I hear people saying that in order to be happy, we just need to do positive affirmations and let go of negativity. I say the exact opposite.
In order to be happy, be sad. Let me explain.
The new movie Inside Out is geared towards children but I think it’s a movie everyone should see, adults included.
Without giving too much away, the movie focuses on a little girl named Reilly and how she deals with her emotions. There are characters that represent the emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear.
In the beginning of the movie, each time Sadness tries to take over, Joy is there to push her away.
I did this for years.
I tried everything to make sadness go away because I thought something was wrong with me if I wasn’t happy all the time. I tried pushing it down, denying it, resisting it. I tried talking myself out of it by doing positive affirmations.
You’ve heard the saying “What we resist, persists?” That is exactly what happened.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t just sad, I was depressed.
There were times when I felt like a deep dark hole was opening up and swallowing me. All I wanted to do was check out of life and sleep.
Then, after a while, I would begin to feel better and come out of it. (Those who have that hole swallow them up and don’t come out, need to seek professional help)
When we resist feeling any emotion, it causes a reaction.
Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, compiled data that showed we cannot numb one emotion without numbing all of our emotions.
Basically, by not allowing ourselves to feel and process our sadness, we are not able to experience true joy.
In our society, it often seems unacceptable to express sadness. We can feel we need to put on a happy face and act like we’ve got it all together.
When we do that, our sadness festers and ends up coming out in other ways. It can manifest itself as depression, illness or destructive behavior such as addiction.
Or we could have an outburst and explode when we have reached our limit.
However, by acknowledging and experiencing our emotions and talking to an empathetic person, we will find that sadness or any emotion leaves as fast as it came.
This is what happened to little Reilly. Once she allowed herself to talk to her parents about her sadness, it opened the door to true connection as well as letting Joy once again be a part of her life.
The real lesson here is that emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. We all have them and all they simply want is to be expressed.
What about those positive affirmations? It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect ourselves to be happy all the time. If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, then we can use positive affirmations or gratitude to reconnect with hope and faith. That way we won’t end up wallowing in negativity.
What emotion are you currently not allowing yourself to experience? Who is your go-to person when you need empathy?
If you are open to it, practice allowing difficult feelings, share with an empathy buddy and see what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at how much happier you will be when you allow your emotions to just be.
How many times have you let yourself be taken advantage of or sucked into someone else’s drama just because you didn’t want to come off as cold or worse, the “b” word?
This was the case with a client who was wondering how to deal with someone in their life who was being self-destructive. She stated that her friend was not only hurting themselves but those around them. Many of their family and friends had gotten so irritated or resentful with how her friend was behaving they stopped having contact with them.
My client didn’t want that to happen to her but she could feel the irritation and resentment beginning to creep in. She did not want to lose the friendship they had built over the years but she also knew she needed to honor herself.
There are two things we can do so that we don’t feel taken advantage of and get sucked into other people’s drama.
- Put a “hedge of protection” around you. In order to not take on the other person’s emotions or negativity, putting up this barrier protects us. But we also have to make it so that our love and compassion can pass through the hedge to them. This is not a physical barrier of any kind it is simply a mental awareness that if we are down in the muck and mire with them then we are no good to anyone.
- Surrender. This does not mean to give up. It means hand them over to their higher power. They are on their path and we are not responsible for the choices they make. Don’t try to change them. If someone is a danger to themselves or others, then by all means, contact the authorities, get them professional help. However, it is not your job to “fix” someone else’s life. You are there to love and support them if they want it but be sure they are driving their life, not you.
A few years ago, I had a friend who often wouldn’t show up when we had made plans. I loved her and I knew this was not her but this was her pattern. Connection was something she struggled with.
This pattern led other people in her life to get angry and stop contacting her. I could feel that beginning with me as well. I realized I could not change her so I knew I had to be the one to change.
I told her that I was not going to show up for any meeting with her unless she confirmed with me the day before. A few times we had a date planned and when I didn’t hear from her, I simply sent her a text telling her that I would not be there and that when she wanted to try again, just let me know.
Because of this, I was able to let go of my resentment and not feel taken advantage of. I chose to honor myself as well as my friend. We now have a great relationship and she lets me know when she can’t make our coffee dates.
What relationships have left you feeling resentful, taken advantage of or gotten sucked into the drama? Right now, how can you practice surrendering and putting up your hedge of protection with those people?
(Cousin Gini & me)
Last week I attended a memorial service for a distant relative. Gertrude was a cousin of my father’s. She and her husband had 6 children and one of them, Gini, was my age.
