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?

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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.

To My Voice Teachers...

As I mentioned oh so long ago in my very first post, I used to be a singer. I guess technically I can still sing, but I haven’t sung in public in years so using the past tense really seems most appropriate. One of the things I loved the most about being in the music world was the unique relationship between teacher and student and getting to experience first hand the expertise of truly talented teachers. A really good voice teacher can literally bring tones and techniques out of you that you didn’t know were there. With their words and examples, they can change your vibrato, sweeten your tone, or elongate your phrasing. In the world of singing, a voice teacher literally helps shape your voice as you discover how to use this instrument that is 100% you.

See, that is the difference between the voice and other instruments. You can buy new reeds, you can have your violin restrung, you can play a different piano, and all those changes are going to influence the sound, texture, and feel of your performance. But the voice… well, you are born with only one voice and it is up to you to discover the full capabilities of that voice. It is up to you to discover the varying tones and dynamics and how to communicate sadness, joy, and fear all with that one voice you have been given. It is up to you to discover all of this about your voice, but you do so under the faithful guidance and direction of numerous voice teachers who help you uncover the various aspects of this amazing instrument.

Recently, I was reflecting on this unique relationship between voice teacher and student, and I realized that I have not just had voice teachers in my life as a singer but rather my life has been filled with voice teachers. These voice teachers didn’t necessarily teach me to sing… they taught me to live… and think… and love.   These individuals helped me discover and rediscover parts of my voice that had been buried and lost. The voice teachers of my personal journey poured into and invested and shaped this voice I now use. And I am so grateful. So here’s to my voice teachers… thank you.

 

Mama- You were the first. You were the first teacher and your lessons were held everyday and in every way but most especially each afternoon and evening when we read together. You helped develop my love of reading and learning, my insatiable curiosity, and my unquenchable thirst for information. Our nightly devotionals created the foundation of my faith, which now serve as the sources of comfort, encouragement, and truth everyday in my life. You planted the seeds from which everything else has grown.

Mrs. Dykes, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Baker, Dr. Harris- You taught me to think. You challenged me. You believed I could do things I did not think I could do. Your lessons and classrooms were safe havens for me. You provided a space for me to learn and question, and you taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn as a woman- playing dumb is neither productive nor helpful. Intelligence, trying, dedicating yourself to an endeavor… these are the things that matter.

Joanna and Kim- You gave my voice color. You taught me it was okay to be loud. You taught me to laugh and, most importantly, to laugh at myself. You gave my voice an edge that I didn’t always know how to correctly use but realize now has allowed me to be bold and brave professionally and personally.

Patty- You gave my voice depth and balance. I couldn’t have found my true voice in a brown paper bag before I met you. You added self-awareness and knowledge, peace and introspection to my voice.

Annie- You lightened my voice. You are the instructor of fun in my life and whenever I am trying to decide to go with the colorful or the basic, I still ask myself, “What would Annie do?”

John, Charles, Louisa, Tony, and Dave- You taught me to teach. You showed me that my voice was not for singing, but for teaching. I came to you at 22 years old very lost and you helped me discover my purpose and passion. You faithfully taught me for the next four and a half years. You taught me to prepare, to lead, to facilitate…. You literally changed my life.

Courtney, Andi, Jess, Matt, Dr. Hardy- You shaped my voice into that of a counselor. The list of things you taught me and the ways you showed me how to use my voice are endless. I sat at your feet and soaked in every ounce of wisdom I could, and there is not a session nor a talk that goes by that does not have some element of your teaching in it. Your voices are heard through mine everyday.

Jay- You have taught this often frantic and out of control voice to rest and be calm. You have slowed my pacing and brought peace where there are often racing thoughts. But most of all, you have daily modeled what true humble servant living looks and sounds like. My voice is more gracious and thoughtful because of your loving teachings.

Jack- You have given me back my giggle. You are by far my youngest teacher but in the end will probably have the most profound impact on my life. You have softened the hardness that started to develop around my voice in my adult life. I am more compassionate and empathic because of you. I have more play and joy in my life because of you. My voice is sweeter because of you.

 

Each of these voice teachers shaped and helped me discover my true voice. Sometimes we spend our days trying to sound like someone else. We adopt a false voice by trying on different traits, careers, or relationships hoping that will create the voice we think we should have. But the reality is we were each given one voice and it is up to us to discover the full power and richness of that voice. We have to discover our true voice so we can live out our true passion and calling. As we said above, thankfully we do not do that alone, but we do it under the guidance and direction of the many voice teachers that come in and out of our lives.

Who are your voice teachers? Who are the individuals that have helped you discover elements of your voice that you did not know were there? Who are the teachers that have helped you rediscover parts of your voice you thought were lost forever?

Take an opportunity to thank your voice teachers today.   I would love to hear the stories of how the teachers in your life shaped your voice and how you are using that voice today.

Is It Safe? (Six Characteristics of Emotionally Unsafe Relationships)

“Sweetheart, that’s not safe. Be careful. You might hurt yourself.” I, along with countless other parents, have said many variations of the above statement. As a parent, one of your main jobs is to keep your little one safe. You point out the things that may be a danger- the sharp edges, the deep holes, the hot surfaces. Sometimes kids instinctively know what is safe and what is not safe, but often they have to be taught either from their own life experience (yep, the stove is hot) or from someone who has already walked the path. That is how children learn what is safe.

Adults aren’t much different. Only in adulthood, hot stoves and riding too fast on our bikes aren’t the only causes for concern. Relationships can be the real danger lurking around the corner, and they can do all sorts of damage to our hearts and minds. In adulthood, are hearts can be as easily broken as our wrists and ankles. To heal our hearts and to protect them, we need to know what is emotionally safe and unsafe. It seems like this would be common sense, but in reality it can be very difficult to know what is safe and unsafe behavior in a relationship. Love has a funny way of disguising the unsafe people in our lives. So we end up wondering Is this normal? and staying way too long in drama filled relationships only to find our hearts tattered and our voices silenced.

Do you know what makes a relationship emotionally unsafe?  Do you know when you are in an emotionally unsafe relationship? If you find yourself feeling that you’ve lost your sense of self, are always walking on eggshells, or wondering if a relationship is supposed to be this stressful, then chances are you are not experiencing the safety and security you need and deserve in your relationship. Here are six characteristics I have observed in my years as a therapist that create an unsafe environment in a relationship.

