Posts by Liz:
Life can feel like an endless sea of to-dos, responsibilities, chores, deadlines and appointments.
Sometimes it all just feels like too much. Like you just can’t keep up. Like the world is asking for too much.
You’re exhausted and you’re not getting the time your sensitive cells need to recharge.
I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately. I’m currently a full-time lawyer in New York City, the very capital of overwhelm. I have an hour and 15 minute commute every day that involves a bus, a train and a 20 minute walk (sometimes run…).
I’m a never-enough-time mama to the most magical 17 month old pixie in the galaxy who fights sleep with comet strength and stands firm in the belief that I should be her mattress. I spent the first 13 months of her life in utter chronic sleep deprivation and it still often takes me 2 hours to get her to sleep at night.
I have my darling hubby, our Chow/Shepherd rescue dog, and an abundance of friends and family who I want to nourish and cherish.
And then there’s all the cooking, juicing, cleaning, dishes, laundry, bottles, bills, mail, email, doctors, dentists, blogging, plans, decisions and general mayhem screaming for my attention. Oh my!
So yeah, I am very familiar with the ingredients that cook up overwhelm. And my sensitive cells need peace and relaxation, perhaps more than others.
But it’s also very important to me that I not embody overwhelm. I did for many years of my life, always feeling like life was running me over. That is no way to live.
I’ve learned that overwhelm is a choice. It’s a state of mind that can be adjusted.
1. The Zen in Overwhelm
I used to be an extremely stressed out person. I was constantly short of breath, I had anxiety attacks, and I knew nothing of living in the moment. I lived entirely in fear of the future and regret of the past.
And then something happened. I lost my best friend tragically. It was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
I was in the middle of law school and her loss brought my world to a halt. Reality as I knew it changed completely.
It took me awhile to get out of the black haze that is death. But once I did, life was different. I understood its impermanence. I felt its gift. I knew there was a better way to feel everyday, no matter what reality I was living.
From then on, life stopped running me over. And I started living in the moment.
Overwhelm happens to all of us. But you can give two different people the same exact scenarios and one will rise to the occasion and handle things with joy and the other will crumble and drag everyone down with them.
So I constantly ask myself, which person do I want to be? Sometimes I fail and fall into a pit of despair and anxiety, but I work hard to find my way back. And I surround myself with people, like my loving husband, who help me get there.
It’s up to each of us to find the zen in our overwhelm.
2. The Truth About Overwhelm
The truth about overwhelm is that much of it is self-created.
With the schedule I’ve been keeping for the past year as a mama who works full time at a demanding job, I’ve often felt I’ve earned the right to declare an unfair amount of overwhelm.
So I had to take a hard look at the chaos I was facing and admit to myself that a lot of it, I was creating. On top of my job and baby I was trying to burn the midnight oil, squeezing everything I wanted out of life into the few nighttime hours I had. And I burnt out, badly.
So I looked at all I was putting on my plate and started drastically eliminating. It’s what my current situation required.
No one can do everything and when we put that kind of pressure on ourselves every day feels like a disappointment.
If we keep our goals simple and achievable everyday can feel like a win and overwhelm won’t win the battle.
3. The Importance of Honoring Your Needs
When I was burning the midnight oil and burning out I was blatantly ignoring my body and mind’s needs.
I’m a sensitive soul with a side of fire. I’m an introvert who also loves to socialize. I’m all about fairness and self-improvement while working in the ego-filled corporate law word. I need daily emotional detoxing to rejuvinate and reenergize my cells from all this back and forth. If I don’t get it, I don’t function.
No matter what your schedule, finding time for exercise, down time, reading a book, watching a movie, doing yoga, or whatever else it is that rejuvinates you, is essential.
When I wasn’t doing this for myself, I couldn’t be the employee or mother that I wanted to me. You must take care of yourself first to do the best you can for others.
4. The Strength in Asking for Help
I would be lost without the people in my life who make up my support system. I do what I can and then I ask for help with the rest.
It is not heroic to take on all burdens. It’s not empowering to be the martyr of your own life. It takes strength and a humble sense of self to know when you just have too much.
Hire out and automate all that you can. And surround yourself with the right people and you’ll find an abundance of helping hands.
5. The Force Created by Envisioning Your Future
Doing your best to handle the overwhelm you’re facing does not mean you have to accept it forever. If things aren’t working in your current situation, change them.
Sometimes that takes patience. Sometimes it takes work. And it definitely takes a lot of vision.
Imagine your future reality. Play it out. Go deep into the specifics of it. What conversations will take place to make it happen? What are the exact words that will be spoken? What life decisions will need to be made? When will they need to be made by? What will need to be cut out of your life? What can you do right now to start down this path?
The more you envision it, the more you make it part of your reality. And so you slowly creep towards it until suddenly you’re walking in the version of reality you had been imagining.
6. The Never Ending Power of Breath
Your to-do list is overflowing. Breathe.
You’re late to pay those bills. Breathe.
Someone else wants something else from your, ASAP. Breathe.
What absolutely needs to get done, will get done. What can wait, will wait. And it will all be okay.
Breathe to remind yourself of the abundance within you. Breathe to remind yourself that you are in control. Breathe to remind yourself that you deserve to be prioritized.
