My Theme For 2018 Might Inspire You As Well

Part of Kathy’s series “Finding Brave To Build a Better Life”

Every year at this time, I love to identify a “theme” for the coming year – a word or phrase that represents what I want to cultivate more of in my life, work, relationships, and in the world directly around me. I’ve found that what we focus on truly expands, so focusing on an exciting and meaningful new element in my life brings it closer to me, and in greater abundance.

My theme for 2018 is “finding brave.” It’s amazing that, from the minute these two little words came into my sphere (and I thank my dear friend and author Avril McDonald for that), I’ve truly experienced more bravery, resilience, strength and hope, and I can see more clearly how I’m on the Finding Brave path.

I remember just when this term was birthed. It was in Mykonos, Greece this past September, while I was co-hosting a women’s retreat Light From the Dawn with Avril, Miisa Mink, Kaisa Peltola, and Charlotte Gillbanks. For the past year, I had been using the term “Brave Up” extensively in my work, writing, TEDx talk and other places. But in September as I was working on launching my new podcast (hope you’ll check it out on January 4th), I discovered that someone had trademarked the term.

I felt so angry and truly gutted. But there was no one to blame but myself. Even though I had been using this term for a full year and had made my mark on it, I hadn’t protected the term legally (this is something we all should learn from.) The year before, I had even published a great interview with business and branding attorney Ashley Brewer on my Forbes.com blog about not waiting to protect your intellectual property, but failed to take my own advice! Now I’ve learned.

I was with Avril in Greece talking about wanting to come up with a new phrase that represented my work at its core, and Avril said, “What about ‘Finding Brave’?” And it hit me right between the eyes. Yes! That’s it. As I got thinking about bravery and what we need to cultivate in order to be our true selves powerfully and transparently, I realized It’s not about “braving up” in one isolated moment, and then falling off the brave journey. It’s about Finding Brave every week, every day, every minute. [tweet_quote hashtags=”#FindingBrave” ]It’s a holistic, heart-and-soul journey that grabs you by the collar and won’t let go[/tweet_quote], and keeps fueling you to be and share more of yourself, in open, honest, and transformative ways.

In 2018, I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave even more, from what I choose to do in my business (stretching out of my comfort zone and starting new ventures and expanding my focus), in my relationships, with how I invest my time and money to ensure growth, and in seeing my own potential more powerfully.

Here are three core ways I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave in 2018 that might be of help to you in your life:

Brave Sight
While I have a good bit of confidence in myself and my work, I realize (if I’m really honest with myself) that I’ve hesitated moving in some new directions because of fear – fear of failure, fear of success and overwhelm, and even a bit of fear around how “hard” this new work will be. But my focus on Brave Sight helps me see myself in a different light – as someone who has reinvented herself numerous times throughout life, relished the process, and grew exponentially throughout it.

I’m ready to see myself as more competent, confident and ready for more. I hope you are too.

Are you ready to tap into more confidence and trust about what you’re capable of?

Brave Service

While we hear every day (and I teach and coach) that “the riches are in the niches” – meaning, you need a very tight and narrow focus to be profitable in your business – I feel that it’s also important to be of brave service in ways that might stretch you out of your tight niche. For me, for instance, that means that I can be of help to people not only with career growth strategies but also by offering them all that I’ve learned, about psychology, marketing, client development, business growth, management, writing and thought leadership. So why wouldn’t I do that?

I’m going to put a new stake in the ground in 2018 and offer more of what I’ve learned throughout my 32-year career, leveraging my corporate and marketing background, therapy training, and business development experience. I can’t wait to stretch to new domains that I hope will serve others in a brave new way.

What can you do in your work that will stretch you beyond how you see yourself today?

Brave Love

I recently divorced, and this experience has opened my eyes and my heart to so much. I’ve experienced firsthand what society views is the “right way” to live, and the negative projections other people put on you about their judgments and fears around divorce. I’ve seen too what it is to live as an independent individual outside of marriage, and how enlightening it is to begin to understand yourself more deeply in a new context of being single.

I have a great deal more compassion now for single people, and the challenges we/they face in loving and accepting themselves fully when the world pressures us to see married people as the model to aspire to (even when so many marriages are miserable and harmful to the couple and to the children, and in fact should end in divorce).

In 2018 I’m committed to expanding my experience of love, compassion and connection – with myself and with others. I’m ready to become braver in loving, and letting out into the world the most authentic, real and honest version of myself than ever before, which I hope will help others do the same.

I’ve seen that when we feel forced to hide, suppress or alter our most authentic, real selves and our most loving, positive spirits in order to be accepted or appreciated – that’s when we suffer the most.

How can you love and connect to yourself more deeply this year, and start letting out the more authentic, real version of who you are?

In 2018, I hope that “finding brave” in your life will also be a theme that will pave the way for more joy, fulfillment and meaning in your life, career and relationships.

Happy 2018 to you, with (brave) love.

For more about Finding Brave in your life, tune into my new podcast at FindingBrave.org  starting January 4th and work with me in a Finding Brave Life Mastery program.

 


9 Crucial Life Lessons I Wish I'd Learned 30 Years Ago

Part of Kathy Caprino’s new series “Finding Brave”

At 57 years old, I’m able to look back and view my life in an utterly different light from when I was 40, 30 or 20. So much of what I believed was crucial to my success and happiness when I was in my 20s and 30s proved to be erroneous and misguided. And most of those misguided notions were based on the “shoulds ” we are taught and hear every day – what society, our families, or the “group think” deems as “success” (meaning: make a lot of money, have a big house, rise to a high level in corporate America, strive for power and influence, etc.). The problem is that these outer measures of “success” simply cannot and will not give us the fulfillment, meaning and wholehearted contentment and peace we’re longing for.

Interestingly, I achieved all of those measures of success at one point or another, and literally none of them have come close to yielding the happiness and fulfillment I craved.

On the other hand, the endeavors that have made me who I am today (and paved the way for so much more joy and deep fulfillment) are all around experiencing wholehearted love, honesty, compassion, healing, building strong boundaries, mustering intense commitment, taking big risks, and bravely standing up for who I really am at my core, and making as good use of that in the world as I can.

I’ve seen in working with and coaching thousands of people over the past 12 years that it’s the very things that society warns us against, that tend to yield the most powerful returns in our lives. Society tends to subtly or overtly instruct us NOT to risk, NOT to follow our passions, NOT to rise up and speak up and stand up for authentic ourselves (if you’re a woman even more so) or do the “stupid” thing that you feel in your heart is the right direction for who you really are. But societal thinking is often dead wrong.

In looking back, I’ve found there are 9 powerful lessons of my life that I wish I’d understand long before now. If I had known these 30 years ago, I would have not wasted so much time and energy on the wrong choices.

The top 9 lessons we need to learn before midlife are: 

#1: Make a brave decision on what you want to stand for

I’ve worked now with hundreds of adult children of narcissists around the world, and many others who were treated terribly and emotionally manipulated as children and adults. When this happens to us as young children, our development is thwarted, and we find it very difficult to ever believe we’re “good enough” or to speak up and stand up for who we really are (or even to dare to figure out what that is.) Even if we weren’t mistreated as children, so many don’t take a stand on the life they want to live.

It took me until I was 41 years old to start standing up and speaking up powerfully for myself and my life, and never again will I let others define or suppress me.

Before it’s too late, you need to “find your brave” and make a powerful stand about who you want to be in the world, and what you stand for. It’s also time to STOP tolerating and allowing what you can no longer accept, in your life and in the world.

Make the decision today to become the person you will be proud and honored to be, so you have no regrets when the time comes for you to leave this life.

What do you want to stand for, starting right now? 

#2: Never compromise your soul 

There are things that it’s ok to compromise on – perhaps the size of your home, or the geographic location of your job, or the length of your commute, or where you’ll go for summer vacation. But it’s NOT ok to compromise your soul. If you do, disastrous outcomes will occur.

