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5 Things to Remember When You Feel Ashamed of Your Flaws

If you asked me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I may have answered perfect, or famous, which is incredibly ironic, I know. I simultaneously craved a spotlight while fearing what it might reveal—my inadequacies, my weaknesses, my flaws.

I thought being perfect meant being beyond reproach—undeniably lovable and worthy of respect, something I didn’t always receive growing up.

And I assumed that if I were perfect in all ways, I could finally relax and enjoy my life because I could trust that no one would judge or hurt me. I could navigate the world secure in the knowledge I was good enough, and everyone knew it, so I had nothing to prove.

Though I spent years trying to overcome all my weaknesses—my anxiety, my insecurity, my controlling nature, my need to be liked—I’ve never arrived at a place of complete freedom from these struggles. I’ve made progress, sure, but I’m still flawed. I’m still craggy and cracked, like a mirror that’s been shattered and glued together many times over.

I started thinking about this recently when listening to the sixth episode of Next Creator Up, the podcast I’ve been producing with Ehren Prudhel, the show’s host and my partner in many things.

In this interview, Hollywood screenwriter and author Noah Knox Marshall talked a little about his non-dystopian sci-fi book series for kids and how strong characters have flaws. That’s what makes them real—their quirks, their struggles, their insecurities, and rough edges—because this is what it means to be human.

When we see a flawed character in a movie or a book, we instinctively empathize with them and root for their happiness and success. We know they’re neurotic or needy or scornful or scared, but we care about them anyway and sit at the edge of our seats hoping they get the job, get the girl, or at least get the message they need to grow and thrive.

We see ourselves in these characters, and we want for them the peace and happiness we may deny ourselves.

The irony is we deny ourselves peace and happiness for the very same reason we want it for them—because we’re undeniably and permanently imperfect, and always have something new to work on, no matter how much we learn and grow.

There was a time when I resisted this reality. I truly believed I could eventually reach a point when I did everything “right.” When I always said the right thing, did the right thing, and responded in the right way when other people triggered or challenged me.

When I struggled to do these things, my shame was palpable, and I wanted to hide.

But I’m done hiding now, because I realize flaws don’t just make strong characters—they also make strong people.

We’re not weak for having challenges and shortcomings; we’re strong for facing them, owning them, working on them, and doing our best every day in spite of them.

So if you’re feeling ashamed of your flaws, stop and remind yourself…

1. Everyone has flaws.

You could meet every human being who has ever lived and ever will, and would still not encounter a perfect person. To have a pulse means to have imperfections, some developed over time, some we’re born with.

We’re all “wired for struggle,” as Brené Brown wrote, and most, a lot like Augusten Burroughs, “entirely made of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Your specific combination of flaws may seem unique to you, but they’re not. The world is full of people who hurt like you, think like you, fear like you, fall like you, and are just as worthy and loveable, with all their struggles and shortcomings.

2. If someone had been through what you’ve been through they’d likely have the same flaws.

I find this incredibly comforting to consider—that a lot of my personality “flaws” make perfect sense in the context of my history. I may struggle with anxiety and insecurity, but so do most people who’ve been bullied and abused. I may be a control freak, but that’s common among people who’ve felt controlled.

My flaws aren’t statements about who I am as a person, they’re reflections of my path. And many who’d taken that same path would have developed the exact same set of weaknesses and challenges. Which means people without my issues aren’t “better” than me; they just struggle differently because they haven’t been where I’ve been.

3. Flaws connect us.

We often think we need to hide our rough edges, as if they guarantee rejection, but the opposite is usually true: Our flaws connect us. They make us relatable and approachable. They give us common ground.

Think about the people who you most enjoy being around. Odds are, you’re at ease around them because they’re at ease with themselves, in all their imperfect glory. They own their battles and their baggage, they flaunt their quirks like badges of honor, and they know that they have nothing to hide or prove—or at least they act that way.

For years I was uncomfortable and repressed around other people because I was always trying to be who I thought they wanted me to be, because I wanted to be liked. It was as if I’d shoved all my quirks and flaws in a box that I then tried to balance on my head as I walked, stiff and awkward, through the world around me.

Unsurprisingly, this backfired because no one could love me when they didn’t really know me. And no one could relate to me when I hid all my depth under the shallow veil of perfection.

We connect with the truth of being human, not the lie of being perfect.

4. Flaws make us interesting.

A while back Ehren and I took a short drawing class at Disneyland’s animation academy. With a teacher’s instruction, we each drew Jack Skellington, from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.

My Jack had a perfectly round head, perfectly round eyes, and a perfectly symmetrical bow tie, which I appreciated at first. Until I saw Ehren’s. His head was ill shaped, his eyes were a little large, and his bow tie was wider than I would have drawn it—and yet it looked so much cooler. It had personality, and it was uniquely Ehren’s. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more interesting.

I think we’re all like that drawing—all the more appealing because of our imperfect parts.

“Perfection,” or the illusion of it, is incredibly boring. It’s predictable, one-dimensional; devoid of heart, uniqueness, and charm. It’s our idiosyncrasies that draw people to us and make them curious about us—where we’ve been, what’s shaped us, what drives us.

5. Flaws can make us better people.

When we own our flaws—when we accept ourselves in all our imperfection instead of judging ourselves for our weaknesses and struggles—we then develop the capacity to offer this same grace to other people.

Conversely, when we judge ourselves harshly, we’re likely to judge other people who reflect back to us the things we don’t like about ourselves. I know I’ve been there before. For example, I’ve seen someone who appeared needy at a time when I felt insecure—and insecure about being insecure—and then looked down on them because I’d yet to develop compassion for this part of myself.

But that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

I want to own every part of my darkness and my damage so I can walk through this world with an open heart that understands, accepts, and loves.

I want to see myself and everyone I encounter as worn dolls, with unraveled stitches and eyes coming loose, that I want to hold close nonetheless.

Because I believe we’re all doing our best and worthy of love even at our worst—largely because I’ve hurt, healed, and finally accepted those things are true of myself.

And if this cracked little heart of mine can hold all that love because it’s been broken and mended, then maybe the fractures aren’t flaws after all. Maybe our brokenness is our beauty, our weaknesses are our strengths, and our struggles are our gifts.

If you’re interested in listening to the interview I mentioned, with Noah Knox Marshall, Hollywood screenwriter and author of Dax Zander, Sea Patrol, you can find it here. Noah’s an incredibly interesting, inspiring guy, with some powerful insights to share about writing and life. I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did!

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and co-producer of the newly launched podcast Next Creator Up, which helps people overcome their blocks and create what they want to create. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here.

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How I Stopped Being Busy and Why I’m Now More Fulfilled

“Sometimes doing less is more than enough.” ~Kris Carr

Two years ago I made a radical lifestyle shift.

Prior to this change, I was constantly striving to do more, to achieve more, to be more. I was squeezing as much as I could into any given day. I was in conflict between building a business, working, studying, and having time for pleasure and fun. I was taking on way too much and losing myself in the process.

Building a business is a lot of work, far more than I had imagined, and it takes time to generate consistent revenue that you can live off. In order to make ends meet it was necessary for me to have paid employment. I often had multiple part-time jobs, and at times I worked full-time running my business on the side.

I studied and studied and studied for over a decade. When I completed one course I would start another. I have multiple certificates, diplomas, and even a master’s degree.

I obsessively compared myself to others. Their achievements all seemed bigger and better than mine. This constant comparing made me feel inadequate and dissatisfied with my own successes. So I worked even harder to do more, achieve more, and be more.

