Do you remember the first time you touched something hot and it burned your hand? You were more cautious the next time you approached the stove. Do you remember the first time you disobeyed your parents and got grounded? You paid attention the time and got home before curfew. What about the first disappointment or heartache? You remained guarded a little bit longer before you allowed yourself to be vulnerable.
Wisdom seldom comes from pleasant experiences. It often comes from a source of pain or hardship. The tactic to survive what you once thought was so debilitating is to apply that wisdom to future circumstances so that you can make better decisions and share that wisdom with others. Your “little birdie” is strengthened with each experience and has an amazing memory. Are you trusting it and applying your wisdom to help you navigate the inevitable pitfuls you will face during your journey?
Have you ever allowed yourself to be so vulnerable that you felt naked? That’s what happened to me while I delivered the closing keynote at my fourth annual Work Your Package Women’s Conference. I spoke on the topic, “Your Life. Your. Story: What to Do When You Have a Story to Share”. It was the second time that I had spoken on the topic. The first time was for a webathon hosted by Lucy Brazier, the editor of Executive Secretary Magazine. However, this time was different. This time I wasn’t alone in a conference room with my laptop. This time I was in a room full of women that I am honored to serve and affectionately and proudly refer to as “Mavens”. These women have their own stories to share but there I was sharing mine. And I felt naked but not afraid. Sharing my story was cathartic and allowed me to be unapologetic about who I am. Being vulnerable is liberating because it erases any preconceived notions of perfection or lack of challenges. Being vulnerable is an act of acceptance of oneself. In the article, “Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable” by Daniel Wallen, here are the benefits of being vulnerable:
1. You will learn to appreciate the quirks that make you unique. Being vulnerable will help you embrace the strange (interesting) and quirky (unique) things that make you special. While you might call certain personal characteristics are “awkward,” they are only awkward if you don’t accept yourself, and consequentially feel uncomfortable in who you are. We are all crazy in our own ways; and if you’re going to be weird, you might as well be confident about it.
2. You will make peace with troubling memories from your past. Being vulnerable will help you get rid of pent-up baggage that bothers you. While it isn’t easy to deal with painful memories, it is better to confront your past than it is to hide from it. We all have made bad decisions we regret, so don’t even think about judging yourself; search for a lesson or takeaway that will help you prevent similar mistakes in the future and let it go.
3. You will attract the right kind of people into your life. Being vulnerable will help you understand what types of people you can most relate to. While you might be tempted to hang out with whoever crosses your path, it is better to choose your friends carefully. We all have made the mistake of telling something personal to somebody we shouldn’t have, and ended up getting hurt due to backstabbing or betrayal; it is good to love all people without question, it is best to only put total faith in true friends worthy of trust.
4. You will find it easier to empathize with the struggles of others. Being vulnerable will help you develop empathy for others. While it’s easy to throw a fit when something terrible happens to us, it is a lot harder to demonstrate compassion for the struggles of another person. We all have been guilty of getting so caught up in our own lives that we forget the world doesn’t revolve around our needs; before behaving like an upset infant, remember that many people face hardships that you couldn’t begin to imagine.
5. You will earn the trust of people at work. Being vulnerable will help you grow closer to the people in your workplace. While you might think you deserve a raise just because of your hard work, you need to remember that no amount of book smarts can make up for a complete lack of emotional intelligence. We all have complained about getting “passed up” for a promotion; before assuming you’re “under-appreciated,” take an honest look at your ability to communicate and work together with your fellow co-workers.
6. You will strengthen your bond with your romantic partner. Being vulnerable will help you bond with the person you love most. While you might be afraid to reveal your deepest and darkest secrets due to a fear of judgment, doing so will put your mind at ease. We all have put up barriers to protect ourselves from getting hurt; but if you hope to spend the rest of your life with a particular person, don’t you think it would be best to be forthcoming with the important truths that they would like to know?
7. You will humanize yourself in the eyes of others. Being vulnerable will help you demonstrate that you are an approachable person who is kind and considerate. While it isn’t easy to find the courage to reveal our true nature, there is no better way to encourage others to accept themselves. We all have fought with a lack of esteem at one time or another.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.
Dr. Brené Brown – Daring Greatly
Let me just cut to the chase, this week I had writer’s block like nobody’s business. When I can’t focus it is usually because I have multiple priorities vying for attention and my plate runneth over. I shared this with a sister-friend and she said, “Love yourself enough to deprive yourself of the things which depreciate your personal greatness.” Excuse me, what?
