Do you fully love yourself?
I can honestly say that after 14 years of personal development work, I do not. I do not love myself fully and unconditionally. Sure, I've made great strides in this area but I'm not where I prefer to be.
Recently I began looking closely at my motivation and I asked myself:
"Why am I judging myself? Why am I criticizing myself? Why am I beating myself up? Why am I choosing to do what I do, believe what I believe, and hold onto these destructive patterns the way I'm holding onto them? Why am I ultra-focused on my body? Why haven't I accepted the bumps and imperfections and fat and sun-damaged skin? Why do I feel the need to punish myself? What is holding me back from truly loving myself, fully and unconditionally?"
Its a lot, I know. A lot of questions. Yet the only way I can make the changes I say I want to make is to ask the questions, cultivate a sense of curiosity, explore gently my inner world, and then speak the truth of it to myself.
Did any of the above questions resonate with you?
We are not loving ourselves fully and unconditionally because we are holding onto a belief that says the alternative is worse.
Read that again.
We are holding onto a belief that says, loving myself unconditionally carries with it some effects I don't prefer, that I believe are more negative than what I'm experiencing by continuing to experience a lack of self-love.
What do you believe would be so bad about loving yourself that you refuse to do it?
You, we, the majority of us, are refusing to love ourselves fully and unconditionally because somehow the alternative is worse.
What are you believing to be true?
It's a matter of finding out why you would believe the alternative, that loving yourself, would be worse than not loving yourself.
Why would doing something different (loving yourself fully and unconditionally) be worse than what you're doing now (self-judgment, self-criticism, self-hatred), as painful as it may be?
Is not loving yourself safer?
Is not loving yourself less alienating to people?
Is not loving yourself making you more like everyone else so you don't have to feel too different?
What are you afraid might happen if you truly and deeply and unconditionally loved yourself?
When you answer those questions honestly, then you can begin to change the belief to one you prefer, to one that moves you into love for yourself.
In my willingness to understand, I discovered some beliefs that weren't so surprising. Beliefs that say people will judge me, I will be abandoned, I won't fit in, I won't be the person people expect me to be, and I will make people uncomfortable.
But I also uncovered the beliefs that I must conform and be accepted and that loving myself will look bad on my parents. What????
These two beliefs sent my exploration in a direction I wasn't expecting it to go. Back to my ancestors, my family that immigrated from Ireland, Portugal, and Italy many years ago. Like all immigrants, they needed to assimilate to their new surroundings and the new culture. They learned to conform. To survive, to thrive, to find employment and a community, they needed to fit in. Not be different, not stand out, not be fully themselves, but rather be the way the culture and society expected them to be. To look a certain way, act a certain way, and be a certain way.
To fully love myself means to stand in my power, my integrity, my truth, my weirdness, my uniqueness, my colors, and my light.
I was taught, through the generations, through my family lineage, not to do that! I remember so clearly the many times my mother said to me, "Stop doing that. People are looking at you." I love my mother deeply and I don't blame her for this. She was simply doing what she was taught.
So is it no surprise why I, and others like me, don't love ourselves fully and unconditionally when so much of what we were taught was conditional?
For the moment I am still holding myself to those standards and expectations which means that if I am truly myself and love myself for being me, then I stand out from the crowd and run the risk of being rejected.
THIS my friends, is how deep the negative, fear-based beliefs run. It is only when you can move your awareness to your core can you uncover those things that hold you back from loving yourself.
So allow for the deep dives with playful curiosity and loving awareness so that you too can move back into full love and acceptance of who you really are.
In peace, light, and inspiration,
On Monday August 7th my son asked, “Mom, is that a hawk?”
I responded with, “Yes, it is. I’ve been hearing it all morning.”
The hawk is my favorite bird, with the bald eagle coming in a close second. I see them often, soaring in the sky above or being harassed by the crows or landing in a tree behind my house. I knew though, that there was something different about the hawk we were hearing that day. To me it sounded like a juvenile, like it was a young hawk calling out for it’s parents.
Early Tuesday morning I looked out my kitchen door and saw a bird sitting on my fence. At first I thought it was an owl but upon a second glance I knew it was a hawk. It was a fledgling. The one I heard the day before. Rain was forecasted and soon after taking my first photos and videos, the skies opened, and it poured for hours. The fledgling sat out all day exposed and vulnerable. He found comfort on my neighbor’s fence, close to her faux owl and when the sun finally came out he had the opportunity to dry his wings.
Wednesday came and went with no sign of my little fledgling. But on Thursday he showed up in my yard. I caught sight of him in the bushes by our pond and immediately grabbed my phone. I wasn’t the only one paying attention to our visitor. Mae, our dog and Magee our cat, were paying close attention. When I heard dog paws running down the stairs I knew it was time to act.
