My kid, like many five-year-olds, is fascinated with superheroes. He is constantly aligning himself with ones who embody something he wants to be, from Batman to Spider-Man to the Green Ninja, and raiding the costumes, closets and recycling bin to come up with an outfit that strikes closest to whatever he’s imagining.
One of the best things about hanging out with a five-year-old is getting pulled into this mindset, this fluid spirit of let’s pretend.
I was reminded of this the other day hanging out with my friend Dana Inouye (of Lean In Mama) and her fabulous five-year-old, who likes to be called Flash, and to assign superhero identities to everyone around him.
He was extolling his grace and speed (something else kids do so naturally: celebrate their greatness!) and I suggested that I had the opposite superpower — I can’t get anywhere on time and tend to move slow. I asked him jokingly, who’s THAT superhero?
He pondered this for a few moments and said, I know who you are. You’re Ease Woman.
Ease Woman! I don’t know if I could have come up with a better name if I tried. It was such a fantastic instant reframe. I loved this identity so much I drew a picture of her as soon as I got home, and when I’m having moments of rushed frantic overwhelm, I think to myself — hey, I’m Ease Woman. I’m on time whenever I arrive. I don’t rush for anybody.
It made me think — what other superhero identities can we come up with to embody our flaws? To change up our energy, to embrace our full selves? How can we use our natural ability to pretend and project and play to deal with the frustrations of everyday life?
Wanna try it? Give it a go! And if you happen to know a five-year-old, ask them to help you.
I’ve been in a fog the last few months – a fog I am grateful to feel lifting.
I’d been doing all the things to clear it – drawing, questioning my thoughts, singing, dancing it out. But my body kept getting sick, over and over. Or someone else would get sick and my week would get reoriented towards nurturing and nose-wiping and caregiving. Everyone would get better and I’d have a day or two of emerging clarity before the whole thing would start over again.
It was maddening, and frustrating, and overwhelming. All I could do was write from inside it and embrace it.
Now it’s been six weeks of no one getting sick (fingers crossed!) and I’ve had time to get grounded and clear internally. I’ve been thinking about what it is that is so difficult, when you’re stuck in a fog.
The circumstances that brought on the fog were frustrating, yes. But the part that really made it difficult was the shame. I was ashamed to admit I was in a fog. As if I were responsible for it, as if I caused it. I should be able to keep us healthy, to handle this better, to stop this from happening. The fact that I’m lost is a sign that I’m doing something wrong.
But think about literal fog, like in the external world. Would a sailor out on the ocean feel responsible if a fog came on? Would the captain of the ship apologize to the crew for causing it?
It sounds ridiculous! What sailor would dream that because they are knowledgeable about the weather, they have the ability to control it?! That because they know fog exists, they should be able to banish it on command?
And yet that is what I believed about this internal fog – that I should be able to clear it by saying the magic words, that I should be able to prevent it by taking the right measures, that when it stubbornly persisted, it was because I was doing something wrong.
What if I thought of it as something like the weather? Something that comes and goes, that I can’t control but can navigate through?
I don’t control the universe, I don’t control the weather, I don’t control my mind. Ahhhhhhhh.
There is a paradoxical power in that. It is a relief to give up that responsibility, a great liberation of my energy. What if my body is an ecosystem just as complex and sensitive as the planet? What if I let go of the idea that I can control it’s weather patterns, and instead learned how to ride the waves?
What do sailors do when they find themselves in a fog? Foghorns, right? Lighthouses! They send out flares of light and sound to connect with others and seek help. And when they can’t connect, they set down anchors and wait it out.
I share this, in case you too are lost in a fog and could use some words to guide you through – or just are heartened to know that others are out there.
A good sailor doesn’t believe they can control the tides, but learns how to read them, the better to co-exist with them, survive them, ride them, be at peace with them.
So it goes for us internal navigators – we get to know our inner seas, the ebbs and flows of our tides, when a storm is coming on, when a fog has settled, when it is good weather for setting out on an adventure and when it’s time to drop anchor and wait it out.
How do you navigate the internal and external fogs when they settle over you? And what does the fog have to teach you?
A while ago I was in the shower, and a song came on that I remember vividly from the last round of the Creative Magic Workout, because it felt like the most divine answer to the question we were grappling with: it’s safe to dance, it’s a safety dance.
