What are You Letting Determine Your Worth?

Back in the day I loved to walk around bookstores. A bookstore was my happy place. I loved flipping through books, feeling the pages in between my fingers, discovering new authors and paperbacks filled with wisdom. Oh it was like a little slice of heaven here on earth! But those days are gone, so now I scroll through Amazon. I scroll and scroll and excitedly click on the books that say “Look Inside.”

Several months ago, I was on a tangent of scrolling because I kept clicking on the books in the “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section, and I came upon a book by Geneen Roth. Geneen Roth is a psychologist and author who specializes in writing on women, food, and body image issues. (Her books are excellent if you are interested in those topics.) Anyway, I stumbled upon a book of hers I’d never heard of called When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I thought that was a funny little title so, of course, I clicked on it, and lucky for me, it had a “Look Inside” button- score!

I scrolled through the book and began reading the introduction where Roth relayed a story from one of her workshops. She wrote that a woman at a recent workshop gave this honest admission:

“If I woke up tomorrow and this whole issue with food was gone, I wouldn’t know how to measure myself. Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good. Feeling fat is how I know I’m bad. If I didn’t have this system of fat and thin, I would feel terribly lost.”

I wouldn’t know how to measure myself.

Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good.

If I didn’t have this system…I would feel lost.

How do you measure yourself? What is your system? What is the thing you hang your worth on that determines if you are good, good enough each day, each hour? What is your prerequisite for feeling worthy?

Slide1
Slide1

Maybe it is food and weight- I’m good when I’m thin, when I don’t eat that but do eat this. Maybe it is how much you do- I’m good when I get a lot done. Maybe it is exercise- I’m good when I workout X number of minutes each day. Maybe it is when your house is clean and all the laundry is put away and everything is in order for the next day- I’m good when I’ve got it all together. Maybe it’s when you’re doing well at your job- I’m good when my numbers are the highest in the office. Maybe it’s when your children are doing well- I’m good when Johnny is doing well in school and Sally makes the cheerleading squad and Sarah is the first to learn to read of her friends.

So many of us hang our worth on something. We let our to do lists or our relationships or our successes and mistakes determine our worth and how we feel about ourselves. It is so natural that we don’t even realize we are doing it half the time.

And maybe you’re wondering, what’s the danger in feeling better about yourself when you’re eating right or doing well at work or hitting homeruns in the parenting department?

Those things by themselves are great; they’re fabulous. Thumbs up to you if you’re doing those things. But when we allow the externals in our lives to determine how we feel about ourselves, then we are allowing those things to determine how we FEEL in general, how we interact with people, and what we do. It’s not a coincidence that you find everything annoying after you put on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly two weeks ago but now feel too tight.

When we hang our worth on external things, we easily fall into a spiral of feeling less than and not good enough. We allow these things- the scale, the bank account, the invitation to the party, your child’s performance- to put a stamp of “Enough” “Never Enough” on our lives, and we are left feeling anxious, frustrated, and defeated. We end up on an emotional roller coaster because how we feel about ourselves and our lives changes with every number on the scale, interaction with a colleague, and check on our to do list.

If we want off this roller coaster, WE MUST STOP OUTSOURCING OUR WORTH. Meaning, our worth is not determined by what we do, what we’ve done, what we look like, what type of house we live, where we went to school, how much money is in the bank, or how much debt is on the credit card.

Our worth is separate from all of that. Our worth does not hang on anything. It stands alone. It is internal, not external

The thought isn’t Being thin is how I know I’m good. The thought isn’t I’m good when _____.

The thought is… I’m good. I’m enough. I’m loved.

There are no disclaimers or qualifiers to our worth. Our worth is unshakable, unchangeable. It is the same today as it was the day we were born before life had a chance to tell us otherwise. It is the same at the end of a chaotic day where we binged on chocolate, got nothing done, and snapped at a loved as it is at the end of the day where we crossed every T and dotted every i.

The truth is our worth is unaffected by our actions, our failures because our worth is a grace-infused worth breathed into us in the beginning.   We must protect and shelter our worth from those external factors the world likes to tell us will make us better, more likable, more lovable.

What are you hanging your worth on? What is the thing, or things, in your life that you give the power to determine how you feel about yourself? There is true freedom that comes with separating our worth and how we feel about ourselves from what we do and what others think. Give yourself permission today to let go and let your worth stand in the undeniable, irrefutable, beautiful truth that you are enough, you are lovable, and you are loved.

The Wisdom of Harold and His Purple Crayon

Ahh the wisdom of children’s books… One of the gifts of motherhood has been rediscovering children’s books. Reading them as an adult, I have discovered a treasure trove of poignant wisdom. My son, like most children, enjoys reading the same story over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture. The latest book du jour is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Somehow I missed this book growing up but am thoroughly enjoying it as an adult. Oh what a lovely story! If you’ve never read it, you really should go to the bookstore or library and read through it.

As I have been reading this story for several nights now, I’ve had some time to reflect, shall we say, on Harold’s adventure. Harold and the Purple Crayon is about a little boy named Harold who creates an entire world with his purple crayon. Harold goes on a mighty adventure filled with apple trees, dragons, oceans, ships, picnics with pies as far as the eye can see, mountains, and tall buildings until finally he decides it time to find home and go to sleep. I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be profound, but it is such a beautiful commentary on the power that lies within us to bring our dreams to life.

This evening, the beginning of the book really struck me…

One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. haroldmoonresized_9737

And he needed something to walk on. He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost.

haroldpageAnd he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him. But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

Sometimes we need the long straight path to guide us so we don’t get lost, to give us security and direction when we are just starting out. The long straight path is indeed helpful. Necessary.

But sometimes we discover that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So we leave the path. We have to leave the path for the unknown adventure.

We need the long straight path and we need to leave the long straight path. If we stay on the straight path forever, we lose the opportunity to stretch ourselves and experience the glorious uncertainty of adventure. However, if we are always leaving the straight path for the unknown, then we never establish roots or plant seeds that will one day bear fruit. Our lives need to be a mixture of both… following the straight path when we need security and creating a new one when we realize we are not going anywhere.

What is your heart longing to do? What does your journey look like right now? Do you need the long straight path to keep you from getting lost or do you need to leave the path and set off on a new adventure? Wherever you are on your journey, remember you can choose the path… and don’t forget your purple crayon. ;)

Bittersweet Manna

I think throughout our lives we wrestle with two overarching spiritual questions: Is there a God? Where is God in times of difficulty?

Our faith starts by first questioning if there is a God at all. Is there a power greater? Is there a bigger plan? Is there order in the chaos? For some, these questions need concrete irrefutable answers. For others, they look around their world and they feel there is substantial evidence there is a God.

Then I think we move into the stage of wondering if God cares and where He is in the midst of our struggle. Does He see me? Can He hear the cries?

After surviving a hardship, we resolve those questions. Yes, there is a God, and yes, He does see and care.

Inevitably heartache strikes again. But this time it’s different. This time we know God exists, we know there is a plan. This time we lean into the knowledge that we have not been abandoned in our pain. We learned all of that the last time.

This time is different because we see the goodness, the provision in the midst of the struggle. As difficult as things are, we see… We see the manna.

Manna. Translated literally it means “what is it.” The what is it nourished the nation of Israel for 40 years as they wondered in the wilderness after being set free from 400 years of slavery. They were instructed to gather what they needed each morning but not to gather more than that for it would rot.   Manna nourished body and soul. It fed belly and faith.

But it was 40 long years of manna.

