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.

You Have a Seat at the Table

Ten years ago this week I left my job teaching high school history and went back to grad school. One week later, I started a Masters of Professional Counseling program feeling equal parts excited and anxious. It felt like such a leap to leave the security of the classroom for the unknown of a new profession. I wasn’t entirely sure what life would look like upon graduation, but I knew that whatever form my life as a counselor took, I wanted to walk alongside women in their journey from brokenness and to wholeness, from heartache to redemption. I wanted to help women discover, or rediscover, their voice. I felt that desire deep in my bones. Over this past decade, I have been privileged to hear so many beautiful and powerful stories. There is truly no greater privilege than holding someone’s story as they wrestle and search and mourn and surrender. I’ve had the honor to witness women come to life, take giant leaps of faith, give hard no’s and hesitant yes’s.  Often, I sit in awe of the courage and strength I see demonstrated in my office.

But what I have consistently noticed over these years is our continued struggle with question Am I enough? This question can take so many twists and turns, but I feel like for so many of us the question of being enough is closely tied to how we see and feel about ourselves as women. What does it mean to be a woman? What does that really mean??  And… am I enough as a woman??

Our minds have been flooded with messages and images as to what it means to be a woman. A short surf on the internet can tell you how you can and should have a curvy figure like Kim Kardashian, how you can and should have it all, how you can’t and shouldn’t try to have it all, how to get a date, how to keep a man happy, how to be high school skinny, how to climb the professional ladder. We’re given all of these messages, and they create a very black and white view of life and womanhood- you either are or you aren’t. You either are these things that make you a woman- scratch that… make you a “better” woman- or you aren’t.

In wrestling with this question in my own life, I’ve always felt like I was vying for a seat at the table... as if life was nothing more than a giant middle school cafeteria and the table where you sit determines everything about you. If I could just figure out the right steps of what it means to be a woman then I could sit at the table… then I’d be accepted, I’d be okay, I’d be enough.

I have tried on many hats trying to earn my seat at that table.

I have tried to become some sort of distorted version of a Steel Magnolia where I stuffed all my feelings. I have tried letting all my feelings hang out and saying whatever came to my mind.

I have tried being hip and trendy attempting to emulate the pages of fashion magazines thinking that would answer my question. I have wanted to be the granola girl with a free spirit hoping that was the key.

I have lost my voice for the sake of a relationship because I believed the lie that there is nothing worse than not being in a relationship. (Sidenote- there is something worse than not having a boyfriend, partner, spouse; it’s not having a voice.)

I have ridiculed myself for not being sweet enough, thin enough, pretty enough, thoughtful enough, quiet enough, content to let others lead enough, cooking enough, not having enough children.

I have downplayed my intellect, my curiosity, and my ambition because I didn’t think they were feminine.   I have shouted that I’m right, I have railed against stereotype, and I have tried to act like one of the guys thinking that would make me strong and finally heard.

I have tried on many hats in this department of what does it mean to be a woman and I have come to one conclusion- trying to be the woman other people want me to be and I think I should be in order to gain approval and acceptance is exhausting.

Trying to become the woman God created me to be is freeing.

How do I learn to become the woman I was created to be? Maybe a more accurate way to look at that question is how do I learn to give myself permission to be the woman I was created to be?

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that my faith plays a giant role in my life. As much as I rely and lean on my faith, if I am honest, what I have heard growing up in the four walls of the church has sometimes only frustrated my efforts to discover these answers. Growing up Southern and Christian, it has sometimes been challenging for me to identify what descriptions and expectations for women are cultural and which ones are scriptural. In the South, it is easy to confuse and combine the two.

When I think about what it means to be a woman, I think of words like strong, multitasker, highly capable, intelligent, caring, leader, loving, hard working, outgoing, creative, and introspective.

But if I am vulnerably honest with you there is a whole other list I think of that often has hung over my head like a guillotine blade. Sweet, quiet, soft, unassuming, pretty, thin, married, mother of multiple children, peaceful, self sacrificing, a great cook, always happy/pleasant, never angry, never sad, not too opinionated, not too ambitious, not taking up too much space, secondary.

Now, is there anything wrong with some of the descriptors on the second list? No. Absolutely not.

Are some of the descriptors on the first list “better” than some of the words on the second list? No.   Absolutely not.

There’s nothing wrong with being sweet, with being attractive, with being a great cook. We cannot stigmatize qualities just because we fear we don’t have them or they intimidate us. That is bullying.

It is not better to be an outgoing leader than to be a quiet mother. One is not better, more worthy, more valuable than the other. The problem is we fall into the trap of thinking one list is better than the other and some of the words on both lists become sources of identity and worth- there is no flexibility, there is only have to be, must be, if you’re not then you’re less than.

But here’s the thing… giving yourself permission to be the woman you were created to be does not involve checking items off a list. It does not require you to perform for your seat at the table or play a part like an actor on a stage.

Your place at the table is not determined by whether you’re a Ms. or a Mrs., whether you have 0 children or 10, whether your resume has thirty years of corporate experience or no college degree, whether you are Betty Crocker or Sheryl Sandberg.