Hearing it again, I was struck by its message — how often do we hear, in our culture, that it’s safe to dance?
You can dance if you want to.
When things feel out of control, dancing is something you can do to feel better, feel stronger, feel in control.
Dancing can change the world because it changes your world. Immediately.
You have the power to express yourself, to say what you want, to will it into existence using your body and your imagination.
How often do we dismiss our imagination, dismiss dancing as something frivolous and fun, the opposite of serious?
And yet, when we see powerful dancing, when we see it fused with image and strength, we know it can knock the walls down.
There is a paradox here: Dancing is frivolous, and it can only be done by professionals who have trained for years and years.
No. I want that power in everyone’s hands. You don’t have to be a professional dancer to access it.You can dance if you want to.
I’m not a professional dancer, but in my years of work in the theater, I have seen over and over how terrified people are of dancing. (Don’t even get me started on singing).
Coaxing them through that fear has nothing to do with teaching skills or routines or sweet moves. I mean it has a little to do with that because learning skills can build confidence and confidence is fun.
But I have seen people who HAVE the skills the routines the moves and DON’T have the confidence. Which tells me that the fear has nothing to do with the actual things you are doing and everything to do with the FEAR. With that little voice of judgment, saying you look ridiculous, you look stupid, you can’t dance, you can’t learn, you can’t move right, you’re slow, you’re clumsy, you have two left feet, you don’t have rhythm, you can’t get it…
I could go on and on. The voice of judgment has endless variations, all on the same theme of SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR BODY / HOW IT LOOKS OR MOVES / SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU.
I love figuring out how to break through that voice of judgment. Helping other people do it helps me do it myself. Helps me remember to dance and sing my way through the fear, which is good, because few things bring joy more immediately than dancing and singing.
For years I deprived myself of dancing. When I was a kid I loved dancing like most kids do, but around age 9 or 10 I decided I was awkward, and that decision kept me rooted in my spot, hiding in corners, hugging the wall, resisting the urge to move my body, to get up and dance.
I told myself a story that grew stronger and stronger as I grew older – that I wasn’t a natural dancer, I wasn’t the kind of person who liked to dance, it wasn’t my thing, I didn’t get it.
I was lucky to experience a kind of divine intervention in college, when some gentle, encouraging friends coaxed me out of my fear — my story — the spell I’d been casting — and got me to dance.
Breaking that spell was a gradual dissolution, and also a quick change. After slowly working through my self-consciousness, one day I was no longer scared to dance. The looming terror of dancing with other people was a dream and once I woke up to it, it was gone.
I even decided at some point to start thinking of myself as a good dancer.
And why not? Hadn’t I been telling myself a lie for years, that I was a bad dancer? Why not tell myself a lie that I’m the best dancer in the room? Even when it feels like cognitive dissonance, even when I’m surrounded by ‘better’ dancers, even when my inner trolls are sure that I look ridiculous – thinking I’m a good dancer makes me a good dancer.
You can do this too! Let’s say it right here, right now:
It’s safe to dance, and I am a great dancer.
It’s safe to _____ and I am a great _____.
What happens, what changes when you believe that? When you tell yourself: I am a great dancer – or singer or speaker or artist or entrepreneur or parent or leader or baker or ANYTHING — and it’s safe to do that thing. When you pretend that WHATEVER YOU DO, is evidence of you being great at it?
Dancing is a good place to practice: start moving and pretend that whatever you are doing is fucking great, and why not? Why not believe in the greatness of your own body and feel it’s unique power? Why not dance yourself into greatness, and dance to create a world that appreciates your greatness? It’s a spell you are casting with your body and imagination.
It’s safe to dance, and we are going to dance safety into existence. Once we feel safe, what else could we dance into existence?
Could we do a confidence dance, a professional dance, a calm mom dance, a generosity dance, a powerful dance, a world changing dance, a me too dance, a humility dance, a laugh out loud dance?
Let me know what you dance into existence! And thank you for sharing this space with me. It feels good to be up on my feet again as we dream up a vision of what we want 2019 to be.
I’ve been feeling very Grinchy about the holidays. Even though I’ve built traditions I love, even though it’s fun to experience things anew with children, even though I am enjoying dance parties at night to the Mariah Carey Christmas album – still, when I think CHRISTMAS IS COMING it’s with a shudder. I wish we could flash forward to January.
