Why self-nourishment is key to the notion of a whole world

In Wish Tree, self-nourishment is key to living and leading in integrity in our changemaker service. It is also one of the 4 pillars of our self-leadership model, anchored in a vision of wholeness.

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Emily Johnsson
Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

In the early days of being a changemaker, I wasn’t operating sustainably. Or consciously. And especially not regeneratively.

I burned the candle at both ends, placing other people’s needs before my own. I depleted my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources, said yes when I meant no, no when I meant yes and I had few or no boundaries. I did so because in the family dynamics of my life, I learned that safety meant making sure other people were happy and had their needs met. So I rescued, fixed, saved and pleased, proved and perfected myself through life and work.

Needless to say, I came to the brink of complete exhaustion many times.

Maybe you know this feeling too.

The epidemic of stress, overwhelm, anxiety and burn-out – symptoms of the hungry ghost of capitalism’s grind culture – has become a way of life that we have normalised as simply ‘how the world works’. Now and again we might ask ourselves what we can do to help ourselves ‘manage’ the relentlessness of the high-speed train of production and sharp deadlines. But what if we got off the train altogether?

Self-nourishment goes beyond self-care: it is about building a solid relationship with ourselves by making sure our whole self feel seen and heard and have their needs met.

Self-nourishment goes hand in hand with our personal healing journey around not feeling enough, knowing that we don’t have to earn our right to be here, thinking we need to be perfect or contort ourselves in the name of belonging.

When we become intentional about self-nourishment, we come to address our unhelpful patterns, learn to listen to ourselves, practise self-compassion and say yes and no in the right places.

Today I understand self-nourishment as interrupting all forms of degenerative ways of existing. Today I know self-nourishment as becoming intentional stewards of ourselves. Guardians of the living systems we are.

It is an art-form that asks of us to practise listening deeply to the intelligence of our internal guidance system, and allowing it to lead the way.

Saying yes to choosing to look after ourselves well means creating space and time to cultivate a healthy relationship with our inner world (thoughts, emotions, grief, anger, self-talk, trauma) and our physical body (and how those emotions are stored here), so that we can be healthy in every part of our being, and even thrive. This is also when we come to operate with real integrity.

Engaging in self-nourishment doesn’t always feel comfortable, even though it supports us deeply and our resilience long-term.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

🌱Saying yes to feeling all our feelings, including grief

🌱Coming to know that we are imperfect and enough and that there is room for growth

🌱Embracing play & our creative expression

🌱Practising gratitude, receiving & feeling abundant even in the midst of challenge

🌱Sharing ourselves authentically, in our true colours

🌱Saying yes to interdependent relationships where we allow ourselves to be seen, heard and held

🌱Stillness and slowing down

🌱Ritual

🌱Developing our connection to Nature

And much much more.

I’ve learned over the years that as changemakers, our first responsibility is to ourselves. Not in a self-centered, individualistic, me-myself-and-I way.

No. At the heart of changemaking is taking radical responsibility for becoming a healthy, regenerative cell in the great web of life. Not a parasitic one that ‘thrives’ on the expense of others, but simply a healthy one, that supports and receives support from the whole ecosystem in interdependent ways.

In essence, self-nourishment is about honouring the life force energy that flows through us and connects us with everything and everyone else across all timelines.

And that means that through the act of looking after and leading ourselves well, we evoke ripples of wholeness across our world.

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What is Wholeness? Embracing the fullness of life in all directions

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Emily Johnsson | November 25, 2023
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About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

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