Like the Israelites in the desert, we see and are being nourished by the manna that is coming down from heaven. We know and see all of this but… but our hearts are still breaking. Our stomachs are still sick. We are still aching with sadness and worry. The goodness and provision may be helping our external world, but our internal worlds are still in upheaval.

What do we do when we can see the provision, but we are weary with the journey?

Have you had this experience before? You can see the manna on the ground and have even started to really believe it will be there each morning so you’ve stopped gathering more than you need. You see the manna and it is truly amazing and you’re grateful.

But I think we can reach the point, like the Israelites in the desert, where we are tired of the manna and we just want to get to the end of the journey. We like to judge the Israelites for their lack of faith and ingratitude. I mean, God was providing a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and manna to eat and fill them each day. How could they have been so weak of faith and ungrateful? It is easy to point the finger from the cheap seats.

It is so easy.

It is so easy until you have been journeying for 40 years. It is so easy until you realize the bittersweetness of manna. I don’t know if everyone gets to this point in their journey, but for those of us that do, we know the beauty of grace. We know the breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience of seeing the grace in the wilderness… of seeing how we are being taken care of in ways that far surpass what we expect.

But we also know that there are some days when the manna tastes bitter. And we find ourselves in the confusion of painful gratitude… desperately trying to remind ourselves there will be an end. Desperately trying to fix our eyes on the grace around us.

But I don’t know that grace is always meant to be a painkiller. Grace is what helps us keep getting up every morning. It is the oxygen we receive when we think we can’t take another breath. Sometimes, though, we have to sit in that confusing space where we feel every ounce of discomfort despite the presence of amazing grace. It is such a truly difficult place.

I think that is the tough part about faith and hope. We can’t keep going without faith and hope, but they aren’t exit ramps from the journey.

It’s like if I break my arm. I know that it will heal, that the doctor will put a cast on it, and eventually it will be good as new. However, that knowledge does not stop the throbbing pain of a bone split in two. My arm still hurts.

Our hearts are the same. We get to the point in our faith journey where we have traveled long enough in the wilderness that we know we’re not alone, but we’re tired and our feet hurt and our hearts hurt. That is the place of hard faith. That isn’t the Sunday School felt board faith. It is the tears streaming down your face, falling to your knees type of faith. You can’t get through the trial without faith, but faith doesn’t anesthetize our pain.

Still feeling angry, sad, hurt, wanting it to be over doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t grateful or you don’t have faith. It means you are human. It means the Israelites were human. It means we understand that God and Life coexist. God is God and Life is unfair.

What do you do when you’re not questioning if God exists or if He is there? What do you do if you are struggling to find comfort in the provision around you? How do you learn to rest in the green pastures of goodness while still honestly addressing the struggles in your life?

We can be grateful and wonder when this season is going to be over all at the same time. We can be grateful and have a broken heart all at the same time. If we are going to make it through the wilderness, we have to learn to hold those two opposing realities in the palm of our hand. We have to allow our souls to grieve and wail and our hearts to hope and heal.

What is the manna in your wilderness currently? How are you holding the two opposing realities of being grateful for the manna but tired of the journey?

Do You Want To Be Well?

Do you ever fall into this trap? You start your week and you think This is going to be the week that I start exercising, that I start eating healthy. This is going to be the week I finally muster the courage to call the doctor, the counselor, the friend I’ve been avoiding. This week I will finally start having a quiet time, meditating in the morning, spending less time on Facebook. Do you ever fall into the trap of planning for and then delaying change in your life? What keeps us from changing? What keeps us from following through with the things we want to do or we know we need to do for our own health and wellbeing? Why is change SO difficult and staying stuck so easy?

Here is the dilemma that I think a lot of us live in- we want change, we want health, but we aren’t always sure if we want to do what it takes to get to that end. Or rather we don’t believe we can do what it takes to move us to that end. So we stay stuck.

I’ve found that the key to change is not necessarily doing something, but often it is not doing something. Change often involves giving something up, and I think that is why change is so difficult. Letting go of the ragged security blanket, stopping a habit, surrendering… that is tough business.

We have to ask ourselves- do I want to be well? Do I really want to be well? Because to be well- to be emotionally, mentally, relationally, physically well- we have to pay the cost of being well. We have to give up what we know for wellness.

To change the marriage, we have to give up always trying to keep the peace or always simmering in anger. To change our discontent with the direction of our lives, we have to give up the need for certainty and we finally have to make a decision and take a leap. To change the loneliness we feel, we have to give up some of the heart clutter that keeps us from being truly known and seen in our relationships.

Being well is hard work. It is hard work because it requires faith, trust, surrender, and a long, hard look in the mirror. Being well means we have to get honest with ourselves. How do you answer when life presents you with the question Do you want to be well?

Honestly, how do you answer?

Most of us don’t give a yes or no answer. Most of us give the reason we are not well already. We live in the yes, but…

Yes, of course, I want to be well, but this is such a stressful season that I can’t deal with making those changes right now. Yes, I want to be healthier emotionally and physically but I don’t have time to do the work right now. Yes, I want to go to counseling and start healing from this old baggage, but I can’t find a counselor. Yes, I want to make some changes, but I don’t have anyone to help me. Yes, but I don’t know where to start. Yes, but I have tried everything and nothing has worked Yes, but you don’t understand how bad my pain is… nothing can help me.

The yes… but is a powerful tool. It creates a weird safety net that keeps us imprisons us from positive change. And I think if we are really, really honest with ourselves, for a lot of us it’s not so much that we want to get well; I think it’s more we want to stop being in pain. We want the pain to stop. That’s what we want to change. We want the pain to go away.

We want the insomnia to go away. We want the stomach aches to go away. We want the headaches to go away, the racing thoughts, the sadness, the depression. We want the symptoms of our mental and heart stress to go away, but we’re not entirely sure we want to be well.

Wanting the pain to stop and wanting to be well are two different things. To be well means we have to get to the root of what keeps us up at night at, what makes our stomach hurt, and our heart race. To be well means we have to dig, and most of us prefer to stay above ground.

We will never be well if we’re just treating symptoms and not actually addressing the root issues. To get at those roots, it means we’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable and that we really do not want to do. We are going to have to talk about things we don’t want to talk about, to be honest and assertive rather than silent and passive. It means we’re going to have to surrender how we’re living, the schedule we’re keeping, the people we’re trying to please, the shame based beliefs we’re bowing down to.

No wonder we stay stuck. It is a lot easier.

One of my mentors used to say you have two choices: Pain and Pain. You can choose the pain you know or you can choose the pain you don’t know. The pain you know will get you what you’ve always gotten, but the pain you don’t know just might get you freedom. There is going to be pain, but you can choose productive pain that moves you toward wellness or you can choose unproductive pain that keeps you exactly where you are.

So it’s a really legitimate question- Do you want to be well?   If your answer is yes, go one step further- what are you doing to move yourself toward wellness? If you hear yourself giving a yes… but answer or if the way you are living indicates a yes… but answer, then start from there. Be honest with yourself about what is keeping you stuck when you say you want one thing but your actions and choices are pursuing a different direction.

Be well, friends! It’s hard work, but it’s a whole lot better than staying stuck!

Five Questions For Discovering Your Purpose

There are certain questions I’ve discovered that make people feeling really uncomfortable: What are your strengths? What do you need? Tell me about yourself.

That last one technically isn’t a question but the question is implied. Who are you? I bet you groaned a little bit just reading it.

I don’t know… I’m a wife, a mother… I’m an accountant... I’m the oldest of four… I’m single… I grew up in Cleveland.

