Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Have Self-Esteem: It's All About Love

Life can be unclear, muddied, filled with unknowns.

When challenges hit, your sense of direction is thwarted by uncertainty; it feels personal, like life is picking a fight with you … and it’s winning. You’re left nursing a raw vulnerability that leads down the dark alley of self-doubt, asking: What did I do to deserve this? Why can’t I catch a break? Why does this always happen to me? Soon, you’re recalling every mistake, regret, and lie you’ve ever told yourself. The only thing that becomes clear is a belief that you’re flawed. 

You know the signs. You’re harder on yourself. Grumpier. Less patient. Tired. Restless. Fearful of what is going to happen next and unable to get the past off rewind. It’s hard to focus. You feel less kind. And as your mind lives with recent struggles and disappointments, you wonder why it is that each time another difficulty rears its head, all the old ones decide to haunt your memory, causing you to feel heavy. Disconnected. Isolated.

You decide you want to feel better. So, you seek outside validation that confirms you’re good enough. If someone hires you, gives you a new job, you’re valuable. If your friends reach out without reaching out to them, you’re important. If you lose 20lbs, you’ll finally be attractive. If that man asks you out on a date, and then another, you’re worthy of love. Until then, you remain unseen, invisible, feeling unworthy, unimportant, unattractive, unloved. And quite alone. 

What happens when you don’t lose those 20lbs, the guy doesn’t ask you out on a second date, your friends don’t call (probably because you didn’t tell them you needed them), and the new job doesn’t come through? You’re suspended in time, frozen in a spot of near inaction, of fear. Could it be true that you’re unworthy? After all … you didn’t receive the validation you needed.

Something along these lines occurs to you: “I need better self-esteem and more confidence. I need to learn how to care about myself.”

The gurus say if you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love someone else; but you don’t really love yourself a lot right now, so you begin questioning your capacity to love. You begin to feel guilty, wondering if you don’t love those you do love … enough! You can’t even LOVE right!

You don’t have to learn to love yourself.  You don’t even have to try to love yourself.

You ARE love. It’s who you are. The only thing needed is to remember that. Naturally, when you’re not all in your head or worried or scared, you emanate love.

Not sure what I mean? Each time you feel happiness, joy, wonder, or beauty, you’re simply experiencing loving feelings … those words/emotions are rooted in love. If you smile or express that positive emotion in any way, you’re expressing – or being – love.

Next time you compassionately hold your friend’s hand because her heart has been shattered, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I’m being love.” And guess what? Your friend will feel it. And so will you. There will be a shift.

When you see something beautiful … a perfect rose, children laughing, an elderly couple holding hands … and you recognize it as such, you are being and feeling love.

When you eat an incredible piece of chocolate – and you know it, allowing a slight moan to escape from your lips – you are being and feeling love.

It doesn’t take any special effort other than to see what is already there and then express it.

Self-love is simply remembering that there isn’t a disconnect between the thing that you’re feeling loving towards and yourself. That love is you, radiating from you.

Acknowledging your feelings, allowing yourself to be in a moment, and then feeling the freedom to express what is going on, is an act of love. 

And anytime you’re being loving, you’re being self-loving, too. There’s no separation. The only distinction is your awareness of this ... and that makes all the difference.It's a slight change in how you see things.

Most of us, especially when we’re going through challenging times, will do anything to avoid feeling the pain we’re experiencing; but it’s just as loving – and radically freeing – to admit when you feel alone, sad, afraid. Doing so allows those feelings to flow and pass through you, instead of ignoring them ... which does not remedy the situation. Why? Because telling the truth is an act of love.

You don’t have to learn how to have self-esteem or go after trying to love yourself. Instead, tell yourself the truth.

So recognize it when you: fix your hair because it makes you feel beautiful; decide to sleep because your body is tired; eat because you’re hungry; take a break at work because you need one; connect with a friend because you miss them; wear those saucy shoes and earring because you feel hot when you do. 

