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It’s not your fault…

One of the most insidious things adult daughters do is beat themselves up for not having a “great” relationship with their mothers (even if they are no longer alive). I put the word “great” in quotation marks because what “great” means to you, me, or the next woman might be different, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s say it looks like this: 

Mom and daughter are close, warm, and supportive of each other. Daughter is able to lean on Mom. Mom loves daughter unconditionally. Daughter lovingly helps Mom out when she needs it. They have separate lives, but make it a point to get away together for “girl time,” to bond and strengthen their relationship. Daughter adores Mom and tells her friends how lucky she is to have her. Mom is proud of daughter and praises her to all her friends. They genuinely respect each other. 

And if it doesn’t look like that (or whatever your version of “great” is), then it’s your fault, and as a result, you have a constant, low-level feeling of guilt because you haven’t been able to fix it by now.

rainbowI am here to witness you, represent you, and tell you:

That’s not the truth. 

There is nothing wrong with you. 

It’s not your fault.

You are not to blame.

You’re not the only one and you do not have to suffer alone, in silence.

All mothers are not loving and buying into the idea that they are (so it must be your fault) only isolates you.

You don’t have to live the rest of your life feeling guilty.

There is no such thing as a perfect mother-daughter relationship.

No matter what Hallmark says.

No matter what you see on Facebook.

No matter what “they” say you “should” think/feel/do.

Mothers do not automatically and instinctually love their daughters unconditionally (no matter how our culture portrays them) and it’s not taboo to acknowledge that.

Please do not shame or guilt yourself. 

It’s not on you.

I am taking this stand for you.

Love,

Karen

P.S. Tell me about it? Bring me your most pressing “mother” issue and I’ll coach you through it in a free mini-session and share information about what it’s like to work with me.

P.S.S. It’s fun. It’s not like therapy where you dredge up old crap and cry your eyes out. You’ve been there and done and are ready to have fun while moving forward rather than feeling like crap while looking back.

She made a declaration, and the universe tested her

There once was a woman who declared she was no longer courting pity.

Little did she know she’d get tested so soon.

She recently reached out to the one person with whom she most wants to be healed.

That person responded: “I don’t see much point in getting together. Our relationship has deteriorated so much over the last few years that it is pretty uncomfortable being with you. Hope you feel the same.”

The woman cried. Hard, heaving, can’t-catch-her-breath sobs. The little girl in her felt rejected. She immediately wanted to call/email/post to anyone who would listen and say…

“See??! Look what’s she’s done to me now!!” 

The adult in her felt relieved. And then guilty, because #1 she was relieved and because #2 it provided the opportunity for a massive pity-party.

Within the space of about an hour (rather than days, weeks, months…years) she went from pity-me-mode (helpless little girl who can’t take care of herself), into fuck-you-mode (channeling her inner rebellious teenager), and into pretend-evolved-adult-mode (“I am so above this”)…and right back to pity again.

She caught herself in the middle of her own damned pattern and actually laughed out loud. Thanks to this interaction, she got to see just how good her mind had gotten at going for the pity. She could practically feel the neurons firing down the well-worth pathways in her brain.

And so she asked herself, “Who do I want to be in this moment?”

Her answer: I want to be a non-reactive, non-defensive, non-pity-seeking grown-ass woman who chooses love without indulging in drama.

She wanted to be free.

So she replied, “Okay, let me know if you change your mind.”

She is free. She chose love.

Who do you want to be?

