Do you hate it when things veer off your plan? Do you like to have control over your life as much as possible? Do you have a perfectionist streak in you?
I have struggled quite a bit with perfectionism over the years, and I never knew if it was a positive trait of mine, or a negative one. Then I watched Brene Brown and Oprah during the live broadcast of the taping of their upcoming Life Class. It seems Oprah has had the same debate stating that she is not a perfectionist, she is only striving for excellence. Hmmm… maybe that’s it. Maybe I just have very high standards. Then Brene explained that perfectionism is when you are worried “What will people think?”
Do you keep a clean house because you care about sterility and coordinated throw cushions or do you (like me) go into a mad cleaning frenzy when someone is coming to visit? “What will people think?” Do you want to melt into the woodwork when your toddler throws a tantrum in public? “What will people think?” Do you hold back from following your dream career because it isn’t anything your family has ever done before? “What will people think?”
Then I looked at my own life… I am married to a retired military officer. Marching orders are a common thing in my home. I give him his marching orders (it was agreed upon when we married that I had more stripes on my sleeve by virtue of my ovaries) and he gives the children their marching orders. Another common phrase is asking if something passes inspection. Passing inspection—is that not the pinnacle of “What will people think?” My husband and I suddenly realized what we have been teaching our children!
I am the first one to admit that I strive for excellence. I am renown by my clients to be a coach that encourages achievement. When I was young, my mother always said I must have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth to explain my expensive taste. But I can honestly say that while writing Being Human, I reconciled a lot of my perfectionist tendencies. So now, how can I continue to pursue excellence without instilling a false perfection into my kids?
Dancing will get you across an open floor just as easily as marching will.
I can choose to dance, to be more creative, more fluid, and still move forward and strive for excellence. When I dance with my husband we are both participating in the steps, sometimes he steps forward and I step back, and sometimes I step forward and he steps back. No one is the superior drill sergeant and no one is being inspected. Instead, we glide across the floor and get to where we have to go in a much more pleasant way. I’m not worried what he thinks of me when we dance, I am too busy enjoying the music. And if we stumble, we are in each other’s arms and we laugh while help each other back up. We have decided it’s time to dance with the kids too, and to dance in our careers, to dance through life!
How are you getting through life? Are you always preparing for inspection at muster, or inspecting others? Or do you dance through life deliberately moving forward as you step?
Do you want to know the secret to a happy life? Of course you do! We all do!
One week ago, my husband and I walked into a room and the outpourings of love that were showered on every single individual were absolutely awe inspiring. That room was Happiness on steroids! Have you been to a high school reunion? I haven’t, but I always have this Hollywood idea that the cattiness and cliques remain beyond time and that all anyone is really interested in is how fat you have become and how much money you make now. So the happy-festival I witnessed when I attended my husband’s 30 year reunion for his summer job as a camp counselor for senior leaders was a total surprise for me.
I don’t know how a random Universe could gather 50 people and have all of them been so egoless and so concerned for the wellbeing of others (then again I don’t believe in a random universe 🙂 ). Many of them went on to a career of service to others, from teachers to psychologists, peace keepers and environmentalists. During the reunion they went back to being fast friends as if time had never elapsed, skin had never wrinkled and hair had never grayed. They even sat in a circle and sang along to some guitar playing the way they had 30 years ago. I felt like I had opened a time capsule, one I would have gladly climbed in and gone back in time to be with people I had never met before that day.
That feeling was essentially the topic covered by Gregg Braden during his talk at I Can Do It! Toronto. He has traveled the world delving into many ancient cultures and has written several fabulous books with his findings. Gregg is a brilliant man.
If I attempt to condense a two hour talk into a paragraph… he said the secret to a happy life is love and compassion. He saw it confirmed across history in all cultures and religions, and I am pretty sure he’s right. He then went on to demonstrate how we can feel this by having us touch our own heart center with our hand and watch a video that is sure to move most people to tears it is so uplifting and full of love and compassion. We all literally felt the emotion in our chest. Gregg’s advice was to go to that place as often as we can.
I knew of the concept of heart coherence and blogged about it as a guest blogger over at Life in Pleasantville right after the Boston Marathon bombing, but witnessing it first hand to such a degree as with my husband’s reunion was a gift that I shall not soon forget.
My answer to a happy life? As far as I can tell, it is in losing your ego-self to love and compassion for others, as often as you can.
What do you think is the answer to the secret of a happy life? What makes you happy?
I posted a new headshot on my Facebook wall today. It is a professional shot taken in a studio with a lot of lighting and a high-end camera by a highly skilled professional photographer including some strategic Photoshop after the fact. After I posted the photo, amid a sea of praise and applause came a private question from someone asking how I can write a book about being human and self-acceptance and post such a fake photo of myself.
Hmmm… Good question. Let’s explore this.
What is authenticity really? Am I still authentic if I wear make-up in public? What about a bra? Am I fake if I have my eyebrows waxed? If I shave my legs? Do I do these things because I am ashamed of the way I look? Or am I selling-out and following the crowd and not being true to my self?
