Lord knows we’re powerful, intentional, creators and you can fill your world up with action, people and material stuff and distract yourself from awareness that it’s there. But the trouble is, if you didn’t actually get the download on what the problem was underneath the guilt and shame in the first place, the wounded parts will still sit there, dictating many of your choices and what you create and attract, overlording you with fear.
Then you might still be carrying the ghost of shame past, from times you might have been externally shamed by people you loved. You might still be projecting potential shame into the future that MIGHT come, if that person is not actually (you fear) able to love and accept your broken bits and mistakes. And finally, there’s the shame you yourself are holding about yourself in the present, while you judge the crap out of yourself for the times you felt you messed it up and should have done better.
All of which results in a whole bunch of fear....fear of what will happen when people find out who and what we really are, with our gaping wounds, fear of what we will lose and who will walk away or disown us because of our wounds and our past mistakes. Which results in altered action. Selective, carefully measured sharing. Not putting our needs or certain truths forward that might rock the boat. Or worse, catalyse the rapid progression, towards some negative relational end. It might have us avoiding certain people or places or experiences. Or playing out battles that feel so real, but if we could just see past the living movie that is our wounds, we’d see are completely not needed to have. Because, in the grand scheme of themes, another truth about how things actually really are, exists, beyond that very projection. Our projections about such things can then end up running our life. We end up giving them a lot more power than really serves.
Yet two things are the case. If we try and chop off and hide our wounded bits to be some “better” version of ourselves too fast, if we don’t take some time to heal and look at the wounds, we miss the golden bits within the experiences that are the very reason we are who we now are today and have the strengths that we do, not to mention have to give what we have to give. Sometimes we disproportionately underway the value of our broken parts, and the healing power within them, compared to the bright, shiny bits we know everyone will be all likes and praise for.
On a personal level, our wounds first need our love, acceptance and our gratitude for what we gained from them, before the projections will truly lose their vice like grip over our heads and hearts....and we get our power back. And the tricky thing, how can we truly expect to be loved for all of us, if we’ve taken some parts of ourselves and tried to literally hide them from view, behind our back (almost like hiding a wounded arm, with giant, gaping wounds needing attention, that are eventually going to have consequences for our health, plus we risk losing functionality of that limb in life, if we don’t deal with the wounds. Though while we might think we’ve successfully hidden them, the whole situation is somewhat apparent to the people watching us, who can see, feel, and eeew, dare I say it, smell that something is up. Even if they can’t initially work out what. How though, can they love us and help us heal, if we won’t let them see that our broken arm even exists?
It’s almost like we get a whole arm BACK, when we take the time to, whether alone ourselves or with people who can help, clean, sew up and treat any infection that’s set in on that hidden, broken arm.
When we take time to bring love, acceptance and gratitude to those parts of ourselves that we’re so afraid and ashamed of within ourselves, we get our power back.
We attract more of the right people, who will love and appreciate us for ALL of who we are when we do. And the ones who might already have wanted to love the shit out of all of us, can finally show up how we have been wanting/praying that they would show up all along.
The ones who are presently busy judging and hence cutting off the broken, mirroring limbs in themselves might well make a timely exit (and if they’re going to, well I always say, better to put all your limbs on the table up front and let the perceptions fall where they may, and if they’re going to go, then just get it out of the way BEFORE either of you invest the emotional equivalent of a house and land package in loving someone who would perhaps chose NOT to willingly stay, once you showed them how things really are. Who wants to keep suffering, feeling all the pain that comes, when you keep falling in love with a potential version of a reality and a future version of someone that doesn’t yet exist in reality? Or worse, get caught in the endless shame- grief cycle, trying to show up as some healed, perfect version of ourselves we would like others to believe that we already are, so that we finally feel “enough” for them. News flash, we’re actually, all already enough, for the right people.
It’s a FAR more powerful position to build a life from, when we present ourselves as the whole of who we are, broken limbs, diseases, failures, greatest griefs, little and extraordinary gifts, strengths, achievements, what we learned out of it and all.
Watch how fast too the haters we so much fear using those vulnerabale points against us, lose their power over you when they take a dig at or try and use your sensitive points as weapons and tools of manipulation over you, and you’re all Ned Flanders about it (e.g. all the gratitudes about ALL of it and how you're a better person now BECAUSE of it.)😂👌🏻
There is great power in being all of your authentic self. So be that gorgeous, messy, awesome, crazy, unique ray of light that you are. So love it all, give others a chance to love it all and then create your life from that place.
