reflection

Disempowering The Inner Critic

your_own_worst_enimy_cannot_harm_you_as_muchas_ungarded_thoughts The inner critic is an interesting---and at times can be a debilitating---phenomenon. There are so many wiley, twisty, turny ways it shows up in our lives that sometimes it’s hard to recognize it for what it is---criticism instead of realistic thinking.

For clarity---because I’m still getting clear about all this myself---I’m going to forgo a lengthy story and simply ask some questions.

What is the inner critic?

Our IC is that nagging, harsh, oftentimes mean voice in our heads that literally and figuratively “puts us in our place.”

For me, it shows up saying this like: you can’t do that because of X; you aren’t good at business/managing money/etc.; get real; people don’t even really like you, and on and on. It’s vicious!

My IC can also be: very black and white (it can only happen this way, or no way), the voice of reason (let’s hold off on this until you get more training/certification/understanding. You don’t want others to think you’re strange or anything) a tape recording (something that just plays automatically in the background consisting of negative, harsh thoughts which seem to just turn on instead of me consciously authoring them) a broken record (the same old, same old lines...over and over and over…) irrational but persistent (yep, I KNOW these thoughts are irrational but they can still paralyze me in my tracks) takes inspiration from people in my life (my inner critic sounds a lot like my mother, but it can also take the form of my husband and an old ballet teacher I had as a girl)

But, isn’t that voice just realistic thinking?

No. Let me explain. When we want to do something bold, brave and quickly----something definitely out of our comfort zone----does someone who’s telling you how terrible you are, motivate you to take those positive actions with enjoyment and greater ease? Would that same critical voice be a motivation to pursue your callings? Nope.

Here’s a quote from the lovely Tara Mohr, whose class I’m in right now called Playing Big. This quote is from her same titled book:

“The realistic thinker in us is forward-moving. She seeks solutions. The critic will spin and spin, ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. The critic often speaks in an anxious, emotionally charged tone. The realistic thinker is grounded, clear-eyed, calm. Many of us hold the belief that “realistic thinking” is skeptical if not pessimistic, but in fact realistic thinking is inquisitive, exploratory, and highly creative.”

What is the point of the inner critic?

Believe it or not, the inner critic’s main goal is to keep us safe. Sure, it’s twisted, but it is an old evolutionary tool that saved us from all of us being eaten by tigers at once. Rawr.

The fact that it’s still around, and we believe that it’s a part of WHO WE ARE, just goes to show the intense power of some of these early safety mechanisms our human brains evolved and used to survive.

The thing is, our IC is not who we are. It’s just an aspect. An aspect that doesn’t need to drive our lives. This is amazing news!

Our inner critic will show up especially when we are stretching in new ways. It tends to get even more vicious when we’re on the brink of a breakthrough---about to chart new territory or fulfill a dream.

If your inner critic were a character, who would they be?

Since my inner critic vacillates between various voices, but most often comes up as my mother, it was extremely helpful to create a character to personify my IC.

Let me just emphasize the PROFOUNDness of realizing that my IC was not, in fact, a defective part of myself, my mother or anyone else I loved. It was just the critical voice in my head trying to save my behind from....who knows what at the time. Danger! Trying new things is not allowed! Etc, etc, etc.

By creating a character, it has helped me realize that this is simply a voice within, not the whole of me. Or the real me. That was powerful to learn.

My Inner Critic's Story

My inner critic’s name is Ms. Marge. She’s an older woman who has much life experience under her belt. She looks like she might be someone who would give good advice---the grandmotherly sort. She’s not overdone, doesn’t dress particularly well---mainly in bad, earth toned neutrals---and is soft around the middle. She has smile lines but also deep creases in her forehead from worry and strain. She’s had a difficult life and doesn’t believe that anyone can actually do what they want, have what they want or be what they want. She believes that everything just happens to us and we are ultimately not in control. Instead of learning from her life experience, she has become a victim. On and on she will tell you what NOT to do, where NOT to go and there’s always an ever present “I told you so” waiting to roll of her lips.