They were curious about the hawk and so was I. He moved from the grass to the fence and then up to my canopy where he stayed for a while. This was when I began to make some phone calls. I reached out to the Salem Animal Control Officer and Maria at Wings of the Dawn. Thinking perhaps this little guy was injured (he also had twigs stuck in his beak) I felt the need to do something. But before anything could be done, he disappeared when I wasn’t looking.
And that was that. Or so I thought.
Later that day I spotted him again in my next-door neighbor’s backyard. He was at ground level, moving from the ground to a pile of stacked bricks and then to a pile of pond stones. He wasn’t trying to fly at all. In the meantime I had learned that fledglings can spend several days at ground level as they learn to fly, but my intuition was telling me this was something more.
Once again the skies opened, and it poured. And once again that little guy sat out there, exposed to the elements. The darker it got, the more concerned I got. I prayed that little hawk made it through the night.
On Friday morning there he was in the exact same spot.
My husband and son were at work, and I was without a vehicle. My next-door neighbors, although I appreciate them and have enjoyed living next to them, they are not what you would call, animal lovers. They knew the hawk was there, but they wouldn’t have taken any action. So, the moment I heard them leave I ran out barefoot and wearing pajamas to assess the situation.
I got within a foot of the bird. He didn’t try to fly away. He opened his wings, opened his beak, and dropped back like he was sitting down. I nearly burst into tears. This little guy needed help.
I came back into my house and sat quietly with my hand on my heart, which was pounding out of my chest, and I asked for guidance.
Not only is it normal for fledglings to spend time at ground level as they learn how to fly, but their parents will continue to feed them as they learn. I hadn’t seen any large hawks besides one that had flown over the previous day. This was my dilemma. Let nature takes it course and hope the parents are coming to feed him or intervene and do what I can for this little fella.
I jumped up and ran for a towel and gloves.
Still barefoot, still in my pajamas, heart still pounding in my chest, I slowly approached the hawk and wrapped a towel around him. He attempted to fight for about a second and then became still. He didn’t have the energy to fight or to try and take flight. He couldn’t fly. He was weak. He wasn’t eating. He needed help.
Throughout all of this I had been texting and talking with my friend Inge. Inge is deeply connected to the earth and wildlife, and I knew she could help me navigate this experience. I had a call out to the Animal Control Officer who was unavailable, and I spoke directly with Maria from Wings of the Dawn, who confirmed I made the right decision by helping this little hawk. She was ready to help but that meant driving the bird an hour north and I didn’t have transportation. (I’m car sharing with my son) As I was leaving a message with NH Fish and Game, Inge called. She said, “I’m coming over and we’re driving this little guy up to Henniker.”
Anyone who travels north on I93 in New Hampshire on a Friday afternoon in the summer knows how bad the traffic can be. It took us awhile, but we made it. As nervous and anxious as we were, we made it to Maria’s doorstep. She had IV fluids ready to go and she immediately started nursing him back to health. Within a few minutes of receiving fluids, our little fledgling hawk started flapping his wing and acting more lively.
Maria explained that after a couple of days of tending to him, she would put him in a 50-foot-high enclosure where he will learn to fly and hunt. And in a month’s time she will release him back out into the wild. Both Inge and I felt so much gratitude for this woman who has dedicated her life to the rehabilitation and release of wild birds and small animals.
If you’d like to know more about Wings of the Dawn, click the link below.
Wings of the Dawn – Wildlife Rehabilitation Center & Bird Sanctuary
I put together a video of the experience.
You can watch it here!
My heart is full of gratitude for my willingness to help this little guy and for Inge who came to our rescue and for driving us north. And for Maria, who I called the following morning to see how the hawk was doing. She reported he was doing much better and that he was going to make it. Yay!
I have so much appreciation for this fledgling broad-winged hawk who came into my life and for the experience of helping him and for the message he brought me.
Shauna, it’s time to fly.
Four years sober and I celebrate myself.
This morning I noticed stories in my head when I thought about sharing this celebration with a wider audience. The voice spoke of keeping myself small and the voice brought the idea that being proud of myself is wrong, that pride is “sinful”. The voice moved to a story that four years is not a milestone big enough to celebrate, outside of my immediate circle. Now five years would be acceptable. But, by who? Those people outside of myself, a culture who determines what year a milestone is worth celebrating? And there it is. The word. Worth.
