• Read Put down the mask and allow yourself to be seen.

    Authenticity

    Put down the mask and allow yourself to be seen.

    As we navigate life’s path, it’s interesting the things that will come up over and over again.  I’ve often mused that life will keep giving us the same lessons over and over again until we really learn them.  And really learning something is more than learning it on a theoretical level, or a “head” level as I tend to call it. Many of life’s lessons are what I call “heart” level lessons.  These are the ones that we must feel.  The ones that we need to feel to heal past experiences, so we can let more love into our life, and the shadow of the inner saboteur becomes fainter and fainter. We all wear a mask I had one of these experiences this past weekend.  I was on a girl’s trip to Rockport with some friends of mine.  The four of us met in a hiking meetup group during the pandemic and have been very close ever since. I hadn’t slept very well during the trip and the last morning I found myself in a very raw and emotional state.  The final morning, I started to cry, more like allowed myself to cry and feel some things I’d been shoving away for a while. And then I found myself worrying about things like: “What will they think of me?” “I’m ruining the trip.” “I look silly and I’m embarrassing myself and them.” I sat out on the dock in front of our lovely pastel colored condo and watched the sun come up.  The beautiful purples and pinks shimmering through the clouds, the seagulls diving into the water looking for a morning treat.  I cried, I was breathing deeply, I was letting out fear I’d been carrying for a while.  But I didn’t want to bother the group.  I separated myself on purpose so I wouldn’t be a burden to them.  The fear and embarrassment of showing strong emotion in front of my newish friends was just too overpowering. I was startled when I felt Carol’s hands on my shoulders.  She started to rub my back, and I let her.  The important point of this story is I let her.  It wasn’t easy I will say, even for me, a coach, someone who teaches communication skills and emotional intelligence.  It still wasn’t easy. So often in life, I think we learn that we must be strong.  And we take on a very limited view of what that means.  We put on a mask that hides our true nature from the rest of the world.  I think I’ve often prided myself on being that person in the group that has her proverbial “shit” together.  That knows what she is talking about.  That never loses her cool.  Because I somehow deduced that people won’t like me or want to be friends with me if I let them see who I really am.  That it’s not acceptable to ever be “out of control” or need a moment to cry. Which frame do you choose? […]

    August 23, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    Authenticity, Leadership, Life Direction and Purpose, Mindfulness

    Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    A discussion about values can often seem like an artificial conversation.  It’s a nice to have, not a need to have, right?  Something I do once at a training course because the facilitator forces me to do it, and then I shove the paper they’re written on in a desk drawer and forget about it and go on with the rest of my business. Values can help or hinder our growth and development What’s interesting to understand about values is they can help us or hinder us.  And that might seem counterintuitive, because aren’t values a good thing?  The answer is, it depends.  Let’s say I value accuracy.  If I place too much emphasis on accuracy, I might find myself overworking reports, overworking data, to an extent that’s unnecessary for the task at hand.  Many of us trip ourselves up this way and forget the tried and tested 80/20 rule. One value that I tend to hear a lot from clients is trust.  Trust is an interesting one because we often gravitate towards it if we’ve been hurt in the past.  Maybe our parents got divorced and it eroded our trust in them.  Maybe a spouse or partner cheated on us, and the result was devastating, we can never trust again.  Maybe a business partner stole money from us, or a family member wronged us.  The list goes on and on. Based on these life experiences we then conclude that trust is the most important thing in any relationship, and we cling onto it for dear life.  We suspiciously look for signs that someone might be untrustworthy.  We fear that our worst nightmare will come true, and then it does.  We reinforce this idea by telling ourselves things like, “the only person I can trust is myself.” Fear based values versus conscious based values Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to value trust.  But it’s worth thinking about the relationship you have with your values.  Did I consciously choose to value trust because it’s important to me, or am I desperately clinging to this value out of fear?  And if I’m clinging to a value out of fear, how might that be blinding me?  How might I then be unconsciously creating the situation I fear? For years I clung to authenticity.  It was my biggest personal value.  And when I think about my personal history, that makes perfect sense.  I grew up in a household where conformity was valued, and I often felt like I could never be myself or loved for who I am.  I had to fight very hard for the right to just be myself.  I even prided myself at one point of being the proverbial black sheep of the family.  I was so concerned with losing my “authentic self” that it inadvertently blinded me to choices I might have liked but wouldn’t even consider because they seemed on the surface to be too conforming. A few years ago, I gave up authenticity as my most important […]

