There’s a chapter of the book I’m writing, and a stage of my model for overcoming the fear of speaking that isn’t necessarily the most popular. Because it’s NOT the part where you get to feel into all the juicy, soul-igniting good good of what you love or your purpose. Or the part I find many women LOVE, the part where we talk about the host of ways you can become more connected to and fully expressed in your feminine presence and get your natural, God given sexy on, in a healthy sex-positive way. Its the one where we talk about the importance of building your inner strength and resilience, as a precursor to one allowing their most authentic self to emerge, in all aspects of life. It is both essential to the Owning your Voice journey, but also essential to us finding our groove as strong, independent Leaders, who are also heart connected and compassionate in their work.
Why is it so important? For all that good good to be able to flow, we need to feel both safe in walking the world, and to BE a safe, solid container through which those things can download, be created, embodied and expressed. Put another way, It’s about developing the ‘yang’ (more typically considered ‘masculine’) qualities in balance with the ‘yin’ (feminine) ones, BUT, in a way that, for whatever gender we identify with, we can personally relate to and feel comfortable with, in talking about a person as a whole. For example, if I was to ask you, who as a Leader do you more want to be like, King Arthur, or Wonder Woman (or both?), one or parts of those might innately ring true for you personally, right?
Hence HOW each of us relates with and conceptualises resilience looks a little different for each of us and HOW you go about building your inner resilience, might look a little different for each of us. As someone who other women often refer to as “very yang” in my energy, but given my health challenges of the last 6 months, has had to retrace her own steps on how to re-build one’s resilience, I thought it might be timely to share 10 of the things I’ve done in my life to help build my resilience, that might be handy for some of you to know too, as it relates to any moments in which you or someone you know, might find yourself working on your/their own:
1- Get on top of your nutritional deficiencies
It’s incredible what an impact these can have on both your sense of physical and psychological resilience. Iron deficiency is the perfect example. When your body doesn’t have enough iron to create red blood cells that can sufficiently carry the oxygen your breathe throughout your body to ensure that your cells can sufficiently complete numerous functions (like forms of energy production/metabolism), not only does -your body start feeling weak, tired and out of breath by the top of a set of stairs, the hill or a workout
-your immune system take a hit and
-your body take longer to heal and recover, but
-psychologically, as the feedback comes back to your brains that your survival is being compromised, you literally start to feel anxious, more easily overwhelmed and less able to cope with things you normally would handle just fine.
Because I’ve had a problem with heavy bleeding a lot of my adult life, keeping my iron up without additional supplementation (no matter seemingly how much iron I eat) has often been a thing. In the two worst instances, like one I had in 2012 and my the one I had earlier this year, I found you could so notably tell the difference within just a few weeks of taking really high iron supplements. In 2012, as I did so, I kept seeing images of battle armour and old English implements made out of iron, as my strength returned and remember saying to someone that I I had a new found appreciation of the link between our iron levels and our inner (feminine) strength and resilience.
Magnesium, the “off switch” so to speak for muscle contraction (not to mention, as one other example, a core component of our bone composition) is another. Often things like leg cramps, chronic period pain and the psychological feeling like we can never relax or sleep properly, go hand in hand with magnesium deficiency, and ease with magnesium supplementation. So I’ve found, it’s another one that can be important in the resilience picture.
Eating enough B group vitamins for energy production, immunity, neural and reproductive function.
In an animal nutrition class I once attended during my science degree, they once showed up a diagram that attempted to capture the number of different nutrients and minerals that were essential to our healthy existence. In the illustration of lines attempting to show the links between some, and how others blocked each others function, it looked like a 2D ball of steel wool in it’s complexity. I could be here a month trying to highlight everything that is important. But there are people, like Nutritionists and Naturopaths, who can help each of us figure out which particular ones we need for our own wellbeing. And its definitely worth it.
2- Get physically fit and challenge yourself with stretch goals
Kind of seems obvious, right? Because you can literally measure your physical increase in fitness and strength. But also the qualitative one in psychological resilience, as we, each session, start to achieve things that, 20mins or 3 hours earlier, we might have wondered IF we could ever do, and now, after having lifted more weight, or cut time off a lap in the pool, or gone further on a hike than we’ve done before, we now know that we CAN.
