Everyone should have a core group of women we trust to boost us up when we need it or give help when we ask for it. Recently, my writing was temporarily stagnant, and I was wondering if I had anything important to say. I was stuck in the race for perfection, and with every word, other writers popped up in my head and I imagined they were judging me or even laughing at my lack of talent.
What do you tell yourself when you feel unsure of your message or you start to worry how certain people or groups of people will react? I asked my friend Rachel Macy Stafford, who is both a writer (Hands Free Mama) and a good friend.
“I am not responsible for how other people feel or what they think about my message. I can only be concerned with what I think and the people who love me think. I owe it to myself to put what is on my heart out into the world. I owe it to myself to be authentic. If I worry about what other people think, this hinders me from reaching my full potential. This hinders me from being my authentic self. This hinders me from delivering the message someone is waiting for, because if it is on my heart, someone needs it,” she explained. Authentic, I thought about that. Reaching my full potential as a friend, a wife, a mother and a writer means that I have to be unapologetically me. Mistakes and flaws and all.
I just finished Rachel’s second book, Hands Free Life. As I read it, each chapter dedicated to forming habits to overcoming distraction, living better and loving more, I was struck by one theme: embracing imperfection. Each section—”Fill the Spaces,” “Surrender Control,” “Build a Foundation,” “Take the Pressure Off,” “See What Is Good,” “Give What Matters,” “Establish Boundaries,” “Leave a Legacy and Change Someone’s Story”—tells of a lesson Rachel learned by making mistakes, learning from them and paying attention. But in none of her stories is Rachel perfect.
Just like the rest of us, Rachel isn’t a perfect mother or wife. She writes from her heart, because she was in a dark time when she was so clearly distracted and overcommitted that her husband finally said to her in a whisper, “You’re never happy anymore.”
Rachel is not just talking in her books. She walks the talk. She wants people everywhere to know that they don’t have to continue being distracted or unhappy; they can stop and listen and make a change for themselves and for the people around them. She’s not just talking putting down smartphones and stepping away from technology regularly, she’s also talking about getting out of our own heads to stop striving to be perfect. It’s about letting yourself be yourself, and letting others be authentic and real too.
What I love about Hands Free Life is that it embraces kindness and empathy, both toward others and yourself. I could pick up this book any day of the week and find a section that will make me feel there is something I can do to make my life better simply by slowing down and listening. Rachel’s sweet nature shines through, and the advice she gave me about my own doubts is something she believes herself. In this book, Rachel offers real ideas anyone can enact to find the sweet spot in their own lives.
Hands Free Life is not just about overcoming distraction and focusing on the most important parts of your life. It’s a guidebook for happiness: how to find it in your own life and how to spread it to others. When I am no longer here on earth, I want people to remember that the kindness I exhibited changed lives and that I could be authentically myself and show people that I care about them, one at a time.