Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

When I was asked to do this blog my first thought was, I don’t want to strip my label. I don’t think labels are always bad.  I am a librarian, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a 29-year breast cancer survivor- all labels I am proud to have. Each one defines a part of my life.  Some labels I wouldn’t mind losing, like being a procrastinator, judgmental, or stubborn. I am working on those.

It is a normal human behavior to label things and people to help us understand them.  If you consider how a child learns to talk or read, the first things she learns are labels for people and things.  Mama, Dada, milk, cookie…. As children have more experience they get a more complete understanding of each thing. In some ways, it’s the same for adults.  When we meet someone new, we ask them for their labels. “What do you do for a living?” “Do you have any children?” “Where do you live?” We are looking for a connection or a way to know the person better.  The problem comes when we think if we know the label that is all there is to know.

We need to be willing to take the time to get to know the real person we have just met.  The labels we identify are just a starting point. Find out what other experiences or feelings have shaped the life of your new acquaintance.  You may find you have made a lifelong friend.

Many labels are rooted in stereotypes. I am proud to be “The Library Lady”. My license plate even says, “SHHH”.  As a librarian, many people think they know what kind of person I am just because of the profession I have. I am thought to be a quiet person who reads all day, and who is really interested if you have overdue books.  I can’t count the number of times when I mention I am a librarian that the first thing a person tells me is that they have overdue books or fines.

I can be a quiet person sometimes and I do like to read when I have time, but you might be surprised if you saw me at a party.  I am usually the first one on the dance floor and often the last one to leave. I am a country music fan, which surprises some people who know me. I love cars and often go to car shows with my husband. I prefer driving a car with a manual transmission, but they are hard to find anymore.  

Labels can be limiting, not only in our relationships but also in our own minds.  I am happy to be a breast cancer survivor, but when I was going through treatment I decided I wasn’t going to let this change my life any more than absolutely necessary.  I continued to work and care for my young children. I wore a wig cut to my regular hairstyle so it wasn’t obvious to those who didn’t know me well that I was undergoing cancer treatments. I did as much of my regular routine as I could, with a lot of help from my husband.  I didn’t want cancer to define me to others or myself.

Labels do help others get to know us, but we have to get beyond the stereotypes to really get to know one another.  To make a true connection we have to have real conversations that explore our values, our feelings and how we see ourselves and each other.  We need to be willing to let others see us as we are.

It is difficult to be open with others, especially those who are new to us.  We feel vulnerable when we don’t know how someone will react to what we reveal of ourselves.  But we have to be brave enough to be vulnerable if we are to live authentically. We also need to examine our own values and live in accordance with them.  Do we act differently because we worry about what a certain person or group will think of us? If we try to live consciously, working toward the person we want to become, we can be open to others and let them see our real selves.  It isn’t easy and it takes time and work, just like any worthwhile endeavor.

 

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

I’ll admit it; this particular topic was difficult for me at this point in my life. You see, for the last several weeks I have felt more un-amazing than anything else. I dragged my feet on writing this knowing I’d have to fess up to the terrible way I’ve felt about myself recently. So… here it is: after losing my job I felt like a giant failure. I was certain everyone could see that failure on my face. But you know what? Now that I’ve said it out loud, I can see how awful it really is.

It’s ok to feel un-amazing for a while

Why did I let that statement make me so miserable for literally months?

We all go through these cycles of feeling bad and then getting better but we greatly undervalue a certain part of the process: the part where we dust ourselves off and try again. Why do we give such weight to the negative and yet, without blinking, completely undermine the strength and courage it takes to overcome our darkness?

That journey, the one that only you know, it’s special and there is amazingness in having lived it. So let me share with you some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help me get past these negative feelings and start again with sincerity towards my own amazingness.

Tell your story

In her 2015 publication, “Rising Strong”, Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

By owning your experience and sharing it with others, you become the narrator of your own history. It’s your story, so make sure you tell it with conviction. For example, leaving my former position was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. There are still days when I am not sure it was right but what I do know is that in the wake of that decision, I’ve pondered new ideas and pursued things that I never thought would be a reality for me.

I’ve become more attuned to my strengths, due in large part to my moments of weakness. I am more comfortable in my abilities than I might have ever realized had I stayed where I was. To me, this unexpected realization is pretty amazing.

Find your tribe

What’s cool about finding the right group of people is you really recognize their importance in your life when you feel the least awesome about yourself.

