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Jealousy & Competition

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Grateful My Friends Have Other Friends

In late September, before I left for a vacation with my husband, I was caught up with all most closest friends and family and bid them goodbye.  While I was going to be on Facebook a bit and try to scan my emails occasionally, I was planning to be off-the-grid as much as possible.  I said farewell and off we went on our dream trip to Greece. Cue forward three weeks and I felt like I came home to a rapidly changed world!

One of my closest friends, who was scheduled for a c-section the week after I

my friends has other friends

was to get home ended up having her baby two weeks before I returned.  Not only was I not at the hospital with her as planned, but I wasn't even in the country.  Others surrounded her, organizing meal drop-offs, helping babysit her other daughter, and cheering her up with love. All I could do was send an email of congratulations from afar... I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had built an entire community of friends who could love her well in my absence.

Another close friend, in the span of those three weeks, was so inspired by a friends detox program that she ended up not only starting the 21-day process herself, but already had other friends paying her to do their shopping, chopping, and cooking so they could join her in the cleanse. She and I are friends who tell each other everything in our weekly calls, but in missing 3 weeks-- I wasn't there to bounce ideas off of, cheer lead for her courage, or help think through pricing and possibilities. This diet wasn't even on her radar when I left; when I returned she had the beginnings of a business! I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had other friends who not only supported her in that entire launch, but who first gave her the idea, and some who became her first clients.

A similar thing happened with my sister who had a job opportunity come up, interviewed, got it, turned in her two-week notice, and started a new job, all in the span of my vacation! Again, prayer of thanks that she has an awesome community around her who helped validate and cheer her on along the way.

My life felt like it was placed on pause while I went off on a much-anticipated vacation, but there was no stopping the lives of everyone I loved while I was gone. All I could do was come home and give them my time on the phone to catch me up on everything that had happened in their beautiful lives: new babies, new vision, and new jobs! (What relief that it was all good stuff and not any crisis's!)

Our Friends Deserve All The Love They Can Get

I hear from many women who feel threatened if their friends make other close friends. Their egos get wounded because they interpret that interest in more friends as though it means that they are inadequate.  And that can't be further from the truth.

The truth is, that when our friends make other good friends, it means our friends are healthy!  It means our friends know the value of community and know what it takes to foster love in lots of different places.  If we love our friends-- we will want others to love them, too.

All I did was go on a vacation. But it limited me from being "there" for my friends. All of us will have times in our lives where we can't be as available-- busy work periods, parents who need us, kids who are going through a rough patch, wedding planning that consumes our attention, having a baby that puts us out of commission for a bit, or going through a health challenge that leaves us without energy. There are any number of things in life that can constrain us from being the kind of friend we ideally would want to be; and many of them are to no fault of our own.

Our friends deserve having as many friendships as they can foster. They are better off with it.  And so are we.

We're better off with them having other friends? Absolutely!

  1. Less pressure and obligation: They don't lean on us too much, expecting us to be and do everything.
  2. More meaningful time together: They're typically happier and more centered with more friends so our time with them will feel more energetic and positive.
  3. More fun and opportunity: We will get to meet their friends at some events and possibly get exposed to more people we already know are wonderful (because our friend has chosen them!)

It's Our Responsibility

If we're feeling jealous, it's not her fault.  It's our responsibility to make sure that we are initiating time with her and making the most of the time we have together.

If we feel resentful that she isn't meeting all our needs, it's not her job to do so, but rather our responsibility to surround ourselves with a circle of love.

We need to foster additional friendships, too; not to replace her (and maybe not even ones we'll enjoy as much as with her!) but to feed other parts of our lives and to ensure that we have our own support system of meaningful friendships.

We all -- us and our friends -- need as much love as we can handle!  :)

Leave a comment: What other perks have you experienced in your friend having other friends?  Or... what has made this especially hard for you?

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Grateful for My Own Life

It's so common to look at the lives of friends (or celebrities) and wish we had their lives.  Facebook exacerbates this yearning as we constantly see the highlights of each others lives at times when our own lives are most boring (since most of us are only browsing news feed when we have a dull moment). Feeling Jealous of Our Friends

I know I've felt the pang of jealousy.  Recently, in fact.  Someone I admire posted "So excited!  My retreat just sold out in 20 minutes!" and the critic in my head whined, "Why didn't your retreat sell out? Do people not like you?" Insanity, really. My head can quickly jump in and cheer me on: "Shasta, be gentle on yourself.  It's your first retreat!" but my heart will feel the sting of failure and jealousy will have poked her head into my day.

So when one of my dear girlfriends Krista posted on our group page (a Facebook group page that 5 of us use to stay in touch with each other in between our quarterly phone calls and annual get-togethers) her own twinges of jealousy-- I understood immediately.

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life..."

We can first talk about the fact that 98% of my life is hardly exciting and glamorous... but the bigger issue at hand is how easy it is for us to compare ourselves to each other.

My darling friend Krista living her dream...

And these are with girlfriends who go far beyond cherry Facebook posts with each other.  We have witnessed each others tears, we send texts saying, "Ugh! I am so mad right now at x," and when we give updates to each other we share highs and lows so we are always hearing each others pain, tension, and stress, too.  So we can't just blame Facebook. This feeling reveals that even with friends who we share deeply and intimately with-- we're still tempted to want their high points even when we know their whole life isn't that way.

I can point to every single one of my friends and pick something from their life that I wish were mine: be it their home, their financial stability, their joys of motherhood, their beauty, or their ability to make people laugh.

Choosing Our Own Lives

When Krista bravely posted her honest twinges of envy for each of us, she also posted a recent Facebook post from Liz Gilbert (so worth reading) where Liz shared all the dreams of others that she is saying no to:

"I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I've had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I've never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me. I never had children...because that's somebody else's dream. I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own...because that's somebody else's dream.... I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings...because that's somebody else's dream...."

And she goes on-and-on with all the lives she could have had....

Liz Gilbert "living her dream" researching her books, knowing that by picking this dream, there are others she is saying no to.

With this post, she shared a picture of her with "greasy hair and tired eyes" researching her most recent book, saying this is me living my dream: "going down the rabbit hole of research."

While there are plenty of us who might look at her and wish we could write best-selling novels... I'm left asking, would spending years researching a book actually be my dream? It's too easy to want the outcomes of each other's choices:  wealth, flexible schedules, reputation, or a big family; but not necessarily enjoy the journey that leads there or what we'd give up to choose that.

By her choosing to live this dream of having the time to write and get lost in "rabbit holes" she is living her dream which means saying no to many other valid, wonderful, and meaningful dreams that she could have chosen.

Where Our Jealousy and Our Peace Can Intertwine

Had Krista just admitted to occasionally feeling jealous that would have been impressive enough... for most of us don't stop to acknowledge our feelings to ourselves, let alone share them vulnerably with our friends; but she look how she continued:

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life...

...it would be total hell for me" because that is her dream and not mine. Getting up doing Improv is not my dream. Giving a graduation lecture is not my dream. Singing in front of people is not my dream. Those dreams belong to you girls and you do them with grace and authenticity.

With my career, I sometimes look at other doctors and think I should be publishing more or trying to advertise more. The truth is I love taking good care of my patients. As long as I know I'm doing a good job and they know it, I could care less if I'm voted "top doc in Seattle." That is somebody else's dream. I love having a husband to come home to and plan grocery lists and dinners and organize our lives together and share hikes and road trips. Vegas weekends and fancy dinners are somebody else's dream. I'm not a stay at home mom - that also is somebody else's dream. I love that you all have supported me in finding and living MY dream. xoxo

What I Love About that Exchange

So much to love about that posting, but notice these things:

  • She was honest... she brought us all together, more willing to admit where we feel jealousy as we look at each other.
  • She was self-reflective... she may like the idea of what she calls a "glamorous" life but she then uses the words total hell!--Ha!-- to describe that she knows the difference between the idea of something and the actuality of it for who she is.  She then goes on to name the things she loves about her life... you can almost feel her peace returning as she reminds herself that she is, in fact, living the life she chose.
  • She affirmed... Improv comedy, singing, graduation lectures-- those are amazing accomplishments of her friends and she's acknowledging how cool they are. It's tempting to downplay or criticize something that isn't our dream, but she's not saying there bad dreams... she's wowed by them and says "you do them with grace and authenticity."
  • She accepted... I absolutely love that she gave voice to the expectations and standards of what she thought she was supposed to want (i.e. being top doc in Seattle) and realized that she really didn't need that (nor was willing to do the things it would take since it either would take away from things she values or wasn't in alignment with who she is) to be happy.  It was "someone else's dream."
  • She inspired us... When the five of us were on our conference call yesterday, we talked about it a bit--each acknowledging how much we can want pieces of each other's lives.  Her posting inspired us to talk about it and reflect.  One friend said, "It helped me realize that what I was jealous of wasn't actually the thing I thought I wanted, rather it was the feeling of taking a risk and pursing a passion.  And then I realized I am doing that! I don't need to be jealous!"

To have friends we admire means we have friends that will wow us, which means chances are high that we'll sometimes feel less-than-wowing. To be human means we will sometimes compare and feel jealous.  To have healthy friendships means we do the ongoing work of living our dreams and cheering for theirs. To grow deeper means we sometimes talk about it.

Thank you, Krista, for sharing this post with us, your girlfriends, and for kindly giving me permission to share it with a few of mine via this blog. ;)  The good news is that if we both keep sharing our lives with each other, then we can live a wee bit vicariously through each other... I am cheering you on and love the life you've created!

