Why blog, you ask?

Believe me, no one is more surprised than I am by the joy I’ve gotten from blogging.

I started not long ago in response to a challenge from a coaching friend of mine. I happened to mention to her in passing that I’d been playing with the idea of blogging for years. The next thing I knew, in classic coaching style, she was holding me accountable for posting my very first blog that same week.

I was terrified at first. But up for the challenge. Because let’s get real, I knew deep down inside of me there was a writer dying to get out.

I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I clicked “publish” that very first time. It was a mixture of pure delight. And absolute fear.

I hardly slept that night.

Looking back I don’t think anyone even read my first blog. Except for the friends I sent it to the next day. 

It was still thrilling nonetheless! Hearing my friends’ words of encouragement gave me the extra nudge I needed to continue down the terrifying path of blogging.

So if I was so terrified, then why blog, you ask?

Why not just continue along the safer path? The one where I write in a private journal like I’ve done for so many years?

Good question. Here’s why.

Blogging lets me speak my truth out loud.

Something I’ve been wanting – no, aching – to do my whole life.

It remindblogging pens me of my younger, carefree days. When I traveled abroad and wrote long heartfelt letters to my friends back home.

I didn’t critique or over-analyze my words, I just lived in the moment and spoke my truth on paper.

At the time it felt wonderfully freeing to express my emotions so openly. So honestly.

Later many of my friends would tell me how much those letters had meant to them. That they’d cherished them like gifts.

Blogging feels like I’m still writing those letters. Still speaking from my heart. Connecting soul to soul with my friends. Still sharing my sacred gifts.

Blogging has given me an outlet for authentic self-expression.

Something I’ve been craving for years.

It’s a way for me to share ALL of me. The parts I often keep protected and hidden from the world.

My superpowers.

The qualities that ultimately make me the best version of myself. My empathy and compassion. Rawness and vulnerability. My humour and my heart.

Blogging lets me connect to all of those. And to share them with others.

And surprise, surprise! That feels pretty darn good. 

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life of something you really love to do…that expresses who you are? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.) 

Just be yourself

When I was growing up my mother often said to me: just be yourself.

But did she really mean it? And why, after so many years, is it still so damn hard to do?

be yourself rocks in the sand

I have zero doubts my parents loved me. Yet sometimes their love felt conditional.

Just be yourself (as long as it’s the version we like).

In other words not the self that’s too whiny, too sensitive or too needy. And definitely not the one that gets angry. Good girls – nice girls – don’t get angry.

WE can be angry (and trust me they often were, at least with each other). But YOU certainly can’t be. That was the unspoken rule in our house. Because as soon as I showed up as my real, less-than-perfect self, with any sort of emotional need they couldn’t meet – I was criticized, teased or punished.

Please know that I’m not blaming my parents in any way. It was all they knew how to do. They grew up in the “children should be seen and not heard” eraIn my heart of hearts I know they did their very best with the tools they’d been given.

However it’s no big surprise I turned out to be a people-pleaser.

Especially as the youngest child of four. I was, after all, a very quick study. I watched my three older siblings closely. Whenever they got into trouble for something, I would tell myself: I’ll never do that. And so I didn’t.

Instead I chose the straight and narrow path. The very straight and narrow path. And became somewhat of a golden child.

In high school I was well-liked by other students and my teachers. I made the honour roll. Joined teams and committees. And never skipped a class. I didn’t dare step outside of the box.

No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. And certainly no boys. I had a standard to uphold after all. I was the good girl.

I aimed to please.

After entering University on a scholarship, I took a break to become a fashion model. And (gulp) beauty queen. I walked runways, posed for magazine and newspaper ads, and did TV commercials. I won three titles in one year: Miss North Shore, Miss Congeniality, and Miss Fresh Face. As well as a trip to New York City to meet the iconic Eileen Ford, owner of the Ford Modeling Agency.

It was exciting and utterly terrifying all at once. Inside I wondered: am I special enough? Am I worthy? Am I lovable?

Lord knows I strived to be all of those.

Eventually I finished school. Got a real job. Got married and had a child. I spent years trying to prove I was good enough. Responsible enough. To be what I thought others wanted me to be.

It was exhausting.

Somewhere in there was the real me.

But where was she? Who was she? And what did she really want?

It took a divorce and single parenthood at the age of 41 to fully wake me out of my people-pleasing stupor. I had focused so much on everyone else’s needs (including my ex’s) that I’d lost touch with my own.

I felt broken.

Over the next several years I gradually put my life and myself back together. And tried to figure out who I really was.

