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Anchor in the Storm

Let’s be honest. There are moments when life becomes too much: too hurried, too chaotic, too overwhelming, too much of a grinding climb… just simply too much.
Whatever your story may be, these moments come. I might even say they are inevitable. This is not because I have a bleak perspective on life, but rather an honest appreciation for what life involves and a deep admiration for those who face it straight on. Work demands become overwhelming. Family gets sick and face critical diagnoses. Loved ones pass. Kids face challenges. The roadmap to parenting gets lost. Bank accounts don’t balance. Roofs leak and cars break down. Friendships change, marriages struggle, and breakups hurt. Injuries slow us down. Insecurities bubble up. Houses need to be sold, bought, or rented (which means purged, cleaned and packed). Permission slips need to be signed and sports games coached. Reports written, meetings facilitated, and oh, don’t forget that medical exam that has been taunting you for the last two months. And why is it that old emotional wounds come screaming to the surface during these already trying times?

Ok, so assuming I’m not the only one nodding my head to some of this, let’s sink into the idea that we all face crunch times that are chaotic and disorienting. But what do we do when we’re gasping for breath as we face our “this is too much?” This post carries no quick fix or catchy 3-step process to alleviate this weight… an expected staple of any successful blog post, I know. Rather than the typical to-do list of self-care, I invite you to become curious of what helps anchor you in turbulent seasons. 
Anchors are those things that provide stability and security. They are those people/places/things that bring about comfort, a feeling of home and an experience of peace. Without strong anchors, the storms of life can derail us.  
So the challenge: What are those things that help steady us when we’re being tossed around in the winds of life? 

• What core values and beliefs do we cling to?

• In what activity do we escape to gain perspective and connect with ourselves? 

• Whose voice calms the heart?

• Whose words speak affirmation and encouragement? 

• Which quote or piece of writing cuts through the chaos with words of truth?

• Whose embrace helps silence the noise?

• What goals remind us of what we’re striving for?

• What memory needs to be relived to bring calm to the moment? 

• Which place is our safe haven in which we seek refuge? 

• Which friends can we seek out to fill us with laughter and adventure? 

• Who might we need to be vulnerable with and share the struggle? 

Connecting to anchors won’t necessarily make stormy moments disappear but they definitely help us ride out the waves. They can hold us firm and allow us to stand a little stronger. I invite you to consider what your anchors are and tether yourself to them. Safety can be found here. 

Journeying with you, 


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Today Is Your Life

In the past two weeks I have sat on the periphery of two heartbreakingly tragic and unexpected deaths. Deaths that have left permanent gaping holes in the hearts of people I love. Death has always served as a bit of a wake-up call. We all say “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow” but deep down don’t really think it will happen. So we take the day for granted. We take our relationships for granted. We complain about things that don’t matter like the traffic and Monday mornings. We wait. We wait for the next best thing, for this to settle down or that to work out. We live in the past and the future and not in this moment.
Although this quote is more negative than the ones I usually gravitate towards, it just rings such truth to what I am trying to convey today:

“We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by our trivialities. We are eaten up by nothing.” - Charles Bukowski.

So today I’m reminding you:
  • Every ordinary day is a miracle and these ordinary days are the entirety of your life.

  • You can choose right this second to be both feet in, fully present in these moments.

  • You can change your mood by putting on a great song, going out for a walk, or doing something kind for someone else.

  • Choose forgiveness and hold on for dear life.

  • Assume the best of everyone and experience that freedom.

  • Appreciate every second you get to spend with the people you love.  

  • Go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Do it now. Sign up for it today.

  • Stop hating on the bits of yourself you don’t like. Believe that you are freaking awesome and carry that confidence around in the world.

  • We leave behind our art and our love. So find your craft. And spread kindness, compassion and love like confetti at a wedding, in every interaction.

I know my words are nothing more profound than something else you ventured across in your daily facebook scroll, but I implore you to stop and listen, reflect and act. As much as we think we are entitled to grow old, the Universe doesn’t always work that way. Find the extraordinary in today. Today is your life.

With all my love to those deep in grief, you know who you are.
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What the #*&! was I thinking?

Kristin Neff quote
Have you ever wondered, “What the #$*! was I thinking?” in response to a past decision?

