Stop trying to be perfect: You already are. Yes, each one of us is a work in progress, but that work is perfect in its state of evolution. When you are driven by perfection, you are unable to appreciate who you already are. Try instead to look at what is right about you.
Stop Trying to Impress Others: The people who want to be impressed (in the way I am talking about here) are not worth your time. The people who will judge you without knowing you or based on some criteria that are not even important to you are just not your people. The people who matter will think you are amazing. Pay more attention to them.
Stop Trying to Be Someone Else: If you are comparing yourself to someone who has different talents than you do or if you think that you should be doing things a different way than is natural for you, instead start to appreciate how you do things and what your talents are.
Find What You Love: When you let yourself be yourself, you will naturally be drawn to what you love. But, what you love also shows you something about who you are. If you don’t know what you love, experiment. If you like it, try doing it again and see if it grows into something.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love: Once you find the things you love, do them a lot. The more that you do what you love, the happier and the more satisfied you will be with your life. If you know what you love but you are not doing it, get the support you need to give yourself permission to be happy.
Don’t Waste Time Doing Other Things: Why bother doing things that you do not enjoy? Yes, I understand life has some practicalities that need to be addressed, but once they have been attended to—are you still wasting time not doing what you love? If so, start a plan to cut out the things that are not in line with who you want to be or what you love, and then take action.
Slow Down: We can all get a bit ahead of ourselves. It is not about doing more or doing it faster, it is about really enjoying our life. We can’t do that if we are moving so fast that we don’t even know what is happening. Start by building some real breaks into your schedule.
Pay Attention to What Is Working (Most of the Time): Most of us would benefit from being a bit more positive. There is a place for looking at what is not working, but when we pay attention to what works, we often learn more about it and therefore can have more of it. We also feel better about what we are experiencing. If you see yourself getting negative, find one thing that is working.
Express Gratitude: Being grateful is one of the most effective ways to be happier. When in doubt, find something to appreciate. And don’t forget to apply it to yourself!
Learn to Fully Receive: The emphasis on doing that most of us have been enculturated into leaves us less skilled when it comes to receiving. But how can we have a full and rich life if we can’t receive it? The next time someone compliments you, take it in.
Ready for an even more fulfilling life? See my article here to learn about living in your truth >>> “7 Signs You Are Living Your Truth.”
One of the main issues that people face in their personal and spiritual development is in the cultivation of presence. Many people get so preoccupied with fixing what is wrong with themselves or healing the past that they forget the reason for doing all of this work: to learn how to be in love with their life each day.
Sometimes, we do not need to fix the past so much as we need to learn new ways of being with the present so that we can have more of what we want. In short, the solution isn’t in changing the past but in being more adept at each and every moment. We do this by learning to be more present.
Here are three steps to cultivating presence.
Slow Down: As soon as we slow ourselves down, we witness the chaos that drove us in each moment. This can be our chattering mind or our compulsive drive to keep busy. At first we are uncomfortable, but once we break through, we have access to a type of experience we did not have before. Slowing down creates an environment for cultivating presence.
Pay Attention: As we begin to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment—our distraction, how we are feeling, or something someone said—we begin to see what is really going on with us. Paying attention brings things into conscious awareness, which allows us to work with them.
Acknowledge Where You Are Giving Your Energy: We slow down so that we can create the space to pay attention. We pay attention so that we can see what we are giving our energy to that is detracting from what is now present. Then when we get caught up in something that we do not want to give our energy to, we can reapply our attention by acknowledging that we are doing so.
These three steps make us more aware. It is from this place of awareness that we can be more fully in the present moment and can choose how we want to proceed from this point—direct our energy or be more receptive. We learn what keeps us away from being with the present moment and we can make new choices about how we want to connect, create more joy, or take our next steps.
Cultivating presence can lead to more fulfillment – read more about this important topic here: >>> “10 Ways to Live More Fully.”
As we move through the bumps, jolts, and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself.
When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victimhood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations.
Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential.
Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion.
Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Are you on a journey of compassion? Read more on this topic here >>> “Be More Compassionate: Love Yourself and Change the World.”
