Arrogance vs. Confidence

When you get confident, some people are going to call you arrogant.   And that’s something I delve into more in my work on self-respect, but I wanted to address it specifically because it’s a problem I keep hearing about.   Let me start out with a story.

I was babysitting an adorable little girl not long ago.   And she asked what it meant to be spoiled when she read the word in a book her mother gave her.  I explained to her that being spoiled isn't really about having a lot of things, it's about not being grateful for what you have and knowing that the type of person you are and your relationships are more important than anything.  And it’s about thinking that since you have those things, you’re better than other people.

I see that as kind of analogous to confidence vs. arrogance. Confidence is knowing who you are, liking who you are, and not wanting to change it. You can be proud of yourself and appreciate yourself, and you can think "Damn, I look fine" or "This idea I had is bomb, I feel like a genius right now." 


Arrogance is when you say that you're better than someone (or everyone) else because of the things that you think are true about you. It requires a sense of superiority, and bringing that attitude into the world. If you're arrogant, you aren't recognizing the brilliance of others, and what they offer to the world, because you think what you're giving off is so much better.

However, in my experience, this is not true of most women who are called this ugly thing.  The situation in which I most often hear it, honestly, involves insecure people hitting back at a woman’s confidence because it makes them feel uncomfortable about their own lack of it.   And frankly, people are also far more likely to call out and be “turned off” by women and especially women of color for "arrogance" when they openly show that they’re confident in who they are because society has for a long time said that it’s not okay for people in those groups to like themselves, and seeing pushback against that makes some people uncomfortable. And that's something we need to fight, because we have the right (and in fact, need) to love ourselves, and we shouldn't have to hide that.   Society doesn’t change until we change it.

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The Lies We're Being Told and Sold About Self Love

It’s easy.   Well, it’s hard, but it’s really only the making time for yourself thing that’s hard.   Once you get used to that, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is technically.   Take an extra fifteen minutes for yourself after dinner!  Yes, even if you have kids.   Take a bubble bath.   Have that glass of rosé.   Whispering Angel is going to fix it.

If you’re having a hard time with it, therapy will help.   You definitely need therapy, and as soon as you get into therapy and figure out why you’re fucked up, it will be easy.  If therapy doesn’t work, don’t you dare try meds though, meds are for crazy people.  Not even crazy people should take them actually.  Have you heard of essential oils?  I’m sure I could help you treat your bipolar disorder in a natural way; I work with DoTerra/Young Living.  So seriously, no meds.  Meds are giving up, and you’re way too strong for that (even though you don’t feel like it, boo.  Trust me, I know you can get through it on your own.)

But before you check out therapy, are you working out enough?  Endorphins are a natural high!  They can cure your depression, make you less anxious…exercise will fix everything for you if you let yourself let go and get into it.   I’m positive that you’re not working out enough.  And drinking enough water.   Drink more water, and then get back to me!

If you do need therapy, it will fix everything, as long as you show up every week.   All you have to do is show up for yourself.  Like, literally, show up at the office.   And you’ll get better in no time.  I know because I had this great therapist once who helped me get over this awful breakup, and I felt better in a month!  So trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Decide to love yourself.  That’s all.. The second you make the decision to love yourself, it all becomes easy.  Just ask yourself, “What would I do if I loved myself?” and do that, always.  You’re the only reason it’s hard; you’re making it hard.  There is nothing external.

You can love yourself in a month, if you’ve never loved yourself before.  Of course you can! Just take my four-week course.  The first week we’ll work on self-care (you’ll love those bubble baths).  The second week we’ll work on self-compassion (I’ll tell you to stop yelling at yourself when you don’t finish all fifteen items on your to-do list, and only get thirteen done).  The third week is self-esteem (we’ll make a list!  With all the things you like about yourself!  Trust me guys, this is the key.  If you make this list and read this list anytime you feel “down”, you’ll come right up again.   It’ll be impossible not to love yourself.)  And in the final week, we’ll synthesize everything we’ve learned and call it all “self-love”.  

Clothes you love will fix it.   Money will fix it.   A nicer apartment will fix it.   Money can do that for you, and once your external circumstance are more inspiring, your internal life will follow.   Fake it till ya make it!  It worked for me J Don’t I seem happy?  Don’t you want to be as happy as I am?  Just look at my Instagram!

 

This all makes me fucking sick to my stomach.

 

You’ve read at least one of these.  You may have read several.  Some of you, like me, may have been exposed to them all on a regular basis.  But enough is fucking enough.

I’m not saying that bubble baths and other types of more relaxation-focused self-care don’t help.  I’m not saying working on negative self-talk doesn’t help.  I’m not saying working out doesn’t help.  I’m not saying it’s wrong if you want to use essential oils to help you with your mental illness/self-esteem/anything else.  And I’m definitely not saying therapy doesn’t help.  Let me debunk this shit from you, one step at a time.

It's easy/self-care will fix it.

This is an aspect of self-love, but there are many, many others. Taking time for yourself is really key to developing a good relationship with yourself. So is giving yourself the things that make you feel good or happy or calm. And so is relaxation, to ease the anxiety of this clusterfuck world we live in and the totally unrealistic demands that society shoves on us as women.   But again...there’s more to it than just that.  There are other steps you have to take.   And you know that guilt that comes up every time you do take time for yourself, take a bubble bath, skip a social outing, invest in a larger purchase?   The only way to get rid of that is to build up your actual self-love, your deep, sustainable self-love.  And once you do, these techniques become about a million times more effective.   If you’re focusing on these because you have no idea where to start when it comes to self-love, check out my Self Love Foundations post, where I cover some ways to start that are small but more likely to bring you sustainable and meaningful results.

Therapy will fix it.

Nothing is guaranteed.   No one can guarantee anything to change the way you feel about yourself.  Even shock therapy.   If someone gives you a guarantee that it will work for you, they’re lying to you.    That all said, I think (and in fact know!) that in some, or even many , cases, therapy can be enormously helpful to this process.  But just like above, it can’t do everything alone (though I will vouch for it doing more than bubble baths did for me, by about a million times).   It’s also, you know, hard work.   Which I’ll get to below.   And finally, there are good, bad, and useless therapists, and you need to put in the work to find one that really works for you.   And if yours doesn’t work for you, and you know therapy would be helpful to you in this process or with anything else you’re going through, keep looking.  The value of a good therapist cannot be measured.

Don’t consider meds:

This is such utter fucking bull.   This is where I’m going to get a bit heated, without the slightest apology.   If you med-shame other people, read this blog post.   And if by the end of it you haven’t decided to stop, get off my website and don’t come back.    Shaming other people is just generally so psychologically destructive, but shaming people who have been smart enough and self-aware enough and brave enough to make a really hard decision to better their health just because you don’t agree with it yourself?   I have zero tolerance for it.   Again, read the blog post.   Now, onto why meds are a great option, though definitely not something I’m saying are a quick fix or the ultimate solution or anything.

If you suffer from a mental illness (you’d need to find this out first, though so many of us already have been diagnosed), medication might be a tool to help you in dealing with that.   Some mental illnesses mess with your brain chemistry in such a way that it becomes really difficult, if not impossible, to change your thought patterns, because you’re so totally overtaken by your moods/emotions/negative thinking/whatever the symptom might be.   Medications, when used correctly, won’t fix this.   You read that right.   They won’t fix it; nothing is supposed to be magic and fix everything for you.   But they may well help.   They might help with regulating things so that it becomes more manageable for you to take on this type of work, to do the behavioral things you need to do to change your life, and to fight off the negative thought patterns.   Medications, when used necessarily and appropriately, can make a huge difference.  

Finally, I’m not anti-essential-oils, or DoTerra, or Young Living (though you can check out my feelings on MLMs in an upcoming post, if you’re curious).  I think they’re an excellent tool.   Do I think they can cure bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?  No.   Do I think they alone can cure anxiety or depression?   My personal opinion is no.  But if you want to use oils to treat your mental illness, that’s absolutely your choice and I will support you!   And I use essential oils to nourish my life in many ways (my favorites are from Saje, by the way).   But just as I don’t like it when people shame meds, I don’t like it when people shame other peoples’ modes of coping.   We’re all suffering.   We don’t need to attack each other in addition to that.

