The New York Times recently published an article titled, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” Languishing isn’t quite depression, it’s more like lacking forward momentum, feeling stagnant or stuck, like walking in a muddy creek only for your boots to get sucked into the mire. It isn’t that you’re really stuck, like David in Psalm 69, water up to your neck. It’s more like David in Psalm 40—you could pull your feet out of your boots yourself, but it’d be nice to have a helping hand to haul you out.
That’s languishing. After a year of basic survival, when all we’ve really been able to do is get through the day, it can be challenging to reignite forward momentum. Where is the sense of purpose we used to have? Did we ever have it?
For me personally, this year has brought substantial health and career changes, changes so dramatic that even aspects of my personality seem rewired. I used to know who I was and what I was all about, but now all of that has changed. Who am I now?
If you’re feeling all the feels around languishing, Emily Ley’s most recent book, Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love could be the helping hand you’ve been looking for to help you pull out of the muck and mire.
Growing Boldly by Emily Ley
Ley lets you know how this is going to go from the first words of her introduction. “Hi, friends. Let’s kick this book off with a gut check. How are you? Like, how are you really?” This isn’t going to be a shallow, get-to-know-you lunch date, ladies. It’s time to dig in and figure out what you’re made of and how you can live your fullest life right now, boldly aligning who you are on the inside with who you are and what you do on the outside.
As the founder of Simplified, a popular brand of beautiful planners and organizational tools for women, Ley has designed an inspiring book that is just plain pretty to look at, even before you begin reading. If this year or life in general has left you feeling unmoored and unsure who you are, what you’re about, or why you’re here, Ley provides an aesthetically pleasing reading experience that incorporates practical prompts to guide you through self-rediscovery.
It’s kind of like revisiting the first grade “All About Me” project, only this time, you’re grown, and maybe that personal self-reflection doesn’t come as easily as it did when you were six. It’s okay. It’s time to put into words exactly who you are and what you want to be, now that you’re all grown up.
BUILD: An Acronym for Propelling Yourself Out of the Mire
Growing Boldly is divided into five sections that form the acronym “BUILD”:
B: Believe in Who You Are, and Whose You Are
U: Utilize What You Have
I: Imagine the Life You Dream Of
L: Love People Well
D: Do What Matters, Forget the Rest
“The secret to being successful (and, if you ask me, happy) is figuring out who you are and embracing it,” writes Ley. Philosophers throughout the ages echo this same sentiment. From the ancient Greek aphorism to “know thyself” to Descartes’ declaration, “I think, therefore I am” to Emerson’s claim, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” humanity has held the pursuit of self-knowledge in high esteem.
For Christians, this pursuit is rooted in knowing who we are in Christ. That’s exactly where Emily Ley begins her guided tour of growing boldly. God told the nation of Israel through Isaiah,
“But now, this is what the Lord says—Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
You are His. Knowing that you are a child of God gives you a foundation and an identity that embeds purpose in how you were made and who you’ve become, knowing that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV). When we build from this foundation, we can be confident in all of the unique ways God has designed us and grow boldly out of that design.
“Do you ever feel like you’ve fallen out of step, like something is off, and you’re not sure what to do next?” writes Ley (and all of humanity nods vigorously YES). “I believe this is the Holy Spirit whispering gently to us, inviting us to be still for just a moment and to realign with God’s calling for our lives. This nudge asks us to identify what truly lights our hearts on fire, where things feel off, and what those intuitions might be telling us about where God needs us to be.”
That is the gift after the storm of the past year: as the waters recede and the tide goes out, there might be a lot of wreckage we have to navigate. Some of what we did before our pandemic year is lost forever. Some of what we were holding onto before was best let go. Changed feet pad the sand and survey the driftwood for what’s worth saving. Have you noticed It’s quiet in the aftermath of a storm?
Maybe the languishing we’re feeling right now is an opportunity to tune our ears for a word from the Holy Spirit. Maybe the languishing we’re feeling right now is a chance to change boots and stop walking in the mire altogether. Maybe “that is the Holy Spirit leading you down a path that may not make sense at first but has the power to unfold into something incredible one day.”
If you’re looking for an inspirational, motivating, and just plain beautiful book to help you reclaim footing after a difficult year, Emily Ley’s Growing Boldly is a fine guide for navigating a way out of languishing.