Believing You Can Do It

Ugly beliefs: we’ve all got them. For one client it might be the belief that they are the ultimate cause of their client’s failure to win in court. For other clients, it might be their underlying fear that they aren’t going to make it and they are going to get fired. We all have them, laying below the surface keeping us from doing what we ultimately want to do. Those beliefs drive us to procrastinate, avoid work, avoid difficult conversations that are for our own betterment, and ultimately they keep us in a place that is inconsistent with who we are and where we want to be.

So how do we rip up those thoughts and get to a place of believing we can do anything?

We must first get to a place where we recognize and acknowledge that those thoughts we carry around in our heads are just opinions. They are not factual. They have not come to fruition. They are just words in our heads. Words we give power to.

Next we must realize that when we give those sentences power, they grow stronger. When we sit with those negative beliefs, our brain will provide all sorts of evidence to support those fears. If you give power to “I’m going to fail,” your brain will offer all sorts of evidence to support that thinking — ALL the reasons why failing is inevitable. Your brain is not designed to argue with the thoughts in your head. It is designed to agree with you by providing supporting evidence (i.e., confirmation bias). That’s why those thoughts feel so true. It’s why they have such a hold over us! But when was the last time, you also asked your brain to provide you with opposing evidence — to prove that you CAN DO IT?

When we worry that we can’t do it, we don’t even give ourselves the chance to consider whether the opposite might actually be true.

What if you can do it?

What if you are MEANT to do it?

Let’s be honest, none of us have proof that we can’t do it. None of us know with certainty that we will fail. So before we can shift to rosy thoughts about how we know we can do it, we first have to recognize our own role in this little song-and-dance: sometimes we give too much power to crappy beliefs about ourselves. Maybe we learned them from our parents, maybe they are criticisms offered by unkind friends or lovers of the past. Wherever they came from, their existence in our minds does not make them truthful.

Once we see our patterned thinking as just bad brain habits and not evidence of our innate shortcomings, we can practice believing something else. We can start to compassionately understand why we have gravitated toward those thoughts and we can dismantle those structures. For many of us, the reason negative thinking about ourselves is so powerful and so ingrained in our habits is that there’s a part of us that believes in the veracity of those statements. Knowing that, we can work to let that go too.

We all know that we say terrible things ourselves in our heads. We all know we have these limiting beliefs that we carry around. But the reason we carry them around is that there is a part of us that still wants to believe in their truth. You can’t let go of a belief so long as you are committed to the investment that it is true at least in part. We have to get to a place where we recognize that in our life we have so many choices to make. Choices to make about what we think about ourselves. We do not have to choose to believe that we can’t make it or that we’re going to get fired. Seeing those thoughts as choices can allow us to choose to believe something else.

But can’t some of those negative thoughts push us to try harder and do better?

I get asked this all the time. Intellectually, we know it’s not okay to talk to ourselves the way that we do and to carry around these worries about inadequacy; however, many of us look to our past successes as evidence that maybe being hard on ourselves is why we have succeeded. Maybe being hard on ourselves is how we were able to get where we are!

While I agree that for many of us, being hard on ourselves and pushing ourselves certainly contributed to our early successes in life. But when women come to me for coaching support, they are out of gas. They have pushed so hard they are pushing themselves right out the door and off of a cliff. While being hard on ourselves might have served us early in our careers, we eventually get to a point where it no longer serves us. We start to see the negative effects of treating ourselves so poorly. We have the success and the accolades but we have no boundaries, no balance, and our relationship with ourselves (and often others) is completely broken. You shouldn’t have to beat yourself into submission to achieve success — that pattern will leave you worse off than you started. (What’s the point of all that success if you don’t love yourself enough to allow yourself to enjoy it?)

What if instead of using negative self-talk to motivate ourselves, we choose to believe that we are inherently good enough and that we can be whomever we want to be?

Motivation will spring from either mindset but one requires an investment in our abilities while the other requires an investment in self-judgment. Which is more sustainable? Which will reap you more long-term benefits?

