Have you ever been enthralled by a leader’s energy and completely wrapped up in their brilliance that you ultimately start to lose a little bit of yourself? There seems to be a safety in being in service to someone else’s vision that can blind us to what we are missing out in our own lives.
This Could Be You
I’m going to tell you the story of one friend whose name I have changed. Know that I have seen this happen to many other women. Too many. In fact, I think we’ve all taken on this role to some degree at some point in our lives.
Sally is new on her entrepreneurial journey. Her kids are in school full-time now and she is ready to redefine her career with the freedom of working from home. One day, she takes a workshop with a modern-day guru—a female Tony Robbins, Gabriel Bernstein, Brene Brown, Susan Evans, Martha Beck type person. She is completely in alignment with their mission to change the world and the way they go about it, so she signs up to be a certified teacher of their program. Invests money in their training and immerses herself in their system. This is all well and good. These people have amazing insights and methodology to share and there’s a lot of benefit to the world to practice what they preach. She’s found her calling.
The Handmaid Trap
Problems start to arise when Sally doesn’t take what she’s learned and make it her own. She doesn’t become the star in her own life. Instead, she is the servant to the star, teaching for the star, using the star’s name on all her handouts, following the star’s rules of conduct, living within the limits of the branding. And, inevitably, resentment starts to slowly seep into Sally’s heart. But the resentment makes her feel guilty because she owes so much to this guru who taught her everything and exposed her to so many opportunities, to say anything about the limitations of servitude would be biting the hand that feeds her.
Without even realizing it, sometimes the guru sets the handmaid up for failure by having her so dependent that the handmaid can never leave. But, if and when she does leave, it is not a smooth goodbye. There is an incestuous network around the star and Sally knows she has to unplug from that whole entourage as well if she is going to make it on her own.
I know some servants who stay in the handmaid role forever, I know some who leave one guru and move on to another, but Sally managed to break free and rebrand and make a name for herself. She went within and did a lot of soul searching and work on herself and eventually became a thought leader in her own right. Shining like a brilliant star, weary of employing handmaids.
Writing as a Handmaid
As a writing coach the handmaid energy comes up most often when I see someone who has written several chapters in several anthologies but has not yet dared to write her own book. I also sometimes have clients come to me for help with their stand-alone book, finally ready to break free, but waver and choose to pull out of our engagement because they decided instead to invest in a trip to serve alongside their guru at a retreat or a conference. But mostly, I have clients who just need a little extra help when writing their book to realize that they have original and important messages of their own and they don’t need to be quoting today’s other gurus. It can be difficult at times to find a balance because as women we thrive in collaboration and community, but community should never be at the expense of being your true self.
Becoming the Star
Part of my life’s mission of giving women a voice involves holding up a mirror to the handmaid and asking her to see the star inside of her. I want all women to know that we are all born with a unique gift for this world and to put it to use. Sometimes our life’s purpose is to end a cycle of abuse as we raise our kids, sometimes we are here to offer amazing services or products in a career or as an entrepreneur, and sometimes we are here to lead by example and impact people we will never even meet in a way that might change their life.
And so, I offer to you now, check-in with yourself and see when you might be living in the handmaid energy with some relationships and explore how you can make a change. Be true to your calling and rise up!
There’s something about the month of January and the New Year that has us all setting goals and new intentions for our health, our careers, and our relationships. Some call it resolutions, others say it’s a lifestyle change. Call it what you will, you will need two elements to make it happen: Commitment and a beginner’s mind.
Here I am, on my yoga mat unable to even touch my toes. Again. Huffing and puffing halfway through my second sun salutation makes it hard to believe that fifteen years ago, I would do 4 hours a day of yoga at an ashram. My inner dialogue is quickly taken over by my inner itty-bitty-shitty-committee. “You’re getting too old for this. Look around you everyone here is gracefully sliding through to the next pose. It’s been ten minutes and you can barely breathe, obviously it’s time to quit. Maybe, if you weren’t two-ton Sally and a size zero like the rest of them you’d be able to actually stay in down dog and not have to collapse into child’s pose instead. This is embarrassing, you are embarrassing. Just give up already.”
