The Biggest Lie You Tell Every Day

I don’t know. Have you ever noticed how often we use that phrase? When we think about verbal pauses, many of us immediately think of “um” and “uh” but we often forget about this funny little string of words that we throw around to fill awkward silences or to deflect our discomfort. In honor of the close of the ultimate year of uncertainty (2020, for those of you not following along), today I want to consider how these three little words, when used unconsciously in this manner, can rob you of your credibility and make you a liar.

When you ask a child what they want to do when they grow up, they will quickly offer all sorts of fantastical imaginings. Flying to the moon, raising a gaggle of unicorns, and becoming a fairy princess seem to be fairly obvious responses (both then and now — who doesn’t want to fly to the moon on a unicorn dressed as a princess?).

What is most interesting about fantastic childhood plans are not the plans themselves but a child’s commitment to making them happen.

Have you ever asked a child where they plan to find a unicorn, let alone an entire gaggle of unicorns, or how they plan to fulfill their lifelong dream of raising unicorns in every color of the rainbow? Such a question may be met with a variety of unique and interesting answers but, amongst those answers, you will not hear a child respond: I don’t know.

Kids don’t care about the how. That is an adult problem that we have gifted to ourselves.

Kids don’t care about how they are going to accomplish their dreams. They simply commit. When pushed, they brainstorm all sorts of ideas as to how they might accomplish this goal. Their little eyes squint with focused effort and their little brains hum away offering all sorts of solutions to the problem. They get to work solution-ing the problem, without hesitation or doubt.

The beautiful thing about watching a child do this is that it is a living reminder that we too are wired in this way. We too have the ability to solution all of our problems. The trick is that we must stop investing in the phrase “I don’t know.” Those three little words slam the door – no eye squinting with thought-exertion, no brain humming away to work. Just pure silence. Dream foreclosure!

Using those three little words suggests that we must know how something is to be accomplished before we can get to work doing it. In what realm does that make any sense? Why does it matter that you don’t know how to accomplish something?

Isn’t it simply enough to want it and chart your course from there?

(Get support charting your course by taking advantage of limited free coaching sessions that I offer every week.)

Our world is not filled with problems that have secret, solitary solutions that must be discovered. Our world demands that we must get to acting and crafting potential solutions before we know what will work. We must acknowledge that we don’t know the how and get to work sorting that out.

Not knowing “how” is not a stop sign, it’s the starting line.

We know this intellectually but yet our brains freak out whenever we are tasked with something significant that we have never done before. That freak out sounds like this:

I don’t know.

You DO know. You may not know the exact right solution but without a doubt you can brainstorm your first step. If you force yourself to imagine what you would do if you DID know, you will develop a first step. You will start learning what might work and what won’t work. In contrast, if you resign to a world of I don’t know, you will most certainly continue to not know because those words never spurred anyone to action.

In a world of balance — yin and yang, up and down, good and evil — everything has its opposite. Everything has its counterpoint. Wouldn’t it then follow that where you are “not knowing” there also exists in you the corresponding “knowing”? 

When you use IDK as a means to fill the space and avoid taking action, you discredit yourself and your resiliency. You communicate to yourself and those around you that you don’t have the ability to brainstorm like a 6-year-old child. Furthermore, you communicate to those around you that it matters that you don’t know the precise solution to the challenge at hand. It doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is your investment in acting to discover a solution.

Lean into solution-ing like a child and give yourself space to be the problem solver that you are. No one is hiring you because they want you to know everything. People hire you because they trust you to craft a solution, no matter what it takes. That leaves very little room for “I don’t know.”

In sum, stop staying I don’t know and give yourself space to offer what you DO know. That is so much more truthful than “I don’t know.”


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The Career or the Family?

I can’t have a family and practice law.

This type of thinking is common for many women seeking their place in the legal industry. We are often surrounded by women who seemingly sacrifice everything to find success. They either choose not to have children or family for the sake of climbing the ladder or they have the kids and family but they trade their health and well-being–they never sleep and perpetually seem to be running a race against themselves.

Work and family: despite everything we see suggesting that these things are mutually exclusive, there is a significant fault with this thinking.

It is rare in this life that things will be truly mutually exclusive. We live in a world where dichotomies seemingly flourish, if we only look hard enough to see them. But when we subscribe to ‘either or’ thinking, we foreclose any solution to the dichotomy that might be truly our own. With ‘either or’ thinking, the only thing we will see are more reasons why it won’t work.