Know what keeps your spirit alive, and honor that with all you’ve got.

For me, that’s truth, transparency, compassion, strength and integrity. For years I couldn’t freely express any of those without punishment or suppression. If I can’t live those qualities in my work or my relationships, I start to wither, fail and disappear. But I’ve learned what’s required to honor my soul, and I won’t compromise it ever again.

What do you need to do to keep your spirit alive? 

#3: Engage your wisdom and discernment when you choose whom to love and trust 

The people you choose to enter into relationships with – be it through marriage, friendship, business partnerships, work colleagues and those you hire to work with and for you – will dramatically impact the quality and condition of your life. Don’t let people into your life who will hurt or demean, diminish and mistreat you. Simply don’t allow it. If you continually attract people who hurt or abuse you, you have to look at what is inside of you that needs healing so you won’t repeat or continue to hook into abusive patterns over and over.

Be incredibly discerning about who you will give your heart and trust to.

And if and when they violate your trust, care and respect, don’t wait to do something self-affirming and powerful about it.

Who is in your life today that you now need to move away from? 

#4: Don’t wait one single minute more to express and honor your creativity

For so many years, I didn’t see myself as creative – I thought of myself as the “money bags” for my family. I thought other people in my family and life were the creative ones. But that’s simply not true. I just hadn’t allowed myself to see what’s inside of me. Or more aptly put, I let so many of my creative abilities from my childhood and my teen years go underground – I didn’t understand how valuable they are.

Once I began to honor and nurture the creative force inside, my world changed overnight, and my work became a vehicle through which I could express my creative longings and abilities.

I’d be millionaire if I had a dollar for every professional woman who has told me that she’s dying of boredom and meaninglessness in her work, and that there’s a creative side of her that’s bursting to come forward.

The truth is this: Writers write, painters paint, dancers dance. Just DO the thing you’re desperate to do. You don’t have to throw your whole career out the window to honor your creativity. Just pick up that paint brush and start committing to painting, today. Just that step will improve your life.

What creative urge are you desperate to bring forward in your life today? 

#5: Get help when don’t have the strength or power to change what’s necessary 

This one is really simple. When you feel that you can’t do what you want to alone, then go get some help. Don’t wait. Reach out to a mentor, a friend, an ally, someone who loves and respects you, and sees the future vision of you before it’s hatched.

Don’t wait on the sidelines for years and years thinking “I don’t have what it takes to do this.”

The truth is, maybe you don’t have what it takes right now, but with the right kind of help, you will.

What help can you ask for right now in your life, to get moving towards what you really want? 

#6: Don’t break yourself against what is 

For years, I stayed stuck in lousy situations, jobs and relationships because I didn’t want to face reality – that I needed a BIG change in my life and in how I was operating in the world, if I wanted to be happy. I broke myself against my reality, instead of going with the flow of it, and changing course, or even making tiny pivots and revisions that would get me out of the bad scenarios I continually attracted.

Don’t break yourself against your reality – change it. And doing that doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Figure out some small steps you can take to take today to make a discernible difference in your situation, and start doing them.

What reality are you breaking yourself against today? 

#7: Heal your relationship with money and don’t poison yourself with it 

In looking back on what I learned about money as a child, and how I began to relate to it, I see now that I developed some very negative and unhealthy ideas about money. The worst was this idea: “I’ll always make a lot of money in my work, but I’ll feel like a prostitute doing it.” Meaning, I began to feel in my corporate life that the only way to make a lot of money was to sell my soul, hate what I did and the people I did it with, and compromise who I really was – to sell myself for the almighty dollar.

These negative beliefs will control how you relate to, and attract (or repel) money, unless you address your relationship with money and heal your money story.

Look back on your childhood and ask yourself “What did I learn from my family and childhood about how to view and relate to money?” Was it with power or weakness, secrecy or openness, shame or pride, courage or fear, love or hatred, resentment or happy expectation? Who controlled the money and who gave up control? When you write out your money story from the beginning of time until now, you’ll see patterns that are alive today that are keeping you from embracing money as a positive energy form in your life.

What is your money story, and how is it holding you back from a healthy relationship with it?

#8 Don’t waste one second of time on “should” 

As one who explores issues of gender identity, unconscious bias and conformity, I see so clearly now how society’s (and our “tribe’s) rules about what is feminine, and what women “should” do, be and act like, have been so constraining for me, personally and professionally. And I see now how expectations and projections about what is “masculine” suppress men from their authentic selves as well. I see too how my role in my family growing up led me to focus keenly on living up to what I felt others wanted of me, in order to make them proud or to feel loved and accepted.

All of these are the “shoulds” of my life, and caving to the “shoulds” (others’ expectations and demands on how you should live and behave) just can’t lead to a happy life.

As someone so wisely said, “Stop shoulding all over yourself.” Stop responding to what you feel is obligation, and start doing what you truly want to do, the way you want to do it. Then deal powerfully with the results and outcomes of that.

How are you behaving today that is all about “should” rather than what you authentically want to do? 

#9 Let go of the pain, anger and resentment 

Wow. I, like you I’m guessing, have experienced so much pain, anger, disappointment resentment and confusion in my lifetime. From relationships that devastated me, to jobs that crushed me, to colleagues who turned on me – I’ve experienced heartbreak that has brought me to my knees. And I know you have too. Life is full of incredibly hard bumps that can leave us broken and bloodied.

But life can also be so very stunningly beautiful, shining and radiant that you’re brought to your knees with amazing gratitude and humility at the sheer beauty and wonder of it.

I’ve learned that it’s a choice – to be either consumed with the terrible pain and anger, or to find a way to heal and release it.

To stay stuck, drowning in the poison of hate and devastated dreams, or to find it in your heart to forgive, see your part in it, let go, and move on to keep building a meaningful and rewarding life.

I’ve learned that holding onto the pain and anger misses the whole point of living. We didn’t come here, to this planet at this time, to spend our entire life here in a state of rage and disillusionment. We came here to learn, grow and thrive.

So, what pain and anger are you hanging onto that you need to release? 

I continue to learn these 9 lessons every day, every minute, but re-learning them has transformed my life. I only wish I had learned them sooner.

Which of these lessons resonates most deeply with you? Please share. 

For more information visit KathyCaprino.comFindingBrave.org and my Finding Brave Group Coaching Program.


5 Core Reasons People Resist Facing Reality Instead of Changing it

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Finding Brave To Build a Better Life

In talking this week with a friend with an extremely narcissistic spouse, something became even clearer to me than ever before: When we’re in an unhealthy, manipulative or demeaning relationship or situation but keep saying to ourselves “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” we keep ourselves stuck in pain and victimization. Our disbelief and/or resistance to the situation prevent us from taking the brave action we need to, to revise it.

When we can finally say, “I now see exactly what’s going on, and why,” then and only then do we have the objectivity and power to start moving forward to doing what’s necessary to protect ourselves and our lives.

I learned in my therapy training that “What you resist persists.” And while there’s always going to be some period of time during which we need to process what’s happening to us, emotionally and mentally, it’s best to stop resisting the reality of the situation as soon as you can, and stop beating your head against it. It’s much more empowering and growth-inducing to embrace the harsh reality with eyes wide open as soon as you can, so you can change your situation and your life, from an aware, empowered and courageous position.

In working with people to better their lives and careers over the past 11 years, I’ve seen that there are 5 core reasons people stay stuck in resistance rather than moving forward towards change. And sadly, this resistance can sometimes last a lifetime.

We think:

“This is not all that bad.”

