The Case of the Self-Doubting Diva

At a training I gave years ago, our ‘self-doubting diva’ had passionately shared her dream of starting a wellness retreat center for women.  But she was very stuck then.  She showed up to various of my webinars and mini-masterclass recordings over the years.  Then suddenly, one day, during the launch of my flagship Core Self Discovery program, I received her registration confirmation email.

I was thrilled to have her join me.  I later found out what had precipitated her unexpected leap into deep transformational waters.  She had lost her job of many years.  More to the point, she had been fired.  The effects on her were so devastating that she later shared with me that she had contemplated ending her life.

Every day she bounced between her anger, feelings of worthlessness, and paralyzing fear for her future.  When she saw my invitation in her email, she took a real leap.

What she couldn’t see then was that she had finally “un-stuck” herself.  That her greater dreams and goals were at last moving forward.  

But her head was still caught in the midst of this terrifying day-to-day of unknowns–the perfect feeding ground for all of her fears.

When we started the Core Self Discovery work together, she wanted to break free of her fears and her stories and feel good again.  The problem was that she was still holding onto so much anger and the need to control everything.  Her entire life paradigm needed to change.  She had been giving excuses for so long–excuses to not take the real risks in her life and go after her dreams–that she didn’t remember how to be her true self and call out her excuses for the B.S. that they were.  

That’s why she had been so disempowered, self-doubting and asleep for so many years.

What she discovered in our group was the safest space she’d ever experienced.  And in that space, everyone–including herself–was able to begin challenging the excuses, the fears, the painful life experiences and the [untrue] stories that they had each been carrying around.  All the reasons each of us get stuck at times.

Back to our Heroine-in-training…  She realized pretty quickly that all her answers [read: excuses] that seemed legit and reasonable had zero value in our laser-coaching.  They couldn’t withstand the truths that were already inside of her–and she came to know this clearly and quickly.

That’s when it started to get really good.  She began listening to her heart intelligence and her gut wisdom.  She took some pretty big leaps and risks in the coming months–toward what she most wanted.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Things began changing for her quickly.  

She’d always been “the person you can count on to get the job done.”  So she learned the differences between her being accountable to others but not to herself, and her being radically responsible to herself first and then having healthy boundaries in her accountability with others.

She learned to see all the emotional blackmail that was happening in her marriage and family relationships–and she stopped it.  She took back her own truth, and consequently, her real power.

She began a new career that was her passion at the same time that she landed a job that paid her almost twice what she’d been making before–  Remember, she was the change that needed to happen.

She learned through the Core Self work how to show up beautifully to herself for the life she knew she wanted.  She learned to listen and to trust her own intuition.  And she learned to take hold of the responsibility and the power of validating herself–instead of relying on others to prove her worth.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is not.

It is definitely some hard work.  But as you can see, it paid off immeasurably!  

This is exactly the whole intention of doing the Core Self work.  I call it developing our own Sovereignty in our lives.  We know sovereignty in someone when we see it because of their confidence, their warmth and generosity, their being quite comfortable in their own skin, unconcerned and unafraid of what others will think of them.  

It’s the magic combo for each of us bringing our unique gifts and presence into the world.

A word of caution:  This work is not casual.  It doesn’t let you off the hook of yourself.  It is totally focused on the greatest expression of who you are right now in your life.  That doesn’t need to look like any huge accomplishment or position of authority.  It is exactly you, knowing yourself and accepting yourself–and pursuing what your inner wisdom and passion are directing you to do.

If you’d like to rediscover your Core Self, these are a few ways I can support you: 

  1. Take the Self-Acceptance Assessment
  2. Join my free online community at The Center for Transformational Influence 
  3. Schedule a free 30 minute Discovery-Strategy session to discuss your biggest challenge and my recommendations for moving through it. 

Even Oprah would say Purpose isn’t an Oprah-thing

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” ― Bill Watterson

Purpose.  It’s talked about like the Holy Grail.  You’ve got to have it to know yourself.  To be “arrived.”  Without your purpose you’re lost and floundering.  etc. etc.

I disagree.

When people talk about answering the question of why they’re here or what their purpose is, it always sounds like we expect it to be one thing.

We approach it like, “I’m here to have dinner.  Once I’ve decided on, prepared and eaten that meal, it will be done and that’s all there is.  All there needs to be.  I just want it to be the RIGHT meal!” 😉  

So we put off trying new foods.  We read the cookbooks of different countries and cuisines but never experiment with them.  We wait to grocery shop for so many new and interesting ingredients because we’re trying to determine that single right meal so we know exactly what to shop for. In the meantime, we keep eating the same boring things every day or even fasting, waiting to be sure and clear on that One. Right. Meal.

