All Posts By

Naomi

The Letters: to infinity and beyond

Infinity.

That’s the word my client Laura chose after I asked her:

If you were guided by a word, what would it be?

This is a question that I’ve been known to ask people and I’ve had some amazing responses over the year. But this one really blew me away.

Why I asked her, what does this mean to you?

Because it reminds me that my worth is infinite. 

My worth can’t be expressed in words or numerical values. When I know my worth is infinite, it helps me to stay deeply rooted within myself, to follow my intuition, to trust myself, to speak up and most importantly, to believe in myself and not sell myself short in any way.

I was stunned to hear these words from her. You see, when I first started working with Laura, she was a rather shy and withdrawn young woman with big ambitions. She lacked the confidence to put herself out there however. Tormented by an insistent inner critic, she would continuously doubt herself and was very hard on herself. This is what often happens when you doubt your own abilities. You believe that by being hard on yourself, you’ll just “get things done”.

Sound familiar at all?

It’s certainly one way of motivating yourself and sometimes it works. The cost is high however, harsh judgement is often followed by even more anxiety. So what Laura and I worked on was improving the relationship she had with herself through self-compassion and self-care practices. And guess what, this proved to be the fertile ground for her to grow her confidence over time.

So much so that she realised she was ready for her next career step. Now Laura is ambitious, she was already working in the international development field and she wanted a position that would give her even more influence. Through intense preparation from her side and support in how to present herself confidently and authentically from me, I’m incredibly proud to say that she got a new job at one of the leading foundations in the world.

You want to know one of the best parts?

One of the interviewers commented on how she had met Laura a few years ago and that she had developed into a calm, confident woman who really had something important to share with the world. Goosebumps right?

This wasn’t an overnight process, nor did this mean that Laura didn’t experience any self-doubt. One of the main things she realised was that it was ok to be scared.

Rather than seeing her self-doubt as something that needed to be “pushed away” or “fixed”, it was something in her that needed her love and attention. What mattered most was how she responded to herself. Rather than being her own worst critic, she became her own best supporter. 

Most importantly, she knew deeply within herself that regardless of whether she got the job or not, her worth didn’t depend on it. And to me that was truly the biggest victory.

How would your life change if you treated yourself with love and compassion? 

To infinity and beyond dear beautiful one!

With love,
Naomi

PS: The Letters are a compilation of personal letters to my mailing list, which cover a wide range of issues relevant to the topic of confidence and worthiness. If you’d like to receive The Letters, please sign up for my newsletter. There’s a subscription box on the right-hand side of this post! And I promise, no spam, your inbox is very valuable to me!

How to find belonging: the journey home

Note: This is a follow-up on my previous post The mixed-race experience: the search for belonging.

It took me a long time to find a sense of true belonging, but the irony is that it was always right here.

I looked for belonging externally, only to find it deep within myself: knowing that whatever happens, I’ve got my back.

What that means is that you can find a deep sense of belonging within rather than looking for it outside of yourself through achievement, approval and all of the other external “goodies”. It means you put yourself at the centre of your life and at an equal footing with others. It also means taking responsibility for yourself and doing whatever is necessary to take care of yourself in the best way. You give yourself what you need and you stop waiting for someone else to take over. You get to be your biggest cheerleader, parent and caregiver.

Practices to cultivate a sense of belonging

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a lifelong practice – and like everyone else, I’m right there on this journey with you. I’ve outlined some of the practices that I feel have been most important in cultivating that feeling of home within myself:

  • Belonging must start from self-awareness: get to truly know yourself. Spend more time on your own, explore your likes and dislikes, your hopes, dreams and desires, start getting to know what feels good for you and what doesn’t – body, mind and soul.

Be patient, this is the process of a lifetime. There’s no endpoint here that you’re working towards. Self-awareness literally is a process where you uncover more and more of yourself as you dedicate time to this. Some of the tools that I have found incredibly helpful here are journaling, meditation, and working with therapists and coaches.