This Thanksgiving... what would it look like for each of us to let go of one "dream" that is someone's elses and instead choose peace and acceptance for one of ours?  And who do you sometimes feel jealous of that you could write a note to them this month and tell them you're thankful for them, their accomplishments, and how much they wow you?

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Feminism is a Team Sport

Something magical happens when women gather in circle. Many of my best ideas over the years have happened in connection with others; when I get to hear myself think out loud, when they say something that resonates, when their brainstorms inspire, and when I feel the energy of validation.

Such was the case last January as I spent a retreat day with one of my mastermind groups, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost three years now.  We began this year by sharing some of the promptings we were each feeling in our hearts for where we were feeling called and led in the year ahead.  I was speaking to my conviction that I want to be a part of women trusting each other again, cheering for each other more, and working alongside each other as we step into our own personal power.

Wearing on the outside the hope I have on the inside!

While processing out loud, I said something along the lines of: "we need to realize that feminism is a team sport, not something we each do alone." And Kimberly, sitting across the Circle from me, said, "You need to put that on a t-shirt."

And so I did.  :)

Feminism Needn't Be Scary

Here's why:

Several years ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that they titled, "Feminism: How I Finally Came Out as an Advocate for Women" where I shared a bit of my struggle over the word feminism, specifically; and my own ignorance with the movement, more generally. It wasn't that I hadn't wanted to be an advocate for women, it was more that I had been avoiding being an advocate for feminism-- I saw them as two separate things.  I mistakenly thought you could be for one without being for the other.

Many women still shy away from the word, wondering if we still have need of it.  This word has been used to help us win the right to vote, to fight for reproductive and sexual rights, to make a path for women to work outside the home in any profession of their choosing, and to give us permission to make our own life choices around marriage and motherhood, among many other things.  We appreciate the fruits of movements-past, but so badly want to believe that we have arrived.

Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, said this when I went to hear her speak last year:

“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.”

Now we may not have the same laws that keep us down, but our chains of who we think we're supposed to be can feel just as heavy.

In my travels and connections I see just how exhausted, weary, guilt-ridden, fearful, unhappy, and lonely women are, and I am convinced that the call to feminism is still relevant. And needed. It may just need to look a little different from the image seared in my memory of seeing women burning bra's in front the capital.

If I could pick a new image for feminism, it would be women sitting in circles, supporting each other.

Feminism Together

Because it's only when we're in tribe, connected to each other, sitting shoulder-

feminism is a team sport

to-shoulder, face-to-face, in relationship with others that we can practice embodying the equality that we long for.

What we crave is each others acceptance. Why can't we give that fully and easily?

What we long for is for someone to tell us that we're doing enough, we're okay, we're good moms and wives and daughters even if we can always think of more we could do, and that we're making a difference. Why must we keep competing as though only a few of us deserve to hear those words?

We need each other to help us hear our own worth. We can do that!

We need to stop feel judged, and instead feel cheered on.  What a difference that would make in this world!

It's only in relationship to each other that we practice offering love even when we risk rejection; and just as importantly, practicing the receiving of gifts and time without feeling like our lack reflects poorly on us. No, we can't do everything. Yes, we need help. Thank you.

These power house  women live with vulnerability, courage, and conviction; modeling for me the actions I am committed to keep practicing.

It's with my friends that I practice shining my biggest and best self, speaking of my strengths and owning my accomplishments so that I feel more comfortable doing that in a world that isn't as practiced yet.  And it's where I want them practicing for themselves, as well.

Only in relationship do we learn the coveted skills of saying "yes" when scared, and "no" when tired.  It's with each other that we should be able to practice those hard words so that we are more at ease speaking our truth in other crowds.

Who we want to be, must be, need to be-- requires us practicing those skills in relationship. We don't become more confident, loving, patient, and empathetic in a vacuum; we do it in connection with each other.

Feminism now is inviting all of us to love ourselves, our bodies, and each other, just as we are. That's not to say that the external circumstances are equal, for they aren't.  But just as significant, is us feeling our worth on the inside and reflecting that to each other.

Feminism Practiced

I believe so much in being in circle with other women that I have committed to it as a regular practice in my life.  In addition to my friends and social life, I belong to three "mastermind" groups.  Two of them are weekly, via Skype and telephone; the other is a monthly in-person gathering.  Each of them functions differently, but behind every one of them is a circle of women cheering each other on.

I want you to be in circle with women who see your value, your worth, and your joy.  I want you to keep practicing being a woman who cheers others on, judges less, and loves more.

------------------------

Two Resources for Cheering Each Other On!

  1. Buy the T-shirt in our store:  I've been gifting these to some of the women

    You can get this t-shirt at www.ConnectedGifts.com

    who have been supporting me saying, "Thanks for being on my team!" Wear yours and spread the love!

  2. Join www.GirlFriendCircles.com:  GirlFriendCircles.com is a women's website that matches amazing women to new local friends.  We believe women are better when connected!  Join us today and meet other women who value having good friendships and are open to meeting new people!

 

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How to Not Feel Judged

This last weekend was my 20th high school reunion.  I hadn't been back since our 10th.

Nothing like a High School Reunion to Flare Up the Insecurities

What started off months ago as excitement at seeing my high school friends, many with whom I had gone to school with since first grade, turned into fear as the date got closer.

I knew it was fear because I recognize that anytime I have a voice whispering a variation of  "You're too different from them... they won't accept you" that my own insecurity is starting to put up walls of protection.  And the only time I'd need protection is if some part of me thought I was in danger.

Which of course I wasn't in danger.  But trying to convince the voice of a little insecure high school girl, who kept whispering that my marriage was too different, that my religious path looked too different, or that my lifestyle was too different, was like asking a baby to stop crying. Somewhat futile despite the best soothing.

You undoubtedly know the feeling. Sometimes it's walking into a cocktail party and assuming that everyone else knows someone, except us.  Or attending a ConnectingCircle where you hope to make new friends, but guessing  ahead of time that you probably won't have anything in common with anyone.  Or talking to someone and guessing that whatever we are (single, a mom, retired, a Christian, an immigrant) isn't what the other person wishes we were, leaving the conversation feeling very much like an outsider.

Fear Divides Us

And I knew that I wasn't the only one showing up at our reunion feeling the fear.  In fact, I guessed that there would be many who wouldn't even come, where fear was undoubtedly at the root of their reason.  With statements like "Everyone else still acts like they did back in high school," "I'm just too different," "We don't have anything in common anymore," and "I didn't even like them back then, I surely won't like them now," you can see that every excuse validates the voice of fear: "I'm too different." And the unacknowledged fear beneath that statement is that we'll be judged, or rejected in some way.

I often quote Rabbi Harold Kushner who says that our greatest human fear is the fear of rejection.  He makes a case that it is the fear of being rejected, or not being "enough," that is at the root of every other fear we hold.

If that is true, and I think it is, then we know that our default lens is often to presume we're being rejected, or somehow not measuring up.

If that's just true in day-to-day life, then the stakes definitely go up at reunions. There aren't many places in life where we "go back" to the same place and group of people.  That going back is like a mirror where we can see where we used to be, and where we are now. It's impossible to not see all the other paths we could have taken, how our choices have played out; and to then compare our current life either to those who graduated with us, or against our own hopes of where we pictured ourselves someday being.  Much like a door frame where our parents measured our growth with pencil marks, this ritual of going back can leave us feeling measured, evaluated, and insecure for any part of life that isn't "perfect."

I can feel sensitive about being judged for moving away and leaving our town; and someone else can feel fearful that I'd think less of them for staying.  Someone can come and feel nervous about being too accomplished and successful; and someone else can come feeling bad about not having finished college.  The person who is always being judged for having the "perfect" life is feeling just as insecure as the person who feels the weight of a bankruptcy, weight gain, or divorce.

What fear does is divides.  Fear whispers that we're not good enough.  Fear insists that there is a separation between you and me.  Fear focuses on the .1% that may appear different, rather than the 99.9% that is the same.  Fear forgets that we're connected. Fear builds up walls that tempt us to think someone is inside, and someone is outside.

How To Not Feel Judged...

Of course to bring our walls down means we have to feel safe.  And while most us think we need them to act loving before we can feel safe, I found it much more empowering to create my own safety.

Here are the two things I did differently this time, that resulted in me not feeling judged:

1)    First, I changed my story.

When I listen to most of us articulate our fears about what others might think of us, we say: "I feel judged for x."

Even if we don't use that word, we express those sentiments. You'll know you feel judged by the fact that you start defending yourself.  Only someone who feels attacked has to defend.  In defense mode we have two options: devalue them and/or inflate us.  We tell ourselves whatever we have to to try to feel better about our lives.

The problem with feeling judged is that it leaves us as the victims, implying there is someone doing something to us.  The story of judgment always has a perpetrator that we must defend ourselves against.

This time, every time I was tempted to take on the story of "feeling judged" I replaced it with "I feel insecure about x." I owned it!

That shift in language changed everything!  Now, instead of being a victim that needs to defend myself against someone doing something (that most often is only imagined!); I am simply recognizing that I feel the fear.  Now, I am in charge and I can ask myself, "Why do I feel insecure about this part of my life? Is it because I'm not happy with this myself? Or, am I not at peace with it in some way? What information can I take from this that will help me live my life more in alignment? Is there anything I can do to make myself feel better right now? How do I want to respond?"

Owning it as insecurity, rather than projecting judgment on others kept me loving to them with the clarity that they aren't the problem and empowered me with the information and empathy I needed to look inside and grow myself.

