Eat Pray Love: Lessons in Self-Discovery and Judgment

I admit it, when I read the book Eat, Pray, Love I loved it. Last weekend I went to see the movie Eat, Pray, Love and I loved that too, but in a different way.  Frankly I could leave it at that and say I’ve been deeply moved by both these pieces of creative work.  Yet there is something far bigger and important going on here with the release of the movie that can’t just be swept under the rug.  Two very important lessons…

At its core the book and the movie are about giving yourself permission to honor yourself and live fully without guilt. Take the time and space to get to know yourself deeply and make choices that align with who you really are.  While many critics call the scene where Julia Roberts (who plays Elizabeth Gilbert the main character and author of the book) demands “I used to have this appetite for my life and it is just gone. I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something.” as self-indulgent; I ask, when did it become a crime to want to be alive in your one precious life?  Much like the character in the movie, most women haven’t given themselves two weeks, heck two days to solely attend to what they really want and who they really want to be in this lifetime beyond just the titles and roles they carry.

As Megan Smith shares in her post Eat Pray Love and Julie Roberts: Almost a Winning Combination”:

I have to admit, though, I was touched by Eat Pray Love because of issues I’m grappling with in my own life: Am I making the right choices, going in the right direction, living my life instead of just letting my life happen to me?

All questions we, especially we women, should be asking ourselves more often.

Think about it — when was the last time you asked yourself…got quiet…got in touch with your heart, and asked:

  • Who do I really want to be in my life?
  • What is my definition of success?
  • What are some of the things I want to experience in this lifetime (And, do you have a plan in place to turn them from fantasy to reality?)?
  • Am I really alive in my life or just passing through without much engagement?

If these questions are strangers to you, use the movie, the book, the conversations surrounding it as permission to begin that inner inquiry. You owe it to yourself.  Remember – you get to do it your way — this story is just one woman’s journey edited for publication and the silver screen.  The important thing is that you begin.  Create your own eat, pray, love story. Get support if you need to, just do it!

So why will millions of women who watched the movie or read the book never take barely one step toward their own journey?

Because of the second biggest lesson to be learned here.

The movie release drives home one of the biggest impediments to real-life everyday women making powerful choices to honor their authentic self – the harsh judgment of others. I realize this is a movie and critics get paid to kvetch about things but it seems particularly, well, biting and personal.

“Do the Work” they say. It’s like belonging to a narcissistic subculture of Woo-Woo. This is a movie about a self-obsessed woman.  It goes on and on…  Of course no one ever mentions the character’s heartfelt sharing of American culture with her Italian friends or raising $18,000 for the Balinese woman Wayan. Apparently those are just incidentals.

Now I’m not saying the movie is perfect nor am I saying there aren’t things I personally would change about it (like way too much footage devoted to the rebound boyfriend and not enough focus on the struggles and hard work Liz Gilbert spoke about deeply in her book), but the nature of a designated time frame to focus on self-discovery is by its very nature self-focused!  The REAL work involved with self-discovery wouldn’t exactly translate to the big screen – tell me how many people would like to watch someone return to morning meditation (in its entirety) day in and day out? I know my personal practice would bore the viewer to tears yet it is an integral part of my life.

What makes me sad is that millions of women will go home and think – well that was a great escape, but I can’t make a change, people might call me selfish.  Whereas the real gift from all this harsh criticism is to know that no matter what choices you make – some people are going to agree and like what you do, and some are not. Period end of story.  So when you find yourself feeling guilty or worried about taking time or investing in yourself to discover the best choices for your life, career, and business… feel it and then just drop it (like Richard from Texas in the movie might say).

You deserve the time and space to get in touch with your deepest longings and it is your birthright to make empowered choices that align with the life YOU most want to create.  The rest?  The critics?  It’s all just noise…allow it to be there, but don’t let it stop you from making the most of your own life.

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