Not because you’re “trying” to be loving towards yourself; but because you are being love.

There will be seasons where it seems life is beating you up. You may even have a few scars to show for it. But when you’re in that raw, dark alley remember: You are enough. You are beautiful, exactly the way you are. There is nothing you have to do, except to tell the truth, which includes recognizing you’re brave for facing – straight on – your vulnerability. 

And this, too, is love.

So, sweet, dear you: What are ways that you show your love? Remembering that when you're being loving towards others, you're being loving towards yourself, also. And ... when you're being loving towards yourself, you're being loving towards others, because there is no differentiation. Love is Love. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Date Training

Sometimes, we get down on ourselves and think – for whatever reasons – others may not find us attractive.

Attractiveness isn't about your clothing size or your hair. It's how you carry yourself. A sense of believing in who you are, knowing that you are special and important. That you have beauty within. And you do. We all do. It’s a matter of taking the time to remember what makes you unique. What you have to offer to this world. Getting in touch with who you really are.

After painful relationships and encounters, we’re often afraid of being rejected and disappointed again. That fear can be so powerful and so loud that it stops us in our tracks, preventing us from trusting our intuition and taking a chance. Instead, we shield parts of our hearts in the false belief that no one will ever truly accept us exactly as we are.

The more we’ve been broken-hearted, the more we protect ourselves. Eventually, it would take an extraordinarily talented ninja to penetrate our personal Great Wall of China: We’ve created our very own self-fulfilling prophesy.

Though I’m a big advocate for dating (it’s a wonderful way to learn about what you want and don’t want out of a relationship), it’s not for sissies. It’s scary. It’s hard. And if your walls are already quite high and thick, doing a bit of training before stepping into the dating scene is worthwhile.

What do I mean by training? Just like you’d train for a marathon, you can train for dating. Without this preparation, you can further injure an already strained or broken heart. While you’re single, see it as an opportunity to get to know yourself. Woo yourself. Discover and uncover who you are just in the same way you yearn for another to.

Many of us deeply wish for someone study us, to feel enthralled and entranced when they’re with us. Until we’re clear about our inner magnificence, how can we really expect another to see itYes, I absolutely believe that partners can hold a mirror up to us and help us accept, profoundly, our beauty.

Yet, if you feel damaged or unlovable, the first step is to gently deconstruct those self-loathing beliefs by bravely removing your heart-shield brick-by-brick to let love’s light in. And trust me, beautiful one, that light is already there. You are it.

So, take yourself on a date. Do something you like. Go to an art museum. A movie. Cook yourself a fabulous meal. Drive to the beach or up in the hills. Get a manicure. If those aren't feasible, take a bubble bath, light candles and read a book. Or a juicy magazine. Buy some erotica if you want. Splurge on an outfit that makes YOU feel sexy. Spend time in front of the mirror, looking yourself right in the eyes, and seeing how gorgeous you are.

When we focus on ourselves and truly get to know our own bodies and our own hearts, we become centered; then, if you want someone in your life, you'll attract the kind of person who is attracted to the real you, how you sparkle. And you’re meant to sparkle. If you don’t believe me, then believe Ms. Lauryn Hill when she sings “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.” (Doo Wop/That Thing) You are a gem.

If we believe no one will be attracted to us, they may not be … but not because we’re NOT attractive ... but because we've put that vibe out. (Or worse, we'll attract the type of person who senses that we’re not feeling 100% and take advantage of that. That won't feel good … and we’ve all probably had that happen before. Let’s not do a repeat.)

It comes down to this: What you want from another, give to yourself. You want someone to be kind to you? Be kind to yourself. To respect you? Respect yourself. Show up for yourself.

Each time you do this, you’re taking a piece of your wall away, and allowing room for you to peek inside your fabulous heart and see just how stunning you are. And when you know, everyone else will, too.

So, go shine.

