Author Archives: Victoria

Coming out of Hiding

TinyCactus

The truth is that I’ve been hiding from you.

I’ve been struggling with the fact that I continue to struggle health-wise, energy-wise, clarity-wise, when it feels like I should be done with those struggles.

I wanted to hide from the struggles, and hide them from you, so I went quiet. I allowed myself to be convinced that my struggle meant I didn’t have anything worth saying.

What I’ve been doing, in effect, is waiting for the struggle to pass before I step forward. I couldn’t see that my waiting for things to feel easier was just another flavor of fear.

So, yes, I am struggling with some of the same stuff I’ve been struggling with for years, and my ego feels bruised by that.

But I’ve been feeling a growing sense of urgency. I’m realizing that *what* I’m struggling with, and *how long* it’s gone on is not really relevant.

What’s relevant is how I choose to proceed in the face of it. Will I let it flatten me, or will I find ways to live the life I want to live in spite of it?

Though I’ve been quiet, I’ve been talking with my Soul.

I’ve been learning about what my work is in this world, in this life.

Just as I’ve been connecting to my Soul, my work is to help you connect with your Soul.

Connecting with your Soul is the key to stepping outside the struggle.

(Note that I didn’t say it’s the key to avoiding all pain in this life. Will there still be shitty situations that cause heartache? Yes, but connecting to your Soul will allow you to experience what you’re going through without the experience becoming Who You Are.)

That connection makes it possible to meet yourself with love, acceptance and appreciation in every moment. It allows you to see What Is through the lens of love. It’s how you see new possibilities for movement when you feel mired in stuckness.

Opening and deepening communication with your Soul is how you find the strength and power and energy to do what’s in your heart to do, even if it feels dangerous and way beyond your capacity.

Maybe that all feels impossible. I get it.

But part of what I’m really grasping now is that you don’t have to make the connection. You only have to choose to make it.

The minute you move toward your Soul, it begins to move toward you.

What I’ve Learned from Talking to Souls

Since I started talking to other people’s souls a few months ago, I’ve noticed some common themes that show up in pretty much every conversation I do. Granted, we’re not talking about a sample of more than a few handfuls of people as opposed to thousands or even hundreds (yet), but it’s hard to believe these commonalities are merely coincidences.

Here’s a list, in no particular order:

1. Your soul loves you and wants to support you in having the life you want.

I think many (if not most) of us wound up with a rather harsh view of how the world works. We think we have to perform in order to gain approval and favor, or even love.

That’s not what I hear from the souls I talk to, though. What I hear over and over is that regardless of your choices, past and future, regardless of how you feel, regardless of your worldview, your soul is there for you and will meet you exactly where you are.

Not only that, your soul is always ready and willing to connect with you more deeply, but they’re waiting from the okay from you.

2. You want what you want for a reason. It’s not random.

Anytime anybody asks their soul what their purpose is, or what they should be doing with their life, the response is always some variation of “do what makes your heart sing.”

Why? Because you and your soul chose those desires together. So of course your soul wants to support you in fulfilling those wants.

The only thing you’re supposed to do is to pull on the threads of the things that light you up and make you feel fucking excited to do them.

3. Whatever it is you want for yourself, you need to offer yourself.

There’s something important about the idea of having the things you want come from within. Want connection? Connect with yourself, first. Want compassion? Offer it to yourself before you expect others to offer it to you.

Anything that comes from the outside, without the inside component, won’t satisfy the want/need. Or it will only be a short-term fix.

4. The point of life is to experience it. The experience isn’t a means to an end, it’s the end in itself.

There’s not only one “right” path, so do the things you want to do. Learn what you can, notice what it does for you, and bring that knowledge forward to the next experience.

We can only experience this life to the absolute fullest if we allow ourselves to be who we are. Otherwise, we’re just holding ourselves back and ignoring what really turns us on (see #2).

5. Your soul feels extreme compassion for you and doesn’t judge you.

It’s okay to feel that you’ve made a mess of something (I feel that way at least once a day, usually), but to your soul it’s just another experience in your life (see #4).

If you’re beating yourself up because you keep putting off doing the thing you know you want to do, you’ll get no scolding from your soul. But beware – you’ll get no coddling, either.

You’ll get exactly the right amount of kindness and get-off-your-ass-ness because your soul knows what you need (not what you think you need, but what you actually need).

Why all of this is important and worth sharing

We each wind up with a set of beliefs about how the world works and how we should live.

Some of those beliefs are helpful, and some are decidedly unhelpful.