You also MAY NOT NEED therapy.  It’s kind of normal not to love yourself.   It’s worth looking into, but just because you don’t love yourself as you’d like to doesn’t necessarily mean you need therapy.

Exercise can fix it.

Exercise can help.   We all know that exercise is good for your mind, in addition to your body.   It helps regulate your hormones and increase the ones that make you feel happy and relaxed.   And it can play a really enormous role in increasing your sense of self-love.   But it cannot do it alone.   It can make it easier to challenge those negative thoughts by helping you regulate your mood.   Feeling better in your body can clearly make you feel better about yourself as a whole.  Health is huge to self-love.   But you can’t just Pilates away the harder mental work.  And yes, drink your damn water.   It really will help.   But it’s not going to change your entire brain chemistry.   It’s more work than that. 

Just showing up at therapy is all you need to do.

This is the first step in many cases, if you need therapy.   It helps.   A ton.   If you have a good therapist, of course.  And if you’re actually going to do the work once you’re sitting in that room.   But that’s kind of key.   You need to find someone who can help you effectively with what you’re struggling with, and then you need to show up to do that work.   You don’t just sit in a chair while someone fixes your life for you.   You have to show up and engage and put in the effort to do the mental work, even when it’s really fucking hard.

Just Decide:

This one is a little bit harder. This one, to me, is more true than the rest. And deciding...is huge. Is totally key, and totally necessary. It’s the “just” that’s a lie.  It’s not that fucking easy. You decide, and then you work.  Really really fucking hard.  And you return to that decision every time it gets unbearably hard, with a great deal of kindness and gentleness towards yourself and forgiveness for when you’ve “given up”. 

Easy fix-it self love courses:

I try not to be super-critical of the work of others.   And this work is really well-intentioned in most cases.  I really believe that.   But a lot of these courses teach untrue things, like the myths that I’m debunking here.  Others reduce self-love to self-care, and teach that once you’ve got a handle on your self-care, you love yourself.  And that’s just not true at all.  Finally, this work, if done to create sustainable results, is not immediate or easy.   It’s hard work, where you build a strong foundation and continue working at it in the way you live your life, over many years.    Courses and teachers and books and trainings and coaching can all help with this.   But the work is ultimately yours, and if someone is telling you that the work is easy, they’re not teaching you how to do it in a way that you can sustain throughout your life.   And creating temporary, superficial, surface-level “self-love” seems like a waste of both your energetic and financial investment in my opinion.  Why buy the knockoff that you know is gonna fall apart in a month when you could buy the real thing that’ll last you forever if you’re willing to work a little harder and invest a little more time and energy.

Fix the external:

Life will never stop giving you challenges.  The external will always bring up obstacles.  Even if you tackle the current ones, you need a foundation of sustainable self-love to better handle the ones that come later.  

 

Fake it till you make it:

If you have to create self-love by lying to yourself, you’re not going to be able to sustain it.  Unless you want to lie to yourself for the rest of your life. In which case, you really don’t actually love yourself, do you?

This is a short-term fix. A quickie. It might give you an idea of what self-love would feel like, but it’s not the real thing.

Again, there’s a grain of truth here. It’s always useful to look for the grain of truth in the lies. Visualization can be hugely helpful to the self-love process (blog post to come).

Why do I feel so confident in sharing this advice with you about self-love?  Because I’ve done this work.  For years.  And getting to where I am now was really fucking hard-won.  No bit of it was easy.  Some of the lies actually helped me in this pursuit, as I mentioned above.  But not one of those things alone created a sustainable sense of self-love in me. And none of them combined even did it. There was more to it. And it was painful, and difficult, and took a long time. And parts of it could have been easier, more effective, more efficient. But I don’t regret taking the long way, because it allowed me to learn the things I needed to learn to share this with others.

Stop buying lies. Stop listening; tune out to things that don't serve you. When you hear something about self-love, or self-care, or self-esteem, remember that whatever you are hearing is almost definitely just one part of the self-love story. Ask yourself if it feels true. You heart knows these answers for you better than your mind, or me, or literally anyone else you could ask.

I want to help others on this journey. Please feel free to check out my offerings or get in touch with me if you’re interested in doing this work.  If you ask me, it’s some of the most worthy work you can do in your life.

 

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Foundations Series: Self-Compassion

Hi!   Welcome to a new series on the blog, called Foundations of Self-Love.   This series is going to cover all of the aspects of self-love that I consider necessary to creating a sustainable sense of self-love that will carry you through your life.

This series touches on, in brief, the same concepts that I teach in my Foundations course.   The difference is that in the course, I go deep with you on all of these topics in a way that teaches you how to effect real change in your life, when you’ve decided you’re ready to do this work.   This series is an introduction to these concepts and how they help you build a sustainable sense of self-love, because I think it’s really crucial for as many people as possible to have access to this information.  

So why am I starting with self-compassion?   The reason I start with self-compassion, as supposed to self-esteem, self-respect, self-care, or self-nourishment, is because self-compassion is not only the most immediately achievable but will have the most immediate impact on your quality of life. Self-compassion is something that no matter where you're starting from, you are capable of either implementing or improving your practice.

Self-compassion is exactly what it sounds like.  It's treating yourself in any situation with the compassion that you would treat another human being that you think is worthy of compassion and humanity.  Frankly a lot of us are treating ourselves with a lack of compassion that should only be reserved for Donald Trump, or Rick Santorum. But in all seriousness, self-compassion is something that is really easy to conceptualize and understand, but can be difficult to implement.  None of this work is and although this is the most immediately achievable part, it still involves work.

Self-compassion requires us to change the way we speak to ourselves and the way that we respond to our own choices when we aren't happy with the choices we made. Self-compassion requires us to rewire our brain, just like most of this type of work does, so it's foundational to every other part of self-love.  Self-compassion plays into all of the other areas of self-love.  If you don’t believe you deserve compassion, why would you believe you're worthy of respect?  Why would you believe that you deserve to be properly nourished, body and soul?  Why would you think it was okay to take some time to take care of yourself?  All of these types of things show how compassion is fundamental to our humanity.  A lot of us, especially those of us who have so much respect for the humanity of others, struggle to apply that same mindset to ourselves.   We don't treat ourselves with the humanity and compassion with which we treat others, even total strangers, because for many different reasons we don't think we deserve that.  The first and most necessary fundamental shift you will make if you decide to take on this process is treating yourself with compassion because it inform all the rest of this growth. 

So, let’s talk about what self-compassion looks like in action and what the lack that looks like as well, so you can see the impact of this work.  So recently, I was having a night in on a Friday night.  I was on probably my second glass of red wine, relaxing, watching TV and getting some stuff done for the launch of this site.  So of course, I had Facebook up while I was doing all of this.  And I was engaging in some of my favorite groups that empower women and business owners, places that remind me that not all of social media is just an enormous dumpster fire, like most of it is.  I had been posting a lot of positive content all night, and throughout the week, actually, and in one of these groups, someone posted something that kind of got to me.   I’m pretty good about not getting sucked into social media conflicts, and it wasn’t directed only at me, but it was one of those posts where someone was saying, “If you do this thing, you don’t love yourself.”   And those always get me a bit irritated.   I mean, maybe if the “thing” was hurting others, or kicking puppies, or being addicted to heroin, I’d get it.   But more often, I see posts like this about the ways women choose to present themselves, or activities they choose to engage in.   It spans everything from wearing a lot of eyeliner to having casual sex to getting Botox.   Now, what would have been ideal would have been if I had either said something brief and disengaged, or not said anything at all and saved my thoughts on the matter for blogging or other more productive content.  That’s not what I did.   I engaged way more then I should have, which completely brought me down into a low energy place.   Eventually, I tuned out Facebook and started watching some TV.   (Yes, I promise, I’m getting to the part where this is all progress). 

