“A year or so after I went back to work full time, although it was a great job at my children’s school, I noticed a palpable lump in my lower abdomen. And doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. It wasn’t a tumor. But there it was…until I dealt with the stress in my life. From trying to do and be all things to everyone, I had developed a literal stress ball. It came from overly yielding to my husband. Not standing up for myself, and not speaking up for what I thought was right in my life,” said Wendy Horng Brawer, Consultant, Executive Coach, Senior Facilitator, and Artist.
Women are often socialized to please others. And those of us from immigrant communities, are also taught, compliance leads to success. That if we ‘play the game’ from within the box, we’ll have great lives. But it rarely works. And all of that pretending doesn’t feel good. So, Wendy found another way. Learn how she tuned into her body’s signals, to transform her health, happiness, and career.
Awaken from the Overload
Wendy said, “I was in traditional type of marriage and felt a lot of pressure around trying to do it all. Especially in the years I stayed at home with the kids. I was constantly spinning plates for my family and not letting any fall. Like I was Atlas carrying the globe around on my shoulders and there was nowhere to put it down. And no one to hand it off to.” It’s a heavy weight many of us feel. So, how to you create the space and self-trust to find a different way?
Listen to Your Body
Wendy said, “Six months after that, I made the decision to take better care of myself and begin to put myself first. I was such a huge mindset shift! I hadn’t lived my life from that lens before. I knew that I was going to be there for my kids. But I gave myself permission to go get a massage. Or forego making a really nice dinner and have leftovers some nights instead. I allowed myself to let go of certain things because my body was telling me I had to stop. And find a different way to do it.” Most Moms lack the space to reach clarity. So, how do you choose what comes next when you’re drained?
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
Wendy followed her interests, without an agenda. “I have three kids, who are now adults and I remember very vividly what those years were like for me. I was home with my kids for 10 years,” Although she wasn’t formally in the paid workforce, she took a series of informal assignments and roles. “I had the benefit of using that time to explore. I took a lot of art classes, got involved in local theater and joined the board. I also took improv because I realized, I needed to do some public speaking. Then I got hired as an event manager for a local catering company and later, designed jewelry.”
The process of learning built her confidence and skills. “I allowed myself the freedom of exploration. And to not to say, ‘I’m guilty because I’m not making money right now.’ Or ‘I can’t take on these classes because I don’t deserve to invest myself.’ It brought me joy to begin to invest in myself. Because things were very chaotic when I was raising three little kids. I needed those little moments of joy outside of the family to help ground me. Yet I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.”
Be Open to Receive the Call
Wendy said, “A woman my husband and I met when we were on a date invited us to watch her in a play. It sounded like fun so we went. On the back of the playbill it said, ‘open call for auditions, looking for Asian women between the ages of 30 and 40.’ It was so specific! And I thought, ‘when else in the world am I going to be tapped on the shoulder with a very specific call?’ So, I felt something stirring in my intuitive self.”
She tried out for the play. “I was shocked when I got the part and that started this whole trajectory of finding my way back to myself.” How might you allow yourself to trust positive serendipity?
To Follow Your Interests
Acting opened a new sphere for Wendy. She said, “The permission came from wanting to have more balance in my life. There was a whole other world and community of people that related to my interests.”
At that point, her focus was all on her kids. “The days were hard, long and I went to bed very tired. And so, I needed this. And to kind of wean myself off of being their caregiver every single day, all day. To have a babysitter come in from time to time so, I could go to a meeting or rehearsal, was important for me to learn how to do.”
And Yes, It’s Okay to Share it With Your Family
Wendy began to feel proud of what she had learned. “My kids came to the plays. They would help when we were taking things down and when I was looking for props. So, it was super fun to be able to share my passions with them.” Yes! “I play in a band right now and they come to my shows. And whether I embarrass them or not I feel like I’m modeling for them how to live a full, vibrant, actualized life. Even if it’s a little quirky.”
Choose to Soar
Wendy said, “I used to have this visceral sense of being chained underwater. So, I envisioned that I was a bird chained underwater and I could look up and see the light glistening on the water’s surface. And over time, I got unchained. Then, I visualized myself walking around on land until one day, I looked up in the sky and I saw a bird flying. So, I thought, I’m not just a land bird. I can fly!” Beautiful.
She added, “And so, the sensation of soaring and what it means to soar as a human being, a woman of color and as a Mom, that’s what I carry in me daily.”
