The folks at How to Win a Man’s Heart asked me 10 questions about dating, singleness, relationships and more…
It can feel like we are all mandated to catch the Holiday Spirit from Thanksgiving through the New Year. But, life doesn’t always work that way, does it? Even if the halls are being decked with boughs of holly, life is still happening and not everyone finds themselves filled with cheer during the holiday season. It’s not uncommon for the season to bring up feelings of loneliness, anxiety and memories of lost loved ones among other painful emotions. If the holidays are going to be difficult for you, I hope these 4 tips will help you navigate the season in a way that is healthy and authentic for you.
Girl, YOU are worth celebrating this year- however and wherever you want.
Learn more about my one-on-one counseling services in Austin, Texas here.
Do you panic when he doesn’t text you right back?
Have you been called clingy or even crazy by a partner?
Do you bolt from relationships at the first sign of trouble?
Any of these experiences sound familiar? Yeah, me neither. Never. That stuff is for crazy chicks…
OK, fine. Maybe once, just once, I sent a strongly worded text when he didn’t respond in the timeframe I expected. Oh, and there was that time he didn’t call back when he said he would… Yeah, I guess I kind of panicked a little…
What if I told you that we aren’t “crazy?” Our intense feeling of fear and panic is understandable, more common than we think, and it has a name…it’s called Fear of Abandonment. And, as a member of the human species, there is a good chance we have or will experience it.
Being abandoned, hurt or disappointed by a another person can be a painful ordeal that leaves a scar on our minds and hearts. And sadly, unless we live in a bubble, it’s pretty impossible to escape the experience of feeling abandoned – physically and/or emotionally – by someone we love. It’s natural and understandable that we would try our darndest to avoid having to feel that pain again. But, ironically, our hypervigilance to never feel this pain again could be preventing us from being in the kind of intimate relationships we crave so deeply.
Luckily, the book, Love Me Don’t Leave Me – Overcoming Fear of Abandonment and Building Lasting, Loving Relationships, by Dr. Michelle Skeen, is a great resource in helping women understand how our fear of abandonment is impacting our relationships. I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Skeen about her book and was struck by her openness, honesty and compassion. Reading her book feels like you are talking to a trusted friend. She humanizes the experience and helps us to understand that we are not alone in this struggle.
Her approach is refreshing in that she doesn’t try to tell us how irrational we are to have these fears and messy reactions. I mean, we all know better than to freak out, right? But, when the fear of abandonment comes over us, it can feel virtually impossible not to react. Dr. Skeen is honest about the fact that we will likely always have to battle the fear of abandonment to some degree. However, her book offers an incredible arsenal of tools to help us engage in the war on fear.
Love Me, Don’t Leave Me cuts to the core of what many of us dread so deeply – the fear of being abandoned by someone we love. Dr. Skeen encourages us to explore our values and how they inform the choices we make in who we date and how we communicate in our relationships; all-the-while building awareness around where our fear of abandonment is coming from so that we can begin to face it head-on.
This book will give you the tools to be your healthiest self in a relationship – even when your fears are triggered. Love Me, Don’t Leave Me will also help you identify the types of people who trigger your fear, and will teach you useful techniques that will help you respond to your fear in a way that won’t make you sound (and feel) like a clingy or controlling you-know-what. I sure wish I had read this book when I was in my 20s!
Girl, of course you aren’t crazy. But, when the fear of abandonment kicks in, it sure can feel like you are! Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Love Me, Don’t Leave Me. Your fears don’t have to continue to sabotage your relationships. Love can win.
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Over 40 million Americans are using some kind of online dating service. I bet you know at least one success story of a cyber-romance that ended in love and marriage. But, I’m sure you’ve also heard at least a dozen online dating horror stories. So, what’s a girl to do? Whether you are contemplating online dating or have been using it for awhile, I hope you find these tips helpful.
DO have realistic expectations- So you’ve taken the leap and decided to try online dating. I mean, in so many ways, it seems like a no-brainer, right? It’s a vast pool of single men looking for love at your fingertips—and organized by zip code for goodness sake! Finding a great guy online should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrell! Well, not necessarily. Finding the right person is an inexact, mysterious process— even with an “advanced search” option. You’re going to have to go through some disappointments, learn some lessons, take some risks and set some boundaries. Don’t confuse online dating with easy, effortless dating. If you do, you may end up throwing your computer out of your car window.
DON’T put all of your eggs in the online basket- Online dating is one way to meet someone. It’s a tool; but I caution you against making it the only tool in your toolbox. Log off and go on a hike, check out live music, sit at a coffee shop alone, or maybe even join some new groups to expand your social circle. Just like a financial planner would advise, you need to diversify your options, girl. Computers can only do so much!
DON’T let online dating take over your life- Are you are trying to squeeze in too many dates in one week? Do you hit “refresh” every 30 seconds waiting for that elusive wink or email? For some, online dating can begin to feel all-consuming. If you are guilty of online obsessing, try setting up some boundaries around your activity. For instance, only check your account once a day or don’t go on more than a couple of first dates a month. Make sure you keep those happy hour plans with the girls. Make time for that gym class you love. Read that book on your nightstand. All of these things make you a happier, healthier catch!
DO take a break if you are feeling angry/sad/tired/bitter- While it’s understandable to be cautiously optimistic about online dating, it’s not fair to write off every guy as a total shmuck due to online dating fatigue. Maybe you’re exhausted from going on too many disappointing dates. Maybe you are tired of not getting any good prospects in your inbox. Or, perhaps too many flakes have left you feeling angry toward the entire male species. Listen to your gut. If you need a break, take one! This isn’t a NASCAR race. There are no rules against taking a pit stop to refuel and recharge.
DO treat people with kindness and respect – Online dating can feel like the wild west where there is no time or place for good manners. People just up and disappear after days of email banter, dates are canceled at the last minute and thoughtful emails receive no response. Don’t be one of these careless cyber outlaws. Learn how to politely decline, respond kindly to sincere effort and show respect for a person’s time. Remember the Golden Rule. Just because some people choose to de-humanize the experience, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
DON’T fall in love with a profile- He quotes your favorite movie, he professes his love for smart, independent women, he is the life of the party and he is a great listener… what’s not to like? Not so fast. Please, please save yourself some heartache and remember that you do not know this man. You may be getting a glimpse of some potential areas of compatibility, but You. Don’t. Know. Him. Maybe his sister wrote that charming profile for him or maybe he is, indeed, your soulmate. There is so much more to learn about someone that simply cannot be captured in a profile. Hold your horses, girlfriend.
DON’T let online dating dictate your self-worth- Not only do you not know him, but it’s equally important to remember that he does not know you. Don’t let a click of a mouse dictate how you feel about yourself. If he doesn’t contact you or respond to your email, it is not a rejection of you. He. Doesn’t. Know.You. Maybe he doesn’t date anyone who is spiritual, maybe he likes brunettes, or maybe he is dating someone else… You may never know why he didn’t reach out, but you must remember that it has nothing to do with your value and worth as a human being.
DO put your safety first- I probably don’t have to say this, but make sure you meet in a public place for the first few dates, ok? (Did I mention you don’t know him?)
NEVER lose hope- Whether you are dating online or off-line, searching for the right partner can be emotionally exhausting. Putting yourself out there is part of the process, but it’s also important that you take care of yourself so that your optimistic, hopeful spirit is leading you on your journey. Love yourself enough to know that you deserve to find great love. Don’t ever give up.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on online dating in the comments! And, I’d love for you to join the Girl, Get Your Roots Done community on Facebook for more about living as a grounded woman!