For a while, my only mental instincts (and still, what often comes up first) was to say really negative shit to myself.   And I’m not sure where this idea came from; I know I read it somewhere and I would love to credit it properly so please tell me if you know.  But I read somewhere that the first thought that comes to mind represents what we have been taught to think and the second thought represents who we really are and who are choosing to be.  In this situation, my first thought was still me wanting to judge myself, thoughts to the effect of, “Why aren't you better than this?  Why can't you avoid these things all the time?  Some of the time isn’t enough,” and other thoughts on those same lines.  So many negative thought patterns, because it's surprising how instantaneously you can have several simultaneous negative thought patterns.  But it was less than 20-30 seconds before this second thought process kicked in. 

And this was the second thought process.

“You were upset about something you care about and that's OK.  It's understandable to get upset about things you care about.  You might not love the way you handled it but no one's perfect.  You recognized it eventually and you dissociated yourself and you’re taking the time you need to recalibrate.   All of that is OK.  You're under a lot of stress; you've had a long week and your anxiety is high.  Why don’t you have some tea or some water?  You’re thirsty.  Can you take this as a sign that you need to do some types of self-care right now?”  

I go into this first and second thought process and idea in the Foundations course,  but you can see from that second thought process that there are definitely interactions between self-compassion and self-care and the other things I’m going to talk about in this series. 

Treating myself-compassionately allowed me to look into my needs and what else was going on, and to figure out why was I having a hard time.  What could the situation tell me about what things needed to be looked at right now?   What I was lacking?  Choosing this, instead of being angry with myself about that choice, allowed me to use the situation as a message to myself.  It helped me gauge what my needs in that moment were and what was not being fulfilled enough so that I could take better care of myself, which will also in turn help me avoid such situations in the future.

Now, I’m going to give you an idea of what similar situations looked like before I had a sense of self-compassion.  

I got into an argument with a friend one time when we had gone out. So I was really embarrassed in the situation, and she stormed off angry, and there was no part of that night where self-compassion ever kicked in.  I mean even now it’s hard not to judge myself for how I handled that situation, but if I think about for fifteen seconds more, I'm grateful that I made those mistakes because you guys can learn from them without making any more of them yourselves.   We will always make mistakes, but situations like that tend not to go down this way when you’ve reached a place of sustainable self-love.  I was a sobbing mess.  I was being irritable with everybody else, and a lot us can get angry and mean when we’re in a moment where we don’t like ourselves.  We think we fucked up and we look for someone else to put those feelings on.   I was mad at myself and having all sorts of negative thoughts.   The thought process for that looked something like this:

“I’m a fuck up.  I’m never going to get my shit together.   My God, how old does one have to be to learn to handle their shit responsibly?   Of course I deserve my friend walking out on me, I’m an embarrassment and a waste of her time.”

The negative thoughts could go on forever.  They did go on for at least two hours, and that was nothing usual.   It was a common occurrence at that time when something didn't go according to plan for me when I did something that I considered a mistake or a fuck up or something of that nature.  

it's really sad to me, looking back, because if I had treated that situation with compassionate, the thoughts would have looked more like this:

 “Okay, you're really upset and that makes complete sense.  You’re embarrassed about what happened.  You’re hurt that your friend just walked out on you and yelled at you and said a lot of really hurtful things that you know touch on things that are sensitive for you.  Anyone would be hurt and embarrassed right now and that makes perfect sense.  I am so sorry that those things happened to you tonight.  Maybe you should treat the other people you’re tempted to be irritable with kindly, because I know how hard it is to make a mistake and beat yourself up about it.   It doesn't help anyone.   But it’s going to be okay.”

If I had thought about it for three minutes more at that time, and had been in a better emotional place where I was being kind to myself and therefore had full access to my mental resources, a million other practical things to help the situation would have occurred to me.  

I would've been able to go home and go, “Wow that was a really, really tough night.  You are emotionally exhausted and really hurt and really feeling a little bit attacked.  It’s brought up some really rough things for you.  Maybe this is a good time to take a bath and listen to some mantras that you like (because that's the way I relax, though heavy metal could be your go-to and I support that choice).  Maybe listen to some Dear Hank and John or some other podcast you like but that isn’t all about personal development, because as much as you love that type of thing, you know that if you're really upset that type of content can at times just feel pressuring to you.  So why don't you spend tonight doing something relaxing and cathartic that doesn’t require you to expend mental energy or analyze anymore tonight?  Why don't you drink some water?  You're probably dehydrated; you were having drinks for a while.  You probably weren't drinking enough water because you weren't paying attention.   Which is so understandable, but honey, you'll feel better if you drink some water.  Maybe eat something light before you go to bed and cuddle with your kitten a little bit?  Because she doesn't talk, she just loves you and that's wildly refreshing at the moment.   Don’t log onto social media tonight. Get to bed early and let yourself sleep in a little tomorrow.”   All sorts of good, non-judgmental internal guidance to ease the pain and take care of myself.

if you want to start small with a self-compassion practice, my best advice to is to pay really close attention and be really self-aware for the next couple days.  The next time you do something that you perceive as you screwing up or making a mistake, as soon as you start hearing those negative thoughts about yourself, ask yourself: “How would I talk to someone who did this that I had compassion for?  How would I talk to a girl that I didn't really know who made this mistake?  How would I talk to someone that I had compassion for?   How can I treat myself with humanity in this situation?”   Think those thoughts and replace the person you’re imaging speaking compassionately to with yourself.  It’s okay if those are two steps.  Early in my work on this, I would think it through using another hypothetical person first and then change it to myself second.  That's a stage for a lot of us and that's okay, but try to do it all in one sitting.   You might be surprised at how long it takes if this is something that you really struggle with and if negative self-talk is really ingrained for you.  You might be surprised at how easy it is if maybe self-compassion isn't one of the parts of self-love that you struggle with.  Everybody has different areas of this work that are more of a struggle for them and those that come more naturally.  

I do think this is the best place to start, and I think I can be really transformative in a short period of time.  For those who are ready to commit a little more to working on your self-compassion, try doing the above process for a week with every event like that.  Notice how it makes you feel, and at the end of the week, journal about how you feel at the end of the week when something goes wrong and how that differs from the way that you felt at the beginning of the week.  If you really want to get into the deep work with this, check out my Foundations course.   Foundations is where I really teach you this work from the ground up.   I go step by step with you and I go deep into all of these things.  There's only so much I can give you in these blog posts compared to how much I can give you in that format.  It's an investment with value and I hope you consider engaging with it if you want to do this work on a really deep level.   Feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts you have about self-compassion, and I’ll be back soon with the next Foundations series post, which will be centered around self-respect.

 

 

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Self Care Beyond Bath Bombs and Rosé

Look, we all love to talk self-care.   Even preach it, in some spaces.   The value of a bath bomb, an early night in, “rosé and slay”, and there’s nothing wrong with that!   In fact, there’s a hell of a lot right about it.    But it’s a much more complicated, nuanced conversation than we usually get into.

The sound bytes are great, and they have the right idea…to start with.   Taking time for self care at the end of a long day is something everyone should prioritize, and even schedule in, if you’re a scheduling junkie like me.   This post is not about bashing face masks or Lush bath bombs, or any of your favorite tools for a little relaxing time after a full, exhausting day.  You need that.   I need that.   We all need that, and we’ve been denying it to ourselves for too long.  Thank god it’s a movement right now.   People say it’s a trend.   Fuck that.   It's not a moment, it's a movement (thanks Hamilton)!   And if it is a trend?   Thank god.  Keep on trending.   I pray it lasts as long as skinny jeans and Ben Affleck has (the latter really needs to go...).

But…unfortunately…it’s not as easy as that.   And as much as I love those things, and I’ll include some of my favorite easier, relaxing self care resources and recipes at the end of this post, to lighten the mood a little after shit gets heavy…shit does have to get heavy.   Self care isn’t all about the fun, relaxing shit.   Self care is a lot harder than that.   Just like self love is a lot harder than that.  

