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On shame, turning 40, and turning inward.

It is the summer before my 40th birthday and I am sitting at my kitchen table trying for the life of me to pinpoint the exact moment that I first felt ashamed of who I was. I can’t remember a precise moment per se but I do know that I was young. Very young. Likely partially inherited (my mom was no stranger to shame) and partially learned, shame is something I have carried with me for as long as I can remember. And as I sit here with my laptop at the age of 39 and 3/4’s, I shudder to realize how much of it I still carry with me.

Although less frequent now, the waves of remorse and embarrassment still hit from time to time, usually initiated by my being too loud, too obnoxious … too much.

My too muchness was something I learned about early and although I wasn’t always successful, it is something I worked hard to contain. I strived to be petite, polite, blonde, and quiet. Although laughable now, my first writings as a young girl was where I got to be anything I wanted – anything but me. In real life, petite is the only one I pulled off, but my energy always made up for that. And my ‘too muchness’ always found its way out, usually in loud desperate bursts.

At my core I can recognize that I really just wanted to feel accepted. To feel loved. But in each eager attempt to gain approval and connection, I only reaffirmed the truth I was trying to escape – that I didn’t quite fit. My search for belonging led me down some dark paths. I self-medicated, I gave away my body, I loathed every piece of who I was. And, as is so often the case, my behaviour and the resulting consequences only reinforced the narrative that I had adopted as a young child – that who I was wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I was forced to relook at things and make some changes. If I couldn’t love myself for myself, then I was going to love myself for the little being growing inside me. Fake it ’til you make it, as they say. And although things certainly improved and I managed to stop my self-destructive behavior for the sake of my child, I still struggled to fully accept, love, and embrace who I was.

At some point along my journey, directly or indirectly, I learned that I was not good enough. And I believed it. I learned that I could not trust myself so I had to turn to others to tell me who to be, how to act, how to look, and how worthy I am.

And although it is normal to seek approval from others, and adapt our behaviour and our appearance to please our community, it is important that we tap into our own knowing first. That little voice deep inside that tells us when we are being true to ourselves, and when we are not.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if that shame that I felt all of those years wasn’t so much a result of not fitting in, but of betraying myself. That deep down I knew that I was abandoning who I was and with each step I took in the other direction, with each poison I ingested, and with every abuse I willingly endured, I became immersed in more shame and self-loathing. And the more I sought answers outside of myself, the more lost I became.

Now, sitting here in my kitchen, I can see that one of the biggest things worth celebrating as I approach this next birthday is my return to me. My commitment to trusting myself first, before others. And making a promise to myself that when I feel the flood of unease wash over me, it is not a sign to scramble or to please, but one to turn inward. To the knowing that has been there all along.

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On Little Dog Syndrome and Boundaries

The other day I was out and about and decided to pop in to see a prospective client and say hello. Now this client is a fairly new prospect so I don’t know them well and as I walked into the store, I was pleased to see two little dogs running up to greet me. I am a huge dog fan so I was completely taken by surprise when, as I reached down to greet the little furballs, one of them bit me.

It wasn’t a big bite by any means but it was enough to break the skin and although the nip took me by surprise, what was even more shocking was my reaction to the whole thing, which was … nothing. I did nothing.

Okay, that isn’t entirely correct. I DID comment on how cute the little bugger was and had a quick chat with the owner, all while hiding my hand behind my back so she wouldn’t see the blood.

That’s right, I hid my hand so she wouldn’t see that her dog had bit me.

When I got home later that evening, I told my fiance what happened.

“Why didn’t you say anything?!“, he said.

I don’t know. I didn’t want to upset her, I guess.”

“That is weird, Christine. Who cares if she got upset? Her dog bites. What if he does that to a kid?!”

And that’s when it really hit me – he was right. It is weird. Not only is it weird but it speaks (loudly) to something I have struggled with my whole life – speaking up for myself and holding boundaries.

Now obviously, I could have reacted to the little nip in a variety of different ways. I could have yelled, stormed out, kicked the dog, or I could have done the most reasonable thing which would have been to say, “Your dog just gave me a little nip. Not a huge deal, but I did want to let you know since you have him in your business.”

But for some crazy reason, the idea of saying something like that makes me feel like my skin is going to crawl right off my body. And apparently, I would rather hide my bloodied hand behind my back than potentially inconvenience someone by telling them their dog has a case of the ‘bites’.

What. The. Hell.

Although this incident was super minor, it marks how much I still struggle when it comes to speaking up for myself. This is something I have worked hard on for years and whether it was as simple as saying “No, I can’t lend you money.’ or something as big as “No, I don’t want to have sex.“, putting my needs, desires, or feelings above other’s has been something I have always battled.


I know I am not alone in this problem and that women in particular are taught to keep quiet and be nice, no matter what. But I’ve got to say, this really pisses me off!

I think part of my problem is that despite the fact that I have been working on establishing healthy boundaries for years, I have also been determined to do so gracefully. It is quite common for people who have struggled with establishing boundaries their whole life to take things a little too far when they first start and I have been hellbent on NOT becoming one of those people who ‘speaks their truth’ ALL THE TIME.

(Come on, you all had someone pop into mind, didn’t you?!)