Growing up, I remember they would come to our house or we would go to their house occasionally. Because they lived an hour away, we didn’t see them often.
I decided I would take my mom to the memorial service so I could see my cousins, all of whom I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl.
We arrived at the small Baptist church, went in and found a seat.
My mom knew some of the people but I remembered very few.
I saw a woman with the same dress that I had bought a few weeks ago and had almost worn that day. I was glad I didn’t wear it.
I looked at the crowd of people gathering and wondered which of these women was Gini. I tried to remember the times she and I spent together but not many memories popped up.
I have a terrible memory when it comes to my childhood. My husband, on the other hand, remembers every detail practically from the day he was born. It’s a bit maddening!
I couldn’t remember the details of us playing together but I could remember the fun we had. And I did remember I loved Gini.
Growing up with 3 brothers, I always wanted a sister. I remember thinking that I had finally found my sister!
I also remember how sad I was when we had to leave each other. Although we lived an hour apart, we might as well have been on opposite ends of the earth. I remember the heartbreak not knowing when I would see her again.
Toward the end of the service, Gertrude’s six children got up to sing. That’s when I realized who Gini was. I could see the beautiful bright-eyed girl that I used to play with.
After the service, Gini was standing in the vestibule of the church. I wasn’t sure if she would remember me but I walked up and told her who I was.
She grabbed me and hugged me and said that she had thought about me as well.
I told her that I didn’t remember the details of us being together but I did remember how much I loved her.
To my surprise, she said that’s what she remembered and we stood there crying.
Then I told her that she was wearing the same dress that I had bought just a few weeks earlier.
Yes, Gini was the woman! And at that moment, I wished I had worn it!
Even though we still live about an hour away from each other, we have vowed to get reacquainted.
I am looking forward to rekindling our friendship. A love like that never dies, it just waits for us to fan the flame.
Who do you love that you have lost touch with? Look them up and reconnect.
I bet they would love to hear from you!
I usually feel inspired when it comes to writing something for my blog. Normally, I have something to say.
Not last week.
I kept waiting for inspiration to hit and although I had a number of ideas, nothing really felt right.
In the past, I would have forced myself to sit down and just write something. (Just look at some of my early blog posts, eek!)
My practice now is, if something doesn’t feel right then I don’t do it.
I mentioned to my brilliant daughter that I was struggling with this and she immediately said, “Mom, write about that.”
She went on to say that she was feeling much the same way. And I had a client that day who said she was also feeling that way.
When I inquired about what was going on with them, this is what I learned.
- We are women who get things done but when we feel like we need a break from “doing,” we can get scared. Our thoughts might go to worrying that we will be seen as lazy, lose our job & end up a bag lady. Or that our business is going to fail if we don’t make a blog post. Or some other made up story.
- We need to remember that “this too shall pass.” We can either fight it and force ourselves to do those things we think we “should” or we can give ourselves permission to wait for inspiration.
I did the latter.
Instead of forcing myself to sit at the computer and write a blog, I spent my time contemplating a retreat I’m putting together. I got my business finances in order. I was even inspired to rewrite my website text, finally! (I’ve been waiting for that inspiration to hit for a while)
If we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are with no judgement, then it creates the space for inspiration to flow once again.
What is it that you’re not really feeling right now? Give yourself permission to be right where you are and see what opens up.
Let me know what happens.
I sat listening to a friend who was recounting a meltdown she had recently. Someone had pushed her buttons and suddenly, she found herself saying things she never thought she was capable of.
Afterwards she felt such regret and said, “This is not who I want to be.”
It became clear that her automatic reaction when triggered was to fight. She had developed that survival instinct as a little girl and it’s still there even though she’s an adult.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means “shameless audacity.” I think of it as having guts, nerve or backbone.
I think this woman has chutzpah. And not all of us do.
There are those whose first reaction is to run away when there is confrontation. I fall into this category.
However, when I avoid the uncomfortable situation or person, I end up feeling defeated. My confidence and self-esteem take a hit.
A few years ago, the leader of an organization was continually putting me down. Even though they stepped over the line, I lacked the chutzpah to say, “I won’t be treated this way.”
Because I am a person who chooses to lead with my heart, I mistakenly viewed standing up for myself as being arrogant. But each time I backed down, I felt weak and like I dishonored myself. This was not who I wanted to be.
I had heart and not enough chutzpah. My friend had chutzpah and not enough heart.
Chutzpah by itself can come across as arrogant or mean. Heart alone can be viewed as weakness and a doormat.
The sweet spot lies where we have both heart AND chutzpah (heartzpah?! :). It’s not easy to find that place, it takes practice.