2)    The second thing I did was create a mantra that I said silently through out the whole weekend:

"Focus on loving people, not trying to impress them."

So this time... I listened with empathy to that little high school girl inside of me that just wanted to be accepted.  I heard it, validated the hunger, assured that little girl that others felt the same way, and decided that my own odds of feeling accepted would increase if I came in ready to give that to others.

I decided that I'd rather leave people feeling good about themselves rather than worrying about them feeling good about me.  That means I chose to affirm them, share the very imperfect parts of my life with honesty, and listen deeply-- all things that can't be done with a heart of fear.  Walls don't lend themselves to connection and love.

And truthfully, people like people who like them so odds increase that if they feel good--as opposed to insecure-- talking to you, they'll like you! Acceptance has a way of breeding acceptance.  Which is what we all want anyway... so why not just get straight to the point?  :)

You probably don't have a high school reunion coming up... but I'll leave you with this prayer:

May you know your worth, feeling deeply how valuable you are.  May you remember that while your default mode is to feel rejected, that you can choose acceptance instead.  May you continue to grow in accepting yourself and giving that gift to all whom you meet.  We are all accepted, all good enough, all created with love....we just forget sometimes. Let's remember...

 

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Feminism is a Friendship Issue

Last night three of us sat in the beautiful living room of my friend's brand new condo. It was gorgeous. We toasted her buying her own home (in the Bay Area that is a HUGE feat!), and indirectly toasted the business she started several years ago that has given her such financial opportunities.  She is nothing short of amazing as she builds her empire, hires employees, travels the world, and fills her life up with the experiences that matter most to her. Not being married....

And yet she shared how exhausting it is to feel like others assume she's done something wrong to still be single. Their statements, their questions, their looks of pity, their advice... it can all feel isolating and condemning.

She'll be the first to say that she so looks forward to being in a relationship that feels healthy, fun, and meaningful so it's not that she prefers being single. But she prefers being single to being in a relationship that is empty of the things she values; she's unwilling to get married to just be married.

She doesn't need our advice to try online dating; she doesn't need us trying to encourage her by reminding her the perks of being single; she doesn't need us to tell her that she just needs to get more comfortable being by herself.

What she needs are women who will just let her tell her own story and experience, women who are able to hold both the truth that there are parts that can "suck" about be single and the hope with her that it will still happen; all without implying that there is something wrong with her or that she's not doing life right.

I'm not single, and yet I know the feeling.

Not having kids....

At my most recent speaking engagement I must have fielded the question, "Do you have kids?" at least seventy times in that one day.  For the first 50 responses I kept whispering to myself, "They're just trying to connect with me.  They're just trying to find common ground on the area of life that matters most to them.  Don't read anything else into it."

But by mid-afternoon, I was exhausted.  I was weary of feeling like they wanted me to have kids as though I'd have more credibility to them if I did.  My insecurities were starting to flare up and the fear of "not being enough" was lodging itself in my chest. The voice of shame began to whisper: "You're not a real woman unless you're a mom.  They think you can't relate.  They will trust you more if your life looks just like theirs."

I felt judged and dismissed; but I didn't want to adopt that story because I don't think anyone was trying to judge me.  So I've spent the last week processing those fears with close girlfriends, journaling, talking with my husband, and coaxing my voice of wisdom to speak louder than my voice of fear.

The irony here is that the third friend I was with last night is married and a mom.  But she too knew the feeling we were describing.

Not having enough kids...

She has an only child and fields similar-feeling questions all the time about whether she's going to have another, when, and why it's the best thing to do for x, y, and z reasons.

Without knowing her circumstances, her heart, her body, or the details of her life-- she feels like other women presume there is a "correct" path that should be followed.  Like me feeling dismissed with statements like, "well of course you can do that because you don't have kids," she feels that way because "she only has one and that's easy!"

I've also heard women who have more than the presumed 2-3 kids talk about feeling judged, too.

And let's not sidestep that everything I've seen on feminism lately has more to do with how much a women "leans in" or "reclines" in her career once she has a family so we know that there is massive insecurities getting flared up in that arena as everyone struggles with trying to do it all right.

And, of course we all know, that you can be married, with the 2.5 kids, surrounded by the proverbial white picket fence, and still incur the feelings of not be enough, competing with other moms, and feeling as though no one understands just how unique or difficult our personal experience is-- whether we have twins, an adopted child, a special needs baby, a difficult teenager, or a an adult child that lives at home-- the list goes on and on of things that quickly push us to feel like something is wrong with our lives.

Feminism must start in our friendships and spread out...

Last week, a friend and I sat in the audience to listen to Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, who spoke about how she believes we've lost sight of the original goal of feminism being to liberate women.  The data she shared made a convincing case that not only have the numbers not really budged beyond the "token 1-2 women" in the upper echelons of most industries, but that more discouraging is the fact that we're not yet acting like liberated women on the inside, either.  Our body image hasn't improved in the last number of decades, we're exhausted and weary, we are more educated and yet feel more incompetent, we never feel like we're doing enough, we feel guilty for not making homemade Halloween costumes, and we're not reporting higher levels of happiness.

Last night, sipping tea, I looked at these two dear friends of mine and thought, "How is it that we are all strong, self-aware, healthy, vibrant, happy, spiritually-engaged, and pursuing our dreams, and yet still enslaved by this idea that we're not really a woman until/unless we do x?"

And while I believe there are some serious systemic issues that need to be addressed to help level the playing field, I also think women are doing a lot of this to ourselves and each other.  It's women who are editors of the magazines featuring photo-shopped women, it's women looking down on other women for making different life choices, it's women who are forgetting that every time they judge someone else that it heightens their own insecurity.

Insecurity about our lives leads to judgment of others. We all want validation that we're doing the best we can and that it's enough. And if someone makes a different choice than we do then we are tempted to believe that one of us made the wrong choice.  And we don't want it to be us, so it must be them.

And that is a faulty paradigm.  We aren't competitors, we're sisters. Truly connected; our fate is shared in so many ways as a rising tide lifts all boats.  While we're out there campaigning for equal pay and corner offices, we also have to do the work of making sure we're not like prisoners who no longer live behind bars but still don't know how to enjoy freedom.

The part of feminism I care about most is how we feel about ourselves.  And that is shaped by the relationship we have with ourselves (finding our own peace in our choices and being centered in our own worth), the relationship we have with what I call God (understanding why we're on this planet, our calling, our value, what makes us special), and the relationship we have with those around us (practicing the shining of our light and seeing how special everyone else is, too).

Last night, the three of us women, whose lives don't mirror each others at all, shared our hearts, spoke our truth, and validated each other in meaningful ways.  We promise to cheer for each other, even when one of us has something the other seemingly wants.  We promise to not take it personally when someone makes a choice different from ours. We promise to ask questions and listen to each others stories as if we're each a traveler who has visited countries that we won't be seeing; instead of trying subtly convince each other to follow the same path we did.  And we promise to do the personal work in our own lives to show up with as much vulnerability, honesty, courage, and love, as we possibly can.

We practiced feminism-- liberating each other to live the best life we each created.

And the more we do that with each other, the more we can do that with the women we have yet to meet.

Feminism is in trouble the more disconnected women get from ourselves and each other.

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A Theology of Self-Love

Thank you for letting this be a place where I process all kinds of things, even theology, as it pertains to our relationships.  I think it's important to do so since so many of us have roots in worldviews that come with the "stamp of God" on them. And those beliefs, whether we still believe them or not, impact us, which impacts our relationships with others. In a recent interview Oprah had with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and American author, he made this observation:

"Our western culture has produced a society of epidemic loneliness and self-hatred."

Oprah & Jack Kornfield

One of my keynote talks is titled "Loneliness:  The Surprising Epidemic of the Busy & Social Woman" where I speak to what I believe is a world full of women who are scared of loneliness and therefore missing the information that loneliness offers.  It is far more prevalent than most of us dare to admit. That Jack mentions self-hatred as a sister epidemic is equally powerful, intrinsically connected, and incredibly relevant to those of us who value healthy friendships.

Most of us would recoil from the idea of self-hatred, but that doesn't necessarily make us good at self-love.

Since it's nearly impossible to connect meaningfully with others if we don't like ourselves; and because, conversely, I've found it's harder to forgive ourselves and show compassion to ourselves if we haven't practiced giving it to others-- we must talk about self-love when we talk about loving others. The two are definitely linked.

Some World-Views Resist Self-Love

Some women actually have some resistance to the idea of self-love, confusing it with vanity, arrogance, or narcissism. Whether it's gender roles, religious systems, or a false understanding of humility, many of us have been taught to love others without regard to loving ourselves.

To illustrate, in response to a status update about how excited I was to be interviewing Christine Arylo* (a friend of mine, and author of Madly in Love With Me who has been affectionately dubbed "The Queen of Self-Love") about ways we can all step into greater self-love this month of February, someone wrote this comment on my post:

"The more one who loves Christ, the more one will be drawn to be more like Him. Should that not be our goal. Also, the more we look to Christ, the more we shall distrust self."

First, it bothers me deeply to have anyone think that it's good for us to ever distrust ourselves, or imply that we shouldn't focus on loving ourselves; but you add cloaking it all in religious garb and I had a visceral reaction.

As I began framing my response, my husband wondered out loud if I shouldn't just leave it alone, reminding me that I can't go changing how everyone thinks.  I paused for a thoughtful moment, and then concluded that I, in fact, couldn't ignore it. Not this time.

