What has your journey of self-worth looked like? For this #GirlsTalkReal event with Lou & Grey, Amy spoke with Cleo Wade about rebuilding yourself, boundaries and self-worth. Cleo Wade is an artist, poet, and the author of best selling book, “Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life.” Her work speaks to the importance of self-care, beloved community building, and social justice. Watch our GirlsTalkReal episode with Cleo here, and check out the highlights below.
Intention is everything.
Whether it’s creating my work or the people I choose to learn from, I always have the intention of being as open as I can to changing and evolving. I think that if you walk into every room knowing that you could walk out a different person, then your life can be an adventure, your work will always be exciting, and your relationships will be joyful.
Heart Talk was the book that nobody wanted. When I was first writing it three or four years ago, people would say to me: “We don’t really get it. Is it poetry? We don’t even know where it would sit in a bookstore.” Even my parents said to me, “We understand that you want to be in the world through poetry. But who’s a poet nowadays? How does that work?”
Sometimes you have to believe in yourself more than the people around you.
When I was writing Heart Talk, I wanted to create a toolkit. It wasn’t about creating the perfect book of poetry or the wisest mantras you’ve ever heard. It was a compilation of all the things that I’ve used to get me through my hardest moments. It was a compilation of all the words I’ve said or heard when my best girlfriends were sitting around the kitchen table talking about the job that didn’t work out, or that relationship that didn’t work out. It was also about the struggles of loving and caring for ourselves, and the conversation about moving from girlhood to womanhood. I wanted the book to embody what those conversations felt like.
As of today, Heart Talk has been translated into 12 different languages and is being sold around the world. It’s the little book that could. Up until the day of its release, people still did not know where to put it in the bookstore. Every time I went into the publisher’s office, I think I walked out crying. I included the mantras I used to get me through that process in the book—the things I would say to myself in order to keep going, finish it, then put it out into the world.
The lesson is to stay focused on what you feel called to be doing.
I remembered that I’d made a promise to my audience, and then would work on keeping that promise. My promise was never about being a bestseller. The reason I got up and wrote every day was because I made a promise that no matter where you are or how lonely you feel in the worst or best moments of your life—these words are for you. I knew that if I focused on that promise then I could I finish the work. You need to make sure that you’re constantly aligned with your goal, and the promises you make will help you to come out on the other side and finish.
Through that experience, I learned that it’s so important to trust that your imagination is worthy of coming into fruition, and that barriers should not cause self-doubt.
When you focus on things bigger than your singular existence, that’s when you start to step into the magic of what’s possible.
If I hadn’t known about people like Gloria Steinem, James Baldwin, or Alice Walker, I wouldn’t have known where to start. In the very beginning, I didn’t know my own identity or how I wanted to write. I saw them first and began to imitate them. When you’re first trying to find your path, your role models are your template. I always say to people who aren’t sure if they want to tell their story that they may be someone’s template.
There’s most likely a person out there who’s waiting to hear your story so that it can be their starting point.
You should also want the next generation to bust the template open and do bigger and better things than you ever could have in your lifetime. Do you have that inkling or little whisper in your head to do that thing? If so, you should pursue it.
Your dreams belong to you. They are your birthright.
If you wake up in the morning and feel like an artist, then you can call yourself an artist. If you write in your diary every day, you can call yourself a writer. You don’t have wait for the outside world to qualify you in order for you to identify with your dreams. A lot of the rules of “how we are supposed to be” weren’t made to make us happy or thrive anyway. They weren’t made with us in mind.
What stops us from doing the things we dream about is that we think it has to look a certain way. We believe there are qualifiers we need in order to achieve the things we want. The way society predominantly functions is around predictions of what we’ll do next, and not so that we can live boldly.
Find ways to claim your happiness and claim what you care about. That’s when the true adventure of being the woman you want to be begins.
All of my goals are based on impact. I think about the most impact I could make at any point in time so that I can prioritize being a kind and ethical person. I’m open to what the universe brings my way and what new ideas I can come up with in order to make that impact possible.
The secret to any success I’ve ever had is my excitement and desire to constantly change.
If something isn’t working or isn’t flowing in my life I am always happy to press pause and see how can I change or learn something new about myself. When we’re in tune with what’s happening within ourselves, we have an opportunity to take in emotional information that our body is feeding us. Take the time to pay attention during hard times so that your emotional intelligence develops. Your wisdom is gained in those spaces.
Relational boundaries are one of the main pillars of an effective self care practice. When we think about self care, we have to think about how we show care for ourselves in relationships to others.
No one’s going to make those boundaries for you, but you. No one’s going to prioritize you, but you.
We can’t control what comes up in life, but we have a lot of control over what we do with our thoughts. I work on guiding myself to healthier thoughts by using mantras as tools to make sure that my thoughts don’t weigh down my reality. You should be your own hype person and fight on behalf of your best self. We have to take the time to have intimacy with ourselves. It helps us cultivate our purest and most authentic selves.
The mantra that I use for self-forgiveness is: “If you are grateful for where you are, you have to respect the road that got you there.” When you are in pieces, you are also empowered to put yourself together in a completely different way. You can rebuild yourself into the woman you were meant to be.
We can’t see something that’s not first within us.