  • Set up a range of rituals to help you stay deeply connected to yourself. For me, that means I like to start my day with making my coffee, meditation, journaling and reading. See what works for you. It doesn’t have to be in the morning either. What is most important is that you create sacred time just for yourself, to check in and see how you are, to connect to all that is important to you so that you can make sure you are prioritising the things that are meaningful to you. 
  • Put your self-care at the centre of your agenda: what do you need to feel at your best? Taking care of your own needs – and knowing that you are safe in your own hands – is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  And yes, sometimes also one of the hardest things. We often come up against various arguments why our self-care isn’t a priority and that it’s somehow selfish.

“What do you mean what do I need? I have no clue?”

Yep, I’ve heard this come up from time to time with clients. Why not do a short bodyscan? Sit or lie down, close your eyes and focus your awareness to the crown of your head and then slowly scan from top to bottom through your body. How do you feel? Do you feel any strain anywhere? Any aches or pains? Simply bring awareness to your feelings, what’s coming up for you?

  • Speak kindly to yourself. Feeling safe with yourself is one of the most important things in finding belonging within yourself. How you speak to yourself is incredibly important in this. Frankly, most of us do a crap job of this. We’re often much better at treating others with love and kindness than we are for ourselves. Become aware of how you speak to yourself and replace your harsh and critical tone with encouraging and supportive words. This might feel strange in the beginning, but I promise you, it will make ALL the difference.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

  • Put your I before the WE and advocate for yourself: again, this must come from a place of self-awareness: What do I need? What do I think? What do I want?

It may mean that you need a bit more time to explore what your answers are to these questions are. If you don’t have the answers just yet, that’s ok. You can simply start by taking out a bit more time for you to answer these questions for yourself. Rather than asking everyone else for their opinion immediately, ask yourself first.

  • Take responsibility for yourself, become self-directed and validate yourself. Without realising it, you can sometimes give away your power and look outside of yourself for the answers that only you can provide yourself. If you’re not aware of your values and your priorities (yes hello self awareness!), it’s so much easier to get distracted by what you believe “others” want from you. Many of us still look to others for permission and approval. This is a natural tendency that we all have, yet it keeps us looking outside of ourselves rather than within.
  • Set boundaries that delineate what is OK for you and what not. Boundaries are hard work sometimes, but oh so important in cultivating a stronger sense of self and taking care of yourself. Boundaries are challenging for us recovering people pleasing empaths (I hear you!) because we’re so aware of the other person and we fear we may upset someone. However, not setting boundaries means you run the risk of betraying and upsetting yourself, and it’s critical to know that you can trust yourself. Setting boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean anyone gets upset (although sometimes it will), and it can be a beautiful way of safeguarding your relationships, including the one you have with yourself.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brené Brown
  • Stop hiding who you are and learn to accept all of who you are. In the process of “fitting in” we often disown certain parts of ourselves that we deem not good enough. In this way, we make our enough-ness conditional and may hide parts of who we are. True belonging can only happen if you show up to the world fully and bring into the light your so-called “shadow” parts. You may never completely love all of it, but understanding that you are human, just like everyone else might help you to accept yourself more.

As said, these are all practices: you must commit to these each and every time – and by no means are these necessarily easy. These practices will inevitably get you to the edge of what feels comfortable and you will run into resistance. That’s ok: your edge will show you what might need further healing.

Why should you do this work?

Having a deep sense of belonging is a fundamental human need and I believe it is critical to our sense of happiness and wellbeing. The relationship that you have with yourself is the most important one that you have. If you are somehow in disharmony with yourself, you can’t fully show up for anything else in life. You may be wildly successful at work or in your social life, but if at heart, you are not happy with yourself, none of the other happiness indicators matter.

The journey back home to yourself and finding true belonging within yourself is one of the most important journeys you can make. It’s the journey that marks my work in the most profound way and in many ways I believe is the work that I am meant to do.