I feel like this one is part acknowledging the “I can do it” and an attitude of optimism e.g. “it is possible for me to do that” and “growth and expansion is possible”, one part self love in the form of taking time to make note of our gifts and strengths and one part gratitude in taking time to appreciate them. The idea is simple. The challenge is in committing to them and continuing to choose them, day after day.
4- Debunking mental myths and stereotypes
Then I think it’s a lot of about dismantling the beliefs and perceptions we can be holding about human strength and weakness. As well as any we’ve taken on in association with difficulties or traumas, we’ve experienced in this lifetime.
For example, there is this cultural stereotype that says that “women are physically weaker than men”, that has the majority of women walking on the planet in a state of constant underlying fear. Especially if they’ve ever experienced a physical or sexual assault of some form. I think this myth and mentality is perfectly described and debunked in a great blog I stumbled across over the last week called “my wife is a black belt in martial arts” written by Phillip, who is Swedish, 29 and who’s lovely wife is a black belt Hapkido instructor. And who, the first time he ever asked her to show him her skills, he freely admits, kicked his butt. He’s not trained in the same martial art himself, but their journey inspired him 2 years ago, to start a blog on relationships, martial arts and gender roles, in which he not only provides her as a living example of debunking this myth for the wellbeing of women everywhere, but he also helps men make sense of the host of psychological reactions they can have come up in response to the thought of being physically outclassed by a woman.
5- Self defence training
For me personally, given that I had had been through numerous physical and sexual assaults that I couldn’t physically overpower my way out of, and thus had initially had that myth and fear very much reinforced in my mind, I found going to self defence training and picking up the skills and insights on how you CAN handle, overcome, out-manoeuvre, get away from any attacker who is bigger, taller, physically stronger than you was a huge part in alleviating my anxiety about moving about in the world, as a woman who’s been more often single and not always had the comfort of the feeling of having a man walking energetically or physically by my side, adding to my psychological sense of safety, I found this step was absolutely essential for building my confidence and resilience standing on my own two independent feet.
6- Archetypal and role play work
That, and I’ve found a lot of the work I did in counselling modalities like gestalt therapy, transpersonal art therapy, drama therapy, performing arts classes and the roles I got to play as an Actor, and the subsequent work I’ve done in meditation and physical embodiment practices later at home, go a long way to helping women and people in general, develop a deeper association with the qualities within themselves that we associate with strength and safety. In a way that works for whatever gender you identify personally with.
For example, think doing role plays or meditations where you allow the energy of your own warrior/ess, whatever that looks like for each of us, to come to mind. For example, Wonder Woman and the Amazons, have been a very publicly accessible one for women to identify with in the last few years. And then imagine allowing the energy of that “character” to flow through your body. And then getting up and moving through the room, or parts of your day, with that energy.
Another one for me and several other colleagues has been playing with our own gender concepts of “our inner masculine” and the various expressions of that throughout the life span e.g Teenager, Father, Elder. And healing the wounds that we’re carrying about our own ancestry that relate to those. So that we could ultimately be more receptive to receiving the healthy, highest versions of these showing up through the actual men (and people full stop) in our lives.
7- Roles models
I think having a list of people who actually embody those qualities in the real world and in our lives, can also be a necessary part of helping ground this work into the real world too and appreciate where these qualities already exist in the world around us.
But also, in having worked on embracing all the aspects of these (e.g. archetypes above) that we actually already are, it also helps us to step into a place, particularly for women, of no longer being desperately dependent upon the men in our lives for our sense of safety (and having our support needs met). But it allows us to come into, what I think is a much healthier place, of NOT needing them, but WANTING their presence in your world and you both being able to choose to interact with each other, again and and again, from this place of empowerment, over a sense of desperate necessity. It can be confronting, and bring up a lot of stuff to work through, but I’ve found that’s a really beautiful and honouring place to be able to love the people in our world from, and relate from. So in the end, the work (and the wait) has become worth it.
8- Symbols or talismans of protection
While not essential, I find it can helps a lot of people feel more comfortable and helps with a sense of feeling safe and protected to have an external object, or something we carry or wear that symbolises or is said to impart us with the qualities of resilience. Whether it’s wearing a cross, a figurine of a deity, archangel or saint, a rune, an inscription or affirmation we’ve had added to a piece of jewellery we wear, or a crystal or gem stone that is said to help us with such things as: overcoming our fears, feeling confident, grounded and protected, more deeply connecting with our hearts and purpose, or that strengthens our connection to the earth, our intuition or our ancestors, for example, having such symbols can help add to our overall holistic sense of resilience.
