On the power of having no back story
Next time you’re on retreat, don’t give your backstory or search for it in others, says coach and retreat leader of Advivum Journeys Tania Carrière
When you’re on a retreat, do you, like me, notice a certain nervousness when it comes to the inevitable invitation to introduce yourself to the group? For whatever reason, this sends me into a little moment of anxiety…what should I say? What is appropriate to share? What do you really want to know? Who am I anyway? (And isn’t this a trick question, because the whole point of a retreat is a deeper knowing of, who am I?).
I struggle to put labels on myself – wife, coach, Canadian, author – for these labels feel limiting and incomplete. If I am really honest, sometimes I hide the ones that I don’t know if you’ll approve of (Goddess, vegan, Liberal) and choose ones that are meant to impress or paint me as who I think I need to be in order for you to like me. Each one of these labels, all aspects of me, hold me in a box.
Frustrated, I feel locked into place, and denied the freedom of really discovering new aspects of myself, and so I have been playing with the rule of “no backstory”. What would happen if I didn’t reach into the bag and pull out the labels? What if as a retreat leader I encouraged my participants to discover one another instead of being introduced to one another?
We go on retreats to be curious and to play; to let a part of ourselves emerge, to become and to let go of, so why not leave the identifiers at home? Anonymity is a gift of being on retreat.
If I tell you that I am an accountant you expect me to be serious, if I tell you I am an actor you wonder if knowing me might introduce you to someone famous, if I tell you I am a mother of six you assume I am exhausted, if I am 78 I am too old to be nimble and 28, too young to contribute.
But without labels there are no expectations and no judgements, no one with opinions on who we should or should not be… gone is the worry of not “being like me” and the exhaustion of the perfection of trying to “be me”.
What opens up is a space to play.
So here’s what I propose for you when you’re next on retreat… just show up and be. Don’t give your backstory or search for it in others. Just share what is truth in the moment. If in the moment I am not doing accounting, the label of “accountant” is irrelevant. What is relevant is that I am here, I am nervous, I am being kind to myself, I am seeking, I am a deep thinker, I am wondering if we are all the same, I am wanting connection, I am anticipating relaxation, I am full of glee.
And so on. Next time you are introducing yourself, move away from your back story and express yourself through the experience you are having. Tell us who you are right now, in this moment. And give yourself the freedom to try new things, to step beyond what defines or shields you into the possibility of what could be.
Have a great retreat.
More on Tania Carrière & Advivum Journeys
Tania Carrière is an executive coach with a background in psychology and a passion for travel. She runs Advivum Journeys around the world, transformative life coaching breaks that combine the benefits of an adventure holiday, retreat structure and professional development course on set dates in carefully selected locations in France, England and Hawaii. Read our reviews and find out more about Tania and here retreats at www.advivumjourneys.ca.