  1. “Me?? What about you?”- Defensiveness

We all get defensive, but defensiveness in a relationship blocks any vulnerable communication. It is difficult to share anything with someone who reacts defensively. Such a reaction immediately changes the course of the conversation. Defensive people need to be right, which also creates a power struggle in the relationship. If the defensive person needs to be right, then you are wrong… you are always wrong. This is so dangerous to our sense of self because it leads to doubting our own thoughts and feelings. We lost touch with our intuition and gut. When we have been in relationship with a defensive person too long, we eventually stop speaking up and are riddled with self doubt.

  1. “You think your day was bad. My day was much worse!” Lack of empathy/always making it about them

It is hard to feel emotionally safe enough to be vulnerable in a relationship if the other person is always making it about them. This can occur in a variety of way- the person doesn’t give empathy but instead one-ups your experience, he takes on your emotion and makes your experience about him, she always focuses on her life without learning and knowing more about you. For example, let’s say you try to share something that is going on with you- you’re feeling sad, you’re frustrated with work- and then your loved one may talk about how much worse his situation is than yours OR he may become annoyed with your emotional expression. This type of pattern of communication leaves little room for sharing and vulnerability. When you are on the receiving end of this dance, it can feel like there is no room for your feelings or experiences because it always comes back to the other person. Overtime, we share less and less of ourselves because we are afraid what we say 1.) is going to be dismissed, 2.) is going to be twisted, or 3.) it is once again going to be about the other person.

  1. “You didn’t ask so I didn’t think I needed to tell you the whole story.”- Dishonesty

Unsafe people in relationships often don’t see the danger in dishonesty/half truths. They may say they didn’t tell you because they were trying to protect you or didn’t want to make you mad. And then when the truth is revealed, they will often minimize the event writing it off as “no big deal” or “you’re overreacting which is why I didn’t want to tell you in the first place.” These types of rationalizations for dishonesty are highly controlling and manipulative, and they put you back in the position of feeling you are wrong for being upset that the person you care about withheld information from you.

  1. “I apologized! What more do you want?”- Apologizing without action to back it up

Apologies are important but meaningless if they aren’t backed up with a change in behavior. An unsafe person may apologize but they will be reluctant to follow through with changing the behavior that caused the hurt in the first place. A healthy apology is one in which the wrongdoer acknowledges her actions, how her actions impacted you, and follows that up with committed behavior change. This sustained (that is a key word… one week is not sustained, by the way) change in behavior shows there is true recognition of the harm done. It is the changed behavior that rebuilds the trust that was broken.

  1. “You should trust me!”- Demanding trust rather than earning it

Where there is drama and unsafety in a relationship, you are also going to find broken trust. The two just seem to go together. In repairing a relationship, you must repair the trust, but trust CAN ONLY be repaired with time. An apology is a step towards repairing trust but it does not/should not completely restore trust. Feeling entitled to someone’s trust is an indicator that the person is not willing to do the long, hard work to rebuild trust. If entitled trust is an issue in your relationship, ask yourself shouldn’t the person who is demanding your trust be more concerned about why there is a lack of trust (in other words, why you feel unsafe around them) rather than immediately wanting your trust back.

6. “If you weren’t the way you are, I wouldn’t act this way!”- Holding others responsible for thoughts, feelings, actions

Unsafe people often do not take responsibility for themselves. Instead, they blame others for their feelings, thoughts, and actions. If you would just do this or that, THEN I wouldn’t get angry, have to have a drink, etc. When the unsafe person blames you for their actions, this creates yet another cycle of guilt and manipulation. Over time you begin to believe that the other person’s anger, drinking, feelings, etc. are your fault in some way, and if you just do this or don’t say that, then everything will be okay. You begin to feel responsible for the other person’s emotions and you work harder and harder to keep the peace. This pattern is the ultimate control and manipulation tool. It is how you find yourself walking on eggshells no longer knowing who you really are.

See, that’s the dangerous thing about an emotionally unsafe relationship. Yes, it’s stressful. Yes, it’s hurtful. But the long term danger is that you lose you. You lose your voice. You lose sense of your needs, likes, dislikes. The relationship, and trying to keep the peace, trying to be who the other person finds acceptable so that you can win his/her approval, buries your true self.

On the other hand, emotionally safe relationships invite us to be all that we were created to be. They are equal and reciprocal in terms of their love and care for one another. Vulnerability is a strength rather than a liability. In an emotionally safe relationship, you feel known and seen… you feel it is safe to be known and seen rather than thinking you need to be someone else.

It is so easy to stumble into an unsafe relationship. Many of us have done it. Like we said earlier, love blinds us. Love blinds us because we innately want to love and be loved. And that is a good thing! It is a good thing to want love in your life. But inviting love into your life at the cost of your own self and voice is a dangerous exchange.  Like hot stoves when we were little, we end up learning about unsafe relationships either through experience or trusting someone who can see more than we can.

If you find yourself wondering Is this normal? Is this right? or wondering if there is something wrong with you, you deserve to start rediscovering who you really are separate from whom your relationship has convinced you that you are. You deserve to share your story and let someone come alongside you to speak truth and love into you life. You deserve a safe, reciprocal, life-giving relationship.  You deserve healthy love.

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?

The Truth about Anger (Part 2): Getting to the Root of Our Anger

Has this ever happened to you: you are going about your day and something happens that totally ticks you off. You become completely frustrated and irritated as if from out of nowhere. The dust settles, some time passes, and then you wonder Why in the world did I just get so angry? Why do we get angry?? What is our anger really about?

Last week we started a discussion on anger. We defined anger and discussed that anger does not have to be destructive. Stuffed anger is just has harmful to our spirits and relationships as out of control anger. We keep anger from being destructive when we learn to identify what anger feels like in our bodies and how we act in anger.   It’s normal to feel angry; it’s what you do with and in it that really matters.

We left off last week by saying that anger is a secondary emotion. Of all the things I’ve learned about anger, this little fact has been the most helpful. What does it mean that anger is a secondary emotion? Like an iceberg with it's tip rising above the ocean, there is much more going on than initially meets the eye.  It means that there is always another emotion behind anger, and that emotion goes much deeper than the anger that is exploding above the surface. Yes, you may feel angry… really, truly angry. But there is another emotion that is fueling that anger.

