Archive for May 2009

Celebrate Who You Are

May 26, 2009

How often do you truly celebrate who you are? Because many of us, myself included, spend so much time and energy focused on what we think is “wrong” with us, celebrating ourselves doesn’t often come that easy.

For me, I’ve spent much of my life – as a student, an athlete, in business, in relationships, and in general – demanding perfection of myself, and of course, falling short and feeling inadequate on a regular basis. Most people I know and work with have some version of “I’m not good enough” that runs their life. Even though many of us understand this, living our lives from a true place of self acceptance, self appreciation, and self love is often much easier said than done.

The ultimate goal of being ourselves in an authentic way is actually about loving ourselves in a generous way. If we truly love ourselves, most of what we worry about and even much of what we strive for in life becomes meaningless. We may still have some worries, and we’ll definitely continue to have goals, dreams, and desires. However, from a place of true self appreciation and self love, the fear behind our worries and the motivation for our goals dramatically changes from something we have to avoid or produce in order to be accepted and valued, to something we we’re genuinely concerned about or really want to accomplish.

On the flip side, if we don’t love ourselves, nothing much really matters. No matter what we conquer, create, or experience we’re never able to appreciate it, ourselves, or to be fulfilled in the process, because we’re constantly striving to be validated in an insatiable way.

Self love is what we’re all searching for. Sadly, we spend most of our lives thinking that someone or something else can give us what only we can give ourselves. To be truly fulfilled in life, we have to find that love within us and give it to ourselves. No other person, amount of money, material possession, or accomplishment can do it. It’s up to us. We have an opportunity to celebrate who we are for any reason and at any time.

Write a Love Letter To Yourself

This is a simple but powerful exercise I do in workshop and share in my new book, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. This process will allow you to take some time to celebrate who you are and to practice appreciating yourself!

  • Write a heartfelt letter of gratitude, appreciation, and love to yourself about yourself. Take some time, put some conscious and generous thoughts and feelings into it, and allow yourself to boldly express your love for yourself.
  • Put the letter in a sealed envelope with your name, address, and a stamp on it.
  • Give the letter to someone you trust and ask them to drop it in the mail to you at some point in the next year (without telling you when they do it).

It will show up in the perfect time and probably on a day you could really use some appreciation and acknowledgement. And, the best part is that the love and validation will come from you!

How can you celebrate yourself today? Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, and more here on my blog.

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Be Bold

May 18, 2009

Do you consider yourself bold?  Some of us do, but most people I know and work with, myself included, admit that they don’t often think of themselves as a bold person.  Or, if we’ve done or said bold things in our lives, they seem to be few and far between…and they also seem to scare us half to death.  Hence, we often don’t find ourselves being bold in life – or not nearly as much as we’d like.

Being bold, while scary and challenging for many of us, is essential if we’re going to live an authentic life.  Boldness is about stepping up and stepping out onto our “edge” in life – pushing the limits of what we think is possible or appropriate.  It’s about living, speaking, and acting in ways that are both courageous and true to who we really are.

Because we’re all unique, our individual versions of boldness will look quite different.  Something that might be “bold” for me, may not be so for you – or vice versa.  Being bold has to do with us getting in touch with our deepest truths, passions, and desires in life and then having the courage to live and act “out loud” in a way that is congruent with this.

Here are five key reminders of what it takes to be bold in life:

1) Be True to Yourself – Tell and live your truth with courage, vulnerability, and commitment.  We must also remain in a constant inquiry with ourselves about who we are and what’s important to us.  It’s okay and necessary in this process to admit when we’ve made a mistake, gone off course, or done something that’s out of integrity for with ourselves, as well as if we feel totally lost (which we will at times).  Being true to who we are is about being ruthlessly honest and forgiving with ourselves (and with others) in a way that is both fierce and compassionate.

2) Live with Passion – Passion comes from within us, not from the external circumstances, events, activities, or people in our lives. Being bold is about going for it, not holding back, and giving ourselves fully to our work, our relationships, and our lives.  To do this we must generate authentic passion, which is both a powerful emotion as well as a state of being as well.

