An Invitation To Be More Genuine and Live From Our True Selves

I’ve been thinking a lot for the past few years about the idea of being more genuine in all areas of my life.

I’ve heard people talk about masks that we all wear. That we have masks for all areas of our lives and take them off at home – or sometimes not even at home. I’ve heard that there’s a difference between our so-called social self and our professional self.

This has never sat right with me. When I hear about those kinds of things, my bullshit meter starts ringing. This way of looking human nature is what feels so slimy to me about traditional marketing, branding, messaging, and quite honestly some relationships.

I no longer feel comfortable with people that behave one way in my presence and then behave differently somewhere else. And admittedly, I certainly have in the past betrayed my integrity to go along and keep peace.

You probably know what I’m talking about. When you’re with someone and you can tell they are behind a facade. Like they are physically present, but you can’t really find them. You can feel when you’re not getting someone’s true self.

More and more over the years I see how much I value genuineness – this feeling that someone’s true Self is really present.

So I strive (not always succeeding!) to be genuine whether I’m talking to a potential client, a friend, or my husband at home. I’m still learning.

What does this mean? This means being who I am and not hiding. It means not pretending to feel something I don’t feel. It means being congruent with my internal feelings and my outward behavior. Bottom line: It’s not lying just to go along.

Now here’s an important piece to this. Being genuine does not mean saying everything I think. It does not mean correcting people all the time when I disagree with them.

It definitely does not mean saying whatever I want to whomever and then not caring what they think or how they feel. That’s just being an asshole.

If you’re an Enneagram fan, my personality tends to sit comfortably at Type 8, and I’m aware that my communication style can sometimes come off harsh or abrasive. It can have an impact on the recipient that I don’t intend. Being genuine for me requires self-reflection, self-awareness, constant work on myself and my issues.

None of this is easy. I fail miserably sometimes. I’ve agreed to do things even though I didn’t really want to do them. (I keep getting better at saying no) And on the other side of that, I’ve woken up more than morning after spending time with friends asking myself if I was too harsh or too overbearing. Was I honest in a way that could have been hurtful?

My ongoing intention is to be genuine with a compassionate awareness of how I am in relationship to others.

I’m interested in knowing where in life you haven’t been genuine or have noticed someone else not being genuine. How did that feel?

So if we meet, please don’t show me your social or professional self or any self that has to be named. Show me You. That You without the labels or masks, and I’ll do the same.

Healing Doesn’t Happen To Us

Healing Doesn’t Happen To Us

As a therapist, I’ve heard the phrase “Therapy doesn’t work” (or some version of this – it’s ineffective, takes too long) many times.

I wonder if some people go in to see a therapist thinking that the therapist can heal them in some instant, magical way. This was often the case in my work with foster and adopted children when parents and foster parents told me to “just fix” their child.

But healing doesn’t just happen to us. It happens because of us.

Each person needs to be an active participant in their own healing.

I strongly believe that the source of healing – anyone’s source of healing – doesn’t rest with the therapist. (The consciousness of the therapist is important, so please do find a competent one who continually does their own inner work.) But healing is a verb – own it. Healing requires conscious action, commitment, courage, and willingness.

You may be asking, “Then what’s a therapist for?”

A therapist shines a light on blindspots. A therapist is a guide and (hopefully) a loving and safe presence, which is needed when someone’s experiencing pain. A therapist can often symbolize the loving parent we may not have had but wanted.

A therapist holds the space for healing to take place and that healing comes from within the client.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, tell them. If it’s not a match, don’t give up on therapy – find a new therapist.

My dear friend and very talented TMJ and sleep specialist Dr. Dave Shirazi encourages his patients to take ownership of their own healing by having them sign a form which states the following:

“We understand you have come to us seeking help in resolution of the issues and problems you have been facing for considerable time now. We want to be clear on how the healing process works for everyone. At all times, and with no exceptions to this rule, you are always in control of your own healing and are even doing your own healing. All healthcare providers, at best, can only facilitate your well being, that is why there are no guarantees in medicine. It is 100% your responsibility to follow the directions, recommendations, referrals, care of appliances, office visits and treatment given by your healthcare provider(s), as well as to give feedback and inform us of any challenges and wins along the way. . . But we cannot heal for you. Please be clear on this point. To that end, and for this process to continue, we ask that you acknowledge your responsibility of your own health and well being. Responsibility is yours to have, and responsibility is your power of healing.

