7 Keys to Courageous Self-Expression | HUMILITY (Part 2 of 3)

In this episode, Candice shares more personal stories that inform further exploration of the second key of courageous self-expression, humility. She explores Ernest Becker's and his ground-breaking work that offers a staggering look at how unconscious denial of mortality keeps us stuck and unavailable to live life fully. Candice spends the second half of the episode detailing 5 Tenets of Humility; five practices to to help you learn & grow through the school of anxiety and know the peacefulness that comes from accepting yourself & your full humanity.

BONUS DOWNLOAD | This episode includes free access to a Deep-Dive Workbook designed to help you put the insights you garner from Episodes #4 & #5 to good use, starting now.

0:32 - My Kitten Khaleesi
1:49 - Anxiety & The Denial of Death
4:38 - Moxie in Maui (story)
11:22 - Fear is elastic
13:31 - 5 Tenets of Humility
25:20 - Link to free workbook

#5 | Come (& Go) As You Are

Hello hello friends! Welcome back to The Deeper Pulse with Candice Schutter. I'm so honored that you decided to join me today. This is episode #5 and part two of our exploration of the second key of self-expression, humility.

A few years ago, I had a tiny new kitten. She was fluffy white with piercing blue eyes. At only eight weeks old, she was fearless; darting around the house, diving from extreme heights. She was a little fireball, uncontrollable and courageous. So I named her Khaleesi after The Mother of Dragons.

Leesi would crawl up onto my lap each morning while I worked. At the time, I was reading a book in between writing sessions. It rested on the table next to my workstation. On occasion, I would catch her nibbling on its cover. Many months later, on a beautiful summer afternoon, I let her outside to play in the backyard. Leesi never came home again.

My heart was broken. I was shattered with grief and regret. I blamed myself and I wept for weeks on end. And, to this day, I think of her every time I pick up that book, the one with her baby teeth prints etched into its cover. The memory of her youth stares back at me, taunting me right along with the book's title: The Denial of Death. Yes. Life does have a dark sense of humor at times.

Ernest Becker was awarded the Pulitzer prize for The Denial of Death in 1974, just two months after his own death. The book is a courageous inquiry into the human quest for immortality and the tragic consequences on our mental health. Becker references the work of a variety of psychoanalysts and existential scholars. At one point midway through the book, he writes:

"The flood anxiety is not the end for man. It is rather a school that provides the ultimate education. The final maturity. It is a better teacher than reality because reality can be lied about twisted and tamed by the tricks of cultural perception and repression. But anxiety cannot be lied about. Once you face up to it, it reveals the truth of your situation. And only by seeing that truth, can you open to new possibilities for yourself."

Becker gives language to the paradox at the heart of our existence. Life is a scary endeavor. And yet, being honest about anxiety can make this whole being-human thing much, much more manageable. Yet it takes a considerable amount of self-reflection, emotional maturity, and even ego strength to stop projecting our fears 'out there' and own up to our own humanity. It takes courage to admit that anxiety is operating in the background of almost everything we do.

Fear of depth and fear of death are intertwined. We reach for superficial delights to keep ourselves at arms length from the anxiety that lives at our core.

But I have found that when I turn and look at my fear; when I admit that it is there and I stare it in the eye and say: I see you, I hear you, and you are right to be afraid. This is deep humility. This is you and I reclaiming consciousness. And in doing, so reclaiming the power to choose.

We are largely powerless to the outside world. If you are anything like me, you deal with this utter lack of control by seeking to control your environment and the people in it; sometimes through drastic measures and other times through a simple obsession with the thermostat.

But what if we stopped moving away from our fear and sat with it for a bit? What if we accepted life's incomprehensibility and admitted our own creatureliness?

It was January 2018. My partner and I had just spent six months transitioning homes, and so we decided to reward ourselves for all of our hard work with a trip to Maui.

We arrived on the island, and I woke up early on a Saturday morning. Chris was still sleeping, so I decided to hit the local coffee shop. As I sat at the coffee shop counter, I sipped on my almond milk latte and wrote inside of a card for Chris's 48th birthday. I signed my name, folded it in half, and tucked it neatly inside its envelope. Just as I was inscribing his name on the cover, my phone lit up. I looked down to see an emergency alert that read, in all caps:


I stared hard at the words, reading them and then rereading them again. Time began to move in slow motion. And I looked around the coffee shop at the people seated. Every table was full and there was a long line to the counter. Roughly half of the people were now staring down at their phones. I waited for panic to ensue, but it didn't happen. Everyone seemed frozen by the news. Finally, a woman looks up, we make meaningful eye contact and I toss everything into my bag and head for the door.

