The Next Chapter
It’s funny how sometimes we end up creating for others what we need the most.
The Layers Project was born because I needed to say out loud that my life was imperfect and messy.
That I was struggling and complicated– but also that it was OK to live an imperfect life.
I felt that the messages I was receiving from my community were that I had to be the perfect mother, wife, professional, balabusta– had to have a great body, job, health, and home– that somehow it was reasonable to be expected to be and have all those things at the same time. I couldn’t juggle it all.
Frankly, I didn’t think it was reasonable to expect that anyone could.
When I finally said that out loud, so many of you agreed with me.
I was emboldened to then look deeper at my own life and find the blessings woven within the pain.
I uncovered my own resilience and created The Layers Project so that other women could showcase their strength and resilience too.
Looking back, I did it because it was a message that I needed to hear over and over again.
My life over the last five years since I started this work has been difficult. I haven’t always been well. Life, like for so many, has been messy.
I was in a place where what I needed to do was just keep going.
Keep balancing the pain with the good stuff and keep finding the strength to keep moving on.
I dragged myself through every milestone, project, and endeavor because I just didn’t want to give up on myself and the things I wanted to do; the person I wanted to be.
The resilience you all have shared and offered on this platform strengthened me. It wasn’t the other way around- you all gave me the purpose to keep seeing myself through that lens.
You all reminded me that I had what it took to keep my chin up and keep living through the complications of life.
There are no words to thank you all for the gift of inspiration you have given me.
But then something this past year changed. I experienced a different kind of growth.
I decided that the way that I needed to move past my constant struggle with perfectionism was to do the opposite. It was to develop self-compassion. To love myself through struggle. To try to embrace myself wholly, without judgment. To seek what nourishes me- and when it came, to be open to accepting it.
This was the next chapter of the work that I need to do for myself.
This is the next chapter of the work that I want to put out into the world. So I read and processed. I learned from leaders in the field. I spoke with friends and family about what self-compassion really meant to them. How it manifested for other people. I practiced being gentle with myself. I am finding it to be an ever-evolving practice.
We are on a journey together as a community.
Where we can be present for our pain, our joys, and the blessings of simply living.
Where we can find strength in resilience but also nourish ourselves through self-compassion. I want to be in a place where not only can we own our stories but love ourselves through them.
So I’m committing to changing my internal dialogue and my work language too. Now, I ask myself, “How can I love myself through this?”Now I am asking the same question to you. What were moments in your life where you loved yourself through struggle?I want to hear your stories and the kindness you offered yourself. Maybe it’s a new language for you too- can you think back on those times and offer yourself compassion now?
What is it that you would say to yourself now looking back on your life?
Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.
She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.
She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.
Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.
Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.