“I, (client name), understand that I am responsible for my own health and well being. I am fully aware that the doctors and staff and referred doctors at the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Conejo Valley are here to facilitate my wellness, but do not heal for me. My healing occurs by me and for me. . .”

This is brilliant. This kind of active healing requires being vulnerable and not just saying what one thinks they want their therapist to hear. It requires being honest with oneself and the therapist when things aren’t going right and giving that therapist feedback – and it requires doing the work.

 

Honesty & Vulnerability

Honesty & Vulnerability

One of the issues I see frequently in therapy with my clients is an overwhelming fear of being vulnerable – with me and with others. This can make moving forward in therapy tricky.

I’ve struggled with being vulnerable as well. In the past, it’s felt unsafe.

We live in a culture where we are afraid of our fear and our feelings, and vulnerability is mistakenly associated with weakness. It can feel uncomfortable, because we are afraid of what others will think of us or afraid of being hurt.

One of the best ways to connect with those we love and the only way that true healing can happen is if we are brave enough to be honest with ourselves and vulnerable with others.

This requires not hiding behind anger (which can feel powerful) or not hiding behind a wall of perceived strength built by the ego.

Brené Brown says is best in Daring Greatly: vulnerability is life’s greatest dare.

 

A Dose of Hope & Inspiration

A Dose of Hope & Inspiration

I’ve seen the video below three times, and each time it brings tears to my eyes.

It’s one of the best examples of human creativity and the power of internet to bring together people from different countries and cultures in what I would call an expression of love. Breaking down boundaries across the globe and generations. Just so damn beautiful.

So here you go. A small dose of feel-good inspiration to get you off your butt and out doing something good in the world:

 

 

Being Good Enough

Being Good Enough

Several years ago my daughter played the cello when she was in elementary school and it thrilled me to no end. The sound of the cello resonates deep in my body. It’s melancholy, and I hear it sing a sad song of yearning and longing for the beloved.

It is truly my favorite instrument – and she was damn good.

So when the kiddo switched to the clarinet, well . . . that was a sad day for me. And when I was required to complete a heartfelt project in the second year of my Master’s Program, I decided that it was time for me to give it shot and learn to play.

I was pretty nervous about this undertaking. I’d not played any instrument since I took piano lessons as a child and over the years had developed a misbelief that I was not creative enough to play anything.

And not only would I be learning to play the cello in a few short months, but there were rumors that I just might possibly perform in front of my 200-person class at the end of the year . . .

So off I went. I hired an amazing cello instructor named Emily at Baxter Northrup, rented a beautiful cello that I named Neda, and met with my Project Team mates (Alycia Schlesinger and Jenny Caruso) twice a month for mutual support.

I practiced in hiding at first because I was embarrassed about my playing but with my husband’s encouragement, I quickly learned to ignore the negative self-talk and moved from the bedroom to the living room for my evening routine.

During our Project Team meetings, I shared with Alycia and Jenny all of the fears and judgments that surfaced about myself while pushing my edge this way. They all boiled down to “I wasn’t good enough.”

The final criteria to fulfill my project was to perform in front of my Project Team – easy – they loved me and cheered me on the entire time. As we neared the end of the year though, I started to wonder what it might be like to actually perform in front of my large class.

When the time came, I signed up to perform for the class on the final day (with everyone else who opted to present their completed project). I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep well the night before. I asked myself, “Who are you and why in the world are you doing this??”

I somehow managed to make it to class, walk up on stage with my heart pounding, coherently say some kind of introduction to the class, and play.

And here’s the thing: I was pretty bad. I didn’t practice enough as I probably should have and I sat up there squeaking away. I knew when I decided to perform that my playing wasn’t going to sound that great and some of my notes were going to be off. But I wanted to challenge myself anyway. Could I get up there and let others see me unpolished and imperfect?

As I played the last note, I looked up and saw my fellow classmates erupt into a standing ovation. It went on for a long while as I bowed in gratitude. I remember looking over at my husband, Alycia, and Jenny and seeing all three of them crying. I could see on their faces how proud they were of me. It was a pretty special moment.

I left the stage thinking, “Wow! I just did that!” and I was high the rest of the day. This was a significant stretch for the introvert who prefers to be in the background. Students congratulated me all weekend and several thanked me. One person said, “I realized when I saw you up there that I didn’t have to be perfect and that was freeing.”