I have a very strong belief in the power of intention. We are social beings and I devote a couple of chapters to culture and community in my book Being Human. We are part of a tribe and our tribe has certain habits and rituals. I certainly don’t feel that shaving my legs would be an offense to anyone in my tribe, and I do not shave my legs with the intention to hurt others or knock them down a few pegs. It is a socially acceptable behavior in my culture. The content of my character, my integrity, my ability to be truthful and sincere with co-workers and friends is not questioned by the fact that I shave hair off my legs.
So where do we draw the line?
Is the line wearing artificial nails? I know many sincere and well-meaning women who do a lot of good in the world and get their nails done. Is the line wearing hair extensions or fake eyelashes? Gastric bypass or Botox? Or maybe, just maybe, the line is that we don’t need to judge when other people have crossed the line. Maybe, instead, we need to concentrate on where we choose to draw our own lines for ourselves. I believe that authenticity and integrity is when we live happily within the boundaries that we feel represent who we truly are, and for many of us who feel beautiful on the inside it is completely congruent to beautify our outside too.
Women really need to stop judging other women. REALLY. I can say with certainty that whatever others are saying about another woman in judgement is nothing compared to the negative self-criticism she is doling out to herself. We need to celebrate each other and uphold each other. We need to stop defining what is right and wrong with everyone else and hold ourselves into account, connect to our deepest truths, and live our lives from there.
In all honesty, if I had put up a headshot of me with my hair up wearing my glasses and in my pajamas (which is how I spend my writing days) many women would have complained about my lack of professionalism. I like to think that a headshot is our first date, and I want to look nice on our first date. I am unapologetically well put together on this picture and I am very happy with how my inner sparkle shines through. Now you get out there and show off your beauty and do not apologize for it either. Yes, you can be authentic while embracing the beauty rituals of our society as long as you are consciously choosing what is right for you.
Oh the lead up, anticipation and stress to Oprah in Ottawa and Live Your Best Day! I was so excited to be speaking on the main stage about Finding Peace in Everyday Chaos. I was so excited about being interviewed on CTV News at noon. I was so excited about going to see Oprah with my friends that evening. I was so excited that when the second TV interview—After the Oprah Show—was over I totally crashed.
By Friday I had turned into a zombie. I wasn’t physically exhausted. Besides having tender tootsies from wearing heels my body was fine (must be all that running and eating healthy I’ve been doing). No, I was emotionally frozen. I wasn’t sad, or angry or happy. I was shell-shocked. I didn’t remember a word I said on stage, and I was pretty sure I didn’t cover everything I had in my notes. All I could hope was that some of it made sense to someone. A few people came up to me later and said that my message really resonated for them, and that I was telling their story. My numb brain was wondering if they were just being nice. I could, however, clearly remember what I said on camera to the local news. THAT was the paralyzing agent. THAT was vulnerability.
The beautiful and bubbly Leeann Cusak asked me on camera how Oprah had the biggest impact on my life. I answered truthfully with a fact I have written about before, that it was an Oprah Show episode that facilitated a conversation with my mother about child abuse I endured by my step-father and prompted her to call the police that day. That Oprah show changed my life forever. But by Friday I learned that it is one thing to bury that sort of information in a book or blog post and a completely different kind of vulnerability to say it out loud under the glare of the lights with a television camera in your face. I wanted to go back and take it all back.
Why did I want to take it back? It is the truth. It is part of my story. Why did sharing my story have me second guessing my choice to talk about it? Was I worried what people would think of me? No. I have always been very open about my past on purpose. I worked hard on ridding myself of the idea I had something to be ashamed of and I try to model that for other women who have abuse histories too. In fact, I was contacted by someone that night who had been abused as a child, and she thanked me for showing her how strong we can become once we work through the trauma of our pasts.
I think my regret was more about the when and the where of the sharing, and I think my regret has more to do with social constructs. This was an event that I had been very excited about—happy happy joy joy. The room was filled with bright pinks and sequins, the music was upbeat and the organizers’ smiles exuded positivity. But I was sharing a message that is typically shared in hushed tones, or talked about with empathetic nods and the passing of tissues to sop up tears. I was breaking the code of conduct by holding my head up high, and stating facts without shame or drama. I was also inserting the darker realities of life into a rainbows and butterflies moment. That was what I regretted during my vulnerability hang-over. I wasn’t the cool, funny, miss-Mary-sunshine person in the crowd. I was real.
So, was it wrong of me to have shared my story during that day? According to our current social constructs, maybe yes, though no one called me out on it. This has really all played out in my head. But I think it is more than about time that we take the layer of shame and grime off child abuse and let survival of it and thriving after it share the stage with happiness and joy. The fact that it took me three days of soul searching to come to this realization is one of the symptoms of a problem that will not go away overnight. But relentless chants of women can be heard everywhere lately, calling for change around victim blaming and rape culture. It’s time we all accept some vulnerability hang-overs for the sake of humanity, for the sake of facing the truth, for the sake of being real.
Last Wednesday, I invited a friend of mine to join me at a book launch Tweet Up for @KathyBuckworth and her book I am So the Boss of You, a lovely look at raising your children with corporate policies where Mom is in charge. My friend said yes right away. She was quite happy to get out of the house for the evening, being a stay-at-home-mom of a four year old and twin one-year-olds no one can blame her.
Most of the ladies we met that night were mom-preneurs—mothers who have launched a business from home in order to earn an income—handing out business cards and exchanging Twitter handles. My friend is taking a hiatus from her career at the moment and not yet bitten by the mom-preneur or social media bug. But what she did take out and show off were pictures of her kids on her smartphone. I couldn’t help my heart from melting, not only at the adorable babies, but also at the memory of that overwhelming bond with my children that got me showing their pictures to virtual strangers a mere two hours after me leaving them at home. Partially showing them from gushing pride and partially to see them again myself.
Being Mommy is the hardest job in the world. If you’ve been one or had one you know what I am talking about. But I’m not writing this as an Ode to all the work, sleepless nights, and physical sacrifices we go through. I want to look at how, at seemingly the same time, we can experience both an ecstatic love and a heart wrenching pain with our kids. And how at some point both us and our children need to loosen that bond to live our own lives.
I remember as a teen not wanting to be like my mom. I think it’s that healthy dose of independence that helps us differentiate ourselves from our mothers so that we can move on and be our own person. Right now, and for the last few years, my oldest daughter has been headlong in not wanting to be anything like me. And you know what? As a mother it hurts like hell. As a daughter I had no qualms about leaving the nest and forging my own way in life. As a mother, it’s like watching a piece of your heart walk out the door stuck to the bottom of their shoe. That same bond that had me pulling out baby pictures at work just to see my babies again has me wishing my daughter didn’t have to be so oppositional. I don’t love her any less today than I did seventeen years ago, I don’t like some of the choices she makes or how she like to make choices specifically to get a rise out of me, but I still love her tremendously.
I have read a lot of parenting books, and I continue to read them and broaden my understanding. But at the end of the day, I think it is the experience of growing spiritually through the aches and pains of parenting that is the gem hidden under all the dirty diapers and 2 a.m. feedings. Until I had a daughter of my own that leapt out of the nest I could never have learned this lesson, I certainly didn’t feel this by being a daughter venturing out in the world. So as painful as it can be sometimes, I learn more about myself and about the human condition. After all, we have children specifically so they can leave and have their own lives one day. Mine just left a little earlier and with a little more spunk, but I will grow through this and eventually be grateful for the experience. While I’m growing… hand me a hankie and her baby pictures.
Photo provided by www.lisaprosen.com
I remember being told growing up that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I also remember that if you have nothing nice to say you say nothing at all. But all this wonderful advice sure is hard to follow when you want to be right.
Back when Dr. Phil first hit the airwaves our young family was a loyal captive audience. We all loved his shoot-from-the-hip, tell-it-like-it-is advice. My husband took to using several Dr.Phil-isms including the ever popular, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” I talk a lot about the higher-self compared to our basic, biological and primal drives in Being Human, and I devote a whole chapter to ego, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized just how much being happy is being in the higher-self and being right is an ego’s claim.
For example, I’m just about to cross the street and somebody drives through the intersection ignoring the stop sign. Whoa! I am right and he is wrong. I am obeying traffic laws and he is breaking them. Why would I be honey sweet and say nothing? It is the ego that lives in a world of self-protection, a world of competitiveness with a “me against the world” point of view. But if we went to our higher-self for a minute, if we took “me” out of the situation, we might be able to forgive the driver for not being perfect. He is, after all, a human being. Maybe his wife is in labor. Maybe his boss was angry at him for being late all week and his job was on the line. Maybe he was too busy ruminating in his own ego because another driver cut him off two blocks away and he just got distracted with retaliation fantasies.
If we look at people from a more compassionate “we are all one” point of view we can easily brush off something that our ego would get up-in-arms about. The key is to stay in that place of compassion. It was wrong to ignore a stop sign, but if no one was hurt and life went on as normal, I would be staying unhappy if I ruminated all day about being wronged.
This last week, I said something to someone that really offended them. Initially, I had no idea my words were so wounding to that other person. I was being flippant, but my remark really hit a nerve. When the person brought it to my attention, my ego’s first response was, “Relax, you’re reading way more into this than I meant!” And my ego’s second response was, “Let me show you how oversensitive you are being with a bunch of psychobabble.”
After all, my ego was right and they were wrong for having their own feelings… or were they?
How can I decide what someone else should feel? How can I say someone is being sensitive when I haven’t walked in their shoes and I don’t have the same past wounds affecting me? Instead of letting ego have its way, I immediately apologized for unwillingly having offended a friend, because their feelings were hurt by me, and that was all the reason my higher self-needed to say sorry, even if my ego thought I was right.
And what is the cost of having an ego that insists on being right? It’s an ego that can’t say sorry. And an ego that can’t say sorry for hurting a friend’s feelings doesn’t deserve the bounty of that friendship. After all, if someone repeatedly hurts my feelings even after I explain the how and why, healthy boundaries go up. Simple as that. I would expect the same from my friends if I repeatedly hurt them. Part of living in the higher-self is to have compassion for others and, although we too often forget, compassion for ourselves.