Those unhelpful beliefs can leave us feeling as though we’d rather not connect deeply to ourselves, because what if our inner landscape winds up reflecting the harshness we’ve experienced in our outer lives? What if you ask your soul for help and it tells you no, or it laughs or just ignores you?

That is not the role your soul plays. It’s not here to goad you into action by withholding love and care, or by making you miserable in some way. It’s here to help you remember who you really are.

My deepest wish is for you to feel safe enough to experience the connection of communicating with your own soul – whether I facilitate that conversation or you do it yourself.

That connection is the key to making the deeper shifts and dismantling the unhelpful beliefs. It’s how you feel safe enough to put yourself out there creatively, how you recover from setbacks, and how it gets easier to enjoy the whole crazy adventure.

On Saying What I Want to Say

I spent many, many years in environments where it was only safe to express a need or opinion when it was in agreement with those around me.

Naturally that led to ignoring and hiding what I wanted and needed. And eventually I forgot what those wants and needs were. I no longer knew what I liked to do, what felt fun to me, what my dreams were. Any dreams I had were chosen based on what someone else thought was a good idea.

My life was built around pleasing others. I worked a job that would be considered “worthy,” I listened to music that they would approve of, and kept very quiet about any interests I had that might fall outside of what they would be comfortable with.

It’s been a long (and ongoing) process of re-learning who I am. The pattern still shows up a lot more often than I would like. The most obvious symptom is that I tend to stay quiet and talk myself out of saying what I want to say. And doing what I want to do. It’s easy to convince myself that it doesn’t need saying. Or it will be too hard to do and not worth the effort.

Growing up, it was never okay to be “wrong,” so I try to avoid making mistakes via inaction and silence.

I’m seriously sick of that shit.

My work with clients lately has been about helping them get clear on what they want and need, and be willing to speak up about it.

And in my Soul Conversations, something I hear over and over is that our souls want to help us fulfill our desires. In other words, the things our hearts want? They’re not random. Nor are they wastes of time.

Our desires are actually the things we’re meant to pursue.

Yet I find myself holding back from telling you about these things. Because I was met with indifference or even disdain in the past, it’s what I expect to be met with now.

But we don’t get to control others’ responses to our choices, so trying to live our lives as though we do is pretty fucking pointless. Yes, I might be met with criticism and rejection but I’m tired of shrinking away from doing and saying what’s important to me just because it’s scary.

The scariness will always be there, especially if I’m pushing myself to live at my edges. If we’re operating from the seat of our deepest truths, not everyone will approve. I’m trying to remember that I’d rather experience someone’s disapproval than to hide from the life I really want to live.

And besides all that, if I keep hearing the same messages from multiple souls about the necessity of pursuing one’s desires, don’t those messages apply to me, too?

I don’t know where this will lead me, but I know I’m tired of hamstringing myself by waiting for a guarantee of safety. Risking rejection is just the price of admission. A frequently uncomfortable price, for sure, but the older I get the more I’m willing to pay it. It’s about fucking time.

What If the Fear Isn’t Going Anywhere?

What if you knew, without a doubt, that the fear you feel about going after what you want isn’t going anywhere, ever?

Our lizard brains are experts at making us believe we’re in mortal danger if we even think about pushing through the fear, anxiety and adrenaline, aren’t they? No wonder we all try to wait until the fear is gone before taking a step forward with the stuff we REALLY want. I know I do that allthefuckingtime.

That’s why it took me 5+ years to go from wanting to become a coach, to becoming one.

And why it took me 2+ years from the time I graduated training to launching my business.

And it’s also why — to this very day — I have a hard time talking about what I do. I don’t know if it’s impostor syndrome or if I’m convinced I’ll be ridiculed for choosing such a non-left-brained profession (or maybe some of both)…all I know is that if I try to tell someone about what I do and how I help, it’s a full-on stumble-and-stammer-fest.

For me, and maybe for you, too, fear has become a false indicator of readiness, and even worthiness.

My reasoning goes like this:

I’m scared, so I must not be ready.
I’m not ready, so I must not have prepared fully.
I didn’t prepare fully, so I must not be taking this seriously.
I’m not taking this seriously, so I’m not worthy of getting what I want (so why bother trying?).

It’s an ugly chain of false beliefs, all starting with the assumption that it’s possible to be without fear when it comes to doing what matters most.

But what if that just isn’t possible? What if being afraid is part of pursuing something important? And part of being human? And the fear isn’t going anywhere?

