Thoughts from winter hibernation:

I’ve been quiet on here for a long time. Last summer, I took some big steps personally and professionally and some worked and some didn’t. Late Fall and Winter, I felt called to draw back inside and do some reflecting – take a couple of steps back and work on a stronger foundation for new growth. Now the seasons are changing again and the energy of Spring brings me out of hibernation and moves me into action. It asks me to take the self-reflection I’ve been practicing over the winter and apply it now on a bigger scale. I’m starting by breaking my silence and sharing my thoughts.

The foundation I’ve been working on is a big one: Self-Love. It’s at the heart of questions such as: How am I playing small? How am I demo-ing to the world my expectations of what I am worth and how I am to be treated? How, in my professional and personal life, have I let my self-doubts set the boundaries and expectations for relationships and compensation? If everything is an energetic give and take – how can I clean up my end of things so that I can show up fully for myself and for others and participate in setting the tone for our interaction and community? How can I lend my support to those whose support I need and want? How can I be the kind of person who is supported by the kind of people I want supporting me? How can I live a life of abundance?

Big AH-HA moment for me: I have no one else to blame. I am treated EXACTLY how I teach and allow others to treat me.

So this winter, I focused not on ‘believing’ (it goes deeper than that), but rather trusting and owning that I am Enough. I am worth it. This brought changes in my social circles and relationships, it brought shifts professionally. And most importantly of all – it brought clarity and new tools to use when things get rough and I need to reevaluate and recalibrate. I feel myself standing on a stronger foundation as I look forward.

Here are some practices that help me make the big leap to self-love:

1) Watch the self-talk. Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself? Does your language allow for possibility and empowerment or does it bring you down? Note: this does not necessarily mean standing in front of a mirror and speaking overly positive sound bites to yourself (although, if that works for you…far be it from me to judge!). In my experience, daily affirmations are just band-aids that ultimately deny the wounds the healing oxygen they need by covering up the ugly rather than a) looking at it; b) becoming aware of how the wound came to be and what continues to open it up; c) and then just allowing breath, time, and different choices to heal it gradually.

2) Watch the self-deprecating jokes. News flash – they’re not actually that funny. They’re cheap and easy ways to deflect discomfort and they only serve to make you feel small or to fish for compliments. This DOES NOT mean you can’t or shouldn’t laugh at yourself. Laughter is awesome. Taking yourself too seriously is usually not. But in every joke lies a grain of truth – what story are you choosing to tell others about your truth? Note: Self-deprecating jokes CAN be awesome tools to help you become aware of the areas in your life where you feel inadequate or uncomfortable.

3) Follow Connection. Where you feel connected, there is flow and acceptance. Where you don’t feel an easy connection, you are most likely going to be caught up in some type of people-pleasing game – always competing for a perfection you will never achieve. That’s painful. Nobody enjoys playing a game you can’t win. You either give up or get bitter. And here’s the thing – there’s no need to play that game because you were born worth it. You may make mistakes (who doesn’t?) but as long as you show up each and every day with a sincere intent to do your best in any given moment, you can’t actually BE wrong. You can Do wrong, but you can’t BE wrong. So whether it’s professionally or in personal relationships, ask yourself if you are being empowered to grow and learn even in mistakes or if you feel wrong all the time. Make giving your time and energy a priority where you feel acceptance and where you feel safe when open.

4) Forgive yourself. You WILL make mistakes. And the habits and responses in your life that aren’t serving you will keep coming back until you manage to change them. Here’s the beauty in that – you get to keep practicing! Rarely do you only get one shot. The circumstances and people may change, but the larger stimulus and programed response does not (at least without awareness). My mantra in these circumstances is “Each time with more grace.” This reminds me that I have a choice. When I find myself about to respond in a way that I KNOW (based on multiple past experiences) does not work, I take a breath and try something different. Rarely is my new response ‘right’ either, but at least it’s different. So then the next time, I can try something different again. I can forgive myself for making mistakes if they are new and different ones because at least I am learning and growing. And although it may not be perfect, usually each new attempt leads to a situation where the suffering for myself and others who may be involved is slightly less. That’s compassion. That’s growth. And there’s only room for those two things when we can forgive ourselves for not being perfect and look at our mistakes clearly, rather than running away from them in fear and failure.

