For the majority of my adult life, I’ve been consumed by fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being ridiculed. Making mistakes.

That somehow someone will point out that I am an imposter in the form of a successful woman.

I was in a period in my life in which stress consumed me. Constantly checking my e-mails, working all hours of the evening, and saying no to anything and everything that was not related to work. To outsiders, I lived the dream. I made money and sustained myself by doing the things I love – researching, educating, facilitating workshops, writing, dancing.

A dream.

My carefully crafted social media posts fooled others into believing I had it all, when the reality was that I was suffering. My ability to tap into my creative side faltered and my writing was void of the emotion and vulnerability that I prided myself on.

My hum, as Shonda Rhimes describes it, was broken.

As a fan of Ms. Rhimes’ work, I bought her book Year of Yes thinking that I would eventually get to it. Her strong voice displayed through Olivia, Meredith and Annalise and her ability to vividly breathe life into her characters always captivated me. Although the book sat on my shelf for quite some time, I opened it during the exact season in my life that it was needed.

After the chills I experienced reading the book, I made a vow to follow in her footsteps and walk into the light rather than continuing to cower in the shadows.

As I flipped through the pages, I kept re-reading her sister’s words, You never say yes to anything.They hit entirely too close to home. She was speaking directly to me and it was if my own image was being projected right back.

Do I really not say Yes?

I’m too tired.

I don’t like speaking in public.

I don’t want to put myself out there. I have work to do.

I’ve always been a woman with a slew of excuses when offered an invitation. I preferred an easy escape to retreat back to the comfort of my own four walls. Out of a fear of making mistakes or not being able to keep up the visage of perfection, I’ve denied myself the enjoyment and growth that accompanies saying yes.

It takes courage to say it.

It takes guts to be a perfectly flawed, messy, complicated, layered human being and let others see you in all of your muddiness.

To allow yourself the space to make mistakes publicly and learn grace through the process of growth or the self-confidence to shine your brilliance into the world, even when its radiance scares you.

Somewhere along the way I let fear paralyze me out of actually living.

You never say yes to anything.

In the back of my mind, this simple sentence sounded like a taunt, a challenge. I couldn’t back away from the charge. I had to make a change. It wasn’t until I was still with those words that I realized I only had one choice – to start saying yes.

Shonda Rhimes taught me that sometimes saying yes means dropping everything you are currently consumed with and basking in the beauty of the small moments to bring back authentic creativity after it feels lost.

Sometimes saying yes means opening up your soul to new experiences and opportunities, even when they shake you to your core because that rumble sparks an extension of yourself you didn’t believe existed.

Sometimes saying yes means accepting help from others when the load is too heavy to carry or the thoughts become unwieldy and you just need someone to listen. Or saying no to others when they ask you to pour from a cup that’s empty.

Reading Year of Yes changed my perspective about how I strive to go about my daily life.

I find myself saying yes to more things, but not everything. I admit, just as Shonda does, that it is a work in progress and I forgive myself daily for it.

Go to my first live concert in years? Yes

Open my heart to someone new after being hurt? Yes

Book a plane ticket across the country because it’s been on my list to travel more? Yes

Setting boundaries and honoring my time? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Shonda posed a question that I reflect back on often. When the hum stops, who are you? What are you?My hum used to consist of the rhythmic beat I would feel when I hit my stride with work. Another checkbox ticked on my to-do list. E-mail sent. Paragraph written.

Now my hum looks, feels, and sounds a bit different.

It’s the stillness of being alone with nature, breathing in the swift sway of the wind. It’s the uncontrollable giggles of friends as we make new memories during spontaneous plans. It’s not watching the world pass me by from behind the comfort of my desk, but rather embracing the small moments with all my might before it’s too late.

Because Shonda’s words resonated with me so profoundly, I am constantly looking in the mirror and laughing.

Who am I? A woman who used to run away from the word ‘yes’ now sprints towards it instead.

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