This one is for all the women out there having a slightly a-typical or unconventional relationship with all things Motherhood and creativity in this lifetime, and who may or may not be having a rough time on this day of feeling alone and wishing they could talk to someone about why, on a day where we can feel like we do fit into any category. For you, I thought I would grow a pair of ovaries and share some of my more personal experience of the last year. Not just for my own benefit, but because I want to create a space, where talking about such things is welcome and the version of any of us going through the kinds of things I’m about to talk about is welcome, when you happen to be, whether through circumstance or choice, a
Women (of reproductive age)
Childfree (& exploring)
Expression and Empowerment
And I say welcome, because sometimes, when you’ve found yourself on this journey, where you don’t fit IN any of the other boxes neatly, that’s the last thing you feel, when you realise that who you’ve become at this age, is not what you thought you would be and everything inside you and outside of you has to start rearranging like a Rubik’s cube, trying another way to work out where your pieces now fit, in a reality you didn’t expect. You’ve got to find a new way to welcome yourself into a new kind of life, with a slightly different kind of purpose, that you now have to create anew..
A year and a month ago, I had not long had a chat with my doctor I hadn’t really been expecting. She’d told me that there was a possibility that, with the positioning of my now 3 year old fibroids and the consequences of removing them, there was a substantial chance I wouldn’t be able to have kids anymore. After 2 decades of the almost constant reality of having to account for the fact that I could pretty much get pregnant if a man looked at me the right way from across the street, the possibility of not being able to because my uterus was now broken had honestly never occurred to me as being even remotely close in my future…because I always still had more time, and I’ve got this.
A couple of days later, standing alone in the shower, the grief hit. And what I can only describe as the blackest, deepest sense of emptiness I have ever felt, since the day I was 2 days short of 9 years old, standing at the foot of a hospital bed, 5 minutes after my Mother had just died in it. I died in that shower in that moment, my life force, seemingly dropped out and ran down the drain, along with (temporarily) any sense of purpose or seeming certainty about anything.
For much of the last 2 decades of work, especially the last decade, I’d been so clear about my global work purpose in wanting to help more Women become Leaders and people full stop own their voices and create change in a world in so many ways gone toxic and needing a sustainability redirect. And in my material purpose, it had always secretly been the motivation; “get your shit together, buy the house on your own this time, where the imaginary kids you’ve spent a decade waking up to the imaginary sound of running down the hallway (that on two occasions, for brief periods, I had felt as clear as day growing inside me) might one day actually live.”
I mistakingly, arrogantly maybe, was so overconfident in my ability to be able to fix, to heal, to create anything that my intuition had shown me was a genuine possibility, I had refused to acknowledge all possibility of this future ever NOT being my destiny from my mental existence.
And I say destiny, because one part of me has always been such a nurturer in life in other ways, from the moment I was adopting baby lambs as a kid and reintegrating them into the heard, to the many cabbage patch babies I’d had (pre Mum getting sick), to the years I spent trying (as a big sister) to create some degree of normality for my little Brother in my Mother’s absence, to the moment I felt the man I thought I would marry’s child growing inside me, to the moments I’d been in relationship with a man with a primary aged child, and dating more men with primary to teenage & later young adult children, to the countless work roles and business capacities in which I’d been the emotional support person, the nurturer, the person that many people told me showed them a depth of caring they’d never felt from a Woman in quite that way before…..how the hell could it have NOT been my destiny?
Plus maybe I thought I was free of some level of Karma once I outlived my Mother. Or at least I prayed I would be. If I could be wrong about this, then what else could I have been wrong about? Could I believe in anything anymore? My trust in myself took a massive punch in the gut.
But I realised since, why it hit so hard, was not just the reconsideration of Motherhood, it was decades of my sense of true North, of the certainty of a genetic blueprint to Grandparenthood, of the trajectory of a life path, having been Mentored by so many amazing Women who taught me to value the Mother and the Maga and the Krone and the gifts of those female life stages, by the rite of passage of birth, too, wiped out in one 10 second statement from a medical professional.
Who I thought I would be, everything my “Second Mumma’s had raised or guided me to be, seemingly GONE, if I could no longer grow a life and birth babies. My capacity to engage in a world of women’s workshops that ask you to tap into your womb and the mother archetype, as a vehicle for exploring our relationship with creativity and femininity, completely changed. Not gone, just, like a Rubix cube, getting completely reconfigured by the second. And what was I now meant to tell men on dating websites who’ve got the “want kids?” option set to “someday?” Do I now just by default swipe left on all them? For their sake, and because honestly, do I think I could handle opening to falling in love with someone again, only to get ditched for someone else, in 2 years if my uterus fails to deliver an heir? (All of a sudden I felt like it’s 1743 and I’m back in the high court France. Or back amongst the clans of highlands of Scotland. Either will do in this instance.)
Do you remember that metaphor I talked about recently, of being in the depths of an emotional process, and it’s inevitable, we instinctively know HOW to come out the other side, but while you’re down there at the bottom, while it’s stirred and dark, you don’t feel like you can see or navigate for a moment where on earth you are? It was like that. A couple of months of up and down to the bottom, up and down to the bottom, up and down to the bottom. Then back up again for air. Back up to the medicine of dance and art and writing and creating events and interview series’. All while meanwhile, while the world journeyed a freaking pandemic and various lengths of lockdowns and bigger life and business crises.
People don’t always talk about it much outside the privacy of sacred Women’s Circles, or OB-GYN clinics and therapy rooms, or some TEDx talk on fertility somewhere. But a bigger percentage now than ever of the female population of child bearing age (in some countries, a bit under 50%) whether by choice or circumstance, are now silently coming to terms with some version of this reality, every day.
In reality, I still have one more surgery to go, that once I do, it’s the formal end. In the interim, my Gynaecologist had said 6 months ago, I still have a window if he doesn’t remove this thing for a little longer, but I better move my ass, because, at my age, it’s hard roads from here on in (ivf, potential miscarriages, not being able to carry a pregnancy full term and 6 monthly monitoring of the remaining fibroid either way, to check if it’s shrunk or grown or any more or less dead in middle and I’m any more or less symptomatic. And or is the window still open or has it now closed?) A year and a bit later, a year and one surgery that fixed one part of the problem (the part that was making me anaemic from insanely heavy, 12 day long periods and period pain every month that felt like labour) later, as we hit Mothers day, and I bleed in a much more NORMAL way in comparison, it hurts no less, and I cry no less adjusting to the reality of the new reality, ahead of sucking it up to go get the next update to that reality. BUT I had since come to the realisations that:
NO matter what life does or who does what, or who comes or goes, or what material milestones I do or do not reach, no one is EVER, EVER going to stop me being a tremendous carer and tremendous nurturer on some level. So many times when I’m sitting alone in public, little people just seem compelled to come and chat to me, to show me their ice cream, or their toy they just got, or the thing they just found that they think is really cool. And parents willing, I’m never more than, maybe 10 seconds away from chasing them around in some imaginary universe of magical possibilities of their creation, playing the kinds of games that, for the most part, only little humans open imaginations are quite so capable of playing with such reckless abandon in that way. (Grown up actor and performer types, we have a similar, but slightly different way.)
It may have been a decade since I was working and volunteering with kids in NFP and Community Service capacities, but I can STILL see myself stepping (back into) being one on the people who volunteers to take care of disadvantaged kids out there, in the way that some of my Mentors and neighbours who didn’t ever HAVE to but for some reason, chose to do for me (Big Brother, Big Sister style), in the absence of my Mother and in light of the pure struggle of my relationship with my Father. That too I think is fairly inevitable, and I’ve since come to realise from just how early it was apparent that my ability to nurture those who’s Mothers couldn’t be there, was the case. (That and there could be another short haired pointer somewhere in my not-too-distant future???)
But my point is that that it feels less like a vacant black hole of nothingness and failure to manifest my own and other peoples (past partners and family’s) broken dreams THEY hoped I’d live FOR THEM. And more like a birthing ground of new opportunities, that either still fit. Or may yet still be an even better fit.
That, and I’ve doubled down on having a whole new relationship with my creativity. A new depth of appreciation of and renewed commitment to dancing, to painting, to singing. And, pandemic or no pandemic, to feeling more ready to create more work spaces again. For Women in Leadership. For Women in Speaking. Where women are welcome to talk health and wellbeing and how the hell to navigate a life purpose involving other forms of expression and empowerment, beyond just the possibility of them birthing babies. And where whatever their experiences of Motherhood or nurturing have been, these too are acknowledged and honoured in their own way for their value and importance.
Everybody’s journey with this is I think a little different, depending on any number of life factors. Just as many people’s relationship with creativity in journeying and emerging from this will be something slightly different. And of course, not all creativity is birthing life, or art.
How many other forms can you think of? Craft? Woodwork? Metal work? Gardening and landscaping? Interior decorating? Cooking? Writing? Graphic design? Architecture? Writing code? Apps? Games? Creating Programs? Business offerings? Communities? Causes?
What are your creativity things that light you up with passion, creativity and a deep sense of purpose? That leave you feeling full of energy? And life and alive? What other forms does your expression of nurturing in the world take?