Ms. Marge likes to pretend that she knows what she’s talking about, too. She’ll make things up right on the spot---it’s hilarious if you actually listen to her! She prides herself on “knowing” a lot of things and being able to talk about a lot of things, but never in real depth. It’s more just a way to get her voice heard over the crowd, to feel important. She thinks feeling important is the only way you can fit in or really be a part of anything---being important to her means acceptance. It seems like that would be a lot of work!

Ms. Marge is only trying to help me not experience the pain and frustration she has felt throughout her life. It’s noble of her, but misplaced.

Ms. Marge will be a part of my life for the rest of my life, so I am working on finding compassion for her story and situation----and taking her advice with a grain of salt.

“It’s okay, Ms. Marge. Everything’s going to be okay. I’ve got this.”

My inner critic, or Ms. Marge, gets especially loud when I’m about to have a major breakthrough. It’s confusing and frustrating, but also quite liberating.

Just doing this work---exploring her and personifying her---has made me completely freak out. It’s been hard, but as far as I can see, worth it. I’m starting to see the illusions that have been created by her and how I’ve believed them most of my adult life.

It’s only now I’m beginning to muster the courage to live beyond her stifling rules and misconceptions. It’s hard because not only have I believed them for so long---thinking that this was just how I was, but it’s also comfortable because it’s all I’ve known.

Next steps are pushing through the discomfort and getting to the heart of things. Then, finding compassion for myself in this struggle as well as for Ms. Marge. We’re both reluctant to change, but only one of us is capable and willing.

Onward!

How To Get There: Start Where You Are And Take One Step At A Time

what_you_do_is_who_you_become Living in a city like Washington DC, it can be challenging to not get sucked into it’s overall cultural structure. Like a giant fishing net of anxiety blanketed over the entire beltway, people live here mainly to work. The majority are here because of career---as a stepping stone in politics, lifers in the Federal Government, or working with one of the many many private companies or nonprofits, all of which directly profit from the government in some way.

The energy here is heavy. Fast, but heavy. Like a very wet blanket that won’t shake off easily.

So naturally, it can be challenging to see (and feel) beyond what life feels like without a wet blanket weighing things down.

Imagine! What freedom!

Yet, it’s possible. There are enclaves and pockets of wonderful people doing wonderful things sprinkled throughout the city.

They just don’t make headline news. That’s saved for the politicos.

As a mother who is taking care of her son full time, that constant high strung energy can be stressful. It’s a practice in and of itself to keep focusing my attention back to the present moment, what’s important right now. Otherwise, it would be easy to get swept up in the frenzy.

Recently, I’ve had more conversations about career and work than usual. Which is a lot because it comes up fairly frequently. These conversations have been with friends from every area of my life, completely separate from each other. And it’s usually broached with the same question, in varying degrees:

“What are you going to do about work?”

I have the same thoughts. Constantly. Who am I? What am I supposed to be doing?

We tend to express our inner anxieties as external questions to those around us. When we ask: what are YOU going to do about X, it really implies that we are thinking about the same X in our own life’s context.

With that in mind, and my own questions about this topic, my girlfriends inquiries have given me pause.

It’s a really vulnerable place to be---unsure, exploring, understanding. Doing incredible amounts of inner work. With nothing tangible (physical) to show for on the outside.

Except, for me at least, through this work I am discovering more happiness. Greater ease. Fulfillment. Joy, even. (!!)

Striving for more on the outside isn't always the answer.

What if we were to let go a bit?

Yeah, that idea scares me, too.

What if we were to let our explorations take us where they may? Our interests open new doors of insight or delight? Our questions lead to more questions...and then to more questions?

Maybe we’d find what we’d love---and that we love ourselves in the whole messy process. Self compassion. Digging deep. Going in.

Letting go doesn’t imply giving up. It doesn’t mean we stop exploring.

It means taking one step at a time.

Letting go of the whole, huge outcome while still moving forward.

The other night I started researching self-compassion courses and trainings. How can I GET this even more? Really understand it? You know, how can I use this as my tool of service to help others?