I’ve come to realise that so many of us feel separate, often for many different reasons. And if that is you, I just want to let you know this: ⁣

I’ll be different with you, each one of us in our own way, united in what it simply means to be beautifully human. You are home. You always have been and you will always be, because that which you have sought outside of yourself lives within you.⁣
⁣Hello my friend, welcome home. ⁣

I hope this series of posts has served you (please also see The mixed-race experience: the search for belonging) and I’d love to hear from you! Send me a note at info@naomisaelens.com or leave a comment below.

The mixed race experience: the search for belonging

A lack of belonging

Belonging – the word itself carries so much in it, yet it’s a space I didn’t allow myself for a long time.

From an early age I was taught to not take up space: be quiet, be good, be nice. Don’t upset people. Keep everyone happy. It was something I was so naturally good at. You see, I spent a big chunk of my life trying to keep the peace and fit in.

I’m mixed race. Hāfu is what they call me in Japan (literally meaning half). Een halfbloedje (half blood) in Dutch. Too white, too Western and too tall to be seen as Japanese. My eyes a defining feature of my non-whiteness. My tendency to hide my feelings, to not speak up and conform – hallmarks of a culture that emphasises the importance of the group.

By definition, I was never meant to fit in. One leg in, one leg out. Where did I belong?

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realised how deeply this has affected me. I have often felt a deep loneliness. The loneliness that looked for belonging and recognition in and from others. The loneliness that longed to hear these words: I belong to you.

I’m Japanese.

I’m Belgian.

I’m Dutch.

I’m British.

(and yes, all of these apply to me in some way or other)

As an only child, I didn’t have siblings to share my journey with and my parents didn’t fully understand what my experience as a mixed-race child, growing up in a predominantly white environment, felt like. How could they?

At the time, there were few people around me that shared the same experience. To some degree, I think I was even unaware how this feeling of separation impacted me until fairly recently. The lack of belonging meant that I felt different from others – and different to me felt like less than.

While I believe the world has changed vastly from when I was born, and there is so much more diversity around us (hallelujah!), I’ve come to realise that this feeling of separation, of being different, is something that so many of us experience for different reasons. I’m writing about this now in the hope that my experience of it can serve others in some way.

So what does a sense of belonging really mean?

“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

– Brené Brown

One of the ways that we often define ourselves is through our nationality, race or family of origin.

But what happens when you don’t neatly fit into one of the boxes? When you’re the in-between space? The “other”?

My lack of belonging wasn’t simply by being mixed race. In many ways, I have often felt I didn’t belong as a woman or as a sensitive soul in this world dominated by a preference for the masculine and rational. In fact, so many of us feel like we don’t belong, often for many different reasons. This feeling different can result in the feeling of not being good enough.

In what ways do you feel like you’re “not good enough” or perhaps even “too much” of something?

My lack of belonging resulted in an ongoing search for belonging outside of myself. I kept looking for ways that I could “DO” my way into belonging – that place that unconditionally says: you are good enough to be part of that mythical place of US. A long list of “shoulds” that said: if you do, be or have enough of this, then you will be loved.

The problem with that?

I got further and further removed from who I truly was. Adapting and molding myself to whoever I thought I needed to be for others and in the process I lost myself. I developed an underlying feeling that said: you are not good enough as you are. To be different from others felt like less than. And perhaps most importantly, I never deeply experienced true love and acceptance for who I was.

And this is the key risk:

When you don’t dare to show who you truly are, you will also never experience what it’s like to be loved for who you are – and you mistakenly believe that you need to project some external image in order to be loved.

Tell me, what’s the image that you are portraying to the outside world?

What are the signs of not belonging?

