Dwell In Possibility
At this time of the year it is not unusual to hear people talking about goals. These might include everything from relationship renewal to weight loss. Conversely, the recent trend is to toss New Years resolutions right out of the window – too much pressure in an already fast paced world!
I was recently introduced to the concept of “naming your year” by a wonderful client I have been working with. This idea inspired me more than traditional resolutions because it felt far more motivating with far less stress. So…I am naming 2014 as my year to be fearlessly faithful. This inspired me to create a quarterly newsletter in order to support other people who are on their journey as well.
Naming Your Year
When reflecting on your personal and professional dreams, does a word or name organically rise to the surface of your spirit in naming your year? If so, I encourage you to write this down and place it somewhere visible as a daily reflection. This affirmation then becomes a gentle reminder to help move you forward in honoring your goal or dream.
It's important to remember that every person on a journey of growth will encounter stumbling blocks along the way. At the top of the list are two major goal busters:
I have found that these two “P” words are the biggest thought bullies around. Their sole purpose is to take the wind out of your sails and leave you feeling hopeless and stuck.
Let’s pick a common goal for many folks, weight loss for example. Let’s say you want to lose 25 pounds this year, but by January 30
you have run right back to your love affair with Ben & Jerry. The inner perfectionist will whisper that you have failed, that you are a loser who fell off the wagon…again! That you are too out of shape to sign up for that yoga class, or that you can’t really fall in love with fruits and veggies.
To sum it up:
is a liar whose job it is to convince each of us that we are big fat failures if we don’t do “it” just right.
bullies a person into believing that you (or I) will never move forward, and that you cannot be open and vulnerable if you stumble along the way. The thought bully’s job is to remind you of all the terrible things that could happen, or ways that you will fail if you focus on your healthy goals or dreams. These worries hold people hostage in shameful silence and fear. Or just as bad, in competition and envy.
Shame based perfectionism leads us headfirst into the next “P” word:
. Once we are convinced that something is too hard, too unattainable, or that we will fail, many of us experience a sense of emotional overwhelm. “It’s too much!”; “I’ll deal with it tomorrow!” becomes the familiar refrain.
Or if competition is at the root of this wound, then the inner script might sound like, “She has it easy because she is pretty.” Or, “He has a wealthy family, so of course he got some breaks.”
will loudly state, “Who are you fooling? You are too busy, too inexperienced, too old, too young, too much of a loser, too skinny, too addicted, too fat, too ugly, too poor, too uneducated, you failed the first time – why even bother trying again?”
When we buy the B.S. that this thought bully is selling, we may back burner that goal, project, healing journey, or adventure. We may begin to believe the internal script that sounds like, “Why bother? I’ll likely just fail and embarrass myself anyway.” Or, for some of the die-hard perfectionist competitors out there, the message may sound like, “It has to be perfect.” Or, “I must be the best or I will look like a loser.” For those saturated in shame and dealing with addictions or affairs, the thought bully may whisper, “Be afraid. You are nothing without your addiction, lover, or secret…you are a fraud, it is all you have.”
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, welcome to the internal world of many, dare I say most people. Being fearlessly faithful is not about never experiencing fear. It is not about having a boatload of faith in oneself, or even God, or ones higher power for that matter. It is about leaning into risk, leaning into the fear, leaning into the challenge. It is about showing up for the most important person you will ever be in a relationship with:
Instead of resolutions, I’d like to start a fearlessly faithful movement in 2014. Let’s continue to heal the roots - the roots being the painful self-judgments, the competitive thoughts and actions that alienate others, or the shame producing choices we wrestle with. In healing these poisonous root messages we can bear fruit that is healthy and ripe. Will it be hard? Yes, it will be very hard. It is possible? Yes, it is entirely possible. Where there is no struggle there is no strength, as the saying goes.
ave provided the following tried and true list that has helped support my journey over the years. My hope is that this offers some valuable ways of kicking the two “P’s”,
, to the curb as you pursue your dreams.
Tools for the Journey
- Be Realistic: Using the common goal of weight loss as an example, if you want to lose 10, 20, or even 100 pounds, break this goal down into realistic small steps. This might look like learning to have a new relationship with food and exercise vs. focusing on dieting and weight loss. Another small step could be an affirmation, for example, “Instead of comparing myself to others, I am committed to feeling healthy, fit and strong in 2014.”