Our brains must be given some direction. Without adequate supervision and instruction, our brains are like children running down the stairs with knives — no one will come out of this unscathed. What this means is that, in every moment, of every day, we are giving our brain direction and instruction with our thoughts. From there, our brains will whir to action ferreting out evidence to support the thoughts and beliefs we offer it (hello, confirmation bias). So when we offer our brain thoughts of mutual exclusivity, our brain will not seek any evidence to the contrary.

Our brains are not designed to argue with our beliefs. That is a skill we must develop on our own. The first step is recognizing the beliefs that you are choosing are just thoughts–they are not facts but we are treating them as if they were.

When we subscribe to “either or” thinking, as if it were the holy grail of truths, we foreclose any innate ability we may have to merge the dichotomous elements. We overlook any creative solutions to the exclusivity and we don’t invest any energy developing creative alternatives.

If we truly believed that we could have a full professional life and a home life and if we actively invested in that belief, we would be much more willing to explore ways to make it work. We would be much more invested in drawing boundaries that would give us both. Instead, when we subscribe to dichotomous thinking, we set ourselves up to fail; we buy into the notion that one of those commitments will have to suffer for the other. What’s more, that thinking allows us to ACCEPT those sacrifices as part of the invariable truth. That truth being: you can’t have both.

Says who?

Investment in that type of thinking is only hurting us. When we allow ourselves to believe that we can only have one or the other, we stunt the development of the legal profession. Imagine where women would be today if our predecessors stopped challenging dichotomous beliefs!

One of the reasons this type of thinking often wins out is because it’s easy. It’s a very clear rule establishing choices that must be made. It confirms that anyone who tries to have both is only setting themselves up for failure because they are violating the rule. This ignores the underlying truth that sometimes getting the life that you want requires you to do the hard thing. Sometimes, challenging established beliefs requires more from you than simply accepting the limiting rules. So when we start to challenge those norms and feel that struggle, we give up and we release our will to the power of the belief.

But what if that struggle was the whole point?

What if just beyond that struggle and a whole host of difficult conversations and boundaries, you could find a way to live a life that flies in the face of the old rules?

We don’t have to believe that you must make a choice between family and a career. It can be done but it will certainly require more from you and it will most certainly require you to do more than simply buy into a belief. In order to deconstruct outdated thinking, we are going to have to invest in some difficult conversations and boundaries. We are going to have to re-examine how we envision our lives and our practices. We are going to step out of the black and white (victim, villain) thinking and start crafting solutions that actually work for us.

Besides, what’s the alternative?

Challenging systematic beliefs we hold about ourselves and our careers is at the core of what I do with my clients. When we believe we don’t have any other options, we stop growing and we stop challenging the status quo. We become the victim to a faceless machine. That is the death knell for our success in the legal profession. Start paving a different path, marked by an honest investment in your true wants and needs. Let’s re-chart your course — what do you have to lose?


Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle on Unsplash

They Don’t Like You

Humans are social animals. There is a part of us that is drawn to community. So when a seed is planted that we are not liked, it’s easy to become consumed with worries and fantasized arguments with others. Not only does this waste your energy in the moment, it’s typically unwarranted. When we get curious about our “I’m disliked” fantasies, we can uncover the root of the issue: our own self-judgment.

When we find ourselves being criticized, we often have an impulse to react and to defend ourselves. No one wants to be a doormat. But there are also times in our lives when we don’t rush to our own defenses: when we don’t see a glimpse of truth in the criticism. In those instances, we are rarely drawn into the foray.

If your neighbor gruffly tells you that they would appreciate it if you would pick up after your dogs and you, in fact, do not have any dogs, that feedback would not upset you. You might take issue with their tone and assumptions but you aren’t going to go to battle about picking up after your dog. That comment would not send you into a tailspin about whether you are a good neighbor or dog owner or a good person in general.

Similarly, if I told you how I hated your blue hair you wouldn’t be offended (unless of course, you have blue hair). Confused? Yes. Concerned for my mental state? Probably. But you wouldn’t be self-conscious about your blue hair or second guess your fashion choices.

This logic rings true when we are concerned that someone doesn’t like us. If we didn’t have a mountain of reasons why we think they don’t like us, it wouldn’t bother us. The problem is that when we are in that headspace, the criticisms and arguments running through our heads are more likely criticisms we have against ourselves. We have plenty of reasons why we think others might not like us, we just have choose amongst the myriad options.

