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On The Dark Side

You must be willing to examine and explore your dark side. You must acknowledge how bad you can be and how horribly unloving you can behave. When you know how deep and dark your dark side is, it helps you stand a little taller in the light. ~ Iyanla Vanzant

I can tell you that doing shadow work has been both the most scary and the most liberating and life-affirming work I’ve ever done.

There have been times when I actually laughed out loud with glorious pride while claiming my hypocritical, bitchy, jealous, petty bits.

Precisely because I knew I could love and accept myself…ALL of myself.

And because I know that every human being on the planet has the capacity for every human emotion and behavior.

And I know that when I acknowledge and honor those parts that, in the past, would have shame-stormed me, I am able to acknowledge and honor the light-filled parts.

There is nothing more beautiful (to me) than owning each and every bit of ourselves. Even when it feels like we might choke on it.

 

“You Just Want Everything Handed To You On A Silver Platter” And Other Stories I Am Reframing

brazen

… When you stop trying to prove your worthiness, you can get on with the work of deliberately creating a life that is fulfilling to you. ~ Christie Inge

Hi…my name is Karen and I am a recovering prove-a-holic.

I have spent more time than I’d like to admit (with exceptions, of course) doing things like losing weight, working out, becoming a coach, starting a business (and I am sure many other things) with a sometimes unconscious belief that doing these things would somehow prove my worth and gain me the approval of everyone from my mother to my husband to my friends to my peers.

(Note that I didn’t include blogging/writing in that list.)

Even when I understood, consciously, that human worth does not need to be proven, I still went at it.

I spent a lot of time and money in pursuit of proof, or, in some cases trying to disprove.

I’m not saying the time and money was wasted because it led me to right now, acknowledging and AWARE that some of what I have produced and created in my life was done out of desperation and a belief that I should want certain things, like a specific kind of body, a particular type of business, a certain kind of success, and to be a certain kind of rock star like [fill in the blank].

Last week I wrote a piece on how to deal with critical, offensive, or hurtful comments (which often become ingrained beliefs…stories that we believe about ourselves).

Part of the advice I give is to reframe it. “So-and-so said [insert whatever they said here]. I don’t agree with so-and-so, nor do I think that [insert whatever they said here] is a bad thing. What I want to believe is [insert what you believe here].”

There are days (weeks even) when I need to follow my own freaking advice.

Here are some of the more pernicious stories (related to having to prove myself) that I’ve reframed recently (and will probably have to reframe again…and again):

#1 “You just want everything handed to you on a silver platter” (which goes along with “you’re lazy” and “you’re a spoiled brat”), and if these things are true, then I am a bad person, so I must prove that they are not true!

#2 “You never finish what you start” (which goes along with “you must not want it very badly”), and if this is true, then I am pathetic (and bad), so I must press on doing things I’ve started, things I’m not even sure I want, but, well, I’m supposed to want them, even if I am not enjoying them, or even if they’re not working out as planned, or even if they’re causing harm on some level, because I have to prove that I am not pathetic!

Can you relate?

What I want to (and now do) believe is…

Yes. Yes I do want everything handed to me on a silver platter. I am worthy of having things handed to me on a silver platter…and everything that has been handed to me so far? Not only do I want all of it, I’ve helped create it. 

And it’s truly life-altering (in a good way) when you want what you already have without guilt or shame. And when you allow yourself to receive without self-judgment, guilt, and shame, you are able to freely give without judgment.

Yes, it’s a form of gratitude, but it goes waaaaaaaay deeper.

Yep, it’s true. I don’t always finish what I start and there are many things I’ve set out to get, that, if I am honest, I really don’t want. And that’s a smart thing, especially when I start something out of a sense of desperation and needing to prove myself!

Because, as I have been known to say, anything done out of desperation is destined to backfire!

What might you create if you chose not to believe some dramatic, suffering story around having and desiring.

What would happen if you actually already had what you desire?

How would it feel to just quit something that you started, without guilt or believing that you’ve let someone down?

How would it feel to not have to prove a damned thing?

These aren’t just rhetorical questions…reply below and tell me what’s in your heart.

On Belonging (Again): A Tribute To My Father-In-Law

I have been given many opportunities to belong. 

I have been given many signs that I belong.

When my father-in-law, Reverend E. Earl Anderson, died earlier this month, I immediately remembered one of those signs.

letters I’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling of belonging I had when, upon announcing our engagement in 1997 after dating for two years, Tim received one of the many (MANY) family letters his father sent to his kids over the years, and the salutation read: “Kris & Dan, Tim & Karen, Kirk & Dawn.”