Establishing boundaries is scary, especially at first, and sometimes it feels easier to come at it guns a’blazin’ and with teeth bared. Much like the little dog that bit me.

Essentially, people who are new to establishing healthy boundaries are much like dogs with ‘Little Dog Syndrome’. They are scared and insecure and often display an unnecessary level of fiest when trying to establish a perimeter which is not to be crossed.

This is something I wanted to bypass completely. I wanted to go straight from doormat to having confidence and self-assurance without having to experience the annoying lapdog learning curve.

Maybe I was out to lunch thinking I could avoid this stage or maybe my learning process will just take a little longer this way. More likely though, I just need to cut myself some slack. Confidence and self-assuredness are not static and neither is our ability to effectively hold and communicate healthy boundaries. We will have good days and we will have bad days. We will have little dog syndrome days and Doberman days. But one thing I know for sure is, I’m committed to this process. I am committed to taking deep breaths and treating myself with as much respect as I do others. And that includes being gentle with myself when I mess it up.

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A is for anger. And also anxiety.

**Disclaimer: The below blog is probably one of my most vulnerable ones to date. But, I think it is worth it. Perhaps someone reading this will feel a little less alone or find the courage to reach out for help. When we share our stories and silence our shame, we encourage others to do the same and if there is one thing I wish for you all, it is that you carry less shame.**

I remember the first time I really lost it on my kids. I’m not talking about getting a bit snappy with them, yelling a little, or having a ‘mommy meltdown’, I’m talking about full blown RAGE. The kind of anger that overtakes you like a tsunami, taking your breath away and leaving you gasping, sobbing, and absolutely exhausted. It was, of course, completely undeserved and although I tried to repair the damage I had done through apologies and gentle hugs, the guilt and shame I felt that day rocked me to my core. I chalked it up to a bad day and tried to carry on but then, it happened again.

Although thankfully not common, these anger outbursts occurred sporadically over the years and each time, I was left feeling more guilty, more exhausted, and more confused than the time before. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I mean, yes, each time there was some sort of trigger or stressor but they were always minor, nothing warranting a blowup of that magnitude. And stranger yet, it always seemed to come out of nowhere. Just like a tsunami, the wave would strike out of the blue and we (myself included) all just had to hold on to whatever we could and wait for it to pass. In those moments, I felt completely out of control.

Jekyll and Hyde.

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that I finally began to gain some insight into these bursts of rage and was able to start to heal things a little bit. I was sitting in my counselor’s office, unpacking my shame around having put my children through yet another outburst when my counselor gently interrupted me, “Christine, when this happens, you aren’t a monster or a terrible mother. You are having a panic attack.”

I burst into tears.

As she went on to explain the correlation between anger, anxiety, and trauma, I found myself relieved, scared, and confused all at once. I knew that I had struggled with anxiety for much of my life and I considered myself fairly well-versed in mental illness. I had plenty of friends in the field, had access to lots of resources and mental health professionals, and had even taken psychology courses in college, yet I had been completely oblivious to the fact that bouts of rage could be a symptom of unmanaged anxiety and trauma. In fact, prior to that appointment, I would have told you that although I struggled with anxiety, I was lucky enough to have never experienced a panic attack. I thought that panic attacks were the classic heart-racing, clammy, hyperventilating that you see portrayed in movies and on tv. I had no idea anger could be present.

Realizing that I was not just a terrible mother allowed me to let go of some of the shame I had been carrying. But it also empowered me. Through therapy, meditation, and at some points, medication, I have learned the cues my body gives me to let me know I am on edge (turns out, there are a lot of signs). I have learned what is happening in my brain in those moments of panic (fight, flight, freeze), and the steps I can take to try to intercept it. I have learned the importance of decompressing, knowing my limits, and taking space when I need it. I have learned to tune in, even when it is uncomfortable, and to communicate with my family when I am struggling. I am now able to offer myself some grace and compassion while also holding myself accountable for managing my anxiety disorder.

If I were to guess, I would bet that anxiety will always be a part of my story. But now, I get to choose how it gets written. And I want my story to be one of vulnerability, healing, and hope. I can’t take back any of the mistakes I made in the past but if my kids learn anything from me, I want it to be that we are not defined by our mistakes … we are defined by what we choose to do with them. I want them to know that we may not be able to choose all that afflicts us, but we can choose how we manage it.

life, Uncategorized

Those problems you have … it might just be you.

I turned 39 a few days ago (holy Eff!) and in honour of the big day, I wrote a Facebook post reflecting on all that has changed over the past couple of decades. Birthdays tend to bring out my naturally contemplative nature and this year was no exception. The post was basically about how drastically things have shifted in my life, and how extremely grateful I am that they have. (Twenty year old Christine wasn’t exactly fast-tracked for success).

When I look back and examine what changed, I found something interesting. Now aside from just growing up and naturally maturing, I was blessed with some amazing people in my life. They picked me up, dusted me off, and sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming along the way. (I am exceptionally grateful for the people who have had my back and supported me over the years.) But there is another piece to the puzzle, one that played a pivotal role in my turnaround. It seems that somewhere along the way, I finally started to see myself as a participant in my own life. Someone who was not just a poor down-trodden victim, but who had choices and accountability.