Theology, or World-View, Affects Our Relationships

The former pastor in me cringes when I hear any picture of God being propagated that doesn't end up leading to greater love. Greater love for the divine, yes; but also greater love for others, for the planet, and for ourselves-- all things that Christians believe God created. In fact the Bible says "Love your neighbors as yourself!"

Self-love is actually made up of self-honor, self-respect, self-care, self-esteem, self-compassion-- and a lot of other things that my picture of God would want us all to have in vast supplies.

My picture of God, rooted in origins of Christianity, teaches that God wants us to have "life abundantly" that is filled with the "Fruits of the Spirit" which includes things like more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Any belief system that doesn't line up with making me more of those things is strongly suspect. Whatever name you might possibly use to describe the "More" that is out there, I hope your picture of that which is sacred, expands your life, rather than shrinks it.

In fact, going on a little rabbit trail for a moment, the science of behavioral kinesiology highlights this truth for us in a very practical and real way.  In learning that our muscles instantly become weak when the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, psychologists and scientists have been able to test perceptions, worldviews, and spiritual beliefs with the effects those words and concepts have in our bodies.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the emotion that weakens the body more than anything else is shame. Just think about how little energy you have when you feel safe-hatred. Only slightly more powerful than shame, is guilt, followed by apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, and then courage.

Courage calibrates at 200 on the Map of Consciousness which is the tipping point toward strength.  It is of no coincidence that emotions such as willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, and peace (pretty similar to the Bible's list of fruits of the spirit!) make us stronger.

Any church, picture of God, or theology that uses shame, guilt, or fear to teach or "motivate" is actually weakening our bodies, shrinking us, and literally making it less likely that we'll ever become more loving people.

And I'm pretty sure that becoming more loving should be the point of any religious system.

My Theology Affects Me

But if I spoke out every time I heard damaging theology then that in itself would be a full-time (and very exhausting!) job.  So what provoked me this time?

Because it spoke directly to a place where I have been wounded before.

Several years ago, I was doing some intentional self-growth work, trying to increase my awareness around any self-limiting beliefs I might be acting from and the one that kept popping up for me personally was, "I am not worthy." (For others of you it could be other variations such as: I am not loveable, I am not safe, or I am not powerful.)

I resisted it, not really resonating with it, and so not wanting it to be true.  My self-confident little ego voice said, "That's crazy! I know I'm worthy!"  Where would I ever have picked up such a self-defeating and silly belief?

A week later I was visiting a friend and went to her church with her.  Imagine my horror when the worship leader on stage prayed, "Oh God, we're not worthy!  We're not worthy to be your sons and daughters...."

And it hit me.  I probably had heard versions of that throughout childhood-- this picture of humanity being evil, bad, untrustworthy, and unworthy of any of God's goodness.  How could it not have affected me?

The belief that I may not be worthy not only leads to a very denying, punitive, and condemning God, but it leads to a negative self-image, as well.  Not owning my worth can be directly linked to me not charging the prices I am worth, not asking for what I need in my relationships, or not believing I am worth being taking good care of by others and my self.

But I know now that I am very worthy.  BECAUSE I am a child of God, I am worthy.  All by myself, without me doing or saying or believing anything, I am valuable, worthy, and loved. The spark of God that lives in me ensures that I am worthy.

To be clear, I believe Christianity is an incredibly expanding worldview, just not the way it's always presented...

Some Christians are so afraid that to own our worthiness we might become entitled, unappreciative, or putting ourselves as gods.  In my experience, that can't be further from the truth.  Knowing our worth helps us see the worth in others; and I for one, become more appreciative of my God who created an abundance of love and goodness for me to keep living into and aligning myself with.

Shame has No Value in Loving Relationships

I hope your story is different from mine. I hope you have felt worthy your entire life.  And I hope that you have no resistance to loving yourself well.

But if you sense hesitation, shame, or fear, I hope that you'll take the time to examine your own negative self-talk and worldviews that might be limiting your ability to shine.

Because I believe so deeply that healthy and loving people create healthy and loving friendships, it's important to me that we--this community of women who value meaningful friendships--do the work of loving ourselves.

Let's practice being a best friend to ourselves so we can be it for others.  -------------------------------

* When I first met Christine Arylo, she intimidated me with her clear sense of calling and confidence. My temptation was to pull away from her so I wouldn't feel insecure or jealous.

Self Love Party Invitation

Instead, we've become friends. And I've become far more comfortable shining my own light in this world because of her modeling. We are now both in a group of women committed to supporting each other.  It is my honor to invite you to her upcoming free live-streamed event on Feb., 13, the International Day of Self-Love.  You won't regret taking the time to make a self-love promise to yourself this year.  And your self-love will give permission to others to shine brightly that we might all treat ourselves well so we can contribute to this world in the ways we're each called to do so.

 

 

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Is "Get Rid of Negative People in My Life" Good Advice?

Please note:  This post isn't intended to speak about the cases that include mental disorders, criminals, drug abusers, or those who are willfully hurting us.  The intention of the post is to speak to the vast majority of relationships we are walking away from, without conversation or efforts to enforce our boundaries, because we write them off simply as being "negative." This is a two-part blog, in my next one I'll talk about how to approach friendships we feel are unhealthy, but I want to write this prerequisite post to help clarify the difference between the roles of friends in our lives versus others with whom we're called to still live beside.

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There is something in my soul that stirs with a dis-ease every time I hear some form of the increasingly popular advice: "Only surround yourself with positive people. Get rid of negative people!"

Good Advice? "Only Surround Yourself with Positive People"

It can be found in little cute quote boxes shared everywhere on Facebook saying things like "People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick wisely."  It's advice that is freely given from self-help experts with little explanation other than what sounds like a command, "If their presence can't add value to your life, then their absence will make no difference."  It comes in many well-intending forms, all with the goal of making us better people: "Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher."

We've actually been hearing this barrage for so long now that I suspect most of us just accept these quotables as irrevocable truth. But these single-sentence aphorisms can be misleading at best, damaging at worst.

Needy People in Our Lives

The question isn't whether we let needy or depressed people into our lives.  The question is how much do we let them in, and for what purpose.

The truth is that we have to learn to be around hurting people-- not only because it's unrealistic that we can avoid them, but how else will we serve this world with what we each have to offer?  We can, and must, be around people who judge, whine, attack, and defend. We're related to some of them, we work for some of them, and sometimes we have been or are those people. The more important issue is whether we're counting on these individuals to be our closest friends.

Our friends-- the handful of people we choose to let close to our hearts--must fulfill the four requirements of friendship by being, more often than not, a) consistent b) contributing c) self-revealing, and d) positive.  You clarify those quotes above with the words "closest friends" instead of "people" and I won't squirm. (Or at least not as much... truthfully, even our friends can't always be all those things without there being misunderstandings and hurt feelings at times. But... I'm okay with us striving toward those qualities with our inner circle.)

But before we evaluate our friendships in the next post, let us own what is ours to own: We are not victims to other people's' pain. We are healers. Ultimately it's around hurting people who we're meant to be around, each of us giving the gift that is ours to give to those who need it.

This isn't a world made up of friends and enemies, rather it's a world of friends and people to be friendly toward.  Enemies must be crushed and eliminated; whereas hurting, jealous, toxic, unhealthy people must be loved and healed. Just because someone isn't our closest friend doesn't mean they don't have value in our lives.

Elimination is Not Necessary

To suggest that I can't be around anyone who isn't at their best because it will bring me down glosses over my own strength. Any of us who have been pastors, social workers, therapists, or in any other people-helping industries can attest to the fact that as long as we are practicing our own self-care, have our own support system in place, and are clear about our role in the lives of people who are hurting, then our positive influence can be greater in their lives than their pain will be in ours. Light is more powerful than darkness. And hurt people need love and light.

The answer isn't just to eliminate and ostracize hurting people, the answer is to learn how to shine our lights so brightly that we can enter any darkness and know that our light cannot be extinguished.

And not just that our light can survive, but actually that our light gets stronger and more compassionate and more life transforming as we show up in genuine moments with others, no matter what condition they are in. We are blessed and grown in those moments just as much as they are.

We do not become the people who this world needs simply by turning our backs on anyone we don't like, trust, or deem healthy enough to be in our presence.  No, in fact, those are exactly the people we need to let into our lives.  Not just for their sake, but for ours.  To serve others is what we're called to do in this world-- your calling centers around it.  To learn how to forgive is the greatest lesson any of us can ever hope to learn (which means we will need to practice it a number of times).  To sit with someone in pain increases our ability to empathize, which increases our ability to trust and love, which is ultimately what you want: more love.

If your light is dim or flickering, then perhaps you may need to set some boundaries and limit time with people who you feel can't support the happier and more powerful version of yourself; but that's temporary, and something to own in yourself rather than blame in others.

Re-Defining the Good Advice

Here's how I re-interpret these ever-popular quotes to put the responsibility on me, rather than the blame on others.

"People inspire you, or they drain you. Pick wisely."  I am not picking people, rather I am picking my response.  I get to decide whether I am inspired or drained.  I can be around someone who is shining and walk away drained by jealousy, or I can sit with someone who is chronically depressed and walk away inspired and grateful.  My power doesn't mean I get to pick who's valuable, it means I get to pick whether I'm able to see the value in everyone.

"If their presence can't add value to your life, then their absence will make no difference." This is such a dangerous quote.  Taken to the extreme, wars are fought, holocausts are allowed, and racism and classism are justified.  No, if their presence doesn't add value to your life it's either because you haven't taken the time to get to know them yet or you haven't yet seen who you can become because of them.  It is not because they are without value.