Learning to manage your anger means digging past your anger and identifying that root emotion. It is that root emotion that needs to be recognized and shared. Staying in your anger rather than taking the time to understand the true emotion that is fueling that anger will block anyone, including yourself, from really knowing and understanding you. Your anger then becomes a mask that keeps your authentic, vulnerable self from being seen. If we want to develop closer, more intimate relationships, we must learn to lower that mask.

The three emotions that I find are often at the root of our anger are fear/anxiety, shame (feeling insecure or not good enough), and hurt (specifically disappointment). Let’s take a closer look at how each of these feelings can pave the way to anger.

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FEAR/ANXIETY

Anxiety is a feeling of fear or dread of something unknown that may or may not be real. Anxiety and fear are parts of life. Yet, so often when we are angry, if we dig real deep we may realize we are actually feeling anxious or scared. We can feel anxious over everything from running late to church (confession: I snap at my husband more on the way to church than any other time we’re in the car. Lovely I know) to worrying if our children are going to grow up to be serial killers because they won’t eat to green vegetables to wondering if our job is in jeopardy. When we are feeling anxious or stressed, we are much more likely to respond to someone in anger.

Let’s look at how this might play out… Work has been particularly stressful lately and there has been talk of layoffs. The environment is tense, and you are taking on extra projects trying to prove your worth and value to the company despite the air of uncertainty. You also notice that everyone in your life just happens to be especially irritating lately, and you have been arguing more with your spouse and family members. Simply put, you just feel crabby, irritated, and all around angry.

What is going on here is not that you are now an angry person or that everyone you know is all the sudden irritating, but really you are feeling anxious about the uncertainty of your job. Anxiety and fear leave us feeling weak and exposed. We counter that powerless feeling with an emotion that makes us feel “powerful”. All that adrenaline pumping through our veins certainly does make us feel powerful. In truth, though, it is a false sense of power… a false sense of power that is very seductive. That seduction is why we keep returning to the trough of anger again and again when we feel weak and powerless.

If you can slow yourself down and identify the anxiety, then you will be able to handle your anger in a more productive way. You will be able to communicate that you are feeling nervous about your work situation, and you will connect with your loved ones at a deeper level. Understanding that we are angry but then understanding what is actually behind that anger is what allows us to build emotionally honest and vulnerable relationships. Recognizing this connection between anger and anxiety/fear can be a real a-ha moment and learning to honestly and vulnerably communicate your fears can prevent all sorts of unnecessary conflict.

SHAME/INSECURITY

There is nothing that sends us into anger quicker than feeling insecure, unworthy, or not good enough. Feeling inadequate quickly triggers both our anger and anxiety, and in these situations we are inclined to either withdraw or lash out. Take a second and think of a time when you felt insecure or unsure of yourself? In that moment, how did you react to those around you? Did someone else bear the brunt of your feelings of inadequacy?

When we are feeling insecure or wondering if people are judging us, it is so easy for us in turn to become disgruntled and critical of others. When we are feeling bad about ourselves we are much more likely to use criticism and shame as our weapon of choice. We spew our shame onto someone else as a way of disconnecting from the pain of that shame. Looking at this root of our anger takes a lot of courage because we do not like to admit we feel insecure, and we really do not like to pinpoint the things that make us feel insecure. We feel insecure about our insecurities.

Slowing yourself down and learning to identify that your anger is masking deeper feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy, allows you to begin to address and heal those painful feelings. You can then share what is truly bothering you rather than picking a fight with someone and covering them in your shame-induced-anger.

HURT/DISAPPOINTMENT

Feeling hurt is a raw and tender root of anger, and hurt is often linked to disappointment. Whether we mean to or not, we have expectations. We have expectations for everything from a trip to Target to what our future is going to look like to how a dinner or a conversation or a vacation is going to go. When things do not go as planned or hoped, we feel disappointed and that disappointment may manifest as anger.

This happens all the time, and it is a great example of how we try to bury sharing our true feeling and deflect that disappointment by getting angry. Disappointment-induced-anger can be especially dangerous when we are unaware we had any expectations to begin with. It is in those scenarios when, if we are unaware of our own expectations, we are more likely to react defensively and blame another person. We do this because we are in a fight/flight response and our mind’s automatic response/goal is survival. We try to “survive” this disappointment by shutting down the emotion and turning it into anger. We have to teach our mind’s automatic response that there is another way. In sharing our true emotion, in this case disappointment, we are actually practicing vulnerability and openness, which will create more intimacy in the relationship.

Are you seeing a pattern here? We use anger to shut down and mask the emotions that leave us feeling weak or exposed or uncomfortable. But ultimately, this mask does no one any good. We have to slow ourselves down from reacting impulsively in our anger. Anger that is impulsively fired off injures individuals and relationships. But when we slow ourselves down, peel back the layers, and look at the true emotions behind our anger, we build awareness in ourselves and intimacy in our relationships.

So here’s our challenge. Everyone is going to have a bad day. Everyone is going to have a day where they have a little less patience. Everyone is going to feel frustrated, anxious, insecure, disappointed at times. It is normal. It is okay. The challenge is what are you going to do with those feelings. Are you going to let them turn into anger or are you going to spend some time understanding and sharing them?

Yes, we get angry, but anger is not always our true emotion, so to speak. Often, anger is a mask hiding our genuine heart. If you want to live authentically, if you want to be known and understood, if you want to practice vulnerability, you have to name and share the true emotion behind your anger. That is being emotionally honest. That is letting people really see you. That is how you find your voice.

Think about the last time you got angry. What was the true emotion you were experiencing? What would it be like to share that truth with the person who received your anger?

How would your life change if you made it a practice to ask yourself when you get angry, “Am I feeling anxious/fearful, insecure/not good enough, or disappointed/hurt?” and then shared those feelings with someone you trusted.

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!

A Daring Update

When I was in the second or third grade, I decided I wanted to hold a Bible study for my friends. I picked which story I wanted to teach (I think it was Zaccheus), got my felt board together (gotta love old school felt boards), planned out my refreshments (what’s a Bible study without snacks), and invited some of my friends.  I was all set until... no one showed up.  Yep not a high point in those childhood memories, and it probably explains why I always have these great ideas for throwing parties but never follow through with them. But that’s not really the point of my sharing this story… Let’s fast forward into adulthood… Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to so many wonderful groups of women sharing my stories and hearing theirs. During this time, one of my goals has been to start hosting women’s retreats and creating time and space where women can engage in deep learning and vulnerable sharing as they rediscover their voice and freedom. This goal started coming to life in a most wonderful way earlier this year when I started holding Daring Way™ retreats.

