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.
Today, I meditated NAKED in my own backyard.
For some of you, you might think, “So what?” but if you know me, truly know me, you will understand that this is a really big deal.
You see, for most of my life, I defined myself as my body. My value was interconnected with what my body looked like, how strong it was, how it was able to perform on the field or court, and how smart I was.
Yet, despite how my body has looked over the years, I have never loved it. When I was sporting an almost 6-pack stomach--I still didn’t love it. When I was 20 pounds heavier after 8 months of backpacking, I still didn’t love it. No matter what my body has looked like, I still couldn’t bring myself to fall in love with it. It’s like the “backwards law” that Mark Mason speaks about in "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck". The more I pursued having a perfect body, the more I felt miserable not having one.
When I was in high school I developed an eating disorder. Unlike many girls where it is as if an outside person takes over, and they don’t necessarily realize what they are doing, I was 100% conscious and in control the whole time. I essentially forced myself into having an eating disorder because I was that focused on what my body SHOULD look like, but didn’t. I reasoned that if I couldn’t be pretty, at least I could be thin. Oh, how screwed up my thinking was.
After having more cavities in one dental appointment than I had in my whole life, and a college road trip where I was sharing hotel rooms with my mom and puking in the toilet while she worried outside the door, I was sent to a psychologist.
Yes, I got over the eating disorder, but NO, I still didn’t love myself or my body. I still berated myself daily when I looked in the mirror. I still found all the faults. I still obsessed about the cellulite on my ass. I still sucked in my stomach, or flexed it in hopes that it would maybe, kind of, look a little different.
Over the years, I eventually convinced myself that I may not be thin, but at least I was strong and fit and that is what mattered.
Then I had my first miscarriage.
Despite my strong, fit, athletic (though not thin body), I was unable to grow a child within me. My body was not strong enough and healthy enough to bring a new life into this world.
I pretended on the outside that it was all okay and told myself, “This is for the best. The baby probably wouldn’t have been healthy. This is nature’s way of correcting itself,” and on and on it went. But inside, I wasn’t convinced.
My body had failed me, and I was my body.
Fortunately for me, this happened right in the midst of a deep awakening within myself. Two days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was sitting in a large room of 100+ people for a coaching seminar program. Three days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was standing in front of a large room of 100+ people being coached by the leader.
It was he who let me in on the secret. “I AM NOT MY BODY.”
It was something that I refer back to again and again, as a reminder that I am so much more than my body. So much more than what it looks like, so much more than how strong it is, and so much more than how smart it is.
Yet, it wasn’t as if a light was switched and all of a sudden I loved my body. It is still something that I dance with on a regular basis, but the valleys are not as deep as they once were.
I stlll prefer having sex with the lights off.
I still wear a tankini in the summer to hide my stomach and my stretch marks.
I still gaze at the cellulite on my ass and wish it weren’t there.
But I also celebrate my body too.
I celebrate my body for giving me 2 healthy children, despite being pregnant 4 times.
I celebrate my body and when I go for hikes where I feel like I can touch the sky.
I celebrate my body on my yoga mat each day as I twist, turn, and balance in new ways.
And today, I celebrated my body while I meditated NAKED in my backyard.
How are you celebrating your body?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Do you ever have people or things in your life that you avoid due to the discomfort they bring?
I do yoga 3-4 times a week, using a fitness app that has audio yoga classes built in. No need to go anywhere--just grab my mat and my bluetooth headphones and off I go.
As part of the app, there are 3 main yoga instructors, but one of them I avoid. I did 1-2 classes with her when I first started using the app, but there is something about her voice and accent that drives me crazy, so I typically do classes with the other two.
Yesterday, though, I was scrolling through some of the class options and decided to give her another try. Perhaps I was misremembering?
A few seconds into it, I remembered exactly why I was avoiding her classes. It was like nails on a chalkboard to me. I could have stopped and started a different class with one of my preferred teachers, but for some reason I decided to stick with it.
In the end, it was a powerful yoga class and I am glad I persevered.
While I was flowing through the poses, I was thinking about this concept of avoidance.
There are many people who would advise you that if people in your life are not serving you, it is best to avoid contact, or perhaps for you to cut the cord entirely. Only have contact if you HAVE TO. Sometimes this is the "right" tactic to take, especially when your physical safety is at stake.
There is another option, though. We can change how we relate to the stimulus, to the person. We can unhook ourselves from whatever it is that they are doing that irritates us, and instead focus on all the rest.
Yesterday, the voice of the yoga teacher was an irritant for me, but instead I focused not on her, but on myself. I focused on all the benefits that I was gaining from her knowledge and experience. I focused on my postures. I focused on my breath.
“What you focus on expands.”
If I had focused on her voice, I probably would have driven myself crazy. Instead I focused on my purpose for hitting the mat in the first place. I focused on what was in my "circle of influence" as Stephen Covey likes to call it.
Sometimes our discomfort doesn't come from real discomfort, it comes from our minds, and when we focus our minds elsewhere, the discomfort lessens. We can start avoiding our avoiding.
Is there anything or anyone in your world that you are avoiding, but perhaps if you look beyond the irritations, you might find something deeper and more beneficial for you?
The other day, I had a problem-solving session with a friend of mine who is also a coach. She was feeling very inspired and also overwhelmed because she kept getting flooded with ideas and didn't know which one to follow.
I shared with her this analogy:
When you go shopping and enter a parking lot, you drive around and pick the "best" spot to park your car. Sometimes it might not be the closest, but perhaps the one where the people next to you are parked straight, or perhaps the one where no one is parked next to you.
What you don't do is drive and drive and drive in circles trying to figure out which spot it the best one. Once you are parked you stay there. You don't reverse out and look for a different one. You commit to that one spot for the duration of your shopping experience.
