This simple, fast (and free) exercise could change your life!

I had a not-so- pleasant realization the other day that really stopped me in my tracks; I am not sure I have been living my priorities.  It’s not that I’ve been living without values and that I don’t have priorities.  But if someone were examining my daily, weekly and monthly schedule they might be a little confused with how my “priorities” are jiving with how I’m spending a lot of my time.

I talk about my priorities.  I think about them regularly.  But, if I added up how much time I spend actively nurturing the top two or three priorities that are really important to me right now…well, let’s just say they don’t really look like priorities.

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So, I decided to try a very simple, quick (and free!) little experiment.  I wrote down my top three priorities and decided to start evaluating how I’m spending my time against this short list.

Simple? Yes.  Easy? No.

I like to make people happy and, conversely, being around people makes me happy. So, my personal challenge is carving out time to focus on my priorities because they can’t always involve other people or making others happy (ugh, just writing those last few words makes me cringe). But now I have a clear, concise roadmap to consult when I am making decisions about when I need to say yes and when I need to politely say no.

So, I challenge you to join me in this simple exercise:  Take 5 minutes to write down your top two or three priorities.  Don’t create a laundry list.  Keep it to two or three items that are really, really important to you. Then, look at what needs to be eliminated or added in your regular routine to match those goals.

Do you need to get up earlier to fit in a workout? Do you need to say no to a fun trip so that you have money to pay off your debt? Do you need to say no to taking on more work so that you have more time with your family? Only you know what you need to be better aligned with your priorities.

Congratulate yourself if you are already actively living out your priorities (and email me your secret)!  But, if you’re like most of us and feel like the noise and clutter of life often gets too much of your attention, get excited because this simple exercise can be implemented so quickly that you’ll notice the positive results in no time.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

Lucky for me, communicating with YOU is one of my top priorities.

 

Amanda has a Masters degree in Counseling and specializes in helping women feel more empowered in their relationships, career and overall life satisfaction.  To inquire about individual coaching sessions, please email coachingwithamanda@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday’s Fierce Female- Jennifer McCamish

Meet Jennifer McCamish- Former Rockette, owner of Dancer’s Shape studio in Austin, Texas, and admitted frito lover.  Jennifer talks about the ups and the downs of pursuing her dreams.  I think you’ll find her story and advice inspiring. And, as a gal who is lucky to call her a friend, I can tell you that she is as nice as she is talented.

 

Rockette.Special

Was a career in dance/fitness always your dream?

Dance was something I connected with as a young child. I was constantly turning my living room or backyard into a production of The Nutcracker or a circus for my family’s viewing pleasure (or not). When I went to college, my parents begged me not to major in dance because they were concerned with how I would make a living. Nevertheless, after two years in a Liberal Arts degree I had tried every course under the sun and nothing felt right except dance. I knew then that movement had to be a part of my life – even if I didn’t know how I was going to make a living at it.

Being from a small town I had not been exposed to a wide range of dance and theater, just the local production of The Nutcracker, Oklahoma and occasional traveling circus. My senior year of college I took my first trip to NYC for a dance program and my eyes were opened to Broadway. I purchased a ticket in the third mezzanine of Radio City Music Hall and sat on the very back row and watched the The Rockettes perform at the Christmas Spectacular. I said to myself, “I am going to do this show one day.”

What have been some biggest risks/challenges/mental blocks/fears etc. you have faced in pursuing your passion?

There are a couple of moments that really stick out in my mind as huge obstacles. The first being when I approached a college professor to seek advice about moving to NYC to pursue my dance dream. I was surprised at her response, “New York will eat you up and you’ll never make it.” I don’t think she intended her words to be as harsh as they sounded, and she was most likely trying to warn me about how difficult NYC can be. However, those words stuck with me and made me question my talent and doubt myself. But after some time to think, all I wanted to do was show anyone who doubted me that I had more tenacity than they knew. I was the only one who could dig down deep to know what I was capable of and how hard I was willing to work at something I wanted. I could have let those words keep me home bound, but instead all I could think of is that I would never know what I am capable of until I tried; and that unknown felt worse than failing.

The second was my career transition from a professional dancer into the “real world.” I was petrified of failing at something new because all I thought I was good at was dance. I had to put myself out there in fields that laughed at my lack of experience. I played with many ideas and several jobs that were not suited for me but I learned something new about myself in each situation. While this growth process was humbling, it forged a pathway that brought a stronger, smarter and more experienced me; leading me back to my passion of movement and fitness and allowed me to open my own business

Now you have a successful business, but what was it like in the tough times? Did it ever get to you?