Somewhere deep inside me I am still holding onto a belief that I am not worthy enough to share this celebration. I was buying into what the voices in my head were telling me that kept me in a state of perpetual unworthiness. The energy of it can be deeply unconscious and oh-so subtle. Yet there it was. In a sense, I am making myself big and taking back my power by sharing this news with you even though I can still recognize that part of me that doesn’t want to make you uncomfortable by making myself big.
As I became aware of what was happening in my inner landscape, I do what I always do. I opened my journal. I began to write what I was thinking and what I was feeling and what I was sensing. I created a space for the thoughts to tell their stories and for the feelings to flow through me. I took myself through a process that moved my energy back to a state of worthiness by being present in the experience.
Four years ago I knew I was done with alcohol. When I reflect back over the past decade of my life, I understand more clearly the difficult and challenging experiences fraught with anger, rigidity, and control. I didn’t want to be drinking and I didn’t know how to change it. So much of my life and the relationships in it revolved around drinking. I was angry at myself and at the situations I found myself in and I projected that anger through my rigid and controlling behaviors, on the people who matter most. My behavior generated more anger. Let me just say, they were ugly scenes. And I’m grateful they are a thing of my past.
I don’t miss drinking, at all. In fact, my life is more expansive without it. It felt so good to let go of the cost and the process and the destructive ritual of disengaging from my life. I don’t miss the room spinning when I lay my head down to sleep, or waking in the middle of the night with dry mouth or a churning stomach that sent me stumbling to the bathroom. I wake up every morning feeling refreshed, alive, and ready to start my day. It is magical and healing to feel the freedom of regret and disappointment in myself and to be free from the compulsive addiction of alcohol.
Being present with the thoughts, voices, and feelings I was so desperately trying to hide from by drinking, is rewarding, empowering, and healing. Sobriety has given me the gift of coming back to myself. I feel alive and engaged in every area of my life, even in the messy, confusing, uncomfortable, and chaotic moments. I’ll take living my life to the fullest any day over the consumption of alcohol.
My hope is that by making myself big and celebrating this milestone I have inspired you to look at your life and to take the necessary steps to change what you know you want to change. You can do this. You are worthy enough to celebrate any and all changes you make in yourself and in your life in order to live the most authentic version of who you really are.
In what ways do you create Light and Illumination?
In what ways do you find the Light within you?
I wrote previously in one of my newsletters about the energy of war, how we were trained into it, and how it shows up on a personal level when we judge and criticize other people and groups and when we judge and criticize ourselves. The energy of war is darkness, the opposite of light.
More and more humans are waking up to the truth of their Light and realizing that in order to find it, generate it, and create it, one must have the willingness to look honestly at their own darkness. To look with eyes of understanding at their own patterns.
I sat with these questions this morning. Everything I wrote in my journal, at least the first two pages, were awareness that surfaced by looking honestly at what was dark, where the energy of war was showing up for me on a personal level. Sure, I could share with you how I create Light and Illumination by acting on my highest excitements, through my creativity and self-expression, when I’m having a deep and meaningful conversation and sharing in laughter with my close friends, when I’m surrounded by my loving family, when I’m out in nature, and when I’m playing with my dog, Mae. But that wasn’t what I wrote about. Not at first.
Before I share with you ways that you can find and create more light within yourself, I encourage you to write those questions down at the top of a journal page and reflect on them. Become still and quiet, free of distraction and give yourself some space for your answers to emerge from within you.
Here is what I discovered this morning. Better yet, here is what I remembered this morning.
Light is created:
This is how you Illuminate. This is how you shine. This is how you Live your Light.
In service, love, and light …
“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” — Maya Angelou
I had just finished leading a Sunday morning yoga practice at a friend’s studio when one of the students asked me, “Why does it feel so good to move slower? My body feels so good right now. Why does it feel better than a vinyasa flow class?”
My class is called Sunday Sanctuary and it’s for students who prefer a slower-paced, less strenuous practice. We find movement, we flow, but the pace is slower and often we’ll hold in a posture for several breaths.
The moment she asked the questions I kicked into Coach mode and returned with, “What does your intuition tell you about moving slower? What does your body telling you about slowing down? What is your life telling you about slowing down?” That’s when I saw it. The look one gets on their face when they have a major discovery or when they are blessed with an Ah-Ha moment. She had been sharing with me a few moments before, that she and her husband were moving and that I most likely was not going to see her in class again.
One of the top five most stressful life events is moving.
It hit her, like a ton of bricks, that what she enjoyed most about the morning practice, was her willingness to slow down and tend to herself. To tend to her thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical well-being and her Woman Spirit. Typically, the message I share throughout class are ones based in the Sacred Feminine and the need to find balance within our internal landscape. She, during that morning practice, found balance within herself and it felt good.
