Category: Confidence & Self-Esteem

The Power of Belonging

I have recently come to appreciate Brene Brown’s work on the power of belonging. She says, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”

I recently attended a retreat in Joshua Tree, comprised of 100 women. It was four days, filled with art, yoga and 5Rhythms movement meditation practice. In short, it was bliss.

There was also some serious personal work taking place. I am in awe of the courage it took for everyone to truly show up and be seen. Over the course of the four days, it was apparent that the masks and facades were beginning to drop, the inner walls were coming down.

It was due to the incredible atmosphere of trust that allowed this to happen. A sacred container was created to be able to make it safe enough for people to be themselves.

And wow — to be oneself — that is scary! It’s not often in life that we really, truly get to be the weird people that we actually are. Most social situations demand a certain amount of professionalism, put-togetherness, or even false positivity.

We mold ourselves to these ideals in order to avoid the awfulness of rejection. And in this, parts of us are lost.

True Belonging

In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”

Belonging vs Fitting In

First, I appreciate how she differentiates between belonging and fitting in, because at the core they are very different. Brown said that when we “fit in” as opposed to “belong,” we acclimate to the situation instead of standing for our authentic self.

Taking the Risk

Second, I appreciate how she talks about belonging as not always going with the flow. Authenticity requires great risk. Nobody wants to be called out or seen as an outcast, but sometimes we must stand alone in order to be in alignment with our own heart’s truth.

“As it turns out,” she says, “men and women who have the deepest sense of true belonging are people who also have the courage to stand alone when called to do that. They are willing to maintain their integrity and risk disconnection in order to stand up for what they believe in.”

During the course of the retreat, I saw the full range. People who agreed with each other and people who risked disconnection in order to stand up for what matters most in their heart. Regardless, people were standing up and expressing themselves. It became a forum to express thoughts and beliefs that are not always socially acceptable; but they are REAL.

Personal Commitment

Third, I appreciate how she says that it’s a daily practice, or a “personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” I don’t think we ever just “arrive” at being authentic and belonging. It’s an ever changing landscape that mirrors our own ever changing internal landscape.

Belonging Embodied

The facilitators also encouraged participants to confront them if there was something that they felt was not done in integrity. They encouraged us to exercise our ability to say no and to stand in our power, instead of mindlessly handing it over to others (especially those in perceived positions of power). This created an atmosphere of the utmost freedom and permission.

People were given the permission to be who they really are. In the presence of this permission, instead of an increase in discord, there was an increase in cohesion. People felt like they belonged, based on who they were, not who they had been conditioned to be.

There were other ways that we bonded with one another. Many of us (who were complete strangers to each other) laughed together, cried together, and shared stories of love, loss, sickness and joy. We were able to feel deeply connected through the range of life experiences that make us all human.

Brown says, “”We need to hold hands with strangers. We need reminders – collective joy and pain – reminders that we are inextricably connected to each other.”

This is what we had.

We also had the full experience, in mind, body, and soul, that told us we belonged. For me, every cell in my body felt like it belonged. The power of this, I am learning, is immeasurable.

Wired for Belonging

I’ll finish with this quote from Brown, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

hands giving heart

Next time you are feeling alone or like you don’t belong, don’t beat yourself up. A sense of love and belonging is a core human need. Instead of feeling stuck or paralyzed by it, see how you can reach out and connect; with a loved one, an animal, or nature.

Find a place (or places) where you can truly be your authentic self. Don’t settle for less. Make it your mission to belong. Your health and vitality depend on it. Others also need examples of brave people who are willing to take risks and stand up for what they believe in. Next time you step into your own authenticity, you may just be a catalyst to help someone else step into theirs.

This post is dedicated to Amber Ryan, Kate Shela, and the 99 other women at the retreat who were willing to take a risk; I see you, I feel you, and I am inspired by you. Thank you for helping me remember how much I belong.

If you are feeling alone and like you just don’t belong, please reach out. I offer free 15-minute consultations, so you can see if counseling or therapy is right for you.


Ten Questions for Making Empowered Life Choices

We all make choices everyday.

Debbie Ford, author of The Right Questions, says:

“Choice might just be our most precious gift”

In my work as a mindfulness-based therapist, I would have to agree. Much of what I talk about in session is around choice. Part of the work is shifting perspective from a place of choice-less-ness into choice-full-ness.

With that comes a great deal of responsibility. It is with a sense of choice-full-ness that one must own their actions completely.

When you own your choices, actions, and outcomes, there is little room for blame or other avoidance strategies.

You accept that you can make choices that support and affirm your being, or you can make choices that disempower and derail you.

You can make choices that enhance your vitality, or you can make choices that increase your suffering.

It’s really up to you.