7. The Lessons in Overwhelm
Overwhelm is a teacher. It shows us what we want and what we need out of life. And it shows us all the many things we can do without.
Find the lesson in everything. Learn from it. And let that lesson guide you down the right path.
It’s the people who drown in their own misery who don’t grow. Those who fight through and find the light at the end of the overwhelming tunnel are the ones who win at life.
8. The Joy in Living Fully
Life may sometimes seem like a ball of chaos, but that means you’re living it.
Life may seem like it’s getting the best of you, but know that you’re giving it your best.
Overwhelm may feel exhausting, but it is far better than idleness.
You are living. You are experiencing. You are gathering information and making powerful choices everyday about what you want for your life.
You are not sitting around doing nothing. The word “bored” isn’t even a part of your vocabulary.
You’re living, actively. You’re engaging, constantly. And you’re growing, spiritually. Every step of the overwhelming way.
9. The Power of You
No matter what overwhelm you’re facing, it is not greater than you.
You bring a life time of experiences and wisdom to everything you face. Use that experience to rise to the occasion. Challenge yourself to find the joy. Find ways to constantly nourish yourself.
If things aren’t working, envision the change. Let the lessons you’ve learned guide you to greater paths.
You are greater, stronger and more powerful than any situation you might face. But you have to believe that for it to be true.
Believe in the power of you and overwhelm will have no power over you.
I was deeply disappointed by a loved one recently. I expected them to respond to something a certain way but they had the opposite reaction. Their reaction stopped me in my tracts slapping me out of the emotional tunnel vision I had created for the situation.
I didn’t know how to respond when the words they mouthed counteracted so exactly with the words I had created for them in my anticipating mind.
And so I quickly switched topics and carried the emotional weight of my disappointment with me for the rest of the day.
I took their reaction personally. I saw it as a reflection of their love, or lack thereof, for me. I began closing doors in my mind that I had enjoyed leaving wide open.
It took me some time to uncover the truths in the situation. Not my reactive ego based truths (i.e., they don’t love me, they’re selfish, I don’t need them), the deeper ever present truths. The truths that exist in most disappointments of this nature.
Here are my findings, I hope they help you heal stronger and faster the next time you’re disappointed in such a way.
1. Each person’s individual reality crafts their words and choices, it’s not personal.
I took the words I received personally because they didn’t fit into my version of reality. My self-centric thinking blinded me from seeing all the cards on the table. I was only seeing things from my perspective, with my history, my memories, my sensitivities, my vulnerabilities, my hopes and my desires.
By expecting someone else’s response to line up with all that encompasses me, I was turning a blind eye to all that creates them. Their history, their defenses, their sensitivities, their desires. Those were the things that formed their words.
Understanding this allowed me to shift to a fuller perspective, instead of drowning in self-sorrow.
Being disappointed by others teaches valuable lessons in how to observe and respect people’s limitations, without feeling like it’s all personal.
2. People often say things they don’t mean.
With some distance, I could see that the person’s reaction I experienced was not their truth. They were simply giving a knee jerk reaction based on defenses they’ve built over time.
Defenses are walls built up to protect the vulnerabilities lying within us. Only with patience and perspective can you see beyond someone’s defenses to their truth.
Sometimes we present things in ways that hit people’s triggers. Sometimes their disappointing responses have more to do with their own internal battles than the battles we are imagining between them and us.
And sometimes people aren’t their best self, just as we aren’t always our best selves. And so instead of taking things so personally, we should be extending loving energy to them and praying for their healing, as we seek to heal ourselves.
If I had quickly written that person off due to their disappointing reaction I would have not only disrespected the history we have between us, I would have lost out on the joy they bring to my life.
Sometimes it’s not the words that are spoken, but the truths we hear with our hearts that should guide us.
3. Taking things too personally does not serve you.
As I was experiencing the hurt, I started to ask myself, how is this helping me? How is taking this so personally affecting me and is it worth it? How can I turn the tables on this to claim my power over my emotions back?
I claimed it back by forgiving them and choosing to honor their reality.
If we take one person’s words too personally, that hurt seeps into all aspects of our lives. And that one person suddenly becomes infinitely powerful, with words they probably weren’t even putting too much thought in.
If you want to take words personally, chose the words that elevate you, the compliments you’ve received, the thanks, the love. Take those words very personally.
You get to choose how much things affect you. Only you can give weight to the power of the words you hear or read. Choose those words wisely.
4. You are Whole.
There are no words on this planet that can rob your self-worth, if you truly believe yourself to be worthy.
There is no one who can dim your light, if your flame ignites from deep within.
There is no situation that can erase your loveliness, because that beauty was drawn in permanent marker, by a power much greater than ourselves.
Believe these words and you won’t lose yourself to any disappointment.
Ironically, after completely this analysis, the person who disappointed me came to me with the words I had expected them to speak. Words grounded in love. I had never shot them down for their reaction. I hadn’t cut them off or engaged in a battle. I knew there were deeper truths that would be spoken and I did the healing I needed to do so that those words would feel welcome, whenever they were ready to form.
Life and people are imperfect. We’ll get disappointed and we’ll disappoint, over and over again. It’s up to you to chose your perspective and the weight you give each disappointment over you life. Practice love and forgiveness you’ll soar lightly at the heights your beautiful soul deserves.
How do you deal with disappointment like this? As always, thanks for being here!
