
Before the event, I thought a lot about what I might say. In fact, I spent a lot of time overthinking it, because like many people with anxiety, that’s one thing I am very skilled at. I overthought how to talk about my experience with anxiety and how to frame it up as a recovery story. I considered all aspects of anxiety, how it’s impacted my life and what I’ve achieved in spite and because of it. And then I realised – I didn’t want to talk in detail about anxiety, because for me, recovery depends on making space for other things and focusing my attention and energy on creating a better world.
Anxiety is present for me in many ways on a pretty regular basis. It’s there in my shaking hands, my flushing skin, my churning stomach, my overactive brain. But I’ve realised that it’s not the core of who I am. What’s in my heart is a belief in the goodness of people and a steadfast faith in the power of love. Not romantic love or familial love or the love between friends, though they are all included. I’m talking about a more universal love that we can create and find within ourselves, and then share with others. I believe this kind of love has the power to change the world.
This Is My Brave is all about stories, which are so powerful in shaping who we are and how we create our lives. When I was very young, I lost my mother to mental illness. She is still alive and we are now very close, but she was not around while I was growing up and I relied on other peoples ’stories to help me make sense of what happened. A story I was often told was that I was born with an incredible spirit, a powerful energy that beamed out of my eyes and set me alight with passion and energy. When my mother left, so the story goes, I lost that spirit and became quiet, anxious and withdrawn. This was my story – that my mother leaving made me lose my spirit. I was the girl who lost her spark and I carried that story for over 40 years.
From my own broken heart came the idea to offer love and kindness to others. I started 1000 Hearts in 2016 and have made thousands of hearts which have gone to people all around the world. My hearts have been given out at weddings and funerals, offered to the living, dying and bereaved. They have been clutched in the hands of anxious children and carried in the pockets of anxious adults (me included). They have been tucked into hands, pockets, bras, handbags, undies and wallets. They have been offered out of compassion and care in countless moments of connection between two struggling humans.
There is now a loving army of people around the world, stitching hearts to show they care, and then there’s me, standing here telling you about this project and feeling like I’m not even sure what it’s all about. For many of us, there is a huge difference between how we speak to ourselves and how we speak to others, and I’ve realised through this work that self-kindness is so critical to creating a good life and becoming the best version of ourselves. Kindness to others has no real meaning if it’s not underpinned by a willingness to offer compassion to ourselves.
Recently, I was hanging out with my Dad, talking about 1000 Hearts. I was getting excited about it, telling him some of the beautiful stories people have shared about how kindness has changed their world. While I was talking, my father started to cry. He said “when you were born, you had this incredible spirit. It shone out of your eyes and it was so powerful. But you lost that when your mother left and it broke my heart to see that. But now, I look at you and can see, it’s come back. Your spirit has come back.”
This is what I’ve learned and if there’s a take-home message from what I’m saying here, then I’d like it to be this: It’s OK to be broken. Life sometimes breaks us in ways that we can’t control. But in your brokenness, you are also whole, and your shattered pieces are part of your wholeness. Broken hearts heal, sometimes leaving messy scribbles of scar tissue. But I’ve discovered that a scarred heart is still very good at loving and it has a deep understanding of human pain and compassion. I’ve discovered that if you have lost your spirit along the way, you can find it again. Since that conversation with my Dad, I’ve found a new story; I am the girl who is going to change my world with kindness. I am the girl who believes in love. I am the girl who got her spark back.
Watch Sarah’s This is My Brave talk here: https://www.thisismybraveaustralia.com/
Learn more about This in My Brave Australia here: https://www.thisismybraveaustralia.com/
A follow-up to last year's posts about self-compassion, and a reminder to heartists that kindness starts with our own imperfect selves.Read more
How to safely make and share hearts during the COVID-19 pandemicRead more