Have you ever heard that critical voice in your own head?
It happens to all of us and in a variety of different situations. Cutting out sugar from your diet will make a donut literally talk to you. Choosing to get up earlier to run before work makes 5 am darker and colder than it ever was before. The self-doubt as you sit in front of your keyboard ready to write that book you’ve been meaning to write for years can immobilize your fingers and freeze your thoughts into a block of jumbled words. These are the things that stop us dead in our tracks when it comes to resolutions and lifestyle changes. So how do we mere mortals overcome that inner critic that lives inside every human being on the planet?
The beginner’s mind
It can be very humbling as a grown adult who has the rest of their “stuff” together to find themselves in the start position. You can be very successful in other areas of your life like leading a team at work, running a business, or managing a household with children and a spouse’s schedule to maintain. And suddenly there you are fumbling around without a clue.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to say to my children, “If you would just do what I suggested the first time you never would’ve gotten into this mess.” Preventing a mistake is easy when you know all the steps and have practiced them a thousand times before, but the whole point of learning (for our children and ourselves) is to actually make the mistake. Adults don’t like to make mistakes.
Part of the reason we quit on resolutions and change is that we want to get it perfect right away. We don’t want to take the time to learn and we don’t want to look stupid or clumsy while we’re learning. But if we could just embrace that innocent curiosity of a toddler exploring the world and allow ourselves the time and mistakes we can see the beautiful dance unfolding in our inability to march in step with the experts.
It’s been said by many a great motivational speaker, “Are you just interested in (fill in the blank) or are you committed?” I have to admit, I’m interested in learning to mountain climb. Me, who is afraid of heights and can’t breathe through two sun salutations. I would love to scale those majestical beasts here in the Canadian Rockies and take pictures of the vistas from the top of the world… But am I committed to purchasing all of the climbing gear, including harnesses, climbing shoes, helmets, ropes, and carabiners? Am I committed to climbing in the bitter cold? Am I ready to let go of my other hobbies and focus my time and attention on learning this new skill? Not really, not at this point in time. I’m not saying never, just not now.
What are you committed to? What do you want so bad that you can taste it? That you can see yourself in it that you can feel the emotions it will create? The best way I have found to stay committed to something is to know WHY I want it in the first place.
Here’s a great commitment exercise
(which, by the way, you can do on any day of the year multiple times of the year not only on January 1st)
- Take a journal and write out the goal you want to achieve
- Write out why you want that goal. What purpose does it serve? Who will you be when you reach that goal? What will be different in your life and/or in the world?
- What do you have to do or say Yes to in order to reach that goal? What do you have to stop doing or say No to in order to reach that goal?
- Take a piece of masking tape and laying down in a door’s threshold or lay a broom handle on the ground. Read what you wrote in your journal out loud to yourself or a trusted friend or partner and then cross the line. Just like jumping the broomstick in the African and Celtic cultures you will be married and committed to your goal.
Here I am again, on my yoga mat pushing through my shortness of breath inching closer to touching my toes allowing myself to be a beginner and embracing my commitment to my health and wellbeing. Who knows, maybe a year of practicing mountain pose will lead to a commitment to climb a mountain one day.
Are you looking for a little extra support to reach your goals this year? Drop me an email and I would be happy to offer you a complimentary discovery call to see if coaching with me will get you there.
It’s no big secret that I talk and write a lot about empowering women to stand in their personal power and speak their truth. “Stop hiding and speak up because you matter,” is my everyday mantra. So what do I need to be coming out about?
The big secret is how much I don’t speak up in everyday life.