To be clear, I am in no way putting down or making light of a vinyasa flow or a power yoga class. What I’m attempting to bring to light here is the fact that most of us move at break-neck speeds and pride ourselves in our ability to multi-task. We unconsciously go through the motions, lost in ideas about life and live through stories in our head of “I am not” and “I should be.
We muscle, fight, control, manage, fix, change, conquer, deny, reject, mistrust, and distract ourselves in busyness and all sorts of activities that make us go, go go! Thinking has become more important than feeling, logic higher regarded than intuition, doing holds more value than being, and the destination seems more significant than the journey. We live in a culture with strong values in direct action, single-minded focus, clear logical thinking, goal-oriented, competitive behavior, productivity, and achievement.
There is nothing wrong with being action oriented, especially when you maintain a balance with your feminine nature. Problems arise when one becomes addicted to the sympathetic nervous system that tells us to do, do, do! We begin to experience dis-ease like fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, mood swings, and stress. Slowing down brings you the opportunity to come back into your body. Your feminine truth is found in your body. Your nervous system lives in your body.
To become consciously imbodied can be a challenge for a lot of people. Your ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of it’s sensations (emotional and physical) is to be imbodied. This practice takes courage. It takes courage to slow down and be still. It takes courage to tune in and listen. It takes courage to speak your truths to yourself. It takes courage to answer the feelings that are knocking on the door of your awareness. And it takes courage to curiously explore your emotions.
Sure, you can slow down with that glass of wine and dark chocolate while you binge-watch the latest season of Ozark, (Season 4 Part 2 airs on April 29!) but what about your unaddressed feelings and emotions or the dis-ease you’ve been experiencing? What about the true nourishment and joy that comes from being fully connected to yourself and to life? What about the balance you consciously or unconsciously long for? What about your well-being?
What is your nervous system telling you?
What does your nervous system delight in?
How willing are you to find the courage to slow down and be still in the deep peace of enough-ness?
We are all familiar with the unrelenting, critical, hostile, and sometimes insidious male voice in our head that tells stories of I am not, and I should be. I refer to this voice as male because it is filled with masculine energy that has us believe we need to be different or better than what we are right now to be worthy and adequate. The messages we often receive keep us in a constant state of doing, fixing, controlling, and managing all aspects of our lives.
It is the voice that says things like, “You shouldn’t eat that”, or “You have no willpower”, or “You’re wasting time”, or “You’re not doing enough!”, or “You have no reason to feel that way”, or “ You’re being too sensitive.”
Most of us have been taught to value only masculine principles of structure, productivity, achievement, goal-oriented, clear, focused, logical thinking. We have become unfamiliar and uncomfortable with feminine qualities of stillness and emotion. We have been taught to ignore, deny, and reject that feeling part of us that is nurturing, intuitive, and compassionate.
I see the critical male voice as a soldier that has me fighting my way through life and that keeps me in a perpetual state of self-bullying. Yet, when I feel into the sacred feminine side of myself, I see her as a courageous Warrior who is willing to take a new and different approach, one based in understanding and respect.
The Warrior asks, “What am I truly hungry for?” She is passionately curious about what is going on in her inner world, including the constellation of voices in her head. She has learned to respond to what life brings her instead of living in reaction and she understands that her feelings, just like people, respond to apologies and a willingness to listen. A Warrior chooses to engage with and explore, honestly, her emotions, her pains, her life and herself for she knows that true healing can only be found in the journey back to her Self.
A Warrior is present, in her body, rather than in the swirling thoughts of her struggling mind. She brings spaciousness and offers acceptance of what is, rather than reacting, rejecting, and invalidating. She touches her experience with the healing of her heart in freedom and infusions of love, rather than closing down to hate and fear. A Warrior cultivates practices of deep listening as she awakens the wellspring of wisdom within her, promoting trust in herself and her life, rather than buying into and living through the stories in her head.
A Warrior offers forgiveness for all the times she has rejected and abandoned herself and she is learning that what she truly needs is to be there for herself when she needs herself the most. She honors and trusts her experiences of resistance because in doing so she allows herself to stay in her healing journey. Cultivating curiosity and speaking her truths are now part of her spiritual toolbox and she gives this training absolute priority.
A Warrior values both feminine and masculine energies knowing both are necessary to balance her internal landscape. She understands her task is to be the vessel that contains our truth, our vision, and our essence, and to be the vehicle that can boldly carry our truth out into the world in a clear, straight-forward way.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about rising feminine energies and the pull I feel as a woman to learn more and to understand how I can bring balance back into my internal landscape. So I went on a Google quest to find the answers, or at least get an idea of what others were offering on ways to reclaim my birthright.