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher."  In the closest circle of your life, I agree that this is a good ideal.  We want to create relationships that nurture, uplift, empower, and love each other well.  But even this has its limits... because it's not others who end up deciding whether we lift higher or not, it's our call.  Sometimes it's the person who wounded us the deepest that pushes us to grow and lift. The universe can use anyone and everyone to help us become our best selves.

This was a hard blog to write... so many caveats I want to give, possible misunderstandings I want to avoid... I end it with a prayer that these words will land where hearts are receptive and ready to see just how powerful we are, how others cannot limit us, and how much the world, as needy as it is, needs us to not turn our backs.  For what's the point of getting healthy if not to turn around and love others to their best as well?

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My next blog will be about what to do when our friendships aren't living up to all four of the required qualities in a friendship and how to make decisions about the best approach to either healing them or limiting them in our lives. Subscribe in the upper right corner.

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I Feel Insecure and It Shows

While describing my life to one of my closest girlfriends yesterday, the metaphor of a crab came to mind. That's a first.

Feeling like a crab...

But it captured my feelings, "I feel like a crab who has outgrown her shell but doesn't yet have a new one to protect me.  Like I'm this little naked, vulnerable, soft animal waiting for my new shell to harden."

She laughed, but understood completely.

hermit crab

I googled crabs after I hung up the phone.  Apparently some crabs wait in their outgrown shell until they find a bigger one that fits them.  That's not me.  I don't feel like I yet know what the new shell looks like or feels like. I don't feel like I'm shopping for something new, rather I feel like I'm becoming something new. But some crabs, like the Fiddler Crab simply have to be reclusive and hide until their new shell hardens.  Yes, that's me.  Soft and vulnerable waiting for my new shell to harden.

But I can't be a recluse and hide like they do.

Feeling insecure about my new projects...

My life is anything but hiding under a rock right now. In fact, I feel like I'm being called to step out of my comfort zone in ever-expanding ways--fundraising for my business, developing a book club campaign, scheduling my book tour in February, and just continuing to dream about new ways of fostering meaningful friendships among women.  Which sounds so good, but still feels scary.

Not scary because I'm uncertain about my path. No, I feel quite sure that I am meant to have stepped out of my last shell, which felt comfortable but was limiting my growth.  But scary in the way it always feels when you're somewhere you've never been, doing things you've never done.

Little voices whisper haunting questions in my ear, "What if you can't pull this off? What if you're not the right person to be doing that?  What if you fail in front of everyone?"  And my little critical voice is quick to take advantage of my insecurity as it senses that I might listen more closely now than I normally do, "Shasta, you're not even a business person, you don't know the right people, you don't have the money or the platform that this project requires."  And there I am, a little crab running around on the sand naked.  Squishy. Vulnerable.

But the reason I thought it was worth sharing my vulnerability with you today was because I've observed something else that accompanies these feelings of insecurity: comparison.

Feeling jealous, going into comparison-mode...

When I'm my healthiest, I rarely feel a need to compare myself to others.  Ingrained in me is the strong belief that we're all wired to fulfill different functions on this earth so I don't need to be jealous of someone else's path.  I know that I am the best person in the world to do my purpose and that I am not lacking anything I need to fulfill my contribution.  And that the same is true of others.  Also, having been a pastor and coach, I've seen the underbelly of a lot of lives that would appear perfect to others.  I've sat with women who others envy and seen the secrets they hold and the pain they hide.  I know that their journey is theirs and mine is mine-- no need to compare and contrast and covet.

But that's when I'm at my healthiest. When I start feeling insecure, all bets are off.

I've observed this partnership between my insecurities and comparisons of others with curiosity this time.  I've noticed that as I wonder if I have what it takes to, say, launch a book successfully, that I begin to compare myself with others who are seemingly successful at this very thing.  And as anyone who compares, my only choices at the end of that line of reasoning is to conclude that one of us is better than the other.  Neither result feels all that good.

It hit me today, again, what a huge connection there is between our own personal health and our ability to engage in healthy relationships. The more insecure we feel, the more we'll walk around trying to impress others, or worse, devalue them and try to make them feel bad about something.  I haven't gone there yet. I think just noticing this in me-- that I'm more prone to feel jealous right now-- is helping me show up with a bit more intentionality than at other times in my life.

Feeling hopeful...

This time, I'm trying to breath deeply and remind myself that it's a good thing to outgrow a shell.  And that it's normal to feel vulnerable in between the shells--in between the jobs, the relationships, and the goals we take on.  So I can be gentle with myself. I can nurture myself with more self-love and grace.  I can forgive myself generously for not knowing all the answers, having "enough" money, or being as amazing as I see everyone else being.

And I can be mindful of not letting my own insecurities bleed into my interactions with others.  I will keep cheering for them.  I will be inspired by them.  I will give to them when I can.  I will keep giving time to helping others on their journeys.  I will remember that we all feel insecure in some place-- maybe I can help someone else navigate the waters that feel new to them.  We all have something to give.

And I will remind myself that it's when I'm most vulnerable that I actually have so much to gain by having friends and people around me.  I need them.  I mustn't risk pushing them away or letting my fears bleed onto them.

My shell is soft, but that's okay.  Being a naked little squirmy thing has its advantages too.  :) I can get closer to people, feel things more freshly, move more quickly, and see the world in a different way.

Today, even without a shell, I am as I am meant to be.

 

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I Have This Theory that Friendship Can Save the World

This is my manifesto for doing what I do.  I believe that beyond the joy and health that friendships bring us personally, they also give us the place to practice being the people who this world needs.

I share this today, on 9/11 for two reasons: First, it is the anniversary of the day eleven years ago when we saw what happens when people judge and fear others. In response to that terrorism, we also saw what happens when love and generosity step in.

And second, today is my birthday. I joyfully launch the message that I'm committed to sharing in the year ahead.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by friendship, I mean relationships where we are committed to practicing the best version of ourselves, while simultaneously choosing to abandon pretense, posturing, and insecurity to risk revealing our shadow side, too.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by save, I mean bring greater happiness, less stress, healthier hearts and bodies, an increased sense of personal worthiness, less rejection, and fewer actions initiated by fear.

I believe that our friendships are gymnasiums for our souls.  Gymnasiums where we can practice being the people this world needs: building up our muscle for compassion, increasing our endurance for giving, and stretching our ability to see the best in each other.

*   So we can practice cheering for people even when we’re jealous.

*   So we can practice listening even when we think we’re right.

*   So we can practice empathy even when we’re tempted to judge.

*   So we can practice serving even when we’re busy.

*   So we can practice saying “I forgive you” even when we’re disappointed.

All of these are skills this world desperately needs.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by the world, I mean that if we don't do these things in relationships with people we love, then what hope do we have of doing them with people who live on the other side of the world from us? Who have different religions or political views? Whose values and beliefs differ from our own?

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

Less splintering, less judgment, less criticism, less loneliness, less fear, less pulling away, less war.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

More smiles, more acceptance, more love, more hope, more applause, more joy, more positivity, more belonging.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

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I hope you'll post this blog and video today to your Facebook page to help remind us how important our friendships are! 

And to that point, today the web site for my book goes live: www.ShastaNelson.com. YAY!  Thank you blog readers for your cheering along the way-- it means a lot!

 

 

 

 

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Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

ABOW logo

For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

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p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls.

The contestants on Bachelor I begrudgingly watched The Bachelor last night and shuddered at how quickly girls sized each other up and put each other down. Hoping they'd feel more cool, more amazing, and more chosen in the process.  Ignorant still to the truth that we can only receive what we're willing to give.  Their immaturity served up as entertainment.

Immaturity is sometimes about age-- it simply takes some life experiences before we can have wisdom.

But the difference between a woman and girl isn't in a birth date, but in a state of mind.  I've seen young women love those around them with health and joy, and I've seen older women so practiced over the years in their victim narrative that every event is seen through the filter of perceived rejection. Maturity can go either way.

Undoubtedly, we all behave like girls at time, in different areas of our lives.

  • Maybe it's in your finances-- waiting for someone else to "fix" them, living in denial about the gap between your spending and earning, or mistakenly thinking that buying things improves your worth.
  • Or maybe it's in your romance-- falling for the myth that you need to be chosen by someone to prove your value, repeating patterns you haven't examined, or holding grievances against someone for not living up to your expectations.
  • Or maybe it's your health-- how you're sabotaging what you say is important to you, living with both too much restriction in one area only to not discipline yourself in another, or holding stress/fear around that which we cannot control.
  • Or maybe it's in your spirituality & personal growth-- in your tendency to throw out the metaphoric baby with the bath water, the judgment and cynicism you hold around belief and practices that aren't already yours, or the busy-ness you're not stepping out of to hear your own voice.

But for the purpose of this blog, I want to talk about how I see our immaturity showing up in our friendships.

We are called GIRLfriends, But We Must Still Show up as Women.

We act immature in our friendships when we feel insecure about ourselves.  Which we tend to do more often than most of us care to admit.  Here are some scenarios I repeatedly see:

Fear of Rejection: We go to a ConnectingCircle-- then feel hurt that others didn't follow up with us afterward and conclude either that they are selfish/arrogant/non-committal people OR that we are unlikable/loners/un-interesting. Notice in both cases we are holding attack thoughts toward others or toward ourselves.  We feel rejected.

Girls want others to initiate, choosing to live with the fear of rejection instead of the possibility of connection.  Women know that they have every responsibility to initiate also, choosing to do what they can and not hold the results as an affront to their ultimate worth.

