The other day I received an email from one of my clients. She had uncovered something undesirable and she started in a downward emotional spiral. Not only was she emotional from the unwanted information, but she was also berating herself for being emotional in the first place.
When I first met her, she was in a pretty dark place and had been thinking of ending her life. She had spent 20 years giving her emotional wellbeing over to another person, and as often happens, she ended up disappointed. She was unable to pick herself up because she had become so dependent on another.
Over the course of our nearly 6 months working together, she reconnected with her strength and her sense of self, not in a F-YOU manner, but in a way that gave her emotional independence that could then lead to greater INTERdependence.
Yet, here she was face to face with another trigger, and reminder her of the betrayal. Not only was she pissed again at her partner, but she was pissed at herself.
She should be stronger.
She shouldn't be so emotional.
She shouldn't be sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, etc.
I reminded her that being a strong person didn't mean being an unemotional one. I reminded her that she is an emotional being before a rational one. I reminded her that she is a human being not a robot. And I reminded her that even wonder woman has her weaknesses.
I think that sometimes when we make our way out of a valley, we expect to stay on the mountain tops forever, but we forget that our life journey is not always a smooth journey. It comes with pot-holes, speed bumps, and enormous crevasses.
We forget about the duality of life.
We can't have light without darkness.
We can't have strength without weakness.
My dear one...the next time you are should-ing all over yourself for being weak, please remember that your strength is just on the other side. Feel your feelings (rather than numb or suppress them), step into self-compassion, and you will find your strength waiting for you.
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
Have you ever heard of a KENSHO moment?
I hadn’t either until about a week ago. The term comes from Zen Buddhism and refers to the growth or enlightenment that one can gain in the wake of a painful experience. It is often spoken of next to the word SATORI, which also refers to “seeing” in a new way.
If you are anything like me, you have probably endured your share of painful moments in your life, ones where you may have characterized yourself has having failed or been a failure.
A failed relationship.
A failed career.
A failed business.
A failed conversation.
A failed health outcome.
A failed effort of any sort.
Yet, inside each of these supposed “failures” resides a potential KENSHO moment. A moment when you can learn and grow. Unfortunately, not all of us choose to turn our pain into KENSHO. Not all of us choose to see the power inside our powerlessness.
Two of big KENSHO moments came by my own choice.
July 7, 2007 was a date that many girls dreams of--her wedding day. Yet that wedding day never came for me. Five months prior, I made the decision to call off my own engagement. To tell a man that I loved, that despite that love, I didn’t want to be with him. It was one of the toughest decisions that I have ever made, and despite it being my decision it was still extremely painful.
In the spring of 2012, I made another difficult decision--to resign from the career of my dreams. One that I had devoted years of schooling, training, and money to create. Again, it was my decision, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Both of these moments left me feeling powerless.
I won’t lie to you and say that my KENSHO moment was immediate, as I did my share of wallowing in self-pity and asking “Why Me?” over and over again. Yet, at some point, I made a decision. I decided that enough was enough, and it was time to rise out of my pain, and into my power. I created the KENSHO.
It wasn’t a failed relationship. It was a successful one because it helped me to realize what it takes to sustain a long-term relationship, and it led to my meeting my current husband just 8 days after my non-existent wedding.
It wasn’t a failed career. It was a successful one because I turned toward a coach and other personal development opportunities that have all led me to a new, inspiring career as a coach myself.
To find your KENSHO moments, you don’t need to change your past, you simply need to look at it from a different perspective.
See the success instead of the failure.
See the power inside of the pain.
See the gift wrapped in the sandpaper.
P.S. I recently invited someone to make a list of all their failures. Then to re-write the entire list with the word success instead. (Like I did above.) I invite you to try it out as well. Create your own KENSHO moments.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
At the age of 21, with my college diploma in hand, a plane ticket to Europe, and $10,000 of my hard-earned savings, I set off to travel the world. First stop--Europe.
A few weeks into my trip, I was in Berlin with a friend from high school who had been studying in Barcelona. I was thoroughly enjoying my trip and my freedom. Yet, this particular night was different.