Before the birth of the patriarchy, some 10,000 years ago, women were revered and respected and looked at as a source of wisdom. Symbolized by the circle, that all changed when the line became superior with the inception of the patriarchy. The patriarchy is a social system that defaults power and authority to men. Sadly, the feminine archetype was suppressed. It was no longer valued. In fact, it was seen as a threat. Ever since, we, you and I, have been defaulting to the masculine first. Driven to go make something of ourselves, taught to ignore the wellspring of wisdom inside us.
Both the collective archetypes, the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine, are needed in order for us to feel whole. To be clear, masculine does not equal male and feminine does not equal female. Both exist within all of us. One is not more important than the other, neither holds more value than the other, but we do need to restore the wholeness by finding balance between the two or perhaps learn to dance between the two.
As I mentioned, we’ve been defaulting to masculine qualities of control, power, domination, separation, logic, etc., which drive our decisions. And at the same time, we’ve repressed the feminine qualities of emotion and intuition. This has been done as a means to maintain order. Yet things are changing. More and more people are beginning to wake up to something ancient calling to them, seeking them out. The feminine and masculine energies want to be united. Can you feel it? As an individual, a call from deep inside you. As a collective, a calling to heal this planet.
I’m tired of playing by the rules of the patriarchy. I’m done with the toxic masculinity and the suppression of the feminine. I certainly don’t want a world without men. I love men. All I’m saying is I’m ready and willing to join the movement of rising feminine energies. In truth, I already have, and I invite you to join me.
The results of my search weren’t very surprising. Here’s a lengthy list of suggestions to reclaim your feminine energy.
- Speak your truth
- Spend time with women
- Be open to receiving
- Wear more jewelry / enhance your appearance
- Be creative
- Embrace your sexuality
- Be proud of being a woman
- Reclaim your own beauty
- Reconnect with your body / love your body
- Spend time in nature
- Practice daily rituals
- Listen to your intuition
- Give yourself free days
- Take a bath
- Nurture yourself
- Cultivate vulnerability
- Befriend your Shadow
- Take inspired action
- Slow down and tune in
- Identify your power source
- Receive love
- Stop judging and comparing
- Practice self-love
- Get in touch with your dreams
- Incorporate more Yin energy into your space
- Tap into your intuition
- Unfollow people on social media
- Stop gossiping
- Write affirmations to yourself
- Remind yourself that you’re safe
- Try out different hairstyles
- Change the perspective you have of yourself
- Embrace your menstrual cycle
- Be okay with being a woman
- Listen to music
- Go shopping
- Make an effort to do the best you can
- Say yes
- Learn something new
- Practice radical self-awareness
- Claim your story
- Go within before acting
As I wrote down and reviewed the list, I found myself laughing in judgement at some and agreeing whole-heartedly with others, something occurred to me. Something felt missing. I became aware of the suggestions that may leave a woman in confusion, scratching her head and asking, HOW do I do that? How do I love myself? How do I love my body when I’ve been ridiculing and rejecting it all my life? How does one befriend their Shadow? How does one open up to receiving when they have been closed off to love? How?!? Well, with the assistance of licensed professionals, a life coach, courses, circles, support groups, good friends, and your willingness to change, you can understand the how at a time and in a place and at a pace that is comfortable for you. There is an abundance of resources out there for women.
All that said, the last suggestion on the list, Go within before acting, was what really caught my eye. It was the last item on a list I found in an article or blog post someone had written. Directly under each suggestion the author went into a bit more detail, explaining why the suggestion was so important. The first two words in the description underneath Go within before acting, were the words, And finally …. )
I thought, finally? What? This suggestion is last on your list? In that moment I realized what was missing from the several articles I read and videos I watched. The willingness and the practice of being with feelings and emotions. The idea of checking in with what is happening in the moment and tapping into the wellspring of wisdom within, IS, in my humble opinion, the first step in remembering, reconnecting, and reclaiming sacred feminine energy!
Within the system of the patriarchy, we have been trained to think instead of feel. We’ve been taught to dismiss, reject, manage or control our feelings and emotions because we believe them to be dangerous, bad and wrong. We’ve learned to hate and fear our emotions, that what we felt wasn’t okay. We were talked out of our emotions, trained to hide our feelings and to distrust them and dislike them. Sadly, most people are afraid of their feelings, so we’ve learned to distract ourselves in all kinds of compulsions and addictions like eating, drinking, gambling, shopping, exercising, binge watching Netflix, and scrolling unconsciously through social media newsfeeds.
Emotions are the body’s most intimate way of communicating. Yet so many fear they can’t handle the pain, or they’ll become lost in the feelings and overwhelmed, that it might last forever, or that is may lead them to engage in hurtful, destructive behavior.