If I wait for the fear to leave, I will never do the thing my heart wants, the thing I believe I’m here to do.

I’m left with two options:

1. Abandon my dream

2. Figure out how to step forward despite the fear

The idea of “feel the fear and do it anyway” is not a new concept, of course. For some reason, though, a conversation with Suzanne Ragan Lentz about this idea allowed it to sink more deeply into my bones.

So…if I know that the fear will always be with me to one degree or another, which option do I choose?

I want to go with the second one. (I may not always succeed, but that’s the one I’m committed to.)

I feel like I say this here all the time, but it’s a practice.

Just like in meditation, where you let your thought float by and come back to your breath, you let your fear float by and come back to the truth of who you are and what you want, and step forward.

There is no magic pill. There is no amount of time you can wait to avoid the practice.

You practice by doing. And by trying again even if you let fear drive the bus for a while.

How to practice this

But how am I going to practice this? How will you?

It will look different for everyone, and it’ll depend on what you’re afraid of.

For me, it will mean pushing myself to talk more about what I do, rather than hiding.

For you, it might mean hitting the publish button more, or saying no to opportunities that aren’t quite what you want. It might mean risking pissing off your family in order to do a better job of meeting your needs for self-care, or enforcing your boundaries with clients and co-workers.

Here’s what I want you to know

I know it’s hard. (Believe me, I know.)

It’s normal. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or the thing you’re trying to do.

Being afraid says nothing about who you are or what you’re capable of. It doesn’t mean you’re not ready, or unworthy.

Fear just is, and we each have to choose, over and over again, to move forward in spite of it.

I’m tired of waiting for the fear to go away. How about you?

The right support can make it much easier to practice moving forward despite the scariness of it. Here are some ways I can help.

How to Come Back to Your Dream After Heartbreak

In honor of Andrea Schroeder’s Give Your Dream Wings Blog Hop, I’d like to tell you a story about my dream, giving up on it, and how I came back to it.

In 2009, I had enough early success as a coach that I quit my corporate job so I could focus on my business full-time.

I expected to see continued, steady growth. What I actually saw were short periods of success divided by much longer periods of creative drought.

Within a few months my body began to rebel. I was frustrated because my business wasn’t growing fast enough. I was freaking out about money all the time.

I was angry. Angry at my body for not staying healthy enough for me to build momentum. Angry at myself for not being able to ignore how I felt and just keep going.

Most of all I felt angry at the Universe because I’d gotten a clear signal that quitting my job was what would be best for me and my business, yet things seemed to be falling apart. It felt like a cruel trick.

The harder I pushed to grow my business, the less it grew until it started to shrivel. For three grueling years, I tried to subsist on the fumes of my past successes.

I didn’t realize until far too late that by continuing to pushpushpush, I was depleting myself. And that, in combination with my thyroid slowing down, led to a deep depression.

I’d often struggled with depression, but this was the lowest I’d ever gone. Even if I could have kept working, I no longer felt connected to my dream. Whereas my business used to feel like a being with its own soul before, now I wondered if it was all bullshit.

And so began a long, frustrating fallow period

Any desire to work came from a place of being afraid to stop working, rather than being connected to what my soul wanted to create.

I tried to focus on healing myself and the heartbreak I felt for things not going the way I expected. I had reached the point of being willing to walk away from my dream if I had to.

Eventually (over a year later), I started the long climb out of that deep pit.

I noticed a gradual willingness to look at what didn’t work before.

I saw all the ways I’d hurt myself by basing my self-worth on accomplishments.

I saw how I had been steamrolling my own soul, when I should have been partnering with it. (Well, I did partner with it for a while, until it was time to slow down, and then I stopped listening to what it had to say.)

I realized that no dream was worth losing my Self.

It’s been nearly two years to the day since I first acknowledged that the way I’d been pursuing my dream was utterly unsustainable.

And it’s only been in the last three months or so that I’m starting to see — outwardly — the fruits of the inner work I’ve been doing to heal myself and reconnect with my dream.

Here’s the thing:

What allowed me to reconnect with my dream was being willing to let it go, and to put my own needs before the needs of my dream. (The truth, though, is that your dream’s number one need is for you to get what you need.)

In a sense, I had to find the dream beneath the dream.

I thought I wanted a thriving business that would allow me to look forward to getting up and going to work every morning. That’s still true, but what I wanted even more was to be connected to myself and my soul so deeply that nothing could disconnect me.

I thought the deep connection I craved would be the result of creating the business.

