Jackie Kennedy

Shaping Our Lives

What if you were told growing up, “You never have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, because we are the Joneses”? or, “Style is not a function of how rich you are, or even who you are. Style is a habit of mind that puts quality over quantity, noble struggle before mere achievement, honor before opulence. It’s what you are. It’s your essential self”? How would you grow up perceiving the world? What would be your expectations for yourself and others?

Jackie Kennedy
Image: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jackie-kennedy-175.php

According to the book, Jackie, Janet & Lee by J. Randy Taraborrelli, these were the words spoken to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by her father. It is easy to see how these words shaped who Jackie was and what she expected from life.

What were you told growing up? What did the adults around you believe? What experiences did you have which shaped your expectations?

Sometimes we are told things which are meant to protect and support us, but which actually hold us back. Sometimes those around us are unstable and cruel. Whatever the circumstance, we often find ourselves decades later continuing to create our life based on some random comment. What was spoken by another has now become a fact of life that we believe completely.

I have set a goal for my yoga class to be able to do a headstand by my 50th birthday. I started with small poses to build up my neck muscles. I have built up to picking my feet off the floor and resting my knees on my elbows. I was in that pose feeling good about myself and my growing strength when my instructor told me to lift my legs. My heartrate increased. My breathing became shallow and fast. I was terrified. My legs froze and felt five times heavier than they are. However, it was not my body that could not do the pose, but my mind.

Instead of having confidence, my mind went to the belief that I have never been athletic, I am old and overweight.  These thoughts are what weighed me down. These beliefs are what kept me from a headstand, not any physical ability. Along with continuing my practice, I am now also working diligently to remove the beliefs which are holding me back.

What beliefs are currently holding you back? What have people told you that you made your own? What incident from years ago are you holding on to and making it a current reality? What stories are you telling yourself to keep yourself small?

We all have beliefs which are not serving us. But we can choose what we continue to believe. Instead of defeating yourself by buying into a negative belief when it appears, tell yourself that even though you believe it now, it is safe to let it go. No matter what we are told – or what we tell ourselves, we can choose to believe it or not. If our current beliefs are not serving us, we can choose ones that move us forward and bring us joy.

Stay tuned for headstand pictures. I will get there. 😉

walking in anothers shoes

Walking in Another’s Shoes

I watched a terrific TED talk the other day by an individual who has a unique view on gender issues and authenticity. Paula Williams started life as a man and is now a woman. Due to her experiences, Paula has a very unique view of both genders and has experienced firsthand that they are equal, but there is not equity for both. She shares funny and sad examples of bias and favoritism. She said she lived life from both sides and the “differences are massive.”

I’ll let Paula’s message focus on the gender issue. What I want to focus on is our assumptions and unconscious bias, and the power we give away to others.

Releasing Assumptions

walking in anothers shoesPaula has a unique opportunity to really learn what it really means to be and experience life as a woman, and a man.  For most of us, we only know what we know as our gender. We can have an idea of the injustices and differences but can’t know firsthand how both genders experience life. This is true for almost everyone we meet. We all have unique journeys. We are born into different bodies and different environments. We learn and experience different things growing up. It becomes all too easy to dislike or attack another because of one aspect we see. Yet, we don’t know the full picture. Unless you can truly walk in another’s shoes, you will never know what they experience, think, and believe. We can assume, but our assumptions are clouded by our own experiences and beliefs.

Next time you have a disagreement or negative reaction to another, stop. Step back. Try to look at the big picture of who this individual is, where they came from, and if other issues they may be experiencing may be coloring their actions. So much of the online and offline rage and arguments we see are based on assumptions and “the other.” When we can release our own bias, it allows us the space to see the full picture of the other person – and start an intelligent dialogue.

Empowerment

For those of you who are struggling with self-esteem and your voice, Paula has some great words of encouragement. I have experienced people throughout my life, and even recently, who sought to put me down and belittle me in one form or another. If we hear – and take in – this negativity for too long, we can start to believe it and take it on as our own. No matter what others say about you, remember that you are intelligent and worthy. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you know. Don’t question yourself just because others do. The key to strength and power is to believe it inherently. When we look to others for approval and confirmation, we have already given away our power. Reclaim your strength by owning it.

As you go about this week, notice the assumptions you have about others. How much do you really know about them? Can you identify and, hopefully, release your bias? Who are people who make you doubt yourself? Why are you triggered by them? What do you need to own about yourself? This week, follow Paula’s lead and honor the journey and the differences of others, and yourself.

new year

Cut Yourself Some Slack

As we prepare to close out one year and move into another, many of us look back with disappointment. We could have done this or that better. We didn’t take advantage of an opportunity that arose. We didn’t act our best in a certain relationship. We beat ourselves us and make a resolution to be different in the new year. We attack ourselves for being human and create goals for being perfect next year.

