Kathy Caprino - Women's Career Coach and Leadership Trainer.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Expert career coaching, leadership training, career success seminars, and resources for professional women. As a women's career coach, writer, speaker and trainer, Kathy Caprino helps you brave up to discover your right work and illuminate the world with it.
Part of the series “Thought Leadership and Impact”
I’ve been a professional writer now for 10 years, and the journey I’ve taken (and am still pursuing) has been eye-opening and instructional in ways I never imagined. I’ve learned so much — about my inner most self, my fears and vulnerabilities, my strengths and capabilities, and my challenges as a writer. I’ve also learned first-hand what it takes to build a “tribe” of amazing followers who really get your stuff, and engage with your messages in a way that enriches your life.
As I approach reaching 700,000 followers on LinkedIn (which I remain humbled and amazed by), I’ve also experienced the difficulties in remaining personally engaged with my tribe, while also preserving time to continue writing, coaching, speaking and training. These endeavors are vitally important to me as a person but also for my livelihood and my business. Yet I never want to become the type of writer who has no time to connect with their followers. That’s just not how I want this to go.
Every month, I receive questions from folks on LinkedIn and beyond about writing, speaking and building an engaged following. They ask questions such as, “How did you get so many followers?” or “How can I write on Forbes too?” or “What do you think helps your writing touch people?” I’m hoping this post will help answer those questions.
I began to try to dimensionalize my answers to these questions when I experienced my first viral post. Watching an article blow up on the internet is a wild thing to experience. That first viral piece was a Forbes interview with leadership expert Tim Elmore on the 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders in January 2014. Currently, it’s achieved 7.7 million views and is still climbing.
In examining those pieces and other writing that has found a large audience, I believe they exhibit the following traits:
They talk about life topics that a vast number of people on the planet have either witnessed or personally experienced, and have something to say about
They offer raw, unfiltered straight talk that gets to the heart of the problem and doesn’t skirt around the hard issues
The tips and strategies are meant to uplift and help the reader, not tear down or put down
The material is somewhat eye-opening, making us think about ourselves in new and different ways that (hopefully) lead to change
Both the writer and the interviewee of these posts share with honesty that they too have exhibited the very same “negative” traits and behaviors that we’re discussing. The writer and interviewee are not “above” these challenges.
I’ve taken hundreds of missteps as a writer over these years, and have learned some terribly painful lessons. But these lessons have also helped me learn what to focus more on, and what to avoid, in order to enjoy and benefit from the process of writing.
What would I say is the most important thing to achieve in your writing if you want to build a tribe that enriches your life?
My answer is this:
Be as real, unfiltered, vulnerable and honest as you possibly can.
How do we do that then? How do we “find brave” in our writing and our messages? How do we share an intense realness, authenticity and honesty that has the ability to help people see themselves and their lives with a new lens?
I believe there are 6 behaviors that will help us get there:
Many writers and thought leaders believe that they have to portray themselves as perfect, strong, and invincible in order to be respected. But that’s the opposite of the truth. Anyone who presents themselves as constantly “all together,” without any foibles, insecurities or flaws, is just offering a fake, veneered picture of their lives and personalities. And that can’t generate true connection from others.
No human is perfect and has it all figured out. All of us have failed in incredibly painful ways that make us feel ashamed and humiliated. It’s the real stuff of our lives that readers long to be exposed to, because in our sharing our realness, others are given permission to see and experience the raw reality of their own lives.
Don’t try to prove your expertise
I made this mistake often when I started out – I felt that I had to “prove” my credibility before I could say anything important. In the beginning of my articles, I’d offer lots of information that I hoped would verify and validate that I had the right to talk about what I was sharing.
The reality is that you have a right to your opinion and while it’s often helpful to explain how you arrived at your ideas or mindsets, you don’t need to waste precious paragraphs trying to prove that people should listen to you.
Don’t just post something then walk away
When people comment on your work, engage with them. They’ve taken time out of their crushingly busy day to tell you what your ideas mean to them. Respect and appreciate that, and to the fullest degree possible, engage with them in a conversation that helps to bring the ideas forward.
Don’t let your fears of rejection and ridicule keep you from stating your brave and honest opinions, especially when what you believe goes against the grain
New writers are often deathly afraid of being judged, ridiculed and attacked for their beliefs and ideas, so they don’t take the leap and share their honest thoughts. I can help you with this by sharing one irrefutable fact – if you’re saying anything at all that’s important, you WILL be ridiculed, judged and put down for what you believe. Understand and accept that, as a writer, if you’re doing important work, lots of people will vehemently disagree with (and even hate) what you say. Build a healthy boundary around yourself and your work, and keep going.
Develop sticky language, and memorable concepts and frameworks
In my work on Forbes.com, I’ve observed bestselling authors like Terry Real, Harriet Lerner, Gretchen Rubin, Brené Brown and Shawn Achor talk about their work. One thing you’ll see very clearly is that many memorable writers are in some ways humorous and highly iconoclastic, but also share their ideas with language and frameworks that make their concepts memorable for a lifetime. The language they share, the idioms they develop, the categorizations they construct, and the conceptual frameworks they’ve spent hundreds of hours to refine make their work stick with us, whereas millions of other ideas from other writers just disappear from our minds the minute after we’ve read them.
“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”
How very powerful and memorable these 3 short sentences are.
(For more on stickiness, check out the helpful book Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The authors explore what makes ideas “sticky” and share 6 critical traits: They are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and they are stories.)
Finally and most importantly, when you write, share the most astounding and new ideas that you’ve discovered – ideas that have shocked, uplifted, educated and changed you. Share what has altered your own life. When you do that, the right audience who needs your messages will find you.
Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Living and Working Better”
One of the key reasons I decided to become a career coach 12 years ago was in response to a very bad experience I had with one, when I was in the throes of a very unhappy corporate marketing career. This career coach/counselor had me spend a lot of money on quantitative assessments, only to conclude that “Good news! Looks like you’re in the right field!” (Really? Then why am I so miserable?). The assessments showed that I had strong skill in marketing, communications, project management, relationship-building, etc., but didn’t provide any guidance as to new directions that would bring the fulfillment and core alignment to my values and goals that I was so desperate for.
I realized then that – just as in any field – there are great service providers and ineffective ones, and we have to be discerning about who we invest in. And several years later, I decided to become the type of career coach that I had had so much trouble finding when I needed help. When I finally did reinvent my career and became a therapist and coach, I became deeply committed to learning how to help people make the big changes they longed for, that would generate more authentic success, meaning and reward. One of the key lessons for me was that when we hire help, we need to ensure that the individual has the “chops,” training and experience to support our highest and biggest goals.
In my 12 year experience of being a coach, and now in training other coaches, as well as having served on the board of the Connecticut chapter of the International Coach Federation for a year, I’ve heard from hundreds of coaches and clients who are in various stages of their development,
I’d love to share what I see are the good, bad, and ugly aspects of working with a career coach. I hope this is helpful to you in choosing the right one for you.
Below are the top questions I hear from people considering working with a career coach, and my honest answers to these questions:
“First, when do I know I need a career coach?
You can benefit from a career coach any time in your professional journey that you desire more success, joy, reward, fulfillment and impact in your career or professional life. That can be when you’re stuck in an unhappy career, or when you’re starting out and can’t figure out the best direction. It can be when you’re longing for more success and understand that how you’ve been trying to get there just isn’t working. It can also be a perfect time for a career coach when you’re ready to make a BIG change and need outside help to support it.