3) Step Out – Challenge yourself to say and do things that are outside of your comfort zone and that scare you.  This will force you to “step out” in your life and step in to who you really are.  We often don’t think we’re “ready,” we sometimes don’t know exactly what we’re supposed to do, and we almost never have a guarantee that things will work out.  So what!  As Ray Bradbury famously said, “Jump, and build your wings on the way down.”

4) Lean on Others – Support, inspiration, and accountability from other people are essential along our journey of boldness and authenticity.  We can’t do it all by ourselves and it’s imperative that we reach out to others who believe in us, will tell us the truth, and can help us when we get stuck.  Create a “dream team” of powerful and supportive people around you who you can share your hopes, dreams, and ideas with.  And, be willing to ask for and receive their support, contribution, and generosity.

5) When You Fall Down, Get Back Up – It’s important to make peace with the fact that you will fall down, probably a lot, if you’re really going for it and playing big in life.  How we respond to falling down is what truly makes the difference in our lives.  When we make a commitment to ourselves to get back up, dust ourselves off, be real about how we feel and what happened, and not let it stop us from being who we are and going for what we want – we tap into what true power, boldness, and authenticity are all about!

 

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Express Yourself

May 12, 2009

How honest are you?  While most of us aren’t bald-faced liars who go around deceiving people consciously, if we’re honest with ourselves about it, we often don’t fully speak our truth or express all of our emotions.  We’ve been trained and have in turn trained ourselves to be “appropriate” and to say and do the “right” thing so we can get what we want and look as good as possible in most situations.

For me, being a “nice guy,” a “people pleaser,” and wanting others to be impressed with me often poses a challenge when what I want to say or express doesn’t seem to fit into the “likeable” category.  Most of the people I know and work with have some “story” about themselves they want others to believe and therefore only feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings that match up with this story or the public “identity” that they put forth.

However, what if, even with whatever fear or resistance we each have – we were able to fully, passionately, and honestly express ourselves?

One way we can do this, which I talk about in Chapter Five of Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Principle 3 – Express Yourself), is to lower our “waterline.”  This idea is based on the metaphor of an iceberg, with just the tip of it popping up above the surface, and the rest of the iceberg (who we really are) down below the waterline.

The exercise that I share in the book and often do in my workshops, which I originally learned from my friends and mentors Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, is called “if you really knew me.”  Each person in the group has a minute or two to complete the phrase, “if you really knew me, you’d know…” and then share some things about themselves in an honest, transparent, and vulnerable way.  It takes courage, safety, and trust to do this.  As I’ve seen time and time again, this exercise can have a profound impact on everyone involved.

Even though I’m feeling nervous as I write this and I worry that this is overly personal or possibly inappropriate for me to write in an “advice article” like this, I will share with you some things you’d know about me if we were sitting in a circle, doing this powerful exercise together.

If you really knew me, you’d know that I spend a lot of time and energy worrying about my physical appearance – obsessing about certain aspects of how I look (my hair, my skin, my eyes, my teeth, my weight, and more) and worrying that I don’t look good enough, that people can see me aging, losing my hair, and not taking care of myself – and that they’ll judge me or won’t like me because of it.

If you really, really knew me you’d know that I can’t seem to figure out how to stay on top of my life, my work, my finances, and all of my many personal and professional responsibilities in a way that feels balanced, workable, or peaceful.  Much of the time I feel like I am drowning, messing things up, and simply “pretending” to be happy and grateful.

If you really, really, really knew me you’d know that I believe my work, my message, and the gifts that I have are incredibly powerful, important, and meaningful.  I’m sometimes blown away by the impact I have on others.  I want to have an even deeper and bigger impact on people and the world, but my ego seems to think that I’m not doing enough, not being appreciated in the way I deserve, or that I better hurry up and “make it” before people really find out how full of it I am.

Wow…I can’t really believe I just shared all of that.  And, it feels both scary and liberating to have done so.  When we’re willing to own and express our truth, we can free ourselves from needless worry, hiding, and denial.  This allows us to be ourselves, live our lives with passion, and go for what we truly want in life.