Recently, in the process of reworking and adding to some of my existing offerings on Women's Leadership and Speaking, I've been doing a bit of a deep dive back into what I learned during my days of studying performing arts. I say my years of study, because my days of creative expression are still very much alive. And particularly, as I'm presently about to live beyond an age that my beautiful Mother never lived to be, I've found myself doubling down this month on my conviction and commitments to spend more time sharing more of the things I love, like dance or playing piano, or singing with groups of friends, or painting giant canvases with my hands and making sure more of these things permeate my work expressions a little more actively again now going forward. (Things that, through injury or terminal illness, she only had so much time to do.)
What I started to learn in those days, is kind of two fold. In one respect, there's the things that I've written about in blogs past, that I learned about Leadership. About teams and tribes. There's the technical things that I learned about how to be on stage, how to be with an audience, how to perform well. The more Business and Leadership Coaching I've done in recent years, the more I've found the consistency, the commonality in the kinds of mindset hurdles, limiting beliefs, the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, that most humans face in finding our voices, in finding the courage and confidence to stand in front of a crowd, in standing for or delivering something, just for them.
But then there's the things I learned during that time that I didn't necessarily expect to learn. The hard lessons of being a woman, being a human, you'd never have signed up for if you KNEW at the time, that's what you were about to learn in the middle of the storm. But, one day, you thank God/The Universe/The divine (whatever your wording for it) that you did. Because, in facing and reclaiming your true power within them, now you become free, to be who you were REALLY born to be. In more aspects of life than just work.
That time in my life, actually, simultaeous to containing some of my happiest and proudest moments, sadly, was also one of the two biggest sh#t storms of life events I've ever had to navigate. During that time, For a while, It felt like there wasn't much of a breather between difficult life events of my teens, someone else in the family getting or dying of cancer, or some other major health condition. My horse, my childhood cat, our short haired pointer, what felt like a lot the elders and my/our support crew at the time, checked out. Some of us (including myself, but luckily, compared to some, in only the briefest of cervical cell abnormality forms, for a year) had a close brush with it too, but said "oh hell no!" to the universe, doubled down on self-care and healing what was underneath it, and then came out the other side, healed.
Leaving home though, I felt insanely guilty about going off to the city to pursue my dreams. When someone like a parent dies in the family, everybody, in a way, has to compensate within the family system by stepping in to fill the shoes of the person who left. I made my own decision early on that i wanted at least one of my younger Brother and I to grow up feeling like they'd had a normal life and wanted to take a bunch of pressure off my single parent Dad, so regardless of whether i was asked or not, I just did the majority of the things that needed to get done around a country house to keep it running during the week. But then, like many Mum's I've worked with over the years, i felt equally as guilty and stressed just like one, about how they were going to cope, when i went off to pursue my work dreams.
Simultaneous to feeling the sudden shift of purpose, like an empty nester, only at age of 18, simultaneously, professionally speaking, I also felt very much like an 18 year old who'd just left home and, like many young performers and aspiring artists, I wanted to continue to stand for something and be involved in art and projects that would make a difference. While simultaneously, every day, i was coming into the reality of classes with students and teachers you'd know then and now from TV and movies. Not to mention, with plenty of others, hoping, they'd be the.next one to get into NIDA, or get on Neighbours. Whichever came first. It was a very surreal time.
At that time, I was also living on campus, while going to uni to study Contemporary Arts across the road. And trying to balance being an active part of a social culture, at, how do i put this delicately....the drunkest of all the country kid inhabited halls of residence, that like much of the country, was drowning in a social culture based on drinking. That was both a blessing and a curse. While trying to balance going to uni each day to actualise progress on my performing arts dreams.
What that culture, the A's and HD's and D's and awards i'd been getting up until that point, the running 5 days a week lifestyle hid though, was how often I was home alone some Saturday night, or after some function, half a bottle of Southern Comfort down, crying my eyes out until 4 in the morning, in secret. All i wanted at that point was no conflict and life to be DRAMA FREE. What I still had, were giant gaping, grief dripping holes in my heart and insides. And a massive craving for intimacy to fill those holes, plus a massive desire to be an easy going, "yes" person, who was likeable by everyone and could be relied upon by everyone, no matter what, to compensate for the amount of baggage i clearly came with, that i felt guilty for, and feared i would inevitably be rejected, socially and romantically, for. I once heard Oprah refer to her version of that, as being symptomatic of "the disease to please."