Whenever we have to answer this question it is usually initiated with a sigh and then a listing of the roles and tasks in our lives. And while our roles and the things we do within any given day do make up a large part of who we are, do they really satisfy the deeper meaning of this question?

Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want my life to be about?

Sometimes this question can be so daunting that we don’t even bother to wrestle with it, and instead we make our roles and our tasks our identities. That works for a while, but eventually all relationships shift and all jobs end. Then you are left back where you started contemplating the ten million dollar question: Who am I?

Whether we are in our 20’s or our 70’s, we all have to tackle this issue of identity and purpose. Here are some questions to guide you in your wrestling.

 

What is your story?

Do you know your story? Do you know the positive and negative turns? Do you understand how those negative turns have been redeemed? Do you know the greater theme of your story? Do you understand the reoccurring patterns that have led to good and those that have led to heartache?

You have been given a story and your story matters. The events of your life have greater significance because it is out of those events that you will find direction and purpose. If you never take the time to learn your story you will miss out on those direction signs.

 

What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?

Think back to your younger self… think back to your playing-on-the-floor-at-the-foot-of-your-bed-self? What did that little girl like to do? What brought her joy? What activity completely captured her time and imagination?

So much of who we really are is represented in that little girl who is somewhere still inside of us. In some ways, our little girl selves are the purest versions of ourselves because they are who we were before our hearts were broken, our self-confidence was dashed, and our thoughts were overridden with doubt.

A couple of years, I was asking myself this very question and I remembered two things about myself that had gotten stuffed way into the back of my mental closet.

One, when I was a little girl I loved playing with my baby dolls. Those dolls were my full time job. I loved feeding them, changing their clothes, pushing them around in their strollers. I loved those dolls.   I had forgotten how much I loved those dolls until I had my son. I think out of self-protection I had stuffed those particular memories deep down because for several years I did not know if motherhood would be part of my story. But then I had my son, and one day while changing his clothes, it struck me that in an odd way this felt so familiar. That little seed of happiness felt almost nostalgic, and I remembered how much joy I had as a little girl taking care of my beloved dolls.

Second, when I was in the second or third grade I wanted to hold a bible study for my friends. I planned the lesson (it was going to be on Zaccheus), I got out my felt board with the accompanying felt figures, and I made refreshments. Now the sad part of this story, that we won’t dwell on here, is that no one came. Yeah that was unfortunate. But when this little memory came back to me some time ago I was fascinated by it because I could remember planning it and getting everything so clearly. And in so many ways that little girl was a mini-me of today.

It is not lost on me that the two things that bring me the greatest sense of joy and spiritual, emotional, and mental connectedness in my adult life are my son and speaking/teaching and both were present to some degree in my childhood.

What did you love to do as a little girl? Before the world got to you, before disappointment clouded your vision, what did you love?

 

What are you good at? What are your strengths?

Yep, this is the question we really hate, but if you want to discover your purpose and true voice you do have to go through the vulnerable exercise of naming and claiming your strengths.

I discussed in an earlier post why we as women struggle to name our strengths. I think so many things keep us from embracing this truth about ourselves. We’re afraid we’re not good at anything. We mistakenly convince ourselves that to be good at something means we need to be the best at it. We don’t want people to think we are arrogant because we believe we are good at something. Or maybe we truly do not believe we are good at anything.

When we ignore or minimize our strengths, we let our roles and jobs define us rather than letting who we were created to be shine for all to see.

 

What is important to you?

What is important to you? What are the values that create the foundation of your life? What are the values that you want your life to be about?

Values serve as flashlights in the dark when we start to feel lost and uncertain in our journey.  They let us know when we’re straying from the path or encourage us when things get difficult. When you are doing something unknown or scary, when you are having a tough conversation, when you are making the hard choice, knowing your values gives you that extra ounce of support and direction to keep moving forward.

The decision may feel uncomfortable and may be unpopular, but if you know you are choosing it because you want the foundation of your life to be rooted in courage or faith, for example, then it will make it more possible to stand by your decision. It won’t be easy, it won’t be fun, but you will be able to do it.

 

What are you passionate about?

What do you always want to read about? What topic(s) stirs you? What do you have a curiosity or thirst of knowledge for? What topic brings tears to your eyes because you are so moved by it?

Years ago when people actually went to bookstores (oh I miss those days… sigh), my husband and I loved to go to Borders. He always looked at magazines and searched through the music department, and I headed directly to the relationships/psychology/religion department. Inevitably, I always left with a stack of books on topics such as abusive relationships, healing your emotional wounds, finding your purpose. My husband frequently had to responses to our bookstore field trips: I bet that check out person things you are a really troubled person and Do you really enjoy reading all that stuff?

Yes, I do. I really do. I love learning about what I do for a living. I could read about relationships and healing our shame and living brave and overcoming disappointment ‘til the cows come home. It excites me, interests me, holds my attention for hours. I feel completely alive when I am learning and then communicating to other women how to heal and discover our true voice and be our best selves.

Most likely the things that way heaviest on our hearts or intrigue our minds the most are somehow connected with who we were created to be and what we were created to do. Usually we care about something because it speaks to us or we identify with it in some way. We can’t discount these facts about ourselves. It isn’t a coincidence. Things excite and move you for a reason. Listen to that voice. Listen to that yearning.

 

Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want to do with my life? Oh these are such big and important questions. The answer to these questions is found at the intersection of our story, our joy, our ability, our values, and our passions. What does your intersection look like? What direction does it leave you facing? What would you like to explore based on your answers?

I'm a Quitter

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I love those pictures with quotes on them. Recently, I was scrolling through my News Feed and saw one that said quitting is never an option. Immediately I heard Eye of the Tiger in my mind and images of Rocky and football teams practicing in the rain and the U.S. Hockey team doing that skating drill over and over in Miracle flashed through my mind. (I LOVE sports movies. I am in no way an athlete, but sports movies and documentaries move me to chills and tears.)

After I came to from my movie montage daydream, I thought about how often we hear statements like that. Never quit. Never Give Up. Those statements are indeed inspiring and encouraging. We do have to learn to keep going. We have to push through, hang in there. A life of always giving up ends up not being much of a life.

But this time when I read this quote, I didn’t think Yeah charge the mountain, fight the good fight. Instead, I thought…

I’m a quitter.

I thought for a few more moments and decided yep I’m a quitter and I am totally okay with it.

We think of the word quit as one of the worst four letter words out there. It’s right up there with lose and lazy. You never want to be a loser. Heaven forbid someone call you lazy, and you never, EVER want to be seen as a quitter. We run from these labels as if they were ghosts chasing us in a dark forest.

But you know, as I think about all the things I have quit in my life, I have to say I’m pretty thankful that sometimes I’m a quitter.

I’m thankful I quit certain toxic relationships. I’m thankful I quit blaming myself for things that weren’t my responsibility. I’m thankful I quit music so I could pursue teaching. I’m thankful I quit teaching so I could pursue a career in counseling. I’m thankful I quit being afraid to leave my comfort zone and started taking leaps of faith. I’m thankful I quit wrestling with certain decisions and took action. I’m thankful I quit being angry with certain people. I’m thankful I am working on quitting worrying about what people think of me. I’m thankful I have been a quitter.

I think most people fall into one of two camps- There are those that quit everything and never push through the difficulty of hard work, uncertainty, and disappointment. And then there are the people who never quit and stay long past the point of healthy dedication and perseverance. They never quit because they don’t want to be perceived as a quitter, and they’ve developed a distorted sense of loyalty and commitment. They never quit because they are afraid. They never quit because they have lost all sense of self and what is right and wrong and how they deserve to be treated. They never quit, and instead their spirit slowly dies.