So how do you know where to park your car?
One of the strategies that I used to make my decision was to create a NO-LOSE DECISION. This is a method that I read about in the book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers, which was one of our monthly selections for our book circle.
Essentially, instead of doing a pro-con list between your two choices, you focus ONLY ON THE PROS, which Jeffers calls the "goodies." When we focus on only the positives, we can see that both options are great and then we release any fear that we are making the "wrong choice."
Instead of driving in circles trying to find the "best" spot, you pick one and go with it because it can never be a "wrong" spot.
By doing so, you make a no-lose decision.
You may be in a situation like my friend, where you have no idea which idea to follow because there are so many, or you may be in a situation where you have ONE decision to make, but are unsure of making it, so you are deciding by not deciding.
Either way, you can use this no-lose decision making process yourself so that you can clearly decide where to park your car.
Do you see all the dead bugs on the windshield of this picture?
This past weekend, we we driving back from a 2 week vacation (thus my lack of posts), and as we traversed from the North of France to the South at 130km/h, we collided with many insects.
I took this picture, after a bathroom break and a switch in drivers. I couldn't believe that the windshield was so disgusting.
As the driver, though, the mess on the screen didn't impede me at all. I was looking straight past the dead bugs and other shit in front of me, in order to successfully navigate the road.
It was only after I shifted perspective that I was able to see how bad it was.
Unfortunately, we often get it the reverse.
We tend to focus so much on the dead bugs and other shit in front of us, that we can't see the road and navigate through with any speed or accuracy.
Some of the current "dead bugs" in my life are:
Each day, I need to pause, reflect, and clean off my windshield of the "dead bugs." Some days, it happens frequently.
It takes mindfulness and intention.
What about you?
Are you focusing on the dead bugs and shit on your windscreen, or are you looking past them to the road ahead?
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.
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?
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.
A couple of months ago, while working with a new client she mentioned to me that she had always had a dream that a prince was going to come and save her from her childhood. Last week, I was talking to another client who said the same thing.
It is 2019, and these two capable, accomplished women are still living in a fairy tale.
Yet, they are not alone.
I may not be looking for Prince Charming anymore, but I know that, at times I am still looking for someone to take control so that I don’t have to. Someone to say, “Theresa, this is what you need to do, how you need to do it, and why you need to do it. Now go.”
And yet, from experience, I know that when I have had someone do that for me, it hasn’t worked out in my favor.
So why do I still find myself waiting?
Why are you still waiting?
Why are WE still waiting?
Because somewhere, back in our subconscious, we have learned not to trust ourselves. We have taken on the belief that we are exactly how someone in our past said we were.
That we aren’t strong enough.
That we aren’t smart enough.
That we aren’t savvy enough.
That we aren’t powerful enough.
Yet, we are!
And the moment we start telling ourselves that--the moment that we step into that powerful, self-loving, self-accepting, self-appreciating, self-confident person, will be the moment we will stop waiting for prince charming, and finally “save” ourselves.
We don’t need a prince.
We need our resident BADASS PRINCESS to rise to the occasion.
Are you with me?
P.S. If you want support (not saving) to unleashing your BADASS PRINCESS, I have a handful of powerful exercises I can take you through. You can book something directly with me here.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
As many of you probably know, I host a global book circle for women, where I support them to get the most out of the personal growth reading, and truly bring the book (and it’s ideas) to LIFE.
As with most “new” endeavors in life, it takes time to get adjusted to the nuances and find harmony.
When I started the book circle, I organized it into two groups--one free and one paid. There was a monthly fee to be part of the paid group, and it gave you certain “premium” features that others did not have. This phenomenon is probably familiar to many of you.
After running the two groups simultaneously for several months, I felt a sense of unease. I would have a flash of an idea to share, and then wonder, “Well, which group gets it? Is this for the paid members, or the free ones?” As this continued, I realized that the two groups weren’t working for me. It felt out of alignment.
So I decided to try a social experiment. What if I combined the two groups, and offered all the previously “premium” features to everyone, and asked for contributions? Would people contribute? Would people reward me financially for the time, effort and expertise that I was offering them? Could I be the “medicine woman” that offers her value to others, and is rewarded with a place to live and food to eat?
Can you guess how it turned out?
My two weeks off over the holidays gave me the opportunity to reflect on the efficacy of this experiment, especially as I have felt my sense of bitterness grow, and my original passion for sharing decline. Each time I reminded the ladies in the group about the opportunity to contribute, and each time they didn’t, I felt lower and lower. I felt less inclined to shoot a video, less inclined to share another insight, less inclined to show up.
And yet this has NOTHING to do with the amazing women in my circle. They are not, and were not the cause of my bitterness, or the decline in my passion. All of that resides in me.
Hidden underneath was an undeclared expectation that people would shower me with euros.
Hidden underneath was my own sense of self-worth.
Hidden underneath was my questionable boundaries.
Hidden underneath were my limiting beliefs.
I cannot blame these women for enjoying something for free (I do the same thing).
I cannot blame these women if they don’t see or financially honor my value.
I cannot blame these women for my decision to give, give, and give some more.
I cannot blame these women for my own beliefs and their hold on me.
It is my responsibility to rectify this situation, not theirs.
It is my responsibility value my time, effort and expertise by CHARGING money.
It is my responsibility to set and enforce boundaries.
It is my responsibility work through my own limiting beliefs.
Now, it has been rectified.
I did not go back to two groups, but I am going back to charging for those “premium” features, and I feel so much lighter and freer. The bitterness has dropped away, and the passion has reignited.
I even got a note from one of the members saying, “So glad you’re asking for money again. It was on my heart and fingertips to tell you that sooner. It felt like you weren’t valuing your services. And I had much less impetus to show up.”