Rachel Coutant

Occupation: Barista, Freelance Graphic Designer & Photographer, Surreal Photographerwww.Impassionedart.com

Website: www.impassionedart.com

Instagram: rachthecrouton7

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

I’ve always been a self-aware and passionate person, been connected to spiritual guidance, and been surrounded by people who encourage me to pursue my dreams. Since I can remember, I’ve loved art, writing, and leadership–drawing and writing for hours at a time. I also grew up in a household with parents who encouraged me to follow my passions, and my dad taught me to be wise with my finances while also encouraging the pursuit of what I love. In fact, everyone in my life told me to pursue art in college, however I was the one who, at first, decided to go a different route. I didn’t want to ruin my love for art by making it a career. Eventually it was circumstances in college and the Holy Spirit that rerouted me.

I loved public speaking, teaching, and writing so I thought a communications degree made the most sense. My first year of college, I was a Communications major and LOVED it; but something was missing. I remember being in a group project where the graphic designer in my class volunteered to do the visual portion. In that moment, my heart sank and I realized I would never be satisfied without the visual creative aspect in my studies. In addition to this, as a Christian, I had been feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit saying “I created you to be an artist.” So after that first year, I switched my major to Visual Communication Design with a minor in Communications.

Throughout college and post-college, I knew I wanted to freelance in photography and graphic design, so I took a part-time job that enabled me to do that. As a barista I’ve been able to stay on my feet, have flexible scheduling for freelancing, and be around people. The variety in jobs really works for me right now.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

My mother. Most people agree that my mom is one of the most beautiful souls they’ve ever met. She is an angel and a superhero, being gentle, patient, kind, and strong. She is devoted to those she holds dear. I grew up homeschooled, and my mom worked tirelessly to drive all of us daughters to playdates, classes, and whatever else to make sure our lives were full. Her spiritual journey is fascinating, she is an avid reader, she intentionally prays for each of her kids, and she is always seeking to listen and learn. She has been vulnerable with me throughout my life, inviting me to also be vulnerable. She intentionally offers words of affirmation, is calculated in her thought, and is honest about her own shortcomings. She holds her daughters close, yet loose enough to let us flourish in adulthood. She mourns with our losses and celebrates our successes. Her love for taking care of children and helping them grow is beautiful and gentle, and her pursuit of gratitude has shaped me. She is present for anything I need or want to talk about, and her presence is often an invitation to “be” and know I am loved. She was the first person I truly felt unconditionally loved by, because in a dark season (which I share about later in the interview), she pursued my mind and soul and let me know she was a safe space for my thoughts. My mother is a beautiful human.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

It’s important to celebrate who we already are today because we never “arrive” in the future, and our worth doesn’t increase or decrease with time. Life is lived in the present. We don’t truly and authentically experience life if we’re always waiting to be something or somewhere else. That’s not to say longing is a bad thing, but there is a way in which to long that enables us to remain in the present. Our brain is built, wired, and rewired on our thought patterns, and if we consciously choose to celebrate who we are NOW, we train our brains to be healthy, confident, and centered in the present. In my opinion, one of the hardest and most beautiful parts about being alive is growing, and growth also involves accepting and celebrating ourselves in every season. When we cease to celebrate who we already are, we entertain narratives of not being enough, and these narratives spiral us into thought patterns of defeat and worthlessness. I believe we are fearfully and intentionally created, and so we ought to celebrate ourselves RIGHT NOW as we ARE, knowing we are enough in this moment. We are all in this human experience together, and we are ALL GROWING. So let’s celebrate it!

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

This interview found me in a season where my self talk was unusually rough. It’s since gotten back to where it once was (although we all have good and bad days). This never translated into self harm or anything, but my thoughts weren’t edifying. I’m someone who speaks about herself in an empowering way, but I hit a spot of defeat. This year has felt like one punch after another, and I’ve had many moments of giving up the internal fight. When life keeps dealing you the same bad cards, you lose the motivation to actively believe in your worth and you become so frustrated that your primary reaction is to let down your guards and channel it towards yourself. Even when you know better. However, at my core I’ve never fully shook my self-love. These seasons of discouragement don’t last and friends, self-determination, and the Holy Spirit help draw me out.

Recently I drew my knees up to my chest, wrapped my arms around my legs, and told myself I am worthy of love. It was comforting to slow down and choose to say this. I chose to see myself rather than blame myself. I realized how cruel I had been to my gentle yet strong being by entertaining negative thoughts towards her.

Also, during a season of heightened anxiety earlier this year, I chose to write down things I forgave myself for. That was an act of self-kindness.

I have also posted on instagram about this journey of negative self-talk, and there I listed positive things I believe about myself. I wrote that I am beautiful, powerful, sensitive, driven, funny, passionate, lovable, creative, thoughtful, and resilient. This action was not only empowering for me, but I invited others to leave empowering adjectives about themselves.