The truth is that by nurturing the connection, I’m finding an ease in my business I’ve never experienced before.

Does it mean that things are always easy? Fuck no. Ease and easiness aren’t the same thing.

I have to choose to connect with my soul multiple times a day, and let it guide me. I have to choose to be honest with myself about whether I’m committed to growing my business (or am I more committed to dicking around on Facebook?).

Every day I have to start where I am and find a way to make it work.

The ease — despite the hard work — comes from knowing that I’m enough, even if I create something that doesn’t take off.

I’m learning to trust that deep, lasting progress comes from connecting to my soul, and working from that place.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar:

You had a dream, it didn’t work out, and you’re feeling the heartbreak of that.

Here’s what I want you to know:

You are not alone. Though it may not feel like it right now, you have it within you to do what’s needed to support your dream.

The key to being able to nurture your dream sustainably is to make sure you’re connected to your soul. It knows what you and your dream need.

Learning to connect with your soul is a practice. Keep practicing.

Trust that your dream originates from your soul. Your dream is possible, because your soul would not hand you a dream you can’t achieve.

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The Give Your Dream Wings Blog Hop is a peek inside the process of how inspiring people make the magic happen. We’ve got some of the internet’s most inspiring bloggers sharing how they give their dreams wings – what they do that supports, nurtures and encourages their tender dreams to come to life.

This is happening in celebration of the new e-course of the same name by Andrea Schroeder of the Creative Dream Incubator. The Give Your Dream Wings e-course shows you how to nurture and grow YOUR dream, for free, in only 10 minutes a day. You do not have to wait until you have more time or money!

Click here to find out about the free e-course, and to read the other (crazy inspiring!) posts in this Blog Hop.

Shouldn’t This Be Easier?

Last week, I decided to offer a class.

Since then, I’ve had insomnia worse than I’ve had in many months.

There are lots of causes of insomnia, and I’ve experienced many of them, but it was easy to think I’ve been worrying about the class – even though I haven’t been consciously obsessing about it as I lay in the dark.

So what is it, then? My thyroid prescription is too high? Some sort of hormonal wonkiness? Allergies? Dehydration?

Nearly ten years ago, one of the first “coachy” books I read was by Martha Beck. In it she talked about her health problems and how it was after she started following her North Star that she began to feel better. I could totally relate, because I’d struggled with lots of health concerns off and on (but mostly on) my whole life, and I knew I was still trying to figure out what part of the sky my North Star was in, let alone follow it.

Yet, ever since I got serious about my business a few years ago, my health problems have gotten worse. Not life-threatening stuff, exactly, but the kind that can make it difficult to function consistently much above survival mode. The kind that can make it easy to believe I don’t even want to have a business and that helping people isn’t as important as lying down and not moving for at least a few months.

Depression
Insomnia
Anxiety
Fatigue
Never-ending cycle weirdness
Joint pain and muscle spasms

And it’s puzzling. Are the health problems caused (or exacerbated) by trying to do something I don’t actually want? (I thought for sure my health would improve after I left my corporate job and was putting more of my energy into my Thing.)

Or were they made worse by trying to do something my soul wants but the scared parts of myself don’t want?

Or would I be dealing with this illness crap either way, and it just happens to make it harder to grow my business? (When depression is a factor, creative energies are so very hard to tap into.)

And the health stuff is there on top of the usual impostor syndrome and nerves and stress that comes with putting yourself out there under the best of circumstances.

A couple of years ago, I would have been convinced that feeling this much anxiety and angst around creating stuff for my business was a sure sign I was on the wrong track. That I was trying to force myself into doing something not fully in alignment with who I am and what I want.

But.

I’ve been around this mountain before.

After I graduated from coach training I got so stuck I was sure this couldn’t be the right path for me. (Turns out that was just a big ball of fear gumming up the works.)

Then last year I wound up in a deep Dark Night of the Soul and had no choice but to step back and stop trying to push. (Yes, I was sick and needed lots of time to heal and replenish, but even after giving myself full permission to walk away from my business, I know it’s still what I want.)

There is a lot of stuff out there that would say I must be doing it wrong. That if I were doing it right, it would be easier. And it would feel good most of the time.

But now I don’t think it’s remotely that simple.

When I’m not trying to get THERE, and I can connect to my soul and the depths of what I want to create and the ways I want to serve – the ways I want to transform this world – it always brings me back to the same place: Here.

I don’t know why for some the right path is easier than the wrong one.

I wish it would work that way for me, but so far, it hasn’t.