Make the Commitment
“What do I need to do to feel a sensation of soaring today? Even if it’s short? And how do I create a life for myself that is all about soaring so that I’m modeling it for my kids? And that, as Mary Oliver says, I get to live my one wild precious life?” Wendy brings this motivation into each day.
She explained, “We are all so precious. So, how do you honor your own preciousness first? Because there’s really no one else who’s going to honor it to the extent that you deserve.”
About How You Want to Feel
Wendy became a bit of a Renaissance woman. She’s now a consultant and facilitator for corporate teams. And both a somatic and executive coach. She believes change starts with a very personal, sticky and resonant, inner commitment. “Instead of just having it on paper, like a mission statement, say instead, ‘I AM a commitment to…’ because it helps you embody it.”
Find Your Power Words
Wendy said, “I’ve been using this one about soaring for a long time and added the word ‘ever’ recently. Because I don’t want to soar and then dip. That takes too much energy. Instead, I want to figure out what it feels like to stay soaring as my consistent state of being. So, now, I am a commitment to ever soaring, for the sake of living all in.” She encourages us to find our own meaningful language. “Play around with words that resonate in your own body to make a statement work for yourself.”
Pay Attention to Your Body
“I used to think that it was selfish. Because starting to explore what interested me, was for the first time, all about me. But I realized that I can control my experience. And as I changed myself from inside out, I was modeling the ripple effects.” Wendy explained that people who have known her a long time tell her how different she is.
“For me, it’s knowing what soaring feels like in my body. If I feel some soaring in my in my heart, then I am doing work that is resonant.” If I am doing work that doesn’t feel good, then there’s that tension within myself. A signal this is taking me further away from a life that allows me to soar. And then I think, what do I need to do to get back on track?”
Make the Adjustments
Wendy said, “I see people as tuning forks. That sounds funny, but if you think of yourself as a tuning fork, that you can ring, you want that ring to be loud, clear and resonant right? We know in our bodies when things are off kilter. The problem is, we often ignore it or don’t listen to it enough to make adjustments.” Sigh.
She added, “We feel resistance and know we’re blocked. But often we don’t know why or how to get out of it. So, just know when you feel that angst, it’s counter to how you really want to be. So first, define how you want to be. As a starting point, what is one word that can help ground you? So, you know what it feels like and that becomes you North star.”
Define How You Want to Be for Yourself
Wendy said, “Next, pay attention. Whether it’s something that someone said or something you’re doing, even at the grocery store you can test it out! ‘Do I want this for dinner or do I want that for dinner?’ Let your body choose for you, instead of your logical brain. And then you become more and more attuned to who you are, what makes you happy and how you want to show up. Then you’re living a more aligned life! And it’s that alignment that brings us the most joy and honors our preciousness.”
And Savor Your Freedom
When I congratulated her, Wendy smiled and said, “The achievement is freedom.” If you bury what makes you brilliant and brings that sense of soaring in your life, then you’re not the same Mother, partner, worker or child to adult parents, you’re meant to be. When we suppress that spark, we don’t engage in life or the relationships we hold dear, in the same way. So, go on follow your intuition to new experiences. And embrace the imperfection (and doubt) that comes with your path of purpose.
Many thanks to the talented Wendy Horng Brawer!
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Wendy Horng Brawer is a senior experience designer, graphic narrative facilitator, strategic consultant, and somatics-based executive and team coach. She is co-founder and Head of Innovation and Learning at Intune Collective, a business strategy and human development consulting firm, and a facilitator with Late Nite Art, Scaling Intimacy, and Murmur, where she helps participants cultivate connection and belonging, tap into and build creativity, transform culture, and promote social justice. She’s also on the faculty for Equipt Women, an inclusive professional community built to help women combat workplace inequities, accelerate their careers early and reap the transformational benefits sooner. Monthly, Wendy hosts a Womxn of Color Empower Hour for BIPOC female-identifying people and is also the host of the podcast, The Business of Being Human. She works 1:1 with clients through her JourneyMapping process to uncover alignment and bring clarity to times of transition or uncertainty.
As a parent, educator, and someone who believes in the potential of each person, Wendy is passionate about helping people think and work outside the box as well as connecting to their aliveness, vitality, and self-awareness. When not holding space across the globe for teams and large groups, Wendy can be found out in nature with her Bernadoodle Mazlow, or playing drums with her band Virgo Libre, in local dive bars in the San Francisco Bay Area.