Two men are standing just outside. One is laughing with a discomforting hysteria as he gazes down at his phone. I rush to my rental car, my eyes darting up into the clear blue skies searching for evidence of a visible threat. I see nothing. As I hop into the front seat, I think about our inept president and the escalating tensions with North Korea. It occurs to me that this could be real; that this could be very, very real.

The sirens start ringing nearby. I turned the key in the ignition and the radio comes on. A recording is playing over and over again: "This is not a drill. Seek shelter." My pulse is racing, and the only thing I can think is that I have to get to Chris before it happens. I could not bear the thought of dying without his hand to hold.

When I returned to the rental, which is only a couple of miles away, he is standing at the sink washing dishes. He doesn't know. I tell him what's happening, and he grabs his phone... does a double-take... a triple take. And then he looks up at me and says: "But it's my birthday."

His voice is laced with a tragic sort of confusion.

It turned out to be a system malfunction; and officially, the terror lasted for 38 minutes until they gave the all clear. We figured out it was most likely an error about 20 minutes into the fiasco.

The alert was reversed, but the aftershocks, they did linger.

The next day, we met up with a dear friend of Chris's who had lived on the Island for many years. Elizabeth herself is a force of nature. She's an airline pilot, a long distance swimmer, a master gardener, and a generally lovely individual. Elizabeth had volunteered to accompany us on a paddle boarding adventure, and when we arrived at the beach she commented on the fact that the water seemed a bit rougher than usual.

Now I should pause here and say that while I love to travel and explore the outdoors and new places, I'm really not the most adventurous soul around. I can be pretty risk-averse when it comes to my physical safety. But, sidestepping nuclear devastation the day before... it had emboldened me I suppose. So I agreed to go out into the rough waters.

It was a little tough going out, but Elizabeth pulled me out beyond the break. She and I then became separated as she circled back to check on Chris. It was just me and Mama Ocean, and I started to relax, realizing that yes, she was right... the larger waves were much closer into the shore. Resting on my knees, I sat back and began paddling around the gorgeous blue waters.

And then Mama Ocean, she decidedly changed her mind. The next time I glanced up toward the horizon, I was delivered a series of nasty blows. I proceeded to get pummeled over and over again. The sea would swallow me whole, chew me up, and spit me back out... giving me only time for a single breath before its next taste. Each time I went under, I would fight to find the surface, doing my best to protect my head and face in the process. I had no idea which way was up, except for when my legs would scrape against the rocks below.

The paddle board leash was bound to my right ankle, and when I went down the third time, I realized in horror that I was unable to kick for the surface. The leash had wound itself around my ankles, multiple times. My feet were bound tightly together. I could hardly move my legs at all. And that was when, for the second time in two days, time began to move in slow motion.

I was underwater. I continued to hold my breath, but I stopped fighting. All I could think to do was to slow my pulse and accept whatever was about to happen. It was clear... I was no longer in control. And, right up against my terror, I felt this odd sense of surrender... this unnerving yet peaceful acceptance that I might not ever come for air.

But as you well know, I did come up for air; and when I did, I had been humbled... and I got the message; a message that said, essentially:

"You're safe, darling. But your existence... it is fragile. Now get your ass back to shore before I have to tell you again."

That weekend I was given, not one but two terrifying peeks into the fragility of my life. And once I shook off the remnants of bone deep terror, a next level courage and perspective emerged; and it has stayed with me since.

That night, when Chris and I savored one another's company over dinner, we toasted in earnest to the privilege of another year of life.

Humility means 'of the earth.' And at its root, it reminds us just how delicate, turbulent, and violently beautiful our humanity really is.

I have a dear sister-friend, who is also a wise yoga teacher. When I am in practice with her, and a particular pose (or particular aspect of life) becomes difficult, she encourages a question:

"Can I relax here?"

This is the question at the center of the practice of humility.

Fear is inescapable. It is a reality of our human existence. And it is elastic. Like a rubber band, the more we pull back away from it, the more we seek to run from it and deny it, the greater the tension... and the greater the likelihood that the reality check that results will be alarming to our senses.