Add to this, the individual and collective stories and fears about male female dynamics I was carrying around and many of us were all wrestling with during that era....plus ones about fame, like:
-"Men only want one thing. Especially at your age, they can't be trusted"
-"Men need to sex to love and wont be able to love you without sex"
-"If men are the alphas and have the power, then a woman's power in getting what she wants out of him, lies in her ability to seduce."
-"Women are physically weaker than men and therefore women are vulnerable and in danger everywhere they go"
-While "it's ok to say no", "a 'no' from a woman is just the start of a challenge and the beginning of the hunt."
-And we all had and have a bunch of collective views about fame and celebrities; "Actors and celebrities are social property for the entertainment of the masses" and
"events are our one big chance to get near them", like Whitney Houston getting mobbed by the crowd in The Bodyguard" when the secret things people think about their "celeb free passes" in their lounge rooms (in which they've dehumanised them), spill out into the crowd space, individual and group hysteria takes over and, as the performer,
"you have to be careful of crowds and protect yourself from crowd mentality."
Combine all of that....and my next few months were anything BUT drama free. But, much to my frustration, added another 3 notches on the belt of my #metoo story.
I was sexually assaulted by a guy from a few doors down, who following me into my room, after a function, trying to get my into bed. About a month later, the day of a performance, at a lunch function, I got (involuntarily) dead-lifted over a fit Californian guy i'd not long been seeing's head, and dropped over the back of his head from that height when he lost his balance. Narrowly avoided breaking my back. Long story short, I ended up being treated for back issues from that until my 20's/early 30's, at which time, with all of the holistic health work i was doing/participating in, it mysteriously disappeared. And finally, a month after that, again, against a lot of no's and my obvious attempts to get up and walk away, was (violently) raped by a friend.
All of of these situations were dealt with at the time, and dealt with well. But for me, all of that, along with a broken stomach lining and literally starting to crack and wear down my teeth at night, clenching and grinding through all of that in my sleep, became the giant wake up call, the incentive, to stop drinking, to start going to therapy and, whether it was the right thing to do in hindsight or no, became a big part of the reason i deferred and went to work and ended up on a different path for a bit. This is a very simplified summary. But part of what came next, was a few messy spiritual crises and emergence, bottom-of-the-bell-curve-type moments of breakdown and spiritual breakthrough, between work and further study. That ended up becoming a big part of my inspiration to become a Therapist myself (initially of the Counselling and Transpersonal Art Therapy kind, along with the Energetic Wellbeing kind and then the Coaching kind)....and help other people who'd been through similar life and relational challenges, before then wanting to help those who also had big dreams and a life purpose they knew they needed to lead, but needed help to heal and get out there doing what they were born to do. Before, as the website says, having eventually become internationally known and recognised as someone who had helped over 20 000 Holistic Practitioners and awesome people out there in various other settings along the way, heal and get out there shining in doing their thing too. And, along the way, there might have been the reemergence of numerous moments of singing in people's lounge-rooms and being called in to crew people's dance events. Before this era we find find ourselves in now.
What are some of the harder lessons i learned, that i didn't expect, but that are still relevant to women (and all people) finding their voices now?
I was using my voice already, in one respect, and I found it had tremendous power.... and yet I hadn't fully found it yet on understanding why it was really powerful. Or where our power as Women, and people, truly comes from. It's not in force, it's not in seduction, or any of the decades of manipulative shit WE women TOO have played out trying to get our needs covertly met in a patriarchally dominant culture. And while there's healing, confidence and a sense of safety to be found in realising that we're capable of meeting and matching a threat back (whether as the warrioress, or the fierce Mumma bear within), nor is it only to be found in that. (Lord knows i also TRIED to nail the hitting BACK piece in my teens!) It's in having the courage to connect inwards, to show up and walk the world as a full body, walking expression of our truth and love. And speak our truth, relate, sing our songs, be of service, from that place.
More than that, it's in learning to love, respect and trust in our ability to support ourselves (in addition to how we women often OUT-DO ourselves in service to others) and have faith in the divine order of a universe, that is constantly aligning and working to ensure that we and all involved will indeed be met with what we need, in perfect timing. And while it's also in trusting that, when we get clear what it is that we want and need, the right, aligned people, will inevitably be willing and capable of showing up for each other as that, it's also in having the fortitude to get up and be willing to walk away on anything or anyone that our intuition and our better judgement tells us is not in alignment with or willing to commit to showing up, loving and respecting us like that.
