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.

Back In The Saddle Again

Oh my dear, beloved blog! It has been too long! Where has the time gone? Last time I posted, kids were just settling back in school and football season was starting. Now kids are getting ready for break, the football gods have decided who the best four teams in the nation are, and it is almost Christmas! It takes your breath away how quickly times passes!

So let me catch you up on what’s been going on. The Fall was FULL. Full with so many good things, but full nonetheless. I had the opportunity to speak in front of some amazing groups of men and women over the past few months. There is nothing I love more than seeing people eager to live as we were created- with purpose and for a purpose!   I held my first Daring Moms group and another Daring Way™ retreat for women. Both groups were filled with strong, courageous, amazing ladies. It is a true honor to do this work with women who desire change and freedom in their lives. On the personal side, we took my son to his first college football game and enjoyed some great time with family and friends. Yes, FULL indeed!

Although I have been MIA from the blog, I have thought of you often and written about a hundred posts in my mind over the past three months.  They were all really good- Ha! About three weeks ago, things finally settled down with my schedule, and I immediately thought that I wanted set aside some time to write. But an odd thing kept happening- I kept thinking of other things to do. I need to catch up on this. I need to read that. I need to contact so-and-so.

As my procrastination continued, I became more and more curious as to why I still had not put fingers to keyboard. Being the over-analyzer that I am, I did a little soul searching and realized I was dragging my feet because it felt a little vulnerable to post after so long. Vulnerable?   Yeah.

My thought process went a little something like this: It’s been three months since my last post, so this next post needs to be REALLY awesome. Ugh it’s easier not to write then I don’t have to worry about looking foolish. It looks bad that I haven’t posted in three months; that’s not being very dedicated or intentional. I said I was going to a do a read-a-long. Where’s the read-a-long, Mazi???

In short, my self-doubt and self-criticism began to shout a little. As I shared before, having people read my writing feels very exposing for me. I can speak in front of groups of people everyday and twice on Sunday and feel completely at ease. But there is something about having people read, rather than hear, my words that feels more vulnerable to me. It feels more out of my control. When I speak, I can sense if my words are resonating or if I need to re-state something. But when I write, I’m just… putting it out there. Putting it out there for people to read and criticize and judge.

Yeah starting to write again after a three-month break felt very vulnerable. I realized I was out of practice in facing that vulnerability and doing it anyway. My muscles were a little weaker so my self-doubt was chirping a little louder, and as a result, my procrastination skills were a little stronger.

Has this ever happened to you? You want to do something but you keep thinking of fifty other things to do instead. You are really excited about starting something yet you never follow through.  You've taken a break from something you enjoy but you're struggling to find the wherewithal to pick the activity back up.  Why do we put off doing what we say we want to do? Why do we procrastinate??

I think we avoid and procrastinate for a host of reasons. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know what to do. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision/doing it wrong. We feel vulnerable and don’t even realize it. The thing we want to do feels uncertain and exposing. We don’t know the outcome. We sub-consciously know we expect ourselves to be perfect so the thought of having to work that hard/try that hard feels daunting so we stop before we begin. We avoid doing what we want to do, what is good for us for all sorts of reasons.

And then the longer we avoid something, the bigger it seems in our mind to actually do make the decision or call the person or submit the proposal. Avoidance doesn’t make things smaller. It makes them seem bigger and even more insurmountable.   We stop practicing doing the hard and uncomfortable things so we forget we actually can do the hard and uncomfortable things.  It is difficult to get back into the routine of doing the things that are good for us and so we keep practicing avoidance.

Sometimes we have to stop thinking, stop planning, and just start doing.  In my case, I had to stop thinking about what would be the “right” topic for my next/first post, and I had to just start typing.   Action is so much more effective than intention. I’ve learned that in my life if I don’t keep practicing being vulnerable, then my doubts and insecurities are liable to take control of my life.  If I want to keep my insecurities at bay, then I have to regularly practice doing the thing that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So I’m back in the saddle again with blogging.   This blog continues to be an interesting teacher for me- it is something I enjoy and actually wish I could do more of, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone.  It feels good to put fingers to keys after so long.  It feels good to be uncertain and vulnerable.  Breaks are good, but we have to know when it’s time to saddle up and start riding again. Let’s saddle up together and start practicing doing the hard, uncomfortable things!   Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Practice action rather than avoidance!

What do you need to stop thinking about and just start doing? What saddle do you need to get back on? What are you avoiding that you actually want to do or that would be good for you?  Are practicing the behaviors in your life that you want to make permanent?

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.

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?

You Learn Courage by Couraging

A year ago today, I sent an email that set in motion a series of events I never could have predicted.  Here’s the backstory… In the Fall of 2012, I started reading and thinking more about what it means to live brave and be courageous.  I’ll admit when I think of courage the name Mazi Robinson does not immediately come to mind.  I am still afraid of the dark.  I don’t see scary movies.  I still have weird fears about attics, crawl spaces, and storage rooms and will not go in them by myself. (It is a hard and fast rule… much like my no fruit policy.)  I have no desire to jump out of a plane, bungee jump, or do anything that is remotely adrenaline rushing.  So when I started thinking about courage and living brave, my instant thought was I am not a brave person.  And my next thought was I want to be.