I have spoken to a number of people who shared their experience of being mixed race. What follows below are some of the common characteristics that I saw in myself and have heard come up for others:

  • You’re so good at adapting, you don’t actually feel connected to yourself anymore and you start feeling inauthentic. This disconnection can lead to an unawareness of your own needs, feelings and desires. My past tendency would have been to always ask the others first, what do you want? Then I’d fit in.
  • You disown the parts of yourself that you don’t deem good enough or worthy. For me, this actually meant that I disowned most of my Japanese heritage. As a child that meant that at some stage I refused to speak Japanese or go to Japanese school (interestingly, I did however decide to study Japanese at university as part of my search for my “roots”.)
  • You walk the tightrope between being good enough to belong, but also not too good so you don’t stand out. You see, they are two sides of the same coin: you’re trying to fit in so you don’t want to risk standing out by being worse or better than anyone else. It’s like a constant heightened awareness of how others perceive you. Sound familiar anyone?
  • You focus on maintaining the relationship between people. This can be a beautiful thing, but can be risky if you don’t speak up for what you need, think or feel to safeguard the relationship. I became a master of focusing on the other person, whilst not taking up my own space. There’s a questioning inside that says: is it ok for me to be here and who do I need to be in order for me to belong?

Focusing on the other person was a fail-proof way of getting the other person’s approval: yes, I like you, you belong here. Typical behaviour that can show up as part of this:

  • Being overly diplomatic
  • Not advocating for yourself
  • Not voicing your opinion
  • Not setting boundaries
  • People pleasing
  • Or interestingly, the opposite: you stay away from people and building more intimate connections. The idea that other people won’t “get” you anyway or couldn’t truly  understand you. There’s a real risk of even losing yourself more when entering into intimate relationships, so one strategy could be to stay away! Real intimacy requires you to show up authentically and vulnerably – and to do that requires self-acceptance, one of the key things that you may miss.
  • You focus on helping others feel at home or part of the group. You may project your own pain of exclusion on others and don’t want anyone else to experience the same.

All of these traits are on a continuum, and as with most things, these traits are not necessarily bad at all. In fact, there are many positive sides to these. My experience has really cultivated a deep sense of empathy and awareness of other people, I’m great at cultivating harmony in groups and fostering teamwork as well as building relationships of any type.

But to own these, we must also see when they become “risky”. For me the biggest risk was losing myself in a quest for belonging and when you do that, you risk “true belonging” as you can only ever experience that when you are really fully yourself.

So how do we make the journey toward belonging?

Please stay tuned for part 2 of this series! In the meantime, I’d love to hear what this blogpost brought up for you. Please feel free to email me at info@naomisaelens.com or leave a comment below!

Life coach Amsterdam online

How do you treat yourself?

How do you speak to yourself?

My guess is probably not very well.

In fact, would you ever treat a friend in the same way?

For many of us, the answer is no. The reality is that we often treat ourselves much more harshly than we would ever treat anyone else. 

Self-compassion is probably one of the tools I work with most and hands-down can have the biggest effect on people – present company included. It took me a long time to even be able to use the words. It was such a foreign concept that for a long time, my response was: 

What do you mean be kind to yourself?

Self-compassion – what is it really?

Self-compassion relates to our ability to be accepting, kind and loving to ourselves, welcoming and befriending our emotional and physical suffering. 

Or simply said:

It’s being kind to yourself

And while it’s often a foreign concept, we actually know what to do. 

What do you do for yourself? 

Let me take a guess.

If you’re faced with some challenging feelings, you might tell yourself “to just get over it”. You tell yourself you’re weak or that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling. Actually, you might add another layer on top of judgement and make yourself feel stupid for feeling what you’re feeling.

Something like that? Tell me, how’s that working for you?

Thought so. It works – to a degree. But it’s not sustainable and frankly, it feels crap. 

So why do we do this?

We’ve often been raised to believe that being tough will allow us to achieve our goals – moreover, there is a strong cultural narrative that being kind to ourselves is a form of self-pity, weakness or that it’s selfish. 

In fact, none of these things are true and in fact, it has been proven that self-compassion actually leads to greater agency and responsibility, increased resiliency and is a far stronger motivator than self-judgement and punishment. And honestly, it just feels so much better. 

How do you start being kinder to yourself?

Start with becoming aware of how you treat and speak to yourself. So often, we live our lives on autopilot and aren’t even aware of the relationship we have with ourselves:

  • What do you typically judge and criticize yourself for?
  • How do you speak to yourself? What type of language do you use? 
  • How do you feel when you are critical or harsh on yourself? How does it change your behaviour?

