Lemonade and Gypsy Trips

Self-esteem

Truth Byte #62

“Self-doubt will slow you down.”

 

When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

 

I know when I heard that phrase as a child, I panicked.  I had no idea how to make lemonade. The closest I ever got to that sweet and tart beverage was dumping a can of frozen pulp into a plastic jug and stirring.
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My Two Grad Dates (and Other Secrets)

Truth Byte #59:

Somebody adores you, even when you can’t.”

I am on a personal retreat this week. And while I ponder the big and small choices I have made over the year since my last retreat, a lot of good “ahas” are coming up. Last year, just after coming home from my retreat, I wrote Truth Byte #14, That’s Not Really a Tiger, about how to be gentler with ourselves. Today, I want to tell you something else.  Today I want to tell you that somebody adores you, even when you don’t have the capacity to adore yourself.

Let me tell you a story. I was in twelfth grade, and it was the evening of my high school graduation party. I had two (yes two!) dream-come-true dates, a guy from my faith community that I had crushed on for two years as we went out on group excursions and attended religious education classes, and another that made my heart flutter every time I passed his desk in Chemistry class who I secretly loved for all three years of high school. I actually used to go to “the bathroom” two or three times every class I had with him just so I could pass by Bachelor Number Two, make eye contact, and get a whiff of “he’s-not-just-a-boy-he’s-a-man-because-he-wears-it” cologne.  Maybe that explains my less-than-stellar final marks in that class…
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Being the Lighthouse

Truth Byte #49

“Stop trying to make the way you feel someone else’s fault.”

 

Sometimes people are mean. Downright cruel. Sometimes, for no good reason, people pick on you. I have been having this experience lately with my three-almost-four-year-old.  Sometimes she is just mean, for no good reason.

 

So you know me, I hit the research on parenting and child development. Why is she angry? Where is this coming from? What can I do differently? And usually, I am right on point, able to diffuse and re-direct, able to love her through her tests and boundary-building exercises.

 

But sometimes, every once in a while, I take it personally.

 

And that is when s#!t hits the fan.

 

And I tell her she has made me mad, or that she has made me sad.  And then she tells me it’s because I don’t listen to her. And back and forth until one of us is screaming.  More often than I would like to admit, my voice raises louder than I want it to, and suddenly, we are two preschoolers, having a shouting match.

 

This week, my seven year-old (who is also her big brother and takes that role very seriously) called me out on that.  He said to me, “Mama, no one can MAKE you feel anything.”

 

Don’t you hate it when your own words come back to bite you in the face?

 

And I had to admit he was right.  No one can make me feel anything.  People can have behaviours, demonstrations, opinions, and they can act out in front of me, but how I respond….well, that’s on me.

 

That’s what I tell my clients, and now, that’s what my second grader was reminding me.

 

So for the past week, I have been applying this truth to how I interact with my kids.  I know it works with adults because I do it all the time.  Someone acts out or throws a tantrum or says something hurtful or makes a “joke” that’s more like a jab, and I take a breath and decide how deeply I am going to let that one land.

 

I have been perfecting this one with my large, close-knit, extended family. In my family, people love each other deeply.  They are also all up in each other’s business.  A lot.  Everyone has an opinion on everyone else’s choices.  And it really does come from a place of genuine love and concern.  But sometimes, it is a bit too much. It is hard to know, sometimes, whose advice to follow, since so many of them have conflicting opinions. And so, a few years ago, I started to take my mom’s advice, “Listen to everyone, respectfully, and in the end do whatever you want.”

 

My old approach was to argue back, make a case, prove my point. 

 

Now, I thank them for their input, weigh it’s worth for a moment, and add it to my mental pros and cons list for whichever decision I was trying to make.  Because I really do think that sometimes the people who love me can see me better than I see myself.  When I am in clouds of self-doubt, when I am feeling small and unimportant, when I am unsure of my footing, my family sees me as capable and competent and on the right track.  And sometimes I need a reminder.

 

But I also don’t want to get in the trap of always needing their approval.

 

I have been there, and it sucks.

 

Because it’s true, nobody can MAKE you feel anything.  Even good about yourself.  Because when it’s coming from the outside, it doesn’t actually last very long or penetrate very deep.

 

These days, I am admitting to myself and teaching my clients that the way we feel is absolutely, one hundred percent, our own responsibility.

 

Now I can anticipate that you may think something like: “My family member is sick/unemployed/addicted/incarcerated/heartbroken. Of course I am going to feel bad.  And it’s his/her fault that I feel bad/worried/sad for them.”

 

And I would actually challenge you on that one. 

 

You get to choose how you respond.