These are the messages quiet children hear. I received them everywhere, from teachers, friends, parents of friends, acquaintances.
The emotionally hungry, eager to understand what could make someone’s voice so internal. Eager to devour those differences and make those perceived as vulnerable operate on their terms. Terms they understand, terms they’ve deemed the norm, the ideal.
Each time I heard these messages, I resented them. I didn’t want to talk. Being asked to felt like an invasion. An invasion of my space, of my internal dialogue. A dialogue I wanted to share even less when talking was being demanded of me.
I often sat and watched while outgoing children got praised and adored for their fiery attention grabbing personalities. Personalities I envied but knew I could never possess, as my cells, at the time, rejected the mere thought of it.
One of my earliest memories as a child was of my kindergarten teacher yelling at me for not responding to her questions and then making me sit in the corner. I remember staring at her and taking her in as she looked down at me with frustration. And I remember feeling like words were not an option.
I wasn’t being defiant. I wasn’t trying to cause trouble. I was simply living my truth.
My truth at the time was internal. And it was sensitive. And intimidated. And shy. Quiet.
I carried this truth into adulthood. I changed a lot, found my voice in many ways, but the quiet side of me remained, even throughout college and law school. To all but those who knew me well.
I sat in the back. I kept my hand down. I wrote things down. And I listened.
And I learned how to hear the things that words don’t say.
The whispers spoken with our eyes or the delicate movements of fingers and corners of lips. The loudness of animated looks and exaggerated gestures. The sereneness of the humble confidence. The posturing of overcompensation. The tensions of attraction. The subtleties of suppressed annoyance. The animation of pure joy. The uneasy air of the unsettled. The truth and generosity of the truly present.
Looking back on my quiet past, my only regret is the shame I inflicted upon myself for feeling like I was too quiet. For feeling like that was a flaw.
Because it is in our quietness that we can find our deepest truths.
It’s quietness that sharpened my emotional intelligence. That deepened my ability to empathize on deep cellular levels. That taught me to create safe spaces for myself and others.
And it’s from that quietness that I now challenge myself to think on a higher level, above my circumstances and insecurities, to find the real truth in any situation, to uncover life’s emotional mysteries.
And as I grew out of my shyness, through deep rooted self-love and appreciation realignments, it is my quietness that I look back on and thank for making me who I am.
Have you ever been accused of being too quiet?
She’s so much more than I expected. She’s so much wittier, more captivating, endearing, adorable and unique than I could have ever imagined. And so whenever I’m away from her and I pause to think about all her magic, I sometimes feel like she’s a dream. Like she’s not my baby. Like this is not my life I’m living.
I got used to learning lessons from struggle. In many ways I am who I am today because I like to think about prior struggles, study them, learn from them, share them.
I haven’t really understood what I’m supposed to learn from this little being that does nothing but make my heart sing. If it doesn’t feel like a tragic struggle, what lessons will I have to share?
Of course there are struggles… sleep deprivation, what seems like an endless amount of chores, and, with balancing a full time job, overall lack of any time for myself being major ones. Did I mention sleep deprivation? I now understand why that is a torture technique…
But as far as she goes, all I can see is the beauty in her little being. The blessing.
I’ve never been so deeply in love with both the perfections and imperfections of someone before. I’ve never given my deepest levels of strength and vulnerability to anyone so simultaneously. I am mercilessly wrapped around every little part of her soul and yet she is healing and strengthening every little part of mine.
So how can this be? What do you do when life gives you way more than you ever asked for, way more than you ever thought to want? What do you learn? Do you even deserve this?
I’ve believed for so many years that we’re all here to learn hard tragic lessons about life and then heal. And that it’s through the tragedy and the healing that we elevate our souls. I spent a long time believing that life is supposed to be and always will be, hard. And sad. And lonely. And a struggle.
In the past, I never stopped to think about how life has the potential to just dump love all over you. To give so abundantly and ask for nothing back.
The other night I found an old diary from high school. I bravely opened it to read a few pages. I couldn’t believe the words on the page… the sadness and anger I used to feel towards life.
I wanted to reach through the pages and give that girl a hug. And tell her, that if you work on things, if you challenge your perspectives, if you believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who lift you up, if you own who you are and honor what you need to thrive, you can fill your life with magic.
Magic of your own making. Magic of your own definitions.
In reading those pages I realized I could view my life through that old perspective now if I chose to. I could lose myself in all the things that are so very hard and overwhelming. I could even go back to allowing things into my life that do not serve me, to perpetuate problems and patterns that harm me. And I wonder what life would look like now if I did. Would I be married to such a gentle-man? Would I love my daughter in the same way?
Being a mom is hard. Being a working mom is hard. Paying law school loans is hard. Living in New York can be hard. And so many other things. There are times when it all gets the best of me, of course.
But when I lose myself in those moments, I work hard to get myself back on track. Back to gratitude. Back to magic. Once I decided that that would be my track, I am always looking for it when it’s out of sight, always inching my way back towards it and moving things out of its way.
What I’ve been finding is that when you immerse yourself in gratitude, life gives back to you in unexpected ways. Life brings you the people, the rewards, the courtesies, the mentors, the gifts you never would have known to ask for.