My vision is pretty good, but I had to reread the text message several times. Now I could have dismissed it, as I have other advice that I’ve received over the years. Not because it wasn’t good advice, but because it was self-serving or came from an “eye witness”. Eye-witness advice usually starts off with “Well, I heard that if you….”, “I read somewhere that…” or “I feel that you should…” Insert eye roll to the heavens. Whereas “life witness” advice comes with no pretense and no introduction. Life witness advice has the uncanny ability to gut punch you and take your breath away. In a good way. Life witness advice is what the little birdie has been telling you and you REFUSE to listen. Life witness advice isn’t condescending or cruel. It feels like a hug and a hot meal at the end of long day.
Life witness advice comes from an authentic place. The person providing it didn’t read about it or hear about it…they lived it. And while you may be hurting when you receive the advice, because it comes from a place of love, it has the ability to heal a wound that has been open for too long. That type of authenticity requires the type of bravery that only life experience can give you.
Think about the advice you have given lately. Was it superficial or did you think about your life experience in order to give life witness advice? Have the courage to be authentic. You never know who you might impact.
One of my favorite quotes by Aristotle is, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” I found this quote years ago and made it part of my email signature so that I could see it on a regular basis. It resonates with me because I have a bad habit of wanting things to be perfect.
The Perfectionism Trap is an ugly thing and can be a downward spiral. It can cause you to procrastinate and remain stuck in one place. But here’s the rub, you can’t be successful if you don’t try and you don’t try if you are worried about being be perfect. It also fosters negative self-talk and unnecessary self-doubt.The quest for perfection diminishes the opportunity to have joy in the acting of “doing”. Don’t let the trap of perfectionism keep you from an opportunity to do something in a different way. It’s that difference that will lead to growth and new ideas which then fosters your creativity and pushes you forward to trying something new beyond your comfort zone.
Exhausted. Irritated. Overwhelmed. That was me last week. Multiple responsibilities from home and work collided and I was left feeling defeated and depleted. I had nothing else to give to anyone or to myself. I didn’t feel like working any of my “packages” and felt guilty about it. I shared my feelings online and received permission to be still. Understand this, I didn’t need or ask for permission. What blew me away was that the people who told me it was okay for me to take a day or several days off were the people who I serve. The people who have attended Work Your Package conferences, have bought the book, read the weekly blog and double-tap my images on Instagram. It was confirmation that I could be vulnerable and transparent to the people I was created to serve without being viewed negatively. Additional confirmation came in the form of a sermon preached by Pastor Battle of Zion Church. The name of the sermon was “A Wounded Witness”. Here are some of the lessons I learned from that sermon:
1. Your wounds are a witness.
2. Some of the stuff you’ve been through, you can’t hide.
3. Being transparent is one thing, being touchable is another. (Reminds me of Dr. Brene Brown’s teaching on vulnerability)
4. Sometimes you have to reopen a wound in order to help someone else.
6. Stop giving a censored version of your wounds.
7. Wisdom, grace, life, compassion come out your wounds.
8. Don’t ask why you went through what you did. Ask why you survived it. It’s your credentials. You’ve been to hell and back so that you can help others.
It looks great on social media to appear like you have everything together but behind closed doors that facade is exhausting and eventually, the truth will seep out and your authenticity will be in question. It’s okay to say that you are tired and feeling overwhelmed. Sharing the challenges of life doesn’t diminish who you are as a person, tarnish your “brand” or your effectiveness as a leader. Wounds lead to scars and scars lead to lessons that will help others.
How many times have you talked yourself out of taking the path that would have led you to something extraordinary? I have a friend who has a story that needs to be told to the world. I don’t say this because they’re my friend. I say this because when they told me a small part of their story, a piece of my heart wept and then I was in awe at how they were still standing. Recently I asked my friend when they going to tell their story. They told me they were too young to tell their life story and they were going to wait another 20 years. Insert major eye roll right here. My friend doesn’t know if they going to live another 20 years. Do you know the best stories ever told and the best advice that fit your exact situation are six feet under at the cemetery? If you aren’t ready to tell your story, find a way to document it.
You are too young to do that. Who would want to learn from you? You haven’t lived yet. You are too old. That is an old-fashioned way of thinking. Write a book? No one would buy it. Go back to school? It’s not like you’ll get a promotion when you finish…if you finish. Lose weight? Haven’t you tried to do that already? Vacation by yourself? Are you crazy? Buy a house? You’ll never get approved for a mortgage. Start a business? Do you know how many fail in the first year? You aren’t doing anything original…
These aren’t the lies that other people tell you. These are the lies that you tell yourself.
Lies hold you hostage. Denying the potential positive impact of sharing your imperfect life serves no one. Lies keep you stagnant. I believe you are more resilient than a lie. But it doesn’t matter if I believe it. Do you?
