Being Seen for Who You Really Are

Connect with your heart, be fearless, and trust that the people you choose to surround yourself with can hold space for you.

Today we’re going to talk about heart. I’ve shared the story of going to India and learning about meditation, developing a practice for myself then coming back to teach my students about meditation. All it took was slowing down and taking a moment for breathing. Taking time for self-reflection and deeply connecting to who we are and what we bring to the world. What I want to focus on today is connecting to the heart. There’s a quote that we use in our work that says the longest distance that most people travel is the 18 inches between their head and their heart. Most people get stuck in their heads, so today is an invitation to connect to your heart. 

Admitting When You’re Not OK

I want you to visualize an image that was created for a campaign called the 100K Masks Challenge, which goes along with the activity of what’s on the front of the mask and what’s on the back of the mask? This image was done by one of my former students. It’s a picture of a face and if you look on either side of the lips it says, “I’m” on the left side and, “OK” on the right. Like maybe that’s what you say when people ask how you’re doing, what’s going on, how you’ve been. “I’m OK.” But the image also says something else. It says “Not” between “I’m” and “OK.” We made the word “Not” hard to see because if you’re saying you’re OK it’ll be hard for people to see that you’re not doing OK. We also put “Not” over the mouth because it’s really hard to talk about not being OK. Today as we think about connecting to our heart, let’s just all take a deep breath. Breathe. 

Finding People That Can Hold Space for You

Ever been in a place where you had to pretend like you were OK when you really weren’t? Maybe someone comes up to you and they say, “Hey, how are you doing today?” And you’re like, “I’m fine.” But maybe you weren’t really. Maybe you didn’t trust that they would really listen or that they really cared. It was just a greeting in passing so they didn’t have time to get into it, or you don’t want to burden them with your stuff. Maybe you didn’t tell them the truth. What we invite you to do is begin finding people in your life that can hold space for you—all of you, the real you, the true you, the full-hearted maybe not perfect you. We invite you to be yourself today, to be yourself tomorrow, and to know that the people you find will still be there for you. 

A lot of young people we work with, when we ask them why they don’t tell their friends what they’re going through, they say, “Well I don’t want my friends to stop inviting me to stuff so I don’t tell them all my stuff because I don’t want them to think I’m a problem.” What we want people all over the world to be able to do, is find those people in your circle, your network, your community, friends, family, teachers, mentors, who can hold space for us to be all of ourselves. I know it’s hard to do. 

Trusting Others and Being Fearless

When I decide that I want to tell somebody a little bit more about myself, what I’m going through, what’s happening in my heart, sometimes it’s hard to know who is going to run away. You know what I’ve learned? Sometimes it takes a little bit of trust. It takes a little bit of fearlessness. Both of those things are sometimes hard to do, so take a deep breath with me. Breathe. Take a journey from your head overthinking it down to your heart, to letting yourself feel it. Begin finding those people in your life that you can be more of yourself with, that’s our goal, that’s what today’s practice is about. Coming from the head to the heart to be more of our true selves.

Join the 100k Masks Movement

If you want to be a part of this movement you can go to You can make a mask and you can see masks from other people around the world. You can join this community of people who are connecting from their head to their heart and being more of their true self. I think the world needs more of that today. 

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Being Seen for Who You Really Are

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About the author

Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch is the founder and executive director of The Ever Forward Club. In 2004, during Ashanti’s first year teaching high school math, he started The Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males in school. He works to change how students, especially young men of color, interact with their education and how their schools interact with them. Since then, Ever Forward has helped all of it’s more than 150 members graduate from high school.