My daughter’s not magical because she’s perfect. And I know our relationship won’t be perfect. But the one thing I’ll never demand from her, is perfection.
I decided that my daughter would be magical on the day she was born. And it was that decision, that commitment to that feeling, that has made every moment since feel just that way. And carrying that same sense of gratitude towards other areas of life, is creating similar results.
It’s so hard to give a gift to someone who never likes anything you get them. It’s so much more fun to buy a gift when you know it will be received with joy and appreciation and love.
I’m finding that life is just that way. When you believe in the magic of life and live in the gratitude of all the blessings around you (while also honoring and protecting your needs), life wants to give back to you, reward you with its gifts more and more.
My daughter makes every today the best day of my life.
I decided that that’s what she would do. And so it is.
What magic do you have in your life right now?
And, happy birthday, my sweet girl.
I used to get intimidated by people so easily. People I thought were bigger and better than me. I’d shake and stutter and make myself as small as possible. I’d fill my words with ‘I’m sorry’s’, having nothing in particular to apologize for. I’d hide the fierceness that has always lived within me.
Over the past few years there’s been a major shift in me. An internal shift that’s come from a ton of work on myself, from challenging the perspective I had developed over way too many years.
I’ve taken risks, I’ve taken time to be on my own and figure out who I am (and who I’m not), and I’ve challenged the rules I was taught to live my life by.
Ironically, in many ways life has come full circle. I’m back working as a lawyer and I’m living in a place I thought I had left forever, but now surprisingly enjoy.
But I’m not the same. I’ve changed. And so these old but new roles fit so differently. And I feel gratitude to the Universe for showing me this 360 degree perspective.
One major shift I’ve experienced is how I feel about the people around me. People don’t scare me anymore. People I used to view on the highest of pedestals, towering over quivering me.
I no longer quiver. They no longer tower.
If you are often intimidated by others, here are a few things I’ve learned along they way. I hope they help you see that you deserve to stand strongly amongst even your greatest idols, “superiors”, and authority figures.
1. The person you’re intimidated by is human.
Even your biggest idol, or the head of the company you answer to, or whoever it is that makes your knees shake, is still just a person. They have family issues, daddy issues, mother issues, insecurities, things they’re trying to prove, obstacles they’re trying to overcome, fears they’re dealing with, people they’re hoping to impress, bills they have to pay, and feelings their trying to protect. And they all poop in the morning, floss their teeth at night, cry when they’re alone, and do whatever else it is that makes us completely and utterly human.
They are no different from you. No better. No worse.
2. They may not be who you think they are, after all.
I had quite a few people that I idolized, that I was so intimidated to meet, and then upon meeting and interacting with them shockingly found that not only were some of them not the people I thought they were, they were sometimes even ego driven, rude and judgmental of those around them (including a famed celebrity whose name I won’t mention!). It’s all love, we all have our own demons to battle but after enough of these experiences I started to question the values I so quickly assigned to those who intimidated me.
We often idolize those in powerful positions. But power doesn’t always come with tact or with the gentleness we should all strive to treat one another with. Power is just as likely to accompany a fragile ego as is insecurity. And power fueling a fragile ego can be a particularly troublesome combination.
With enough of these experiences, I learned to change the way I judge people.
“Powerful” people are those who impact me deeply, spiritually,
lovingly, regardless of what their resumes are stacked with.
Powerful people are the people I welcome into my life, who welcome
me back, who fill me with positivity, and who teach me how to grow.
This is not to say that some of the people I idolized or admired didn’t turn out to be some of the most loving, generous and kind people I know. They absolutely did. But again, I see them now for the love they share with the world, not for merely their title or “power”.
3. Separate your own ego.
I used to think I was egoless, because I felt insecure, so where’s the ego there? But it is there. Ego is just as involved in insecurity as it is in arrogance. You’re worried about how the world is perceiving you. You’re fearing people will spot your imperfections. You’re attached to and driven by the opinions of others.
Acknowledge your ego. Know that if your response to someone is based on fear, it’s your ego talking, telling you you’re not good enough. The more aware of it you are, the more you can learn to separate from it and send it love, instead of letting it control you and your emotions.
4. Don’t posture — but do stand tall.
Never pretend to be someone you’re not in order to impress anybody. Fakeness is oddly transparent, especially on those who feel insecure to begin with.
Alway strive for authenticity.
Be who you are, the best version of who you are.
Those who don’t accept that version of you, are not meant to be in your life, no matter how special or admired they may seem to be. Wish them well and move on.
There is such beauty in the authenticity that comes from a place of humble self-love and acceptance, instead of a place of ego driven fear. Find that place and you will stand tall genuinely, instead of pretending to be someone you’re not and posturing from insecurity.
5. Understand your own worth.
To be the best version of who you are, you must first accept who you are, whole heartedly. Stop fighting against yourself. Put your inner battles to rest. Accept yourself. Accept your history. Accept the flaws you cannot change and grow in all the ways you can. Rewrite the internal story you’ve been telling about yourself into a story of triumph.
The people who intimidate you are not worth more than you. They are not better than you. They are not more deserving. They are not luckier.
We are all the same and we are all just trying to find our way
in this world and heal our souls in the process.
To do so we must look internally, with love and gratitude,
not outwardly with envy and lack.
Own who you are. Own your experiences. Own your strengths and even your weaknesses. Stand strong in all that makes you, you.
