It was 2009, and I was about three quarters of the way through my first year as an assistant principal, when I received a letter from the district saying that the funding for my position had been cut and and I was going to be placed back in a teaching position at the start of the next school year. At the very bottom of the letter was a line that said something to the effect of, “If you do not agree with this decision, you can request a meeting to present your case.”
After I showed my principal the letter, he urged me NOT to request a meeting, and that things would turn out okay in the end.
My mind raced with things like,
The hell with that. This is completely unfair. Two years ago when they closed schools, they moved all those assistant principals to new schools. Why not me? This is bullshit. I am not getting demoted because they have budget issues. Not going to happen.
I requested the meeting, dragging along my principal, the other assistant principal from my school, and the regional director of our school. I stood up and fought for myself and my position. In the end, I was assured that I would have an assistant principal position the following school year, but they didn’t know where.
YES! I DID IT!
My celebratory dance took a turn for the worse, when, later that summer, the human resources manager called to tell me that I was being placed WITH HER. The woman with the bad reputation. The woman who my colleague had worked for for 8 weeks before going on medical leave for stress. The woman whom I knew was a bitch.
I had put all this energy into fighting for my position, only to find myself in an even more difficult position.
I clearly had a lesson to learn.
There is a difference between fighting for WHAT IS RIGHT and fighting TO BE RIGHT. One comes from deep within us--our values, and the other comes from our ego.
All the fighting that I was doing to keep my job, and all the fighting that I kept doing when I worked for my not-so-great-boss, was all centered around BEING RIGHT.
It had nothing to do with the children that I had pledged to help educate. It had nothing to do with my bigger purpose. It had everything to do with my own sense of self-worth and self-preservation. I didn’t want to be demoted because what would that mean about me. I didn’t want to be back in the classroom after working so hard to take the next step because that would mean that I was a failure.
It had nothing to do with what was “right,” and everything to do with BEING right. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it at the time, and I continued fighting to be right, which eventually cost me my job.
If you are stuck in a fight yourselves, do you know what, exactly, you are fighting for?
P.S. We are talking about this issue over in the Emerge Book Circle, if you want to come join us.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
What if you didn't feel the way you think you feel?
What if your happiness wasn't happiness?
What if your sadness wasn't sadness?
What if it's all invented?
Earlier this week, I hosted a Radical Honesty class with a friend and colleague and we talked about what is TRUTH and what is not truth.
According to the teachings of Radical Honesty, there are only 3 truths we can speak of:
1) Our bodily sensations
2) Our physical surroundings
3) Our personal thoughts
As we explored this topic together and practiced telling the truth about all three, one of the other participants asked about feelings and how feelings fit into the mix of truth or untruth.
I came up with this equation:
Our bodily sensations + Our thoughts about those bodily sensations = Our feelings
The example was a racing heart. Is that racing heart a sign of being scared? Is it a sign of being excited? Is it a sign of some tachycardia, a medical condition?
As the one with the racing heart, you could decide any of the three, or none of them. Which means, you have the opportunity to INVENT whatever emotional label you want to put on it.
Which reminded me of a book called the "The Art of Possibility" by Ben and Rosamund Zander, with a chapter titled "It's All Invented." In it's pages it talks about exactly what I am describing above, though they didn't specifically talk about feelings. Their focus was on our judgements and beliefs being invented, so why not invent beliefs that will inspire you.
Who decided that blue was blue?
Or that happy was happy?
I don't know either, but someone decided it--someone invented it.
Do you ever find that when you say "I'm tired," you sink a little lower or curl in on yourself a little more? Or maybe you yawn? I know that I do. It seems that the more I say the word the more I feel the feeling.
What if we shifted ourselves away from these invented words that described our feelings and instead focused on our bodily sensations?
What if the next time you feel happy, you report not that you are happy, but that you feel a fluttering in your belly and a looseness in your chest?
What if the next time you feel afraid, you report that you feel a ball in your stomach and a strong pull backward?
Obviously, all of these words are invented too, but by using descriptions instead of feeling words, we might be able to empower ourselves to reach a place where it feels AMAZING.
Want to try it out with me right now? What bodily sensations do you notice right now?
Over the weekend, I was in Los Angeles attending the Mindvalley Reunion. If you don't know who or what Mindvalley is, it is a global education company focused on transformation and personal development for body, mind, and spirit. The reunion is essentially a 3 day conference where a thousand or so people come together to listen to speakers, attend workshops, and be inspired.
While I was there I met people whom I had met in previous years, as well as people that I have met virtually through some of Mindvalley's various courses.