Professionals I work with in coaching fall into what I call “The Four Buckets:”
#1: They want more success and reward in their current job
#2: They want a thrilling new job in the same field that will leverage their current talents and abilities
#3: They want (or think they want) an entirely new career
#4: They’re considering launching a new venture and want to explore it more thoroughly
I hear from hundreds of professional women each year who have achieved great “outer” success only to wake up one day saying “That’s it! I’m done with this. I need a BIG change now!” They’re facing challenges, goals or concerns that they need and want outside help to navigate through them. And they’re ready to do the inner and outer work to make those changes a reality.
“What should a good career coach be helping me achieve?”
First, don’t look for a “good” coach – look for a great one. A great coach will help you achieve the outcomes you desire most in life and work, and that’s different for every individual. Again looking at the “four buckets” above, it could be around engaging in the interview process effectively, or building more leadership impact, or attaining more joy and fulfillment in their work. It could be learning how to deal effectively with a toxic boss or colleagues, or how to stand out from the competition and get a promotion and higher compensation.
Great career coaches help people take the steps that are needed today to enhance their careers and professional success, including building stronger networks, leveraging social media to build their personal brand, and connecting with powerful mentors and sponsors who help them thrive. The list goes on and on. It’s critical that the client and the coach design together the top goals for the coaching program and keep them ever present in their minds so continual progress can be made on what the client longs for most.
“What’s the good, bad and ugly of hiring a career coach?”
I’ll offer some straight talk about what I seeing in the coaching industry today, as a trainer of coaches and as one who helps my clients succeed and grow.
The bad: I’ve personally seen many folks today hang their shingle as a coach, yet they haven’t been trained sufficiently (or at all) to truly help people change their lives. They’ve had only rudimentary coaching training that doesn’t go far or deep enough in terms of what’s required, meaning they don’t yet have the tools and processes to help clients do both the inner work required to change how they’re operating in the world, or take the outer steps necessary – the brave action steps that will bring about exciting comes.
The ugly: I have seen too that hundreds of coaches are being trained that it’s “all in the questions you ask clients” that moves them forward, and I don’t agree. It’s not just the questions that are asked, but it’s about the coach having what I call a “proven model for change” that they take their clients through, that will help clients achieve what they dream of. I believe too that the most effective coaches have had direct and personal experiencewith the type of challenges and issues clients bring to them. These top coaches have done the work themselves to overcome similar challenges their clients are bringing to them. In that way, they’re speaking both from deep experience as well as a strong expertise in conducting the coaching process effectively.
The good and the great: The happy news is that there are many effective and powerful coaches that can help clients achieve tremendously satisfying outcomes that can be life-changing. Great, well-trained, and highly experienced coaches provide a powerful support structure, ongoing accountability, and vital new information and effective strategies that help clients finally see, act and think differently so they can achieve the high level of success and fulfillment they desire.
“What are some tips for finding a great career coach?”
Here are my top tips:
1) Find a coach who has developed their own proven and successful “model for change.”
For coaches to help you make a powerful difference in your life, they have to have developed their own, teachable point of view and their personal model for change – not just a regurgitation of the coaching concepts that others have put forward but their own concepts. These concepts about how people change need to reveal their own unique language, perspective, filter, and ideas for how to move the needle on a particular challenge or problem that no one else has figured out yet or is talking about.
While it’s been said that there are no “new ideas” in the world, there are definitely new, powerful ways of coaching, sharing and exploring universal truths and critical concepts that lead to positive change and career success. And for the coach to be a right fit with you, their model for change needs to speak to you directly, and have proven efficacy in addressing the types of challenges you are experiencing.
What to look for: Look for evidence of the model for change the coach has developed. It should have specific steps and processes for moving you forward. If they can’t articulate their model for change, the process they use and the outcomes that they regularly catalyze and help their clients generate, then move on.
2) They have great free materials, articles, resources and other transformative content that demonstrates their thought leadership, style and approach.
The best of the best coaches aren’t just running a business to get rich in an online business. Their emails aren’t get about selling to you. And they aren’t just interested in helping affluent people – they long to help (in some core way) a wide array of people from many walks of life who are struggling with the same challenges they know how to address.
What to look for: Check out their website, blog, videos, and downloadable materials. Read their free content. Does it move the needle for you and motivate and inspire you personally? Does it inspire you to make change and take action, and does it help you operate differently in the world? Or does it just talk about how easy it will be to get to where you want to go?
3) They know how to look beneath the obvious challenges to uncover new solutions
Many professionals who’ve come to me for career help also have some deeper issues that they’re dealing with, including overwhelm, depression, an inability to make productive decisions, or they’re facing toxicity and pain in some aspect of their lives and careers. A key dimension of great coaching is not just staying at the superficial level and talking about resumes or LinkedIn profiles and interviewing, but also helping clients go deeper to understand what could be in the way of their happiness, fulfillment and ultimate goals that may be out of their awareness. And great coaches know when to refer their clients out to another service provider (such as a therapist) when the need is there for a different kind of support.
What to look for: Find a coach who has deep, proven experience in support of many clients toward growth and the achievement of their highest goals, and knows how to help with issues beyond the superficial tactics. Make sure they have recommendations and testimonials that validate the work they’ve done to help others.
“Ok, so what’s a big red flag that I should run?”
As with any service provider you hire, run if:
1) You feel there’s isn’t a good fit with you in terms of their style and approach
2) You don’t feel positive, excited, upbeat and hopeful when working with them
3) They try to say that THEY are the expert in your life (they’re not – you’re the expert in your own life)
4) They are not in “harmonious sympathy” with your goals (meaning they don’t agree with what you want to achieve)
5) They can’t share with confidence what they think they can help you achieve
“Can any age reinvent themselves and create a happier career or find a better job?”
I’ve seen that folks of any age can reinvent core aspects of their professional life, and create work that leverages who they are and what they are talented and passionate in. That said, there are realities about today’s corporate workforce and there are limitations to what the corporate world considers an ideal candidate for any particular role. The key is to build a plan together with your coach that is S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, that will get you to where you want to go, and address the core challenges in an empowering, successful way.
“When is career coaching a waste of money?”
Career coaching will be a waste of money when:
1) The client is not ready to do the real, brave work to change how they are operating towards their goal. In other words, if they remain defensive and fight at every turn the idea that change is necessary in how they operate, coaching can’t work. And if the results and information that are uncovered throughout the coaching process aren’t acted upon by the client, the results will be very limited.
2) When the career coach isn’t trained or experienced enough to help the client tackle the critical challenges that lie underneath the obvious issue (because those are the true challenges in the way of success).
“What outcomes can I achieve with the right career coach?”
In the end, working with the right career coach can be truly life-changing experience. Working with great career coaches, people build new careers that align with their core values and their amazing talents. They arrive at new ways to speak up for themselves, and achieve tremendous success and fulfillment on their terms (not someone else’s).
They begin on the path to finding brave in life and work, and communicate more powerfully and ask for (and receive) what they deserve. They step up to negotiate for themselves and land significant promotions and raises. They learn how to interview and network effectively and build a wonderful support community. And they start developing and sharing their unique personal brand in ways that bring wonderful new opportunities their way.
In short, finding the right career coach and doing the work required to shift your life and career can yield tremendous positive outcomes that far surpass what you ever imagined possible for yourself and your life.
Part of Kathy’s series “Finding Brave To Build a Better Life”
Every year at this time, I love to identify a “theme” for the coming year – a word or phrase that represents what I want to cultivate more of in my life, work, relationships, and in the world directly around me. I’ve found that what we focus on truly expands, so focusing on an exciting and meaningful new element in my life brings it closer to me, and in greater abundance.
