Change the Why

Why? The word that so many toddlers torture their parents with as their curiosity about the world overwhelms them so much that they must know why about everything.

Why? Why? But, why?

It is counseling 101, and in reality, one of the most helpful communication tools I teach to my clients. Take the why out of your conversations, especially the difficult ones.

Saying why can feel accusatory, and when we feel accused our defenses go up which means healthy communication typically becomes even more difficult and can even shut down.

 
 

Why did you do that?

Why do you feel that way?

Why do you think that?

Why can't you just be better?

Taking the why out of these questions feels a lot different.

What was that about?

How come you feel that way?

What is that thought process about for you?

What is holding you back from changing?

These small changes may seem trivial but just try saying those statements out loud to yourself and feel the difference. Now imagine how much your communication can be helped if you become more conscious of the why.

But, the why I really want for us all to change is your self talk why. The why you beat yourself up with when you make a mistake.

I first learned of how hard I am on myself when I took a workshop with Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, at Emerging Women last year. In the workshop, she talked us through her self-compassion break meditation and for the first time I had to see in my own handwriting how hard I am on myself when I make a simple mistake. That berating self talk, calling ourselves names and really just not being nice to ourselves at all. This kind of self talk does not motivate us to change even though we've convinced ourselves that it has. We must realize what our inner critic is really trying to do, which is keep us safe or or keep us from suffering or improve us but through the years it has developed a pretty mean way of doing so.

Neff's research shows that self-compassion is where confidence and change can really occur. Her self-compassion model includes self-kindness (talking to yourself like you talk to a loved one), common humanity (reminding ourselves that everyone struggles and everyone makes mistakes) and mindfulness (being present with all our emotions). Combine that with the shame resilience skills from the work of Brené Brown and your self talk becomes a lot more pleasant and motivating.

A typical day for me will always include a trip, a spill or something breaking. It is just who I am, I am usually going too fast and as a firm believer in the one trip that often times means I am falling or breaking something. Yesterday for example, at coffee with a new friend as we are deep in great conversation I pick up my coffee cup to take a drink and it literally explodes; lid pops off, hot coffee all over my dress, the table and in my bowl of oatmeal (in my defense the barista had bent the cup before handing it to me but I was also moving too fast as usual).

Before learning the work of Kristen Neff and Brené Brown my inner dialogue would have been:

You're such an idiot. Oh my gosh, you are ridiculous. Why can't you be more careful? Just f*cking slow down! You're so stupid. How embarrassing!

After doing this work in my recovery:

Well, that had to be hysterical. That sucks, I'm covered in coffee. I need to stop, slow down and be more careful. Great girl, but not great choice.

I think we all struggle with this mean inner dialogue from time to time. I see it every day with my clients. My challenge to us all is to be nicer to ourselves. To take the why out of our self talk and replace it with how come or what. And finally, to remember we are worthy, lovable and great people who make mistakes but we don't have to be those mistakes. Today become conscious of how you talk to yourself. Be nice and change the why!

My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

Today I gave a presentation for a Lunch and Learn at a major corporation here in Saint Louis. This is my sixth Lunch and Learn with them. I always have good attendance, great feedback and they actually pay me to speak.

And yet this morning as I over-prepared, I literally made myself sick with anxiety and self doubt.

Because, today I spoke on Wholehearted Parenting.

And, I am not a parent.

And, I was scared shitless.

A few days ago my shame consumed me as the presentation got closer; "I am not a parent and I am speaking on parenting". I remind myself that this is also major public information now.

The self doubt settling over me like a thick fog casting fear inside my very core.

Shame.

Fucking shame.

Like the dementor to my light, stealing my voice, sucking away my soul, leaving my heart empty.

I reached out to my friend,Janine, who organizes the talks and she of course gave me an amazing pep talk. And then last night my friend and colleague reminded me that I am actually a parent. Kelly's words will forever and always mean the world to me. She said that I parent as much as she does, just in different ways; I parent my dogs and I parent all of the children in my life and that most of all I parent my clients. In many ways therapy is like parenting or even re-parenting with clients. She parents her two boys, but my audience of children is simply bigger as this is my purpose, and my path.

I cried and took in her words because I knew they were my truth. I drew in a deep knowing breath and thanked her for reminding me of my light. She reminded me of what I know every day in many ways, I wasn't given the chance or blessing of my own children because I am meant for this greatness of working with clients, writing and helping others. It's neither better nor worse or more or less important, it's just different.

 
 

So, this morning before I walked into that board room I wrote myself a permission slip, just like we ask ourselves and clients to do as they work through The Daring Way™ curriculum. I wrote myself my permission slip and set it right beside my notes.

I have permission to be scared. I have permission to not be parent enough. I have permission to know, and own, that I know what I am talking about and that I can help even though I am not a parent in the traditional sense.

And so I spoke. And I was painfully vulnerable in owning to them that I am not a parent but that I was there to teach them about wholehearted parenting. I called out my own imposter syndrome, and let them in to my world: I don't get to be a parent but I can still help you be a better one I think.

I also stated that I am the right person to do that because, one, I actually have the time to read the research and parenting books because I wasn't able to be a mom. And two, I parent every single day, just not my own children (and according to Kelly this probably means my house is cleaner, I am more well rested and I have more sex).

I was real, I was vulnerable and I allowed my brilliant light to outshine my shame. And because I fought for that bravery, I connected and delivered one of my best lectures. And I have no doubt that there will be some families this weekend with some new language and new ways to love and parent because of that hour we spent together today.

Doing the work of recovery and learning shame resilience doesn't mean we won't experience shame. It simply means that we will be able to better cope with it when it does come in.

Shame is my dementor. And it has been very ominous this week, floating over me threatening to take my spirit with this parenting presentation and with more activity from agents and publishers on Ever Upward, the book. But that self doubt has been further shattered today by the success of my last post. A post that I struggled with so much to write and didn't think was my best work; damn art of letting go. And yet, it has been viewed over 450 times in two days, breaking my record of daily views today alone.

I almost let shame and self doubt stop me from writing that post earlier this week, I almost let it steal my light this whole week, and especially today.

It was only through courage, compassion and connection  that ever upward prevailed.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, say or feel in the crazy journey of life or in your recovery? How can you practice courage, compassion and connection to remind yourself of your ever upward light? 

**This prompt later linked with the WordPress Daily Prompt: The Great PretenderAre you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.**