Creating and putting myself out there (while hoping my health won’t take a dive) is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s gotten a bit easier, but not by much.

Yet I can’t NOT do it.

And always, when I do it, if I can look past the fact that I wanted a bigger turnout or more ease in the process, I hear that what I’m sharing is helping people in big, deep, transformative ways.

So I’m practicing finding ways to stay consistent and create more despite how I feel. Ways to keep going even when I’d rather binge watch Prime Suspect or when I’m sure I can’t handle another experience of (possibly) offering something that isn’t met with wild excitement and acceptance.

And sometimes it’s hard to know when feeling like crap is a sign I should rest and when it’s just plain old resistance.

Here’s what I want you to know

If you sometimes question whether you’re on the right path because it’s so much harder than you expected to go after your dream, you are absolutely not alone.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong just because it’s not easy.

Don’t buy into the lie that there’s something wrong with you just because you struggle rather than float through life with ease 24/7. (And remember that the Facebook and Instagram versions of other people’s lives and businesses are not painting a true picture of the reality. Guaranteed.)

Consider the possibility that the obstacles you’re facing in order to start or grow your business are simply showing you areas that need development, rather than signs that you’re incapable or heading in the wrong direction.

Trust that you know what you want enough to choose to keep trying. Even if you have to let it go for a while, it will be there waiting for you when you’re ready to start down the path again.

{Note: The class I referenced at the beginning of the post? Not quite ready, yet. But if you enter your email here, you’ll hear about it as soon as it’s available, right in your inbox.}

You Are Not Your Achievements

I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

Last time I said I’d talk about how to stop basing our self-worth on our achievements. I’m kind of afraid I won’t do it justice, but I also know this stuff needs to be said, so let me set the stage a bit before diving in…

First important thing: I don’t have this shit all figured out. I’m still working on it, too.

I struggle regularly with running my life as though I need to justify my existence with contributions, achievements and productivity. (Just last week I came down with a stomach bug and had a fever, yet I felt like a complete slacker for calling in sick.)

Second thing: You are not broken. And it’s okay to feel as though you are broken.

Our emotions are valid – always – and trying to trick yourself into thinking positively when it goes against what you’re feeling is a form of repression. Let’s be real, here, okay? We all have periods of time – some longer than others – when we wish we could just crawl under a rock.

Feeling like shit and admitting to it doesn’t doom us to a life of negativity.

But let’s also remember that we aren’t defined by our thoughts and feelings.

Third thing: The point of what we’re talking about here is not to make you a “better person.” (You’re not broken, remember?)

It’s about living with more joy and less suffering.

It’s about stopping the patterns of punishing ourselves for not accomplishing what we think we should as quickly as we should. And it’s about easing the pain of so-called failure.

It’s all well and good to say that all failures are learning experiences, but it’s pretty fucking hard to benefit from the lessons when we believe the fact that we’ve failed means we are failures.

Now that that’s out of the way…

What do I mean by self-worth, worthiness, enoughness and value?

At the risk of over-simplifying things, I’m talking about the fact that each of us is born deserving to pursue the best existence we can. We deserve love and care and to do what’s best for us.

(I’m not 100% satisfied with that definition, but I’m trying not to get bogged down in semantics.)

The key point is that we’re born with inherent worth, and if you don’t believe me, look at any newborn baby.

Would you ever question their worth? Would you ever say that they don’t deserve love and care and to live at the highest possible level of Maslow’s hierarchy?

Because we’re born with our worthiness, I’ve come to think of our poor sense self-worth as a symptom of forgetting who we are. We were all newborns once. We learned to stop valuing ourselves.

Our worth gets covered up with layer after layer of bullshit and lies and misunderstandings and other people’s fears and insecurities that often become our own.

So decoupling our worth from our accomplishments isn’t about learning so much as unlearning. It’s about uncovering our true selves.

Rather than trying to build or gain a sense of self-worth, it’s more a matter of discarding the unhelpful beliefs that cause us to forget we’re worthy, simply by virtue of being alive.

So where do you get started with all of this?

1. Accept the fact that you have to choose it before you’ll feel it

You’ve got however many years of absorbing the idea that your worth is based on accomplishments.

Getting comfortable with our enoughness isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s more like a lifetime practice.

Regardless of how you feel about worth and where it comes from, you’ll need to choose to believe you’re enough, and you’ll need to remind yourself frequently. If choosing to believe it feels too difficult, choose to try to believe.