Wondering if you are living in your truth? Use these signs to help you see the way.
You are Happy. Not just happy because things are going your way, but really, deeply happy regardless of how things are going. When we are aligned with our inner truth, we feel happy.
You Feel Congruent. When you are living your truth, your insides and your outsides match. You feel you are with the right people doing the right things most of the time.
You Have Lots of Energy. An abundance of energy is the result of being in our truth. Even if facing a serious illness, people aligned with their truth have more energy and are more vivacious than those who might be facing something similar without such alignment.
You Feel Inspired. Being connected with your inner truth leaves you feeling inspired. When you are connected with your inner truth you feel creative and naturally want to contribute to the world around you.
You Feel Confident. There is nothing as good for your confidence as being connected to your truth. When you are connected to your truth, you trust in what is right for you, you know what you know and what you don’t, and you feel comfortable right where you are.
Life is Informative. When you are connected to your truth, life is not a series of challenges to get past but rather a series of events to help you unfold even more. Being in your truth helps you see the informative nature of all things.
You Can Be Generous. When you are in your truth, you naturally have overflow. Being in your truth means not being in all the things that block your truth. As a result, you have an abundance of resources that you can be generous with.
Ready to sink more into living your truth? See my blog post >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
One of the most direct ways to create a better life and a better world is to cultivate compassion. Compassion directed inward connects us with our truth and leaves us loving ourselves. Compassion directed outward decreases disagreements and misunderstandings.
When we judge and condemn aspects of ourselves (and aspects of others), we can find ourselves in inner discomfort or creating discomfort in those around us. When we are able to bring compassion into each situation, we deepen our love of ourselves and have a more positive effect on the world.
Compassion is the ability to understand the experience of another person or even an aspect of ourselves. Our compassion sees the other and acknowledges the experience as real and valid. It does not judge or look for who is to blame, but simply honors what is. A compassionate response sees beyond the story lines and the polarities to the deeper truth of the matter.
Many of our problems (both interior and exterior) can be solved by offering compassion. When we offer compassion to ourselves, we honor our experience and acknowledge our truth.
Compassion toward ourselves stops us from getting caught in the trap of self-criticism and the potential self-negating actions that follow. This does not mean we do not hold ourselves accountable—just that we offer understanding and care with our accountability. Compassion toward others offers them the same gifts.
Compassion is so powerful because it offers the following:
Compassion acknowledges. A compassionate approach is one that sees another where he or she is, how he or she feels, without the need to overlay wisdom, platitudes, or judgments.
Compassion honors. Compassion comes with deep respect for another’s truth, regardless of what that truth is. A compassionate person does not need to prove that an alternative way of being or viewing things is important or necessary.
Compassion does not blame. Compassion does not need to point fingers or assess responsibility. A compassionate person can see all sides of the situation and understand that all have a place and a right to exist.
Compassion is most often cultivated through being misunderstood or mistreated ourselves. This pain has the potential to wake us up to a deeper reality. After we have stood on more than one side of a disagreement, it is more challenging to maintain the “someone is right/someone is wrong” perspective.
We can actively cultivate our own compassion by choosing to see all sides of issues as they arise. We are not so much waiting for life to crack us open but rather using each moment to expand our own awareness. We put ourselves in another person’s shoes as a moment-to-moment practice of our life.
This gift of compassion makes way for our growth as well as the growth of those around us and works to heal the challenges we face rather than contributing to them, all of which aids in the creation of an environment ripe for self-love and offering healing to the world.
Being self-compassionate is also a key to living your truth. Read more at >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
As life pushes us in the direction of truly knowing who we are, both the moments of challenge and the moments of grace provide us with insight into our deeper nature. The question is not about where to look for these opportunities, but how to listen to life so that we can make the most out of them.
At one point or another in our lives, many of us feel the call to realize who we are at a deep level. This is sometimes a pull from within that starts when we are relatively young, or it may be a challenging life event that pushes us to seek out more, or a certain age that we reach that reminds us of how little time we actually have. No matter how it comes, the desire to know our soul’s true voice breaks through.
