Redefining Winning

growth life balance success winning Nov 14, 2022
Illustration of Charis Santillie considering the idea of winning (symbolized by a trophy in a thought bubble) with her dog, Heidi, at her feet and an owl perched on a tree nearby
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🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #028 here.

As we’re nearing year-end, I have been reflecting back on so many wonderful experiences I’ve had this year and the gifts and lessons they brought me. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you may know that a few months ago, I participated in a speaking competition. Today, I want to share what sparked my decision to enter, plus some surprising gifts that came from the experience.

I heard about the competition through a post by Selena Soo, inside a private Facebook group connected with her Impacting Millions publicity course that I’m a member of. That month I was not spending much time inside Facebook groups. Yet, I happened to follow an internal nudge one day to look inside that group specifically, and at the top of the feed was a post about this inspirational speaking competition. What jumped out at me was the large, bold word “Impact” because that was the theme of this competition.

As I saw that word, I immediately thought of the phrase “Bracing for Impact,” which happened to be the phrase that came up during a huge aha moment when I was doing EMDR therapy last year. If you’ve never heard of it, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a psychotherapy based on neuroscience that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. In a future episode, I’ll tell you more about my experience with EMDR because I highly recommend it. I did six sessions, which really supported me in healing at a deeper level around the trauma of my family’s hot air balloon accident that happened when I was 19.

I had already done a lot of work over the years to heal many levels of that experience, yet something happened last year that uncovered a new deeper layer of healing that was ready to come to the surface. And what showed up was the realization that my body was still bracing for impact in a lot of ways in my life, even though the accident had happened 27 earlier. Basically, when I was 19, my brain had wired a coping mechanism of extreme physical tension as a response to just about any stressor in my life, thinking that it was protecting me and keeping me safe—because, at that time, it had appropriately responded to a terrifying crash-landing by having my body literally hold on tight and brace for impact. The problem was that this became a patterned behavior for me, even for little life challenges that were not even close to being life-threatening. Fortunately, EMDR helped me rewire my brain so that I could transform the ingrained belief that nearly every challenge I faced required bracing myself.

So for the speech—this instant idea came to mind, along with a really strong pull to sign up and participate. It came from a place inside me that I associate with my inner compass, which always leads me to the best next step. I have an entire lesson inside my program, Busy to Balanced, where I teach how to listen to your inner compass. Learning to do that faster and more frequently has been instrumental in shaping my life so that I enjoy it more fully and experience more peace of mind. 

A few weeks after I signed up for the competition, I had an epiphany; thanks again for listening to my inner compass. That made the creation of my speech so much easier. I realized that I already had a version of my story that was about the length of the speech requirement—so I could start with that and then edit it as needed to fit the content criteria and weave in the thread of the theme. The more I trust myself and lean into the flow of my life, the more things pop up that help me along the journey.

I rehearsed with my husband as well as over phone calls with my Dad. Both my Dad and Don were pleasantly surprised that I was so willing to receive their feedback without getting defensive and then actually implement most of their suggestions. In the past, especially with people closest to me—especially Dad and Don—I definitely was more stubborn and less open to listening and taking advice. It was refreshing for all of us to see how much I’d grown since I’ve been dedicated to my personal development, shifting my mindset, and improving my communication skills.

I’m not gonna lie—it wasn’t easy for me to do the first live run-through for my Dad. I held back on really tapping into my emotions because it was uncomfortable for me, especially since what happened to him was a key part of the story. He helped me get past that quickly, though. He lovingly called me out on it and encouraged me to dig deeper into myself and draw out my true emotions. So I practiced and sent him recordings, and we’d talk about the latest versions.

The entire process was extremely cathartic for both of us. He told me later that this was the first time he’d really heard all the details of the accident. We both cried a lot. By the time the final round came and went, I honestly felt like I’d done the equivalent of 30 therapy sessions because of the intensity of practicing while tapping into the emotions of the memories. I got a little taste of what an actor must feel when they need to connect with their emotions on command, and I tell you, it’s intense. My nervous system totally got triggered for a few weeks, yet I knew that this was an experience that felt right for me to do. I wasn’t chasing it. It kept pulling me.

I remember feeling very vulnerable and excited to share the video online. The outpouring of support felt so good and honestly helped me heal even deeper. I reconnected with people from my past, and I also had people who barely knew me reach out to say how much I had inspired them. That was so validating because that’s really my hope with everything I’m doing here. I want to share my stories to inspire others to make changes in their lives.

Soon after I submitted my video for the first round, I was excited to find out I’d made the top 10. What I was most proud of, though, was that I truly felt unattached to the outcome. I remember going into the top 10 reveal call and feeling at peace no matter what happened. I’d already found some gifts from the experience, and I was in a place emotionally where it didn’t matter if I made the top 10 or not. Don’t get me wrong—yes, I wanted to make the top 10, yet I knew I would be ok either way. Going into something I’d put so much time and energy into feeling that way has not always been something easy for me to do. It’s taken a lot of practice and inner work for me to be able to fully invest myself into something while at the same time being ok with whatever happens.

There soon turned out to be a few more unexpected gifts and opportunities coming my way. A local friend I’d reconnected with this year, Stacy Allegro, is an excellent writer and used to be a professional public speaker. She came over and worked on a new version of my speech with me that I would present live virtually during the final competition. We had a ball working on it together. 

Then I also reconnected with a college housemate who was there for me right after the accident happened, during one of the most challenging years of my life. She helped me access another deep layer of healing.

I placed fifth during the live competition. (You can go here to watch my speech.) It was really interesting to notice what I felt at the time the results were announced. I had a quick moment of disappointment in not placing in the top 3 because the top 3 would receive prizes and be going on to compete in a Grand Slam competition. But literally, within a few minutes, I honestly felt really happy and relieved! That was a new experience for me…to be happy I didn’t “win.” I know that the top 5 is something to be very proud of, but I can guarantee you that the Charis of a few years ago would have been really crushed at not making the top 3. I used to chase external achievements, thinking that somehow they would make my life better and make me feel better. This experience showed me how far I’ve come.

I also was reminded of how I’m human and still have plenty of more inner work to do…because the next day, a friend shined a light for me on the fact that I had a hidden expectation of myself connected with this experience. It turns out that I had expected that if I was in the top 3, then I “must” go compete in person at the Grand Slam six weeks later, even though that would have been too much for me to commit to during that time, given my other priorities and commitments. My friend reminded me that had I placed in the top 3, I could have declined going on further. My mouth dropped when he pointed this out. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that was even an option, yet he was absolutely right. I have an entire module inside my Busy to Balanced program about hidden expectations because they are so important to uncover. And even though I help shine a light for others on their own expectations, I don’t always see some of my own.

So while I didn’t win a trophy, I was rewarded in countless ways…I practiced trusting myself…I gained deeper connections with my Dad, my husband, my friends, and my online community…I experienced healing at a deeper level…I was able to detach from the outcome…and I uncovered a sneaky hidden expectation that reminded me how there really is always a choice in everything we do, especially when we assume there isn’t.

🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #028 here.


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