For fighters, it means forcing yourself to take a time out before you start saying things you’ll regret.
For those of us who take flight, it means giving yourself permission to stand your ground.
I think Brené Brown said it best, “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink back. Just stand your sacred ground.”
It can be scary and uncomfortable as we practice something new. But that’s where our growth lies, in those scary, uncomfortable places. And there is great joy and peace of mind knowing that you can handle anything or anyone who crosses your path.
In order to be the person you want to be, what do you need to practice more of, chutzpah or heart?
I woke up to the news of a train derailment in Philadelphia. There were many people injured and at least 6 dead.
I watched a national morning news program where survivors of the crash said that the majority of people involved not only remained calm but worked together to get everyone out. There were accounts of passengers sitting with other passengers helping to ease their fear and console them before the paramedics could get to them.
The reporter seemed stunned.
The subsequent news stories described the devastation of the crash and told that there was an alert because this might be a terrorist attack. And with all of the trains now running in the US, they wondered, are we truly safe?
I have noticed the media uses words when reporting, like terrifying ordeal, devastating and horrific. I thought the news was to report the facts? But if they just reported the facts without embellishment, their audience would think it was boring, right?
The news is a business and has certainly spent a lot of money on marketing research so they know which news stories sell. They’re doing what will put the most money in their pocket.
When I watch the national news, I get scared. Then I want to do something to fix what’s making me scared so I think I have to fight against what’s wrong. It ends up being me against someone or something else and now I’m not only scared but angry as well.
What do I want? I want the facts, just the facts, free of embellishing. I believe the media has a strong responsibility to be aware of the words they use so as to not incite fear or anger.
The Philadelphia train crash actually gives me hope. In addition to passengers helping each other, our men and women who are firemen, police officers and paramedics, were quick to respond.
And this is what happens not only here in the US but around the world. People rushing in to help when disaster strikes. Look at Nepal.
In our town, we have recently experienced flooding and who was there to help? Our volunteer fire departments not only from our town but from surrounding towns as well.
I also saw a crew from a neighboring town helping with clean up. Neighbors helping neighbors.
So yes, there is a lot of bad going on in the world, but I believe there is more good than bad and I refuse to be scared anymore.
Instead of looking for evidence that the world is a scary place, let’s look for the good. It’s out there, we just have to look for it.
Recently I was sitting at my kitchen table working on my computer when I suddenly realized it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I was still in my pajamas.
It reminded of the days when my kids were little. There were times I didn’t get a shower until after my husband got home, the house was a mess and I had no clue what we were going to have for dinner.
Starting and growing a business is a lot like raising children.
They both consist of long hours and low pay, only at the beginning of your business, hopefully, or no pay, in the case of motherhood.
You really have no idea whether you are doing the right thing or even if what you’re doing is effective. You want to believe you’re doing a good job raising your kids but you really have no idea until they get to be adults. Same thing with a business, there’s a lot of trial, error and adjustment.
I remember standing over my sleeping child praying that I wouldn’t do something to mess them up too much. As a business owner, I sometimes wake up at night wondering why in the world I decided to put myself out there for all the world to see if I should fail.
When my kids were in school, we were friends with their friend’s parents. There were always tennis matches, swim meets and school events where parents congregated and communed. The support of other parents was invaluable as we commiserated about the struggles of parenting.
Now I go to networking events and commune with other business women. The support of like-minded successful women has kept me in business.
Being a mom and a business owner has taught me a few things along the way:
- Beware of people who offer advice, and there will be many. Listen but don’t be quick to take it if it doesn’t feel right for you. As with your children, your business is your responsibility. Follow what feels right for you not what the so-called experts say is right.
- Learn from other people’s mistakes and emulate their success. My parental role models were women who had successfully raised happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. Who are the successful business women you admire? Surround yourself with them and listen for their advice.
- Most of all, enjoy the journey. So many people told me to enjoy my kids because they grow up so fast. That was the best piece of advice I ever received and tried to savor every moment. Now I am trying to do the same when it comes to my business.
Even with all of our struggles and mistakes, we always seem to remember the “good old days.” Someday, these will be the good old days. Why not enjoy them now?
I have a friend with a background in finance and was very successful in the corporate world. A few years ago, she left her high paying, structured job, decided to downsize and began living simply.
She became a free spirit who flows from one thing to the next with very little planning.
For as long as I have known her, she has resisted structure.
I am in awe of her because I am the opposite. I love structure. I like making plans and knowing what’s going to happen and when. It makes me feel safe and in control.
I enjoy creating my to-do list and then checking things off. I like how I get things done and how I feel at the end of the day.