    August 11, 2022

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    3.9 min read

  • Read Straight Talk: Speak the Truth with Love

    Authenticity, Difficult conversations

    Straight Talk: Speak the Truth with Love

    This week I’ve been teaching a course on straight talk.  I often refer to this skill as “Speaking the Truth with Love.”  The crux of getting this right depends on three important aspects. There are three elements to straight talk: Caring personally (compassion) – Caring personally about the individual who is on the receiving end of this conversation and demonstrating this care with your words in the conversation. Sharing your perspective and/or challenging directly – Or in other words, being clear about the issue that needs to be communicated and not beating around the proverbial bush. Inviting others to do the same – Creating the space to have a two-way conversation rather than merely talk at someone. Any straight talk conversation is a great opportunity for two-way dialogue and not merely a “dump and run.” Don’t Bury the Lead You’d be surprised how often we do the opposite.  When it comes to challenging directly, I notice one thing in particular.  I often sit in practice runs where participants are role playing a difficult conversation they need to have.  I’ve seen people do a million times something I call “burying the lead.”  At the end of the conversation, I ask the initiator what the issue was they wanted to communicate.  The person on the receiving end of the conversation often had a totally different impression of what the conversation was about.  The gravity of the issue had not been conveyed clearly or accurately.  This happens all the time, and people walk away with completely different perceptions of a conversation or an issue.  No wonder there’s so much conflict in our personal and professional lives! Remember that honesty without compassion is brutality But the caring personally aspect is just as important as challenging directly. It’s crucial to remember that honesty without compassion can be brutality. E.g. “I think your idea is stupid.” I’m reminded of an old friend and colleague that I used to spend a lot of time with.  She prided herself on her ability to give straight talk.  She had mastered the art of being direct.  On that front there was no one better I will admit.  The problem is her words were often not couched in compassion.  Over time it took a toll on my ability to relate to her, and eventually after I’d been stung enough times, I abandoned the relationship.  It just wasn’t worth it. So why don’t we engage in straight talk?  Or why don’t we do it well when we try? Mindset is Everything Mindset plays a huge role when it comes to this skill.  Do any of these sound familiar? It means being unkind. I must act professionally regardless of the cost. I can’t upset people. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I must tell the truth at all costs. Silence is golden. I can’t challenge someone senior to me. Which of these beliefs are true for you?  And how are they getting in the way of […]

    July 13, 2022

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    3.1 min read

  • Read When you feel the need to please, think about this first

    Authenticity

    When you feel the need to please, think about this first

    Ever been pushed into pleasing in a difficult situation and then resented the heck out of it? Here's something to think about next time you feel the need to please.

    June 2, 2022

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    5.4 min read

  • Read An important caveat to vulnerability: Don’t throw your pearls before swine