Beyond all painful moments, beyond all loss, there are always these things and an endless see of possibilities of creation. Even and especially in a pandemic world, especially in a time of climate change, especially in a time of humanity re-thinking in so many ways what it means to do life together. In fact now, it’s more important than ever that we use our creativity and our deep capacity for nurturing and caring to change the way things are for the better.
But to come back to the blog at hand, my hope is that, in me talking about my experience, maybe that makes it a little safer for some of you to open up and talk about yours too.
If you’d like to chat more, and or connect with other Women in the same boat:
Until next time....
"The most effective way to do it, is to do it."
If public speaking is one of the things about Business or Leadership or just getting on Social that freaks you out a little bit, and you want to overcome that fear, so that you can show up and get on with the important business of BEING who you were born to be, and being of service, LIVING your life purpose, how CAN you start to build your courage, to put yourself out there more, in little steps?
We're going to go into the HOW of it a WHOLE lot more in my book. Part of it is, as we've talked about a few times now, is managing your state and literally shifting your vibe in the other direction. But if it were really as simple as that, then why are 90% of people still terrified of and avoiding? And 70% of the world still walking around in a state of "survive?"
Sometimes, there's a little more complexity to it than that. And there can be aspects of the fear response that we have to re-program. Changing your thinking and reframing certain aspects of the past is a part. Another part of it is debunking certain myths and collective stereotypes we’re holding that, especially as Women, can have about us walking the world, not just the length of the stage, or the laptop screen, in a constant state of nervous arousal. Part of it is learning how to permanently break out of the fight flight freeze loop of “survive” that apparently now over 70% of the world are constantly walking around the world in, especially after the joys of 2020. Plus getting on top of any health issues that might be contributing and or reducing cumulative contributors to stress. There is a lot of work that we can do on this intellectually, physically and hypothetically. Before getting in an actual room.
But then there will inevitably come a point where we have to do the exposure bit and, as the quote says above, just get in there and give it a go. There are two levels again, on which this might be the case. The level at which you just get in some version of a literal room or the LinkedIn Live or Zoom Meeting Room and give it a go.
And then, depending on what your particular background and personal experience has been, there may also be the part where we have to get brave enough to go inwards and learn how to sit with and move through the levels of our fight flight freeze responses. Which, in great news for us all, aren’t meant to be permanent. In nature, for the animal and the mammal kingdom, this response, in each instance of being triggered, can be re-set very quickly, once you understand how to. Like, in less than 30 seconds. And there is a glorious abundance of relief and calm and contentment waiting on the other side of it when we re-set and raise our energy and energy back out of it.
If at any point in the past where something traumatic happened, we didn’t have the tools to process it in the moment though, and just tried to stuff the energy and the memory down as quickly as possible, our nervous system (and neural programming) can actually get ‘stuck’ in the levels of the fight flight freeze response we just went through. And this can be part of what is underlying our experience of the anxiety that later comes up when we next go to speak, or do something similar.
Until we learn how to safely turn our attention inwards, be present with the not so pleasant feelings associated with the levels of the fight flight freeze response (like anger/aggression, fear, mental dissociation (e.g. finding it hard to stay awake and present) or feeling physically exhausted) in little doses, reboot the system, and then allow the natural process of our energy and awareness rising back up and out of the layers of it, to a normal, relaxed, happy, well state.
The process of learning to be with this awkward experience for little periods, and manage it effectively, thus then helps us build our belief in that we CAN handle such stressful situations. AND builds our resilience to dealing with them over time. If this all sounds a little confusing or overwhelming, know it doesn't have to be done alone either. It's not the kind of thing I want to run you through in an article. But practicing it in manageable doses, with a trauma-informed Speaking Coach or Mentor, Counsellor/Psychologist/Psychotherapist, or even better, Somatic Therapist can be really helpful here, if you think you might be having issues with this.
Contrary to what you might think reading or watching a lot of personal development material, you don’t have to confront the fear of public speaking by going straight to the peak of Everest of your greatest fear. Say, for example, trying to get in front of a room of 5000 people. Or speak at some conference.
For a start, John Farnham style, it's all about taking the Pressure [RIGHT] down. You can start in much smaller little bits of exposure and build up too.
In fact, that's a big part of what I did with many of my female clients over the last decade, who had bigger public speaking aspirations, but were struggling with managing their anxiety about starting to put more videos and live events out there. Was help create a practice journey, schedule of activities that helped them build their Speaking Courage muscles gently, rather than just expecting themselves to jump off a high dive cliff into the Corporate or Conference deep end. How? By starting with smaller tasks, like in the list below. (As you're reading this, you might like to think about where you personally are already at or would like to start from.)
Do you see where we're going here? It’s a spectrum. You don’t have to be perfect right way. And you don’t have to try and climb Everest in a day.
It takes practice and building your speaking courage resilience muscles through exposure, over time to build your confidence and courage. Like a kid learning to walk, it also takes the willingness to fall on your nappy-clad bum more than a few times, and then get back up and do it again. In the form of braving it out, or laughing it out, through each of your “um’s” or stutters, or needing to check your notes moments. Finding the lightness and the humanity in those moments, in the moment. Plus perhaps practicing it on friendly folk, before taking it to the work space, where you NEED to bring your A game and have the pressure of achieving whatever outcomes.
Remember too, there will be tonnes of time to technically improve them later. First up, your goal is to take the professional pressure element right out of it, all attachment to needing certain outcomes out of it, and just aim to get some practice at being of service, as a Speaker.
But for your early days, you want to pick the level you feel ready for and just do it baby. You don’t though have to do it alone. You can tell a friend, or Therapist, a Coach or Mentor what you plan to do and set up some support or accountability to getting it done too. Whatever helps you get in there and get it just that next step done.
If you have any questions about any of this, or how to process and navigate the scary bits, my virtual door is also always open to you. Or a least several times a week.
Until next time.....
What other factors affect the voice? And in addition to working with our breath or technique, what is one of the intentions that is absolutely key to accessing the full power, range and functionality of your voice?
Individual and Collective Psychology:
In a bit of a throwback to cognitive behaviour psychology and several social learning theories, it’s not the actual things or people in front of us that are necessarily, in and of themselves, scary. Or the reason we might fear speaking or singing. It’s the meaning, associations and likely consequences we’ve learned to ascribe to them, through past experience, that is the problem. That when we see them in the present, acts as a trigger to some past mental program file we’d created about that kind of object or that kind of person in that kind of circumstance.
This can be of our own summation, or it can be the kind of thinking and learning we absorbed from people around us and the environment, or that might have been genetically passed onto us. Some of which can be more memes/notions held by the collective or certain groups within it, that can impact both our voices and our perception of our ‘locus of control’. Our sense of personal power and ability to influence and create change in our inner and the outer world.
Luckily this kind of mental programming (and the several functions that flow on in the body in response to them) can be retrained and upgraded to a new version of our more conscious choosing, NOW.
(I talk about how to do that more in my upcoming book for Women Leaders on Owning your Voice.)
Resulting in stress:
Ultimately it’s those triggers that have us be triggered into stressed states, right? Which, as we touched on in my last blog, can alter your breathing patterns in a way that may impact your ability to access the full vocal machine within, required to power your voice.
At more extreme levels of fight flight freeze nervous activation, it can also be a consequence of the third layer of response (the one in which you might need to hide from a predator) that it may serve your survival to repress your voice for a moment.
In the modern day, the predator may not be a bear or a tiger. But, the perceived consequence of us speaking our truth in our personal and professional lives. Or the consequence of sharing something that may not be either accurate, or go down well, particularly in the day and age of cancel culture. These can all be reasons why that response might be triggered. And many others.
Times when, our survival response might be to want to NOT stand in front of a Boss, a partner or family member or friend, or a group of them and say something that we fear might have a negative consequence for our future, relative to what we’re hoping to achieve in collaboration with these people. Or that we fear might negatively impact how they feel or cause them pain.
For example. I once stepped up into Office Managing a Psychotherapy Clinic and School, at a time in which our Office Manager both injured her back and lost her voice, in the months prior to her wedding. It was interesting that, in her family culture, she had told us several times that she didn’t feel she was ever heard or respected in the family dynamic when she spoke up. And there was often major implications if she did. And consequently, she didn’t feel supported in the lead up to her wedding.
Physically, this seemed to be going hand in hand with her literally, not being able to physically produce sound and get her words out. The literal loss of her voice. Our spine and bone structure is also an internal representation of our inner support structure. And, as my gorgeous friend and fellow Leadership Coach, Christie Pinto once wrote about in her book, "Who Has Got Your Back?" can be one of the areas in which we manifest pain or injury when we don’t feel supported, or able to support ourselves, in life.
Hence why addressing our nervous response to stress and external triggers can sometimes be important in reclaiming the power of your voice.
Injury, pain and trauma:
The experience of a physical injury, illness, possibly also combined with some form of psychological trauma, can definitely also impact our present and future ability to access the full power and functionality of our voice.
Physical pain in and of itself goes hand in hand with nervous arousal. Before our body creates natural endorphins (natural pain killers) to try and calm it down and or turns down the awareness (hence intensity of the pain) on the area being impacted, as a coping mechanism. It’s handy to understand this in realising that it will likely impact our breathing as well. And have its own implications for our ability to mechanically access the full power and range of our speaking or singing voice.
