How I Opened My Heart to Change and What Showed Up When I Did

open heart change

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

– Dalai Lama

I arrived 15 minutes late for the Saturday morning conference call, right as Kate said she was about done with announcements and we would be doing check ins next. Kate being the instructor in my life coach-training program, the conference call being one of the training calls the 15 of us in the program dialed in to from all over the world.

As Kate went on to say that this week our check in would be “If you really knew me…” —I kinda started to panic. What that meant was that we were all to answer the question as openly and honestly as we could and share how we were really feeling, the feelings below the surface, not the, “I’m fine or everything is good” level that we  tend to live at with acquaintances and colleagues every day.

I guess I was feeling a bit out of practice with that level of vulnerability—we’d been on summer hiatus for more than a month and I’d been focused on my new clients, was dipping a toe into blogging and developing an e-course—“If you really knew me” would mean sharing the wide range of conflicted feelings related to all this new stuff.

As much as I wanted to just hang up the phone and get back to my day of errands, I went ahead and hit star 6 and waited my turn to speak. Listening to the others, my anxiety about sharing began to slip away.  I found myself leaning into their stories, reminded that everyone’s lives are complicated; confliction is everywhere.

Once my turn came up the anxiety had dissipated and I immediately felt the energy of my tribe—I knew I had 14 peers, Kate, and two other coach instructors on the line supporting me however I needed it.

And with that, out of my mouth fell the words:

If you really knew me, you’d know that I’m actually doing pretty good right now. I’m happy….

…And it’s weird.

I’m not used to it. I’m just not used to feeling …happy.”

It’s safe to say that these were not the words I would have expected to come out. I didn’t plan what I was going to say—but still…  Where was all that confliction? Where was all that discomfort and awkwardness of the last month?

With a little distance I can now see that those feelings of confliction, discomfort and awkwardness—while they are very real and true feelings—they also just come along with the territory of trying new things. That deeper down “I’m happy” feeling—that’s my core.

At my core I’m happier now than I can remember feeling in, if I’m really honest here, at least a decade. Confliction, disappointment, heartbreak and the weight of great responsibility—these were feelings I’d become a lot more familiar with.

After more than a decade of not feeling so happy, this turn didn’t happen overnight; but no matter how long it takes, change really only happens when you let it. Change happens when you stop fighting it off and allow yourself to make choices that can help you get to a better place—dare I say, a happier one.

I found the happiness I know today not by some overly simplistic choice to “be happy”—but by choosing experiences that helped me to open up my heart, by making a choice to let go of long held beliefs about myself that were holding me back, in order to make space for new parts, by choosing to feel whatever difficult things I needed to feel, and then finding myself moving past them.

While it had been rearing it’s head for a few years, change for me really started a year ago with taking a few classes in Positive Psychology and life coaching at a local college. After 20 years away from school, a marriage, a child, a career and a divorce–I found that the coursework gave me a new, fresh lens for seeing myself.  I didn’t need to be defined by that difficult marriage, the many disappointments, and the great burden of responsibility—instead I started to take back responsibility for making my life what I wanted it to be.

Six months later, more choices came along—I did not choose to listen to the fearful voice inside that urged me to just “appreciate my salaried job already” and instead I listened to the quietly encouraging voice inside that said something like “Keep at this. Keep trying it out. There’s something here for you.”  And with that I boldly applied up for the inaugural class of the Courageous Coach Training Program—an experience that has ended up being truly life altering.  I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned and for where I am today, but it has also been intensely hard work, the work of tackling my own emotional terrain so I can in turn, coach others through theirs.

I’ve learned and grown so much.  I’ve opened my heart to so many new concepts, people and experiences.  I’ve learned to see that that’s where the magic is—in the zone just outside your comfort.

I’ve learned to allow myself be vulnerable even when I didn’t really want to be; knowing I was always safe and supported allowed me to go where I needed to go.

I’ve allowed myself to face beliefs I had held about myself my entire life. And more importantly, I allowed myself to see the truth and believe I could let go of what wasn’t.

I’ve learned to trust myself—and how to recognize and work with those often opposing voices inside me.

I’ve learned that feeling the hardest stuff is the definition of bravery.  And coming out the end of it, the definition of rewarding.

And after all this openhearted hard work and vulnerable stretching way past my comfort zone—what exactly have I found for myself? Well what I’ve found inside myself is Me. Sometimes conflicted, often awkward, far from perfect, but below all that—a quite happy Me.