The choice is always yours.


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Being Good Enough

Many of my clients have struggled with the reoccurring thought that they are not good enough. That they are going to fail. They drive themselves towards some undefinable perfection. During my career, with every bigger step I took, I have also struggled with those beliefs and fears. What if I fail….what if this doesn’t work out…what if I’m not good enough…

Anytime we compare ourselves to other people we lose over and over again. If we perceive ourselves as being better than others we completely disconnect ourselves from those around us, which feels lonely and miserable. On the other hand, if we perceive others as being better than us then we feel terrible because we have now classified ourselves as less than.

Unless your comparisons breed inspiration, it’s just a cruel game we play with ourselves.

The misery that we create for ourselves when we compare ourselves to others is astronomical. So what’s the solution?

Accept that no one is perfect, no one should ever want to be perfect, and that maybe we’re all just really good at being exactly who we are. And just maybe the beauty of this world is that there are so many of us unique human beings each contributing in our own way (if we could only embrace our uniqueness and stop comparing ourselves to others!).

In coaching, we can certainly work around those beliefs and navigate their hold on us, but what if we didn’t have to?

What if part of being human was simply carrying with us this recurring anxiety and worry that we aren’t good enough?

What if we stopped giving weight to those worries but also stopped fighting to change them?

What if being human and being the best version of ourselves simply meant that sometimes we wonder if we’re doing it right?

Whenever I catch myself wondering if I’m not good enough or if I’m going to fail, I just allow myself to recognize this completely natural thought offered by my completely human brain. I see it and I move on. It’s just my biological drive to stay safe and not do the hard things.

I know that we all have that challenge from time to time and I know that thought will only get louder as we all take steps to do the hard things. I believe that if we don’t periodically wonder whether we are good enough or whether we are doing it right, then we are not truly striving to live as the best and most authentic version of ourselves.

In sum, if you aren’t wondering whether you are good enough and regularly being confronted with those fears, you aren’t living big enough.


Snap Out of It

I love a good juicy, gossipy story. Unsurprisingly, I love terrible reality tv. I suppose this speaks to our human tendency toward the negative but there is something about having a good ranting and raving session with your girlfriends about the terrible thing that happened to you or someone else. It’s cathartic! But catharsis aside, when spending too much time extrapolating on the negative aspects of our lives, it can quickly devolve into what behavioral psychologists call the drama triangle.

Have you ever had that moment when your dramatic rant is abruptly halted by someone suggesting that the problem might just be YOU?

Blasphemy!

When we’re accustomed to dripping in negativity about our bosses or our jobs, it is jarring and somewhat offensive when someone suddenly stops playing along in favor of some new perspective.

It’s like that group of single girlfriends that spends every Saturday night together bashing their love interests and blaming them for their lack of happiness and then one night, one of the friends interjects, “What if the problem is us, not them?” Battle lines are suddenly drawn. The mere suggestion that the group perception of reality is skewed and subtly suggesting that they are co-creators of their imperfect reality, is blasphemous. It challenges the very foundation of their friendship and their understanding of who they are in their worldview.

Although the pursuit of a career is not the same as the pursuit of a meaningful relationship, our tendency to fall into certain patterns remains constant, no matter the circumstances. Our tendency to see ourselves as the victim and others as the villain is commonplace and often pervasive in professional environments. Overgeneralizations about dating like “all men/women are dogs” turn into “my boss completely ignores me.” In either case, we are playing a role in what Stephen Karpman calls the “drama triangle.”

Karpman’s drama triangle examines the connection between personal relationships and power in conflicts. The triangle identifies three characters that play a role in conflicts: the persecutor, the rescuer, and the victim. The victim is the primary character who interacts with the persecutor whom the victim blames for their suffering. Then, there is the rescuer who periodically steps in to try and alleviate the victim’s suffering.

In the complicated world of practicing law, I often see my clients vacillating between the victim role and the rescuer.

In the former scenario, their partners/clients/bosses are the persecutor and in the latter, they become the rescuer to the poor planning/demands/needs of their persecutor. 

