BEEN ON A PERSONAL GROWTH JOURNEY LATELY?
When I asked Shauna Ryan recently, ‘If there was one thing you think society should talk more about, what would it be?’, she answered with “What personal growth actually looks like.” She continued “I’ve gone through several transformations of myself and there are now expired versions of me that exist that other people know and hold onto. I want to talk about how I navigated that and also what personal growth actually looks like. It’s really tough and had I known, I probably wouldn’t have embarked on this journey”
In this interview, Shauna openly shares what she’s been through these past years in literally breaking herself down and then rebuilding a newer, better version of herself and how she came out the other side. She shares with us the challenges of not only becoming a newer, better version of herself, but in those around her to accept this newer version.
So… personal growth: talk to me more about that.
In the last three years I've gone through a lot of personal growth. I've shifted my career focus, I’ve moved away from Australia a couple of times, I've come back. And in those months and years, I’ve gone through several transformations of myself. There are expired versions of me that exist that other people know and so I want to talk about navigating that and also navigating what personal growth actually looks like. I know that if I looked at what growth was three years ago, I would think, ‘Oh, that's nice’. But had I known what was actually involved, I probably wouldn't have signed up.
So do you feel that you have a choice, though? Because you kind of sound like if you wouldn't sign up for it, that you could actually opt out of it? But is that how you really view it?
To a certain extent, I think as human beings, we all evolve. We have to navigate through life and I guess, I look at it as levels: once you master a level, you level up and you have something else to conquer. But there's a level of courage that is required to take a bold step. And I've taken several bold steps in my life. And I think I could have had the decision to not take those bold steps, I could have settled and therefore would not have had to go through certain things that I have.
Can you give me some examples if you’re willing to share? You just embrace what some people call their flaws, and you're so yourself which I really admire. But it sounds like you've taken a while to get there. We met years ago and I've seen a massive transition with you in that regard. So talk to me a little bit about that process potentially or one of the elements that you found you had to really change and work on.
Yeah, absolutely. So in 2016, I decided to leave my full-time teaching job. I knew that I didn't want to be a teacher forever. So I left my job and didn't know exactly what I was walking into. I had no business experience, but I had a lot of inspiration and creativity and drive. And fortunately, that helped me float to a certain extent. But with that, I met some interesting characters along the way, and really was forced to level with myself and figure out, am I who I say I am? Because I was telling everybody that this is what Strong Woman is (her business), this is how I want to exist in the world. But behind the scenes, I was quite insecure. I allowed other people's opinions to be my truth. I was met with a crossroads, essentially. And I had to deconstruct all of the truths that I thought were part of my identity, and really reclaim who I wanted to be in this world. And that was like a three-year journey. And now I've come to where I am today. And within those untruths essentially, was body image stuff. I've always been very self conscious of my body. I've always felt like, ‘fat girls don't get the happily ever after’. And I just had to unlearn all of that, some of which I had absorbed from media, some of which I had just developed on my own. So that was a major part of it for me.
“Then I had to recognise that I don't have to be any version of myself except who I want to be.”
And probably in the last six months, I've really unlocked the version of myself where I'm operating in my deepest joy. When I'm doing the things that I love, that's when opportunities come to me and that's when I am a magnet for amazing relationships and conversations and opportunities.
So, for me the growth has looked like deconstructing myself, tearing down the walls as it were, and recognizing who I was when I was a child. The things I was interested in, the things that made me laugh, that's actually who I am as an adult. And I was denying those parts of myself because I thought that society didn't want to see that version of me. Or maybe my family wasn't able to understand that version of me.
Did you do this work all yourself or did you get help in any way? This is pretty heavy work, like literally breaking down your core...
Absolutely. The process was started by somebody I was good friends with and then we actually had a falling out. And I was left to my own devices. I was on this mentoring journey, and then the floor fell from under me. So I went inwards, and did a little bit of work on my own. I wasn't in a financial position to go to a therapist, and at that stage I didn't really understand the value in going to a therapist, which now today I'm like, ‘Go to a therapist!’, it's the best thing you could ever do. But from there, I ended up just connecting with a like minded individual who's a spirit baby like me. She has done a lot of similar work, she's 10 years my senior so she was able to just hold space for me not give advice, but just be a sounding board. And let me just verbalize some of my thoughts, some of my opinions and let them be said out loud so that I could hear them back and recognize, ‘Oh, that's not healthy’ or ‘that's not real’. And I think the key was just a safe space. There is so much value in having somebody who can just hold space for you, and allow you to be yourself, allow you to explore different versions of yourself. I think it also helped that we met only three years prior. She didn't have any preconceived ideas of me, she saw me in that moment. And she saw my potential. And I know that's a gift because I have, my family, my friends, my support network, who are all beautiful and so loving, but they only know one version of me.
And they're often your greatest critics, right? People don't realize that, because they see you in a particular way. But we all grow and evolve. And often we have a sort of a facade that we mistakenly grow. An example I see often is that some people are very different in their work environment versus when they are at home or in social settings. And at times, when those worlds collide and people are like, ‘Whoa! I didn't realize you were like that.’ It's fascinating.