Yup… Me neither ;)
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Vision Statement of a Peace-Warrior

This blog really has two purposes. Laurie and I want to provide you with some thoughts and ideas to help you tweak those places in your life that aren’t going as well as you’d like. We want to help reduce your suffering, in whatever form it takes, and inspire hope and courage to live your best life. The other purpose is so you get to know us. Then, when you or someone you know could use some counselling support, you feel like you know a few good people with some skills.
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The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls Part 4

Here is the last of this four-part series applying The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I’ve found it really rewarding to immerse myself in these concepts again. I hope you have found some useful stuff within my words. To re-cap, we are working with our middle school girls to:
  • Not talk about others behind their backs
  • Not take things personally (except when they need to take responsibility)
  • To check the story they tell themselves about any given situation
  • To do their own personal best
Last week I started a four part series applying the principles of The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the last post, so thank you for reading, liking and sharing.
This last agreement ultimately says that if we give each day our best, we eliminate those gross feeling of guilt and shame that plague us when we have done less than what we are capable of. What I love about this agreement is that there is also much space for self-compassion. It reminds us that “our best” looks different on different days. Some days we are sick, fatigued, shorter-tempered, vulnerable etc. Those days are okay too.

This agreement requires very little translation on my part. What I will add instead is some emphasis:

Agreement 4: Always do your best

Translation: Always do YOUR best

In my counselling space, I tend to see girls who sit strongly on either side of the “doing your best” continuum. On one end, girls are literally hurting themselves as a means of coping with the pressure to perform; a pressure from themselves, the school, their athletic team, and adults in their life. I see girls who cut themselves, pull out their hair, don’t eat and all sorts of other painful self-harming strategies (strategies that actually do help reduce anxiety, by the way). It’s typically the new awareness of one of these strategies that brings parents hustling kids to my office.

This next section is not meant to be parent-blaming, yet parents do need to consider the role they play in this pressure process. Let’s be real, we often feel pretty good about ourselves if our kids are successful: winners, straight A students, in leadership groups at school, etc. We feel proud. We are validated as “good” parents. My daughter is a complete perfectionist and driven toward A’s (wonder where she gets that from?), and I am constantly checking in with myself, and with her, to make sure she doesn’t think my love and approval is based on these concrete, measurable successes. We also need to say (and believe) these words: “It is not the end of the world if you do not get an A on your math test. Study hard, do your best, and the sun will rise again if your mark is less than stellar.”

My colleague Laurie wrote a previous blog post about perfectionism. She distinguished perfectionism from a personal drive for excellence by saying perfectionism is grounded in shame and fear. Ultimately it is a fear of being rejected or not worthy. It is really important that girls are not getting that message from us. We help our girls strive for excellence from within themselves by:
  • Encouraging competition with the self only. There will always be smarter, stronger, and faster girls out there. Possibly for you athletes, this one might be tough to swallow. But what I am ultimately saying is that if our kids train, study, and push themselves toward their own personal best, there is never anything to feel shame about.

  • Teaching compassion for themselves when their best may not have measured up to their own personal standards. I teach kids this by bringing awareness to their self-talk. If their self-talk is hyper critical I try to teach them to speak to themselves the way they would talk to a friend or loved one. I also position that self-talk as a bully. Would they let a bully speak to them or a friend this way? Probably not.

  • Making sure she has some down time to just be a kid. This one is big. In ensuring our kids are well-rounded with plenty of opportunity for success we have maxed them out with commitments. They are tired and stressed out. I think we forget how hard middle school is. It is not easy going through puberty, balancing homework and extra-curricular activities, and dealing with the drama of being a teenager.

On the other end of the “doing your best” continuum I see girls giving up, avoiding school, quitting activities they once enjoyed, and gravitating towards high-risk peers, drugs and alcohol. How do we motivate these girls to become re-invested in life? To do their best when TV watching seems to be the priority?
  • By investing in our relationship with them. Often when girls have gone off-track it’s due to a lack of connection, belonging, or experience of success in those mainstream institutions. It’s within a caring, connected relationship we can help steer kids back towards safer and smoother paths to adulthood. However, this is often when parent’s fears ramp up. And how to we tend to respond when we are afraid? Control. Punishments like grounding, taking away cell phones and internet privileges rarely (i.e. do not) motivate kids to re-invest in life. You conveying your belief in them does.

