Tag Archives: habits

What would it feel like if we stopped beating ourselves up?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend and coaching peer. She and I basically swapped stories of how we “screwed up” something. For her, it was a typo in a survey she sent out; for me, it was the wrong date of a new program I’m offering in June.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this conversation was that we were both very light-hearted about it. “Oops!” and “oh well, stuff happens” was pretty much the attitude we collectively embraced.

Now that’s not to say that we weren’t taking responsibility for what we’d done (or hadn’t done). In fact for me, I knew it was pretty ironic that I messed up the date for a MINDFULNESS class! I’d quadruple checked things, as did she. But sometimes you can look at your own work for hours without seeing mistakes, and at some point, that work simply needs to be released into the world.

I used to live by the idea that if I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a good person. A mistake like that would have had me beating myself up for hours–if not days–afterwards. It would have me wondering “how could that possibly happen?” It would have me worried about my “reputation”, such as it was.

How often do we judge ourselves for being human? For making mistakes that have to happen once in awhile, because you know, no one’s perfect?

I advise both myself and others this way:

If you make a mistake, you have the mistake to deal with.

Now if you add a layer of judgment on top of that (e.g. “I’m so stupid what’s wrong with me?”)

And then any / all the subsequent thoughts that grow from a negative thought like the previous one,

You’ve just piled yet more s**t on top of yourself that you’ll have to dig out of, eventually. Its like building a layer cake–but much less tasty. And the more you do it, the stronger the tendency becomes!

So don’t pile it on. Don’t do it. Just don’t!

Step carefully away from the judgment. Own the mistake, fix it if you can, recognize any contributing factors that might help with “next time”, and then move on.

Remember that you’re so much more than your little faux pas!

How My Own 7-day Self-Care Challenge Helped Me Redefine Self-Care

If you read my last post, you know that the week of Valentine’s Day I facilitated a 7-day Self-Care Challenge on Facebook.  Each day, participants were challenged to do a particular self-care activity, or one of their choosing that aligned with the day’s theme.  We finished on Saturday, February 18th.

As a teacher / guide and eternal student, I straddle two worlds: the world where sometimes clients think I do everything perfectly, and the world of reality–which is one where I struggle with some of the same things my clients do.  So I decided that I would not just be a facilitator: I’d also be a participant!

Here’s just one thing I learned from my participation in the supportive group we had this year:

The best self-care is not just small…

I often tell clients that their self-care activity can be very small so that it’s practical, do-able, and can fit into a potentially busy day. And since I’m planner by practice, I had plans for what I thought was a small self-care activity on the day we connected with nature.

I planned to take a brief walk at a park on the way home from teaching one of my afternoon classes. But I was so hungry that I went straight home instead.

After lunch–while I was posting an article about plants–I ended up really looking at the aloe plant a dear friend gave me for Christmas. I observed how it has changed and grown in the few months I’ve had it. And because it’s on my desk within eye view, I realized it’s available to me to look at as a break from my computer screen every day.

Creative self-care requires mindfulness!

Because I was thinking about the day’s challenge all day, reading and commenting on participants’ creative posts, I became more mindful of all the little ways I could connect with nature throughout my day. Here was one of my favorite posts from someone who lives in a part of the country where going for a walk in February isn’t quite practical:

“It is a beautiful day, but the wind is brutal. I was going to go for a walk, but I’ll be honest… I didn’t make it far. I’m now back home watching the squirrels chase each other around the trees, which is actually really relaxing.” (Renee M., MN, also photo)

Later, I planned to spend some time gazing at the moon in meditation after my evening class. But alas, the moon wasn’t visible through the clouds in my planned moon-gazing spot. Arrgh, both my plans had been foiled! However, just as I pulled into my driveway, I was taken aback by a very bright Venus through some parting clouds; I paused to take it in. To be curious about what I was seeing To notice how it  made me feel. However brief, this experience turned out to be an extremely peaceful and expansive moment at the end of my very busy day.

So thank you participants, and to nature, for not cooperating with my plans! You’ve taught me to redefine self-care as:

a small, spontaneous moment of self-attention that arises from mindfulness and creates a positive feeling within oneself.