We all have certain qualities that we’re drawn to when it comes to choosing a romantic partner —humor, success, good looks, intelligence… It’s totally normal to appreciate these things and they are a big part of what makes dating and mating fun. I’m a huge believer in the need to feel chemistry, attraction and excitement about whoever we choose as a partner. However, there is one quality, perhaps more subtle, that absolutely positively must be present in order to have a satisfying relationship. It’s kind of like a secret ingredient because it can’t necessarily be detected right away; but, without it, you are in for a very bumpy ride that is likely headed down a dead end street.
Here’s the cold hard truth: It doesn’t matter how successful, handsome or funny he is; if he doesn’t have your best interest at heart, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship.
This truth was first articulated to me about a decade ago. I was at brunch with a friend and her boyfriend—we’ll call him Mark. I was doing my usual thing. You know, eating up most of the airtime by giving a play by play of my latest argument with my then- boyfriend. Mark patiently listened to all of the reeeealllly important nonsense that I was so anxious to share. Then he asked me a question that cut through all of the noise: “Amanda, do you think he has your best interest at heart?” “And, if he doesn’t, why in the world would you want to be with him?” Wow. Pretty simple and profound, right? Well, I took his question to heart and got out of the relationship—two years later. Hey, I never claimed to be a fast learner, just a learner.
Why did I want to be with him? Because he was exciting, smart, funny, and successful, that’s why! Of course I was drawn to him. But, no, he did not have my best interest at heart. He wasn’t an evil guy; he just hadn’t evolved to the point where he could place someone else’s needs as high—or sometimes even higher—than his own. And, truth be told, neither had I. I wasn’t mean or evil either. I was just too afraid, too insecure and too needy. I wasn’t able to look at any of my romantic relationships without looking through the lens of “me, me me!” So, two good people, who were crazy about each other in a lot of ways, engaged in a dance of insecurity, pride and stubbornness until we eventually collapsed from exhaustion.
In order to get the kind of love you want, you have to be willing and able to give it. When you have someone’s best interest at heart you bend, you give, you encourage and, yes, you even challenge. But, it’s all aimed at helping the relationship and the person you are in love with grow and thrive. Humor and attraction are important. I certainly don’t want to live and love without them. But, having each other’s best interest at heart is an essential ingredient that holds a relationship together during the good and bad times. Without it, you won’t be able to feel emotionally safe, the freedom to grow and the security of a healthy relationship.
Think about the people in your life who have your best interest at heart. Doesn’t it feel like such an amazing gift of acceptance, comfort and love? And isn’t it sad that something that we all crave so deeply can be so hard to find in a romantic relationship?
Here’s a challenge for all of us whether we are in a relationship or still looking: Let’s try spending less time focusing on the size of our thighs or keeping score with our partner and more time focusing on being a kind, confident, secure woman who is brave enough to give— and receive—this rare and amazing kind of love. It’s just a sneaky suspicion, but I have a feeling that great things come to those who can view relationships through this lens.
I once knew a girl who would literally go through a total transformation with every new relationship. When she was dating the jock, she loved sports. Smitten with the musician…out came the ripped jeans and leather jackets. The all-time doozy was when she bought a stick shift car because “guys find it sexy.” Let’s just say we usually ended up taking my (automatic) car anytime we needed to get anywhere. It was frustrating, and sometimes a little sad, to watch her put on so many facades. Because, at the heart of it, she did not trust that she was enough. She wasn’t sure that she would be loved just for being herself. I think she would have really struggled with the question: why should he date you?
I often hear single women say “how am I supposed to compete with all the other beautiful single women out there?” I get it. It’s hard to stay out of the comparison trap and, truth be told, the dating scene can feel about as civilized as a UFC fight sometimes. But, comparison and competition lead us down a never-ending path that gets us nowhere. As my favorite poem, Desiderata, says “never compare yourself to others or you will become vain or bitter, for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
It’s unproductive to spend a lot of time worrying about what the “competition” is doing, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to ponder the question: why should he date me? Don’t get me wrong. I am sure there are many reasons he should date you. My concern is that you don’t know it.
It’s kind of like that dreaded job interview question: why are you the best person for this job? I bet you would have some answers for a future employer. You probably would have put some thought into it. Maybe you would have even taken the time to jot down a list of your strengths and accomplishments in advance. During the interview, you’d talk about your positive qualities and how you would add value to their company (with a dose of humility, of course). Just like a job, I think it’s fair to apply this question to choosing a romantic partner. After all, people want to be with people who add value to their lives, right?
So, how do you stand out from the crowd when it feels like you’re just one drop in a vast sea of women looking for love? I know of only one way: Be You. The best defense you have against allllll the other girls is being completely and unapologetically you.
There is no one else out there just like you. No one shares the same background, experiences, personality, eyes, nose, laugh… You are one of a kind. Completely unique. Embrace that authenticity and you will make the experience of you undeniably attractive.
In the search for the right fit, it’s important that we know who we are and what we value. My momma always said “there’s a lid for every pot.” And, unlike the girl I mentioned earlier, it’s not advisable to try to be every size of lid. Maybe you are a free-spirited, spontaneous woman who throws caution to the wind. Perhaps order, stability and planning make you giddy. Maybe you love tradition, or maybe you think it’s silly. Perhaps you’re career driven or maybe you dream of being a stay-at-home mother. None of these things are right or wrong. Too many times we know what we really want and who we really are, but we are afraid it isn’t right or isn’t good enough to get the guy. But owning who you are is really the only way to find the right fit. And, just like you, there is a pot out there looking for his special, unique lid.
It may not sound like the most romantic exercise, but I encourage you to literally write down some responses to the question: why should he date you? Think about how you want someone to experience you and how you can add value to someone’s life. You might be surprised by how many great qualities you can list. Just like you would arm yourself with confidence going into a job interview, it is helpful and healthy to enter into dating the same way. Not so you can sell yourself to men, but so you remember how much you have to offer and how special and unique you really are. Facing the dating world armed with confidence about what you have to offer helps you remain true to who you are and reminds you not to settle for less than you deserve.
Girl, he would be lucky to date you!
Stay tuned for more in my Summer Lovin’ blog series about dating and relationships. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! You can also sign up for my email list and posts will come straight to your inbox!
Learn more about my one-on-one counseling services in Austin, Texas here.
It’s that time of year again. Many of us are starting to watch those calories a little more closely, the gym clothes are getting more wear and swimsuit shopping is hovering over us like a big ol’ storm cloud. A cookie is no longer just a cookie; it is an evil tool of seduction aimed at keeping us from fitting into our favorite sundresses. But empty calories can show up in other areas of our lives that have nothing to do with baked goods. Empty calories can find their way into your dating life and taking in too much of them could derail your goal to find the person who will make your heart sing.
There was a time in my life when I really didn’t like being alone. My dislike of being alone, paired with my total avoidance of having the “it just isn’t working out” conversation, created the perfect recipe for empty calories in my dating life. In fact, it was one of my best friends who first used the empty calorie analogy with me about my dating habits. It was so spot-on and brilliant that I couldn’t be mad at her for calling me out on my not-so- productive dating pattern. There was certainly a part of me that was enjoying the male attention and I was avoiding having to disappoint anyone, but I would always end up feeling empty. I felt empty because I wasn’t on a path to what I truly desired; I wasn’t getting the sustenance that I really craved in my relationships.