My theme for 2018 is “finding brave.” It’s amazing that, from the minute these two little words came into my sphere (and I thank my dear friend and author Avril McDonald for that), I’ve truly experienced more bravery, resilience, strength and hope, and I can see more clearly how I’m on the Finding Brave path.
I felt so angry and truly gutted. But there was no one to blame but myself. Even though I had been using this term for a full year and had made my mark on it, I hadn’t protected the term legally (this is something we all should learn from.) The year before, I had even published a great interview with business and branding attorney Ashley Brewer on my Forbes.com blog about not waiting to protect your intellectual property, but failed to take my own advice! Now I’ve learned.
I was with Avril in Greece talking about wanting to come up with a new phrase that represented my work at its core, and Avril said, “What about ‘Finding Brave’?” And it hit me right between the eyes. Yes! That’s it. As I got thinking about bravery and what we need to cultivate in order to be our true selves powerfully and transparently, I realized It’s not about “braving up” in one isolated moment, and then falling off the brave journey. It’s about Finding Brave every week, every day, every minute. It’s a holistic, heart-and-soul journey that grabs you by the collar and won’t let go, and keeps fueling you to be and share more of yourself, in open, honest, and transformative ways.
In 2018, I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave even more, from what I choose to do in my business (stretching out of my comfort zone and starting new ventures and expanding my focus), in my relationships, with how I invest my time and money to ensure growth, and in seeing my own potential more powerfully.
Here are three core ways I’ll be focusing on Finding Brave in 2018 that might be of help to you in your life:
Brave Sight While I have a good bit of confidence in myself and my work, I realize (if I’m really honest with myself) that I’ve hesitated moving in some new directions because of fear – fear of failure, fear of success and overwhelm, and even a bit of fear around how “hard” this new work will be. But my focus on Brave Sight helps me see myself in a different light – as someone who has reinvented herself numerous times throughout life, relished the process, and grew exponentially throughout it. I’m ready to see myself as more competent, confident and ready for more. I hope you are too.
Are you ready to tap into more confidence and trust about what you’re capable of?
While we hear every day (and I teach and coach) that “the riches are in the niches” – meaning, you need a very tight and narrow focus to be profitable in your business – I feel that it’s also important to be of brave service in ways that might stretch you out of your tight niche. For me, for instance, that means that I can be of help to people not only with career growth strategies but also by offering them all that I’ve learned, about psychology, marketing, client development, business growth, management, writing and thought leadership. So why wouldn’t I do that?
I’m going to put a new stake in the ground in 2018 and offer more of what I’ve learned throughout my 32-year career, leveraging my corporate and marketing background, therapy training, and business development experience. I can’t wait to stretch to new domains that I hope will serve others in a brave new way.
What can you do in your work that will stretch you beyond how you see yourself today?
I recently divorced, and this experience has opened my eyes and my heart to so much. I’ve experienced firsthand what society views is the “right way” to live, and the negative projections other people put on you about their judgments and fears around divorce. I’ve seen too what it is to live as an independent individual outside of marriage, and how enlightening it is to begin to understand yourself more deeply in a new context of being single.
I have a great deal more compassion now for single people, and the challenges we/they face in loving and accepting themselves fully when the world pressures us to see married people as the model to aspire to (even when so many marriages are miserable and harmful to the couple and to the children, and in fact should end in divorce).
In 2018 I’m committed to expanding my experience of love, compassion and connection – with myself and with others. I’m ready to become braver in loving, and letting out into the world the most authentic, real and honest version of myself than ever before, which I hope will help others do the same.
I’ve seen that when we feel forced to hide, suppress or alter our most authentic, real selves and our most loving, positive spirits in order to be accepted or appreciated – that’s when we suffer the most.
How can you love and connect to yourself more deeply this year, and start letting out the more authentic, real version of who you are?
In 2018, I hope that “finding brave” in your life will also be a theme that will pave the way for more joy, fulfillment and meaning in your life, career and relationships.
Part of Kathy’s series “Finding Brave To Build a Better Life”
This week, I heard the very sad news that a lovely woman in my community passed away from cancer at the age 54. I didn’t know her well, but we had intersected in a number of ways several years ago. For one, she had coached my daughter in a favorite sport in high school, and she was always kind, generous, loving and supportive to my daughter and to the other girls. I’ve experienced this as a rare thing when it comes to competitive sports in affluent towns that are all about “winning.”
It rocked me deep inside to hear of her loss, for a number of core reasons (including how her family would miss her so terribly and how tragic it is to lose a loved one so early in life.) But another reason that hit me hard was a deep sadness and regret I felt in my heart that I hadn’t thanked her enough for her kindness – the lost opportunity for me to share with her that, unbeknownst to her, she had made a lasting positive impression and impact on me and my daughter.
Strangely, just one night later, I was channel surfing on TV and noticed the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I realized that I’d never seen the move from beginning to end, and decided to watch. I was moved and I cried (as millions of others have over that movie). One key message from the film is that we can make an enormous difference in the lives of others, and in our community and the world, without ever truly realizing it.
It got me wondering this:
Who would I like to thank right this minute for the impact they’ve had on me that I’ve failed to acknowledge? Who made a real difference in my life (in small or big ways) and doesn’t even know it?
And who would I feel a deep pang of sadness and regret if I hear they have left this life and I never expressed my thanks and appreciation.
This holiday season, let’s all take a 21-day “I Deeply Appreciate You” challenge of thanking 21 people (or more) in our lives who’ve made an impact, a difference, or opened a door for us or offered a helping hand that changed our lives for the better.
Let’s reach out in any way that calls to us – an email, a handwritten note, a small gift or token of our appreciation, a phone call, to share our heartfelt appreciation for their kindness, generosity, love, and support.
Then, let’s spend a few minutes every day for these 21 days thinking (and journaling) about what it feels like and how it impacts us directly, to thank others for what they’ve done and been that helped us.
I, for one, simply can’t live one more minute focused on the news, the horrible headlines, the divisiveness in our country and world, the hate and negativity that’s seeping into our daily existence. I’m done with immersing myself in that darkness and rage. I want some new light to surround me now, and I’m going to do something to help generate that light – and that something is giving thanks for all that is beautiful, loving, and life-affirming around me.
I hope you’ll join me in my “I Deeply Appreciate You” challenge starting today, and share below what emerges from it.
Here’s my start: I’m sending to you so much love and appreciation, for reading my messages and enriching my community. It makes every day so much richer and more positive for me to be in connection with heart and soul-aligned people who are ready to “find brave” in their lives, to do the inner work required to become the highest version of themselves, rather than succumb to all the negativity, hopelessness and darkness around us.
I’m sending much love, light and appreciation to you, today and always,
Part of Kathy Caprino’s new series “Finding Brave”
At 57 years old, I’m able to look back and view my life in an utterly different light from when I was 40, 30 or 20. So much of what I believed was crucial to my success and happiness when I was in my 20s and 30s proved to be erroneous and misguided. And most of those misguided notions were based on the “shoulds ” we are taught and hear every day – what society, our families, or the “group think” deems as “success” (meaning: make a lot of money, have a big house, rise to a high level in corporate America, strive for power and influence, etc.). The problem is that these outer measures of “success” simply cannot and will not give us the fulfillment, meaning and wholehearted contentment and peace we’re longing for.
Interestingly, I achieved all of those measures of success at one point or another, and literally none of them have come close to yielding the happiness and fulfillment I craved.
On the other hand, the endeavors that have made me who I am today (and paved the way for so much more joy and deep fulfillment) are all around experiencing wholehearted love, honesty, compassion, healing, building strong boundaries, mustering intense commitment, taking big risks, and bravely standing up for who I really am at my core, and making as good use of that in the world as I can.