What do you think of this definition?

Future Self-Care Challenges

I hope to run this self-care challenge again next year–as much for me to practice and learn as for my clients! Here are what some folks said about participating:

  • Thank you so much for a great week! I have enjoyed the sharing and exchanging of information.
  • I did it all! I enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot, thank you!
  • Thank you so much for the week of wonders.
  • I did it all…with varying degrees of success. Thanks for all the great resources!
  • I wanted to do it all but got sideswiped by illness in the middle. But I’ve learned some great things, and will keep trying to incorporate them into my days.
  • I was able to do 7 out of 7!!!! Thank you so much for hosting The Self-Care Challenge. It was super fun sharing my results as well as reading everyone else’s!!
  • It was a good challenge. I needed those reminders. Good to remember it’s a practice!
  • “…it does feel good to focus on myself.
  • “Best wishes to everyone who participated in this challenge. And thank you, especially, Kali, for guiding us through the challenge.”
  • “When I first read today’s challenge I thought “Now how am I going to fit that in…” as today was a very full day. But as the day went by and I read all of my Self-Care friends’ post I became inspired!” (Photo courtesy Denisse M.)
  • “Pooh, I didn’t get yesterday’s challenge done. Busyness happened and I forgot to take care of myself that way. Oh, well. Today is a new day!”
  • “Nope, didn’t empty my water bottle like I should have. Why is it so hard to remember, I don’t forget to eat!”
  • “I wish I invited more people to this challenge. You have to do this again so others can benefit!!!!!”

Please like A Journey Into Health on Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter (below) to stay informed about the next challenge!

My 66-day Watering Challenge

A few months back I attended a business-related seminar called The ONE Thing (based on the book). Like many such trainings, the speakers stressed the importance forming good habits as a way to keep a business healthy and growing. Because I’m a coach, I’m always interested in new ideas related to releasing habits that don’t serve us and creating habits that do. As much as I care about creating a sustainable business, I know that starts with me being healthy (and continuously growing)!

What Did I Do & Why?

On August 25, I decided to apply the 66-day Challenge to a simple habit: that of drinking 8 glasses of water per day. Now I’m not the kind of coach that sticks to “rules” per se: there is research both for and against this amount of water (as there are for most foods and beverages). But what I do know about myself is that I run dry, and that when I drink coffee and wine (both of which I enjoy), I am even dryer. I can wake myself up at night feeling so dehydrated I’m coming out of my skin. I’ve always been this way. I’ve ingested more healthy fats than I can tell you, including ghee (which I love). Really the only climate I feel comfortable in are ones like Costa Rica & Hawaii. Just the right amount of heat and humidity. But I digress…and I live in Austin.

How I Did It & What I Learned

I stuck this sheet on my refrigerator door and kept a pen in the drawer nearby. Every glass of water was indicated with my favorite marking system. I gave myself a checkmark on days I completed. When I knew that I’d really squeaked by for that day, I wrote “close” or “pushing it” to motivate myself more for the next day. As you’ll see, I wasn’t perfect. There are two X’d days. But in the process I learned several things:

  1. I know now how to approximate how much is “8” without tracking. For example, filling this water bottle is 2, that glass is 1….
  2. I know how to pace myself on that water. When I’ve not had enough in the morning, how it affects me in the afternoon or evening, and vice versa. Also how close to bed to have that last glass!
  3. I can feel the difference on days when I have coffee AND wine, even with the same amount of water.
  4. I learned a few fabulous new ways to hydrate my system without feeling bored. (See below for more.)
  5. I learned how having a soda really robs me of hydration.
  6. I felt less desire for chocolate and alcohol (even giving it them entirely for a time!). My appetite also changed; I felt less hungry and fuller on less food.

How I Made It Interesting

I discovered the Lemon Olive-Oil Flush recipe. As someone who’s dabbled in Ayurveda for many years, I was used to drinking room-temperature water with lemon juice first thing in the morning. (In fact, my water is ALWAYS room-temperature if I can help it.) What I liked about this recipe was that it added healthy fat in the form of olive oil. I experimented with adding ginger a few times; with adding vanilla once (because I like the taste of it fine without!). It was like lemonade, but so so good for me. I generally cut the recipe in half to make a 16 oz drink.