Want some help figuring it out? Click here to schedule a free 30-minute mini-session. I will coach you and share some information about how I work (no strings attached).

~~~~~

No one can trigger me. Only I can do that. ~ Byron Katie

8 ways I invest in myself

“When a woman is willing to invest in herself, life begins to invest in her.” ~ Tanya Leigh

Back in March I met Tonya Leigh, a lifestyle blogger and life coach. A few weeks ago she wrote a blog post entitled 8 Investments That Changed Me As A Woman and ever since I read it, I’ve wanted to write a similar post.

As I thought about my list, some of the things that came up weren’t actually services or products to purchase, but rather involved my time, which, to me, is right up there with money. And yeah, some of my investments involve both. So, without further ado, here are eight ways (in no particular order) I invest in myself that have made the biggest, most positive, difference in my life. 

#1 Quality sleep (and bedding)

Sleep cures, heals, and maintains health. I generally invest eight to nine hours per night. I sleep on a high-quality mattress and pillow that supports, cushions, and cradles my body. I purchase high-quality cotton or silk sheets, blankets, and bedspreads. I’ve had them for years. As a result, I am healthier, more energetic, and have a routine that suits me (compared to the time in my life when I didn’t invest in sleep). 

#2 Quality undergarments (especially bras) 

Many years ago when I was freelancing, I wrote an article about the benefits of getting a proper bra fitting. I interviewed the owner of a high-end lingerie boutique that stocks bras from all over the world in sizes from 28AA to 54JJ. Once I knew my proper size (and it wasn’t even close to the size I thought I was) and purchased one (relatively) expensive bra, I was hooked. Well made, properly fitting bras and panties are not only more comfortable, they last longer and I like the way I feel when I am wearing them. And when I feel good, I do good.

#3 Personal development (books, courses, workshops, various types of therapy, coaching)

I was 42 when I “woke up” and started consciously working on my shit. (As I wrote that, I realized that I’ve been at it for 10 YEARS!). As a result, here’s what I’ve accomplished. I:

  • realized that I didn’t just hate my body, I hated myself.
  • considered what it might be like to love myself.
  • practiced that.
  • lost weight.
  • learned to love my body.
  • gained weight.
  • started a blog.
  • REALLY learned to love my body.
  • started helping others.
  • lost weight.
  • consciously chose to create healthy relationships.
  • wrote a book.
  • started to understand the true nature of self-esteem and confidence and where it comes from.
  • practiced that.
  • went back to school.
  • healed some more deep-ass shit.
  • continued to help others.
  • started a business.
  • am writing my second book. 
  • am continually learning lessons.

#4 Personal training, massage, chiropractic adjustments, and physical therapy

Over the years, on and off, I have invested time and money in professionals who are all about the physical body. At first it was about wanting to look a certain way, but over the years it has transformed into helping me truly care for and appreciate my body and what it is capable of. All four modalities work together in a synergistic way.

#5 Slow cooking (and I don’t mean a crock pot) and eating

The vast majority of the time I make breakfast, lunch, and dinner mostly from whole, fresh, unprepared foods. Sometimes we go out and sometimes I bring something prepared in, but mostly I take the time to plan and make meals. Like #4, this helps me truly care for and appreciate my body. It also makes me appreciate my food, where it comes from, and the effort and energy it took to get to me. Eating more slowly is still a work in progress, but it’s worth the investment.

#6 Reading for pleasure

I spend about an hour a day reading for pleasure (novels). I’ve been reading since I learned how. It’s worth my time because it soothes and transports me. Years ago, when I commuted to New York City, I spent my commute time (nearly four hours a day) reading (this was before cell phones and laptops). 

#7 Blogging

I’ve been a professional writer since 1984 (the year I graduated from college). But it wasn’t until 2009, when I started my blog, that I became what I consider to be a “real” writer. Because up until that point, I had never consistently written creatively or for myself. So what happened in 2009? The quick version is that, by the time New Year’s Day rolled around, I had regained 23 of the 55 pounds I had lost in 2005-06, after spending most of my adult life seemingly unable to lose weight. 

I was full of panic, shame, frustration, and anger, so I started blogging, investing many hours a week on it.

I am not exaggerating when I say that blogging saved my life. 

It also creates awareness, makes me think, helps me find my voice, helps me to be heard, is a big part of my overall health plan, gives me clarity, helps me continually discover my true calling, keeps me grounded, keeps me honest, creates relationships and connection, nurtures friendships, changes my life…

#8 My Marriage

What can I say? Besides myself, my husband is the most important person in the world to me. Investing my time in him and our relationship is a no-brainer. Our marriage is one of the strongest marriages I know and having come from a family where everyone has been married and divorced at least once (including myself), that’s saying something! I wrote a series of blog posts several years ago that tells our story

What investments have you made in yourself and how have they changed you for the better? 

~~~~~

P.S. I am offering free 30-minute mini-sessions for women who’d like to start redefining their relationship with their mothers. I will coach you and share information about my program and how I work (no strings attached).

 

Why holding yourself back sucks…

…for you and for everyone else.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fantasy. I am on a dark stage, standing in the spotlight.

I am wearing a fabulous dress. 

I then belt out a song with every fiber of my being. Everyone in the audience is swept away by the depth, beauty, and passion. They are moved to tears.