9- Faith, Spirituality and Purpose
To say a little bit more about connecting to a sense of something bigger than ourselves, I cannot say enough how essential this has been to me and many of the people I’ve worked with in overcoming the horrendous traumas and more minor setbacks many of us have experienced day to day, to have a healthy concept of faith. A belief system that connects us with a sense of higher purpose within all the madness, combined with reassurance that there is a very real need and reason why it’s worth you getting back up in the moments where you’ve felt knocked to the ground, that reminds you that something better and a purpose for you lies beyond, combined with a little self love work to work on our sense that we deserve and are worthy of receiving the “good good” that comes on the other side of getting the download from this life lesson, is essential to our resilience.
That, and a bit like Rey does is the Rise of Skywalker, when she’s doing her training and then later in battle, calls on her Jedi ancestors to “be with me”, there is something undeniably beneficial to our resilience in embracing that idea that, or remembering that we are NEVER really alone in all this. That, if we choose, the spirits and strengths of our ancestors and (if you can respect me going there) perhaps the energy of any other benevolent beings that exist in our natural world and our universe beyond our 3D physical form that we might choose to journey with, might be a part of our resilience picture as well.
Hand in hand with that, and separately to that, developing our self awareness, and our sensory and intuitive intelligence, so that we can become confident in being fully self directed in the actions we take in all aspects of life and, more that that, develop trust in our ability to navigate any and all situations life may throw at us, consciously and intentionally, I’ve found, is an also an essential step in building our resilience.
11- Facing your fears
Coming back to the mindset piece, and continuing the Jedi and the warrior themes that we explored in both the movies I’ve mentioned above, as much education, therapeutic or personal development work as we do ABOUT resilience, in the end, there is still the step often to be done of confronting the things we fear that sometimes can hold power over us, until we do.
I watched a brilliant interview recently from Lisa Bilyeu’s Women of Impact at Home Interview Series with Michelle Poler, author of “Hello Fears- crush your comfort zone and become who you’re meant to be” in which Michelle puts forward a couple of systems of categorising the 7 most common kinds of fear that we experience, based on what it is that we’re really most afraid of underneath the object or person we’ve learned to associate with them. For example, we say we have a fear of public speaking, but what we’re really most afraid of underneath that, might be any one of the 7 thing below. In this book, she also outlines what she calls the 6 stages of facing a fear that I think are really useful.
The 7 kinds of fear:
Very true that sometimes the best way to overcome any of those, is to put yourself (genuine safety concerns considered) in a situation where you have an opportunity to deal first hand with that experience coming up and get to practice both navigating the thought, waves of energy and physical sensations that go with it AND then practice managing all of those in a healthy way. Some of us may first have to learn techniques to DO that and I can certainly help with that. But the ultimate benefit is that, through realising that it a) didn’t kill you after all, or b) that thing you were most afraid of didn’t come to pass, and or that c) if it did, you absolutely CAN and DO have the ability to handle it, helps you both get your power back from whatever you’d been giving it away to, helps you release the fear for good and builds your trust, confidence and resilience. So totally worth the work.
12- Relating from a place of Interdependence- we’re even stronger with support
Finally, I felt like this was the one to end on. Story of my freaking life that it’s one thing, out of necessity or choice to learn how to be strong, resilient and independent standing on one’s own two feet, when circumstances in life challenge us to do so. It’s one thing to learn how to create a beautiful, elaborate mental fortress within, from which you can safely navigate and to which you can safely retreat throughout all of life’s transitional and relational complexities, to be able to successfully survive through adversity and rise to toes of of expansion, fulfilment and success.
A bit like Liz Gilbert at the end of Eat Pray Love, I feel it is truly an achievement when you realise you’ve got to a place in life where you feel like you’ve got your happiness, your self care and your life formula and your resilience strategy nailed down on your own two feet. But I’ve been remembering in the last year, trying to open up to merge with or create something akin to tribe, family and love again, personally and professionally, like Liz when she’s having a panic attack deciding whether to get on the boat with Phillipe or not, and they both concede that, especially after you’ve been hurt, it can be truly terrifying opening back up, trying to be open for the right, fully available versions of the people you’re destined to share the journey with again, at the risk of either being left falling through mid air when you decided some people were worth the leap and the didn’t feel the same, or think you were worth the effort to move towards you and you face planted into the cold, hard ground of “vulnerability”. Or of losing yourself and everything you’ve worked so hard to rebuild again. As Michelle’s 7 types of fear go, for me personally, I’ve very much found it the case this year that those still hit my 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 to the level of panic attacks and tears.