6. Approach everyone with love.
Lastly, one of the best ways I’ve learned to lose all intimidation of others is to assume that everyone I meet already loves me. And I assume that they are lovable as well. It’s amazing how quickly this technique can soften up even the harshest and scariest of people.
If you approach people assuming that they won’t like you or that they’ll hurt you in some way, chances are they won’t like you or they’ll hurt you in some way.
Our lives are the fruits of our thoughts.
Believe in the good in you. Believe that others will see it, and so they will.
Soon enough you’ll see, that there’s no reason to be so intimidated by others, you have way too much to give and you are open to all you wish to receive.
It was pouring rain a couple of Saturday mornings ago, as my husband and I packed up our car with dog and baby to head to Central Park, as we do every Saturday, come rain, shine, hail, sleet or complete lack of sleep. It’s one of our many rituals.
“I may be pushing our luck this time”, I said to my husband, J, as buckets of rain hit our windshield. But still, we kept driving. And my faith lingered…
Faith in the oddest of tiny miracles we experience time and time again on these early Saturday morning outings ~ no matter what the weather is like when we leave our house, as soon as we’re approaching the park, the skies suddenly clear up and our walks are filled with the mystical glow and intoxicating smell that only follows after the rain. That misty air I love so much, that always calms me down as it seeps into my pours.
J used to protest our park trips when we’d wake up in the morning to a water filled sky. But each time I’d say, “let’s just go anyway babe”. And he’d oblige.
He doesn’t protest anymore, he knows our miracle never lets us down.
Our walks through the park during off leash hours (before 9:00 AM), where hundreds of dogs are running around freely, are the highlight of my week. Only a hurricane would make me want to miss them.
We hold hands and talk about life and all the things we hope for. We chase our dog. We talk to strangers. We fawn over our own little Rayne drop.
We stroll, slowly, enjoying the moment, the walk, the ease of the morning. Tea in hand.
We’re not rushing off to work, juggling the baby, catching up quickly on the phone or dealing with laundry, dishes and cooking dinner. We’re just strolling, enjoying the morning, the nature, the dogs, and each other’s company.
It brings us back. Back to each other. Back to our peaceful foundation, even if we’re discussing heated topics. We’re in our world, together, rehashing and reseting, so all that’s off can run parallel again.
And as we drive back home from the park, the sheets of rain often start pouring down once again. And each time I’m in awe of the timing of it all. In awe of the magic created in the honoring of our ritual.
The reseting. And then life, as it comes pouring back in.
My husband and I have so many rituals. Rituals that developed organically. Instinctually. But I’ve noticed over time how quickly these little rituals can ground your relationship when things are feeling off. How sturdily they can forge your foundation. Even the silly ones seem to work magic.
They work so well when you honor them. We don’t skip ours in a fight. I used to, I thought that was okay. I’d be furious about something so doing our simple kiss goodnight, our long hug in the morning, or our “I love you’s” as one walks out the door would get tossed aside.
But my husband taught me a better way. He is endlessly my teacher in love.
He never skips a ritual out of spite or anger. And over the years it’s proved to be such a comfort, to know that if I mess up and piss him off, he’ll still kiss me and say I love you before walking out the door. He doesn’t punish or use his love as a weapon, as I’ve experienced in previous relationships. He doesn’t withhold his love when things get ugly. He makes it unconditional.
It’s such a blessing that I’ve learned to give him the same courtesy, despite being somewhat more emotional of a person than he is (an understatement).
And with the honoring of each little ritual, no matter what the disagreement or annoyance is, we reset.
And like clearing of the skies on the rainiest of days, it’s our commitment to our rituals that helps us clear our own inner clouds, and has us walking hand in hand once again…
Perhaps if things seem rocky at times in any of your relationships (romantic, family or friend), you can find a way to create simple rituals that ground and reset.
*I hope they bring you a little magic*
I promised to her that no matter what, I would always smile when I’m around her.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to give her everything she ever wants. I don’t know if I’ll always be who she wishes I would be. But I know that I can give her the gift of always knowing that I’m happy with her. I know that I can always choose happy, for her.
There are times when I can’t smile, when I’m cranky, stressed out, exhausted. And in those times, where I just can’t do it, I ask for help, so I can take the time I need to gather myself. I step away so that I can find the joy I want showing up for her.
This past weekend my husband and I embarked upon the most massive decluttering project known to man. We’ve been debating moving for a long time and after seeing available apartments, we decided we’d stay put for the time being. Dog, baby and us, in our one bedroom apartment. We’d rather save our money and sell our place a bit down the line, perhaps in time for baby #2, whenever that blessed event might happen.
And so we spent my birthday weekend (yup, it was my bday!), painting the living room, tearing down shelves that were built into the wall, emptying closets, cabinets and trunks and donating not only bags upon bags of clothes, but large pieces of furniture and boxes upon boxes of books as well. I even got rid of some old diaries (never thought that day would come!). And then we proceeded to rearrange our entire apartment, finding a way to give the baby her very own room.
I typically declutter by emptying a shelf or two, cleaning out a drawer or cabinet, throwing away some old clothes. Gentle decluttering, easy breezy.
The decluttering and redecorating we did this past weekend was offensive, obnoxious, physical and plain ugly (that’s our bed more or less in our kitchen at one point in the picture above). All while juggling the little one.