I’ve been giving this some deeper thought. The other day as I was dragging my feet on taking my two kids to get a Christmas tree, I asked myself: what is it I don’t like about this? Why do I feel like I have to do it, like it’s not my choice?
I didn’t have time in that moment to write anything down,
but I started to think about what is on my YES list for the holidays, and
what’s on my NO list.
It’s very simple, a YES NO list. You can do it for anything and I find it useful for things I have mixed feelings about – to sort out what I do and do not want – to clarify what exactly I’m feeling hesitant or grumpy or meh about, and what makes me jump with joy and smile from ear to ear. If I’m not feeling excited about something, why is it on my YES list? Can I move it to the NO list, or change something to make it a solid YES?
I started thinking about what’s on my holiday NO list as I was wrangling the kids into coats and boots and carseats, and so many things popped into my mind: last minute stress shopping, sitting on Santa’s lap, a naughty and nice list, the film Love Actually, plastic, disposable stocking stuffers. I had to dredge up things for the YES list: okaaaaaaay, the Nutcracker. Warm cozy socks and slippers. Candles. The smell of a real tree.
I thought about that, the smell of a tree. Yes, that is why I like having a real tree, that is why we’re heading out into the freezing rain right now. And as it turned out, we had a blast, picking out a little tree that fit in the trunk of our car, driving home with soaking wet coats and hats and the smell of pine in the car. Getting it home and dragging it inside and draping it in shiny beads and orbs and lights while drinking hot cocoa. (The part where my toddler knocked down the tree is a topic for another day).
This morning when I sat down to write down my list, I was surprised to find that I had an overflowing number of ideas for my YES list. Watching The Big Lebowski! Tamales! Cozy pajamas! Homemade cookies! Believing in the possibility of magic and things you can’t explain! Secret gifts! Surprises!
The things on my NO list are small but clear – anything that
pulls me into obligation, perfectionism, pressure, fake magic and fake crap. As
a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser it is very easy for me to focus
all my energy on making everyone happy, doing things “right,” getting the
perfect gift for every single person and getting it to them on time. And if I
don’t, THAT IS HORRIBLE and they will never forgive me and Christmas will be
I can choose to believe that. Or I can slow down and notice when I’m having those thoughts, and take a breath. Hello, holiday troll. Hello ridiculous expectations, I see you’ve creeped in again. Am I ruining Christmas?
I can choose to believe in a Christmas that is not consumed with meeting ridiculous self-imposed expectations. I can show my love to people in the ways that mean something to me. I can choose to opt out of stress and panic and perfection. I can talk to my kids about Santa in a way that feels right to me. I can choose to stay out of the mall on Christmas Eve. I can choose to only watch Love Actually if I want to feel a rousing, invigorating tide of righteous fury wash over me. (This is also a post for another time though really, Lindy West said it best…)
Of course Love Actually, the apex of cynically vacant faux-motional cash-grab garbage cinema would hang its BIG METAPHOR on the bleak, empathy-stripped cathedral of turgid bureaucracy known as “the airport.” Of course.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and sucked in, to feel dominated and overloaded and swept along in a helpless plastic current of holiday cheer. So for me, it’s helpful to remind myself that I can step out of that fake river. I can celebrate what matters to me. I can connect to people how I want. I can give my energy to the things I like and release the things I don’t.
Yeah! Look at that, my Grinch heart is growing! YES!
I’ve been out of contact or a lot of reasons – long story short, this fall parenting has taken more of my energy than anticipated, and my plan to offer a lot of free webinars and launch an expanded round of the Creative Magic Workout in October got knocked to the ground like cheerios from the hand of an exuberant toddler, which is mostly a metaphor and also a pretty literal description of my day to day life.
I’ve been a bit lost, in a bit of a dark place – a place where my trolls take over and drive out my sense of humor and incite a stewing toxic jealousy about everyone but me who has their life figured out. My poor wretched trolls, with their either/or thinking and their helpless rage. YOU ARE A LOSER. EASY FOR HER, SHE CAN BE A WINNER BECAUSE HAS EVERYTHING. (It’s no accident that my trolls sound a lot like Trump supporters).