In one role, we are angry and suffering in our victimhood, and in the other, we are energized by our action as we imagine that our rescuing will “mend” the relationship with our persecutors.

On the one hand, we blame the persecutors for our experiences but then we shift to rescuers, aiming to please our persecutors and seeking some kernel of appreciation from our villains. The dynamic is incredibly toxic and co-dependent and many women that I work with feel compelled to seek out that positive feedback from their persecutors. They spend their entire career aiming to please the seemingly impossible to please persecutors–they are perpetually “rescuing” others in hopes that their value will one day be recognized.

The solution to the drama triangle is the empowerment dynamic developed by David Emerald Womeldorff. The empowerment dynamic asks the victim to take ownership of their lives. To creatively solution their problems and start focusing on what they want and what they can control. Similarly, the rescuer shifts to a coaching role where the codependency is broken and they offer detached support, no longer making the victim’s problems their own These shifts are the only solution to the drama triangle.

In either case, resolution of the drama triangle requires us to take ownership of what is ours and let others take ownership for what is their own. Period.

I work with women every day to recognize the roles they play in the power dynamics of their careers. My work supports women to take back their power and take control over their careers. We may not be able to fix the difficult personalities attendant to practicing law but we can stop blaming them for our unhappiness; we can take control and start taking active steps to create the life we want, the life we deserve.

The goal isn’t to find a perfect workplace, the goal is to do our best to make it work; to actively invest in our own happiness, and stop giving them all the control. Your happiness is worth it.

Sign up for a free consultation today and get the support you need to live empowered and escape the drama. 


Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash

Standing In Your Own Way

I’m a firm believer that everybody needs to be doing this work. Why is that? Because we all have ugly thinking that we are carrying around with us that acts as an energetic ball and chain keeping us from creating the life that we really want.

To illustrate this point, I’ve been thinking through accomplishments in history where it’s clear that the champions were able to challenge the thinking of the time in order to create something great.

One thing that most readily came to mind was the concept that our earth is flat. And yes, I have seen the Netflix documentary Flat Earth exploring those of us who continue to subscribe to the belief that our earth is, in fact, flat. Flat Earth people aside, let’s consider the thinking that led to the discovery that our earth is actually round. In order to take the actions that ultimately confirmed the earth’s spherical shape, early thinkers from Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Plato, Columbus, etc. had to be open to the possibility that the current thinking about the earth was wrong. They had to consider the possibility that everything we had always thought might not be the absolute truth. At the time, these men might not have known how right they were but at least they were open to the possibility.

We cannot do great things while carrying with us opposing beliefs.

These historical figures could not have generated the confidence and curiosity to challenge the theory of the earth’s flatness while being equally invested in the belief that the earth was flat. They had to shake that belief loose and consider the possibility that it might not be absolute. They were open to challenging the predominant certainties.

While this may seem an obvious and unnecessary exploration of history, I point this out because so often my clients are unwilling to dive into the ugly parts of their own brains. They want to develop the pretty thoughts and motivating thoughts or the thoughts that will generate action for them. They don’t want to spend time rolling up their sleeves and looking at their negative thinking and challenging those beliefs.

This is counterproductive and will serve only to create greater cognitive dissonance for my clients as they try to move forward. It’s like stretching a rubber band until it snaps back together — sure, you can make progress in that direction but the progress is never permanent; you always end up right back where you started. You simply cannot generate new action and new results from the same set of beliefs — you have to start thinking and feeling differently.

This requires us to challenge our existing thinking. 

In order to take action in a new direction, we need to generate emotions that will drive new actions and new explorations in recognition that a different truth may exist. Where we have conflicting beliefs that we continue to invest in and give energy to we’re never going to be open to equally investing in a new belief that will generate the energy needed to create the action that we want in order to create a new result.

In sum, unless and until we dismantle pre-existing belief models we will never have the energetic capacity to create new actions and results.