I have found that many people get confused on this journey. They wonder if they are really hearing their inner truth or whether they are caught in yet another layer of delusion. The transition to this deeper connection with the self requires new skills and new levels of discernment; without these things, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost.
The following are tools that help uncover and strengthen the true voice of your soul.
Acceptance. What we resist persists. This means that if we want to open deeper parts of ourselves, we need to start by accepting who we are right at this moment—all of it. When we can provide ourselves with that unconditional acceptance, we set the ground for our soul to unfold.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness creates space for new parts of ourselves to come forward and for old parts of ourselves to leave with grace. The negativity that we hold distorts the face of our true self. When we forgive ourselves and others, we let go and let truth appear.
Compassion. A partner if not a parent of acceptance, compassion allows us to meet all aspects of ourselves and hold them lovingly. When we have compassion, we are less likely to judge and condemn. This helps us release all that does not serve us rather than trading one limitation for the next.
Respect. Fostering an environment of respect for both ourselves and others allows us to see the beauty in them and in us. Respecting another says, “I see you and I honor and acknowledge who you are.” Respect for ourselves does the same.
Generosity. Generosity is the natural byproduct of a fully expressed soul. The more expressed we are, the more able we are to be generous in all the ways listed above and more. The generosity we express is not about getting something in return, but about the overflow of the soul’s true voice.
Learn more about empowering your true voice in my post here >>> “A Secret Key to Your Personal Empowerment.”
As one of the primary emotions, shame is a part of the human experience you’re your struggling with feelings of shame, use these quotes to spark some gentleness with yourself, and gratitude within.
Mistakes Are Okay
“Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.” – Vincent Van Gogh
There’s an ebb and flow to life, and everyone is in it together. We all make decisions that lead to outcomes we’d rather not experience. Sometimes, we act from a place of fear or resentment, or intentionally cause harm to those around us. Sometimes, we are naive or have inaccurate information. While mistakes are inevitable, what action do you want to choose from here?
Consider Inner Vs. Outer Factors
“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust the sails.” – Bertha Calloway
While the circumstances that triggered your feeling of shame may or may not be in your control, your choice to hang out in shame is within your control. We can honor the moment of shame but not linger there. How can you take care of yourself so that the shame can shift?
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne/Christopher Robin
Shame can be rooted in untruths told to us by others. What if your courage, strength, and brilliance is greater than you’ve ever believed, and the only thing stopping you are your thoughts?
Consider the Ripple
“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” – Edwin Hubbel Chapin
Whatever the reasons for your experience of shame, remember your positive impact as well. Your choices will ripple out and likely far outweigh your mistakes. What impact do you want to have on others?
Shift to Gratitude
“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
One of the easiest ways to change our emotional experience is to come into our hearts. Look around and consider what you can feel grateful for in this moment. Then – and this is the trick – don’t just think about gratitude, but actually invite in the feeling. What can you feel grateful for now?
Hang Out with a Dog
“Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach.” – Moby
We can learn a lot from animals, and dogs are a great example of (usually) living without shame. It’s possible to draw energy from a memory of an animal or person you admire for their shameless way of being. What memory makes you smile?
Looking for more inspiration to overcome shame? Check out my personal share about >>> “Self Love.”
I have been forged in the fire of doubt, lies, and forgetfulness, and I am made of self-love.
In addition to granting us the ability to be happier and make a greater positive impact in the world, self-love is an inoculation against some of the most challenging experiences in life. It is the armor of the seekers, the healers, and the transformational mavericks of the world.
For me, this knowledge was hard won. While I can look back to my childhood and find a connection with the divine starting as early as I can remember and an unrelenting urge to help and heal for just as long, self-love was virtually absent.
The earlier part of my life was dominated by pain. Everything hurt, but I did not know how I felt. Although I had people around me, I had little feeling of connectedness with them. And, I believed quite completely that there was something inherently wrong with me.
The first insight that I got about self-love came about when I had my son. I simply wanted more for him than what I had myself and I knew I needed to learn how to get it so I could teach him to do the same. To this day, I know that if it weren’t for my love of him, I very likely would have stayed mired in my pain.
