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How a shaman helped me on my journey to self-discovery

Tonya Whittle

by

Health & Fitness

I started blogging in 2012 as a way to engage my audience and educate people about weight loss and healthy eating.

My career change sent me on a journey of self-discovery, and this is what I learned

This year is nothing like I planned it to be — but that it's ending better than I imagined. As I cruised into 2015, I had a lot of unanswered questions, I was riddled with fear and anxiety about my career, my relationships and my life in general. I felt purposeless and restless, like someone running toward a finish line, but the distance and location kept changing.

This year, I realized I wanted to take a different direction with my career. I was excited, but terrified. I got to work, just like I always did. I worked around the clock, creating new programs, designing and marketing new content, creating a new content site, all while still spending endless hours doing my job as a gym trainer. As I put the finishing touches on everything, I found myself asking, "But how will I make this happen?"

My career change sent me on a journey of self-discovery, and this is what I learned
Image: Tonya Whittle/SheKnows

With an upcoming trip to Europe with my best girlfriend, I decided to focus on it when I returned — so off to Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Berchtesgaden and Salzberg we went. With quiet time and down time, I again found myself questioning if I could do this. I know what I want to create, but I'm just one person. Maybe my dreams are just too big. Who am I to think I can do this?

Upon my return home, I found my thoughts getting darker, my moods getting more unpredictable and I found myself angry and unmotivated. For the first time in more than a decade, I didn't want to train. I could barely muster the energy to get out of bed, and I turned away from friends and family. I stopped going to the gym. I began to drift aimlessly.

The truth was, I knew only two speeds — full tilt or nothing. I had been pushing myself full tilt for more than 15 years — working several jobs as I built my fitness business on the side, then full time in the fitness industry, which has draining hours by anyone's standards. As a sole business owner, I was doing everything and I had reached my "burned out" point, or at least that's what I thought.

When I discovered in the early fall that I was battling depression, I was actually shocked. I couldn't believe it. How could I have let this happen? I'm not that girl. I'm strong. I don't let stuff get to me! There I was, barely able to get out of bed each day, not showering for days at a time and not caring how I looked — or about anything, really.

I was surviving. I was afraid to tell anyone, but I knew I had to. I reached out to a shamanic healer I knew, and we began a shamanic healing process. She taught me to let go, to dig deep to see the root of my issues. And the thing we discovered? I wasn't feeling anything. I had shut down emotionally a very long time ago. I was driven to prove to myself that I was good enough, pretty enough... just enough. I was seeking that through my career: If I am successful enough, I will be loved, accepted and approved.

My final gift to myself in 2015 was a Date With Destiny, hosted by Tony Robbins in Florida. I was like a sponge, breakthrough after breakthrough, day in and day out. I was seeing things I had never seen about myself before — that I was scared to truly love because I viewed it as a weakness, and I never wanted to be weak again.I was building my life to move away from love and connection at all costs — duh, no wonder nothing made sense, no wonder I was feeling depressed and anxious. My business, my marriage, my friendships and all my relationships depend on love and connection. On one hand, I'd pull people in, but not too far, not so far that they could hurt me.

Now I know, I am already worthy — I am me. I actually love love. I was just scared to love and scared to show people the real me. I was scared to be hurt, to be rejected, so I pretended I didn't need any of those things, and eventually I believed it myself.

My motivation is no longer success to get acceptance and approval subconsciously, but to give love unconditionally, to be love, to be courage and to be faith. I realize my most painful experiences in life were gifts to help me grow as a person, to connect me to myself so I could inspire people from that place, a place of self-love and self-acceptance.

Life is meant to be lived fully. What I had been running towards at the beginning of the year was myself. That's what was missing from my life: the real, authentic me. I now have a profound understanding of why we do the things we do, not just an intellectual understanding, but a full feel-it-in-my-soul knowing. I finally know who I am, what I want in life, what I represent and what my path is... and it's paved with love.

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