I was flirting, laughing, telling travel stories, and LOVING the attention it brought me from the guys. There was one particular guy who seemed to appreciate me more than others, and at some point I ended up sitting on his lap. It was all in good fun, and as the fun dwindled we said our good-nights and made our way to our respective beds in the shared room of the youth hostel.
At some point in the night, I awakened to see that same guy now sitting on the edge of my bed staring at me. The bed was shaking. I knew what was happening, yet I pretended I didn’t and rolled over.
The next morning I woke up covered in his dried semen.
He was gone.
As I washed away the filth and disgust, I kept saying to myself, “At least it’s only ON me, and not IN me.” I kept wondering if it was my fault. Had I flirted too much? Had I led him on? Had I done something wrong?
Over time the memory faded and I decided it was “no big deal.”
In the wake of the #metoo movement, and the recent testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I realize that it is a BIG DEAL. I much BIGGER DEAL than I could have imagined at the age of 21.
I truly believe that there is a gift wrapped in even the roughest sandpaper, and this sandpaper is indeed rough. Voice after voice after voice of women, men, girls, and boys have come to the forefront showing how big of a deal it really is. That to me, is a gift.
Because this isn’t simply a sex problem.
Nor is it a political problem.
Nor is it an economic problem.
Nor is it a race problem.
Nor is it a religious problem.
IT’S A HUMANITARIAN PROBLEM--A COLLECTIVE ONE.
One that goes back centuries. One in which people fail to treat other people as people, and instead use or abuse them for their own pleasure or gain--whether it be sexual, economic, or otherwise. We can see it throughout history, and we continue to see it today, around the world, and behind closed doors.
My fear, though, is that the continued finger-pointing, blaming, and shaming, will only prolong the problem because the more divided we become, the more difficult it will be to create a different future.
As far as I am concerned, we are all responsible and we all have a responsibility.
This isn’t an us/them situation. This is a WE SITUATION, and the sooner we can see each other as ONE, rather than divergent individuals, with divergent interests, the sooner we can put an end to this disgusting habit of treating people like they don’t matter.
If you have no idea how you could possibly be responsible, when you didn’t do anything, here are some ideas:
>> You are responsible for your WORDS including the ones you may never speak.
>> You are responsible for your INTENTION and the WHY behind your actions.
>> You are responsible for your INTEGRITY and the values you choose to live by.
>> You are responsible for your JUDGMENTS and the disconnections they create.
>> You are responsible for your LISTENING and whether you seek to truly understand.
>> You are responsible for your HEART and any love or hate that spurns from it.
>> You are responsible for your COURAGE and whether you choose comfort instead.
Twenty years ago, I didn't do anything. I lay in a hostel bed, wide awake, and silent while some crude young man masturbated all over me. I have no idea if he went on to do it again to other women in other youth hostels, or whether he chose to take it a step further. I may never know.
What I do know is that I am ready to take responsibility for my part in this collective mess.
Will you join me?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
SOMEONE ELSE’S REACTION DOESN’T EQUAL YOUR FAILURE
The other day, I shared a video about fear and most of the commenters noted that their major fear was around failure, or embarrassment, or negative feedback, etc,.
All of which got me thinking…
When I think of my past “failures”, there is always someone else involved in the equation, and I deem myself a “failure” based on someone else’s unfavorable response to something I did or didn’t do.
And this has been going on my whole life...
>>I failed a test because my teacher decided I wasn’t up to his/her standard.
>>I failed to get into a specific university because the admissions office decided I wasn’t a fit.
>> I failed at an interview because someone didn’t offer me the job.
>> I failed to persuade my husband that we really need a second car.
>> I failed to sell out my e-course because not enough people signed up.
In each and every case, my “failure” is dependent on someone else’s action.
What if we take the other person out of the failure equation?
>> What if instead of failing a test because I didn’t meet a specific standard, I actually succeeded at the test because I studied hard, I did better than the previous test, I answered more questions, etc?
>> What if instead of failing to get into a university, I simply wasn’t the right fit?
>> What if I instead of failing at an interview, I succeeded in maintaining my confidence and cool under pressure, I prepared for the interview by doing some mock interviews, I answered all the questions succinctly, and I was authentic?
>> What if instead of failing to persuade my husband, I instead planted a seed that if watered regularly, might bloom some day?