I found a great therapist who helped me start to peel off my people-pleasing mask.

And encouraged me to go back to school to become a Certified Life Coach. It was there that I finally found my “tribe” – a group of like-minded individuals who made me feel safe. Like I’d finally come home.

While training to become a Life Coach I was challenged over and over again to peel off even more layers of my false self. To finally get in touch with my true essence. The me I’d always been. But had just forgotten. 

It was incredibly freeing. The real me stepped up and out.

And for the first time I felt truly alive.

I learned to set boundaries. And say no without guilt.

I learned to check in with my heart. To trust my intuition. Trust myself. To be myself.

be yourself sign of authenticityBut even after all I’ve learned, I still struggle at times.

And I still get lost.

I can feel the pull to the dark side. The one where I try to please others instead of myself. Where I try to be the person I think others want me to be.

If I sense someone dislikes or disapproves of me, or an opinion I hold, I suddenly find myself shrinking back. Not wanting to show my true, authentic self. For fear of being judged or ridiculed.

Or worse. Of not being liked.

And it royally pisses me off.

My inner critic yells: haven’t you learned anything yet? Why can’t you stand up? Be seen and heard for who you really are?

Why can’t you just be yourself? Like your mother always suggested?

And then I take a deep breath (or two) and tell my inner critics to go take a hike.

Because sure, sometimes I still struggle to be myself. I probably always will a little bit. And that’s OK. That’s part of me. Part of my uber-sensitive, vulnerable, imperfect self.

And I’m learning to like that part. To actually embrace that part. It makes me human.

It makes me…ME.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life when you were able to just be yourself? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.) 

A new year, a new me

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. Somehow they’ve always felt forced and hollow. With no real joy attached.

So last week, when a friend sent me a New Year’s Eve meditation I was momentarily skeptical. This better not be about resolutions, I grumbled to myself.

But I was pleasantly surprised.

The goal of the meditation was to come up with a word that would guide me through 2017.

Yes! A word. I loved this idea.new year leap of freedom 

In the past I have done a similar thing – intuitively feeling my way into a word I believed would represent my coming year. A word that would help me move towards a more fulfilling life. And it had definitely worked.

At the end of one particularly challenging year, after losing my Dad, my beloved dog, and a close friendship all within two months, I was guided to choose two words for the upcoming year: openness and joy.

That year I focused on remaining open to possibilities and only moving towards people, ideas and experiences that brought me joy.

It turned out to be a very good year.

I shifted out of grief into some new and exciting areas. Took courses, met new people, and really put myself out there.

I became a Discover Your Sacred Gifts Certified Guide, landed a full-time job in a beautiful location with people I loved, and got back on my feet financially. Keeping the words openness and joy as my focus had moved me from a place of deep sadness into a brand new life.

At the end of that year I intuitively chose two more words (one of which I’ve already forgotten) to guide me through the next year. The word I didn’t forget – humbleness – ended up being far more powerful. And far more in my face.

After being a divorced, single parent for over a decade I was blessed to meet and fall in love with a wonderful man that year. However I had many, many humbling moments in our first few months together. As I learned to navigate our relationship.

I learned a lot about myself that year. And boy was some of that growth ever painful.

The Universe has a funny sense of humour. Humbleness is not a word I would choose again.

Last year I completely forgot about choosing a word and started the year off like any other. In hindsight I’d probably drifted away from the idea because I’d been so wrapped up in my relationship.

Like numerous times before, I had gotten distracted by we and lost touch with me.

So this year, I knew the guided word meditation was something that I wanted, or rather needed, to do.

My romantic relationship had become increasingly rocky over the past few months. And I was feeling confused about my future. I had been asking the Universe repeatedly for some guidance and clarity.

I knew instinctively that I needed to find a way to get centered before any decisions could be made. To go within to find myself again. Reconnect with my dreams and goals for the new year.

Meditating on a theme word for 2017 seemed like the perfect way to do it.

So one sunny afternoon last week I sat down on a bench above the sea. Plugged my earbuds in. Closed my eyes. And let the guided meditation take me on a journey.

Before I knew it, up from the very depths of my soul popped my new word for the year: freedom.

Yes I thought….freeeeedom!

It felt so good to say it! My spirit lifted instantly. My energy soared.

That was definitely my word. FREEDOM.

woman on the beach feeling freedom

Freedom to express myself fully. To feel ALL of my feelings without apology.

Freedom to follow my dreams and to choose my own path.

Freedom from guilt and shame. From feeling bad about myself for not being good enough. Happy enough. Calm enough. Kind enough. Fill in the blank enough.