Shortly after the reunion, one of the people that I met shot a video about her experience and tagged me in the comments so that I would be sure to see it. I am not sure how you feel about being tagged, but unless I am in the picture, I don't love it.
I replied to the person saying that it was nice to meet them and then asked that they not tag me in the future. I thought it was relatively harmless.
This morning, I woke up to a private FB message from the woman using the words "unkind" and "inappropriate."
The first questions to pop into my mind were: "Huh? Where did that come from?", followed by, "How dare she call me unkind and inappropriate! What a b**ch!"
Having spent too many years NOT SPEAKING MY TRUTH, I sent her a message back letting her know that I appreciated her for sharing her preferences with me, but that I DID NOT appreciate her insinuating that I was unkind and inappropriate, as I had not made any judgments or criticisms of her. I then invited her to think about what her judgments of me really meant about her.
A few hours later, after talking to my power partner, I realized just how high I was sitting on my horse.
One of the speakers at the conference talked about how there is no right or wrong, yet there I was sitting squarely in my righteousness, judging her for having judged me in the first place.
I was clearly right and she was clearly wrong, right?
Not so much.
I sent her the following message back:
Hey again...in the aftermath of my message back to you I could hear my own righteousness and judgement of you. UGH! What a cluster I have found myself in. It brings me back to what Dr. Shefali said about there not be a right or wrong. Since getting your message I have been making you wrong for judging me, which is a judgement in itself. If we take out right/wrong, there are preferences. There is what I like and what I don't like. There is what you like and what you don't like. I don't like being tagged without being asked first. I don't like being told I am unkind and inappropriate. You don't like that I asked you not to tag me in a public space. Anything else you don't like about my behavior? I am open to hearing it.
This whole encounter is a reminder that communication has many nuances and that no matter how much training I have done, or how many books I have read, I am still a human being with buttons that people will push, and which I will then react or respond to. Sometimes I suck at communicating. (Which is another version of "bad"...I know.)
Ever been in a similar situation?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
I am currently reading a book about women and money and it quotes some statistics about how many women are financially self-sufficient. The number seemed quite low, so out of curiosity, I asked in a women’s group about their degree of financial self-sufficiency.
Out of the almost 50,000 women in the group, 543 commented. (Obviously, this is not statistically significant, but it did satisfy my curiosity.)
Most of the comments were positive shouts of, “I AM!” with a small percentage of comments along the lines of, “Not yet,” or “Getting there.”
One woman responded by saying, “Is there a purpose to this exercise, other than to make people feel less than?”
At first, that comment made me freeze. It hurt me to think that I had hurt someone else. After a few moments (and a few deep breaths) I was able to let go of the tension because I knew in my heart of hearts that my intention was true curiosity. In no way did I intend for others to feel bad about themselves and their circumstances. (Unfortunately, intent and impact are not always aligned.)
The questions that came to mind next were: Do I respond? Do I speak my truth? Knowing that she is already hurt by my question, do I continue the conversation? Do I “defend” my actions? Do I let her know that in my opinion, it was not me who made her feel “less than” but that she is holding on to something else that allows her to feel this way?
It didn’t take me long to make the decision.
I took to my keyboard, clarified my intent, and then said, “If I have the power to make you feel “less then”, then I would, in turn, have the power to make you feel “more than”. Do you want to give me so much power.”
As you can imagine, she didn’t love my response, and proceeded to reply, “YOU ARE NOT LISTENING!!!!!” (Yes, just like that.) followed by several other sentences about my not being kind. Yet, on my side, I did a little happy dance. I had spoken my truth. I had been the catalyst to someone being pissed off, AND, at the same time, I felt so completely FREE for having done so. (Often very easy to do behind the screen…)
I have spent a great deal of my lifetime swallowing my truth rather than expressing it. Do you know what happens when I do? I suffer, and if there has been a relationship that I want to maintain, it suffers too. Many of us believe that by with-holding our truth we will preserve the relationship, but often the exact opposite occurs.
I know that I am not alone in this.
If you also happen to be a truth swallower, I have an invitation for you.
I am teaming up with my friend and colleague, Marai Kiele, to teach a virtual class introducing you to Radical Honesty®, developed by therapist, Brad Blanton. It is all about freeing yourself by finally telling ALL of YOUR TRUTH :) We would be truly honored if joined us.
You can learn more about the class, the dates, and who it is for, by following this link.