 

Are you going to join them in their despair and worry, or are you going to be that person who can be the steady lighthouse for them while they navigate the stormy waters of their own tribulations?  Are you going to shine your best self onto their world, or are you going to dim yourself a little to make them “comfortable”?

 

It’s really your choice.

 

I have found that when I go the “dimmer switch” route and stop shining to accommodate other’s insecurities, I end up not being very helpful anyways, and then wonder why I put myself in that situation in the first place. In my experience, it’s better to show up with all systems ready for action, and excuse myself if I am being asked to dim down.

 

Even at funerals.

 

I allow myself to be the steady so people can fall apart around me. (And let’s be honest, sometimes I am the one falling apart.  The point is, I feel my own feelings and don’t get swayed to just go along with the mood in the room.)

 

Now if only that three-year-old’s “NO!” didn’t get under my skin so deeply. In the end, it’s a work in progress, even for me!

 

Want to learn how to take your life back from everyone who has a stake in it? Watch our YouTube show, Today is Your Day and send us your questions and comments!

 

The Ice Cold Contraction

Truth Byte #30

“Stay and play, don’t run away.”

I was a pretty even-tempered child.  That is, until my feelings got hurt.

Growing up in the 80’s in a large, close-knit extended family that loved to tease, that happened often.  When I felt that lump in my throat, I would quickly change the subject and try to blink back the tears.  I was never very good at putting on a false show, and my face would give it all away, so they always knew I was on the verge of tears at every family event.

But I loved to play with all my cousins and be around my aunts and uncles, so no matter how insistent the jesting, I would stay.  There were others in our group that would simply remove themselves, and over the years, have distanced themselves from the drama and potential hurt of our big fat immigrant family.

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting upon how I choose to spend my time and with whom, and how layered and complex it can get in a family context.  I come from the type of family where we do complain about one another here and there, but as soon as the bad feelings are out of the mouth, they’re also out of the mind.  We do our best not to hold grudges, and hold each other accountable for the roles that each one of us play.

In a nutshell, we call each other out. 

In a nutshell, our love is strong and deep and unshakable, and yet we are not immune getting sucked in to family drama.

I think this makes us strong.  It also makes for some very tense and awkward moments.  So during these difficult conversations and scenarios I find myself facing as an adult, I remind myself of the ice cube technique that I learned during my birthing class.

The premise is simple: squeeze an ice cube in the palm of your hand for a full minute at three minute intervals.  The point of the exercise is for new moms-to-be (and their partners) to get a simulated version of the intensity of a contraction.

Now, those of us who have actually delivered a baby will laugh and shake our heads at this comparison, but when I was going through the exercise in the last trimester of my first baby, it really was quite difficult and uncomfortable.  Our teacher explained that there were two approaches to dealing with the pain of a contraction: you can either go in to the pain, or you can get away from it.  We all knew how to get away from pain, as this is something we are biologically wired to do and have been practicing all our lives.

But why would we ever choose to go IN to the pain?

And how would we even begin to do this?  It took a few tries for me to get it but when I did, it was like my world was flooded in sunshine after a dark, cold winter.

And so now, in my transpersonal counselling practice, I teach people to go in to their pain.

But’s it’s not physical pain, like the ice cube.  It’s emotional pain.

Which can be just as debilitating. 

Rather than distract themselves with their future goals or wish away their situations through good old-fashioned positive thinking, I challenge my clients to actually face the pain that is keeping them stuck.

I ask them to go in. 

And I promise to never leave them there. 

But if we aren’t willing to actually feel the pain, we can’t really move past it.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be re-traumatized.  There are certain memories that you really don’t need to re-visit.  But the feelings that we carry, deep in the most secret parts of our hearts, those deserve to be acknowledged and released.  What if we actually said to ourselves: “Yes, I feel bad about this thing that happened,” and then rather than explaining to away or spinning it in some way, we just felt that bad feeling for a moment or two?  And then (with the help of a trained professional, if needed) move on?

The really fascinating thing about feelings is that they are like little kids: when you pay attention to them from a caring place, they stop acting out, and if you ignore them, they either get more and more intense, or numb out and shut down.  So what if we all took some time this week to actually feel the cold sting of the ice cube from our own life? What if instead of distracting ourselves, we let ourselves have a good cry or a good vent or even just be willing to feel a bit uncomfortable for a while?

When you are willing to go all the way in, even the most overwhelming emotions can be distilled down to two primary impulses: moving towards (love) or moving away from (fear).