In dating, empty calories are consumed when you are spending a significant amount of your time and energy with someone you know is not the right match for you. Empty calories may be in the form of a great guy who just isn’t the right fit for you or a bad boy who is not interested in changing his ways. If you are looking for a long-term, significant relationship, I caution you to beware of empty calories. Just like a cookie, indulging in dating empty calories can feel good in the moment, but they could be preventing you from meeting the right person for you. And more importantly, they could be preventing you from being your best self and living your most authentic life.
Some dangers of consuming too many empty calories in your dating life include:
Wasting Time- OK, this sounds harsh. Yes, I believe that every person and life experience offers us a chance to learn and grow. But, once you know you are not compatible with someone, you really are wasting valuable time: both yours and theirs. Time is precious and something to be valued. Time spent in dead end relationships is time that could be spent nurturing your friendships, working on your health, exploring a new hobby or even just being still and resting. Unlike empty calories, these things feed your mind, body and spirit. They make you a happier, healthier person and, yes, a better partner when someone special does come along.
Worry and Anxiety- I don’t know about you, but when I’m not being honest with myself or others I can’t shake a feeling of uneasiness in my gut. When we aren’t being congruent with our words, feelings, and actions it can make us feel really yucky. Many times we don’t feel that great about ourselves when we’re consuming empty calories. After the high of the attention is gone, we might find ourselves feeling down about spending time with someone who is not what we really need and want in a partner.
Missed Opportunities- Of course there is always the risk that spending too much time with someone who holds no future for you will cause you to miss out on meeting someone who does meet your needs. There is no guarantee that you will find “The One” if you give up your empty calories. You may end up spending more time alone than you’re used to and that’s OK (in fact, it could be good for you). However, it doesn’t take a genius to see that lounging on the couch all weekend with empty calories limits your ability to be out there and available for a better match.
Girl, don’t let those empty calories sabotage your most heartfelt goals. You deserve to find deeply satisfying love.
Stay tuned for more in my Summer Lovin’ blog series about dating and relationships. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! You can also sign up for my email list and posts will come straight to your inbox!
Learn more about my one-on-one counseling services in Austin, Texas here.
The other day, I was wandering through the grocery store when I was startled by a loud voice saying: “Stop that! You are in so much trouble! What is wrong with you? Why are you always so bad?” I glanced over to check out where the commotion was coming from and saw a frazzled mother, teeth gritted, admonishing her young child in aisle seven. If you are like me, witnessing something like this makes you wince with discomfort and unease. Sure, the kiddo may have done something that wasn’t in line with the grown-up’s wishes; but, when I hear mean-spirited, unproductive scolding my heart breaks for the child. I think about how scared and threatened they must feel and I wonder what kind of words are hurled their direction when they aren’t in public – negative messages that could result in lifelong self-esteem issues.
Most of us probably agree that using shaming and attacking tactics is not the most effective way to get the best out of a child, or anyone else for that matter. So why do we talk to ourselves like this? Our ugly self-talk may not cause a scene at the grocery store, but if we could bug the inside of our minds with a microphone what would we hear? I have a feeling the recording might make us wince a little.
I am fortunate to have many positive, compassionate women in my life. They are encouragers, they work hard, they volunteer, and some are engaged in the amazingly difficult task of raising children. These women dish out love, support and forgiveness in heaping spoonfuls to the ones they love. But, some of them also have a dark side. They can be harsh, critical, and unforgiving – to themselves, that is.
The way we talk to ourselves can get pretty nasty. And, just like that child at the grocery store, we are soaking up the negative messages that we tell ourselves and there is no doubt that they impact every aspect of our lives.
* I’m a mess, so I don’t really deserve a great relationship
* I am not pretty enough to fit in
* I am a failure because I can’t stop overeating
* I am not talented enough to get a job I love
I am going to bet that you would never say these words to another person. You might even go so far as to say that chastising someone with these words would cause them to move in the opposite direction of success. I could quote statistics about how negative self-talk doesn’t help a person succeed, and, in fact, results in unhappiness and failure. But, I think we all know this intuitively. Take a look at the people you respect and admire, the people who are taking risks and accomplishing great things, those who radiate a sense of joy and excitement about simply being alive. Do you think they tell themselves they are a loser behind closed doors? Do they allow mean-spirited, defeating self-talk to run amuck in their minds? I’m going to bet they don’t. So, how in the world do we expect to grow and flourish if we are telling ourselves we aren’t good enough? It simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t result in lasting changes in our health, our relationships or any other aspect of our lives.
The most important conversations we have are with ourselves. We cannot afford to take these conversations lightly. They shape us, they inform our choices – they either catapult us toward living our best lives or they keep us stuck in a cycle of self-doubt.
So, what’s a girl to do? How do we find that voice of love and acceptance for ourselves? Perhaps we play the role of the parent. Not the tired, angry, gritted-teeth grocery store parent, but the warm, encouraging, supportive parent. The parent who loves you unconditionally, but is also there to help you grow.
If we’re doing this thing called life the right way, we never stop growing, learning and evolving. And, even though we may be “grown-ups,” we still need to hear the voice of that loving parent. It’s time to be that voice for ourselves.
If you are struggling with negative self-talk you’ve got a battle on your hands. But, it is one you can win. Explore where it comes from, write it down and challenge it, post positive affirmations on your mirror, talk to a friend or therapist…pull out all the weapons you need.
Girl, you are worth the fight.
I mentioned in my last blog post about Gratitude that I have been so amazed and inspired by my friend Kali’s gratitude postings on facebook. She has committed to posting a statement of gratitude on facebook for 365 days! Today she shares what led her to make this commitment and how it is already changing her life.
As a young girl, I found it difficult to ever say or think anything nice about myself. I remember having meltdowns at home after school, crying to my mother because I was overwhelmed, didn’t have any friends, I was flat-chested, and on and on and on; and my mother used to say to me, “honey, tell me ONE thing you like about yourself – just one.” I would sit there frustrated, staring down into my lap with hot tears stinging my eyes, for what seemed like hours, completely overwhelmed by the thought of having to say, out loud, something I liked about myself. What was there to say?! All I could hear in my head was everything I hated. Finally, I would answer with something easy and superficial like, “I like my eyelashes.” I’m sure my mother chuckled inside at my response because in her mind there wasn’t a single thing about me not worth loving. But I definitely couldn’t see those things.
As I grew older, I began observing the constant stream of negative thoughts running through my head each day. It concerned me. Sure, I attributed those nasty thoughts to terrifying experiences from an abusive father, being raised in a broken home, the stress and unintentional neglect from being raised by a hard-working single mother, etc etc; but, the reality was there were many other people in the world who had experienced far worse in life than I did, and they never let it break their spirit or their persistently positive outlook. Why couldn’t I be like them? What was wrong with me?
I realize I’m making myself sound like some horribly negative, depressed, mistreated person, which I am not. In all honesty, I doubt most people would’ve described me as a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy because I did experience and show happiness and contentment. However, the negative outlook that was growing in my head was consistently discouraging me. So, I read lots of books on positive psychology, spirituality, traits of successful people – hoping they would give me a guide to changing my thoughts and seeing myself and my life differently. Boy, what a letdown. I ended up feeling worse and eventually like I failed because I was still experiencing negativity.