Over the next several months, I learned that living brave was not just jumping out of airplanes, but living brave had a deeper meaning to it.  Living brave means letting others really see you.   It means letting yourself be vulnerable and leaning into that vulnerability rather than running from it.  Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand-  anytime time you are being courageous, you are being vulnerable.   So I got honest about all the things I avoided and ways that I hid.  I started challenging my justifications for why I didn’t do or try certain things.  I started to identify and peel back all of my armor that I thought was protecting me but was really keeping me small and hidden.

How do you build courage?  You learn courage my couraging.  You stop hiding.  You stop avoiding and justifying.  You start doing.

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As I began to make little changes here and there, I noticed a shift within myself.  As I stopped doing some things and started doing others, as I tried new things and let go of old, I started wanting more.  I wanted to try more new things and let go of more old habits.  You learn courage by couraging.  I still felt some intimidation and second guessing- should I do that, say that, try that- but I learned to navigate through that dialogue in my head because I knew it was coming from my shame self, not my true self.  I was on a nice little personal growth journey, and then… and then I spent a weekend in January with a wonderful group of women.

Last January, I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat for a local church.  Let me say that it is not unusual for me to cry on the way home from a speaking engagement.  I usually feel so grateful for the opportunity to speak and teach that crying seems to be the only way to let that emotion out.   But on the way home from this retreat, I cried out of sheer awe.  Later that week a friend asked me how the retreat went, and I told her it had been the single most powerful experience of my professional life.  Because you see these women… these women asked for prayer.  They didn’t ask for prayer for their aunt or their neighbor’s cousin or their co-worker’s niece.  They asked for prayer… for themselves.  They said I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m hurting.  With tears streaming down their faces they boldly admitted that they were tired and struggling to connect with God, with their husband, with their family.  And they didn’t write it on a notecard or say it sitting down with their head hung.  They stood up with heads held high and were vulnerable.  I have never seen such cut open, let-yourself-be-seen courage in all my life.  I was in pure awe of the vulnerability expressed and the courage lived out.

Brené Brown says that courage is contagious.  It certainly is.  These courageous women moved me, and I wanted to be brave and vulnerable.  I wanted to stop giving into my fears of I can’t and what will people think.  I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I had been avoiding doing for a year.  A year prior to this I had the idea for this blog.  I spent all of 2012 trying to convince myself not to do the blog, but the idea stayed with me.  I realize that for a lot of people starting a blog does not seem like that courageous of a step, but for me it was, and continues to be, the definition of vulnerability.    You see, I don’t consider myself a writer.  I have always been incredibly insecure about my writing.   (I am well aware that comma splices and other punctuation crimes litter these pages and am deeply appreciative that no one ever corrects me.  My deep issues with grammar are for another post…) Yes, I speak and teach all the time, but for some reason having people read my words, rather than hear them, feels much more exposing for me.  But the idea of this blog, and other changes I wanted to make in my  life, just would not go away.

February 5th, 2013, I emailed my friend, Kristen, and told her all that I said above.  I told her that this felt like a big step into the arena for me and that I believed she was the one that could bring my ideas to life.  Kristen has this amazing ability to infuse grace and beauty into everything she touches.  I wanted her fingerprints on my daydreams.  I knew that I could entrust my little brainstorms and hopes to her and that she would get it.  From that email, she began designing this blog and events started to unfold that I never could have imagined.  All of my little daydreams that I had silenced with thoughts of you can’t do it and what if you fail finally came to life when I started my own counseling practice in June and a whole new world of experiences and opportunities opened before me.

You learn courage by couraging.

You learn courage by being around courageous people.  I think of all the things I learned in this past year, the most important lesson was that you never enter the arena alone.  You never take your leap of faith alone. You enter the arena with the people in your life that have modeled courage for you.  You enter the arena with the encouragement of friends’ words ringing in your ears.  You enter the arena with the One who will never leave you alone or ill-equipped.

Have you been thinking about making a change recently?  Do you have a dream you would love to bring to life?  Do you want to start facing your fears and living more courageously?  Are you ready to step into the arena?  Do it.  Do. It.  Life inside the arena is riskier; it is more exposing.  Life is messier in the arena, but it is better than sitting in the stands watching others live bravely and boldly.  The stakes do get higher when you put yourself out there.  But let me tell you, it is so worth it.  Maybe it doesn’t feel like it in those first 30 minutes or hours or days when you are still wrestling with doubt and uncertainty.  But one day you will wake up, and you will realize I did it… I survived the uncertainty and I now taste the sweetness of being brave!  

You learn courage by couraging.

You never take your leap of faith or step into your arena alone.  The models of courage precede you, and the speakers of truth and encouragement walk beside you.  And maybe, if you are lucky, God will send you a special friend who can make it beautiful. :)

To those wonderful women last January… thank you.  To Kristen… Happy Anniversary.  Thank you for bringing this past year to life.  Here’s to more daydreams becoming reality.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week and Happy New Year!

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