When we were infants, we only had the capacity to move towards or to move away from, to be attracted or to be repelled. So what if you just allowed that uncomfortable feeling to stay awhile and got to the bottom of it? Rather than push the pain away, you may be surprised at how it transforms you.  That’s what my family and I are learning: to stay and play instead of running away.

Even when it’s hard.

Join us in the Fall for an experiential  workshop that will show you how to effectively navigate your emotions and deal with emotional people without getting overwhelmed or numbed out.  Take advantage of our $99 Summer Slash Sale, and invite that person in your life that you know is ready for transformation to come along with you!  More at www.talktosaira.com or visit Dr. Saira’s Facebook page.

On Listening

Truth Byte #27

“No one is listening to you.” 

You keep talking and talking.  And no one seems to hearing a word you say.

Sound familiar?

I have this experience when we are running late for something.  I tell them and tell them that we are late, but my kids just don’t seem to hear me!  And neither do their grandparents.  For different reasons, I think.  Little ones are often in a land of their own, where time stretches and shrinks depending on if they are having fun or not.  The grandparents? Well, I think they are tired of giving a shit!

We are all talking, all the time, and no one really seems to be listening at all.  Or if we are listening, it’s mostly to be polite until there is a pause so we can interject our own witty additions and observations to the conversation.

There is one place I have found that I am really, deeply, truly listened to, and it’s a space that I don’t visit often enough:

On a couch or a phone talking to one of my two “shy” friends. 

I have known both of them for decades, and when I speak to them, they actually listen.

Deeply.  Thoughtfully.

They let me blabber a mile a minute and flit for this idea to that topic, finding the thread and keeping me grounded.  They have a warm, amused look as I talk, and they don’t interrupt.  And when they do speak, it’s insightful, connected, and rich.

I think these days we are supposed to call people like them “introverted”.

I call them steady, grounded, deep. 

These women know themselves, and they are incredibly perceptive about others.  Unlike me, though, their faces don’t give it away, and they don’t need everyone to know about or agree with their opinions.

One of my two friends, a recruiter who works at an incredible company in Alberta, was featured on Susan Cain’s blog, the Quiet Revolution. The other is a psychiatrist who deeply cares about the human spirit and is doing a fellowship on the East Coast.  What these women have taught me is that I need to listen.

Deeply.  Fully.  Without interrupting.

Which is bloody hard for an extrovert.

And yet, that’s my job.  I listen to people every single day.  Even on weekends.

For hours at a time, I listen, not only to their words, but to their bodies, their eyes, their pain.  I listen to how they speak about themselves, and how they speak about the world.  I listen for their strengths, their dreams, the untapped gifts that they have yet to discover.  Sometimes I hear things they don’t want me to hear. 

Sometimes I know things they didn’t even know themselves. 

So in my greatest challenge I have also found an unexpected treasure: the capacity to really listen to someone, to really hear what it is that they are trying to say.

Many times in my work and personal life, I have asked someone the “suicide intervention question” (which is basically, “Are you thinking about ending your life?”) and usually, they are shocked that I knew.  Usually, they are relieved that someone heard through the story to the heart of the matter.  Usually, they are grateful that their secret was “heard” without them having to use the words.  Usually, they get the help they need once they find their way out of that devastating silence.

Today, I challenge you to really listen.  Someone in your world is likely trying to tell you something.  They may be telling you directly, or they may be telling you by cutting you off and pushing you away.  They may be reaching out for help, in the clumsiest way, or they may be telling you something about yourself that you have blinders on about.

Listen.

You will be surprised at what you hear.

Do you want to feel heard? Do you want to become better at listening? Join us in the Fall for a transformational workshop that will help you understand what people are really talking about, underneath all the noise. Sign up today!

If I Can Fall, So Can You

Truth Byte #24

“It’s time to fall off the pedestal.” 

For years, my friends and family had me on a pedestal.  I was the straight A student that was destined for great things, that shining star that made people smile and made people proud.  I was the eldest daughter of a single mom, and I was wise beyond my years.  The pedestal they had me on was a tall one.

So when I fell off, it was a steep drop.

It happened slowly at first, people feeling let down when I would say no to them, or passing judgment on how I chose to spend my time and with whom, who I dated, how short I cut my hair, who I chose as a business partner.  And slowly it became more and more obvious.  No longer was I the family go-to person when something went wrong.  These days, when there is a crisis or even a celebration in my extended family, I am often the last one in the loop.  My friends, the ones who would routinely come to me for support, felt I left them behind as I moved into “the happy life”, and felt hurt and betrayed that I couldn’t be there for them the way I always had before.

Over the years, this has been hard on me, because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being liked, being nice, and being the family favourite.  People would fly in from around the country to celebrate my achievements with me.  Once I ran out of milestones (graduation, next graduation, next graduation, final graduation, engagement, wedding, birth of babies) I also ran out of reasons for people to rally around me.