If instead, we nurture a relationship with our fear and we surrender control over the surface of things, we can discover our true humanity; create connections of greater depth; and discover the largeness that lives within. Humility invites us to accept our humanity, to dip underneath and below the pool of anxiety and pay attention to the summons from deep within. Humility wants to know... what is life asking of me in this now? What if I allow the Mystery to remain a mystery? How am I moved to relax and create in light of such mystery? Am I willing to release my need for a savior, or a lover, to provide me with all the answers? Can I find it within me to blaze a path all my own? Even when others give me the side-eye? Will I let go of what has come to define me so that I might uncover the deeper self? And what if, instead of reaching for immortality, I surrender to the honest nature of my own humanity?

I call this a practice in 'active surrender.' Active, because it is responsive to the numinous summons from within; and surrender, because we yield to nature and the admission that we are not, in fact, the ones in control.

Essentially, humility means honoring the elemental self as a force of nature that knows the way forward. Somehow, some way, there is a knowledge within. Humility requires we bow toward this deep inner guidance, and that we simultaneously allow for our own free-flowing expression.

So how do we connect to humility?

How do we learn and grow through the school of anxiety and come to know the peacefulness of accepting ourselves and our full humanity?

There are five tenets of humility, as I describe it here. Five practices that we can lean into that will help us to connect to humility and unleash our most courageous self-expression.

#1: Live Inside Your Body

Anxiety itself is an escape from presence. It is, at its root, a denial of the physical self. Thus there is tremendous power in movement, breath, and all things body.

It's no accident that one of the ways in which we deal with our anxiety, or feelings of depression, is by reaching for something that feeds our carnal hunger. Food. Drink. Sex. Or substance of any sort. We react physically to deep emotional cravings because we do not understand them at their source. Our physical self wants us to remember that we are human; to return home; to return back to our senses. And we can binge on carnal delights when we feel that deep hunger. Or we can move. We can take a walk in nature. Dance like no one is watching. Get dirt beneath our fingernails while we dig a hole in the garden. Wash the dishes. Do something, anything with our hands that will remind us that we too are a part of this physical world. We are meant to interact with it, as an essential expression of its very nature.

When you feel anxious and untethered, find a way to connect to your senses and to your physical self. Ironically, it is when we want to escape the physical world the most that we need to become more grounded in it. This is humility.

#2 Accept That Life Is Equal Parts Grace & Grit

We tend to correlate goodness with everything that is bright and easy and flowing. And when the going gets tough, we often resent the interruption; and we seek to transcend the muck, or at the very least wade through it as quickly as possible. But when life gets gritty and uncomfortable, there is a dark magic that we can lean into. A certain sort of grace that can be found in allowing for the messiness of things.

As children, we understood this. We would spend hours digging in the sand, our clothes and bodies and faces would be covered in dirt. This too was celebrated. Make no mistake, as children we're in full possession of our humanity; all of it, including the so-called negative emotions that we innately somehow knew had to be moved right on out of us. We would unleash our gritty expression without apology and until we were empty of it; then we would just get on with things, having lightened our load. While we may not have been able to articulate it, we understood through embodied action that expression meant expressing all of it, both dark and light.

If we want to grow and be shaped by life, we have to be willing to rub up against its rougher edges. We have to be willing to grit our teeth and push through the moments that we would, frankly, rather skip over.

And this too is humility.

#3 Know That You Are All The Ages You Have Ever Been

Now we're going to dive much deeper into this when we get to the third key, but it's worth a quick mention here. Tending to the inner children that live inside of you, that is your responsibility as a full fledged adult.

No matter what sort of home we might've grown up in, each and every one of us is in some way an emotional orphan. We have since discovered needs that went unmet; and when we come of age, we must show up to our younger self. We must reparent ourselves because, if we fail to do so, we continually project our needs onto others; and we re-dramatize our past in the present.

When you come to accept that you are, in fact, every age you have ever been, you understand that self care is a sacred responsibility. You tend to your depths so that you can function on the surface of things in real time, not in reaction to the past. And you free yourself to express, speak, and move on behalf of all the voices within you. You learn to express each of these voices with an open and loving heart, embracing all of those tiny selves inside.

This is humility.

#4 Admit That You Don't Know

Humility is embodied humanity, which means we must consciously accept our limited human vantage point, and admit that we don't know far more than we claim to.