I felt guilty taking time to relax and play. I didn’t enjoy downtime because I felt like I was being lazy, and having a quiet moment also highlighted just how fatigued I was from living my workaholic lifestyle.

Friends admired how much I was achieving, always commenting, “I don’t know how you do it all.” Quite frankly, neither did I. All I knew was that I was completely exhausted, I wasn’t happy, and I was becoming disconnected from the people I cherished the most.

My life needed to change. I couldn’t continue to push through the fatigue anymore because I was beyond worn out. I wanted more joy and happiness in my life. I wanted to be more connected with those closest and dearest to me. I realized then I had to do less.

Before I could start reducing my commitments, I had to first identify what was really important to me. These were the questions I asked myself:

  • What do I love to do?
  • What energizes me?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What do I really want?
  • What do I absolutely have to do?

In an ideal world we’d get to only do what we love to do. But in reality, there are things we are obliged to do whether we want to or not. We can delegate some activities we don’t like doing, but other tasks only we can do.

After identifying what was truly important to me and what I absolutely had to do—spending time with those closest and dearest to me, using my business as a way to teach and support others, engaging in activities that aided my physical and mental health so I could be my best self—it was time to stop doing things.

There was a lot of discomfort with letting go. It was certainly an odd and unusual feeling to have space in my day, and I had to really fight the temptation to fill my days with an ever expanding to-do list.

Next, I established boundaries to support doing less. Boundaries such as:

  • Not working after a set time each day
  • Not working weekends
  • Not checking emails or messages or looking at social media after a set time in the evening
  • Not checking emails, messages, or looking at social media in the morning until after breakfast
  • When on vacation, not working and limiting my screen time

Setting boundaries meant I needed to get comfortable with saying no. I said no to being around people and in social situations that drained my energy, I said no to business opportunities that were not aligned with my overall business vision, I said no to further study and more qualifications because my ten-years plus of study and numerous qualifications were more than enough, and I said no to things that I really did not want to do.

This was not easy for me. It is far easier for me to say yes, as I don’t like to let people down, and I don’t like to miss out on opportunities. But it was time for me to focus only on the essential and what would make the most impact to my life and business. I could no longer try to do everything.

I had to remind myself that saying no was not actually a no, it was simply my prioritization, and by saying no I was saying yes to the things I really wanted and creating space for what matters the most to me.

I also made a big mindset shift around my comparison with others. Instead of feeling less than others because of their success and achievements, I began to see others’ wins as an inspiration and reminder of what is possible.

Additionally, it occurred to me that we only get to see other people’s highlights in life, work, and business, and this is a very inaccurate view. All we see is what they want us to see—their successes and achievements. We don’t get to see the hard work and failures they may also have experienced. Regardless of success and amazing wins, everyone experiences highs and lows.

Much to my surprise, I also found out that successful people don’t say yes to everything; they’re much more strategic and only say yes to what will enhance themselves, and they’re very good at delegating. This knowledge changed my perspective around trying to do it all.

By doing less I found I had more time, energy, and enthusiasm for the things most important to me. I felt more alive and joyful. The quality of my work I improved. And I became more present to life and people around me, which improved my relationships enormously.

Occasionally I have moments where I feel like I should be doing more, but the happiness and fulfillment I feel from doing less overrides those moments. I can’t go back to how things used to be and experience the unhappiness and fatigue that resulted from constantly striving for more.

Before anything gets on my calendar or I say yes to requests or tasks now, I ask myself these questions to guide my decisions:

  • How important is this to me?
  • Will this energize or exhaust me?
  • Do I absolutely have to do this?

Doing less does not mean I do nothing; doing less means I spend more time doing what matters most to me, which makes my life happier and more fulfilling.

About Kim McCormick

Kim McCormick is the founder of WomensBiz and provides online courses to support women on their business journey, helping them start and build a business that they not only love, but is successful and sustainable. Kim has a holistic approach to business blending business knowledge, mindset and self-care. womensbizwithkim.com

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How I’m Mothering the Wounded Kid Inside Who Just Wanted Love

“Bless the daughters who sat carrying the trauma of mothers. Who sat asking for more love and not getting any, carried themselves to light. Bless the daughters who raised themselves.” ~Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

“I failed you…”

My mother said this to me after I confronted her about my childhood.

That day, I had a clear image of the young girl I was, the girl I had tried to ignore in the hopes of moving forward. But pain shouts when it demands attention, and the suffering was palpable.

A memory flashed within my mind. I had tried telling my mother I was hurting somehow. All children have hurt they can’t quite explain, even if turns out that it’s just an itch or a bruised feeling, but the need to have the boo boo kissed means everything to the child.

That day I had found my mother occupied with something more pressing. And I, being the sensitive girl I was, figured that she hadn’t heard me, or that I had disturbed her.

It seemed that I only existed to be cautious of the adults in my life who at best were preoccupied with a mysterious something and at worst cruel without reason. I existed in a world where children were things you spoke to. Tell them what to do and they’ll simply do it, because what else are they there for?

The idea that children had inner lives, breakable hearts, and ideas of their own making was quite dangerous in my childhood. I’d soon learn that it was better to take a vow of silence and say very little. I was starved for the hunger all children have—the hunger to be seen.

Love requires attention.

It seems like the older we get, the more we have to reflect on those days when we were at our most vulnerable. We have to look back at the beliefs, habits, and people that shape us if we want to grow.

When I finally talked to my mother, I was attempting to grow out of a destructive habit I had learned in childhood: denial. If you don’t talk about a thing, or name a thing, then maybe the thing never happened. Perhaps it wasn’t that bad, or maybe yet it was just a dream.

I was no longer talking as a child in need of her mother’s attention, I was talking as a woman in need of the truth. I was now an adult who hoped to be a mother someday, and a healer committed to breaking the generational curse of mothers failing daughters, women failing women, and humans failing themselves.

I poured out the heart of that little girl over the phone. She had needed protection when she was called names, or when someone hit her, or when she was touched inappropriately. She needed to know that whether she was a child or a girl becoming a young woman, she had a right to her body, mind, and spirit.

My voice cracked through the phone, but I told her anyway. To me, you have never been trustworthy.

She took a long breath and then spoke almost rapidly, like her life and our fragile bond depended on it. “I’m human, I falter. I never said I was a great mother. I know I failed. It looks like I’ve failed you many times. Forgive me.”

The puss ball that had always festered in my soul—that sore that kept reddening with anguish—burst.

My mother revealed something that I think all parents fear showing their children, humanity. At least I know for her generation, showing children a semblance of an emotional life was secondary to putting food on the table, and when you’re not raised on showing your feelings, you forget you have them.

It’s scary to admit you’re full of contradictions, possibly wounded, and that raising a child, no matter what circumstance, is difficult.

In that moment, I understood what the word “grace” meant. It’s such an elusive word that is better to experience than explain, but I know that my heart broke, love flooded in, and a burden was lifted.

Her honesty freed me from having to second guess my existence, and it helped me understand the hardship of hers. The mirror I was looking through was no longer foggy. I could see my life clearly; it had texture, color, and clearly defined lines and a bursted puss ball that needed cleaning.

I saw a clear picture of the precariousness in my childhood. It was like my spirit whispered in my ear and confirmed, Yes. It was terrifying.

So what do we do in the wake of failure?

My mother’s admission gave me a little taste of what it means to become a mother. You can love a thing and hurt a thing at the same time. I deeply love and adore my mother. I can only imagine the people and circumstances that failed her. I have a softness toward her, and a softness for myself that has made my heart grow more space to hold the things I’ll never fully understand. Sometimes, it is what it is.