The more I searched, the more my hut started feeling like a big cold lump in my gut. Hey, it said, slow down. One step at a time. Relax. You have a job right now (Little Mister) and it’s not going to last forever. Enjoy! And, trust. You’ll get where you’re meant to be going. One step at a time.

So, what can we do about that new career (relationship, life issue, insert-major-life-category-here)?

Start where you are.

Then, trust.

Trust yourself.

Striving for more on the outside is not the answer.

Go within.

Trust what you find there.

And take one. step. at. a. time.

Onward.

----

My dear 12 friends who read this: this is my last post on The Pinecone Baker! But don’t worry, I’m migrating everything over to triciamartinowen.com and the next post will be coming from there. It’s still in infancy stages---very simple, no about page or logo (gasp!) yet---but, I figured I need to walk my talk about the perfectionism thing. It’s not perfect and I’ll be working on it little by little. Speaking of walking the talk, I also felt like I needed to do this concerning vulnerability, too---which is why I’m switching to writing under my name, instead of using a really cute domain. Changes! Eeek!

So much love to you and gratitude for you. Each of you. Many, many, many thanks for being witness to my journey back to center.

Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance

true_belonging_happens “Why do I have emotions at all?? They just get in the way. I just wish they’d go away!” I chastised myself, out loud, under the huge fluorescent light of our rented kitchen in the concrete jungle of the DC metropolitan area (aka: Crystal City). Literally, I said this. I know, I can hardly believe it either.

This was 4 years ago, soon after we moved here from the emerald city of roses, Portland, Oregon. It had been a particularly rough day where I had been butting up against what I really wanted and what I thought I should be doing.

Alone. Scared. Back to where I never wanted to be again. Looking back, this moment was pivotal. It was the moment I decided to try to escape and evade my true feelings at all costs.

And cost it did.

I was in a pretty good place at that time too---a book deal was under way, my blog (Eating Is Art) was getting good readership, I was doing some photography and styling work for Food52. Things were going well.

Except they weren’t. None of it felt right in my hut (my heart and my gut).

So I shut down the hut. CLOSED.

I felt like a failure and I criticized myself endlessly. Some of the regular commentary was: you need a REAL job now that you’re back here. Who do you think you are? A creative? Come on. You have responsibility now.

It was no wonder I couldn’t go on with Eating Is Art or any creative pursuits. And no wonder I took several soul-sucking contractor design jobs,

One of the last contractor jobs I had ended with me smack dab in the middle between two warring departments. As each became more enraged at the other, I knew my time was near when I would show up for work and my desk had been moved, again. The last time was into the temp space in the basement (Milton, anyone?).

Then, without further ado, it just ended. No goodbye, no thank you, nada. Turn in your badge and leave. As I saw things moving in this direction, I had arranged it so I was off site 80% of the time, working from the comfort of home. It was an attempt to disconnect from the drama, to just focus on the work. Never the less, it still stung when my contract wasn’t renewed.

The funny thing was I felt like I had deserved it. Like I had done something wrong---or rather, like I hadn’t done enough---to bring peace between two groups of people who had a very difficult time relating. Us against them. Toxic. Totally dysfunctional.

Of course I didn’t do anything wrong. There were several instances where things could have taken a much different course, though.

Like the moment I was told that I was going to be the point designer for another group in the organization who needed “a lot of help because they’re a bunch of idiots.” Yeah, that might have been a good time to ask more questions. It was a very important job, they said, and the perfect fit for me. Diplomatic, was how they put it. You’re a nice person so you can find out for us what that department is REALLY up to. Then we’ll have them and can finally control them (seriously). Huh?

My ego took hold, I was buttered up. Oh, oh! They NEED me! How cool! Wow, someone needs me. They value my skills! And they think I’m NICE!

It was also perfect fodder to keep on keepin’ on with my personal stonewalling practice. Keep those real emotions at bay, girl, THIS is what you should be doing (said in a John Wayne drawl). Forget your creative expression, you can get some of that satisfied here. Then it switched to mocking: it is DESIGN, afterall.

My gut said “this seems weird,” but my head said “go for it. Who cares if they’re all a bit nutty and dysfunctional. What office environment isn’t? This could be big stuff for you!” I’m not sure what “big stuff” meant, but I bought it just the same.