PS. If you think anyone in your life would benefit from this class, please lovingly share this with them.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
I was at the airport, hanging out watching my children play in the children’s area, when I opened up my phone connected to the free airport wi-fi, and saw the first words of a text message
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO….
It was as if I was a small child being scolded by a parent.
I had done something wrong.
I had hurt someone.
I had made a mistake.
I sent back a text saying. “You are right. I am sorry,” then turned off my phone, hugged my husband and cried.
The next day, I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to my POWER PARTNER--another coach, who I share with weekly, exchanging coaching, cheerleading, and other bits of wisdom with one another.
I cried again as I explained what had happened, and how I had done something wrong. How the words had just come out without thinking. How I had no intention of hurting anyone. How I hadn’t meant to be mean or malicious.
As most coaches are superb at doing, she helped me see another perspective. We took out the words RIGHT and WRONG from the equation. She reconnected me to my core essence and my core values--one of which is HONESTY. She reminded me that it isn’t necessary to apologize for being who you are, even if people around you don’t like who you are being.
As we talked, my body opened up, my breath deepened, and I felt the weight of my “wrongness” lift from my shoulders, as I began to see that there was nothing “wrong” with what I had done, even if someone else believed so.
I have EVERY RIGHT to be me.
I have EVERY RIGHT to speak my truth.
I have EVERY RIGHT live my values.
It might not always be comfortable for the people I interact with, and their truth might not align with my truth, but I should not have to hide who I am and what comes naturally to me because someone else doesn’t like it, or agree with it, or will end up disappointed.
And neither should you.
P.S. If given a second chance, I would have done this situation slightly differently, but with this reframe, I can live and learn without the guilt.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
A friend and colleague of mine is currently enrolled in an online class with me, and we are sharing our experiences back and forth through voice messages on WhatsApp.
The other day she sent me a long (10 minute) message about her experience with the work that day, and seeing it’s length I put in my headphones and listened while I washed the lunch dishes.
It was a beautiful and vulnerable share, so I found a quiet corner from which I could respond, leaving, in turn, a 5 minute message celebrating her discoveries, expanding on them, and sharing some other ideas.
Right before going to sleep I received another message from her and felt excited to listen to it. That excitement dropped from my throat into a pit in my stomach and a clenching in my chest after the first 30 seconds. It turns out that my message wasn’t received as intended.
What an icky feeling. I sat with it for awhile and it eventually turned into numbness.
I hate conflict (as do most people), and I also hate when I have the feeling that I have “done something wrong” (as do most people.)
I sat in reflection for awhile, asking myself questions like: Do I need to apologize? What exactly did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong? What are my values? What is the nature of our relationships? Did I do something that doesn’t align with that?
I tried to call her, but there was no answer. I sat on the edge of my bed contemplating my next step. I didn’t want to continue the back-and-forth “argument” over voice messages and I also didn’t want to go to bed without giving voice to my own feelings.
I opened WhatsApp again, held my thumb over the microphone icon, took a breath, and pressed it.
I started with talking about the sensations in my body. I talked about how I didn’t think that I needed to apologize because my intention wasn’t to hurt her. I pondered out loud if it was what I had said, or what she had heard. I recounted a recent conversation between us about how it’s okay to piss people off, and it we haven’t, we haven’t really done our “job.” I ended by requesting that we talk further about it in the morning.
I struggled to go to sleep that night, and found myself returning again to it in the middle of the night when I was awakened by my daughter.
The next morning I woke to another voice message. I hesitated. I didn’t want to listen to it. I put it off saying that it wasn’t the “right time.” I got myself ready for the day, got my kids off to school, did my meditation and exercise, and finally sat down to listen.
What I realize is that I was postponing shame.
I was postponing what I considered the “inevitable.”
I was postponing the feeling of not just doing something wrong, but of being wrong.
Though, at the same time, I know that my friend would never “shame me.” Instead, I was re-creating a feeling from my past and putting it directly in my present. I was procrastinating because of my past experiences with doing something “wrong” and either being directly shamed through the words of another, or feeling shame because of my interpretation of their words. (Sometimes we end up shaming ourselves...that is another topic though.)
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I pressed PLAY.
I was relieved to discover a light heartedness to her tone and the reassurance that she was not expecting an apology. LONG EXHALE. The tension in my body released and I was back to feeling connected to my enoughness and to her.
Here are 3 big lessons I have re-learned from this experience:
1) The importance of stepping into your values and knowing that just because someone doesn’t like what you did or said, it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong, or are wrong.
2) That our present negative feelings are often not attributed to the present moment, but are often rooted in a past--a past that we CO-CREATED. (Also known as transference.)