After ten years of doing what survivors of any trauma must do to clean their wounds—meditating, numbing, praying, therapy, journalling, blaming, finding community, practicing yoga, raging, and crying—I have come to accept the unacceptable.

We don’t tell our parents the truth about our experiences to condemn them, we tell them our experiences because we must contend with it. No matter how painful the purge, this raw material from living is the grist that reminds us to do better the next time around. And there’s always a next time around.

“I am a reflection of my mother’s secret poetry as well as of her hidden angers.” ~Audre Lorde

This is what I’ve learned.

Sometimes you must mother yourself. In the wreckage you learn how to give yourself the love and affection you hungered for in your most powerless moments.

I adore the little girl I once was. She found worthwhile things to enjoy about life as the ground beneath her eroded. She sang, had her own dance parties, liked to play with balloons, and loved listening to Motown music.

She saved me, and now I get to take care of her.

This is my greatest lesson: I can accept complexity as a requisite for living. I can love the mother that gave me birth, be my own mother, and also know that there’s a higher power that loves and watches over both of us.

I can forgive while remaining protective of the little girl who was hurt too often, and too often ignored.

Redemption in the wake of failure is possible, though difficult, and yet, it beats continuing a wretched cycle of negation.

The more I reflect, the more I see that my mother and I, in many ways, are quite alike. It’s now my duty to be fiercely aware of my own demons and angels. If I am a reflection of my mother what questions do I have to ask myself about who I have become? And what do I hope to pass on, to myself and others?

I believe my story speaks to generations of children, particularly women, who grew into adult bodies and are still searching for their mothers. The reality is that we are the caretakers and mothers we’ve been searching for.

The yearning I had as an adult for nurturing and recognition was my soul nudging me to show up for myself. Now you get to take care of you, and you must.

Mothering yourself is the sacred call to practice love. Here are a few things I did in my own self-mothering journey. I hope you find them useful for your own toolkit.

Get to know your inner child.

I started doing inner child work in therapy. My therapist gave me some great activities to get to know what that part of myself was thinking, and I still do the exercises till this day. My tried and true activity is writing in the voice of my inner child with my left hand, and responding as an adult with my right. I’ve found this exercise revelatory, and recommend it for anyone attempting to rekindle a relationship with their younger self.

Your inner child never leaves you, and I learned that mine had a lot to say. This helped me learn how to show up for myself emotionally and mother that part of myself that needed validation.

Meditate.

Meditation has helped me sharpen my awareness, and it keeps me present to what I’m feeling in my body. The health benefits are great too. Do whatever activity brings you a sense of stillness and focus (walking in nature, cooking, mindful exercise).

Practice unconditional love, starting with yourself.

Love is a practice, and in this world we’re taught to see love as transactional. You get love if you can prove that you’re lovable. Choose a different kind of love for yourself.

Start simply, perhaps listing what you’ve come to appreciate about yourself and treating yourself with grace when you make mistakes. Find alignment with your values and get to know yourself. Become your own best friend.   

Distance yourself if you need to save yourself.

Sometimes distance and time help heal and give perspective.

I’ve had to take myself out of situations where I knew I had to protect myself. At times this meant limited communication, geographic distance, or emotional distance. This can be tough, but trust that when it’s time to save yourself you’ll know what to do for your highest good.

Reflect.

No one is a saint, and the truth is that we’ve all hurt people and will hurt people. And it’s true that if we do a personal inventory we’ll see that we have unsavory habits and patterns that need to go. Reflecting helped me see where I would like to grow. I’m acknowledging my own tendencies to shut down, ice people out, and feed into negative stories when I’m feeling defensive or frightened. I see that these habits stem from fear. Reflection provides information. Now, I am choosing to practice more loving habits towards myself and others while honoring my need for comfort.

Finding a way to reflect is critical. I journal and make music to do this. It’s really helped me see how far I’ve come and where I still have gaps.

Create rituals.

Condition your hair on Sundays, or soak your feet in Epsom salts when you get back from work, or go for a swim, or draw before you go to bed, or cook yourself your favorite dinner on Saturdays. Go dance at Ecstatic Dance with your girls on a Saturday.

Finding rituals for yourself helps reestablish intimacy that you might not have had growing up. It also helps you get to know what you like and brings you peace. Find that for yourself.

Take care of yourself.

Did you eat? Shower? Brush your teeth? Did you take a jacket with you because it’s cold outside? Do you like your eggs scrambled or fried? Are eggs even good for your unique body type? Become your parent and look after yourself.

Don’t force forgiveness.

Forgiveness will come when it needs to, if it even needs too, and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t make you any more or less enlightened than the rest of us. It just means this is your path and that you’re working on some intense stuff. Be easy.

I’ve found forgiveness to be a complicated process that takes time and a lot of honesty. Try to let yourself be where you are, and trust that it’s okay. Bypassing your emotions can feed into denial and numbing to your lived experience.

The point is not to rush to enlightenment, the hope is that feeling your emotions can help you become whole. Working with a professional and/or support group can help you in your process.

Learning how to become the caregiver you’ve always needed is not only a gift to yourself, it’s a gift to everyone you meet. I vowed to nurture myself because I wanted to send a message that redemption of the human spirit is always possible, no matter the trauma. My life is a testament to that.

Take what I say as an offering because you know yourself best, and the medicine that restores me might not be the ideal prescription for you. Feel free to add your own ideas of what makes you come alive to this list. At the end of the day, your experience is your teacher.

About Itoro Udofia

Itoro Udofia is a psycho spiritual writer, cultural worker, composer, and avid meditator living a creative life. She has received numerous writing residencies and fellowships, and is writing her first novel entitled, The Soil Below, a story following four generations of Nigerian women grappling with generational trauma, migration, and change as they weave themselves into the American fabric. For inquiries visit itoroudofia.com.

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When You’ve Lost Your Passion for That Thing You Once Loved

“Do it with passion or not at all.” ~Rosa Couchette Carey

If you’ve ever had a passion for something, you are probably well aware of the peaks and valleys that are natural side effects of pursuing the thing you love most.

Whether it’s music, writing, sports, fitness, or anything else, sometimes you lose sleep because the thing you love keeps you up all night, and some days you just feel tired and uninspired. There are ebbs and flows in following your passion, which is completely natural and healthy.

But what happens when the “valleys” stay valleys? Maybe you have a few days when you don’t feel excited. When the thing you once loved feels more like a job than something you look forward to doing. Then, maybe those few days turn into a couple of weeks. Maybe even a couple of months.

As time passes, you start feeling sad and frustrated. The activity (hobby, career) that once was a burning fire in your heart, no longer is. You may even begin to feel guilty for not feeling love for that thing anymore. After all, you did love that thing before. Nothing about it has changed.

You may become frustrated with yourself, wondering what’s wrong with you for not feeling excited about something that brought you so much joy in past.

What began as a strong, bright, and hopeful fire is now a much smaller flame. You try to fan the flame, attempting to make it bigger and trying harder to bring it back to its former glory. But you end up become more and more tired as it becomes clearer that the fire is dying. 

Some passions become a part of who you are. They become etched into your being, your identity, and your sense of self. So once that passion fades, a moment of panic may set in. You may feel anxiety or deep depression at the thought of no longer doing that thing that once defined you.

As a professional dance instructor, I’m thankful to say that I have been able to turn the thing I love into a career. However, I went through my own peaks and valleys in dance.

My personal dance journey has gone something like this:

Walk into a ballroom dance studio one night. No dance experience or intention of becoming a dancer whatsoever. Attend the social anyway, just for fun.

