Reflections of Life produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Hayley Manson, Sam Althaus, Peter van Straten, Jan Terje Edmundsson, and Laura Manson.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Video Transcript

Hayley Manson: Life has no inherent meaning. We are the ones that bring meaning to our lives.

We are not just our identification with our jobs, or what we look like, or our bodies. We’re so much more than that.

Sam Althaus: We are not our birth certificates. We are not the identities our parents have put on us. We are individual, beautiful, powerful, magical, creative beings. We just have to find our power again. And for me, the primary thing that will change that is self love.

Hayley Manson: We really, really are our own worst critics and quite cruel and mean to ourselves. We start to question ourselves, doubt ourselves. I think that was me. I hit a point in my life where I couldn’t go on any further. It was really quite painful. I had to come up against a lot of self criticism and judgement. It felt like a dark night of the soul.

Peter van Straten: The most dreadful thing in life for me ever has been those few times when I was younger when I was not friends with myself, which then means you’re in solitary confinement. For at least 80 years or something, you are pretty much stuck with yourself and that relationship needs to work.

Jan Terje Edmundsson: There is a fairytale which Hans Andersen wrote about the ugly ducklings. When I was younger, I used a lot of time thinking about what others might be thinking of me. And I saw myself as the ugly duckling among my friends. And it took such a long time to find myself and to look in my eyes and say, ‘You are good enough.’

The process of accepting oneself is a normal process which starts by itself inside of your soul when you are ready for it.

Hayley Manson: It’s a process, and it’s a beautiful one. There’s always more to be discovered. There’s always more layers. Each time I revisit a part of myself I have a different relationship with that tricky aspect. It doesn’t mean there’s a part of myself that isn’t still critical. It just means when that part shows up I know how to handle it, I know how to have a dialogue with it.

Jan Terje Edmundsson: I just want to be who I am…a real man, not a fake man. A real man is a man who stands up for who he is and accepts himself for who he is. And most of all, I think a real man is a man who understands himself.

Hayley Manson: The more that we can embrace and bring back into the home of our heart to be loved, the more whole we are, the more we can just be ourselves. Just learning to accept yourself the way you are and let yourself express no matter what that’s going to look like. And to not care, to not give a damn…to do it anyway.

Peter van Straten: We are all a bit touched. And it’s about how much courage or the lack of fear that you have with allowing the more exotic elements of yourself to display themselves or whether you have a terror of that.

One wishes everyone could express themselves more freely and without fear of censure or needing others to OK everything you do.

Laura Manson: Trying to become what other people think I should be is not who I am. That’s not the greatest gift that I can give to the world. The greatest gift that I can give to the world is to be 100% authentic Laura. Now that may mean that that comes with some messiness sometimes, some tears, some joy, some fieriness. But that is the gift that I am.

Hayley Manson: Our authentic creative expression is so unique to us that if you don’t learn or find a way to express your uniqueness, that will never be seen in the world. It will never be expressed. And it will die with you, unexpressed. Because it can only come through you in your own special way.

Laura Manson: I am aware that I just need to live my life in a way that its really clear to other people around me what I believe in. I believe in connecting with human beings and trying to love each and every person as much as I can.

Hayley Manson: If we want to live an open hearted, loving, compassionate life then those doors of your heart have to be opened up again. Otherwise we’re isolated and alone. When you start to belong to yourself, to your own heart and your own life, then you start to have compassion for others. It enables me to love the people around me more deeply, in a more real way.

Jan Terje Edmundsson: I don’t feel like an ugly duckling today. I am extremely happy to finally say, ‘Jan Terje, you are who you are and you are good enough.’

Laura Manson: Throughout my life I’ve realized that the very, very best me that I can be is just who I am. I cannot be a better Laura than to just be my essential self.

Sam Althaus: We have to learn to love ourselves. We have to learn to be really, really good to ourselves. We need a revolution. And the revolution needs to start from our own self worth.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

Reflections of Life

Reflections of Life

About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at