A few months ago my friend shared an article on facebook that shocked and inspired me. It was about a woman in a very bad place in life (alcoholic, bad relationships, no job, etc) who decided to write down one thing she was grateful for every day. She shared that her consistent gratefulness exercise helped lead her to a completely new and happy life. She stopped drinking, was in a loving relationship, got a great job and so on and so forth. Focusing on what she was grateful for, rather than what she lacked, truly changed her life. I LOVED that! So my friend and I decided to be gratitude partners on facebook, and we committed to posting one thing we are grateful for every day for 365 days. Let me tell you, I was a little overwhelmed by that idea at first; but I was incredibly eager to try a daily practice that could help me focus on the positive things in life rather than the negative. Think about it. How many people on facebook post about genuinely positive experiences or something for which they are grateful? Not that many. And, even if some people do, their complaints or negative opinion posts far exceed their expressions of happiness, love, or gratitude.
I’ve been posting my Grateful Yelp every day and I’m now up to number 103! About a third of the way to my goal of 365. I can tell you that this simple daily practice has already begun to change my life. No, I’m not saying that I got a new car, a bigger house, more money, and that life is just a breeze. I’m saying it has changed my inner life. Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out…after the very first day of posting my Grateful Yelp, I found myself thinking, “what am I going to post today that I am grateful for?” I started LOOKING FOR the good things in my life and the good things that happened each day. This practice started changing my brain’s perspective. Even if something seemingly bad happened during the day, I couldn’t focus on it all day long because I had to post something about gratitude that evening on facebook . So, I’d move right past the “bad experience” and keep living my day, looking for what I was going to post as my Grateful Yelp. This practice shifted the perspective in my brain towards the positive, and it created greater resiliency in me.
1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
A positive outlook on life and resiliency. These are the two main qualities my Gratitude Yelp practice has given me so far. You know what? These are exactly the same two qualities that I have admired in people who have gone through major trials in life but never let them beat them down or break their spirit. People like Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus, the Buddha, Mother Theresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other less well-known people around the world. I wonder if they acknowledged their gratitude every day. My guess would be yes.
Below is quote from the Bible- it has an entirely different meaning to me now than it did years ago, or even four months ago. My mother would encourage me with these words when I was growing up, and I encourage you with them today:
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Focus on these things every day and write them down if that helps you – on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, in a journal, on a whiteboard – whatever creates accountability for you…and then observe how your world (inner and outer) changes.
Thank you for letting me share my ramblings, and giving me an opportunity to overcome my fear of writing, and others reading my writing. I would love to hear your thoughts and what you are grateful for today so please share!
Today, I am grateful to be grateful.
” I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.”
This was one of my dad’s favorite sayings and I remember hearing it often throughout my childhood. These words, and the accompanying visual image, sure could make an impact on an eight-year-old. All of the sudden my protests for the ridiculously overpriced Cabbage Patch doll didn’t seem so important. My dad’s dramatically worded lesson about gratitude became etched in my mind and heart, and I appreciate what he taught me about being grateful. I am sure we can all agree that the days of crying at the toy store are behind us; but, in many ways, it seems like the tendency to want more and to compare our lives to others has only intensified. Many of us find ourselves comparing our bodies, our bank accounts, our love lives…. Gratitude sometimes finds itself rattling around in the back of my mind, covered by layers of “but, I want more…”
I recently heard someone speak about gratitude and he likened it to a muscle – a muscle that, when used, grows stronger and, when neglected, begins to atrophy. I think this is a great way to think about gratitude. And, honestly, my gratitude muscle could probably benefit from more exercise. I mean, of course I am grateful for countless things in my life and I’m sure you are, too. But, how much time do we spend paying attention to that muscle? Gratitude can be difficult when the “I’m tired” muscle, the “she is annoying me” muscle and the “life isn’t being very fair” muscle are screaming for our attention. Have you seen those guys who walk around the gym with huge chests, bulging biceps and teeny tiny legs? They are choosing to only exercise the muscles at the top of their body and, as a result, they look a little out of balance, don’t they? Maybe we should think about our thoughts the same way. Which muscles are we working? Which ones get our attention? Which muscles are we showing to others? Are our gratitude muscles teeny tiny compared to our grouchy muscles?
Last week I was at gathering where the attendees were encouraged to talk about a moment or situation where they felt a great sense of gratitude. The group grew awkwardly silent. I was shocked. This was in stark contrast to the previous meetings where we all spoke freely and openly about our weaknesses, our struggles…our complaints. I’ll admit I had a hard time verbalizing my experiences of gratitude with the group. It felt hokey or embarrassing for some reason. I would have much rather shared something about myself that needed improvement or some grievance I had with a neighbor or the traffic in Austin. How interesting that the opportunity to express sheer joy and gratitude about an experience in our life left many of us sheepish and tongue-tied!
A friend of mine recently started posting an expression of gratitude on Facebook every day. The last time I checked, she was up to 92 posts. I’ve been admiring her entries from afar – impressed with her positivity, but even more amazed by her vulnerability. Isn’t it strange how it feels so much scarier to share something heartfelt, personal and purely positive than it is to gripe about the long line at the grocery store or the mess the kids have made of the house?
I have been so impressed with my friend’s gratitude exercise that I’ve asked her to share with us here on Girl, Get Your Roots Done! how this experience has impacted her life. In a few days we’ll hear from Kali as she celebrates her 100th day of gratitude posts. And, we’ll cheer her on as she marches toward her goal of 365 days!
As we think about our exercise routines this week, let’s think about which muscles we want to use. There’s no doubt that the ones we choose will get stronger and more powerful – so we better choose wisely.
Girl, I am so grateful for you. Thank you for reading.
Amanda, a counselor based in Austin, Texas, is passionate about working with women on self-esteem, career and relationship issues. Visit her website for more information about individual sessions.
I grew up being scared of a lot of things— participating in a sport where there was a significant chance of injury (or, even worse, embarrassment), spiders, snakes, skiing, roller coasters…the list goes on. Every day before I left the house, my mom would wrap me in bubble wrap. OK, she didn’t literally wrap me in bubble wrap, but between the two of us scaredy cats, I successfully avoided most physical injuries. I’m pretty sure I can blame my mom for holding me back from my true destiny of becoming an Olympic downhill skier or renowned mountain climber. Perhaps I missed my calling, but I kind of don’t think so. While I’ve grown to stretch my comfort zone a little bit more, I’ve also come to accept that I’ll never be a thrill- seeking, adrenaline junkie. I have a strong affinity for my life and limbs and I’m OK with that.
However, there is a more troublesome part of a bubble wrapped existence that has nothing to do with jumping out of planes or scaling mountains —it has to do with the heart. Over time, and after a few disappointments, a big ol’ roll of bubble wrap began to form around my heart and it was made of fear…fear of being hurt, fear of rejection, fear of dreaming too boldly, fear about what people thought of me, fear I wasn’t enough… and the list goes on. Most people, including me, had no idea how fearful I was. That’s because I chose safely. I wouldn’t even sign up to play if I wasn’t sure I’d win.
A bubble wrapped heart avoids risk of injury. It travels well and it doesn’t break. But, then again, it also doesn’t get to do its job—helping to lead you toward your most rewarding and authentic life. A bubble wrapped heart might look a little like this:
It doesn’t allow itself to get hurt.
It tells you that you aren’t good enough for the job.