When I’m lost and overtaken by my trolls, it feels like I’m out of control. I forget that I am the one who decides, that I am at the helm of this ship, that I can change course if I want to. Life feels overwhelming, unmanageable, something that happens to me, like projectile vomiting in the middle of the night (another metaphor drawn from my recent experience).
This feeling sucks, obviously. Let’s not sugar coat it. It’s hard. At the same time, it’s instructive.
It’s instructive because it is a feeling – an internal state – not objective reality. The thing I’m wrestling with is 100% in my head.
And knowing that is really helpful. I can feel the trolls taking over, but they have not totally taken over. I am aware of them. I know that the things they are saying are not true, even though they feel true.
It’s also instructive because in that moment of overwhelm, when it feels like I’m trying to pull off the impossible, when I’m making dinner even though I cannot possibly make dinner, I can feel my brain and body stretching. I can feel the gulf between what needs to be done and my ability to do it, and I bridge that gulf and do it anyway.
My parents were in town and my Dad said on two different occasions I was muttering to myself, I don’t know what to do here, I don’t know what to do. That moment when you are suspended in the not knowing: that is what I’m talking about. That is when the growth happens. And that is also when I burst out laughing because what else can you do, when your kid has an attack of diarrhea in the parking lot and in the scramble to remove clothing and clean up the poop and wrap him in a baby blanket and get him in the car without anyone noticing, you step in the poop.
There is just something so GROUNDING about stepping in poop. And I am laughing as I say this but I am also dead serious. This is the grounding, grinding poetry of my everyday life, the way it stretches and stops me, the way it helps me laugh at myself.
With that laughter comes space, comes distance, comes relief. The trolls step back and I remember that I am okay, this is a moment in time and it will pass, that help is all around me if I choose to see it. I am not the only person dealing with a sick kid! As Byron Katie says: other than what I’m thinking and believing, am I okay?
There’s a primal call to all this, a drumbeat of THIS SUCKS, an I CAN’T, a WHY ME that vibrates through my body as I remember how to laugh, as I remember how to feel like myself. It’s not about resisting that drumbeat. It’s about giving in to it, saying it out loud – OH MY GOD THIS SUUUUUUCKS – and then laughing as I give in to it.
I wipe the poop off my shoe and get my kid home and in the bath and into his pajamas and now he’s asleep (and so is his brother) and I make some tea and write this to you. Telling you about the tiny ways I find to survive. The poems I jot down, the shows I dream up, the ballots I cast, the ways I get clear.
I am not offering the Creative Magic Workout this fall. I might in the spring. I might put it together differently. For now, I’m embracing the unknowing, the undoing, the unraveling. I’m choosing it. I resisted at first and then my body made it clear: that’s not what this fall is about.
I’m going to offer 1:1 sessions and have as many conversations as I can instead. I want to hear about what is blocking and trolling and demanding too much from you.
I also might start working on a show / book – I have been remembering that three years ago, that’s how I found my way out of the fog and reorganized my creative universe, by making a show about my questions.
This time my questions have something to do with the power of apology and atonement and reparations, with fragility and white flight and escape, with truth and reconciliation and songs about Saturn and joyfully upending fascism like dandelions busting through the sidewalk.
I will work on it the way I’ve learned to since becoming a mother: jotting down the ideas I have in the shower, writing in my iphone at 3am, inviting people to come and look at what I’ve made even though it’s a mess, drawing the costume I imagine and waiting for it to find me. Actually, this happened in reverse this summer when I found this incredible teal dress suit at my neighbor’s garage sale – I am waiting for its purpose to reveal itself:
And the hardest, most important part: remembering that my creative work is vital and worthy of dedicated time and space.
Thank you for listening as I work my way through the darkness and richness and paradox.
I hope you are finding your way too.
p.s. It is not lost on me that EXACTLY a year ago I wrote a post almost exactly like this one. I don’t know what to make of that but it is evidence that what goes around, comes around, and that what you learned before will come in handy again in the future.
As I said in my last post, it takes a lot of ENERGY to own your power – to express your life’s journey with confidence – to brag.
Know what else takes a lot of energy? Creative expression. It takes time and effort to sit down and draw, to get up and dance.
But creative expression also GIVES a lot of energy. You sit down to draw and suddenly, hours have gone by and you’ve been wholly absorbed in the colors and lines and shapes of what you are creating, and your brain is sparking. You spend an hour dancing like crazy and you end up working out harder than if you’d gone to the gym, but you feel like you could keep going for hours.