Real authenticity is not some set of rules or a self-righteous definition about how people “should” be in life…it is the willingness and courage to be real, true, transparent, and vulnerable in the moment-by-moment, day-by-day experience of being in relationship with others and living this magical, mysterious, wonderful, crazy, exciting thing we call life.

Authenticity Challenge: What You Can Do

Think about some important things you have not been willing to say or some intense feelings you have not been willing to express recently.  Make a commitment to yourself, even if you’re feeling scared or uncomfortable about it, to express yourself honestly about these important things.  Write them down, call a friend of family member, or talk to someone you fully trust.  What would they know about you if they really knew how you were feeling right now?  Reach out in a bold, vulnerable, and honest way and see what happens when you express yourself like this.  It can be magical and one of the most liberating experiences in life!  Have fun…

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Transform Your Fear

May 5, 2009

Fear is something that we all experience throughout our lives, especially on our journey toward deeper authenticity.  Being who we really are, expressing ourselves honestly, being bold, and going for what we want in life can cause a great deal of fear in us.

I get scared all the time.  When I was younger I thought there was something really wrong with me because I would get so nervous – in sports, in school, in social settings, and more.  I now understand that everyone else experiences their own version of the same basic fears I have (being judged, making mistakes, looking bad, failing, disappointing others, and more).  It’s just part of being human.

Many of us run away or hide from our fears because they seem scary, uncomfortable, or embarrassing.  We also erroneously think we “shouldn’t” have them or that we are somehow “wrong” for feeling scared.  However, most things that mean a lot to us in life don’t show up without any fear at all.  And as we strive to live with authenticity, it’s inevitable that we’ll experience quite a bit of fear along the way.

The question isn’t whether or not we experience fear in our lives (because we all do and always will for as long as we live); the more important question for each of us to ask and answer is, how can I move through my fears in an honest way so they don’t stop me from being who I really am and going for what I truly want in life?

How to move through your fear in a positive way:

1) Admit it – Acknowledge your fear, tell the truth about it, and be real.  When we feel scared and are willing to admit it with a sense of empathy and compassion for ourselves, it can often take the edge off and give us a little breathing room to begin with.

2) Own it – Take responsibility for your fear and own it as yours, not anyone else’s.  We often have a tendency to blame others for doing or saying things that “scare us.”  However, when we remember that no one else can “make” us scared – only we have that power – we take back the responsibility and the power of the fear and remember that it exists within us, so we are the only ones who can change it.

3) Feel it – Allow yourself to feel your fear, not just think about it or talk about it (something I often catch myself doing).  Feel it in your body and allow yourself to go into the emotion of it, even if it is scary or uncomfortable.  Like any emotion, when we feel our fear deeply and passionately, it has a way of dissipating.

4) Express it – Let it out.  Speak, write, emote, move your body, yell, or do whatever you feel is necessary for you to do to express your fear.  Similar to feeling any emotion with intensity, when we express emotions with intensity and passion, they move right through us.  When we repress our emotions, they get stuck and can become debilitating and dangerous.

5) Let it go – This one is often easier said than done – for me and many people I work with.  Letting go of our fear becomes much easier when we honestly admit, own, feel, and express it.  Letting go of our fear is a conscious and deliberate choice, not a reactionary form of denial.  Once you’ve allowed yourself the time to work through your fear, you can declare “I’m choosing to let go of my fear and use its energy in a positive way.”

6) Visualize the positive outcomes you desire – Think about, speak out loud, write down, or even close your eyes and visualize how you want things to be and, more important, how you want to feel.  If your fear is focused on something specific like your work, a relationship, money, etc. – visualize it being how you want it to be and allow yourself to feel how to ultimately want to feel.

7) Take action – Be willing to take bold and courageous actions, even if you’re still feeling nervous.  Your legs may shake, your voice might quiver, but that doesn’t have to stop you from saying what’s on your mind, taking a risk, making a request, trying something new, or being bold in a small or big way.  Doing this is what builds confidence and allow us to move through our fear.

Fear can and does stop us in life – from being ourselves, speaking our truth, and going for what we really want.  But, when we remember with compassion that there’s nothing wrong with us for getting scared and when we’re willing to lean into our fears with vulnerability and boldness – we can literally transform them into something that catapults our growth and fulfillment in life.

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