Let’s start here: self care is based in self love.   The idea is that you should take care of yourself because you love yourself and you are worthy of love and respect.    This is where it gets a little tricky.   A lot of us can throw in a bath bomb or have a glass of wine or a cup of tea after a long day even if we don’t really have a lot of self love or self compassion, or any at all.   Why?   Because it’s fun.   Because it’s soothing.   Because it’s immediate gratification and relief.   Which, again, we do need.   We’re living incredibly stressful lives, that are way too demanding, constantly being asked to do about eight hundred times the amount of shit we should be asked to do.   So again, this stuff has value.  That’s not what I’m saying.  And if you’re in a healthy place, it’s great.   But if you’re not…it’s just a temporary fix.   To a permanent problem.   And you'll probably experience guilt as you attempt it, which really won't help things in the long run.   I'll talk more about this in my upcoming series about self-love, self-care, self-respect and the ways in which they're intertwined.   

But in short, the problem for a lot of people is that you ultimately don’t love yourself.   Some of you may challenge this.  A lot of you know I’m right.   I’m not gonna argue about it in this post.   For now, I’m relying on that little feeling a bunch of you are feeling inside your hearts when you’re reading this that knows I’m right.   Because you do.   You know that part of you loves yourself, sometimes, but a lot of you doesn’t.   And maybe it’s a really deep thing.   Maybe it’s body image.   Maybe it’s trauma.  Maybe it’s abuse.   Or maybe it’s just that society has taught us that if a woman likes herself too much, she’s full of herself and that’s not okay.   Or maybe it’s simply some mixture of things, like everybody has.   Everybody has their shit.   Nobodies is 100% the same.   And all of us are working through stuff in our own way in our own time.   Which is fine, and just, you know, how life is.   But bath bombs?   Aren’t gonna fix those things.

You know what will?   Therapy.   Yoga.   Support groups.   Reading books like Tiny Beautiful Things (I know it sounds crazy, but it probably did more than three years of therapy did before I found a decent therapist).  Things that actually heal your soul.    Those are acts of self-care.   Danielle LaPorte, who I have referenced repeatedly and who I will continue to, because she’s a total genius, suggests using the term self-compassion instead of self-love, because self love seems like a really unachievable thing to a lot of us.   I know it does to me at some moments.   But compassion for myself- even on my toughest days, I can try to muster that.

Self-care isn’t just about the easy stuff.   The easy stuff is great, and it’s fun, and it can be really helpful in keeping us in balance on a day to day basis when we’re overwhelmed.  But do you know what helps keep us from getting overwhelmed in the first place?   And helps actually heal our soul, and really take care of us in the way that self-care kind of sells itself as doing?   Self-compassion and self-healing.  The difficult kind of self care.   So how do you start?    This part’s going to be rough, but try to be brave.   Take a deep breath, and stick with me:

  1. Make a list of all the things that are hard for you in your life, heart and soul right now.   Really hard.   The things that make you feel like you can’t breathe because you’re so overwhelmed, or scared, or angry, or sad.   It could be your father’s death.  Or an assault.   For some, it’ll be looking in the mirror, if it’s a body image thing.   There will almost certainly be many.   If you can stomach it, prioritize them.   If you drink, it’s fine to have a glass of wine while you do this.    But do not text your ex or a problematic family member or friend while you do (I will not be held responsible for any drunk dials).  Take all the time you need doing this.  If this takes ten minutes, fine.   If it takes five nights, fine.   But try to make it pretty complete.   Get it all out of your system, purged. 
  2.  For each thing, write out all of your options for dealing with it.   Even those you don’t want to consider.   In debt and don’t want to ask for help?   Write it down anyway.   Being abused and don’t want to leave?   Write it down anyway.   It’s not about what you will actually do, it’s about seeing the options clearly and without the cloudiness of your emotions in your mind.   But write down every option for every issue.   If you have a very trusted friend, you can ask for help with this part.   But this is a really intimate thing, so I recommend it be either someone very close, a professional like a therapist or a coach, or going it alone.
  3.  Take a break for a few days.   Get some air.  Promise yourself you will not think about those things.  Of course, you will anyway.   But every time any of them comes to mind, breathe, acknowledge the thought, and release it.   As you would in meditation.   If your list is small and fairly light, this could be three days.   I’d recommend a maximum of seven days, or avoidance could easily set in.   And be firm on the end date.  But you know yourself best, I’m just a virtual confidante.
  4.  Revisit the list.   Do this with a clear mind.   This time, no wine, no advisors of any kind, no matter how close they are.   The exception would be if you’re seeing a professional and they want to be involved in the process, in which case, obviously take their advice instead, because I’m not a therapist.   But I recommend doing this part alone, because you should be empowered over your own ultimate choices.   Look at all of the options you laid out.   Consider the pros and cons of each.  Remember, your emotions are valid factors, but other factors are equally valid.  You are entitled to feel any emotion you feel.   Your emotions are always valid.   However, emotions can often trick us in the short term and get in the way of what we really want in the long term.   Be sure to check in with yourself during this process about your short term and long term wishes and what you think will help you the most.   Try not to let the narratives you’ve built up in your head over time make these decisions, but base it in the clarity you’ve built up over the space you’ve given yourself and the balanced emotional place you’re coming from right now.  This is a therapeutic concept called "wise mind", which I'll delve into further in future posts.
  5.  Enact your decisions.   Come up with immediate actionable steps and follow through.   If you decide to seek therapy, plan to call a therapist the next day.   If you decide to join an online support group, find one that night and make an account.   If you want to find a life coach, put it in your calendar for tomorrow, or better yet, make a list of a few qualifications that are important to you tonight so you have something started for that search.  It is so easy to put things off and get back into the cycle of avoidance.   But consider this like medicine.   This kind of self-care should be non-negotiable for your life.   
  6.  Once you’ve started acting on your choices, you will likely encounter bumps.   It’s harder than taking a bath or drinking wine.   I’m going to go into some anecdotes below, but in terms of general advice?   Stick it out.   Three months at least, for any new thing.   I know it sounds long.  It’s not, in terms of the general span of your life, and changing it for the better.   You have to be willing to fight for yourself, or no one else will.   It will be painful at times.   It will hurt.   Those nights are the nights for bath bombs, face masks, and rosé, and what we currently refer to as self-care.   Care for yourself in those moments, knowing that you’re caring for yourself in the greater sense.   Believe it or not, that is what will start to create self love.  

So this pain that I’m talking about…it’s hard.   It’s really fucking hard, I can’t lie to you and I won’t.   It has involved doing a lot of shit I did not want to do and forcing myself to do it.   You wouldn’t think that the words force and self care should be used in the same sentence.   Here, I’m going to tell you that unfortunately, they really need to be sometimes.   The moments that I’ve had to push through and keep going and heal and fight to care for myself are the moments that I’ve needed it most, that have made the damndest difference.

Hard self-care looks like a million different things at a million different times.   For me, it’s taking an Uber to a place that’s a ten-minute walk away because catcalls are triggering for me with my PTSD and on that route, I always get catcalled.   For the second month after an assault (the first I was in a weird state of shock), it was literally curling up in bed at whatever hour of the day I felt like curling up in bed.   For two years, it was going to therapy every week even when I fucking hated it, didn’t have time for it, didn’t feel like I was making progress, and eventually broke down in her office sobbing and saying I couldn’t do it, because the trauma had repressed itself so much.   And eventually, it was finding a better therapist, and living my life, and accepting where I am now, while simultaneously understanding it's in my control to live the type of life I want to live.

Also, here are a few fun kind of surface-level self-care things I’ve discovered lately that I love and have been implementing.   I highly recommend them as a supplement to proper, deeper self-care.   The first are rosés based in Provence.  You probably already know this, but they’re completely amazing.   Trust.  Second are bath cocktails from Lush.  I did not know this was a thing, but mixing their various bath products makes your bath even more fucking amazing than it already was with just a bath bomb or a bubble bar.   I’ve been mixing my favorite bubble bar, Rose Jam, with both the Tisty Tosty bath bomb (new discovery and I’m obsessed, it’s so cool finding rosebuds in your hair) and Sex Bomb (the ultimate classic fave).   If you don’t have Lush near you, it’s worth the order.   In terms of face masks, I love the Fresh face masks, both the Rose (hydrating) and Umbrian Clay (purifying).  I will definitely be buying ASAP in spite of the hefty price tag.