Moment of truth coming up: I haven’t always been a good friend.

I rarely make dates to get together and if I do, I often have to reschedule because of my job or kids or some other pressing issue. But let me hear that a friend is down on hard times and I’m there. No questions asked. This is what I’ve experienced recently but on the receiving end.

The women and men who I call my “tribe” really stepped up and helped me through the dark parts by saying all the nice things to me that I wasn’t able to say to myself at the time. You see, if you surround yourself with people who will jump in and be champions for you when you are unable to climb out of the pit, you’ve got yourself something seriously amazing there. Even better, when you have true and loyal supporters who lift you up, you’ll start to see yourself the way they see you and soon afterward, you may even start believing it, too.

Free your mind

If you come to my home and it is really, really clean, you’d be witnessing the aftermath of some mental tornado. Like so many others, I clean when I am stressed or depressed or need a moment to gather myself. The act of physically placing things in order can have tremendous metaphysical benefits for our internal journey.

As Albert Einstein, said, “Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

When we release the weight of things which no longer serve us, whether in our careers, our homes, or our hearts, we open up space to carry the things we didn’t have the strength for before. Sometimes, the simplest things can bring amazingness to the surface—you just have to prepare your mind to accept it—which you can’t do if it is filled with too much unnecessary junk.

For me, I found this in good old fashion exercise. Not only did I get the endorphin high from the physical activity but I also started to see results, which helped me let go of so much of the negativity I had toward myself about my appearance. Just physically feeling better helped clear my mind of the awful and hurtful things I would think about myself on the regular.

It’s OK to know you’re amazing!

When the time comes to let all that negativity and self-loathing go, you’ll know.

One day, suddenly, you’ll realize that you’re stronger than you were the day before. You’ll remember how hard you’ve worked and you may even get mad at yourself that you allowed this sad state to go on for so long. But don’t get distracted here. Now is the time to own your experience by sharing it with others and reaching out to your tribe. Soon you will begin to clear the clutter and start again.

The moment when you decide to live with our un-amazingness and keep going anyway, this is the most amazing part that we often overlook. So next time you find yourself in this place, where you have to choose to stay the same or to live in your un-amazingness, recognize that what you’ve done, what you have, and where you are going is actually pure, golden amazingness. Let this be the part of you that shines.

Rising Strong: Can we find value in failure?

Rising Strong: Can we find value in failure?

One of my favorite “save myself” lines that I say to myself after a failure is, “Oh, it is okay as long as I have learned something from it.” But who am I kidding? It is still a fail and learning doesn’t typically prevent it from happening in the same way again. That is an example of one of the rumble discussions Brene’ Brown refers to in her book, “Rising Strong”. It is a term to describe honest discussions with yourself.

Dr. Brown details three easy steps to “Rising Strong” including paying attention to what you are feeling emotionally and physically, writing down the story you are telling yourself – whether it is real or not – and taking insights from the “rumbling” talk with yourself. She says, “the goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives.”

Learning simply to notice our true feelings takes hard work! We first have to give ourselves permission to feel and be vulnerable and to ask, “why” we feel a certain way. It takes courage.

Keeping it real

Keeping it real with yourself means asking yourself some questions. I LOVE THIS! The story that you are telling yourself? Wow! That hits home! We tend to know when someone else is telling us their version of a story and we allow it. Gut check.

When I was given the assignment by Mind Body Align in early January, I was to write a blog on the topic Rising Strong.  Following the steps that are outlined in the book, I determine the story that I’m making up is that “January is the worst month of the year for me. I am not ready for a new year to begin as the previous one is not over yet. Surely, I know people are planning, filling out their schedules, and they have closed the books on the previous year. Nope, not me.”

I check in with my emotions and they tell me that I have had so much to do on my own. It is hard running a business, a household, and raising a 17-year-old daughter by myself. I have been too busy to catch up. I will get there. No one understands.

My body is feeling as though I am running on empty. I am hurried and going in circles. I have so much I want to do but so little time.

Next, the book suggests that I assess my thinking. I feel as though my thinking makes sense. It is rational of course to feel this way. I am justified and “no one knows the trouble I’ve seen.”

Lastly, I observe my actions and say to myself, “Let’s just ignore the inner self-emotions. I do not have time to stop and think! No time for planning, meditation, or sharpening the saw. Just keep going! Do not stop to think.”