Yes, sometimes it is okay to quit. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is quit. Sometimes we have to become broken enough to discover we are strong enough to quit. Sometimes quitting is the thing that will save your soul.

unnamed

One of our most difficult tasks in life is learning to discern the difference between when we should keep moving forward and when we should lift our hands in the air and say I’m done. How do we know when to quit, move on, try a new direction, and how do we know when to stick it out, pursue, and persevere? There is not a formula for deciphering this equation. Every situation breeds a different answer.   Every story requires a different ending. Finding a balance between quitting and persevering in your life is the mark of health and maturity.

If you quit everything, then you will never learn the beauty of hard work nor will you learn the depth of your own strength and faith.   Conversely, if you hold onto everything, you may never know the power of healing and the exhilaration of letting go and trying something new.  It is emotionally dangerous to live under the notion that quitting is always wrong. Quitting can be the doorway to freedom and wholeness.

Yeah I’ve been a quitter in my life, and I’ve also been a keeper on-er. Knowing when to hang in there and knowing when to surrender have been some of the hardest decisions I have ever made.   I’m thankful for those times when I haven’t given up and hung in there, and I’m also thankful for the times I reached the end of myself and quit.

The new year is just days away, and as you are contemplating resolutions and major and minor life changes, think about where in your life you need to persevere and where you need to quit. Ask yourself if you need to quit something but are afraid to do so. Challenge yourself to wisely discern the difference between when you need to dig deep and find extra faith and strength and when you need to quit. My friends, here’s to knowing when to hang on and knowing when to quit in 2015!

What do you need to quit as you wrap up 2014 and prepare for the new year? What have you quit in your past that opened the door to healing and new opportunities? How do you discern when to quit and when to persevere?

The Truth About Anger (Part 1)

When was the last time you were annoyed? Frustrated? Irritated? Down right angry?   Was it sitting in traffic with no end in sight when you were already late for an appointment? Was it taking your brood grocery shopping only to spend most of the time picking items up off the floor rather than putting them in your basket?   Or was it when you even shocked yourself at how animated (yeah we’ll go with that word) you became watching the latest sporting event?  

Anger is such an interesting emotion.  Sometimes our anger is totally warranted and sometimes it stems more from an overreaction. Anger is an emotion that a lot of people dislike to the point of fearing it. They dislike feeling it themselves and seeing it in others. This is probably because they have seen too many displays of destructive anger.  Over the years, we’ve heard all sorts of myths and mistruths about anger, which feeds our reluctance to acknowledge and understand our anger.   So anger remains this mysterious and scary emotion that most of us try to avoid at all costs.

But when we ignore or avoid our anger, we run the risk of either becoming very quiet or adopting a false voice- a harsh voice, an invulnerable voice, a voice that does not let anyone know us or get close.  Understanding the truth about anger helps you live a more authentic, vulnerable, and emotionally honest life.  Your self-awareness increases and your relationships benefit.   This is the first of a two-part blog post on understanding the truth about anger.  Why do we get angry? What is the purpose of anger and what can we learn from our anger?

All of our emotions serve as a signaling system of sorts for our mind.  Our feelings let us know how we are experiencing a situation. When we are feeling angry that tells us something has gone wrong, some sort of boundary has been crossed.  Often, it means something has happened that goes against how we think the world should work, we should be treated, or we should act.

Anger is an emotion and like any emotion it is natural for us to feel it.  It is not wrong to feel angry.  Anger is not innately destructive, but it becomes destructive when we don’t understand what triggers it or is at the root of it.  In those circumstances, we let our anger get out of control.  Anger is not a bad thing, but what we do with anger can be destructive because most of the time when we are angry we are reacting, rather than choosing to act.  When we are reactive, we are usually (okay… always) out of control.

It is neither realistic nor human to try and go through life never getting angry. Everyone gets angry.  Yes, even the sweetest, most patient peacemakers amongst us get angry.  However, it IS realistic to learn what is behind your anger so you can choose your actions and they are under control and non-harmful.

So what does it feel like to be angry?  That’s an interesting question.  We may not always realize we are angry.  What?  Yep, you read that correctly.  Many of us are so uncomfortable with anger that we stuff away any inkling of anger and redirect that energy to other activities and/or people.  But just because we stuff our feelings does not mean that our body is not still experiencing that emotion. If we know and understand how we physically experience anger, we can pay attention to our body’s cues and use that as a signal to say, “Whoa what’s going on here? Let me step away from this situation before I do or say something I’m going to regret.”

For example, if one of your physical symptoms for anger is a racing heart then when you notice your heart is racing let that be a signal that you need to stop the conversation, leave the room, etc. until you are in a more settled state physically and mentally.  Let’s be honest, this is hard to do sometimes because when that adrenaline starts pumping you just want to hang in there for the long haul. But to continue in the situation leads to destructive anger, which is never what we want.

As we become more frustrated, we become more stressed and our bodies start experiencing a physical stress response- the whole fight or flight response that has been programmed in us since cave man days when you either had to fight the tiger or run like hell.  Except now there is no tiger, but your brain doesn’t know that.  There is only your spouse or your child or your boss. (Maybe a tiger would be better!)  Your adrenaline is pumping and your brain and body are thinking, “This is it. We’ve got to either run or fight the tiger.”

In an instant, the following things start happening in your body so you can either get ready to fight or get ready to run:

  • Increased adrenaline
  • Muscles tighten
  • Increased alertness
  • Digestion stops in order to save energy  (you don’t really need to keep digesting that hamburger if you’re about to be “eaten by a tiger”)
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased heartbeat and blood pressure
  • Increased breathing
  • Pupils dilate and peripheral vision increases
  • Increased perspiration

All of this happens in less than two heartbeats! (Side note- isn’t the human body AMAZING?!?)  Perhaps some of you can even feel it happening.  You can feel your temperature rise and your heart race. You can feel yourself digging your heels in and getting ready to fight.  But when we get in this adrenaline pumping fight or flight mode, we don’t think clearly. When your mind is in this mode it has one objective: survival (aka win).  Your mind is not in a state where it can reason or think through things.  That is why when we are angry or frustrated we say things that we don’t mean, give consequences we have no intention of carrying out, or do things we would never do in a calm state. We are in survival mode and we will do or say anything to survive (a.k.a. win).

OR maybe your experience with anger and the proverbial tiger is different.  Maybe you are thinking I really just don’t get angry. I don’t dig in my heels. I actually am fairly calm.  Maybe you are not a fighter; maybe you are a withdrawer.  Instead of feeling a hot flash on your cheeks, you feel as if a shield is descending, and you can feel yourself pulling inward and tuning everything out.

One thing to note, whether you fight or withdraw when you are angry, you are still angry.  Some people do tend to withdraw or freeze when they are angry, and it is easy for those people to think they never get angry or don’t have a problem with anger.  This is false. Remember, we said everyone gets angry. Regardless of how you respond externally, you are still angry internally.  Stuffed anger always comes out.  It may come out a week a later, a month later, or twenty years later. It may come out in the form of depression and anxiety.  It may come out on someone or some thing not even related to the original feeling, but it always comes out.