And most importantly: freedom to be me. ALL of me.

Sensitive, emotional, loving.

And yes, sometimes overwhelmed, cranky and hot-headed, too.

As I sat there in the sun and contemplated the word freedom, a funny thing happened. The word gave me hope. It helped to guide me back to myself. To my inner guidance system. My intuition.

Back to my inner power. To knowing that no one needs to have my back. Because I have my back.

Back to knowing that I am worthy and lovable just as I am.

Over the next few days as I continued to hold the word freedom in my head and heart, I deliberated whether to stay in my relationship or not. The more I imagined the freedom that lay ahead of me by daring to let go of a relationship that was no longer serving me, the more hopeful I felt.

My answer was clear. There was no reason to hold on anymore to something and someone that was not feeding my soul. I was free to choose. And I was choosing to let go.

I now have a whole new year in front of me.

A year to rediscover myself. What I want. What makes me happy.

My slate is clean. 2017 looks clear and bright and shiny. And for the first time in a long time, I feel excited and free.

Very, very free.

(Now it’s your turn. What’s your special word for the year? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)

Do less, be more

Why is it that some weeks feel so darn hard compared to others? Everything can be rolling along just fine and then…bam! You feel like a mack truck hit you.

This has definitely been one of those weeks for me. One minute I felt excited and inspired. The next, all bent out of shape.

Strangely enough it all started during an upbeat coaching group I participate in weekly. We were challenged to choose a long-term goal, and adopt a series of dailyradical steps that would move us closer to it. The idea being that instead of just fantasizing about a dream, we would take actual steps towards it.

Sign me up. As a Certified Life Coach I love this sort of thing.

My heart instantly identified my goal: to speak my authentic truth in front of an audience. Yes, that was it! Speaking was something I’d dabbled in and had dreamed of doing more of for years. I welcomed a little kick in the butt to get me there faster.

But that’s when everything went sideways, and my tendency to over-think things got in my way. How could I break that goal down into bite-sized daily, radical steps? I mean, come on….daily?…radical? Yikes. That sounded intense.

The more I thought about it the more agitated I got. How the heck was I supposed to add anything radical to what seemed like an already busy and stressful life?

Between juggling my full-time office job, my role as a single-mom to a 13-year-old son (who suddenly had more extra-curricular activities than I could count) and the first long-term relationship I’d had with a man in over a decade, I had very little time, let alone desire, to add one more thing to my life. My bucket felt full, dream or no dream.

The more I tried to brainstorm ideas, the more paralyzed I felt. My body, always a barometer of my stress level, went into high overwhelm.

One morning I woke up with a brutal kink in my shoulder. The next with lower back and hip pain. And when my boyfriend came over for dinner I found myself snapping at him for no good reason. Ugh. I was starting to feel tired and depleted, and increasingly resentful about the challenge.

Daily, radical steps? I don’t think so.

do less woman on the beach

By mid-week even my regular seawall walk didn’t lift my spirits. The day felt gray and so did I.

Why couldn’t I figure this out? It was, after all, about moving towards a dream. Something I loved championing others to do. What was my problem?

It wasn’t until I finally had some down time (aka alone time, which these days seemed rare) to reflect, that things started to shift. When I got up that day I immediately wrote a list of all the tasks I wanted to accomplish around my home. You know, important things like vacuuming, scrubbing my tub and doing the laundry.

Hmm…..I took a deep breath and put down my pen.

What was I thinking? The tub? Laundry? Seriously? I was exhausted, tapped out and my body hurt. My inner gas tank was on empty. I needed some solid self-care before my body and spirit went down, big-time.

So I made a quick decision. I wasn’t going to do any of those things. Noooo way.

Instead I was going to take a well-deserved me day and do only the things I really wanted to do. Things that filled me up, that brought me joy.

And cleaning the dirty tub was certainly not one of them.

But calling one of my dearest girlfriends? Now that definitely was. Chatting with her is always a soul-enriching experience. Our conversations flow. I feel heard and gotten, and afterwards inspired! This call with her was no different.

Within minutes I realized we were both going through a similar process. As a wife and mother, she was feeling overloaded too and was longing for more ease in her life. Yet she was doing exactly what I had been doing this week: beating herself up for not being able to do it differently. For not being able to do more.

Ouch. I totally got it.

As she and I shared our frustrations we were able to extend to each other the compassion we had not been able to give to ourselves. And to give each other the permission we sometimes need (crave?) from others to let the unimportant stuff go.

Like scrubbing the tub when we’re already exhausted. Making dinner when ordering in would be easier. Or saying yes to a social event when all we want is to stay home in our pjs.