(mind blown)

I may seem flippant right now but I am dead serious. I was someone who made terrible choices, very rarely took responsibility for them, and hid behind excuses, blame, and self-pity. I viewed life as something that was happening to me. And if I am being completely honest, these patterns are something I still have to be mindful of as they can pop up from time to time.

Now I am not trying to beat the crap out of myself here. I was also always a really good kid. I was caring, generous, and empathetic but like many people, I was the product of a tumultuous childhood and struggled deeply with abandonment issues. As a result, I ended up creating a story in my head that I became very attached too. A story that served me in some way at the time.

Or so I thought.

Since my story was rooted in trauma and shame, I would actively seek out people or experiences that reinforced my feelings. I made poor choices, and put myself in situations that would support my beliefs – which were that I was worthless, undervalued, and always getting ‘shit on’.

So, how did that serve me? Well it didn’t. But looking back, I can see that I received attention and sympathy which is something I craved as a child. Also, as no one expected much of me, I had a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’. But I was oblivious to all of this at the time. In fact, I was completely unaware that any of that was my choice. I just thought I was a big ol’ loser with terrible luck. Little did I know that none of that was true at all. No one was shitting on me. In all reality, I was running around looking for piles of shit, rolling in them myself, and then feeling sorry for myself cause I smelled so bad.

I was, quite literally, my own worst enemy.

I’m not going to lie, realizing that many aspects of my crappy life were my own doing didn’t exactly inspire feelings of warmth and hope. I definitely rocked a shame spiral for awhile there. And pulling myself out of it didn’t exactly happen overnight either. Accountability is hard, as is self-forgiveness. And looking at my life and realizing that much of it was my own doing definitely required forgiveness. Taking ownership sucks. It was so much easier to blame other people or make excuses for my circumstances. BUT, when I did start taking responsibility for my life, and finally decided to sit in the driver’s seat, it was amazing how many opportunities opened up for me.

Now, I want to clarify, I am not saying that really hard things don’t happen. We experience loss, sudden change, trauma, and pain. Some of us much more than others. Life will throw curveballs and we are entitled to have emotional reactions to them. But what I am saying is that oftentimes, there is still an element of choice. We may not be able to control everything that comes our way, but we can choose how we manage it and how much of it we make our story.

One of my dearest friends Rebecca was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 9 years old. It is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, joint disfiguration, and affects mobility. This was obviously devastating not only for Rebecca, but her family too. She dealt with extreme physical and emotional pain as she tried to navigate her teenage and young adult years managing a disease that very few people her age could relate to. Rebecca had every reason to feel angry, sorry for herself, and hide behind excuses but when she was 29 years old, she decided that that was not going to be her story anymore. She still deals with extreme physical pain every day but she gets up and chooses to hold herself accountable for the life that she wants. Rheumatoid arthritis is still a part of her story, but it isn’t the headlining act anymore. She is not ‘Rebecca – the woman who struggles with arthritis‘, she is ‘Rebecca – the Entrepreneur, Life coach, Published author, Public speaker, and creator of the Ignite Women’s Conferences‘. She is my hero and I think of her every time I get caught up in my own head.

We all have stories and not all of them are negative but it is imperative to be aware of them. We need to remember that we have choice and that if something isn’t serving us anymore, we can choose differently. If you find yourself experiencing the same conflict or problem over and over again, whether it is in your marriage, job, or friendships, I can promise you that 99% of the time, the problem is YOU. You are likely subconsciously seeking evidence, situations, or people that support a negative narrative in your head. And for that to change, you have to be willing to heal it and let it go.

Letting go of an identity we have been holding onto for years can be scary, and it can be painful. Don’t be afraid to access help if you need it. (Seriously, reach out to Rebecca!)

If you find yourself becoming aware of a particular pattern in your life, explore where it might be coming from and how it might have been serving you. The first step is awareness. Also, don’t forget to be gentle and forgiving of yourself. I really struggled when I looked around my mess of a life and realized that I was the only one to blame. We are all just doing our best and offering ourselves some compassion and understanding for how we got where we are is a sure way to fast track getting over it. Lastly, you may find pieces of your story still pop up from time to time. Even years after you think you have dealt with it. I still find piles of shit to roll in sometimes. And I still fall into the pattern of blaming other people. This is not a linear journey and it can often be ‘one step forward, two steps back’. But keep calling yourself on your crap. Keep holding yourself accountable. And hold the people in your life accountable too. They will thank you later.

Remember, this is YOUR story, you hold the pen, and you can re-write the chapters anytime you like.

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life, Uncategorized

Happiness – create it your damn self

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Whether it is the mild weather, the fact that fall fashion really works for me, or that it is the season in which I was born, I just feel good in the Fall. It always feels like a fresh start to me, a second ‘New Years’ of sorts. I find that I start hibernating a little more, getting more contemplative, and setting goals for myself.

This year’s contemplations and goals are focused much more around my mental health and outlook than they have been in the past. Perhaps this is a normal part of maturing, or maybe it is a result of the current events we have been facing, but I find that I am much more focused on my ‘happiness’ now than I have been in previous years.

Of course, happiness has always been on my radar. Everyone wants to be ‘happy’. All you see on social media is people #livingtheirbestlife. But my focus lately has been finding and creating happiness in my life NOW, rather than promising myself I will be content when …

  • I finally get in shape
  • I start making more money
  • My book is complete
  • I get into my dream house
  • etc., etc., etc.

Now there is nothing wrong with having goals. In fact, they are crucial. The problem is that so many of us rate our satisfaction in life with how close we are to reaching our goals.

I think we all ‘know’ that happiness isn’t something that you can buy but we still seem to get trapped in that loop that says ‘As soon as I get/have/accomplish …., then I will be happy.”. In the meantime, we shuffle along, feeling ‘semi-content’ with our lives but with our sights laser-focused on an end goal (the house, the partner, the body, the promotion). An end goal that never really seems to come, because if/when we achieve it, it isn’t enough. There is always another goalpost.

We view happiness as a destination, one which we will arrive at when we have achieved enough, accumulated enough. And while accomplishments and milestones do bring a wave of happiness, they tend to be short lived, with genuine happiness being found in the connection and the small moments of day-to-day life.

Now, I do believe that money and the feeling of mastery (feeling as though we are good at or doing well at something) can contribute to mental wellbeing. Afterall, if our basic needs aren’t met, it becomes a lot more difficult to pursue or perceive happiness in our lives. As per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see below), food and shelter trump everything. But I do think that beyond that, it is relative.

I think we can all think of someone who seemingly ‘has it all’ yet is as crusty as they come – always griping about what they lack or striving for the next best thing. Similarly, I think we can all think of someone who may not have a lot, yet seems to relish in the small moments of life.

The bottom line is, we create our own happiness. Nothing outside of ourselves, good or bad, has the ability to have a long term effect on our happiness, unless we let it.

“Happiness is an inside job.” – William Arthur Ward

So, what gives? How do we balance having goals and striving towards them while not letting them dictate how satisfied we are day-to-day? How do we find the ever-elusive happiness that we seek?

Well, I am no happiness expert. In fact, I’m not sure I am an anything expert. But this is something that I have been working on, on and off, for years now and I do have a few tricks that I find really helpful when it comes to finding happiness. ***Hint: You don’t find it. You create it your damn self.***

Here goes …

#1 – Stop numbing everything. I know, I know, I am about to get super lame here and tell you to lay off the ol’ wobbly pops. Trust me, no one was more resistant to this idea then me. J’adore le vin! Buuuut, one cannot guzzle copious amounts of a depressant every Friday night and then wonder why they aren’t feeling 100% in the mental health department, you know? Although touted as a tonne of fun and the answer to all things, alcohol is not good for us mentally or physically and giving myself a little break from it has been a game changer in terms of my outlook and general happiness. I am not saying we should never indulge in a drink with friends, but I am saying that we should be aware of how often we do it, and why. When I really examined when and why I was drinking, I found that the answers were ‘anytime’ and ‘for any reason’. I was using alcohol to cope, grieve, celebrate, soothe, entertain, excite … let’s be honest, I used it for anything. Taking a step back from booze has allowed me to actually feel and process my feelings. My mind is more clear, I have more energy, and my mood and sleep are better. I am not numbing anymore. Am I still going to enjoy drinks with friends? Of course! But I am going to be more mindful about it. Besides, no one looks back on their fabulous life and says, “You know, my only regret is that I didn’t drink more.

#2 – Get Connected. For real. And not electronically. Connection is one of the most important factors when it comes to happiness. So much so that it ranks pretty highly on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Feeling supported, desired, loved, and cared for literally has the ability to support not only our mental health, but our physical health too. I’m not talking about being around a lot of people, or even conversing with them. A person can be in a room full of people and still be the loneliest person in the world. Connection is about vulnerability. It is about sharing all the little bits of yourself, even the shadowy parts, and feeling that someone still has your back. It is having someone to cry with or phone at 4am. Social media and electronics have been both a blessing and a curse in this department as they have made it easier to interact with people … but that doesn’t necessarily equal connection. Your funny meme or cute selfie might get a lot of ‘likes’ and make you feel good but it tends to be short lived and doesn’t fill your happiness cup in any sustainable way. So put down the phone and spend time with people who love you. Share the embarrassing childhood story. Talk about your worries and your fears. Laugh. It will light you up in a way that lasts way longer than how many followers you have on Insta. Promise.

#3 – Practice Gratitude. I remember when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I went through a stage where, every day, I would choose one thing that I was excited about. Every morning, I would sit my tiny butt down and consider what my ‘one thing’ would be for that day. I clearly remember looking down at my hand and seeing one of those chintzy little rings that you get from the dentist for being good and deciding that that was going to be my ‘one thing to be excited about’. Some days it was getting to go to a restaurant with my mom or staying up past my bedtime, and other days it was getting to have a playdate with a friend. It was always simple (after all, I was only 7), and it always made me feel good. At the time, I had no idea that I was actually practicing gratitude. I would reflect on my day and consciously focus on what I liked or what went well. I was, without knowing it, training my brain to seek out the positive and appreciate the little things.

Gratitude is still something I practice every day and in my opinion, one of the keys to creating happiness in our lives.

My advice – do it every night before bed and get specific. It becomes easy to rattle off “I am grateful for my house, food, air .…” and although it is important to be grateful for those things, the real magic is in the details. Take a few moments and really reflect upon your day. What happened that you are grateful for? Did someone let you into traffic? Did your co-worker buy you a coffee? Did your partner do the dishes? It doesn’t have to be grand. And I promise you that when you start listing things, more and more things will start popping to mind. I also do this whenever I am in a bad mood. I instantly start mentally creating a gratitude list and while it may start out feeling difficult, once I get going, it just flows. And my mood instantly lifts.

Also, pay attention to your perspective. Here is the deal, what comes out of our mouths can be an excellent indicator as to what is going on in our heads. If you find yourself bitching and complaining a lot, chances are your mind is not a very happy place. The good news is, you can change it. Just like gratitude, we can literally ‘practice’ looking at things through a positive lens, and eventually it will become a habit. We can train our brains for positivity. That is not to say we need to be ‘Positive Pollyanna’ all the time, it is okay to get ticked off from time to time. But if you notice that you are feeling ticked off more often than not, chances are the world isn’t crapping on you and … you are the problem. Whenever I notice myself bitching and complaining non-stop, I try to slow things down, give myself a breather, and consciously focus on changing my outlook.

The bottom line is, happiness is really quite simple and much more often than we realize, it is a choice. It isn’t a result of getting more money or finally getting the big promotion. It doesn’t come ‘when the kids get past this stage’ and it is not found at the bottom of a bottle. It is in the little moments that we often overlook. It is connection, appreciation, and sometimes, even chintzy little rings from the dentist.

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Saying ‘hell no’ to the hustle

I’m going to be honest, I kind of feel like I have been failing at life lately.

Between work, household chores, writing a book, blogging, raising human beings, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life … I am about ready to explode.

I feel as though I have several balls in the air right now, none of which I am doing a particularly good job at managing.

Now, before you come at me with your validation, reassurance, and your ‘Don’t be hard on yourself, You are doing your best‘s’, let me explain … I am not doing my best right now. I haven’t been doing my best for a while and I know it.

I can feel in my gut when I am giving something 100%, and right now, I think I am hovering at 70% in most categories. Probably 65% in the housework department, if I am being completely honest, with self-care coming in at a dismal 10%. (Yikes)

I am exhausted. And I am in a cycle of putting just enough effort into things to keep them plugging along … and that’s about it.

And here is the thing, I am willing to give myself some grace because … it is a lot. I have a lot going on. I don’t need a hero cookie or a medal because, quite frankly, everyone has a lot going on and I am no more overwhelmed or busy than anyone else. But I am able to recognize that I have a full plate. A plate that I am very much grateful for.

I think the piece that I have been struggling with lately is, something’s got to give. I either need to find a better way or I need to put down one of the balls.

And I love all of my balls. (I am also a 13 year old at heart. I totally giggled as I typed that.)

But in all seriousness, how on earth can I choose?! How do I let go of something that I love in order to be able to make more room for something else that I love?

And let’s face it, some things (most of them actually) are not even options. I can’t say, “Kids, I’m taking a little vacay from parenting so that I can devote more energy to my job. Be good, okay?’

I can’t quit my job or stop doing laundry and dishes (as tempting as that is at times). And my self-care is already in the tanker. (Don’t be surprised if I roll up to your BBQ with unshaven legs and unkempt hair.)

So that leaves my passions. My book, this blog, the things that light me up … which quite frankly, don’t feel like options either.

So what to do?

Well, my first reaction was, ‘Suck it up, Christine. Quit sniveling that you have too many projects on the go and get to work. If you want it bad enough, make it happen.’

And to be honest, a part of me still believes that. Going after goals is work. The bigger the goal, the harder the work. No wildly successful person will tell you that they got where they are today because it was easy. They will tell you it was freaking hard but they made it because they didn’t give up.

But here is the thing, if you burn yourself out by trying to do too many things at once, you are guaranteed to not reach ANY of your goals, let alone one of them.

I recently wrote a blog about how I work towards goals and combat overwhelm. If you haven’t read it, you can check it out here. I wrote about how I reach goals, the importance of giving yourself some grace, and that bad days happen. But I have since realized that I forgot one of the most important steps of all.

Boundaries.

The bottom line is, the ‘hustle hard’ trend that has been circulating the entrepreneurial world in recent years can be dangerous. It implies that if you really want to make something happen, you will. And if you can’t, you must not be working hard enough.

‘Hustle hard’ tells us to work fulltime, exercise, eat clean, raise great kids, have a fantastic relationship (don’t forget the sex!), have a great social life (don’t forget the selfies!), have a hobby (and excel at it!), and look fantastic while doing it all. It tells us that not only is this possible, but it is sustainable and SEXY.

What a load of shit. Seriously.

This is why we have a bunch of people with anxiety, exhaustion, and addiction issues.

We have to stop trying to do everything, all at once.

I was on the phone with a close friend the other day and we were discussing the ‘habits and goals’ course that we were about to start creating. (I mean, I am already overwhelmed with work, kids, writing a book, and maintaining a blog … why wouldn’t I add course creation to the roster!? After all … hustle hard.)

“You know Christine, we don’t have to do this course right now. We can wait until things slow down a bit. We both have a lot going on. What you think?”

“Omgoodness, I totally think we can do it! I don’t actually think it will be too bad. We’ve got this!”, I rebutted quickly.

But then I stopped. I could feel it in my gut. A buzzing anxiety about the fact that I was about to throw another ball into the mix. One more thing. One more ‘I got this!’

So I asked myself, “Okay slow down a minute here. Can I really do this? And if I can, am I going to be able to give it my all? Can I offer this course, and my friend, the attention they both deserve?”

The answer was no. Could I do it? Probably. But could I do it well, and without it taking more from my family, my work, and my mental health? NO.

Boom. There was my boundary.

And man, did it feel good. Checking in with myself, being honest, and making the choice to do what was best for me and my most important balls instantly made me feel lighter.

I still want to do the course. And I will. When I am able to give it 100%.

Until then, I am going to work on having stronger boundaries. I am going to listen to my gut and think about whether or not I can actually take on more projects, before just diving in. I am going to resist the urge to ‘do it all’. I am going to practice saying no without feeling guilty. I am going to delegate. I am going to priotize. And I am going to put a few things down, for now.

I am driven. I have lots I want to do. But I am learning that I will be way more effective if I protect my time, energy, and emotions.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. And my mental health is so much more important than the hustle.

Setting boundaries, saying no, and pressing pause isn’t indicative of failure or laziness.

In fact, oftentimes, it is the key to success.

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Uncategorized

Self-help: less talk, more action

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with self-help.

A part of me is a straight-up self-help junkie. I devour all the books, podcasts, and conferences that I can get my hands on. I love the teachings, the inspiration, and I work hard to incorporate the things I learn into my life.

But then there is the other part of me. The part of me that honestly finds all of it to be just a little too much. The buzz words, the psychobabble … I just can’t. Nothing brings out dramatic eyerolls from me quite like phrases such as ‘speaking my truth‘, ‘holding space’, or anything that references ‘leaning in‘ and ‘authenticity‘.

Newsflash, ‘speaking my truth‘ sounds like an overblown way of saying ‘here is my opinion‘. And ‘holding space‘ is basically a fancy version of saying you are ‘being supportive‘.

Perhaps I am just triggered by everyone’s authenticity and need to lean in to the discomfort and get grounded. (insert eyeroll here)

Seriously. It is a little too much sometimes. And don’t even get me started on yoga teachers who tell me to ‘breathe into my side body‘. Like, come on … who comes up with this stuff?!

K, rant over. Promise. (And to my yoga teacher, I’m sorry you had to hear it this way and I really do love you)

The bottomline is, psychobabble aside, a lot of this stuff has changed my life. And like anything, I don’t need to love it all. I can take what I like and leave the rest and that is exactly what I do. Besides, what do I care if someone says ‘holding space‘ or ‘being supportive‘? The intent and message is the same so I try to mind my own business and keep my eyerolls to myself.

Anyway, lately, with all of the covid-19 happenings, along with social isolation, I have found I have been consuming even more self-help material than usual and becoming more aware of what works for me … and what doesn’t. One of the things I have realized is that my frustrations with the self-help world have less to do with annoying buzzwords, and more to do with feeling inundated with information but then not understanding how to effectively use most of it.

When I look back, one of my biggest problems along my quest for self-improvement has been to do with goal-setting. When I really gave it some thought, I realized I was putting a tonne of effort into making goals, but then very little effort into making sure I actually accomplished them.

It is great to write out lists of dreams and cut apart magazines to create brilliant vision boards but if all I am doing to follow that up is sitting on my couch and drinking chardonnay out of a mug … I probably shouldn’t be terribly surprised if my big dreams don’t come to fruition, you know?

I’ve written on the topic of accomplishing goals before but one thing I was missing is how important it is to be aware of the steps we are actually taking to achieve them. We can visualize our dreams, manifest, and ‘speak our truth‘ all day long but unless we are actually following that up with action, we aren’t going to see a lot in the results department.

When I sat down and really looked at my daily habits and routines and asked myself, ‘Are these taking me in the direction I want to go?’ … I found the answer was an overwhelming, ‘not really’.

I mean, sure, I would write … for a few days. But then I would get discouraged. Or distracted. Or busy. And it would fall to the wayside.

I would eat healthy for a couple of weeks. But then friends would visit from out of town. It would be someone’s birthday. Or some sort of holiday. And I would fall off the wagon.

Everything I did was so willy nilly. So half-assed. And I realized that unless my big dreams involved some sort of certification in Netflix-watching, I wasn’t making any consistent moves towards my goals. My actions were not in line with my desired outcome.

That is when I realized the importance of what I have affectionately dubbed ‘goal-stepping‘ – the act of taking concrete, measurable steps every day to ensure I will reach my goals. (I also figured I might as well get on the buzz word bandwagon and invent one. If you can’t beat them, then join them, right?)

I think that one of the places that we get stuck when going after goals, at least where I do, is in the overwhelm. Let’s face it, when approaching a daunting goal such as starting a business, writing a book, or losing 50 lbs, it can be hard to know where to start, let alone maintain the motivation to keep at it. Add in multiple big goals and it gets even worse. We might take a couple of cracks at it but then it gets hard and all of a sudden a mug full chardonnay seems a heck of a lot easier, and pretty darn appealing.

The way I tackle overwhelm, and my #1 goal-stepping technique, is something I have adapted from the numerous self-help champions that I admire such as Rachel Hollis and Mel Robbins. I take 2 minutes every morning and write out my goals (I do my 5 year goals). Then I choose ONE small thing I can do that day that will take me a tiny bit closer. Depending on where I am at and how I am feeling, some days it might be as simple as writing an email to my Publisher, other days I might set the task of writing a chapter. Giving myself one task, rather than overwhelming myself with several, makes me so much more effective and able to accomplish much more overall. Whether the day allows for a small gesture or a giant leap, either way, I am taking one step in the direction I want to go.

The beauty is, oftentimes, that one step leads to another. (#goalstepping)

And here is the deal, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes, I find myself back on the couch, working towards my Netflix certification. We will have bad days, bad weeks, or sadly … sometimes even bad months. And that is okay, cut yourself some slack. But then, dust yourself off and get back at it. After all, you are the only person who is going to get yourself where you want to go.

So, keep your eye on the prize but don’t fall victim to overwhelm. Use all the psychobabble and buzzwords you like, but don’t forget the action! Do one thing everyday that will get you a little bit closer to your goal(s). It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. When we approach things in small measurable tasks, it is amazing what we can accomplish.

You know what they say … How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So go ahead, take one tiny bite each day. I promise it will be a gamechanger.

And I’ll be here, holding space if you need me 😉

life, Uncategorized

Overcoming Myself

So I was recently asked to speak at a women’s conference. Now when I say I was asked to speak … I mean on stage, for almost an hour, all by myself … in front of 200 women (and women can be judgy!).

I know, I know. What the hell was I thinking?!

And here is the real kicker, saying I was asked isn’t entirely accurate. I actually offered to do this. You see, I just helped a friend organize her very first women’s conference. I have always been a sucker for a good event but this one was AMAZING! It was inspirational, it was moving, it was uplifting. Women danced, cried, and laughed. And when it was done, I said “Gee, that was cool. I think I want to speak next year!”

After all, I have always dreamed of public speaking. Now, I am known to be a bit impulsive. I tend to jump into things, guns a’blazing, without a lot of thought. But, this was going to be a LONG way down the road (a whole year! That’s a long time for someone with ADD!) so it didn’t really feel like a big deal. I mean, why the hell not, right?! I had lots of time to figure it out and more importantly, lots of time to bail if it got too scary.

So when my friend called me and said “Let’s do another event! Do you think you will be ready to speak in a few months, rather then next year?” …. shit got real. All of a sudden, this very far off thing that I would have plenty of time to bail on … was right around the corner. And all of a sudden I had to get very serious about this public speaking dream I had.

The whole concept of me speaking at an event isn’t totally uncanny. I mean, let’s face it, for those of you that know me, I always have LOTS to say. In fact, it can be difficult to shut me up. But … what the heck would I even talk about?!

Now initially, I had planned to talk about overcoming fears. After all, I was about to overcome a few of them with this whole public speaking thing. The big one being fear of rejection. But then something else came to mind – the topic of accomplishment or success.

A bit of an odd topic perhaps as I am certainly not the most accomplished individual in my peer group. At least not by traditional definitions. And I am certainly not claiming to be an expert on success/achievements. Lord knows I have a long way to go before I can start advising people on anything other than how to make darn good nachos or how to binge-watch the entire first season of the Mindy Project on Netflix in record time.

BUT there have been times in my life that I have been darn near unstoppable. I have set my eye on a goal and let NOTHING stand in my way. It’s like I suddenly hit the ‘Christine sweet spot’. And then, of course, there have been times when no matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to find my way around hurdles, muster up the motivation, etc.

So, over the last little bit, I have been paying attention and examining what things I do that facilitate my seemingly unstoppable successful moments … and what things I do that have me running into the same brick wall over and over again.

And what have I discovered? What is the recipe for my my ‘sweet spot’? Well, the first thing I realized is … there is a big difference between determination and desire.

When I look back on the goals that I have accomplished in my life, they all have one thing in common – I was bloody determined that nothing was going to stand in my way. Not money. Not people. Not circumstance. Nothing. There really wasn’t even a question of ‘if’ I was going to attain my goal. There was no other option.

Whereas, there have been times in my life that I have not been successful. Where no matter what I have tried, I just couldn’t get on top of things. The reason being? I only ‘kind of wanted’ to achieve whatever the goal was … I wasn’t determined.

For example … I want six-pack abs. I would love to be able strut my stuff in a bikini and hear people gasp over the washboard that is my stomach. How bad do I want it? Well according to how often I eat nachos and watch Netflix … not that badly. You see, I come up with excuses, injuries … all sorts of bullshit that prevent me from achieving my 6-pack goal. Because the bottom line is, I have not made up my mind to do it. I’m just not that into it. Let’s just say it’s in the ‘wouldn’t that be nice’ category.

So what’s my point? Well, for me, realizing the difference between determination and desire allowed me to let go of some of the shame and guilt that I was attaching to some of these ‘failures’. And now, the first thing I do when writing down goals, creating a vision board, etc., is ask myself “Is this something I want? Or is this something I WANT?!” When I am honest with myself, I can either move forward guns a’blazin’, or I can take a look at what might be getting in my way. Which brings me to step 2 in ‘Christine’s recipe for success’ …..

You gotta unpack your luggage. Here’s the deal, sometimes what is holding us back from going after a goal isn’t a lack of dedication or resolve. Sometimes it is good old fashioned self-sabotage. Maybe we think we don’t deserve good things. Maybe we have a fear of failure or success. Maybe we think we aren’t smart/talented/attractive enough. Whatever it is, it is a bunch of b.s. We all have these sorts of messages bumping around in our heads (usually from childhood), and they prevent us from going after and achieving our goals. And just like the pile of laundry currently taking over my couch … ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have to deal with it.

How you deal with it is up to you, try journaling, go see a counselor, talk to friends … maybe even try interpretive dance! Just don’t (for the love of Gawd), avoid these things. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, trying to avoid crappy thought patterns or feelings is just like trying to avoid the border patrol while entering another country. First of all, good luck. Second of all, when they do catch you (and they will!), it is going to hurt so much more. Approaching these things head on is so much better. So unpack the crap, figure out where it originated, deal with it, and leave it in the dust where it belongs so that you can move forward with your goals. Which brings me to my next tidbit …

The power of visualization. Now this one is a big one for me because it helps me in two areas – getting very clear about what it is I am after, and getting my brain in ‘the zone’. One of my favorite speakers of all time (Mel Robbins. She is amazing!) brilliantly stated “In order to create what you want, you have to be able to state what you want.” Basically, you need to get specific. The more specific and detailed you are about your goal, the more likely you are to be able to achieve it. Now I have found this to be so true, and it is particularly important when dealing with broader goals such as ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I want to be a better mom’. It is pretty hard to achieve something if you aren’t even sure what it looks like or you have no idea where to start. My favorite visualization technique (also courtesy of Mel) that I use to get around that sort of thing is to work backwards. For example, if I visualize myself at a 10/10 in the ‘parenting department’, what does that look like? Well, for me, I see someone who has an unplugged mom/kid date once a week. I see someone who eats family meals together, who is involved in their kids schooling/activities, etc.

Now I have something to work with! My goal is more defined and I have some steps that I can actually take to help achieve it (plan an outing with my son, call and make an appointment to talk to his teacher, and get the whole family involved in a meal plan/dinner schedule.)

The other beautiful thing about visualization is, the more time we take to imagine ourselves where we want to be, the more our brain gets in the zone to actually make it happen. There is lots of research that says, when we visualize doing something, it activates the same areas of the brain as if we were actually doing it so in essence … visualization is as good as practice!

BUT, as hunky-dory as this all sounds, there is a big possibility that we will hit roadblocks when going after a goal. Which leads right into one of the most important pieces of all ..

FAILURE – it’s going to happen. At least sometimes. One of the biggest reasons people don’t succeed is that they give up when they first meet failure. They throw in the towel and say things like ‘It wasn’t meant to be.” or “I’m not talented/smart/good enough” etc.

What a load of crap.

Almost every wildly successful person in the world failed multiple times before reaching success. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school 3 times. Oprah was told she didn’t have a future in television. Micheal Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Imagine if they had all given up when they first tasted failure?! And I get it, it can be hard to wrap our heads around examples like that. I mean, come on, it’s Oprah! But we are surrounded by countless ‘real life’ stories like that too. Ask your family, ask your friends. I guarantee you that the people you respect most in the world, have failed. Probably a lot. So, get cozy with failure. Get okay with the idea. Replace the word with learning. And for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t give up.

Oh yea, and don’t forget to count your successes too. Sometimes we get so caught up on the big end goal that we lose sight of the small wins along the way. It really is about baby steps and each step we take, no matter how small it seems, is a step closer to our goal.

Which brings me to my last key ingredient(s) – accountability and empathy. Here is the deal – we are responsible for our lives. No one else. Every decision we make either adds or takes away from our dreams and our happiness. But we’re also human. We are going to mess up. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to falter. And that is okay. It is important to be kind, loving, and forgiving towards ourselves , while also taking ownership for where we are at and where we want to go. It is a bit of a balancing act between offering ourselves a little grace … but still holding ourselves accountable for what we want in our lives. After all, the only person responsible for our happiness, is us.

So …

Define your goal – get clear about what it is you want.

Unpack your luggage – stop lugging that stuff around. Get help if you need to.

Use visualization – not only to help you get clear but to help train your brain.

Get cozy with failure – it is learning.

Celebrate the successes – Rome wasn’t built in a day, baby.

Be accountable – but gentle.

And work effing hard – no one said it would easy.

But it is worth it. I truly believe that when we are willing to put in the work, we can accomplish anything we put our minds too.

There you have it. Christine’s recipe for success. If you want my recipe for nachos I am willing to share that too. They really are the best.

In the meantime, I’m going to go visualize myself giving a speech …. alone, on stage, in front of 200 women.

Something tells me I am going to have to unpack some luggage first.