Julie Stephenson

Julie’s Manifesto (I was born to…)

In May of 1995, I graduated from high school. A headstrong and sarcastic 17 year old hell-bent on stepping out of the circumstances of her childhood and getting on with the life she was meant to have. In May of 2000, I got married. That bride was pretty sure that with enough fresh lilacs and a handsome boy she was headed straight for the happy life waiting for her. Spoiler alert: life isn’t waiting for you. Life creates you and you create your life – that’s my simple way to describe the complex balance of nature/nurture. I believe we are born with some unique, innate ‘knowing’, but our life experiences and circumstances give that ‘knowing’ depth and some credibility.

Probably the most important part of today’s post is the simple fact that: uncovering and listening to your innate ‘knowing’ and developing trust and credibility makes you more powerful than you would ever believe. When you find your gifts and have confidence in how you communicate them, well then, you become a firebreather – spreading fire with the words you speak because they mirror the true way you live. That’s next level Gamechanger stuff right there.

So here I am on the edge of May of 2020. A 42 years old racing toward a 20th wedding anniversary, another birthday and a child graduating from high school, while simultaneously, racing away from a highly contagious virus and spiritual toxicity that makes the entire world vulnerable. Here I am. And perhaps the first time in my life I know without a doubt in my mind, my ‘knowing’ matches the environment. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be and I’m being asked to speak that ‘knowing’ out loud.

Gone are the days where I dream to get on with life. My reflections and thoughts of late leave me equal parts proud and scared of what’s next. Not in life … but in myself. This spring is different from the transitional springs in my past. Instead of trying to leave where I came from or find value by attaching myself to someone else, I’m embodying a lioness who sits on top of her rock studying the activity within her habitat. The wild lioness doesn’t hesitate or get distracted like she did when she was a cub. She is both (at the exact same time) content with herself and fiercely driven to contribute in a powerful way. She’s no longer in training to lead a healthy pride, she is leading it her way and modeling for the lioness around her.

I’ve learned that ‘knowing’ isn’t telling you what’s coming next. It’s not a crystal ball. Instead, it speaks to you through the patterns of your life. The trends that show up again and again – usually seen when you’re feeling heartbroken or enraged. Glennon Doyle introduced this word and idea of ‘knowing’ in her new book, Untamed. (She also tells the beautiful story of the cheetah that quite possibly put the lioness image in my dreams). In her book she says something like your ‘knowing’ helps you know the next right thing to do. Creating this post and distributing it here – that is the next right thing for me to do. I want anyone who comes here to expect vulnerable human beings sharing their awakenings and awareness as they continue to reveal themselves to the world. I want us all to be witnesses to each other’s growth and untaming.

This post is not a ‘how to’ or ‘instruction manual’ as I first thought it might be. The fact is: I don’t know what your ‘knowing’ is. I cannot hear what whispers within you. I cannot see what visions scroll through your dreams. Only you can know that. I share this post as a way to model with this courageous community that powerful thoughts, words, and actions are safe and encouraged here…even when they scare you. A lioness doesn’t wait until fear passes to face the jungle to provide for her pride. She gets up off that rock and shows the other lionesses what she was born to do.

I was born to:

love myself. More now than I ever thought I could. I care deeply for the soul and spirit inside of my own body. I’ve been nurturing myself and doing the hard work of becoming my own friend instead of being a friend to everyone else and hating what I see in the mirror. I’m proud of that work and of my growth because without loving yourself – it’s impossible to truly love others. I trust and depend on myself as the most important person in my life.

release my over-involvement in other people’s lives. I take responsibility for myself. For one to be reliable and dependable to themselves, one must not bother themselves with what is owned by others. I own what is mine and invite others to do the same to stay capable, reliable, and dependable to themselves. I do not insert my judgment or preemptively rescue.

ask for help. I do the internal work to be clear about what I want and need. I ask for assistance and resources from sources of my choosing.

allow things to unfold. I release the illusion of control. The only thing I can control is myself, so I open my palms to allow whatever’s next to unfurl naturally.

prioritize myself. I put on my oxygen mask first. Always. 

  • Self-compassion is the source of compassion. I cannot hold space for the suffering of others if I cannot hold acknowledge and respond kindly to my own suffering. Self-compassion is a practice that happens right now – at the moment – and requires nothing more than my awareness of my own suffering.
  • Self-care is a category of habits, processes, and activities meant to recharge, reinspire, and reconnect me with me. Self-care is a necessary practice in order to uncover your ‘knowing’. Self-care looks different for everyone. Self-care needs are fluid and ever-changing. I find or create the space, time, and resources I need to care for myself without anyone else’s permission or buy-in. 

value wholehearted, relational, justice-seeking connection. I stand in arenas with advocates and activists fueling just communities while simultaneously starving shame, fear, and injustice. I will challenge people, systems, organizations, and institutions that keep people disconnected and afraid. I will lend my money, my time and my voice lends to that work and to those in the arena with me.

keep listening. Mistakes will be made. I will behave and communicate in old ways that don’t align with my ‘knowing’ from time to time. I’ll know when it happens because it’s the sick feeling I’ve been running from my whole life. When it does, I will apologize. I will make amends when my egotistical habits harm others’ spirits or souls. However, I will not apologize when my soul or presence hurts the egotistical habits of others. Hurt egos need internal reflection not apologies – I will listen deeply when my ego is bruised and I invite the rest of the world to do the same.

not be sorry. A me-sized space in my marriage, family, workplace, community, and world is not a threat or burden. It’s not our fault we all learned cultural, societal, and familial lessons that made us shrink, but I know differently now, so I will not shrink or be sorry for showing up in the world exactly as I am. 

What if hearing and sharing our ‘’knowing’’ is the one job we all have? What if that’s what we are here to contribute? What if our only job is to leave enough of your ‘knowing’ and experience behind for those to stumble upon when they are ready and pick up and carry it with them? What if your ‘knowing’ lives on in others and that’s what a legacy really is? What if?

In courage and love, 


10 thoughts on “Julie’s Manifesto (I was born to…)”

  1. Julie this is beautiful. I can hear your voice in my head as I read it. I needed to read these words today so thank you for being brave and vulnerable enough to share them. Hope you’re doing well and I hope we can have coffee again one day soon. Be well!

    1. Thank you, Becky! Man, doesn’t coffee in a coffee shop seem like the greatest joy ever right now. I cannot wait to get to do that again. Take care!

    1. Julie Stephenson

      Well my dear – you are like a wise mentor lioness friend – passing along nuggets to make me think harder.

  2. This is beautiful. I love how you speak so authentically and give that extra bit of permission to the people around you to also do the same.

    1. Julie Stephenson

      Jodi – Thank you. I just recently realized that I my gifts are to be a connector, not a teacher. If I can connect the dots in my life and tell the story, then others will connect with what they need (or don’t need) and will be able to receive that gift. It’s helped me focus my energy internally! Thank you for your continued contributions to Compounding Courage and the local community!

  3. You and these beautiful things you put out in the world make a difference for me. I know that already, but I’m now imagining one day as I reflect on my career, I’ll see your young smiling face and hear your voice. And I’ll smile, too. Not one day goes by that I don’t have moments when I’m modeling your thinking or behaviors. I learn great things from you.

    1. Thank you, Jaime! I feel the same way about you. Our paths crossed at just the right time in our lives and I’ll be forever grateful for that! I cannot wait to see you in the office soon. I miss you!

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Julie Stephenson

Julie is one of the founders of Compounding Courage, a company that provides personal growth and leadership development programs. CLICK HERE to learn more.