My offerings are related to this work because it's what I most strongly believe in and consider foundational to having a successful, meaningful, fulfilling life.   And most of my content will center around these topics going forward for the same reason.  Self-love is always work, but some of the most worthy work you can do.   I truly hope that I can help some of you get to the place I've reached myself.

 

 (via lush.com)

(via lush.com)

"Wide open heart, big fucking fence."

The above is one of my favorite quotes of all time.   It’s by Danielle LaPorte, and it refers to the need for vulnerability, but also boundaries.   She told her child this to explain to him how best to navigate the world, and it's one of my favorite stories.  This quote was very close to my heart this week and I want to discuss it a little here.  I also hope to delve more deeply into the issue of boundaries in later posts, so please keep a look out for those if you enjoy this one!

I never learned about boundaries from my family, or my teachers, or anyone else growing up.   Maybe some of them tried to teach me, but I certainly didn’t learn anything, given what was being modeled.   Instead, I learned it through my favorite authors.  The quote from Danielle LaPorte is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll explain anyway.   You open your heart as wide as you can, to everything and everyone.   But you surround it with an enormous fucking fence of boundaries.   That way, your open, gentle, kind, sensitive heart is protected from those with negative intentions.   Cheryl Strayed, another favorite author of mine, has some really wonderful thoughts on boundaries.   She says that “Fucked-up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not.  They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals.  They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors.  Boundaries teach people how to treat you, and they teach you how to respect yourself.”   I cannot tell you how profoundly reading this and carrying it with me has affected my life.   

When either of these (the wide open heart part or the big fucking fence part) goes out of whack, so does my life.   Last week, the vulnerability and openness part came close to going out of whack, and I almost missed out on a huge opportunity because of it.   I caught myself, and opened my heart, and received.   This week I wasn’t so lucky.

This week the issue was with boundaries, but this one has been a long time coming.  Boundaries has been the bigger issue in my life, for sure.   I’ve never had much trouble opening my heart, to anyone or everyone.  Openness is not my issue.  But boundaries definitely are.   And I opened up, and made myself vulnerable, and I didn’t set boundaries early on in a situation where I definitely should have.   And it led to some pretty damn upsetting consequences that made my week upsetting and in fact my foreseeable future significantly more difficult than I had anticipated, both socially and practically.  

Here's what I learned from a problematic situation:

Get things in writing.   Even if you don’t think you could ever possibly need anything in writing.   Pay people for the work they’re doing in such a way that you feel comfortable with it and not like you’re being done any favors, so you don’t have any guilt internally.  Set boundaries with how you will be treated with the people you work with, and if those aren’t met, don’t work with those people.   And remember, at the end of the day, all you have is yourself, and you have to like that person.   I’m really grateful that I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I do. 

Today I starting rebuilding my fence.  I culled through my Facebook and I did some serious deleting.   I deleted everyone I couldn’t remember adding, that I haven’t ever had a conversation with (if I deleted you, and you really wanted to connect, sorry!   Message me and we'll chat!).   I removed myself from all the groups I’ve never engaged with or didn’t really want to be a part of.   I figure if someone really wants to connect with me, they’ll reach out again.  If I regret not being a part of the group, I can re-request.   But I also deleted people I’ve wanted to delete for ages, but felt too guilty removing because of some sort of history there, some sense of obligation.   Let me tell you all this right now:

You have no obligation.   Not to anyone.   Surround yourself with as much positivity as you can, and ruthlessly excise the rest.   Blame me.   Tell people I’m your coach and that I made you do it, I don’t give a fuck.   But seriously, get rid of all that negative energy.   It is the biggest weight off your shoulders, I swear.  Trust.

PS: The awful situation?   Turned out significantly less awful than it could have.   It might have had something to do with leaving my heart open.  And I’m still leaving it open.   But I’m still really fucking grateful to have that fence there.

 

 (via daniellelaporte.com)

(via daniellelaporte.com)

the need for self-celebration

So if you look below, you’ll see an image of a Ladurée Pyramid.   If you aren’t familiar with Ladurée, they are a luxury macaron company.   Basically tiny (very pricey) morsels of heaven.   And these pyramids are sometimes substituted for cakes at all sorts of incredible events.

I’ve been admiring these pyramids since I first lived near a Ladurée shop when I was studying in London.  And I remember saying to myself, four years ago, “I want one of those at my wedding.”

What the hell was wrong with my social conditioning?   Why did I think the only reason I could have the beautiful, elegant, gorgeous thing that I dreamed about having was if I was bound to another person for life?   Was there really nothing else in my life worth celebrating with this that I could achieve on my own?   Why did it require another person to validate my success in order to be worthy of this confection? 

This occurred to me this morning as I was looking for something to post on Instagram for my birthday.   I like cake on occasion, but I’ve never been a huge fan.   Cupcakes?   I kind of feel the same.  I'm more of a savory/cheese/bread addict (if any of you feel me on this?).   But then this confection popped into my head…and I found the perfect image.   See below.   And I started wondering why I had never considered celebrating anything in my own life or any of my own accomplishments with one of these, but just the act of finding another person.   That goes against everything I’m trying to show you guys on this blog and the way I'm choosing to live my life now.

Coincidentally, I got a birthday card from an extended relative in the mail this morning.  That in and of itself would not be coincidental (it’s my birthday and she sends a card every year), but the message included was interesting.   She had included a Visa gift card and a message explaining that she and another relative had decided that it was time to include me in a family tradition, wherein children in the family stop receiving gifts from (at the very least, extended) family on their birthday once they’re adults.   Interesting timing, considering I’m twenty-four.   But I guess I'm an adult now!  The gift card was a sweet gesture to say goodbye to the gift giving.  But actually, I kind of saw her message as a sign reinforcing what I’m saying to all of you here.

At some point, everyone else in your life becomes unreliable, and you can’t count on them.   You cannot count on anyone else to provide your happiness for you, or celebrate what is meaningful to you.   And you shouldn’t.  We’re independent.   This isn’t the 1920s.  Even my married friends that I look up to always say that they love their spouse but don’t count on them to provide their whole happiness.   You need to provide that for yourself, and celebrate yourself.  

I used to feel guilty about this.   When I say used to, that’s not totally accurate.   I felt guilty about this as recently as yesterday afternoon.   My closest local friend and I made plans to go get cocktails at my favorite local bar (the only place I’ll ever order a cocktail, I’m a wine and beer girl really).   But I felt bad about the idea of celebrating myself.   Considering working all day felt a lot more safe to me.  I actually received a job offer for tonight, unsolicited, earlier this week.  It took a ton of willpower for me to turn it down, which showed me where I still have work to do.   The idea of taking even one day away from trying to build my business and do other work that I don't enjoy, but that provides me with funds to contribute to building my business just seemed wrong.  But in my heart, I knew it was right.   So I forced myself to do it.   Self-love isn’t always easy.  In fact, for most of us, who weren’t taught self-love growing up, it’s really incredibly fucking difficult.   It’s not (just) about bubble baths and delicious chocolate and affirmations.   It’s about making the decisions that a person who actually loves herself would make while you work on becoming that person.  This is work we'll be doing for the rest of our lives, that will serve us in every single area of our existence.

You, in and of yourself, are worthy of celebration.  Your accomplishments and your existence.   I’m not going to tell you to stop feeling guilt, because your emotions are valid and you are entitled to experience all of them.   But I do encourage you to work on your self-love.   It will carry you to much better places.

So I’ve made a decision, here and now, and I want to be held accountable.  When I officially, officially launch my business, I’m celebrating with a Ladurée Pyramid.  A very small one, probably, but I will have one.   And any other birthdays I choose.   I hope you celebrate yourself as I work on doing the same.

 (via ladureeus on Instagram)

(via ladureeus on Instagram)

Meditation and Prayer for rebels

Meditation intimidated the hell out of me before I started.   I tried to start several times.  The first time was with an amazing app, that I adored because the woman’s voice was so soothing.   She does the Meditation Oasis guided meditations now and I highly recommend them if you’re just getting started.   But after a few weeks of doing a five-minute guided meditation every morning and night, I fell off the wagon for two and a half years.  Funny how that happens when you’re not invested in the practice. 