When I first opened the studio it was the most stressful time of my life. I would get up at 5 am, go in to the studio and teach 6 classes a day (sometimes to 1 and 2 people in each class since we had just opened). On my non-teaching time I would attempt to learn accounting, clean the entire studio, train new instructors, and get home around 10:30 pm. I would then proceed to binge on fritos dipped in pimento cheese and polish it off with a huge bowl of ice cream. It was disgusting and delicious all at the same time. I’m just sayin…a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get through tough times.

What advice would you offer to women who want to pursue their passion but are scared or unsure about how to go about it?

Be open and flexible to the change and failure it takes to find your path. What you think you want to do might not pan out exactly the way you envisioned it. However, in the process you may find a different path that is a much better fit. Don’t let your failures discourage you from trying. Let those failures teach you invaluable lessons while building a smarter, resilient you.

If you could give some advice to your 22 year- old self, what would it be?

Trust yourself more, you are wiser than you know.

And, last but not least, why should someone check out Dancer’s Shape?

The workouts will change the way your mind and body looks and feels and the community is very special – warm and supportive, no matter what your goals are.

Click here to learn more about Dancer’s Shape!

 

 

3 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Dreams

dreamsSomething inside of you is saying that you want more…that you have more to offer the world. But, the thing is, it just stays there—sitting stagnantly inside that head, that heart, that gut of yours…

Why?

Here are three ways you may be sabotaging your dreams:

1. You are waiting to feel “special”- Here’s the deal, the people who are out there living their dreams are special.  Yep,that’s right.  They were born with this super fantabulous specialness chip, and you simply didn’t get. Sorry. You’re out of luck.  

How ridiculous does that sound?

When we look at the people who we admire; the people who are using their unique gifts in a way that fills them up and makes them shine from the inside out, we aren’t looking at some kind of alien from the Planet of Specialness of which we don’t belong.  Those people don’t have anything you don’t have —except maybe the realization that they didn’t have to be “special” before they started pursuing their dreams.

Take the pressure off of yourself to be “special” and allow the flawed, imperfect, brilliant, unique, authentic you to put one foot in front of the other.

2. You think you’re “lazy”- A mentor of mine once told me, “I don’t believe in lazy”.  She went on to explain her belief that there is always something deeper behind a person’s laziness— Maybe it’s a fear of failure. Perhaps it’s disbelief that you really can be happy; or that you deserve to be. Or, maybe, you have no tolerance for the discomfort and hard work that comes with leaving your comfort zone.  The next time you blame your “laziness” for not pursuing your dreams, I encourage you to look deeper. Examine it.

Don’t let yourself believe in lazy.

3. You don’t want to be an acorn- You’ve probably heard the analogy about how every beautiful oak tree once had to start out as an acorn. But, I mean, who the heck wants to be an acorn?! We want to be beautiful, big, strong oak trees, darnit!

I am going to take this opportunity to practice what I preach about vulnerability and share something with you—I would love, loooove, loooooove to be sitting on a couch across from Ellen someday (yes, as in DeGeneres). You know, just us girls. Chatting like old pals about spreading kindness, empowering women…saving the world…yada, yada, yada. Whoa! That’s some serious Oak Tree dreamin’, right? Sure, I’ll admit it. I have some big dreams. But, if I put that kind of pressure to succeed on every word I write or speak,I’d be paralyzed.

You have to be willing to be an acorn.

Tonight, being an acorn means sitting home on a Saturday night to write this post. Other days, being an acorn means submitting my writing to a publication and having it rejected. And, some days, this little acorn gets watered and fed by hearing that my words helped someone in some way.

It’s okay to have big Oak Tree dreams.  But, you can’t skip being an acorn. And, honestly, you don’t want to because it feels pretty darn good.

So, what is holding you back from pursuing your dreams? I really hope you’ll take the time to search for the answer to this question.

Girl, the world is waiting to receive what you have to offer.

 

This article was first published in A Better Me Magazine.

Amanda has a Masters degree in Counseling and specializes in helping women feel more empowered in their relationships, career and overall life satisfaction.  To inquire about individual coaching sessions, please email coachingwithamanda@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Do We Really Get Second Chances?

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I’ve decided I am giving myself 200 more second chances. I should have it down by then!”

That was a Facebook post from one of my  funny, thoughtful friends the other day. Her musings are often playfully poignant, but this particular post struck me as sheer brilliance.

How freeing would it be to feel like you have 200 second chances? What about 2,000 second chances? Or, wait, what if “second chances” were actually unquantifiable?

The truth is, they are.  Each day, each minute…each breath gives us another chance.

So much of our mental anguish comes from worrying that there is some kind of limit to our “second chances.” We live in fear that if we choose the wrong path, we will be rendered unable to change our course. The fear of running out of chances can keep us stuck in our careers, our relationships and our personal growth.  We have thoughts like:

If I choose the wrong career, I’ll be stuck in a job I hate.

I ate that entire pizza, so I’ll never be capable of making healthy decisions.

I chose to be in this relationship, so I have to stay.