Another of the body’s natural coping responses to traumatic events is to try and deal with all the excess nervous energy by physically shaking it out in the short term. Hence why, if you’ve ever been in some form of physical accident, broken a bone, had an operation or (as the wonderfully wise Midwives and Doulas I used to work with frequently told me) given birth, for example, you might have noticed how you got the shakes in the process? Once it's switched on already, and it's now a matter of shifting your already activated state, it’s actually healthy to let yourself shake it out. Or to find ways to move with the energy.
Unfortunately though, because in Western Culture, we see it as a sign of weakness and not having your sh*t together, often as adults, we try and repress the shake. The downside to that though is that we hold in the energy and the tension. And that can then result in all kinds of tension showing up in the body afterwards. As muscle stiffness/soreness and, at times, depending on the severity, may result in restrictions in range or motion.
These can impact both your breathing and your ability to access your voice.
An Example from me:As an example of these, I had reminders of all during and after my surgery last year. In the 30 seconds before my Anaesthetist administered the anaesthetic, i got the shakes. And when I woke up, for an hour after, I had the shakes. So I let myself have the shakes because I knew I needed to get that tension out. Even if I couldn't now walk it out. I felt so much better, calmer and like I ”re-set” the reaction faster for having allowed it.
But for the days and month after, I was very physically aware of both how my breathing changed (got instinctively shallow) in response to the pain in my lower belly and uterus following the surgery. Plus my connection and awareness to the lower part of my abdomen completely changed throughout that time. I was walking, but trying not move it/activate it much. And a month later, I was walking longer distances, but still feeling very “square” in how I was walking, my hips didn’t really feel engaged as normal while I was still feeling lots of pain. I also couldn’t raise my voice much or sing, because it activated my lower abdominals as well. So I was acutely aware of how my healing impacted both my breathing and my vocal capacity after. I seemed to be getting cracking in my voice a lot more too. And it felt “stuck” in the back of my throat too.
So many of the Women’s Health and Birth Practitioners I’ve worked with would say that’s not a surprise either, as the cervix and throat are intimately connected in the female body. In both the birth process and our relationship with our sexual and life force energy. The opening of one is innately connected to the opening of the other. And trauma will often show up in both. It's not like any of this is some new thing. But women born genetically women don't always talk about anything to do with their reproductive tracts in public. Yet this impacts most of us. And impacts our voice. Hence I'm talking about it.
In the months that followed, as I doubled down on wanting to speak and get over my sh*t about singing more in public again, and started doing more exercises trying to build up my vocal range and power again, I started noticing specific places in my body in which the sound or my breath seemed to be getting “stuck” or I couldn’t engage. Plus parts of the musculature around my rib cage and mid back that, as it relates to me accessing my "chest voice", I felt like I had a heap of constriction and stuckness in there. Even though I can expand my lower abdomen just fine. And still make sound from my throat. If a less sustainable sound.
The more I felt into that, I realised two additional things were happening. One related to physically injuring the middle of my back, when I nearly broke it at 19. I had a lot of psychical therapy for it (and the pain) at the time. But I noticed that today, every time I breathed and went to expand through my chest, I was afraid of and waiting for it to hurt still. Even though I haven’t had one like it for years.
In the months after that fall, it used to hurt every time I took a deep breath, so I literally adjusted my breathing there too to try and not trigger it. For particularly the first 5 years after, I used to have issues with back spasms and freezing up if I got up too quickly, having twisted the wrong way. And I’d have to go visit the Physio for a couple of weeks, and completely adjust my exercise routine back to swimming and stretches only for the next month, not to further agitate the injury and help the muscles protecting it to relax again. So the physical injury to that region too, had additional flow- on implications for my breathing and my voice.
But also, psychologically, 2 decades on, as I felt into the “stuckness” and the restriction, there was also emotional energy “stuck” there, that, at the time, I hadn’t yet had the tools to know how to move and process it as I would today. As I felt into it, and the physical sensations of irritation and tension I was noticing, there was everything from primal breathing and fear about the loss of control during the incidents, to lots of grief in my intercostal muscles, to suppressed urges to punch the dudes responsible for each incident, stuck in every muscle group you’d activate if you were about to do a boxing workout.
In my teens, I went from being told it’s ok to say no, but being told also it’s not ok to be angry or express upset about anything, to friends encouraging me to fight back physically anyone that “inappropriately” touched or threatened me physically. So I sling-shotted from silence, to aggression, in the form of kicking and swinging at everything that moved at me in a threatening way. But that too had consequences, and the tension was in finding a healthy middle ground of inner power, to assert myself in healthy ways when i needed to. Hence, for me too, like my Office Managing friend, the psychological feeling of disempowerment in being “allowed” to have a voice. And feeling not always heard or respected in action when I did use it. That I had to learn how to communicate in a more empowered way. A way I also talk about in the book.
But the point: sometimes injury, pain and trauma can also have implications for the quality of your voice and being able to access it’s full power. But the good news is, as I talk about and give symptoms for how to address such things in my book, all of these things can be healed, reprogrammed and our functionality regained.
If I could could give one tip in addition to how we breathe, as to how to overcome any or all of these, it would be to also start with the simple, state-shifting intention to re-occupy yourself.
So often, with the things we fear, or the traumas we’ve faced, there can be a giving away of our power to the external for what ‘has been done to us’ or for what someone triggers in us, that we fear we had or might have little control in. But it’s so important not to take up residence in that town. Because actually, we have way more power than we might think in this situation. And power to create our future experience how we want to.
Often we speak of the body in the Wellness and personal development space as a temple. It is literally our home for the length of this life time. And like any rental or property we own, we get to decide who’s energy exactly is welcome in our home and when. And who’s isn’t.
When the energy of these incidents and emotions are still present in the building later on, we as the landlord can choose to issue a notice to vacate at any time if we want to. And we can choose to occupy and re-decorate our insides with whatever we want to, so as to suit the life and experience we want to create going forward. With whoever we want to co-create it. Mentally, physically, spiritually, energetically.
Which is why one of the most important steps in owning your voice and its full-powered functionality, is intending to re-occupy yourself fully, from head to toe, with the energy and essence of you.
If you’d like to go on the mailing list to be among the first to read the book, you can jump on the list here:
An Introduction to Vocal Self Care and Best Practice
If you are someone who makes a living via your voice, and I was to ask you "what do you do to look after your voice?" what would your answer be? Is it something you have already incorporated into your self care plan, and can reel off at a moment's notice? Or would you have to maybe Google something like “vocal self care,” “vocal health or “vocal hygiene” to find some answers on what that consists of?
Like any other muscles in the body that you would need to build up the strength of through repeated exercise, and the use of an appropriately tailored regime of activities, vocal chords are no different. Once you start using them more often professionally, or using them again after periods of not using them, the vocal chords need time to be trained back into shape, for optimum performance. If you don’t keep using your voice as much (as may have been the case for some of us in 2020), you will lose some vocal 'fitness'. AND like any other part of your body, your vocal chords and folds can be fatigued by repeated use, without allowing time for them to recover. Plus they can potentially be injured by either incorrect use or over use, over time.
For many occupational users of the voice, the first time many will realise how important it is to make vocal care a priority in our self care plans, is when we start to notice some form of dysfunction relating to the voice. Which we might call vocal fatigue. According to the University of Florida Upper Airways Dysfunction Lab, they define vocal fatigue as:
“Vocal fatigue can be characterized as the feeling of having to utilize more effort to sustain communication and/or a perceived weakness in vocal quality. Reports have indicated that this phenomenon occurs as a result of increased laryngeal muscle tension from overuse and/or misuse of the voice, poor vocal techniques, and high stress (Milbrath & Solomon, 2003). This can be evidenced by vocal changes, such as an increased breathy vocal quality and/or a dysphonic voice. Physically, a speaker may feel discomfort, increased neck tension and/or soreness around the neck and throat (Milbrath & Solomon, 2003).”
So how do we avoid damaging our voice? And what then can we do to better support our vocal wellness, quality and longevity?
“Misuse” Might refer to raising your voice trying to outcompete other noise in a loud space, where you don’t have the benefit of voice amplification technology; a bit like when you’re trying to talk to a friend in a busy cafe or bar. Or for Teachers or Trainers, raise your voice over a room of very excited people talking. The remedy to that being, to use amplification technology, any and every time you can.
Compensating for Tech difficulties online: As it relates to being on speaker phone for work, and or the new realm of video, teleconferences or webinar, and speaking to laptops or microphones, strain can happen when we push to be louder to ensure the audience will hear and we'll be loud enough to get a good recording. Or when the connection is bad, and the other party can’t hear you well, or you know that your equipment isn’t doing the job and you end up raising your voice trying to compensate. This can also potentially add up to more vocal strain.
To help eliminate this, it pays to fix your tech and or learn how to best utilise it so that you don't find yourself amplifying your own volume to compensate.