If we want to be the healthiest versions of ourselves and if we want to have productive conflict (this can happen) in our relationships, we have to understand what happens when we’re angry, why we get angry, and how to communicate what is really going on with us.  In Part II of this blog post, we’re going to look at what is really behind our anger.  Anger is what we call a secondary emotion, which means there are always other emotions that are at the root of our anger.  Yes, it’s honest to admit you’re angry, but it is a brave act of emotional honesty and vulnerability to say, “Yes, I’m angry but really I’m scared, I’m anxious.”  If we can learn to identify and express those root emotions, then we will have those open, healthy, authentic relationships we long for.  Our hearts will thank us, our bodies will thank us, and our loved ones will thank us.  Check back in a few days for Part II: The Roots of Our Anger.  See you then!

What Are You Good At?

I have found the quickest way to bring deafening silence to a therapy session is to ask this question: What are you good at?

Let’s be honest, this question brings any conversation to a grinding halt. My guess is that even the thought of having to list your strengths elicits an internal groan. I’ll tell you anything about myself, but don’t make me say out loud for the world to hear what I’m good at!

Why is it so hard for us to verbalize this very basic and important fact about ourselves?   Why is it so hard for us to say, “I’m good at ________ ”?   It’s like we have convinced ourselves that we aren’t supposed to think we are good at anything and somehow that is the marking of humility. We seem to be caught in this trap of either not believing we are good at anything OR fearing that other people are going to think that we think we are good at something. Heaven forbid! (Insert sarcastic tone) As a result, we walk around thinking things like…

I don’t want people to think I’m a know-it all so I’m just going to keep my thoughts to myself during the meeting.

I don’t want people to think that I’m bragging so I’m not going to tell anyone about my promotion.

I am scared to try this new venture because I don’t want people to think that I think I’m all that.

I don’t want people to think that I think I’m good at that so let me add in how I mess all these other things up and how I can’t do this or that.

I think we all fall victims to this twisted logic at some point. I know I certainly have! When I was creating the copy for my website I basically had to rock and hum I felt so uncomfortable writing about myself. It just feels so vulnerable and exposing, doesn’t it?  What will people think? What will people say? So and so is much better at that so I shouldn’t put that I do that.  All those lovely thoughts raced through my head as Adam Sandler’s voice echoed in the background saying, “They’re all going to laugh at you.” Ugh! The ways we mentally torture ourselves!

And yes, sometimes we really don’t think we are good at things, but sometimes we do not let ourselves think we are good at things, or even try new things, because we are worried how it will come across to others. Sometimes we even struggle to say thank you after a compliment because we are afraid that by saying thank you, the person may think we are agreeing with them! Again, heaven forbid!

And we wonder why we don’t feel good about ourselves and why we are swimming in a sea of low self worth?? Are we even giving ourselves a chance? Are we even leaving a crack in the door that we could… wait for it, wait for it… be good at something?!

Where in the world does this come from? Where did we get the idea that by naming and claiming our strengths we are crossing into this horror of horrors zone of egotistical boasting?

I think women, in particular, have a fear of being perceived as arrogant. As much as we fear being not enough, I think we have an equally intense fear of being too much.   We don’t want to be too loud, too opinionated, too needy, too confident. We find ourselves dancing this delicate cha-cha in which we try to assert ourselves while at the same time downplaying every strength and gift. We live shamed into silence by the question who do you think you are-   Who do you think you are to try that? Who do you think you are to offer that opinion?

Additionally, I think we struggle to name our strengths because sometimes we mistakenly associate having a strength with being the best, and if we find someone who does something better, then we automatically discount that characteristic or ability in ourselves. Well, that isn’t necessarily a strength because Sally Sue is much better at it than I am. What a disservice we are doing to ourselves by minimizing, discounting, or even down right rejecting our strengths!

But again, where does this come from?

Like most of our baggage in life, I think this lovely little suitcase originated in middle school.

In Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons discusses how bullying and silent treatments function in female adolescent relationships. She says the worst thing a peer can say about an adolescent girl is

She thinks that she’s all that.

The phrase alone sends shivers up my spine because I know Simmons is right. Simmons says that once a girl is given this label she is deemed as arrogant and cocky and is shunned from the group. It is the social deathblow to a woman of any age and has been repeated in school hallways, dorm rooms, conference rooms, and neighborhood streets across the land as a way of demarcating us vs. her. Every woman, if she is honest with herself, knows the power of this statement because she has either used it to negatively describe another woman or she has feared it being said about her.

We are socialized to fear that if we come across as too confident then we will be ostracized, we will lose the very connection we desire. We end up caught in death grip of feeling not enough and fearing we are too much all at the same time. And so… we start to cha-cha. We try to be confident, but not too confident. We name our gifts, but we give nineteen disclaimers. We accept the positive feedback, but we follow it up with a rundown of how the presentation could have been better and what we left out.  How destructive this thinking is to our hearts and minds!

What if we started thinking differently? What if you gave yourself permission to say, “I’m a good _________”? What if you sat down and named your strengths without disclaimers and explanations? And then- this is the biggie- what if you believed them to be true? What if you believed you really had innate, God-given gifts that have been refined and enhanced by your life experiences? How would your life be different? How would that slice of truth change your interactions, the things you try, how you feel about yourself?

Slide1
Slide1

Discovering your voice, clarifying your purpose, and breaking free of the chains that hold you back, starts with allowing yourself to recognize your gifts and talents. For some of us, that is a scary and uncomfortable task because we live our days downplaying and doubting our abilities. But your life does not have to be defined by the fears of not being enough or being too much. Your plans do not have to be shot down by the shaming question of who do you think you are. You can start living and seeing your self differently. Identifying your strengths and talents is not being arrogant; it is showing acceptance and gratitude for your unique abilities and gifts. Buried talents end up being just that- buried. They do not grow. They do not blossom. They just stay buried in darkness.

What do you need to do to start owning the truth that you are good at, not just one thing, but many things? Do you need to give yourself permission to claim that truth? Do you need to let go of some the old messages that planted negative seeds in your soul? Do you need to take time to discover your strengths and talents? Your strengths need light shining down on them. They need you to boldly name and claim them rather than burying them out of fear, insecurity, or misguided attempts at humility. Steward your strengths, cultivate your strengths; don’t bury them.

So… what are you good at? Come on, you can do it.   I know you can. Take a deep breath and let me hear you say it.

Here’s your challenge: List 10 strengths. Write them down and share them with someone. (In fact, share them below- I’d love to read them!)   It will be the most empowering, exhilarating, and scariest thing you do all week! You’re gonna love it!

5 in 365: The Five Lessons I Learned One Year After My Leap of Faith

This month I am celebrating an exciting milestone in my life. A year ago, I took my biggest leap of faith yet and launched my own private practice. In some ways, I cannot believe it has been a year, and in other ways it seems like forever ago that Mazi Robinson, LLC opened its doors. As I shared in a post a year ago, I entered into this venture not knowing what the future held but feeling simultaneously excited and anxious. Now, a year later, I am in literal awe at what has unfolded, the women that I have had the honor to work with, the groups I’ve been privileged to speak to, and the doors that have opened.   This past year has been filled with abundant, over the top Grace, and I am deeply grateful.

Sitting on this side of the past 365 days and looking ahead to the next 365, I have been pondering what I have learned so far on this journey. Here are the five most important lessons I have learned since my leap of faith.

If you’re afraid to do it, you have to do it. If you’re afraid to do it, then you’re probably doing something right.