And so falling off the pedestal came as a huge shock to my self-esteem.

When you have spent your life having people look up to you, it can be terrifying to be the one everybody is mad at, or even worse, just an after-thought in the minds of those you love the most.

And yet, it was in the fall that I found myself.

For a while, I grasped for those heights.  I hosted dinner parties and planned surprises for people.  I went out of my way to be a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter/niece/grand-daughter.  But eventually I saw how those were just empty roles, and the people whose approval I craved had already made up their minds about me.

And it hurt.  And sometimes it still hurts.

But I would not trade in who I found at the bottom of that pedestal. 

The person I found has grit.  She is happy to be alone, and also a great companion if you let her in to your heart.  She is strong and capable, and yet knows how to ask for and accept help.  She has scars from her past, but they do not define her.  Most important of all, she knows she is enough.  Good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough.  Just plain enough. And she knows, deep in her most secret heart, that she is actually not better than anyone.

Which makes her great at helping people who are in pain.

I share this private part of my life today in the hopes that all the golden children out there, the ones who have been put on a pedestal, can see that the fall can have it’s perks.  We spend so long trying not to fall that we move farther and farther away from who we truly are, and that is a much bigger tragedy than letting a few people down.

If you are ready to fall off the pedestal, here are my six truths to get you through it:

  1. Know that you will lose people.
    • There are those who will drift out of your life once you stop making it all about them. Let them go gracefully and with gratitude for what they are teaching you about setting boundaries.
  1. Know that it will be uncomfortable.
    • Golden children are used to believing they cannot fail. When you start to falter in the roles you have mastered, it will feel weird.  Fall anyway.
  1. Know that you are not alone.
    • Your social support system may have dwindled, but know that you are making space for people who love you for you, not what you can do for them. Meaningful, quality relationships are more important than being popular.  The right people will turn up as you keep doing you.
  1. Know that you are stronger than you have been made to think.
    • People on the pedestal are often coddled by those who want to keep them there. You have been protected from feeling bad about yourself.  It is useful for you to be honest with yourself about your personal shortcomings, and use them as motivation to be a better version of yourself.
  1. Know that your reference point is changing.
    • Rather than relying on external validation, you will now have to cultivate your inner compass. Rather then wondering “what would ______ think about this decision?”, the question now needs to be “what is my most courageous next step?”  You have to own your life, and be willing to take accountability for your decisions.
  1. Know that some people just won’t like you, plain and simple.
    • Once you start living from the ground, like everybody else, you no longer have that celebrity glow. There are some people that will be really pissed off that you are not perfect, and that you are not living up to their expectations of you.  As a wise leader once said, their opinions of you are none of your business.  You will have to come to terms with being “not liked”.  After all, you can’t be everybody’s flavour!

Each time you take yourself off the pedestal (or are kicked off it through life experiences), you evolve into a more real, more whole version of yourself.  And if you have a habit of putting others on a pedestal, know that it’s just a matter of time until they fall, which is painful for everyone.  Today is a chance to embody equality, and evolve into that person who can connect with all kinds of people, while refusing to play the comparison game in your own head and with other people.

For a real-life experience of living from the ground, join us in the Fall as we explore what it means to be emotionally component and psychologically supported.  These workshops change people’s lives, so if you are ready to fall off the pedestal or you know someone who needs a quick yet lasting shift, connect with Dr. Saira at www.talktosaira.com.

Love Should Not Hurt

Truth Byte #23

You have entangled love with pain.

It happened a long time ago, and maybe so early in your life that you don’t remember it.

Maybe you were patting your baby brother on the head and he whacked you in the face.

Maybe you were cuddling your cat and she clawed you.

Maybe you offered something to a playground buddy and were rejected.

Maybe you were generous with your good ideas and everybody laughed at you.

Maybe you watched your parents, who were supposed to love each other, bicker and argue and belittle each other without respite.

Whatever it was, it’s got a hold of you, and is impacted your capacity to give and receive love.

Many of us have mixed up pain and love. 

I remember the most adored I felt as a child was when I broke my ankle in first grade.  My parents catered to my every whim, actually allowing me to read in public so I could do something I considered fun while the other kids spent the summer splashing around in someone’s backyard pool.  Friends and strangers wrote “get fixed soon” messages on my plaster cast, and drew hearts in all shapes and sizes that I would study while I sat alone on the sidelines while everyone else played without me.  For a short couple months there, I felt so loved.

And yet physically, I was in so much pain.