I was on a mastermind call this past Monday and I waited to be called on before I talked about my project. Why? Because it’s going so well and I’m too excited and too passionate about it lately. Really. I didn’t want to overshare?! Over Shine?! Inspire too much?!
What was that all about?
This is a very common phenomenon for women. We don’t speak up in case it makes someone else feel small. We don’t take credit because we don’t want to come across as selfish or narcissistic. We don’t complain because we’ll be seen as a bitch. As much as I try to inspire other women to speak up… I myself don’t. Not often enough.
When is it appropriate to shine?
Shining comes from the soul and overshadowing comes from the ego. I offered a lot of valuable insight and resources to my fellow masterminders on Monday. I shined. Not for the sake of wanting to be better than anyone else but for the sake of sharing what I knew in order to see their projects flourish. Overshadowing would have looked much different. Overshadowing lives in the world of comparison and better than. It would have involved monopolizing the time and, instead of offering help to others, looking for ways to use their projects for my own gain.
Coming out for the sake of what?
Today’s culture is ripe with masses of everyday people to celebrities coming out as gay, lesbian, and transgender. It is wonderful to see. I wonder, what benefits do they reap on the other side of the closet door, and how as women can we follow their lead and also benefit from daring to speak our truths in public? I make up that we are all stronger and more confident from being our true authentic selves. I also heard that Canadian Olympic swimmer Mark Tewskbury shaved 4 seconds off his swim speed after he came out to his coach as a gay man. But there’s more. There’s the source of our creative self that is freed when we live authentically. How can we create from a place of hiding? We can’t. And to me, creating is everything.
Brene Brown offers great wisdom on whom to share your truth with, and how. We are not all meant lay our souls bare for every stranger to see. And again, ask yourself, for the sake of what? We need to add context to our sharing to make it about shining and not narcissism.
What are you hiding in your closet and who can you trust to share it with? Who will you be on the other side? I’m still learning at this game of life. This week, I have learned that I will be speaking up and over shining more often.
I take it for granted now that there is often a theme that arises from my coaching clients. Somehow, they come to their sessions with common issues and I have stopped wondering why and just accept that this is part of how the Universe works. This past week’s theme though is a theme that hit me personally.
Men just aren’t listening! It’s time to speak up, ladies.
My first client is working on healthier boundaries with an ex-husband who was financially abusive. She is frustrated at the litany of topics she can’t bring up with him when they discuss co-parenting because he gets defensive, argues, and turns the tables on her. My second client is a CFO at a very successful company and is working on her leadership style. She is frustrated with a partner in the company who refuses to take responsibility for any challenges but wants all the credit for the triumphs. Both said to me on their coaching call: “I can’t say anything to him because I don’t want to deal with the fallout.”
Are you not speaking up because you don’t want to have to deal with the listener not liking what you have to say?
And then, just to drive the lesson home, the Universe sends me several messages to watch the Super Soul Sunday episode with Glennon Doyle Melton where I received the clear message: “There is a system to telling the truth that splits women in two. It’s very hard for the world to hear the truth from a woman. Since negative emotions are less acceptable from a woman, we sometimes end up telling our truth in different ways than words. We tell the truth in harmful ways: they say I’m not fine with a credit card, or they say I’m not fine with overeating, they say I’m not fine with booze, or sex, or unkindness. That why it’s so powerful to integrate those two selves and tell the story of what’s going on on the inside with your words,” shared Glennon.
Deal with the fallout now or later
When are we women going to embody the full expression of ourselves? When are we going to allow ourselves to take up all the room we are meant to occupy? When are we going to be more concerned about our own feelings and break out of the prison of tiptoeing around others’ feelings?
“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace you start a war inside yourself.” – Cheryl Richardson
The thing is, human beings tend to avoid pain on a whole. We all like to avoid the unpleasant things in life. What we don’t realize is that sometimes we are turning down one road to avoid the skunk up ahead only to walk into a grizzly bear instead. What happens if my first client’s ex-husband is abusing his daughter but she doesn’t want to make waves? What happens if my second client gets scapegoated for the partner’s major spending spree? Dealing with the fallout of an uncomfortable conversation, while slightly painful, could be much less dramatic.