  • Providing opportunities to try new things and explore different interests. I have seen a few incredible turn-arounds for kids when they find a passion to invest in. You might have to get creative and persistent, you might need to let them bring their peers along with them to try something new (even peers you don’t much like), but keep trying until you find something that gets them excited. I love the quote by Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You and your girl need to keep looking until you find her genius.

As a quick aside, if you suspect your girl might be self-harming it is really important to seek out the help of a professional. These professionals will help determine the level of risk and provide you and your daughter with the much needed support to reduce or eliminate these behaviors.

So that’s a wrap on this series, folks. I really cannot express enough my gratitude for reading, liking and sharing these posts. And my goodness, the tasks these four agreements challenge us to rise to are certainly not always the easy path! Yet they are the worthwhile path, the loving path, the compassionate path. And regardless of your girl’s developmental stage, with your support, she is capable of learning to live life in this particular way.

As always, wishing you peace,
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The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my 4 part series breaking down The Four Agreements for middle school girls. The third agreement tells us not to make assumptions. In reflecting, I think it is actually the most complex of all 4.
Last week I started a four part series applying the principles of The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the last post, so thank you for reading, liking and sharing.
I am going to start this one off by ensuring we have the same understanding of what assumptions are, how and why they get made, and how dangerous they are. If you’re unclear you might find it really challenging to address this concept with your girls.  
I want you to consider someone in your life with whom you may be in conflict with. This might be a colleague, your mother-in-law, your partner etc. Someone whose actions just really push your buttons.

When someone else’s behavior bewilders or confuses us or when we just can’t make sense of it, what we tend to do is imagine an explanation. We write a story. This story does not require proof; our imaginations are excellent at filling in the gaps. To add fuel to the fire, when we don’t like someone we also tend to assume the worst of them. So when someone offends us, it tends to sound like this:

You: “They are doing [insert action] intentionally to mess with me/exclude me/be mean etc.” Sometimes we even add something like: “They are crazy/bad/mean [insert judgment on character].” 

This is us making an assumption about motivation, intention and character. Out of this, a predictable pattern unfolds:
  • We create story
  • We take that story personally
  • We believe that story is TRUTH
  • We get angry, self-righteous, upset  
  • We vent that story to people we like
  • Then the drama is on.
Can you see the danger? Without any evidence we can create quite a cruel story about people and present it as truth. You can also see how this agreement overlaps with the previous two when we talk about others behind their backs and make things needlessly about us.

A few other key points about assumptions: First, expectations and assumptions go hand-in-hand. We assume our partner knows we want roses for Valentine’s Day, we expect them, and then become disappointed, hurt, and angry when we are given carnations. You get the point. Second, we assume everyone else should see and interpret life the way we do. The reality is, although culturally we have a general set of shared values and beliefs, there is certainly much discrepancy. We therefore have different expectations, ideas, and ways of understanding and responding to situations and relationships.   

BUT I have digressed far from middle school girls, so let me bring it back for you:

Agreement 3: Don’t make assumptions

Translation: Not everything you think you know is true
A discussion to have with your girls at any time is to let them know sometimes our thoughts lie to us. Sometimes we can be very sure of things, jump to conclusions, and believe whole heartedly in our “rightness.” Sometimes our thoughts lie to us about all sorts of things. Kids need to learn how to check in with themselves and others about the truth of their assumptions.  

How to work through this with your girls: When your girl is in the middle of painful drama and you sense she made some assumptions about the nature of the motivation, intention and character of the other person, there is one miracle question to help tease this out:
“How do you know for sure?”
How do you know for sure she doesn’t like you? How do you know for sure she thinks she’s a better dancer? How do you know for sure she started the rumor? How do you know for sure your teacher hates you? What proof do you have to back this up?

If your girl has evidence to back it up, perhaps she overhead a conversation, was told directly or has some other hard and fast proof, you do what you do as a loved one: provide comfort and safety, distract her by finding a fun activity, help her decide what she wants to do and what role she wants you to play, and remind her “hurt people hurt people” to perhaps help her find some compassion.