While changing the world on the outside definitely STARTS with changing what’s on the inside it is still the case that, as humans, each us is made stronger, by sharing our life with people, who’s strengths compliment our own strengths. As well as with some that are a lot like we are, you truly get you and you them too. Inevitably, our resilience grows and we go further, often faster, our plans become more informed and grounded and we can experience and achieve more on a journey that is shared. So interdependence is the final step.
Is there anything that you would add in your experience? Feel free to share. And i'll see you in 2 weeks, post surgery and recovery.
If there is one activity that immediately brings me home and fully "back into" myself, it's dance.
Whether i've been sitting working on my Macbook or a PC for several hours straight and need to get my body literally moving. or whenever i've been overthinking things, and or am feeling emotionally numb or stuck, dance and especially any movements of the of the energy channels along my arms, movements that open my chest, more-so than with my other favourites, like yoga, or swimming or a run on the beach, get me straight back into deeper connection with my heart.
While i've never been formally dance trained and i never learned ballet (but my Mother did), that's the place where i find much of my graceful, feminine flow. If i find some part of my body to be stiff or stuck, that's the point where the part of me that knows energy medicine puts my hands on it or near it and i gently work it out of disconnection and back into connection.
Being the (as so many people who know me put it) "raw, passionate, heart being" that i am, that more often than not means i've got to stop holding onto whatever recent experience i've been (for functionality purposes) holding in suspended animation in that place until it was a 'better' time to feel my way through and let go of that tension.
Through literally moving and bringing my presence to that part of me, i get the tears, or the frustration or fear, or whatever else it might, be felt and literally danced out. It's my way of getting the energy flowing again and then channelling it, or rather allowing the love, lightness and joy to flow on through again instead, a bit like turning on an old tap and clearing the energetic pipes.
If part of our way of coping with the day, or coping with intense events at times is to disconnect from and turn the sensory volume down on the parts of us that are associated with processing such experiences (and it's certainly a coping mechanism i'd had to lean on heavily earlier in traumatic parts of life), then dance becomes one of my ways of coming back into fully inhabiting and being fully present within my body again.
I'm not going to lie to you, if i had a romantic partner again, dance might well get bumped down the agenda in favour of physical intimacy at times. Depending on what stage of dating and relating you're at, one where nerves still freak us out, or the ones where we're fully ready to share ourselves with another and check IN, if we all get honest for a moment, as if this ISN'T one of the most common and relatable ways many people might find that they reconnect regularly with their bodies.
For some of you, who've yet to see my work side that relates to women getting back into their bodies and healing their shit about doing so, that might well still be just a bit T.M.I. at this point. BUT, the point was, physical intimacy, whether with someone else, is yet another activity that (most of the time, not all the time) can put us back in deeper connection with our bodies.
Spending time in nature, or with your plants in doors, at times, is another means of quickly grounding our way back in.
Before you speak, that might be the walk you take around the space that channels your nervous energy into moving and DOING, maybe talking to people and helping, instead of sitting and overthinking.
What is/are your activities that bring you back into yourself that you do at home?
And what are the ones that you could potentially draw upon to bring you back into your body, in work moments, like meetings or presentations or webinars, where you might need to be more fully present?
Why should you be interested in having an arsenal of such practices that help you be more present, as it relates to personal communication, leadership and speakership and life?
On the weekend, i filmed this walk-through of a model on the 4 stages many of the predominantly women i've worked with have found themselves going through on the way to finding their voices on a personal and then a professional level. (If you're short on time, you can just skip towards the end to check out the whole thing drawn out and then come back if/when you have time.)
Fully inhabiting ourselves and standing in front of others fully present in ourselves and fully taking ownership of our essence, who we are and our truth, is the challenge of the second stage on that video. In the second stage of "trepidation", after stage 1, in which we often just avoid speaking up or speaking all together in the pursuit of either perceived likeability and keeping the peace OR in priority to being of being of service, in stage 2, we START doing so.