My other great helper in this challenge was my Define Bottle. I experimented with all different kinds of fruits in the bottom including: mandarins, raspberries, blackberries, figs, and limes. The berries didn’t work as well as the citrus fruits. Writing this today reminds me to try the grapefruit and apple I have in the kitchen. 🙂

Are 8 glasses a day right for everyone? Nope. Is this challenge helpful for forming a new habit? I think so! I wonder what I’ll apply it to next….

Good food will heal what ails you

One of the ways I work with people as an Eating Psychology Coach is to get them back in touch with how pleasurable food can be. In the Chakras Tune-up workshop this past weekend, we talked about how second (sacral) chakra issues revolve around pleasure, and how the energy in this part of the body is frequently blocked by guilt.

Perfect example: say you eat an amount of chocolate that you don’t think you should have (or something else you find pleasurable but “forbidden”). What might you feel afterwards? Guilt! And sometimes then comes the punishment, like over-exercising, or restricting food (i.e. pleasure) even more. But there was a good reason for the chocolate, wasn’t there? Maybe you can’t point your finger on it initially, but if get quiet for a minute or more, I’ll bet you can find it.

We cannot live without being open to experiencing pleasure. (And this is coming from someone who has had her fair share of pain.) So today when I happened to be in a state of pain (more mental than physical, yet due to physical issues), I got myself to cooking.

It didn’t have to be much, or take a lot of time, but what it had to be was SPECIAL. So I took the extra time I gained today by having to cancel all my “stuff” to cook some oatmeal over the stove (i.e. the old-fashioned way, sans microwave). I combined it with some ghee and vanilla almond milk, and topped with with some shredded almonds and a few prunes. (I happen to really like prunes. 🙂 ) Instead of putting it in a bowl, I picked a nice tea cup, and ate it while nestled under a blanket, propped up on the biggest pile of pillows ever, on the sofa.

IMG_1684Then for lunch, I was reminded of a Facebook post I saw some time ago about cooking scallops in a bit of vermouth with butter. (I believe it was a Paleo recipe.)  My lovely partner was kind enough to get me my standard order of “6 large scallops” from the seafood counter at Central Market yesterday, and we happen to have vermouth and Kerrygold! I also threw in some garlic and ginger for good measure.

Now given what I’m dealing with, let me tell you that there are likely several people who would scoff at the use of the alcohol as well as the dairy. But you know what? I know my body, and I know that when something happens to slow me down, avoiding things I enjoy just means I deprive myself of even more pleasure and don’t heal any faster. So why not enjoy something, when I’m restricted in so many other ways? That’s my philosophy anyway!

When people come to me dealing with an issue about food, food generally isn’t the issue. It’s how they’re approaching life. I never “take away” someone’s treat.  The treat is there for a reason. Sometimes you don’t need it. Sometimes you do. The trick is that when you have the treat, you take the time to enjoy it.

What’s for dinner?

Confessions of a Multi-tasker

DLP-Various-2762“Let go of what is no longer serving you.” This is something I hear (and say) in yoga classes all the time.

Recently I’ve re-discovered that multi-tasking isn’t something that serves me anymore. Here’s what it typically looks like:

  • I make a To Do list, or put things on my calendar to do at a particular time.
  • I start thing A, which is typically the thing I am most willing to do.
  • After a few minutes, I realize thing A requires* thing 1, and start messing around in thing 1.
  • This leads to thing 2, thing 3, and maybe things 4 and 5.
  • I realize I’m off track, but now I feel burnt out, and any motivation to do thing A is now gone.
  • I start thing B, hoping that will help.
  • Rinse and repeat, potentially adding things C, D, etc.

Note:  *”Requires” is a highly subjective term.