I’ve become a fan of being good enough, of ignoring the whispers of ego-perfection, of letting whoever I am in the moment be just fine.

Go Change Lives, Mom

Go Change Lives, Mom

“Go change lives, mom.”

That’s what my kiddo said to me the other day as my husband and I left for Madera, CA, to spend three days in a women’s prison.

This was a service project with 80+ other volunteers for the Freedom to Choose Foundation led by Drs. David and Bonnie Paul. For three days we teach and practice communication skills with the women and these skills are life-changing for them. They share with us how much they learn and how they use the skills with their fellow inmates and their families. (You can learn more about this on the FTC website freedomtochosefoundation.org. And watch these videos!)

But I’ll tell you what the secret ingredient is for these experiential workshops. It’s not just communication skills the women are getting from us. They are also getting our open hearts and our care and our loving attention.

When I first volunteered for FTC several years ago, I was afraid of going into a prison, of being around people who had committed murder, of the correctional officers, the watch towers and metal fences everywhere. The no bargaining for hostages policy was sobering. My fear lasted for all of three minutes as the inmates greeted me with gratitude, smiles, and hugs. What really struck me was how much the women in prison were yearning for connection, for someone to care. And not just the women – we completed our first workshop in a men’s prison last year, which was amazingly successful, and I experienced the same thing: people wanting someone to care.

This recent workshop was my fifth time volunteering for FTC and as I share about this with other people, I’m often asked the question, “Why do you go and spend your time doing this?”

How do I put into words what it feels like watching someone who has felt worthless their whole life and has made decisions based on that finally start to see that there actually is good inside of them, of watching their heart open to loving and care for the first time in years? Or perhaps the first time ever? To watch someone realize that they can make different choices and that they are worthy of love and kindness and can give that back to others. To hear a lifer say that even though she’s in prison she can start to be a better person to herself and those around her. In the men’s prison, one man said to me, “I come from the projects and I always thought that’s where I belonged. I’m realizing that I have other choices and that this is my designed community of caring people.” There are no words for how deeply moved I am to be part of this.

Sometimes people ask me if the inmates deserve it – the bigger question they are asking is do people in prison deserve us to treat them with loving, respect, and kindness and deserve to have a free self-improvement workshop given to them. That question is short-sighted.  And my short answer is yes. They’re doing their time, and, as one inmate put it, prison is hell. Some are paying reparations for their convictions. I met one woman who had been in prison for more years than I’ve been alive. And if they want to learn a new way to be and learn how to be better people and better citizens of our society, let’s help them do that.

The bottom line is that if people feel loved, if they feel good about themselves they will make different choices with their lives. It’s likely that a lot of these women will be paroled sometime in the future. Doesn’t it just make sense to give them tools that they can actually use to make their lives better when they’re out?

I hear their stories of repeated physical and sexual abuse, forced prostitution, neglect, betrayal and I understand why they wound up in prison. I’m not making excuses for them, and I’m not advocating emptying the prison system. My message here is one of understanding and empathy. The Freedom to Choose Foundation is proving that people in prison can make positive lasting changes in their lives.

This has easily been one of the most profound experiences of my life. If you’d like to help with real and lasting rehabilitation, check out the Freedom to Choose Foundation and donate or spread the word.

What’s On Your Not To Do List?

What’s On Your Not To Do List?

Some of us have To Do lists that we love and live by. I happen to be one of those people. There’s a lot that I want to accomplish during my day and a list supports me in keeping focused – usually. (I do allow myself some flexibility.)

But I recently considered what might be on my Not To Do List.

Here’s what I came up with for today:

Not To Do:
1. Judge myself for making mistakes.
2. Replay conversations in my head thinking I should’ve said something different.
3. Speak harshly to myself and others.
4. Believe negative thoughts about myself or others.
5. Let fear hold me back.

NOTE: This is NOT an opportunity to add more self-judgment and shame onto the day. This is an opportunity to identify what energy-draining patterns I can shift in my consciousness. I won’t add things onto this list that I can’t possibly live up to and then feel even worse about later. Get the idea?

I made a downloadable version that can be printed to keep handy. You can get it by clicking here: Not To Do List.

I wonder, what will you not do today?

 

The JOY!

The JOY!