I shared in an earlier post about The Daring Way™, but just to recap… The Daring Way™ is curriculum and methodology based on best selling author and TED sensation Brené Brown’s research and writing on shame and vulnerability. The material takes you on a journey as you uncover what is weighing you down and holding you back from living the life of joy, purpose, and courage that you were created to live. I like to think of the Daring Way experience as unpacking a suitcase. You start by sorting through what needs to be taken out and left behind, and then you re-pack the suitcase with what you need to bring with you on this journey of showing up in your life, letting yourself be truly seen, and living brave. The Daring Way™ helps us find the path from our beautifully decorated prison cell to the freedom of loving vulnerably, living freely, and daring greatly.

There have been five Daring Way™ retreats since March and it one has been inspiring and breath taking as these brave women enter into this two day experience perhaps a little uncertain, a little weary and leave with the taste of freedom on their lips and courage in their hearts. Each retreat has moved me to tears as I have seen light bulbs go off and the chains of perfectionism, comparison, and self-doubt fall to the ground. I am so incredibly grateful for many things in my professional life, but being able to walk this daring journey with these wonderful women is certainly at the top of the list.

With that being said, I am thrilled to announce there will be three more Daring Way experiences this fall. For the first time, there will be an eight week Daring Moms group on Wednesday mornings starting September 24th.   As I think and plan for this group, I am getting more and more excited. Moms of all ages and life stages are invited to participate in this intimate time of fellowship and learning. Details regarding Daring Moms, the October 25-26 Daring Way™ for Women retreat, and the November 6-7 Daring Way for Helpers are listed below.

My little Bible study story doesn’t entirely have a sad ending. Thirty years later I can say with a humble and grateful heart that I am doing what I always dreamed of doing. Thank you to the amazing women that have participated in The Daring Way™ so far. Thank you for your time, your energy, and your courage. Thank you for playing such an important role in my story and my journey into the arena. I look forward to meeting more daring women in the months ahead and seeing more bags unpacked, hearing more chains hit the floor, and sharing in more stories of discovering freedom and purpose. Here’s to daring greatly together!

Daring Moms: Living and Loving as Your True Self - September 24- November 12

Calling all Moms! The kids are headed back to school and now is a chance to give yourself a little gift. Join us for DARING MOMS on Wednesday mornings starting in September! As mothers, we are always trying to find the balance between taking care of our families and taking care of ourselves. Join us for an all new DARING MOMS group and have the opportunity to do both!

DARING MOMS is an eight week small group that will help us break free of the “mom guilt”, the comparison trap, and the second-guessing that clouds the experience of motherhood. Based on Brené Brown's The Daring  Way™ curriculum, you will learn to practice vulnerability and develop deeper relationships with your spouse, children, and friends. You will leave this group with a greater sense of yourself and strategies on how to bring a culture of compassion, courage, and vulnerability into your families, The group is on Wednesday mornings from 9:30-11:30 from September 24- November 12. Drop the kids off at school, grab a coffee, and join us for a unique time of fellowship and learning!  For more information, click here.

The Daring Way™ for Women: Show Up, Be Seen, Live Brave™- October 25-26

Would you like to break free of the comparison trap and self-doubt?  Would you like to be brave in more areas of your life by owning your story and clarifying your sense of purpose?  Are you tired struggling with feeling not good enough?  During this two-day retreat held specifically for women, participants will have the opportunity to identify the negative beliefs that are holding them back and the relationships and areas of their lives where they would like to practice more courage and vulnerability.  For more information, click here.

The Daring Way™ for Helpers: Working and Living with Courage and Compassion

Does self doubt ever plague your enjoyment of your work with clients, students, and congregants?  Are you struggling with burnout and wanting to clarify your purpose in the helping profession?  Would you like to be free of the negative thoughts and old baggage that can interfere with your work and relationships?  If you are a mental health professional, educator, or member of the clergy, you do not want to miss this special two day retreat.  Throughout the retreat, you will study Dr. Brené Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability and will develop a greater understanding of how shame influences your relationships, habits, and goal setting.   Additionally, you will have the opportunity to identify how you would like to show up and be seen in your personal and professional life as you outline a self-compassion and courage practice that you can integrate into your daily routine.  The Daring Way™ curriculum will transform the way you view yourself, your clients, and your personal relationships.  This retreat is coed. Please note this workshop is an opportunity for mental health professionals to experience The Daring Way™ methodology and apply it to their own personal journey.   Attending this training does not certify you to be a Certified Daring Way Facilitator or to use the copyrighted Daring Way™ exercises in your practice.  For more information, click here.

To learn more about The Daring Way™, click here.

To Register for an upcoming Daring Way™ group or retreat, click here.

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?

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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!

It's Easier Not To

Several months ago I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by some work related responsibilities and deadlines.  The to-do list kept growing and growing and my energy reserves kept shrinking and shrinking.  One day I thought, “It would just be easier not to.” Isn’t that so true?

It’s easier not to.

It’s easier not to try.  It’s easier not to change.  It’s easier not to put yourself out there, not to speak up.  It’s easier not to be vulnerable, not to take the risk of uncertainty and exposure.  It’s easier not to unpack the baggage that keeps tripping you up.  It’s easier to quit when it gets hard.  It's easier to believe you can't.  It’s easier to keep doing the things you’ve always done even though you know they are bad for you.  It’s easier not to choose health.

Or is it?

I’ve thought about this phrase a lot since that day.  I’ve thought about how true it feels, yet how dangerous this belief is.  Yes, it is easier… in the short term.

In the short term.

That’s the key.

It’s easier not to in the short term.  But in the long term, that easy path turns into a pothole filled road.  Choosing not to rarely leads us to where we want to be or who we were created to be.  Choosing not to leaves us outside the arena looking in.  And when we are on the outside looking in that is when we are most likely to be judgmental and critical of those who are on the inside.

Isn’t that the kicker?  We choose not to, but then we resent those who choose YES over NO.  When we choose not to, we end up staring through the window and watching as people pursue new adventures and opportunities, as they unload their cumbersome past, as they make healthy changes that bear sweet fruit.  We end up staring through that window as we wrestle with the most uncomfortable of emotions- resentment, regret, fear, and frustration.