A more concrete example:

  • I decide that I’m going to do the laundry, so I get the laundry basket from the closet.
  • While I’m in there, I notice that there are still some thing not hung from last time’s laundry, so I hang them.
  • When I turn around, I see my jewelry box and shoes on the shelf, and note their disarray. I start organizing.
  • I think about going to Prague next week, and as I’ll be needing jewelry and shoes, I decide to figure out which ones to add to the “bring” pile.
  • Which naturally leads me to picking out outfits for the trip.
  • But oops! I don’t have a printout of my typical travel checklist. Let me go to the office to print that out. (I usually do remember–for efficiency’s sake–to bring the laundry with me to the office, as it’s next to the laundry room.)

You can see my point. What’s worse is when this isn’t limited to a little room like the closet, or if it’s a virtual/online thing. I sure hope that there were times in my life where being able to handle (seemingly) a million things at once was rewarded. Else how did my brain make this such a habit?

Today I’m trying (again) to “single-task”. Wow, that was a goal many years ago, but somehow now it feels more important. I’m losing my ability to keep track of all these balls I put into the air. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s wisdom. So I made several lists today:

  • Before first yoga class: get back to clients from yesterday with homework. Check. Eat light first breakfast. Check. I was feeling really good about this!
  • Between morning and noon classes: listen to a webinar that I missed the first time around (due to multi-tasking), make and eat oatmeal second breakfast/snack, do delicates (laundry). Check x3! Awesome. It was really hard though. I sort of multi-tasked watching the webinar with doing the other two, if I’m honest.
  • After noon class and pre-client: Make lunch, do some bookkeeping, take a (or do an online) yoga class. But then I had this idea for this blog, you see? But I wrote it down on my Post It, as a note, because 4 things aren’t allowed on the list. Just 3. So I made my lunch and sat down to eat it. Just as my phone rang. I answered, and spoke to a “patient care representative” about a long standing issue with a doctor’s office. Yay, OK done. Then the phone rang again. Ugh, no. Voicemail. Food. Eat. Ah, post it to my Facebook page, because pictures of good food are always good, right? Oh and there are some interesting things in my news feed. Share. Ah, another story. Wait, what am I doing? Stop. Finish my food. Decide to write this blog rather than do my bookkeeping, because trading things on the list is allowed, right? FAIL!

Single tasking. One-pointed focus. Like meditation, it makes so much sense, yet is so hard to do. Which is why we practice. I don’t practice single tasking enough. I’m going to try more.

Do you think you’d be better off single tasking, or multi-tasking? Which is easier for you?

Stay tuned for my next post, tentatively titled: “the struggles of the workflow efficient.”

Becoming Aware of Habitual Patterns

For about 20 years, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying to notice and change the mental/emotional patterns that I know don’t serve me. However, yoga therapy training and my own physical issues of late have made me start to look more closely at the habitual patterns in my body and in the way I move.

I wrote in a prior blog about a few of these, and as the weeks have gone by, I’ve found many more! For example, after helping a client figure out how to more safely get in and out of his car to avoid straining his back, I noticed that my own way of entering and exiting my vehicle was terrible! (We teach what we need to learn, right?!)

Here’s what I noticed. Whenever I went to leave my car, I’d start by swinging my left leg to the ground. I’d leave my right leg where it was, then twist my upper body to reach whatever was resting on my passenger seat that I needed to take with me (purse, books, etc.) . Then I’d put all my weight on my left leg, and swing my right side (with the extra weight of whatever I was carrying) toward the door, placing my right foot on the ground. If you can imagine this, I’m pretty much doing a twisted split! Ouch. Since I’ve had a recurrence of pain in my sacrum (and right hip) lately, this really struck me as being an unhelpful pattern of physical movement for my body. Given how many times a day I get in and out of my car, it’s amazing I’m not in more pain.

The first few times I tried to address this, it became clear how habitual the pattern of movement was. I’d catch myself after it was too late. But over a day or two, I’d start to catch myself a little earlier. Now I’m using the technique I taught my client: put legs together (as if wearing a skirt), swing both legs out, then stand. Walk around to passenger side to get bag, books, etc. This definitely takes more conscious effort (and time) as I’m still not enough in the new pattern to do it automatically. But I do believe it’s ensuring my pain isn’t getting worse.