It says “settle” because you aren’t worthy of more.
It rarely, if ever, says “I love you” or “I’m sorry” first.
It would rather play it cool than risk embarrassment.
People say to follow your heart all of the time. Sounds lovely, right? But, how can your heart be your guide when it’s suffocating under a roll of bubble wrap? It can’t. So, instead, these really bossy guides called fear and insecurity take over. The worst part is that you don’t even notice you’ve been emotionally hijacked by these predators because they feel so safe. You don’t experience a whole lot of embarrassment or rejection because you don’t put yourself out there. You are in control —or at least you think you are. How do you pursue your dreams and believe in yourself when fear is your guide? You don’t.
Some of the most unhappy people I know are working tirelessly to protect their heart. They are stuck in a cycle of self-doubt about almost every aspect of their lives— literally paralyzed to move forward with relationships, career and other life decisions. On the other hand, some of the happiest people I know have loved and lost, failed in business, experienced rejection and received countless other difficult life lessons. But, still, they are full of life and love and are an inspiration to be around. Their bruises and cracks make them more interesting, more approachable, and, ironically, more resilient.
The purpose of our journey isn’t to get through life without a crack or a ding. If that is your goal, I strongly encourage you to re-think your approach. Sure, stripping yourself of the bubble wrap may cause you to get a few scratches, but I will give you a money-back guarantee (oh wait, this is free advice) that you will also gain more clarity and confidence when you let yourself experience a few dings. Give your heart a fighting chance to be your guide. It’s the only way to learn what you want out of life, to come into your true calling, and to realize how freaking strong and amazing you really are.
Girl, save the bubble wrap for those dishes that are collecting dust in the cabinet. You are so much stronger than you think.
Amanda, a counselor based in Austin, Texas, is passionate about working with women on self-esteem, career and relationship issues. Visit her website for more information about individual sessions. Amanda McPherson, Licensed Professional Counselor- Intern Supervised by Kat Elrod, LPC-S
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. My friends are incredibly important to me. They are a soothing salve in the hard times, and a raucous cheering squad in the good times. They make special moments more special and ordinary moments less ordinary. I probably don’t need to sell you on the virtues of friendship. I’m sure you’ve experienced the joy of having good friends, and maybe you also know the feeling of loneliness that comes from not having them. So, if we can all agree that life is made sweeter when we have friends, why do so many women struggle with their friendships?
We’ve all seen the cattiness that can ensue between women. Just turn on The Bachelor or the Real Housewives of Whichever County and you’ll see women clawing at each other, stabbing each other in the back and saying horrible things about each other. Yes, I know, this is not real life and there’s no doubt that the producers and copious amounts of Pinot Grigio fuel these nasty fires. But, sadly, I hear all too often from women who are struggling with their female friendships in the “real world.”
Women tend to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what we want in a romantic relationship. We seem willing to examine our behaviors and choices from every possible angle when it comes to our romantic partners. But, what about our friendships? Should our friendship behaviors and choices also be examined?
One of my dear friends is about to move to another state. I’ve known this was coming for months…OK, maybe I’ve known for over a year (can you say denial?). But, the departure date is right around the corner and I am having a very hard time with it. I mean, a very hard time with it. I’ve been a bit surprised by the intensity of my emotional reaction. I mean, I love her dearly, but she’s just going to be a quick plane ride away, and, honestly, we were both so busy with our respective lives that we didn’t get to spend that much time together. But, as the day approaches, I can’t help but feel a great sense of loss. As I’ve thought about our friendship, the word “safe” keeps coming to my mind. She has been a safe harbor for me in the chaos of life. A safe place to be imperfect. A safe place to commiserate. And, equally important, a safe place to feel good about myself, to share my big wide-eyed dreams, and to celebrate. It’s a safe and liberating friendship. One that makes me feel completely free to be myself. I’m fortunate to have a few other safe harbors in my life, but they aren’t as common as we’d like, are they?
So, what does it take to be a “safe” friend and to have “safe” friendships in your life? It would be impossible to articulate everything, but I’m thinking these four things are a good start:
1. Safe friends are consistent and reliable. Sure, things come up. We’re all busy. But, if you have to question whether or not your friend is going to flake out on a regular basis, you probably don’t feel very safe.
2. Safe friends apologize and forgive. No one is perfect. Even people with the biggest hearts and best intentions can say or do something insensitive. Safe people own their mistakes. They apologize. And, in return, safe people forgive. They give you the benefit of the doubt and can see the bigger picture of your friendship. They don’t punish or withhold to “teach you a lesson.”
3. Safe friends don’t keep score. Friendship shouldn’t be some game that involves a score. It’s not a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of arrangement. While it should be reciprocal, safe friends aren’t tallying up who has done what for whom and when. You know that friend I talked about earlier? I always joke that I had to court her. When we met, she had lived in the city longer than me and had a much busier social life than I did. But, I knew I wanted to be her friend so I was willing to be the one to pursue the friendship a little bit and initiate making plans in the beginning. I would have missed out on a beautiful friendship if I hadn’t been willing to be a little vulnerable. Don’t worry about keeping score. It’ll all even out in safe friendships.
4. Safe friends want to see you shine! Sometimes it feels easier to bring over ice cream when your friend gets dumped than it is to celebrate when she finds a terrific guy (especially if you’re still looking). But, safe friends reject a scarcity mentality that says there is a limited amount of love, happiness, and success to be had in this world. Safe friends face life with an abundance mentality and believe that love begets more love… success begets more success. They find hope and inspiration in seeing good things happen to you. Safe friends want to see you meet your highest potential. In fact, they may even gently nudge you there along the way.
Women carry so much on their shoulders. We find ourselves dealing with the pressures of career, relationships, body image, children, ticking biological clocks, caring for aging parents, and countless other stressors. It can be tough out there, and the last thing we need to be worrying about is the safety of our friendships.
Of course the best way to have safe friends is to be one. So, let’s be safe for each other. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we’re on the same team.
Girl, get your roots done. Reach out to your safe harbors and let them know how much you appreciate their love and support – today!
“You can’t eat beauty.” I was flipping through TV channels the other night and heard these four words that made me pause and set down the remote. I had somehow come across a re-play of Lupita Nyong’o giving a speech to a room full of women at a luncheon sponsored by Essence. I instantly felt like I wanted – and needed – to hear what she had to say. Not because she was, yet again, impeccably dressed, but because you could tell she was speaking from her heart and that she had every woman in the room captivated.
I’ve included the link of her entire speech at the end of my post; but, to summarize, Lupita shared that she used to hate her dark black skin. She hated it so much that she would literally pray to God, begging for lighter skin. She would plead, she’d make promises, she’d even attempt to bargain with the Almighty. She was convinced she was very un-beautiful and that her looks would relegate her to a life of being lesser-than. Like any good mother upon hearing her daughter cry about her looks, Lupita’s mom would assure her that she was, indeed, beautiful. But, her mother would also remind her “you can’t eat beauty.” This was her way of explaining to a young Lupita that external beauty wouldn’t sustain her, it wouldn’t fill her up, it wouldn’t feed her.
I’ve yet to meet a woman who is totally immune to the pressures of seeking and aquiring external beauty. If you are out there, please speak up! Please come forth and share your sure-fire tactics with the rest of us. Honestly, I’m not sure that it is realistic, or even healthy, to not care at all about our external appearance. I think it is fine to have a healthy dose of pride about how we present ourselves. But, how do we strike a balance? How do we manage the external and internal pressures that tell us we’re never quite beautiful enough?