Over the years, the song I sing and what I am wearing have changed, but the basic fantasy remains the same.

~~~~~~~~~~

Earlier this week I stumbled across the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors video of Lady Gaga singing “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” in honor of Sting. I was mesmerized. 

I felt the same way when Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart performed “Stairway To Heaven” to honor Led Zeppelin in 2012, so I went back and watched that video again, and several other Kennedy Center Honors performances.

I was swept away by the depth, beauty, and passion. I was moved to tears*.

It finally dawned on me why these performances are so moving, and how they relate to my fantasy: these are people who are giving everything they have for the performance – out of love, respect, and honor – because it’s who they are. 

They leave it all on the stage. They hold nothing back. And that impresses the hell out of me. Especially because I know that, as bold as they sometimes appear, many performers have stage fright and yet they go out and do it anyway.

Although I am not a singer, my fantasy, for a while, was a reality.

In 2009 I started a blog because – although I didn’t know it at the time – I needed a place to express myself via writing. 

I did it openly and honestly. Each and every time I wrote, I left everything I had on the “page.” 

Many of you responded by sharing your own stories. You interacted with me, told me I was inspirational, and that I made you think.

It was a true give-and-receive situation.

A few years ago I started to hold myself back. Sure, I could blame someone, but that’s not who I am any more. I did it to me.

Sure, I was still writing, and I wrote some damned good stuff. But not as consistently as I had before, and certainly not as openly and honestly – or fully. 

I paid for it in myriad ways.

That’s what happens when you hold yourself back. 

Not only does it suck for you, it sucks for everyone who might find themselves mesmerized and inspired by you if you were to leave it all on the stage (or page, or whatever your medium is).

As I said last week, I am no longer courting pity; I am on a mission to impress myself, no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does.

~~~~~~~~~~

What do you fantasize about doing that you’re not doing? What is your talent? Do you want to impress the hell of yourself and leave it all on the stage (whatever your stage is)?

These aren’t rhetorical questions so please hit reply and share what’s on your mind and in your heart.

P.S. I don’t want to leave you hanging.

Watch Lady Gaga sing “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” to Sting (and check out the way Sting takes a deep breath when Gaga starts singing!)

Watch Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart sing “Stairway To Heaven” to Led Zeppelin 

Pity Or Envy?

Would you rather be pitied or envied?

It sounds like an easy question to answer, right? But how often do you choose pity and resist envy?

I admit it. I spent the past few weeks having quite the pity party. It started around Mother’s Day and didn’t abate until late last week.

pity

My pity party face

It was not fun.

Then I came across this question – would you rather be pitied or envied? – and it unleashed a series of ah-ha moments that are still tumbling around in my brain.

Here’s some of what I wrote in my journal: 

How nuts is it that I like it when people feel sorry for me…when they pity me? I actually like pity??? And? I also hate it. It disgusts me. Sometimes I do/say things in order to elicit pity, then when I get it, I resist it and try to prove to the person giving it to me that I don’t need it, because I don’t like seeing that in myself. 

I have a long history of wanting to be pitied and it showed up in the stories I told about my life. 

It’s easy now for me to see all the times I chose pity and to see how it served me to do so. When I was pitied, I got attention, I got taken care of, and I got (some of) my needs met. 

Choosing pity also comes at a great price. 

When I choose pity, I give up the opportunity for autonomy, growth, contribution, and true integrity. Not to mention fun…

On the other hand, envy brings up a whole ‘nother can of worms. I don’t know about you, but I used to make being envied mean that I must have been showing off, and showing off was bad. But here’s the thing: modesty* isn’t necessarily a virtue.

In order to receive positive attention, many of us learned very quickly that being modest (i.e., playing small) would be rewarded and so we chose not to do anything that might cause envy in others. 

Perhaps this is why practicing gratitude has gotten so popular. I’m not saying it’s bad to be grateful, but it’s “softer.” It’s not as…brash…as, say, choosing to be envied.

That said, I can definitely get behind being admired. 

I am making a conscious effort to choose admiration over pity. 

How does that even work? It starts with impressing myself…with taking actions that I deem to be impressive. These days those actions include writing every day (I’m writing another book, y’all!), kickboxing at least three times a week, speaking my truth non-defensively, and focusing on being of true service to others. 

What about you? Which do you choose, and why? This isn’t a rhetorical question, I really want to know!

*I love what the late Maya Angelou had to say about modesty (she believed that true arrogance lay in denying one’s own specialness—and denying the specialness of others):

“…I have no patience with modesty. Modesty is a learned adaptation. It’s stuck on like decals. As soon as life slams a modest person against the wall, that modesty will fall off faster than a G-string will fall off a stripper. Whenever I’m around some who is modest, I think, ‘run like hell and all of fire.’ You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me and I’m here because I’ve been paid for. I have something to do and I will do that because I’m paying for someone else who has yet to come.” ~ “Why Maya Angelou Disliked Modesty”  

P.S. Save the date! I will be running my “new and improved” six-week group class for adult daughters who want to create resilience and empowerment in their relationships with their mothers this fall, starting October 6!