Vocal HealthIt can also be trying to still use your voice as usual when we have some form of upper respiratory illness that you can feel (and hear) is already impacting your voice and your breathing. Trying to push through and still use your voice anyway, instead of giving yourself time to heal, can potentially do further damage and hence extend your recovery time needed to heal from the infection. Remedy: creating a work routine and or a business and financial plan that allows room for you to take vocal downtime where you need to.
Or, it can also involve what we have or haven't ingested. Drinking enough water to keep your body and your vocal chords hydrated, is essential to being able to produce the kind of sound you want and preventing doing harm to your vocal folds, as the membranes dry out through use and exhaling sound through the mouth. (Mouth breathing results in more moisture loss, than nose breathing, which is cleverly designed to retain some of that moisture during the journey of the air from the lungs, back up through the nose.)
But also, what you eat or drink, or medications that you take can also either irritate or further dry out your vocal membranes. Anything containing alcohol, diuretics like caffeine, or nasal decongestants or hay fever medication for example, can all further dry out your vocal folds, at a time when you need them to stay well lubricated.
But not necessarily lubricated with foods containing a lot of oil or that make you produce a lot of thick mucus with their fat or high sugar content. They can lead to not only that heavy, "I just ate fish and chips" greasy throat feeling, but also can lead to extra throat clearingwhile you're speaking. One clear = ok and effective. 20 clears a minute = vocal fatigue from mechanical "misuse."
Roaring like a Spartan for warmups a little too often too, could spell extra membrane damage and vocal fatigue too, sorry Warriors! Kind of works if you're going off just that one time to sacrifice yourself on the battle field. Not so much the 50th time you're trying to give the rev up speech, but only have a raspy whisper left. Moderation and Sustainability is key. Which brings us to technique.
Good Breathing, Posture and Vocal TechniqueThe quality and longevity of our voices also largely rests upon how we breathe and how we position ourselves while trying to speak or sing. Just like our health, our vocal quality is dependent upon and massively improved by practicing diaphragmatic breathing. (e.g., that's the kind of breathing you're being encouraged to do in a meditation or yoga class, or with a Respiratory or Physical Therapist, when the Practitioner asks you to put your hands on your lower belly and attempt to make your hand rise and fall each time you breath in and out. This style of breathing switches you out of the shallow, upper chest breathing style that many of us have got into the habit of doing much of the day, and back into the style we were born doing, that recruits your abdominal muscles and diaphragm into the breathing process. And the voice production process.
I'm going to leave whether you breath in and out through your nose or mouth alone, as I think it really depends on the function you're trying to achieve. Nose breathing tends to rate better now for health and exercise endurance/performance in much of the research. But we need an open mouth to sing or speak sound. Thats not to say you can't also use nose breathing during speaking or singing. But there are several factors that might impact whether you recruit more mouth or nose breathing. Like how fast do you need to speak or sing and how much breath do you need to speak or sing that sentence. Also a little bit what kind of sound you want to produce and where you need to shift air and focus to, within your mouth, rear nasal, front of face, throat, or your 'head voice' or 'chest voice' to achieve that kind of sound.
Or as it may be, to stop producing a certain type of sound, if we want to sound less nasal or less crackly in our throat, for example. Think the Episode of the Nanny where Niles tried to teach Fran to master rounding her HOW NOW BROWN COWS in the top of her mouth, to help her sound "less nasal." You may not want to be Ceci, but if we maybe want to sound more 'like a professional speaker or singer sounds', we may want to play with bringing our authentic voice, forward into our soft pallet and mouth space. And mouth breathing might help with making that shift.
How we position ourselves while standing to speak or sing, from the feet, all the way up to the head, is also key. Being in upright alignment, but flexible and relaxed through your knees, hips, lower abdomen, ribcage, shoulders, throat and face, allows you to continue diaphragmatic breathing on your feet. Plus the recruitment of your lower abdominals supports you to sustain and control your breath for sound production.
Conversely, when we're predominantly shallow (costal) chest breathing and trying to project sound out into a big room or into webinar tech to be heard, and or when we're getting stressed in the process, there is a tendency to tense up our shoulders and work harder from here and our neck, throat, tongue, jaw and facial muscles, trying to get the sound out. Also, when we're not using our abs and diaphragm to help control and guide the flow of air back out in the creation of sound, there is a tendency to use the throat muscles to try and stop too much air escaping at once instead (especially for singing.) Both of which can lead to that feeling of excessive tightness in your throat.
It's normal for your voice to take a little while to warm up when you first get up. But during the day, after speaking for prolonged periods, when we suddenly notice that we now have to work much harder to still produce a sound, at the lower end of our usual vocal range, at normal speaking volume, plus when we find ourselves producing a more breathy, raspy sound, or our voice starts cracking/breaking on certain notes, these are the indicators that your vocal folds and chords have been overworked and need a rest. And more often than not, we overwork them when we're trying to push sound out only from our throat and our voice has become "stuck" in the back of our throat; in other words, coming from only one part of the overall vocal machine.
When your voice sounds and feels like its coming ONLY from the back of your throat, speaking and singing from that place, can fatigue your vocal chords and can damage the membranes of the vocal folds, much faster.
I've come to find that the more sustainable method of sound production instead, involves diaphragmatic breathing air up through our vocal chords and then using the whole of our open mouth space and area in the front of the face (not just the throat, or nasal space) ALSO to create that fuller, more 'resonant', less breathy sound that you hear in Professional Speakers and Singers voices. That quite frankly, sounds super sexy, like honey for your ears, doesn't it?
They're also speaking from a place of strength in their vocal range, rather than trying to excessively lower their voice to the very bottom of their range, trying to force their way to getting that low voice that someone once said makes male leaders sound more credible and charismatic. Or as female leaders, trying to imitate male leaders low voices. That's all very well, until you tire out your throat muscles and your vocal chords, and crack into that crackly 'vocal fry' sound, trying to force a sound from the weakest point in your lower vocal range, without training to build your low range. Which also, can contribute to vocal fatigue. The remedy is to find out what your vocal range is, so that you can tailor a unique plan for you to condition and strengthen that and get a better understanding of what is your ideal vocal range to be speaking (or singing) within, sustainably.
All hence, why it's important if you're a Speaker (meaning someone reliant on your voice for a job) and you occasionally struggle with vocal fatigue, to do some work on the mechanics of your vocal and breathing technique too. To check that you're trying to produce sound sustainably, in a way that will ensure that you'll be able to use your voice for a living, full time, for a lifetime.
If you are an occupational user of the voice, I imagine that should now give you a bit of food for thought as to what you might want to consider adding into or adjusting with your overall self care routine, to help better breathe life, authenticity, power and longevity into your Speaking voice and work this year. A Special thanks to Hayley Milano, my awesome Vocal Coach, for answering some questions to help ME better understand some aspects of this while I was doing my research. If you have any further questions, or would like to hear more about aspects of this blog, please don't hesitate to reach out.
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Until next time, thank you, as always for reading. Appreciate you! And here's hoping you have a wonderful weekend.
Have fun, take care.
"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain."
Hey Fellow Gorgeous Human. How are you feeling as we finish up this crazy roller coaster ride of a year?
Is there something, or someone you've been missing the presence of (again?) as we head into the holiday season?
Have you been missing, or perhaps putting off the "pivoted" pursuit of something you love to do (or would've LOVED to do) this year, because it’s usually a “face to face” thing?
Or because it was challenging to connect with or create some aspect of it in the physical world, in the way you'd initially hoped to?
Are you feeling a little uncertain about what you want to do, about what is even possible, or what will be the smart and surest path to commit to in 2021, as the energies of the year that WAS clear, and the new year draws ever closer?
Or are you just generally, maybe feeling a little freakin' over it (or maybe over the isolation and restrictions) at the end of this wild, cray ride of a year?
While I don't suggest any of us go dancing around in the rain while there's thunder and lightning a foot, if there is one thing i've learned in the course of my 39 years young on this planet, it's how to adapt, rise, and find new ways to embrace your passion and live your purpose, love, and love life, despite whatever obstacles showed up in the road along the way.
No matter how frustratingly lonely or lost, or uncertain we can, at times, feel during these times, without that thing, or the validation from that thing we love/d, there is ALWAYS still a way, maybe an even better way, for all that our heart desires, to come into being.
You've just to align with it to be able to see it and tune in long enough to download the blueprint for the action required of you to activate the newest incarnation of it.
Not to mention, to put you in the path of receiving all the parts and people that go along with it...
My greatest wishes for you this holiday season are that you get to get a glimpse of just how incredibly gorgeous, wonderful and loved you really are, and how valuable and needed everything you have to offer really is, already, and in the forms it wants to arrive next. Especially during these crazy, shifting, on again off again times which we now exist.
That you feel more clear, confident and consistently connected with your passion and purpose than ever before.
That you find the support and inner resources you need to move forward this next year with greater certainty, courage and clarity, ease and grace than ever in the face of new challenges and opportunities.
And that you find yourself surrounded by endless opportunities to experience love, give love and be loved abundantly in return, in all the ways you want to. Plus then in some that are even better than you dared to imagine were possible.. Not to mention that you get to have a truckload of fun and laughs along the way.
But enough of what I want for you. What do YOU want for you in 2021?