Another interesting pattern: putting on pants. Yes, seriously. Most of the time I’m in yoga pants. Sometimes they’re loose, sometimes they’re stretchy, like tights. Guess what happened when I tried to put pants onto my left side first? I nearly fell on my caboose! I had NO IDEA that I’d been so right-leg dominant.

Last one, back to the car. Guess which side of my body I’m always using to close the trunk of my car? Yup, you guessed it, the right. I reach up with my right hand, stretching up through my right side (I’m short you know), and then use the right side of my body to pull the trunk down. Hmmm…in side stretches my right side is always tighter, and my right QL has been known to have issues. I wonder why! I haven’t gotten to the point with this one where I start using my left side (yet). But I know that the awareness will get me there, and will help me even out some of these imbalances in my body. At the very least, these changes will keep my pain from getting worse, and they may even help resolve it.

Yoga is great in terms of alleviating pain, stretching, and strengthening weak areas. But, if one continues to put stresses on the body in an imbalanced way multiple times a day, a yoga practice a few times a week (or even one a day) isn’t going to be as effective as it would be if one’s habitual patterns were also identified and modified.

I’m continuing to explore this in my own body, and I hope that this post encourages you to pay closer attention to how you move in your daily life. Just notice for example how you enter/exit your car. Are there things you might change? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Transitions: a perfect time to habit-hop

I’m moving to a new apartment tomorrow. And although any move inherently comes with a lot of thoughts, feelings, and “to do’s”, this move is also coming with something else: opportunity.

I recently read Gretchen Rubin‘s new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. She presented a lot of very useful information that helped me understand why I could maintain or overcome some habits but had trouble with others: it depends on a lot of different factors that add up to a uniquely personal habit “style”. This helps explain why habit making and/or breaking isn’t one-size-fits-all, and why some things might work for you or not. I highly recommend it as an easy and interesting read.

Anyway…in the book she also talks about transitions, and why sometimes transitions are where we lose some good habits. E.g. you move, and your gym is now a little further away and your routine has been disrupted a bit, etc. etc., so it’s a little harder to go and then you get out of the habit, which makes it all the more challenging to pick up again the second time. BUT, the good news is that we can also use transitions as a way to create new, better habits and routines, and that is exactly my plan with this move.

Improved Workflow

For example, one of the things I’ve wanted to get back into the habit of is doing my personal yoga practice first thing in the morning–ESPECIALLY before turning on computers, phones, etc. When I do that, I feel like the quality of my practice is better, and my day proceeds much more favorably. Right now, my office with my computer is technically also my yoga room, which makes this difficult. In the new place, the flow is perfect to make this habit easier: the first room I will enter as I leave the master bedroom will be my (open) yoga space, followed by my (closed door) office. I also plan to have some water available so I don’t have to go to the kitchen and have an “excuse” to bypass the yoga space initially. My boyfriend calls this “low activation energy.” First thing in the morning, it would be more trouble to open the door to my office than to drop onto my mat.

Days Dedicated to Practice

Given that self-care is becoming increasingly important for my health and well-being, and there are so many different techniques I know I want to do, I discovered a way that I think will allow me to do many of them but not feel overwhelmed to the point of wanting to quit. I have a whiteboard that has the days of the week already printed on it. Each day, I’m going to do a different self-care technique, and am using somewhat rhyming titles and other associations to help me remember what is in plan for a particular day:

  • Mala bead Monday
  • Tapping Tuesday
  • Meditation Wednesday (because I signed up for Chase’s online sessions)
  • Ho’oponopono THursday
  • Pranayama & Pampering Friday (given I usually do things like mani/pedi on Fridays)
  • Sadhana Saturday (i.e. a longer personal practice or a class I TAKE rather than teach)
  • Sutra Sundays (I have been chanting Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in the car, which helps a lot with road rage. 🙂 Each Sunday I look over a new set in both English and Sanskrit, so I can chant them anytime I drive in the upcoming week.)

Don’t Bring It In

Chocolate and alcohol are two things I can struggle with, if I’m not careful. One great way I’ve found not to eat too much chocolate (and not really miss it either!) is to not let it make its way across the threshold of my apartment. So, no chocolate is being moved into the new home (not that there’s any to take, since I ate the bag over the stress of the move already! LOL). Also no alcohol will be purchased for the new home. I know it aggravates my condition and I do better in the long term without it, even if it does offer some short term relief.