I can’t tell you that I meditate every single day, or that I have a perfect, flawless meditation practice.   If you want that, I’m sure there’s someone who can teach you that.   Probably a Buddhist monk or someone in an ashram?  Tweet at Elizabeth Gilbert?  Personally, if I could get her to tweet me back, I’d probably have other things I'd prefer to ask her, but I'm getting a little off track...

If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t seeking a perfect meditation or prayer practice.   You’re probably more like me, where the thought of having to follow all of these rules and guidelines and do it perfectly is turning you off.   This prevented me from connected with my spirituality for way too long, and I want to prevent it from happening to anyone else if I can help it.    All you need to know to get started is that prayer generally refers to the asking and meditation generally refers to the listening.  So with that in mind, here are my top five tips:

1.          With wine.  Yeah, I started with the fun one!   This motivated me at the very beginning of my best period of regular meditation.  There was a solid three month period where I meditated at least fifteen minutes every evening and almost every morning and felt truly connected to Spirit.   This period in my life started with five minutes every evening with a glass of wine, sitting on my floor in front of a candle, staring at the flame, wondering when it would be over.  Eventually I actually stopped drinking the wine during meditation (as much as I love wine!) because I no longer needed the incentive.  But it definitely helped me push past the resistance those first few weeks.   I say do whatever it takes to get your ass on the floor once a night at the beginning.

2.         With a journal.  So you’re supposed to be fully focused during prayer and meditation on either giving your thoughts to Spirit or receiving from Spirit.  Funny thing about this: I didn’t think I’d receive anything, because I thought  that was crap.   So I just gave, for the first month.   That went fine, though it felt a little selfish to constantly be asking for things (I wasn't at the place of self-love then that I am now).   But then I started receiving.  And at first, I had no idea what to do with that.  I still can’t speak to whether it was Spirit or intuition coming to me in a quiet moment, but I know that those insights were gold, and I only had them in those moments in that space.   I learned very quickly I wanted to capture them.   So, even though it’s not necessarily meditation protocol, I meditated with a journal from then on, pen in hand, ready to receive and record.   That journal still holds some of the most important insights I’ve had thus far in my life.  If you feel called to journal during prayer or meditation, trust yourself.

3.         Lying Down.  This one is very controversial.   Yes, there are totally legitimate reasons that it is physically better for your practice to meditate sitting up, feet planted on the floor, etc.   Ugh, we get it already.   But if my options, given a certain level of exhaustion (emotional or physical), are to meditate in bed for five minutes lying down, or not to meditate at all, I’m going to meditate lying down.  And I’m also going to listen to my body instead of a know-it-all meditation coach who's trying to teach spirituality as though it's something that is standard across people and can be perfected.   Sorry not sorry.

4.         Guided Meditations.  These aren’t just for beginners.  I have tons to recommend (please contact me if you'd like recommendations!).  Even once I started meditating on my own regularly, I still infused guided meditation into that.  I did this for a couple reasons.   One is that I find them insanely soothing, and frankly, relaxation is a part of my self-care, even if these don't generally make me feel as connected to Spirit as independent meditation does.  The second reason is that many of them contain affirmations that are good for changing your mindset.  Finally, it takes the pressure off.   You won’t always have a good independent meditation session, and when you have more than one avenue of meditation, you won’t feel like your solo practice has to be perfect for you to be connected with Spirit that day.  And the thing is, once you’re connected to Spirit, you’re going to feel a disconnect if you do nothing after doing a lot.  Giant back and forth isn't ideal for creating lasting change.   We want a gradual, sustainable build here.   Plus, we can learn a great deal from our spiritual teachers, many of whom publish their meditations as audio, free of charge.  

5.         With Intention.   I almost always come to a session of prayer with at least a few intentions in mind, and often one big overarching one that's really crucial to me at the moment.   When I was a kid, I thought that how prayer worked was that you went through a list in your head of everyone you cared about, and prayed for their health and happiness, and left yourself out and were done.   No wonder I stopped.

It's completely fine and in fact wonderful to pray for the people you love.   You should!   But I no longer do it formulaically and meaninglessly, as a matter of routine rather than intention.   And I also grew up to realize that one of the people I love that I should pray for is me.   There is nothing wrong with praying for yourself.   In fact, that accounts for the majority of prayer that I engage in.   You can pray with any (positive, non-harmful) intention that is significant to you.   Prayer without intention, simply as a matter of habit or obligation, is in my opinion useless to creating a spiritual relationship.

Meditation differs a little bit, because during meditation, as it's the "listening" portion, I often clear my mind and try to receive guidance and open myself to that.   But I still come in with the intention to be open, receptive and grateful.   

 

If you have any other questions about meditation or prayer, feel free to ask in the comments and I'd be happy to answer them.   I certainly don’t consider myself an expert but I’m happy with my spiritual life, and that’s the point a lot of people want to get to.   I'd like to help anyone else get there that would like help.   Don’t let the rules and expectations get in the way of having a spiritual practice that is meaningful to you, whether that means meditating with a glass of wine surrounded by candles or lying in bed listening to ACDC.   Whatever works for you is the right answer.

"You aren't here to make people like you."

So I was watching one of Amanda Frances’ livestreams the other day.  She is an incredible coach, and powerful woman.   I find so much of her content really helpful.   One of the funny things she does is that she always says on her videos that she’s yelling at us, but she almost never is.   She's usually just passionately talking about something.   But this time, she did yell.  And I absolutely fucking loved it, because what she was saying needed to be screamed from the rooftops to nearly every woman I know.   She said to us, "You aren't here to make people like you!"

This resonated with me like crazy, not because of the day I’d had, but because of the week I’d had, the month I’ve had, the year I’d had.   But for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick to the week.   I think that the above is an absolutely essential thing for people, especially women and female entrepreneurs, to remember as they lead their lives.   There were two interpretations of the statement that really resonated with me, and I hope you'll find them helpful too.

Meaning #1: The Divine Meaning

This meaning is almost certainly what Amanda meant, and I’m pretty sure it’s what she went on to explain.   It’s also the core of most of Gabby Bernstein’s teachings.   It’s the idea that “You are not here to make people like you” because you are here for a greater good, in order to serve some greater purpose.   This is incredibly important to remember.   Oftentimes we let ourselves get bogged down in peoples’ opinions and mundane daily minutiae when in reality, we have bigger and better shit to be doing.  “Serving others”, as Gabby may say.  No matter what your calling is, you are called to do that, and you are here for that purpose, not the purpose of pleasing others.  And you need to focus on that when you make decisions in your life and when you decide what to let affect you.

Meaning #2: The Badass Bitch Meaning

The meaning that knowing Amanda, I know she also thought, and that I find equally important.   You need to hear this, and tell it to yourself as often as necessary:

You do not have ANY obligation to give a fuck what anyone else thinks of you (assuming you aren’t causing harm to anyone).  

Let me provide an example: my best friend from college texted me twice in the last week about supposed obligations she felt to men she’d casually been involved with.   These were not men she was committed to.   Men certainly wouldn’t feel the same obligations had they been casually involved with a woman.  But she did.   Why?  Because women are conditioned to.  But this isn’t even limited by gender, though of course patriarchal norms intensify this issue for women.  My friend was worried about what these men would think about her if she acted in a certain way.  Why did she care?  Because we’ve been told that we fucking have to care what others think of us, and that is matters that we be approved of, and liked, and that being liked and approved of is what makes us successful in society.  I’m gonna drop some truth: it’s NOT.   Being successful and happy comes from living authentically.   Live your purpose and your passion, not for other people’s petty perceptions.   You need to like you, and you need to do what’s right, and live your purpose, and not harm anyone else.  If you do those things, you are absolutely, 100% free to give zero fucks about what other people think of you.   If you’re looking for a permission slip to stop worrying about the opinions of others, I'm handing it to you right now.