>> What if instead of failing to sell out my e-course, I relish the fact that I created a new e-course from scratch, with hours of fabulous content, and used multiple new marketing channels to get visible?
So, what if instead of having an equation like this?
OUR GENUINE EFFORTS + SOMEONE ELSE’S REACTION = FAILURE
It were to be this?
OUR GENUINE EFFORTS = SUCCESS
Looking back, I know that there are still plenty of examples where I still “failed” even if you take the other person out of the equation because I know that I wasn’t BEING or DOING my best. I wasn’t living with integrity. I wasn’t practicing my values. Those I can own.
For the rest, though, I know that there is room for celebrating my successes, even if someone else would have seen it is as “failure.”
This is definitely a work in progress for me, what about you?
What if you took out the other person from the equation? What successes can you celebrate?
When I was growing up, my parents taught us how to be good people. They taught us how to do the “right thing.” They taught us the importance of working hard and getting good grades, so we could one day go to college, get good-paying jobs, and provide for our own families.
I do not deny that that did right by me.
Unfortunately, it was HOW they taught me those things that I wish had been different.
I distinctly remember a time when we were all invited to go to my dad’s boss’s house, which was this huge mansion (with an indoor basketball court). Serious business. A lot of the day is vague, but the one moment that I remember quite well was when I met “the boss.” My dad introduced me and I probably said a shy “Hi” and that was it. The man wished us well and went back to his other guests.
Once he was out of earshot, my dad laid into me with a shit-storm of shame. I can’t remember the exact words he said, but I remember him reprimanding me for not being respectful, for not saying “Nice to meet you. Thank you for inviting us,” etc. I also distinctly remember feeling like the tiniest speck of a person. Feeling incredibly small.
Unfortunately, that way of speaking to me was the undercurrent of my childhood. If my parents didn’t like my behavior, my words, or my attire, they used shame, guilt, or fear of being punished as a way to “keep me in line.”
And it worked. I was a good girl. I got good grades. I went to a good college. I got a good job.
But it also had a cost.
To this day, I am still a little afraid of my dad. Afraid that he will again leave me feeling like a tiny speck of a person. Afraid to share my thoughts. Afraid to be myself.
Fear drove me, but it also disconnected me.
When I left my former job with my not-so-great boss, and dove into the world of coaching and personal development, I realized that I had inherited the same tactics for changing the behavior of others.
Over the 2 years that I had worked for her, I had used fear, shame, blame, and guilt to try to motivate her to change. I may not have done so directly, but I was still doing it. I encouraged others to go to HR to report her, hoping that FEAR would drive her to leave. I SHAMED her incessantly with others, and within my own head. I BLAMED her for my unhappiness at work. And finally, I used GUILT as a way to manipulate her to do it my way.
Because of all of my learning, it feels icky for me to think of that now. I hated it when my parents made me feel small, and yet I find myself doing it to others too, even if inside my own head.
And that is why I want to break the cycle.
I want my children to do things because they WANT TO (even if it does have a natural negative ripple effect), not because they HAVE TO or are AFRAID not to.
I also want all the other people I interact with to do things because they WANT TO rather than because they are afraid not to.
I want others to “do the right thing” in support of HUMAN CONNECTION and LOVE, rather than FEAR.
Now, I don’t know what your upbringing was like, but I wonder if you were also taught how to behave with fear, shame, blame, and guilt as motivators. If so, how did you feel when these tactics were used on you? Is that how you want to BE with other people? If not, how can you break the cycle?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Yesterday, I returned from a week in Colorado, where I was skiing with my husband, sister, brother-in-law, and their three children. We enjoyed the snow in many different ways—skiing, snowmobiling, snow-tubing, and snowshoeing. It was a wonderful week of play!
While I was skiing, I was thinking of how our fears seem to deepen and widen as we get older. Things that didn’t scare us when we were younger sometimes paralyze us now. While we were skiing, my nieces and nephew didn’t allow their fear to hold them back. They followed us through the trees, over jumps, and down some mogul fields, all without a peep. It made me think of this poem that I learned in high school.
Come to the edge.
It was a good reminder for me to take action and do something that is a little scary every once in awhile. I ask you to do the same. Our fears are often about perception, and have nothing to do with reality. Go to your edge, push yourself off, and see if you can fly.