Why do we always seem to be so hard on ourselves?

new yearOne reason is that we are looking for closure. We never want to have to go through X again. We think that if we can finally get it right, we will never have to go through it again. Sorry to say, this is not true. What I have found in my life and while coaching others, is that we all have certain challenges we will experience again and again. If we finally handle the situation perfectly, then eventually the challenge will appear again but this time it will be a little tougher and more complex. Instead of expecting that there will be a final resolution, identify your personal challenges and accept that you will see them again and again and again, no matter how well you handle each occurrence. Every time your challenge presents itself, focus on the how the challenge is helping you grow and learn.

We are also hard on ourselves because we look for blame instead of focusing on the lesson. When we keep receiving the same challenge, we want to know why we are victim of this issue. Who is to blame? Genetics? Karma? We spend years in therapy delving into the why. But in this case, the why doesn’t get us anywhere. It is what it is. This is our challenge. It did happen. It will happen again. The goal now should be how to make the most of our lives knowing this is our obstacle. Stop looking back to the why and instead focus on how to best manage what we are challenged with.

And, of course, for my Type A’s out there, we are hard on ourselves because we believe we must be perfect or we are worthless. We hold ourselves to standards we would never hold anyone else to. We create impossible goals which can never be met. If we show even the minutest human frailty, we attack our imperfection with a vengeance. Instead of focusing on what you did “wrong,” spend a bit of time looking at your growth. What did you handle better this year than last year? How did you show up differently now than five years ago? When you look at your life as a whole, can you see the successes and progress you are making overall? Instead of beating yourself over each incident, take a broader look at your accomplishments and growth.

As the year draws to a close, identify and accept your reoccurring challenges. Take the time to look at your progress. Looking and celebrating your growth is a much more positive and useful way to enter the new year.

share your gifts

Self-Promotion

One of the toughest parts of job transition is self-promotion.  I wish I had a dollar for every candidate who told me it was difficult for them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Slowly but surely, I take these job seekers out of hiding and help them uncover, recognize, and share the value they bring to their jobs. To get there, we have to overcome two obstacles.

share your giftsFirst, the fear of bragging. People believe that if they are not quiet and modest, then they are brashly bragging. I help them see there is a mid-ground. Talking about what you do well is not bragging, it is stating facts. What you do, what you accomplish is not bravado but a truth. Look at your career and pull out the accomplishments and wins over the years. These are facts, evidence if you will, of your value and contribution. Use these facts to let a potential employer know what they can expect if they hire you.  If we don’t take the time to tell people what we offer, they will never know. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the future company we want to serve, to share what we bring to the table. Part of the fear of bragging, is the assumption one must put others down to raise themselves up. This is not true. You can state what you do, outside of what anyone else does. Focus on the facts of you, not a comparison to anyone else.

Second, people need help uncovering and recognizing their contributions. It astounds me how many women and men draw a blank when I ask about their accomplishments. They can not even put into words their contributions. Candidates will say they executed their position but can’t go into detail as to what that entailed. In doing so, they are not only minimizing their professional value, but their personal value as well. When I realize the candidate I am talking to is unable to answer even the most basic questions about what they did and how it benefitted their company or customers, I know there is a larger problem at play. This is no longer about self-promotion. The true issue revolves around self-awareness and self-love.

Acknowledging your true strengths and weaknesses, knowing who you are, requires self-awareness. When we take the time to uncover and own who we are, we are pulled out of the shadows. We can no longer hide our faults – or our brilliance. We become a known entity. Yet so many of us are happiest hidden in the background. We react to others, never taking proactive actions of our own. We look to others to create the framework and guidelines for life which we follow like lemmings. In doing so, we are depriving the world what we are here to offer; what only we can offer. It is not selfish to know and speak our truth. It is actually selfish not to.

Without self-awareness, there can be no self-love. Self-love gives us confidence and strength. We can not tap into this power until we acknowledge, embrace, and love who we are – warts and all. And amazing accomplishments and all! It is when we know ourselves, what we do well, what we are meant to contribute, that we are then in a position to guide our lives. If you don’t know and love what you have to offer, you flounder from job to job, relationship to relationship, city to city – or you don’t move at all, sitting in a static state never fully expressing your gifts.

Take some time, starting with your professional gifts, to write out what you do well. Uncover these gifts. Acknowledge them. Celebrate them. Then look at these gifts and see where they point you for the future.

self love

Love Starts with You

Many of the people I work with are like me. They are givers. They sacrifice for others. They support others. They give love. They want to make the world better. But in their attempt to give, they forget to give to the most important person – themselves.

