As people who identify as herbalists, herbal minded, gardeners, etc., we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to align with what we see as the acceptable version of our role. Many of us look at community leaders (i.e. people with huge IG followings) as role models and to inspire our own journeys. Just like most things involving social media, the package does not necessarily reflect the contents. We tend to put our best face forward in an effort to join the conversation or validate ourselves in some way. The reality is, this doesn’t do anyone any good.
There is so much to be learned and gleaned from sharing our actual path and current state of things. We are all human and part of that is accepting things do not always go according to plan, mistakes happen, we don’t know everything, and the plan can change whether we want it to or not.
Allow yourself to let go of artificial expectations. Here are my personal Top 10 things I feel are important to make peace with.
- to purchase herbs and flowers. You don’t need to grow or forage to make strong, powerful, impactful medicine. Yes, there is a beautiful connection when we are part of the process but that is not the only way to procure herbs. What is important is purchasing from reputable suppliers who are forthcoming with where there items are from, when they were harvested, and what their processing entails. Whether in-person or online, there are many options available that will result in powerful, potent, responsibly harvested herbal allies.
- to not know what every plant is. Plant identification is difficult and is something you are continuously learning. Find an app you like (I prefer iNaturalist), pick up some books (thrifted or new), and start learning. Pick one plant at a time and really dig in! No one knows what every plant is and how it is best utilized. Your best skill is not necessarily being able to identify a plant, it’s being able to use tools to identify plants and learn.
- to take over-the-counter medication or prescriptions. Sometimes we get sick, some of us live with chronic illness, and some of us have preferences outside of the natural healing world. No one would tell a diabetic to stop using insulin, that would be reckless. Instead of trying to completely convert to only natural items and remedies, find places where the pharmaceutical world and natural world can overlap. For example, if you are taking a prescription for an illness but experiencing nausea as a side effect, consider peppermint or ginger versus an over-the-counter nausea remedy. The biggest piece here is knowing your body and using what will bring you back to where you want to be. There’s no shame in taking care of yourself the best way you can with what you have.
- to not be sipping tea all the time. Tea is wonderful, beneficial, and accessible for the vast majority of us; however, not all tea is tasty. Hot or cold, loose or bagged, store bought or home blended, the options for tea are seemingly endless but that does not mean you have to like it. We all have tastes and preferences and for some of us, tea doesn’t make the cut. Just because you don’t walk around Trader Joe’s with a mason jar of tea from your garden doesn’t mean you’re any less of an herbalist, Earth advocate, or natural wellness lover.
- to eat what you like. Okay, so, maybe fast food and white wine everyday isn’t a healthy decision, but it’s your decision. It’s much more important to learn your body and what makes it feel good and work best. Don’t pressure yourself to adhere to any specific diet or restrict yourself in the name of peer pressure. Make the decision that is right for you.
- if herbalism is not your life. Presumably if you’re reading this, herbalism is a part of your life in one way or another. It is wonderful to explore herbalism and should always be celebrated. What should not be celebrated is the push to have herbalism be your whole life. For me, I work a typical full-time job and run my herbal business; these worlds coexist! Whether you’re working towards a life dedicated to herbalism or simply enjoy blending tea in your kitchen, what matters most is when you do engage in herbalism you do so with a a full heart and clear intentions.
- to wear what is comfortable. There’s probably memes about what an herbalist looks like that might give us a chuckle but there is also part of us that might question if we look like an herbalist. Spoiler alert: there is no herbalist uniform! You get to wear your own clothes, style (or not) your own hair, pick out your own shoes, and accessories as you see fit. I often have felt like I wasn’t ‘dressed the part’ and it can completely make you feel like the black sheep. What I’ve come to learn is that the more I am genuine, the more comfortable I am and the less I worry about the perception of others. This can be a huge obstacle to overcome but I promise you can get there.
- to not click with other herbalists. Just like any other part of life, there are some people that you might not click with. That’s okay. As long as you still treat others with respect and dignity while refraining from saying or doing anything disparaging, there is nothing wrong with not being a good fit. The more important thing here is being comfortable with moving away from things that don’t feel good and moving towards things that do feel good. Relationships can change over time and that’s okay too. Know who you are and a better fit will naturally come along.
- to want to be part of a community. As humans we all crave some form of connection. While you may not always feel like you have found your group yet, its is completely natural to want to connect with others. Whether it be to share what you know, learn from someone else, or just have a safe place to converse. You don’t have to know everything, you don’t have to have all your ducks in a row, and you don’t have to go at it alone. Reaching out can be transformative and you never know who you might meet or what you might learn.
- to be a solitary practitioner. For many of us, especially those who embrace a spiritual component of herbalism, we are not always ready or comfortable to talk about our work, experiences, or desires. The good news is, you don’t have to! You can talk as much or as little about any aspect of your life with any person you choose. There is nothing wrong with covering your car with herbal bumper stickers and reposting every herbal article you find just as much as there is nothing wrong with keeping your practice to yourself. This can be a finicky dance and you might find yourself talking more with some people and less with others. We all worry about how people will react to what he have to say and share so if you’re nervous, it’s okay skip it. When the moment is right, you’ll know.
It is not easy to be comfortable with who we are. We all struggle with our identify and navigating social expectations. Every time you set away from the pressures to be someone or something you allow yourself to be who you truly are, which is divine, beautiful, and precisely perfect.
Love & light, Kristen