Prior to that, the salutation read: “Kris & Dan, Tim, Kirk & Dawn.”

I haven’t always understood my part – my responsibility – in belonging. There were many times when I believed and acted like I didn’t belong….because I didn’t know how.

~~~~~

When I first met Tim and found out his father was a Lutheran minister, I was a little intimidated and fearful. At that point I considered myself an atheist. I laughingly (and defensively) referred to myself as a heathen.

Now, Tim isn’t a church-goer, either, and over the years he has expressed guilt over this. He’s an engineer with a scientific bent, although he certainly embraces the idea that science and spirituality are just different sides of the same coin.

But here’s the thing: while they are certainly different, Tim and his Dad had a lot in common, including healthy skepticism, practicality, the ability to question and challenge, and mutual, deep respect and admiration.

In the days after his death, as we, his family, received visitors at the funeral home and at his service, I got to see and know Earl through the eyes of others (MANY others).

The things I knew about him – that he was an encourager, a joker, a gentleman, a gentle man, a storyteller, and someone who knew how to encourage belonging – were related over and over again.

There was one thing none of us knew. Back in 1969 he almost left the ministry…his faith had been shaken. During that time he wrote a personal Psalm* that was kept private from his family until the day before he died.

~~~~~

The sermon at his funeral service was given by Pastor Steve Bond (of Hope Lutheran Church in Homer City, PA) whom Earl had known and mentored for nearly 10 years.

Pastor Bond captured the essence of Earl perfectly. He started by saying that they’d only ever had one conversation: “…we had one long, winding, paused-and-started-and-paused-and-started-again, conversation—one that has taken now the better part of a decade to unfold.”

You could feel everyone in the congregation nodding in recognition.

“When I say I only ever had one conversation with Earl, I mean to say that, in the years we all knew him … and in all the places where conversation happened, from the kitchen table at Georgetown, or parsonage dinner tables, to the council meeting rooms and social halls of congregations near and far, and even across the wheeled tray table at St. Andrew’s [the nursing home where he died], that blessed man invited us into a conversation that was already in progress, a conversation that you had picked up with sometime before, and which you would pick up again the next time…and that fist-pumping gesture he made when he was happy for you, or proud of you, or when you had just said something that made him smile his closed-eye satisfied smile, and he just wanted to savor the words like he was rolling around a sip of wine in his mouth.”

That was exactly my experience too.

Later, Pastor Bond went on to say (in regards to that time in 1969):

“Here is a man who is … so clearly at ease with his Creator that he can be honest about the heartbreak as well as the happy endings. Here is a man who is still teaching us that prayer is not a rote recitation of rhymed couplets to check off your list of proper rituals, but the unending, ever-deepening conversation when a person pours out their soul to the God who loves us enough to let us be honest.

Earl showed us living and vibrant faith that looked like an ongoing and unending living conversation with God.

That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? …his presence was not intimidating—because he was real. And he could be real before God. He showed us what it looked like to be real before God and everybody else, and to let all pretense and pomp and pageantry be set aside.”

~~~~~

Because of all this, I see now how I fit in…that I belong because he was showing me by example.

I was able to be exactly who I am in his presence…to be loved and accepted unconditionally because he was showing me by example.

He never tried to preach to me or convert me. And he certainly never judged me, which is what, 20 years ago when I found out that my then boyfriend’s father was a minister, I had feared most.

A couple of years ago when I was in the midst of a painful issue with which he was familiar, I told him what I had hoped to do, and the outcome I expected.

He gave me a real response, not the Sunday School answer I’d expected.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said quietly, “Good luck with that.” 

I laughed out loud. He wasn’t being flip, he was being honest because he understood me and the subtleties involved.

~~~~~

I have, slowly, come – not only to believe in God – but to understand God. Not in a traditional, religious sense, but in my own way.

Just like I sense Earl did.

Godspeed Earl. I am grateful to you for many things: for the way you raised your son (who is the perfect husband for me), for your gentle humor, for your consistency and ability to maintain relationships, and most of all for your example.