Our internal battles are often punctuated by words the other person didn’t actually say. Things they didn’t actually do. We make assumptions about their “issues” with us and from there we get worked up. Where do those assumptions come from?

Our own stockpile of negative self-talk.

That is why we get so caught up in it. We explain to ourselves what the other person doesn’t like about us and then we go on a defensive rampage in our heads. If we didn’t believe, at least in part, that there was some truth to those criticisms we *think* the other person is lobbing at us, we wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t be so easy to get caught up in it.

BUT this doesn’t mean that you are uncovering subconscious truths about yourself. It doesn’t mean those criticisms are true. It’s simply a mirror, giving you a glimpse of your own self-judgments and the unkind words we say to ourselves over and over and over again. It’s like taking off the soundproof headphones and listening to our horrible inner self-talk for the first time.

So the next time you find yourself stewing about how someone doesn’t like you and drawing conclusions about why that might be, ask yourself

What parts of my story are factual? Did the other person actually SAY or DO anything to confirm these conclusions?

Why does it bother me? Is part of  my story based upon my own personal fears and judgments about myself?

When we worry about why others don’t like us, it is easy for our brain to pull out the reasons WE don’t like ourselves and offer those up to support your conclusion. This does not make it true. Use this as an opportunity to better understand your relationship with yourself. From there you can decide what type of friend you want to be — to YOURSELF.

Negative self talk is toxic and it permeates so many of our relationships with other people. Do your own work and watch your relationships with those around you flourish.


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Taking the Leap with Your Career

Sometimes all we need to do is make space for ourselves and allow our real thoughts and desires the opportunity to show themselves to us. They might just be sitting there, waiting to be seen, if only we would stop moving and take the time to be present with ourselves. This was something that became so clear to me in a recent session.

I recently met with a client who wanted support to figure out her next move. When the session started, she asked me to help her understand whether she needed to “put in her time” at her big law job before moving on to something new. Specifically, was there some magic to sticking it out for 3 years before moving on to the next thing?

I actually get asked variations of this question all the time.

There is a common belief that we must always act with our resumes in mind.

That we must always ensure that our resumes demonstrate not only our competencies but our LOYALTY to prior employers.

But what about loyalty to ourselves? Loyalty to what we want? That was where this session quickly ran off to. I was prepared to empower my client to take ownership of her career and decide for herself what made the most sense regardless of some perceived righteous calendar but then the session took a surprising turn. After some pressing, my client quietly shared that knew exactly what she wanted to do with her career; she knew exactly what she wanted to do and she didn’t want to wait 3 years to do it.

(If this is ringing
a bell, run don't walk to signing up for a free session
with me. Don't shame your dreams. Don't bury your light. Let that shit burn the
night down!)

So why muddy with water with all these questions about how long to stay and when is it the “right” time to move on? Because that was the feedback she was getting from those around her. Well-intended, certainly, but that advice was in direct contrast to what she knew in her gut. She knew she wanted to leave and she knew exactly what she wanted to do next. She allowed her conviction and inner knowing to be clouded by the judgments and experiences of others.

How many times in our lives have we put off doing what we knew was right for ourselves because we allowed ourselves to be persuaded by those around us?

We seek input from those closest to us but then allow those inputs to sway us. To set us adrift, unmoored. When you know in your gut what you want, allowing the advice and counsel of those around you to change your course will set you adrift and the tides of others’ opinions will only carry you farther away from that true north.

Think about it….when you KNOW what you want to do next, why bother asking others what you should do? Because you want your decision to be blessed by those in your life. Because you don’t want your decisions to be criticized. Because you want to be talked out of your “crazy” dream. You want to be convinced that you should stay safe and not rock the boat. So instead, you gather the input and attempt to fit it into your plan. In doing so, you take a perfectly clear path and you obscure it. We turn away from our own knowing because we are driven by a desire to please those around us, avoid criticisms, and stay safe.

I know we all know it but let me say it again here: that is no way to live your life!

There are no inherently “right” or “wrong” answers — there is only OUR answer. When we look to others to steer our course, we imply that there is some inaccessible wisdom that others have and we don’t. That others know our dreams better than we do.

At the same time, we often look to others in hopes that they will talk us down from the ledge; that they will stop us from leaping into some uncertain dream. They will snuff out our crazy. That they will keep us from doing something ridiculous.

Be aware of who you are and what you want. Having that clarity is a gift that is not bestowed upon all of us.