    Authenticity

    An important caveat to vulnerability: Don’t throw your pearls before swine

    The other day I shared something deep and personal I had written in a very public forum, and then found myself freaking out about it.  Social media is a strange thing, and I’m not sure there are many of us who have completely mastered the art of using it.  I felt that funny feeling in my stomach.  You know the one, when you’ve been caught with your proverbial pants down.  The embarrassment, the shame, like when the teacher called on you in the second grade and you didn’t have the answer and you looked like a fool in front of your entire class. I’ve always been told by others that they admire my vulnerability.  My rawness.  My ability to put myself out there and let it all hang out, so to speak.  And so, I often do, and therefore was quite taken aback by my emotional response to sharing a seemingly innocent article the other day. Perhaps I’m not as comfortable with vulnerability as I thought I was? Vulnerability is a funny thing.  It’s a big buzzword at the moment, we’re all told we should do it.  We should lead with it and practice vulnerable moments with co-workers.  We should practice vulnerability daily in our personal lives.  Brene brown says vulnerability is the key to living a wholehearted life, whatever that means.  And I get it on many levels, it is an amazing way of creating connection with other people.  Think about it, how can anyone ever really know you if they don’t know the real, unpolished, not-so-perfect you?  It’s also important when it comes to letting go of perfectionism and practicing compassion for oneself.  Overall, vulnerability can be a really great thing. There are limits to vulnerability But there are limits.  And frankly, there should be limits to it.  Which is the lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks the other day.  You may have heard the phrase, “Don’t show your pearls with swine?”  It’s a popular piece of advice, and is adapted from a phrase in the Gospel, “Cast not pearls before swine.” Okay, I know where your thinking just went.  So the point of this is to not call other people a pig, no matter how much you may believe someone deserves it.  Or to start preaching at you.  The point is to carefully distinguish amongst who it is appropriate to share your heart with and who it makes sense to keep it more closed.  To make a conscious choice to share or not to share.  And then share it only with people who will really appreciate your message. I think every person and every culture struggles with this, but I do think having lived in many different countries, that we Americans often take the cake with this one.  We share and share and share because we think we’re supposed to.  We share things with our family for instance because they’re family and we think this is what family is supposed to look like, and […]

    May 4, 2022

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    4.8 min read

  • Read Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over

    Authenticity, Well Being

    Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over

    I normally don’t share my creative writing that I do for fun, but this piece I want to share with you.  It’s a vulnerable one recently published in the spring 2022 issue of Please See Me, an online literary journal dedicated to health and wellness.  While the topic deals with an anxiety disorder related to hair pulling ( the technical name is Trichotrillomania) I’ve suffered with over the years, the deeper themes in the piece relate to things we all struggle with.  I hope you enjoy a humorous dive into an important topic, and how learning to laugh at ourselves and how ironically, sometimes surrendering and letting go can open the door to something very special indeed… Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over I remember the first time it happened. I was sixteen and it was advanced algebra class. It was our final exam, and I was struggling as usual. I’d never liked math. I looked down at the floor at the end of the period and there it was. A large pile of thick, curly, blond hair was lying innocently on the floor. I looked around the room, wondering whose it was—had some poor soul lost a wig? The confusion was quickly replaced with a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was my hair. But how? Why? I didn’t have time to make sense of it. My face flushed with shame, my eyes darted nervously around the room, looking for my nemesis, Shannon Clark. Had she seen? She’d be sure to tell everyone. I reached down to the floor with all the nonchalance I could muster, quickly grabbed the pile, and stuffed it into my backpack. I disposed of the blond wad later in the girls’ bathroom. I wondered later how many pieces of hair it was. One hundred, two hundred? It was a lot. I didn’t think to stop and count each strand in my mad dash to destroy the evidence. And then panic set in. Did I have a bald spot now? Frantic, I checked my hair in the bathroom mirror multiple times for signs, searching for little patches of scalp peeking out from underneath my frizzy mop. But there were none. My secret was at least safe for now. Up to that point I had craved the long, straight, luxuriously silky-smooth hair many of my classmates sported, like the girls in the Pantene commercials: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” I hated them. But in that moment, I was secretly thankful for my big, blond mop, which Shannon often referred to as a blonde afro. I had more than enough hair to spare. I was in my early thirties when I finally went in for treatment. I kept pulling out my hair all through the remainder of high school, all through college and my first master’s degree, all through my first job and my second master’s degree. Never enough to be bald. I always conveniently pulled from the underneath on the left side of my head. The result was the […]

    April 26, 2022

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    12.8 min read