We were exhausted. And grumpy. Honestly, I’m still feeling the effects.
Yet throughout the weekend I was reminded of my promise to my daughter. And so I kept smiling, I kept searching for the joy, in the midst of the sweat and mess.
And in that search I found myself caught in giggle attacks that were so overpowering I could no longer lift furniture. My husband had to wait them out so productivity could begin again. Fortunately, laughing is contagious.
It’s amazing what choosing to smile can do for those on the receiving end, and even more so what it does for yourself. Things start to roll off your back faster, the small stuff seems to matter less, life simply becomes happier.
I think of my promise to my daughter every day. I work on carrying through on it for her constantly. I may not always do it perfectly, but I am always mindful of it.
And I’ve come to realize something throughout these past few months of smiling so consistently…
There is no such thing as a fake smile.
Because when you smile, even if you don’t want to, it changes you. It lights you up within, releasing chemicals in your brain, changing the vibration of your cells, emitting and cultivating joy all around you.
Suddenly the physical takes over the mental. And you realize just how much control you can have over the joy in your life.
And so for my daughter, and now for myself, I choose to smile as often possible. And when she smiles back, in fits of giggles, I know the value of my promise to her, and to myself, is priceless.
Have you ever tried smiling no matter what? Do you have someone in your life that you could make this promise to? Perhaps to yourself, as you are worth it.
My birthday lunch…
The fam, a couple of months ago, at a friend’s house…
In writing this blog I often try to find the perfect picture, which I’ll then edit just right. I look for a beautiful font, with the right colors. I work on creating the softest flow of sentences I can, with hopefully a touch of inspiration. I’ll make sure to research the ideal keywords for the best google search results. Then I’ll edit it all some more, and then some more again. Eventually I hit publish and proceed to share it on every social media network I’m a member of.
I want it all to be as perfect as I can make it. I want to know I gave it my very best. Even if it is just a silly little blog post.
And in that strive for perfection… I haven’t blogged for 4 weeks.
Life got insanely busy. Back at a law firm full time plus raising a baby and all the errands, chores, feedings, and sleepless nights that go with it, have left me… exhausted.
And so I couldn’t write, not in the Type-A can’t leave any detail behind kind of way that I like to. I’ve had zero time for perfection. And so I’ve been letting more and more things go. More and more slips through the cracks, cracks that I’ve allowed to open, so that I have more room to breathe.
And so I’ve been thinking about these little details and my obsession with them. And I’ve been asking myself tough questions like if I can’t do things the way I want, should I just not do them at all?
And I’ve started to realize that maybe one of the things that holds many of us back the most in life is our obsession with perfectionism.
We wait for the timing of things to be just right. We wait until we’re fully comfortable. We wait until all the stars align just perfectly. And in all that waiting, there is no forward motion.
I’ve been wondering how I can do it all, trying to find the secret formula to getting everything done now that I’m a mama. Being a wife, a mother, a friend, a provider, etc. Trying to do each to my best yet often feeling like I’m failing at them all, and wondering what else I need to drop from my life in order to find balance.
It took me some time to realize that perhaps what I need to drop is simply trying to get it all done perfectly.
Last Sunday I made my baby over a month’s worth of homemade organic baby food. I felt this need to go above and beyond. To make sure she’s thriving during all the hours I’m away from her when I’m at work.
And as I looked in my freezer at all the brightly colored purees I had stacked up for her I laughed at myself. Did I really need to do ALL that? Who am I trying to prove my good mama-hood to? Is it my guilt for being back at work and away from her that made me go to such lengths? All I know is that what I really needed to do on Sunday was take a nap, instead of pureeing for 4 hours…
So in the wake of all this self-realization, I am going to make an effort to not bog myself down in the paralyzing quest for perfection. A quest that exists completely in our minds. A quest that sets us up for failure before we even begin. A quest that stops us dead in our tracks.
I write this blog because I love writing, and I love helping people to feel better about themselves. I would hate to stop doing something I love just because I can’t do it exactly the way I’d want to in my ideal fantasy world.
So I’m going to try to be the best wife, mother, friend, lawyer, blogger, etc. that I can be while embracing that it’s all going to be a little rough around the edges.
And maybe what we find when we stop waiting for perfection, is that perfection already exists within our imperfectly rough edges.
Do you ever allow yourself to get bogged down in trying to achieve perfection? Does it ever stop you from even starting?
P.S. I hope this post looks okay
I’m reading an amazing book by renowned author Martha Beck called Steering by Starlight. It’s about finding the life that’s meant for you and it’s incredibly insightful, I highly recommend it (and all of her books for that matter). In it Martha teaches the most interesting trick to silencing your inner critic and I had to share it with you as I think you might benefit from it as well.
Martha explains the significance of the battle for our brain between the “lizard” and the “wizard”, as she calls them.
The wizard is the part of our brain that sees our endless potential, that knows exactly what our soul wants and is capable of, our purest essence, our childlike enthusiasm and wonder, our wildest unfiltered imagination. Our wizard is our truth, shining brightly as our core, before life came and smacked us around.
The lizard on the other hand is our inner critic. It is the neural structure in our brain that first evolved in reptiles. It literally wraps around our brain stem like a serpent. This part of the brain’s sole function is to trigger survival fears, constantly telling us that we don’t have enough and that we’re in danger.