2. Start paying attention to how you respond to low/no productivity, failures and unmet expectations

Our constant need to be productive, contribute, achieve and improve ourselves is a sure sign we’re trying to earn our place in the world. So is our unwillingness to stop and heal.

Makes sense, then, that when our efforts aren’t successful, it can be downright devastating.

When are you forcing yourself to work when you should be resting?
When you “fail” what are the stories you tell yourself?

Before you can start shifting the pattern, you have to start catching yourself in the act of judging yourself unworthy.

3. Develop a regular practice of meditation or mindfulness or some way of connecting with yourself

It’s important to have a way to get to know your essential self, your soul or whatever you want to call it – that part of you that knows who you really are and what you really want. The part of you that isn’t trying to please others or avoid getting hurt.

The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to move from fighting against poor productivity and berating yourself for failures toward prioritizing self-care and accepting that you’re allowed to feel what you feel.

The more you can accept how you are now, the more you’ll be able to start actively appreciating yourself.

Slowly you’ll notice that when something doesn’t go as planned, you’ll still appreciate that you’ve put yourself out there in some way. You’ll remember that you are not your accomplishments.

(One easy way to start meditating is by signing up for the free option of Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. Her video teachings helped me to get a lot more comfortable with meditation.)

4. Surround yourself with evidence of your enoughness

Read people who help you see that you’re not your accomplishments. Stop reading stuff about kicking your own ass.

When you find yourself sending compassion to someone else, send it to yourself, too, because you’re just as deserving.

If the timing is right, we can also work together to shine a light on your patterns and establish new habits to be kinder to yourself and bring more ease to your work.

5. Try not to turn this into another way to beat yourself up

The reality is that you can turn any practice into a harsh metric of self-worth – even meditation and personal growth. Maybe especially personal growth.

There will be good days and bad days with this process. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ll discover a whole deeper layer or other area where you’re tying self-worth to Doing rather than Being.

That’s what makes this a lifelong practice. It’s never done, it just gets easier the more you do it.

The last 18 months for me have involved a lot of work around being okay with where I am, shedding expectations and shifting my beliefs so that my life could feel a lot less arduous, so I know first-hand that this shit is hard work. I also know it’s totally worth it. I’m sending you lots of compassion and love for the road ahead.

What’s So Special About THERE?

In the previous post, I shared my tendency to try to press on and be as productive as possible, even when I’d be better off giving myself time to heal and replenish.

In a nutshell, the refusal to stop and rest is a sign of refusing to accept where I am right now. It’s a form of denial – if I can remain productive, then it must mean I don’t need sleep or rest or whatever, right?

But what’s beneath the refusal to accept where I am right now?

A clue to that lies in where I think I should be. Even as I write this, I think I should be done writing it. I should have the next move for my business figured out already. I should know how to manage my creative energy by now so that I can be more consistent. I should have already finished adjusting to my part-time day job.

Why is it so important to me to get THERE already? What’s so special about THERE?

I think for most of us, the real question is, Who do we believe we will BE once we’re THERE?

What I’ve seen in myself and in my clients quite often is that our desire to get THERE is really about earning love and proving our worth.

From the time we’re very young, we’re taught to believe that Achievement = Self-worth, aren’t we?

If we do the “right” things, we’re praised and rewarded. If we don’t, we’re punished or even shamed.

That’s hard enough, but it’s about a billion times worse when we do something that we believe is the right thing, yet the results feel like we’re being punished. You launch something and hear crickets. You try to exercise and eat right but you still feel exhausted most of the time.

We believe that if we do X, we’ll always get Y, until the day that we get Z instead, and then all hell breaks loose. Because we didn’t want Z at all, and oh shit, what does it say about us that we got Z instead of Y?

When my body was in rebellion and I was sinking into a Dark Night, I kept trying to work. I kept pushing. I kept telling myself that if I kept going just a little longer, things would turn around. My business would grow, life would get easier.

But it didn’t.

And when I was faced with that moment where I knew I could no longer keep pushing, I was filled with a deep sense of failure and shame.

Resting and surrendering were unacceptable because BEING is inferior to DOING. Doing is the only thing that leads to achievement and accomplishment that will show I am of value.

“See? Look what I did. Look how good I am. Look how well I contribute.”

But what kind of dynamic does that mindset create?

It makes the status quo infinitely more appealing than taking any sort of risk. (File under: The Devil You Know…)

It’s like trying to drive around with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake.

We can’t rest because we need to get THERE.