As I shared a year ago, it was when I voiced my real fears about going out on my own that I knew I had to do it. I was afraid of not being able to make it on my own, of failing, of losing connections, of being judged. Those fears were very real, but what I knew then, and what has become even more of a truth for me since, is that if you give into fear, then fear wins. Fear calls the shots. Fear dictates the path. Fear keeps you small. If you’re afraid, it is a sign that you are pushing the boundaries of your beloved comfort zone. It’s a sign that you’re growing. Growth is often painful and uncertain. Fear is not necessarily a sign that you should not do something. Fear is often a sign that you are on the cusp breaking free from the thoughts that you think are protecting you but are actually imprisoning you. Fear is often a sign that you are doing something right. I now take those butterflies in my stomach and what if thoughts not as indicators to turn back but as green lights to take a deep breath and move forward.

It’s not the critic who counts… it’s the man in the arena who counts.

I’ve shared numerous times what a fan I am of Brené Brown’s research and writing. When I read the Teddy Roosevelt quote she uses as the backdrop for her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, I was immediately taken by this idea that it is better to be marred by dust and sweat then to stay pristine and safe on the outside of the arena. For the past year, whenever I have tried something new or stepped into a new arena I have repeated this mantra over and over in my mind. Success is immaterial. Critics only have power if I give them power. At the end of my life, I think I will care much more that at least I tried- tried to tried to hold Daring Way™ retreats, tried to market myself (email marketing literally makes me hum and shiver with discomfort… more on that gem later), tried to blog, etc.- then if I “successfully” avoided the criticism and judgment of the mysterious “they.” Yes, I’ve decided I would rather be filthy, exhausted, and totally poured out in the center of the arena then standing all put together on the outside.

I am my worst self when I’m on the outside of the arena.

I am my better self when I am facing my fears, standing up to my insecurities, and doing the things that make me feel uncomfortable and uncertain. I am jealous, envious, resentful, critical of others, gossipy, and “territorial” when I am standing on the outside of the arena watching others do the things that I am too afraid to do. I am my worst self when I stand on the outside looking in. Isn’t that interesting how that is the case?   Standing on the outside of the arena brings out all of the unattractive qualities we like least about ourselves. We become the critic when we give fear the power to close the door to the arena we feel called to enter. Want to be free of the jealousy that morphs into insecurity that leads to saying critical things about others? I’ve learned you have to step out of that beautifully decorated prison cell you call home and walk into the arena you keep staring at.

There is never the perfect time, but there is the right time.

When we are contemplating making a change, how often do we say the timing is just not right? How often do we think when I get to… or when I have this amount in savings… or when we get past this hurdle…? This past year has taught me that there is never a perfect time- you can’t wait for the perfect time- but there is the right time. What I didn’t share in my blog announcement last year is that when I decided to start this venture in private practice, my husband was unemployed. In March of last year the company my husband worked for was sold and closed their Atlanta office. As I was putting everything in place for the opening of my practice, my husband was at the beginning of a job search process that had no known end date. On paper, this was not the time to start a new business. We had bills to pay, a little one to take care of, and the uncertainty of unemployment to navigate. This was definitelynot the perfect time. But after much discussion, we felt it was time for this change, and as I quickly discovered it was the right time. It was the right time for me to clarify my purpose and calling. It was the right time for me to be my own boss. It was the right time for a new challenge. The lesson? If you wait for the perfect time, you just might miss out on what is right for you.

I thought I knew what I could lose in my leap of faith, but I never dreamed what I would receive.

I had a long list of things I thought I might lose, fears of what might happen, things I thought I wasn’t capable of doing. (Thinking about things like bookkeeping, web management, and marketing made me want to sit in a corner and rock.) I think anyone has such a list when they are contemplating walking away from the known into the unknown. Over this past year, I have had to let go of some things, and, yes, that was as painful and agonizing as I predicted it would be. But we have to let go so that our hands are open to receive other things. We let go of Egypt so we can enter into our Canaan. We let go of the beautifully decorated prison so we can step into our arena. What have I received?  Opportunities I never dreamed of. Occasions to hear others’ stories that I will treasure in my heart. Knowledge that I am more capable than I realized. But more importantly, I’ve received grace, a bigger and bolder faith, healing, direction, and a new understanding of what it means to live free.   It is for freedom that we have been set free- oh yes, indeed.  I have felt both carried and covered like never before, and I understand on a whole new level that our imaginations and worst-case scenarios aren’t nearly as big as God’s vision for us- Amen to that. This year has been one of the most influential and shaping of my life.    To say I am grateful is an understatement.

Those are the lessons I have learned over this past year, and I'm sure there is more learning to come in the year ahead. I look ahead at the next year and I'm so excited about what I know is to come and what I cannot imagine is around the bend. Happy Anniversary, Mazi Robinson, LLC!

What are the lessons you have learned from your leaps of faith? Are you contemplating a leap right now? What are your worries and concerns? What is the arena you want to enter? I would love to hear about your journey and what you are learning!

Coffee Talk presents... Embracing Your Story

As I have shared in earlier posts, over the past several months I have been studying and thinking  a great deal about the power of  personal stories.  What can you learn from your story?  How do the ups and downs and twists and turns create a greater theme for your life?  Why is it important we embrace our stories? We each were given a story to live, and there are parts we love and parts we try to ignore.  Embracing our story means accepting the beautiful and painful parts.  It means we choose to show up and be seen in our lives rather than hide and stay quiet.  How do you discover your unique purpose for this life?  It's in your story!  Your purpose, your calling is woven into the fabric of your unique story.  You need only learn the story, and as you learn your story, you will see that nothing is wasted.  The pain that plagues you, the disappointment that troubles you, the regret that haunts... none of it is a waste.  The pain heals, the disappointment subsides , the regret is redeemed, and it all comes together to create direction and purpose for your life.

Over the coming weeks, I will share more about the power of owning and sharing our stories.  If you are in the Atlanta area, I invite you to join us at Coffee Talk hosted by Peachtree Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, November 12th at 7:30 PM in The Lodge.   I will be speaking on embracing your story and living a life filled with courage and purpose.  Would love to see you there!  Have a great weekend!

 

FacebookAds403x403.CoffeeTalk

 

Thoughts for Thursday- Are You Brave Enough?

In honor of  my earlier post, What's Your Theme Song, I thought our Thoughts for Thursday post should be a song rather than a quote.   Yesterday a friend of mine, knowing how much I love the song “Brave” right now, sent me a link to this amazing video created by the patients and staff at University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Do me a favor- stop reading and watch the video.  It is truly  a must see.  You won't regret it.  (Click on the picture below for the video.)

 

8c9379083-tdy-brave-video-131014-01.TdyHorz3

 

Pretty incredible, right?

There are so many things you could say about what makes this video moving, but what stands out to me is how truly BRAVE those children, nurses, and doctors are.  We are never more courageous than when we choose to have hope and joy in the midst of pain and fear.

Joy and happiness are two different things, and I think we often confuse the two.  Happiness is temporary, momentary, fleeting.  It is like hunger- it’s going to come and go.  I can be happy when I buy a new pair of pants, but by the time I get home I can be completely angry about something.  But joy… joy is deeper.  It is more foundational.  Joy has to do with our spirit.  Happiness has to do with our circumstances.  Joy has to do with how we view the world and ourselves.

Joy is an interesting emotion.  Most would say they want to experience joy; they want to feel it.  But in truth, I think letting ourselves really experience joy and hope is actually a very scary prospect.  What if?  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if it is taken away from me?  What if it doesn’t happen? What if she don’t get better?  What if…  Joy leaves us feeling exposed, and whenever we feel exposed, our instinct is to protect.  We “protect” ourselves from the uncertainty of joy by throwing it away with worst case scenarios and cynicism.  We give it away before it can be taken away.  We think we’re protecting ourselves, but really we are depriving ourselves.

