I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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The past year has been a deeply spiritual and personal year of growth for me. After spending a month meditating every day and writing to my intuition on the beaches of California, I spent another month practicing yoga and meditation in Bali. I then decided to move from New York City to a small, quiet town in Virginia where I found time to read countless books and listen to podcasts and reflect, reflect, reflect. The ideas of consciousness, identity and ego versus intuition have always appealed to me, but 2017 was a serious year of concentration and seclusion.

With much of my time spent alone, I found peace. And with that peace came clarity. One year later, I stood up and closed the books and finally looked at myself in the mirror. But the person I looked at wasn’t the person I was when I started the journey.

Growth and Moving On

I’ve noticed that growth often makes other people feel uncomfortable at the changes you’re making. There is always this distance that is created between you and the people you care about in the growth process. You start to learn things about yourself and the world around you that may not have revealed themselves to others yet. When the relationships in my life naturally fade or drift apart, I often so desperately try to hold and push them back together. Friendships I cherish, family members I love, I pride myself on being a loyal friend. I love the idea of growing old with the people in my life, and I’ve only intentionally let go of four people whom I felt disconnected with. (and that’s a lot for me!)

But when life naturally forces massive growth and changing values on one and not another, it can be so painful to let go and not try to hold on tightly while you’re both rushing downstream. Allowing to let go is a lesson I still haven’t quite yet mastered, but allowing growth is one that I cherish.

External Expectations and Approval

The more this personal/spiritual growth expands, the easier it is to follow my intuition or those nudges from my heart, and the more I hear what my noisy ego is trying to rationalize and protect me from. And although I am able to differentiate the two different thoughts, other people may not be as closely aligned with their intuition, or higher power, as I am. And this has led to conflict for me. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from it.

How to Deal With Judgemental Peers

  • When we follow their (society, parents, peers, spouse, etc) expectations of us, at the consequence of our own intuition, it spares them suffering but puts the suffering on us. For example: if our parents encourage us to pursue a line of work or formal education that doesn’t peacefully align with our heart and values, because we love our parents so much, we willingly take their fears as our own. But by sparing their suffering  and putting the suffering on us, this causes us to have poor alignment with ourselves. And this misalignment with our wishes leads to stress, unhappiness, resentment and eventually bodily reactions and sickness.

 

  • When others try to help us by telling us the best way to live out our lives, they are saying we don’t have an internal compass, or knowing, ourselves. And we totally do!

 

  • Choosing a lifestyle that brings happiness, love and joy to one’s lives is an individual’s choice. Values are different, from person to person. But when others judge or try to change our lifestyle, it is as if they are poking us with their values and what is important to them.  It’s so easy to want to poke back at them if we feel provoked. In fact, it’s often beyond difficult for me to not fight back or prove them wrong through explanation. But in the end, this causes resentment and it’s important to be aware of that poking and our emotional reactions to it.

Good news? There are some ways to support and love family and friends who may not be supportive of your growth process!

How to Support Family Members Who May Not Support You

  1. Celebrate them for living their values!
  2. Take a look at how you are perceiving other people and let them be where they are at in their lives instead of trying to prove them.
  3. Look at their actions and try to understand the why. Observe the values and not the reactions. 
  4.  The past now longer matters. Move on.

Although I’ve had some difficulty this year in managing my reactions from external sources, I have allowed myself plenty of time to reflect and gain some insight from the experience. I hope this helps you in whichever journey you are on in this life. 🙂

How to Simplify: External Expectations

January 10, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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