How can you get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are right now? While coaching an amazing woman, I asked her, “Where do you see yourself a year from now?” The question stumped her. So I asked her a basic question based on her current circumstances. “What are you really good at?” Again…crickets. When using your GPS for driving instructions, it needs your current location in order to give you directions for your destination. Getting to know yourself is the starting point on the GPS. If you are unsure of where you are, here are a few questions to get you started:
- What are my strengths? What are you known for? What do people call on you to do frequently?
- What are my short-term and long-term goals? You don’t need a complicated plan. Take some time and mind map it.
- What am I ashamed of? If you haven’t read “Daring Greatly” by Dr. Brene Brown, I highly recommend it.
- What new activities am I willing to try?
- What am I worried about? What is keeping you up at night or keeping you from making a decision?
- What does my inner critic tell me? We are our worse critics. Listen to what it is saying. Is it really true or a lie that someone told you that you keep replaying as truth?
- What do I do to practice self-care? This is a big one. If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself. No one is going to give it to you
- What am I passionate about?
- Am I an introvert or extrovert? Did you know you could be an outgoing introvert? Transparent and vulnerable moment….I’m an ambivert. It took me years to figure out why I get so mentally exhausted after being around a large group of people for an extended period of time. I love to serve others but I now know when I’ve met my threshold of being sociable.
- If I wasn’t afraid, I would______. Some are able to complete this statement immediately. Some may take a few minutes or even days to think about it. However long it takes, answer it and then ask yourself, “Why am I afraid?”
When you are unsure of where you are, the road ahead can seem daunting. When you know who you are, you can chart your own path.
When you hear someone mention how much clutter they have, you might assume they are talking about physical stuff like magazines they don’t have time to read, clothes that no longer fit or wedding gifts that they will never use. The sentimental, “what if’s”, and things you have inherited can take up precious physical space and create unnecessary clutter in your home or office. But there is also emotional clutter such as pent up hurt, disappointment, anger, and resentment. Left unexpressed, these feelings repeatedly come to the surface and will not allow you to move forward.
How long are you going to hold on to that grudge that you should have let go of days, weeks, months or YEARS ago? How long are you going to replay that argument in your head? How long are you going to blame someone else for your unhappiness? How long are you going to blame yourself for something you had no control over? How long are you going to let your flaws define you instead of strengthening you? All of that emotional clutter is keeping you from seeing the big picture. It is clouding your judgment, causing self-doubt and keeping you from being your authentic self. That ‘clutter’ is keeping you from fully articulating and demonstrating your life’s work and purpose.
What clutter do you need to let go of?
Here’s the truth, planning a conference or any live event can be hard. While they can be emotionally rewarding, they are also a pain in the ass to plan and execute. As you know, I’m in the midst of planning the third annual Work Your Package Women’s Conference. In the past two weeks I’ve said that I’m going to cancel the conference. I’ve said it at least 10 times. I’m very serious. I didn’t care about the money I had to refund, the money I would lose or the money it would cost me to honor contracts. I just wanted out. Then I had a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with myself….
I haven’t cancelled the conference. Why? Because I believe in it. I believe in the value that it offers to professional women who are rocking it out at their corporate gigs and have a passion and purpose outside of their profession that feed their souls and heart. These women, don’t give up. They don’t throw in the towel. They don’t put up both middle fingers and say, “Screw it”. They take a step back, shift their plans and mindset and then they get the job done.
Here’s what I’ve learned during this leg of my journey:
- Your Friends and Family Will Not Always Support You. It’s not that they don’t like or love you (or maybe they don’t, maybe it’s jealousy…whatever) but if you are in the habit of giving all of your awesomeness away for free, they do not feel the need to pay for it. They are privy to all your greatness on a regular basis. They are accustomed to seeing you make a dollar out of fifteen cents and have absolutely no frame of reference for how much it costs in time and money to plan a successful event.
- Don’t Take It Personal. Seriously, don’t. There are some people who will support you no matter what. Then there are some who never even sign up for your newsletter. Don’t take it personal. Don’t waste your mental bandwidth to entertain their “why”.
- It Takes A Village. You cannot plan an event by yourself. Had it not been for the input from my committee, I would have been up the creek without a paddle at this point. You need other eyes, additional insight and sometimes a dose of real talk to keep both you and your event on track.
The 3rd annual Work Your Package Women’s Conference is going to be awesome. Not because of the quantity of attendees but because of the quality. The women who are attending are some badasses in their respective professions. It’s my job to make sure the conference is an amazing event for them.
When you are passionate about something, quitting is not an option.
It’s more than just feeling blue. It’s about no longer being the person you once was and not having a concrete reason why. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and according to NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family.
Prevalence of Mental Illness
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.1
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—10 million, or 4.2%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
Consequences of Lack of Treatment
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.15
- Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.16
Mental Health Screening Tools
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Sources: NAMI, MHA (Mental Health America)