If, on the other hand, she stumbles, fumbles, and stutters to back up her story (she might resort to name calling, or simply shut down in her conversation with you) there are some other ways you might respond:

  • The first thing you absolutely have to do is validate your girl’s feelings. You do not have to validate her behavior, but you need to let her know you care about her. Only when she feels emotionally safe and supported can you move forward with any problem solving or consideration of other perspectives.

  • Ask her if there are other parts of the story she might not have considered. For example: Is there something going on for the other person? Might she have done something unintentionally to offend them? Is there any possibility of oversensitivity or misinterpretation of the situation? Is there some information she does not have?

  • Try to support your girls to presume good intentions first rather than jump to negative conclusions. This is a bad habit we all need to break, I’m sure.

  • AND, the most difficult, but most important thing you can do is to help her find the courage to ask or clarify her assumptions with the other person involved. At the end of the day, we want to teach our kids to approach conflict in a non-confrontational way, rather than avoid it. In the first blog post, I gave a few suggestions on conflict-approaches. Try using those.  

  • Another key point for those difficult conversations goes back to expectations. Remind your kids they can’t expect others to know what they are thinking, feeling and needing. They are responsible for communicating those emotions and needs. 
  • And finally, remember we need to model this behavior for our kids. If they see you jumping to conclusions and venting about others, they learn an unhealthy and painful way of navigating life.

Best of wishes to you and your girls as you learn to check your assumptions, find the courage to ask the right questions, and choose compassion.

Until next week,
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The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls Part 2

Last week I started a four part series applying the principles of The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the last post, so thank you for reading, liking and sharing.

This second agreement tells us not to take anything personally. In essence, it argues everything others do, say, think, and feel, is about their personal experience and worldview. We experience more hurt than necessary when we internalize other people’s stories about us.

And I agree with this fully… except for this nagging feeling that sometimes we say and do unkind things, even unintentionally, so when we are rejected or in conflict with others, sometimes there is need to consider our part.

So, here it is the second translated agreement: 
Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally

Translation: It’s not about you, except when it is

This whole idea of “it’s not about you” is a really tough one to wrap your head around, especially when we are rejected or bullied. Let me try to break down this concept:

Say a girl is having a tough time at home (her parents are divorcing, unloving, or under a lot of stress), or she secretly hates her body because it doesn’t look like girls on TV or like the popular girls at school, or she’s struggling with her grades, or had something really bad happen to her when she was younger that she hasn’t worked through yet. She might feel any of the following emotions (perhaps towards you, or perhaps just generally):
  • Threatened
  • Jealous
  • Annoyed
  • Insecure
  • Lonely
  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Angry
  • Powerless
  • Stupid
When we have trouble naming these emotions and communicating them in an effective way, or when communicating them won’t change anything anyways, we might resort to passive-aggressive or even downright aggressive behaviors:
  • Gossiping
  • Rejecting/excluding
  • Judging
  • Bulling
  • Snapping
  • Glaring
  • Bossing
  • Fighting
So if you are on the receiving end of those passive-aggressive or aggressive behaviors, it can feel like it’s about you (because it is directed at you), but it is really about the other things happening for that particular girl.

It’s not just young people who do this. Us parents have bad days and might take our frustration out on you, teachers too. The bottom line is: When people are giving you a hard time, it’s not about you, it’s about what is going on inside them.

Why this is hard: Often when people don’t like us, reject us, are rude, or bully us, they are able to hit a nerve about an insecurity we already have about ourselves. It becomes easier to believe them and own their painful story of us. The goal then is to build a layer of self-protection so that we are able to shrug off other people’s bad behavior as a reflection of them, and not take it personally. 

Adults, what can you do?
Here are 2 concepts you can consider/present to kids to help them deal with these issues:
  • Hurt people hurt people. Man, I wish someone had told me this in grade 9! The reality is, people who are secure, confident, and happy simply do not feel the need to be unkind to others or start drama. Those kids who may be causing trouble for our kid is likely hurting in some way. We can remind our kids to remember this as well.