Fear of Not Feeling Good About Ourselves:  With all this language around toxic relationships, we seem to be giving each other more and more permission to cut people out of our lives that don't make us feel good.  The problem with this often is that it's not always because the other person is toxic that we don't feel strong. Sometimes that voice of insecurity can reveal powerful information that indeed we have personal work we want to do. We can feel bad toward someone because they have something we want, something we're jealous about, or something that we think makes us look less than to not have it (i.e. more money, new relationship, a baby, kids she's proud of, career success).

A Girl gets off the phone feeling yucky and mistakenly assumes the other person is the problem she feels bad about herself.  A Woman asks herself how she can cheer for her friends excitement, and use that to help reveal to herself what it says about what she ultimately wants.

Fear of Judgment. On a similar note is our immediate tendency to judge others. Fast and harsh. It comes out in our decision to RSVP for a particular event-- convinced we are good judges of deciding whether we'll like the other people based on a photo! It comes out in meeting each other when we find ourselves judging their behaviors, dress, stories, etc. We have such a hard time just letting people be themselves... and by extension giving ourselves that same gift. Our ego's feel momentarily better about who we are if we can tell ourselves we're better than her.  But that's immaturity at it's height of ignorance.

A Girl judges others so that she feels better.  A Woman accepts others so that she feels better, knowing she can be powerful without devaluing another.

Growing Up.

It's time to grow up.

It's time to show up facing each other as women.  Women who deserve our utmost respect.  Women who have inherent value whether you can immediately see it or not.  Women who know that they will eventually feel about themselves whatever they feel about others.  Women who know that they don't have to be better than thou to be their best.  Women who feel hopeful when they see others succeed.  Women who trust that as they love, so will they be loved.

Unlike age that just happens to you whether you want it or not, maturity comes when invited.  It comes when you hold the possibility that there might be a better way to approach life.  It comes when you admit enough humility to recognize that just because you think something doesn't make it fact.  It comes when you know your own worth enough to not need to see everything as a reaction to you.  It comes when you say that small prayer: "Mature me. Grow me."

We are not competitors.  We are allies. (Even if any of you eventually becomes a contestant on a show where competing to win the affections of one eligible bachelor... even then you need not devalue.)

This 2012, I hope we all hold the courage to grow up.  Facing each other as humans. With dignity. The world needs more Women.

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Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends

This is a posting that was originally posted April 26, 2010 on my former blog. Because I've been writing more about Frientimacy, I wanted to re-port this illustration of how it's played out in my life. ________________________

Sitting in that circle of six women was powerful. There is nothing like being seen by friends you love and who love you back. Intimacy is a word that just brings up too much romance, so I call it "Frientimacy."

We all live in different cities, but this last weekend we had all flown into Seattle for our Annual Girlfriend Get-Together. And so there we sat catching each other up on our lives. Our real lives.

Frientimacy Is Authentic We listened as one shared that's she not sure she wants to stay married. Another, found out her husband cheated. And another just broke up with the man she wanted.  One is trying to decide if she wants kids. Another is due next month. Another just found out her baby isn't developing on schedule. Another isn't sure she'll find someone to marry before she has that choice. Another is struggling with weight and another with financial security and still another with contentment.  We shared our pains and disappointments.

We also listened as we went around the room sharing 3 things we celebrate about our lives in the last year. It was spectacular: The risks. The wins. The accomplishments. The completions. The new beginnings. The Ph.D, the new baby, the new business, the new office, the new love. The big anniversary.

It was beautiful to be among friends who have history sharing both. These are six beautiful, amazing, professional, intelligent women who live life fully and are committed to truthful friendships.

Frientimacy is Awkward And while it sounds so good to be honest, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how hard it can be go there.

We are far from being a homogeneous group: some married, some single, some divorced, some with kids, some with step-kids, some with none.  Through the years many us have traded those roles-the married one becomes single and the single finds her love. Often at the same time.  And we have to celebrate one and grieve the other. It is hard being the first or only in the group to have kids, and equally hard to be the last or only to not be in a relationship.

Even with people we love and respect, there is no way to be friends without bringing our personal insecurities, fears and baggage to the relationship. It's hard to celebrate each others joys even when we're jealous.  To hold their pain without projecting our story into it.

There were definitely awkward moments. Moments where you want to judge, give advice, justify your decision that's different than hers, wallow in self-pity rather than give her a high-five.

But we've practiced. We've made commitments to be generous with each other. Honest. We trust the commitment is bigger than the pain. We trust the history is deeper than the present moment. And we're still practicing.

We forge on. There will be lots of awkward moments we will witness and hold.

Frientimacy is Developed We can only trust our future because we've experienced our history. It wasn't instant.

It was due to consistency that we have fostered this.

Seven years ago, we were mostly strangers to each other. I invited a few women I had met to commit to a weekly group in my apartment. Some invited someone else. And over time, with one leaving here and another joining there, we had a group that was consistent. We didn't all necessarily feel like we would be friends with each individual in the group if it weren't for the collective time, but we knew the value of going deeper with other women so we kept coming.

What we celebrate now has taken effort. It has taken consistency. Far more than most women are willing to put in. Most of us think if we get together once a month with a new friend that a friendship will blossom. And I'd say once a month is enough to keep liking each other, but probably not enough to build enough history that when your lives change (and they will) that you have enough history behind you to stay connected through it. Once a week for one year gave us the gift we'll enjoy the rest of our lives.

I no longer live around those women so I've become part of another group of local women who meet weekly. We don't have the same history yet, but we will keep meeting and keep sharing and we are definitely developing our own new Frientimacy.

Who are you being consistent with? How can you schedule in some consistent time with other women? How are you building upon the new friendships you've started?

Frientimacy is Worth it You may not feel the potential after your first time together. Or your next time together.

You may doubt it. You may feel like they're too different from you. Or that you're not sure you like each of them.

You may feel insecure around one of them or find that one annoys you. It's likely.

But you will also begin to know you have a group that sees your life. That knows it. That you don't have to update but can simply share. You will feel the difference it makes to have close friends. Local friends. Not the kind you have to impress, but the kind you get to be real with. It's likely.

I had an amazing weekend with the women who have known me and loved me for seven years. And I'm committed to building more of that in my life, locally and on a weekly basis.

Frientimacy is authentic. It can be awkward. It takes time to develop. But it is so worth it.

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Let "Best Friend" Refer to Quality, Not Quantity.

One of my neighbor friends from childhood saw my post on Facebook about my recent TV interview on women's friendship. Watching it reminded her of a time when we were kids where she had been in tears as a result of hers and my friendship. In her memory we had all been coloring at the table when I must have announced that I wanted to read out loud something I had written for school. Apparently I had written a story about my best friend. And it hadn't turned out to be her.  :(

Of course it pains me to know I caused her to go home and cry! And hearing her share that long ago memory reminded me of my own memory of uncontrollable sobbing in the third grade coat room during recess.  I still remember my best girl friend (the one I had read about!) announcing to me one day that she was now going to be best friends with Kristin instead of me.  I couldn't be consoled. Drama queen or not, I was convinced life was over.

I Want To Feel Chosen

We do eventually grow up, but the drama around feeling chosen, or not, never quite goes away, does it?

In Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" she lists the losses associated with marriage for women (more likely to suffer from depression, die younger, accumulate less wealth, earn reduced pay, experience more health problems and thrive less in their careers than those who are unmarried) and points to the 50% divorce rates to basically ask the question: why is that we get so consumed with marriage when it doesn't appear to be all that good for us?

Her ponderings included the theory that we all just want to feel chosen. Picked. Wanted. Loved. A wedding allows us to publicly say "Someone thinks I'm amazing." When it comes to a wedding-- we are told that we are the one. The only one. The chosen one. And that feels good. (Even though ironically most of us would be more than happy to have a few more wives/mothers in our homes helping share the workload! LOL)

But Being Chosen Doesn't Have to Be Exclusive

I wish as a little girl I had been taught to value the importance of fostering several different friends.  That we didn't have to be exclusive to feel special. That my worth wasn't tied to one girl and who she wanted to play with at recess.  That me feeling chosen happened more when I decided to choose others.  That the term "best friend" didn't refer to a number, but to how well we treated each other.

As adults we don't want to feel any less chosen, but hopefully we now know that our chosen-ness can include others. And that more important than someone else choosing me, is my own sense of choosing myself, knowing my own worth and value. That security allows my BFF's to have other BFF's without me feeling jealous, knowing their other friendships don't make what we share any less valuable.  In fact, research shows that our friendship will be healthier and stronger if she's getting some needs met by others since we are each happiest with 3-7 people in our lives whom we'd consider "confidantes."

Because I love her-- I will want that for her. I will cheer for her when she finds new friends. Friends who have kids the ages of her kids. Or friends who know what it's like to be single again in her 50's. Or friends who can afford to go to the fancy spas with her.  Or friends who get excited about her political or spiritual passions.  Or friends who can make her laugh.  Or friends who live close enough to her to go on a spontaneous walk with her. Or friends who know first-hand how scary it is for her to be starting her own business.

Because I can't do all those things.  And that's okay.  I don't need to. Even if I could-- she's still better off with a circle of support, with more than just me waving my pom-poms for her.

Best is a quality, not a quantity.  Best says we like this-- which is not the same as saying that we have to dislike everything else in order to like this one. Best means that something, or someone, has reached a level of excellence, trust, appreciation.  It doesn't mean nothing else can. Like a mother with multiple kids,  we can hold love for several without it meaning anything less for any one of them. We are human beings capable of loving many.