I slept with him too soon and now he expects it; so I can’t say no.

Wrong!

You have not, and will not, run out of second chances.  You get to change your mind, your behavior and your course at any time. It’s exhilarating and terrifying to accept this truth because it means you —and only you— have responsibility for your happiness. You can no longer blame your paralysis or your unhappiness on the boss, your significant other, or your “bad luck.”

If you’ve chosen a fork in the road that doesn’t feel right to you anymore, you get to stop, turn around and change your direction.  If you’ve engaged in behavior that doesn’t feel congruent with your values, you don’t have to keep doing it.  If a job or relationship no longer feels like the right fit for you, you get to re-evaluate and, yes, even leave.

When you believe that each and every moment offers you the opportunity to choose your behavior and feelings, you leave a victim mentality behind and embrace the joy and excitement of a powerful, creative mentality.  You become the designer, architect and builder of an amazing life.

No, you won’t be perfect.  Sure, you might make a mistake. And it won’t always be easy. But you’ll move forward with a calming understanding that you have an bottomless amount of do-overs (kind of like a basket of bottomless chips, but without the calories).

Girl, don’t limit yourself to second chances or even 200 chances.  Live and love knowing that each and every moment offers you the chance to live your best life.

 

Amanda has a Masters degree in Counseling and specializes in helping women feel more empowered in their relationships, career and overall life satisfaction.  To inquire about individual coaching sessions, please email coachingwithamanda@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single On Valentine’s Day. But, Would You Change a Thing?

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A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a male co-worker about relationships and my state of singleness. Okay, 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.

But sometimes it’s hard not to fret about our relationship status, isn’t it?

And, on Valentine’s Day, when we are literally getting slapped in the face with heart-shaped balloons, it’s particularly hard to ignore the questions—“Why haven’t I met The One?” “Am I doing something wrong?” “Am I swiping left too much on Tinder?”

So, as I prepared to write this article, I went to the ultimate source for answers— Google.

Whoa! There is a lot of information out there about 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,” “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 relationship. 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 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.

Listen, I’m not trying to sugar coat the pain that comes with wanting to share your life with someone and that reality feeling out of reach. It’s okay to be sad about it sometimes, abuse chocolate in times of need, or to cry out “what is taking so long?” But, at the end of this well-deserved venting session, I hope you’ll ask yourself “would I do anything differently?”

If you can say no to that question, 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.

And, if you would like to do some things differently, I encourage you to think about what you’re waiting for… 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? If so, maybe it’s time to quit letting your singleness define you.

No one can guarantee you a relationship. However, being able to say “I wouldn’t do anything differently” can help ease the sting of the disappointments and will 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.

Yes, you may be single.  But, girl, you are so much more. Now go out and live like it.

Friday’s Fierce Female- Mandy Rowden

Meet Mandy Rowden—a 34-year old professional musician, founder of Girl Guitar, and all-around  good time.  Her Girl Guitar classes have taught hundreds of women how to play guitar in a fun-loving, laughter-filled, wine-laden environment. And, when she’s not teaching others, she’s writing songs, making albums and playing in venues across the country.

Mandy shares her thoughts on pursuing your passion, what matters most in life and her dream roommate…

Mandy R What made you create Girl Guitar? Girl Guitar happened very organically. I’d been teaching piano and violin for years at Austin School of Music and tried unsuccessfully several times to start a women’s guitar class. It wasn’t until I moved to New York and back and found myself crazy broke and unable to pay my cell phone bill that desperation set in and I wrangled enough gals to sustain a 6 week class. What I thought of as a one-off way to pay my phone bill ended up being so much fun that the girls wanted to do it again….and again….and again. And then their friends wanted to join, and then we added another night of class, then a Songwriting class, and it just grew from there! It took about a year and a half before I was able to hang up my apron and retire from my life in the service industry, and I’ve never looked back.  

Was a career in music always your dream? A career in music wasn’t just a dream, it’s all I’ve even assumed I would do. I’ve had other interests and skills but this has always been ‘it’. I grew up in a small town where the idea of making a living at it was far-fetched but in the back of my mind I knew there was a way to make it work, so between never minding being broke and potentially making an ass of myself and just walking through doors as they’ve opened, I’ve been able to make it happen.

What have been some of the biggest risks and challenges you have faced in pursuing your passion? Risks? Being broke, feeling like I’m banging my head on a wall, wondering if I’m crazy, etc. The challenge is to wake up and just keep plugging away, because sometimes the gigs that really pay off are few and far between and I just have to keep my head down and have a little faith that I’m doing the right thing….and in then meantime work my ass off.  

What advice would you offer to women who want to pursue their passion but are scared or unsure about how to go about it? Turn off your brain and go for it. Just just just go do it.