Admitting that we don't know means holding all things lightly; all things, including and especially the things we think we know for sure.

Humility means admitting that, for the most part, I can't possibly know anything much for sure, apart from what I feel and sense in my own heart. Certainly we must not cling to our beliefs or force them upon another. And also, in the same way, we must hold the known and the unknown with equanimity. Of course, we can express our impassioned ideas with conviction... and we can simultaneously hold space for wonder, be open to the possibility that there is something we are most certainly missing. A piece, or eleventy-seven million pieces, of the puzzle that we may never have access to while living inside this dream.

I've come to think that maybe there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the Mystery and life inside the dream. When we allow for the Mystery to remain a mystery, we stay humble and open to the wonder that exists all around us.

Curiosity is humility with a purpose.

And finally #5, and perhaps most critical to unleashing your courageous self-expression:

Come & Go As You Are

Humility is a deep bow surrender to being exactly as you were designed to be.

In order to really understand how an alliance with humility can actively change your life, I invite you to look around at the physical world. Notice how everywhere you look, nature is actively surrendering to its purpose... free from self-conscious resistance. Water flows. Fire burns. Air breathes. And the sun feeds us all equally, regardless of our so-called sins.

Humanity's downfall is often in its hubris. Hubris is a double-headed creature designed to keep us small. One head drones on with an inflated sense of self-importance, disconnecting us from the world by pretending that its needs are bigger than all the rest. The other head whines and wallows in self-pity, separating us from our true power by continually making a case for our smallness. Either way, it's self absorption, and it's all about us.

Humility is the antidote to arrogance and powerlessness. It is a sacred awareness that takes us out of our small-minded attempts at understanding; gives us a bit of distance from the hero projects we hustle at in order to prove our immortality; and it shifts us into a world of larger possibilities.

Passivity, self-sacrifice... these are tools that those in power use to reinforce our silence and to control the masses. Humility as sacrifice is very old news, and frankly, I'm calling bullshit on it. Humility is not about hiding. It is about showing up in ways that matter.

As I noted in the last two episodes, we are not the ego and its protective adaptations. We are made of so much more, and we are in service to the soul. When we deny the deeper self and its summons, we suffer the ache of inauthenticity and we deny the nature of life as it flows uniquely through us. A deep, lasting sense of fulfillment can only be discovered through conscious surrender to the inner forces within.

And hey, I get it. Belief in yourself can feel at times inconceivable, particularly when resources feel limited or you feel powerless to systems that surround you. But you are built for responsive action. Waiting it out, praying for circumstances to change... it's like begging a flower to grow using only your words. You must nurture and tend to your purpose. You must turn toward your very nature and feed it the nutrients it yearns for.

In the scheme of things, you may sometimes feel small. But your reason for being is bigger than you are, and it exists not despite your limitations, but because of them.

The secret to aligning with your most potent creative and expressive self is to stop insisting that you show up differently. Humility means leaning fully into who you already are. It is when we try to become someone, or try to be somewhere different than where we are, that we suffer most.

Your life is no accident. That which you seek to transcend, is meant to be integrated and changed. What you most wish to hide, longs to be exposed. And all that you wish you were not, is exactly who you are meant to be.

You are made of all the earth stuff. Clear and dirty. Light and dark. Fragile and indestructable. Equal parts power and vulnerability. When we make peace with this dichotomy at our core, we are free to express the full continuum of our human experience.

And might it be a grand relief to know that you don't have to figure it all out? To know that all the things you spin and fret about will likely matter very little in the end.

What matters most is what matters now. What stirs at your depths and speaks to your heart? How well do you respond to the summons of your soul in the here and now?

What does it matter what happens next week, next month, or next year? Whether or not there's an afterlife? How you feel in the end matters less when you learn to respond to your deeper self. Because you come to understand that you have the power to affect change in your life and make a move that will impact how you feel. Right now.

If you'd like to dive deeper into the second key of courageous self-expression and explore the content I've touched upon in the last two episodes, I've created a free download. A deep-dive workbook that outlines The 5 Tenets of Humility and provides you with some writing prompts to inspire self-awareness and courageous self-expression.

It's totally free. No strings attached.

To download your free copy, visit thedeeperpulse.com/episode5.

Thank you so much for joining me today. It's always an honor to speak to you. And until we meet again, keep on diving deep and move toward what moves you.


© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter