On Mindful Self Compassion

There was a thing that happened about a year ago that really made a lasting impression on me. And when I say it made a lasting impression, I mean that it encouraged me to dig deeper, to do more of the dirty, yucky, mucky work of self realization... getting to the root of things, to have a greater understanding of my effed-up-edness so that I can break up with these unhealthy old patterns that hold me back, heal and become the radiant beam of light that I so aspire to be. So this thing...

I had just completed my first Ironman and I was on my friend's porch picking up my little monsters when my friend's mother said to me... "I am so proud of you!"

Wait. She's proud of me? Tracy's mom is proud of me?

I froze. Deer in the headlights frozen, accessorized with a smile. But only for a split millisecond, because that's what you do when you suffer from CEN — you kinda go numb, not knowing how to respond, all while masking the inadequacy away. The feelings are out there somewhere, but they're impossible to grab a hold of. Like bobbing for apples. I'm under water, everything's foggy, and I'm frantically bobbing for those slippery feelings that I just can't seem to get a hold of. That's what goes on inside.

So that's when I kept smiling and mumbled something about needing to go, while turning away quickly toward home to hide that I was literally crying.

Those words — I am proud of you — HOLY SHIT, y'all. They are powerful!

And it struck me that I don't think my parents have ever said that to me. I can't say that they never did, but I honestly can't recall a single moment where they have. I remember being on the phone with my parents and briefly mentioning the Ironman, thinking to myself, are they gonna say that they're proud of me? Or exclaim, "What an awesome accomplishment!" Or something — anything — to acknowledge this moment of badassery?  And I remember being disappointed that they hadn't. It was a big deal for me — them not acknowledging my accomplishment. It sent me in a spiral.

But it also shed a light.

The silver lining in that downward spiral was understanding. It allowed me to better understand how I evolved into who I am right now. And I was able to be more compassionate toward myself. To empathize with myself. Self-empathy. It's a thing. I think maybe the millennials might call it mindful self compassion. It's real and can help heal (look who's a poet).

Imposter Syndrome. Again.

Imposter syndrome got a hold on me like a boa constrictor. Because of course it does. It's 2018, the beginning of a new year, and I've got plans. Major plans. Huge plans. Major. Huge. Plans.  A few months ago, in late 2017, I did what I always do (and probably what the rest of the universe does) — evaluate the year for personal gains and triumphs, failures and learning moments and, I set a course for some personal goals to achieve in new year. Because I'm a dream chaser. One of these days I'll get there, but I'm not too worried about it because it is all in the climb.

But what I am worried about is this imposter syndrome that always seems to grip me whenever I'm on the precipice of doing something really awesome for myself, or taking a huge leap. Like this certification class coming up in a couple weeks that I can't believe I was accepted into. Or like the collaboration that I'm moments away from pitching. I'm pretty good at mustering up my twenty seconds of insane couerage, twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. But, who am I to be doing this stuff? Making these leaps?

It's taken me forty one years to recognize that imposter syndrome is itself an imposter. It is fear. Fear all dressed up in a fancy black dress and ready for some recklessness.

I now realize that this particular type of fear, this imposter syndrome, for me, is rooted in a fear of success. I know that might sound crazy to some, but I've only come to this realization after some years of constant personal reflection and reading and research and I realize that all of that is rooted in my childhood. My childhood successes were never successes. They were never celebrated. They were turned into failures and used as tools for comparison.

Childhood self: I made third chair clarinet!
Reply: Why not first? Who got first chair?

And so I never knew what success looked like. What it felt like. And because I don’t know it, I fear it. (At least that's my self-diagnosis anyway.)

There’s a certain motivational quote that pops up in my feed every now and again that I’m haunted by:

fail_fly.jpg

I mean, seriously... What happens then? I think I'd REALLY feel like an imposter then!

The bigger question is, am I going to reach out to create this collaboration opportunity? Or am I going to give in to old unhealthy patterns that don’t serve me? Like judging myself, and then eliminating myself before any one else can. To be continued…

On That One Time I Was Propositioned

I'm sure that there are probably a lot of things beyond participating in adult beverage consumption that one can do whilst visiting the French Quarter of New Orleans, but my friends and I were not about to sacrifice a moment of Bacchanalian revelry trying to discover what they might be. A night of debauchery was going to be had.

Which is how I found myself in the middle of a strip club at the end of the night... watching some chic do her thing. As she finished her number by gathering up her tokens of appreciation, we all stood up to leave when suddenly the guy sitting to the right of me asks me how much I would be for the night.

(Let's use this line to let that sink in.)

I. Was. Mortified.

I was most definitely not the woman that I am now back then, but even my twenty-something year-old, people-pleasing, self-objectifying, anything-to-please-my-man, not-yet-feminist-identifying self that I was back then was SCREAMING silently inside my body.

Why would he ask me that? Because I wore my makeup all dark and smoky? Because I wore those tight black jeans with my sexy faux-see-through black lace top? Seriously. When is it ever okay to ask any random woman that? In a strip club? Because idiot assumes all women in strip clubs are sex workers... ergo I'm a hooker?

I immediately turned to the guy sitting to the left of me — my bae, but not just my bae, my boyfriend for at least over a year (because that matters) — and whispered to him that the dude sitting on the other side of me just asked me how much I was for the evening.

Part of me kinda thought that my then boyfriend would immediately confront the dude to defend my honor. Because he loves me. And because he was strong and all knight-in-shining-armor-y. For half of a split second I even romanticized the notion (remember, this is twenty-something-not-yet-feminist-identifying me). Of course he'll defend my honor!

 

"Take it as a compliment," he said.

 

Wait, what? Take it as a compliment?! Are you effing kidding me?

I was horrified.

Dear dudes,
When something like this happens,
never
ever
tell your gal to "take it as a compliment".
Just don't.

 

I'm not really sure why I'm writing about this. Probably because I'm still horrified by this story, even now, twenty-something years later. Maybe I just want to document it for being one of those stories that helped inform and mold the woman I have become. Maybe it's because I wish that I was the woman I am now back then. (But I don't really wish that because I own my story. And I believe in the butterfly effect. And I don't want anything to change where I am right now.) Perhaps it's because I'm three chapters into Jaclyn Friedman's Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power, and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All . That's probably it.

 

Film I'd like to watch after writing this post: Indecent Proposal (1993)

Cultivating Gratitude

It always happens around this time of year. My brain slows down and I reflect on the events and accomplishments of the year, and I begin to think about how I'll approach the new year.

But not in that order. It's so much easier to look ahead in optimism than to look back and account for the year that's ticking by. So I force myself. And in the end I'm glad I did. It turns out 2017 was so much better than I gave it credit for.

Which brings me to this annoying question. Why is it that I always seem to remember the negative? Have you ever felt this way? It hate that I do this. It's so damn easy to remember the bad... and the hurt. And it seems like I have to work to remember the awesome.

This question bugs me so much because I consider myself a glass-half-full kind of gal. I really am. I face a lot of things with great optimism and a positive mindset. And even though that's pretty biased, I'm pretty confident that most, if not all, of my family and friends would say the same.

So WTF, man?

In an occasion of synchronicity, I discovered that there is real science about this! And proof!

 
 

Literally.

And get this. It turns out this tendency toward the negative is NOT. OUR. FAULT. Our brains are diabolically, inherently lazy. We have to force them into action. We have to train our brain.

Which is something that I've been working on since learning about CEN. Re-framing my story so that I can overcome some pretty hefty obstacles. Training my brain to ignore old pathways and connections, and creating new ones. It's both hard and exhausting. But I can feel the change.

So I'm going into 2018 with a different mindset. And I just wanted to share some of the practices that I've implemented over the past several months that are helping me do this.

But first, Matthew McConaughey...

He [God] has shown me that it is a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates abundance.

It’s true. Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving, and there is a science behind it. Which is why I'm starting a gratitude practice right here, right now. And I want you to join me in this January 30 day challenge. Because I think you'll dig it. And...

I created this handy dandy 30 Days of Gratitude PDF just for you. It's a really easy peasy way to just start already. Let's cultivate gratitude and abundance together!

That One Time a 9-Year-Old Girl Asked Me If She Looked Fat

I couldn't believe it. My daughter's good friend was going on and on (for a good 10 minutes) about how much she hated snow pants because they made her look fat. And then it happened. She got them on and she asked me if I thought her snow pants made her look fat.

She's NINE. years. old.

"Of course not," I told her. "And you have nothing to worry about. Eh-ver-eebody that you'll be with already knows that you're strong and healthy. Annnnd. They will be wearing snow pants too! And I'll bet they won't even think about how you look. They're probably thinking about all the hills y'all are about to sled down. I promise. "

I knew that this moment was going to happen. I knew it from the very moment I learned we were having a girl, that because our society still insists upon objectifying women and girls, body image would be a very real THING that we'd have to deal with.

For eight years, I worked REALLY hard to instill a strong and enduring body positive confidence in Juniper. I knew that I needed to work really hard on that so that when the moment came, she would be armed with a powerful inner strength that would help her win each little battle in the never ending war with negative body image that little girls begin to battle at all too young an age.

So how do we talk to our daughters about their bodies?

We don't.
(Unless it's about teaching her about how it works.)

I did a lot of research and found that the best way to come through to daughters is through example.

Just like with everything else you've got to practice what you preach. And that is no easy task. Especially when it comes to body image! It means that we have to grapple with our very own juju around body image. That means unlearning 20, 30, 40 years of juju. And for some of us, that's big. And scary. And something we'd rather not deal with right now, thank you.

But we've GOT to!

If we want to make a difference, to cultivate happier and healthier young women, to change the way our culture treats women and girls, we've got to be the ones who stand up and DO THE HARD WORK. Because if we don't, nothing changes. We simply pass down this bullshit to our daughters and maybe hope that they do the hard work.

Do The Hard Work —
The 3 Don'ts and the 5 Do's

Stop talking about your body. Don't talk mention whether or not you've lost weight. Don't mention whether or not you've gained weight. If you can't stop cold turkey, then at least commit to not talking about your body in the presence of your children, girl or boy (because let's face it, that's just one of the million ways that boys internalize the idea that girls' bodies should be judged). 

Stop talking about other people's bodies. We have GOT to stop critiquing other women's bodies! The one thing that really makes me absolutely ape-shit-batty is when I see grown women talk about other women's bodies. It happens All. Of. Thee. Time! And it happens right in front of our daughters. We pick up a People magazine and we talk about O my gosh! Did you see what such-n-such-celebrity wore? She looked awful! She looked absolutely gorgeous! She totally gained some weight. She's so damn skinny. She's totally anorexic. I wonder what kind of diet she's on. What did she do to her hair? Her hair is so gorgeous! She totally has a muffin top! She has the best abs ever! Did you see that picture of her in that bathing suit? She totally rocked it. I bet they totally airbrushed that. . . . and the list goes on and on. And let's please stop talking about how she looks at the Academy Awards, or the Oscars, or the Emmy's or Grammy's . . . OUR GIRLS HEAR ALL OF THIS! And they internalize that it's okay to judge other people by the way they look. They internalize that it's important for girls/women to look a certain way. They internalize that they have to look that certain way. (I specifically mention to not judge celebrities here, but also, we need to stop judging other "regular" women — that chic in your yoga/pilates/spin/whatever class, your girlfriends, your frenemies . . . other people's daughters.)

Stop talking about diets. Or whether or not you're eating carbs, or fats, or sugar. Talk instead about eating healthy and making healthy choices. We teach our daughters about fueling their bodies with the nutrients it needs to be strong, and healthy, and capable by our own example.

DO teach our daughters (and sons for that matter) how to cook kale and asparagus and squash. Teach them how to cook all of the healthful, nutritious foods. And if you don't know how, then discover how to together.

DO teach her that running is a great sport that can help her feel less stressed. That swimming, and soccer, and rowing, and fencing, and tennis are all great sports because they teach her how to be a part of a team and how to be a leader. That triathlon is a fantastic sport that teaches how to conquer negative thoughts, like self-doubt.

DO teach our daughters (and sons) that they can do anything they put their mind to. That hard work and persistence are the keys to success.

DO teach our daughters that she doesn't need a man to kill a bug, lift a cabinet, or fix the toilet. Teach her this through example. In doing so we will also be teaching our sons that their future brides are strong, confident and capable women.

DO compliment her on things not related to her body or the way she looks. Like her kindness to others, her compassion, her ability to empathize, her strength, her persistence, her hard work, her confidence, her integrity, her energy, her patience, innovation, focus, authenticity, open-mindedness . . .

DO teach her how to love herself.

Remind yourself and teach your daughters that our bodies are homes to our greater selves — our soul, spirit, energy. And that the radiance of your soul is limited to the health of it's dwelling.