Inevitably, some discomfort will arise when you are making decisions about matters that are close to your heart. And thats okay — it’s part of being human! Discomfort can be a sign that you are fully alive. It’s an indicator that you are getting out of your comfort zone and taking a risk.

Maybe you find yourself at an important life crossroads. Or maybe you are just trying to make decisions today that will improve your tomorrow.

Either way, I recommend asking yourself these questions anytime you are faced with a choice.

These questions are from Debbie Ford’s book, The Right Questions. You can use them to get clear on your motivations for making a certain choice, or you can use them to clarify if a certain choice will support your best interest (or not).

Here are the ten questions:

  1. Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future, or will it keep me stuck in the past?
  2. Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?
  3. Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?
  4. Am I looking for what’s right or am I looking for what’s wrong?
  5. Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?
  6. Will I use this situation to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?
  7. Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?
  8. Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?
  9. Is this an act of faith or an act of fear?
  10. Am I choosing from my divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?

You can use any (or all) of these questions when faced with a choice. Some of the questions may apply to certain situations more than others, or some of the questions may not resonate with you at all.

My advice: use what works for you.

I personally find all of these questions to be powerful opportunities for reflection. I have also found that when I check my choices against these questions, I end up feeling more empowered and less uncertain. These questions help reduce my anxiety while propelling me toward what I really want.

I hope that these questions will serve you well as you work to build your ideal life. May they guide you to an inspiring future.

Still need help making some big life decisions? I can help! Whether you are thinking about a career move, ending a relationship, or making some big lifestyle changes, I am here for you.

Through the process of inquiry, we will get to the bottom of the matter and develop a strategy that will leave you feeling more confident in the decisions you make.

Reach out now.


Here’s Why We Self-Sabotage

It can be so frustrating when we know we self-sabotage, but we don’t know WHY.

Perhaps you find:

  • You keep dating the same kind of person that is wrong for you
  • You keep ending up in a job you hate
  • You keep sabotaging your own efforts to get fit and lose weight
  • You keep losing your temper, despite your best efforts not to
  • You give up when things get hard, again and again

If any of this resonates, keep reading.

From my experience and training, I think it can be pinned back on one thing.

The subconscious mind.

What does the subconscious mind have to do with it?

Well, it likes to keep us safe.

I’ll say more about that…

The subconscious mind is the part of the mind that runs the “programming.”

It’s the habits, patterns, and tendencies that are hard-wired into us.

How do they form?

We become “wired” in certain ways from a very young age. It is based on survival techniques we employed to keep us safe and help us get our needs met.

We relied completely on our primary caregivers when we were young. Therefore, getting our needs met from them was of the utmost importance.

We needed them to feed us, clothe us, and provide us with shelter. We also longed for touch and attention.

Those things kept us alive, and the strategies we used to get them became hardwired into our subconscious mind.

Now let me tell you a secret about the subconscious mind (and this is important!):

The subconscious mind doesn’t like change.

It doesn’t like it at all.


Well, change poses a threat to the subconscious mind. The subconscious likes to use the strategies it knows. It favors the familiar.

Doing new things is threatening to the status quo.

The subconscious would rather things stayed the same, even if they aren’t working that well.

It’s a creature of habit. It likes what it knows.

This is why you may find it hard to change an old pattern or habit that isn’t serving you any longer. This is why you unintentionally self-sabotage.

Likely, the subconscious mind is running an old program that no longer fits. This is so frustrating to the adult self.

It may seem obvious to your conscious mind that things need to change, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to do things differently.

You are probably getting the point here:

The subconscious mind is wired to try and keep you SAFE, no matter what.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you keep repeating the same (unhealthy) patterns again and again.

The brain contains billions of neurons that communicate with each other. The neurons and neural pathways that you use all the time only become stronger with use.

Chances are, the old pattern or habit you are trying to kick has become very strongly embedded in your brain’s wiring.

When a set of neurons get activated, they become intricately connected. It becomes a whole sequence that is more likely to repeat in reaction to that type of circumstance or event in the future.

Thus, in order to change things once and for all, you’ve got to uncover what the trigger is and then re-wire your brain for new habits and patterns. Ones that will serve you well for who you are now.

The good news is that we have the help of the latest research in neuroscience. This research shows us that the brain possesses neuroplasticity, meaning that the the brain’s structure and wiring can be changed or molded by experience.

The research also informs us exactly how we can effectively re-wire new habits, as some experiences are more impactful on the brain than others.

This is exciting stuff!

The bottom line: Things don’t have to stay the same forever! You have the potential to stop self-sabotage and change old, outdated behaviors that no longer fit.

Need help stopping self-sabotage and learning to re-wire old habits and patterns? I can help! Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to learn how.

Health Kick or Eating Disorder?

An article in the UK-based Independent outlined 6 warning signs that your health kick might be an eating disorder.