3) That trust and connection are built through vulnerability and the speaking of our truth, no matter how hard it might feel, or how worried we are of “ruining the relationship.”
I am happy to say that my friend and I feel even more connected than ever after encountering this speed bump.
Is it possible that you are postponing something? Disappointment? Conflict? Shame? Failure?
Would you like to leave the past in the past and created a new possibility instead? If so, let's connect to talk about how I can support you.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Have you ever engaged in sex with someone when you weren’t sure about your safety, or if you might walk way with something — disease, pregnancy, hurt feelings, etc. — you didn’t want? Don’t worry, I am not expecting a reply.
Here’s another question:
Have you ever engaged in a conversation with someone when you were sure about your safety, or if you might walk away with something you didn’t want?
Here’s the thing:
We are more likely to use a safety mechanism to protect ourselves from the risks of sex than to use a safety mechanisms to protect us from the risks of conversation. Yet, most of us engage in conversations way more often than we engage in sex… and we aren’t protecting ourselves!
That is why I want to introduce you to the concept of conversational condoms.
Too often we walk away from conversations with something we don’t want, making a conversational condom a great antidote. It is a way to protect ourselves and the other person from the roller coaster of emotions and judgments that can occur when engaged in conversation, even when you hadn’t planned for them to be risky.
It’s a way to limit the spread of dis-ease that can occur when people become reactive to their feelings.
It’s a container (if you will) for the conversation so that unnecessary messes don’t need to be cleaned up later.
So what exactly does it look like?
Well, for every person it will look different. There are times when you won’t need one, and other times when you will. There are times when you hadn’t planned to need one, and you might end up pulling it out of your pocket. It’s always good to be prepared.
Step One: Spend time alone, bringing awareness to what feels good for you and what doesn’t. What areas of your emotional body are off limits? What areas are highly sensitive?
Step Two: Write down 2-3 agreements for how you want to be treated and talked to. These agreements will act as the container or conversational condom. Some examples might be: 1) We agree to speak our truth with kindness and grace. 2) We agree to ask questions when we don’t understand, or 3) We agree to keep use our voices and bodies to create a pleasurable experience for everyone.
Step Three: When engaged in a potentially unsafe conversation, take out your conversational condom, and present it to your conversation partner. If they are unfamiliar with its use, share what it is, why it is needed, and then reveal what your condom is composed of. When finished, ask your conversational partner if he or she agrees to using it.
Step Four: As you converse with your partner, pay attention to the condom, knowing that it can break at any time. You may need to reminder your partner that it is in place, and you may even need to pull outand try again another time.
As I mentioned above, there may be times when you are already engaged in a conversation, and you notice yourself tensing up and feeling unsafe. This is a great opportunity to pull a conversational condom out of your pocket, and start at step three or four.
If you have any questions about how to personalize your conversational condom in order to ensure the highest level of safety, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Our garage is linked to the main entry to our house through a small stairway with doors on each side. A few weeks ago, my daughter, who is 4, decided that she wanted to climb the stairs “in the night,” as she likes to call it. Both doors are closed with no light penetrating in, and she climbs up in the pitch black holding onto the handrail. It has now become a habit, and my 2 year old son has followed suit.
Many children would think this is scary. Many children would be afraid of the dark, and wouldn’t want to do what my daughter is doing.
As I have watched her do this day after day, week after week, I have held my tongue. At the beginning I wanted to ask her if she was scared, but I didn’t. Throughout, I have wanted to praise her courage for not being scared, but I haven’t.
Do you want to know why?
Because I have recently awakened to the idea that our feelings don’t actually become real until we name them. Nothing is scary, until we say it is scary. Nothing is worrisome, until we say we are worried. Nothing is anxiety-inducing, until we say we are anxious. Nothing is stressful, until we say we are stressed.
Which means, that if I were to tell my daughter I was proud of her for doing something scary, she would then be scared.
Yesterday, I was at the park with my children and I heard a dad say to his sons, “Don’t be scared of the big kids!” In that moment, I asked myself, “Were they scared? And if not, are they scared now?”
A couple of hours later, back at home, my daughter and I walked into the hallway together and she turned on the light “because it is scary.” I turner to her and said, “An hour ago, you walked in the stairs in the dark and it wasn’t scary, but this is scary. What’s the difference?” She couldn’t give me an answer, but I have my own--I gave her the word and the context.
The stairs between the garage and the main house aren’t scary because I never alluded to her that they were. Yet the stairs from the first floor to the second floor are scary, because at some point I told her they were. It’s the same reason she likes the hall light to be on when she sleeps--because I told her about being scared of the dark.