P.S. If this is an area that’s difficult for you (I know it is for many of us), then perhaps you're interested in more exercises that could help which I offer through coaching sessions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Ode to Girlfriends

It’s frightening to imagine the sort of mother I’d be, the romantic relationships I’d have (or still be in), and what ill-fitting, out-of-fashion clothes and badly-colored, permed hair I’d flaunt … were it not for my girlfriends.

Certainly, I wouldn’t know childhood summers spent in absolute freedom … swimming all day without adult supervision, practicing espionage around the farm, and riding three-wheelers on old railroad tracks. Together, we figured out how to insert a tampon; the joys of Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High, and MTV; how to support one another’s confused, broken hearts while our respective parents were divorcing; and that best friends can be soul mates, too … after all, we're still besties.

Because of my girlfriends, a young, quiet – but secretly wild-hearted – girl learned: how to do a downward facing dog and headstand; Sunday School songs and Christmas programs; how to love someone even if their room is a mess and there’s an odor coming from stinky socks … or – gag – old ham (I'll give you a moment to digest that. Ew!); the thrill of sneaking cigarettes and smoking them in a dilapidated house; how to put on makeup; all the lyrics to Footloose; what it feels like to be defended when your pesky younger brother beats down your bedroom door; and that lemons can bleach your hair perhaps as well as Sun-In.

Had she not moved to O'ahu, I would’ve missed out on driving home to my religious university at 6AM on a Sunday, after dancing and drinking all night at a club, just in time to catch the sunrise kiss the jagged emerald windward mountains, and hear her whisper, “Becky, this is proof God exists. Look at these mountains. They're so beautiful.” The best sermon I've ever heard.

When all you can afford is a bag of rice, she takes you out to dinner, buys you a new pair of good jeans, lets you borrow her cutest skirt for that special date, and throws you a birthday party. She only lovingly teases you about the night you…

...Instead, she reminds you that sometimes boys don’t like you when you think they do. And though she told you this when you were 12, she doesn’t mind helping that fact sink in, by urging you – at 40 – to re-watch He’s Just Not That Into You. A million times, if necessary.

See, these friends – since the age of four, seven, and 11 – end up being your longest long-term relationships.

In fact, they drive to another state, surprising you upon returning home from a foreign country (after learning you’re getting divorced) so they can make you breakfast in bed and take your daughter to the park while you just cry. They make you a friendship scrapbook, reminding you there's love outside marriage. Together, you honor the tradition of female companionship and comfort food … brownies (with caramel) and copious amounts of ice cream after an at-home dance party … of course.

And then there are those you meet along the way.

She shows you how to dress for your new figure and embrace that, instead of hide. She encourages you – strongly – to meet the guy you fall in love with, without worrying too much about the future. After the break-up, she takes you out on your 21st birthday, teaches you how to attract a man with eye contact (this still works), tells you you’re beautiful, and that you don’t need a guy … but suggests a little fun along the way.

When you question the way you were raised and the things you were taught, she continues to accept you just the same. She trusts you with secrets that reveal she, too, doesn’t fit the perfect mold … and you love her for it. You drive to camp with blaring music feeding your young souls.

After having shut down part of who you are, she reignites your inner free spirit – your inner goddess – by picking wild flowers and being shamelessly on fire. She, in fact, shows you the power of the roaring feminine, the bravery to relish in yourself and ravish life whole.

When you live in a different country, she invites you into her life and together you: watch ER on Thursday nights and drink wine; learn about her culture; cry and hold eachother’s hands; try veggie loaf on Thanksgiving; go on safaris; eat dosas and drink coffee for hours; have breakfast every Sunday; meet her entire family and become part of it; talk about spirituality and writing; sit in a cafĂ© while she generously helps you plan out the next steps of your career, completely believing in your ability; ride elephants; get twirly; bond over reggae; go to eachother’s weddings; become entrepreneurs; spend hours talking over coffee; drive to the airport when you’re moving home because of a divorce and her strong presence, for a few more minutes, will get you through; experience Italy; learn that the love of friendship surpasses religion, ethnicity, culture, age, language, distance and years apart. 
That time when you decide, finally, you’re leaving that super bad relationship?  She sneaks off from work to help you load up all your belongings -- stuffed in black garbage bags. She teaches you how to smoke a cigar, slowly, as you sit outside on a starry night, wrapped in blankets, talking.  And when you can’t light the cigar properly, she’ll do it for you.