Inspired by my son, I set out—destination unknown. Before too long, I discovered that what I was looking for was love: pure, undeniable love of the self.
Lack of self-love can show up as unhealthy choices, judgments about our unhealthy choices, an unrelenting ache, or a feeling that we are not quite expressing our full light. But at its root there is a belief that there is something inherently wrong with who we are.
This is the place where no self-love is present.
Otherwise, why would we simply just not let ourselves be who we are?
Signs that we truly love ourselves are unconditional acceptance –even of the messy or seemingly inconsequential parts, staying on our own side regardless of what happens, holding ourselves accountable only for what is truly ours, and loving ourselves regardless of our mistakes.
If we pay attention to what is underneath when we are not doing these things, we see in these shadowy moments of self-negation where our self-love is most needed.
Here in the crevasses between the more positive and accepted parts of ourselves, we can find the (sometimes) hidden belief that something is wrong with us. It is perhaps the most powerful lie that we can believe in the course of our lives –and many of us do.
Not only is it debilitating in our own inner experience, but this lie can be used to get us to back down, back off, or give up by anyone who is looking to co-opt our light, serve their personal agenda, or stop our forces of healing and transformation.
So, let us, each one of us, set the record straight.
Each one of us is an ideally crafted expression with a purpose and place. There are no mistakes. We are not all supposed to be 5 foot 10 inches tall, with brown hair, and good at math. Nor are our insides supposed to be the same, or our emotional expressions, or our ways of perceiving the world.
But it is not enough to know this in our minds – which most of us do. It must be etched on our bones and woven into our soul. Without that, it is a hollow shell of a belief that we merely try to hide our lack of self-worth under.
Fortunately for us, life has a built in tool to help us learn to love ourselves more and more completely. The difficult moments of our lives are not designed to show us what is wrong with us but rather to show us the path back to ourselves by displaying the illusion. In this process, we learn what self-love truly is.
When facing the difficult circumstances of life, we can use them to feed the part of us that believes that there is something wrong with us or we can use them to help us see what we are not loving about ourselves and learn to love ourselves more completely. When we do this we become healthy, happier, and more resilient.
My prayer for you is that you can pause your usual interpretations of yourself to see the perfection of who you are and that you are willing to lovingly seek out the environments that support your most positive expression.
There is no one else like you. Who you are is perfect, sacred, and very needed.
Do you ever have trouble loving yourself because you feel ashamed? If so, please see my article >>> “What is Wrong With Me? Healing From Toxic Shame.”
As Brene Brown says, guilt is the feeling that comes from having done something bad. Shame is the feeling that comes from feeling you are bad. While shame can have a positive impact, such as helping us to socially conform, very often when people speak of shame, they are talking about toxic shame.
The base of our toxic shame is often built in our early life and/or as the result of unhealthy relationships or difficult societally stigmatized life events. Once the path has been laid, then it is that much easier to set off a chain reaction called a shame spiral.
Most of us have had this experience. First we make a mistake. Then we judge ourselves for the mistake. We withhold love and acceptance from ourselves, and in this weakened state, we continue to make more bad choices, feel more shame, and withhold more love and acceptance.
Shame spirals can last for any length of time. In one way of looking at things, the bad choices and negative self-talk on a daily basis can be seen as a constant shame spiral. However, most often we are talking about an acute experience that sets off one or more of our triggers.
The first step in making a change is awareness. We need to be aware enough of the problem that we can see where we might be adding new behaviors to it. After you become aware of your struggles with shame and the shame spirals that rule the difficult parts of your life, then you can start to employ methods to get yourself out of shame and back on track.
Here are six steps to help you stop a shame spiral:
1. Know your triggers. Sometimes the best remedy is to stop a spiral before it even happens by avoiding or working around triggers. But even when you don’t, if you know your triggers, then you can act that much faster after one of them has been activated. If, for example, “failing” publicly is a trigger, then you know to immediately take some counteractive measures should you bomb a presentation.