Back in our caveman days this part of our brain protected us from threats and starvation. But now we use it to control our perspective on so many other areas of life – love, friendship, time, money, occupation, etc.
It’s the voice that constantly tells you to hold on too tight to what little you have, to give up on love because it’s clearly not meant to be for you, to stop looking for supportive friendships because clearly everyone is really just out to hurt you, to not reach for your dreams because you’ll never get them. It causes you to approach life from a starvation, destitute, defensive, attack mode mentality.
We all have this voice screaming over at least one area of our life. It’s the root of all insecurities, jealousies, comparison addictions, love mishaps and career paranoias.
Martha’s technique for taming this beast is to give it a name and identity.
I’ve heard of giving this nagging alter ego a name before but I always brushed it off as somewhat silly. But Martha has shed some serious light on this tactic. She states that you can literally change the structure of your brain by naming your inner critic. In fact, the more clearly you create an image and identity for it the better.
She explains that by calling on your brain to observe this lizard identity you’ve created, “you subtract neural energy from survival fear and move it to a more highly evolved portion of the brain… The neuron pathways that carry lizard fears become weaker the more we observe them. Patients with ‘abnormal’ brains, such as those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, have actually reconfigured their brains to ‘normal’ by using self-observation techniques.”
So if you know you have a battle going on in your brain with the voice that’s constantly telling you you’re not enough, people are out to hurt you, you’ll never be appreciated, you’ll never find love, you’ll never get what you want, etc., stop and identify this voice. Name it, picture it, and observe it.
So many changes have been happening in my life over the last few weeks and I’ve found myself working back in a law firm (I’m an attorney and spent 6 years at a law firm before the economic collapse). It’s a good thing, I hope to write about it more soon. Being back in my power suits I’ve been thinking a lot about the battles I’ve had to win with my own inner critic and I’ve felt such a sense of pride in knowing it didn’t get the best of me.
The battles within often throw the hardest punches.
Learn to love yourself and you will win the war.
I want you to win those battles.
Being that my name is Liz, I’ve decided to just go ahead and call my inner critic, Lizard. I was asked once to write my inner critic a love letter as a healing exercise. I’ve decided to share that with you here. It may seem silly but writing it did prove to be very healing.
I hope my love note helps change the way you speak to yourself when you’re feeling a sense of lack…
My Dearest Lizard,
Thank you. If it weren’t for you, what would I know of inner strength, of perseverance, of overcoming obstacles, of the power of positive thinking and self-love? Would I be able to empathize with others so deeply? Would I long to help others heal so strongly? Would I have truly understood that our greatest battles often lie within and that winning these battles is where true freedom lies?
You’ve played such a prominent role in my self-growth and for too many years I wasted energy hating you, pushing back on you, fighting you, resisting you… which only made you stronger. I see now how exhausting that was for me, for both of us. How unnecessary. My hatred of you merely reflected how much I was listening to your harsh words and how much I was letting you win our inner battle.
You never intended to hurt me, as much as your words did in fact burn. You were simply trying to protect me, from failure, from disappointment, from others, from myself, from life… You were going about it the only way that you knew how; loudly and brashly.
But my dearest critic, you don’t know what I know. You’re buried so deep within that you don’t see anything other than darkness. That’s not your fault. Occupational hazard.
If you could see what I see you would know that there’s so much light and beauty in the world and that in trying to protect me so vigorously, you were actually robbing me of all the world has to offer and of all I have to offer it. And in spending so much time fighting with you and succumbing to your darkness, I was also robbing myself. We were both at fault.
I want you to know that I forgive you and I truly understand why you treated me the way you did for so long. I also want to tell you that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the years I spent hating you, resenting you, wishing I could vanish you. Because in hating you I was really only hating myself, which hurt us both.
You are a part of me dearest critic. And to truly love myself, I have to love all of me, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. I don’t get to pick and choose. So, while this has been really hard for me to say, I’m just going to say it, I love you.
I hope you’re not offended that you no longer get quite as much of my attention. I hear you, I really do, but now that I’ve accepted you, your voice is a bit softer, a bit kinder, and a bit less persistent. Were you just looking for a little acceptance all along?
Since deciding to love you, I’ve felt more free, more alive, more bold and more empowered. And you’ve played a big role in that. You seem more comfortable allowing me to shine my unique light. It never occurred to me that all of your yelling and harsh words throughout the years may have just been a cry for help, a longing to be seen, to be loved.
Well, I see you. We don’t need to battle so relentlessly for me to remember that you’re there. You will always be a part of me. I’m just so glad that we’ve learned to respect each other more and set some boundaries. I know we’ll still fight sometimes, but I’ve accepted that too so even our fights don’t seem as overwhelming.
You’ve taught me so many important lessons about myself, about life, about love, about self-worth, and for that I am truly grateful. For in your harsh dealings with me you deepened my soul and gave me insight into the complexity of humanity. In “seeing” you, you’ve truly helped me to see into others. I often wonder if I’d have any of the gifts I have if it weren’t for you.
So hopefully we have no hard feelings and we can go forward together in harmony. Here’s to our future together, one of peace, acceptance, respect and understanding, with the occasional rough and tumble.