Your girlfriends love your child – without judgment, exactly the way she is – as though she's a part of their family, pledging they’ll always be there for her ... her own little guardian fairy mommies. Because they are there for your child. Perhaps they simply get your daughter a Bandaid and hold her while she’s crying; teach her how to vacuum; dance with her; and take her for the night so you – a single mom – can have an evening off.

Your beautiful friend will come over when you’re feeling down, bringing you apples from the orchard; she’ll cook you countless meals; and in the summer, she’ll make you nix the black for the red toenail polish while getting pedicures. You share secrets (and Pinterest boards), have grown-up sleepovers, and talk until 4AM.

When you want to howl at the moon and forgo the high road, girlfriends howl with you … then lead you back gently – or firmly (whichever is necessary) – back on path.   

At those times when you’re self-absorbed and being a not-so-good friend, they tell you. You learn forgiveness and acceptance. The importance of boundaries. They teach you to a better mother. A better woman. A better friend. A better wife or girlfriend. A better daughter. A better sister. Better at returning phone calls. Just … better.

The beautiful women who have graced my life – whether for a short or long period of time – have opened up something new in my world. Let me see a new way. And thank god that also included a way to much, much better hair.

And so I love you. And I’m eternally grateful. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What I'm Up To: A Blog Hop

Today’s post is just for fun, really. It’s a way to let you know what I’m up to while introducing you to other wonderful writers and creative types through a “Blog Hop.” You can read more about five different wonderful creatives (three of which asked me the following questions) at the end of the post.

What am I working on?
Coaching: I’m creating a program to re-ignite sensuality as a way of practicing self-love and care while being more present in our lives. I’m also coaching clients on a variety of topics.

Writing: I’m writing a lot about being single and dating after divorce – without getting hung up on body image. I’m also outlining a book about relationships.

With both, the overall theme is relationship: relationship with self; with family; with friends; with lovers. I devour books (I’m reading about 4-5 right now!) about relationships and specifically the dynamic between the masculine and the feminine. I believe understanding this can bring a lot of healing to ourselves and our relationships with others; my aim is to share this with those who either hire me as their coach or read my work.

My plan is to offer self-paced courses or products on my site soon about relationships, sensuality, and loving yourself - no matter what size you are - even if you're a big girl like me!

I’m hired also to do technical writing or to edit others’ work. I’m always happy to take on these assignments.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write and coach about relationships from the point of view that we can live from a place of love. That we, inherently, are love. We often say that being more compassionate, kind, generous, forgiving, and vulnerable is brave. When someone has betrayed your trust or hurt you deeply, it can feel brave to step into love instead of holding onto feeling angry and rejected for a long time. Yet, I believe that when we choose to live our lives in love, we’re really just bravely stepping into who we truly are.

Often, we live our lives from a place of fear which ends up looking like feeling alone, sad, reluctant, scared, and as though things aren’t fair. We all feel that way at times and it’s completely OK; it’s part of being human. Often life isn’t fair!  That, too, is part of being human. So, I write honestly and compassionately about when things feel dark and glum – when things are not so rosy –  that it’s also a loving act of self-kindness to allow ourselves to experience whatever it is we are feeling. By doing so, by being truthful about how we’re feeling right now, the difficulties can pass through more quickly (sometimes in minutes!) rather than burying it down within us...

I don’t think we should be afraid of the dark. When we’re feeling not-so-whole, when we feel a little lost, that can serve as a wake-up call, pointing us to what it is we do want, how we do want to feel. Then we can make the necessary adjustments to have what we truly desire.

Why do I write + coach?
It’s what I love. What I’m passionate about it. It’s who I am. It’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s my purpose.

