I have found great solace in studying the lives of women who have boldly transformed their pain into a possibility that touches the world. These stories give me the strength to continue moving forward even when it seems like everything and everyone is pushing against me.
I know that the more stories we hear of amazing women who are “doing the impossible,” the more courage we will have to forge ahead into our own unchartered territories…
We can stand on the shoulders of the women who have come before us and learn from their mistakes, their triumphs, their adversity…and take their intention of changing this world for the better, one step further.
I can think of no greater model of a courageous and transformative approach to pain than Frida Kahlo. Here are three lessons she’s taught me as I move through some viperous situations in my own life recently.
Lesson #1: Pain is inescapable and all pain is equal.
“I suffered two grave accidents in my life,” she once said, “One in which a streetcar knocked me down. The other accident is Diego.”
Whether it’s losing the love of your life, the betrayal of a client poaching your star employee, a communication breakdown with a business partner, or the endless global tragedies bombarding our senses daily, it’s undeniable that sh*t happens to everyone.
Pain is inescapable.
And the situation surrounding the pain is of no consequence.
Frida shows us that what matters most, is how you express that pain. When faced with pain, we will either come closer to expanding and expressing who we truly are with bravery and candor, or we’ll lose ourselves in the chain reaction that follows.
Lesson #2: Skip the blame and share your pain.
In a note to her first boyfriend, Frida describes the effect of the trolley accident that ran a steel rod through her abdomen and confined her to her bed for years at the age of 18.
“A short while ago . . . I was a girl walking in a world of colors, of clear and tangible shapes,” she wrote. “Everything was mysterious and something was hiding: guessing its nature a game for me. If you knew how terrible it is to attain knowledge all of a sudden — like lightning elucidating the earth! Now I live on a painful planet, transparent as ice. It’s as if I had learned everything at the same time, in a matter of seconds.”
When we’re hurt, the first urge is always to find words that retaliate and fight back. It’s less risky to blame others than belly up to that quivering stretch to find the right words to describe our pain. Avoid the path of least resistance. Give up the blame and describe the pain, as supremely as you can.
Lesson #3: Use your pain to be productive. Do what you can.
It was while she was confined to bed that Frida began to paint, using a small lap easel her mother bought for her.
She was daringly productive. She worked through the pain, brilliantly weaving her trauma, her truth and incredibly vivid perspective into candid works of art.
“Really I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself,” Frida once wrote. “Since my subjects have always been my sensations, my states of mind and the profound reactions that life has been producing in me, I have frequently objectified all this in figures of myself, which were the most sincere and real thing that I could do in order to express what I felt inside and outside of myself.”
When you’re working through pain – whether it’s physical or emotional – seek expression over perfection.
Frida Kahlo is a wonder woman for providing us with an incredibly brave, mythical and honest works of art.
Frida’s paintings have moved me time and again. Her dedication to working through her pain, bravely seeking self expression and truth, inspires me to seek truth as I face those who press down on my business.
But even more importantly, she is a wonder woman for fearlessly painting her truth, for inspiring full engagement in life, and for expressing the possibilities of pain through her authentic perspective…a gift to the world that keeps on giving.
Over to you – I’ve started a discussion over on my Facebook page about Frida’s work. How does pain affect your ability to work?
How can you use your pain to engage and grow?
What happens when you remove the blame and share the truth about your pain?
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