The conflicting, outdated beliefs will act as a ball-and-chain keeping the new beliefs from gaining traction. We will only be partially invested in the new belief, thus the emotions and actions that belief can generate will be restrained. The result is that we will never fully create what we want because we have always hedged our bets by holding onto our existing beliefs.

When we try to breathe life into new beliefs without dismantling our old operating system, we stifle our efforts.

We cannot shift to prettier thoughts and create better feelings and results while at the same time equally investing in opposing beliefs. It’s like putting on a pair of shoes that are 10 sizes too big and trying to run a marathon. It just doesn’t work. Those aren’t your shoes!

The majority of the women I work with want to be more confident. They want to believe they can do it, that they are doing a good job, and that they are good enough. They want to live and act from that space. The problem is they aren’t facing the reality that parts of them are still persuaded by beliefs that they aren’t good enough and that they aren’t going to make it. They are still holding on to the possibility that what they want to believe is not true.

Unless and until they unpack that circus, they will never be able to act from a genuine place of confident beliefs.

We have to look at those existing beliefs and get to a place where we can see them as just that. Choices were making and things we’re choosing to believe. We limit ourselves because we are not coming to new beliefs from a place of investment; rather, we are coming to a new belief from a place of uncertainty and exploration because we’re still committed to believing something else. We cannot create the life we want if we show up every day believing that law firms are unfriendly places for women, places where women can’t succeed as easily as men. That belief is never going to stop sucking part of your energy away from the true intended goal of building a practice you are happy in. That belief will always creep in and reinvest your energy in hopelessness.

If you are truly seeking success in your law firm, we have to start thinking about the law firm life differently.

We have to be open to the possibility that what we have been believing all along is not necessarily true. It’s just our opinion. It’s not factual and it is not serving us. In other words, we cannot shift any beliefs until we find ourselves in a place where we can see the old beliefs as what they are: bad choices that you’re no longer going to make. Not facts and clearly not places we choose to our energy. Only from there can we shift our energy to something new and start creating something new. To do otherwise is to divide our efforts and divide our energy and handicap yourself from the very beginning.

So there it is my friends, get to work looking at your ugly thinking and work on yourself from a place where you can see that all your beliefs about the situation are optional perceptions. You can choose something else. You can be open to the possibility that your perceptions are not the only truth available to you.

Work with me; schedule a free consult and let’s start dismantling your “thought” balls and chains so you can start creating lasting change.


Photo by Joey Kyber from Pexels

Why You Are Frustrated

At the core of this work is accepting that our emotions are wholly created by our thoughts. That whenever we are experiencing any feeling, it is because of the thoughts we are having. So if we find ourselves experiencing an emotion that we don’t want, it is up to us to shift our thinking to generate a new emotion IF we want to be feeling differently about a situation.

Logically, this makes sense to us but in the heat of the moment, it is often incredibly challenging to remove ourselves from the experience and examine our role. I remember one instance many years ago when I was just starting this work. At the time my partner had just moved into my home with his dog and my 2 dogs to create The Brady Bunch of dog families. I had lovingly decorated my home with beautiful blinds and floor-to-ceiling curtains that accentuated the high ceilings and 100-year-old architecture of my home. One morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast and looked over to my white linen curtains and realized that the bottom half of one of the curtains was yellow. I quickly began investigating and realized that my boyfriend’s male dog had been consistently marking this particular curtain in the dining room…and when I say “marking” that is my eloquent attempt to say that the dog had been pissing all over the nice things in my home. I was livid.

Later that day, I was talking to my coach about it and I explained to her how frustrated I was that this dog was ruining all the nice things in my home! She very simply asked me, “Do you want to feel frustrated about this?” Emphatically, my answer was NO.

Then she asked, “So why are you frustrated about it?” Naturally, I once again launched into my rant about the horrible dog destroying the house (because clearly, she wasn’t getting it) and she started to laugh.