Meet a cute guy who is one of the dance hosts. Dance with others. Dance the night away. Feel happy and inspired. Fall in love with whatever this new feeling is.

Sign up that night to take ballroom dance lessons. Train in dance for five years. For those five years, forgo everything else that regular early twenty-somethings do, to focus solely on my passion.

Leave my old studio to accept a teaching opportunity at a new studio. Begin making a living doing the thing I love.

At this point, I feel happy. I don’t feel the burning passion that I felt when I was training and dancing just for myself and my own enjoyment. But it’s okay. I feel satisfaction in knowing that I am helping others to feel that same passion, which gives me a sense of fulfillment.

I continue teaching at that studio for two years. Little by little, I begin feeling drained. I convince myself that it’s “natural” to feel drained all the time, that it’s just part of the job.

Coworkers tell me that it’s “not supposed to be fun.” I try to find humor in it. I continue teaching. Slowly, I no longer enjoy it. I no longer want to dance. I no longer feel good about teaching others how to love dance when my love for it isn’t genuine.

One night, fate steps in. I visit another studio to dance socially, just for fun. Just for myself. And I meet the same cute host who made me fall in love with dancing seven years ago.

The energy in this new studio feels different. I see the dancers who are just dancing socially, and realize that some of them are better than me. I feel humbled and challenged. I feel inspired again. I know in my heart that this is where I’m meant to work.

I decide to leave my old studio, where I no longer felt inspired, to work at this new one.

Working at this studio inspires me. It gives me a new feeling of challenge, hope, and excitement, which I was missing. However, just like anything else, passion needs to be sustained from the inside—if it comes from outside factors, it can only last so long. Which is exactly what happened.

Just like at the old studio, I began to feel slowly uninspired. I wanted to be inspired. I longed to feel something. But I didn’t understand why I didn’t. I felt sad. However, this time, I didn’t deny it or fight it. I realized that I needed to do some inner work. I needed to figure out whether I should hold on or let go.

When passion fades, it can be a very difficult thing to accept. It might seem almost impossible to take step back from that former passion. You may feel a loss of identity and wonder who you are without that passion, regardless of whether or not it inspires you anymore.

But from personal experience, I can say that stepping back, even just temporarily, is one of the best remedies. When something you once loved leaves you feeling bored, stressed, or uninspired, it’s often a clear signal that some inner work and reevaluation needs to take place.

Don’t be afraid of your gut feeling. When something no longer brings you the joy it once did, it’s often the soul’s way of saying “It is time to take a break.” 

For those of you who become so emotionally and spiritually intertwined with the people, places, and activities you love most that the very thought of taking a couple of steps back sends you into an identity crisis, I am here to say that I understand. I know the discomfort.

But your soul knows better. Your inner most self knows when it’s time to create a little space.

And here’s the good news: By giving the thing you loved some space, you are allowing one of two things to happen:

One: You are giving yourself time to recharge and recover. Sometimes, this is all you need. You may have simply needed a little time off to get inspired again, and you may return back to that passion at a later time with inspiration, energy, and clarity.

Or two: If you don’t return back to your first passion, you are creating room for a new joy to eventually take its place. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to explore other hobbies and interests. And if you don’t find the “new thing” right away, don’t panic! You will. Your heart knows. It may take time, but you will be guided, once again, to that new thing.

For me, it turned out that I needed to take a different approach to my dancing.

For one thing, I needed to focus on my strengths as a dancer and dance teacher rather than compare myself to those around me. Comparison had left me with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which, in turn, made me not feel much motivation for dancing, in general. I realized that I felt much happier when I focused on my strengths, as well as my own growth and progress.

Secondly, I realized that I needed to spend more time dancing for myself. Not teaching group classes or private lessons. Not hostessing. Just going out and dancing. When I danced for myself, I felt joy again. I felt full of passion and purpose.

This led me to realize an important lesson: You can only give as much love to something as what you currently have inside of you. If you don’t feel happy on the inside, how can you expect to make others feel happy and excited?

Self-care and balance are essential elements in pursuing anything that you love.

So if your passion is currently causing you to feel burnt out, tired, or stressed, don’t be afraid to give it some space. Don’t feel afraid to take a few steps back, breathe, and focus on something else for a little bit. Everything will be okay.

By letting go, you are allowing the universe to work its magic and fill that void—either with renewed love and energy, or with a new passion that you would’ve never imagined.

About Jamie Haas Powell

Jamie Haas Powell is a flexibility coach and Latin dance instructor. She started a movement, NJHeARTs, that combines arts and advocacy to raise awareness for domestic abuse. In her free time, she loves playing her ukulele, dancing, going to the beach, and eating tacos. You can find more of her daily thoughts at tumblr.com/blog/tinydancer725, or follow her on Facebook.

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How to Recognize Painful Emotional Triggers and Stop Reacting in Anger

“Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

There I was again, regretting the spiteful words that had cascaded out of my mouth during a heated argument with my partner.

I felt that old familiar feeling, the burning in my solar plexus that bubbled up and erupted like a volcano, spilling out expressions of anger, blame, and criticism.

It had been a rocky few months, my partner was struggling to find consistent work, and our credit card debt was on the rise. Suddenly anger kicked in and I lashed out, accusing him of slacking off and guilting him about me being the only one working.

As the words spilled from my mouth, I knew deep down that what I was saying was hurtful and untrue. I could see that my partner was trying his best , but my anger had taken over, causing suffering that I would later regret.

This was a familiar pattern for me. I’ve frequently reacted emotionally, without understanding why, and caused suffering to myself and my partner and chaos in our relationship. I spent the next few days beating myself up about my reaction and wondering, why do I never seem to learn?

Though I wasn’t self-aware in that particular moment, I know that anger is our body’s response to a perceived threat. It triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. Our heart rate increases, we become tense, and adrenaline—our stress hormone—releases, so we often spiral into reaction mode in order to protect ourselves.

Although we tend view anger in negative light, I have come to learn that anger itself is a valid emotion, just like happiness or sadness. And it does, in fact, serve a valid purpose. Anger sends a message to our body and brain that something painful within us has been triggered and is asking to be acknowledged. In many cases, it signals that there is something much deeper, a wound that brings up vulnerability and pain.

We need to take a step back, go inward, and begin to explore where the triggers for these behaviors and reactions stem from.

Growing up, we are conditioned to behave in certain ways based on our environment and circumstances.

As children, certain behaviors are ingrained in us from our family and peers. We learn to mimic those around us—for example, how they communicate and respond to one another—and over time we implement those behaviors as our own. Not only do we mimic their behaviors; we also take on their fears and beliefs. Then, when something triggers these fears and beliefs, we react in order to protect ourselves.

When I began delving into the root cause of my reactions around finances, it surprised me to learn of the deep conditioning I had been living through my parents’ stories about money.

When I was growing up, my parents often struggled to make ends meet and were under a lot of financial pressure.

They did their best to protect my brother and me, attempting to not let their financial stress impact our lives. But the truth is, we cannot help but be conditioned by our environment. Unconsciously, we pick up on our parents’ energy and develop certain coping mechanisms and patterns that become deeply ingrained as we continue to carry them through life.

When I was able to look past the anger around my own financial insecurities, I discovered deep fears and vulnerability.

I was living with the painful belief that my partner and I would always struggle financially, that we would not be able to get by and would experience the same hardships that my parents did. This story was interwoven through my family, going back even further to when my grandparents and great grandparents lived through extreme poverty in Eastern Europe. This conditioning was so much deeper than I could ever imagine.