  • Adolescents are self-absorbed. All of them. They are supposed to be. It is their natural stage of development. So when they are worried, thinking everyone is looking and talking about them, so is every other kid too. I’ve found it helpful for my daughter and other girls I work with to consider that everyone is feeling a heightened sense of attention and vulnerability.  
Now let’s consider those times when maybe it is, actually about us…

Maybe you have been bragging a lot about getting straight A’s to a friend who struggles with school, or maybe you told a lie, or ditched someone for another friend at lunch. Probably, deep down you know you’ve done something that’s hurtful. It takes a lot of bravery to look at yourself and admit you’ve made a mistake.

Grown-ups, your girls will need a lot of support in the area of self-reflection because it can be a painful, vulnerable process… a lifelong one at that.

Some strategies to support self-reflection:
  • Have your girls pick out their top 5 values in friendship. Some examples might be: honesty, fun, quality time, compassion, fairness, humility (Google has value lists if you need some direction). When they are struggling with peer dynamics, have them look at their values list and consider if they are living up to those values. Make sure you let her figure it out for herself, you don’t need to point out her flaws (as I’ve said, this can be a painful, hard process and your girls need to feel safe with you). If they’ve fallen short, help them come up with a strategy to make amends or do things differently in the future. And please teach them self-compassion, we all make mistakes. 

  • Teach your kids to name their feelings. The research says being able to name feelings and identify where they are in the body is the first step to managing these feelings in a mature, healthy way. This way they avoid being the hurt person who is hurting people.

  • Put a lot of effort into relationship with your girls. Trust me when I say they need and want you more than ever. Take them for hot chocolate, ask curious questions about their day, be open and non-judgmental about their experience (even if sometimes their actions don’t line up with your values). They need a safe place to process mistakes, learn, and grow their confidence as young women.

Good luck working through these complex concepts with your girls (and boys too, if it fits)! And parents, good luck not taking the emerging eye rolls, sass and attitude personally either! I’m sure that applying these principles and strategies will help your children feel more secure, confident, and grow in their friendships and their relationship with you.

Until next week,
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The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls

Several years ago my former clinical supervisor recommended Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements. “It changed my life,” she proclaimed. These were some strong words coming from a highly intelligent and well-read woman. In essence, the author suggests if you make an agreement with yourself to apply the four principles, you will eliminate all unnecessary drama and pain from your life. This book certainly has the power to change life, if one is bold enough to actually apply the principles. I try and use them as guidelines from which to live: 
Be careful how you speak about others,
Don’t take things personally,
Don’t make assumptions,
Do the best you can.
At this moment, I happen to have a lot of middle school girls in my practice. In my community, middle school is grade 6-8, so I’m referring to those tween years, not a girl anymore, not yet a woman. I also have a middle school-aged daughter, so the strife of these years is fresh on my radar. As I listen to these young women process their fears, struggles and conflicts, I am struck by how much smoother the ride would be if they were able to apply the principles of The Four Agreements to their interactions at school, home, extra-curricular activities, and with their peers. For the sake of keeping your attention (i.e. not posting the longest blog post ever), I’ll be posting one translated agreement a week over the coming month. This will give you a chance to share this stuff with the young ladies in your life, and support them in applying these principals.

So here it is: my interpretation of the (first of the) Four Agreements, written for middle-school girls.

Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word

Translation: Don’t talk about people behind their backs.

Why this is hard:
Let’s face it, when someone hurts us, rejects us, annoys us etc., it feels good to find others to vent to who agree with us. Validation of these gross feelings is… well… validating. Often, you’re not the one leading the show either. Another girl is speaking poorly of others. In these moments you might find yourself joining in on the gossip because talking about others can make you feel more connected to your fellow crew.

Why this gets you into trouble: Girls are not good at keeping secrets. I’m sure this is fact. Inevitably one girl will tell the other girl what’s been said, and then the drama is on! Or, in an even worse case scenario, someone overhears you talking about them and you risk really hurting someone’s feelings. But even more, perhaps no one finds out. You have to live with that yucky feeling of knowing you might not have been kind to someone, and that never feels very good either.

What to do instead: We all need to work through our hurts, fears and rejection in some way. I usually encourage people to do that by finding someone they trust to talk to. This might be a parent, teacher, dance instructor, coach, school counsellor, aunt, or one single best friend you can tell your story to. Hopefully this person encourages you to reflect on any part you may have played, as well as actually DO something about the situation. For example to tell the person you are upset that they hurt your feelings. Although this can be very scary, most girls I work with are surprised to find when they talk openly and honestly with others, situations get resolved and friendships get stronger. And if the friend doesn’t respond well or is mean about it, she might not be the kind of friend you really want in your life.