How does my writing + coaching process work?
Oh, it depends on what I’m writing about or who I am coaching; but with both, before I sit down to write or before I sit down with a client, I take a few breaths and hope whatever I say or whatever I write will help someone. That it will touch someone’s heart – even in a small way – so that perhaps something shifts in them. A place that was hidden becomes illuminated. A bit of light shines in. 

In terms of coming up with ideas: I have them frequently. They often just pop in my head or come about based on conversations I've had with others. Perhaps a friend asked my advice on something and that sparked an idea. A client may have a specific area they want to work on, so I develop tools and resources for them to help support their journey.That often will give me an idea of something to write about. It's all quite symbiotic. That's how creativity works, I think. 

Everything else is just detail. For poetry, I must write on paper with a pen. Usually sprawled across my bed. For blog posts, books, articles, technical writing … then it’s all at the computer. When editing, I print out what has been written (either my own work or someone else’s) and do it by hand, on paper. Then go back to the computer. When writing for others (blog posts or documents they might hire me for), I print materials, I take copious notes and draw diagrams for me to isolate the themes, and then start typing away. 

The Creatives!
I'm excited to pass you onto the following people that you can check out and learn more about. The first three asked me to participate in this Blog Hop and the other two are fabulous writers I'm passing the baton onto. 

Cliff Lonsdale:
Cliff is a writer and development consultant currently living in Myanmar with his wife and two dogs; prior to this he lived in Africa for several years. Cliff spends a large proportion of his life bouncing around in the back of a car on dirt roads; he tends to have quite a lot of time to contemplate life. His utterings, mutterings and general musings on this and many other matters can be found at www.clifflonsdale.com


Light chaser, wanderlust gypsy, clay slinger, paint splasher, word crafter, sacred journaler, beauty unveiler, adventure seeker and soul feeder.

Galia Alena is a “coeur”ageous pioneer artist with a poetic vision exploring intuitive wisdom. Her images evoke tranquillity and infinity, coaxing the viewer to participate into the self-exploration which successfully ties the lyrical to the universal. They reflect an understanding of mythical and archetypal wisdom common to us all, yet from a supremely vulnerable individual perspective. “It is through my creative practices that I feed my soul and return to myself always afresh." She is a photographer by trade and mixed media artist by practice and shares some of her gifts in several online courses or in live groups: http://galiaalena.blogspot.com & https://www.etsy.com/shop/GaliaAlena https://www.facebook.com/pages/Galia-Alena/117779901569671

Suzanne McRae:
Suzanne is a writer and shares passionately about her spiritual, healing and creative journey through life. She's a stay-at-home mom and caregiver for their adult son who has autism. After his diagnosis she went seeking answers and found herself in a place where she realized had very little to do with him. This brought her on her spiritual journey of discoveries, personal growth and transformation. 

Suzanne is a Karuna Reiki Master and most recently is finding her way into Shamanism. You can also find her painting, gardening, and enjoying photography in her spare time. 

Bonnie James:
Bonnie is a writer and an artist, but her favorite titles are wife and mother of two. Much of her time is spent keeping up with her young sons, but in quieter moments you’ll find her working on one of her books or playing in her craft room. Her contemporary romance novel, JUST BREATHE is available in paperback and e-book through your favorite bookseller. 

Laura Moss:
Laura Moss is beyond grateful to be able to say she has survived being Mom to four spirited girls, a battle with aggressive breast cancer, and some difficult seasons in her almost-25-year marriage. She calls herself a Creative, is drawn to beauty in all its forms, and loves loving on people. You can find more of her musings at http://www.gratefulamazement.wordpress.com.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sensual at Any Size

You don’t have to be a size 8, have a big ass and large breasts, a small waist, wildly swing your hips, and show copious amounts of cleavage to entice a man. I’m not saying those things aren’t sexy. Of course they are; but there’s much more to what makes a woman alluring … and men instinctively know this.