Admittedly, several years of retreats, tens of thousands of dollars worth of therapy, several Mentors and more than a few occasions of re-facing those same demons again and again in years since, on the inside and the outside (just wearing a different face) it took to keep getting deeper layers of this. And believe you me, as i revisited these parts of my life this last two weeks, there have been A LOT of tears on my part of grief, guilt and regret, for everyone I've ever done my best to love and honour and for the younger version of me, that I wish, could have understood it then, so that i could've better protected her from all that she went through. Admittedly, it wasn't also without the humble acceptance that NOW me is still having my moments of working on trust and vulnerability in connection. i'm all too great at "show me YOUR wounds so that i can love them", flip the dynamic though where i really like you....panic attacks, tears....and more tests on discernment and trust. I'm still trying. The people i love, who despite ALL of that are still here, are the reasons i keep getting back up to try.
As these lessons apply collectively though, in a world where, according to her research mentioned in her latest book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says almost everyone out there can tell you what they don't want, but very few can tell you what they actually do:
- being able better hear our own intuition (and better listen to what others are really saying, as well as ourselves)
-being able to better identify what we need and how we really feel about things
- being able to better communicate these things with heart and soul and
-being able to hold true to what is and isn't in alignment with it, as we go about our daily work and personal lives
are skills that clear many of us need more help with. So that we can better lead, so that we can better serve, so that we can better relate and go out there and create. So that we can better believe and trust in the divine perfection in all that is constantly trying to unfold around us in our favour, as we feel into what we love, find our clarity of purpose in how we feel called to be of service and make choices about how we will and won't engage with life and with others within it.
As some of my awesome Mumma bear Mentors of years past, and colleagues past and present would also say, there is also tremendous power in making a choice about what individual and collective stories we choose to tell ourselves each day. We have a remarkable ability to re-write our stories and circumstances to the benefit of both ourselves and those around us, at any given moment. When we start realising that the ones we've been telling ourselves aren't working, in any given moment, we have the power to pick up and re-write the script. Or let it go completely, and write a whole new one.
Plus, remember the supernova v's black hole metaphor I mentioned at the start of the year? Sometimes in life it takes a massive explosion, to plant the seeds of creating, and then one day birthing, something new and truly beautiful into the world. Something that is both a pure expression of love and catalyses all it touches into alignment with the highest expression of themselves, as whole, soulful people, right here and now.
It can sometimes be hard to see it in the moment. But big bangs, in the end, become the reasons we are now here, the reasons we truly understand how to love, and the fuel from which we can now serve and create. Once you can connect with that, once you start to see the silver lining beyond the storm, it's hard not to be grateful.
And while sometimes we can't undo the consequences of stories and times past, and other times, we can, what is always also within our control, is the first, next step we take from here. And It's never too late to start again. Excelsior ("ever upwards")
Thanks so much for reading.
Until next time....
Does your business or organisation have an active system of expressing appreciation to the people who work within and interact with your business? Do you know why it's super important and can be incredibly beneficial to have one? If, like me, one of your love languages happens to be words of affirmation, then i imagine i might already be preaching to the choir on this one. But if telling people how you feel is not one of your personal, professional or organisational defaults, let me give you 5 reasons why it's incredibly beneficial as a leadership strategy and a workplace wellbeing and culture building strategy to create more touch points of authentic appreciation at all levels within your organisation, beyond the standard systems of recognition of personal and collective performance and achievement alone.
What is appreciation, really? To borrow from Berkley's definition of both appreciation and gratitude: "Researchers define appreciation  as the act of acknowledging the goodness in life—in other words, seeing the positives in events, experiences, or other people (like our colleagues). Gratitude  goes a step further: It recognizes how the positive things in our lives—like a success at work—are often due to forces outside of ourselves, particularly the efforts of other people. "  From the now growing body of evidence on the numerous benefits of practice of gratitude and appreciation in the workplace, 5 very desirable benefits for both the individual, teams and organisations as a whole include:
Greater Personal Satisfaction
At the personal level, several studies sited by Berkley suggest that staff practicing and receiving more touch-points of appreciation feel more positive emotions , less stress and fewer health complaints  a greater sense that we can achieve our goals , fewer sick days  and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers . Employees engaged with such organisations are more enthused about coming to work and passionate about the organisation they're engaged with, as opposed to feeling like a means to an end in somebody else's grand plan.
Managers who express appreciation to the people who work for them, may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Up to 50% harder even.  A study reported by Harvard Medical School and conducted by researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. The first group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations using the standard organisational procedures at the time. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the Director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. Over the next week, the study showed that the university employees who heard her thank you pep talk, made 50% more fund-raising calls than those in the group that didn’t.  Taking the time the time to say thank you regularly, positively impacts staff/team productivity for your organisation.