Here's 20 questions I put together to help you live and love with greater passion and purpose and make more of your unique kind of magic in 2021, in printable, or online fillable workbook form.
Thanks so much for being a part of my world in 2020. I really appreciate you and wishing you a happy and safe holiday season, and a peaceful, happy, love filled transition into 202
Until next time...
One of the things that people have often asked me about in regards to their presenting of all forms is how can they get better at speaking spontaneously, without having to lean as much on a script on a teleprompter, notes, or something in their hand. Or another word for that, might be intuitively.
To be clear though, what I'm speaking to today, is the seeming ease with which world Leading Thoughtleaders like Brene Browne can get up and seemingly, as they put it, with little preparation, pull out something to say that makes complete sense and is completely useful and relevant to almost everyone listening. (As separate to the actual mechanisms of how we get better at intuitive communication.)
While it might be easy to hear them say that and think that we should all be able to just get up and wing it well, with the same ease and brilliance, in practice, it's actually a little more complex than that. The world class Speakers of the world didn't actually just pop out that way. There is a journey, a process that had to happen over a period of time first, seperate to taking dozens of public speaking or leadership courses about improving your communication, leadership, presentation skills and delivery.
How is that the world leading Speakers of the world can get up and, seemingly, spontaneously deliver something about their subject matter, but that something comes out sounding so world class?
Here's a video below that I recently recorded about the evolutionary journey leading up to that point. Along with a model that sums up the stages I'm talking about in the video, for ease of following along.
1- Ad lib
The journey kind of begins here. Remember back in school, those times where you first had to get up and give a talk to the room? Some might have prepared a little and had some cue cards. Others might have avoided it as long as they could and then got up and tried to ad lib their way through it. This can just as much represent the times where we're asked, out of nowhere, to get up and say a few words impromptu. Either way, it's the starting place where we may not yet have much either preparation or conscious awareness behind us in regards to the topic and hand. And, when we get up, either something great intuitively comes out, to our surprise, or, in the post analysis, we might feel a bit like we just rambled and jumped all over the place with lots of details...ad lib.
IF we ramble, it can be because both we haven't yet explored how the concepts or all the info we know about fits and relates together, and or the parts of our brain and nervous system concerned with self protection and our intuitive and higher processing faculties can be out of sync here. Our thoughts, fears and sensations might speak louder than the voice of the message some higher part of us is trying to impart here.
Essentially, in the above phase, we might not have finished "getting the download" yet on what we're trying to speak about....and how does it pan out when you try and run a program on a device that's only 50% downloaded? You've kind of got to finish the download to be able to run the program.
Depending on what profession or modality we hail from though, the word download might also be interchangeable with the words 'experience' or 'discovery'. It's the stage where you're:
-opening up to the conscious exploration of either what you know about a subject
-experiencing something "down in the trenches," going through an experience personally for the first time.
-getting the download on what might be needed for you to, for example, teach or facilitate in a group workshop session
-starting out needing to do the initial research to test an hypothesis, like Brene starting with an hypothesis and her training, own perspective and research on what evidence other people found about a topic, before going out and surveying or interviewing a heap of subjects to gather evidence for or against that particular Reseach question or statement, before she could later do the data analysis, write up her findings and later share them with others in her field.
Ideally, it's good to get this discovery phase done, before we try and take the gold from it to the audience. If we haven't fully found it yet, then they end up having to help us dig for ours, while the intention of the 4th phase (below), is actually what can we do and share to help them find theirs? First must come clarity.
The gold in our experience gets clearer if we've had some time to reflect upon, analyse and draw conclusions from what just happened or what information we gathered, while getting the download. And or had some time to categorise and systematise the various aspects of the download, to help, in more simple and clear terms, articulate the gold from it, for speaking, facilitation and teaching purposes.
That might involve not only ordering a lot of data into workable forms. And forms that can be understood by a wide variety of people. But after that, once we've decided who it's relevant to/who we can help with it, also transferring it in to a presentation format, facilitation or teaching plan we can then deliver in a fixed amount of time.
Because there is often a period of time in our journey before we decide we're going to transfer our insight or knowledge gained through experience back to others in service, then the next stage relates to the decisions we make and intentions we set relating to how we can show up and be of service, using our knowledge and experience gained prior.
Part of that happens prior to setting up the space and then part of that unfolds live IN the space, spontaneously, in response to the audience themselves, their unique set of needs, aspirations and the state they arrive in on the day.
This is where the intuitive intelligence part comes back in, in being useful on the day to help us attune to, communicate with and best serve the audience. And it's a part of what helps us bring it all together to reach the final stage, where everything I mentioned in the stages prior, is integrated in together, to form the final, functioning whole experience you see delivered spontaneously and well, in a world class kind of way, from the stages of both world leading experts and the awesome Speakers, Facilitators and Trainers around us alike.
Finally, you get to the stage, where you see the Brene's of the world on stage, delivering their piece, spontaneously, based on a certain topic, within a certain timeframe. But the great paradox/contradiction of all this is that what looks "spontaneous", is actually the sum of years of going through this journey process again and again, combined with the level of leadership, presentation and interpersonal communication skill that goes with decades of experience in her fields.
She has had years of building her knowledge in her area of expertise to being an inch wide and several miles deep. Because she's had to analyse, systemise and communicate her findings so often, what she knows is now well ordered and the thought pathways to do with it in her brain are well established, so that she thinks and then communicates ideas according to the well ordered system she has created.
When she then speaks, in response to intellectually and empathically tuning into what is needed on the day, it then appears to be intuitive, easy, spontaneous and the ideas are clear and easy to comprehend. But the paradox, the contradictory thing about the "spontaneity" is that it actually looks that way, due to years of practice and integration of all the experience and wisdom gained from the prior stages, into the final holistic process. AND because she's a an intuitive Speaker.
Likewise, with world renowned Channellers and Spiritual teachers, even though what they do is regarded as intuitive and spontaneous, when you take a deeper look at how and what they're presenting, notice that there is also actually still a high degree of stage 3 systematic methodology, within the information they "channel" and then bring into the workshop or speaking space and share. Take Esther Hicks channeling Abraham for example. There is a system and a journey that both Esther speaking as Esther and Esther speaking as Abraham utilise to communicate with audience participants, relative to where they're at and what they need to do on the journey of manifestation (downloaded by Esther and Jerry, her late husband decades prior and refined over time, along with their team.)
So, even though they're operating in each workshop space from stages 4 and 5, to be of service to each audience "spontaneously", as Esther is tuning into how they can be of service to audience members in the present moment using the mechanisms of intuitive communication well, the answers still come relative to their content system, which actually makes communication of the necessary download, so clear and simple. By way of intuitive intelligence helping bring all the moving parts together, into the whole, seemingly 'perfect' universal flow of things you see on the recordings of their events.
They both are and aren't completely spontaneous after all. But having done the work of the prior stages, it then gets easier to get up and speak spontaneously and be a clear channel for the form the information and process needs to take now in the moment, to best be of service.
Bringing it back to how this all relates to anyone who might be reading this and the next small steps you can take right now to move in the direction of being able to get up and spontaneously, intuitively speak on a topic well (and become less reliant on scripts on teleprompter/device, reading notes or cue cards in your hands) here's a quick 5 min video with a 5 step process you can do in your own time, in the privacy of your own lounge room or office. Which can be used too as a basis for exploring, clarifying and structuring what awesome wisdom is sitting waiting in the recesses of your consciousness, waiting to be unleashed, for the good of the world.
Questions? Comments? Know someone who might benefit from this content? Feel free to share. For a chance to practice your virtual spontaneous public speaking in a safe, supportive space, you might also wish to join us for the below event:
Until next time....
It has often been the case over the years, that, as I’m leading up to running a discussion or workshop about topics about things like what we’re passionate about and what we want in life, on Women’s Health and relational or sexual empowerment, let alone what practices do we have that help us open up our ability to be more of our authentic selves in front of groups of people and why it’s worth “the work” it takes to be able to show up as the fullest, most authentic, radiant version of you, there’ll be messages, emails, friends reaching out to chat, who just AREN’T feeling at all connected to what they love, or to their purpose, or to any trace of self loving behaviour, and are wondering where their fire and desire for life has temporarily disappeared to, and are feeling, well, “MEH” …and wanting some help to lift and get back on track.
It’s no different in the years when I’ve worked in Women’s retail, helping them select clothes, accessories, lingerie or playwear that fits with how they’re wanting to look or what they’re wanting to bring out more of in themselves. One minute, you can be feeling on top of the world stunning and “more you” and a day or a few hours later, you can be doing or wearing the exact same thing, and the energy you had in that other moment, has mysteriously vanished and you’ve got no real idea where exactly it vanished to. But there might be some not-so-great thoughts in our heads in it’s place.
Other times, some people just can’t feel much of anything, because it might have been awhile, admit the “busy” of life, since theyv’e taken a moment to journey inwards to feel into, and reflect upon what really IS it that they WANT to feel or embody or experience? They may not be sure, but they’re hoping you might suggest things that might help them create the picture that they can get excited about and then become a living embodiment of.