Identifying where these beliefs stemmed from gave me the insight to take a look at the bigger picture and understand the painful stories I had taken on as my own. It allowed me to take responsibility for my own destructive patterns. I was beginning to see how my reactions were triggered by an unconscious fear out of a need for survival.

Your triggers might be completely different, and they may pertain more to pain from your childhood than inherited beliefs and fears. For example, if your parents regularly shamed you for mistakes when you were a kid, you might react defensively whenever someone points out an area where you have room for improvement. Or, if you felt ignored growing up, you may have a knee-jerk reaction whenever someone can’t spend time with you.

The problem is, our conditioning is so deeply ingrained within us that we are not even aware of our reactions most of the time. They just become an automatic response. We cannot always recognize that we are simply replaying old patterns over and over again. We tend to blame external circumstances or others for causing our suffering.

We play the victim without realizing that we ourselves are the ones causing the drama and the pain around us.

I was at a point in my life where I need to make a choice: continue living my old patterns, which were causing negative reactions and suffering, or take responsibility and ask myself, “What is underneath my anger? What is the root cause of my suffering?”

When you look back to your past to understand your triggers, it will feel uncomfortable and challenging at times. But when you are able to sit with your emotions and delve a little deeper, you start breaking through your conditioned patterns and behaviors and set yourself free.

The only way forward is by choosing to do the work to get there.

It’s important to understand that our conditioning came from many years of reinforcing these old beliefs, so it is no surprise that change won’t happen overnight. We need be kind to ourselves through this process instead of judging ourselves and our mistakes, or beating ourselves up if we fall along the way. Each step we take brings us closer to breaking old patterns and forming new, positive ones.

So where to begin?

These are some techniques that have helped me on my journey toward breaking old patterns.

1. Don’t react; pause.

When you experience that old familiar feeling of anger or frustration bubbling up inside you, don’t react. Instead of erupting like a volcano pouring out hurtful words and reactions, try pausing for a moment.

Take some space to reflect and name the emotions that surface—maybe fear, resentment, shame, or desperation—and explore underneath the anger. Ask yourself, “What was triggered for me at this time?”

Don’t try to overanalyze the situation; just sit with the emotions and see what arises. Do you feel vulnerable or powerless, or a sense of sadness, betrayal, or fear?

2. How does it feel in your body?

Ask yourself, “Where do these emotions sit in my body? What are the sensations they present?”

Once again, don’t overanalyze; just sit with the bodily sensations. Maybe you feel heat in your solar plexus or an aching in your heart. These sensations are asking for your acknowledgement; send them love.

3. Identify your go-to response.

Ask yourself, “How would I usually respond in this situation?” Maybe you would react by shouting, trying to push someone’s buttons, or become defensive.

Take the time to recognize your usual response and sit with it for a moment. Identify how this response may cause pain and suffering to yourself and others.

4. Reflect.

Ask yourself, “Am I acting from a place of love and kindness?”

By asking yourself this you take the focus off blaming others or the situation, you take responsibility for your own actions, and you reclaim your personal power.

By taking responsibility you are then able to consciously choose how you respond to any given situation. Remember, you don’t have control over how other people respond, but you do have 100 percent control over your response, and if it causes joy or suffering.

5. Practice awareness.

Remember you are acting out a conditioned behavior; it is your automatic response. When you practice awareness by identifying conditioned behaviors, you begin to take the power away from the old patterns and create space to form new positive ones.

It’s like rewriting your story. You have the power to recreate your story and transform old patterns into ones that serve you and align with your true essence and purpose in life.

6. Be kind to yourself.

Your conditioned responses and behaviors are your defense mechanisms, the coping strategies you learned to protect yourself in the world.

Acknowledge that you’ve always done your best based on what you learned growing up, and you’re now doing your best to change. If you struggle, treat yourself with kindness and compassion. It’s okay to make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to personal freedom.

You may find it helpful to keep a journal to reflect on the above points when your old destructive patterns emerge. Journaling has been my savior during this process.

These techniques empowered me to recognize conditioned patterns and behaviors that were holding me back. They’ve also enabled me to communicate and connect with others positively and effectively. It’s not always easy to identify when you are acting out an old behavior, but the more you practice awareness when situations trigger you, the easier it will become to break these old patterns.

About Erin Grace

Erin Grace is a writer, Reiki Master, and founder of Story Bones, a self-healing platform inspired by her journey of self-discovery whilst battling mental health issues. Erin empowers individuals to transform their life, through challenging self-limiting beliefs and identifying how the stories of our past, shape our lives today. Get the FREE guideMaster your Story, Transform your Life.

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How to Replace Body-Hate with Self-Compassion

“Loving yourself is the greatest revolution.” ~Unknown

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with my weight and trying desperately to fit the idealistic image of beauty that our culture celebrates.

As a young teen, I was obsessed with magazines and all their secrets to be prettier and have a better butt and get your crush to notice you. I see now how desperate I was at such a young age to feel beautiful. Nothing seemed to work, though, as years passed and my need to fit the ideal beauty image only increased.

In high school I learned to skip meals, and in college I learned to combine food restriction with exercise. Even then, I don’t remember being happy with my body.

Over many years my body and my weight have changed drastically. Also, struggling with depression and anxiety has meant trying different prescriptions, all with weight gain as a side effect. It’s contributed to more body changes, especially in recent years.

The more my weight changed, the harder it became to reside in my own body. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I didn’t look or move like I once did.

I looked back on when I was thinner and remembered that I was unhappy at that size, but now I’d kill to have that old body back.

It was painful to look at myself in photos. I started avoiding old friends and acquaintances because I didn’t want anyone to see my new body. Every pound I weighed carried shame and self-blame. My body was the enemy and I was at war.

In the midst of trying new ways to manage my anxiety and depression, I came across yoga therapy. It was life changing for me. I found that I felt better after every session, even amid a severe depressive episode. To feel a mood shift in the slightest degree was miraculous, and I was hooked.

I needed more yoga in my life and, being the academic that I am, I decided to study it. I found a local program that specialized in training yoga teachers and yoga therapists, and a new journey began.

The first thing I learned was that yoga means union. It aims to unify the mind, the spirit, and (lucky me) the body. As a woman currently waging war on her body and studying yoga at the
same time, things were about to hit the metaphorical fan.

Not too many months into my yoga studies, I found myself in treatment for an eating disorder. I had to learn, or in some ways, re-learn, how to connect with my body. Turns out there are a variety of sensations and sensitivities in the body that we can (and should) tune into.

Our bodies give us subtle cues all the time, and when I started approaching my body mindfully, I became more aware of them. For example, as I was more mindful of my breath, I noticed that I’d stop breathing when I had a difficult thought or when I challenged my body to do something it wasn’t ready to do.

My body responded to every negative thing I did to it. When I starved myself or pushed my body past its limits, it responded with headaches and overuse injuries.

Once I realized these things were all related, I began to ask questions: Why am I so tired? Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why am I pushing myself so hard? How do I begin to recharge? How do I honor my own needs?

This body I’d been at war with for so long turned out to hold the key to healing many wounds.

When I began listening to my body’s limitations and needs, I began to change. Learning to honor my body gave me the confidence to ask for what I needed. I tuned into when I was tired or hurting, and I set up new boundaries. Taking breaks when I needed them and stepping back from certain relationships actually left me feeling more connected and capable.

I realized it was time to end the war. My body deserved peace. It deserved compassion.

All those years of struggle have left a mark on me. I still tend toward eating disordered behavior from time to time, and still find myself comparing my body to those around me. Sometimes the body-hate speech in my head can still get so loud that I can’t hear myself think.
In my recovery, I’ve realized that countering negative self-talk is key. I’ve found a few things that help, and I’d like to share them in hopes of helping someone else who needs it.