Lately, our conversations have turned to improving our eating habits. Of course, I began by logging my food intake. This helped me keep track of what I was eating and I felt accomplished at the end of the day.
My friend fought this. She wanted the freedom to choose what she wanted without the constraints of having to plan. However, since she didn’t have a plan, she would come home from the grocery store with things she really didn’t want.
When I don’t have a plan, I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator wondering what to eat. Then I end up eating way too many chips or cookies. All the stuff I’m trying not to eat.
Recently my friend found an eating plan that felt right to her. It called for planning meals and weighing and measuring her food.
After following this plan, she came to the realization that being free spirited was not freedom at all- it was chaos.
With her new eating plan, she felt more free than she had in a long time because she didn’t really have to think about it. She has set guidelines to follow and as long as she stays inside those she feels satisfied and happy.
So that must mean because I’m a planner, things are copacetic with me. I wish.
Because I usually get results, I think, “if a little planning is good then a lot of planning is better.” The drill sergeant comes out and begins whipping me into shape.
No matter what I do, it’s never good enough for the drill sergeant. I become miserable and I end up quitting or working myself so hard I burn out or get sick.
In any area of our lives, if the pendulum swings too far toward free spirit, it can lead to chaos and no results. Or if our plan is too rigid it may trigger the drill sergeant which can lead to results but not sustainable ones.
We need to aim for somewhere in between. And it always helps to have a supportive friend to share the journey.
The number of chronic procrastinators has quadrupled in the last 30 years to nearly 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicago’s De Paul University. It is an insidious habit that will sabotage your success and drain your energy.
Fear of making a mistake, fear of failure or even fear of success can be causes of chronic procrastination.
Procrastination may be a problem if you:
•Have been financially impacted because you didn’t cash a check on time or delayed filing your taxes to the point of incurring fines or penalties.
•Have become exhausted and/or given up working out because you had to watch just one (or two or three) more episodes on Netflix before going to bed.
•Are constantly making excuses because you are late.
•Friends, family or coworkers point out your procrastination or the consequences of it.
The good news is procrastination is a learned behavior. With the proper structure and lots of practice, new habits can be formed. It will take time and patience though.
“Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” according to Dr. Ferrari.
Here are a few steps you can take to begin to break the procrastination habit:
•Make a to-do list of 5-6 things daily.
•If necessary, begin by tackling just one and break it down into small steps.
•Pay attention to your thinking — if you notice you want to procrastinate, decide to just keep going.
•Acknowledge and reward yourself for what you have accomplished.
•If you find yourself procrastinating, don’t judge yourself just focus on the next item on your list.
As you begin to take even small steps, you will notice your production increasing, your energy level rising and your happiness begin to grow.
This was written for Rochester Women’s Network’s column Women At Work and was published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on April 21, 2015.
In 2013, I took part in a fire ceremony conducted by Marcela Lobos (picture above is me with Marcela), a Chilean Shaman, that changed my life.
It was a cool September morning at the Omega Institute. Down by the lake, a fire had been started and we were instructed to find a stick.
Marcela, dressed in a colorful sarape and a beaded headband, told us that we were to choose something that we did not want to take home with us. It could be unforgiveness, resentment, anger, ties to an old relationship, etc.
We were then instructed to breathe onto the stick to symbolically transfer that which was to be left behind into the stick. Then, one at a time, we were to step up, kneel down and place our stick into the fire.
But there was one more thing we had to do.
When one knelt down at the fire, another of us was to come up and stand behind her to cover her back. This was a form of protection, because our sister, kneeling at the fire, was in a vulnerable position.
When I heard this, I began to weep as I suddenly realized that I had never felt like anyone had my back.
Standing there with tears streaming down my face, I knew this was something I needed to change.
The part of my soul that was weeping longed for authentic human connection, with myself as well as others. But that was impossible because of the wall I had up. I needed to know that I was ok and that someone was on my side.
When I was younger, I had trusted only to get stabbed in the back. I had been hurt and betrayed so I had chosen not to be vulnerable with the people in my life. Up came the wall.
I realized vulnerability was not only what would bring down this wall I had built, it was the key to learning how to trust and to living a happier life.
Vulnerability takes practice. It is uncomfortable, it can be messy. And I often don’t get it right. I learned that it is not good to be vulnerable with just anyone. I can count on one hand the people with whom I can be completely vulnerable.
Practicing vulnerability has deepened my relationships and brought a level of joy I haven’t felt before.
I have learned that life is more fun and less stressful when we can just be who we are and trust that we have people in our life who have our back.