*Psalm 1969

I praise You, O Lord, very much to my surprise.
For many were the weights to hold me down, the walls to crowd me in on every side.
Certain, certain was the crisis that would overwhelm me.
Yet, dry-mouthed with fear, I felt the tendrils of my heart reach out
To touch fresh springs of grace.
Yet, in all that darkness, your presence, like a faint glimmer of the will-o’-the-wisp
Haunted me.
Then broke, broke, broke, like dawn, into view.
Life’s joys returned. Its dreads drew back to their proper place.
Time again to work, and leap, and laugh again, and I praise You.
But very much to my surprise.

~ E. Earl Anderson ~

Anxiety Resilience: It’s Not About Fixing It Or Yourself

Anxiety.

 

What do you tell yourself about it, if you’re experiencing it?

What do you tell yourself about YOU?

Many women who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle with anxiety.

Long-time readers know about my “throw up” phobia.

For years I told myself that I was silly and stupid because I “freak out” around stomach illness (in other people, as well as in myself).

I have spent lots of time (and money) trying to fix it/me.

I have also spent a lot of time beating myself up and making myself feel guilty because I made having anxiety mean that I am pathetic.

Slowly but surely I started to accept (in the true sense of the word) that I have anxiety. Rather than resisting the physical manifestation (weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, feeling paralyzed) of my anxious thoughts, I started to just allow them to be there, without judgment.

And slowly but surely I have started to feel better.

I still have anxiety, but (for the most part) I don’t create extra pain for myself by worrying about it or making it mean something bad about me.

Recently I was in a situation that pushed me over the edge: my husband and I were visiting a nursing home over the course of several days, and on the second day we were told that patients were coming down with a stomach virus and that visitors were required to wear face masks.

We were going to be having a family event there later on that second day and all I could think about was the fact that, the day before, we’d been “exposed”!!

But here’s the cool part.

Yes, I was experiencing anxiety. I actually started to hyperventilate. 

But I decided to take care of myself and treat myself kindly.

(Although I did have a momentary lapse in which I felt guilty because I believed I was letting other people down).

I left the premises and sat in the car. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t apologize for it or denigrate myself by saying to the others, “I know I am being silly and stupid because I am this way,” but nor did I want to force myself to do something that felt dangerous (even though I knew it was just my mind).

Later, I was able to go back in and enjoy myself and the rest of the family.

Anxiety, for some of us, is just part of who we are. Resisting it by believing that it is wrong, bad, and something that we either need to be ashamed of or something that we need to fix only creates additional pain.

There is no shame in taking care of yourself. 
And it’s okay to be proud of yourself for small victories.

This is what it looks like to be resilient.

This is what it looks like to be empowered.

A quick how-to:

1. Make sure you know how anxiety manifests itself physically for you. For me it’s weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, and feeling paralyzed.

2. Understand that those physical sensations are the result of thoughts that are running through your head. You  might not be able to fully “control” those thoughts, and that’s okay, but it’s important to acknowledge that you are creating your anxiety.

3. Ask yourself what would feel good and right to do when you’re feeling anxiety. 

4. Take care of yourself by doing what feels good and right, without apology or defensiveness.

5. Don’t heap additional pain onto yourself by telling yourself that having anxiety means something bad about you.

6. Breathe.

Do you struggle with anxiety? How do you handle it?

Continuing The Continual Continuation

As I said in my Continual Continuation post, I’ve never been one to make lists, set goals, then cross them off my list and call it done. For me, life is more of evolving series of ah-ha moments that thrill me, frustrate me, and eventually, settle into my cells as I practice and embody knowledge and wisdom.

Sure, there are some things that require a hard and fast deadline or that need to be done in a linear and orderly fashion.

And then there are other things…things like mowing the lawn.

I start by going back and forth in neat rows and after two or three, I start going around the perimeter, then do out-and-backs with me standing in the center.

I’ve always been this way…and I’ve tried many times to stop being this way. Now I choose to accept it. It’s how I roll.