For some tips on effective communication, I am a big believer in owning your own feelings and trying to be as non-blaming as possible. General guidelines say something like: State your feeling, state the behaviour, and ask for what you would like differently. This might sound like: “I felt hurt when you did not invite me to the party. Next time I would really like to come.” 
I also think approaching with curiosity helps reduce conflict. “I was surprised and hurt when I wasn’t invited to the party. Is something going on? Are you angry with me?”

At the end of the day, you have to decide what kind of person you want to be. And these are the years when you’re figuring all that out. This is no easy task (grown-ups, we need to remember this)! Personally, wouldn’t you like to be known as the girl who never speaks badly of others, and who always has nice things to say about people? It’s probably the best kind of reputation to have, and one that will make you feel really good about yourself.

Communicating our struggles takes practice and courage. So does staying out of the gossip. I applaud you on giving this your best shot.

Stay tuned for the second Agreement: Don’t take anything personally.

Until next time,

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Perfectionism… it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I recounted a story to my family recently about how my daughter was taking foreeeeeeeeeeeever to complete a homework assignment and my less than patient self was not taking well to the number of hours involved, nor the dramatic sighs and tears that came about because it wasn’t quite, drumroll please… “perfect.” The same scene played out in her attempt to start a drawing, intently following an online tutorial. What started off as a fun activity was soon marked by more dramatic sighs and huffs of frustration when she struggled to perfect a cartoon image of a crayon box. A crayon box, folks.
 My brother laughed… ”I wonder where she gets that from!?” He was looking straight at me. It’s true, she comes by this fury honestly. In that moment, I sat within a flood of memories that mirrored the desperate energy my daughter had exuded… the need to make something “just so.” Her version of “just so” was to have her drawing look exactly like the artist’s she was copying and anything less would surely be shameful, worthy of judgment and end any need to pick up a pencil again. Now, I don’t know for sure if that was her internal dialogue, but here’s the thing: it would have been mine, and many others… those of us who strive for perfection in what we do and who we are.

Let’s quickly differentiate perfectionism from healthy striving, as these are very different experiences. Healthy striving is about improvement, achievement and even excellence and these efforts come from a place of empowerment and confidence. Perfectionism on the other hand is about acceptance and approval. It’s a way of living, acting and looking driven by our concern of other’s perceptions… including our own. Inflexible thinking, anxiety, guilt, comparison, unreasonable standards and self-criticism are all part of the game perfectionism plays. It has a way of trapping the whole of our identity and worth in what we do, how well we do it and how we’ll be thought of along the way. Therefore, we hustle to please and perform in our quest to perfect. It is stifling. It is exhausting. And it can be paralyzing.

Perfectionism has many faces but ultimately comes down to fear. Cut through the layers of our efforts to be the perfect partner, the perfect worker, the perfect student, the perfect hostess, the perfect athlete, the perfect parent and you will arguably find fear. Fear of what you ask? If you’re curious, consider this: What is it you don’t want to experience or be perceived as when you’re striving to… perfect the blog post, birthday party, presentation, figure/physique, home, business plan, grade point average, parenting strategy, meal, family image, performance? Whatever it is we’re avoiding… that is our fear.

As Brene Brown suggests, perfectionism comes down to a fear of the world seeing us for what and who we really are: vulnerable, imperfect, and human. In this way, perfectionism becomes a “20 tonne shield” that seemingly protects us from judgment, shame, failure, hurt, and disappointing others, but at what cost? While depression, anxiety, and stress are rightfully cited in research, perfectionism also robs us of engaging in life just… as… we… are.

We convince ourselves we must become smarter, thinner, holier, funnier, calmer, richer… and ultimately “better” before we take any risks. We get trapped in an ever evolving chase for an ideal (who defines what this is, anyways?!) and can’t celebrate what we have going for us in the moment. We get paralyzed in fear of doing anything less than perfect and then miss out on opportunities and experiences. We don’t pursue dreams because we’re afraid of failing. We avoid deep conversations because our vulnerabilities may show through but are then losing out on authentic relationships and intimate connection. We showcase our Pinterest inspired décor and beautifully groomed children, catering to how we’ll be perceived rather than sharing from a place of enjoyment and pride.