Bragging works that way too: it takes energy to stand up and say, this is my story, this is my strength, here I am. But when you do it, you feel the energy flooding in. This is who I am. BOOM. YES. This is who I am.
This is why I encourage you to practice bragging – because you can feel the effects right away.
Here is a super quick and easy way to practice right now – bragging mad libs! Fill in the blank and see what comes up for you.
I like to write down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t make sense.
Because if I stop to think, I’ll get stuck and my trolls will want to get in on the action, and then I’ll start wanting to get it right, and then there’s no hope. You can’t brag if you’re trying to be perfect.
Though (as with most things) the opposite is also true: you could also sit with this, testing it out, seeing what comes to you over time.
If you want, make up your own mad libs! I take inspiration from the king, Muhammad Ali, and also from musical divas, country queens and classic rock gods. Here are some lines you could play with:
I’m so mean I make medicine sick
I’m so fast I can turn out the light and be in bed before it’s dark
Here I am, rock me like a hurricane
I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me
I was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in butcher’s holler
I’m the sister of a hellraiser, the daughter of an old tomcat, I was playin’ the piano in a honky-tonk before you bragged about that (I just heard an interview with rock and roller Linda Gail Lewis which is where I heard that line!)
So easy to turn them into fill-in-the-blank brags:
I’m so ___________ I make ________ __________
I’m so _______ I can _______ and ________ before it’s _________
Here I am, rock me like a ___________
I’m a ________ baby so why don’t you _____________
I was born a _______, in a ________ on a ________ in _________
I’m the sister of a _________, the daughter of a _________, I was _________ before you bragged about that
Try it! Jot some things down, and why not: speak them out loud.
WOO HOO! Do you feel a rush? Do you feel a thrill? That’s your power, baby.
If you want to do this with others in a safe environment for practicing space-claiming and power-proclaiming, you can sign up for my free webinar, DYNAMIC BRAG.
I had a very creative summer in many ways – lots of family time and swimming lessons and camping trips and first steps and whoopie cushions and a superhero scavenger hunt.
So many things to inspire and instigate and invigorate my creative spirit. Nothing makes my heart swell with love and pride more than seeing my kids give free rein to their creative instincts. Beautiful!
And at the same time, exhausting. Because facilitating the growth and healthy development of small children involves a lot of thinking ahead, a lot of making mistakes, a lot of head-bonking, a lot of tantrum-decoding, a lot of blanket-fort-decomissioning, a lot of tears, a lot of night frights, a lot of messes.
I believe in messes. I believe in the creative anarchic spirit. And I believe parenting – all caregiving, really – is creative. It requires deep pools of creativity in order to do it at all. And because it is so all encompassing, so demanding, so FREAKING HARD — it also makes it difficult to focus on other creative projects.
Like, it’s hard to foster my son’s beautiful anarchic creative spirit while also embracing my own. It’s hard to embrace making messes when I’m the one cleaning them up. It’s hard to hold space for chaos when you’re also in charge of setting the boundaries.
So I am excited that we are in the fall and my kids are in someone else’s care for part of the day so I can make some time for my creative spirit to bounce off the walls. So I can write to you and turn my mind towards what the hell I do when I’m not wiping applesauce off the floor and chasing a one year old into the bathroom shouting NO HANDS IN THE TOILET!
My coaching tentacles are slowly coming back to life and here I am, curious about what’s going on in your world.
I find my mind returning to a topic that always carries such a charge – something that is a key part of the Creative Magic Workout, the one people are most resistant to, the one that seems like it’s got nothing to do with creativity – like it’s a separate universe – and which turns out to be intricately, inseparably intertwined with creative expression.
That topic is BRAGGING.
Bragging is a loaded word so allow me to use some other words to describe what it means to me:
Telling your hero story
Standing fully in your experience of the world
Owning your experience — what you feel and believe and think
Feeling pride in what you have done and what you will do, good or bad
Speaking with confidence about your experience, about what you have done and will do
Holding yourself with power, acknowledging your power instead of deflecting it, hiding it, pretending you don’t have it
Claiming your space
Claiming your time
Claiming the attention of others
So scary, right?
There is a reason we spend a lot of time on this – because it’s HARD and because it’s KEY to your creative expression.