I still get the job done so I’ve stopped judging myself and thinking that I need to change my basic nature.

~~~~~~~~~~

Things I learned in 2014:

That I can do hard things, things I’ve never done before, things I used to be afraid to do, without suffering.

That I am shame and anxiety resilient.

Things I did in 2014 of which I am proud:

Becoming a master certified life coach.

Healing (truly) my relationship with my mother ON MY OWN TERMS.

Creating a variety of cohesive programs and offerings for adult daughters who struggle in their relationships with their mothers that marries my love and talent for writing with my love and talent for coaching.

Things I am celebrating:

That I can now put my bra on the “regular” way (reaching behind my back to clasp it) because my frozen shoulder (on which I had surgery a year go) is pretty much healed and pain-free.

The women in Sweet Blessed Relief who, next week, are choosing to embark on a journey to inner peace by beginning the process of healing their relationships with their mothers (or fathers).

As I move into 2015 I am continuing to let go of:

The belief that pain in my body is inevitable.

Desperation.

Attachment to outcome.

My guiding words for 2015:

Ease + Flow

And here’s a curious thing:

The minute I claimed ease + flow, the minute I realized it would come as a result of routine, structure, and schedule…but not imposed on me by myself or anyone else.

But rather, CREATED by me FOR me.

And so I have entered into 2015 consciously choosing to create structure and routine that supports ease + flow.

mandala1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[The beautiful mandala you see in the photo was created by Michelle Radomski of One Voice Can Graphics, Books & Mandalas]

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Today, be the person of your dreams.

See life through HER eyes. 

Make decisions with HER mind. 

Let every thought, word, and action come from HER perspective, as if you had already arrived, and just watch how 2015 warps into the kind of year you talk and laugh about forever and ever and ever.

Psssst…that woman already exists, there’s nothing new to learn, just “let her out.” ~ The Universe

What are you in the midst of continuously creating in your life?

 

 

A Continual Continuation

I’ve never been one to make lists, set goals, then cross them off my list and call it done. For me, life is more of evolving series of ah-ha moments that thrill me, frustrate me, and eventually, settle into my cells as I practice and embody the knowledge, wisdom, and ultimate transformation.

Looking back…looking forward.

That’s what we do around this time on our annual trip around the sun.

Whether you’re into making resolutions (or not), setting goals (or not), choosing a word of the year (or not), creating a vision board (or not), intending to intend (or not), here is my wish for you:

That you choose to think thoughts that feel good to you…and then go from there.

You can trust yourself. You have everything you need.

If you’re still doubting…

Take a deep breath.

Close your eyes.

Unlock your shoulders.

Open your eyes and soften your gaze.

Take another deep breath…and consider these questions:

  • What did you learn this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you most want to share?
  • What did 2014 feel like?
  • What are you celebrating?
  • What are you letting go of as you move into 2015?
  • What do you desire in 2015?
  • How do you want it to feel?
  • What thoughts will support those desires and emotions?

(I will answer those questions myself and share in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, if you want to share your answers with me below in the comments, I’d be honored.)

I am supremely grateful to have been on this journey with you and I am looking forward to the continuing continuation of our lives!

~~~~~~~~~~

P.S. Upcoming Class!

I’ve got 25 spots open for Sweet Blessed Relief, which starts January 20.

This is a class I wish existed five years ago when I was struggling in my relationship with my mother…and then cut ties with her, believing it was my only option, only to find myself feeling more trapped and angry.

As you make your way through six powerful lessons I will be on hand in our private online community to support you.

Also, today is the last day to get my 1:1 coaching programs at 2014 prices.

No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

…Choosing Unconditional Love For Someone Whom You Find It Hard To Even Like

Please help me. I know that the chronic anger, bitterness, and resentment I feel for my mother aren’t good for me, but I truly believe that these feelings protect me. I’m afraid that if I let go of my anger then she will “win” and I will end up doing whatever she wants, I’ll never disagree with her, and I’ll put up with her abusive behavior. I want to love her, but to be honest, I don’t even really like her.

At first I thought about responding with a piece on how to create good boundaries (and I will do that at some point), but given the time of year, I think I’ll riff about unconditional love instead.

(Are you rolling your eyes? Don’t give up on me yet!)

Here’s the thing about ALL emotions, from anger to unconditional love: they aren’t concepts; they are vibrations that we literally feel in our bodies.

And when we choose to feel them, we GET to feel them.

I can tell you how certain emotions feel for me:

Shame usually comes with a hot, prickly feeling around my face and neck.

Grief is an exquisite ache in my throat and heart.

Anger feels like the wind has been knocked out of me (and it’s heavy too) and I feel slightly choked.

Anxiety is a shakiness in my belly (sometimes I actually shiver).

And unconditional love? It feels like a beautiful, warm glow in my chest…a googly, melting-heart sensation. When I really practice feeling it, I can make it expand and flow throughout my whole upper body. It feels amazing.

So, why would I choose anything else? Even for someone whom I don’t think deserves it?

I’ll say it again: because when I choose to feel unconditional love…

I GET TO FEEL UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Your mother doesn’t feel your anger, bitterness, and resentment, you do.