Photo by Roberto Taddeo

21 thoughts on “How I Opened My Heart to Change and What Showed Up When I Did”

  1. What a brave, beautiful post, Vanessa. I love you’re honesty that you didn’t just decide to be happy, then POOF! It became so. You did a lot of emotional work to get where you are today, and it’s paying off. However, you’d probably admit you haven’t “arrived.” There will always be work to do to be happy and stay happy + we’re not always happy. I hope your journey helps many readers.

    1. This is an awesome comment for an awesome article, Marcy. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Thank you, Vanessa. I really needed to read this, and it seems you really needed to write it. You need to draw your happiness from within you, that’s the only way it’ll last, and by the sound of it, you’re in a place where you’re able to do it. Like Marcy said, it’s a continual battle – I know it is for me – but it’s people like you, writing articles like this, that makes huge differences to the way people think of themselves and the world around them. Amazing :)

  2. That is not the answer I was expecting from you. Maybe I need to look inward toward myself, as to why I was expecting a more pessimistic answer come from you. Thank you for sharing your perspective on where you are now. “All of us have had the experience of a sudden joy that came when nothing in the world had forewarned us of its coming — a joy so thrilling that if it was born of misery we remembered even the misery with tenderness.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939, translated from French by Lewis Galantière

  3. A beautiful article! At the center of each of us is our core. Each and everyone of us is born with this center. And that’s where our true happiness lies. Our core is who we truly are. However, what happens throughout our lives is we allow the Fears, Anger and Resentments cover up our CORE making it harder to get back to. My acronym for Fears, Anger and Resentments is FAR because these negative emotions take us FAR away from who we really are. They take us FAR away from our CORE.

  4. Lovely post. Happiness is like an undercurrent flowing within which sometimes bursts forth when least expected. It is like morning dew which settles down silently and unknowingly in the heart. True, the clouds of conflicts, disappointments often eclipse the sun of happiness to shine forth. Break up in relationships and betrayal in love , for instance, hurt me badly but I got over it by summoning courage from God to enjoy grief and misery of rejection and separation. Sometimes suffering can be enjoyed. “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts ” ( P.B.Shelly ).

  5. Hi Vanessa

    Enjoyed your article on happiness and realised that I am far more used to reading about depression, anxiety, fear and guilt etc… Just a refreshing change to read about happiness, and like the way that you almost just stumbled across it. Sounds great and long may it continue.

    1. Hi Alex- Thanks for your note. I remember when I was really struggling a few years ago, the blogs I’d come across about how people made their way OUT of their struggle meant so much to me. I too hope to continue to share this much better experience! :)

  6. Such a wonderful post, Vanessa.

    “I’ve learned that feeling the hardest stuff is the definition of bravery. And coming out the end of it, the definition of rewarding.”


  7. hi vanessa,
    thanks for the wonderful post, it gives me courage and inspiration to move on and dont listen to the voices inside me, that keep saying i cant do it.

    1. Hi Julie- I’m so glad to have given you a boost. Be patient and gentle with yourself. :)

      I also wanted to let you know that I happen to be running a totally free ecourse right now on making important change in your life. You might like it. If interested add your name at the link below and I’ll watch for your submission and get you onto the list. -Vanessa

  8. Wonderful post and it warms my heart that you are able to share these experiences with others. I agree that we may have our awkward moments, bad days, stressful days but what is important is that we are able to share our feelings and be happy about it.

  9. Thanks Vanessa for sharing your feelings !
    I’ m coming out of a long marriage .
    I’m just starting my way on finding who I am after a life of being what I was expected to and not what i needed to .
    It seems to me that feeling happyness is somehow a surprise , a lighter and brighter way of being .
    We sometimes keep on fighting against our natural attitude of feeling that way.
    Maybe it’s something we simply are not used to .
    Your words help me to keep searching and walking along my way.
    Keep on smiling… barbara

  10. thanks for another great post. I find that we as humans dislike change but I am constantly being encouraged by post like these to encourage change to look forward to changes when they come with greater expectancy. Look for what good each and every change will bring to my life and those around me.
    I am so much less fearful of changes since I decide to change my mindset toward changes.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  11. Vennesa it’s because of your courage that you found a new you☺as every cloud has a silver lining so was a hidden opportunity always for you.its great that you have defeated difficulties . bless you , u r motivation for us.

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