So my approach, as with anything creative – come to think of it, this is my approach to parenting too – is to make it as easy as possible.
How to make bragging easy?
One way is to find someone to emulate, to remind you of what kind of person you want to be, to spur you on, to cheer you on, to encourage you.
One of my champions is Dolly Parton and I’m so thrilled to see my very favorite song of hers, “Here I Am,” out in the world as a new duet with Sia. And it strikes me as a FANTASTIC bragging song. (One of my favorite ways to creatively work things out is to find a song that speaks to whatever is on my mind, and then sing / dance / jump around to it in my garage).
If you’d like to do that with me today, please join me in singing and dancing and hopping around and saying out loud, HERE I AM.
I’ve been doing lots of champion work this week in anticipation of the new Creative Magic Workout – during which we spend a whole week summoning, channeling and seeking out champions within and without.
A key part of this work is looking at the images in our language, and finding ways to swap out harmful or mean or unhelpful images with ones that are more kind and encouraging and useful.
I call it re-metaphor-izing.
Often there is a potent image behind the meanest names we call ourselves — the ideas that sink their teeth in us and won’t let go.
And you can’t force those ideas to let go, but you can seek out new images that entice your mind to drop the old ones.
For example, did you notice that I used a metaphor just now, to describe how powerful our thoughts can be? I said they “sink their teeth in us” even though, of course, they don’t actually do that. But comparing them to a wild and dangerous animal makes my point more vividly then saying “they are very powerful.” (Suzette Elgin talks a lot about the power in metaphor and how we can use language to defend ourselves, and this is what first got me to thinking about the ways our minds use images and associations).
So, let’s say I want to make the point that ideas are powerful without summoning up feelings of dread and fear and danger.
What else is powerful and won’t let go? A tsunami, a hungry child, a great hug, the moon….
And isn’t it true that your thoughts can also roll over you like a tidal wave
Or call out with a neverending urgency
Or wrap arms of peace and security around you
Or ebb and flow like the ceaseless tide of the ocean
My point being: you can put conscious effort into the images you are summoning, and change the feeling, the vibe, the structure, the EVERYTHING around it.
Like with troll work, a lot can change just by noticing the thoughts that are running through your mind, noticing the images your mind is defaulting to – and seeing what happens when you consciously swap in a new image.
I’ll give you an example from my life – I often think to myself, “you are a hot mess,” or some variation on that theme. You are full of shit, you are batshit crazy, you have got to get your shit together.
And when I slow down and look at those images… wow. I’m comparing myself to garbage, to stinking piles of poop.
What is a different image I could use, that would still be true to the facts?
Hmmm… isn’t “a hot mess” also the conditions under which life emerges on a planet? Aren’t swamps and marshlands teeming with life and activity and balance and their own kind of order?
What if instead of you’re a hot mess, I thought: you are a hot thriving ecosystem. You are a marshland. You are ready for new primordial life.
Here are some other ones:
I am batshit crazy –> I am a night-cloaked superhero
I am flaky –> I am a wizard
I am a broke loser –> I am free as a bird
The facts don’t change. But the way you talk about the facts – the way you tell the story of your life — can change everything.
I’d love to hear some of your images and brainstorm some ways to turn them into champion metaphors! You can register for my free webinar, Champion Yourself, which is Friday May 18! We’ll work this out in real time…
Last week I talked a lot about trolls and the how to turn around the inner voices that shut us down.
This week I’ve been thinking about building up the voices that encourage us, that believe in us, that urge us forward. I call these voices our champions.
It’s hard to ask for what we’re worth. It’s hard to know what we’re worth, much less ask for it. We’re conditioned to devalue, minimize, deflect and downplay our thoughts, our ideas, our bodies, our selves. The worst thing we could be is FULL OF OURSELVES.
Noticing our own value and saying it out loud feels alien to us: no idea what it is or how to do it and vaguely terrified by the prospect of coming face to face with it. So we take that idea and stuff it in the closet.
I’ve been playing around with ways to coax out that idea and make it feel more comfortable. Maybe pull out some feather boas and fuzzy bathrobes to wrap around that tiny spark of self admiration and breathe it into a nice healthy campfire of love and approval.
Is this metaphor working for you? Is your idea of self approval looking like this right now?