These are probably just some opportunities that will be available to me in the new place, but three is enough. I hope my sharing might inspire you–transitions don’t need to be moves. It can be a new child, a new car, a new job or responsibility. Transitions also don’t need to be big things; they can be small too: the start of a new day, week, or month, for example. Maybe your transition marks the end of something that (while possibly sad), can make room for something new too.

My first ever letter to my body

Dear Body,

Thank you for having been so good to me all these years. I’ve really put you through a lot. I’ve put you through some hard stuff physically (intense exercise, computer work, binging and overeating, insomnia), as well as mentally and emotionally (trauma, stress, depression and anxiety). Apart from little nagging things, you’ve been great these past 40 years, when quite frankly, I didn’t always deserve it.

But now I’d like to make a promise to you going forward. It’s not so much a New Year’s Resolution for 2015 as much as just that: a promise. As I move into this second half of my life, I realize it may be more difficult for you to help me out; that I need to do my part as well. So I want to promise that I will take moments out of my day to really listen, to hear you speak to me, and to do my best to honor your wisdom and make any adjustments I can to help you help me.

For example, when I’m standing at my computer typing, I’ll notice whether my weight is balanced between my right and left feet, and whether I’m locking my knees. I’ll make the fact that I’m bringing my right shoulder forward more conscious, and stop doing that, because given the kinetic chain I’m likely corkscrewing you up completely when I do that. I’ll check in with my neck to make sure I’m not straining looking at my screen or phone, with my head too far down or forward. As I did at the theater last night, I’ll sit with both feet flat on the ground, even if it means I have to scootch forward and not use the back support of a chair, which I realize isn’t great for you anyway. I’ll stop helping my pelvis get twisted up by crossing my legs.

I’ll return more to my gentle practice of yoga, even when I have to teach a “harder” flow class. I’ll model less fully and deeply when it’s not absolutely necessary. I’ll do more of what I always encourage my students to do (and sometimes complain about when they don’t): LISTEN and STOP and do what YOU want vs. what my mind and ego want from you. I’ll stop trying to do advanced postures like headstand when you know that my core isn’t strong enough for anything resembling that! I’ll learn through my yoga therapy training what will work better for you, and incorporate what I learn into a daily practice.

I’ll forgive the traumas and abuses of the past that may have contributed to your current state, whether they were self-imposed or I was a helpless victim.

towel_wrapped_meI will not judge you, but I will love you for what you are. I will love you even as you start to show more lines and wrinkles, as you become more stiff and dry with age. I will love you as my once rock-hard abs become soft, and as my butt sags. I will love you as my hair becomes even thinner. I won’t compare you to anyone else I see, or criticize you to anyone.

I will feed you only what you absolutely love, only when you tell me that you desire the pleasure of nourishment from food, and I will listen deeply to learn whether it’s food you really need. When it isn’t, I will listen to whether you want to rest (and read a book, journal, take a bubble bath, take a nap, or meditate) or when you’re restless and want to move (go for a walk, stretch, dance). When you’re feeling very hurt, I will love you by giving you Reiki, or a massage, or a visit to a chiropractor or PT (or all of the above).

I will stop complaining and start being grateful for everything you’ve done for me, and for everything you will do for me, no matter how much or how little that is.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And, I promise.

Love always,

What Voices Inside my Head?

shittyToday I was looking through the notebook I used for my 200-hour yoga teacher training. One of the many things it reminded me of was what one of my teachers, Sudha, aptly called the “itty bitty shitty committee”.

We were talking about the koshas, or different layers of being, which I’ll briefly summarize as:

  1. Physical / food
  2. Energetic / breath
  3. Mental / thought
  4. Witnessing / observer
  5. Connected / blissful

I fondly recall an exercise where 6 of us wanna-be instructors were each assigned to “be” a layer, with the one extra person assigned to do yoga postures. (Since at the time I was uncertain about what the others would be asked to do, I volunteered to do the poses.) While I put myself into different shapes, my 5 peers talked at me (continuously). It was an incredible experiment! My physical body complained about aching or tightness, my breath body was struggling to inhale deeply. My observer was busy being abstract about the experience from a short distance away, while my bliss body was thoroughly wrapped up in a feeling of peace. But that mental body–the one comprised of SO many judgmental and critical committee members, was telling me I wasn’t good enough, comparing me to other students in the class, planning my next meal, worrying about what was happening back home, and so on. It was a madhouse in my  mind!

