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Transcript – Essence, identity, and being yourself before you die

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Season 3, Episode #1: Essence, identity, and being yourself before you die

We start realizing like, I’m gonna die. I might die and never ever be myself. And I am the only person who can choose to allow myself to be myself. And there is so much energy in myself it’s been bottled up and I don’t even know how to contain it. I don’t even know how to feel, okay, letting that all flow. And so I keep crunching back down on it, turn it off, turn it off, and only we can open that jar of magic. And it’s so scary. It’s so scary


Allowed. You are allowed to be whole. I’m Dr. Caneel Joyce. I’m here to affirm that you are not missing anything. Just imagine with me for a moment that you are and always have been enough. You have always been enough. Imagine that. 


When you were born, you were whole perfect. And somewhere along the way you learn that parts of you were not allowed here. What are the pieces of you that you have put into the basement? And how can you reclaim the wholeness that is your birthright. You are allowed to grow. You’re allowed to dream. You are allowed to be exactly who you are and to become the next version of who you want to be. Start your journey of exploration with me right now on allowed.


You are allowed to be whole.


Welcome back to Allowed. I am your coach, Dr. Caneel Joyce. In this episode, I’m going to share with you a story about how I have personally recently been discovering more about my own essence. First, I wanna describe what I mean by essence and contrast it with our identity or our personality, our ego, which is how we probably are thinking about ourselves most of the time. Essence is an innate and essentially very, very slow changing. Like many, many lifetimes changing aspects of our spirit. Essence is, it’s like the flavor underneath a cinnamon stick. 


Essence is our, the unique gifts and attributes that our spirit brings and is manifest through things like our soul and our personality and the way that we show up in the, in the world here and now. I’ve worked with teachers who have called essence our original medicine. It’s the medicine that we and only we can bring to the world that the world needs as part of the wholeness, of the totality, of the worldly experience, the human experience and beyond.


And essence is something that we may see flashes of brilliance in each other and in ourselves that stands out as more alive and true and authentic than the more constrained ways that we often show up in interactions. So I wanna contrast this with that. You know, what creates that constraint? And I’m gonna call that our identity. Now. Our identity is the way that we think about ourselves, the way that we understand ourselves to be. It’s also the trappings of our ego. It’s the way that our ego has learned to see and understand the world in order to keep ourselves safe. So this is beliefs about what we should and should not do. What is good and what is bad? What will create connection versus break connection with ourselves and others. Our identity is really just a set of beliefs, understandings, values, personality traits, even skills and mindsets that forms our personality.


However, my identity is one that really is nervous and afraid of the judgment or misunderstanding that might swirl around when I show up in my essence. My identity is one that wants you so much to think of me as credible. Who wants you to trust me. Who is afraid that you will not be able to really see the whole me – and so I wanna only show parts of me. My identity is one that clings on to signifiers. Like I have a PhD from UC Berkeley, or I used to be on faculty at Stanford, or I coach CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies. And that stuff is just my identity. That’s, that’s kind of ego stuff. My essence, though, is partly what got me into those positions to begin with. Essence is my guide. And what’s really important is for you to be on that path of devotion to your essence. In devotion to your essence, you will find that sometimes the identity becomes a limiter.


It becomes a pretty low ceiling on the aliveness that you can feel in yourself and inspire in others and in the world around you. Your identity might constrain your ability to bring your gifts to the world. So I personally, you know, I’m on a path of devotion to removing that which constrains my ability to bring my gifts to the world. As a result of that devotion, I do things like be willing to get embarrassed, be willing for you to judge me, be willing for you to think of me as non-credible. And I also listen to my ego or my identity to say, what is the translation layer that would be helpful in me consciously having the impact I want to? …which is partly why I’m recording this little snippet here right now. All right, let’s get into it. 


Today we’re going to be discussing all things essence. And this is really at the forefront of my mind right now because I had a sort of revelatory experience not too long ago. I went on retreat with the Conscious Leadership Group forum that I’m in. And we got to stay at Diana Chapman’s house, who’s been on the show before and a couple episodes I will link to. And she’s a co-founder of the Conscious Leadership Group. Really a like beyond world class coach. Beyond, way beyond, like, there’s not even a word for it. And one of the nights, I forget exactly the context of this, but I just had this big, I have this like big wool kind of magenta colored big, huge wrap. It’s like a massive scarf. And it’s like, it’s, it’s, it’s awesome. <Laugh> has fringe on it, and it’s like such a great color, and it’s like black in it too.


And I love it to death. It’s, it’s my blanket. I bring it with me when I travel, no matter what the weather is, because then I always have something to keep me comfortable and feel kind of like I’m expressing myself. And it’s like, Oh, my essence is here. It’s like my essence color thing. And I was like dancing with it and like waving it all around and like, it was like, I was a, like a bullfighter and a flamenco dancer, like all in one. And it was just so fun and like fanning everybody and like flapping it around. And I didn’t plan to do that. I just got up and there was music on and I just started doing it. And it was so much fun. Oh, and it was like, I had just given myself so much permission to do what I love doing, which is dancing.