There are various ways to be kinder to yourself, and one of the easiest shortcuts is to answer this question when you notice that you are suffering:

How would I treat a good friend?

You take time out for them. You listen. You empathize. You say something caring or comforting. There might even be a hug thrown in somewhere (guaranteed with me, so if you’re need – come on over!).

Give it a try and see how this changes things for you. In the beginning this can feel a little awkward, especially as you might not be used to it, but as with anything, with practice you can improve. And be compassionate even in the practice of self-compassion! 

Life coach Amsterdam online

The inner critic sounds something like this:

You’re never going to amount to anything. 

You can’t do this. 

Nobody wants you here. 

You don’t have anything new to say. 

Who do you think you are?

Ouch!

Yep, that’s some of what my inner critic used to throw at me – and occasionally still does. 

The inner critic is the voice of not good enough. 

We all have some version of this inner voice and if we want to grow and develop – and perhaps most importantly, find freedom – this is the voice that we must learn to manage. 

Your inner critic is like the guest that showed up to the party uninvited. As much as you’d like to chuck them out, sometimes it’s just better to keep the peace. Because here’s the challenge:

The more you focus your attention on the inner critic, the stronger it gets. The more you fight it, the more it starts pushing back. The more you ignore it, the more it starts asking for your attention.

So what do you do?

  • Understand that your inner critic is only trying to keep you safe. Its intentions are good, but its execution lacks a bit to be desired. It can be helpful to ask your inner critic: what are you trying to protect me from? Get a little curious.
  • Know that your inner critic is most likely going to pipe up when you’re about to do something that is really important to you. So sometimes it means you can actually use that voice as a guide. Louder inner critic? You’re on to something! 
  • Have a little fun with it – turn it into a character, change the tone of its voice. When I went to Tony Robbins last year, he had us stick two fingers up our nose and then say whatever it was that our inner critic was saying. Trust me, you won’t be able to take it seriously after that! 
  • Don’t do what it tells you to do. The inner critic is just a voice. Its words are simply thoughts. Create some more distance by simply observing the thoughts. It can help to note the voice: “I’m having the thought that … I’m never going to be able to do this.” More distance, less impact. 
  • Turn up the volume of love. The inner critic is really just like a small child. It just wants to be heard. There’s another part of you that is much wiser, compassionate and loving. Speak to yourself from that place of love, be gentle and kind. Thank your inner critic and let it know that you are safe. Nothing scary is going to happen, you’ve got this.
  • Connect to the present moment. The voice in your head somehow either brings you back to the past, or propels you into the future with images of what could go wrong. But if we really connect to the present moment, there’s often a realization that nothing scary is truly happening right now. The easiest way to connect to the present moment? Your breath. A simple couple of deep belly breaths can already offer great release. 

The reality is that we all have an inner critic and really, you don’t need to take it so seriously. It’s a part of you that is trying to keep you safe and if you change your attitude towards it, you might actually see that it only has good intentions. In fact, it’s there because it cares deeply for you.

When you stop fighting with it and give it the care that it’s, in fact, asking for, you will notice quite quickly the voice will start toning down and it shows up less frequently. There might even come a time when you understand where it’s coming from and perhaps even welcome it! With a little re-education, this might just be the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Live life on your own terms and be true to yourself

I’m amazed at the ease with which we throw out words into the world sometimes. Live your best life! Just be yourself!

Hey, I’m guilty of this too sometimes. It’s so easy to want to squeeze life lessons into some catchy words so you can meet the character count of FB, Instagram or Twitter. 

Catchphrases that can inspire momentarily but really we underestimate their significance by trying to capture them into brief, and sometimes, hollow statements. 

Because it’s not always that easy – and any effort to make it sound easier than it is can leave you wondering why you just can’t get it right. There must be something wrong with me no? Otherwise, I’d “just do it”, right?

No, and let’s just be clear: there isn’t anything wrong with you. There’s nothing that needs to be fixed or sorted out. It just means you are human. 

