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.)

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.)