No, it’s not easier not to.  It feels like it in the short term.  It feels like it, but although our feelings are valid, they are not always true.

Everybody has those days when it feels easier not to.  That’s normal.  The challenge is how do you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.  How do you keep going?

We keep going by learning when we need to sit and be still and when we need to move.  Sometimes the very thing we need is rest.  Stepping away from the problem and doing something totally unrelated might be the very thing that gives you the perspective you need.  Giving yourself compassion and validation that this is a tough mountain to climb is often just what the doctor ordered.  More often than not, sharing your frustration, concern, and anxiety with a trusted loved one gives you the ounce of energy you need to keep moving forward.  We keep going by refocusing on why is this so important to us anyway.  Why does this matter to us?  What do we feel called to do?  When you push through the temptation to choose not to over I’m going to, you move closer to your unique purpose and farther away from your fears.  Yeah it may feel easier not to.  But when you choose not to, you miss the blessing.

I hope this week you give yourself the rest or compassion or time with loved ones you need to continue in your journey.  Choose long term over short term.  Choose purpose over fear.  Choose the blessing.

Do you ever have those days when you think, “It would just be easier not to”?  How are you learning to choose “I’m going to” over “not to”?  Which path are you choosing today?

Are You Ready to Break Free and Live Brave? (The Daring Way™ is coming to Atlanta!)

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This month I've been talking about looking ahead into this wild, unknown that is the start of 2014.  We are about to wrap our first month of the year and hopefully you have spent some time in over these weeks thinking about what you want this year to look like for you. What are your hopes for this year?  Would you like to stop living under the yoke of perfection?  Would you like to stop second guessing yourself and instead start living brave?  Would you finally like to separate your sense of worth from what you do and what you think others think of you?  If so, I believe 2014 is your year to do it!

As you know, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown, bestselling author and TED sensation.  Her research and writing on shame and vulnerability have been life changing for me personally and professionally.  Last June, I started the process of becoming certified to facilitate her newest workshop, The Daring Way™ and am thrilled to announce I am offering my first  Daring Way™ retreat: Daring Women:  Show Up, Be Seen, Live Brave™!
 
What is The Daring Way™?  It is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The material was developed to help men, women, and adolescents learn how to show up, be seen, and live braver lives. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing a courage practice that transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.  If you are tired of wrestling with feelings of not being good enough, if you would like to let down your guard and let people really know you, if you would like to discover, or maybe rediscover, your true voice that has gotten silenced and covered up, you do not want to miss this opportunity.   
 
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The two-day retreat will be held in Atlanta on Saturday, March 1st- Sunday, March 2nd (9:30AM-4:30PM both days) with plans to add dates in April and/or May.  These upcoming retreats are specifically for women, but I will be holding Daring Way™ retreats in the future for men and women, moms, couples, and individuals in the helping professions (clergy and mental health counselors).  The retreat consists of teaching, discussion, individual reflection time, and small group processing.  Over the course of these two days, we will discuss:
 
- What is the arena in your life you want to show up and be seen
- Vulnerability, vulnerability myths, and the connection between courage and vulnerability 
- How to practice empathy and self compassion
- The armor we use to "protect" ourselves from being vulnerable
- How to identify and change our thoughts of unworthiness and feeling not good enough
- How to create a life of courage as we embrace our story and step into the arena
 
The Daring Way™ is a cost-efficient, personal growth experience.  If you have thought about beginning a personal growth journey or you are feeling stuck in your life, The Daring Way™ consolidates weeks of therapy and can jumpstart and accelerate your personal development.  Having gone through the material myself, I can tell you that the content and exercises help you discover the keys to living the life you were created to live.  This retreat is a great opportunity for individuals or girlfriends or even your small group to set aside time to uncover the things that are holding you back as you look ahead to the future you want and deserve.  
 
Seating is very limited (8-12 participants)and the Super Early Bird Registration rate is $325 and the deadline is this Friday, January 31st.  The Early Bird Registration ($375) deadline is February 14th and Regular Registration rates ($425) apply after that.     Included in the cost of registration is a personalized notebook, a Daring Way™ workbook,  a journal, a copy of one of Brené's books of your choosing, and two catered lunches , snacks, and beverages.
 

For more information about The Daring Way™, go to http://mazirobinson.com/the-daring-way/

For information on the specifics of this upcoming retreat and future retreats (such as dates, times, location, cost), go to http://mazirobinson.com/upcoming-workshops/

For more information on what is included in the cost of the retreat, the retreat format, and other frequently asked questions, go to http://mazirobinson.com/workshop-faqs/

 
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like more information.  I look forward to daring greatly with you!

Gumball Lessons: Learning to Embrace the Good and Bad in Your Story

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking on the power of embracing our story.  What does it mean to embrace our story?  What are the obstacles we face in trying to embrace our story? Embracing your story means that you understand how the twists and turns, the expected and unexpected, the good and the bad work together to create your unique purpose and life direction.  To embrace your story, you have to face your story.  Facing your story means dealing with the tough parts rather than trying to deny or ignore them.

But what if you don’t want to deal with the past?  What if you don’t know how to deal with the past?  How do you make sense of the past when there have been so many ups and downs? 

How do we wrap our minds around this thing called life that can be so breathtakingly beautiful and heart wrenchingly painful?

I think this dilemma is one of the biggest obstacles we face in embracing our story.  We run from the past because we don’t know how to reconcile the good and bad.  We don’t know how to hold onto the good and still call out and address the bad.

Maybe most of your story is really good- good friends, good life experiences, good memories- but there are a couple of chapters, or maybe even some characters, that have been really difficult.  These chapters or characters have created some true hurt in your life.  You don’t know how to include them in your story because you feel if you spend time talking about those painful scenes then you are discounting, or aren’t grateful for, all the good in your life.  And so you ignore or deny the impact of the chaotic home life, the addicted loved one, or the neglectful parent because you simply do not know how to reconcile the good and the bad.

Or maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum.  Life has been very hard.  From start to present, life has been one challenge after another.  And because life has beaten you up so, it is hard to hold on to the good.  It is hard to let yourself feel excitement and joy.  It is hard to believe that joy and good things really do, and will, happen to you.  So you live ever protective of your battered heart, constantly preparing for the worst and never letting yourself rest in joy.  It’s the same problem. You don’t know how to reconcile the good and the bad.  You don’t know how to hold them both.

