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.
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.”
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.
“I am not supposed to cry, mommy.” My head jerked around as I looked at my son, sitting quietly in his car seat.
“What did you say little man?”
“I am not supposed to cry,” he repeated.
“Of course you can cry. You can cry when you are happy, or sad, or when you fall down and get hurt. You can cry whenever you want. Who said you can’t cry?”
Minutes later my husband and daughter joined us in the car and I told my husband what happened and asked him if he had told our son he couldn’t cry. I knew the answer before I had asked, but I wanted reassurance. Of course my husband hadn’t said anything of the sort.
When we got home from our scooter outing by the sea, I asked my son again about crying and he repeated the same refrain. I again repeated that it was okay to cry.
I am still reeling from it, five days later. Not only am a reeling from the fact that my TWO YEAR OLD son was able to so eloquently express himself, but I am reeling from the fact that he made such a bold declaration. I am reeling from the fact that he has interpreted various external responses to his crying, to create a belief the he is not supposed to cry.
As I learn more and more about neuroscience and the development of the subconscious mind, I better understand how small moments and small decisions in our childhood can have a major impact on how we interact with the world beyond our childhood.
Most people believe that it is the environment or circumstances that we endure in childhood that impacts our adulthood, but it is more accurately the DECISION or DECISIONS that we make in those moment that impacts us later on. That is why two siblings can see and experience the same moments, yet create very different personalities and future realities.
It’s not the environment, but the decision that is made in its wake that drives us.
That is the amazing (and sometimes detrimental) thing about our brains when we are children. We are like sponges, continually taking in information and making meaning from it. We are continually processing the information that we see and making micro-decisions about what we see, what we hear, and what we experience. We are so egocentric as children that even if it isn’t about us, we make it about us.
Even if I never told my son that he wasn’t supposed to cry, nor did my husband, he has interpreted our reactions to his crying, or the crying of his sister, to mean that he isn’t supposed to cry.
This is where my knowledge is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I know that I have until around the age of 7 to support my children to create empowering beliefs about themselves, others, and the world. On the other hand, I know that despite my best intentions, they might create limiting beliefs that I don’t recognize, nor do they.
If I look back to my own childhood, I know that I made a powerful decision when my mother went back to work when I was 5, yet I didn’t discover how influential that decision was until I was 35 and my career imploded. My mother had the best intentions and was lovingly trying to support our entire family during a recession. I didn’t see or understand it.
It wasn’t my mother’s going back to work that was the driver. It was the decision I made it it’s wake that became the driver of who I chose to BE and how I BEHAVED in the world.
Which brings me to you.
Just like my son, and just like myself, you also made some powerful decisions and created some even more powerful beliefs during your childhood. Those beliefs created the amazing and unique YOU. They have gotten you this far in your life. Yet...with every strength there comes a weakness. With light, comes darkness.
You can pro-actively choose to explore those beliefs with intention from a place of power, or you can wait for those beliefs to catch up with you, and explore them from a place of pain, as many of my clients have done or are currently doing now.
You may not have had a choice then, but you definitely have one now.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
When I was 35, my professional world imploded. For some of my clients, it was their relationship that imploded. While for still others, there was no implosion of career or relationship, but a serious earthquake, that shook the foundation and created serious cracks.
If I look back logically, the origin of my disastrous relationship with my former boss, would have started when I was first transferred. But it didn’t. If my clients look back logically on their own situations, they might see an infidelity discovered, a lie uncovered, a business decision gone bad, a pink-slip passed out, etc. But that isn’t the true origin either.
To find the true origin, we need to do a little time traveling.
For me, and for most of my clients (and probably for you too) it was an event that happened between the ages of 3 and 7. Together, we travel back in time, to at that event from the outside, as an observer, rather than as a participant. More specifically, as an OMNISCIENT observer who knows the thoughts, feelings, and decisions of all the participants.
As the time travel facilitator, I focus on the DECISIONS made by that little boy or little girl, because it is that decision, or collection of decisions that is the true origin of the current conflict. It is that decision that has been operating in the background for 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years, like the operating system of your GPS system. It is that decision that becomes the programmers code, until we become conscious enough, or fall on our face hard enough.
I will not lie and say that it is an easy process because it is not, but it is a healing one, because it allows us the awareness we need to rewrite the code and reset the GPS.
Sometimes when are are back there, hovering around observing, we come down to “earth” and step into forgiveness. We step into forgiveness by sending love and compassion to the people involved, especially to that little boy or little girl. We give hugs and reassurance, and paint a bright picture for what the future can and will look like.
After coming back to the present, we can step into the fun part, where we time travel forward, and meet our future self. We see where she lives, what she eats, what she does, and what she says. The words, the guidance, the cheerleading, and the love she shares is immensely powerful and therapeutic after the harshness of the time travel backwards.
Yet, I believe that both are needed, as they work in tandem. As we seek to rewrite the faulty GPS programing from our past, we can insert the new GPS programming given to us by our future self.
Back and forth we go.
Back and forth I go, honoring my past and creating my future, while living in the present.
Just as we eat to nourish our bodies everyday, I am coming to believe time-travel would nourish our souls everyday.
P.S. If you have any interest in time-traveling with me, please 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.