Permission to take a step back when we’re feeling tired, overwhelmed or depleted in order to figure out what we really need. And what would serve us better in that moment. For the sake of our sanity and that of those close to us.

And that’s when I had my light bulb moment.

My coaching challenge from earlier this week had nothing whatsoever to do with adding more to my plate! Instead it had everything to do with moving things off my plate.

That was my daily, radical step. To do less. 

To tap into and listen to my authentic voice, even (especially!) if it was exhausted and cranky. To take things just a little bit easier every day, and find ways to be gentler with my soul.

Now that was the kind of daily, radical step I could embrace.

And doing so would move me closer to my dream of speaking my truth to an audience. Because how could I possibly be authentic in front of others if I hadn’t first learned to be authentic with myself?

As they say: you teach what you need to learn. Clearly this was one lesson I needed to learn. That by allowing myself to do less each day, I would actually create more time and energy to be more authentically me.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of a one or two examples from your own life where you’ve learned to do less? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.) 

Step into your "enough-ness"

Recently I heard a woman on the radio use the phrase: step into your enough-ness. It stopped me in my tracks. 

Wow.

Step into your enough-ness.

OK, I get it. What a great reminder for a woman like me, a recovering perfectionist.

And what a terrific book or workshop title. I wrote it down in my journal of great ideas, as I have done so many times before, and then promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to today. I was out walking on the seawall, all alone in the rain. It was just me and my thoughts. And my growing anxiety about writing my very first blog.

What should I write about? 

What speaks to me? Comes from my heart? What would resonate with other women?

As my anxiety grew, my thoughts suddenly turned to the word ‘perfectionism’ and how it keeps showing up in my life. 

How my desire to do things perfectly (or to not be seen as imperfect) holds me back.

And how I use my fear of imperfection as a way to procrastinate. To not do the very thing I wish I could do: find my voice. Imperfect though it may be.

How hard I’ve had to work at believing in my core that I am good enough. That I can step into my own enough-ness.

I could certainly write about that.

Truth be told, I have wanted to write a blog for years.

But every time I took a step towards it my inner critics would rise up. And they were very, very convincing.

They would say cruel things like: “You’re not a writer. You have nothing of value to say. Who the heck is going to listen to you?”

And the kicker: “Who do you think you are?”

Ouch.

I thought about all the ways I had blown my blog off.

All the excuses I’d made for not expressing my voice. For not shining my own unique light out into the world.

I thought about all the people I’d believed in, cheer-leaded and coached to follow their own dreams. To not give up. To speak their own truth.

But when push came to shove, I had not been able to do the same for me.

My inner critics had always won. So instead of expressing my voice, I would go underground again. I’d tell myself it was OK. It wasn’t my time yet. Maybe it never would be.

So here I was, back at the starting gate. Back to the blog.

My inner light was craving to be set free, and my inner voice unleashed.

A few weeks ago I had committed to writing this blog on a whim. I promised a dear friend (who’s also my coach) that I would post it by the end of this week. I was excited at the thought of it, and knew I could do it – would do it – this time.

There would be no more excuses.

But suddenly with my deadline looming, I was procrastinating all over again. Same old, same old. I was ready to shove my voice down once more.

I felt sick.

How could I let my coach down? How could I tell her I was throwing in the towel? But even worse, how could I let myself down? Again?!

Before my inner critics won their battle, something else happened. Out on that seawall, today in the rain. Something magical. Something that changed everything for me. And gave me the courage to write.

Up, out of the calm waters, popped a seal. My totem animal. Spirit guide. Inner coach.

I’ve had an affinity with seals my whole life. I see them all the time. And every time I do, I believe they have a message for me.

totem seal representing good enough

So today, in the soft rain, I closed my eyes and asked this seal, this spirit guide of mine, what message it had for me.

Within seconds my answer came: don’t give up.

Keep moving forward, one step at a time. 

My heart lifted. And I realized that I was not going to buy into my procrastination this time. I was not going to listen to my fear. Nor let my inner critics win.

I was going to write my first blog, once and for all, damn it.

So here I am. My first blog is almost done. And like the seal rising above the surface of the ocean, I’m ready to let my spirit free.

I’ve found my voice. And I won’t let it go underground again.

This is my first big step towards embracing all of me. With all my imperfections. I know I will make mistakes. I have before. And I will again. But as they say: go big or go home.

I’m not ready to go home. I just got here.

And after all these years of fear and procrastination, I have finally found the courage to step into my own enough-ness.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life where you’ve felt you were good enough? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)