- Most everyone knows by now that diets and deprivation do not work. You understand this right? Buying into the latest weight loss scheme, or marketing lies, or manipulative messages about your worth, or wanting to lose all of your weight in 30 days is one sure way of inviting perfectionism and procrastination to have a party in your head. Instead, do something to set yourself up for success – clean out the pantry, join an exercise class that is fun, lay out a healthy menu that you follow most days of the week, drink more water, stay away from media sources that leave you feeling unattractive and worthless, and for that matter, stay away from people who give you that message as well. It can be helpful to seek support from a therapist or group if needed. You can apply this step to almost any goal. Just be realistic.
- Keep Trying: Staying with the health and fitness theme, if you have a meal where you fall off the wagon, don’t wait until then next day to get back on track, thus inviting in the two thought bullies. Instead, take a deep breath, and make a different choice for the next meal. Sometimes achieving a goal, whatever that goal is, usually involves taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, and one kind thought at a time.
- Take a Media Break: The media is the ultimate Wizard of Oz. Their lies are shoveled into us by the thousands each week. Yes, thousands per week. The women I see in my practice, and over the last few years, more and more men, discuss the vicarious trauma they deal with daily through advertising. These companies are all selling one message – “You are not good enough.” Over time, the internal message that is set up inside might sound like, “Curvy women are not worth anything.”; “Only rich men get the girls or guys.”; “I have to be young, drive that car, live in that house, be famous, or I have no value.” And so on.
- As a society we are inundated daily with a barrage of information that tells us we are not sexy enough, pretty enough, viral enough, or rich enough. Start taking small steps to heal those messages today! While it can be hard to avoid all media, (we’d have to live under a rock in order to do so), baby steps help. For instance, I do not allow magazines in my reception area that promote such messages, and I fast forward through commercials if watching a recorded show or movie. I have included a healing video called `Dove Real Beauty Sketches' on the left under “Inspirational.” It is so worth the 3-minutes to watch this beautiful message. Pass it along to someone who could use a healing encouragement to balance the media scales.
- Define Yourself: Every person has had the unpleasant experience where someone else tries to define you. Assumptions are made on how you look, how you dress, the work you do, or the car you drive. I was very concerned about other people’s opinions and definitions of me in my 20’s. I was a shy, insecure young woman who wanted approval from others in order to feel good about myself. Now into my 50’s, I have defined myself for almost two decades. I am confidant in who I am and it took hard work to get here.
- That said, I still run into the occasional person who will attempt to define my worth. This happened recently while attending a birthday party where there was a photo video collage showing the birthday hosts life over many decades. At one point when my photo (a photo of me in my 20’s) popped up on the screen, the birthday host, and someone I have known for 30 years, turned to me and said, “Mari, you sure were smokin’ hot back then.” I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Thank you. But that young woman had no idea what being "hot" really meant. I’ve never felt "hotter" than I do these days.” I’d like to end this little story by saying he had an a-ha moment and got it, but unfortunately, that did not happen. He did not have the first clue as to what I meant about how I value myself these days.
- The moral of the story: Don’t let anyone define your “hotness” or any other aspect of your personal, professional, or spiritual life. Instead, you define what that means to you. Then work towards and embrace your best self. For you ladies who don’t exist on airbrushed magazine covers, which is all of us including super models by the way, there is a terrific poem by Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”, that sums it all up. Please see the link on the left under inspirational.
- Surround Yourself with Support: Stay away from the Negative Nellies, the Fearful Freds, the Shaming Sams, and the Envious Irmas. Instead, gravitate toward folks who inspire you and believe in you. Achieving goals is easier and more fun when done on a safe, non-competitive team. Isolation usually stems from inner shame. Perhaps 2014 is a time to begin to work with a professional in order to heal that shame core. I encourage you to make choices that support the beautiful you vs. colluding with the old messages and thought bullies, or envious unhappy people for one more minute!
- Practice Gratitude: If you want to start feeling really good from the inside out, begin to develop your spiritual self. Tap into the gifts, talents and blessings you have been given that are unique to you and you alone. I have included a short heartwarming TED talk on gratitude on the left under Inspiration section. Develop a gratitude practice that resonates with you: volunteer work, prayer, help a child, support a friend, give a colleague some time, create a vision board, or make a gratitude jar. I like to keep a journal that I record what I am most grateful for on most days – even if it is a really crappy day (on those days my journal entry might say, “I am very grateful for my eyesight. And for not flipping the bird to the jerk on the freeway.”)