Hearing the truth

The point of her lesson is to clear the rumbling, come out with a clearer result and to “add positive changes that create a new revolutionized result.” Interestingly, the truth is I DO THIS TO MYSELF. Cheryl Carter’s January blog quote said it best for me, “But in the stillness, I began to see truths that had eluded me.” It was all so clear. By going deep into my own feelings, I was able to hear the truth. I had forgotten to stop and observe!

In truth, I have had a few tough years that have continually taken twists and turns from good to bad to worse to KEEP GOING. I have lived in a self-proclaimed bubble. It was created years ago (without having a rumbling self-discussion technique to rely on.) I was very proud of it too. Hiding from my own self. Not feeling failures deeply because I was learning something from them so – “let’s just keep riding them out.”

My 20-year marriage ended and I moved back to Mansfield, my hometown in 2010. A couple years later, I was fired from working as a consultant for a whole food nutritional company. It was a commission only based position so I was devastated. The next year in 2014, I lost a very close friend.

2015 brought many changes. I lost my mother in law during the same month I was diagnosed with thyroid disease. My RED VW Passat Turbo car was totaled and I was without a vehicle. So to hide more, I started caring for a 90-year old Purple Heart Veteran. September 2015 I opened my Healthy Transformation downtown Mansfield office.

I lost my biological father on February 18, 2016. For the majority of 2017 my Dad was in and out of the hospital with major health issues that continue today. There are no words to describe the feelings of trying to RISE STRONG in spite of not being able to help with his pain.

Rising Strong

Yes, I have had opportunities of wallowing in fear and failure. The potential that can be realized when you allow learning to arise out of challenges is amazing. I am no different than the next woman who is learning how to RISE STRONG. I have learned that paying attention to our true emotions allows us to get to a place within ourselves that guides us to a better tomorrow. Even after we fail.

Next time you feel down about something, go through this exercise – asking yourself about your own story, checking in with your body, your emotions, thoughts, and actions. You will see how observing your truth can actually bring you out of the trap you set for yourself.

“One day at a time – this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.” Ida Scott Taylor

Getting Unstuck – Pushing Through The Fear

Getting Unstuck – Pushing Through The Fear

Afraid of everything… that was me growing up. I was always scared of the monster under the bed or in my closet. I never wanted to be out in the dark… fraidy cat.

As I began to think about my life and ponder how to approach the topic of “Getting Unstuck-What is Holding You Back,” I discovered that I have addressed this issue many times and have come a long way!

I was divorced and on my own for the first time at 41 years old. Surrounded by memories and not sure how I was going to move forward, I made the monumental decision that I was going to leave Mansfield, my best friends, my home, and my parents to create a new life for myself. Excited, petrified and determined, I found a job and an apartment and began a new life in Columbus not knowing anyone but determined that I would make it. So, my puppy dog, Jasper, and I moved on April Fools Day to begin our new life!! Many people told me I was crazy to do this, but the fear of “Being Stuck” was more significant than fear of failure!

Adapt and succeed

Being the only person I could count on to keep a roof over our head was frightening at times but also pushed me to work harder and succeed. My first position was with the Placement Service I enlisted as a means of securing a job in this new city. It was fascinating and I met a lot of really nice people. About 18 months in, the company announced that we would no longer be using paper files. We would have everything on a computer for easy access. Panic set in! I had never used a computer and had no idea how to do so. My dilemma was to either learn how to use the computer or get a new job. I learned so that I could continue with this company. I never realized that this knowledge would open up a whole new world for me!

I was at my first position in Columbus for almost three years, when introduced to the General Manager of a company where a wonderful new friend worked. They were looking for an Administrative Assistant. I got the job and proceeded to work my way up. As our division grew, my responsibilities changed. When downsizing closed our division, I was the Divisional Office Manager and the “right hand” to the Division President. I loved my job, and at eight years, I would have stayed forever! So… here I go again. Terrified but determined, I decided to try something totally out of my comfort zone (which seems to be the place that I find myself in most often). I was hired as the Showroom Manager for a blind and drapery company. What was I thinking?

I had no experience, no idea what I was doing, but was determined not to allow fear to hold me back. (Noticing a Theme in My Life?) Four years into this position, a wonderful old friend called me to ask that I come and work with her. I became the Assistant General Manager for a Co-Working Company. When she left the company, I took over the helm which was way out of my comfort zone, but, with support from my boss and clients, we moved ahead.