 

Now, you want to know the ultimate secret to living life without this stuff phasing you?  Combine Meaning #1 and Meaning #2.   I’ve known this in theory for a while but recently had the opportunity to put it into practice.

I started a new day job the other day, at a location where I’d previously volunteered, so I already knew the ropes.   At the training, I was answering a lot of questions, saying hi to people around the office I knew, and asking things that were maybe a little more advanced than most of the other new hires were familiar with.   And it was making people angry.  And clearly intimidated.

They were absolutely nasty to me.  At lunch I was ignored and left alone in a group of twenty people.   Even a supervisor I hadn't met before became annoyed with me when I said something openly feminist, because I was perturbed by a comment she made and didn't want to let it stand that way unaddressed.   And of course, this led to doubts. 

I doubted myself and my actions.  I wondered if I’d been wrong to answer the questions, if I’d been too forward, if I should’ve acted like I’d never been there before or hidden my real beliefs.   And then?   I snapped the fuck out of it.

I hadn't done anything wrong.   I was respectful the entire time.   I never spoke out of turn, I answered every question respectfully and only mentioned my beliefs when they were directly relevant and necessary to the work we were doing, and I did so with respect.  I said hi to people I knew.   There's nothing wrong with any of that!

And beyond that, I was not there to make twenty other new hires happy.  I was there to serve a higher purpose.   My higher purpose in this job was to serve the clients we were helping, and my advocating for my beliefs and my best use of my intelligence and my abilities helped me serve them to the best of my abilities.

So, in short?   I was being a badass, I was not taking shit that I didn't have to take, and sometimes, people don’t like that.   But they learn to deal.   And you feel a hell of a lot better when you feel good about what you’re doing and who you’re being, and when you aren’t taking anyone’s bullshit without reason.   By the end of my time at that temporary job, I had created meaningful relationships with people who valued these qualities in me, rather than being intimidated or judgmental.

A little bonus lesson: When others are judging you, an easy way to help yourself be less bothered by that is to think about where judgment comes from.  When you judge someone else, where does that come from?  Usually some belief deep in yourself, some insecurity or sense of intimidation.   It’s not usually about them at all.  It’s about you.   So that goes both ways.   If someone’s judging you, it’s not your issue.  It’s theirs.   Let it go.   

Not everyone likes me.   But I can promise you, those who like me, really, truly like me for exactly who I am.  And I know that for a fact.   My life is authentic and real and so are my relationships.   And I get to live every day being the most honest version of myself because I don’t live in fear of other peoples’ thoughts and reactions.   Of course, that fear still exists.   It’s human for that fear to creep up.   But you can’t let it determine your actions.  Move on, rise above, and channel your inner badass.

Figuring out the whole "higher power" thing

Maybe you’re trying to meditate.  Maybe you’re trying to get sober.  Maybe you want to calm your anxiety or infuse your life with some peace.  Maybe you’re just totally out of options and you’re completely desperate.   Oh my god, have I been there.   There are all sorts of reasons someone might want to seek out a spiritual presence, or a higher power, or a “greater something else”.   And there isn’t really a bad reason to.

But what if you’re a little wary?   That's a totally fair place to be.   Religion, God…to many of us, these are scary words, and even scarier concepts.  The first thing to know is that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, ever.   Don’t let anyone make you feel illegitimate or inferior for not being where they are, worshipping who or what they worship, or your differing beliefs or practices.  Or lack of any of the above!   So let’s start there. 

Anything you’ve heard or been taught about expectations or rules being necessary to have a spiritual component to your life is wrong and simply a lie.  There are no musts or shoulds with this stuff, and I’m not going to give you any.  Spirituality, done best, is personal.  What I'm going to offer here are some tips about what helped me best in connecting with spirituality as someone who grew up very wary of it.   But I’m going to be providing more "un-rules" than actual suggestions.   So open your mind and feel free to let go of any of your preconceived notions.   We've got some damn meaningful, life-changing work to do.

Tip #1: Don't force yourself into using the “G” word, or any other word that doesn’t feel right.  Curate your vocabulary until you find the word that feels right to you.   Try a bunch of things.  Take your time.  It could take a day, a week, a month.   Don’t rush it!   This might become one of the most important relationships of your life, so be willing to put in the time and effort on this step.  For those who are curious, the word I personally use most often is Spirit.  I often viscerally cringe at the word “God”, even though it’s powerful and resonant  for many people.   So in spiritual texts or prayers I love by certain authors of other faiths, I replace the word “God” in my head with “Spirit”.  It just helps me connect better.   There is nothing wrong with adjusting your vocabulary to help you connect better with your higher power or spiritual presence.   Do whatever you need to to feel comfortable and connect.

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to mix and match systems of spirituality, teachers, etc.   I pull my spiritual beliefs and practices from lots of different places.  I love Gabby Bernstein and Marianne Williamson and choose practices and beliefs from their work related to A Course in Miracles, which is a text based largely in Christianity with some new-age ideas.   But I also have in my home four crystals that I picked based on their spiritual significance, and sometimes I charge during full moons and new moons and carry them around if I'm working on an intention they align with.  I find the lunar cycle spiritually significant and keep up with it.   I regularly turn to Buddhist authors for guidance, as well as tarot cards.  I occasionally buy and burn candles that are supposed to have a spiritual significance, such as burning a white candle to spiritually purify a new home.   And yes, I combine all of these practices at once.  I meditate, on the floor, surrounded by candles (many of which are intention candles), with my crystals surrounded in their light, focusing on the messages and teachings of A Course in Miracles and Buddhism.   And this works for me.   This makes me feel connected to Spirit.   And that’s the whole point, honestly.   Connecting with Spirit.  There is no wrong if it helps you connect with spiritual guidance and doesn’t hurt anyone else.  

Tip #3: You don't have to subscribe to an organized religion to be spiritually fulfilled.   If organized religion works for you and is your cup of tea and you aren’t discriminating against anyone or using religion as an excuse to do shitty things to be, organized religion can be great!   It can give you a community of other people to connect with over the spiritual aspect of your life, and teachers to help you in your spiritual journey.   It can be a great thing.  But, for those of you who don’t associate your beliefs with organized religion, you don’t need organized religion to have a relationship with Spirit.   Personally, organized religion is not really my thing, either.  But that didn’t stop me from developing a personal connection to Spirit in my own unique way and having a very deep and fulfilling spiritual life, and it won’t stop you either.   Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Tip #4: Practice talking to Spirit like your best friend.  This might seem strange, but for me, one of my biggest blocks was, “How the hell do I talk to a being that theoretically created everything that ever existed or will exist?  Why would that being want to hear what I had to say about my trivial life issues?   I can’t just be like, ‘Hey, Spirit, my friend is being a bitch, help me be patient’.”  In truth, that’s exactly what I needed to be saying.   There’s a beautiful quote that really helped me get past this block and open up emotionally.   It’s from A Course in Miracles.   It says, “As the Course says, “Don't try to purify yourself before coming to me. I am the purifier.”  I take this very literally.   I do not try to be any less of a disaster before I sit down to meditate or pray than I actually feel that I am.  I come to prayer and meditation from an emotionally honest place, and do not judge or diminish my emotions, problems or thoughts.   And this has served me well.   It allows me to feel authentically connected to Spirit, which I strongly believe allows me to bypass my blocks much more quickly and helps me receive the answers to my prayers more efficiently and effectively.   You can check out my post introducing the ideas of prayer and meditation and how they differ here.

Screw anyone telling you how to live your spiritual life.   Only listen to yourself when it comes to things that are this important.  The point is to connect with Spirit however you can, however you want, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone.  Spirituality is all about love, honestly, and will dramatically change your life if you let it.

 

Manifestation, Mantras, and Visualization: A REALIST'S guide

Look, I get it.   You hear seemingly bizarre stories about someone living on the side of a dumpster who “manifested” 100k in three months and is now sunning in Aruba while you’re in your cubicle, just hoping that today someone brings in cookies instead of suggesting an office-wide group diet challenge again.   And you resent it.   It makes complete sense, and I feel you, 100%.  First of all, that story is quite possibly bull, or at least exaggerated.   Second, if it were that easy, yes, everyone WOULD be doing it!  I get your doubts, I really do.  You think it might be impossible, and even if it is possible, it definitely doesn't make sense.  You’re a hard worker and it doesn't make sense for you to spend your energy on some ambiguously defined “mindset” work that may not ever pay off.