Over the years, I have worked personally on this concept, learning to recognize my needs and give to myself. The theme of giving to myself has taken many forms. First, it was the realization that giving to myself was even an option. I believed it was better to give than to receive. I shunned the idea that it was possible and not selfish to receive. After chipping away my badge of martyrdom I began to identify my needs and accept that I deserved to receive what I needed.

Next, I learned how to receive. For those of us focused on others, the concept of receiving is new. Our kneejerk reaction is to say no, to minimize our needs, because receiving is “taking” from another. The truth is we deny others the gift of giving when we refuse to accept their gift. Eventually I learned to accept with gratitude and joy.

The latest incarnation of learning to receive is on a deeper level. Uncovering my needs and learning to receive are skills. The lesson this time is not a skill but a new way to live; something to experience every day. What I realized was that on the deepest level I was not living what I believed. Daily I tell individuals that to identify, ask for, and receive what they want, they must first love themselves. But I was not.

“Beware of the naked man that offers you a shirt” is an apt African proverb for this situation. Here I was telling my clients to do what I was not doing myself. On the deepest level I was not living self-love. My theme for 2017 is integrity. According to Merriam-Webster, integrity means “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” My desire is to live in integrity, saying what I mean and meaning what I say, and to live wholly and complete. I vow to fully and entirely walk my talk. I desire to fully embrace and love who I am as I help others do the same.

self love

For the past months, I have been working with Wendy Doman on both my physical and emotional health. She gave me homework, and like many of my clients, I initially refused to do the homework. I knew what she was trying to accomplish and I understood the need cognitively. But understanding was not enough, I needed to act to really make a change.

Wendy told me to 1) look in the mirror every day and find something I love about myself and 2) to look in my own eyes and tell myself I love me. Makes sense right? Here were two easy ways to identify and proclaim self-love. But I didn’t want to do it. Like any important shift, at first I was resistant.

When I finally pushed aside the excuses and looked myself in the eyes, I changed. It was amazing. Not only did I shift emotionally but I shifted physically.

Without self-love we can not give love. Without self-love we are not truly living. Without self-love nothing we do matters. You can’t truly love someone, love life, or be loved, until you first love yourself.

No one can give you love without you first being open to receiving love. You have to gift yourself with love.

No possession, status, or job can give you love.

You have to give yourself the gift of love. Then you can receive more love and you can give more love.

Education is something I always invest in. What you learn you get to keep, no one can steal it. Same with self-love. No one can steal, break, or affect your self-love unless you let them. You own it. It is yours. It is your strength and foundation which, if you can embrace it, no one can tarnish it.

Take a few moments to look yourself in the eyes and embrace your self-love. Then join in my new mantra: “I love myself. I give love. I receive love. I am loved. I am love.” Love is what the world needs more of and it starts with you.

no performance anxiety

Stop Playing Small

I read a great post the other day by the talented singing teacher, Meredith Colby. She uncovered and expressed very well what I think is the number one reason we hold ourselves back – whether it is holding ourselves back in singing, in how we show up at our job, or even in how we interact with those around us. The reason is – we think someone is better than us.

Meredith shared how one of her students didn’t perform as well as they both knew she could, because the student believed there were better singers than her in the showcase. For her it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. She believed they were better so she didn’t perform as she had practiced which made her performance less than the others. She believed that she was less than, then acted it a way to prove herself right.

no performance anxietyWhat we believe about ourselves and our ability is powerful. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.”  Meredith’s student could. She had a beautiful voice and terrific presentation. She could do it. She had done it. But the night of the performance, she thought she could not. And so she did not.

I have a litany of times in my life where I thought I couldn’t. I had the right answer in my Organizational Development course, but went with the group’s answer because they must be right. I did not speak up as an assistant director, because the director was a professional and I was not. I bit my tongue in meetings because no one else mentioned the problem I saw, so it must not be there. Although I do not dwell on it, I wonder sometimes how things would be different if I had spoken up throughout my life. What opportunities did I stifle because I kept small?

The problem starts out with comparison. Instead of owning, embracing, and sharing our unique talents and gifts, we minimize ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. But we are each unique. If we were meant to perform or act like another, we would be that other person. Instead we need to uncover, acknowledge, accept, and share the amazing things about us. What we can do. How we think. What we have to offer. Take the other out of the picture and just truly love and share what makes you you.

Comparison is complicated by an inability to speak our truth. We are afraid of sharing what we know or can do because it may be wrong, bad, or laughed at. Instead of owning what we know, feel, and can do, we hide. It takes courage and strength to stand in our truth and to share our talents. We are each gifted with something special. If we do not share it, the world will have missed out.

What beliefs do you have that keep you small? Where in your life are you afraid of showing up 100%? What do you want to do? How can embracing a belief that you can, help you get there?

If you want to learn more about how to show up big in your singing, check out Meredith’s book and attend her launch party if you are in the Chicagoland area.