Danielle LaPorte, invited member of Oprah’s inaugural Super Soul 100, national bestselling author, painter, poet, and entrepreneur, sets off all sorts of #Truthbombs in her new book, “White Hot Truth.”
We recently chatted with the illustrious truth-speaker about why balance isn’t achievable, and what is, when self-improvement becomes self-sabotage, and the life-changing glory of setting boundaries for yourself once and for all.
[This interview was edited for length and clarity.]
Organic Authority: The first thing I read in “White Hot Truth” that made me stop in my tracks was: “Balance is the ultimate sham.” Here’s how I interpreted it: Everyone says each aspect of your life—social, career, spirituality, and so forth—needs an even piece of the pie for you to be happy, but it’s more exhausting trying to fulfill that definition of balance than it is to not have balance at all. Is that what you meant?
Danielle LaPorte: I meant just what you said. It’s really stressful. You’re chasing something that is unattainable. First, you need to define how people perceive balance: “I’m going to give a third to relationships, a third to myself, a third to work.” It’s never equal. It’s about proportions. Sometimes work is everything and relationship takes a back seat. Sometimes you take a hiatus and you work on your relationships. My observation is that for people who are successful—people who are doing something great in the world and are happy doing it—it’s not about balance. I work hard and I then totally retreat. I want my life to have some rock ‘n’ roll.
OA: Why do you think attaining balance is such a popular, pervasive message?
DL: We’re exhausted and we feel a kind of emptiness, a lack of intimacy and connection and meaning and depth—and we think balance is the fix. The idea of it is very comforting and very soothing.
OA: You talk about self-improvement that isn’t really self-improving. For those of us trying to do many things at once, whether it’s yoga, mantras, meditating, seeing healers, eating healthy, and following different teacher, what are some definite signs that your routine isn’t really self-care and it’s time to let something go?
DL: When it starts to feel heavier, like when it feels like one more thing to do, when your spirituality feels like a to-do list, any time there’s a flavor of resentment. All these things should make us feel better. It should feel nourishing. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard work. Going to therapy isn’t something that you should dread; you should be excited. You should look forward to yoga class or your green smoothie. A little bit of discipline is required, but if you resent things that are supposed to light you up, it’s time to retire it.
Self-love doesn’t make everything sweeter and easier. It makes you more clear-thinking and resilient and decisive and joyful.
OA: What do you think is the biggest myth or over-exaggeration when it comes to self-care?
DL: “If you love yourself, the world is going to reflect that back to you.” If you love yourself and have boundaries and have standards and take care of yourself, you’re going to disappoint and frustrate people. Some people are going to bump up against your boundaries. That’s part of being human. Self-love doesn’t make everything sweeter and easier. It makes you more clear-thinking and resilient and decisive and joyful. Self-love doesn’t make you more popular.
OA: In the book, you mention psychologist John Welwood and his concept of “spiritual bypassing.” His definition is: “The use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.” This takes me back to all the times I ruminated on my own imperfections and my “need” to practice compassion in order to justify evading a “you hurt me” conversation. Among the infinite variations of spiritual bypassing, have you noticed any common themes, especially among women?
The most ‘enlightened’ thing to do is speak the fuck up.
DL: We don’t get angry. We think the spiritual thing to do is to be calm, kind, polite, and tolerant. We become excessively tolerant and foolishly compassionate. In actuality, what’s happened is you’ve been treated disrespectfully. Someone is taking advantage of you. The most “enlightened” thing to do is speak the fuck up… to be disruptive.
OA: But many of us are taught to be just the opposite—to practice a kind of quiet forgiveness and “accept people for who they are.” What are the most salient consequences of this?
DL: Resentment becomes toxic. Silence builds up. It restricts your creativity. You get that foggy mind kind of feeling. More and more, you don’t stand up for yourself. Your opinions get atrophied. It really weakens you.
OA: It seems like a lot of us are unable to say “no” because we feel bad, compassionate, or afraid. The person who agrees to everything is well-liked (and gets promoted faster). For those of us in the habit of saying “yes” without giving it a single thought, what should we expect when we start becoming boundary-makers and boundary-enforcers?
DL: First, not all boundaries need to be announced. You can think of boundaries as your standards. With boundaries that you do need to announce very clearly, it’s not always easy, and it doesn’t mean you’re not scared at the same time. For a lot of women I see who are just starting to announce boundaries in their lives, it’s almost confusing. They don’t recognize themselves. It is so new, and fear comes in. And there is pushback. But most of the time, you end up creating a lot of peace, and you start designing a life you want.
OA: There’s the notion that once you set healthy boundaries and become authentic, people will get scared. Are there ways you can prepare the people who love you for these changes?
DL: Don’t waste your energy trying to prepare people for the changes you’re going to make in your life. The people closest to you will already be involved in your changes. You can’t expend your energy thinking about what other people think.
OA: Yes! But here’s a confession: My girlfriends and I, when we get deep with each other, end up admitting we do care about what other people think, at least a little. What are some ways to redirect yourself in that moment when you’re focused on other people’s opinions about you?
If you’ve got to go fight a dragon, you’ve got to make sure you have your Love Army.
DL: I think sometimes we care because we’re coming from a loving place. We have a conscience. It’s not always unhealthy or insecure to care about how someone is going to react.
On the shadowy side, if you are feeling unworthy and insecure, you need to have your crew on speed dial for those moments. This is why I dedicated my book to my girlfriends. If you’ve got to go fight a dragon, you’ve got to make sure you have your Love Army. You can call them before a meeting and ask them to tell you why you’re awesome.
Also: therapy. If you’re that unsettled… if your anxiety is off the charts because of what other people think, you need to heal the wounds and move out illusions. You have spiritual maturing to do. You cannot control what other people think about you. Ask for encouragement.
OA: You write about how the Universe brings you more of what you’re grateful for. This is something we hear a lot from spiritual teachers. What’s an example that demonstrates what this means to you?
DL: I’m grateful for my friends. My relationships get better and better. I’m treated very kindly most everywhere I go. I mostly encounter beautiful, lovely people. It’s the universal principle: What you focus on expands. Focus is a science. If you focus on shit you get more of the shit.
OA: There’s a prevalent idea out there that says everything you experience in your life is a reflection of you. For example, people always say if you dislike someone for their, say, meanness, it’s because you don’t like that about yourself. I know you’re not a huge fan of this notion. Would you elaborate?
DL: I think of two extremes. If you want to drill down to the principles of cosmology, are we all connected? Yes. Are we all one? Yes? But there are spectrums of consciousness. You can encounter someone who is cruel and mean and selfish. Does that mean it’s a reflection of you? Absolutely not. We’re individuals in our own packages with our own personalities and our own karma—and that person is who you happened to come across that day. The problem with this theory is that people use the idea as a way of punishing themselves and letting people off the hook.
OA: You just wrote a book. You have tours. You have events. You’re busy being you. How do you keep sane? What ways do you practice self-care?
DL: I don’t stay in shitty hotels! I meditate every day. I have some form of stillness, being still, no matter what. I’m in constant communication with my girlfriends. Texting with my girlfriends is like a religion. I eat clean. I notice a big difference if there’s too much sugar, too much gluten. I plan ahead. If I’m on the road, I make sure I’m coming home to something fun like dinner with a friend, a facial, or a day off with nothing to do.
OA: Any last words of wisdom for our readers?
DL: Look at everything you’re doing to be well and healthy and free. And ask yourself if those things are actually helping you be well and healthy and free. And if not, you might want to take a few things off your to-do list.
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