Celebrate the uniqueness of you

You are a unique combination of experiences, perspectives, values, talents and strengths. Of all the people in the world, there is not one person exactly like you. You are a rare and valuable gem. Flaws, faults, failures and all. You are still special. Just the fact that you are still standing, still trying, still fighting for your dreams and goals, still finding joy in big things and small, still seeking out things to strive for and laugh about…in spite of everything. That’s your evidence. Remember that when tapes of old stories play in your head and consume you with worry that you should give up because of every real and imagined thing you think is wrong with you and your life. You are worth fighting for, no matter what has happened in your past. No matter what comes your way remember that there is nothing common about you. You are special and you are equal to any challenge. It matters not what anybody else around you has accomplished. You are uniquely you. You may have to stop, rest, get help and regroup to get through but you are equal to the challenge and get through is what you will do. And so it is.

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Daring as self care

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps. David Lloyd George quoted in Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You – A Journal.

In other words…go ahead and leap for your dreams. Go for your goals. Throw off the burden of unrealized potential, it is too heavy to carry indefinitely.

Learning how to say no

Why does it feel so hard to say no? Some common reasons are:

  • It makes me feel strong, proud and important when others turn to me.
  • I am afraid of starting a conflict or hurting the other person’s feelings if I say no.
  • I worry that I might lose the relationship if I say no.
  • I am embarrassed to say I don’t have the money if I can’t afford to lend it.
  • I don’t feel like I have the right to refuse.
  • I want to help.
  • I always say yes, I can’t just start saying no now.
  • I feel guilty when I say no.

If any of those reasons sounds like you, here are some suggestions for learning to say no.

  • Practice letting yourself feel uncomfortable. Saying yes to someone else only because you feel guilty is a way of saying no to yourself, your goals and your needs.
  • Establish short and long-term goals that you share with others. If no is not yet a complete sentence for you, it may be easier to refuse with a reason that points to your goals so it is clear you are being purposeful rather than mean.
  • Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. For example, I can’t loan you money but I can help you brainstorm alternative solutions or explore other resources.
  • Especially if you feel pressured, delay your response until you’ve had a chance to review the situation.
  • Remember that you don’t have to rescue or save everyone all the time. Sometimes, deciding why your needs are important is the priority.
  • Offer a compassionate no. Acknowledge the need and express regret that you are unable to help in the way requested.
  • Remind yourself that your value lies not in what you are able to do for someone or give to someone. You are valuable just because you are you.

Use the power of your breath to ease anxiety

When there’s an anxiety-producing event looming – an important presentation, dental surgery, a first date – you can start to calm your nerves the day before with this exercise. Close your eyes and gently bring your lips together. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale (also through your nose), make a humming sound: “Mmmmmm.” Let this hum last as long as it is comfortable. Then inhale and repeat. Don’t try to control it too much. Just breathe in and hum out. If you try to extend the hum longer than is natural, you might tighten up. Play with the tone until you find the place where your “mmmmmm” flows out in a comfortable, lowish pitch, audible but quiet enough that no one except, say, the person right next to you on the bus would hear it. The humming breath has a way of loosening your jaw, mouth, lips, and tongue – areas that tend to tense up when you’re nervous. Once you’ve found your hum, repeat it whenever you start to feel anxious – whether you’re standing, sitting, or walking. Let it be easy and fun. Over the course of the day, the soothing effect will build, helping you become more and more relaxed for the big event.

Exercise by Cyndi Lee, founder of OM Yoga. Taken from Real Simple Magazine, September 2015

Meditation for challenging times

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Disappointment is a normal part of every person’s life…including mine. When I am facing a problem I can take care of myself by remembering that I am not being punished. Even good people have bad times sometimes. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am equal to the challenge.

I have the wisdom, the energy  and the strength to get through this. I know that I will be okay even though I may not know yet exactly how this situation will be resolved. I trust myself to look for and find each next best step.

I have within me the drive and determination to change what I can, and the courage to accept what I can’t. I stay focused on where I am going, reminding myself often that life is always changing. Where I am right now is not permanent.

Even though things are not as I want them to be, I am okay. I will not give up on myself, my life or my goals. All is well. And so it is. Have a good day.

Working through painful experiences

With pen and paper close by take some quiet time to let a past resentment or hurt fully bloom in your consciousness. Notice how you feel – is your body tense, has your breathing become more rapid? Now pay attention to what you are telling yourself about what happened. You might hear something like, these things always happen to me or what did I do to deserve that or why is life so unfair? Write down exactly what happened along with all of your questions and feelings. Other questions to explore include:

As you go over past hurts change the question from why to now what. Asking why keeps you in a position of powerlessness because your focus stays on the person and the pain he or she caused. Asking why is not useful because you will never be able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Asking now what is a more useful question because it puts you in the driver’s seat. Now what reminds you that you can decide where you go and what you do next.