Consider giving yourself the gift of feeling unconditional love, instead.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Unlock those shoulders. Soften your eyes. Take another deep breath.

Step 2: Think about someone or something that you love unconditionally. Think of how much this person or thing brings to your life and how much you love it.

Step 3: Continue focusing on this person or thing until you start to feel a physical sensation. Describe it. Where in your body do you feel it? Does it have a texture? A temperature? A color?

Step 4: You are now feeling unconditional love! Congratulations!

Step 5: Now think of your mother and summon up your anger until you start to feel it physically. Get to know it just like you got to know what unconditional love feels like.

Step 6: Which feels better?

Step 7: Understand that choosing to feel unconditional love is a favor you do for yourself.

Step 8: Understand that loving unconditionally does not mean putting up with her bad behavior, or even having to see or speak to her. It just means that when you think of her, you can choose to feel amazing.

Did you know? Choosing to literally feel unconditional love decreases stress and increases relaxation in our bodies. It’s GOOD for us.

Wishing you unconditional love whenever you want it.

Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

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Sweet Blessed Relief is back!

I am offering another round of Sweet Blessed Relief: A Six-Week Class For Adult Daughters Seeking Resilience & Empowerment starting January 20, 2015!

I’ve changed the way the class will be offered, to make it much more flexible for you.

I know a lot of folks offer free webinars in order to sell these types of classes, but I prefer to offer real, connected, personal answers. If you’re wondering if Sweet Blessed Relief is for you, I’d be happy to jump on the phone and answer any questions or concerns you might have (no arm-twisting or hard sales, I promise).

Click here to schedule a chat

No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

…Dealing With Someone Else’s Uncomfortable Feelings When You Choose To Change Your Mind

Last week’s Guide stirred up some interesting responses and in particular, I received emails from a couple of readers who told me they were feeling shame for being on the other end of the equation – because they had changed their minds about something and had chosen to say “no” to someone to whom they had initially said “yes.”

“This post hit me hard because I recently did something very similar to someone I cared about and it was me that felt the shame. I had agreed to work on a project with someone and then later changed my mind when it didn’t feel right to me.

At first I wanted to please and help this person so I shoved my gut feeling down and moved forward.

I knew that telling her how I felt, and then backing out, would hurt and anger her, and it did. She eventually forgave me, but I am still feeling a bit of shame.”

I can imagine a whole range of situations in which someone might change their mind – from having coffee with a friend on Saturday morning, to hosting a holiday dinner, to getting married.

So, since last week’s Guide was about dealing with shame, this week I will provide some no-nonsense, no-drama, no-guilt advice on how to deal with someone else’s uncomfortable emotions when you choose to change your mind.

Let’s pretend that you’ve just realized that you really don’t want to do whatever it is that you’ve said “yes” to.

You really, really don’t want to do it and you’re mad at yourself for having said, “yes” in the first place. You’re also afraid.

What will they think about me? They’re gonna be pissed!! What will they say about me?

Step 1: Take a deep breath. Unlock your shoulders (you didn’t realize they were up around your ears, did you). Soften your eyes (this is both a literal and a figurative thing). Take another deep breath.  

Step 2: Understand that when you make healthy choices for yourself (i.e., creating boundaries, saying “no,” stating your preferences, or changing your mind), you will inevitably experience some uncomfortable feelings, at least when you first start (the more you do it, the easier it becomes).

Step 3: Understand that when you begin to make healthy choices for yourself, others may also experience some uncomfortable feelings.

Step 4: Understand that it’s impossible to disappoint, hurt, anger, or let someone else down. The opposite is also true: you can’t please someone else.

Sure, the other person might say: “You let me down, you disappointed me, how could you do this to me!”

What they are saying is that they do, indeed, feel let down, disappointed, and perhaps even angry, but they’re not taking responsibility their emotions.

Step 5: Allow them to have their disappointment, hurt, and anger, but don’t take responsibility for it…don’t let them blame you for it and understand that it’s not up to you to “fix” it for them.

It’s certainly okay to apologize for having changed your mind, but it’s not okay to take responsibility for the other person’s emotions.

Here’s a script you can use and/or modify the next time you want to change your mind about something:

“I should have listened to my gut when you first asked me to be involved with your project, but I didn’t, and that’s not your fault. That said, I have decided that it’s best for me if I back out now. I apologize for not letting you know sooner.”