I love dancing and I love it. I love being like in my sexy body and just like, ugh, like relishing it. I fricking love it. And I, I don’t really let myself do that in public. I really don’t because it, it gathers too much attention, <laugh>. And, and I have been, you know, like as a child, like teased and made fun of and, you know, ostracized for the way that I danced. Why is Caneel dancing like that? And why is she dancing like this so sexy? Like, what does she, what is she doing? What does she think? What does she think she is? And like, all those voices are so strong in my head and I don’t want people to think I’m trying to pick up on them or something. I just wanna be free and I just wanna dance. And that’s when I feel like I’m really, really in that place, in that essence place.


So then having these 10 people see it when like, again, this is not a thing I turn on, really for most people it was like night and day. Seeing that versus seeing how I had been showing up a lot of the other time. Not even just, not even on the podcast, not even in social. I’m talking about like in the room where I’m, I think I’m being as vulnerable as I possibly can be. But I do feel so inhibited so much of the time. Like I feel so constricted and constrained. And so then for them to get to see this, suddenly now they have like a reference point, like, oh, holy, okay, like you have not been playing full out. And you know, the reason we’re all in this group together is because we’re all like on this journey of we, we wanna bring our gifts, you know, we wanna, we wanna be very true to our essence because that is our gifts are something the world needs.


So then them having this idea of, oh, clear visual, this is who Caneel is, this is her. Now I’m seeing the essence and like the jig is up, so they are calling me out on it like crazy <laugh> like all the time. And that feedback was really ringing true in my ears and spoke to something that I’d actually been struggling with. I’d actually heard the same feedback during a recent 360 degree review process where a bunch of stakeholders in my life who know and care about my work were interviewed to solicit feedback around my content and how it gets created and what they like and what they don’t like. So this review was intended to nail down our branding guidelines for our website, and our social media content. Because I was putting out there stuff that really didn’t reflect my essence at all. It was inauthentic.


It was like me playing a persona. And because that was out there so broadly in the world and thousands of people were seeing it I was able to receive a lot of feedback like, that doesn’t match. That doesn’t match you. So I got to get all that feedback about like, this is not, this is not you. I want you to do this differently. Which like, what a gift. Oh my goodness, thank you to everyone who told me that. So, and my, you know, on, on the team, like we, we are always talking about this. We’re always, you know, wrestling with it of like how to get it there and what, what does the day need to look like for me to show up in a different way and what does the process need to be? And we really couldn’t nail it. So, which makes it hard because when, then when you try to redo your website, as we also just did you know, you hire a new designer developer and they they can’t figure out really who you are. And so then all their design decisions reflect this other persona. And I’m like, That’s not it. That’s not it. 


And, you know, so one of my coaching partners, Isabelle Darcy, is the person that I work with the most when I do like 360 degree review processes for my client. And I actually      engaged her to do a personal brand 360 for me. And it began as, could you just help me come up with a brand style guide? Can you interview me and get, get like, figure out how to put into words the thing that I, I’m wanting to say. So that whenever we do engage another web designer or someone to support on social media or photographer like that, we have one document that clearly explains our essence, our vibe, what we stand for in the world, how we wanna show up.


The funny part was after, I mean, I was so excited to meet with her and to finally get the report, I was, I’ve never been more eager to get something as I was with that because it just so informs so much the day to day. And it also felt like this is gonna give me like years of my own personal development roadmap. It kind of felt like she was gonna give me like glasses that helped me see things for real. So when she gave it, she delivered it and she says, Well, this is, it didn’t turn out like you might expect. Essentially it was, instead of like using this guide to create your content roadmap and your plan, this guide says, Any plan kills Kail. Any plan kills Kail. Stop having structure, stop putting boxes around things. It has to be like in the moment, emergent, unpredictable, like show my range, be messy and raw.


That is a really different kind of a document than I thought I was going to get back. And I was like, Oh, crud. Like, what are we gonna do with this? Like, it’s all totally true, but how do you plan a year against a don’t have a plan plan? How, what in the world does that look like? I’ve recognized now that my experience and my forums retreat was really a direct taste of what that could be like being allowed to be seen and loved for that essence, that’s me that probably I devalue and undermine otherwise, why would I manage it so much? That’s just a direct taste of my North Star. It really drove home to me how essential it is for me to connect to that essence because of how profound the impact was on kind of the field of energy in the room on my own physiology.