But we can’t head THERE without risking the possibility that maybe we won’t make it. And that’s a crazy big risk to take if our self-worth hangs in the balance. (File under: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t)

The only way to stop the whiplash-causing herky-jerky stop-and-go is to end the inner conflict. And that inner conflict ends when we truly understand that it’s okay if we keep trying and it’s okay if we stop and rest.

We need to know that we’re completely and thoroughly OKAY regardless of what we do or don’t do.

And by “OKAY” I mean, you are fine, you’re whole and unbroken, you can accept yourself, you don’t have to answer to anyone about whether you are enough.

Isn’t that what we all want, deep down? To know that no matter what – no matter how badly we fuck up our lives and no matter how badly we flake out of opportunities that the Universe has gift-wrapped and handed to us – we are still OKAY?

Sad, angry, frustrated and uncertain at times? Of course. But still enough. Still OKAY.

Can you imagine what it would be like to know down to your bones that you are enough whether or not you ever make your dreams happen? That it doesn’t have any bearing on your worth?

That’s what makes it okay to be exactly where we are, and to let go of any schedule and expectations. (File under: Simple But Actually Ridiculously Fucking Hard)

But how do you do that, when you’ve spent most (if not all) of your life striving to prove your enoughness?

That’s what I’ll talk about next time.

In the meantime…

Here are some questions to ponder about acceptance and enoughness.

Where is THERE for you? Do you have multiple THEREs for different parts of your life (e.g., business, health, relationships)?

What’s your schedule for arriving THERE? Are you already late?

Where did your schedule come from? Are there particular people you’re comparing yourself to? (I often compare myself to people I went to school with, despite the fact that I don’t actually want what they seem to have.)

How do you feel when you’re reminded that you’re not THERE yet? Where do you feel that in your body? (For me this often feels like a pressure in my chest, a bit like I want to scream and yell about not getting what I want.)

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to know you are already enough, simply for who you are, not what you do. Where do you feel that in your body?

Again, no wrong answers. We’re just exploring, so be sure to breathe and be kind to yourself throughout this process.

Healing

I cut my finger the other day. We were completely out of band-aids, but it stopped bleeding quickly so I wasn’t too worried about it.

Yet because of where the cut was, I kept scraping and bumping it – even drying my hands after washing them was a problem.

Fast-forward a few days and I realized the cut still wasn’t healed. For how minor it was, it really should have been mostly gone already, but there it was, still hurting and occasionally opening back up.

I was prolonging the healing process by refusing to stop at the store to get more band-aids. I told myself I didn’t need them, that the cut would heal just fine on its own.

And yes, eventually the cut did heal on its own, but it took probably two or even three times as long by leaving it exposed to more damage.

How often do we do that to ourselves? We experience some kind of wound (physical or emotional) or illness, but we refuse to give ourselves what we need to heal.

By refusing to protect the area that was damaged, it takes longer to get better.

It’s relatively easy to see how important that protection is if you think in terms of a broken bone or severe flu – of course you need to stay off the break or stay on the couch. It gets a bit trickier when dealing with something like depression or chronic illness or pretty much anything that doesn’t have a clear “do this and get better” method of treatment.

We don’t want to change our lives. We don’t want to alter the way we go through our day in order to facilitate healing.

Maybe we think we’re being stronger that way, or more productive. We believe we’re saving time or money or energy by doing the bare minimum. We’re refusing to give in.

We expect to be able to operate as normal, despite the fact that we’re injured or simply running on empty.

But the reality is that in order to heal, we need to protect the place of hurt. We have to stop doing the things that cause more damage, even if those things would be completely innocuous under normal, healthy circumstances. Once we’re injured or depleted, it’s no longer business-as-usual. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

But how do you go about shifting that pattern?

This refusal to give ourselves enough downtime to get better is deeply ingrained in our culture, to the point that “working through the pain” is a veritable badge of honor. It’s hard to catch it as it’s happening, but that’s exactly what we need to learn to do.

Believe me, I love the idea that I could follow steps X, Y and Z and turn into the kind of person who is always kind to myself and gives myself as much time as necessary to heal in just the ways I need. Oh, and never feel an ounce of guilt about it, either.

But the thing that my most recent Dark Night has taught me is that there is no 3-step process or 6-week program or fill-in-the-blank workbook for the really deep stuff that needs healing. It requires the thing that’s hardest to do – learning to notice what’s mostly unconscious.

The most obvious clue that I’m refusing myself time to heal is when I get frustrated at my lack of productivity and start telling myself I should be feeling better already. (Your clues may be different, of course, but I bet frustration is one of them.)