The six signs are:

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with food thoughts?
  2. Do you have rigid rules around food?
  3. Do your rules affect your mood?
  4. Do people close to you notice your extremity?
  5. Do you categorize foods as good and bad?
  6. Does food dictate what you do socially?

When I first saw this article, it really hit home because I have experienced all of these warning signs. What is scary about this kind of eating disorder is that it’s easy to fool yourself (and others) into thinking that you’re doing something healthy.

When I was in my early 20’s, I went on a slew of health kicks. It began innocently enough as I was trying to resolve some diagnosed health issues. I believed that I could greatly improve my health through my diet. (I still 100% believe that diet and nutrition are critical parts of health — mental, physical and emotional).

I tried raw, vegan, and “clean” eating. While I felt better at first, I began to rapidly feel worse. I lost a lot of weight. I made an emergency visit to the doctor because I thought something was terribly wrong with me. In hindsight, I was having a panic attack, but didn’t know it at the time. My health habits were causing a high amount of anxiety.

They took my weight at the doctor’s office and I weighed 105 pounds (I am 5’6” so that is definitely too low to be healthy). I had just come off a 5-day juice cleanse. I my mind, it was something to be proud of. I was taking control of my health. When I told the doctor, she was critical and suggested I put on more weight by lifting my restricted way of eating and adding in more variety of foods. I wrote it off under the guise that Western doctors don’t know what real health is. I thought they were all just brainwashed to believe in the merit of the standard american diet, while I knew better than that. I left the doctor’s office feeling frustrated and misunderstood.

As the months went on, I noticed that I had stopped with a lot of my regular social activities because I felt people didn’t understand (or support) my way of eating. I didn’t want to have the pressure of being around “bad” foods, so I just opted out of social events or dinners with friends all together. I was lonely. People began to express concern, but again I ignored it because I thought they just didn’t understand.

This loneliness eventually led me to binge on the “bad” foods in private. I would obsess over obtaining the object of my craving. Once in hand, I would start eating it and couldn’t stop. I had all sorts of justifications and rationalizations for this, including, “if I finish it all tonight, then I won’t have any tomorrow (or ever again).” This kicked off a whole cycle of guilt and shame. Many of you reading this may know this cycle well.

However, once I was able to recognize that the stress, shame and guilt began to outweigh the benefits of my health kick, I knew it needed to change. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am fortunate that I had the tools, resources, and support to shift my habits. I slowly began to ease back into an more balanced approach to eating again. However, it wasn’t until years later that I realized that my “health kick” was really a form of an eating disorder.

My advice: check out this list and see if anything strikes a cord. If you recognize some of these warning signs, be really honest with yourself about where you’re at with it.

If you notice someone you care about displaying some of these, then it may not be easy to approach that person about it. Likely, they will defend their choices in the name of health. However, keeping an eye out and letting them know you are there is a great starting point.

Disclaimer: I would never want to discourage people from eating more cleanly and avoiding processed foods (for the most part). I think it’s always a good idea to add in more organic, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as high quality meat (if you eat meat). I would also never want to encourage friends or family to judge someone’s healthy lifestyle as “disordered” without having a clear understanding of what an eating disorder looks like. Sometimes it’s hard for people to develop healthy habits because of a lack of support. I would not want to contribute to this lack of support for a healthy lifestyle by writing this article.

Here’s the invitation:

Step into a healthy relationship with food.

  • A relationship where you don’t obsess or stress over food.
  • A relationship where you don’t need to label foods good and bad.
  • A relationship where you are able to ask your body what it needs and nourish it appropriately.

Meet the Perfectionist — Is This You?

I find that many of my clients (often unknowingly!) suffer from Perfectionism.

Confession: it’s easy for me to spot in others because it is something that struggled with for most of my childhood and into my late twenties. I have done a lot of work to unravel the tightly wound persona of the perfectionist (and it’s still a work in progress).

So what is perfectionism, and why does it matter?

  • Perfectionism can result in a rigid mindset, where the expectations do not fit with the situation.
  • Perfectionists can only like themselves when they do something well.
  • Perfectionists are so self-critical and hard-driving that they push themselves beyond what is reasonable.
  • The perfectionist’s greatest fear is being exposed as incompetent.

These traits are problematic because they create significant stress and pressure in the perfectionist’s life and can cause  a cascade of physical, mental and emotional problems.

If you are a person who struggles with anxiety, addiction, or trauma then this sneaky persona may be at play.

The perfectionist is all wrapped up with attachment to certainty and control. In theory, if you can control your environment and circumstances, then you will be safe. (This is what the perfectionist believes, at least). And it makes biological sense! If you have experienced trauma (major or minor), then your primal brain has learned to try and control things as much as possible so that you don’t have to experience that trauma again. It is a survival mechanism, designed to keep you safe.