My hut was closed, my heart shut off.

A sign hung on it saying: Do Not Feel.

And eventually, instead of ending up with “big stuff,” I ended up frustrated, alone and ashamed. Trying to “disconnect” from the drama, the group actually helped exacerbate my heightened sense of isolation---as in, I’m not okay.

Our brain’s attachment system is activated by feelings of connectedness and kindness (the two feelings I was disengaging from!). Our tendency as humans is to come together in groups---to be part of a tribe---in order to feel safe and secure.

It turns out, people who actually feel connected---like they belong---are not as frightened of difficult situations. They are also less likely to have intense self criticism prompting even more shame and disconnection.

Looking back, I’d have had a sit down with myself. I’d begin by giving myself a hug and reassurance. You don’t HAVE to do this, I’d tell myself. Or anything for that matter. Who are you trying to prove yourself to? You are loved just as you are, for who you are. You don’t have to BE anyone, other than you. Also, you don’t have to keep participating in this dysfunction. This is their issue. It’s not your place to “fix” anything or anyone, or be a martyr.

A little bit of kindness shown towards myself would have gone a long way.

A fraction of understanding about connectedness---how we’re all in this human life, feeling all the same feelings---would have embraced me in feeling understood, a part of something, maybe even forgiven myself for being so completely off center.

It was a good lesson to learn. Being there for ourselves---even retrospectively---while in the throes of feeling incredibly ashamed about something, creates a huge inner shift of perspective as well as feeling safe and able.

It’s never too late to be kind to yourself about something. Or someone. It’s also never too late to take a moment to realize, hey, I’m not the only one who’s gone through something like this.

There is power in literally feeling yourself connected to the millions of other people who have felt what you are feeling right now.

And those feelings that I wished would just go away? They’ve turned out to be my biggest asset, my literal guidepost for knowing what’s true for me. And what’s not.

My hut is back and open to life.

Turns out, it’s where I make all the best decisions.

I’m still sorting through it, clearing out some cobwebs, tending to a few gremlins who took up occupancy there while it was abandoned---their immediate evacuation notice has been given. Looking around, I’m stunned by it’s beautiful location. Overlooking a beautiful, aqua blue sea with a soft ocean breeze, there’s a hammock on the front porch that was just mended. I think I’ll spend a little time there in quiet contemplation---resting my head on the colorful pillow made from a bright pink, orange and gold sari---while I let those gremlins get their things together and get on out.

What’s going on in your hut?

Perfectionism Feeds on Fear and Fear Alone

perfectionism_tree There are a lot of things I’m afraid of:

snakes---more specifically snake FANGS and VENOM criticism---yes, even from you hairy spiders---oh lord scary movies---the Exorcist gave me nightmares for TWO DECADES isolation---being utterly, truly alone with no one who understands me. Terrifying. the dark---it’s true being judged---but, WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME??? A constant work in progress weird bugs with crazy looking pinchers---earwigs anyone?! abandonment---so so scary night terrors---my son has these and they scare ME not getting it right---hello, perfectionism

It’s that last one that I want to talk a little bit about today. Not getting it right. Also known as perfectionism.

As a fully struggling and recovering perfectionist, it’s sometimes hard for me to pinpoint exactly where I could ease up on myself.

Enter, my relationships.

Because our closest relationships are our most intimate mirrors to our “stuff,” it’s the people I love and cherish most who give me the gift of understanding where my perfectionism makes life a bit more challenging than need be.

Perfectionistic tendencies become sharp and blinding, especially when I’m under stress. The exact time when it would be really beneficial to soften into kindness, I’ve gotten into the habit of getting even more critical and to control the outcome.

For example, my son’s sleep (or lack there of) has brought up a LOT of these perfectionistic tendencies. Since he was tiny and dealing with reflux issues, we as a family have been struggling to figure out how best to get the rest we all need.

You know those people who can go for weeks on four hours a night? That is not us.