She was laughing because it was pretty clear that I believed the dog was what was making me feel terrible rather than my thoughts about this dog peeing in my house. From there I went on to realize that while I can certainly choose frustration about this experience in my life, I didn’t want to be frustrated about it. Truly, I wanted to not be frustrated and show up more proactively in my life. I didn’t want to let this dog get the best of me and cause friction in my relationship. That was the crux of the issue.

If I wanted to not be frustrated about the situation I was going to have to accept the possibility that there was more than one way of thinking about it. It didn’t mean that there wasn’t validity to my thoughts that were making me frustrated but what it meant was that there were also alternative truths about my experience. It meant that I was going to have to gravitate toward another line of thinking that didn’t make me want to scream at the damn dog. I needed to find another “truth” about the situation that I could throw my emotional weight behind.

Having realized that the dog was not, in fact, implanting frustration and anger into me, I took ownership of my role in those feelings. From there I found an alternative truth: I shifted to believing that if this was the worst thing that would happen when cohabitating with my boyfriend, then life was pretty damn good. I also shifted to believing that this was just another obstacle that we are going to have to figure out as a couple. Neither one of those thoughts were pretty or flowery or made the situation OK. Rather, those thoughts allowed me to live in a space other than frustration. They allowed me to see the bigger picture, ditch the anger, and start strategizing. It allowed me to foreclose an angry blowup with my boyfriend and an unnecessary battle with his poor dog.

This situation sound familiar? Get support with your frustrating situation by signing up for a free consultation now.

That’s really the heart of the work that we do. I could certainly have chosen to live in those thoughts that I felt so strongly about. I could continue to believe that the dog was ruining everything and that he was a horrible monster destroying all of my nice things. But that would have to be my conscious choice. When asked how I wanted to feel about it the situation, I truly didn’t want to feel frustrated. I didn’t want to be happy about it but I didn’t want to live in a dark pit of annoyance and bitterness toward this dog that I actually loved and that was loved by the man that I loved. That meant that if I wanted to feel something other than frustrated, I was going to have to work at it.

When we find ourselves living in frustration over the circumstances of our lives we must take a step back and acknowledge that what is making us frustrated is not the events around us but rather our thinking about them. From there we can truthfully ask and consider do I want to be frustrated and if so I will continue with these thoughts. If not, I am going to have to do the work and find some alternative truths. We must shift from seeing our perspective as the only truth and invest in believing that every situation can have multiple truths available to us.

The next time you find yourself frustrated, consider whether that is your conscious choice or whether there is another way to show up in the situation.


Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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?


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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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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?


Photo by murat esibatir from Pexels

Blame

“Doodah made me do it.”

When I was a little girl, my brother had an imaginary friend named Doodah. Every time he would get into trouble for putting spiders down my shirt, he would insist that Doodah made him do it. Nothing was his fault when Doodah was around!

Not all of us had imaginary friends when we were kids but, like all other kids, we were never quick to take the blame for our actions.

We’ve all seen those kids in the airport. There you are waiting for your bags to plop off the carousel and while you wait, you watch two kids, worn out from travelling, annoying the goodness out of their harried parents and each other. Then, inevitably, one of those kids will haul off and smack the other one. Hard. While seemingly no one is watching.

Naturally, this results in an avalanche of tears and lots of drama punctuated by the aggressor-child insisting they “didn’t do anything”, indignant at the accusation. Such a comical and common display of our basic human instincts.

As adults, we like to tell ourselves that we have grown out of that propensity. Most of us would never outright deny doing something that we clearly did or that could easily be proven – hello, there are cameras EVERYWHERE!

But just because our logic-reasoning skills have improved and we know that it’s not prudent to lie about things that are likely memorialized on camera, it doesn’t mean we have gotten any better at accepting the results of our actions.

In fact, most of us have just gotten really good at dressing our blame up in prettier clothing: victim clothing.