I felt, I felt that carry through with me for days after. It’s my artistry, it’s my zone of genius. And it, it sounds so squishy to even try to describe it. So I want you to just remember, like, think of a time when you felt really like inflow as yourself. So just like my 360 review outlined when I’m dancing freely like that, just being me, like, like I was at the forum retreat, that that’s my essence. That was my light bulb moment. And it’s a, a concrete example that I remember so vividly I can go back to. And I’m so grateful for the container of that group and that room and my my own coach Diana. And the, that I gave myself that gift of having that vivid experience because it’s this one snapshot of a photo I have in my mind that’s a touchstone I can always remember and go back to.


And it was just crazy because this experience happened shortly after I got this review that asked this huge question of me of, you know, what does it look like for Kail to create without a plan? So it was like, Oh, here’s the, this is how you do it. This is how you do creating without a plan. It’s like in the, if I could just like trust the impulses in the moment without even pausing for like a second to plan it or decide if I’m gonna do it or not, I mean, that’s the one that kills me. Am I gonna do it or not? How should I do it? Oh my gosh, Once I start asking those questions, the moment’s gone. I love this concept of there’s a half life of inspiration. And and I think for me, the half life is really short <laugh> you know, in, in terms of like moment to moment creative action, the half life is really short.


It’s like the inherent wisdom of like allowing creativity to come through you, that’s not yours. It’s coming through you, is something that if you don’t just totally surrender to the pace at which it’s happening, if you try to control that pace at all, you, you fall off that boat. A ship has sailed now that I have, now that I have this, this visual in my head from that night, I am really, really dearing myself to let go, like really dearing myself to trust ultimately when, when we’re born, we have just this raw essence and it’s like perfect. And it’s, it’s genius. And it’s, it’s like, it’s just like love goes through this prism and all these awesome colors come out and each one of us holds a piece of that light and it just shines. And then at some point along the way, it seems inevitably you’re told that essence is not allowed or you, you internalize that message somehow.


It’s almost like we are predisposed as humans to thinking that thought. I’m not allowed to give, to be that big, to be that swirly, to be that smart, to be that loving, whatever it is. And, and then we start like putting those injuries on each other because we are so injured from that wound. And, and then we, we make each other close down by truly like doing those criticisms. And we’re like, Don’t be <laugh>, don’t be big. Don’t be, you deal. I won’t either. Okay, deal. And then we all enter into this pact that we will, we will walk around not alive, like not fully alive, not aligned with our actual essence. And then it’s like somewhere around the late thirties, early forties, we start realizing like, I’m gonna die. I might die and never ever be myself. And I am the only person unfortunately who can choose to allow myself to be myself. And there is so much energy in myself that has not been it’s been bottled up and I don’t even know how to contain it. I don’t even know how to feel okay. Letting that all flow. And so I keep crunching back down on it and like being like, turn it off, turn it off. 


And only we can open that jar of magic. And it’s so scary. It’s so scary, So scary. And we do like, we do so much to fuck it up. Like it’s really tragic actually. It’s really beautiful that we then do the work to break through it. You know, it’s really selfless actually. I’m like, who the are we to say the world doesn’t get to have our gifts? Like, that’s super, It’s like, are we, do we think we have the rule book, like the right rule book. Like we’re like masters of the, this is weird, like, we’re like masters of the universe or something. But then I’m like, but the secret is that we are, so it’s just that the universe doesn’t work with the rule book. So you don’t know the rules and, and you’ve, the only way to be aligned with it is to flow with it. And the only way to be an integrity with what actually wants to happen. What, what the nature of the universe really is, is to like, let go get out of the way and, and trust, I feel like a lot of the work is besides just unblocking and you know, self-awareness and unblocking and getting feedback and experimenting and daring yourself to do things. Like, it’s also just being really, really good at noticing if you’re constricting again.


And, and, and really gently just honoring that that is so also part of the process that is so also the nature of things is that we constrict again, we, we stop allowing, we get attached. And that attachment is like, that’s our rule book, right? And we try to control, control, control all of these things outside of our control so that we can kind of guarantee that things don’t change too much. And then we, and then that starts not working and it starts not feeling good. And the faster we can just recognize it and, and pay attention to the costs and really feel the feelings of the cost, the faster we can then, you know, gently easefully with total love. Like, just let go again. And b I’m curious if this, if this sounds like you, do you have a spirit self that doesn’t really get to walk this earth ever with you? Is there, is there like a dancer in you that doesn’t get to play? What’s your routine for making sure you don’t get to be in your essence?


Like how do you guarantee that you will not risk the heartbreak of being in essence and then constricting again? Like how do you organize yourself to make sure that your precious gifts stay hidden? When you think about moments where you’ve really tasted that like, Oh, I am so in flow, this is who I am. I am at my best, but you’re not even thinking of it as best anymore. It’s just is. It’s just like, ugh, like alive. I feel so alive. Ugh. And when you’re that way, like what does that look like for you.



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