If you are someone like me who senses the ancient calling, seeking you out, please understand that the feminine is found in your willingness to feel and be with your emotions. Masculine energies are found in the mind. Feminine energies are found in the body. Going within is a feminine quality. Acting is a masculine quality.
I’ll be talking more and more and more about this but for right now I want to offer you something to get you started.
How willing are you to begin the process of BEING with your feelings and emotions? Your willingness plays a BIG role. Start to become aware of your triggers, compulsions, addictions, and strong emotions and when you do, become present. Check in and ask, what’s really going on here? Get curious! Give yourself space by letting what’s there, be there. Practice HONEST self-exploration. Slide down out of your thinking mind into the welcoming arms of your compassionate heart and ask, what do I truly need in this moment?
You begin to reclaim your sacred feminine when you begin to reclaim your feelings and emotions. Only then, in the present moment of the heart and body, can you tap into the wellspring of wisdom within you.
Wildcard weekend had ended. It was Monday morning, and even though my team hadn’t made the playoffs, I still felt a sense of disappointment because the teams I was routing for, lost. We began planning the games the week before, excitingly anticipating the unfolding of the playoff picture, and of course, what food we would cook and eat. The NFL season is a fun time for me as it gives me something to look forward to.
As I took my first sips of morning coffee and reflected on the weekend, I became aware of the thoughts and the feelings and the sensations in my body of “not having something to look forward to”. This certainly wasn’t the first time I had a solemn experience of, “what now? I need something.” Typically I let these kind of moments run my day and I end up feeling depressed and unmotivated, swimming around in a pity-party and projecting my unhappiness onto those closest to me. In other words, moving through my day unconscious to what is really going on, unwilling or afraid of taking a closer look.
As I mentioned, the menu for the games is equally as exciting to plan and look forward to. It’s similar to the idea of a Nor ‘Easter bearing down on New England and stock piling my favorite comfort food in case we’re snowed in for a week like during the blizzard of ’78. I, like many other women, use food as a much-needed protective mechanism to fill a vague, uneasy sense of emptiness within me. Moments like this bring me temporary feelings of security and happiness, and never fill what I’m truly crave.
By the end of my coffee, I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed my journal, became still, got quiet, and turned my attention inward with a heart-felt curiosity to understand myself more clearly, more deeply. I began by asking what stories I create around endings and how that is followed by a need to have something to look forward to. My body and my feelings told a story that the only way I can be happy is if I have something to look forward to. So I got curious about that. What could that mean? What story is that telling? Going deeper still, into emerging memories of my childhood, there was a belief that if I don’t have something to look forward to, I will be sad and lonely. I was happy when my parents were happy and, in their happiness, there was some kind of surprise for me and my siblings.
It could have been a trip to get an ice cream cone, a visit to my cousin’s pool, or a stop at McDonald’s after church on a Saturday afternoon. In these memories, I became more curious. The continued unfolding told a story that as long as I was good and behaved, as long as my parent’s weren’t fighting or arguing, there was a surprise. The idea of something to look forward to, became conditional. If “this” happens, if “this or that” are in a certain way, if all the components come together in harmony, if everyone behaves, then and only then will a surprise, an excitement, or something to look forward to, be offered or given to me.
The big AH-HA moment came with the realization that I am always, and I mean always, beating myself up or berating myself for eating foods I’m not supposed to eat. Boom. Mic drop. There it was. I did something wrong. I ate food during the games, that keep a woman fat and unlovable and unattractive. I wasn’t a good girl. Conditions were not ideal, so I had no right to give myself something to look forward to. I could not give myself permission to look forward to something because I did something wrong. I ate foods that are “bad for me” the day before, so I had to punish myself and in those feelings of hurt as I chastised myself, I longed to find anything in my life to bring a sense of joy. Interesting thing is, I do have things to look forward to, but I couldn’t allow myself to see beyond my self-degradation.
I recognized my vulnerable inner child. The naïve, sheltered, scared, intimidated, and fearful little girl who yearned to please her parents so they would be happy and offer happiness in return. Even though my parents no longer have the ability to take away, I continued this pattern of behavior into adulthood all on my own. I was putting conditions on my own bright future because of punishing myself for something I ate the day before.
Much of our dysfunctional childhood programming remains in our unconscious, hiding in the shadows and it shows up, in adulthood, in ways that is not our preference of who we really want to be and what kind of life we really want to live. This one deep dive within myself opened up a vision of how I’ve been berating myself my whole life and it shed light on why I feel angry all the time. (that’s a whole other blog post)
In my willingness to sit with my thoughts, feelings, stories, and memories, and in my discipline of honest self-investigation, I came to understand my need to be more loving, kind, compassionate, and nurturing toward myself. And to stop punishing myself. And to cultivate a deeper and more meaningful relationship with my Great Mother, my Nurturing Inner Parent so that every day, no matter what, I can give myself something to look forward to.