1. Every time you notice body envy, thank your body for something it does well.

This will require you to be mindful about when you are comparing yourself to others or checking yourself in a mirror. Take a moment to purposely think about something your body does that is good for you. Doing this may not create an instant change in mindset, but it will, over time, help to re-wire some old thought patterns.

Some things you could thank yourself for are breathing, talking, hearing, and thinking. Maybe thank your body for transporting you from place to place, walking, frolicking, twirling. Feel free to be creative!

2. Find body movements that suit you.

Bodies are magnificent! They are capable of doing so many things. When we tune into our body’s capacity for movement and we’re active, we feel more connected to our bodies. In those moments of connection, we are more likely to be proud of what our bodies can do instead of ashamed of how they look.

Not every person is a natural athlete, so I’m not going to insist everyone start running marathons. You know your body and you know what you’re capable of doing.

Personally, I love yoga, as all good yoga teachers do. I also love the camaraderie of running activities, but I’m a walker. I walk 5ks and am planning to participate in a walker-friendly half marathon within the next year. It’s accessible to me and I feel good doing it.

Maybe for you it’s swimming or dancing or hiking. You don’t have to be the best at it, just enjoy it.

3. Scrub your social media feed.

Nourishing ourselves goes way beyond just what we put in our mouth; it includes what enters our minds.

Nearly everyone has some contact with social media these days whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. These places are ripe for talk of new diets and weight loss before and after photos. Of course, it’s mostly full of weight loss stories because no one seems to post their weight gain to social media.

Anyway, I find it important to unfollow anything that’s unhelpful to you. If it elicits negative feelings about yourself, I beg you to consider deleting or unfollowing. Replace these feeds with more body neutral or body positive or health-at-every-size feeds. Add stories and images of successful people who look like you and who behave in ways that make you feel good.

4. Buy clothes you feel comfortable in.

I am so uncomfortable in tight fitting clothes, and I’m not present when I wear them. My mind is constantly focused on how others may be seeing me or interpreting my outfit when I’m uncomfortable in the clothes I wear.

So, I recommend going out and going shopping for a few new pieces that make you feel good. Ignore the numbers and go by how it makes you feel. Take a friend with you for support if you need it. It does improve your confidence when you wear clothes that really fit you.

5. Have honest conversations with your loved ones.

Set boundaries around diet talk. If certain topics and conversations trigger you to feel poorly about yourself, it’s important to talk to people you trust about your sensitivities. Loving friends will want to support you in this and are often really receptive.

I’m lucky to have lovely friends who are respectful of my boundaries and who are honest with me when I ask them questions about my insecurities.

I’ve asked my friends not to discuss diets around me and to avoid calling themselves “bad” for having seconds or eating dessert. Also, we agreed not don’t put our bodies down. Those things really affect me, so I’m grateful to have friends that understand that. I encourage you to find people you can trust and let them support you.

Finding ways to stand up to your own body-hate speech is so important. These little exercises may seem small, but over time can help make a difference. When we habituate self-compassion, our lives will change. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest impact.

About Lesa Ashlea Rankin

Lesa is a lover of cats, yoga, and writing. In recovery from severe depression and an eating disorder, she believes in compassion for all beings. Human connection gives her purpose. She is a yoga teacher and in her spare time loves to walk with friends, mentor youth, and read novels. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with two cats and a delightful roommate.

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Create a Little Bit of Bliss Every Day

“Follow your bliss and let the magic of life happen.” ~Janelle Jalbert

Is there something you always wanted to do as a child, and for whatever reason didn’t do? Is there something that you have wanted to do for years? Perhaps it is something that didn’t seem practical. Maybe you felt you wouldn’t be very good at it or you didn’t have the time or the money.

You can ignore the urging, submerge it, and choose not to follow through on it. But it will show up again and again, and sometimes in the oddest places. For me it was in the toy aisle at a local department store.

Here’s what happened.

My husband and I walked into a popular department store, looking for the toy and game shelves. We wanted a board game we could play with our young grandchildren. I assume there was some kind of bland elevator music playing, but I didn’t notice it until it changed to an upbeat dance tune.

The beat caught my attention, and my feet, seemingly of their own accord, started to move to the rhythm. A minute later they started to tap dance.

As a child I wanted to learn to tap dance, but for some reason I never expressed that desire. Perhaps I was afraid of looking big and heavy in a dance costume, or feeling awkward on my feet. Whatever the reason, I never told my mother, I never took lessons.

The desire to tap dance stayed with me, most times submerged beneath school, friends and family. As a teenager I learned one tap step from a friend, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, and enjoyed shuffling and tapping just for fun.

That’s as far as I went with it. There was always too much else to do. Besides, what would I do with it even if I learned how to tap dance?

Fast forward through fifty years and there I was in the toy aisle, tapping and shuffling my feet. My husband, tolerant man that he is, just smiled at me. But my feet surprised me that day.

I’d love to be the kind of person who can just break out in song and dance and not worry about what other people think of me. I’m not. For me to dance in the aisles of a department store is unusual.

Add to that the fact that I’m a sixty-four-year-old grandmother with an arthritic knee and ankle. I danced anyway and laughed at myself.

Back home again I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. My husband sat at the counter reading a magazine. He said something to me and I looked over at him. The words “Take a Chance—Dance” headlined the page I saw in his hand in bold letters.

Okay, I thought, perhaps my feet and the Universe are telling me something.

“Bliss is doing that which fulfills you. Action that touches you deeply and fully. Bliss is active. Bliss is…following your dreams, desires, or heart.” ~Angie Karan

The next day I searched out a how-to tap dance video on my computer. I was delighted to discover a number of them specifically designed for absolute beginners.

I chose one, set the computer up where I could see it on the dining room table, and learned the first basic steps of tap dancing, shuffling and tapping around my dining room floor in my sandals.

My inner child was ecstatic. I smiled and laughed, stamped, shuffled, and tapped.

My husband walked in, no doubt wondering what all the stomping was about. “I’m learning how to tap dance!” I beamed. He smiled, shook his head, and left the room. I kept at it.

The emotional lift I felt from just those few minutes learning dance steps stayed with me all day. I smiled whenever I thought of it.

Our bliss may come in small packages. It may look like a subtle urging that has been with you since you were a child.

It may not be your life purpose, or even life changing. It may simply be something that allows you to express the childlike happiness that is within you. Something that many adults have forgotten is there.

I have no idea what learning to tap dance is going to do for me, or where it will take me. I do know that it is time for me to allow the desire that has been within me for years to express.

These longings stay with us for a reason. It is our soul talking to us through the language of our desires.

Why does my soul want me to tap dance? I don’t know. I do know that it’s fun and good exercise, and that’s enough for now.

What is your soul telling you? Let’s find out with a simple exercise.

Gather paper and pen and give yourself a few minutes of quiet time.

At the top of your paper write, “When I was a child, I loved to…”

Complete the sentence with a list of the things you loved to do as a child.

Now write, “When I was a child, I always wanted to…”

Complete the sentence with the things you wanted to do as a child but didn’t or weren’t able to do.

How many of these activities are part of your life today?

If your favorite thing to do as a child was to create models of rockets with plastic blocks, how are you expressing your love of creative construction in your life today?

What if you always wanted to go horseback riding as a child but only got to go once, and that love of horses is still with you? Could you sign up for horseback riding lessons today?

Perhaps you tell yourself you don’t have time or money for pursuits that are just for fun. Perhaps you tell yourself that you’ll get to that later. But if not now, then when?