Now, I admit that having that one clear thing that feels like it fully expresses your soul, your heart and your mind all at once is fantastic AF.  And it’s on the days where we feel lost or directionless that we wish just a little (or a lot) that we were Oprah too, able to leap that tall skyscraper of purpose in a single beautiful bound.

But when I facilitate my Core Self Discovery groups, I teach that purpose is already living alive and well inside us.  Everyone of us.  And it has been since the beginning, wherever you want that beginning to be for you.

I tell them that I believe their purpose has been living its way out from inside of them from the start.  Can they catch the clues?  Find hints that… that what?  …That show them more clearly who they are?

What if purpose doesn’t live in words we can speak with the confidence of god himself?  What if purpose isn’t an arrival point on some elusive treasure map of success or fulfillment?

What if why I’m here is to daily practice living fully and truthfully from my own heart?  

What if purpose lives in how present I am with myself?  With my life right this moment?  

What if?…

A friend said to me today, “You seem to really know why you’re here.  I’m so glad you figured that out!” with the implication that he was still searching and uncertain.  I had to laugh.  No matter how clear I get about *why I choose to be here*, I’m always still asking.  

There’s magic in the asking.

If we’re really honest, I think we already knew this.

This I do know:  I want to savor as many “simple or gourmet, right–and wrong–meals” as I’m able to adventurously discover during this crazy go on the planet.  And to share in them with a lot of people.

There’s a purpose in there somewhere.

A Dream Without Feet: bringing it to life

So how do we dream?  What does “dreaming our own dreams” ask of us?

“It’s simple,” I said.  “You decide to love your aliveness more than your feeling of safety – Dreams enter in at this tiny powerful opening.  And then you have the task to follow one and hold onto it–no matter what.”

But there is a bit more of a method, I would say–more to *becoming dream-fertile,* and more to answering the call of a dream once it enters inside of us.

First.  We must have a heart wide open and expressing this unique desire that has entered into us–into our hearts.  This is the beginning of every dream ever conceived.

Some dreams are stronger than others.  The ones that are the most insistent and compelling?– I will tell you, these are the ones you MUST do because whatever soul we may have is speaking clearly to us in a dream so forceful.

Then.  We must be willing to take the risks.  The reason it’s a dream is because it is beyond our current reality.  And so, in order to bring it into living breathing reality, we must step off the edge of what keeps us comfortable.   We ‘engage’ our dream when we show we are willing to risk for it.

And finally.  We must hold the dream clear and true inside of us even when everything we see and experience would say our dream is impossible, too far away to ever happen.  This is almost always the most difficult part.  The place where we lose the thread of our dream amongst the practical realities of our every-day.  

Or it is where we hold on so tightly that it breaks our heart that the dream is not there.  Then we fight with ourselves to let go of our dream because it hurts so much.

But the gift of our dreams does not promise a timeline or a clear directed path to their fulfillment.  And so we lose ourselves, and we let go of our dreams, and we get lost and silently fight our own inconsequence creeping in.

Or we fight for our dreams against entropy and against the reality we see.

A dream lives above the ground.  Within us, it floats and dances and teases us with its tantalizing possibilities.  It gifts us temporary wings to move ourselves above the treetops of our everyday neighborhoods and routines.  We can see for miles with a single dream.  We can see the curve of the earth and the stars in the next galaxy and even, what the future might hold for us… 

But all dreams are waiting for legs, and for feet.  This is where you and I must not be complacent.  We can’t afford to ignore the dreams that come to us.  They hold our living life inside of a single inspiration.  The legs and feet of the dream are us.  We are the tether of every great cosmic idea to earth.  The ‘means’ of its possibility made real.

And if your dream does not come from your heart, but rather from your head or from the accomplishments of others you see around you?  Then it is not really a dream, but rather more of a goal.  So treat your goals as goals, and treat your dreams as the proper delicate miracles that have found you–and only you–in all the world.

I believe in my dreams.  I believe in your dreams too.  It is the very same as believing in you.

Do your dreams still know where you live? Can they find you?

Sitting at the Padaria Reis Magos taking my tiny coffee in the brilliant August sun… staring out at that ocean the color of dark lapis and sparkling aquamarine— shot through with gold light and white caps. 

I fly out in four hours. 

What a glorious summer it’s been… balconies open to the breezes through the days and nights, waves on the shore below weaving through my playlists as I sat writing my second book. 

I should mention, cold showers were my AC on the hot days, and just shorts and tank tops even at late night dinners down the coast. 

I unexpectedly formed more family here on the island this time. Already my Michael and Elle–my German Psychotherapists, and a few others… but now I have a community of Madeirans, Russians & Ukrainians, South Africans, Germans and even an American … 

And… 🥁🥁🥁 (drumroll, please)  I have a Portuguese ID number and bank account! No small feat for a summer on the island. Even Petra, the bank manager working with me, was astonished, telling me emphatically, “You must be a very good person!  Everything works like magic for you!”