I remember when I was in my most unhappy time in corporate life, I would try to hang on and keep soldiering through it by thinking “OK, this is bad, but it’s not always horrible. There are some good moments and experiences.” If I’m really honest, I can see that I did that because I didn’t want to leave behind the high salary I was getting, or the convenience of being very close to my home and my young kids. But the price I paid for that was enormous.

When we’re in damaging, painful or unhappy relationships, careers or situations, we often cling to the good moments – when it feels healthy, fun, or rewarding. We want desperately for everything to work out without our having to make significant changes, so we hold on too tightly to the times that aren’t awful, praying that the terrible experiences will just pass quickly, or be just an aberration.

The problem with this thinking is that,

 if you tolerate any amount abuse, mistreatment, or manipulation that makes you feel awful, you open the door for more of it .

No amount of physical, emotional, sexual, or other forms of mistreatment or abuse (or continual pain and misery) should be tolerated in your life. You have to fight to change the situation, and if you can’t do that by yourself, you need outside support.

“Why do have to be the one to change? They’re the ones in the wrong.”

I’ve heard this from thousands of professionals in horrible work environments as well as spouses or others in relationships gone wrong – they feel they’re in the right so they should NOT have to be the one to make any changes.

The problem with this mindset is that when you are experiencing people, events, and behaviors that are wrong for you, you alone have to be the one to take action, and not wait for others to change. Most likely, these others won’t change because they have no motivation to. You’re the one in pain, so you have the motivation.

The measure of joy, satisfaction and reward you achieve in your life will closely match the degree to which you are open to engaging in the brave work to create it.

“This isn’t fair.”

Many folks beat the drum of “This isn’t fair!” No, it probably isn’t. The reality is that life isn’t fair and expecting it to be is a waste of energy. Life is what we make it. If we wait for fairness to happen to us, we’ll most likely be crushed.

Fairness, respect, equality and being treated in positive, life-affirming ways are experiences we have to co-create by being strong, forthright, integrity-filled, honest, and brave – standing up for ourselves and others, and speaking up courageously for what we believe in and what we think we (and others) deserve. “Fairness” doesn’t just happen – we make it happen with our own actions and mindsets.

“I can’t believe they did this to me! I don’t deserve this treatment.”

Many people who’ve been mistreated, or who’ve been fired, laid off or somehow feel they’ve been kicked to the curb like garbage, and stay stuck in a cycle of disbelief and extreme pain, saying “I can’t believe this – I don’t deserve this.” They take it all personally, as if it’s an affront to who they are deep down, at their core. (I know I did, when I was laid off from my corporate VP role.) They fight against what happened as a way to defend and preserve their sense of worthiness, value and self-esteem.

Most often, however, mistreatment (or situations in which you’ve been let down in a big way) are more about the other person’s issues or the organization’s dysfunction and challenges that you’ve been swept up in. If you can stop taking it all so personally, and start seeing the full dynamics involved, you’ll most likely see a very different picture — of the full system you were embroiled in, why you were initially attracted to it, and why you need to separate from it now.

“This will somehow magically get better – they’ll (or it) will change on its own.”

Finally, I see this reasoning as one that keeps more people stuck in pain and misery than any other.

Most of us don’t ever want to change – we want whatever we have created to work out beautifully.

In fact, we expect it to and put all our eggs in that one basket. Especially when we’ve worked so long and hard to build a particular career, and sacrificed so much in the process. We’re often shattered when it ends up being the wrong one.

When this occurs, we’re bewildered, frustrated and highly resistant. We have magical thinking that if we just work harder, or longer, or give more of ourselves to it, the situation will magically improve.

But as we’ve seen, nothing improves without some critical shift that paves the way for a new way of operating or seeing the world. Magic has nothing to do with it. Change comes from seeing our situation with clear eyes, not taking it personally, learning what we need to, integrating that learning, then getting moving to create an entirely new experience for ourselves.

What thinking has kept you stuck in a situation that you now know you have to change?

For more from Kathy Caprino, visit her career growth programs and her TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up.


5 Ways BIG Change Can Boost Your Self-Esteem, Happiness and Success

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Finding Brave To Build Your Best Life”

Often, when I’m working with my clients or course members, the concepts we explore together take on a brand new meaning given what’s going on in my own life. Such was the case this summer. In late June, I underwent a massive change in my life, including selling our house of 16 years where we raised our children, moving (in the span of only a few weeks) from a country-like small suburban town in Connecticut to a bustling, diverse city with 122,000+ residents, dealing with big relationship shifts, letting go of so much from the past, and much more. The changes have rippled through every part of my life, and impacted literally everything about my identity and self-concept.

This was a voluntary, conscious move and plan for me, yet it’s still rocked my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. When we go through something this big (like a move, a change in relationship status, a serious illness, a loss, a firing) – whether it’s a voluntary choice or a move that’s has been foisted on us – we shift and evolve.

The question I think that’s important to answer is:
Am I growing stronger and happier through this change, or breaking myself against it?

I’ve found that if we’re extremely mindful and conscious about how we’re thinking, feeling, and addressing the challenges and changes, our life can improve dramatically because of it. Even those changes that we considered devastating and horribly negative can yield true blessings and amazing opportunities and developments that were not possible had the change not occurred.

Below are 5 ways that life-altering change boosts people’s power, happiness and fulfillment, if they approach it with positive, life-affirming mindsets and actions:

#1: You are able to see your own brilliance and the strength of your capabilities in a radically new light

When we stay unhappily stuck in one place for many years, we forget what we’re capable of – how strong, resilient, creative and resourceful we can be. We can go underground and suppress who we really are. We become highly influenced by the people around us, including their beliefs, actions, values and mindsets.

Have you ever found yourself living or working for years amongst people you simply don’t align with, or even respect and like? That experience – of being isolated and alone in your environment – can be crushing, yet millions are living it every day, whether in relationships that fail to fulfill them, or work that falls very short of what they want to do in the world.

When you take brave, bold action to leave behind a culture or environment that doesn’t fit, you’re finally free to soar and become who you want to be, consciously and with deliberate intention.

#2: You overcome challenges you believed you never could

I remember that towards the end of my corporate life, I was green with envy of consultants I knew who ran fabulous, lucrative practices and businesses of their own. I fantasized frequently about having my own business, and being free of the misery I experienced in corporate roles that didn’t fit me.

But deep down, I just didn’t feel smart, strong, or capable enough to make the leap. But when the tragedies of 9/11 occurred and I was laid off, I took that chance and said, “Enough! I’ve had it with this unfulfilling career that isn’t me. I’m going to create something that IS me that I’ll be proud and happy to engage with.” And I did it.

I stayed stuck and sick for many years because I never believed I was capable enough to thrive in my own venture. Now I know how wrong I was.

Change can help us see that we are stronger and more competent and capable than we believed. And it’s a thrilling revelation. (By the way, if you’re green with envy of someone else, that’s a warning sign that change is called for in your life.)

#3: You see clearly who your real friends are

When we undergo huge change, we often need some patient, powerful support and help from friends and loved ones to stay afloat and regain our footing. I’ve seen in my own life that some people whom I thought were close, enduring friends actually weren’t. They were only “fair-weather friends” who were attracted to friendship with me because of certain things I gave them, but weren’t there for me when the going got tough in my life. And I saw the opposite too – amazing friends and allies who would do anything for me in my time of need, offering beautiful help, love and support.

Seeing who your real friends are in life is a powerful gift. Take that gift and run with it. Don’t keep people in your life who are “friends” only because of what they can take from you.

#4: You learn to deal with people’s negativity, judgments and projections in a more powerful, life-affirming way

In my coaching work, I see brave women every day making huge changes in their lives, and when they do, they often face harsh, critical judgments from their “friends,” family and colleagues. Many of the folks I work with long to take a leap away from their unhappy corporate lives, and start their own compelling new venture, but their “friends” say things like:

“You’re crazy to give up your 9 to 5 job and great benefits in this market!”