I’ve seen in working with and coaching thousands of people over the past 12 years that it’s the very things that society warns us against, that tend to yield the most powerful returns in our lives. Society tends to subtly or overtly instruct us NOT to risk, NOT to follow our passions, NOT to rise up and speak up and stand up for authentic ourselves (if you’re a woman even more so) or do the “stupid” thing that you feel in your heart is the right direction for who you really are. But societal thinking is often dead wrong.
In looking back, I’ve found there are 9 powerful lessons of my life that I wish I’d understand long before now. If I had known these 30 years ago, I would have not wasted so much time and energy on the wrong choices.
The top 9 lessons we need to learn before midlife are:
#1: Make a brave decision on what you want to stand for
I’ve worked now with hundreds of adult children of narcissists around the world, and many others who were treated terribly and emotionally manipulated as children and adults. When this happens to us as young children, our development is thwarted, and we find it very difficult to ever believe we’re “good enough” or to speak up and stand up for who we really are (or even to dare to figure out what that is.) Even if we weren’t mistreated as children, so many don’t take a stand on the life they want to live.
It took me until I was 41 years old to start standing up and speaking up powerfully for myself and my life, and never again will I let others define or suppress me.
Before it’s too late, you need to “find your brave” and make a powerful stand about who you want to be in the world, and what you stand for. It’s also time to STOP tolerating and allowing what you can no longer accept, in your life and in the world.
Make the decision today to become the person you will be proud and honored to be, so you have no regrets when the time comes for you to leave this life.
What do you want to stand for, starting right now?
#2: Never compromise your soul
There are things that it’s ok to compromise on – perhaps the size of your home, or the geographic location of your job, or the length of your commute, or where you’ll go for summer vacation. But it’s NOT ok to compromise your soul. If you do, disastrous outcomes will occur.
Know what keeps your spirit alive, and honor that with all you’ve got. For me, that’s truth, transparency, compassion, strength and integrity. For years I couldn’t freely express any of those without punishment or suppression. If I can’t live those qualities in my work or my relationships, I start to wither, fail and disappear. But I’ve learned what’s required to honor my soul, and I won’t compromise it ever again.
What do you need to do to keep your spirit alive?
#3: Engage your wisdom and discernment when you choose whom to love and trust
The people you choose to enter into relationships with – be it through marriage, friendship, business partnerships, work colleagues and those you hire to work with and for you – will dramatically impact the quality and condition of your life. Don’t let people into your life who will hurt or demean, diminish and mistreat you. Simply don’t allow it. If you continually attract people who hurt or abuse you, you have to look at what is inside of you that needs healing so you won’t repeat or continue to hook into abusive patterns over and over.
Who is in your life today that you now need to move away from?
#4: Don’t wait one single minute more to express and honor your creativity
For so many years, I didn’t see myself as creative – I thought of myself as the “money bags” for my family. I thought other people in my family and life were the creative ones. But that’s simply not true. I just hadn’t allowed myself to see what’s inside of me. Or more aptly put, I let so many of my creative abilities from my childhood and my teen years go underground – I didn’t understand how valuable they are.
Once I began to honor and nurture the creative force inside, my world changed overnight, and my work became a vehicle through which I could express my creative longings and abilities.
I’d be millionaire if I had a dollar for every professional woman who has told me that she’s dying of boredom and meaninglessness in her work, and that there’s a creative side of her that’s bursting to come forward.
The truth is this: Writers write, painters paint, dancers dance. Just DO the thing you’re desperate to do. You don’t have to throw your whole career out the window to honor your creativity. Just pick up that paint brush and start committing to painting, today. Just that step will improve your life.
What creative urge are you desperate to bring forward in your life today?
#5: Get help when don’t have the strength or power to change what’s necessary
What help can you ask for right now in your life, to get moving towards what you really want?
#6: Don’t break yourself against what is
For years, I stayed stuck in lousy situations, jobs and relationships because I didn’t want to face reality – that I needed a BIG change in my life and in how I was operating in the world, if I wanted to be happy. I broke myself against my reality, instead of going with the flow of it, and changing course, or even making tiny pivots and revisions that would get me out of the bad scenarios I continually attracted.
Don’t break yourself against your reality – change it. And doing that doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Figure out some small steps you can take to take today to make a discernible difference in your situation, and start doing them.
What reality are you breaking yourself against today?
#7: Heal your relationship with money and don’t poison yourself with it
In looking back on what I learned about money as a child, and how I began to relate to it, I see now that I developed some very negative and unhealthy ideas about money. The worst was this idea: “I’ll always make a lot of money in my work, but I’ll feel like a prostitute doing it.” Meaning, I began to feel in my corporate life that the only way to make a lot of money was to sell my soul, hate what I did and the people I did it with, and compromise who I really was – to sell myself for the almighty dollar.
These negative beliefs will control how you relate to, and attract (or repel) money, unless you address your relationship with money and heal your money story.
Look back on your childhood and ask yourself “What did I learn from my family and childhood about how to view and relate to money?” Was it with power or weakness, secrecy or openness, shame or pride, courage or fear, love or hatred, resentment or happy expectation? Who controlled the money and who gave up control? When you write out your money story from the beginning of time until now, you’ll see patterns that are alive today that are keeping you from embracing money as a positive energy form in your life.
What is your money story, and how is it holding you back from a healthy relationship with it?
#8 Don’t waste one second of time on “should”
As one who explores issues of gender identity, unconscious bias and conformity, I see so clearly now how society’s (and our “tribe’s) rules about what is feminine, and what women “should” do, be and act like, have been so constraining for me, personally and professionally. And I see now how expectations and projections about what is “masculine” suppress men from their authentic selves as well. I see too how my role in my family growing up led me to focus keenly on living up to what I felt others wanted of me, in order to make them proud or to feel loved and accepted.
All of these are the “shoulds” of my life, and caving to the “shoulds” (others’ expectations and demands on how you should live and behave) just can’t lead to a happy life.
As someone so wisely said, “Stop shoulding all over yourself.” Stop responding to what you feel is obligation, and start doing what you truly want to do, the way you want to do it. Then deal powerfully with the results and outcomes of that.
How are you behaving today that is all about “should” rather than what you authentically want to do?
#9 Let go of the pain, anger and resentment Wow. I, like you I’m guessing, have experienced so much pain, anger, disappointment resentment and confusion in my lifetime. From relationships that devastated me, to jobs that crushed me, to colleagues who turned on me – I’ve experienced heartbreak that has brought me to my knees. And I know you have too. Life is full of incredibly hard bumps that can leave us broken and bloodied.
But life can also be so very stunningly beautiful, shining and radiant that you’re brought to your knees with amazing gratitude and humility at the sheer beauty and wonder of it.
I’ve learned that holding onto the pain and anger misses the whole point of living. We didn’t come here, to this planet at this time, to spend our entire life here in a state of rage and disillusionment. We came here to learn, grow and thrive.
So, what pain and anger are you hanging onto that you need to release?
I continue to learn these 9 lessons every day, every minute, but re-learning them has transformed my life. I only wish I had learned them sooner.
Which of these lessons resonates most deeply with you? Please share.
Part of the Kathy Caprino’s series “Living and Working Better”
I’ve experienced narcissism throughout my life, but it took many years to fully recognize or understand it. As I became an adult, I continued to attract emotionally manipulative and narcissistic people into my life – including bosses, colleagues and even “friends.” I started to think, “What the heck is going on here? How can it be that I continually experience these painful, traumatic situations and relationships where others don’t seem to?”
I didn’t uncover the real answer to that question until I became a marriage and family therapist, and studied how humans develop and grow, and also what can go terribly wrong with our emotional development and personality and identify formation when we’re exposed to abuse, manipulation and childhood trauma.