How does it help me to hold onto painful feelings?

How would it help me to let them go?

Was there anything I really could have done differently or is the feeling that I could have based on my current (older, stronger) self? This question is particularly important if you were abused as a child.

Did the person that caused the harm have the emotional capacity or willingness to treat you in the way you deserved to be treated?

Is there anything useful or good that you can take away from the experience?

Mine your past for lessons not excuses for limits. Don’t use past pain as an excuse for future mistakes and shortcomings. ]

Forgiveness does not mean the person that caused you pain is getting away with it. The behavior is still wrong and hurtful. But refusing to let it go does not change what happened. Often, it only limits what can happen because anger closes you off leaving little room for many of the good things in life.

Decide you don’t have to stay stuck in your pain because you are left without answers or apologies. You may not ever hear the person say what he or she did was wrong or you may never even get an acknowledgment that it even happened. Freeing yourself from a painful place is possible regardless of what the other person does or does not do. Waiting for them to make the first move will only keep you stuck instead of in your own power to change the course of your life.

It is okay to ask for help

“God helps those who help themselves”

  • This common phrase is not actually a bible verse
  • It is intended as a way of encouraging initiative, but often functions as a way of shaming instead

The real truth…if you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?

  • No one understands your needs better than you do
  • You are your own best advocate
  • Asking for help should not be understood as a sign of weakness
  • Strong, capable people need help just like everybody else
  • Having initiative does not mean you have to be completely self-reliant.
  • Identifying and advocating for your needs is one way of taking the initiative for getting those needs met.
  • Choosing not to remain silent about what you need and want is a way of practicing self care.

Living Intentionally

And if only one more hour…? Those may not be the exact words, but that is the gist of a quote I came across several months ago. I cut the words into a small strip of paper that is now pinned to a bulletin board in my office.

We all know that death is inevitable. We hope the day is far away. But what if it isn’t?

Reading those words reminded me of how precious time is. Still, I squander time and take my relationships with self and others for granted. I refuse to abandon the superfluous, choosing instead to occupy myself with things, thoughts and activities that really don’t matter.

Perhaps it sounds cliché, but for those of us with seemingly endless days ahead it is very important to live in a way that, at least occasionally, considers the question – and if only one more hour…? It does not seem reasonable or prudent to take for granted the gift of health or time. Everyone does not get to enjoy these gifts.

Some of us are, inexplicably, given more time. It seems a shame to squander it when so many others wish desperately for another, day, year, or decade. Assuming you have it how will you make the most of it?

Living intentionally invites us to consider some of life’s larger questions. So, if only one more hour…? How you answer may uncover some clues that help you improve the quality of your time, your choices and your life.

“You can go your own way”

Women are making some strides politically and in the corporate world, but what about socially? Not so much.

There remains an underlying vein of discomfort – even guilt – as we break away from long loathed limits. “Having it all” comes up often, but that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is having the freedom from cultural pressure to identify and choose what we want. Then to actually go for whatever that is without apology.

The dreams our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and even mothers, dreamt are becoming real. We have more choices about what we can do, but not as many real choices about how we can be. There is still a great deal of tension related to identity, gender socialization and life choices.

For example, do we choose from the multiple roles available to us (employee, mother, leader, wife, partner, etc.) or does the cultural current simply carry us along until we settle into these roles. How do they fit together and how do we reconcile the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of each? How do we find (and use) our voices when our subconscious minds still believe on some level that women should be accommodating and made of the requisite sugar, spice and everything nice?

The next frontier we conquer must be social and cultural norms. Our job as women with more choices is to actually embrace and exercise them without regard for the cultural limits that keep us in conflict with ourselves. You know the limits. They show up in our willingness to speak up for everyone except ourselves; torment us whether we work in or outside the home, encourage us to stay in unhappy relationships, and fill us with doubt about our life choices.

The fear of cultural backlash can make it difficult for women to be honest about who they are and what they want. We worry about being perceived as a “ball buster” or a bad mom. We worry about how it will look if we are single, without children or divorced. We worry about fitting in and about not upsetting the status quo. We’ve had a lifetime of worrying about the right way to be a woman. That will not earn us a second life. We will still get only one.

Just Breathe

Each time you wash your hands today, pause for a moment. Slow down and breathe deeply, allowing your belly to fully expand as you inhale. Exhale slowly and sigh out loud as the breath moves out of your body. Remember to sigh. Sighing can help you regulate disrupted breathing patterns and lead to feelings of calm.

Breathe deeply throughout the day and remind yourself that you are okay.

While you are taking a breath break why not also take a break from trying to manage what others think of you or how they feel about you?

She who trims herself to suit everyone will soon whittle herself away. – Anonymous