But guess what? We can put down this shield and call out the many lies perfectionism feeds us. We can step into our life and claim ourselves to be worthy, just… as… we… are, without the hustle.

This is not exhaustive, but here are a few perfection-busting strategies:
  •  Learning how perfectionism works within our life
  •  Identifying and challenging our fears
  •  Embracing our humanness (yes, that means we make mistakes and aren’t perfect)
  •  Evaluating our expectations and standards
  • Taking charge of our inner critic and letting go of judgment
  • Daring to be creative and making a mess (color outside of the lines… it really is ok!)
  • Trying something new

What are some ways you’ve overcome perfectionism?
Starting later this month, I’ll be co-facilitating a 5-week workshop for women who want to quit the hustle to perfection and bravely live life… beautifully and imperfectly. Contact us if you think that may be you!

Journeying with you,
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Falling off the wagon….

Have you ever poured energy into feeling better, only to have it slip away, or to relapse into old patterns? Ever identified a problem in your life, feel as though you have conquered it, only to experience its ugly return? This post is for you! To illustrate my point, let me begin by telling you a little about myself.
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Who’s in your corner?

Life doesn’t need to feel like a boxing ring for us to step back and ask ourselves, who is in my corner? Who has my back? Who are the people that are standing with me in life?

 "We become who we are through relationship" (Combs and Friedman, 1999).

The idea that people in our life influence and shape us is not new, yet how often do we pause and take stock in how those we spend time with actually impact us? Or at least, how often do we do this before crisis and conflict occur? Colleagues, friends, partners, family are people we spend time with and build relationships with. It is through these relationships and interactions we make sense of who we are and we carry this understanding into the rest of our life. As such, it is incredibly important the people standing close to us are those supporting who we want to become. And yet at times, there are people we are in relationship with that stand in the way of this becoming.
Let’s pause, right now, and do exactly that… take stock. As you do, consider how those in your life contribute to you experiencing CONNECTION, to feeling like you COUNT, to making you feel CAPABLE, and to fueling your COURAGE. These 4 C’s, the “Crucial C’s” as coined by psychologist Betty Lou Bettner (influenced by the work of Alfred Adler) describes the needs we have as human beings. While most often discussed in the context of parenting, raising children and understanding behavior, it’s important to recognize these needs don’t end in childhood. When these things are missing in our adult life, we may not act as we did as a child, but we nonetheless can feel insecure, unworthy, inferior, or otherwise. The consequence: We don’t become what we can. While we arguably have the responsibility to foster these experiences within ourselves, we also need to have people in our lives helping us to experience these Crucial C’s.

Connection is that experience of belonging, raising the question, “Do those in our corner make us feel secure? Do we breathe easy in their presence and know we have a place?

Count is the sense that "we matter." Too often we have people in our life who diminish our worth and value. Do the people we spend our days with make us feel that we make a difference… that we are, in some way, significant?

Capable is that experience of feeling competent, that feeling of "I can do this.” Do our friends, colleagues or partner foster that confidence in ourselves?

Courage is the belief that we can handle what comes. This invites the question, “Do those in our life help us feel hopeful, resilient or willing to try new things?”

We might not be able to choose everyone who is in our life, but we can choose who we look to influence us and who we are in relationship with.
What do you think? Are the people currently in your corner building up these C’s in your life? If so, let’s celebrate them and keep them close. Perhaps others need to be invited in. Those who chip away at your sense of belonging, value and ability may not have a place here. May this encourage you to cultivate relationships that bring about experiences of connection, courage, and feelings of capability and counting. You are worthy of nothing less.
Travelling with you,
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Counselling: Not just a suit and a black leather couch