To my sweet childhood friend-- please know you were at the center of some of my best childhood memories.  You were definitely a best friend.  :)

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For more on how to foster the kind of friendships we all crave-- here are relevant past blogs: How to Make a BFF and Stages of a Friendship. And here's a 3 minute video that talks about the difference between our friends and our BFF's.

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We Simply Have to Support Other Women!

While in New York City this week, I emerged from a tour of the United Nations building thinking about the blog I had just written on the 3 Baby-Steps Toward Girl Effect's Dream of Changing the World. One of the U.N.'s Millennium goals to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women came with some statistics that still surprise me (I share them in this less than 2 min video). I can sometimes think that we have the equality that previous generations fought for, but lately I feel quite reminded that there is still so much more we can all do.  And like I said in this video-- maybe just starting with being friendly and supportive of each other is a good place to start?

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3 Baby-Steps Toward Girl Effect's Dream of Changing the World

I still remember my jaw dropping open a couple of years ago after hearing the New York Times human rights columnist, Nicholas Kristof make a historical comparison, when he was promoting his book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" that he co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  His haunting words:

"At the peak of the transatlantic slave trade, 80,000 slaves were transported from Africa to the new world. Now, more than 10 times as many women and girls are being forced into brothels or other forms of slavery around the world."

It's so easy to look back in judgment, wondering how our ancestors didn't do more to fight against oppression in various forms.  Yet here we are... still facing similar choices and battles.

Add to that slavery statistic all the other massive issues that are interconnected: girl’s education, AIDS in the developing world, child marriage, child prostitution, domestic violence, population growth, and global poverty, and the complexity is both mind numbing and heart wrenching.

I rarely know what to do that could possibly make a difference.  So when given the opportunity to participate today in  Girl Effect Blogging Campaign day, I not only jump on it, but also extend the invitation to you to participate with your own words. This week hundreds of bloggers will collaborate in bringing awareness to the Girl Effect, the “unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.”

I'm also walking around this week in a heightened state of awareness after watching Miss Representation as this award-winning documentary highlights the issues girls and women face right here in the U.S. It's a sobering reality that even in our developed and educated country (where women now make up the majority of the workforce and are earning more college degrees than men), we are still communicating in our media and culture that

"a woman’s primary value lay in her youth, beauty and sexuality—and not in her capacity as a leader, making it difficult for women to obtain leadership positions and for girls to reach their full potential."

While the credits rolled, my heart was heavy with the challenge we face in our own country. Add to it the millions of women behind us.  We simply have to be willing to do more for each other, whether you like the word feminism or not.

Three Possible Baby Steps

Some of us may be clearly called to jobs and roles where our daily actions attempt to right the injustices in classrooms, counseling chairs, boardroom tables, and world-wide non- profits. Some of us may be able to help bring awareness to these causes, like Tara Sophia Mohr who started this blogging campaign, or Jennifer Siebel Newsom who wrote and directed the film mentioned above.

And then there will be masses of us who feel the ache but don't see how our actions can make a difference.

But they do.

We can't risk doing nothing just because we can't do everything.

Here are three "small" actions we can take to help turn the tide for our sisters around the world.

1.  GROW: Keep Getting Healthier

It's hard to give energy to causes, dream with others, or live with generosity when there is an energy leak in your own life. If you're still living as though your value is determined by what others think, what size of clothes you wear, or whether you're pretty enough, then there is wound in your own life that still needs healing so you can show up with joy, power, and strength. If you believe there isn't "enough" in your life, you're less likely to want to give to others. If you hold victim mentality by refusing forgiveness to someone then you risk not feeling like you have power to give.

We all have our insecurities.  But that doesn't mean we have to live from them. Do what you need to do to not ignore them or devalue others in your attempt to make yourself forget about them. Meditate, read, talk to a coach/therapist, attend mind-expanding and centering workshops, sit in sacred space, get enough sleep, own your worth apart from what you do or look like, hike a mountain, sing more, read poetry, find your five minutes of daily silence, pray....

In Miss Representation, Katie Couric says that she thinks if women spent 10% less time worrying about our weight and appearance, and instead applied that energy to others, she's pretty sure we could solve all the worlds problems in a matter of months. That's sobering. Where can you cut back 10%?

Do anything that increases your compassion toward yourself and others. Conversely, stop doing anything that decreases your compassion toward yourself and others.

2. GIVE: Donate a financial gift today to start a new ripple....

Sometimes giving a financial gift can be your way of saying to yourself that you trust that there is "enough" in this world for all of us. Hoarding and greed come from fear. Lean into the belief that the vision of what we can do together is greater than our individual fear.

Your gift of $15 can buy schoolbooks for a girl in Panama. A gift of $60 will teach a grown woman in Afghanistan to read and write. Those dollar amounts may not sound life altering, but consider this chain of events when a girl or woman receives education:

When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. The later women marry they are less likely to be beaten and threatened by their husbands, die in childbirth, or get AIDS. Additionally, every year of education boosts her eventual wages by 10-25 percent. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families and communities. (all sources on the Girl Effect Fact Sheet)

A cycle of poverty gets broken, in part, with the earning of education.

Each quarter GirlFriendCircles.com compiles all of your gifts of $3-$5 that are given in exchange when you have to cancel your attendance at the last-minute from a ConnectingCircle you committed to attend. This quarter in our Show Up or Save the World campaign, I have matched your $174, so that we gave a combined gift of $348 to Girl Effect.  It doesn't sound life altering.... but it will be to someone.  Add $10 more!

3.  CHEER: Help Spread the Word(s)

On a literal level, spread the word about these resources that help bring awareness and conviction. Tweet or Facebook share this blog today (see icons at the bottom). Decide to write your own posting. Promote these causes through your social media outlets. Tell your friends that you feel convicted.  Host a screening of  Miss Representation in your house on October 20. Put energy out there that shows what way you are leaning.

And on a deeper level, sharing the word might mean encouraging and promoting other women and girls.

  • In every day life that might mean encouraging a friend in her choices (career, love, finances, ambition, children) even if they aren't yours.
  • In politics and business it might mean being open to seeing women where they haven't been and letting them do it in their own armor. Don't make someone choose between being powerful or likeable-- choose to not be intimidated and simply cheer for her.
  • In media it may mean voting for movies, products, and TV shows that reflect strong portrayals of women with our attendance (or lack thereof), purchases and watching habits.
  • As a mother it might mean intentionally raising your daughter to not have your body self-esteem issues, or making sure you don't put out judgment on another mom for making a different choice in how she is raising her kids.
  • As a citizen of the world it might mean publicly cheering for other women, even when we feel jealous.  Cheer for them when they buy your dream house before you do, quit their job when you wish you could, get the promotion you would die to have, have the baby you cannot, find the love you haven't yet found, accomplish the feat you wish you had the courage to take on.  You can trust that them getting something doesn't diminish your value or worth one iota.

The truth is that sometimes our own lives feel stressful enough that we simply don't always feel that our hearts can take on any more feeling.  Compounding that numbness, we can easily feel overwhelmed by the issues posed by Nicholas Kristof, Girl Effect and Jennifer Siebold Newsom. But I beg you to just take a baby step... just lean into the movement.

For as Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, is quoted in Miss Representation as writing:

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

You do have power to contribute to the movement. Pretend that life is a rubber band being pulled two directions... and that the direction it eventually snaps will be determined by which side had a little more pull.

Grow in your joy, Give your $10, and Cheer for another woman toward the direction of a better world.

 

p.s.  The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign invites you to post your own blog this week! If you do-- leave a comment here with a link so we can all come and read it!

 

 

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How Annoying People Can Grow Me

Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement.  Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.

"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."

That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?

In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction.  But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.

  • Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds.  Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses.  I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently.  How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
  • Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations!  Ugh!  It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others.  And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
  • Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?"  So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives.  It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story.  I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life!  It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons.  This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.

It's hard to hold our own peace around others.  They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us.  Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears.  Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)

Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.

But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:

To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones.  But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.

It's a concept I'm holding to.  I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace.  But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?

It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning.  It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.

So if you're annoying, bring it on!  :)  I have lots of room to grow!

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My Prayer: Who I Want To Be

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel greeted in my presence.

Welcomed. Worthy. Accepted. That means when I see you I start with love.  It means I refuse to  wait until my ego can determine your value to me.  Forgive me for my impulse to judge, I want to un-learn that behavior. The truth is that you are human--my sister, my brother-- and that is enough. Your value is exponential and I greet the lessons you will teach me. Thank you.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel abundant in my presence.

hands holding a heart

Abundant in the awareness that you are enough.  More than enough, in fact. Where for a moment, you can find refuge from your inadequacies, insecurities, fears, and judgments.  For I want to see you; the part of you that is innocent, beautiful, perfect, and true. I give you my word that I will seek that in you, knowing that those who seek, find. I desire to be someone who sees your best, even when you can't.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel loved in my presence.

For you are. I believe in a God that loves you.  A God that asked me to do the same.  I regret how frequently I do it imperfectly.  Nonetheless, I will keep trying.  For it's never because you're not worth my love; rather, it's always because my own fears get in my way of expressing it.  I don't bestow upon you your loveability, I only affirm what is already there. You are love-able and loved.  May I remember that truth that you might feel it when I'm around.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel gratitude in my presence.