In my pre-motherhood life, rest was one of the main tools in my self-care toolbox. It helped me stay centered, grounded, thinking clearly and feeling whole. In grad school, I rarely stayed up past 11. I did my best work in the pre-dawn hours, usually awake to see the sun rise with my cup of tea and some creative endeavor in front of me.

As a mother, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to this no-sleep (or just less sleep than I’d like!) regimen. Going to bed later than I’d like because I stayed up to eek out a little creative project, talk with Andrew, read a book---simple pleasures that, when indulged in for too long (as in over an hour), would leave me reeling the next day. Even if we went to bed at a decent time, say 10pm, we would be woken up 1-3 times per night, up for the day by 5:30am.

As the sleep debt kept getting bigger, my patience wore thin, and the perfectionism ogre’s sharp jaws clamped down tight. And didn’t let go. In fact, I’m still prying those teeth out, but at least it’s not the death grip any more!

Getting enough rest for all of us is an issue. And the irony is not lost on me that my son is now having night terrors. In harder moments, I blame myself, feeling deep shame over “not getting his sleep right” or not doing SOMETHING, anything right. After all, being tired is one of the main reasons kids have night terrors. So isn’t it all my fault?

Sigh.

Last night, he had his worst night terror yet. We had just gone to bed about 45 minutes prior, each needing some deep rest because we are all getting over a virus. Being roused from that early, waking-dead-deep sleep, we decided he probably needed a diaper change (our sitter earlier that night couldn’t find the nighttime diapers so put two regular diapers on him). We assumed he was probably just uncomfortable.

Turns out, he was having a night terror. Andrew went in and tried picking him up. Screaming and thrashing, Little Mister was inconsolable and wild. I was called in to help. Trying to change his diaper was impossible, but somehow, we managed. He wouldn’t calm down, continuing to scream and thrash. Somewhere a voice reminded me “turn on the light.” So we did.

With the glow of the lamp in the corner brightening the previously shadowy room, we both sat next to Little Mister while he continued his inconsolable screaming. He wouldn’t let us touch him, much less get near him. This went on for about a half hour.

We spoke in low tones, telling him everything was going to be okay, he was okay, mama and dad were here, over and over. Finally, it was as if he woke up (because that’s what happened---night terrors are different from nightmares, and you are totally asleep through the whole thing. It’s way more traumatic for the parents!). He looked at me finally, started crying again. I was able to reach out and ask him if he wanted to cuddle. He scrambled up into my arms crying, but not thrashing or kicking. He was back.

It was so extremely difficult watching my son struggle like this---or what I perceived as a struggle. I couldn't do anything other than wait it out. No action, nothing. Just waiting for the storm to pass (one in which we had made worse by trying to change his diaper then physically comfort him in the beginning) while using a soothing tone of voice, comforting words.

I found myself having lots of conflicting emotion during this eternal half hour. Everything from: this needs to be over now! what else can I DO? oh my god, we didn’t DO THIS RIGHT from the beginning, so now it’s worse! And on and on. Blame started rising up, my chest tightening, my jaw setting. I could feel my own anxiety spilling forth…

But then, I stopped.

Kindness.

Be kind, I heard:

You are scared. This is scary. This is so hard. You and Andrew were in a deep sleep. Neither of you knew it was a night terror. You will know next time. This will end soon. Everything will be okay. It’s okay to be scared.

While my spoken words to Little Mister were soothing him, I was having this internal dialogue soothing myself. It was kind of strange, but so helpful.

And then, I felt...better. Not great, because the situation wasn’t ideal. But I was able to stay calm and out of the funnel of negativity and self-flagellation. While cuddling him, I was able to think clearly, focusing on getting my son comforted and back asleep. I also wasn’t worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get back sleep---an issue I’ve had for the past year. Because of “restless mind.” You know, when you can’t sleep because you’re woken up in the early morning hours and the thoughts. just. won’t. stop.

Kindness to yourself will help with that.

Self compassion didn’t make this situation less scary, or try to sugar coat it with positive thinking. It didn’t make things better on the outside like making my son feel better or stop the screaming.