Thank you, for everything.
We all have inner critics. They put us down, sabotage us, and block us from achieving our potential, if we let them. But in resisting them too strongly, we often just fuel them on.
So once you give yours an identity instead of fighting with it and hating it (because that really just means you’re hating a part of yourself), I challenge you to make peace with it. Stop focusing on the ways that dark voice inside your head has held you back and instead think of all the ways it has actually helped you to grow as a person.
Identify your inner critic and accept it. In the process you’ll change your brain and change your life.
In what ways has your own inner critic held you back? Can you make peace with it?
There’s a voice deep inside us. A soft voice that tells us our truths. An all knowing voice that comes from a place of self-love. Not the shallow but louder voice of self-doubt but a voice born into our soul that comes from love, purity, compassion and wisdom. Let’s call it our “soul voice”. It wants to guide us, it wants what’s best for us, it wants us to fulfill the longings of our soul.
Yet too often we ignore it. We hear the opinions of others, loudly washing out that quiter inner voice of love. And those outside opinions create a conflict with our soul voice, often paralyzing us when it comes to making important decisions.
Trusting yourself is particularly difficult for people who feel things deeply. People who bruise easily. People who absorb the emotions of those around them, who feel the pain of others as if it is their own.
This ability to feel deeply, empathize, absorb, and take it all in so profoundly (the very qualities that help us heal and serve others so well), is often what leads to our own self doubts and blocks. Blocks that prevent us from feeling secure in ourselves, from feeling trustworthy in our own eyes.
Just as easily as we can absorb someone else’s sadness, we also absorb criticism, especially if it was given during vulnerable times in our life. We take it in, deeply, and let it perculate through our cells until it becomes embedded in our programming.
The qualities we’re able to give so well and freely to others are often the hardest things to give to ourselves. So while we so easily help others to feel comforted, secure, understood, validated, and respected, we dump the doubts of the world upon ourselves. We can help others connect to their own soul voices but we often can’t hear our own.
And so we wonder around in confusion when important decisions are on the line.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can use the gifts we give to the world and direct them to ourselves.
We can learn to trust ourselves and make decisions with clarity. But this is not a switch you turn on and off, it’s a practice, a nurturing.
Here are five steps to growing your sense of trust in yourself:
1. Connect with Your Soul Voice.
It’s not easy to hear our soul voice through all the doubt and confusion circulating around in our head.
To access it think of when you’re helping someone you cherish with a problem. You see them struggling, you want to fix it all for them, you want to heal every aspect of their pain, you see nothing but their potential, you offer nothing but helpful solutions. That place of love you’re approaching them from is often straight from your soul voice.
When your attention is directed outwards towards helping someone else, your blocks are often released, allowing you to approach their problem with purity and clarity.
Find that voice. That egoless voice born of pure compassion and respect. Find that voice and practice using it on yourself. This is a practice you must do every day until your soul voice is the loudest one you hear.
2. Substantiate Your Trustworthiness.
Think back to times when you followed your inner instincts against the opinions of others and you experienced a favorable outcome. And think back to the times when you followed the opinions of others against your inner instincts and you suffered because of it.
List out those times. What impact did each of those decisions have on your life? What would your life be like if you had chosen differently?
Your soul voice never lets you down. When you truly connect to it it will lead you to where you need to go time and time again. You may not realize it as it’s happening, but if you look back at some of the decisions you’ve made in the past based upon a longing deep within you, you’ll like see just how knowing your soul voice truly was. You’ll likely see that it’s been guiding you effectively all along, helping you to grow and evolve along the way.
When you’re faced with a big decision, think of those times and your trust in yourself will grow.
3. Stretch and Expand.
When faced with an important decision, ask yourself which path will stretch and expand you the most. Which path will challenge you to grow – professionally, spiritually, personally, or in whatever way your decision focuses on.
Which path pushes you outside of your comfort zone in a positive way versus the path that makes you feel like you want to crawl inward, shrink or run.
The path that challenges you to grow may be scary but it is likely the path you’re being called to take. In analyzing it this way you’ll be able to see if you’re basing your decision on fear based thinking or on the deeper voice that believes in you and sees your potential.
4. Align Yourself with People Who Understand and Support You.
There’s no faster way to stifle your soul voice than if you’re surrounded by people who don’t get you, who criticize you, who belittle your opinions and smother you with theirs, who make you shrink. This can be particularly damaging if it’s coming from family members.
It’s hard to hear your soul voice in such a hostile environment. And so you shrink, smother and quiet your inner wisdom instead of working on expanding it.
Surround yourself with people who love, support and nurture you, people who help you stretch and expand, and your soul voice will thrive.
5. Let Go and Look Forward.
Make your decision. Make it from a place of love. And then let go. Don’t try to move forward while looking backward. Trust in the process of life. Trust that your soul voice is conspiring with the Universe to get you to go exactly where you need to be.
The more faith you put into your decision, the better your outcome will be. Make your decision and then only look forward. See the end in sight and your soul will continue to conspire with the Universe to get you there.
And when voices of doubt and judgment inevitably come flooding back through, just stop and pause. Close your eyes. Meditate. Go for a walk in nature. Go through these steps again and wait for your soul voice to rise back up. Welcome it back in.
What are your biggest struggles when it comes to trusting yourself and making important decisions?