It ain’t always that easy people. 

We can have the best intentions, the greatest motivation, the right mindset AND there will likely be bumps in the road. Because life and change by nature can be challenging – and that’s ok. 

Live life on your own terms! This sounds great, AND the reality is in practice it can be hard. So what does it truly mean?

To live life on your terms requires you to truly know who you are, and to set up your life according to your priorities. It requires you to show up courageously because sometimes you have to go against the status quo. 

As creatures of comfort, it’s a place many of us don’t particularly enjoy. There’s safety in numbers – and hey, what if it turns out that I got it all wrong? 

To live life on your own terms means to live and be driven from a place of (self)love rather than fear. Sometimes you will have to make difficult choices and take courageous steps aligned with who you wish to be – even when others may not understand. 

The thing that gets in the way most is fear in its various forms: 

What will people think of me? Am I good enough? What if I fail?

But what you really need to ask yourself is this: 

Do I live my life according to what I believe others want for me or do I live on my terms? Do I define success in societal norms or do I define success in my own authentic way? 

I think you know my answer and I know this isn’t always easy. It can get lonely and you might question yourself. But true empowerment comes from living from the inside out. When you experience doubt, it is then that you must show up for yourself with the most loving, courageous, and warm heart. 

The heart that says: be true to me. 

The Letters: You are enough

Dear beautiful one,

I am enough.

3 simple little words. Yet so powerful. How would your life change if you finally understood that you are and always have been enough? That your worth is unconditional of what you do, what you look like and who you know. Yet this is one of the things we often struggle with most. You see, we’ve learned to make our worth conditional. As if it depended on what we do for a living, how much money we make, how thin we are, the clothes we wear, even the busyness of our schedules.

I know I’ve done it. My worth was measured by the grades I got in school, the jobs I got afterwards, the salary I earned, the number of friends I had, how many likes I got on a post and whatever else I could think of. A busy social calendar meant that something was right with me, no? Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Have you ever noticed how exhausted people are, trying to continuously be and do more. Until…  when exactly? When is it enough? When are we enough?

When are you enough?

My go-to methods for proving my worth were being liked by everyone and trying to excel in my work. Until I didn’t and one day I was told I was doing a crap job. I believed that story and I fell to pieces. The one thing that I was most scared of happened: I wasn’t good enough.

And yet… while it felt as if the world came tumbling down, I actually realised nothing really changed, nothing that truly mattered: I was loved despite what seemed to me to be a catastrophic failure. It was at once one of the most difficult and the most beautiful episodes in my life.

Something shifted. Slowly the realisation came: I am enough whatever happens. I always have and always will be enough. And perhaps more than anything, I started to learn that I belonged here no matter what. That isn’t to say that there aren’t days that I still struggle with feeling a true sense of belonging but I know I am on the right path.

I want this for you too. You know, Marianne Williamson says that miracles are a shift in perception. I believe this is one of the biggest miracles:

To understand that you always have been and always will be enough.

How would your life change once you know you are enough?

With love,

Naomi

Confidence is courage in action

What is confidence really?

I often open up my presentations for Reclaiming Confidence, the workshop that I run at The Practice in Bali, by sharing a range of quotes about confidence that for the longest time scared the bejesus (spelling?!) out of me.

This one sums it up quite nicely:

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” – Marcus Garvey

It was at a time of my life when I felt I had literally lost all confidence in myself and reading quotes like these just made me feel like I was pretty much screwed.

Confidence seemed like it was a “have or have not” type thing, and depending on which category you fell into, it also made the difference between those who would or who would not be successful in life.

Have confidence, yay! Experience self-doubt, nay…

But here’s the thing.

Confidence in fact is a personal journey that looks different for everyone.

You can feel confident in one area of your life, and not so much in another. We may also experience it in different ways. For some of us it’s sweaty palms and a restricted throat, for others it may be the incessant critical voice inside our heads – or some combination of the two. What is important to remember is that the experience of self-doubt doesn’t have to be all pervasive to your life and that in itself already creates a little bit of space.