 

There’s no such thing as a “deeply entrenched” thought (and why this is such good news)

At the heart of what I do is showing women the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and actions (especially when it comes to thoughts they believe are deeply entrenched…thoughts from their childhoods…thoughts their mothers may have given them).

Thoughts like:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • Who do I think I am?
  • I can’t take care of myself.
  • I have to do it all.
  • I’m too big for my britches.
  • I don’t deserve to have what I want.

Which lead to feelings like:

  • Dread.
  • Desperation.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Anger.
  • Bitterness.
  • Resentment.
  • (need I go on?)

Which lead to actions like:

  • Bingeing on gas station food (which I will write more about next week).
  • Lying.
  • Hiding.
  • Shopping too much.
  • Drinking too much.
  • (need I go on?)

What usually happens is, once they get it, they want to start changing their negative thoughts as fast as they can.

Why? Because negative thoughts tend not to feel good, and when they don’t feel good, they don’t do good.

They say, “Those thoughts are what’s holding me back and keeping me stuck. They’re what’s keeping me from having what I want!”

I recently made an interesting connection between the desire to stop thinking negative thoughts and the ability to stop thinking negative thoughts.

Here’s how it works: you notice yourself feeling like crap and you realize there must be a negative thought rolling around in your brain. If you’re anything like me, you see the pattern.

Then you go into “change that thought” mode.

But here’s the thing, “changing your thoughts” is really just another form of resistance, judgment, and avoidance.

Because underneath those negative thoughts are other thoughts like, “I shouldn’t think that” or“It’s so deeply seated I’ll never be able to change it” or “UGH I hate that I have these negative thoughts…I am SO screwed!”

We judge those thoughts and, thus ourselves, as “bad.”

And because we’re resisting them, they persist.

The only truth about a consistent, pernicious* thought is that our brain (which is basically a machine) has gotten really good at thinking it. 

That’s it. Our brains love to be efficient they don’t care if those thoughts hurt us. That doesn’t make us bad, it’s actually quite a feat when you think about it!

So, let me say it again: the ONLY reason you continue to think a negative thought is because your brain has gotten good at it.

And that’s so good to know, right? It means that your brain can get good at thinking other, more helpful thoughts, just as easily (thus dispelling the notion that some thoughts are more deeply entrenched than others, which tends to send the message that they’re going to be harder to get rid of).

(pssst…stop trying to get rid of thoughts!)

Rather than resisting, trying to change, judging, or pushing away the thoughts that don’t feel good, just notice and then ask yourself, “what do I want to believe about instead?” 

The Thinker (August Rodin)

The Thinker (August Rodin)

“When we TRULY understand that we are punching ourselves in the face, and that it hurts, we don’t have to ask what to make our hands do instead, we just stop. And we don’t have to remind ourselves not to do it…or to distract ourselves from doing it.” ~ Brooke Castillo

So here’s a question for you on this fine Thursday morning: what pernicious thought do you have that you believe is “deeply entrenched” or “embedded”? This isn’t a rhetorical question, I really want to know so hit reply and tell me what’s in your heart!

*P.S. I LOVE the word “pernicious.” It means “having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.”

Letting joy rise

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I am answering the question again.

If you really knew me, you’d know that I love you. You’d know I think about you a lot, and care about you. You’d see a true partner, someone who wants for you what you want for yourself.

You’d know that sometimes I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe…that I access my inner 10-year-old on a regular basis…that sometimes I just can’t contain my joy and it comes out in all sorts of mischievous ways.

You’d know that I practice what I preach, that I set boundaries like a boss, that I say “no” unless it’s a HELL YES!

And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I stumble and don’t get it right.

You’d know that when I feel the funk, I see it as a sign of strength and resilience – something to be proud of – not as a sign that I am wallowing. You’d know that as crappy as it feels in the moment, I am not in a rush to NOT feel that way. You’d know that I don’t act on those feelings, I just let myself feel them.

You’d know that feeling this way is part of a rich, full, and feminine life, not something to hide, be ashamed of, resist, or medicate.

You’d want to learn how to do that, too, because as much as we all love to laugh and be silly, unless you’re willing to go to the dark side, you’ll never be fully in the light. You’d know I embrace the both/and of life. You’d see someone who wouldn’t trade ANY of it for ANYTHING.

You’d see someone who sees the wisdom of the ages in all of her emotions.