But what if you let yourself have hope?  What if you let yourself get excited about that thing on the horizon?  What if you danced in the midst of your fear and anxiety?  We are our bravest when we give ourselves permission to have hope and joy when all signs in our life point in a different direction.  We're not talking about a “smile and never let ’em see you sweat” philosophy.  That is denial.  That is self-protection run amuck.  That is dangerous.  We're talking about acknowledging your fear and your pain- not denying it- and giving yourself permission to feel  joy.  We're talking about letting yourself exhale.

What we see in the video is that in the midst of real fear and pain and uncertainty, those patients gave themselves permission to dance, to laugh, and to be silly.   That is courageous.  And what we can readily assume is that when the camera stopped rolling those same patients gave themselves permission to cry and rage and pound their fists when they needed to.  That is brave.   It's the type of brave that takes your breath away.

Whenever you allow yourself to have hope when you know the possible reality, you are being brave.  Whenever you allow yourself to feel joy when your instinct is to throw it away out of protection, you are being courageous.

Are you brave enough to hope?  Are you courageous enough to feel joy? 

Thoughts for Thursday- That IS Me!

Steven Covey quote  

In this week’s earlier post about breaking our comparison habit on Facebook and Pinterest, we discussed the power of the statement that is not me.  We walk around in our little worlds, and too often that thought is triggered because we think someone else is more together, more interesting, or more accomplished.  But sometimes saying that is not me allows us to uncover our true priorities, passions, and calling.  It opens the door to discovering what is truly important and what we were created to do with our lives.

It takes courage to look at your life and say these are the things I am good at, passionate about, or I want to try and work on.  If you want to quickly make a conversation uncomfortable just ask someone what she is good at.  We seem so hesitant to boldly claim are innate talents and gifts, and we mistake denial and self-deprecation for humility.  Just as denying your natural abilities  is not humility, choosing your priorities over someone else's is not selfish.   We have to learn to say "no" to some things so we can say "yes" to our gifts and passions.

When we let ourselves do what we are good at and what we love, we are living a priority focused life and we will be much less inclined to feel we need to be or live differently.   When we know what makes us come alive, there will be a bigger “yes” burning inside us like a lighthouse guiding and directing our path.

Is your priority in life trying to be different than you are and always looking to others trying to be like them?  Or is your priority naming and claiming your gifts, talents, and passions so you can live out your unique purpose?

Thoughts for Thursday- Owning Your Story

Slide1  

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to Peachtree Presbyterian’s MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  What a wonderful group of women!  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak on the power of our personal stories and what it means to embrace the beautiful and messy parts of our story.  When we choose to embrace our stories we are saying I am going to show up and be seen.  I am no longer going to hide and play up one part of myself while I play down another.  I am going to be brave.

Owning our story takes courage because too often we feel it is easier to stay quiet.   We want our story to be different or we hide or ignore the parts  we don’t like or regret.    Sometimes we remain silent because we don’t know how to make sense of our story.  Other times we worry what people will think if they know this or that part of our story.  Perhaps we  may even suffer from story envy.  Why does her story seem so good, interesting, easy?  Why does my story always seem so complicated, hard, disappointing?

But hiding or holding onto parts of your story out of shame or bitterness means you are letting those painful chapters continue to injure and harm you.  You remain a victim.  Not talking about the broken family, the addicted loved one, the neglectful parent, the regrets, the lonely marriage, and the major life disappointments won’t make them go away.  Staying busy won’t silence those nagging thoughts for long.  Trying to look like you have it all together all the time will eventually wear thin.  You eventually have to face and own those troublesome parts.  If you don’t, they will continue to own you.

To embrace your story, you have to face your story.  You have to dig into the past, uncover the hurts, and rediscover what brings you joy.  In going through this process, you discover the theme and purpose for your life.  You learn that nothing in your life was pointless or a waste.

Embracing your story means you are choosing to be seen over hidden.  It means you are choosing grace over shame, courage over fear.  When you learn your story you can learn from your story.

What is your story teaching you today?   How can you start bravely embracing all the parts of your story?

Thoughts for Thursday- Let Your Light Shine

Slide1  

Your playing small does not serve the world… Wow.  How powerful is that thought?  We play life small in so many ways.   It’s almost as if we are afraid to take up too much space, to have too many needs… to be too human.  But maybe by playing life small, we are actually creating more angst for ourselves.  Maybe it is the trying to be small that is making us feel so suffocated and discontent.  Maybe small isn’t working for us anymore.

Remember the little song you used to sing as a child This Little Light of MineThis little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  I won’t let anyone blow it out, I gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine.  Those words take on a whole new meaning in adulthood when fear, insecurity, loss, and disappointment threaten to cover our light.  You were born with a light and you were born to take that light around the world.  When we try to be small so as to please everyone and bother no one, we cover our light.

It takes courage to let your light shine.   And, thankfully, courage is contagious.  People see someone stepping out of the shadows and it gives them the inspiration to uncover their light.  Light brings forth more light.  It’s the best ripple effect ever.

How are you covering your light right now in your life?  How are you playing life small?  What is one thing you could do in the next week that brings you out of hiding and lets your light shine?

 

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm gonna take this light around the world and I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. I won't let anyone blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Why Are You So Busy??

The days are starting to cool off, I have heard rumors of pumpkin flavored M&Ms, and my Pinterest main page is filled with Autumn décor and soup recipes.  All of this tells me that, indeed, Fall is before us.  Like so many, I love Fall, and as I shared a couple of weeks ago, I see the start of Fall as an opportunity to press the restart button.  After taking a breath over Summer, the Fall marks a chance to shift and change things.  For me personally, Fall is usually a fairly busy season, so inevitably I find myself wrestling with the seemingly always present conundrum of how to create more balance in my life.  And at some point during this season, I will inevitably ask myself… Why am I so busy??

Busy is indeed a treadmill.  In my life, at least, it is a treadmill that seems to gain speed and increase in incline without the touch of even a button.   When we are trying to keep up with the treadmill of Busy, we often feel that our lives our haphazard, unbalanced, and maybe even pointless and directionless.  We know we have a lot to do, but sometimes we can’t even say why we are doing it all.  Busy takes away our sense of center, and after living in constant motion, eventually we grow tired.  We need a break, but we don’t know how to take one.

One of the greatest theives of our sense of peace, joy, and wellness is busyness.  We will never be able to effectively manage our time or our lives if we stay on this neverending treadmill.  There is a difference between having a full schedule and being busy.  A full schedule is just that- full.  It may be full of commitments, responsibilities, and to do items, but all of these things move us forward in a clear direction.  We’re not just spinning in place, but we are moving towards something. They contribute to a greater sense of purpose and direction in our lives.  Our schedules may be full, but we don’t feel like a prisoner to our calendars, and we don’t feel that our worth is measured by the number of checks on our to do lists.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a lot of activity in your life, but we can get addicted to busy.  We can get where we don’t know how to say no and we don’t know how to slow down without feeling restless, or worse, guilty.  We can get to the point where busyness becomes a badge of honor or a marking of worth so we stay busy simply for the sake of being busy.

You deserve to break free of Busy.  You can break the chains of Busy in a variety of ways, but to do so you have to answer this one important question:

Why are you so busy?? 

I don’t mean this from a scheduling perspective.  I mean, what role is Busy playing in your life that you keep going back to that trough.  We don’t do anything unless we get something out of it, even if that something is twisted and unhealthy.  We engage in repeated behaviors because we think we are going to gain something.  What is it you think you are going to gain through busyness?