Honor that gift and do not allow yourself to be swayed by the experiences of others. Following your own dream will be uncomfortable. It will expose you to criticism and judgment. But is that really worse than living a life to please someone else? Is that better than living INauthentically? Are you really committed to believing that pursuit of your dream was supposed to be some fantastical cake walk?

Our rational minds know that pursuit of our path is meant to challenge us and forge us anew but the part of us that fears what others might think sees those difficulties as a reason to stop the pursuit.

In doing so, we stifle our own evolution. Hard is part of the deal. Buckle up, baby cakes!

One of the greatest gifts I can offer my clients is to serve as a mirror for themselves; to help them see their own strengths, their own wants, and their own dreams. I believe that we all hold the keys or our own successes and happiness, but sometimes those keys are buried under years of negative programing and bad information. Once we clean up our own roadblocks, the truth is often waiting to be found. Then the only thing left to do is trust our own judgement and start taking action despite the fear. That my friend, is why we are here. To pursue the uncharted path and see just who we might become at the end of that journey.

Happy trails, my friends!


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When Your Boss is the Villain…

In every drama, there are three characters — the villain, the victim, and the savior. But for any drama to continue, the characters must remain fixed. The villain remains bad; the victim remains the loser, and the savior never saves anyone. Cinematic dramas only end when one of those characters decides to stomp out of the drama and write a new story.

Whenever we find our lives dripping in dramatics and heightened emotions, we must consider: which role are we playing?

As children, many of us learned that, in every story there is a villain and a victim. Someone is either inherently good or inherently bad. Consider popular children’s movies — Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Scar, Maleficent, Jafar, Gaston, etc. Those characters were the “bad guys”, ever-tormenting the lives of the “good guys.” Foiling their attempts at happiness and the simple enjoyment of uncontaminated apples. Those stories don’t allow for the complexity of humanity that the rest of us come to understand as adults.

People are murky, a mix of light and dark, good and bad.

Rarely are we all able to universally agree that one human is good or evil — even the most despised criminal has family members and lovers that speak to their more redeeming qualities. We are humans, not storybook characters. Despite this awareness, many of us make habits out of classifying others around us as villains, consciously or unconsciously. We see others as out to “get us” and committed to making our lives miserable. We use phrases like “they are freezing me out”, “I have been completely written off”, “he hates me”, “she has no interest in developing our relationship.” We invest in these statements and close the book as if that is simply the end of the chapter in some Disney movie. 

What we fail to recognize is that complexity that we know resides within all of us. That positioning disregards any other possibility than how we are currently seeing things. Most importantly: if they are the villains, that makes us the victim. We are at their mercy, at the whim of their cruelty and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Not only does that mentality ignore the true complexity of human relationships, it provides an excuse to stop trying. It offers justification to leave the relationship where it is and not take any action because, after all, you are very busy being a victim to circumstances beyond your control. There is simply nothing you can do. No way to fix it.

You have tried “everything!”

In keeping with the theme of children’s movies, when we allow ourselves to camp out in this world where this is “no solution” and “I just don’t know what to do…nothing will get better” we ignore the best parts of our beloved movies! We love children’s movies because they teach us about TRANSFORMATION! They invariably revolve around a character who refuses to be a victim. Who refuses to roll over and “accept” their reality. We all want the big transformation! We all want to see the main character stretch outside their comfort zone, use their voice, and give their villain the middle finger. We love seeing people rise above adversity and step outside of victim mode! No one wants a story were the “victim” gives up.

We all want to see the “victim” become empowered and seize their life by its sensitive bits!

Why am I going down this rabbit hole? Because in every day, we have opportunities to be that transformative story. So many of us camp out in the victim mentality. We tell ourselves, there are no solutions, I’ve tried everything, nothing will get better…this is just my life…we immerse ourselves in disempowering thoughts sprinkled with a boatload of self-justifications I tried EVERYTHING, I just know it won’t work, I know he won’t be responsive…. Those thoughts are fraught with victimhood! I have yet to find any human on the face of the planet who has tried EVERYTHING at anything. Yet we develop justifications for our inaction. We tell ourselves there is nothing more to be done and we stay put. Often unhappy and miserable (and we’ve concluded that there is no solution, so we’re here to stay and that’s fun too).

No one wants to read that story! Why do we do this to ourselves?

Because it’s easier to be a victim than it is to do the hard work that comes with transformation.

Being a victim is easy. Growth is hard. 