- Humor: Try not to take yourself so seriously. Incorporating joy and laughter is important for a long and happy life. Give yourself a break, and while you’re at it, why not extend some latitude, and/or benefit of the doubt towards those around you.
- Take Ownership: None of us are perfect people, and I know this first hand! In fact, one of the things I most often say to my clients is, “No perfect people allowed, hurray for being human!” We all come with our own special little flaws and not so nice personality traits. Learning to say, “I’m sorry” is a beautiful way of growing as a human being. Dump the grudges, excuses, the blame and shame game, and comb through your own process. Leaning into humility is a great way to develop personal insight. I have learned that owning my stuff is a good thing. It helps me evolve as a woman in the world, and as a child of God.
- Schedule Down Time: Practicing balance is not easy! As a busy clinician, business owner, author and speaker, I know this first hand. However, making a living is not making life. Take time to get out in nature, commune with your higher power, enjoy time with loved ones (and yes, that means turning the cell phone off and being fully present once in awhile), create art, get some sleep, go see a movie, read a book, dig in the dirt and garden, hike with a friend, swim in the ocean, soak in a sunset or sunrise, and dance to music that makes you smile. Or…just be. I like to take my pink beach cruiser, “Pearl”, out for a spin each week. I am 51 years old, but not too old for my bike tassels to fly in the wind while I ring my heart shaped bike bell.
- Step away from Comparison: Negative comparison is the death of self-esteem and is the junk food for feeding envy. There will always be someone younger, thinner, better looking, smarter, richer, more accomplished, sweeter, and wiser than me (and you). And of course, those less fortunate as well. Embracing your own unique and rockin’ self is truly a practice in self-kindness. Why not just enjoy the fabulous self you have been given with grace and gratitude? How about them apples!
- Quit “Shoulding” all over Yourself: And, while you’re at it, quit "shoulding" all over everyone else. I should have, he should have, we shouldn’t have, she shouldn’t have…ho hum already. “Shoulding” only feeds shame and resentment. There is a classic quote that supports this beautifully, “Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” We all could have and would have if we only knew how to at the time.
- Practice self-kindness, and be gentle with yourself. You are worthy and valuable and it is OK that you are a work in progress. If there are people in your life that like to "should" on you (which is different from holding you accountable), learn how to set your boundary with this person. If you have trouble doing this, find a support person to help you learn how. And, if the “shoulder” will not respect your boundary and insists on shaming you, perhaps this is a relationship that is no longer healthy in your life. Two excellent books on this subject are, “The Dance of Anger”, by Harriet Lerner, and “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud.
- Flip the Script: If you have an internal script that includes words like: loser, ugly, poor, stupid, fat, unlovable, liar, jerk, hopeless, or anything along those lines – it is time to re-write that script! Then start making healthy choices that support this new script so that your words and behaviors match. If you need support in learning how to do this, be brave, lean in, and seek out someone who can help you. Or if your internal script tells you that you are better than everyone else, or tells you that if everyone just believed the way you do then the world would be fine, it is time to seriously flip that assumptive unhealthy script as well. Focused work with a therapist you trust, or joining a support group to heal these wounds is a great place to begin whether the wound is insecurity and shame, or narcissism and shaming.
Lean In and Go for It!
Whatever you decide to name 2014, whatever goals and dreams you are holding close to your heart,
however you choose to be fearlessly faithful in pursuit of your best life,
remember to get rid of the thought bullies:
, which only leads to shame based thinking, which then leads to
, that leads right back to…you guessed it, shame based thinking.
Instead, set yourself up for success with supportive and safe people, stay away from the energy vampires who suck you dry, or the “shoulders” who add to your shame based thinking with their negative criticism, competitive envy, or dire warnings. I encourage you to plug into your spiritual self, God, or your higher power, lean into risk, and break down the goal into small, simple daily steps. Then, be gentle with yourself, be kind to others, stand in gratitude, and practice these steps each day, taking it one day at a time.
Keep me posted on your journey;
You can do it and so can I!