“Are you sure you have what it takes to succeed in this new direction? So many fail at it.”

“Why do you want to rock the boat and try this? Can’t you be happy with what you have?”

I remember when I decided to leave corporate life behind and earn my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, one woman in the grocery store said, “Why do you feel you need to do THAT?” And even my financial consultant (whom I quickly fired) said, “You’ll never make any money doing that.”

Making big change threatens other human beings around us. People want to stay in the familiar, even if that familiar territory is killing their souls. And I’ve seen that when someone leaves their unhappy life or job behind, many of the folks around them become even more dissatisfied and angry because they’re watching someone else escape the pain and they long for that. (Here’s a helpful look at why we resist change and the factors that influence resistance).

Embracing change in an empowering way and following your own, authentic path helps you build stronger boundaries, communicate more bravely, follow your own heart and mind, and deal more effectively with all the naysayers, judgers and detractors.

#5: You become much more nimble and open to change in the future

Finally, making bold, exciting change is like exercising a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes. While not changing can feel easier and more comfortable, I’ve seen that this “comfort” can actually lead to mind-numbing unhappiness, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, victimization, fear, and utter resistance to growth. It can keep us in situations, relationships and environments that hurt us, but we’re simply too afraid to make the changes we need to in order to live the lives we long for.

But there are ways to make change more easily. The best strategy I’ve found is to first become extremely clear about the new life situation you want, and make sure it’s not about just running away from your pain. Take some time to explore it deeply and thoroughly in your mind. Journal about why this new direction will be more satisfying, and what types of help, support and information you need to make this change happen.

Then surround yourself with amazing people who are in “harmonious sympathy” with your desires and goals, who believe in the future vision of you before it’s hatched. Let them serve as your support team and accountability buddies, to help you navigate and stay the course of change, and buoy you with deep love and encouragement when the road to change gets a bit bumpy, which it will.

Once you make the dramatic positive change you’re dreaming of, life will look completely new, fresh and open.  And greater access to happiness, power and bravery will be yours.

For help to make change, visit my personal growth programs, download my new e-guide “A Surefire Plan To Figure Out What You Want” and tune into my Finding Brave podcast.


Are You Truly Open To The Signs That Help Is Near

 

Last winter, I learned of the powerful work and messages of Irish mystic, international bestselling author, and spiritual leader Lorna Byrne, and I was truly riveted. I was introduced to her work through the inspirational Mike Dooley (whose work I love), and was enthralled watching their video together. Simply put, Lorna is able to see and hear angels as clearly as the rest of us see humans. And she’s had this ability since early childhood.

As a writer and media person, I’ve watched countless videos, webinars, interviews and TED talks with international bestselling authors and thought leaders, and many are fascinating. But Lorna’s interview was something completely different – she resonates with the power of pure, loving energy like no one I’ve ever seen before.

During this past holiday season, I felt compelled to read all of her books including my favorite Angels In My Hair. I loved it so much I even listened to the 5-hour audio version as well, which was particularly mesmerizing because the narrator delivered it with a lush Irish accent, just as Lorna has. Lorna’s messages of love, compassion, kindness, and unconditional support from the angels made a tremendous impact on me.

I was so moved that I (bravely) reached out to Lorna and asked if she’d be open to doing a webinar with me, and lo and behold, she said “Yes!” Being able to converse openly with Lorna about her experiences with angels and the angelic world, and to be able to ask my most burning questions without fear, was a beautiful and transformative experience for me.

Here’s a look at our conversation Messages from The Angels for 2017:

When I learned of Lorna’s new book Angels at My Fingertips, I raced to buy it. I started reading it yesterday, and an amazing thing happened. In the beginning of book, there’s a long passage about how the angels (Lorna believes that each and every one of us has a guardian angel who is here to support us for eternity, even if we don’t believe in angels) are reaching out to us continually, doing their best to leave us signs of their love and support.

Sadly, most of us miss the signs completely, or don’t recognize them for what they are. According to what she has been told through her conversations with the angels, they often use bird feathers as a sign of their presence and support, and they leave them in unexpected places for us as a reminder of their love. But most of us never notice them.

In her book, she shares a story of a fisherman who’s deeply worried about the welfare of his family, and is asking continually for a sign from God that all will be well. His guardian angel continues to leave bird feathers for him, but he doesn’t notice. Until finally, he does. He stops, looks at it and puts it in his pocket. His guardian angel then embraces him.

Lorna mentions too in the book that as a young child, she was deeply longing to find a beautiful black and white feather, and promptly her guardian angel helped one appear for her.

As I read this, I was reminded of how stunningly beautiful it is to receive signs of loving, compassionate help in our lives. Whether you believe in the existence of angels or not, we all know that being helped by someone who is in loving, harmonious sympathy with our desires and with our heart and soul, is a magical, transformative experience.

I believe in angels and have been conversing with and writing to my angels for many years now. For me, it’s been a process full of love, learning and enlightenment. I don’t feel alone in the world anymore, even during the darkest, loneliness and most chaotic times.

Right after reading this passage of Lorna’s book, I took my 11-year old beagle, Lily, for a walk. Lily has been extremely stressed and overwhelmed this past month, as we’ve made a huge change, moving from a large house and property in the quietness and privacy of woods to a very busy apartment building in a bustling new city. During this big move of ours and after, I’ve been praying to the angels for assistance for Lily, to help calm and soothe her when she gets overly-stressed.

Ten steps out the door on our walk, I heard a loud, “urgent” chirping, much louder than chirping I normally encounter. I looked up to see what was making such a beautiful racket. I saw two sweet little birds on the branch right above my head. I then looked down at Lily, and this is what I saw at my feet:

I scooped it up and knew in my heart this was a sign, surprisingly not only for Lily, but for me as well. It was a reminder that we are loved, cared for and supported through this time of massive change. And for me, it’s a reminder to breathe deeply, be more present, to relax and just let go of all the worry and strain. I felt truly comforted and soothed.

I realized too that, like the fisherman in Lorna’s book, sometimes I’m just too preoccupied, harried and distracted to be present, to breathe deeply, and to open my eyes, heart and spirit to all the signs that loving help is right at my fingertips.

An amazing sequel to this story is that today, I looked down on the floor by my desk, and I found this laying there:

A second reminder!

This moving experience brought to mind several questions that I’d love to answer, and ask you to answer too:

What challenges are you facing right now that would be made easier with some loving support to help?

Are you truly open to the signs that support, love and compassion is very near — from this world and/or the angelic one?

Are you allowing yourself to be fully present for at least a few minutes each day, to breathe deeply, restore your calm and balance, and to see and embrace the signs of help?

If you were to get the kind of loving help you’re longing for, what might be possible for you?

Finally, where can you find that loving, compassionate and gentle help you need to get moving?

I hope you’ll answer those questions, and begin to open yourself to the signs of love and support that is at your fingertips.

Please share below the signs you see in the next week and month. I’d love to hear your stories!

To learn how to connect more deeply to your true spirit, check out my new Live Your True Spirit personal growth coaching program.

 


3 Steps To Building Stronger Boundaries and a Happier Life

Part of my series “Finding Brave To Build Your Best Life”

One of the most powerful concepts I’ve learned in my life emerged from my training as a Marriage and Family Therapist. It’s about boundaries – the invisible barrier that separates you from the world around you. Boundaries define who you are, and they keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Having well-developed, appropriate boundaries ensures that you’re protected from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful, or invasive. People with healthy boundaries know their limits and are able to enforce them with quiet strength and authority. Healthy boundaries—well-established limits regarding what you expect and need from others and what you will and will not tolerate from others’— allow you to move forward on a fulfilling and satisfying path, both at work and at home.

