The power of knowing your superpowers

Do you know what you superpowers are?

The gifts you were born with that make you uniquely you? The ones you were meant to share with the world?

Recently I was reminded of mine. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

I was in the middle of a challenging situation with a colleague. I was feeling criticized and dismissed. As though I was just a number. A cog in the wheel. Nothing special.

The exact opposite of how I believe we all deserve to feel.

As a result, my confidence was taking a hit. I began second-guessing myself . And everything I said or did. I felt like I was walking on eggshells (always a bad sign for a recovering people-pleaser like me). I knew I was not acting in alignment with my true self.

My intuition was on high alert. My brain began screaming “danger, danger, pay attention!”

So I decided to take a step back and analyze the situation a bit more carefully. To sit with my anxiety instead of run from it. To see what my body – always a barometer for my soul – had to say.

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Am I worthy of love?

A girlfriend of mine recently said something that gave me pause. That perhaps I hadn’t yet found a man worthy of me.

Worthy of me?

What a concept! It seems so basic. Yet I realized as soon as she said it that I’ve actually had it backwards all my life.

I’ve been trying to prove to men that I am worthy of them.

I’ve worked so hard to show them that I’m good, kind, smart, and capable.

And even more, that I’m not too needy, too emotional, or lord help me, too dependent! For fear they would run in the opposite direction.

Ugh. Seriously?! Wtf is up with that?

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Embracing all of me (even the parts I don’t like)

You’d think I’d be incredibly happy while accomplishing one of my life-long dreams. Well sure, I was happy. But I was also blindsided at the same time by some pretty deep feelings of self-doubt.

Dreams don’t always show up quite the way we imagine.

The journey to my dream started twenty plus years ago when I read a book called Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Barbara Barron and Paul D. Tieger. My boyfriend at the time suggested it to me when I expressed some confusion over which career direction to take next.

OK I’ll be honest. I was actually in the middle of a major identity crisis at the time. After having just quit a very unsatisfying sales job.

When I say unsatisfying I mean it was the kind of job that made me utterly sick to my stomach. Every Sunday night I would anxiously bite off all of my fingernails as I contemplated my upcoming work week (I kid you not).

Clearly I was not born to be a sales person. But who was I and what was I good at? Or more importantly.

What was I meant to do with my life?

That was the real question.

In fact it’s what I’ve always wanted to know. Ever since I can remember I’ve been asking those big kind of questions.

Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

After graduating from high school and wandering the globe for a few years, I decided to return to school for a Marketing and Sales Diploma. At the time I believed it was a very good fit for me. I was after all upbeat and people-oriented. And great at promoting things I believed in.

And besides, the personal coaching field (a much better fit in hindsight) was nonexistent at the time. So marketing and sales it was.

But taking a job as an outside sales rep turned out not to be such a great idea.

I hated working alone. Driving around the city. Hauling cumbersome bags of product in and out of my car. And being constantly turned away. Stood up. Or rejected by potential customers.

I was way out of my comfort zone. Waaaay out.

I felt insecure, nervous and completely frazzled most days. Quitting that sales job was a lesson in self-preservation if ever there was one.

During my big identity crisis that followed though, I was completely lost. I had absolutely no idea what to do next.

So when my boyfriend suggested I read Do What You Are to discover the kind of careers that suited my particular personality type best, I gobbled the book up. Then several more on the same subject.

Discovering the world of personality types was a big turning point in my life.

I was introduced to a whole new me.

I learned a great deal about the way I operate in the world. That I get my energy from people and taking action. I love working on teams and need harmony in my work environment. While l love freedom and variety, I also need some structure. And I’m passionate about lifting others up and inspiring them.

Most importantly though I learned I don’t need to be anyone else but me.

That there is no right or wrong way. Or better or worse type to be.

Embracing my own type helped to set me free. To step out of the box. To just be me.

unique red flower like the uniqueness of Myers-Briggs types

Over the years whenever I got off course career-wise (or any-wise for that matter!) I would often revisit those books. And be reminded of who I was at my core. What I was naturally good at. And what I wasn’t. So I could let go of those pieces with relief.

Inevitability I would always feel better.

Fast forward another couple of decades (and a few official Myers-Briggs assessments to confirm my type) and I’m still reaping the benefits.

I know my type (an ENFJ in case you’re wondering) almost inside and out. And I know when I’m acting from my strengths versus my weaknesses. And how to course correct.

It’s been a great self-awareness tool to have. One that has guided me along my path.

And the added bonus?

As I’ve learned about others’ types I’ve become far more understanding. Far more accepting of the differences that sometimes lie between us. Far more encouraging of others to just be themselves.

I knew that one day I wanted to take my passion for Myers-Briggs personality types to the next level. To become a Certified Myers-Briggs Trainer. In order to help others learn what I had learned: how to uncover and embrace their own unique ways of being in this world. And to let go of any self-judgement.

So it was surprising to me that after all these years of loving what Myers-Briggs personality types have taught me, so many raw emotions were triggered while completing certification earlier this month.

Sure there was the fact that the training took place just a few blocks away from my ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Where I’d spent many lovely weekends the previous year. Memories of our time together came flooding back. Along with some intense feelings of sadness and loss.

But still. That wasn’t all of it.

Somehow I’d imagined that sitting in that classroom with 30 other like-minded individuals would completely inspire me. 100% of the time.

That I’d feel on purpose. And would come away from each day feeling rejuvenated and revved up.

Nope. That’s not how it went down at all.

Instead of feeling lifted up and inspired, I often felt insecure and self-critical.

Instead of fully embracing my own natural preferences and strengths, and reveling in my own me-ness, I found myself doing something far less compassionate.

I kept comparing myself to others. And feeling crappy when I didn’t think I’d measured up. 

The very opposite of what Myers-Briggs is all about!

Ironic, I know.

One minute I felt high with excitement discussing a subject I was passionate about with others that seemed equally as passionate about it. The next I felt low with all kinds of self-doubt and self-judgment.

My inner critic whispered: You’re too sensitive, Kerry. Too emotional. You’re not logical and rational enough. You have too much energy. You come on too strong. Why can’t you be more like him or her (pick almost anyone else in the room)?

Ugh. I left one day feeling exhausted and close to tears.

As I sat on the bus home that night I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why was I always so darn sensitive, so emotional? So worried about what others think?

Why was I trying so hard to be something I wasn’t?

Why couldn’t I just embrace me? All of me? All of the time?

And then it hit me.

I was once again learning a valuable lesson from the Universe. That we often end up teaching what we ourselves need to learn.

That my greatest gift (and yes perhaps even my purpose on this planet) of encouraging others to love themselves just as they are, comes from my deepest pain.

My own lack of self-love and self-acceptance.

In order to help others love and accept themselves – to embrace their own imperfections and be gentle on their own souls – I have to learn those same lessons myself.

Again. And again.

I wish I could say the rest of the training was a lot easier as a result of that light bulb moment on the bus. And maybe it was a bit.

The emotional triggers still came. As did all of my self-doubts.

But I was far more aware of my inclination to bash myself over the head. And I was far gentler with myself, too.

And maybe that’s all I can ask for.

More awareness.

More kindness to myself in those moments of imperfection, and moments of self-doubt.

And more willingness to embrace all sides of myself. Even the ones that are hard to love.

Especially those ones.

As long as I’m open and willing to learn how to be kinder to myself, I’m moving in the right direction.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life when you were kinder to yourself? 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.)