You know that voice in your head—the one that tells you you’re not good enough? The one that holds you back by summoning emotions like fear and doubt? In her new book Choose Wonder Over Worry, artist and inspirational speaker Amber Rae addresses this voice. She suggests that instead of letting it control you, you can actually listen to your “worry”—acknowledge it, but choose to hear the other voice that’s saying you can do it: your “wonder.”
With today marking the release of Choose Wonder Over Worry, we chatted with the lovely Amber Rae about the making of her new book and what it felt like to finally seize her dream. She also shared some starting points on how to deal with worry in a healthy way. We touched on feelings of envy (hint: it’s actually inspiration in disguise) and Amber shared some of her daily rituals—one of which is journalling. With over a decade of consistent journalling under her belt, Amber shared a few prompts with us that you can refer to each day. Simple, digestible, doable—just how we like it, and incredibly useful if you’re new to journalling. If this glimpse into Amber’s mind tells us anything, it’s that her new book is full of wisdom and approachable ways to realize your full potential—all in a non-stressful, light, and loving way.
I read that you had been wanting to write this book for a while—what inspired you to commit?
This book almost didn’t get written. It was the biggest dream of all the dreams for me, and so naturally the one that came along with the most worry, fear, and doubt. I let that fear lead the show for too long.
What inspired me to finally commit was a workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell. Someone in the audience asked Liz how she does all that she does, and I was sitting in the audience thinking, “Yeah, Liz! Tell me your secrets!” That’s when Liz told us about the time in her life when she was struggling to become a writer. She was working a few jobs, barely making ends meet, and rarely having the time and energy to write. When she shared her struggle with a wise older woman, that woman said, “What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying that you want?” Liz said, “You’re right—I really need to start learning how to say no to things I don’t want to do.” The wise woman corrected her: “No, it’s much harder than that. You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don’t have time and energy for everything.”
That sentence stamped itself in my heart: You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want.
So, I went home and made two lists…
And there was only one thing I wanted more than all the other things: this book in bookstores. That was the last push I needed to finally commit and go all in.
What does it feel like now to know you followed that dream?
It’s literally the greatest feeling in the world. I look back on all the other projects I pursued because I was afraid to pursue the book, and while those experiences were important and part of my journey, the feeling I have now, of being fully aligned with my truth, is incomparable. I’m beyond grateful for listening to the call inside.
Worry, doubt, anxiety—do you think social media influences these feelings? If so, how do you manage your relationship with social media?
ABSOLUTELY. Instagram, Facebook, and social media can throw us into the comparison trap if we’re not careful.
But here’s the thing about social media: it’s only a mirror for what’s going on within us. It’s easier to put the blame on instagram rather than take responsibility for our own insecurities or self-doubt. We’re human, so we are going to feel insecure or doubtful from time to time. That’s not the issue, it’s our relationship with those less applauded aspects of ourselves. So I see social media, and whatever emotions arise as a result, as a tool for illuminating and getting to know my own shadow.
I also like to look at envy as inspiration in disguise, because when I feel it show up, it’s because the other person is doing something that I also want to do. It’s showing me untapped potential within me.
When this happens, I’ll pull out a sheet of paper, and fill this in: I’m envious of __________ because _____________. My next move is ______________. (Example: I’m envious of Cleo Wade because she released her poems into a book. My next move is to start sharing my own poems.)
Do you think women are subjected to more worry than wonder?
I think women have been conditioned to be “good,” or “perfect,” and to “perform well” and “please” in order to be worthy of love and connection. Since that socialization is often in conflict with our true and authentic nature, that can create a lot of internal conflict, and thus a lot of worry.
That said, I think men are conditioned to be “strong,” and “fearless,” to “not cry” and “be successful,” so there are different worry implications here. While women struggle more with eating disorders as a side effect of worry, men more frequently hold back expressing their emotions (which can lead to disease), and at an extreme, commit suicide more frequently.
I think women are more vocal about their worry because we live in a culture where women have generally been conditioned to feel safe talking about their emotions. I hope my work creates a safe container for men and women to express themselves and understand their uncomfy emotions.
How can we deal with worry in a healthy way?
First, Get clear on the difference between useful worry and toxic worry.
Think of useful worry as an ally who is saying, “Pay attention to this. I’m trying to get your attention because this matters.” This is the kind of worry that’s within your control, and pops up before an important meeting, decision, or dream to spur you to action.
Toxic worry is more about ruminating — those thoughts on an endless loop that paralyze and prevent you from taking action. This is the type of worry that has you asking: Am I good enough? Who am I to do this? What are they going to think of me? What if something bad happens?
Then, Sort through your worries and wonder about them.
- Take out a sheet of paper and write down everything you’re worried about: That way, the anxiety transforms from noise inside your head to something you can look at objectively.
- Go through every worry and circle what you can control.
- Ask yourself: “What productive action can I take on this?” Then write down your action plan by each circle.
And when faced with fear or anxiety, follow these 3 steps:
- Name it: Label the feeling as vividly as possible to make it tangible. It could be “Ms. Perfectionist,” “Lady Anger,” or “Anxious Annie.”
- Talk to it: Think of it as a character you can have a conversation with, sort of what I describe above. If my inner perfectionist is getting loud when I’m writing, for example, I’ll say, “Hey Ms. Perfectionist, I see you hanging out here. What’s going on here? Is there something you want me to know?” I think of these inner emotions like children wanting our attention. A dialogue can reveal what wisdom they have for us.
- Make a request: You might say, “Hey Perfectionist, I totally get the quality of this article is important to you. Here’s the thing: I need space to get messy and write a shitty first draft before I can get to anything good. Mind going to get a massage while I finish this? K, thanks.” When we do this, we set a boundary and claim our space.
What are some of your daily rituals? How do you practice wonder in small ways each day?
I wake up and drink elixirs that my fiancé Farhad makes me to support my wellness (bless him!), I meditate for 5-10 minutes, and then I journal about how I’m feeling, what’s weighing me down, and how I want the day to feel. I also aim to go on tech-free walks, have at least 15 minutes of space every day for dreaming (ideally longer!), and if I’m feeling the feels, I’ll be gentle with myself, giving myself space to feel and release.
What role does journaling play in your life?
A HUGE one. As mentioned above, it’s the daily practice I’ve had for over a decade. It’s the NUMBER ONE most important practice I have for self-awareness and connecting with myself.
In a workshop with Cheryl Strayed last year, she asked us, “Do you tell your journal the truth?” It gave me goosebumps. If I can’t be honest with myself in my journal, I’m living a lie. I am for truth-telling, always.
Here are a few journaling prompts to get started:
- Today, I feel…
- My most regular waking thought is…
- The thing I’m afraid to admit I want is…
- I’m grateful for… Because…
- Inspiration is pointing me toward…
This might be a tough one…but what’s your favourite quote?
SO MANY! I love what Gloria Steinem said: The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.
The dream is to spread this message as far and wide as possible so that we can learn to have a better relationship with our emotions, especially the tricky ones. I see emotional wellness as the next revolution. So, I’m going on a 7-city tour for my book (so excited!—would love to see you on the road!), have a ton of media and appearances, and I’m already thinking about book 2 (ha!). I also have a lot of ideas around artistic and experiential expressions of this message, which I’m looking forward to playing with soon.
Choose Wonder Over Worry is now available to purchase here.