Sitting with feelings and thoughts and memories is not always comfortable. We shy away, distract ourselves and perfect the art of avoidance. Yet how can we heal ourselves, how can we heal this planet, if we’re not willing to look at what is wrong? I wasn’t wrong by eating what I ate. I was wrong in punishing myself for it. There’s nothing wrong with me, but there is something off, or not right, about the beliefs I have that keep me in a pattern of self-punishment.
I invite you to watch yourself. Become increasingly aware of your thoughts and your habits and what is out of alignment with who you prefer to be. I invite you and encourage you to become still and quiet and be with your feelings. And for goodness sake, leave your phone in another room. Get curious. Be honest. Let your feelings flow. Follow them to a memory or a new awareness. Let them peel back the layers and illuminate a path of understanding and healing.
My copy is 13 years old, and I still refer to it, even to this day, this morning in fact. Synchronicity guides me. I know this, I trust this. (It can for you too if you allow it.) So, it’s no surprise that I read the above passage this morning (while looking for something else) when I knew I wanted to be sharing with you, a most recent opportunity to see an old pattern.
Many of our patterns of thought and behavior are deeply unconscious. It’s easy to say, “well that’s just who I am”, or point a finger at society and say something like, “that’s how we’ve all been raised”. Yes, the collective plays a role and it’s true that over time we can identify more deeply with what we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves. It’s only when we can step outside of ourselves and look objectively, when we can begin to take full responsibility for our lives, that true, honest change can begin. When we can step fully into owning who we currently are, and who we prefer to be.
A few weeks ago, we had a nor ‘easter bearing down on us. I was busy in the kitchen preparing comfort food, hoping we wouldn’t lose power as the winds howled outside. I received a text from a friend and that text included an opportunity that excited me. Within a few minutes my energy shifted, and my focus went from the preheating the oven to how I was going to respond to her. My behavior became erratic, and I noticed stress in my body. That’s when my disciplines of awareness, curiosity, and honesty kicked in. In that moment I became the witness of myself.
My OG thought (my intuition) was to respond later because I needed to cook before the power went out. (It never did, and I really don’t like to cook) I knew I wanted to be more fully present in my response to her, yet this gnawing voice crept in and took over telling me I needed to respond immediately and together, this voice and I, went over all the many ways we could respond. The voice told me that if I didn’t respond right away, and in a way that would make her happy, then I would lose out on the opportunity, and she wouldn’t like me. I had to say the right thing and do it quickly.
I allowed myself to feel the tension and from it, a new awareness was born. The experience gave me a golden opportunity to recognize, and begin to change, a pattern of thought and behavior I’ve been carrying around for the better part of 50 years. I honored the voice by picking up my phone and sending the response of, “Sure!”.
I continued to stay curious as I slipped the eggplant parmesan into the oven.
Life is a 100% mirror reflection of our strongest beliefs, our strongest definitions, and our strongest programming, or conditioning. An event happens and we immediately form a story about it. (Whether positive or negative) Meaning is attached, the feeling forms, and then we “live through” that and respond, react, or behave through that. Here’s the thing … we cannot have a thought, feeling, emotion, behavior, pattern, or experience without the belief, definition, or programming coming first.
Knowing this, I recognized my need to fit in, or feel that sense of belonging in my friendship with her. I unnaturally placed an extreme level of meaning on our friendship, (something I’ve often done in many relationships) and momentarily sacrificed my authenticity for again, that sense of belonging. I didn’t want to upset a member of the tribe by responding later.
I was able to recognize some childhood conditioning which sounded like, “She likes me! She likes me!” (Visualize a little girl jumping up and down) “I have to respond right away!” “I have to do what she wants.” “Why haven’t you responded yet?” “She asked you! You say yes!” “Don’t you dare disappoint her!” “If you don’t respond quickly, she’ll be mad at you!” “I need to be liked.” “The needs and happiness of other people are more important than my own.” “I’m a bad girl if I do it wrong, or if I put my needs first.”
Can you see how I defaulted to a pattern of thought and behavior that is more in line with the values of my inner child?
As I peeled away the top layers, completely aware of the fact that they are simply reinforcing something much deeper, I came to understand my core negative, fear-based belief. I’m not doing anything right. It's not safe to be me.
Event: I received her text.
Meaning attached / feeling forms: She likes me / happiness. I must respond immediately / fear.