Ordinarily I wouldn’t realize how ridiculous some of the things I say to myself are, but in these moments, I couldn’t stop laughing. “Is this what really happens?” I thought? Yes, it is. But the difference between this exercise and real life is that WE LISTEN TO THESE VOICES, rather than see them for what they really are.

So, what is your itty bitty shitty committee saying to you today? Is it something to listen to? Is it worth the energy to talk back to them? Or, can you just close the door on that meeting room and walk away with a smile on your face, knowing you don’t have to buy what they’re selling?


Feeling like a fraud? Alone? Fearful? It may be time to re-connect.

fearEvery so often, my world gets shaken (not stirred), and I end up feeling like a fraud.

What I mean by that is that one or more of the following automatic negative thoughts appear in my mind (and often more, creating that “negative thought spiral” I love so much):

  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • People who believe in me are wrong.
  • Why can’t people see the truth?
  • I am a hypocrite because I still have trouble practicing what I preach.
  • Soon I’ll be discovered, and then… (there’s never anything here, other than terror).
  • I should give up now, before anyone can see me fail (again).
  • Why do they think I’m ____? (smart, confident, capable–insert whatever here)

One might see these feelings as natural and to be expected, as I’m still in the early stages of completely changing careers mid-life, but I know it goes deeper too. I remember feeling this way walking down the halls of the high-tech job I stayed the longest at– even after a few years into the job when I might have felt “settled in”. So what is this “feeling like a fraud” thing about, really?

Ah, my familiar friend: fear. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. No one likes me. Follow that train and I end up in the place where fear morphs into sheer terror: I’m alone. Completely and utterly alone.

Why do we often feel alone? (Ironically I know I’m not the only one who suffers from this.) Is it because we’re not being truly open, but rather walking around coated in an impenetrable armor that doesn’t allow others to really get close to us? Is it because we’re all wearing masks that hide what we’re really feeling? Is it because technology has distanced us, even though in many ways it functions to bring us closer together? Is it because we prioritize work, chores, errands, and general busyness over cultivating our interpersonal relationships? Is it because we hardly ever look each other in the eye, or ever really see past the wonderful lives people appear to have on Facebook? Is it because we’re always comparing ourselves to someone who has something better than us?

Regardless of the causes, what can we do to re-connect with our fellow travelers in this life? Here are some ideas:

  • Really listen to a friend complain, letting her know that it’s OK to feel what she feels, rather than judging her or trying to fix her problem.
  • Ask a person in the service industry (your barista, your cashier, your bus driver) how they’re doing today, and focus on their answer and their body language enough intuit what might really be going on.
  • Call someone on their birthday rather than commenting on their Facebook page.
  • Write a letter–yes, a hard-copy letter and snail mail it–to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Remind them of some small kindness or fond memory you shared.
  • Sincerely apologize for something you did and are not proud of, whether or not you know what triggered it or whether it was warranted.
  • Let a challenging topic go, especially if you’re not willing to be open to another point of view.
  • Pay it forward: buy the next person’s gasoline or sandwich. Leave an (anonymous but) inspiring note behind.
  • Smile at everyone, even if you don’t initially feel like it. Notice what happens.
  • Share something you know with someone, and/or learn something new from them.
  • Go to a Meetup or social event where you don’t know anyone, and make it a point to find out who 1-3 people are.
  • Sit at the sushi counter (instead of at a table with your iPhone or book) and strike up a conversation with the other lone soul sitting next to you.
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbor you’ve lived next to for N years and discover something you have in common.

And when all else fails and the fear takes over, build and hide in a pillow-fort until the storm passes, or someone digs you out (because they always will).

Other thoughts? Ideas? Can you relate? Share them please. None of us wants to feel alone.