The joyous thing about being human, and being wired to be all over noticing what helps us survive, over what helps us thrive, is that states of feeling totally into how good we look and how great we are, and states of high intensity (and vibration, like passion, or feelings like desire, can feel fleeting and mutable at times, even when you’re doing ALL THE THINGS that SHOULD help you LIFT and be feeling on top of the world. Let alone in 2020, of all years, where the universe’s answer to many of our initial requests and desires was the universe loading the swirling Apple beach ball of death” after you hit the “submit” button.
That’s precisely why I wrote a webinar with a group meditation process and a whole bunch of questions built into it to help us shift state back in the direction of what we love and our inner shine right now. (If you missed it, would be interested in me running another, let me know.)
Because, even if we’re nearly at the end of this year that many can’t wait to stay up on New Years just to ensure actually leaves, and some are wondering if there even IS a point of caring about our presence and ability to show up for our future speaking or sales engagements in this last 2 months, or should we now just wait for next year, the fact still remains that:
- Nobody profits or gains from us hiding and NOT sharing the very energy, transmissions and wisdom we’re on the planet to offer up the the masses. And we certainly won’t connect with new clients or opportunities if we hide.
- It still remains that, the more confident we are in ourselves, our abilities and what we have to offer, in other words, the more sold we are on ourselves and what we have to offer first, the easier it is for others to get the download on the value of what we offer as Speakers and Sales people (if you’ve started your own Practice or Business, you are now BOTH) as well as, as a gorgeous human full stop. And people are sold on your sheer genuine, authentic passion and conviction about the topic/service/product in question, whether you’re speaking, selling or just doing life.
-People LOVE to be around and experience love, passion and high energy, because, when they’re out of connection to and alignment with their most soulful selves, and their own, anyone who IS still connected to the universal power grid of soulful “awesomeness”, becomes like the light or the flame they get drawn towards, to help them come back “home” to themselves too.
-While government officials in Victoria are cutting down the Indigenous equivalent of The Home Tree from Avatar to build freeways this week, if massive bushfires and a pandemic didn’t cut it, it sure seems like we STILL need shining beacons of soulful light shining bright as Leaders in how to create a more honouring, connected, mutually respectful, beneficial and sustainable way of working and living going forward, more than ever. ) Not to mention that
-Authenticity and vulnerability and the currency of the upcoming generations and the question being asked now more than ever by them is “show me who you are, I want to see you and I want to hear the story on what you’re all about!” Plus
- It just feels good to be in alignment with and fully connected to our highest, fullest, most lit up selves, and the energies and states that really feel GOOOOOOD, doesn’t it? #worththework
3 of the 12 keys to unleashing more of our radiant, authentic presence that I mention in the webinar, might seem kind of obvious if you think about it. But nonetheless are somewhat essential to the whole equation, hence why I’m putting it in.
If we’re always busy doing the business of getting things done in work or family or life, it’s easy to lose awareness of what our inner essence and our authentic presence, let alone our wants, needs and desires actually look and feel like. So when any part of us has some uncertainty or doubt around who we are here to be or how we’re here to serve, what we truly love and are passionate about and or what we want and need, it’s time to make time to be alone and go inwards to explore and feel it out. However that alone time, might look. (If not, we can find a Coach who’s sessions or workshops help us do the same)
A thousand times a day too, as we do life and work, it’s easy to find ourselves getting pulled back out of ‘our zone’ once we’re in it, or taking on “stuff” from the world around us. So it’s important to have a regular short realignment practice (like my 3 part realignment mediation) that helps you quickly, fill back up with “you”, let go of what you’re carrying that you don’t need to be (like stress, or remnants of other people’s emotions, energy or projections that you might have picked up in the course of your day, but it won’t serve you to keep carrying etc) and realign with whatever (higher) intention or vision you’re presently working towards.
If we want to be able to show up as more of bright, shiny, glowing, authentic us on stage, or just in life, you’ve got to fully own it and commit to manifesting it, in our day to day. More than the part of us that wants to hide away, or only be the version that ticks all the boxes, but flies under the radar of potentially polarising or trigging anyone. Or the part that is committed to secretly sabotaging any and all attempts to being fully seen, in order to keep us safe.
Owning it has multiple parts...
-There’s being willing to see/feel and reflect upon what you want to embody and achieve and then affirming, YES, I allow myself to create, embody, experience that. In my own company AND when being witnessed by others.
-There’s the part where we need to be as willing to own the full spectrum of humanness (including our darkside) that comes up as we keep moving in that direction and reframe and manage it accordingly.
-Then, there’s the part where, in fuller awareness of both what our full potential in showing up as the most authentic, highest version of us, as well as of our darkside beliefs and behaviour look like, there’s the part where we need to KEEP choosing and reaffirming what we want to be, feel, create and experience NOW, again and again, as life continues to bring us opportunities that either do or don’t line up with that. Using our power of choice (and commitment to that outcome), for the greater good and creating better outcomes, at work and in life.
While there is often an an initial cognitive bias to feeling like the audience (and other people full stop for that) have X Ray vision and MUST be able to see any and ALL your secret thoughts and fears and weakness, and naughty bits (over seeing your glowy, shiny, awesome bits of course), they don’t actually see as much as we might think. BUT they MIGHT feel it or see it in moments where the shadowy parts of ourselves we’re trying to hide and we’re afraid of, break out of cover for a moment and reveal themselves, as we’re trying to do our thing.
Example 1: Childhood “Stuff”
For example, (and just a note of pre-warning here, the two examples I’m about to cover may be a little triggering for some of you, so if you're not up for, it right now, skip to the Embody It heading below)
I remember one time in high school, I was sitting on stage, up the front of a Drama class, being talked through an exercise about recognising our unconscious mannerisms on stage. And while I was sitting on a chair, playing this character sitting at a bus stop, one of my class mates suddenly giggled and pointed out “oh, that was SUCH a Natalie-ism!”. Compared to what I was trying to play, the “Natalieism” that burst through, was my left hand anxiously grabbing onto the side of the chair for dear life, trying to ground myself in the room.
Which was really, I can tell you now from years of deeper exploration of my true motivations, a combination of the childhood part of me that had a lot of (PTSD related terror, rather than just fear) about both the verbally and physically violent consequences of times of getting it wrong, and in terms of showing up as all of me, reflected the psychology of the 9 year old part of me, who’s Mum had just died. To give a bit of backstory for anyone who’s not up to speed with my history, above the fear and grief that goes with death and hospital social workers with clipboards poking around in the middle of it, checking whether you’re safe to stay with your remaining parent and/or developmentally ok, there was also the part of me that now felt at the mercy of which other women in my life would choose to show up and love/care for me in the awesome way I was so accustomed to from the kind of Mum you wouldn’t WANT anyone to lose.
At least one of her best friends and family who promised my Mum they’d be there for me for the rest of forever beyond her time, unfortunately, didn’t or couldn’t follow through and show up, and at least one chose to check out and showed up 20 years late, but full of apology). In addition to feeling abandoned, rejected and wondering what was wrong with me, or if I was loveable within all that, there was another part of me that felt equally rejected and abandoned by the people that were still physically there, but because of dealing with grief, I felt like I’d also emotionally lost their love and presence because maybe me being me on top of that was just too much.
The result of that was that, by the time I was back at school and trying to do “life”, there was the part of me that, any time teachers or other kids came and tried to connect, would tell them I was ok doing my own thing and they didn’t have to offer just to be nice if they didn’t want to, really because I was constantly barely 5 words of their attention away from exploding into a total mess of tears of overwhelm and that, if it had already proved too much for some to handle, was it really ok, or safe to open up? After all the changes and leavings of people, I was feeling deeply not enough and not worthy of love and definitely not feeling wanted or loveable.
And honestly, kept keeping most people at a distance, until my Drama teachers showed up in mid high school….(just in time, as year 9 was about the point where I was in trouble because my grades had dropped from straight A's to all B's and C's, my philosophy of dealing with conflict was 'kick first and ask questions later' and my friend groups were asking me to leave, because this recent bullying, bitchy attitude problem of mine was "not who I really am" and they required me to fix it to stay, AND I was attracting all the wrong kind of attention from the sexual predators, who started coming out in full force anywhere they could get me alone.) Yet my teachers just decided they were going to take a vested interest in everything about my welfare. And by then, I must have said the same, “it’s ok, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to” and asked them “why (they wanted to be there” about 6000 times.
Bless their patience, that about 6000 times back, they told me why they thought I was awesome and kept reaffirming that I was welcome any time and they weren’t going anywhere. Thank God, because in that energy of love and support, I resurrected my younger dancy arty self, showed up again and took out all the performing arts awards and then got into Performing Arts school. BUT it took me a few more years of learning and growth to be ready to face the fact that, this it what energy was REALLY, unconsciously bursting through in that moment where I was hanging onto the chair for dear life, in the middle of my performance piece. And that for me, is what I had to own and learn to better state manage. (And, at times today, personally and professionally, in certain moments of trigger, where people tell me they can still feel "the wall". admittedly, I’m STILL, in moments, managing in moments today.)
Do you see what I mean though, about how some of them just pop out regardless of whether we want them to or not, so at some point, you got to own those mannerisms like that? That can be standing in the way of you being able to fully show up how you really want to, on stage, in service, in life?