May my words and actions remind us both that not only are you enough, but so am I.  And so is this world.  There is enough joy for both of us. I can promise you that when I feel lack -- as I sometimes do -- I will own it as my own hunger; refusing to devalue what you have, or who you are.  You deserve all that is yours and I celebrate it.  May I become the person who holds so much gratitude for your life that I invite you to rejoice in it too.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel encouraged in my presence.

Not just applauded, but deeply hopeful. I want to hold enough faith in the universe that I can share it with you at any time.  I want you to be able to look in my eyes and see your best self reflected back at you.  May you feel supported in owning your strength, your beauty, your talent, your power, your love, your goodness.  An encouragement that roots itself in a soil of knowing, and branches out in in vibrant action.

It doesn't matter who you are-- you deserve these things from me.

  • You can be someone I walk by in the grocery store, or someone I commit my life to.  Both can be equally difficult.
  • You can be someone I am drawn to, or someone I feel repelled by.  Either way, how I show up with kindness should not differ.
  • You can be someone who has loved me well, or someone who has hurt me deeply. My interpretation of my experience with you doesn't change your worth.
  • You can be someone I watch only on TV, or someone I know intimately.  Your inherent goodness isn't dependent on my knowing you.

How I respond to you says more about me, than it does about you.  I know that.  I own it. Indeed there is a gap between who I want to be for you and who I am. For that, I am sorry.  Life is not a competition where one of us holds more value than another.  And no one, other than my own ego, has given me permission to go around making judgments about your merit. So when I show up, as humans often do, without being all that I want to be, forgive me.  And just know it's no reflection on you.

My prayer is that I keep growing in love, becoming, expanding, inviting, welcoming.  I trust that as I see my own worth more clearly, I might better show you yours.

My prayer is that the best in me honors the best in you. That I can have God-eyes to see you the way you are.  The way you are meant to be loved.

May it be so. Namaste.

 

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Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson

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I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.

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To the Oprah-Haters and Other Women Who Devalue

Their conversation stirred me in a really deep and defensive way.  The example they set has now been forever etched in my memory as an illustration of who we can all become when we forget our own worth. On Sunday, in the Virgin Airlines terminal of Las Vegas, I overheard five women engage in a colloquy of criticism.  It began with one voice sighing, "ugh, you know who I hate? Oprah.  Who does she think she is?" and spiraled into ugliness at such an alarming rate. Apparently her weight, lesbian rumors, amount of money made, career choices, fame and personality were all somehow offensive to this group just shooting the breeze while waiting to board their plane.

Oprah Winfrey

Five adult women, presumably ending a girls weekend in Vegas, spent ten minutes spewing venom and anger toward someone I'd venture to guess that none of them have ever met. There is no need to repeat all the insults, only to say that it was eye-opening and heart-exhausting to witness them all participate in the hate-fest as though adding to the conversation made them each feel better somehow.

We Devalue Others-- Revealing Our Own Insecurities

As a student of relationships, I have long witnessed that we tend to devalue anything that threatens us.  We push down on others; hoping it raises us up.  It's almost as though we think life is a see-saw where only one of us can win.

I see it in break-ups frequently: the person that was most cherished only weeks ago is now criticized in an attempt to comfort us that we are better off without that person. As though we can't admit their worth and hold ours at the same time?

I see it in friendships where two women make different choices: the one who had the baby, took the job for money, decided to move away, chose a private school for their child-- both women, to hold the belief that they made the right choice, are tempted to devalue those who make an alternative decision.  As though we can't hold the belief that we could both be making the right choice for our lives, even if they look different?

I see it where there appears to be an inequality that provokes our jealousy: the person who seemingly has the fame, the power, the money, the happy family or the good looks receives the most criticism. Ironically we secretly want something they have, but instead of using their success as our inspiration, we attack them with our insecurities disguised as complaints. As though it's their problem for having what we want?

And therein lies the toxicity of devaluing: it says more about us than it does about them.

We Devalue Others--Heightening the Conflict in this World

If someone gave me a magic wand to make one wish come true, it would be to give us all the ability to see our own worth so clearly that we never had to treat people from our own fears and insecurities.

Think about it... What problem does this planet hold that couldn't be solved from our ability to see the value of each other? Of not needing to prove our worth? Attacking so we don't look weak? Devaluing another to justify our own choices? Putting up walls so we don't risk not being liked?  Not knowing our own worth and bestowing that gift on others is the cause of wars and political battles, inequality and injustices, suicides and bullying.

Ladies, I may sound dramatic.  But I'd argue that I have good reason to go there.  We don't have control over bombing other countries or solving all inequalities against gender, religious, sexual identity and race differences.  But we do have control over doing the hard work of holding a healthy self-esteem so that we can offer it to others.

We Devalue Others--Risking Significant Relationships

In a community committed to healthy friendships, it is important to me to challenge you to show up differently than those women.

  • I invite you to engage in conversation that ensure that others leave feeling better about who they are.
  • I invite you to own your insecurities.  When you see someone who has what you secretly want choose to be inspired by it rather than threatened by it.
  • I invite you to refuse to engage in any conversation that puts others down. Whether those others are people you know (i.e. your ex's, your family, your work colleagues) or people you may never meet (i.e. Charlie Sheen & the Kardashian sisters).
  • I invite you to do the work of holding firm to the belief that you are fabulous, talented and perfectly prepared to do your life calling.  You are enough.
  • I invite you to not see life as a see-saw, where someone else has to fall before you can rise.  There is room enough for all of us to be our best.
  • I invite you to give the freedom to others, including Oprah to do life her very best way even if you would do it differently.
  • And, I invite you to realize that if you want to bring change to this world, more people are transformed by affirmation and grace than by criticism and shame.

So, to the women in the terminal who felt they were in any position to judge Oprah, I say to you:

I'm totally okay with you not being an Oprah-fan, but I invite you to cheer for her as another woman doing the best she can.  I hope for you that you someday step into your own power and offer the world what you think she's missing. But cheer for her as she does her thing.  And I cheer for you as you do yours.  You are amazing.  You have worth.  As does she.

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I'd love to hear your comments ladies!  Am I overreacting? Do you see your own tendency to step into devaluing others? What have you done to build your own self-esteem?

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There's a Reason They Say it's Lonely at the Top

We often assume that loneliness or a sense of social disconnection is for those people.  We picture some angry, hurt, unfriendly, socially awkward and un-lovable woman sitting in a dark house, with the curtains closed, alone. Maybe a dozen cats. We usually don't picture ourselves since we know how friendly and fun we are, how much we have to offer someone (we mistakenly equate loneliness with likability).  And we certainly don't picture the beautiful, networked, popular, powerful and inspiring women that we admire as the lonely ones. And yet that doesn't make it not true.

It's Lonely at the Top

One of the most poignant lines in the Oscar-winning movie, The King's Speech, came from

Kings Speech Poster

Colin Firth, playing King George VI, when he muttered "I wouldn't know" in response to his speech therapists nonchalant statement "That's what friends are for."

As king, everyone is forced to be friendly and adoring and respectful to him, but that doesn't mean he feels known, supported, liked or seen for who he is beyond his title.

On an obviously much smaller scale, many of us know what it feels like to be looked up to, but not seen.  Some of it is the fault of those who simply want to be near the popular andpowerful for what it does for them: making them feel more important, giving them greater access and using the friendship to their own gains.

But some of it is also the fault of those who are the adored. The desire to reveal the best image, to stay liked, to be a role model puts an inane amount of pressure to not really share honestly, be seen with our faults or risk getting hurt.

There's a reason they say it's lonely at the top. Whether the person at the top starts to feel too amazing to connect with those beneath them, or those beneath them begin to treat the top as though they are on a pedestal; a painful dynamic seems to isolate those who excel in other areas.  In my work as a life coach and pastor, I have seen first-hand the loneliness of those who are too beautiful, too talented, too powerful, too famous and too wealthy.

Befriending the Women at the Top

Since so many of my readers are business owners, amazing mothers, inspirational speakers, authors and change-makers, I want to remind you that even if difficult and awkward, you can create friendships around you that truly matter. Some of your best friends may be women who can keep you grounded and remind you that they love you beyond the image everyone else sees.

And I want to challenge those of you who dismiss potential friends because they intimidate you (too beautiful, too successful, too much money) to give yourself the gift of getting to know them without jealousy.  (Jealousy shows up in two forms- we either devalue the other in order to make ourselves feel better about what we don't have or we ogle over them making them feel guilty for what they do have.)

The numbers of loneliness are staggering.  And it's not because we have a world filled with little old ladies sitting in dark houses.  It's because we're intimidated by each other, scared of being used, fearful of feeling inadequate next to others.  As we love ourselves, holding our value and worth securely, we will be able to receive that from others.

In the movie The King's Speech, Lionel Logue, the speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush, lacked credentials, fame, a posh office, success in his own acting ambitions and a home that was sufficient for hosting royalty. What he had was the ability to both believe more in the King than the King did himself, while also creating an equal relationship, insisting on calling him Bertie and setting ground rules that he chose.

Rush & Firth at Oscars

Rush's character held his own, believing in his own worth and what he could offer (even in the midst of vast inequality).  He also never lost sight of how human the King really was, seeing him with his imperfections and wounds. He saw him--his amazingness and his insecurities. Isn't that what we all crave?

And the final line of The King's Speech came onto a black screen before the credits rolled, attesting that it can work: "Bertie and Lionel remained friends through out their entire life."

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Have you forged friendships with women in different economic, power, beauty statuses?  What was difficult about it? What did you gain from it? Was it easier or harder to hold those differences if the relationship started on equal footing and then changed?

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