Years ago, I found myself working in an environment where I did not fit in. I was one of very few women working in a role other than secretary. I was working in an environment where I felt completely isolated. I looked around and saw that the vast majority of my co-workers and nearly all of the organization’s leadership consisted white men from the same colleges and grad schools, even from the largely the same high schools. Most of them practiced the same religion if not the same parish. Most of them were in the same political party and most of them grew up in the same city. Lastly, the majority of them had the same family structure –  2-3 kids with a stay-at-home wife, even where those kids no longer lived at home.

Being alone on an island certainly takes its toll and while every organization comes with its own unique challenges, I quickly started to feel like there was no way I could be successful in that space. They will never take me seriously…they will never understand me or my life…I will always be different and they will always see me as a token: something to be regarded and retained but not taken seriously…My brain was filled with angry pronouncements about my workplace, its leaders, and my co-workers.   

I believed all of those thoughts and I carried them around with me every day. Every time I told myself that my complaints were disregarded, every time I thought my comments were bowled over, every time I felt I was interrupted more than the men, I clung to those thoughts – you will never take me seriously because I’m a woman….you can’t comprehend a woman with a brain and an opinion…you will never treat me like a peer because you don’t believe I am your equal. 

Over time, I found myself having screaming matches with them in my head. If I saw a member of the leadership team in the hall, you could bet I was yelling at them in my head, telling them they were sexist and old school and on and on and ON…Every challenge I encountered in that place was cast in a veil of sexism and anger. It was exhausting.

Now look, I am not saying that any of these thoughts couldn’t have been true. Maybe some of those guys were sexist. Maybe they lacked the skills and experience to treat me as an equal. Maybe it never would change. I don’t know and it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because I realized that I could not control them. I could not change them. I could not make them into the kind of men I would respect. They were grown adults who were entitled to act and treat me in any way that they chose. I realized that the only thing I could control was myself and my thoughts and at that point my thoughts were making me miserable. I trudged through each day unhappy, grouchy, unsatisfied and disappointed. It was a terrible way to practice.

I started working through my thoughts and endeavored to re-cast the situation. I had to let go of my anger that these people were falling short of my expectations for good leadership. I started focusing on the fact that my angry thoughts about the situation were making me angry and bitter. No one was negatively affected by my diatribes but me. Eventually I left. To put it more accurately, I RAN out of that place as fast as I could.

Later when I would think back to that time in my life I would find myself bubbling with anger. I blamed them and judged them for my leaving. I blamed them for my unhappiness. If only they had been willing to act in accordance with their values. . . if only they were capable of accepting their short-comings . . . if only they weren’t so freaking insistent upon taking care of their own…if only they were willing to accept different points of view as valuable… I had nothing good to say and every time it came up in conversation or I thought about it, I would find myself fuming with rage and indignation.

That’s when I realized that I was making myself a victim. I knew who the villain was – and so did everyone who made the mistake of asking me about my prior employer! That made me the victim. Yikes. I never thought of myself as a victim or a blamer and the realization stung.

As I thought about it more, I realized that I was blaming the male partners and leadership for all my unhappiness there. I was blaming them for me leaving. I got to work picking through those thoughts and one stuck out in particular: I will never be successful here because I am not one of them. I believed that down to my core. But then I started to probe it. Was that true? Were there really no women there that were successful? Nope. My thought wasn’t entirely factual.

There were women there who had found some form of success and happiness. They worked a lot more than I did. They made less waves. They were willing to “go along to get along.” They worked hard and didn’t make time for indignation – it’s not that they didn’t see it; they just didn’t spend energy on it. That’s when it clicked for me. I was wrong. I could have been successful there and I could have become one of them. I chose not to. I chose not to make those same sacrifices and I chose to use my voice. I chose to leave in honor of my principles and values. They didn’t force me to leave. They weren’t the villain and I wasn’t the victim. I made a choice to leave. I didn’t have to make that choice and no one forced me to do it.

Now when I think about my time with that organization, I am filled with pride and sadness instead of anger and indignation. I am proud that I clung to my values and I am sad that women are still fighting to be treated fairly and equally. I’m no longer villainizing their failures – that is for them to sort out. I made a choice that was all my own and I was not a victim to some faceless villain.