The challenge in life is learning to accept the good and bad and give them each the credit they are due and the healing they deserve.  We must learn to hold the prickly and the smooth parts of life.  We must learn that sometimes life is like holding two gumballs.

This gumball is smooth, full of color, and if you bit into it, it would be sweet.

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This gumball is prickly and lackluster in color.

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Both are round. Both are gumballs.  But they are very different experiences. The sweetness of the one gumball does not cancel out the prickliness of the other.

Life is colorful and smooth and sometimes very sweet.  Life is also prickly and dark and a pain to deal with.

Sometimes, out of self-protection, we want our lives to be either all good or all bad because the back and forth, up and down can feel exhausting.  We want to know what we can count on because we want to feel in control of our fate.  So we decide that life is going to be all good, and we force a smile to hide any bad.  Or we decided that life is going to be all bad, and we lash out or reject anything that tries to convince us otherwise.

We struggle to embrace our stories when we want them to always make sense, follow a pattern, and not have any unexpected plot developments.  We struggle to embrace our story when we only want to hold onto one gumball.

The challenge is to learn to hold them both.

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The painful and difficult and negative events of your life do not cancel out all the good in your life.  Equally, the good in your life does not wash over and erase the hurts, abuse, or loss you have experienced.  Just because you’ve tasted the sweetness of life, does not mean you can’t still call out the bad.  Just because you know the prickliness of life, does not mean that is all there is to life.

It takes courage to have joy and hope, and it takes courage to grieve.  It takes courage to hold both gumballs.  Embracing your story means you accept the hard, prickly incidences just as you accept the sweet, colorful ones.  You accept that both experiences contribute to your unique story and life calling.  You learn to hold them both.

Do you struggle to reconcile the good and bad in your story? Does it ever feel like the bad overshadows the good in your life?  Do you stay quiet about the dark moments because you are afraid they will tarnish the bright ones?  Take the courageous step and start giving voice to all the parts of your unique and powerful story.

 

 

You Want Me to Share What?!?: Lessons In Vulnerability

I always find it interesting when I discover reoccurring themes in my conversations with individuals.  Although we think we are the only ones, we all wrestle with very similar concerns.  At the top of that list is our struggle with knowing how to open up and share our thoughts and feelings with others instead of stuffing them and keeping them inside.  For many, we don’t know how to open up.  We do not know what to share or where to start, and we are afraid to share because we don’t know how it will be received.  As a result, we keep our story to ourselves, and we use smiles as Band-Aids to cover our aching hearts. We stuff so many of our thoughts and feelings that eventually we end up like a balloon filled with too much air and ready to pop.  We let air out of our balloon by sharing our story, and this means leaping into vulnerability.   This means we have to open ourselves and let ourselves be truly seen.

Sometimes when I encourage people to be vulnerable and share with someone what is going on with them, they usually give me that look that says, “You want me to do what?  You must be crazy!  I’m not telling someone that!”  Beginning to practice vulnerability feels a little unnerving at first, especially if you have spent most of your life guarded behind a series of impenetrable walls.

As I have shared before, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown’s research and writing on shame and vulnerability.  She defines vulnerability as risk and emotional exposure.  Vulnerability is that heart racing moment when you do or say something that pushes you outside of your normal pattern and routine.  Vulnerability is scary because it does feel like a risk to put yourself out there and deal with the uncertainty that accompanies letting your guard down.  Being vulnerable does not mean we are weak, weepy, needy, or clingy.  Being vulnerable means we are strong and courageous because it takes courage to show our brokenness and talk about our mistakes.

This emotional risk naturally begs the question- who can we open up to?  With whom do we take the leap of vulnerability?  Brown says that you share with the people who have “earned the right to hear.”  We share with those who have earned the right to truly see us and know our story.  So what does that mean in practical terms?  We share with those who give us empathy and compassion, who listen without judgment and without trying to offer a solution or a “look on the bright side” reframe.  We tell our story to those who demonstrate discernment, wisdom, and the ability to keep our confidence.  We open ourselves up to those who show up not only for us, but also to us.

So am I encouraging you to lay it all out there for every Susie, Sally, and Sandy to see?  Heavens no!  There is a difference between being vulnerable and oversharing.  Oversharing is not vulnerability.  Oversharing actually inhibits true relationship building and ends up being a barrier to connection.  People overshare for a variety of reasons.  The trick is becoming aware of when and why we are oversharing.

  1. Sometimes we overshare as a way of testing others to see if they can “handle” us or if we are going to be too much for them.
  2. Other times we overshare because we are experiencing something so painful that we just have to purge it from our minds.  We start sharing without taking into consideration if the person is a safe, close friend who will respond with empathy and compassion.
  3. Lastly, we may overshare as a way of trying to create an immediate, albeit false, bond with someone.  We have such a strong desire to create some sort of attachment that we try to jumpstart connection without laying the necessary groundwork to a true relationship.

 

When we begin practicing vulnerability and sharing our story, we want to do so in a relationship that has a strong enough foundation to bear the weight of the information that is shared.  Our level of vulnerability matches the level of closeness in the friendship.  As you grow closer, you go deeper in vulnerability, and as you go deeper in vulnerability, you grow closer.  Vulnerability creates intimacy.

If you are nervous about beginning to practice vulnerability, remind yourself it is baby step process.  Start in the shallow end and work your way into the deep waters.  Remember, we share with those who have earned the right to hear.  This isn’t a race.  There is not a “Best at Vulnerability in Friendship” prize waiting for you at the finish line.  There are people out there who want to know you as much as you would like to be truly known.  Vulnerability is truly the gateway to connection.

What is an act of vulnerability you could take in one of your relationships today?  What is something you could try, create, or share with someone? 

 

Brown, Brené, Ph.D., LMSW. (2012). Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. New York:  Gotham Books.

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

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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

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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.

Thoughts for Thursdays- Embracing Change

 

This past week I read a book on learning to develop and live out a better personal story.  There were so many interesting nuggets of wisdom, and I look forward to sharing them with you later.   Something the author discussed stood out to me and made me think of this Muhammad Ali quote.  The author said that one of the important elements to any good story, whether it is fiction or your real life story, is transformation.   How does the character in the story change from beginning to end?  What does he learn along the way?