If the other person blasts you and/or tries to make you responsible for their emotions, follow the steps above and reply thusly:

“I understand that you’re disappointed, hurt, and angry. Again, I am sorry I didn’t let you know sooner. I am working on making better choices for myself after years of being a people-pleaser.”

My own experiences with this have shown me that when I handle it this way (honestly and vulnerably), I am practicing and modeling non-defensive communication.

And that’s where peace and freedom start!

Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

You Are Good

The story goes that there’s an African tribe that has a unique way of handling those who do something hurtful or wrong. When a member of the tribe does wrong, they take him to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. Then they tell him every good thing he has ever done.

Apparently this tribe believes that every human being comes into the world as GOOD, each of us desiring safety, love, peace, happiness. But sometimes in the pursuit of those things, people make mistakes. The community sees these misdeeds as a cry for help. So they band together for the sake of their fellow man,  to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true nature, to remind him of who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected: “I AM GOOD.”

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It may be too late for some (at least in this lifetime), but it is never too late to remind:

Yourself…

Those you love…

Those whom you may be finding it hard to love…

And those who appear to be unloveable…

Even if you do it silently.

preventratherthanavenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~

Dedicated to the place where I grew up and in memory of the 26.

Plus those who’ve been lost since then…and all who have made a mistake no matter how great or how small…all who need to be reminded and reconnected:

YOU ARE GOOD!

No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

Handling A Shame Storm

This week’s Resilient Daughter’s Guide comes from a recent experience that really shook, rattled, and rolled my confidence.

Someone I respect and admire emailed to tell me that she didn’t want to be involved with something I was doing. And not only that, she told me after we had spent a good amount of time talking about it and after I crafted a bit of writing that I was really proud of.

It wasn’t a nasty email by any stretch (in fact, she was very kind and apologetic), but I was, by turns, angry, disappointed…and then ashamed.

I felt stung…there was a pit in my stomach, my face was hot, and I wanted to cry.

I did cry.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it was the shame I used to feel when I was little girl and my mother would tell me that she was disappointed in me.

“She’s disappointed in me…and that means I’m a bad girl.”

Bing. Bang. Boom.

That’s what I made this woman’s words mean. In the blink of an eye.

Crazy right?

The anger and disappointment were just cover emotions for the shame.

Just like the mighty Colorado River created the Grand Canyon, the thoughts we think over and over again create deep grooves in our brains until the connection between outside stimulus and what we make it mean becomes nearly instantaneous and automatic.

But here’s the thing: what she wrote was actually neutral. Just words. It was me who made it mean something that felt like shame.

So I sat there and both felt the shame, and observed myself feeling it, at the same time.

That’s what shame resilience is: it’s not about not feeling shame, it’s about feeling it, getting to the root of it, and then asking yourself, “Is the thought I am thinking, that is creating this shame, actually true?”

Is it true that I am a bad girl?

Of course not.

I think most of us have a memory (or five) from our early childhoods, which we associate with our mothers (or fathers) and shame.

The point of this isn’t to blame our parents for having said to us, when we were little girls, that they were disappointed in us.

And it’s also not to blame ourselves for what we made it mean when they said that.

The point is to notice – with sincere curiosity and fascination – how the ego part (aka “the lizard”) of our amazing brains work, the messages they send, how those messages feel, and whether or not they are actually true.

And then…and only then…take action. Or not.

I am sure you can imagine a variety of outcomes to the situation I described.

I could have written back and told her off.

I could have written back and told her “no big deal” while inside it was still very much a big deal that I wasn’t…dealing with.

I could have not responded at all and then acted all weird next time we interacted.

I could have decided that the project wasn’t worth doing at all and given up on something I believe in and love.

In the end, what I did is tell her that while I understood and honored her position and choice, that I’d be lying if I weren’t disappointed. I offered an alternative that hadn’t been on the table previously, with the caveat that I would still respect her choice.

She still declined, very graciously and kindly. We had a couple of back-and-forths and in the end high-fived each other virtually for handling what, for both of us, was an uncomfortable situation.

Sure, I still have a bit a disappointment, but I am not derailed by shame.

Noticing our emotions, how they feel (literally) in our bodies, and what we want to do or say as a result (without harsh judgment of ourselves) is an art and a practice…and it is so worth it.

It is the cornerstone of good mental, emotional, and physical health.

Need help working through a situation involving that kind of “ancient” shame that goes back to childhood? Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

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This is me, feeling the opposite of shame…