When I learned about narcissistic personality disorder, my world was completely rocked. I realized then exactly what had been going on for many years (in fact, all my life), and also learned what we have to do to address and heal our own wounds from being exposed to narcissistic trauma as young children, when we were too young and defenseless to make sense of a chaotic and frightening world.
Years later, as I became a career coach and began delivering my Amazing Career Project course, I observed that a significantly large portion of the women who came to the course and who were frustrated and deeply dissatisfied with their lives and careers had in fact, experienced traumatic emotional manipulation or narcissism in childhood. And I began to see clearly that when you’ve grown up with narcissism, you will, almost assuredly, carry the narcissistic wound inside you.
According to psychologists, when a child is trapped in a narcissistic relationship with a parent, they can either internalize or externalize the traumatizing behavior of the parent. As described by Dr. Jane Petersen in her article “Healing the Narcissistic Wound“:
The child who externalizes their experience perpetuates the pattern by projecting onto others the shame, guilt, humiliation and fear that she experienced and cannot tolerate herself.
Narcissistic behavior can be internalized as well. In these cases,
the child first develops a protector identity, usually dissociative, whose aim is to reduce the harm by anticipating the narcissist behavior of the adult. The child does this by creating an internal version of the narcissistic adult’s behavior. Later as the child develops, this part that arose as protector begins to function as a persecutor, a replica of the abusive adult that now lives inside the growing child’s own mind.
The bottom line is that when you’ve been traumatized by narcissism as a child, most likely you’re carrying a wound inside that has to be healed. If you don’t address it, it will wreak havoc on your relationships, your personal and professional fulfillment and success, and your own self-concept and self-esteem.
How can you tell quickly if you have a narcissistic wound to heal?
Here are 5 signs I’ve observed — both throughout my 18-year corporate life, then over the past 12 years working as a therapist, and career and personal success coach:
#1. You can’t overcome your driven need to be a “perfectionistic overfunctioner,” no matter how you try
There’s a term I’ve coined – “perfectionistic overfunctoner” – that emerged from my training about the driven fear and need to do more than is healthy, appropriate, or necessary, and striving desperately to get an “A+” in all of it. Hundreds of thousands of women suffer from perfectionistic overfunctioning, and when they do, physical and emotional crises emerge.
This driven fear to be perfect and to be everything to everyone often emerges as a coping and survival strategy, to save oneself from deep pain and rejection from narcissistic or overly manipulative parents.
Sadly, many cultures teach that “good” parenting is about pushing children to excellence. What I’ve seen, however, is that this form of parenting can become abusive and highly damaging when the pushing and pressuring is intense and unrelenting and when it means love will be withheld, and is conditional, given only if there’s high achievement. And many cultures around the world haven’t learned this vitally important lesson yet, thus raising very emotionally damaged adults.
#2. The idea of saying “NO!” to your parents or others (even when you are a mature adult), regarding how you want to live your life, is terrifying.
I’m utterly amazed day after day when I hear from women all around the world who are absolutely frozen in fear at the idea of telling their now elderly parents that they wish to create a new type of life for themselves. They know their parents will ridicule and shame them, and in some cases abandon them for “letting them down,” not living up to the parents’ expectations about the money, fame, recognition, and success they believe their children should continue to strive for.
#3. You set the bar for your own accomplishments so high, that you hate and shame yourself every day for not meeting and surpassing your own impossible expectations.
I’ve seen incredibly accomplished women (many who are well known in their fields and highly respected) feel “less than” and inferior, even after achieving what others would say are tremendous feats of success and impact. These women nurture impossible expectations, and when they fail to meet them, it’s confirmed in their own minds that they’re never good enough.
#4. When you’re in competitive environments, you might look like you “win” and “thrive” but deep down, you feel very scared, fragile and defensive.
Many highly competitive people appear confident and full of self-love and self-esteem, but inside, they’re devastatingly scared. Internally, they feel fragile, defensive and deeply afraid that they won’t “win” or come out on top in comparison to their colleagues or peers. For them, it’s not pleasurable to compete – it’s terrifying – yet they can’t stop themselves from competing at all costs.
#5. You reject those who challenge you
Finally, if someone challenges you and makes it clear they don’t like, “get,” or respect you, you internally reject and dislike them in excessive ways – unable to tolerate feeling unaccepted.
I’ve seen that those with a narcissistic wound need to be loved and accepted at all times, and when they’re not getting what they need emotionally, they go to a dark place of needing to reject those who triggered in them a feeling of being unacceptable. Even if it’s as small or seemingly insignificant as receiving a judgmental or nasty comment on Facebook or a LinkedIn status, people with narcissistic wounds will become excessively angry or indignant at the challenge, and go to extreme lengths to prove the challenger wrong or to discredit him/her.
* * * * *
Know that you don’t have to have therapy training to begin work to recognize if you have a narcissistic wound that needs healing. You need to shut out all the noise and chatter, tap into what you’re feeling at the deepest level, and be courageous enough to allow yourself to experience the full weight of your emotions. (If this is too frightening or overwhelming, seek out a great therapeutic provider to support you.) Once you can feel and recognize what triggers you to feel unsafe, unloved, and unacceptable, you can then explore the root behind that.
Two eye-opening questions to ask yourself are these:
How old is this feeling inside of you? (This gets at understanding if this feeling emerged in early childhood, and if so, what was going on with your family and parents the first time you remember experiencing it.)
Who did you crave love most from, as a child, and who did you have to be to get it? (A very powerful question from Tony Robbins’ documentary “I Am Not Your Guru” that helps you understand if you had to become someone you weren’t in order to be accepted and loved by your “tribe.”)
When you start to see more clearly why you experience relationships, people and events as you do, you can then do something concrete to move forward toward healing, finally finding new ways to thrive after narcissism.
(For hands-on therapeutic help, visit the American Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapy, and use the therapist locator to find a great therapist in your community who understands narcissism deeply and has learned how to support clients to heal from it. And for daughters of narcissistic mothers, read the helpful book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride.)
Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Braving Up To Build Your Happiest Life”
I know a lot about comparing ourselves to others and what that does to us – both the positive and the negative effects — because I’ve engaged in comparison more times than I can count. In my therapy training, I learned to expand my awareness of my thoughts and feelings, and through that process, I saw much more clearly when and how comparison has enlivened me, and also where it’s made me feel awful – jealous, resentful, and “less than.”
Now, working with professional women to build happier, more rewarding lives and careers, I’m seeing even more clearly how the act of comparing ourselves to others can be motivating, and when it can backfire and become damaging and destructive.
As I’ve talked more about this, some people have said, “No, Kathy, you’re wrong. Comparison is always very helpful.” Sometimes it is. Yet there are many people around us (you know who they are) who obsessively engage in comparison, and it makes them sad, sick and disengaged from life and work.
Here’s a look at my personal take on How To Stop Obsessively Comparing Yourself To Others And Coming Up Short (and why you need to):
How to Stop Obsessively Comparing Yourself To Others and Coming Up Short - YouTube
The most important thing to understand is that there is a huge difference in energy and outcome between seeing other people’s success and using that vision to inspire you, versus beating yourself up mercilessly because you’re not where they are. If comparison makes you feel worthless and demoralized, unable to get what you want and “deserve,” and you resent others for what they have, it’s time to stop comparing or shift your approach to it.