One of the universal goals of life is to change and evolve.  We were not created to remain as we were at birth or in young adulthood or in mid-life.  We were created to grow and develop.  We see that truth so obviously in our physical selves, but are we as open to that idea in our psychological and emotional selves?  Are we open to change or do we resist it or avoid it?

How have you changed in your personal story?  Are you allowing yourself room to change and grow?  How are you different from who you were five or ten years ago?  Do you like those changes?  Why or why not?

Stubbed Toes, Stubbed Hearts

We’ve all been there.  Maybe it’s the middle of the night or the middle of broad daylight.  You’re walking along minding your own business following a path you have taken a thousand times.  You’ve walked in and out of this room and around this furniture at least a dozen times that day already.  But this time you cut the corner a little too close and… BAM! You stub your toe.

Pain instantly starts coursing through your toe, up your leg, and across your body.  You simultaneously suck air through your teeth, howl, and unleash a torrent of choice words.  You wonder why anyone would be so foolish as to put a dresser in that location.  You wonder if the offending dresser has perhaps taken a life of its own and turned against you in reaction to not being dusted lately.

Yep, we’ve all been there.  Think for a moment about what you do right after you stub your toe.  What is your natural physical reaction?  For most people, they will instantly bend down and try to cover the injured piggy with their hand as if they are trying to protect it in case the corner of the dresser decides to strike out in anger again.  You hide the injured toe under the shadow of our palm as if the slightest breeze or sliver of light might do more damage and increase the pain.  You cup the toe protecting it from further harm.

You hide the injury.

You protect the hurt.

Toes aren’t much different from hearts.  We’re traveling along a path that is well known.  We’re content in a job we’ve had for years.  We’re satisfied in a relationship we’ve been in for decades.  We’re living life, minding our own business, and then BAM!

We stub our heart.  A stubbed heart can bring the strongest soul to his knees.  The hit comes out of nowhere.  We wonder how things all of the sudden changed.  The hurt and anguish moves through our body, taking our energy, our sense of safety, our joy, and it leaves us with anxiety, insomnia, and unanswered questions.  A stubbed heart throbs with pain.

Much like that stubbed toe, our natural inclination is to protect our stubbed heart.  We want to hide and cover the heart wound.  We don’t want to let anyone see.  When we have experienced loss or heartbreak of any kind, we naturally react by withdrawing and isolating.  It is too painful to rehash the events.  It takes too much energy to put words to the disappointment.  No one may understand why our feelings have been so hurt and by trying to explain we might end up being more hurt.  We hide our stubbed heart under the shadow of our silence and retreat.

The only way to assess the hurt done to that stubbed toe is by removing the protecting hand and letting light shine on it.  Then you can see the extent of the damage.  Then you can see where the toe was hit.  You can see what needs to be done to fix and heal your injured toe.

The same can be said for our stubbed hearts.  The only way we can begin to heal our broken hearts is by allowing the hurt to come out of hiding.  We move out of our isolation and our silence, and we let light shine on the heart wound.  We talk about what happened.  We let others see the injury and come alongside us to offer support and empathy.  We let light shine on our stubbed hearts because then we can see where and how we were hurt and what we need to do to heal and repair that emotional wound.

When you experience hurt, loss, grief, or disappointment, it is so easy to retreat into yourself and keep all of that inside.  You tell yourself no one will understand or you don’t want to be a burden or some other self-defeating reason for why you should stay silent.  Pain and heartache will happen in life- it is the most unfortunate guarantee in life.  There is no amount of careful stepping that will protect you from loss and hurt.  But coming out of hiding, letting light shine on your loss, and talking about your hurt will diminish that pain.  Your stubbed heart may be throbbing today but removing that covering of silence and isolation will place you on the path to healing.

Has your heart been stubbed lately?  What would it look like to uncover that wound and let light and openness begin to heal it?

Daring Greatly with the first Book Giveaway!

Over a year ago, I had the idea to create this blog.  I thought and brainstormed as to what I wanted this blog to be about and the various topics I wanted to discuss.   The first thing I thought of was the title, Voice Lessons for Today.  I knew I wanted this space to be about finding your true voice and the lessons we learn along the way.  One of my main goals was to provide a place to continue the conversation… continue the conversation that starts between friends over dinner, the conversation that occurs within a small group, the conversation between confidants, the conversation that begins in the counseling office. I also wanted to incorporate some fun features into the blog.  I love books, as I have mentioned before, and I love recommending books that have spoken to me in hopes of passing on the lessons and insights.  But why stop with recommending?  Why not start a book Giveaway?   So today is our first Book Giveaway!

Recently, I attended a three-day training in San Antonio with Brené Brown.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a huge fan of her work and books.  Brené Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher, and she writes on such topics as worthiness, overcoming the feeling of not being enough, and learning to practice courage and vulnerability by living authentically and boldly.  I am in the process of becoming a certified facilitator of her new workshop curriculum, The Daring Way.  The Daring Way curriculum is based on material and research from all three of her books, I Thought It Was Just Me, The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  Daring Greatly is her latest book and it is a New York Times bestseller.  The training was excellent!  I feverishly took notes and soaked up every ounce of information.   I gained a new way of looking at the age-old struggle of shame and heard powerful ideas on empathy, self-compassion, and learning to live courageously.  The weekend was inspiring to say the least.  Here are my Top Five Favorite Things I learned and heard over that amazing weekend:

 

1.     Until you are comfortable with the reality of failure as always a possibility, you will never have innovation, creativity, or freedom. Practicing vulnerability means embracing risk, uncertainty, and the possibility that you may fail.  Vulnerability is showing up and letting yourself be seen.

So true!  Nothing paralyzes us more than the fear of failure.  We can literally stop trying anything new because we are afraid of failing.  What if we accepted failure is always an option?  What if we grew comfortable with the possibility of failure?  What if we took all the power away from this concept and viewed it as merely a possibility that we can overcome and learn from rather than a reason to not even try?

 

2.    You can be brave or you can be comfortable, but you can’t be both.

Love.

3.     Comparative suffering is one of the main ways we shame and silence ourselves.

Comparative suffering is when we tell ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel a certain way because there is someone who has it worse.  Yes, there is always someone who has it worse than we do and perspective and gratitude are extremely important in building resiliency.  But comparative suffering silences our sadness, which does need to be voiced because it is only by truly feeling our emotions that we can be free of them.  More on this to come!