Fear was weighing me down

Let me share a secret; I had this enormous fear of walking into a room full of people and not knowing anyone. I wasn’t much better when I knew I had someone waiting for me. My dad always encouraged me to go into sales, but I knew that would never happen. Fear is a powerful deterrent.

Six months into my position as General Manager, the company decided that I would be required to go out into the community to make our company name known to all! I was determined that I could not allow fear to hold me back. So, I walked into the Hilton Polaris; a networking event with 500+ people, not knowing if I would recognize anyone. The moment I pulled open that door and stepped through changed my life. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. A weight, I carried most of my life.

20 years later, I moved back to Mansfield and became involved in the downtown area and all the exciting growth taking place.

Confidence overcomes fear!

As my life continues, I still have to walk through doors not knowing what I will encounter, but now I have the confidence to handle anything that comes my way!

So… Getting Unstuck, What is holding you back? Mine was fear of the unknown. What is yours? Once you face that fear and realize that it does not control you any longer, there is not going to be anything you cannot do. Believe in the Power of You!

Getting Unstuck:  Ideas for Financial Wellness

Getting Unstuck: Ideas for Financial Wellness

When we take control of our finances, we begin to feel more secure, and when we feel more secure, the road to peace of mind becomes easier to navigate. It is essential that we not let our finances be out of control.

It is a common dilemma in our modern world to find ourselves in financial difficulty. The average credit card debt in the US is close to $8000 per household. A horrifying number and a significant contribution to the many Americans who find themselves financially stuck. To say that getting “unstuck” financially is easy would be a gross understatement. We have first to understand that the same guidelines for getting out of debt will not work for everyone. Oh, that life would be so simple!

It is easy enough to find a list of ways to become unstuck, but the truth is that personal finance is just that, personal, and we must each discover a pathway that works for our families and us. The importance of that is finances are a family affair, and you can’t take the journey alone!

So how do we get “stuck” in the first place? Many factors may contribute to being financially stuck, some examples may be:

  • Impulse spending
  • Spending before you earn
  • Not paying bills on time
  • Excessive credit card debt
  • Poor money management
  • Job loss
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Not having a rainy day fund

It is also possible that the Holiday Overspending bug bit you, a common ailment this time of year.

The ideas that have gotten us stuck have a lot to do with the unique vision that we have of ourselves, and the image we portray to others. We live with the fear of being unable to keep up with our peers and concerns of discovery. We need to let that fear go and focus on the healing that financial wellness brings.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to “Keep up with the Joneses,” the Joneses are probably in debt.

One thing is certain the first step should always be STOP CREATING NEW DEBT.

  • Write a list of each debt and what you owe
  • Evaluate the cost of things like cable, internet, phone, interest paid on credit cards, and insurance. Sometimes reducing these costs is just a phone call away.
  • List all of your expenses (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • List your income, and remember not to overestimate. Occasional bonuses or overtime are not reliable income and should be put aside for emergencies or applied to the debt.
  • Talk with your family about spending.
  • Make a budget
  • Develop a savings plan
  • If all else fails seek a financial counselor

I, of course, realize it isn’t just that simple, but we must begin somewhere. Once we are aware of the size of the issue the easier it becomes to start the process of developing a solution. We all need to understand what’s behind our financial decisions, and believe that the answer lies in our unique values.

Talk to your creditors and ask their assistance with developing a plan. When possible, start paying extra on credit cards and loans. An excellent example of paying off credit card debt is to start paying extra on one card when it is paid off take the full amount and start applying it to the next credit card.

It is also crucial that you check your credit report annually. It can be a real eye-opener and is an excellent deterrent to Identity theft. You may find your three free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may also get a free credit score from CreditKarma.com. Be aware that any site that requests credit card information is NOT free.

There are many online resources to assist you in meeting your financial goals, and many of those resources are free to use. The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE.org) offers online classes and links to many usable resources including printable materials. Another option may be FoolProof, a free online financial education site (FoolProof.DirectionsCU.org) login to Solo to get started. You will also find several personal finance apps for your smartphone designed to keep you on track.

Just remember, create no new debt, make a financial plan, create a realistic budget, involve your family, and work towards financial freedom. It may seem like a slow process, but it is worth it!