Confidence is one of the sexiest things in a woman, many men say; but it’s deeper than confidence. What men are really picking up on when they see a woman with that gleam in her eyes, that sultry smile on her face, is the self-awareness of sensuality. 

Sexuality is usually associated with sensuality; and though there is a strong correlation between the two, you can be sexual without being entirely sensual, and you can certainly be sensual without being sexual. 

Women who are aware of what feels good to them, what arouses their senses (not only their sexual ones) ooze sensuality. A knowingness. These women understand this looks like confidence, but smells like seduction. Empowerment. Being in possession of yourself. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 6 or a size 32. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And men know it when you walk in a room or look them in the eye. 

But this smoldering self-awareness is not about gaining the attention of men, either. Real sensuality becomes so … intoxicating, so enchanting … when its power is harnessed with the intention of being whole, of expressing the fiery, vibrant woman within … not for the purpose of getting a man’s phone number, but rather for the purpose of being free. 

Sensuality is about being in-tune with and expressing the feelings that are elicited when we’re captivated in a moment of pleasure. 

It requires curiosity. Awareness.  And an openness to surrender, to be fully present, with what we’re experiencing right now. It allows you to feel passionate and alive

To be aware of your senses and express them is an act of devotion, of loving self-care. And this changes the way you live. 

You begin relishing moments of beauty and finding joy in simplicity, like: a full moon; the smell of campfire; the pull of your bottom lip in a passionate kiss; your child’s laughter. 

There’s an acknowledgment of the temporary, that life is fleeting and fragile, and so to experience it fully, we grant ourselves permission the freedom to feel whatever gives us pleasure, without repression. You bless these experiences. They make you whole because you’re expressing who you truly are.  The truth is: We’re all sensual. We’re made this way. 

Yet, our culture continues to have special adjectives for the more sensually and sexually inclined woman: dirty; naughty; loose; slut; whore; bad. It seems we’re afraid to see, in fact, this woman is often radiant and succulent, fully recognizing her desires. What’s “bad” about that? 

What’s “bad” about the woman who wears fishnet stockings with a pencil skirt on a Monday afternoon because she feels hot when she does. Because it makes her feel good. Because she can own that look … you know the one: seductive and suggestive in a classy way. The way a grown woman can. The kind of woman who knows herself, what she likes, and what she doesn’t like. The kind of woman who can immerse herself in the moment, with gratitude, and with an acceptance for who she is. 

Sensuality is birthed in gratitude. Gratitude for our ability to touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. Gratitude for our bodies and the marvelous sensations we experience through them. The sensual woman wants to devour them all. To feel it all. To be embraced by them. 

So, she’s grateful for her body ... regardless of the size of her stomach, or the size of her thighs. Even if she’s far from her ideal weight. 

She may even spend a little extra time rubbing lotion on her thick upper arms, the ones she wishes weren’t so thick, while facing herself squarely in the mirror, and still managing not to feel overcome with shame and poor body image. Instead, she accepts herself for how she is right now and bravely chooses not let her size stop her from living life passionately.  
A woman fully owning her sensuality will moan in delight as a luscious drink reaches her lips; or shudder when a mouth softly brushes across her neck; she will sit outside on a clear night, wrapped in a cozy blanket, mesmerized by the stars. When a song touches her heart with poignancy, resonating to the core of her, she’s not afraid to cry. The next moment, you may find her laying in the grass with her children, finding magical shapes in the clouds. She’s alive. 

And though this isn’t about sex or about getting a man, the paradox is, that this kind of woman wields so much inner power, is so scintillating, so enticing, that she can literally bring a man to his knees. Maybe it’s simply to explain a bill to her as she sits in a waiting room. Perhaps it’s to slowly remove her leather boots, or to slip off her clothes as he kisses down her spine. 

She gives a gift to a man … allows him, too, to surrender in the moment, to her magnificent self-awareness, to her wild femininity. Together, they experience freedom. 

And speaking to you as a big girl, now: Trust me … women of any size can possess this.