(Beliefs come before the meaning or feeling)
Behavior: Dancing in excitement. Erratic nervousness, need to control my environment, projection, worry.
Outcome: Because of this awareness, my outcome was favorable. I found my truth and responded in a way that was more in alignment with the person I prefer to be, not the one driven by fear, negativity, and limitation.
I invite you to give this a try in your life.
Allow yourself to become more present and aware of what is happening in your day and in the events that unfold. Use this technique, and your willingness to change, to help you understand yourself more truly and more deeply. Use this method to know yourself, your True self, from a new perspective so you can move closer to being the person you prefer to be.
Choose to see your old patterns calmly and objectively in your willingness to change and in your intention to set yourself free.
It was November 2009 when I finally woke up to the fact that I had a debilitating addiction to the internet. I had lost all sense of Self as I prioritized my online activity and the so-called relationships to be of upmost importance. Lost, terrified, and uncertain, I purchased my first journal and took the first steps into uncertainty, willing to change my habits and change myself. I began my journey of awakened consciousness and self-discovery.
I quit. Cold turkey. I left all the news sites, message boards, groups, communities, and whatever social media platforms that were active at the time. (Sodahead and MySpace) I changed passwords to characters I would never remember and deleted accounts, removing everything I knew as an active part of my life. I began the practices of introspection and journaling. I began to heal my life.
With the introduction of Facebook and feeling as if I had overcome my addiction, I crept back in, slowly. One website or platform at a time, I was back in it. Thinking I could handle it and that I’d be different this time around, I once again fell victim to the value system of my Inner Child, believing I had to belong somewhere, and fit in, and be liked and accepted and loved. I have this awareness of my Inner Child today and can see clearly what happened but was unable at the time to define my experience in this way. The patterns of thought and behavior surfaced again and again as I took things personally, compared myself to others and habitually checked in (with hope and fear) more times than I could count.
Over the past thirteen years I continued to struggle and be challenged with the idea of being online. From time to time, I did some detoxing and decluttering, my most recent was back in 2020 when I was off social media platforms for about 4 months. I deleted the FB and IG apps from my phone, the only two social media platforms I used. I took some time out for introspection so I could get clear about my beliefs about social media.
At the four-month mark, I brought the Instagram app back to my phone. I preferred it over Facebook. I began to see and approach the IG app as a bulletin board of sorts. A place where I could post my offerings and share words that might inspire others. The only time I would visit FB was through my computer. I made a promise to myself that the app would never have a place on my phone again.
Everything seemed to be going well, until I felt the struggle, until I began to question once again. When I became curious and got really honest with myself, I understood I was using the IG app as a means to distract myself from what I really and truly wanted to be doing. So, I got curious and honest about that. The truth was, I had a fear of success. I feared my own power and the responsibility that comes with that. If I kept myself distracted, I wouldn’t focus on my excitements because I wouldn’t have time because I needed to post something every day to keep up my online presence. This pattern of behavior kept me small and safe in my comfort zone even though I wasn’t truly comfortable there because I am growing and evolving. Like the nautilus, I have outgrown one chamber and I need to build another. I will no longer try to fit back into the old, smaller chamber of my physical reality.
About three weeks ago I sat here in front of my computer, and I asked out loud, “What do I want to do about social media????” I opened my email and saw a newsletter from friend and fellow Coach, Audrey Holst. In her share she mentioned a book titled Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. With my curiosity peaked, trusting in synchronicity and Divine timing, I researched the book and ordered it. This morning I read half of it.
What I’ve read so far validates everything I’ve been thinking and feeling and sensing about my relationship with the internet and social media platforms. With technology in general. Additionally, Cal’s approach to being a digital minimalist offers me fresh eyes and new tools to use when I feel I want to begin reintroducing technology into my life. Yes. I have stepped away from the noise, clutter, and distractions of many apps and the internet and notifications. I have let go of the minor diversions, distractions, and trivial conveniences. I am intent on rebuilding my relationship with technology from scratch, using my deeply held truths and values as a foundation.
Some of you have reached out to me asking me about my social media presence. Thank you for your inquiry and for noticing I haven’t been there. I don’t know if I’m ever going back on Facebook or Instagram. Right now it’s a, hell no. What I can tell you is that I will continue to send my weekly newsletters because that is the most authentical and exciting way for me to stay connected with you. I am taking every present moment as it comes, breathing in the experience of my passions, values, and truths.
If you have some interest in decluttering your technology and quieting the noise, I am open to having a conversation with you. Please reach out.
I leave you now with a quote from author Cal Newport ….
“The most important resource we posses is the minutes of our life.”
With love and gratitude,
Self-Awareness and Transformational Coach, Inner Child Advocate, and Yin Yoga Teacher.