BUT, depending on how the outcome appears to be going, we can be very quick to adjust course, or almost "inhale back in" whatever it was that we said, if it doesn't appear to be landing so well with the other person and we go into fear about the consequences. In the positive, pausing long enough to feel the moments when our intuition might actually be whispering "wait, you might benefit from feeling this one out a little bit more first", is also the gift of this phase.
But, what i found when i was first journeying this phase, was that, when we speak up from this place, we also tend to do so with all of our energy only in our heads and our throats, but often, due to the fear, not in deep connection with the whole of our bodies, while we're not completing owning and inhabiting that aspect of our truth. And what tends to happen, when you're not fully owning and inhabiting it, perhaps not so surprisingly, is that people don't necessarily respond back in the way you want them to, in terms of respecting what you have to say.
Though, how can they, actually, realistically, if we're not fully owning, standing there openly revealing and being clear and direct about what it is we feel, believe, want or need? The downside is that, when we communicate from this place, the ultimate consequence is that, not only are we not giving the other party something to connect to, relate with and potentially love about us, but we're less likely to receive what we need/be met or achieve whatever goal or vision we might be hoping to, while we're hiding and not fully owning and showing any of it.
It's very tempting in this phase to turn it outwards on the other person in blame for not caring or respecting who we are and what we have to say, thinking THAT is the problem. BUT the real underlying challenge here, is that, if you want what you say to be impactful, fully received and met with action and respect, you need to be able to stand there, full-body owning your truth and verbally and non verbally communicate and relate from that place. Whether your intention is to give something or be of service, or your request is made in pursuit of something that you desire or need.
The other tendency (in stage 3) can be to try and go OVER the top in intensity or aggression trying to have impact and MAKE people listen or comply. (Which again, often ultimately stems from a place of some version of beliefs that have us fearing and not trusting in the goodness of the the other person and or that we can be met.) The flipside or positive to this stage, being the times in life where we may NEED to be able to, like a parent, or how they teach you to be in self defence or warrior trainings, be able to meet and match and diffuse the energy of a challenge.)
But the ultimate upshot of stage 4, is the realisation that, when you stand in front of someone, or a room, fully connected to your heart, your essence and your soulful truth, with loving intent, THIS is actually powerful in and of itself without you even having to TRY to be. In the same way that a strong breeze is not TRYING to prove anything when it blows your umbrella; laws of nature being as they are, it just IS powerful. As are we, when we stand there, fully heart connected, fully inhabiting ourselves with our energy and our truth and being willing to relate with the world from that place.
Every Leader will at some point progress to realising this. But one of the personal practice pathways to help you get there and stay there in leadership and everyday life, is making sure you're making time to do activities that connect you back to your body fully and building your awareness of what it feels like both when you're in and NOT fully in there throughout the day.
After that, then comes the fun/at times insanely scary part of actually standing in front of people and speaking, while attempting to STAY that connected to yourself. Reminding ourselves that it is our purpose to be of service, to bring our wisdom and experience to these moments, that we are needed and therefore that we BELONG there, is a sure-fire way too to help with that too.
Once i'm past my upcoming surgery and or the present restrictions on live events have worked themselves out, i am absolutely gunning to create more live workshop spaces again in which (especially Women) can:
-play with and practice being in and staying in that state in front of a group
-do some physical activities that get us there in both fun and professional skill building ways and
-have some heart centred discussions around what our personal version/vision of showing up fully empowered and owning our voices looks like and about what is getting in the way of us showing up as our most authentic selves in business, relationship and life
In order to help us show up more fully, be able to connect more authentically, have a greater positive impact and create more mutually beneficial outcomes in each of those areas.
But first, speaking of fully inhabiting ALL of ourselves in ways that better serve us, a surgery and a bit more work for the poor parts of my uterus that have still seemingly lost a bit too much blood flow for me to be succeeding in holistically and energetically getting THEM fully back online so far by myself. As i looked at (and we listened to them) on the ultrasound images yesterday, i was acutely aware of how much grief I was "containing" in the middle of the part that's essentially been walled off because it's now died. This afternoon i took an hour or two of downtime to let that move....and reconnect with what energy i intend to have re-inhabit in it's place. Within an hour, i was straight back to my Macbook 'just opening itself' to a PDF i still had open on finding your client's WHY from my last event and i found myself in the creative flow of writing something hopefully useful for someone about the importance of fully inhabiting ourselves. OH the freaking joys of LIVING and embodying what you're meant to teach!
Until next time....
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.