Regardless of the bad thought-life, when people have asked me how I am, I usually respond with, “A solid mix of a good and bad, but I’ve come to learn that’s life. A bad day shouldn’t paint the whole year as bad and a good day shouldn’t paint the whole year as good. A bad day also doesn’t negate all the good. Life is just messy.” I’d say that response is honoring and positive towards self.

I think when we love ourselves in a vulnerable, confident (but not self-obsessed) way, we invite others to lives of victory rather than defeat.

But in the ebbs and flows we must have grace on ourselves. Life is messy and hard.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

I think some women get caught up in a false sense of humility. There’s this narrative that floats around that it’s prideful to celebrate ourselves, but this simply is not true. We honor ourselves when we acknowledge our worth. There is a way to authentically celebrate ourselves without being self-centered but rather self-appreciating.

I also think some of this shying away from self-celebration is a repercussion of the societal critique of women.

Society attempts to suffocate the voices of women in numerous ways. For example: outspoken men are said to be strong leaders, but outspoken women are often labelled as “too much” or “too bossy.” It’s considered insulting to “cry like a girl.” If women show too much skin and sleep with multiple individuals, they are sluts, but men who sleep around are heroes. If a woman is raped, what she was wearing is brought up as a reason to excuse the aggression. Being weak is called being a “pussy” even though pussies are far from weak. Society lies in wait to critique women. However, I didn’t realize much of this until adulthood.

I grew up in a home that encouraged me to celebrate myself, and from a young age I did just that. Who you’re surrounded by can play a huge role in how you learn to think about yourself. However, in adulthood, I have experienced sexism directed towards me and others, and I’ve definitely walked away with some trauma. But I’ve also walked away with a deepened fire for female liberation. I’ve seen and experienced how society will try to tear a woman down, and I will stand against it.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

This is something I don’t personally struggle with. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to think highly of myself. Also, words of affirmation is probably my highest love language, so compliments tend to be well-received.

I also think there are multiple layers of value in receiving a compliment. If you don’t already believe the kind thing being said about yourself, it’s healthy to choose to receive it so you can begin to believe it. Receiving a compliment also honors the person giving it. If we reject a genuine, well-intentioned compliment it can tear down a moment that was intended to foster connection and encouragement. Now, I am NOT saying you have to receive all compliments (such as those that are sexist and/or uncalled for) but I am rather talking about genuine efforts of connection.

Regardless, we all have moments of insecurity. Just because accepting compliments isn’t difficult for me, doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced my fair share of insecurity in my life.

Some helpful things to keep in mind if you are struggling with accepting compliments or dealing with other insecurities:

1) remember that everyone has insecurities. The person complimenting you has insecurities. You deserve the compliment as much as the next person. Dare to accept it and believe it.

2) It’s a form of self-love to accept kind words directed towards you. This practice will help you build confidence and break negative thought patterns.

3) YOU HAVE VALUE. As a Christian, I believe humans are created in the image of God and therefore have a worth that cannot be stripped from them. Before God you are seen and fully loved at all times.

WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE TO TEACH YOU OR INSPIRE YOU TO FEEL THAT #YOUAREENOUGH?

Once again, my mom was absolutely my first female role model.  She has always told me I am enough. Even to this day she is very vocal about how highly she thinks of me, how proud she is of my growth, and how she learns from me. Early on in childhood, I experienced an overwhelming bout of darkness. I was consumed for many years by a mixture of demonic attack, anxiety, depression, a lack of understanding that I’m an Enneagram 4, forms of OCD (that I am now free from), and more. My mom played a vital role in drawing me out of myself and giving me an unconditional safe space to share. She would ask me to tell her what was going on in my mind and assure me, “Absolutely nothing you share will change my love for you.” When I’d speak, she would assure me I wasn’t a freak and in turn share from her own experiences. She played a vital role in making me into a person who values and promotes vulnerable healing.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

There is always some box society is trying to shove women into. From a young age, women are micromanaged with what we wear and what we do. Men’s sexuality is somehow our responsibility, leaving little room for ours. Women are often paid less, judged for wanting children or wanting to work, judged for how we look, etc. We can take this power back by changing our self talk, fighting for equality on all levels, surrounding ourselves with women (and men) who TRULY see us, respect us, stand with us, and build into us, and choosing to believe in ourselves and press on even when the world wants to tear us down.

ARE WE TOLD ENOUGH AS YOUNG GIRLS THAT #WEAREENOUGH? IF NOT, HOW CAN WE CHANGE THIS MESSAGING FOR YOUNG GIRLS TODAY?