For the areas in your life where you do feel more confident – was it always that way and how did you get there?

Perhaps more than anything, confidence in the beginning looks more like courage in action.

Any new adventure, any new pursuit that is meaningful to you will most likely create some tension. Because if it didn’t mean anything, then it wouldn’t really matter so much. Confidence starts with an act of courage and over time, as you learn to become braver and put things in action, it grows into confidence.

Confidence grows through courage and practice until you become competent – and that requires you to take action. 

There’s no way around it – and this is where people often make an important mistake in their thinking. How often have you found yourself waiting for the day that you feel ready? Confident? Good enough?

Still waiting?

Yep, thought so. Because as Dr. Russ Harris says in his book The Confidence Gap:

The actions of confidence come before the feelings of confidence.  

So perhaps rather than waiting to feel confident, ask yourself,

What courageous step, big or small, can I take today?

Be brave dear one!

 

 

Intentional Living: Bringing in the New Year

Can you feel the little jittery flutter that takes place around the end of the year? The excitement of closing down one year and starting again fresh? The promise of new year’s resolutions and intentions, new habits to be created, dreams to be achieved. It can all feel very exciting, can’t it? And it totally can be! Intentional living for me is all about taking time out to see how we want to live our lives – what is it ultimately that we’d like to create?

With that in mind, I think there’s so much value to looking back at the year just gone before you start working on your intentions for the new year. Just hold on with diving straight into 2018 for a little bit!

Why?

Because there’s so much value to be found in celebrating all that has been and learning from the things that may not have gone that well. It’s really about creating more mindfulness of all that is already there, rather than always looking ahead at what will come. Moreover, we can’t really set the direction of the journey ahead if we don’t know where we are on the map of life right now. The map being all the adventures you want to have, the people you want to meet, the places you want to visit, the things you want to do. What have you learned along the way? What surprised you? What perhaps wasn’t as you had hoped?

Looking at your life from this kind of place of stillness requires courage and reminding ourselves of the fact that nothing is inherently good or bad. We are the ones who decide what meaning to attach to our journey. The challenging times we face in our lives can often also be the most meaningful times, if we allow ourselves the time to sit still and soak up the wisdom. To really integrate what we have learned so that this newfound learning becomes a part of who we are, turning us into wiser and perhaps even more compassionate creatures of this planet.

Have you ever noticed how quickly life passes us by? How quickly we forget the small joyous moments that together make up our life? Sometimes I feel we just rush our way through life, and forget so much of what makes this life so worthwhile. The small seemingly mundane matched with the big life events.

Intentional Living Workbook

So during this holiday season, why not take out a little time for yourself to remember all that has been and soak it all up?

And yes, you guessed it right. I couldn’t help myself, I created a little something for you to do exactly that. I wasn’t even planning on doing it this year, but there you go!

Here’s an Intentional Living Workbook for you that consists of two parts: Reviewing 2017 and Looking Ahead to 2018.

You’ll find a range of exercises that I’ve found helpful –do them all or pick a couple. Do it one sitting or over a couple of days, all up to you!

And yes, I’ve absolutely also included a section on setting intentions to take you into the new year, because let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as exciting as the thought of a blank slate that is waiting to be filled in and it’s so important to set the direction for your life.

Where do you really want to go?

If you’ve done this with me before, this year I’ve taken a slightly different approach: a small step away from traditional goals-setting and slightly more towards intentions and what I like to call intentional living.

Who do you want to be? What do you stand for? And how will you live this?

Grab a cup of a nice something something (tea, coffee, vino, you can take it from here), settle in, get cosy and bring in both equal measures of courage, compassion and curiosity.

So much more is possible than what we often allow ourselves to believe. Dream your biggest dreams, even the seemingly impossible – you are capable of great things!

Happy Holidays!