I’ve got a simple exercise for reverse engineering self-admiration:
Think of someone you admire. Maybe someone you’re jealous of, someone you imagine surrounded by golden shimmering light who is a different better kind of human than you are. Maybe it’s someone on the national stage like Emma Gonzalez, maybe it’s a friend who moves through the world with a grace you wish you had. See them in your mind.
2. Draw a picture of them. I drew a picture of my friend Kate!
3. Write a list of their traits you admire:
Kate is good at business
Kate is fearless about finding mentors
Kate is an incurable optimist
4. Look at your list and replace their name with “I”. Write out each trait with I:
I am good at business
I am fearless about finding mentors
I am an incurable optimist
See what comes up for you when you write each of these down. Maybe you have deep resistance – that isn’t true at all! – or maybe you feel a thrill of deep resonance.
5. Circle five words that stand out to you, and turn them into a poem. Write them down. Try them on. For me it was:
Fearless hustler flair, I’m a shameless optimist
6. Stand up and speak your list out loud. I am in incurable optimist. Speak your poem, repeat it like a mantra. Move around like the person you admire. How do they stand? How do they dance? Find a song they would dance to and practice moving like them. Try it on!
If any of this seems ludicrous, that’s okay. You can laugh with yourself. That doesn’t mean some part of you doesn’t believe it’s true.
I would love to hear what you learn! And because this is what a shameless optimist hustler would do, I gotta tell you that if you dig this kind of fun inner self work/play, this is exactly what we do in the Creative Magic Workout which is open for registration now! It’s a lot easier to champion yourself when other people are championing you too.
I had a dream the other night, about someone who used to be a troll in my life.
This wasn’t an inner troll – no, he existed in the real world. He was a manager at my day job, and he triggered all my fears of being seen as stupid or flakey or childish. I had a strong desire to prove to him that I was smart and capable, and – FOR SOME REASON – I had an equally strong drive to divebomb that desire.
Consciously I wanted to do a good job and show him what a good worker I was. But every day I would mix up my words, misunderstand his directions, forget some key detail, stammer over a customer call, mix up numbers, double book appointments. He would simmer and stew. He never outright said to me, YOU ARE A MORON – he said it with loaded silences and unblinking stares. And I was baffled. Why was I making such stupid mistakes?
So he showed up in my dream, which is funny because I haven’t thought about him or that job for a while. In the dream he told me how idiotic my creative endeavors were, and I reacted with curiosity and sympathy. This sent him into a boiling, helpless rage, which I calmly defused and then moved on.
Isn’t that awesome? I love it when things work out in my dreams. The way I handled him was a beautiful example of boundaries and of how far I’ve come since I left that job four years ago.
And one of the reasons I’ve come so far is BECAUSE of that job.
I’m better now at reading my body, owning my truth and asserting my boundaries because of what I learned there over two years of NOT listening to my body, not asserting my boundaries, not owning my truth.
So really, his trollishness was a gift. His constant dismissal of people as MORONS helped me assert to myself something that has become a key mantra for me:
I don’t believe in morons.
I remember the day I said that to myself. It was like a fog clearing. I don’t believe anyone is a moron, including myself.
I don’t know if I would have articulated that so clearly had I not worked for this magnificent troll for two years who called people morons every single day.
So thank you, troll, for bringing me to a deeper understanding of what I believe.
Thank you, troll, for helping me stop dismissing myself, and start claiming my strength and my space.
I do not choose to divide the world into morons and non-morons. Anyone who is alive on this planet is alive because they have the intelligence to survive. Thank you for helping me see that.
And thank myself for stepping out of a situation that didn’t work for me.
Thank you, dream self, for showing me that — like Sarah and the Goblin King who she thinks she has to appease — he has no power over me.
Even when he technically had power over me at work, his power to dismiss and disdain and diminish only worked if somewhere inside I had an inner troll who agreed with him.
I don’t believe in morons. You have no power over me.
Those are some powerful mantras!
Is there a troll in your life you are giving power to? Whose approval you are seeking when you could be saying, I do not need your approval, I do not live by your values, I do not care to share space with you…?
Sometimes it takes a while to identify a troll! It’s not easy. It’s a practice.
(If you want, come and practice with me tomorrow during my free live webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS! Bring your entrenched, enmeshed, embedded critical thoughts and we will do everything we can to charm those trolls)