The world doesn’t want you to know this, but we are all a work in progress. And that’s a gift.
Meet Julia Marie Hogan Werner, a therapist, author and speaker whose mission is to help cultivate a greater sense of purpose in people’s lives. Through her Vita Optimum Counseling and Consulting practice, she has helped others live life more authentically by keeping faith at the forefront.
Her first book, “It’s OK to Start with You” (OSV, $14.95), focuses on self-care and provides tangible tips for actually implementing it into your life. In her most recent book, “A Work in Progress: Embracing the Life God Gave You” (OSV, $15.95), which was released this past spring, Julia uses psychological research along with real-life examples to help the reader gain confidence in the direction of their life as well as a greater sense of purpose. A fulfilling life is possible, and in this book Julia offers helpful tools and practical steps to help you embrace your life with joy!
We had the privilege to ask Julia some questions about her book and what advice she would give to women learning they are a work in progress. Here are her words of wisdom.
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Radiant: This book is all about rediscovering your identity in Christ and living life with intention. What is the number one thing to know when it comes to our identity, and how does worthiness play a part in that?
Julia Marie Hogan Werner: The most important thing to know when it comes to our identity is that our identity is rooted in being created in the image and likeness of God, and because he created and loved us, we are worthy. It’s easy to get distracted from this reality and think we need to somehow prove our worthiness, when, in fact, our worth comes solely from the fact that God loves us. When we remember our worth is given to us, we no longer have to waste our time and energy trying to prove we are enough. Instead, we can focus on discerning God’s will for us and cultivating the gifts he has given us.
Radiant: I love your honest acknowledgement of how it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and think we missed the boat on having a “successful, happy and fulfilled life.” I think sometimes the struggle can come from different definitions of the word “success.” What would you say is the best way to think about being “successful”?
Julia: I think a great alternative definition of success would be knowing your purpose and intentionally living it out on a daily basis. This definition of success has nothing to do with the size of your paycheck, type of job you have, location or size of your home, or even your relationship status.
Radiant: Galatians 2:20 reads, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” As Christians we strive to know, love and serve God, but how do we actively let Christ live through us?
Julia: I believe God created each one of us intentionally with a specific combination of talents, gifts, personality traits, etc., and that he calls us to use these gifts to grow in holiness and to bring his message to those we encounter in our lives. When you know your purpose, it becomes easier to find ways to spread God’s love to those he put in your life.
Radiant: It can be so easy to think of self-care as a 10-minute brain break on the couch scrolling through our phone. What are your tips for practicing healthy, nurturing self-care, rather than numbing out the world through distraction.
Julia: I define self-care as any practice that promotes your physical, emotional, mental, spiritual or relational well-being. An easy way to figure out if something qualifies as self-care is to ask yourself, “Is this action going to help me become a better version of myself?” If it is, then go for it! For example, going to bed on time isn’t glamorous and can sometimes be a real struggle, but you will likely be a better version of yourself tomorrow morning when you wake up well-rested instead of being sleep-deprived and irritable.
Radiant: How does setting boundaries (whether related to emotions, relationships, physical well-being, energy or time) lead to freedom and a more joyful life?
Julia: There is so much to say about boundaries, but they are a really important part of living a meaningful life because they help us direct our time and energy toward the things that are important to us. God asks us, using prayers and the tools he has given us, to discern what the best course of action is in a situation. He doesn’t want us to live life like a human doormat where we feel like we have to say yes to something without any freedom in our yes. Setting boundaries helps us say yes to those things that are in line with living a meaningful life, and they help us say no to those things that aren’t with confidence. Setting and maintaining boundaries can take a lot of practice, and our culture doesn’t always value it, but stick with it and you will start to see how helpful they can be.
Radiant: You talk about how embracing the life God gave us requires identifying our talents and gifts. How do we begin to honestly and humbly identify our strengths?
Julia: In my book, I write about how an easy way to start identifying your strengths is to ask the people in your life whom you trust and who know you well to share the strengths they see in you. It can be hard to notice our own good qualities because we often spend a lot of time identifying our “flaws” instead. But the people in our support network are often able to offer a more objective view of our strengths. Poll your support network and you might be surprised by the positive things they have to say.
Radiant: Why is it so important to remember we are a work in progress and not expect instant results?
Julia: I think this really is the secret ingredient to letting go of so many of the false expectations that hold us back from really diving into life. Remembering we will always be a work in progress can be a very freeing realization. It frees us from expecting perfection from ourselves and others every waking moment. It frees us from comparing ourselves to others and always feeling like we fall short. And it frees us from the faulty assumption that we are better than everyone else. We all make mistakes, and we are all trying to figure out the best way to live our lives. When we remember that there is always something new to learn, always something new to work on, and always something to learn about ourselves, being a work in progress doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, does it?