Life zips by us while we are busy doing, doing, doing. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey. Listen to the urgings you feel inside. Don’t wait for some time in the future when you’ll have more time, money, or more accomplished. Do what you can to live a little bit of your bliss each day.

Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I have to Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

About Holly Hidreth

Holly Hildreth Ed.M. is the author of the blog OurSoulDoors.com. Soul Doors is a blog of practical spirituality for every-day living, gathered from many different paths. Within its pages we learn together through shared spiritual lessons, stories, exercises, inspired wisdom, and that indefinable teacher within. Holly is also an energy health practitioner, wife, mother, grandmother, and life-long spiritual seeker.

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A Surprising but Effective Way to Get Out Of A Shame Spiral

“I have found that, among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” ~Maya Angelou

As an aspiring daily meditator, I’ve been instructed by many a spiritual sage to think of my emotions as clouds drifting across my internal landscape. The idea here is that clouds come and go, so clinging to any one cloud is an exercise in futility.

I like this metaphor. It overlaps quite nicely with the cloud-classification skills I learned in third grade and haven’t since put to use.

The more time I spend on the cushion, the more I realize that some of my emotions are cirrus clouds: feathery wisps of humor, annoyance, or connection that drift away as quickly as they came.

Others are cumulus clouds: hearty puffs of joy, nostalgia, or anger that make themselves known by casting shadows on the ground.

In my experience, only one emotion is a cumulonimbus cloud: an angry, heaping, blackened pile that trudges sluggishly across the sky. That emotion is shame.

Shame plants himself down in front of the sun with no intentions of leaving. He makes a god-awful racket with ceaseless thunderstorms and doesn’t move until he’s good and ready.

Recently, I found myself in the thick of a shame spiral. I had made a series of oversights that were impacting my very new, and as such, very delicate, romantic relationship.

The mistakes I’d made were honest, but I should have known better, and this became the mantra that fueled hours of self-blame and judgment. My mental movie was like a 1500s tragicomedy, and I was the snarling, callous villain.

I was feeling like sh*t, and I certainly wasn’t making it any better for myself, but I couldn’t seem to stop. I couldn’t focus on my work, my social life, or even the simple task of taking out my recycling.

As a person in recovery, I knew that a shame spiral was my one-way ticket to a first drink. So I rang up a trusted mentor for guidance. Over steaming coffee in the hidden back booth of a nondescript coffeehouse, I bemoaned my vivid ruminations.

What’s Shame?

Research professor and best-selling author Brené Brown is all over the shame game. She makes clear that guilt is the feeling that you’ve done something bad, while shame is the feeling that you are bad, and as such, “unworthy of love and belonging.”

As a recovering perfectionist, I get hit with red-hot shame when I do something “wrong.” (As my mom loves to remind me, I sobbed inconsolably when I got an A- instead of an A on my fifth grade report card.)

As a recovering codependent person, I get hit with extra shame when I do something “wrong” in the context of relationships. Here cometh the fear of abandonment and the cold sweat of unworthiness!

Because shame is the feeling that we are intrinsically bad, it’s particularly conducive to spirals—cycles of self-fueling negative energy that perpetuate ad infinitum.

I know I’m in a shame spiral when I seek reassurance from my friends compulsively; don’t want to leave the house or interact with anyone; don’t feel the need to wear decent clothes, do my dishes, or other acts of self-care; and feel totally uninspired to do the things that generally give me joy.

In reality, these actions are ways of subconsciously punishing myself. We accept the behavior we think we deserve, and when I’m in a shame spiral, I don’t feel like I deserve much of anything.

The Solution

So anyway, back to my conversation with my mentor. I was talking a mile a minute, running my hands through my frizzy (unwashed) hair, and articulating, in great detail, all the ways I’d done my partner wrong.

It was not a pretty scene. But, as mentors are wont to do, she listened without judgment. When I’d conveyed the whole story, visibly deflated like a sad balloon, I turned to my mentor with wide eyes.

“How can I fix this?” I asked her.

She paused, digesting, and replied firmly, “Call someone and ask how they’re doing. Go to the food bank. Volunteer. Be of service somehow.”

Her suggestion seemed so out-of-left-field that it stopped me in my tracks.

Call someone and ask how they’re doing? I thought. But that has absolutely nothing to do with my problem or me! (Shame is a very self-referential emotion.)

I wanted to ruminate, stew, fix! I wanted to call my best friends just one more time and unpack this whole thing, top to bottom. Also, if my intentions for service were self-serving, was it even service anymore? Shouldn’t I only “serve” if I’m really jonesing for some Good Samaritanism?

I relayed all of this to her. She listened patiently; she’d heard it all before.

“Hailey, you need to get out of yourself,” she said. “You are driving yourself crazy, cooped up in your mind this way. Give yourself a break.”

So I did. And it worked. Here’s why:

1. Shame traps us in our thoughts; service puts us into action.

In an appearance on Oprah, Brené Brown offers three ways to stop a shame spiral:

  1. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love when they feel unworthy
  2. Reach out to someone you trust
  3. Tell your story

Brené Brown is an absolute sage, and her research on shame and vulnerability has profoundly changed my life. But when I’m in my darkest shame spirals, these three tactics aren’t quite enough for me.

Because my shame is so self-referential and all-consuming, I cannot think or talk myself out of a shame spiral.

Every thought—no matter how brilliantly it rationalizes my actions or how warmly it reassures me of my own goodness—is coated with the persistent, underlying certitude that I am bad.

My shame is like an advanced-stage, resilient bacteria; the first course of antibiotics doesn’t make a dent. I need to prove to myself, with not only my words but my actions, that there is more to me than what I’m so ashamed of. Service is an easy road out of my frazzled mind and into the world around me.

2. Shame isolates; service connects.

When I’m ashamed, the idea of being social sounds like torture. I’m normally quite extroverted, but when I’m spiraling, I don’t want to hang out with my closest friends, let alone strangers. In the thick of a spiral, it’s not unusual for me for cancel plans, be unresponsive to friends’ messages, and go dark on social media

Isolation enables my shame to fester. It keeps the scope of my world small. Service, on the other hand, does the opposite.

Service is intrinsically connective. First, I’m connected, in real time, with the person I’m serving. The newcomer to the 12-Step program I call to check-in on; the man whose bowl I fill with soup; the kid I read aloud to.

Second, I’m connected to my community. Few acts of service exist in a vacuum; typically, I’m at least peripherally involved with a community organization, a church, or a grassroots group of do-gooders determined to make the world a better place. And though the unbridled optimism and rah-rah mentality of service groups can get on my nerves, there’s something heartwarming about being part of something bigger than myself.

Finally, there’s that Universal connectedness; the sensation of being human, of being one of seven billion people dancing their way through this complicated and confusing thing called life. When I’m in service, I’m helping other people, with other problems, who have baggage of their own. With this perspective in hand, ruminating about my shame suddenly feels far less important.

3. Shame exhausts; service awakens.

Self-flagellation takes a lot of emotional energy. It’s exhausting to rewind, fast-forward, and rewind the movie reel of your mistakes. Because it’s our human tendency to defend against threat, a part of us—no matter how small—will fight against the shame. This is the part that will rationalize our behavior, craft a narrative for our actions, and pepper us with positive self-talk.

These two forces—“I am good!” vs. “I am bad!”—are at odds with each other. The result is an internal Civil War – one that rages as we try to fall asleep, as we stare at the tile wall in the shower, as we drink our coffee on the patio. It can become the soundtrack to our days.

