Are You Living Through Others' Perceptions?

Nancy Levin stood in front of a room full of people at a recent TEDx Hoboken event and told the story of being en route home from a business trip when her husband informed her on the telephone that he had read her journals and he wasn’t at all pleased.

Room at rapt attention.

She went on to relate how when she got home he confronted her and told her he was going to make copies of some pages and expose her for who she really was to family and friends.

Room still silent.


Which one of those is more of a nightmare, I ask you?

But if you know anything about the TED brand – its website says, “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” – then you know Levin’s story has an uplifting ending. She got divorced. She found her way back. She is, in fact, lit from within as she speaks.

But there is more in this story that I want to share because its impact has implications that go beyond one woman in one room. I know this because no one could stop talking about it after Levin spoke and she was the last of a full day’s agenda of speakers for the TEDx Women global event (some streamed from Washington, D.C. and some in-house) that we were part of. We should have all been too wiped out to fully engage, but we were riveted.

Simply put, we were in the presence of brave.

My initial gasp at Levin’s journals being read came from a primal place, not just for me and my own reams of thoughts in spiral notebooks but for the many clients and students I’ve had who voiced the fear of exposure when I encouraged them to journal. With the mental picture of Levin’s knees buckling in an airport, all the reassuring I’ve done over the years came rushing back at me. It lodged in my throat through the rest of her talk.

I’m not sure what I’ll tell the next client who expresses a fear of exposure when I recommend keeping a journal. Maybe this? The truth is, it takes courage to tell our story, state our truth, explore what’s within. Even in journal form that isn’t for public consumption. It’s still expressed. It’s still out there.

Levin went on to confess that she had been keeping up a façade in her marriage, choosing others’ perception of her happiness over actual happiness. We see that a lot in America, don’t we? But here’s the twist in this case. Since 2002, Levin has been the event director at Hay House, Inc. and, according to her bio, “producing innovative events and experiential conferences around the themes of self-empowerment, healing and personal growth.” This has been with some of the leading thinkers of our time – Marianne Williamson, Cheryl Richardson, Wayne Dyer.

So when she talked about how hard it was to remove the mask she’d been wearing in her professional life, my brows may have furrowed just a bit. To be surrounded by all this depth of spirit – wow. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have these kinds of connections and pretty darned easy to tap them?

Actually, as it turned out, yes to the former and no to the latter. After years of working with these visionaries, how do you start the conversation about your deeply troubled marriage expelling its last breath? You know, when you haven’t even let on that it’s a little rocky? And then, further, how do you ask for help?

My own assumptions were stopped dead in their tracks as the reality of this dawned on me. It’s essentially like knocking yourself off a pedestal to a bunch of healers. Good times.

After the talk I approached Levin and offered, among other things, my heartfelt congratulations. It felt like it was for and from all of us in the room.

When I came home from the event I immediately downloaded her book of poetry titled Writing For My Life … Reclaiming The Lost Pieces Of Me and settled in for a read. I finished it in one sitting, feeling like I owed this writer the respect of going on her full journey via her verse. Her style, all lower case and loosely punctuated, has a kind of uncertain flow that seems to capture the very rhythm of her emotions in all the tumult and searching for self. It crackles with courage.

And how fresh:

believe in yourself and embrace the opening

of the french doors

into a beautiful new meadow

replete with the wildest wildflowers you can imagine.

Picture them at rapt attention, taking it all in.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to