There will be scenarios in our lives that will afford us an opportunity to write our own transformative stories. Life will give us abundant chances to grow and develop. Similarly, life will give us challenging hands and ample opportunities to see ourselves as the victim. There will be times when you give up and that’s okay! But we cannot become skilled at giving up. We cannot become skilled at being the victim. Instead, we must become skilled at transformation! We must practice doing the hard thing. Trying just ONE more way to break through to your boss…To ask for that raise ONE MORE time…To voice your feelings in another kind of way…To try and develop that relationship with your co-workers one last time.

Too often I see women who have dug in their six inch heels. They refuse to see how they have given up to victimhood. They are CONVINCED those around them are the bad guys and there is just no fixing it. While that is certainly one way to live your life, wouldn’t it be so much more fun write your own hero story?

If you find yourself in a space where you are convinced there is no solution available, I would love to work with you and start writing a new story. You are stronger than you think and the possibilities to rewrite your happiness are endless.

To put a bow on this and conclude the title of this rambling: When Your Boss is the Villain…YOU become the victim.

Is that how you want your story to go?

If your life and your “villain” were characters in a children’s story, how would you want it to end?


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Timelines

As an unmarried woman tap dancing around 40, timelines are often a topic of conversation. People LOVE to talk timelines at me — baby timelines, marriage timelines, “when will you start acting like a grown-up”-timelines. We make timelines for marriage, kids and the white picket fence. We are acutely aware of the impact time has on our bodies, our skin, and our metabolism.

Our career trajectory has its own timeline and our days are constantly at the mercy of the clock in 6 minute increments. With all this focus on time, we have to take *time* to pause and reflect on all this rigidity.

Are the timelines we adopt in our minds really timelines or are we sacrificing our peace to arbitrary metrics?

Many of my clients speak of a mystical timeline for attorney-success. There seems to be some notion of when we are *most* marketable and when we lose that marketability. This timeline puts pressure on the decision whether to get serious about partnership or begin examining other alternatives.

Practicing law, like all professions, will certainly come with its own unique decisions to be made. Unless utilizing the ostrich approach to your career, you are undoubtedly going to have to decide whether partnership is something you want. You will be exposed to other opportunities. You will likely be courted by headhunters as your skillset is sharpened. You will have choices to make.

But these choices are yours to make. In your own time. As you see fit. PERIOD.

When we acknowledge that we have choices but then pile on arbitrary deadlines, the decision-making process becomes compressed and our emotions become heightened. Your legal career is not borne within some hourglass that tracks your marketability and viability. We are not counting embryos here. You get to decide when it’s time for a change. You get to decide what your path looks like.

There is nothing wrong with never making partner. There is nothing wrong with working at a firm for 9 years and then moving on. There is no expiration on your value and the contributions that you can make. When we buy into the notion that our marketability has an expiration date, we are selling ourselves short. We ignore all that we have learned thus far and make ourselves the victim to some arbitrary standard.

When we buy into beliefs the our choices (our FREE WILL) has an expiration date, we compound the difficulties that are inherent in life. It is hard enough to decide what we want to do with our lives, why add an arbitrary deadline to it?

What I often see are young attorneys who have concluded, after 3-5 years of practice, that they MUST make a decision about what they want long term. They visit with me in hopes that I can provide them with some clarity about the right path for them.

While there are a variety of factors that will play into the decision to leave a firm, expiration of your value should not be one of them.

I have seen senior attorneys, without any book of business, get hired to build their own practice group. I have seen tenured in-house attorneys, practicing 20+ years, return to big law practice. I have seen associates start their own firms after practicing for 1 year. There is no limit on your value and there is no deadline for determining your next step.

If you could believe that you were under no deadline make a decision, what would you do? That is the only relevant inquiry.

If you are investing in some sort of timeline–for your career, your relationship, marriage, procreation–I invite you to explore how that timeline came to be? Is it founded in “good law”? Is it serving you? Don’t let dramatics cloud your judgment and your decisions. This is your life. You get to make the timeline, no one else.

The majority of my clients are driven to find a coach because they are looking to make a change in their career–they are either seeking to show up differently in their current environment or they are looking for  a dramatic overhaul. If you are looking to make some changes, schedule a free consult and let me support you in gaining clarity.

Being On Call 24/7

In everything that we do, we are expressing our values not only to ourselves but those around us. In that expression, others will learn to anticipate where they fall on your hierarchy of values. If your choices communicate to them that they will always be #1 no matter what, they will come to expect that treatment every time. Why wouldn’t they?

When you get that phone call late at night, you are choosing to value it more than your time at home with your family.  You are choosing to place greater value on not being yelled at than getting a full night sleep.