What it did do was give me the comfort I needed in order to go forth and offer that comfort to my family. It took me out of myself---from feeling isolated in my own fear and like I was responsible to DO SOMETHING NOW, because otherwise the world was going to end (perfectionism)---to seeing how we were all experiencing this together. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. There was no blame. We were all scared and worried. We could and would figure this out. It was going to be okay. Kindness.

Be kind.

With yourself. With others.

It works.

Every time.

I promise.

The Link Between Boundaries, Barriers and Compassion, Demystified

most_boundaried_people_are_most_compassionate There is a vast difference between boundaries and barriers. VAST. EXPANSIVE. Huge.

When I first learned about the concept of boundaries almost a decade ago, I had a hard time figuring out how to put them into practice. Not because I didn’t agree with the concept, but I first had to get over old thinking where the term “boundary” was used in conjunction with “negative discipline.”

While boundaries are used as a form of protection when something negative happens, they are also used in the wonderful, beautiful daily business of living.

It’s a way of living honestly. In our truths. Vulnerably.

Boundaries allow clear communication to happen. Barriers shut down communication.

Setting healthy boundaries takes a lot of courage. It all stems back to allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

The process goes something like this:

  1. Acknowledge any pain. What’s truly hurting deep down. Is it really someone or something “out there” or is it something within?
  2. Identify your triggers.
  3. Acknowledge how much you can and can not handle. What are your limits? This is especially tough for those of us---myself included---who think they should do it all.

The bravery it takes to even get to this place is tremendous. GINORMOUS. Did I mention it takes guts? Yeah, those too.

After getting clear (see above), the intention of setting a boundary will naturally come from a place of making communication clearer. A compassionate beginning. Nothing messy or twisted. Just, clarity.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Boundaries allow everyone to be on the same page. Everyone knows where the other stands which brings in clarity. Clarity allows next steps to be taken by everyone, because there are no mixed messages.

Sending mixed messages is a sign of using barriers instead of boundaries. We are stuck, so to speak. There’s no clear path forward, no movement on either end.

Being on the receiving end of someone’s boundaries which provoke or make us angry isn’t easy, either. But everyone knows where everyone stands. That understanding gives parameters for what there is to work with. Clarity.

Personally, I’d rather work with clarity, as opposed to confusion or mixed messaging, ANY DAY. I've been in that confusing space of mixed messaging---both on the receiving end and as the messenger---and it didn't feel good in either position. In fact, all it did was cause pain for myself and for others.

So where does compassion come into play? How is it, as Pema Chodron states, that “the most boundaried people are the most compassionate?”

Doesn’t compassion mean to do good, be good, and be open and loving to any and all?

Nope, not even close.

People who have strong boundaries have, quite simply, done the work. And they continue to do the work. They understand and feel their pain, they know their triggers and they know exactly where their limits are. They know themselves and they are clear about what they need or what they don’t need. Plain and simple. Not easy, but very straightforward. This is also known as self-compassion or self-love.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

The key words used are “honestly and gently.” Compassion!

Boundaries set us free. They are also evidence of our inner work made tangible to the world. This can be a very powerful, and empowering, message we send out.

That message says: I am worth it. I know and love myself enough that I can not and will not accept X. Here are the parameters I’m willing to work with to move past X. But if X doesn’t stop, then so will this form of our relationship.

Many times, when talking about setting boundaries, the example of physical abuse is used. Of course, this is a prime example where boundaries are so very necessary. But there is a huge spectrum where boundaries are beneficial, physical abuse being at the very far end. This means it could be something seemingly minor, but still necessitates a boundary.

It could be at work. It could be with a friend. It could be with a family member. I could be with yourself, even.

Example: I’m going to find a new route to walk to work because the pastry shop is too tempting for me. I’ve made a promise to lower my sugar intake. I know that if I smell those pastries, I will stop in for one! I’m going to honor my promise to myself by not putting myself in temptation’s way.

A simple boundary to keep yourself on track and healthy.

They key is to recognize when you’re feeling drained or anxious. This is usually the first tip off that a boundary hasn’t been addressed and is being crossed. Of course if you’re feeling angry, frustrated, rage, depressed, or afraid, then there are most likely some boundary issues happening that haven’t been addressed, as well.