But there are positive effects of comparison. It can generate:
A feeling and belief that something greater and more rewarding is possible for you because you see it in someone else
A clearer pathway to success because you have a role model who is ten steps ahead of you doing what you long to and giving you a blueprint for getting there
More positive growth in you because witnessing someone else’s expansion reminds you that you have what it takes too to achieve that same outcome or accomplishment, or something greater
Where comparison to others goes wrong, however, is in these ways:
Obsessive comparing – when you just can’t stop
I personally know and have worked with many people who are addicted to comparison and to feeling like a loser or a victim. They literally spend hours of their time each week on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms looking at what other people have created and achieved, and they feel sick and depressed afterwards.
This type of comparison leads people to invest in negative, destructive beliefs such as:
I don’t have good friends to experience amazing times with (like these other people)
I’m not rich, beautiful, talented, educated, thin (you name it) enough to be lovable
My children aren’t as successful and accomplished as they should be and as so many others are
My or my kids’ disabilities or challenges are shameful
I’m not as loved as so many others out there are
I don’t have vacations or life experiences that are exciting
My life and career are a huge disappointment and embarrassment
I haven’t achieved anything worthwhile
I’m totally alone
It’s critical to remember (but so many people forget) that social media platforms like Facebook – which can be very helpful and enjoyable in many ways – encourage us to put out into the world only the most sanitized, flattering and praise-worthy version of our lives, not the real, raw experiences we’re having.
Just ask yourself this: How many selfies have you taken (of yourself alone or with others) that actually never end up being shared? Hundreds, even thousands, I’d guess, because you censor and judge them so harshly that most never see the light of day. Only the most beautiful and flattering make it.
This realization is vitally important because it’s a damaging mistake to compare the raw reality of your own life with the highly fictionalized, sanitized and “touched-up” version of another’s. You never know what their life is about, what they’re dealing with and and the hidden battles they face , and you never will know.
Always falling short and findings yourself unworthy or “less than”
– Society trains us to compare ourselves using outer, socially-constructed measures of “success” and worthiness including: beauty, age, weight, money, social status, marital status, etc. Understand that there’s extreme pressure on us to achieve those measures, but in reality, they’re culturally-derived ideas that won’t necessarily bring you personal joy and fulfillment, given your unique values and wants. (Take a look at this powerful, eye-opening TED talk from Ashton Applewhite on Ageism.)
– If you feel continually as if you’re “less than,” ask yourself “How old is this feeling?” I’m guessing that for most, the feeling of “not good enough” began in early childhood, reinforced by authority figures who somehow conveyed that what you did and who you were was not worthy of their unconditional love and positive regard.
– Thousands up thousands of people in this world have been raised by narcissists and exposure to narcissism can bring about extremely damaging effects. It’s projected that at least 10% of the U.S. population has borderline personality disorder and/or narcissistic personality disorder, and from my research and study, the number who are affected by people with these disorders is vast. Those who experienced emotionally-manipulative parents often grow up never feeling good enough, and this feeling of lack of worthiness bleeds into all aspects of their lives, including their careers, businesses, families and relationships.
– If you are chronically unhappy with your life, comparing yourself to others isn’t going to help you. You need another approach that will inspire and motivate you to brave up and make the changes you need to be happier.
How can you stop the negative comparing and expand your self-love and self-acceptance?
Gain awareness of your thoughts
Begin to gain awareness of each harsh, judgmental thought you have of yourself in comparison to others. Start to see more clearly when and how you judge yourself and how hard you are on yourself. Every time you recognize a self-hating thought, say to yourself “There goes one of these judging thoughts.” Then release it.
Change your self-hating narrative
Once you’ve done that for a week, you’ll begin to see how tough you are on yourself, and it’s time to actively shift your negative thoughts. You need deep commitment and unflagging perseverance, but you can change your thoughts. When you find yourself comparing harshly, stop in your tracks and dig deeper. Try to understand what you feel you are missing, and why. Look at the story you’re telling yourself, and rewrite that story.
If you need help with this, start by saying this mantra every day:
“I am on the right track and on my own, unique path to building a life and career I love and am proud of. I am NOT behind. I’m exactly where I need to be, learning and growing all the time.”
Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Braving Up To Build Your Best Life”
Often, when I’m working with my clients or course members, the concepts we explore together take on a brand new meaning given what’s going on in my own life. Such was the case this summer. In late June, I underwent a massive change in my life, including selling our house of 16 years where we raised our children, moving (in the span of only a few weeks) from a country-like small suburban town in Connecticut to a bustling, diverse city with 122,000+ residents, dealing with big relationship shifts, letting go of so much from the past, and much more. The changes have rippled through every part of my life, and impacted literally everything about my identity and self-concept.
This was a voluntary, conscious move and plan for me, yet it’s still rocked my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. When we go through something this big (like a move, a change in relationship status, a serious illness, a loss, a firing) – whether it’s a voluntary choice or a move that’s has been foisted on us – we shift and evolve.
The question I think that’s important to answer is:
Am I growing stronger and happier through this change, or breaking myself against it?
I’ve found that if we’re extremely mindful and conscious about how we’re thinking, feeling, and addressing the challenges and changes, our life can improve dramatically because of it. Even those changes that we considered devastating and horribly negative can yield true blessings and amazing opportunities and developments that were not possible had the change not occurred.
Below are 5 ways that life-altering change boosts people’s power, happiness and fulfillment, if they approach it with positive, life-affirming mindsets and actions:
#1: You are able to see your own brilliance and the strength of your capabilities in a radically new light
When we stay unhappily stuck in one place for many years, we forget what we’re capable of – how strong, resilient, creative and resourceful we can be. We can go underground and suppress who we really are. We become highly influenced by the people around us, including their beliefs, actions, values and mindsets.
Have you ever found yourself living or working for years amongst people you simply don’t align with, or even respect and like? That experience – of being isolated and alone in your environment – can be crushing, yet millions are living it every day, whether in relationships that fail to fulfill them, or work that falls very short of what they want to do in the world.
When you take brave, bold action to leave behind a culture or environment that doesn’t fit, you’re finally free to soar and become who you want to be, consciously and with deliberate intention.
#2: You overcome challenges you believed you never could
I remember that towards the end of my corporate life, I was green with envy of consultants I knew who ran fabulous, lucrative practices and businesses of their own. I fantasized frequently about having my own business, and being free of the misery I experienced in corporate roles that didn’t fit me.
But deep down, I just didn’t feel smart, strong, or capable enough to make the leap. But when the tragedies of 9/11 occurred and I was laid off, I took that chance and said, “Enough! I’ve had it with this unfulfilling career that isn’t me. I’m going to create something that IS me that I’ll be proud and happy to engage with.” And I did it.
I stayed stuck and sick for many years because I never believed I was capable enough to thrive in my own venture. Now I know how wrong I was.
Change can help us see that we are stronger and more competent and capable than we believed. And it’s a thrilling revelation. (By the way, if you’re green with envy of someone else, that’s a warning sign that change is called for in your life.)
#3: You see clearly who your real friends are
When we undergo huge change, we often need some patient, powerful support and help from friends and loved ones to stay afloat and regain our footing. I’ve seen in my own life that some people whom I thought were close, enduring friends actually weren’t. They were only “fair-weather friends” who were attracted to friendship with me because of certain things I gave them, but weren’t there for me when the going got tough in my life. And I saw the opposite too – amazing friends and allies who would do anything for me in my time of need, offering beautiful help, love and support.
Seeing who your real friends are in life is a powerful gift. Take that gift and run with it. Don’t keep people in your life who are “friends” only because of what they can take from you.
#4: You learn to deal with people’s negativity, judgments and projections in a more powerful, life-affirming way
In my coaching work, I see brave women every day making huge changes in their lives, and when they do, they often face harsh, critical judgments from their “friends,” family and colleagues. Many of the folks I work with long to take a leap away from their unhappy corporate lives, and start their own compelling new venture, but their “friends” say things like:
“You’re crazy to give up your 9 to 5 job and great benefits in this market!”