Service provides a respite from this turmoil. By getting us out of own minds and into the world around us, gives the shame soundtrack a much-needed pause. In that silence, we can gain new perspective and peace.

4. Shame breeds shame; service breeds hope.

Shame is self-perpetuating; it cycles ‘round and ‘round the same tired litany of self-criticisms and judgments. In such a state, there is little room for anything novel to enter our consciousness. If we respond to our shame by self-isolating and hibernating, we just make the echo chamber smaller. Shame breeds shame.

Service, on the other hand, connects us with the newness of others people’s stories and challenges.

Studies have shown that novelty makes us happier whether we’re shame-spiraling or not. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, writes, “Often we’re happier, we feel more energetic, more productive, more creative when we try something new, when we challenge ourselves a little bit, when we kind of go out of that comfort zone. That atmosphere of growth can really boost our happiness.”

Service gets us out of our own way and offers a new palette of emotions and values to choose from: togetherness, community, connection, service, altruism, and more. It put our personal challenges into perspective and simultaneously offers us tangible, actionable proof of our own goodness that stands in contrast to our negative self-judgments.

It was hard for me to realize that my darkest shame spirals were also my most intensely self-indulgent moments. Even though I may have felt totally miserable, at the end of the day, it was still all about me: my wrongness, my badness, my words, my actions, my self-perceptions.

When I mustered up the will to be of service, I was astounded by the serenity that came from acquiescing my role as the star of the show.

Becoming a vessel for acts of goodwill opened my eyes to a greater, simpler reality, one I didn’t need to control or micromanage. From that vantage point, I was able to look back on my actions from a distance, and with that distance came the self-compassion, acceptance, and self-forgiveness I’d been hoping for all along.

About Hailey Magee

Hailey Magee is a Certified Codependency Recovery Coach who helps women find freedom by setting clear boundaries and speaking their truth in their relationships. Sign up for a complimentary, 30-minute consultation to learn how codependency recovery can lead you to confidence, empowerment, and freedom, or register for Hailey’s Finding Inner Freedom Journaling Course which begins on July 15, 2019. Follow Hailey on FacebookInstagram, and visit her website, www.haileymagee.com.

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The post A Surprising but Effective Way to Get Out Of A Shame Spiral appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Finding Peace in the Dark Corners of Your Life

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ~Thich Nhat Nanh

It’s easy to feel peaceful and positive when the sun is shining and life is going your way. It’s a different matter when you’re alone, afraid, sick, or so tired you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

As a three-time cancer survivor, I know something about getting through difficult times. I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and hopeless, but I’ve also learned it’s possible to find moments of peace and light under the most difficult of circumstances. You can too.

Here are six techniques that help me find the light when things are tough. I hope they bring you the same sense of peace and ease they bring me.

1. Stop pretending everything’s okay.

If things aren’t going well, acknowledge it.

Stop judging yourself for feeling tired, anxious, or miserable. Instead of yelling at yourself for not being upbeat in the face of trauma or trouble, speak to yourself with the same understanding and respect you’d use to support your friends and family.

Tell yourself you have every right to feel the way you do right now, but that feelings are like the tide. They come and go. And while things are tough today, you’re tough, too. You’ve been through hard times before. You’ll get through this, and tomorrow will be a better day.

2. Give yourself the gift of living one hour at a time.

When I was going through chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the strength to make it through the six long months of treatment. And then I came across the idea of living my life hour by hour, and that changed everything.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say it’s 1:15 PM where you are. All you have to do is focus on doing the best you can until 2:00 PM. That’s it. You don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner tomorrow night. You certainly aren’t going to worry about that appointment you have next Tuesday, or how you’re going to replace your old car.

You just have to make it through this one hour, secure in the knowledge that the next hour, and all the hours after that will take care of themselves.

It sounds simple, but living this way has seen me through some really tough days. Go ahead, give it a try, and see how this one change can make this tough time easier.

3. Focus on loving yourself.

This is a time to treat your body and spirit with fierce, loving self-care.

  • Listen to your body and give it what it needs to stay healthy.
  • Make sure you get enough rest. Go to bed early. Take a nap.
  • Take an afternoon off and do something that soothes your heart. Go for a walk in the woods, head to the beach, or read a good book.
  • Eat as well as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get all your vegetables, or eat an extra piece of fudge.
  • Move in ways that feel good to your body. And move as often as possible. Even a ten-minute walk or some gentle stretching can improve your mood.
  • Support your health and your spirit with loving words and actions throughout your day.
  • Remind yourself all day long of how many reasons and ways you have to love yourself.

My favorite way to care for myself when things are tough is to take a warm bath or shower. I love taking time alone to nurture my body and spirit. I love to relax and let the water wash away my cares and worries. For me, bathing is the perfect way to end a tough day.

4. Get busy.

Don’t just sit around worrying, do something. Even if you don’t have a lot of energy, you can still find something small to do to make your life better.

Clean out a drawer, or a closet. Read something. Learn something. Start a project, finish a project. Knit, tinker, build, garden, write, explore, give, share.

I like to go for a walk or head to the kitchen to cook something, but it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you take one small action to get you back on the road to feeling better.

5. Be grateful.

Take some time every day to focus on all the wonderful things you already have in your life.

Even though you may feel you have nothing to be grateful for, I promise you, you are surrounded by an abundance of miracles. The trick is to seek out the little luxuries in your day, the moments of unexpected joy, the color, sound, and beauty of the world around you. Find them and then to celebrate them all with a full heart.

As you go through your day, look for things that feel good. Revel in things like the warmth and comfort of a quilt around your shoulders, the beat of your favorite music, the splendor of the morning sky, the juicy sweetness of a crisp apple.

See how many of these incredible things you can find. Make it a game to find more of those things today than you did yesterday. Play the game with people around you and see how this one simple activity changes your life.

If you’re still having trouble coming up with the good things in your life, complete these phrases:

I enjoy seeing…

I enjoy hearing….

I enjoy doing….

I enjoy knowing….

I enjoy being with….

I’m so glad about….

I love….

I’m so glad I can….

I’m grateful for…

I’m looking forward to…

When you start looking for, and talking about, things you’re grateful for, you’ll begin to welcome more of those wonderful things into your life.

6. Look up and breathe.

Finally, when you’re anxious, depressed, or at your wit’s end, all you have to do to instantly feel better is look up. Simply raise your gaze to the sky or ceiling or whatever is over your head. Take a moment to feel a connection to the universe.

Then draw a breath deep into your belly. As you continue to breathe deeply, feel a sense of relaxation begin in your shoulders and work its way down your spine. Feel your muscles soften as a sense of ease fills your body.

With your next inhale, repeat the phrase, “I now fill my body with peace and light.” As you exhale, feel your body soften and relax as you repeat to yourself, “I let go of the weight of fear and worry.”

Repeat until you are completely relaxed. Then take that sense of peace into your day, knowing you can repeat this technique as many times as you wish to bring this sense of peace into your heart, no matter what is going on around you.

It may not be possible to avoid the dark days in life, but it’s always possible to bring some light into that darkness and peace into your soul, by choosing acceptance, gratitude, focus, and love.

About Wendy Leeds

Wendy Leeds is a psychotherapist and a cancer survivor. She knows what it’s like to face anxiety and trauma, and she’s working on a book to share her experience and expertise. Her CD, Creating A Calm Day is available on Amazon. Wendy offers the gift of her B.E.A.R. technique for handling panic on her website, wendyleeds.com. Join Wendy on Facebook at @WendyLeedsKeepingCalm.

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The post Finding Peace in the Dark Corners of Your Life appeared first on Tiny Buddha.