If you’re struggling with boundaries, you are not alone. This is a skill that develops and refines itself over an entire lifetime. Each time a new boundary is needed, it’s an opportunity to flex that muscle of self-compassion. To send a powerful and empowering message to yourself: yes, my dear, you are so worth it. You are loved.

Next time you’re confronted with setting a boundary, try remembering:

Healthy boundaries set up clear communication. (Sweet!)

Healthy boundaries take courage to create. Start with being vulnerable with yourself. (You can do it!)

Healthy boundaries can stop unnecessary suffering in it’s tracks. For you, of course, but also for the entire situation.

And they are WORTH IT for the clarity and forward momentum they inspire. For everyone.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” ― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

Thank you, Pema.

My mission is to leave the world in better condition than how I found it. I’d be grateful if you shared this post with someone for whom it may make even a tiny bit of difference. Let’s start creating that positive ripple effect, together! Big hugs xo

Little Signposts

2014-11-12 16.13.09 Authentic power has been on my mind recently. What does it mean to be powerful? For me, power had a negative connotation. Whether it was thinking of a dictator, or someone who clawed their way to the top, it never gave me the warm fuzzies. So naturally, I shied away from it. However, in turning away from my power, I went the other direction. This put me in quite the pickle as this approach never sat well with me either: the people pleasing, the passive aggressive comment because I was so scared to be direct, learning how to keep a straight face while really feeling panicked inside. Recently, I've had some opportunities to step into my authentic power. I didn't realize this (or see them as opportunities at the time!) because, well, I was super scared and relying on old, knee jerk ways to deal with situations that just needed my truth.

So I posed the question over and over in my mind. What is authentic power? Where does it come from? Does everyone have it or it's potential? Who is authentically powerful? And on and on. The answers I got back were direct and in and of themselves pretty powerful. Because I kept asking myself this, I realized I was seeing little signposts about it everywhere---signs, emails, flyers, even instagram. Most of the messages didn't even mention the word power or what I had envisioned power to be like previously. Instead they were filled with super affirming messages of: BE, JOY, TRUST, and LIGHT. But there they were, the answers to my question about power.

Below are a few snippets from the collection of things I've read recently that have rung so true. And by sharing them, I'm practicing stepping out of my comfort zone of sorta-truth into real truth. It's uncomfortable and a tad bit scary, but I've realized that if I truly want to cultivate specific things in my life, I have to reach out in order to receive. Like attracts like.

Maybe you'll find inspiration from them, too.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. --Rumi

Try to show up as an adult each and every time. It's not easy. Sometimes your child-self wants to express herself in sulks or passive-aggressive actions. That's okay. It's your learned knee-jerk automatic reaction. Just, if you can, allow your adult self to come onto the stage. Relationships and situations will work much better the more you can do that. --Danu Morrigan

No one is asking you to be original. We're asking you to be generous and brave and to matter. We're asking you to step up and take responsibility for the work you do, and to add more value than a mere cut and paste. Give credit, definitely, but reject the fear that you're doing something that's already been done before. Sure, it's been done before. But not by you. And not for us. --Seth Godin

Positive feelings are a form of power. And power is all kinds of uncontrollable, elevating, disruptive, expansive, and threatening — to your own fear, and to people who prefer low-risk living. Joy threatens unconsciousness.

We push away positive feelings because the light emotions can create a stark contrast to the dark emotions. The joy will expose our sorrow. If we don't go to the height of our joy, we don't have to go to the depths of our pain.

Once you experience joy, whether it's something as simple as appreciating the sharp red of fall leaves, or it's an incredible orgasm, or it's the transcendence of deep self love meeting love of another — whatever the form, you're closer to the power source. Power sources are inherently dangerous. Positive feelings might make you a little bit louder. Maybe blindingly bright. You will be less easy to fool, less likely to settle — you’ll be too big for the box. Get big.

Choose the joy. Burn the box. Leave the flock. Go for deeply adored. --Danielle LaPort

Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.

When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.

The lie is a short-cut through another’s personality. Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze itself; it has to be created between people. Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity. But it’s a movement into evolution. --Adrienne Rich