I consciously relived that confusion when I delivered my first baby.  Love and pain blended together into sweet agony as they cut me open to give him life.  Every time I picked him up, my body would scream in anguish, and yet my heart bubbled over with adoration.  Breastfeeding was a nightmare for those first few months, and yet I pushed through the blisters and bleeding as my motherly instincts dictated my actions so I could nourish and protect my baby.

 Pain and love, linked inextricably together.

I have seen this crossing of neural wires in my clients.  Each one of them has a story of when they confused the two, expecting love to be painful.  Our cultural stories and mythologies echo this theme.

And yet true love, from Source, never brings pain.

True love doesn’t leave anyone out.

My teacher Chuck Spezzano wrote a book called “If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love”.  I give this book as homework to my clients who are healing recent and ancient heartbreaks, and those who have entangled love with pain.  The first step is to realize what Love actually is, and let go of all the pain we have associated with it.

Here’s how to know if you have got your love and pain wires got crossed:

  1. You are looking for a passionate, fiery relationship, similar to you have had before. You spent a lot of time either crying or pining after the other person.  You felt so alive and you want that again.
  2. Your partner seems boring these days and you have been kinda thinking about having an affair. Or you have already had an affair while one of you was in a committed relationship with someone else.
  1. You seem to always have a juicy drama story to tell.
  1. You justify things by saying, “That’s just how men/women are” when someone hurts you in an intimate relationship.
  1. You grew up watching your parents fight, either overtly or passive-aggressively.
  1. You find yourself pushing away people who claim to care about you, including friends and business colleagues.
  1. When things get “too good”, you start feeling anxious, like it’s all going to come crashing down.
  1. You hit your kids.
  1. You were hit as a kid.
  1. You can’t access your emotions and/or you think people who are emotional are weak.
  1. You are in an abusive relationship (including physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, financial, any kind of abuse.) Or you don’t think your relationship is abusive but your friends tell you it is.
  1. You gossip about people that you say are your friends.

If you could relate to one or more of the statements above, chances are high that you got your wires crossed, and pain and love are inter-woven for you.

So what?

Many of us have this dilemma, and until those wires get uncrossed, little life events can morph into crisis without us understanding how or why.  Life feels like a rollercoaster, and it feels like the next drama is just lurking around the corner.  When someone beautiful happens to you, you have this sick feeling because you know it’s just a matter of time until something goes wrong.  And so you are careful to not get too excited about anything.

I would call that living at half mast.

And that means it is going to take you forever to get where you want to go.

So how do we fix it?

Three simple steps:

  1. Own it.
    • Understand that you have a mixed-up way of seeing love, and see if you can figure out where it started. You may have a clear memory, like I did, or you may be able to get there through something a bit more hands-on like working with a counsellor or attending a workshop. (Some good ones on this topic coming up in the Fall!)
  1. Share it.
    • When you do this work alone, it is easy to fall in to old habits and no one would ever know. When you include someone else, you know have a cheerleader in your corner.  It could start with a simple conversation like “I have realized I mix up love and pain.  Could you point out to me when I am doing that over the next two weeks?”
  1. Track it.
    • Start today with a log book of the thoughts you have that demonstrate the mix-up. (For example: “I found out my friend’s husband cheated on her.  I knew their relationship was too good to be true.”  This thought shows you that you expect that love will always come with pain.)  Also track thoughts that demonstrate your corrected thinking: (“I know that love will find a way.  Either they will become stronger through this or they will part ways and they will each find their true match.”)  Follow your thoughts for a week or two and see if you are able to track more of the corrected thinking.  The more you practice, the better you will get, and tracking let’s you see the progress.

Once you see that love is just love, you will also start to notice that pain comes from attachments and expectations.

When you truly step into love, you will become irresistible. 

We are all looking forward to meeting the new, renovated, love-filled you!

For more on how to have the life and the love you want, join me for a workshop or book me to talk at your next event!  Sign-up for the newsletter to get practical guidance on how to life the life you were meant to be living, or watch the weekly talk-show on my YouTube channel to be inspired!

 

 

What Does Your Crown Cost?

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Truth Byte #10: Not everyone deserves your time.

Have you ever wanted to be a princess? How about a super-hero? I have. And it hasn’t really gone away as I grow older.

Take Sunday, for example. I was over-booked into family commitments: Beavers for the boy followed immediately (and in another part of town) by a birthday party for the girl. Now, just to clarify, Sunday is usually our lazy day, the day we say no to everything, and spend the day just lounging in our pjs with cartoons and novels and family snuggle time. But we had said yes, and I don’t like breaking promises. Plus I heard a rumour that I may see a princess today.

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