5) Be the type of person you want in your life and surround yourself by the kinds of people who teach you more about who you want to be. There are memes going around facebook right now that say it more succinctly: “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” I am so filled with gratitude when I look around at the people in my life and see what amazing things they are up to; the courage with which they face the world authentically, vulnerably; and their commitment to choosing love over fear. But then I realize – hey, I am friends with them (and I see those traits in them) because I am that way, too, and I value and look for those things. How we perceive others is a reflection of ourselves, after all. This means not only have I attracted that type of person to me, but that it becomes mutually re-enforcing as they inspire and remind me when I’m having an ‘off day’ of what is big, true, and important. Note: this doesn’t mean that ALL your relationships will be this deep and meaningful. Nor does it mean you have to cut tons of people out of your life or judge others for their journey- it’s a question of prioritizing where you send the majority of your time and energy and being intentional in who you hang out with and how it might affect your mood. When you can be honest with yourself about you, you can see your relationships with others more clearly and can seek out at any given moment those who will reinforce what you are needing at that time.

6) Have faith in your experience. Trust that your gifts and challenges are exactly the ones you were meant to have on your journey and that your journey is yours for a reason. It may not be self-evident, but you are here to be the best possible version of yourself and that person has their part to play in healing the world. A fish only looks stupid if you ask it to fly and you can’t win or feel awesome about yourself if you’re trying to live someone else’s life. Live YOUR life. It’s the only one you have any hope of succeeding at.

7) Set yourself up for success and confidence. I recently saw another (unattributed) meme on facebook that states: “Confidence isn’t walking into a room thinking you’re better than everyone, it’s walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone at all.” This has stayed with me because I most definitely have a lively jealousy monster. She lives inside me and she can definitely turn green. When I find myself struggling to live my own life, becoming jealous of someone else, or in a competition mentality wherein if they succeed at something, I will automatically fail, I ask myself: What do I need to shift right now to be able to walk into a room and not compare myself? What boundaries do I need to set? Do I need to sleep or eat (because yes, my little monster is most lively when I am hungry and tired)? Have I spent too much time focusing on others and do I need to come back to myself? What quality are they possessing or what goal are they achieving right now that I feel I am not and is there something I can do to bring more of that into my life? How can I give success to myself?

8) Don’t take failure personally. No matter how much we practice, prepare, or plan, until the timing is right on our end and the ends of anyone else involved – we will not succeed. This does not mean we are a failure. It’s just a sign that the timing isn’t quite right yet. As humans, we dream big and that’s the gift that keeps us propelling forward. But often our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we seek achievements that we are not yet ready to steward or wield responsibly. Trust that when you ‘fail’ it doesn’t mean you won’t ever succeed – just maybe you need to take a few steps back and build up competency or a stronger foundation, get some more clarity, or find a new approach. Cultivate patience, trust in a timing you have no control over, and follow what you brings you alive. As long as you keep passion and dreams in your life and roll with the punches, the life you want will come to you when you are ready (and maybe even in ways you never dreamed of)!

9) Develop a hobby that you do alone. No matter how wonderful your friends and loved ones are, there are days when people need to recharge. Lives are busy and it sometimes happens that our support network can’t be there for us. I have wasted time struggling with that – feeling alone, feeling rejected, feeling not good enough. I have to remind myself that ultimately, it’s not about me. And so now, when I reach out to friends to hang out and am turned away, I take my camera and got outside and get lost in patterns, textures, light, scenery, etc. Or I read a book. Or I cook food. Or I go play in the garden. Sometimes I blast music in my room and dance around dressed in crazy clothes, singing loudly. Sometimes I curl up in bed and watch Netflix until my eyes glaze over. In these moments, I have some things I truly enjoy doing alone so that my happiness is not dependent on others and circumstances I have no control over. Note: Although I am a HUGE fan of the Netflix marathons, I do also recommend a hobby that does not involve tuning out the world or distracting yourself from the feeling of being alone, but rather allows you to embrace it. There IS a difference.

May you see yourself as others see you. May your world be filled with abundance, rather than competition. May you live your gifts and trust your light. May we all choose Love over Fear and in so doing, may we heal the world.