Are you hungry?
One tell-tale sign that I’ve lost my balance is when I’m shopping like a mad woman. And I’m choosing the phrase “mad woman” on purpose. Maybe I’m mad that life isn’t going the way I had planned, mad that the girl down the hall has flawless skin, or mad that I’m feeling bored with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy shopping and sometimes it is issue-free fun. But, there are certainly times when it’s tinged with a sense of madness – a frenzy to find something to make me feel better…to find something to feed me.
Whatever this madness looks like for you – comparing yourself to every woman who walks by, stepping on the scale 10 times a day – whatever it is, we can usually feel it pretty strongly. It feels like a desperate attempt to perfect the outside so that maybe we’ll feel better on the inside. When we find ourselves hyper-focused on our external appearance, one question we might want to ask is: what am I really hungry for? Are we craving connection or purpose? Is something in our life not going the way we’d like? Will that new lip gloss bring us the relationship we want? Will the beautiful new living room furniture make our family happier? Of course not. We all know this, but it’s a lot easier to take a trip to Sephora or the furniture store than it is to work on changing negative habits or to have vulnerable, difficult discussions with our family.
Chasing the Unicorn
Chasing the unicorn is a relatively new phrase for me, but I’m kind of liking it. A lot of our time is spent chasing things that don’t really exist- the “best” party, the person who will “make” us happy. When it comes to beauty, it feels more like we’re chasing unicorns on one of those hamster wheels that goes round and round. What is enough? Who or what decides what beauty is? When are we ever satisfied? Which dress or haircut will bring us ultimate happiness? We all know “beautiful” women who are surrounded by “beautiful” things who remain deeply insecure, have trouble with relationships, struggle with loneliness and experience every other human emotion in the book. External beauty doesn’t protect anyone from the trials and tribulations of life. So, even if we ever could feel like we caught the unicorn of beauty, I’m pretty sure we’d end up disappointed in its mystical powers.
But a girl’s gotta eat!
Sure, most of us like compliments. But, how long does the high of a compliment on your new shirt or haircut last? Thirty seconds? An hour? Maybe a day if it’s a really good compliment from a really hot guy? When I think of the words and life events that have sustained me and have helped me feel more empowered, they don’t have anything to do with my outward appearance. Sustenance comes from living with character, showing kindness to ourselves and others, working hard toward our goals and spending quality time with those we love. These things allow us to light up the room with our spirit. These things support us in difficult times. These are our roots. They won’t disappear in a flash and they won’t be out of style next season. In fact, if nurtured, they will only become stronger and more beautiful with time and age.
I am grateful to Lupita (and her mother) for putting something very complex into such simple terms: “You can’t eat beauty.” So, what are you going to devour? Where will you find your sustenance?
Girl, your roots are so pretty!
Check out the speech in its entirety. It’s quite moving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCkfARH2eEAmanda is a counselor in Austin, Texas who is passionate about working with women on self-esteem, career and relationship issues. Visit the website below for more information about individual sessions. Amanda McPherson, Licensed Professional Counselor- Intern Supervised by Kat Elrod, LPC-S http://www.counselingwithamanda.com/
With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve been feeling the need to write a blog post about love or, more specifically, the search for romantic love. I’m aware that not everyone wants to be in a relationship, or that many of you are in satisfying relationships. But, today I’m talking to the involuntarily single. This Valentine letter is for the women who want to share their life with someone and can’t help but ask “WHY HASN’T IT HAPPENED YET?”
I must admit to feeling intimidated and pretty darn terrified to write on this topic. I’ve felt pressure to write something wise and meaningful and, above all else, nothing that could be construed as patronizing. All this self-imposed pressure brought on a good ol’ case of writer’s block. So, like any right-minded person, I turned to Google. I searched phrases like “why am I single?” and “dating advice for women.” Whoa! There are a lot of people out there ready and willing to tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong and what you need to change about yourself to score a relationship: “be more aggressive,” “don’t make the first move,” “wear more skirts,” “it’s a numbers game,” “don’t be so picky”… does any of this sound familiar?
After reading all the dizzying advice, I started thinking about the tape that runs in the heads of single women. It’s no wonder that women feel a sense of shame and responsibility for their singleness. It’s tough out there, and it’s hard not to look for an explanation as to why you haven’t found the right person. But, unfortunately, all too often that internal tape turns into negative thoughts and self-blame about not being enough or doing enough to be in a relationship. I’m not going to attempt to tell you why you are single or offer up a to-do list for how to get a man. But, I will ask you this one question: would you do anything differently? When you look at how you live your life, does it bring you peace and comfort – and maybe even a sense of pride? If it does, then what is it about you that needs to change?
If you are open and vulnerable to the idea of love and relationships, don’t change a thing.
If you are “putting yourself out there” in a way that honors your authenticity and values, don’t change a thing.
If you are waiting for the right fit – even if it means being alone for now, don’t change a thing.
If you can accept imperfection in others and yourself, don’t change a thing.
If you are pursuing work or activities that fulfill you, don’t change a thing.
If you have relationships that help you to be your best self, don’t change a thing.
If you are a source of love and encouragement to others, don’t change a thing.
If you take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally, don’t change a thing.
I think you get my drift.
Listen, being single can really suck sometimes. I’m not going to try to sugar coat the pain that comes with wanting to share your life with someone and it feeling out of reach. It’s okay to be sad about it sometimes, abuse chocolate in times of need, and to cry out “WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!” But, at the end of this well-deserved venting session, I do hope you’ll ask yourself “would I do anything differently?” If you can say no to that question, I hope you’ll also spend some time celebrating how awesome you are. I hope you’ll take a moment to marvel at your life; a life that you have worked hard to create; a life that is being lived with intention, strength and character.
A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a male co-worker about relationships and my sadness about my state of singleness. OK, if I’m honest, it was one of many conversations I had made this kind man patiently endure on this topic. After listening to me drone on about my horrible affliction for the gazillionth time, he asked with a voice of exasperation, “Amanda, why do you let being single define you so much?” I remember it like it was yesterday because it struck me deeply and I felt embarrassed. He was right. Something clicked and I realized that he didn’t see me as his “single friend Amanda.” He saw me as a smart, funny, interesting woman and he was baffled – and almost angry – that I could not see myself the same way simply because I was single.
Yes, you may be single. But, you are so much more. I know you may already know that, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded, especially at a time when you’re literally being smacked in the face with heart-shaped balloons. No one can guarantee you a relationship, but being able to say “I wouldn’t do anything differently” can help ease the sting of the disappointments and help to put you in an emotional space that allows you to be open and ready for the many gifts this life has in store for you.
And, if there are some things that you would like to change about how you’re living, I encourage you to think about what you’re waiting for. Are you waiting to pursue a career you love until you have a partner? Are you afraid that if you get too busy loving your life you’ll miss out on meeting someone? Are you letting your fears and insecurities rule your decision making? Maybe it’s time to quit letting your singleness define you. You deserve so much more.
Girl, you are such an amazing Valentine!Amanda McPherson, Licensed Professional Counselor- Intern Supervised by Kat Elrod, LPC-S http://www.counselingwithamanda.com/
Let’s see…my resolutions are to drink more water, meditate daily, solve world hunger and….hmmm, what else…?
I don’t know about you, but I tend to make some pretty lofty goals when a new year rolls around. And, typically, about three months later I have forgotten at least half of my list. Some of us pledge to change our entire lives in 365 days and then we wonder why we feel discouraged. You know those pesky things called unhelpful habits and negative self- talk? Yeah, well, they have been following us around for a while now. They’ve become part of our root system and the excavation process may take a while. And, even then, routine maintenance will absolutely be necessary. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I’m just offering up a different approach this year- an approach of aiming low to get a higher high.
What if you decided to scrap your long list of goals/intentions/resolutions and chose to underachieve in 2014? What if you picked one goal that will help lead you toward your happiest, truest self and worked like a dog on a bone to achieve it? What if you pledged to really “do the work?” Therapists love to use this phrase…”oh, my client Sally is really growing, she’s really doing the work.” Or, “I just feel so stuck with Tom, I’m not sure he really wants to do the work.” We say this because when someone is “doing the work” there is no missing it. Doing the work is palpable. It’s beautiful, it’s uncomfortable, it’s exhausting, it’s exhilarating but, in the end, it is always- and I mean always- empowering.
What if, on December 31st, 2014, you could honestly say that you experienced significant growth and progress on one thing that is really, really important to you? Would that be more than you can say about your 2013 laundry list?
At the end of 2012, my friends and I put some serious thought into how we approached our 2013 resolutions. If I recall correctly, we were limited to writing down three goals. We read them out loud to each other and even assigned accountability partners to keep us honest! A fail- safe plan, indeed! Yeah, well, I can’t even remember what was on my list and I only remember one of my accountability partner’s goals. She wanted to start doing yoga regularly and I kinda sorta think that she might have mentioned going to a class or two last year. So, I failed twice in the accountability department.
The truth is that it’s difficult to make significant changes in our lives. If you can make progress on one thing in one year you’re ahead of most of the pack. If you really “do the work” on one thing that is genuinely important to you, one is more than enough. You’ll be wishing for the days of the outta sight, outta mind laundry list that nobody- including you- remembers. If you tell yourself and others that you are going to work on one really important thing, chances are no one is going to forget it. Scary, huh?
So, what’s your one thing? Do you want to be a better friend? Do you want to see if those reeeeally cute lululemons actually work in the gym, not just the grocery store? What about facing your fear of rejection by going for the relationship or job of your dreams? Do you need to learn the art of saying “no?” Truly achieving any one of these goals would be an amazing accomplishment! And, for you over- achievers who are cringing at the idea of just choosing one thing- I’ll fill you in on a little secret. Once you get a taste of this thing called empowerment by making progress on your one thing, your life is going to be impacted in countless ways. You won’t be able to stop the ripple effect. That’s a promise.
Pick one and work it, girl. Give yourself a really good excuse to wear the sparkly top, buy the good champagne and celebrate YOU next New Year’s Eve!
Keep an eye on those roots…Amanda McPherson, Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern Supervised by Kat Elrod, LPC-S http://www.counselingwithamanda.com/home.html
Do you trust yourself? Well-meaning people say to do it all of the time, right? “Just trust your gut,” or “Listen to your inner voice.” Ummm, newsflash: If you aren’t sure you can trust your gut in the first place, this advice only leads to more panic and anxiety. Sometimes you just want to shout, “but, I’m asking YOU! If I knew what to do, I’d do it!”
When I think about some of the most agonizing moments in my life, they were when I didn’t trust myself to make a decision. I can’t quite describe why I didn’t trust myself, I just didn’t. I always knew I was in particularly bad shape when I’d start asking my cab drivers if they thought my relationship was right for me – and no, I am not exaggerating here… When you don’t trust yourself you feel paralyzed and powerless. You. Want. Answers. And, gosh darn it, someone – no, make that anyone – knows better than you do!
Thankfully, over the years (and through some hard work), I have come to trust myself much more. Sure, self-doubt occasionally rears its head; but, for the most part, I’ve become pretty trusting of my gut/inner voice/whatever you want to call it. In my last post, I talked about allowing stillness so that you can listen to your inner voice. But, what about when you hear the voice, and you aren’t sure you can, or want, to trust it?
When I’m talking to friends or clients about the concept of trusting themselves, I sometimes struggle to explain “how” to make this happen. I struggle because it’s impossible to neatly outline a concise process. I could try to come up with some clever acronym or “five simple steps that lead to self-trust.” I could do this…but I’d be lying to you. The process of learning to trust yourself is not an exact science – or, if it is, I sure haven’t discovered it. It’s a dance, and often a clumsy one. The one nugget of advice I can give you without feeling like a total sell-out is, Just Do It. Wait! Before you click close and curse my name for throwing another cliché at you, hear me out…
Mohandas Ghandi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” When I think back to my own miserable experience of not trusting myself, I actually had the thinking part down pretty well. In fact, I spent a lot of time in my head. The saying and doing parts were where I got tripped up. Those parts required tough conversations. Those parts might make me vulnerable or might cause me to disappoint another person. Those parts were…hard. But, I also hated the not-saying and the not-doing. Avoiding any action created a slow-burning kind of pain; a constant feeling of fear and anxiety that hung over me like a cloud. I guess I finally decided the not-saying and the not-doing were worse.
If you’re stuck in the agony of not trusting yourself to make a decision, I’m sorry. That’s a really hard place to be. When someone looks at me with those panic-stricken eyes and wants so badly for me to tell them what to do, I get it. Part of me wants to take away their pain by throwing out an answer – any answer – but, I know that won’t end their agony. No lasting sense of calm and peace occurs if you just do what someone tells you to do. You’re still going to ask yourself, “did I do the right thing?” So, here we are, back to you. Darn it! How does that keep happening? The thing is, no one can make these decisions for you. Chances are, your “gut” is talking to you and you hear it pretty clearly, but you aren’t sure you want to do anything about it.
Before I scare you off, I’m not saying you have to dump your boyfriend when you get home tonight or quit your job tomorrow. In fact, when the stakes are high, taking some time and using a little restraint is probably appropriate. Baby steps are certainly allowed in the awkward dance of learning to trust yourself. Little decisions and actions can help move you toward honoring your own voice. For example, if you are feeling disconnected from your partner, try talking to them about it. You don’t have to make a permanent decision at the first onset of concern. But, initiating a conversation with your partner is an honest, authentic move – it’s an action in harmony with what you are feeling and thinking. The conversation will help you gain more information. The information may make you feel more or less confident about your relationship. But, more than likely, you’ll feel some relief by having your thoughts, words and actions in closer harmony.
With some practice of flexing your “doing” muscles, you’ll begin to feel a sense of resilience and empowerment. A sense of, “Hey, I can make a decision and the world does not end. If it goes well, great! And, if I decide that I should have made a different choice, I can learn from it and do it differently next time. I can handle things…even hard things.” I spent years agonizing over the decision to go back to graduate school. I finally decided to sign up for a couple of classes and see how it felt. Believe me, I’d have never signed up for those classes if I felt like I had to know exactly how long it would take me to graduate, how I’d find time to study, or how I’d get clients after graduation. I knew in my gut that I wanted to find a way to help people and the rest of the decisions became clearer along the path. And, you can bet I made some mistakes along the way. But, here I am, alive and well to tell you about it!
I could fill this page with references to scientific studies debating what the “gut” is and isn’t and if it’s worth trusting. There are some interesting opinions and studies out there and I encourage you to check them out. But, my gut is telling me to leave you with these two stories:
A woman moves across the country to pursue a relationship with a man who completely had her heart. Six months later, she returns to her hometown broken-hearted because the relationship didn’t work out. She mourned the loss of the relationship for months, but today she feels stronger and wiser for having loved so vulnerably and fully. She knows she can offer that kind of love to someone and knows that she wants, and deserves, the same in return.
A man knows in his gut that he does not want to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. But, the invitations have gone out. The families are anticipating a wedding. So, down the aisle he goes. Two children and a decade later he feels stuck in a loveless marriage because he wanted so desperately to avoid a painful conversation all those years ago.
Which sounds scarier? The doing or the not-doing?
Girl, your roots are so much wiser than you think!Amanda McPherson, Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern Supervised by Kat Elrod, LPC-S http://www.counselingwithamanda.com/home.html
There is something about the actress Jennifer Lawrence that causes most women to say, “that’s the kind of girl I could be friends with.” I had been a little bit of a hold-out on the total girl crush thing, but I must admit that she won me over in her recent interview with Barbara Walters. I fell for her willingness to take on a really unsexy, unglamorous topic in a really authentic way. She had the guts to talk about something on national television that most of us are afraid to talk about with our closest friends – loneliness. My new girl crush said, “sometimes, when everyone goes away, I feel lonely. I have to remind myself, I’m alone, but I’m not lonely.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this candid confession. I think most women struggle with the fear of being alone, but it isn’t something we like to talk about. As humans, we crave connection, and that is a beautiful thing; but, when the fear of being alone is too strong it can become a problem.
I vividly remember the conversation that made me realize how much I avoided being alone. I was asked when I had last spent a Friday or Saturday night at home alone. I literally could not remember. I distinctly recall this person’s eyes growing wide with shock and them saying, “Really? You work full-time, you go to school at night, and you stay busy all weekend every weekend? Wow!” I could be wrong, but I don’t think that “wow” was meant as a compliment. I think it was more of a “girl, you need to get your roots done” kind of “wow.” I guess it did sound a little strange. Sure, I’m a pretty social animal, but when did I ever have time to refuel and reflect? Even more, when did I have time to get to know myself – to listen to that little voice inside me (who, by the way, happened to have some things to tell me)? I was drowning my inside voice out. Sure I was drowning it out with seemingly harmless things – friends, shopping, dating, school, work. But nonetheless, there was no stillness. No rest. No time to ask myself some questions and search for some answers. I wasn’t consciously avoiding being alone, but I had artfully created a lifestyle that left very little opportunity for alone time. Perhaps I did this because I wasn’t sure there was a difference between being alone and loneliness.
A friend of mine used to have a standing Friday night date with herself when she was single. Her ritual was to go by herself to a coffee shop to read and write and just be alone. We were in our early 20s at the time, and this idea seemed absolutely awful to me. I mean, I was ready and willing to hit the town with her, and she was choosing to be alone! Why in the world would she want to do that? Well, I’ll tell you why…. It was in those quiet moments of reflection that she acknowledged her addiction to unhealthy men. Those nights helped her deepen her faith in God, which was something that had always been important to her, but had been put on the back burner. Those nights helped her fall in love with herself and her life. I have a hunch those epiphanies would not have happened on the sticky dance floor of our favorite bar. She became one of the most grounded women I know, and never fear, her dancing shoes came out on Saturdays. I’m not saying that going alone to a coffee shop will answer all of your dreams. But, I can attest to the fact that my friend’s light shone a bit brighter due to what she learned in those quiet moments. Her positive, confident energy was, and still is, hard to resist.
Just like I’d never admonish you to give up your salon services, I’m not advocating that you become a recluse. Family, friends and community are important. If you value those things, you give them your time. I think it’s worth repeating: If you value something, you give it your time. So, how much time are you giving yourself? When was the last time you gave yourself a moment to focus on your own thoughts and feelings? How’s that relationship with your inner voice going? In short, how are you taking care of those roots that are uniquely and beautifully yours?
At the ripe old age of 23, Jennifer Lawrence seems to realize something pretty important: there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone isn’t so bad if you like the company you keep. It’s possible to feel incredibly connected and peaceful being alone. Spending time alone allows you to check in, to see if you like the direction you are going, and to make sure you aren’t just being dragged along by the noise, the demands, the roles we play.
Being lonely, on the other hand, is painful. It hurts. Loneliness rears its head when we are feeling disconnected from ourselves and others. We aren’t immune to loneliness just because we’re in a relationship, have children or stay incredibly busy. In fact, some of the loneliest moments happen when we’re not alone at all. If you’re feeling a prolonged sense of loneliness, it’s probably time to do some examination. The pain of loneliness is urging you to do something differently in your life. Perhaps you need to take an honest look at your current relationships and activities. Are they providing you with a sense of connection? If not, maybe some of your energy needs to go towards rekindling lost connections or creating new ones. Or, maybe you need to take some time figuring out why you don’t enjoy your own company. You don’t have to remain lonely. But, you may have to get really honest about what is going on.
If you are running scared from being alone, or if you can’t shake a feeling of loneliness, I encourage you to think about the “why” behind it. Wrestle with it. Work on it. Give yourself a chance to fall in love with you.
Girl, your roots are such good company!
Hello friends, family and other random victims who are really, really bored at work. You are reading the first entry in the “Girl, Get Your Roots Done” sensation! The idea for this blog came to me one beautiful summer afternoon after having one too many iced coffees and catching a glance of my ‘do in the rearview mirror. Daaaaang. Rearview mirrors don’t lie, do they? That unrelenting root- revealing angle, paired with a case of over-caffeination, sent me into a full on Code Red situation. I called the salon and pleaded with the receptionist for an appointment. Sure, I’ll rearrange my schedule. Yeah, I’ll skip out of work. I need to get my roots done, girl! Don’t you understand?!
Don’t worry, I got an appointment. I know you were on the edge of your seat. And, don’t worry, I’m not here to preach about giving up such luxuries. My pocketbook and I are clinging to these “sun kissed” locks with a death grip and we’re not letting go anytime soon. I think it’s absolutely fine to take pride in how you look. My concern is that so many of us give more urgency, time, and resources toward making things like the tops of our heads look pretty while our most important roots- the roots that ground us, sustain us and feed us -are shriveling due to neglect.
Women feel so much pressure to work tirelessly for the perfect body, hair, house, relationship and other outward signs of success. So much energy goes into these pursuits but something still feels “off”. We wonder why happiness and a sense of contentment remains out of reach. I know I’ve been guilty of looking for the secret to happiness at the mall and I have expected relationships to make me happy. Through personal experience and my role as a therapist, I see so clearly that we cannot truly enjoy the fruits of life–career, relationships, family– when our roots are unhealthy.
So, I hope to help you get rid of the ugly roots. The ones that don’t show up in the rearview mirror, but rear their head in the most important facets of our lives. The nasty, gnarly roots that prevent us from pursuing our dreams and keep us in unhealthy relationships. The damaged roots that prevent us from loving wholeheartedly, committing to our health and embracing countless other joys this life has to offer. And hey, I’ll even make it easy for you by showing up in your inbox. No travel, payment, or frantic scheduling required. My hope is that my ramblings will remind you to pay attention to what sustains you; to nourish the roots that follow you every day and everywhere you go.
Girl, it’s time to get your roots done.