And what is my unspoken truth?
I don’t want to be mommy first and get to my career when it’s convenient to everyone else, not anymore. I have sacrificed my body to gestate, deliver, and feed four children. I have devoted over twenty years to their education, their emotional intelligence, their values, their mental and physical health. I have dried tears, shared belly laughs, survived road trips, attended plays and concerts, and graciously accepted macaroni art and bouquets of dandelions. I have been an excellent mother. I love them beyond words. My unspoken truth is that for me it’s not enough.
I will always be a mom and have another ten years before my nest is empty, but right now I also want to be Tammy the author, Tammy the speaker, Tammy the coach who is empowering women to speak their truth and live a full, authentic life. I am claiming my truth and standing in my full power to be my full self.
That’s my unspoken truth, what’s yours? Where in your life are you keeping silent to make others feel comfortable, and what is it costing you to keep it bottled up? Is today the day that you choose to stand in your power?
Speak up, ladies, speak up!
Most of the women I talk with on a daily basis hold these two core values: their number one priority is their family and secondly they want to make a difference in the world. Those happen to be some of my own core values. I am here to tell you that a very effective way to make a difference in the world, and subsequently in the lives of your children, is with your writing. Many of the writers I coach are writing specifically to impart lessons they’ve learned in life with the goal of helping others. Here’s how you can too:
Blogging for Change
Whichever way you are called to make a difference in the world, be it feminism or animal rights or spiritual healing, your words can influence others into action. Think about how many times a week you punch a search term into Google looking for information about things that matter in your life. We are also swimming in a sea of information in our social media feeds. When a headline comes along with a topic that resonates with your readers they click on it and read your words of wisdom and choose to make their own difference in the world. Blogs are easy to digest nuggets that most people read on mobile devices. The benefits of blogging are that posts don’t take very long to write, you can blog on many related topics, and blogs help build an audience and clout online.
A Message in a Book
A book, unlike a blog, is not as fleeting as a post on your newsfeed, but something much more substantial and everlasting. A book is a legacy that you leave behind influencing others for years to come. I often hear people say they’re worried that their idea isn’t new, or that others have covered the topic already. Maybe. But we all see the world through our own perception and the stories you share are unique to you. Some people may resonate more with the way you present the idea over someone else’s interpretation. We also live in a time where we are inundated with information and need to hear messages more than once for them to stick. Remember the last book that rocked your world, the one you told all your friends about? Imagine how you can help others the same way when you write your book.
The Long Haul
I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. Like most of the world, I discovered her through her Ted Talks and then read her books and took an online course she offered through Oprah Winfrey and another through Udemy. Brené Brown is making a difference for the long haul. Not only did she do research for twelve years and work as a social worker, she writes, teaches, and inspires others every day. This is known in the industry as building a platform, which is essentially having a firm foundation upon which you can share your brilliance with the world. Your writing can lead to a whole career geared towards making a difference.
Words of wisdom
Knowing that you are writing specifically to make a difference in the world is a complete gift, because we all—every single one of us—battle the inner critic, resistance, the saboteur, monkey mind, perfectionism, procrastination. Having an anchor for why you write can be a lifeline to keeping you moving forward on the days you think your writing sucks or “who do you think you are?” is the soundtrack in your mind. I work specifically on this stumbling block with others as a writing coach, and I’m no different as I have a coach who helps me turn down the volume on my inner critic and push ahead with my life purpose. I implore you, if you are called to make a difference in the lives of others and writing is one of the ways you’ve chosen to be of service don’t let your inner critic keep you from your goal. Reach out because I would be happy to help you help others.
Tell me, what are you writing? How are you being the change you wish to see in the world?