 

4.  You cannot offer others more compassion than you are able to give to yourself.  If you struggle to give yourself compassion, then you will eventually struggle to practice compassion with others because you will feel resentful when you are expected to give it to another.

So many good nuggets here, especially when you think about why you may struggle with being empathetic with certain people in your life or at certain times in your life.  If you are struggling to understand and be empathetic to others, perhaps that is a sign that you are starving yourself of self-compassion.  (This is particularly important for helping professionals to consider.)

 

5.     When in doubt, be human.

Well, that about says it all.

 

In honor of my excitement over the training, our first book to give away is Daring GreatlyDaring Greatly discusses the ideas above, as well as learning to courageously practice vulnerability by showing up and truly being seen in your life.  If we embrace risk and uncertainty, that inner critic has much less volume, and we will discover that life is much better when we step into the arena than when we are sitting in the cheap seats.

So here is how the Giveaway is going to work:  if you are looking for a great read for that upcoming vacation and would love to have a copy of the book or perhaps saw Brené on Oprah or heard her TED talk and are interested in learning more about how to live courageously in the face of uncertainty, then either leave me a comment below or send me a message through the contact form.  I will draw two names at the end of the week and mail the winners a copy of the book!  (Be sure and leave your email address so I can contact you for your mailing address.)  Happy First Book Giveaway and have a great week!

 

 

It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly…”               Theodore Roosevelt

Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans. I have stared at them for a few years. I have eyed them with suspicion and contempt. Can they really be that comfortable? Isn’t it exhausting pulling them on and tugging them off? Don’t you eventually start to lose circulation in your legs with that denim stretched around them? A friend of mine repeatedly tried to convince me of the benefits to a good skinny jean. I told her she must be delusional. She told me that I needed to get over myself and just get some skinny jeans. I told her never. Fast forward to this past Fall…

I love to read, and I tend to read in themes and seasons. Meaning, I like to take a whole season and read about a particular theme. This past Fall I decided to engross myself in the topics of shame and grace and specifically the work of Brené Brown. Brené Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher and the author of Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me. In her writing and research, she discusses the seemingly universal struggle with feeling worthy and believing we are enough because we live in a world that floods us with messages that we are not good enough, productive enough, thin enough, successful enough, etc. When we wrestle with feeling not enough, we grow quiet. We leave out parts of our story. We avoid situations that make us feel exposed. We hide in routine and people pleasing and attempted perfectionism. We try to live like an Impressionist painting in art museum- we want people to stay behind the red rope so we look impressive from far away.

The more I read, the more it forced me to come face to face with my own ways of hiding and retreating and the true reason behind them. I started honestly admitting why I avoided certain situations and things in life. I recognized that some of the rituals and routines I have adopted are really ways I was giving into this fear of not being good enough.

Oh and as for my suspicion, contempt, and adamant rejection of skinny jeans? Well that fell under the categories of hiding, retreating, and avoiding, too.

I realized I was caught in a cycle: every time I retreated or avoided a new experience because I felt insecure or unsure, the not good enough feeling won and got stronger. Our actions reinforce our thinking. If we never challenge the beast, then we’ll never believe it can be defeated… and we end up being the ones defeated.

Brené Brown goes on to say that the antidote to feeling not good enough is learning to embrace vulnerability rather than avoid it. What does this mean in practical terms? It means we have to first get really honest with ourselves about all the ways we hide and retreat. We have to admit the things we are waiting to do once we are (fill in the blank) enough. Are you waiting to have people over to your house once it is decorated enough? Are you waiting to share what has really been going on in your life once you are put together enough? Are you waiting to truly enjoy summertime and pool parties and beach vacations once you are thin enough? Are you waiting to finally pursue that calling or hobby or family time you desire once you are financially secure enough? Once we identify the ways we are hiding and what we are hiding from, we can start practicing vulnerability.

Vulnerability defeats the beast.

Practicing vulnerability means opening ourselves up to life and to others, which means opening ourselves up to risk and uncertainty. Practicing vulnerability is a choice. We choose to come out of hiding. We choose to have a voice. Practicing vulnerability means verbalizing the struggles and worries that race through your mind late at night. It means telling the parts of your story you wish weren’t there. It means trying something new despite your self-doubt or nervousness.

It means wearing the skinny jeans.

Practicing vulnerability does not always mean you make some major life change or unload your entire personal history over one lunch date. It may mean making just a slight change in your life that no one may notice but you, but that slight change begins chipping away at that deeply rooted not enough feeling. You then discover how to break the cycle: new actions help reinforce new thinking. One small step creates a ripple effect. I took my small step in a pair of Curvy Skinny Jeans from The Gap.  Each one of us has a “skinny jean” in our life.  Each one of us has something we avoid doing or don’t share with anyone or have stopped doing because we feel too exposed or are worried what people will think.

So what is your “skinny jean”? What is something you could try that you’ve never done before? What is something you could share that you’ve never shared before? Anytime you do something different, whether it is a big or small thing, and you feel that little wave of nervousness, you are showing courage and practicing vulnerability. Pushing yourself out of your rituals and routines builds up your vulnerability “muscle” and frees you from your not enough thinking. Embracing your “skinny jean” could start the revolution that just might change your life.

 

What are you not doing because you are waiting to be _______ enough? What is your "skinny jean"?

I wanna see you be BRAVE!

Whenever I keep hearing about the same thing from several different people, I know that means I need to check it out.  Over the past week I have been hearing about this new song by Sara Bareilles called BRAVE.  People have told me that I will love it and that it is right up my alley, and, boy, were they right!  It. is. awesome.  It fits so well with our theme this week of facing our fears and breaking out of our comfort zone that I just had to share it. There are so many things in our lives that confine us and silence us.  Finding your voice and holding on to it is not work for the faint of heart.  Discovering and embracing the real you takes daily practice.  It is SO much easier to stick with the known.  It is less risk to remain quiet.  It is more comfortable to keep things small.  But what if you stopped doing what you've always done?  What if you spoke up?  What if you tried something different?  What if you stepped out on faith?   What if you were BRAVE?

So here is our anthem for this week.  Listen to it.  Turn the volume all the way up.  Dance.  Sing along.   You won’t regret it!  :)

You can do this.  You can be BRAVE!  Show everyone how BIG your BRAVE  is!

 

In case you missed it, click here for the link.