Example 2: Shadow Sexual and Power Dynamics
A male example. One of my past male colleagues, when he was facilitating in certain spaces (like the one in which he was teaching energetic wellness techniques) had, in the past, come face to face with the parts of his ego and ‘inner sexual predator’ that, on stage, had a tendency in some moments to do things, and look at certain women in the crowd in a manner that was clearly, openly sexually suggestive and seductive, in an attempt to influence them/bend them to his will. Which was undermining the part of him that was simultaneously attempting to show up as the highest Trainer, Space Holder version of him to hold a safe space and be a champion for Women.
On one particular day where I was working with him and witnessed it come out on stage, I watched some of the inner girls and teenagers in those women very quickly start to fall under the spell of flirting back (in full ownership, I too had to grow through and learn how to NOT fall under the spell of this patterning once or twice or 10 times in multiple different different workshop settings too, to be able to recognise what this patterning looks like when it's playing out and also show up as as the most integral, highest heart centred version of ME too)….
and so, as one of the Space holders, when I saw this moment, I shot him a fairly stern but lovingly intended and obvious glance and send a telepathic message that very clearly sent the message that “you’re doing that thing again, pull your heart centred Presenter, Space Holder sh$% together and come back to your higher self”... and he got the download, and adjusted himself accordingly and then thanked me later for calling it out.
BUT the ultimate challenge there was for HIM to do the work on not just stopping the behaviour, but the deeper psychoanalytic piece on what his deeper motivation was for needing to do it in the first place, before he was going to truly succeed in being able to stand there all time time, consciously choosing for his highest version of him to show up and be of service instead.
When I did the work on my OWN inner seductress in my mid 20’s, prompted by the impact a sexual health crisis had on my dating and relating life, what I personally found was that, rather than showing up putting the truest, authentic, vulnerable version of me (with my host of obvious before mentioned wounds AND gifts) on the table and saying “well this is who I am, warts and all, and this is what I want, I really like you, if that resonates for you too, let’s do this,” instead, I was holding that level of vulnerability and honesty back. And out of, again, both feeling like I might not be enough and might be too much, and under the (I think) completely misguided teaching that men’s dicks are the only doorways to their hearts AND the means of influencing them in your feminine favour (this is what I was both told by multiple Men back then in the absence of my Mum and the likes of Cosmo and Cleo were trying teach us all as “game”, and in the absence of a place of proper, decent training on what healthy, empowered dating and relating really looks like in the tiny country town in which I grew up) I was showing up as this overachiever of a seductress and sexual servant in relationship, trying to please my way to being “enough” and to him being under my spell “enough” for me to THEN later put all of me and my needs on the table a few months in…..
But was then surprised when I had a string of 6 month relationships that died the second the highs from the neurotransmitters wore off, because I wasn't actually being up front about what I wanted or needed from minute 1. Until that sexual health crisis, that temporarily took my vagina OUT of the equation and left me with no choice BUT to put the rest of my heart centred, vulnerable, authentic cards on the table. Which, consequently then lead to me getting into the longest term, marriage like, house owning relationship I’d ever been in, for all the right reasons, right after that.
But my point (relative to the prior example) is, for me to truly put an end to that behaviour, I had to come to understood why I was really doing it and what some part of me thought I was getting out of it in the first place, in order to be able to take it offline and replace it with beliefs and behaviour that better served me showing up as the fullest version of me and what I was wanting to achieve in life.
Once I was aware though, and aware that I never wanted to do that again for the wrong reasons (e.g. happy to be the healthy seductress in the right moment, in the right relationship, with the right person, YES. Being a sexually manipulative vixen who doesn’t think she’s enough WITHOUT doing that and who no man or woman is going to feel they can trust, well, that WASN’T going to serve who I wanted to be, or the people I care about or one day hoped to help, going forward.) In awareness, I could, instead, choose a better vision and version of showing up to be working towards, and then start practicing part 3 of “owning it” the part of actually showing up and allowing our expression AS more of the fullest, most authentic version in your day to day.
But just to summarise again why it’s worth doing this kind of work: the big benefit here of the owning your sh$% side of “owning it”, is that people actually will then feel SOOOO much safer around us and trusting OF us, when we’re in full ownership of our dark side, rather than either them being at the mercy of the stuff we don't want to look at. And or who respond with mistrust and fear, to our own fear and mistrust of our own selves and our fear of our inability to keep a handle on our "stuff." Especially in a professional setting.
PLUS, we become much better and more present space holders, when we can show up, after having owned our own stuff, and look other people mirroring our shadow back at us, in the eye with love and compassion. Rather than not being able to look at them and wanting to run away from the mirror. Make sense? #worththework
Then there’s the actual expressing it part. Which, again, a bit like building the muscle of state management alone with tiny 2kg dumbbells, before trying to lift 100 in front of an audience, we can do well ahead of stepping onto a stage.
There’s a guided process I do in this webinar that helps you activate more of the energy and qualities of your unique essence and soulful self and then capture some of the thoughts and inspirations that come to you, once you’re connected in that energy. Ahead of you then going back out into the world and doing “life” embodied IN that energy.
At times when that feels a little vulnerable, ultimately we build our resilience by pushing through the resistance and dealing with either the awesomeness and the at times backlash of now showing up and either polarising or triggering total strangers through just being US, and or dealing with the karma drama of how the people around us who’ve known as as something else, then react to us showing up as the “real us”. Because, it is equally as hard for THEM in feeling butt naked exposed, and brings up all THEIR stuff, when we reveal OUR stuff and parts us we hadn’t necessarily been in our full integrity in hiding to keep the peace, or be likeable. Or be a good helping professional, who keeps their stuff to themselves, only to be brought undone when your clients READ ABOUT THE REAL VERSION ON SOCIAL. Which again, can be awkward and uncomfortable for a bit, less so the more we can meet it with self responsibility, integrity, respect, love and compassion. But ultimately again, #worththework when the payoff is:
-you can now love ALL the people in your personal and professional world in a more loving and respectful way
-better be of service and help more people as who you truly are
-be loved and receive love and all kinds of “good good” in all kinds of relationships with greater ease
-plus (the big champagne moment of that webinar) people start to feel magnetically attracted to who you really are, warts and all, for the RIGHT, soulful, aligned, mutually beneficial reasons! That ultimately complements and benefits who THEY are trying to become too, as well as you.
Being from a Performing Arts background and a Counselling Therapeutic background and having studied Gestalt and Drama Therapy at various points, over the last decade, I’ve got a lot out of also participating in and at times facilitating workshop spaces that, in addition to doing the (sometimes more confronting) work of going inwards, allow you to play around with embodying and acting out certain personas or archetypes, or moving as inhabited by the energy and qualities of certain characters or archetypes of your choosing. In this way, you can start to explore what a quality feels like in a more general way, ahead of starting, as the next step, to feel into what that quality feels like (and means) for you personally embodying it.
In that way you can do things like pick an archetype for a day, and just see what It feels like walking around the world, with that energy for an hour. And take it off again, with far less attachment that your core wounds and identity, if you feel like it’s not for you in this moment, or yet.
As I meditated today, mine today looked a bit like this….
The gift of such explorations, grounded back into our everyday, and turned into practical things we can wear or be or do, is what do they tell me about what heart centred, integral, magnetic presence, positive self image and truly showing up in my full power and higher potential, looks like for me personally? How do I want that to look or not look? What do I value/or is important to me when I’m connected with that energy? And what do I feel inspired by and called to do or be when I’m connected to that energy? And how does that impact how I choose to show up as a Leader, a Speaker and a helping professional?
Having given our mind the kind of clarity and parameters IT needs to feel safe and confident in understanding HOW to show up as that, then we come full circle back to the alignment with our soulful essence, and then getting out of our own way to be the open channel through which it can flow while we do the business of being of service and life. Quickly said, not so easy always in practice I know, but it does get easier with practice.
The additional 9 factors (and mindsets and intentions) I think are rather crucial to our ability to show up in our heart centered, authentic, yet magnetic presence, MINUS the coercion, manipulation and sleaze, I covered both in the Webinar and we unpack a little further where required in the Own your Voice program and 2021 workshops.
I know i’ve covered a lot of detail AND potentially sensitive ground in this one too, so if there is anything in this one you’d like to unpack further in a chat, or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Thanks as always for reading, Let me know, and feel free to like, comment or share if you think someone else you know might benefit for any part of this one.
Until next time…
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....
Have you ever had one of those moments where you just KNEW you were great at something, and you KNEW you were destined to do a particular thing. Maybe you already got some momentum at times DOING that thing. But then you found yourself feeling a bit like you were “stuck” in an in-between momentum moment?
