The Lessons of Eat Pray Love
Posted by egehl on February 14, 2011
It has been a few years since I read the book, and after recently seeing the movie I was reminded again why the storyline has resonated so deeply with me and millions of other women. Eat Pray Love exploded into cataclysmic popularity for a reason—it struck a powerful chord and unearthed common threads of joy, pain, loss, renewal and the insecure struggle to follow our hearts that we all endure.
Now that I’ve read the book and watched the film, I keep thinking about why the characters and plot have been so popular worldwide and what nerve did they hit? It seems to me that when women universally rally behind something it’s usually because it’s touched upon something that’s not being talked about or remains suppressed in our societal dialogue.
Very similar to the huge female following and response to Sex and the City, which empowered women to talk openly and honestly about relationships and sex, Eat Pray Love uncovered a popular emotion and angst among women about loving and getting to know ourselves, following our passions and happiness, facing our fears and taking a leap of faith, and figuring out what we really want in life.
Just like Sex and the City ripped away society’s taboo about female sexuality, I think similarly Eat Pray Love uncovered a universal desire that women crave to discover our truths and to find the courage to follow them.
Stories and characters in Sex and the City and Eat Pray Love forced a conversation among women, and between women and their partners, about the relationships we have with ourselves and each other. And ultimately how those relationships can lead us closer to, or stray us away from, true happiness and why we continually find ourselves in a perpetual state of self-exploration.
All women at some point second guess their decisions, ruminate about their current life status or try to resolve what’s missing in their lives. However as women we often never talk openly about it. In my experience, many women love putting forth a mask of perfection and will paint an ideal picture for everyone to admire to keep up whatever pretense that seems acceptable. Many of us rarely discuss what’s really happening behind closed doors for fear of being judged, having our actions and thoughts called into question, or opening up the possibility of doubts being planted.
Unfortunately that has its price and Liz Gilbert in her amazing journey busts all of that open as she lets us into her very personal journey of self discovery through a period of intense depression, guilt and doubt but eventually crossing over to a place where she finally finds peace, self-love and balance.
I have read mostly positive reviews of Eat Pray Love, but there are some negative ones too. The negativity usually stems around how she acted in a narcissistic way by leaving her husband for no real reason, and how unrealistic it is for someone to have the financial means and freedom to travel for a year. Granted, 99% of people cannot experience the full extent of Liz’s adventures, but I don’t think that was her point in writing this book. She wrote this book for her own breakthrough, not to pronounce that travel is the only way to seek spiritual renewal and self-discovery. That is what worked for her and while travel is a wonderful way to find yourself, it isn’t the only way.
What people should gain and come away with isn’t to follow exactly what Liz did, but to seek your own pathway to self-love and inner peace. Because as women no matter what life stage we are in, what responsibilities we have or decisions we’ve made, it’s imperative that we must not be idle in what should be an ongoing journey of self-discovery.
I don’t think you have to travel to a far off land to ruminate and gauge the various things happening in your life. There are many ways to find avenues for serenity, spirituality and self-learning here at home. Whatever brings you peace and clear-headedness, whether that’s a yoga class, meditation, walk in a park, swim in a pool or writing in a journal, do more of it. I believe you can discover the same “aha” moments Liz had in your own backyard.
Overall what I hope women take away from this story, beyond the wonderful scenery and backdrop, idyllic romance and fabulous characters along the way, is that each of us has the responsibility for our own well-being and ultimate happiness. It’s easy to fantasize about having a spiritual retreat and traveling around the world like Liz, but underneath all of that was the incredibly strenuous, honest and painful mirror she had to look into everyday to reach the sense of peace and understanding she so desperately sought. It is our responsibility to figure that out in whatever shape or form that looks like. And if we take the time to experience that enlightening, sometimes very painful, journey the payoffs will be rewarding and long lasting.