Yeah, absolutely. So on top of learning this…’not new’ version of me, this version of me has always existed, but I was given the freedom to stretch my wings. On top of that, then going back home to loved ones and showing up as this new version of myself and them not understanding and saying, hey, whoa, whoa, you've changed! I mean, no, no, I haven't changed. I've grown, and then having to navigate people's expired versions of you. So that's interesting as well.
How did you deal with that though, because that's a really good point. I think for people that do do work on themselves and are trying to evolve, it’s really hard. An example is if someone had particular dependencies and then they come out the other side sober, say. People still see them as a party girl or a guy and even though they’ve decided that they want to give up alcohol and live a new life, still being with those friends and family, this newer, better version of themselves is often not accepted. How did you navigate those kinds of complexities?
To be honest, I tested the waters. I'd show up to family events (or at the time I was living overseas I would FaceTime) and reconnect and would just test their responses and often they were not okay with this different version of me. They were confused. So that's when I put up the boundaries to protect myself until I strengthened my core.
“Whether I verbalized or not, I would say, they're not ready to receive this version of me and I'm not ready to let them critique this version of me because I'm not strong... yet.”
I wouldn't distance myself in that, we'd just stop talking. But I'd wait a little bit until I would be in their lives again. So that's how I navigated it. And now I can be this version of myself, the full version, and it may not be understood, but because I'm so confident and at peace with how I operate in the world and how I navigate that - it is well received.
So thinking back to three or four years ago, in your former self, what's the one thing that you are most happy about in terms of the change in you?
I think just the self love that I have. It's been such a journey, but to the point where my friend would sit with me, and she would force me, with love, to look in the mirror for three minutes - without breaking eye contact.
I looked at myself in the mirror the other day for the first time, in my curby chubbiness, and I was like, ‘I really love her!’ I'm heavier than I was a couple years ago but I love every part of myself. And it's not just physically. I'm also a fan of my personality (without sounding like I'm full of myself!). It's so refreshing to not be ashamed of a certain part of myself, to not feel embarrassed about some of my quirks. And that is the most valuable thing I think any woman or man can do - is to learn to be fully appreciative and love themselves.
I love it! That is so fabulous and gives me goosebumps thinking about how you've really managed that. I cannot imagine a single person that wouldn't go through one point in their life that they don't feel that way. I think your words can guide us all, especially younger people because the more we can be comfortable in our own skin, the better.
So on that point, your topic is around growth and for people to understand what that really looks like. And so how do you want to wrap that up for me in terms of if there's a couple of tips or a couple of pointers that you think people should embrace, or do, or think about if they want to?
It takes courage. It takes consciousness and courage. I found myself at the end of last year questioning, ‘Why is everything happening to me at the moment? I've broken my knee, I've done this and that…’ Then fortunately, because of the work I had been doing, about three days into my meltdown, I was like, ‘Oh, this is the period of growth. Okay, I've identified it. I can do this!’ It doesn't make it any less dramatic or uncomfortable, but I can identify it and I can recognize I will be okay. And there's a great quote from Max Dupree, who says, "We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are".
If we look at ourselves in the mirror, we look at all of the aspects that make us who we are, our passions, our relationships, our very outlook on life. If we are content with all of those spaces, we are on our way.
“It's a journey, I haven't come to a destination.”
It’s good to have a destination in mind, but don't be obsessed with how you get there. Because in life, there are going to be so many detours and pitstops. Part of the time that's to do with keeping you safe and making sure you don't go down any wrong path. Part of the time, it's to teach you an extra lesson, or sometimes it's just to give you the scenic route. So I think be absolutely obsessed with who you want to be and where you want to end up. But be open to how you get there. And trust that it takes time. I'm confident when I look in the mirror there will be days where I'm like, ohhh! That's totally okay. Allowing yourself space and grace to navigate that, but know, it takes courage to embark on a growth journey. And however you get there is perfectly beautiful.
Fantastic. That's such wise words and beautiful advice for everyone listening and some real key takeouts there. Shauna, thank you so much. It's been an absolute delight to talk to you today. Giving us some real wisdom and thank you for sharing such honest and really, personal stories with us as well.
Shauna Ryan is a millennial visionary, international blog curator, public speaker, writer, producer, and emotional thought leader. In 2015, she founded Strong Woman, a social media movement that today has a global audience of over 2 million people. From sharing stories that celebrate and inspire women, to running events, workshops and volunteering. Shona has invested over 2000 hours into Strong Woman, funding everything from her very own pocket. Shauna is also the creator of ComeUnity Narrative, a digital and social media management and curation agency. Shauna has recently landed herself the title of co-host of Australia's newest social media singing contest, Homegrown Superstars. Connect with Shauna on instagram @shaunashauna or @strongwomenofficial
To find out more about Shauna, you can find her here;-
- Shauna’s personal Instagram - @shaunashauna_
- Strong Woman Instagram - @strongwomanofficial
- Home Grown Superstars Insta - @homegrownsuperstarsau