I think that many of her fears have come from me. My words of “be careful”, and references to “being afraid,” and my questioning, “Are you sure? It might be scary.”
Which begs the question, if there were no name for the emotion, is that emotion actually happening? The body sensations may be happening, but is the emotion?
I often tell clients and non-clients alike, that the body doesn’t know the difference between excitement and anxiety, so why not choose the word that empowers you the most. Why not trick yourself?
I am slowly incorporating that same teaching into how I talk to my children, and how I talk to myself.
I am not worried, I am planning.
I am not busy, I am energized.
I am not tired, I am contemplative.
I am not stressed, I am enthusiastic.
I am not scared, I am excited.
I invite you to do the same.
Courage. Compassion. Connection
In 2005, I bought my first house. I was 28 years old, working as a teacher and probably had no business buying a house, but I saw it as an investment opportunity--a way of making some money down the road to supplement my meager teacher’s salary.
Inevitably, the only house that I could really afford, even with my parents financial support, was a fixer-upper. And it was indeed a fixer upper.
The house had been a rental for the 30 years and needed A LOT of work. The porch was rotting out, the foundation had cracked and settled, so the whole front of the house leaned forward, there were rats in the basement, and on-and-on.
I was young, energetic, maybe a bit naive, but all in all ready for the challenge.
Thanks to books, the internet, lots of trips to the hardware store, some willing boyfriends, hired help, and significant loans, I turned the house completely around in 3 years.
One of the key lessons I learned was--YOU GOTTA USE THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB.
If you don’t use the right tools for the job, you end up making a mess of things, and you have to go back and do some major repairs, or you have to start all over buying new.
This concept of using the right tools for the job is a major component of my work with clients, and one that I learned in my remodel, but didn’t apply to my relationships until I had a long list of repairs to make.
Our presence and our voices are multi-faceted tools, that can be used in many different ways for many different purposes, and if we use them well, we can create connections, but if we use them poorly, or use the wrong ones, they can do the exact opposite.
There are times when it’s best to keep quiet.
There are times when it’s best to speak up.
There are times when it’s best to walk away.
There are times when it’s best to stay put.
There are times when it’s best to apologize.
There are times when it’s best NOT to apologize.
And on and on I could go.
Unfortunately, many of us (me included) sometimes chose a tool from our toolbox that is a bad fit. A tool that leads to greater discord and greater distrust.
There are other times when we reach into our toolbox and realize that something is missing. We know that this tool won’t work because we have tried it before, or that this other one won’t work either.
So then what do we do?
Well, we go shopping for new tools, or we learn to use the tools we have differently or more effectively.
If you have some relationships that are in need of repair and you aren’t sure if you have the right tools, let’s jump on a call together to see what you might be missing or what you can use in a new way. www.thrivewithin.com/discovery
Keep creating connections,
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Before a sculptor touches her stone, she first must create a vision of what her sculpture is going to look like. She must imagine and sketch out the beautiful creation that lies beneath the jaggedness of the stone in front of her.
The stone is rough. It is uncomfortable. The sculptor might not want to touch it or sit on it because it would start to hurt.
Yet, lying underneath is something extraordinary. Something magical. Something untapped, untouched, and never seen before.
And slowly, minute by minute, day by day, the sculptor chisels away at the rock. Smooths out the roughness. Sometimes she gets tired and has to come back another day. Sometimes she leaves bruised and bloody, and yet she returns again and again because she is committed to uncovering what lies underneath that jagged exterior. She sees the vision and is determined to help that beauty come to life.
You are also a sculptor.
The sculptor of your relationships.
Your relationship with yourself and your relationships with others.
If you want to create something beautiful and magical in your relationships, it starts with a vision. What kind of relationships do you want? Who will you be? Who will they be? Who will you be together? How will it feel to be with them? What is it like when that beauty comes alive? What happens if you have cracks? How will you repair them?
Then, once you have created the possibility, it is up to you to gather your tools together, and start the work.
There may be moments when it feels hard.
When you have the wrong tools.
When you chip away too much.
When you need to smooth out the edges.
When you walk away bruised and bloody.
When you have to step back and see things from a wider perspective.
When you have to say, “Now’s not the right time.”
But, when you commit to keep going, the vision starts to show.
The relationship starts to shift.
The beauty starts to glow from within.
And it all starts with you.
Your thoughts, your feelings, your words and your presence are your tools. Use them well, and you can create something beautiful.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.