So I sit here with that perfect line of the horizon dividing the sky and an infinite sea of possibilities in front of me. And I think how many years I ached to live in my own home, abroad. It’s very close to coming true, this dream of dreams. 

I am surrounded by people in this little community who picked up their lives from far points on the globe to live in a new world. To find and to make a life and community in a paradise for themselves. 

So many moments in these past years of extreme discomfort. Of feeling often stuck, landlocked, life-locked. Adapting to the unexpected full-stops. Having to take the short steps for survival as an entrepreneur through a pandemic. The short steps to build stronger health. 

I will tell you I struggle so damn hard with short steps. 

But how can I tell you, too, arriving this summer and all the conversations with strangers and new friends giving me exactly the perfect information I needed at the perfect moments to move my dream forward…   All I did was answer the extreme ache inside, this past March, to book my summer here no matter the sacrifices. 

It’s hard to let go to the flow of life and dreams when security hangs in the balance. But oh how unimaginable the adventures and the miracle-leaps that occur. 

It’s been two years of arrested movement… only to have the timer of life suddenly ring for the event you didn’t know was always coming. Or maybe I did. Maybe we do. 

It’s just difficult to trust our hearts when our eyes are seeing the same routine happening each day. Still. There are the moments I unequivocally said YES. And I know for sure, we must pay close attention for those moments. And we must take the deep collective breath before destiny or providence, and declare our YES. 

I have said since I was a teenager, I would rather not live than to be inconsequential in my life. When we lose our dreams, we begin our slide toward death and inconsequence. 

Dreams are more precious than we ever realize. The dreams we have? They find *us*—not the other way ‘round. This is why I ask you whether your dreams can find your single unique address on the map of human life?  Our dreams arrive, then exist and live inside of us. They go quiet and disappear if we ignore them. 

Be honest enough to dream, and to listen to the dreams that enter in… Our dreaming is a gift no matter who we are.

My Pandemic Truths: part 1

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my clients.  I was talking with her about navigating the challenge between having deep intimate relationships and living an independent life.

I will say straight off that I am not implying this is the way for everyone.  I don’t think there is one way of anything for people, this intimacy versus independence.  Yet, it is a very real and lived experience for many, and particularly women.

Well, my brain points out, we are encultured to being social from before we’re born.  Our society rewards females for emotions, connection, supporting and serving, and communication from our earliest experiences.  So much so that it’s taken much research to try and parse out nature versus nurture in these seeming gendered behaviors.  And then there’s the recent history of female emancipation to consider…

So as I see it, in the question of intimacy versus independent genius expressed, the latent consequence of woman’s invisible tutelage is her affinity for the relationship… often (dare I say usually) at the cost of her creative work and her independence in many a life span.  Can I say that? 

It’s just that I continue to encounter this challenge in women all around me.  How do they live up to their relationships, while being on the quest of self to fulfill the passion and genius in their solitary soul?

It’s a worthy question.

But the thing that interests me most is the continual brave new world of creativity and independence that pushes inside many of us (of all genders).  It seems anathema to our desire to also have deep intimacy and connection in our relationships.

“What is this?” I’ve wondered since I was a teenager.  (Yes.  I’ve been looking at this problem for a long damn time.)

And, “Why is this?  Why does it seem that both are not possible?”

The truth of experience is that we straddle an intimacy/independence teeter totter.  If we go too far to one end of it, the other loses the gravity of our being and hangs suspended and useless in the air.

Have you noticed this?  Have you felt that you had to choose between those you love and having your own wild independence?  Or your true and continuing freedom to create what is in you to create?

Clearly I have, or I wouldn’t be writing this, would I?

So here are some of my thoughts about this vitally important subject.  And why I’m titling it My Pandemic Truths:

You see, while the pandemic utterly curtailed my world-traveling, adventure-living exploits, it certainly did not curtail my creative genius.  Sure there were strictures that I had to work with or around.  But that is always the case in creative life.

Instead, the pandemic calmed the frenetic global psyche to such a degree that I could be and think everyday without the maddening cultural push for more, more, more.  I could meander without fear of bumping into hundreds of others in my psycho-emotional life.  My independence had empty streets and parks, skies silent except for birds.  Wild animals, like our own untamed selves, showing up in our neighborhoods because everything had suddenly become silent.

And in this unlooked-for freedom, the tsunami of my deepest genius broke land and began flooding every part of my world.  It was brilliant.  It was relief.  It was a gift.

And then there was the global panic of fearing the unseen–this invisible virus that was claiming lives or at least health.  The vast unknowns of its origins, transmission, mystery symptoms and possible death.

Somehow, I was not afraid.  I was cautious, respectful, taking common-sense measures to protect myself and others.  Yet I didn’t fear it.  In fact, I likely had covid while studying French in the south of France in January and February of 2020 with a classroom of 16 from 9 different countries.  I got very sick twice while there, respiratory illness.