Those who have insufficient boundaries, I’ve found, have almost always experienced some form of emotional manipulation or trauma in their childhoods and upbringing. Children who’ve been abused or mistreated (emotionally, sexually, physically, etc.), for instance, experience a violation of their boundaries before they had the power or ability to advocate for or protect themselves. Unless we recognize this later in life, and do the necessary work to strengthen our boundaries, we experience ongoing mistreatment from others, and a great deal of pain, confusion, and unhappiness as a result.

Of course, we can’t control other people’s actions and words, but we can control our responses to them, as well as our actions in the face of language and behavior that violate who we have defined ourselves to be in this world.

If your boundaries are weak, others can and will find a way to get under your skin and hurt you, invade your privacy, suck your energy, drain your resources, and wreak havoc on your life. Another way to say this is that without strong boundaries, we allow people to drain us parasitically, taking from us whatever we’ll allow them to.

Healthy, strong boundaries ensure that you:

• Experience and demonstrate self-respect and respect of others

• Understand and articulate effectively the limits you’ve set for yourself

• Know unequivocally when your limits have been overstepped

• Determine with surety and confidence the actions you wish to take when your boundaries have been violated

• Live and relate well with yourself and others, and build a rewarding life that matches what you value and believe in

A few basic steps are required to strengthen your boundaries, and for many people I’ve coached and spoken to, particular those who had narcissistic parents or emotionally abusive childhoods, these boundary-strengthening steps aren’t easy or at all comfortable. Boundary development requires courage, strength, patience, and time, but it’s an essential step toward a happier, more rewarding life and livelihood.

The 3 key steps developing stronger boundaries are:

#1: Gain Awareness Of What You Need More Of

First, it’s critical to understand more deeply what you need more of in your life and work, and what isn’t working today.

Ask yourself:

What do I desperately long for? Perhaps it’s more time, energy, honesty, compassion, respect, care, commitment, or power?

Begin the process of exploring when you feel thwarted, angry, resentful, drained, and undervalued. Most likely your boundaries need bolstering in these situations. Is your boss demanding that you’re available 24/7? Is your spouse refusing to do his/her part of the necessary work at home to help raise the children or manage the household responsibilities? Is your friend demanding, selfish, and critical, unable to relate to you in a caring way? Is your parent horrible to you?

Once you recognize exactly what you need that you’re not getting, and what you’re allowing that is no longer tolerable, start setting clear and unwavering limits – both out loud and to yourself – as to what you desire and need from others to feel respected and valued, and what you will no longer stand for.

Take some time this week to think about your boundaries, then write down what your rules will be going forward in terms of what you expect, need, and will allow from others. Then communicate these limits to the outside world calmly, clearly, and unemotionally. Know in your heart and mind what the consequences will be if people don’t respect your limits. And don’t be surprised when people react negatively to your asserting your boundaries. After all, they’ve become very used to being able to walk all over you.

Here’s a personal example: I remember in my 30’s, I made a decision to finally walk away from the habit of gossiping or speaking negatively of others in the chronic and mean way I had done previously.  I realized that in my life, I would habitually engage in  triangulation –  an emotional manipulation tactic where one person who is not comfortable communicating directly with another person or dealing directly about something challenging, uses a third party to relay communication to the second individual, or to intervene and get involved somehow. This allows the first person to relieve his/her own anxiety by complaining about the situation, but prevents the individual from actually taking the brave, direct action necessary to remedy the problem. Instead a triangle is formed.

To ease my own anxiety, I’d speak critically about one friend or colleague who was upsetting me, to the other. I realized finally that this was a destructive habit fed by my own insecurities, and I knew it always came back to hurt me. But since I’d been doing it for years, the people in my life were used to engaging in this with me, and I needed to change that.

The next time a friend spoke ill of another in front of me, I said, “I know I used to do this in the past, but I’m working really hard not to speak ill of my friends, or gossiping like I used it.  I’m just not comfortable speaking about Terry this way. Would you mind if we changed the subject?”

While a few people got annoyed or offended, most not only obliged my request, but also seemed to respect the decision and began to realize themselves how speaking ill of their colleagues, friends or family members just didn’t feel right or helpful. In fact, it made them feel worse.

#2: Stop Pleasing Others In Order To Feel Safe

Many hundreds of women I’ve worked with, especially those who grew up with parents who were emotionally manipulative or narcissistic, discover that as adults they are striving desperately to please others as a way to either feel safe from punishment or to fulfill their own neediness.

Accommodation to others can be healthy and caring in the right situations, but for those who’ve been culturally trained to be pleasing and self-sacrificing (as many women are today in our society), it is a self-demeaning act, and can destroy our chances for a happy, rewarding and empowered life.

Why do people overly accommodate and acquiesce to another’s wishes?

The key reason is fear. People are afraid that approval and acceptance will be withheld if they are their most authentic, truthful selves. They’re deathly afraid that others will become angry or reject them for being honest (because it actually happened to them again and again in the past).

Many people fear too that they are not worthy, smart, or strong enough to stand up for what they believe. They believe that if they stop giving in to the needs of others, they’ll cease to be loved, needed, cared for, or accepted.

We learn this acquiescence in our early lives. Many people have adopted this behavior to survive their childhoods. Narcissism is now rising in epidemic proportions, and thousands were raised in homes that did not allow expression of true thoughts and feelings. Punishment, sometimes severe, ensued when individuals asserted themselves and enforced their personal limits.

Sadly, I’ve seen as a coach and therapist that if you don’t address your habitual pattern of over-accommodation to others, it just won’t change. This damaging pattern will remain for a lifetime, forever tripping you up in your relationships, work and personal life.

#3: Get Help To Break The Cycle Of Mistreatment Or Abuse

When mistreatment is occurring, we often need outside support to help us recognize what’s really going on, and to explore what needs to be changed, and get help to take safe, appropriate action.

If you are experiencing abuse of any kind, help is available. Reach out and get the help you need. In the workplace, if you’re experiencing mistreatment, stop in your tracks, and make an evaluation of what’s transpiring. Also look at how you may be contributing to or allowing the situation. If any of the statements below are true for you, then proactive, empowered action is called for.

• I’m being harassed and made to do things that feel wrong.

• I’m being passed over or not treated fairly continually because I’m ___ (female, gay, African American, middle aged, disabled, pregnant, on leave, etc.).

• I’m being back-stabbed and maligned.

• I’ve been promised things by my supervisors that I’m not getting.

• My work is being sabotaged.

• Money is being withheld from me for no reason.

• I’m being punished or blamed for things I didn’t do.

• I’ve been forced into a position that I don’t want.

• I’m being excluded from meetings and other informational sources and networks that are essential for me to succeed at my job.

• My reviews have been great, but I’m not being rewarded as promised.

• I’ve been asked to do unethical/illegal things for the job/company.

• I have to work around the clock to get my job done, and I don’t want to.

If any of the above is happening, mistreatment possibly is occurring, and proactive measures are needed. But first, try to get in closer touch with who you are, what you will and will not accept, and understand with more clarity what you value in life and work, and what your limits are. Before you can act powerfully, you have to gain awareness of what feels wrong and right. Become very clear now—evaluate in detail anything that feels like a violation, and why, and document it.

The next critical step is to understand the role you may be playing in this negative situation.
Have you communicated clearly your discomfort or your lack of agreement with what’s been happening? Have you said “Yes” when “No” was the real answer? Or have you shared your discontent in ineffective ways (gossiping, self-sabotaging, passive aggressive actions, etc.)? How are you potentially participating in this situation, and maintaining the cycle by not standing up for your convictions or enforcing your limits? What pieces of yourself are you giving away, to be liked, accepted, or rewarded?