Once you begin to recognize and identify the patterns of perfectionism, then you can consciously choose to act in more empowering and productive ways.

The problem with a perfectionist mentality is that it stomps out happiness, joy, and spontaneity. The perfectionist has adopted a rigid way of thinking that is driven by the pressure to be perfect and do things perfectly.

As a perfectionist, you believe that you have to earn your worth and value as a person. Your identity is equal to what you have accomplished or achieved. When your self-esteem and identity are attached to these external factors, then anxiety and depression can result. Your self-esteem will rise and fall along with whatever you attach it to.

A common example I see with many of my female clients is with weight. Self-esteem is attached to the number on the scale, thus creating an emotional roller coaster ride from hell.

This creates an addictive cycle, driven by the pressure to “get it right.” This pressure can be so great that it takes over your life. You make it more important than your relationships or enjoyment of life. You put being productive at work or achieving your goal weight above your significant other, your friends, and taking care of yourself. This creates isolation and further anxiety and depression for the perfectionist.

As a perfectionist, you may also have to use food, substances, shopping, or work to numb yourself from your real feelings. This is how you effectively crush your ability to experience life fully. You attempt to carefully control what you feel and how much you feel it.

This is a lot of work — it’s exhausting!

You can see now that perfectionist thinking is a slippery slope. It was designed to keep you safe, yet it has unhelpful consequences that can take over your life.

Luckily, with practice and intention, you can let go of the perfectionist way of thinking. You can undo the unsupportive mental habits you’ve developed and create new (healthy!) ones.

I am a self-proclaimed Recovering Perfectionist, and I can help you on your path to recovery. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.

I can help you see your blind spots because they were once my own. We often think that we need to push ourselves in order to be successful, but that’s simply not true! Once you open up and let go of what’s out of your control, you allow your creativity and passion to flourish. It’s a beautiful thing!

Are you a perfectionist? Take the free quiz here!


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Three Things You Need to Know about Anxiety and Self-Talk

Anxiety is closely related to negative self-talk. The thoughts we have can trigger a response in our body and in our emotional state. If we have negative thoughts, then we will likely experience accompanied unwanted feelings and physical sensations.

For example: if we think of something stressful we have coming up (perhaps a final exam), then we are likely to have a physiological (body) reaction, such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms, etc, as well as a negative emotional response. The negative emotional response could be fear, anger, or anxiousness, to name a few.

The tricky part is: usually we are not aware of the thought that precipitated the physical and emotional response. When we start to use our awareness to link them all together, we realize that our thoughts really do create our reality.

Here are some things you need to know about negative self-talk:

1. You don’t have to believe your thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts. The only power they have is the power you give them.Unfortunately, most of the time we are not filtering our thoughts with this level of intention. Instead, we are simply accepting them as truth (with a capital T). We believe all the mean, nasty, cruel, and unhelpful things that we say to ourselves.With practice, you can learn to develop awareness of your thoughts. Then, you get to choose which ones to believe and which ones to let go. I recommend only holding onto thoughts that serve you.

2. Negative self-talk causes avoidance, and avoidance causes suffering. If you talk yourself out of doing things because of fear or worry, you only reinforce your anxiety. You also put off being proactive about things that would actually help to alleviate the anxiety. Here’s an example; let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say you have some social anxiety. There is a networking event that would provide you with a great opportunity to meet new colleagues and gain recognition for the new book you just wrote. However, you experience negative self-talk that tells you nobody will like you or people will judge your work. This may lead you to avoid the event. You then start having more anxiety about the avoidance. You know you should go, but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Your colleagues ask why you’re not attending, and you go to great lengths to explain or justify your reasons for not going (none of them are true).

Now you have just exerted a tremendous amount of energy, avoiding something that probably isn’t all that scary in reality. Now it has become a big thing in your mind, and the anxiety around it has gotten much worse. All of this is because you believed your negative self-talk and allowed it to create avoidance, instead of taking action toward what you really want.

3. Negative self-talk is a learned behavior that can be changed. You can re-wire your brain to operate differently. Here’s how it works: what you think about the most creates deep grooves in your brain’s feedback loops. If you often revert to negative self-talk, that is the feedback loop that will be the strongest (or have the most well-worn pathway).

Re-training your brain to focus on the positive or helpful thoughts will carve out a new, healthier pathway in the brain’s circuitry. Once you practice utilizing this new feedback loop more and more, the easier it will become. Thinking positive or affirming thoughts will become your new norm.

It is possible to overcome negative self-talk and develop supportive mental habits.

The take home: By first bringing awareness to the thoughts, then taking action toward what you want, you can begin to change your reality. Because negative self-talk is usually deeply ingrained, I recommend working with a professional who can help guide you through these steps of the process. You don’t have to do it all on your own.

Click here to watch an in-depth video on how to re-wire the brain.


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