“Are you sure you have what it takes to succeed in this new direction? So many fail at it.”
“Why do you want to rock the boat and try this? Can’t you be happy with what you have?”
I remember when I decided to leave corporate life behind and earn my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, one woman in the grocery store said, “Why do you feel you need to do THAT?” And even my financial consultant (whom I quickly fired) said, “You’ll never make any money doing that.”
Making big change threatens other human beings around us. People want to stay in the familiar, even if that familiar territory is killing their souls. And I’ve seen that when someone leaves their unhappy life or job behind, many of the folks around them become even more dissatisfied and angry because they’re watching someone else escape the pain and they long for that. (Here’s a helpful look at why we resist change and the factors that influence resistance).
Embracing change in an empowering way and following your own, authentic path helps you build stronger boundaries, communicate more bravely, follow your own heart and mind, and deal more effectively with all the naysayers, judgers and detractors.
#5: You become much more nimble and open to change in the future
Finally, making bold, exciting change is like exercising a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes. While not changing can feel easier and more comfortable, I’ve seen that this “comfort” can actually lead to mind-numbing unhappiness, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, victimization, fear, and utter resistance to growth. It can keep us in situations, relationships and environments that hurt us, but we’re simply too afraid to make the changes we need to in order to live the lives we long for.
Then surround yourself with amazing people who are in “harmonious sympathy” with your desires and goals, who believe in the future vision of you before it’s hatched. Let them serve as your support team and accountability buddies, to help you navigate and stay the course of change, and buoy you with deep love and encouragement when the road to change gets a bit bumpy, which it will.
Last winter, I learned of the powerful work and messages of Irish mystic, international bestselling author, and spiritual leader Lorna Byrne, and I was truly riveted. I was introduced to her work through the inspirational Mike Dooley (whose work I love), and was enthralled watching their video together. Simply put, Lorna is able to see and hear angels as clearly as the rest of us see humans. And she’s had this ability since early childhood.
As a writer and media person, I’ve watched countless videos, webinars, interviews and TED talks with international bestselling authors and thought leaders, and many are fascinating. But Lorna’s interview was something completely different – she resonates with the power of pure, loving energy like no one I’ve ever seen before.
During this past holiday season, I felt compelled to read all of her books including my favorite Angels In My Hair. I loved it so much I even listened to the 5-hour audio version as well, which was particularly mesmerizing because the narrator delivered it with a lush Irish accent, just as Lorna has. Lorna’s messages of love, compassion, kindness, and unconditional support from the angels made a tremendous impact on me.
I was so moved that I (bravely) reached out to Lorna and asked if she’d be open to doing a webinar with me, and lo and behold, she said “Yes!” Being able to converse openly with Lorna about her experiences with angels and the angelic world, and to be able to ask my most burning questions without fear, was a beautiful and transformative experience for me.
Here’s a look at our conversation Messages from The Angels for 2017:
Messages from the Angels with Lorna Byrne & Kathy Caprino - YouTube
When I learned of Lorna’s new book Angels at My Fingertips, I raced to buy it. I started reading it yesterday, and an amazing thing happened. In the beginning of book, there’s a long passage about how the angels (Lorna believes that each and every one of us has a guardian angel who is here to support us for eternity, even if we don’t believe in angels) are reaching out to us continually, doing their best to leave us signs of their love and support.
Sadly, most of us miss the signs completely, or don’t recognize them for what they are. According to what she has been told through her conversations with the angels, they often use bird feathers as a sign of their presence and support, and they leave them in unexpected places for us as a reminder of their love. But most of us never notice them.
In her book, she shares a story of a fisherman who’s deeply worried about the welfare of his family, and is asking continually for a sign from God that all will be well. His guardian angel continues to leave bird feathers for him, but he doesn’t notice. Until finally, he does. He stops, looks at it and puts it in his pocket. His guardian angel then embraces him.
Lorna mentions too in the book that as a young child, she was deeply longing to find a beautiful black and white feather, and promptly her guardian angel helped one appear for her.
As I read this, I was reminded of how stunningly beautiful it is to receive signs of loving, compassionate help in our lives. Whether you believe in the existence of angels or not, we all know that being helped by someone who is in loving, harmonious sympathy with our desires and with our heart and soul, is a magical, transformative experience.
I believe in angels and have been conversing with and writing to my angels for many years now. For me, it’s been a process full of love, learning and enlightenment. I don’t feel alone in the world anymore, even during the darkest, loneliness and most chaotic times.
Right after reading this passage of Lorna’s book, I took my 11-year old beagle, Lily, for a walk. Lily has been extremely stressed and overwhelmed this past month, as we’ve made a huge change, moving from a large house and property in the quietness and privacy of woods to a very busy apartment building in a bustling new city. During this big move of ours and after, I’ve been praying to the angels for assistance for Lily, to help calm and soothe her when she gets overly-stressed.
Ten steps out the door on our walk, I heard a loud, “urgent” chirping, much louder than chirping I normally encounter. I looked up to see what was making such a beautiful racket. I saw two sweet little birds on the branch right above my head. I then looked down at Lily, and this is what I saw at my feet:
I scooped it up and knew in my heart this was a sign, surprisingly not only for Lily, but for me as well. It was a reminder that we are loved, cared for and supported through this time of massive change. And for me, it’s a reminder to breathe deeply, be more present, to relax and just let go of all the worry and strain. I felt truly comforted and soothed.
I realized too that, like the fisherman in Lorna’s book, sometimes I’m just too preoccupied, harried and distracted to be present, to breathe deeply, and to open my eyes, heart and spirit to all the signs that loving help is right at my fingertips.
An amazing sequel to this story is that today, I looked down on the floor by my desk, and I found this laying there:
A second reminder!
This moving experience brought to mind several questions that I’d love to answer, and ask you to answer too:
What challenges are you facing right now that would be made easier with some loving support to help?
Are you truly open to the signs that support, love and compassion is very near — from this world and/or the angelic one?
Are you allowing yourself to be fully present for at least a few minutes each day, to breathe deeply, restore your calm and balance, and to see and embrace the signs of help?
If you were to get the kind of loving help you’re longing for, what might be possible for you?
Finally, where can you find that loving, compassionate and gentle help you need to get moving?
I hope you’ll answer those questions, and begin to open yourself to the signs of love and support that is at your fingertips.
Please share below the signs you see in the next week and month. I’d love to hear your stories!
To learn how to connect more deeply to your true spirit, check out my new Live Your True Spirit personal growth coaching program.
Part of my series “Braving Up To Build Your Best Life”
One of the most powerful concepts I’ve learned in my life emerged from my training as a Marriage and Family Therapist. It’s about boundaries – the invisible barrier that separates you from the world around you. Boundaries define who you are, and they keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Having well-developed, appropriate boundaries ensures that you’re protected from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful, or invasive.
Healthy boundaries—well-established limits regarding what you expect and need from others and what you will and will not tolerate from others’— allow you to move forward on a fulfilling and satisfying path, both at work and at home.
Those who have insufficient boundaries, I’ve found, have almost always experienced some form of emotional manipulation or trauma in their childhoods and upbringing. Children who’ve been abused or mistreated (emotionally, sexually, physically, etc.), for instance, experience a violation of their boundaries before they had the power or ability to advocate for or protect themselves. Unless we recognize this later in life, and do the necessary work to strengthen our boundaries, we experience ongoing mistreatment from others, and a great deal of pain, confusion, and unhappiness as a result.
