Beacons of Badassery is an interview series shining light on strong women.
After spending most of my life trying to prove that I’m strong enough to be one of the guys, I’ve realized that instead of trying so hard to fit a certain expectation, we should be redefining what it actually means to be strong.
These women are doing just that.
Beacon of Badassery: Steph Jagger
Before I even finished reading Steph Jagger’s book, Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, I messaged her to say that it was amazing and asked if she would be willing to be featured in this series. She responded almost immediately with a resounding “Yes!”
As soon as I actually finished the book, I was even more excited to ask this Beacon of Badassery some questions about her journey around the world to ski 4 million vertical feet in one year.
But, really, Unbound is not about skiing at all. It’s Steph’s story about being courageous enough to dig deep and figure out what’s holding you back, then being strong enough to let all of that go.
What is your definition of strong? How has it changed, especially since you fully embraced your femininity?
My definition of strength has most definitely changed. I used to think of it like this: Let me armor up, run out into the world guns blazing, charge through whatever and whoever I need to, and get as much shit done as humanly possible. Work hard, play even harder, and then get back to work and go absolutely fucking bananas. That was strength. My definition is very different today – it is more like this: Let me drop every ounce of my armor and ask myself how will I best, with my unique skills, strengths and talents, be of service to this world. That might involve me moving very fast and it might involve me moving very slow, but it will always involve me doing it with as little armor as possible.
Now that some time has passed since your journey, do you find the “goddess” and “warrior” parts of you to be integrated into your identity, or do you still sometimes struggle with being both at once?
I feel as though they’re integrated. As I mentioned above, it depends on the speed (aka energy) I’m being called on to use/operate at. I use the goddess to sink in, to discover what needs to happen, to tap intuition and move the big immoveable things and I use the warrior to make a lot of that happen in a more tangible sense.
A good example would be something like this: I have a new program I’ve just launched called The Great Big Journey, and as we’re in the “sign-up” stage, I spend a bit of time at various points of the day imagining the woman who this program will help. I imagine her at her desk or on a walk somewhere and I think about all the shifts this program will create for her. I tap into the goddess energy to do that. And then, because actual things need to happen in the real and tangible world, I’ll go sit at my desk and write emails to the people who have popped into my mind, or type our an Instagram post promoting the program. I use the warrior energy to move that stuff into the world.
In essence, I pray and tap into goddess intuition and then I use my sword (AKA my pen or my keyboard) to cut the trail required to get there.
During your journey, you started hearing a voice that turned out to be your own. (Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? Elizabeth Gilbert learned to literally listen to her own voice, too, which parallels your experience). You also followed your intuition when you started to dig yourself into avalanche danger. Lots of advice is given to “listen to your voice” or “follow your intuition” but I find they are often used interchangeably. How do you think your inner voice is different from your intuition?
I think your inner voice is part of intuition but not the only part. Intuition can come in the form of your inner voice, but it can also come as sounds you hear (things that “ring a bell”), and feelings (shivers, goosebumps, or that rising falling feeling in your gut), or it can be visions (a dream perhaps, or that “I swear we’ve met before, you look SOOO familiar to me” experience). Intuition can also be a knowing or an energetic feeling.
I feel like our inner voices are part intuition, part deep internal connection to our truth and authenticity, and part connect to source – God, a higher power, our best future self, etc.
You knew you had to continue your journey, even when you didn’t know how it would turn out and you wanted to stay in the embrace of Chris’ (then-boyfriend, now-husband) support, because you compared giving up to an artist abandoning a creation just as the best work was emerging. You also saw similarities in finishing your journey to your sister giving birth. How do you recognize when you’re at a moment in your life where you need to keep going and push harder?
I think it has to do with flow. If I feel there’s a natural flow and just a little further to go…I keep going, push harder. If I feel there’s not a flow and perhaps it’s my ego (or fear) that’s attached to the outcome, I stop. Easy as pie. For me it’s almost always one or the other.
Obviously, you had to do the big work of transformation on your own, but you were also guided, encouraged and supported by so many people along the way, from Chris, who helped you in a multitude of ways, including showing you how to appreciate the beauty and power of your femininity, to Tree, who cleared space for you to break down, to all the friends who provided you places to stay, fantastic food, lots of drinks, and, of course, camaraderie and companionship. In my own life, I often marvel at the miraculousness of meeting the people I needed at certain points along the way. How do you think The Universe works to put these people in our path?
Ha! I have no idea. The Universe has the answer to that one I think. These guides though are an inherent part of our Hero’s Journey. Because I’m not the master of the Universe, I’m not clued into the exact reasons they’re there but I have FULL FAITH that they are and will be. You know the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I believe that to be VERY VERY true. How it all happens is a magical mystery to me but I think it has to do with some asking in us (consciously or unconsciously). I believe there’s some part of us that’s saying, “Show me? Bring me a teacher?” and the Universe is simply answering that asking.
I’m enamored with your concept of courageous living, which you say “doesn’t happen with one toe in the water, but when we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.”I have found that, at times in my life, that I felt like I was jumping in, but then I just jumped right back out. Do you have any advice on how to know if you’re just testing the waters or if you did indeed dive in headfirst? And how do you stay in the juice when the process of pickling gets uncomfortable?
Okay…I’m gonna need about three hours and a bottle of fine cabernet to answer this one. First of all, I do think we need to full submerge. This shit doesn’t happen when we’ve got one foot in and one foot out. That said, I’m not too tied to the methodology of how we get in the water. You could start with a toe, pull out and do it over and over again until you slip in. You could dive. You could wade with your arms high up in the arms and then count to three for a full dunk. I don’t care how you get in or how long it takes you to get in but you gotta get in. Once you’re there, we move to the staying in part. It’s a choice. There’s discomfort on either side. You could get out and start walking laps around the pool again until your feet bleed…but at least you know the pool deck (there’s comfort in that familiarity), and you know there’s a lifeguard (what could feel safer than that?!?). But your fucking feet are bleeding. OR you could stay in the juice. This is where faith comes in. Faith that you’re being guided. Faith that guides will show up for you. Faith that there’s something different than bleeding feet on the other side. There’s no comfort and no safety…only the comfort and safety one finds at the root of their faith. That takes some time to build up.
So my advice is choice. You get to choose – faith in the unknown or the safety and familiarity of bleeding feet.
So grateful to Steph for taking the time to answer these questions – and for sharing her story in the form of such a fantastic book.
Obviously, I highly recommend Unbound! Get your own copy & find out more about Steph Jagger at stephjagger.com!
*I’m in no way affiliated with Steph or the book, I just think she’s awesome!