 If you could give some advice to your 22 year- old self, what would it be? Haha! That girl was awesome…I’d tell her to keep it up. I wish 34 year-old Mandy were as brave and adventurous as she was! Honestly though, I’d like to hug her and tell her to be kinder…it’s maybe the one thing that’s more important that following her dreams.

 What woman do you most admire? Anybody funny and brave. I’ve been reading a lot about Edna St. Vincent Millay and what a firecracker she was, especially for her time. I’d love to drink a beer with her but it’s also a lifelong dream to party with Sarah Silverman…I’m pretty sure she’d ask me to be her roommate and we’d be besties forever after that.

And,  last but not least, why should a gal join Girl Guitar? Same reason we all play guitar…..to look cool ;). Really though, lots of adult women don’t do anything for themselves, don’t express themselves, and don’t make time for some good old-fashioned fun. There’s nothing like cutting loose with a bunch of other women facing fears, improving themselves, learning a new skill, and all the while slamming some wine and laughing their asses off.

For more about Mandy’s music and her Girl Guitar classes, check her out on Facebook, mandyrowden.com and girlguitaraustin.com

 

When Your Holiday Doesn’t Look Like A Hallmark Commercial…4 Helpful Tips.

 

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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.

  1.       Be Honest- Be honest with yourself and the people close to you about how you’re feeling.  You don’t have to be in a good mood for two and a half months just because it’s the holiday season.  Give yourself permission to have fun when it feels right and to take a pass on activities that don’t sound good to you.  But, fight the urge to isolate yourself.  Be honest about what you need from your support system. Even the most well-intentioned friends and family members can’t read your mind.  Chances are they would jump at the chance to host you for the holidays, or would be glad to carve out some extra time for you during the busy holiday season—but they won’t know what you need unless you tell them.
  2.       Set Boundaries- I don’t know about you, but when I go home I pretty much immediately regress to my 15 year old self when I walk in the door.  In my case, this has its pros and cons (home cooked meals= pro; being told when I need to wear a coat = con).  If going “home” sounds about as pleasant as a root canal to you, you don’t have to do it the way you’ve always done it or the way other people think you should do it.  Maybe it’s time to reassess how you approach the holidays. Just because you’ve always stayed with mom and dad for a week, doesn’t mean you have to do that this year. Or, if you feel like you’re expected to be housebound the entire time you’re visiting family, start creating opportunities to get out of the house.  Go on a walk.  Go to a coffee shop to call some friends or read a book. If you’re used to having your own space and your own schedule, it can feel claustrophobic to be with other people 24/7. It’s okay to set some boundaries around your personal time and space.
  3.       Throw tradition out the window (or, gently place it to the side right now)- Sometimes we feel like we have to keep participating in traditions just because we’ve always done it that way. There is certainly a place for tradition, but you don’t have to force yourself to participate in a tradition if it is going to be too uncomfortable or painful for you.  Maybe you want to take a trip to the beach this year instead of flying to see Aunt Sally in Des Moines. Or, maybe you just want to stay home and cuddle up with your pup and Netflix.  A friend of mine goes to the same coffee shop by herself every Thanksgiving morning.  She finds camaraderie with the other patrons and it has become a tradition that she looks forward to every year. It’s okay to think outside of the box. Your plans don’t have to fit the mold of a Hallmark commercial to be fulfilling.
  4.       Give back- I know it’s cliché, but it truly is better to give than to receive. Focusing on helping and serving others has a magical (and even chemical!) effect on our emotional state.  Search for opportunities to lend a hand in your community. And, while it may seem counter-intuitive at first, think about the people (or even the pets) you love and make an effort to do something special for them this season.  It may sound cheesy, but you will attract the energy you put out there. Spend some time focusing on how you can make someone else’s holiday a little better and I guarantee that yours will be better, too.

Girl, YOU are worth celebrating this year- however and wherever you want.

Make sure to follow me on FacebookTwitter 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.

 

 

Tired of relationships bringing out your “crazy?” Maybe this will help.

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.canstockphoto7432566

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.

For regular helpful hints, blogs and inspiration, follow Girl, Get Your Roots Done on Facebook!

 

 

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Dating

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.

canstockphoto17620014DO 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-   canstockphoto7212145While 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?)

And, above all else…

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Have the Secret Ingredient for a Successful Relationship?

canstockphoto20291917We 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.

Why Should He Date You?

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.”canstockphoto10605477

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 FacebookTwitter 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.

 

Are You Dating Empty Calories?

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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 Conversations You Need to be Having

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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.

 

100 Days of Gratitude

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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.

 re·sil·ience

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.

Kali

 

 

 

How Strong is your Gratitude Muscle?

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” 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.

 

Have you Bubble Wrapped your Heart?

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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
 

 

 

 

Are Your Friendships Healthy?

 

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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

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“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=ZPCkfARH2eE

Amanda 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/

My Single Valentine

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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/