Once you have a clearer idea of where you stand, reach out for help to get a fresh, informed, neutral (outside) perspective. This could be a discussion with a mentor, a sponsor, a lawyer, a therapist, coach, your Human Resources representative, your city’s Social Services Department — whatever is called for in your particular situation. Once you share your situation with them, evaluate their perspective honestly and openly. If it resonates as true, then decide what action is called for. If not, seek another source of support. Find help that feels right for you, but make sure you’re open to the truth, even if it’s very difficult to hear.

In the end, strong, healthy boundaries are essential in giving us the strength and power to design our lives and careers as we want them. Knowing what’s critical to you to lead a happy life, then braving up to take the necessary action to enforce those needs and values, is the difference between building a happy, satisfying life versus struggling continually with dismal disappointment and mistreatment.

To develop stronger boundaries, work with me in a personal growth program, read my book Breakdown, Breakthrough and tune into my new podcast Finding Brave.


Why Perfectionism Damages Your Life and How To Overcome It

As a career coach and consultant, I have the great pleasure of working with hundreds of top professionals each year who’ve achieved truly great things in their careers. Sadly, more often than not, these same high achievers demonstrate one key trait that wreaks havoc on their lives and work — their relentless drive to be perfect.

“Perfectionistic overfunctioners” as I call them, do more than is necessary, more than is appropriate and more than is healthy in both life and work.

They feel driven to exhaustion by all that they juggle, and they feel they need to get an “A” in all of it.

Their incessant drive for perfection generates chronic misery and physical challenges, harms interpersonal relationships and erodes self-esteem, robbing their lives and careers of the very sense of satisfaction and fulfillment they’re longing for.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Why do we strive for perfection?

Striving for perfection often emerges as a learned, adaptive behavior in our childhood. There are numerous conditions and situations in our family lives and our development process that encourage perfectionism, including:

– Having love and acceptance withheld by our parents unless an “A+” was earned in our achievements and performance.

– Being criticized sharply and chronically by authority figures, and being compared negatively to others when we didn’t achieve at the highest levels

– Feeling alone, scared and out of control as children, leading us to overfunction in order to gain control over a chaotic world

– Experiencing our parents or caregivers as unreliable, creating the need to overcome their disappointing and erratic behavior.

Whatever the root causes, perfectionism is an addictive, driven behavior that damages your life and career, keeping you from appreciating yourself, recognizing your own worth and value, and building healthy, nurturing relationships. Despite the coping mechanisms we learned in our childhood, when can overcome our need for perfectionism and our drive to overfunction.

Why perfectionism is damaging to your career

Being a slave to an insatiable drive for perfectionism limits your ability to feel joy, acceptance and satisfaction. It also keeps you from a full appreciation of others. In your career, perfectionism demands that you continually pursue validation — inner and outer — to tell you you’re “ok.” If “perfect” is your standard, you find it hard to feel safe, worthy or “good enough” unless you’re achieving some invisible standard you’ve created. You’re on the constant look-out for the next bar to jump over to prove your worthiness, and you become demoralized quickly when others are less than supportive to you.

Worse yet, perfectionists often experience the common dreaded “impostor” syndrome — the fear that if people saw the “real you,” they’d realize you’re a fake and you’re flawed.

Specifically, your perfectionistic behavior damages your career because it:

1) Makes you more difficult to be with, collaborate with and manage — your need to “win” or be the best alienates your colleagues

2) Hurts people — your critical and judgmental thinking and behavior can negatively impact others

3) Taints your judgment — your ability to manage people, projects and resources is altered because you see “perfect” as the only standard to strive for

4) Crimps your creativity — the creative process is not a clean, perfect, linear one and the “messiness” of creativity makes you uncomfortable

5) Puts up walls — those around you can sense your energy of edginess and your need to be perfect, which pushes people away.

In the end, if you’re a perfectionist, your ability to lead, inspire and engage others — as well as generate trust and loyalty — will be severely impaired.

If perfectionist overfunctioning describes your behavior, below are four tips for releasing your drive for “A” in everything:

Stop “overfunctioning” 

Examine why you believe you’re the only one who can do all that you’re doing, all by yourself. Get support from someone you trust and respect to see what’s holding you hostage in your need to do it all perfectly. Determine where you chronically take on more than your share, and begin the process of letting go today. For instance, identify several tasks each week that your children should be helping with, such as doing their own laundry and sharing the cooking. Request their help, and enforce it. Ask your partner/spouse for more regular support as well. Delegate tasks more appropriately to your staff members as well, so they can learn self-reliance and stretch their skills. Get more help from those who will grow exponentially by giving it.

Say “No” So You Can Say “Yes” to Yourself

Identify where you’ve said yes to projects, initiatives, endeavors and even friends and family because you thought you had to, in order to be perfect. Determine what you no longer wish to do (for instance, a volunteer project, a school task that’s become too much, participating in a committee you’d like to leave, etc.). Make this the year you say “NO” to what you don’t want to do. Stop trying to be everything to everyone else, and learn to give to yourself.

Get a “B” 

Identify an area that you’ve been working yourself to the bone to excel in only because you’re trying to win approval. It could be how late you stay in the office every day, or buying all the latest toys for your children when in fact you’d rather downscale your family’s spending. Determine the one area that will give you the most joy, peace and contentment if you could learn to live with less than perfection.

Tell a New Story 

What we say to ourselves — the stories we tell to ourselves and others — color how we experience life. It’s time to tell a new, more accepting and self-validating story. Engage in a brief inner dialog each day (perhaps during your morning commute or before bed) about your own self-worth, reminding yourself of the enormous intrinsic value you bring to the world, to your work, and to your family — regardless of the level of perfection in your achievements. If you can’t embrace your own self-worth on your own, get some outside support to assist you.

Remember, you’re not perfect — you’re human. When you can fully embrace your imperfection, and appreciate all that you are today, you’ll finally become the person you’re capable of being, and your career and life will thank you for it.

For more from Kathy Caprino, check out her personal growth programs, her book Breakdown, Breakthrough, and her TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up.”


How To Handle Being Insulted Online

 

Today, I woke up and took a look at my emails on my phone, only to see that I’d been insulted on LinkedIn.  The insult came as a response to a comment I made while sharing a post from my friend William Arruda on 7 Parenting Traits that Help Children Succeed At Work.

The parenting trait that I indicated was my favorite in the list was humility. I won’t dignify the insult I got by repeating it verbatim, but basically, the commentator smacked me down with a few sentences on how I don’t display any humility, so how can I say I like it?  And if I do “like” humility, what do I think it means? (insinuating that I must not understand the definition of it because I’m totally without it). And he’ll be happy to educate me on how I have no humility.

From the moment I read this insult, my morning was darkened.  I noticed I started to breathe more shallowly, and my head and heart starting churning with hurt. I agonized over what to do in response. Should I leave it? Should I respond? And if so, what exactly should I say?

As one who discusses every day the need for women to speak up more publicly and assertively, I felt that saying nothing was the weak way out. For me, not responding felt equivalent to not being the person I wanted to be.

But as I got thinking more about speaking up to this critic, I began having some post-traumatic stress around being hurt and smacked down earlier in my life, after speaking up or “showing up” in a bigger way earlier. Suddenly, I had a flashback of a series of scary, nighttime obscene phone calls I received as a teen girl after being a lead in a school musical, which made me afraid to go to school.

Then, I had a flashback of a very frightening time as a therapy intern years ago, when I asserted myself powerfully to one of my rageful, out-of-control male clients who had a violent past. His response made me feel that he might possibly harm or attack me (as we were alone in the office at that time in the evening). I was terribly afraid as my hand hovered over the red “HELP” button that, when pushed, would summon the police in a few instants.

All this to say that if I’m having these feelings and flashbacks after being insulted digitally — and I’m very used to having my work critiqued in the public eye — I’m guessing that many of you who are reading this can relate deeply to how awful it feels to be insulted online. Especially when the attack is personal and rips at your core personality and the way you engage with the world.