You are always making choices where to spend your energy.

Your job is not robbing you of the balance you seek. You are opening the doors and burning down all your guard towers. Why then are we so surprised when they keep doing it? You set the precedent by communicating where these types of interactions fall on your list of priorities: right at the top, above all else.

The only person you need to be mad at for constantly pushing your boundaries is you. Other people will not naturally violate our boundaries — they are taught what is acceptable. WE teach them what is acceptable by our actions. When they continually do so, it is only because they have become the monsters WE CREATED.

We’ve all seen those attorneys who just don’t give a F about not responding immediately to calls and emails. Everyone knows it, everyone gossips and gripes about it, and everyone is secretly jealous that they don’t have the guts to do the same. Not only do those attorneys still have a job but they also have all the balance we’ve been craving. People learned not to call them after 6 and deduced that they won’t respond to late night emails unless it’s truly an emergency.

They made a choice about what they valued more — not being gossiped about or having work life balance. For them, having more balance is worth so much more than being gossiped about for not be “responsive” all the time.

They made conscious decisions about their values and where the demands of the job fell with respect to those values. They clearly communicated their values and they stuck to their guns.

It can be as simple as that.

You do not have to respond to every email just because you saw it and just because someone else decided it was an emergency.  Develop the art of cultivating your mail and only responding after hours to true emergencies (here’s a hint: they never are, we’re not ER doctors) or when you REALLY want to.

Humans are creatures of habit. If we allow others to call on us at all hours of the night, they will continue to do so if it yields the result they want. And they will stop if it doesn’t get the result they want.

You are not a victim to others.

You are only a victim to your own choices and luckily for all of us, we can start making better choices. Choices more in tune with our values.

Sick of the constant barrage of emails and phone calls 24/7? Get support figuring out how to chart a new course at work by signing up for a free session.


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“Yes” Women

Impostor syndrome: “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Many of the women that I work with suffer from various manifestations of imposter syndrome. Recently, I have noticed that many of my clients “handle” their imposter syndrome by slipping to a persistent helper role.

Imposter syndrome persistently tells us that we are a “fake” and that we will be found out; that eventually everyone will realize that we don’t belong and they will get rid of us. One tendency to combat these fears is to make yourself irreplaceable. For many women, this takes the form of caretaker or helper.

I recently had a client who expressed how important it was to her to always been seen as reliable and someone that others could always count on. She was always offering to support new projects and teams even when she knew that she didn’t have the time or capacity. More often than not, she would come to our sessions operating on fumes. Completely exhausted and frustrated that no one can do anything without her. She was burnt out and wanted to change this pattern.

As we explored her patterns, we came to understand that this was completely a mess of her own making. She consciously took on more than she was able and was reluctant to give up that part of her practice. On the one hand, she knew that it was making her miserable but at the same time, she didn’t want to give up that important position. She didn’t want people to gripe if she said no to work. She didn’t want people to judge her if she scaled back and she imagined a parade of horrible comments she believed her co-workers would make if she stopped helping everyone. She wanted to be needed. She wanted to be an essential player on every team. It made her feel safe and secure.

This is what imposter syndrome does! It creates patterns of coping with our fears of inadequacy. We craft ways to “cover up” our perceived shortcomings to keep our secret safe. In my client’s instance, she was bending over backwards to be available to anyone for any project, at any moment. She was constantly cancelling personal trips and social gatherings to jump on new projects. It had become part of her persona and it was what made her feel like she belonged–it helped to soothe the fears of inadequacy. It silenced the negative rantings in her head — they couldn’t possibly fire her even if they discovered her inadequacies, too many people NEEDED her!

The patterns that accompany imposter syndrome are not sustainable. It is neither fulfilling nor rewarding to be at everyone’s beck and call. While it filled my client with a momentary sense of pride, more often it made her angry and frustrated. She felt trapped and out of control. She believed she had nowhere to go but to a full-fledged, out-of-nowhere explosive resignation. But in order to avoid that meltdown, my client needed to take a hard look at her helper tendencies and invest in making some changes.

What is it costing you to say yes to work and projects that you really don’t want to do?

What is really motivating you to take on all these things?

What would it get you if you were better able to set boundaries?

What would it be like to be able to unplug and enjoy your personal life?