Could I have stayed there and found happiness? Sure. It would have required a lot more time working through those thoughts. I could have found a way to be happy. But here’s the thing. I didn’t WANT to feel good about what I seeing and experiencing. I did not WANT to be okay with that environment. That was also my choice. I chose to be unhappy during my time there. Life is not meant to be 100% happiness all the time. My experience at that organization was my time for struggle, challenges, growth and sadness. That, my friends, is how life works and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cheers!


Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Toxic Beliefs

There are going to be people in your life who are going to challenge you. As an attorney, I can fully buy into the idea of toxic work environments and all the challenges that go along with them. But today, I want to back up the conversation one step and examine what it means for someone or some place to be “toxic”? What I have found is that this idea of “toxicity” is filled with more drama than fact.

Typically, when we identify something or someone as toxic, we are the only ones who show up ugly and toxic.

I focus my coaching on recognizing our own innate power to create our reality and our own happiness. My clients will tell you that I have helped them see the role they are playing in their own struggles. However, as a reiki master, I can also agree that our lives are filled with energy–our energy and the energy of those around us. When we characterize an environment or a person as “toxic” there is so much work to be done on that conclusion. Through coaching, I help my clients more closely examine that conclusion and challenge it BUT we are not doing that today.

Today, I want to allow space for this concept of toxic people and toxic environments. I want to go along with the idea that people and things can be toxic and ask:

When we characterize a person or an environment as toxic, what is the impact that has on YOU?

Our brains are not capable of processing all the information at our disposal in every moment. Rather, we give our brains direction and focus with our thoughts. We tell our brains where to focus its energy and our brain will buzz along compiling evidence to support that thought-directive. Evidence from both our past and present experience.

This is critical awareness because when we believe that someone or something is toxic, we become the victim of our own confirmation bias. Our brain is only going to gather data to support that directive and it is going to disregard data to the contrary. We essentially put on information blinders.

We all like to believe that we are open-minded and willing to see things from someone else’s point of view. But it is not possible to be open-minded when we are running around with these types of beliefs in our minds. It is not possible for us to see the opposing evidence when we allow ourselves to draw these types of conclusions!

A belief, any belief, will inevitably overlook contradictory facts and opposing evidence.

Furthermore, when we characterize those around us as toxic, this can be a subconscious green light to show up like a total asshole. Our negative characterization of the other person will impact how we show up and, let’s be honest, it’s not often our best. We see these toxic people as not worth the energy to be polite or kind to: we give ourselves a pass to show up as so much less than our best.

This robs us of the opportunity to grow. “Toxic” people are your perfect opportunity to show up as your best self. You don’t have to be affected by what they say or do. Practice disconnecting your emotions and thoughts from their actions. Practice allowing other people to be whomever they want to be — it only has to affect you if you let it. It only affects you if you allow their actions to shift your own energy.

It’s easy to label people or circumstances as toxic. The hard work comes from honing our ability to show up as the best version of ourselves. There will always be difficult people — practice dealing with them and stop practicing running away from them.

When you find yourself challenged with a “difficult” person or situation, be cautious not to place a negative label on it. That label will cloud your judgment and prevent you from being the open-minded person you strive to be. You will be blinded by your own confirmation bias and you inhibit your ability to show up as the best version of yourself.

So what do you do when you find yourself pulling your hair out and frustrated about a person or situation? Get curious. Stop investing and participating in the drama and become an observer. Watch the scenario as if it were  a movie — a movie staring you and your boss the chauvinist!  Whatever it takes, make efforts to disconnect from the drama and your judgments. Examine the experience from outside of yourself. Ask yourself what the situation has to teach you. Get curious about why people act the way that they do and try to foster some compassion. Be open to seeing the good in the other person — what might they be struggling with?

It’s hard work but no one ever said that being the best version of yourself would  be easy. Look around at the people in your life you have labeled negatively and start using them as your greatest teachers. How much better would your life be if you could transform those relationships? Get started transforming those relationships today.


“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”

― Mahatma Gandhi