But this fear of the unseen, or you could say the unknown, is how I have lived every day for the past ten-plus years.  I have continually challenged myself (or been thrown unceremoniously) into the unknown and inscrutable and have apparently developed quite the resilience.  This became super evident to me as everything shut down in a day.  And over the weeks and months that ensued.

Strangely, the social solitary life I have lived for a decade made navigating this pandemic quite easy for me.  Being inside my home except for walks and groceries for months on end, connecting with people over zoom, was very like my life abroad.  I am always in countries where English is not the native language, and in some where it is hardly spoken at all.  How does a person live in that kind of solitude?

Quite beautifully, I found.  The richness of the world, of people, of experiences speaks inside of me like days-long conversations with a soulmate.  Could I have joy in the sunlight playing over little back alleyways I took like a native in Laksman Jhula, with no one else there to share in it?  Could I alone hold the joy of a sudden rainbow under a strange sky in Canico de Baixo, diving itself on the far horizon into an ocean so deep blue it flirted with black?

What of the anxieties of finding my way alone in new countries, cities, in the dark of night where I knew no one?  Or the occasional terrors of getting totally lost, missing a flight in a strange part of the world, or having all my plans fall apart upon arrival?

A well-practiced solitude is a rainy-day card to keep tucked in your back pocket.

And speaking of back pockets…  I pull out Ray Bradbury’s book Zen and the Art of Writing, (one of the three books I always travel with,) and I open the well worn pages to his chapter on The Care and Feeding of a Muse.  You have to seduce your muse, he tells us.  You can’t call their name and have them come running.  (laughing…)  And if you do call, they will generally run in the other direction.  So how do you get your muse’s attention?  Get it to cooperate?

I’ve discovered my muse is always on ride-along when I am flying by the seat of my pants.  She is keenly capturing every nuance of me, my perceptions, my emotions as I find myself once more out of my depth or beyond my known.  

Isn’t yours?

So she loves it immensely when all that’s planned goes to smash, or I meet the most miraculous people somewhere foreign, or the world itself shuts down for a pandemic.  Yes.  Strangely, she does.

Which is why this creativity and independence side was in brilliant ecstasies.  I have gone long periods without someone in the same space as me, sharing in my days.  I have been alone far enough out and long enough back to thrive like Miracle-Grow and flowers in a solitude of spring rain.

And what of the deep intimate relationships?

As Martha Beck writes through her protagonist in Diana, Herself, “All is all, always.”  The first and deepest intimate relationship is with myself.  That is a muse, indeed.  Strangely and unexpectedly cultivated, I am with myself everywhere I go.  My own experience of my life is so exquisite and closely regarded (by me) that there is seldom the risk of falling asleep into a routine or a set of expectations.

All other relationships of my life derive their depth and their meaning from the depth and meaning I have with myself.  And so, I feel deeply connected every day to those whose hearts I have shared, however long or brief, close or distant.

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”  This means, of course, that missing is a state of the mind, and that in the heart we are always together as though no time has passed, no distance separates us.

Seeing with the heart opens us to joy.  And joy as we’ve learned, lives in the cracks of life’s many fractures.  Were we to pull back to a bird-eye-view, these crevices might appear as a kaleidoscope to us, joy emerging in brilliant colorful bursts at each shift of the lens.

I think learning to be with myself made these joys more evident, though they were always there.  

We can get so caught-up in the other person, in the together experience–which is its own compelling wonder–that we lose sensitivity to the tiny ubiquitous joys.  The pandemic made us all look more closely, if we cared to sit still in our own minds long enough.  And there the joys were.

The creative brilliance that issued from our global community is testimony to this relationship between the deep intimate connections we form and our creativity and independence.

Though you might not seek it as I have, still, your creative genius comes alive when you have enough time and quiet with your own thoughts.  So much is possible.  So much becomes probable.

Balancing that act became infinitely easier for me through the shutdown.  Was it because I was off the hook for all the showing up I do?  If I’m honest, there’s a yes in there.  But more than that, it made my solitude a given, for a time, a precise mathematical value that all else had to be reconciled to, rather than the intentional consequence of my leaving the country and the timezone.

Excuse, you say?  You might be right.  Which is my point in the first place.  Why would I need a pandemic to find my balance on that teeter totter between intimate connection and fierce independent creativity?

Perhaps it’s the world that’s wrong, all of us running pell-mell down the steep hills of generations compelled toward some elusive progress.  Meanwhile the revolutionaries are sitting atop that hill, just painting what they see.  Or writing about it.  Or ignoring it altogether.

My greatest take-away from you is that you’re damn smart.  And it would be a shame for both of us to casually trade off our genius and the independence enough to see it through, for a relationship of lulling comfort.  Wouldn’t it?

But a relationship of passion?  …That’s another story.