P.S. My friend Jeanne Andrus (The Menopause Guru) shared this bit of wisdom with me from Louann Brizendine, M.D.’s book “The Female Brain”:

“Some of my patients came to me feeling so jerked around by their hormones that they couldn’t work or speak to anyone because they’d either burst into tears or bite someone’s head off. Most weeks of the month they were engaged, intelligent, productive, and optimistic, but a mere shift in the hormonal flood to their brains on certain days left them feeling that the future looked bleak, and that they hated themselves and their lives. These thoughts felt real and solid, and these women acted on them as though they were reality and would last forever –even thought they arose solely from hormonal shifts in their brains.”

Jeanne says the hormonal shifts in perimenopause can be at least as dramatic, and worse, may not be as fleeting as those of the “normal” cycle.

How do you let joy rise?

Letting discomfort be my guru*

Today someone** asked me, “If your audience really knew you, they’d know and see what?”

Here’s my answer:

If my audience really knew me they’d know that I spent the day yesterday in a SERIOUS funk, full of self-doubt and confusion, wanting to be mad for no good discernible reason, wondering if I am actually seriously depressed, and feeling like every little thing I did was sending out negative ripples into the universe.

If you’d have run into me yesterday, I might have snarled at you or cried. Probably both. But I would have warned you first, and told you that it had nothing to do with you.

They’d know that I was seriously afraid that I was turning people off, that everyone was thinking, “Sheesh…all she ever writes about is shame and crying and funks…what a lot of fun she must be.”

They’d know that I journaled about it, shared it with some close friends, cried in my husband’s arms, and then felt a wee bit better.

They’d know that as hard as it was, and as “real” as it felt, and as worried about it as I was, there was another, higher part of me that trusted it would pass…that understands that hormones do, indeed, exacerbate and intensify emotions.

Because the truth is, this funk has been going on a little longer than is comfortable.

They’d know that I’m still feeling a little tender today, but better.

They’d see that I chose to let “discomfort be my guru.”

They’d see emotional resilience.

youhaveeverything
*Thanks to Chris Zydel for that turn of phrase

**The someone is Amira Alvarez, and she has an active, fun, and helpful Facebook group for women who are in business for themselves. 

What about you? If your audience really knew, what would they know and see?

Mad Lib Manifesto! #makeascene

(From Susan Hyatt’s fill-in-the-blank “Make A Scene Manifesto”)

I want…

A life filled with belly laughs, meaningful conversations, unconditional love, and freedom.

A life that feels courageous, giddy, mischievous, joyful, and complete!

A life that I created because I can.

When it comes to…

…my body, I make time for rest, play, fuel, pleasure, and love, and say no to the idea that it needs to be any different than it is right now.

…my business, I focus on all the amazing women who are ready to learn how to fiercely love and mother themselves and clear out the belief that my worth and success are defined by others.

…my family, friends, and loved ones, I believe in and support their choices, even if it’s not something I would choose, and I refuse to make them responsible for my emotions.

I wear whatever I want to, precisely because I want to.

I choose to spend a lot of time alone because it’s right for me.

I love writing about and sharing my experiences and I don’t care who knows it.

And when I see people hurting, I speak up and let them know that I can help.

No one can make me feel less than or take away my ability to create and serve.

I am in charge of my thoughts, my emotions, my life, myself.

My life. My choices. My dreams.

I won’t hang back. Won’t be passive. Won’t be silenced.

I am here to shine and make a difference.

I am here to make a scene.

Your turn:

MAKE A SCENE – MANIFESTO
I want…
A life filled with _____________.
A life that feels like _____________.
A life that I created because I _____________.
When it comes to…
…my body, I make time for _____________ and say no to _____________.
…my career, I focus on _____________ and clear out _____________.
…my family, friends, and loved ones, I fight for _____________ and refuse to _____________.
I wear _____________ because I want to.
I choose _____________ because it’s right for me.
I love _____________ and I don’t care who knows it.
And when I see _____________ happening out in the world, I speak up and _____________.
No one has can make me feel _____________ or take away my _____________.
I am in charge of my _____________.
My life. My choices. My dreams.
I won’t hang back. Won’t be passive. Won’t be silenced.
I am here to _____________.
I am here to make a scene.

Are you okay if…?

Are you okay if someone judges you?

Makes assumptions about you?

Doesn’t understand you?

Doesn’t agree with you?

Doesn’t approve of who you are or what you do?

Isn’t fair?

Criticizes you?

Tries to scare you or guilt you or shame you into changing?

Is rude and insensitive to you?

Yes? No?

If your answer is “No, I’m not okay,” and you want to do something about it, let’s schedule a time to talk about it (no strings attached).

Schedule Session