Regardless of what I’m recovering from, it points to an unwillingness to accept where I am right now. A lot like my unwillingness to buy band-aids and protect my cut finger.

But what’s beneath the refusal to accept where I am right now? Why do so many of us have trouble with this?

That’s what I’ll be covering in my next post.

In the meantime…

Here are some questions to help you dig in and explore healing and productivity.

What are some of the ways you heal and replenish? In what ways do you resist healing?

What helps you to be productive? What does productivity look like for you?

What are some of the things that contribute to being less productive than you’d like? (Illness? Depression? Family obligations? Lack of clarity? Utterly wonky hormones?)

Where do your expectations of how productive you should be come from? (Who has set the bar for what qualifies as “productive enough” for you?)

How do you feel and respond when you have a non-productive day, week or month?

How do you feel and respond when you are efficient and productive?

There are no wrong answers. At all. This is all about becoming aware of what’s true for you right now. I know that lack of productivity can be a source of pain and deep frustration. Keep breathing as you think about these questions, and as much as possible, meet yourself with kindness. (Remember – you are not broken.)

Power vs. Control

When we do something (create something, offer something, apply for something, etc.), usually we’re doing it because we want some kind of outcome – we want to receive validation from people we respect and admire, or be supported financially by our gifts, or quit our jobs, or have a certain number of people sign up for our class or buy our ebook.

It’s natural to want certain outcomes, but it tends to create a lot of problems and make life miserable.

Most of us believe on some level that if we take the right steps, we’ll get what we want. You pop leftovers in the microwave, push some buttons and you get hot food. We tend to think (or at least hope) that is how all of life works.

But the reality is we control a lot less in our lives than we think we do.

If you offer a class, you don’t control how many people sign up.
If you get a degree, you don’t control how easy it is for you to find a job.
If you bare your soul to a significant other, you don’t control how they respond.

And if you put a bowl of stew in the microwave, you might hear a loud pop and even though the microwave still runs, nothing gets hot anymore. (Ask me how I know this.)

Yes, taking the so-called “right steps” can increase our chances at getting the outcome we want, but in the end, it’s still outside our control.

It’s hard enough to deal with the disappointment of not getting what we wanted and expected, but where it gets excruciatingly painful is when we confuse our lack of control for a lack of power.

You try something, it doesn’t work due to something beyond your control, and then you think, “Well shit, I guess I don’t have it in me to do that.”

You’ve now interpreted that sequence of events as evidence that you are lacking the power you need to do what you want. But really, this was just how the cookie happened to crumble in this particular instance, and it says nothing about your power or lack thereof.

Power and control are two separate things. And if you confuse them it becomes really easy to give up at the exact moment you should lean in.

I struggle with this all the time.

I’ve had tantrums about my body and its various illnesses. And about how many people signed up for my classes. And about imploding real estate markets (to name just a few).

When faced with those situations, I wanted to crumple. I felt beaten down, and like my attempts at doing the right thing to the best of my abilities were in vain.

I felt powerless.

Sure, you could argue that not having control is a form of powerlessness. We’re powerless to control the outcome.

So then what is it to be powerful? What does it mean to use our power?

Power is nothing more than exercising our ability to act.

And it’s important to remember that taking action can happen on the physical, spiritual, emotional or mental plane. Even making a choice counts.

It’s not dependent on getting the desired results.

The truth is that even by making the attempt, you’ve already exercised your power. It was already a great feat of strength and courage.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to remind myself lately:

Even though I wish creating stuff and sharing it with the world worked a bit more like a microwave with predictable results (pop in a bowl of new stuff, push some buttons, and wind up with hot business growth), the truth is it’s more like making a phone call.

When I make a call, the person I’m trying to reach may not answer. And I might feel disappointed or frustrated about that, but I don’t hold myself responsible. I don’t blame myself for it. I work through the emotions and try again later, because I know I’m not in control of what’s happening on the other end of the line.

Similarly, when I create something and put it out there, I can take it as far as picking up the phone and dialing. The rest is out of my hands.

Sure, it still hurts if the call doesn’t go through in the way that I hoped, but it’s less painful when I remember that I used my power to do my part.

For further exploration

When you look back on a situation where something you tried didn’t go the way you planned or hoped, what did that disappointment say about you? What did the outcome say about you or your power and ability to make stuff happen?

Can you appreciate your power, even while feeling disappointment that you couldn’t control the outcome?