I’d love to share some info that might be helpful to you (and to me), going forward, in how to deal with being insulted publicly.

Here’s my take:

First, we need to get hip to what to expect

I put out a lot of content every week, and some of it is certainly controversial, so I’ve had to steel myself to accept that what I share will inflame some folks. In fact, I’ve come to see that that if I’m not getting people hot beneath the collar and agitated, I’m probably not saying much that’s different, important or helpful.

So lesson #1 for me has been that if I want to share my personal take on issues, especially deep and controversial ones, I simply have to be prepared for people to offer their own personal take that may be very different, and very emotionally charged.

And I also have to accept that I’ll be criticized, and perhaps not in a respectful way. That’s just the price we pay for speaking out and up about complex, important issues that have no easy answer.

Secondly, we have to realize that there are some people lurking out there who are true haters

Most of us are not haters. Most are kind, compassionate, and caring and have some empathy for other people, even strangers. And most of us don’t want to tear people down because we disagree with them.  Nor do we want to rip apart a stranger – we’re just not triggered in that way, usually.

But the anonymity of the internet has made us more cruel. We would be too naive if we didn’t understand that there are indeed haters in the world who are lurking online, wounded, waiting to pounce. They feel the need to rip someone down so they can feel better about themselves. Of course, that never works, but they’ll keep trying anyway.

I realize that this person who insulted me must have been reading my posts or watching my videos and something today triggered him to want to insult me.

I call these people “pouncers” – people who don’t have the courage and fortitude to engage openly, respectfully, and articulately, but just want to pounce and insult.

For these folks, I’ve decided I won’t waste my time responding. In fact, for haters who can’t engage in respectful ways, I’ll block them from my sites and profiles, and I’ll feel good about doing it. In other words, we don’t have to catch every ball that’s thrown at us.

Thirdly, if you want to show up – with your heart, soul and spirit fully engaged – and make a vivid, powerful and courageous mark on this world, you’ll have to learn how to handle critics.

As Brené Brown shares so beautifully in her talk “Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count,” Theodore Roosevelt offered advice that changed her life, and it’s shifted mine as well.

Here’s what Roosevelt shared, so wisely and powerfully:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So the final lesson about how to deal with being insulted online is this:

Understand that you don’t have to concern yourself (or give a second thought to) the hurtful critics who aren’t courageous enough to get in the arena themselves.  

You don’t have to take in their insults, or process them, or do anything at all with their hateful remarks, but eject them out of your sphere, for good.

In fact, the more you stew and fester about an online insult that was given solely as a way to hurt you, the more you open the door to being suppressed and diminished. Sure, take in true, constructive feedback from folks who want to help and encourage you to grow and learn.

But under no circumstances should we allow (or wallow) in cruel, personal insults that are all about the critics’ hate, and nothing to do with our own efforts to show up, be heard and make a difference.

So, I hope you’ll stay your course as I will mine – continue to be active in the arena, and share your messages, and your heart, soul and spirit openly with the world. Haters be damned.

For more from Kathy, visit her personal growth programs here, and her TEDx talk “Time To Brave Up.”


10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Children

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Parenting for Joy and Success”

In my 12 years of work in the helping professions, first as a marriage and family therapist then as a career and personal success coach, I’ve been absolutely floored by what I’ve heard parents say and do that severely damages their children.

In addition, I’ve learned through working with over 11,000 mid-life men and women who want more from their life, livelihood and relationships, that what their parents said and did to them many years ago dramatically influenced their own self-concept and their ability to shape their lives in satisfying ways.

It’s clear that, either intentionally or unconsciously, wounded parents wound their children.

The critical takeaway from my recent work with adult children of narcissists too is that the words you utter habitually, and the actions you take as a parent, can and will influence how your child thinks and feels about him/herself, potentially for a lifetime.

It’s so important to be extremely careful about the process and content of our parenting. For instance, if you’ve experienced pain and damage from your own childhood, you’ll want to get therapeutic help to learn how to better manage yourself, your emotions, anxieties, doubts, fears, and “power gaps” because your children will be impacted through osmosis. In other words, try as hard as you may to be supportive and productive in your parenting, your kids will do as you DO, not as you say, and they will integrate some terribly painful lessons that you didn’t mean for them to learn, if you’re not ever vigilant about how you behave and communicate.

I hope you’ll do your child an immense, life-changing favor and make sure you

don’t injure your own children with the trauma and baggage you were burdened with from your parents.

I’m a parent too, with my own set of childhood wounds and baggage, and I’ve made my share of mistakes and missteps, for sure. So this doesn’t come from a judgmental place – I’ve been there many times (struggling to be the best parent I can be). But it does emerge from years of working with people who have been traumatized by parents who, without knowing it, caused damage that isn’t easily healed.

Below are the 10 things I believe parents should NEVER say or do to their children, if they want to ensure their children grow up as healthy, happy, balanced, self-reliant, self-confident, and self-loving as possible:

Never say:

“Your idea (or you) are stupid.”

If you want to teach your children to think for themselves, you never want to give them the idea that their ideas are “stupid,” or that they are unintelligent and incapable of thinking for themselves. Instead, you want to help them build their own internal trust, capabilities and powerful decision-making abilities, so that they can work through new ideas and directions in an effective way that will bring them to the right course of action for the best life possible.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Again, great parenting is not about you needing to prove you’re right.  In fact, that’s poor parenting. Healthy parenting is all about helping your children address their life’s challenges in a confident, self-empowered way. If you tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’ll be shamed into being quiet, not expressing their thoughts and opinions, and they’ll begin to see you as someone who isn’t safe to share their inner most doubts and authentic thoughts with. Don’t belittle them for expressing ideas that may not be fully “baked” or fleshed out yet.

“You’re wrong to feel that.”

I remember years ago, a neighbor of mine screamed at her young son, saying “You’ll go to church today and you’ll like it!”  That’s not healthy parenting, in any way, shape or form. Sure, you may want to instill in your child a belief in the value of attending church, synagogue or mosque (or follow any other tradition) but you have no right to tell them how they should feel about it.

How would you feel if someone told you “you better be happy” about something that you were miserable about?

When parents insist that their children feel or think a certain way, it leads to one thing only: children believing deep down that it’s not ok to be who they really are. And they sense that they can’t be fully honest with you or reveal their true emotions.  What’ll happen then is that they’ll to stop telling you the truth, and stop feeling that the world is safe for them to be who they are.  And you really don’t want that, especially in the teen years where risky behaviors are all around them and you’ll want them to feel free to discuss things that scare them.

“You’ll never be able to do that.”

Truthfully, you have no idea what your child is capable of achieving in the future, even if you think you do right now.  I’ve seen people do utterly astounding and amazing things in their lives that their parents and others told them were impossible. Saying, “You’ll never be able to do that” is slapping them down and cutting them off at the knees.

Sadly, when you parent that way, you’ll also be cutting off some amazing opportunities in the future for them to soar and thrive. Don’t YOU be the one to tell them that they are not capable – there’s enough of that naysaying and diminishing, critical feedback in the world that surrounds them. Let them find out themselves what they want to pursue, and what they’re capable of.

“You’re too young to know what you want.”

I’ve seen in my therapeutic and energy healing work that we humans know and perceive things very accurately and deeply at a very young age. We DO know what we think feel and want. So when you tell your child that they don’t know what they want, you make them doubt themselves, and you undermine their belief in themselves, and they begin to question themselves at every turn.

As an empowering parent, you want to teach them, from a very young age, to honor what they feel and think, and to respect and work with that. Then, when they’re old enough to leave home, they’ll be much more able to choose positive and productive directions, relationships, career avenues, and other important events and experiences that will be beneficial in their life, without needing your or other people’s advice at every turn.

 “I hate you.”