Braving the Wilderness - Personal lessons

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

 

Gosh, I love Brené Brown – like BIG love. This woman to me speaks truth. Period. For those of you who haven’t read any of her work yet, go grab yourself a book – any of her books. For me, they always feel like home, which is an interesting statement as her latest book Braving the Wilderness is all about belonging. A topic close to my heart for many reasons, have a read of my last post on belonging here.

Brené’s new book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone is as the title suggests all about the desire that we all feel to belong to something that is bigger than just ourselves. The main message of the book is really this:

True belonging is found within yourself – not in any other place. It’s exactly the things that you do to try and belong that will, in fact, keep you from finding true refuge.

The book opens with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“You are only free when you realise you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great. “

Ultimately, this beautiful book is all about encouraging you to be true to yourself and to speak up – and allow others to do the same. Brené emphasises there is a shared humanity and spirituality that brings us all together despite our differences, and offers us a pathway into how we can truly engage with each other from a place of trust.

There is so much wisdom and insight in this book that I almost feel that whatever I write will not do it justice – and frankly, it won’t. It is one of those books to be read and then reread again – and I encourage you to do so. Here are some of my main take-aways from the book that I thought were particularly helpful.

Brené makes a clear distinction between belonging and fitting in:

“Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

What she’s saying here is that it is precisely the behaviour that we engage in to try and belong – fitting in – that takes us away from finding true belonging as we mould ourselves to be who we believe we need to be. Therefore hiding our true selves and essentially saying to ourselves: this part can be seen, but this part must be hidden from others. It is only when we can come to accept all of who we are that we can find belonging.

When we can come to accept all of who we are and be courageous in standing up for what we believe in that we find belonging. When we allow ourselves to be truly seen, it is only then that we can find real acceptance and belonging. And the funny thing is that we actually need to find this in ourselves first and foremost rather than looking for it with others.

In order for us to feel safe to do so, we must then work on a culture of trust as essentially we ask:

Is it safe to show who I truly am here? 

In many ways, Brené’s book is really a call to action to create a world that is emotionally safer for us all. She points to the spiritual crisis that the current state of the world is in, where division between groups and people is running strife. We have lost our sense of common humanity, finding it easier to separate ourselves from others in a bid to find belonging with the group that we have chosen to identify ourselves with. It’s us versus them. Yet it is precisely this behaviour that separates us even more from each other.

She offers up the acronym BRAVING as a way of creating trust – both with ourselves and with others:

Boundaries: I maintain my own boundaries and I respect yours.

Reliability: I do what I say – always.

Accountability: I take responsibility for whatever I say and do.

Vault: I keep confidential what you tell me.

Integrity: I stay true to myself and I choose courage over comfort.

Non-judgement: I don’t judge myself and others about asking for help.

Generosity: I am generous in my interpretations about your actions. Intentions and words.

For those of you interested in learning more about this, have a look at her talk on The Anatomy of Trust . Highly recommended!

She continues to outline 4 ways that we can reclaim human connection and rekindle the spiritual connection that exists between us all. I’ve briefly highlighted some of the personal lessons that I took from these:

  1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
  • Only base your judgements of people on your own experience.
  • Have the courage to be vulnerable and express your pain rather than lashing out.
  • Truly engage with others and listen to their perspective – especially when you’re in conflict with each other.
  1. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be civil.
  • Don’t just say something when you don’t know. Have the courage to say “I don’t know”.
  • Stop thinking in “you’re either with me or against me” paradigms.
  • Be inclusive in your language.
  1. Hold Hands. With strangers
  • Show up for collective moments of joy and pain. Think concerts, think funerals, think World Cup games.
  1. Strong back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.
  • Hold strong to who you are, yet be open and vulnerable to others.

For those of you who have ever struggled with finding a sense of belonging, I can only give you my highest recommendations for this book. My personal experience has also been that ultimately we can only find that sense of home within ourselves, continuously tuning into ourselves and navigating life on our own compass. There is an immeasurable strength and confidence that comes from making this journey within. It requires us to show up with authenticity, courage and vulnerability. As Maya Angelou said, the price is high yet the reward is great. I will leave you with perhaps one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially your own. No one belongs here more than you.“