Of course, we can’t control other people’s actions and words, but we can control our responses to them, as well as our actions in the face of language and behavior that violate who we have defined ourselves to be in this world.
• Experience and demonstrate self-respect and respect of others
• Understand and articulate effectively the limits you’ve set for yourself
• Know unequivocally when your limits have been overstepped
• Determine with surety and confidence the actions you wish to take when your boundaries have been violated
• Live and relate well with yourself and others, and build a rewarding life that matches what you value and believe in
A few basic steps are required to strengthen your boundaries, and for many people I’ve coached and spoken to, particular those who had narcissistic parents or emotionally abusive childhoods, these boundary-strengthening steps aren’t easy or at all comfortable. Boundary development requires courage, strength, patience, and time, but it’s an essential step toward a happier, more rewarding life and livelihood.
The 3 key steps developing stronger boundaries are:
#1: Gain Awareness Of What You Need More Of
First, it’s critical to understand more deeply what you need more of in your life and work, and what isn’t working today.
What do I desperately long for? Perhaps it’s more time, energy, honesty, compassion, respect, care, commitment, or power?
Begin the process of exploring when you feel thwarted, angry, resentful, drained, and undervalued. Most likely your boundaries need bolstering in these situations. Is your boss demanding that you’re available 24/7? Is your spouse refusing to do his/her part of the necessary work at home to help raise the children or manage the household responsibilities? Is your friend demanding, selfish, and critical, unable to relate to you in a caring way? Is your parent horrible to you?
Once you recognize exactly what you need that you’re not getting, and what you’re allowing that is no longer tolerable, start setting clear and unwavering limits – both out loud and to yourself – as to what you desire and need from others to feel respected and valued, and what you will no longer stand for.
Take some time this week to think about your boundaries, then write down what your rules will be going forward in terms of what you expect, need, and will allow from others. Then communicate these limits to the outside world calmly, clearly, and unemotionally. Know in your heart and mind what the consequences will be if people don’t respect your limits. And don’t be surprised when people react negatively to your asserting your boundaries. After all, they’ve become very used to being able to walk all over you.
Here’s a personal example: I remember in my 30’s, I made a decision to finally walk away from the habit of gossiping or speaking negatively of others in the chronic and mean way I had done previously. I realized that in my life, I would habitually engage in triangulation – an emotional manipulation tactic where one person who is not comfortable communicating directly with another person or dealing directly about something challenging, uses a third party to relay communication to the second individual, or to intervene and get involved somehow. This allows the first person to relieve his/her own anxiety by complaining about the situation, but prevents the individual from actually taking the brave, direct action necessary to remedy the problem. Instead a triangle is formed.
To ease my own anxiety, I’d speak critically about one friend or colleague who was upsetting me, to the other. I realized finally that this was a destructive habit fed by my own insecurities, and I knew it always came back to hurt me. But since I’d been doing it for years, the people in my life were used to engaging in this with me, and I needed to change that.
The next time a friend spoke ill of another in front of me, I said, “I know I used to do this in the past, but I’m working really hard not to speak ill of my friends, or gossiping like I used it. I’m just not comfortable speaking about Terry this way. Would you mind if we changed the subject?”
While a few people got annoyed or offended, most not only obliged my request, but also seemed to respect the decision and began to realize themselves how speaking ill of their colleagues, friends or family members just didn’t feel right or helpful. In fact, it made them feel worse.
#2: Stop Pleasing Others In Order To Feel Safe
Many hundreds of women I’ve worked with, especially those who grew up with parents who were emotionally manipulative or narcissistic, discover that as adults they are striving desperately to please others as a way to either feel safe from punishment or to fulfill their own neediness.
Accommodation to others can be healthy and caring in the right situations, but for those who’ve been culturally trained to be pleasing and self-sacrificing (as many women are today in our society), it is a self-demeaning act, and can destroy our chances for a happy, rewarding and empowered life.
Why do people overly accommodate and acquiesce to another’s wishes?
The key reason is fear. People are afraid that approval and acceptance will be withheld if they are their most authentic, truthful selves. They’re deathly afraid that others will become angry or reject them for being honest (because it actually happened to them again and again in the past).
Many people fear too that they are not worthy, smart, or strong enough to stand up for what they believe. They believe that if they stop giving in to the needs of others, they’ll cease to be loved, needed, cared for, or accepted.
We learn this acquiescence in our early lives. Many people have adopted this behavior to survive their childhoods. Narcissism is now rising in epidemic proportions, and thousands were raised in homes that did not allow expression of true thoughts and feelings. Punishment, sometimes severe, ensued when individuals asserted themselves and enforced their personal limits.
Sadly, I’ve seen as a coach and therapist that if you don’t address your habitual pattern of over-accommodation to others, it just won’t change. This damaging pattern will remain for a lifetime, forever tripping you up in your relationships, work and personal life.
#3: Get Help To Break The Cycle Of Mistreatment Or Abuse
When mistreatment is occurring, we often need outside support to help us recognize what’s really going on, and to explore what needs to be changed, and get help to take safe, appropriate action.
If you are experiencing abuse of any kind, help is available. Reach out and get the help you need. In the workplace, if you’re experiencing mistreatment, stop in your tracks, and make an evaluation of what’s transpiring. Also look at how you may be contributing to or allowing the situation. If any of the statements below are true for you, then proactive, empowered action is called for.
• I’m being harassed and made to do things that feel wrong.
• I’m being passed over or not treated fairly continually because I’m ___ (female, gay, African American, middle aged, disabled, pregnant, on leave, etc.).
• I’m being back-stabbed and maligned.
• I’ve been promised things by my supervisors that I’m not getting.
• My work is being sabotaged.
• Money is being withheld from me for no reason.
• I’m being punished or blamed for things I didn’t do.
• I’ve been forced into a position that I don’t want.
• I’m being excluded from meetings and other informational sources and networks that are essential for me to succeed at my job.
• My reviews have been great, but I’m not being rewarded as promised.
• I’ve been asked to do unethical/illegal things for the job/company.
• I have to work around the clock to get my job done, and I don’t want to.
If any of the above is happening, mistreatment possibly is occurring, and proactive measures are needed. But first, try to get in closer touch with who you are, what you will and will not accept, and understand with more clarity what you value in life and work, and what your limits are. Before you can act powerfully, you have to gain awareness of what feels wrong and right. Become very clear now—evaluate in detail anything that feels like a violation, and why, and document it.
The next critical step is to understand the role you may be playing in this negative situation. Have you communicated clearly your discomfort or your lack of agreement with what’s been happening? Have you said “Yes” when “No” was the real answer? Or have you shared your discontent in ineffective ways (gossiping, self-sabotaging, passive aggressive actions, etc.)? How are you potentially participating in this situation, and maintaining the cycle by not standing up for your convictions or enforcing your limits? What pieces of yourself are you giving away, to be liked, accepted, or rewarded?
Once you have a clearer idea of where you stand, reach out for help to get a fresh, informed, neutral (outside) perspective. This could be a discussion with a mentor, a sponsor, a lawyer, a therapist, coach, your Human Resources representative, your city’s Social Services Department — whatever is called for in your particular situation. Once you share your situation with them, evaluate their perspective honestly and openly. If it resonates as true, then decide what action is called for. If not, seek another source of support. Find help that feels right for you, but make sure you’re open to the truth, even if it’s very difficult to hear.
In the end, strong, healthy boundaries are essential in giving us the strength and power to design our lives and careers as we want them. Knowing what’s critical to you to lead a happy life, then braving up to take the necessary action to enforce those needs and values, is the difference between building a happy, satisfying life versus struggling continually with dismal disappointment and mistreatment.