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The Hero Learns to Take Care of Herself

by Star Olsen

I grew up an Army brat. Until I was twelve, my family moved all over the world as my parents were transferred from base to base. At one point, between fifth and ninth grade, I went to five different schools in five years. I got very good at making new friends. I also got very good at hiding pain and trauma.

Family of Addicts

I grew up in a family full of addicts. I was the eldest, and I was what family systems therapists call “the hero child.” I did well in school, had lots of extracurricular activities, and became the “success” of which everyone else could be proud. Like many hero children, I was convinced I had to be perfect in order to be loved. Other people could get away with messing up. Not me.

My perfectionism stayed with me for years. I got excellent grades in high school and earned myself a full-ride scholarship to college. I worked hard in school, putting academics ahead of my social life. I went to grad school, got a business degree, and started working for a Fortune 500 company. Shortly before my 29th birthday, they promoted me to manager.

Life Transition

I remember sitting down to eat with fellow managers in the executive lunchroom, listening to them talk about their lives. I was the only woman in the room and the youngest by at least a decade. These men talked about their golf games and how best to reseed their lawns. Listening to them, I felt something inside me shrivel up. I had worked so hard for this? I had denied myself so much for so long just to get to the point where I could listen to middle-aged white guys talk about lawn care? It hit me with absolute certainty that I couldn’t go on like this.

The problem was I had no idea what to do next. I had no models for how to live better. My relationships with men weren’t much healthier than my relationship with my company. I had no idea how to have productive conflicts or how to say my truth. I just broke up with people when I didn’t know how to communicate with them anymore.

I left the company. I went back to graduate school. I jumped off the ladder and began to reinvent myself professionally. I knew I needed to heal from my early trauma too, but that was going to be more difficult. I went to therapy, tried different practices and modalities, and kept searching as best I could. I first came across OM in a TedTalk, and I thought it was fascinating and terrifying. I was sure I could never do it, and I put it out of my mind for two years. Finally, one day a massage therapist I knew told me how it had revolutionized his work and life. He was very emphatic that I needed to try it.

Discovering OM

I still resisted – and then got asked to come speak to an OM workshop about my more recent work in healing. If I was too scared to go for myself, I was willing to go to share with others. People came for many reasons; I came to teach and to find myself.

I cried through my first OM. Afterwards, I felt cleansed. I knew that this was a deep spiritual practice – and by this point in my journey, I had had a lot of spiritual practices. I knew what could go deep and what would stay superficial. This was about going deep. I could recognize my own anxieties as defenses to be overcome. It’s like if you start a gym habit, you learn that the hardest part is getting those athletic shoes laced up every morning. Once you start working out, you’re fine; it’s the getting-going that is so tough. The same thing was true of OM. I learned to push through my doubts and insecurities, knowing that if I did make it to an OM session, I would walk out a different person, filled with well-being.

Continuous Healing

I cried through the next 40 OMs I did. After the first dozen, I remember wondering how I could have so many tears left inside me. Day after day, they flowed out of my eyes, over my eardrums, and into my hair. After a while, it didn’t bother me anymore. I knew I had so much I had to clean out. I started to realize by the 20th OM that each time I wept, I was letting go of trauma I could let go of in no other way. I was becoming less closed-off, freer, and less shut down. It was beautiful.

Transformation Through OM

I don’t cry through every OM anymore, but I can still let go of whatever burden I’m carrying at the moment every time I OM. If I’m feeling grumpy or crotchety or anything less than stellar, an OM will ground me back into my body. My orgasm and my practice come first, and because I put them first, I can be of service to everyone else. Not as the exhausted hero but as my authentic self.

Innovative Leadership

I run a business, a manufacturing business, and it's not a touchy-feely kind of environment. This is hard-nosed stuff – except that I’ve gone out of my way to hire touchy-feely people who can do this kind of complex manufacturing work and still deal with their own internal processes. I insist we work to address the sticky issues that always arise between people in the same company. Other bosses might think that’s a waste of time and resources. One thing I learned from OM is efficiency – just as an OM lasts just 15 minutes but can change your whole world, so too can small intentional investments in other people’s well-being transform your company. You can’t afford not to spend the time doing this work! 

Just last week, I had a 30-minute conversation with an employee of mine that started when I asked him about his self-care practice. He was so thrilled to be noticed. The kind of attentiveness I am able to bring to my company and to my relationships starts with the work I do in OM. So many people, like this employee, are being touched by OM, and they don’t even know it.

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