Let’s back it up, shall we?   Put aside your (slight and totally understandable) cynicism for just a minute.   And hear me out.

I’m not going to tell you you’re guaranteed to make millions of dollars.   I’m not even going to promise you’ll be able to quit your day job any time in the near future, if that's your goal (sorry!).   I’m also not going to promise that “mantras” are going to make you magically transform from a person who looks in the mirror and sees your (self-perceived) enormous ass before anything else into someone who loves their body, one hundred percent of the time, overnight.   I’m not going to tell you that if you visualize yourself on that same beach in Aruba in a few month's time, that’s where you’ll be this time in August.  Even if you visualize it every day, really strongly.  Even if you put it on your vision board, and make one for your desk at work, and one for your apartment, and one on your Pinterest, and make it the screensaver on your laptop.  And I'm saying that as someone with an unhealthy vision board addiction.

And yet…

I’m still going to tell you that all of these things that you aren't yet sure you believe in, that you want to be a little bit cynical about, that I can’t guarantee will do immediate limitless magic...those things are worth all of the effort they require, and you should absolutely do it.  No matter how skeptical you are.   I'm a recovering skeptic myself.   It took me years to even consider any of the practices listed in the title of this blog entry.   And I still struggle with them sometimes, of course.   I'm human.  But I can honestly say that every single one of them has brought positive change into my life in ways that I couldn’t have achieved without attempting them.   So let’s set aside the doubt and get started.   Here are some tips to make the process a little less painful.

1.           Wear your heart on your wrist.  Let me start by saying, this is not sponsored in any way.   I'm just an enormous fan of Katie and her products.   Metal Marvels is a company owned by a Slay Baby, badass entrepreneur named Katie Seller (so you can feel extra good about supporting her business when you buy!).  Her company makes lots of cool products, but why I’m recommending her company here is because many of her "Expletives" bangles feature nontraditional empowering mantras.   Need an example?   “Have High Fucking Standards”. “Make Life Your Bitch”.  “Live a Fuck Yes Life”.   No, these might not be traditional mantras.   But do they guide me?  Yes.  To live my life more fully, and as a more complete, authentic, badass version of myself?   Absolutely.   You don’t have to follow the rules of what a mantra “should” look like or “should” be (though of course you can go with more traditional mantras if that's what feels aligned to you).  But please, curate.  Find what works for you.  For me, it tends to be anything that's a little profane and a lot empowering.   And it's really powerful to wear around your mantras to be constantly reminded of them as you go about your life.  If you’re like me and enjoy nontraditional affirmations and mantras, check out this site and see if any of her messages resonate with you.   

2.          Take the necessary time to develop your own affirmations.   I've read so many self help and personal development books over the years, and so many of them discussed affirmations, but almost none of their affirmations resonated with me.   Not one.  They all felt too cheesy or too far from what I would get myself in the mindset of at the moment I came across them.  Finally, I came across the advice somewhere to create my own affirmations.   Honestly, it seemed like a lot of work, so I put it off.  And I continued getting absolutely nowhere.   Then finally, once I got desperate, I tried it, and of course, it worked right away.  The reason affirmations work in general is that words have power.  Affirmations have power because words do, and the words we use with ourselves are powerful (which also explains why negative self-talk can be so destructive and positive self-talk can be so transformative).  So we have to choose the language that will best convey what we need to hear to our individual hearts.  

Here's an example.  Let’s say your issue is confidence, like one of mine was.   There is a beautiful book by Louise Hay and Robert Holden called “Life Loves You”.  It’s an incredible book.  It really is, and I love both authors' work, including this book, and am not trying to bash it.   But one of the included affirmations is “Life Loves Me.”   When I was working on my confidence, I tried repeating this affirmation so many times, silently and out loud, in front of a mirror, every which way the book recommended, to absolutely no avail.   I felt ridiculous and embarrassed, even though I loved the book.   But that affirmation felt like them.  It did not feel like me.   Eventually I settled on, “I am proud of the person I am becoming, and make choices to live as that woman every day.”   It felt much more authentic, albeit less succinct.   But once I found the right words, I felt it.  I felt it in my bones.  It felt right to me, and it was worth the work to find it, because every time I said it, or wrote it, or thought it, I really did align with it.   Whereas, as much as I loved that book, hearing that “Life Loves Me” does absolutely nothing to change my mindset personally.   So take the time to develop individual affirmations.   It’s worth the effort.

3.         GET OVER YOURSELF.   Yeah, I know.   You don’t want to hear it.   But you’re already reading, so you might as well.   This one is harder than buying gorgeous yet affordable bangles or making use of the power of words, because it involves dealing with your shit.    Now, I'm going to be gentle here, but I think it's important to be real with you.   The process of dealing with your shit is not fun, and that’s why this is work, and that’s why this is hard.   In the beginning, one of the doubts I mentioned was, “If this is easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?”   It’s not easy.   That’s why lots of people aren't doing it.   This is the life-changing, real, crucial work.   And it can hurt at first to change and grow.   But if you’re reading this blog in the first place, you’re probably ready for that type of change.   So let’s dive in. 

a.          The first step would be to ask yourself what’s actually blocking you.   The answer is almost always “fear” or “ego” (if you’ve studied any Course in Miracles/Gabby Bernstein content.  If not, don’t worry, fear is basically the same thing).  However, we want to get deeper than that.   Fear of what?   What are you so afraid of?   The answer is success sometimes, more often than you think.  You’re afraid success will make you unlikable, whether it’s to society (because you’re a woman, #screwthepatriarchy), or to your family or friends or romantic partner, or even yourself.  You’re afraid success will change your character or make you different.   You’re afraid you don’t deserve to be confident/rich/happy/whatever else you’re visualizing or manifesting or attracting.   The root is almost always fear, and the first key is to figure out what EXACTLY you’re afraid of.   Once you figure that out, you need to work through that fear in order to reach the point where you're ready to receive what you want.  Of course, even once you do this work, the old crappy belief will still show up sometimes and fuck with you.  That’s what they do, at least for a while.  Just calmly let the thought pass, telling yourself “I accept you, thought, and I release you.”  And return to your healthier thought.  Keep shifting these thoughts, and it will become easier and more habitual.   And every time you shift these thoughts, you're changing your life.  (Credit to Gabby Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie book for this process, which I have profaned and amended, but which is generally amazing shit). 

b.         If you feel condescending about more out there, "woo woo" concepts like this, ask yourself where is the condescension coming from.   If you have a hard time identifying any fear, but are very clear on feeling condescension, skepticism or cynicism towards this type of work, ask yourself where that belief is coming from.   Is it coming from something you were taught about this type of work?   Do you believe that what you were taught is absolutely true?   If so, why?   Who taught you?   Are they credible?   If some of these answers are no, what are the reasons for your doubts?   Do your best to get really clear on the source of your beliefs about this type of work.   Usually condescension comes from a belief that this type of work is “inferior” to “hard work”, or "not real work", which is a false, limiting belief ingrained by other people in your life or by society.   Mental work is in many ways the most important work we do in our lives, whether it's just within ourselves or about how we relate to others and the world around us.   It can profoundly change your life, is often harder than "practical" work, and very often more rewarding.

c.          Finally, for those of you who can only identify anger, rather than condescension or fear: What is is that makes you so angry and why?   Do the work to work through the anger.  You need to reach the root of the emotion.   Generally, starting with what you were raised to believe is a good place to start.   What society told you or keeps telling you is another good thing to consider.   You might want to meditate on this a bit.  Often, once you get to the root of the anger, you’ll see it’s also based in a limiting belief that came from either the way you were raised or from society or from another party.  In that case, follow the steps outlined in (a) for dealing with limiting beliefs. 

 

If you can get past any cynicism or doubt and put in the work with these things, they will change your life, faster than you could have expected.   I won't lie to you, it’s not easy.   But it is worth it.