A string of recent conversations has had me engage in many questions about counselling as well share what I enjoy about my work as a counsellor. While random and unrelated, these discussions illustrated that counselling is a bit of a mystery for many. It’s a word that seems to carry many connotations, some of which keep us from asking for the help we may need. Just consider this: what comes to mind when you think of “therapy?” Or even a “therapist?” I often ask this when introducing someone to the counselling process to get a sense of what they might be expecting. The responses I get are often negative, perhaps based on experience, uncertainty or even movies that insist on illustrating black leather couches and a suit holding a clipboard.
So how does one break through narrow ideas of counselling and share of why it might in fact be helpful? In a pursuit of an articulate, professional explanation, I got lost in articles, research and big words that seemed to bury the simple and valuable truth I was after: life is messy! Let’s just say it as it is. Perhaps not academic or even professional sounding, yet this really does describe the reality of what brings us to counselling. Life is messy and unpredictable and at times, straight up hard. It is also amazingly beautiful, and yet what brings people to consider counselling is rarely, if ever, an experience of joy, success, and gratitude. We don’t find ourselves cruising counsellors on Google to excitedly share of the job promotion we just received, or of how great our family is getting along. While these moments no doubt exist, it is the stories of loss, hardship, crisis, question, hurt and everyday struggles that bring people to pick up a phone and sit in the company of a stranger. The support of someone outside of your day-to-day life can indeed:
  • Help you make sense of what is happening
  • Ask questions others may not
  • Provide a safe space to be vulnerable
  • Help develop new skills and understanding
  • Help problem solve and
  • Improve wellbeing and relationships
We might not always initially know what we hope to gain from counselling, but time and time again, I’ve seen and heard the following experienced by those who step out and engage in the process:
resilience growth awareness compassion understanding forgiveness change courage strength validation skill relationship acceptance calmness empowerment freedom confidence direction

Counselling, while by no means a “fix it”, can be a valuable means of experiencing life in a different kind of way. Life may still be messy, but these things may allow us to journey on with our head high and heart open to all it may entail.
 Travelling with you,
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Everyday Hero

We are presented with this idea of heroism daily: people who risk their lives for others, stood up for their beliefs in the face of adversity. These people are featured in newspapers, in famous quotes, in textbooks. We know them, they inspire us to greatness.
However, I have recently begun to ponder another form of heroism: people bravely living their everyday lives. Those of you who come to my office are facing all sorts of challenges: should I stay or leave this relationship, this job, this home? Should I go back to school? How do I stand up to an ex-husband or ex-wife who is threatening to take my children from me? How do I go to high school another day where I am ostracized and alone? If I stop self-harming or using alcohol, can I face my demons and my shame? I have lost a loved one and am so deeply in grief, how do I get my children to school every day? I have cancer, will I survive, how will I endure the pain of treatment? I don’t have enough money to pay my bills, what do I do? How do I get out of bed every day in this depression?
Every one of us, at moments in our lives must endure, rise, grow, and move through the things that frighten us to our utter core. And this is the crux of it all: You are a hero. Perhaps your everyday heroism is acknowledged by your children, spouse, parents, or support group. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps you bravely endure your struggle in isolation. Today, I honor your heroism. To chose to take another step. To accomplish what you need to accomplish to the best of your ability.
There’s a quote that has always resonated with me: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Today I challenge you to recognize your own bravery, and acknowledge yourself as an everyday hero. I also push you to recognize that struggle in those who cross your path.
Wishing you peace,
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However, I have recently begun to ponder another form of heroism: people bravely living their everyday lives. Those of you who come to my office are facing all sorts of challenges: should I stay or leave this relationship, this job, this home? Should I go back to school? How do I stand up to an ex-husband or ex-wife who is threatening to take my children from me? How do I go to high school another day where I am ostracized and alone? If I stop self-harming or using alcohol, can I face my demons and my shame? I have lost a loved one and am so deeply in grief, how do I get my children to school every day? I have cancer, will I survive, how will I endure the pain of treatment? I don’t have enough money to pay my bills, what do I do? How do I get out of bed every day in this depression?
Every one of us, at moments in our lives must endure, rise, grow, and move through the things that frighten us to our utter core. And this is the crux of it all: You are a hero. Perhaps your everyday heroism is acknowledged by your children, spouse, parents, or support group. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps you bravely endure your struggle in isolation. Today, I honor your heroism. To chose to take another step. To accomplish what you need to accomplish to the best of your ability.
There’s a quote that has always resonated with me: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Today I challenge you to recognize your own bravery, and acknowledge yourself as an everyday hero. I also push you to recognize that struggle in those who cross your path.
Wishing you peace,
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