Looking for a little extra support on your writing path? Maybe an accountability circle is just what you need. Check out the next session starting soon click here for more information.
No, I’m not delusional from sleep deprivation. Yes, it can be done. I know because I did it. And, let’s be realistic, you won’t be writing the next New York Times bestseller during baby’s first month home when you’re feeding every 2 hours and staying up at night more than you did in college. But you will, both mommy and baby, eventually fall into a routine, and in that routine there is plenty of time to write. If people can write books during one month in NaNoWriMo, then surely you can swing it over a year.
Writing a book on maternity leave is a perfect time to explore all those thoughts and feelings awoken by your stronger sense of intuition, and that primal drive for your survival during childbirth and wanting the best for this new tiny human being. The intuition connects you to your most creative side, the part of you that doesn’t need to think, that part of you that just knows. Your awakened primal drive connects you to stronger and more visceral emotions. I have always said that the number one purpose of storytelling is to elicit emotion, what better time to capture those emotions than when we’re more emotional.
Here are some tips that will help you with your book writing goals:
Well Laid Plans
Remember the last time you had to drive in a new neighborhood or new city and how nerve-racking that can be? Remember how much easier it was the time that a friend gave you excellent directions with landmarks to watch out for? Your writing will be much easier if you give yourself an outline and signposts and landmarks along the way. However, before you embark on any road trip and before you set your trusty GPS, you need to decide on the destination. Decide exactly what it is you want to write. Will it be fact based like a self-help or inspirational book, or will it be fiction like a romance novel or a who-done-it mystery? What lessons do you want to impart in your non-fiction book, and what emotions do you want to evoke in your novel?
Routine and Rhythm
Babies love routine. I had the hardest time with this because routine has been something I rebelled against most of my adult life. But, after four children, I eventually learned to embrace it in certain areas of my life, including my writing. I have learned to call a rose by a different name just to trick my brain. Thanks to the amazing book The Baby Whisperer I had watched my babies for their rhythm and adopted the book’s E.A.S.Y routine. Baby Eats, baby is Active, baby Sleeps, Your time. Once my little ones got into their rhythm, I was able to find mine. I tended to do all of the household stuff in the morning during the first nap and write in the afternoon during the second nap (which luckily was the last nap my kids gave up). Not so oddly, I still write more in the afternoons today long after all my kids have been in school full days. Other author friends of mine preferred getting up at 5 AM and writing for an uninterrupted hour when the house is still quiet, while others preferred skipping an hour of television after the kids went to bed and writing in the evening. Look for your optimal writing time and make it a routine.
We all have well-meaning people in our lives who inadvertently like to stifle our dreams. They don’t want us biting off more than we can chew, they don’t want us to be disappointed if our ship doesn’t come in, they dismiss our dream of one day being a published author as a “cute idea”. Those people are not your writing support system. It can be challenging when those people happen to be your real-life support system like your spouse or you mom or your best friend. I can assure you that you can indeed write a book without having to discuss the content or the process with the naysayers in your life. And you can find a support system outside of your usual circle of friends and family. Look for a writing group online, join a local writer’s association, drop in on a writing Meet Up group, or start your own Writing Momma’s Meet Up in your town or city. Writing can be an isolating endeavor so having a positive circle of like-minded people holding you accountable is a huge step towards completing your book.
If you’ve always wanted to write a book one day, take advantage of the halt in your usual work routine and those pockets of quiet time during your maternity leave to pursue your passion of reading and writing. Follow in JK Rowling’s footsteps, she wrote Harry Potter sitting in a coffee shop with her baby napping next to her in the pram, and look at her now! Tell me, what will you write on your maternity leave?
We all know what it’s like when life gets in the way, especially if you are a writer. You’re also probably quite familiar with the inner critic that constantly throws up obstacles in your writing schedule. I’ve tackled that problem for you! Download your FREE eBook – How to Write When Life Gets in the Way!
This article first appeared on Huffington Post. You can read the original post here.