Changing how we think of ourselves and how we show up in our lives is painful. Facing the fears associated with setting boundaries is hard work — it is FAR easier to just keeping saying yes to every man, woman, child, and dog that want your time and energy. The only way to truly make the shift is to first get really clear on what your current pattern is costing you and what it will cost you in the long-term if you fail to make a change.

Are you sacrificing your personal life and relationships because you are afraid to say “no” at work? What is that costing you?

Some day, you will leave that job and your friends and family will still be there. Your body, your health, your mental well-being will still be with you. Are you investing in those as well? Is your pattern costing you all those things that will remain once this job is done?

Our patterns are persuasive and convincing. It’s easy to believe we are doing the right things. Those tendencies likely created your immediate success, after all. In order to break this cycle, we have to open our eyes and see that these patterns are costing us more than they are getting us. We have to start believing that if we remain in place, we will destroy everything. Because it’s true. We have to see the forest for the trees. We have to do the hard work.

In order to change we have to understand the cost-benefits of staying where we are versus evolving. If you need support deconstructing your current patterns, grab a free session and start re-investing in your own wellbeing. After all, it’s just a job…

Doing the Hard Things

I have always wanted to be a yogi. It always seemed to “fit” with my personal vision for myself–I meditate every day, do some yoga-lite stretching, I am a reiki master, a meditation instructor, I love all this woo woo…. It just seems like a love affair that was meant to be! The problem? I just don’t want to do it. At all. I will do anything to avoid it. I will put it on my calendar and plan to go to a class and when it comes down to that make it or break it moment, I bail out.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daily stretching routine that I lovingly think of as yoga-lite. I love connecting with my body and taking that inward time before I sit in my daily meditation. Whenever I muster up the fortitude to dive into a yoga class, I feel so good afterwards and sometimes I even enjoy it – the WHOLE time. I know it’s good for me and I know I always feel better once it’s done. So what’s the problem you ask?

I simply don’t want to do the hard things. I am in love with the IDEA of being a flexible, lithe yogi but, put simply: I don’t want to do the work.

I don’t want to hold uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. I don’t want to go to a yoga class. I don’t want to put my leg there or twist in such a way. There is something about it that I really detest. And yes, I know deep down that I should see this as a signpost that yoga is hiding something delicious for me. Somewhere within its depths is an awakening, a realization of some sort that I must find. But, here I am. Not a yogi. Barely a yogi-lite. Annoyed at the thought of it all.

I am in love with the dream but not willing to act on it.

I don’t want to do the hard work. I am rebelling against the discomfort. That’s it. There is no magic here.

I share this story because we all do this! We are so good at identifying all of the things that we want that we don’t have. We have laundry lists of skills and accomplishments that we want to attain or achieve. Most of us rarely chip away at those things because when it comes down to it, we don’t want to do the hard work. We just want to wake up one day and realize that the accomplishment was simply waiting to be unearthed all this time, it was always ours for the taking. All we had to do was wake up, go to that yoga class and suddenly the heavens would open up and rain down our dream.

We want the dream but we want it to come easily. We don’t really want to do all the work that necessarily precedes it.

This is why we don’t achieve our dreams. There is no secret here. We just don’t want to do the work.

Once we see all the work that comes with the achievement, we continue to *want* the thing but we stop taking any action to get there. Instead we resign ourselves to dreams of longing. I wish I could climb a 14-er…I wish I could play the piano…I wish I was really good at yoga. We are more than happy to lament our lacking. Rather than figuring out how to do the hard thing, we resign ourselves to being the victim of our circumstances, as if others were simply blessed with these gifts that we don’t have. For them, it was easy but for us, we just can’t do it. We live our lives with a laundry list of things that we want or wish that we had. If only we had more time…more money…more innate ability….

The truth is while we want these things, it is not our misfortune that we don’t have them: it is our unwillingness to do the damn thing.

I’m not saying that if you decide to climb Mt. Everest and wholeheartedly commit to doing all the work that comes with that endeavor, you will inevitably be successful. What I am saying, instead is this:

Wouldn’t it be so much more gratifying to say: I trained for a year to climb Mt. Everest but eventually opted for a summit where people die less frequently.

Or

I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain so I’ve recently started training for it. 

Those statements are so much more FUN and illustrative about our lives than to say I would love to climb Mt. Everest some day.

Why carry dreams around with you that you aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish?

The next time you catch yourself expressing a wish/hope/desire for some unattained goal, stop yourself. If you aren’t willing to put in all the hard work that comes with that particular goal, is it really true that you want it? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state:
 

Climbing Mt. Everest sounds amazing but I am just not interested in going through all that training and the risks!