I was talking to one of my friends recently and she asked me how I was doing. I shared with her that I was feeling extraordinarily well and have been for weeks. I also shared that I was starting to feel guilty about telling people how great I was doing.

This is what’s been fun and sometimes challenging to share with people: Since the end of December, I’ve been feeling amazingly great – and I mean super-duper fantastic. I’m experiencing deep peace inside. More internal and external freedom, copious amounts of joy, contentment that I’ve not felt before, courage to dream and try new things.

(There are several reasons for what I’m feeling and they can basically be summed up by saying that I’ve started doing things I enjoy rather than things that I feel obligated to do.)

This feeling was further deepened when I was driving home from an appointment a few weeks ago and remembered a Byron Katie quote and had a powerful awareness that struck me in every cell in my body. The thought was, “I have everything I need. I have every single, little thing that I need – and I always have.

“When you realize that whatever you need is what you get, life becomes paradise.” -Byron Katie

Writing about it now, I’m not sure that I can truly convey the profoundness of this experience for me. Not only do I have everything I need financially, but emotionally and spiritually. And I always have.

Driving on the freeway that morning, I laughed for a long time in my car and experienced such a deep sense of gratitude.

And the only time I step out of that peace is when I think I don’t have enough or I need more than I have.

So when people ask me how I’m doing, I want to say that I’m feeling so freaking fantastic that sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs!

Not to say that I don’t have challenges – I do, because I’m human. I sometimes feel hurt and sad and angry. But I feel different when those challenges come up. I’m different, and I approach those situations differently.

And I’ve felt guilty saying that up until now. I’ve been feeling guilty sharing with people how amazing my life is – how amazing life is.

My silly irrational thoughts? They were:

  • Maybe the person I’m talking to will feel bad because they’re not feeling as good as I am.
  • Maybe the person I’m talking to is going through a hard time and doesn’t really want to hear some loony talking about inner peace.
  • Maybe someone will think I’m full of shit.

Ha! What BS!

So here I am sharing my JOY!

I won’t hide my light because of or for others because of some false sense of loyalty or protection. In fact, Joy is contagious, so spread it around!

In what subtle ways are you dimming your light? Be still and let this question sit for awhile. What comes forward?

 

A Thought on Depression

A Thought on Depression

Depression can be a stepping stone to the next higher version of ourselves, and, as someone who has experienced depression in the past, this was the case for me. You can click here for a quick post about reframing depression and the opportunity it affords someone if the message it has can be heard.

“The word ‘depressed’ is spoken phonetically as ‘deep rest.’ We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.
Jeff Foster

Not that depression is restful – it’s not. It can be deeply painful.

But have you ever felt exhausted by who you thought you had to be – by the weight of your own identity? By the false self that has been a heavy facade to carry?

It’s unnecessary, and it’s time to put it down.

 

You Don’t Know How Wonderful You Are

You Don’t Know How Wonderful You Are

A colleague that I look up to as a mentor, named Alissa, said this to me recently. I had a project to complete over the weekend with a group of amazing people. It was a challenging weekend but really sacred work. After we completed the project, I expressed my insecurities about my performance to her.

She looked at me for a moment and with so much tenderness in her eyes she said, “You don’t know how wonderful you are.” I couldn’t help but take it into my heart.

I’ve actually heard this before. I lived with a woman who stepped in as a substitute mother when I needed one many years ago. Her name was Carrie and we were very close. In our long conversations she would often say to me, “You just don’t know how special you are, do you?”

That phrase has stayed with me all of these years, and I often think about what she said to me. It still warms my heart today thinking about her.

I think it’s taken me a while to really let her words sink in. I’ve been playing small for a long time because of an irrational lack of self-confidence. An unproven thought I was not good enough for (fill in the blank).

My experience this past weekend was an eye-opener. I received really positive prizing and feedback from the leaders of our project and still felt that I wanted to push their kind words away. It reminded me of this video that I saw on Upworthy.  If you’re a woman, it’s worth watching and watch until the end. It’s pretty funny.

Today I declare this limiting pattern in my consciousness done with.

I forgive myself for ever judging that I wasn’t good enough for anything.

What would my life be like without this silly insecurity and without that old “not good enough” story? What wonderful things would I be able to accomplish knowing that I’m good enough for whatever it is I want to tackle?

I’m excited to find out.

So, dear reader, do you know – really know –  how wonderful you are?