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.
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 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.”
When my friend Fatima recently shared those words with me, it hit me HARD, and at the same time I knew how wise and true her words were.
That is why it is so important to communicate, but not just communicate for the sake of being heard, but communicate for the sake of CONNECTING.
“Everybody communicates. Few Connect.” John C. Maxwell
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Maxwell.
We do communicate all the time.
We communicate with our words.
We communicate with our silences.
We communicate with our actions.
We communicate with our presence.
We communicate with our body.
But is all that communicating serving you and the relationship?
Compassion. Connection. Collaboration.
I have never been one to weigh myself on a regular basis, at least not since I was in high school. We do own a scale, but we use it more for when we have to weigh our luggage before a trip to France, than we do for weighing ourselves.
Now, though, I get to see the numbers on the scale on a regular basis for my monthly pregnancy check-in with the doctor. To be honest, I sometimes get on the scale at home before hand so that I know if I am going to be “talked to” about my weight gain at the visit. It seems absolutely ridiculous, since I am obviously supposed to gain weight during pregnancy, but I still get all worried about it. I have become slightly obsessed with the number on the scale.
What do I weight now? Am I gaining too much? Is the doctor going to have to talk to me about my weight gain? Is she going to ask me about what I have been eating and if I have been exercising? Do I weigh more than my husband yet?
The other day I was actually down 0.4 pounds since my visit a month ago and I did a little happy dance. Instead of the nurse asking what I had been eating, she asked me if I had been eating. The irony is that I am bigger—I actually look pregnant now.
We, women, seem to put so much weight into that number that appears on the scale. It seems like we always want it to be smaller, no matter what we look like. I have a former client who used to weigh herself 3 times a day, and all it brought her was misery and that feeling that she wasn’t enough.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Our weight is a factor when we are gauging our health, but there are so many other factors to consider beyond just that one number. I talk to women that workout on a regular basis, keep a balanced diet, and still want to weigh less. When I ask them what will be different, they often say that they will be more confident and just feel better about themselves.
At what point can we be confident and feel good in our skin no matter what our size or our weight? At one point can we love and accept ourselves for who and how we are? At what point can we let go of that number on the scale?
A couple of weekends ago, I found myself lying on our living room couch, dealing with the debilitating nausea that comes with pregnancy, while also in tears. It was a beautiful sunny day, and my husband was outside working in the yard, while I was inside feeling sorry for myself.
Inside my head were thoughts like:
I tried the mind over matter trick and went outside to help my husband for all of about 15 minutes before I was back on the couch, with my legs curled up, hoping not to vomit on our living room carpet, or our dog. My husband came in shortly thereafter to check on me. When I lamented my sad state, and all my “shoulds,” he gave me a hug and reminded me that I was working really hard—that I was actually growing a human being inside of me!
As the day progressed, I found myself still on the couch, unable to beat the nausea away with my mind, or even a large baguette of French bread. Eventually I succumbed to the realities of what was, and you know what happened? I actually had a really great day! Despite the fact that I couldn’t do anything “productive,” I ended up reading the most amazing book, a book that I was about to return to the library unread, and probably never would have remembered to check out again.
When I finally let go of what I thought I was supposed to do, and pushed all those “shoulds” to the side, I enjoyed myself immensely. The guilt disappeared, the heartache and sadness vanished, my tears dried up, and I actually found myself laughing out loud during certain parts of the book. I was able to let go of needing to do something, and could just be. It felt so liberating, and I wasn’t even on vacation!
As I was reflecting on this moment, I kept thinking back to other moments in my life when my “shoulds” took over and tried to direct me where to go and what to do. In each of those cases I can remember being pretty miserable. The same goes for when I “should” on other people.
When I am constantly “shoulding” myself, and “shoulding” those around me, I can never be happy to just be. Things are not enough. Things should be better. Instead of living in the moment, I am living in some unreality. Instead of embracing what is, I am stuck on what I hope to be. I am left feeling bleak and depressed.
Another example of why I shouldn’t should myself, and you probably shouldn’t either :)
Last week I was talking to a woman whom I recently met, and she was telling me about her weight-loss journey. She told me that at one point she was 30 pounds lighter, but it completely messed with her head. She was describing how when she looked in the mirror she wasn’t seeing herself anymore. She struggled with seeing herself as this thinner person because she had always defined herself as being heavier. Eventually, she put the weight back on because it made her more comfortable. When we ended the conversation, I gave her a hug and told her, “You are not your body.”
“You are not your body,” is a phrase or mantra that I repeat to myself a lot these days.
A few months ago, I was attending a coaching seminar program, and was called up to the front to be coached. (At the time I wasn’t up for it, nor did I really think I needed it.) Anyway, during my coaching the facilitator asked me if my husband and I were planning to have children, and then I started to cry. (Little did he know that I had just had surgery for a miscarriage 2 days prior.) When I told him that, he was taken back at first, but then honored me for my courage in being in the course. Then he went on to tell me something that I had never thought to be true.
I define myself by my body.
Although, I really wanted to argue with him and tell him that it wasn’t true, I know deep down that I do. I am not just Theresa. I am my body. My body has become an extension of myself, or maybe I have become an extension of my body. My strength of character is also matched to my physical strength. My rigidness in character is also demonstrated in my physical inflexibility.
“Holy Crap! Is this just me?” I asked myself.
When I engaged in the conversation with the women I spoke of above, it made me realize that I may not be the only one. How many of us do the same thing? How many of us define ourselves by our bodies, whatever that may look like?
Some of you may think that it doesn’t really seem like such a big deal, but I have to disagree.
Defining ourselves by how we look limits us. It keeps us from embracing new ideas and new possibilities. It causes us to morph our personalities to match our physical presence, or to compensate and change our personalities because of how we look.
So, I ask you to break free from your body.
You are not your body.