You have a seat at the table. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to act for it.

You have a seat at the table because you are you and that is enough. You have a seat at the table because you are a daughter of Creation. You were knit together and set apart well before the world could tell you otherwise.

The roles in your life will eventually shift. The job that gives you worth will eventually go away. The relationships that give you identity may change. But WHO YOU ARE- who God created you to be with that grace-infused worth- that is unshakable.

Just because your reality may not fit a certain picture, that does not mean that you are less than. You are a beautiful creation put here to fulfill a unique role and purpose.

So pull your chair up and claim your space. Use the sense of humor God gave you, the intellect He gave you, the sensitive and nurturing spirit, the quick thinking, the opinions, the skills, the talents. Use all the gifts and life experiences and be you.

My friends, that is what it means to believe and live as you are enough- to live as you were created. Created with purpose and for a purpose.  Go ahead… take your seat. It’s been prepared especially for you.

How have you struggled and made peace with the question Am I enough? How have other’s expectations negatively impacted your view of yourself as a woman? What does being a woman mean to you?

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!

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!

The Club

I have never been big on clubs.  They simply have never appealed to me until I came upon a club that kept denying me membership.  There is one club that no matter how much you want to be in it, no matter how hard you try to join, membership is determined by one sole requirement:  The Motherhood Club. Several years ago, my husband and I spent Mother’s Day with his parents.  At brunch, I noticed we were the only group in the restaurant without children.  I immediately became keenly aware of the absence at our table, and I leaned over to ask my husband if he thought people thought it was odd there were no children at our table.  He looked at me matter-of-factly, smiled, and said that he doubted anyone was giving us that much thought.  I welcomed his loving dose of reality.

Dr. Brené Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, says motherhood is a sensitive topic for women, whether they have children or not, because we often believe that motherhood is “inextricably bound” to our sense of what it means to be a woman.  She goes on to state that motherhood, and everything having to do with it, is one of the top shame (aka feeling not good enough) triggers for women.   It is so easy for motherhood to become a determining factor of our worth as a woman.  It is so easy for the number of children we have or what they are doing or not doing to become a grading scale we use to measure ourselves.

That Mother’s Day, I felt every ounce of emotion that comes when you find yourself on the outside of The Motherhood Club trying to get in.  As I sat at that brunch, I felt self-conscious and inadequate.  I felt the whole restaurant could see what I wasn’t talking about and so desperately wanted to not be true: we couldn’t get pregnant.  Over the course of our infertility journey, I waded through all sorts of feelings- disappointment, frustration, confusion, envy.  I feared being left… being left with this mixture of sadness and resentment… being left behind.  I wondered why it was so easy for some and so difficult for others.  I wondered why I had to be in the latter category.

The Motherhood Club is an interesting one.  The membership form has so many questions:  When?  Why?  Why not?  How many?  It seems most, if not all, women wrestle with these questions.  For some, the answers come easily.  For others, the answers come after a long inner debate.  And still for others, they don’t get to decide the answers at all.  Whether you always knew you wanted to have children, you chose not to have children, or circumstances out of your control chose for you, motherhood touches each of us differently, and the journey is filled with a dizzying array of emotions.

Even once you become a mother, the questions and fears do not automatically subside.  There are now new concerns and ponderings.  Am I good mother?  Am I making the right choices for my child?  How do I protect my child without being overprotective?  How do I know if I am messing up?

My hope for you this Mother’s Day is that wherever you are in this journey, you will give yourself the space and Grace to be there.  If this is your first Mother’s Day and you are wondering how it’s possible to feel excited, grateful, tired, and overwhelmed all at the same time, give yourself the space and grace to feel all of those emotions.  If this Mother’s Day you are experiencing a particularly difficult season of motherhood filled with many questions and concerns and heartache, give yourself the space and grace to feel all of that.  Or perhaps this Mother’s Day you are wrestling and wondering if you will ever be a mother, and this annual marker only reminds you of what you do not have.  Wherever you are and whatever you are feeling, give yourself the permission to experience every ounce of that sadness, disappointment, joy, frustration, or gratitude.

But regardless if you have made your decision regarding motherhood or if you are still waiting for an answer, I hope you will remember the following:

Our worth as women is not determined by how we answer the question “Do you have children?”  Our worth as women is determined by something greater and more innate.  We are natural nurturers whether we have children or not.  We are natural creators whether we reproduce or not.  We bring beauty and life to all we touch.  Motherhood is a part of being a woman, and motherhood might be part of your journey.  But whether or not you are a mother does not determine your place at the table of love, belonging and worthiness.  If you have zero children or if you have a dozen, your worth as a woman remains the same.  You are a beautiful creation put here to fulfill a unique role and purpose.  May you find comfort and freedom in that truth.  May you rest in that blessed assurance.

 

 

Brown, Brené, Ph.D., LMSW. (2007). I thought it was just me (but it isn’t). New York:  Gotham Books.