Greater spontaneous participation in workplace and cultural activities
Staff members in organisations with a proactive culture of appreciation are also more likely to volunteer charitable acts of service to the organisation , like offering to give an orientation to a new employee, or helping set up for and run an event, or dropping off some mail to a post box on behalf of someone else, or volunteering to cover for someone while someone else is busy.
Better Quality Working Relationships
In my years of Team Management, HR support and talking to clients of various organisations alike about their grievances, I’ve noticed a common theme in just how often all it has taken for someone to pull back from working hard or active engagement in a working relationship, is for them to feel like they’re not being acknowledged or heard in their concerns. Or appreciated for their efforts, or previously emotional and physical investments made in the working relationship. But the moment either a Leader, an appropriate team member or service provider makes the time to show up and both listen and reconnect with positive affirmation of the reasons you came together in the first place, with genuine concern for what the person needs going forward and with sincere appreciation of the value they contribute and thanks for theei efforts, it’s amazing how instantaneously things can turn around. Thus, making time for regular touch points of appreciation from day 1, as well as for opportunities for recognition of performance and achievement, can dramatically reduce staff turnover and increase the longitivtiy of working relationships of all kinds.
Being appreciative literally makes us more likeable
On a final note, and more personal gain for the individual Leader note, Vanessa Van Edwards, author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, in an interview for Women of Impact , sited studies in which they researched what exactly it was that made the “popular’ peeps the most likeable at school. One of the main things they found was the most likeable people have a different mindset when they enter a room, to the average other person in the room.
Often when we're in a social situation, the average person is thinking about their anxiety and what they need, or need to get out of this experience, if not secretly praying for a secret escape from it, particularly if it is business related. But the most "likeable" people, on the flip-side, are actually going into the room looking for people they like and things about those people they like; in other words, with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. In a workplace or networking context, she suggested that an attitude of appreciation and service, ultimately leads to a whole other level of openness and a completely different lot of conversations, based on authenticity, resonance and how you can genuinely be of service to one another, both immediately in that moment, and in future. Engaging at this level, literally allows for more authentic likeability and relational longevity.
There is now plenty of evidence that shows that, when people feel truly seen and appreciated, they’re more proactive in participating in their work and hence more productive and engaged , they’re more altruistic in what they’re willing to contribute to support the team you’re in and to the organisation (without you ever needing to ask them to be) and they more outgoing in their participation in social and team building activity. As well as committed to bringing the best of themselves to each of their work relationships. As Leaders, thus, it’s super important that we model this practice ourselves and find numerous, situationally specific ways to bring more expressions of appreciation into all of our work touch points. And consistently at that.
How can you be more proactive at work in bringing more expressions of authentic appreciation into your everyday work and organisational activities?
 Kennelly, S, A scientific reason to stop and smell the roses, July 3 2012
 The Greater Good Science Centre, What is gratitude, Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkley
 Newman, K, How gratitude can transform your workplace, Berkley Workplace, Sep 6 2017
 Two Positive Psychology Interventions to Increase Employee Wellbeing, Journal of Business and Psychology 29(3):367-380 · September 2013
 Bono, J.E, Glombe, T.M. et al, Building positive resources; effects of positive events and positive reflection on work stress and health, Academy of Management Journal, 2013, Vol. 56, No. 6, 1601–1627
 Grant, A.M. and Gino, F, A little thanks goes a long way; explaining why gratitude motivates prosocial behaviour, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98 ; 946-55, June 2010
 Hu, X, Kaplan, S et al, Accentuate the Positive: Which Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Which Work Outcomes?, The Psychologist-Manager Journal 20(2):74-89 · May 2017
 Higginbottom, K, Employee Appreciation Pays Off, Forbes, Mar 3, 2017
 Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, In Praise of Gratitude, Updated: June 5, 2019, Published: November, 2011
 Bucchi, O, Di Fabio, A and Palazzeschi, L, Gratitude in Organizations: A Contribution for Healthy Organizational Contexts, Front Psychol. 2017; 8: 2025.
 Douglas J. Brown, D.J., Keeping, L.M. et al, Helpful Today, But Not Tomorrow? Feeling Grateful as a Predictor of Daily Organizational Citizenship Behaviors, Wiley Online Library, 18 June 2013
 Van Edwards, V, How to Be More Likable and Impressive, Vanessa Van Edwards on Women Of Impact, April 17, 2019
 Waters, L. Predicting Job Satisfaction: Contributions of Individual Gratitude and Institutionalized Gratitude, Psychology, 2012. Vol.3, No.12A, 1174-1176
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.