Even THAT sounds more authentic than all that wishing and hoping and lamenting!

Why is this important? When we offer empty wishes and dreams to the universe without any commitment behind them, we slip into victim mentality. It’s as if we are wishing that we could be so lucky to accomplish such a thing. If only we had been so similarly gifted. Implying: we weren’t blessed with luck or gifts. We just don’t have what it takes. It is an energy of lack. An energy of dissatisfaction with one’s life and place. Is that really the energy you want for your dreams?

Dream from a place of abundance. A place where your words are more a forecast for your future than a condemnation of your present. Where your dreams are at your fingertips and not some vague hope.

The first thing I do with all of my clients is cast the dream: what is it that you want from life? From there we start planning and taking actions to bring that dream closer and closer. Interested in getting some clarity for your future? Ready to dive into some righteous discomfort? Sign up for a free session before they are all gone!

Over-Apologizers Anonymous

“Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships.” — Dr. Tara Swart, neuroscientist, Medicine Revived

I believe that all relationships should be two-sided. A push and pull, yin and yang, ebb and flow: balanced. When we over apologize, we take ownership for things that are not our own. The relationship becomes one-sided, where one person is always in the right and the other is always in the wrong.

What types of relationships fit into that dynamic?

Victim/villain comes to mind…

However you want to characterize it, over apologizing leaves no room for evolution by either party. The victim hones her skills at subservience, silence, and carrying burdens that are not her own. The villain hones her skills at skirting responsibility, blaming others and excuse-making. Both parties lose the opportunity to hone their voice and self-confidence, to develop the skills that accompany a healthy relationship: trust, partnership, humility, honesty, and respect.

Over apologizing is often the easy route. It’s easier to take on all the blame than it is to stand up for yourself. It’s easier to believe that it was all your fault than to examine the things you did right. This victim mentality is pervasive and can seep into all aspects of your life if left unchecked.

So why do we over apologize?

As I mentioned above, the primary reason we do it is that it’s easier. It is the path of least resistance. We don’t want to do the hard thing and speak our truth. We don’t want to make waves. We are biologically programmed to avoid conflict after all!

Therein lies the second reason that we do this: we don’t want the other person to think poorly of us. We don’t want to be seen as a muckraker, argumentative, or god-forbid a human with feelings. Buried deeper within this rationale is that we are trying to control how the other person thinks of us. We want them to like us. We want them to think we are a team player. We have thick skin. We don’t make trouble.

To be clear: We. Are. Being. Manipulative.

Changing what we think, feel, say, and do because we want something to think about us in a certain way is absolutely manipulation in its noblest form.

So not only are we not being authentic by hiding our truth, we are often showing up in a manner than is inconsistent with our values and character. When considered in this light, over apologizing becomes a bit more distasteful.

Further, when we wrongly apologize, we are taking ownership for something. We are implying that there was something overlooked. Something we could have and should have gotten right the first time. Is that true? Could you have foreseen that the client was going to change their mind? That the contractor was going to cancel last minute after you made your husband come home from work for the appointment? Before you consider uttering the words “I’m sorry,” first get clear on what your role was in the “problem.” If there is no clear failure on your behalf — stop talking.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to take ownership for things that are not our own. Rather, we must strive to share the experiences than should be SHARED between all parties. Recognize the discomfort of the situation for all parties but do not apologize for it, as if you created it. Acknowledge that things didn’t go as well as they could have but don’t pretend that the circumstances were masterminded by you and therefore you must apologize.

Sometimes things go wrong. That is life. Unless you are some secret deity, stop taking ownership for it.

Instead of apologizing, try on these options:

Good catch, I hadn’t considered that angle.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Thanks for starting the meeting when my appointment ran long.

Is now a good time to chat? (Instead of “Sorry to bother you…”)

A few things I am taking away from this experience are….

This must be really frustrating for you too.

I can understand why you might be angry about this.

I would like to add… (Instead of “I’m sorry but…”)

Wow, this is really frustrating.

I appreciate your perspective, but I don’t understand why…

Whoops!

Use I’m sorry only if you have truly done something wrong that falls squarely on your shoulders.

And, most importantly, only use it when you really mean it. “I’m sorry” should be a phrase that, when it comes out of your mouth, others appreciate it and know it is genuine because it is not something you throw around lightly.

Chronic over apologizer? If the above concepts make you uncomfortable, grab a free session and start trimming “I’m sorry” out of your standard vocabulary.


Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash