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What are you looking for? Cause that’s what you’ll find.

I don’t know about y’all but I really struggle with winter. The dreary weather, the short days, the amount of clothing we have to put on just to ensure that we don’t die going outside … Seriously, I cannot figure out what there is to like about it.

But Christine, you should try skiing, you will love ….’

Let me just stop you right there. No, I will not love it. I will not love it because I have made up my mind not to love it. I have made up my mind that winter sports are too cold, too dangerous, too expensive, and just plain stupid. Just like winter – stupid.

Okay, I am being dramatic. But sharing my ridiculous opinion of one of nature’s most magical seasons is a great example of the power of our perspective. Because in actuality, the only thing wrong with winter is my attitude towards it.

Our ability to choose our perspective or the lens through which we view the world is one of the most powerful gifts we possess. And, in my humble opinion, one of the most overlooked components of personal development.

If I told you that you have the power to control how your day goes, just by paying attention to how you choose to perceive it, you would likely scoff at me. But it’s true. And yes, it is very much a choice. The problem lies in the fact that many of us are so entrenched in a negative pattern of perception that we are often completely unaware that it is even happening.

We all know people who are perpetually negative. The ones who are always complaining about the traffic, their annoying neighbour, or how much dog hair gets on the couch when their sister-in-law brings her dog over … the people who love to highlight what is going wrong with their day. These people are usually kind-hearted, functional members of society but likely just unaware that they are looking at the world through gross, smudged up, fingerprinted glasses. And the real kicker is, if you pointed out how negative they are, you would likely get a response like, “I am not! I just hate it when she brings her dog over!”

Biologically-speaking, negativity is actually very normal as the human brain is wired to hang out on the more negative side of things. We have what is called a ‘negative bias’ meaning that our brains remember and react more strongly towards negative situations than positive ones.

We are literally born negative, winter-hating cranky pants which means we need to work a little harder to train our brains for positivity. Simply becoming aware of what ‘lens’ we are looking through or practicing gratitude through finding one positive for every complaint (ex: noting the joy on sister-in-law’s face when she looks at her dog) can be a great place to start in terms of shifting things toward a more positive outlook.

Sometimes however, things can be a little more complicated. Sometimes our negative patterns stem from old wounds and fears that we have not addressed yet. My disdain for winter doesn’t come from a childhood wound, that is just my choosing to be miserable when the temperature drops below 10 degrees. But my perception of relationships that I carried for many years, which was that I was always overlooked and undervalued, was very much related to childhood pain.

Overcoming past trauma and holding ourselves accountable for our lives is something that I have written about before. They are topics that I feel very passionately about, mostly because I have spent the last several years working on them. If you had told me 15 years ago that I was choosing to view my relationships through a lens of self-pity and victimhood, I likely would have lashed out at you. I felt incredibly justified in my hurt and anger, and to be honest, I had some very valid reasons behind it. The problem was that by not dealing with the pain and fear I had experienced as a child, I carried it with me into all of my future relationships, projecting it onto situations where quite frankly, it didn’t belong.

The lens that I viewed family relationships through was tainted and it skewed my view of things to support the negative belief that I held in my head, which was that I was not enough, and that I was not valued. Essentially, what I saw in my relationships is exactly what I went looking for. I ended up only seeing the evidence that supported my negative story. It was like my brain put a giant spotlight on anything and everything that would reinforce this belief that I was clutching so hard to. The crummy part is that it also seemed to overlook anything to the contrary. Any person or circumstance that made me feel valued was often brushed aside, or followed by a ‘Yea but ….“.

I responded to relationships from a place of pain and even though that pain was valid, in order to change my relationships, and my perspective of them, I had to heal it.

Becoming aware of my patterns and admitting that I was responsible for much of what I had previously blamed on others, was painful. As was confronting the wounds that lay underneath. But man, was it worth it.

Now when I catch myself in a pattern or telling the same story over and over again, I ask myself, “Is this true? Or is this an old wound talking?“. This doesn’t mean that any conflict or hurt I experience is all my fault but by examining my perspective, and being willing to look at the role that I might play, I give myself the power to make change. Either by dealing with an underlying wound, setting a firm boundary, or choosing a new lens to view the situation through.

Shit happens, there is no doubt about that. And we are allowed to have bad moods, bad days, and emotional reactions to things that piss us off. We are also allowed to have boundaries and hold others accountable when they hurt us. But, if there is a pattern popping up in your life, whether it is a disdain for a particular season or repeated conflict with a family member, don’t be afraid to take a step back and ask yourself, “what is really happening here? What role might I play?”

It is important to examine what we are looking for because whether it is reasons to be annoyed or reasons to feel blessed, nine times out of ten, that is exactly what we will find.

PS. I’m still find lots about winter that I don’t like, but I’m working on it. It is okay to be a work in progress too.

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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

The shine in our shadows

“Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow.” – Debbie Ford

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in personal development. When I was a teenager my Uncle introduced me to the work of Tony Robbins and, although ol’ Tony wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I quickly realized that the world of self-help definitely was. I loved learning how the human brain worked, what made us tick, and most of all, I liked the idea that I could change all the little bits of myself that I didn’t like. I loved that, with a little help, I could be different. Someone better.

Now I know that there likely isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t struggled with self-acceptance at some point. In fact, I think it is normal for anyone, at any age, to have a personality trait or characteristic that they don’t love about themselves. Perhaps we feel as though we are too opinionated, too strong-willed, too quiet, or too boring. For me, this characteristic has always been my energy level and hyperactive nature (ie. I can be a little too much). I have always been exceptionally enthusiastic and energetic and, as charming as that quality can be, it tends to be best tolerated in small doses. Kind of like blue cheese or kalamata olives.

As a kid, my mom was always telling me to ‘bring it down a notch’ and commenting that I ‘never stopped talking’. (which is true, by the way.) I used to drive teachers up the wall with my chatty, distracting nature. And at times, my excitability could cross the line into rudeness.

Growing up, I became embarrassed and ashamed of my spirited tendencies. Although I had a lot of people delight in my energetic nature, I also knew that I drove a lot of people nuts and I often wished I could reel it in a bit. Tone it down, if you will.

As a young adult, this is something I worked hard on. I often tried to imitate the poised, professional manner that I so admired in my colleagues. I would try to present myself as even-keeled, stoic, level headed, and organized. (I can literally feel anyone I have ever worked with rolling their eyes right now.) Just because I tried, does not mean I was successful.

The thing is, it never worked. The more I tried to deny or hide my excitable nature, the more it would find a way to come out. And often, in even more obnoxious ways than usual. I would get excited and interrupt a client, burst into my boss’s office while they were in a meeting, or drop an enthusiastic F-bomb at the most inopportune times (such as during a moment of silence at a funeral).

It was never pretty and it was always followed by intense feelings of shame. (Gawd, Christine, you are so annoying! WTH?! Pull it together). 

What I have since realized is that my problem has never been my excitable nature. The problem has been my attitude towards it.

I was in my late 20’s when I first watched the docu-drama ‘The Shadow Effect’ by Debbie Ford and learned the importance of not only accepting the ‘shadowy’ bits of ourselves, but to find the gifts within them. And that when we fight or deny these traits that are an innate part of who we are, they will find a way to come out anyway, often causing us more grief in the process.

When I reflected on my earlier years, I was able to see that this is exactly what I had been doing: Holding shame around a particular characteristic, trying to hide or ‘fix’ it, and then having it blow up in my face in obnoxious ways. And, when I finally started to accept my energetic nature, and explore it a little bit, I was able to see that it actually holds a lot of gifts. It is part of what makes me good at sales. It helps my writing. I can be lots of fun to be around. And if I had pursued a career in cheerleading, I think I would have done really well. The bottom line is, there are a lot of good points to having the energy of a ferret that is high on methamphetamines. And as it turns out, when kept in check, my energy is one of the things my friends and family love the most about me.

Embracing our shadow isn’t an excuse to be a jerk. I don’t get to run around interrupting people and dropping F-bombs at funerals because I am excitable and hyper. I still need to hold myself accountable and act appropriately. But when I accept all of who I am, and stop pretending to be something I’m not (ie: organized and even-keeled), I open up space for the light to shine in.

Whether our shadowy side is that we are bitchy, opinionated, lazy, or quiet, there are benefits to those traits. But when we deny those bits of ourselves, we miss out on the positive aspects and make the negative ones so much louder.

Self-acceptance isn’t just about accepting the fluffy, easy to manage parts of ourselves. It is accepting the prickly bits, too. And, when we do, we might find that they aren’t so prickly after all. Maybe ‘bitchy’ turns into ‘fierce’, or ‘opinionated’ turns into ‘passionate’. Just like the two sides to a coin, there are two sides to every trait and even the most ‘positive’ attribute can have negative impacts if not kept in check.

Personal development is fantastic and I will likely forever be a self-help junkie. But the very premise of personal development is not to change who we are, but to utilize our unique gifts to the best of our ability. To grow, to expand, to nurture, and to step into our light.

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.

life, Uncategorized

Judge not lest ye be a jerk

So, I have a confession to make. I’m judgemental.

For real.

It pains me to say it, but it’s true. And I feel like I have been in denial for a long time.

As a friend, a writer, and as someone who has spent their 20’s and 30’s immersed in the ‘self-improvement’ culture that is ever-present in our society, I have always prided myself on how ‘open-minded’ and ‘non-judgemental’ I am. In fact, I have always considered empathy and compassion to be some of my most positive attributes. I strive to be an open ear, a safe place where friends and loved ones can share whatever is on their minds without fear of criticism or disapproval. And although I feel as though this is still true – I am empathetic, compassionate, and open-minded … it is also true that I can be a judgmental dickhead.

Women love judgement. We think we don’t, but we do. I cannot count the number of times I have shaken my head in disgust at a woman judging another woman, so entrenched in my own self-righteousness that I have been completely oblivious that I am doing the exact. same. thing.

Ugh, she is being sooo judgemental.

Seriously …

But here is the deal, as annoying and catty as judgement is, it is actually very normal, stemming back to the dawn of time when we were dependent on our group or village for survival. The desire for everyone to stay ‘in line’ and do/be like the general collective is a primitive desire. When someone strays from what we consider the norm or represents something unfamiliar to us, we feel afraid and we judge.

We judge other people. We judge religions and lifestyles. And, much more often than we realize, we judge ourselves.

What has become apparent to me lately, and why I decided to write this blog, is that I have realized that it doesn’t matter whether I am judging someone’s clothing or hairstyle, their parenting choices, or their political beliefs, my judgements have very little to do with the person I am critical of … and everything to do with me. I have noticed a pattern – the more dissatisfied or unhappy I am with something in my own life, the more judgemental I am of others. And likewise, when I am content and at ease in my own skin, I am able to view others through a lens of compassion, empathy, and understanding, even if I disagree with them.

Judgement highlights a wound that I am avoiding or even unaware of. It allows me to take the focus off of myself, tells me that I’m not doing ‘that bad’, and allows me to feel better about whatever is going on in my life.

Now that being said, we are allowed to disagree with people and we are allowed to have boundaries. But I have found that when I am in alignment in my own life, I can offer people grace, whether we share the same opinions and values or not. I can walk away from a conversation without laying in bed for the next week and a half stewing about all of the ways that I am right and they are wrong.

About a month ago, I found myself engaging in ridiculous debates and conversations. Now, a healthy debate can be a good thing. It can be stimulating, and provide new ways of looking at things … but these were not healthy conversations. They consisted of me talking ‘at’ the other person, trying to convince them how much ‘righter’ I am, and if they could only see how right I am, they would quickly realize what an idiot they were.

Pretty reasonable, yes?

No. Of course not. And when I actually sat down and gave it some thought, I was able to see that I really didn’t care that much about the matter at hand at all. I was, quite simply, frustrated. I was tired, depressed, missing my kids, and anxious. And, rather than face that overwhelming pile of baggage, I turned my focus outwards and lashed out at people who didn’t think like me. What should have been a brief interaction and respectful exchange of thoughts and opinions, turned into me stewing in a pit of indignation for an embarrassing amount of time.

So what gives? How do we deal? Well, for me, I had to start with offering myself the same grace that I should have been giving my debate opponents. This is a stressful time, we are fatigued, and sadly, there is no end in sight. We need to be just as gentle with ourselves as we are with others. And now, when I feel a twinge of judgement pop up, I pause, and ask myself ‘What is really going on here?’, ‘What about this is triggering me to react?‘ and ‘How can I respond in a more healthy way?’

We might be judgey by nature, but we can choose compassion. We can disagree with someone’s viewpoint, while also offering them grace. We can have boundaries, and empathy, all at the same time.

It’s not always going to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. But I am committed to trying.

PS. If you have a mullet, I’m probably judging you a little bit. (I’m working on it though).

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Recovering Chameleon

I have always been a people pleaser. And a pretty darn good one, too. Like, if there was ever a ‘People Pleaser Olympics’, I would definitely have a shot at taking home a medal.

It is a skill I learned very early on – be what people want you to be and you will never be left. Simple.

I was raised an only child and have some pretty significant abandonment and daddy issues so I developed an innate ability to not only worm my way into people’s lives, but to make sure I stayed there. I craved belonging, and became the ultimate shapeshifter.

Oh, you like country music? I don’t mind it either.”

“Scary movies? Me too!

** Note, both scary movies and country music make me want to cry. But there is no way in hell I would ever risk rocking that boat so I spent much of my youth with bleeding ears and terrible nightmares.**

I was the funny kid, the sweet kid, the energetic kid, the charming kid. I was whatever was required of me in the moment.

Even as I got older and became a little more rebellious (read: a teenaged nightmare), I remained likeable. And it was a title I wore with pride.

My friends, parents, teachers, and employers all tolerated even my most rascally behaviour, because I was … agreeable.

Christine, such a nice girl.

My people pleasing nature went beyond just pretending to like the twang of a steel guitar to slightly meatier issues. From not sharing important opinions at work or biting my tongue when someone hurt me to nervously laughing at inappropriate jokes or tolerating abuse so that I wouldn’t be ‘rejected’.

I can’t remember how old I was when I realized that there was a downside to my ‘please everyone at all costs‘ approach to life, but I am guessing it was my late 20’s, a fairly typical age for women to get tired of bullshit.

I think I was getting exhausted. Exhausted from having to be a chameleon in order to feel safe in my relationships. Exhausted from pretending to like or dislike things I didn’t. Exhausted from not feeling confident enough in myself to show up in the way I wanted.

I was fed up and shit had to change.

And it did. Or … it is. Let’s just say, it’s been a s-l-o-w recovery. You don’t go your entire life making sure everyone else is happy to confidently ruffling feathers overnight, it takes time and is a bit of a process.

I have had to literally train myself that I can share my opinions without worrying about being left. I have had to get used to the super uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I tell someone they have hurt me or I don’t agree with them.

It is like everything in my body is screaming at me, “No, don’t do it! There will be conflict. We hate conflict! What if they leave us? We will be all alone.”

But here is what I have learned, although there is a bit of a learning curve on both sides (it is an adjustment in any relationship when you drop the people-pleasing routine), and you might lose a few along the way, the people of value in your life will actually appreciate the change. Turns out, people like authenticity. Go figure.

Like anything, it is a bit of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process, and I stumble along the way. A lot. I have had to learn to take things slow, to let people adjust with me, and that being a people-pleaser is NOT the same thing as being ‘easy going’.

But I am working on it. And I am committed to myself and to that little girl who thought she wasn’t enough.

So for now, I say, “Hi, I’m Christine. I am a recovering chameleon.”

Are you a recovering chameleon? Drop me a comment if you can relate. Also, feel free to share using the super-easy share buttons below!

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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 😉

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Dear Love, I’m Ready For You

Sooooo, it has finally happened. I am a published author (Dreams come true when you go after them and work hard!).

Introducing … Dear Love, I’m ready for you.

Dear Love, I’m Ready for You is the 4th volume in the 2x award winning Dear Women book series.

Dear Love, I’m Ready for You is a collection of stories about the power of love. Not fairytale prince and princess love — real-life love. The kind that challenges you, brings you to your knees, cracks you open, and pushes you to build a better version of yourself, every single day. This transformative love is real and messy and comes in infinite packages. Love is not only for romantics, we experience it within family, friendships, workplaces and hobbies, but where it needs the most attention is in the love for the self. It is the most potent force in the world. When we open our hearts and are willing to be led by and work with this powerful force, miracles will happen.

Preorder now for our fall release, will arrive in time for the holidays. Visit this link to order and enter promo code ‘christine20’ to save 20%.

As a first time author, and full time writing enthusiast, I so appreciate any and all support! I can’t wait for you to read it.