Unfortunately, many are not. I was in a rare home where both my mother and father were continually communicating to me that I was loved and enough. But I do think a lot can be done in society, because as I said, this is not the experience of all women. I’m really sick of “gender stereotypes.” There is too much tailoring. There is a beautiful variety among women, and that should be celebrated. More room needs to be made to talk about female sexuality, the spectrum of masculinity and femininity in women, and how “being a woman” looks like a lot of different things. Language that we have long accepted also must be dismantled such as, “You throw like a girl!” We need to stop using phrasing that paints young girls as being “less-than” and instead start using intentional language that promotes equality.

WHAT WOULD YOU GO BACK AND TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF, TO ENCOURAGE SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-LOVE?

    1. You don’t have to give yourself such a hard time about so many things. YOU ARE ENOUGH outside of your own impossible standards. Some of these standards you have fabricated from being an Enneagram 4, but there are entire personality types that don’t hold themselves to these standards and they are still fine human beings. Give yourself a break.

 

  • Don’t live in nostalgia. You can visit it and experience it, but who you are is not tied to the people who come and go. They can hold special pockets in your heart and bring special aspects of you to the surface, but you can still be yourself without them.

  • You are not responsible for everyone else’s emotions. You can care about others while also not taking on their hardship as if it belongs to you. You can empathize without muting yourself.

  • Masturbate. I’m not promoting pornography, I actually think pornography does a lot of damage, but an understanding of masturbation can be healthy. It’s important to understand your body and respect its need for a sexual outlet.

 

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE NEED TO COMPETE WITH OTHER WOMEN COMES FROM? IS IT TAUGHT?

It’s definitely partially taught. From a young age, kids are comparing each other and being pretty vocal about it. These comparisons from others DO settle into your bones and create trauma at a young age REGARDLESS of the messages you are receiving of “being enough.” These comparisons can be felt in popularity contests among teenagers and in women feeling and fearing we aren’t beautiful enough. Young boys and girls rank each other in attraction, which leaves young girls feeling threatened by each other. There is, of course, an innate desire to be loved by others and found desirable, and I don’t think that’s a weakness as long as it’s balanced with contentment and confidence. I think that society still pushes that a woman’s worth is ultimately found in having a partner, and when comparison happens at any age, it’s a threat to that “happy ending,” so women compete and feel threatened.

In addition, women have to fight harder to be successful in the workforce, and so I think many see each other as a threat rather than an ally.

As women, choosing to celebrate each other’s successes is vital to tearing down unhealthy competition. I can really struggle with this one sometimes. It can be really hard to see others achieve goals that I’ve worked and longed for before I achieve them, but I can also tell you that it’s worth it to rejoice with others. We can give ourselves room to grieve, but when we ultimately choose to celebrate others the way we long to be celebrated, community is formed. In addition, it’s important to promote each other and not always be out for our own gain and attention. I can tell you, my closest circle of women authentically love and celebrate one another. We aren’t fueled by intimidation but rather authentically highlight one another.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

Because comradery between women is powerful in a world that wants to mute the female voice. In addition, self love rewires our brains and allows us to live our lives to their fullest. When we are focused on celebrating each other, we tear down walls and in their place build up community.

HOW ARE YOU TRYING TO KEEP YOUR SELF-ESTEEM UP IN THE MIDST OF THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS READING THIS?

When the pandemic first started, I was still receiving a paycheck from work, and I didn’t mind the change of pace. It allowed me to re-focus on other areas of my creativity and slow down. But as the year has gone on, my sadness has grown, and keeping self-esteem up has gotten more difficult. But I’m listening to what my body needs. I’m letting myself grieve the lost opportunities, relationships, and dreams for this year. I’m giving myself space to have no motivation some days, yet also continuing to pick myself up and take steps forward in my creativity and dreams. We can’t just collapse into the sadness forever, however we DO need to give ourselves room to let the pain breathe. This year looks different and messy for all of us, and that is OKAY. Give yourself grace, and when you think you should be done with that, give yourself some more grace. Also, community has gotten me through.

I have some truly phenomenal friends who have carried me through this year. I’ve had some real shit go down and people have risen to my aid and defense. My community is patient, kind, and fierce. We check in often and give each other space to be messy while also speaking hope into one another. I cannot stress enough how important community is right now and always. We are not built to do life alone, and the women in my life have made all the difference in this time. These women have defended me to myself, held me as I’ve wept, spoken hope into my hopelessness, and celebrated my successes. One friend broke her own “no-touching” COVID boundaries to run over to my home and hold me while I sobbed my heart out (don’t worry, we both remained healthy). These women have texted me through weeks of depression and sat with me no matter where I’m at. They have laughed with me and seen me for all I am–intricate, messy, and beautiful. They have spoken my worth back to me when I could barely see it. These women and I celebrate each other, encourage each other, and carry each other.

My advice to you: be patient with yourself. Grief shows up in many ways for many reasons.

Resist the cancel culture. Your life is not cancelled nor on hold. You are breathing and learning.

Find a safe community where you are seen and loved in your imperfection. We need outside voices. We need outside support. We need each other.