We all lose our tempers sometimes and fly off the handle. We’re human. But using “hate” language is something we have to avoid. Telling your child you hate him crushes his sense of self, and is very scary for young child, and damaging for an older one.

Having a parent reject us can feel as scary as “death” because it taps into a primal fear that all humans have – of being abandoned.

If you’re so enraged and out of control that you want to say something hateful, you need to take a time out and absent yourself from the room and the situation until you can get it together, and speak more calmly, compassionately, lovingly and respectfully. You’re the adult – you have to act like one.

 “Why aren’t you more like your brother/sister?”

If you’ve had siblings, you probably know exactly what it feels like to be compared to your brother or sister. It’s bad all the way around. If you’re compared and come out on top, you feel guilty and ashamed for being more successful, pretty, talented, intelligent, etc. If you compare unfavorably, you feel “less than” and inferior – and that makes you angry, resentful, sick and feeling unloved and unappreciated.

Each child is a separate soul and a separate entity. Don’t compare them as a way to elicit the behavior you want. That creates conflict and tension, and often pits your children against each other in harmful ways that last a very long time.

 “You have no right to say (or think) that.”

Freedom of speech is a right that we fiercely uphold in civilized societies and civilizations. Every human being has the right to think and share what he/she believes, even if you hate to hear it.

It’s not a matter of “rights.” Your child has the right to think and feel what she does. But it IS a matter of respect, compassion, care, empathy, etc.  If you feel that your child or teen is not respectful to you, then address that head on. Tell them why their behavior demonstrates a lack of respect, and articulate clearly what you want and deserve instead. Set very clear expectations how you want your interpersonal dynamics to go with your child.

“I can’t wait until you leave.”

I hear this one a great deal, among parents who feel that their children and teens are exasperating and extremely “difficult.” The parents don’t know how to handle the challenges that the child presents, and they feel intense anger, frustration, and ineptitude and they want that pain to stop.  So they tell the child “I can’t wait until you’re gone.”

Think about how that’s perceived and felt from a child’s or teen’s perspective. It’s crippling because they’re just doing their best every day to try to navigate their own, very tough and anxiety-provoking challenges in today’s high-pressured world. For their own parent to be fed up and throw his/her hands up and say “I’m done with you,” is frightening and deeply saddening for a child. Even if you think your kid is “tough” and can take that kind of comment, don’t utter it. You’re the parent and you need to demonstrate that you can effectively handle what life is throwing you and your family.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

As Brené Brown talks about in her work on vulnerability and shame, shame is an “unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.”  She shares that  “shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel—and the one no one wants to talk about. If left to its own devices, shame can destroy lives.”

There are so many other ways to communicate that your child needs to revise his/her behavior – shaming is not the way to go. Talk about how the behavior hurt someone, or how it’s not appropriate for the situation, or it reveals irresponsibility or a value that you think the child might want to look at more closely. But don’t shame them.

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Do these behaviors hit home for you? Which ones do you struggle with most? Know that you’re not alone. Please share below.

For more about healthy, productive parenting, join Kathy in her Parenting For Success and Joy private coaching program and read her posts on Raising Self-Confident Children and  Effective, Empowering Parenting.


Why We Wait So Very Long To Do What Feels Right

 

Throughout my 34 years of working, I’ve experienced one very chronic pattern –  I’ve tended to wait far too long (years, in certain cases) to do what I instinctively knew was right or that I deeply longed to do. Whether it was staying in business partnerships or relationships that somehow weren’t right for me, or remaining in jobs I disliked intensely, or resisting having the critical conversations with people (including my bosses) that would change everything, I somehow found myself NOT doing what I wanted to, often until a crisis hit that pushed me to make a bold move.

Turns out, this experience – of waiting years before doing what you long to — is a very common practice among thousands of people around the world (I know because I hear from thousands a year asking for help about this).

I’ve discovered too through my research that women fall prey to this much more than men. Through my training as a therapist and energy healer, and working with so many people in my coaching programs and courses, I’ve become much more aware of this tendency, and can now see it more clearly for what it is – a deeply-entrenched fear of nurturing ourselves, and a fierce resistance against bravely honoring what we believe will make us happy, and ACTING on it.

Why do we hold ourselves back from doing what feels right?

Below are the top 5 reasons behind our not speaking up, standing up or braving up to take the actions that will create a more nurturing, rewarding and satisfying life that aligns with what we believe and want deep down:

You question if you’re right to have these thoughts and feelings

Using my life as an example, I waited years too long to take action, because I questioned if I was “right” to think the thoughts I had. For instance, after leaving corporate life and becoming a therapist, I found that the therapy work for me, while rewarding, could be very dark and disturbing. I didn’t want to be in such close proximity every minute of the day with the darkest experiences of human life, including rape, incest, pedophilia, child abuse, drug addiction, depression, and suicidality.  So much despair and pain was wreaking havoc on my own life and it colored my personal experience in many ways. My boundaries just weren’t sufficient at the time to experience all this pain and not have it bleed into my own life.

But I felt very badly about thinking about leaving therapy as a profession and I doubted myself. I asked myself over and over, “What kind of true helper and healer am I if I leave this line of work?” So I didn’t leave, for years. Until a crisis occurred (a client called me one morning to tell me she was going to kill herself that moment by “wrapping her car around a tree”), and I realized that I needed to make a change.  And I’m so glad I found coaching, teaching, writing and training.

I use all my therapy experience and knowledge every minute of every day in my coaching and teaching work, but my professional identify and role has shifted to something I love much more, because I finally honored what I felt, deep down.

Others may disagree with your thinking, so you doubt yourself

So often, my clients tell me that they doubt what they believe or know to be true because others tell them that they’re wrong. I’ve learned this – if you listen to other people about what you should want and what they think is best for you, and refuse to make yourself your own highest guide in all things, then you’ll suffer and life won’t go well.

After all, you’re the only one on this planet who knows everything about you and can make the best decisions for where you want your life to go.

You don’t want anyone to be upset with you, and standing up for yourself upsets people

This is a terrible problem for so many women – we don’t want to upset anyone by our actions or words. We’ve been societally trained, many of us, to be people pleasers – to do, act, appear and speak in ways that are pleasing, comfortable and supportive of others.

The problem with that is that it stifles our independence and strength, our ability to think our own thoughts and act bravely on them, especially if they’re going to be upsetting or angering to other people.

Again, you can’t live the life you’re meant to if you never want to upset anyone.

As a writer, I’ve seen that if you’re not upsetting someone with your ideas, you’re probably not saying anything very important.

You are afraid of change or starting over because you don’t want to lose ground

Many folks know what they want to do, but are deeply afraid and resistant because this new direction will represent some form of a “loss” – of money, status, self-esteem, position, security, etc. So they don’t make the move, until something forces their hand.

The question we need to ask ourselves in these cases is this:

“What are you giving up (what is the true cost) of you’re NOT making the move you dream of and that you know will, in the end, suit you better? What are giving up by staying where you are?


You somehow (subconsciously) are compelled to remain attached to not loving yourself, because that’s exactly where you’re most comfortable

Finally, I’ve seen over and over that, due to pain and damage in our childhoods where we weren’t validated, seen, loved, appreciated or recognized as valuable, we’re more comfortable stuck in pain, disappointment and unhappiness.  You feel more comfortable and familiar with what it’s like to give up on yourself, to play the victim, to hand over your control and to make excuses for all the reasons you can’t have life as you want it.

But once you see exactly how your subconscious sabotage is keeping you immersed in pain and regret, and even self-rejection, you’ll never again agree to keep yourself stifled and suppressed.

Are you ready to start finding brave and finally do what you’ve been longing to all these years?

Join me in my FREE webinar “How to Unlock Your Most Thrilling Life and Livelihood” on March 2nd at 7pm EST, and learn how to finally honor what you know to be true about yourself, and do what you’ve been longing to.