Sometime back one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist,  wrote an incredibly wise blog post on the role Busy plays in our lives.   Below is an excerpt from her post entitled My Drug and My Defense.

“Busy is both my drug and my defense. By that I mean that I use busy-ness to make me feel numb and safe, the way you use a drug, and I use busy-ness as a way of explaining all the things I dropped, didn’t do well, couldn’t pull together, as a defense…

This is what I do: I keep myself busy, for a whole constellation of reasons. I do it because I'm addicted to the feeling of being capable, because I hate to be bored, because I hate having to face the silence, because it might force me to feel things I don’t want to feel… If I stay busy I don’t have to feel those things, don’t have to worry about them, don’t have to let them blossom in to full-fledged questions. I don’t have to sit and think about that thing someone said about me recently when they didn’t know I was there, something I can’t get out of my mind. And so I run away from it, and from everything, faster, faster, faster.

And I use my busy-ness as an excuse for why I might not succeed, or accomplish the things I want to, or have the relationships I want to have. 

‘I mean, I’m juggling a million things here, of course the book’s not perfect. 

Seriously, where am I supposed to find time to work out and become some gorgeous supermodel, when I have like seven thousand things on my plate? 

I probably didn’t get invited because they knew I’d be out of town anyway, right? Right? Right?’

The busy-ness is a drug to keep me numb and a defense to keep me safe.”

 

Hauntingly insightful and truthful, isn’t it?  Busy truly is a drug and defense.  If I’m really busy then you can’t get mad if I make a mistake or have to bail on something.  BUT if I do everything and never say no then I look even more awesome and people are even more impressed by me because I did everything and I was soooo busy!  That type of high most certainly numbs our self doubt and insecurities.

Is busyness your drug and defense?  Is it your badge of worth and importance?  Why are you busy?

How do you break free from Busy?  You break free by choosing a full schedule over a busy one.  You accept that cutting back is not a sign of weakness or failure.  You learn that because you can do something does not mean you should or have to do it.  You don’t say yes to everything and you don’t say no to everything.   Instead, you invest your time and energy into things that are in line with your priorities and what you have deemed as truly important in your life.

Busy is a burden you do not have to bear.  May you find the courage to step off the treadmill this season.   Here’s to a FULL Fall!

What role does Busy play in your life? How are you choosing full over Busy this week? 

 

Take care!

P.S.  If you would like to read Shauna Niequist’s full post entitled My Drug and My Defense, click here

Thoughts for Thursday- Giving Time to the Important Things

Slide1 What matters to you?  What is important to you?  What is really important?  Do you know?  And if you know, does your life bear that out?  Meaning, if I followed you around for a week would I be able to accurately identify what is a priority to you based on how you spend your time and energy?

Sometimes when we are in a particularly busy season of life we can get so overwhelmed by the “busy” that we struggle to even know our true priorities.  A priority is a guiding value, a thing that is regarded as more important than another and therefore takes precedence.

We have to know the difference between the things that actually are important to us versus the things we think should be important to us.  If we try to build our priorities on “should” thinking, we will always be in danger of letting the less important things in our life crowd out those things we truly value.  When the things that matter least take precedence over our true priorities, life is less satisfying and fulfilling.  We then start to feel burnt out and resentful of how we are spending our time.  When we choose to give the important things our consistent time and energy, we build contentment, peace, and a sense of purpose into our lives.

What are you giving precedence in your life right now?  Is that what you want to take precedence?  What do you need to say no or yes to today that will allow the things that matter most take in your life take precedence?

Have a great weekend!

"You can do that! I am doing that!"

Happy New Year!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Happy New Year!  For me, the real new year begins over the course of several days at the end of August.  I suppose years of living under an academic year calendar can get pretty ingrained in your mental clock. Nine to ten months of hard work followed by approximately two months of slowing down, taking vacation, and planning for the year to come- this just makes sense to me.  After all, how does anyone have the energy to “begin anew” after the stress and busyness of the holidays?  Mistletoe! For many of us, Summer is our time to slow down, or at least make more of an effort to slow down.  Summer is our time to recharge before we get back into the full swing of things with Fall.  Summer ends with last minute trips to the pool, purchasing of school supplies, and preparing for new adventures.  Over the past few weeks, I have loved seeing pictures of my friends beginning their new years by sending children back to school or off to college.  Everyone seems to start these new years full of hope and anticipation of what is to come.  A new year is a good marker to start afresh, try some new things, and get rid of the old that is holding you back.

As I look ahead into my “new year,” a certain viral video of a speech given at Georgia Tech’s Freshman Convocation ceremony has completely captured my attention.  If you have not seen it, it is a must see.  People have labeled it as “Epic.”  In less than a week it received over two million hits on YouTube, and I think over a dozen of those probably came from my computer.  I cannot stop watching this video.  It makes me smile every time I see it, and I always let out a little chuckle at the end.  I have been trying to pinpoint what it is that strikes me so much about this young man’s speech.

First of all, you have to give the guy props- it is pretty incredible he had the nerve to do this.  Epic... indeed.   This sort of display falls under the same category of the nerdy guy getting the girl at the end of the movie.  It’s heartwarming to see the underdog do the unexpected.  Would we really care as much if this video came out of a notorious cool-guy-party-school?  Probably not.

Second, if you have watched it as many times as I have you might also have gotten a kick out of the older gentleman in the House of Lords type bib and robe sitting in the background.  He looks bored beyond his years at the beginning of the video and then he completely perks up when the young man goes for gold.  I imagine he’s thinking what the rest of us are thinking:  “Is this really happening?  This is awesome!”

And then third, I suppose my fascination is due in part to the fact that my own freshman welcome ceremony was so lackluster and the opposite of  “epic”.  The only thing I remember from that event was the student government president talking about the benefits of eating a bagel because it was time efficient food.  A crowd rousing, cheer inducing, stand-on-your-desk moment it wasn’t.

But let’s be honest, the reason the video has become so wildly popular and it is so appealing is because deep down inside, wouldn’t you love to have those guts?  Wouldn’t you love to actually follow through with the wild and bold idea you had in the middle of the night weeks or months ago?  Wouldn’t you love to start your new year off with a bang?  Wouldn’t you love to have the courage to face your fears and exclaim in a triumphant voice with 2001: A Space Odyssey theme music playing in the background “I am doing that!!”  That college sophomore taps into that part of us that we all long to unlock.  He taps into that part that wants to dive doubt-free into a new year or a new experience.  He speaks to that part of us that always wonders, “What if I did ______?  That would be crazy if I could actually do that!”

As you anticipate your new year (even if your year doesn’t start in September), what is the idea that has been floating in the back of your mind?  What is the idea that just won’t seem to go away?  What is it you want to try or change or begin anew?  What is the item on that grand to do list that you keep telling yourself, “Not this year, not now… maybe when I have more time, more money, etc.”  What is keeping you from training for the 5K or half marathon or full marathon?  What is keeping you from putting out your resume to some new companies?  What is keeping you from changing some relationship patterns in your life?  What will be your “Freshman Convocation speech” moment for 2013-2014?

To paraphrase my latest viral video obsession, if you want to start changing that bad habit in your life, this is your new year- you can do that!  If you want to try something new, this is your new year- you can do that!  If you want to throw off the bowlines and sail into the unknown, this is your new year- you can do that!

Welcome to the next season of your life!  You can do that!  I am doing that!

Have a great week and Happy New Year!