There is this myth that exists within the entrepreneurial realms and the creative realms and, well pretty much in every Capitalist aspect of Western Society, that leads us to believe that we’re MEANT to be exploding out of our minds with success and momentum every moment of the day in service, if we’ve truly nailed the “have it all” doing what you love and doing what you were born to do picture. For sure, when you and a project hits its stride, when you’re in the peak of a launch exploding in a good way, your peak sales season of the year, your rise moment, and feel like you barely have 4 hours a night to sleep, let alone think, an in-between moment ALSO FEELS like a myth. And, given that THOSE moments equate to Capitalist marketing Gold, it can be easy to think from the media and social media at times that whatever is going on for the successful party, as publicly communicated, is the sum total reality of their existence in that moment…BUT…
But (I found myself reminding MYSELF of this again recently) if any part of you thinks that you’re MEANT to maintain non stop success and momentum ALL of the time and ever feels like you’re doing something wrong if you aren’t, try running that by Richard Branson in his early days or times since, where he was wondering if he’d have to start selling off planes today, or Elon Musk before the Space X launch that, if it didn’t work, they were out of funds, or the Founders of any other companies that, for their first few years, were in the multi million to billion negatives in debt to banks, begging for a break-even moment and living off Mentor’s and friends charitable gestures of support and encouragement. What it still at times seems to be taboo to talk about in the entrepreneurial realm, made less taboo by the challenges of 2020 that are clearing the air, are the in-between moments.
In-between moments are often loaded up with fear and shame. We might not want the world to find out and think we’ve lost our magic, or fear that supporters might withdraw their support, adding weight to our doubts and, we fear, costing us more momentum and sales, in a patriarchal, high performance, tall poppy culture that has in times past, eaten failure for breakfast, to the point where many are still terrified that, if any one should find out that they’ve “dipped” below their “A game”, the consequences will be dire. Instead, for the longest time, “keep calm and positively delude on and only tell your besties and closest, until you make it out the other side”, has been the high end business mantra. That and don’t give it energy and affirm it as “real” in reality. BUT
If you think that every one of us is MEANT to be successful and exploding and fully booked out every minute ever of your existence, my dear, please let yourself off the hook, take a deep breath and let that one go. Just because we’ve once had success, doesn’t mean that everything we try or launch thereafter is going to automatically be an overwhelming success or have equal momentum first time around, which is why so many successful entrepreneurs have multiple projects they’re trying at once (once they’ve learned how to properly give each one the right attention it needs, at the right times). Entrepreneur and Practitioner/Consultant wise, people go through phases and there are all kinds of reasons for that.
And creatively speaking, the number of Creatives, let alone entrepreneurs actually employed full time at any given time, is actually a lot lower than you might think in reality. And that’s precisely why, for today’s blog, I’m going to use Creative Artists as examples of how to maintain mental perspective in times of change . Because they’re often GREAT at talking openly about the in-between moments.
For example, Catherine Reitman had 4 years of envisioning, pitching, getting rejected, tweaking, testing, pitching various versions of Workin’Mums, before it ever became what you see it as today. She talks about it in her TED talk above (along with the myth that the majority of creatives are employed or meant to be 24/7 and how she personally coped with that.
Patrick Dempsey had a 10 year gap of auditions without ever getting a job between “Cant Buy Me Love’ and him getting his next big break as the “Dr Dreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy that many know him for, ahead of the 3rd movie in the Bridget Jones Franchise. In this interview that came out around the time of Bridget Jones 3, he and Renee Zellweger talk about how THEY handled their in-between moments and how other creatives do too.
[See 24.35 mins in, In answer to the question “what advice do you have for aspiring actors?”] In fact, back in 2000, when I was doing Performing Arts, they were telling us THEN, the key to our success in the coming decades would be becoming multi-modal to be able to make a living out of one’s creative talents.
This year, for me, I was hoping to make it a year where I would get some new footage again of me in front of big audiences again, whether as a Speaker, or Singing for public audiences again, because I SOOOOOO wanted to be able to actually get it on film and captured for people again the kinds of experiences i know I’m CAPABLE of creating for a room on a bigger scale, so that my show reel would be beefier with living proof and my marketing would have more “credibility” than just ME talking in good faith about some past thing I did. Then covid happened, we’ve all pivoted to webinar and video, and that’s now a goal for another time to come, where face to face gatherings are again a thing.
In the interim, I guess the world will just have to settle for little recordings like this you can use to decide whether I’m among “those who can DO or those who can’t and teach” as many still put it.
Yes this IS me singing. Though it’s just done on my iPhone, no fancy equipment or studios, recorded, among others, actually just for the purpose of me gauging, how much training I have to do to get my voice back to marathon “fit” again. This one is more me sitting in my heart and high range. Some of the others I recorded belting out things like Shallow, after a lot of time off proper practice in the way I used to, I hear my inner “The Voice” judge and former Lecturers voices saying “yeah, need some practice to better harness your control again and get out of thinking about technique and back in FLOW”. Despite all that mental chatter, my point though?
I haven’t publicly performed, anywhere other than in friend’s lounge rooms for years, and “professional” people might not be able to see this as a part of my present reality in the way I wish they COULD yet and have all these according judgements related to that based on what they presently CAN. BUT, does that mean I should stop using words in my inner dialogue like “talented” and i’m no longer entitled to call myself a performer or “singer,” because I wasn’t next to some famous actress or actor in a musical anytime in the last year? Should I now define myself “a failure” because I’m not making money off my voice right now 24/7?
Sometimes our views of ourselves and our abilities and what we’re entitled to do or not do with our lives, not to mention our definitions around success and capability, we can allow to be TOO dictated by the external world and we can get all messed up in giving too much weight to the opinions of whoever on the outside. Wherever they came from, and however qualified or unqualified the opinion holder.
Just because too, they’re aren’t 26 zillion people around you, or even 10, at any given second, screaming at you that “you’re amazing!”, DOES NOT mean your talents suddenly diminish or no longer have talent, or your work is not needed or wanted for that matter, in the absence of external validation? We have to be careful to see these things for how they really are in the total life long journey of our business or creative careers, within the simultaneous evolution of humanity. Not buy into our own, or others myths about who and what we are.
Entrepreneurship, in whatever form you’re doing it, has always been about finding the link between an aspect of your talent/what you know and or love doing AND a current, topical, sincere and urgent present need, or interest that some group of people in the world has. No matter what the state of the world, people will continue to have some needs that they will prioritise seeking support FOR, that your success lies in you positioning yourself and your offerings as a response to. Those things, over time, can change.
But learning to be ok with it if every single one of our talents isn’t immediately needed, in every single moment, 24/7 right now, is an important skill to learn.
Sometimes there are seasons and phases where they are, and then there are phases where maybe they’re not. Or maybe there’s another form in which that same thing can be applied instead. Other times, like when our clients or society grow and evolve or new technology comes, we’re asked to let go of roles we once had to play and create and embrace something new along with them. And at other times (like when you find you have a major health problem and find yourself waiting on some surgery for example, we may need to stop being so attention OUT for a bit and get ok with just doing YOU for a bit. A great question to ask sometimes too, if something is not happening, is do you actually even still want to be doing this one thing all time time right now? Or even part time? Or has a part of you actually already moved on and your mind is just trying to catch up? It can be something different ,at different times for us all.
The more opportunities we seek outside of ourselves (in line with our bigger visions) that are dependent upon the approval of other industry professionals for support or collaboration, sales, funding, contracts, use of spaces etc, the more it can begin to feel at times like the power of decision is out of our hands, when we’re on the receiving end of a lot of no’s or blocks.
Whatever external circumstances are dictating decisions about what we can and can’t do on the outside though, we always still have the choice to take the power back into our own hands, if we want to.
You can always choose at any moment to start or continue creating for yourself and putting your work out there on your terms, right now, at whatever scale you have the resources to create with, right now. To create your own content or programs or communities, either instead of, or while you’re continuing to try for “the next big vision thing” involving others in your industry.
For the sake of picking an example from the ones I’ve already used, Patrick Dempsey’s a great example of that. As Catherine Reitman said, acting or creative work, for the majority is NOT a full time occupation, it comes in seasons. In Patrick’s gaps between winning the next role, he was off doing endurance racing, organising communal bike rides and races and starting a cancer charity after his Mother died of Ovarian Cancer.
It’s key to NEVER let go of those things that you KNOW in your heart of hearts you were truly born to do, just because there’s not an opportunity to do MORE of it in this moment yet FULL TIME, or because your momentum has changed. And learn when NOT to quit on a good thing too soon, just because it’s not moving at the speed of light right now that you hoped it might. Or that other things once did.
A wise coach colleague recently said on an interview that part of the biggest part in his growth was when he let himself off the hook for having to achieve everything by yesterday and gave himself permission to utilise the length of his entire lifetime to achieve his bigger career goals.
I have to say, I agree, I feel like that’s the Wise Older Woman/Man archetype coming into operation in business- trusting in that there is an innate order to all things, that you’re not going to miss out if you don’t seize this one chance, right here right now. Knowing that the ‘right’ people will still be right there journeying with you over the long haul, even if you take different parts of the stream right now. And where not, on a planet with nearing 8 billion people on it, there’s a good chance at some point that you can align and rally to give some new version of a vision another go.
When we can see these moments for what they really are, it gives us so much energy back to channel our energy back into nurturing our purpose and future expressions and projects over time again, instead of losing our energy, investing in a story and a bunch of projections that may or may not even, ultimately really be true.
It’s so much more fulfilling playing the game where you think, and the world reflects back, that you’re STILL enough, right here right now, don’t you think?. Let’s play that game instead.
Until next time...
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.