2. Hear your inner voice. What you may or may not be aware of is that your shame spiral is led by your inner critic. This inner voice will tell you all the ways that you messed up, how people are judging you, and what negative things to think about yourself. Because it has an inside view of what you are most ashamed of, this voice is expertly targeted at your weakest points. When you tune into this voice, you can set it straight.
3. Don’t indulge in bad habits. The bad habits are the things you do when you are feeling shame that make you feel even more ashamed. You make a choice to fight with someone that you care about, drink too much, or not do something important that needs to get done. You might wonder why on earth we would do more “stupid” things when we am already feeling so bad, but shame impairs our judgment and often leads to forms of disassociation that make it difficult to make good decisions.
4. Love yourself anyway. Mistakes happen. Bad choices get made. In order to stop a shame spiral, we need to accept ourselves and our choices. We don’t need to condone them, but being on our own side and being understanding is key to stopping the shame from getting worse. So, regardless of how many bad choices you have made, offer some love and support to yourself. You did not make those choices because you are a bad person. You made them because you didn’t know what to do or couldn’t choose it at the moment. Chances are that was because of some past traumas in your life.
5. Choose supportive behaviors. If our bad habits can bring us down, our good habits can bring us up. When we get triggered, we can actively choose to do things that help us feel better rather than worse. We can look at the things we have done right. We can participate in an activity that helps us feel better.
6. Connect with loved ones. This is a supportive behavior that deserves its own category. Because shame thrives on secrecy, connecting with someone who really sees you for who you are can be one of the best antidotes to shame. This can be very hard for people who are experiencing shame, but if you can muscle through the discomfort, you will soon find yourself free from your feelings of shame.
It is never too late to stop a shame spiral. That little voice telling you that it is too late is only part of the shame spiral itself. It does not matter how deeply you feel that you have dug yourself down—you can turn it around. Keep trying. Keep loving yourself and shame will become less and less a part of your life.
For more ideas about overcoming shame spirals, check out my article >>> “What is Wrong With Me? Healing From Toxic Shame.”
Lapses in confidence are common, but when we are left feeling like we have somehow fallen short regardless of our accomplishments, it might be time to look a bit deeper to find out what might be driving this feeling.
I remember a client of mine several years back asking, “How do I love myself? What does that even mean?” For someone who has been well initiated into shame, self-love is so far beyond their comprehension that it is like describing a different universe.
We develop shame through life experiences, social conditioning, and cultural indoctrination. In short, we believe we are bad because we had experiences where people made us feel that way—overtly or covertly. These experiences are most impactful in our childhood when we are much more easily conditioned. However, the right combination of experiences at any point in life can leave us believing in our worthlessness.
Shame is complex and can be difficult to take apart. Understanding how and why it develops can give us a bit of insight.
Children learn to regulate their behaviors by developing an emotional “clutch,” located in the prefrontal cortex, that can turn the accelerator off when the brakes are applied and redirect their interest in more acceptable directions…. An activated accelerator followed by the application of brakes leads to a nervous system response with a turning away of eye gaze, a feeling of heaviness in the chest, and a sinking feeling (Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell).
This internal mechanism helps the child learn how to get along well with others and regulate their behavior in a way that is socially compatible. This happens in a very healthy way if, along with the child’s instinctual “braking,” there is love and connection offered from the outside. If, on the other hand, love and connection are withdrawn, then the child will have a different interpretation of the events.
This does not happen after one episode. When the experience is repeated, and the more it is repeated, the child comes to believe that there is something wrong with them. They will come to believe that what is wrong with them is either something someone told them in conjunction with these events or a seemingly random problem they might have found in their environment.
One of the simplest ways to heal ourselves is to reverse the process that we experienced. In other words, if we lost love and connection when we had a shame reaction, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to connect and feel love when we start experiencing shame.
This is easier said than done, but each time that you can choose this, it will help you to feel less chronic shame, and through that, strengthen your sense of self-worth.
When trying to reconnect and heal from toxic shame, there are some important things to consider.
Is this person safe?
Are they capable of supporting me?
Do I know what will help me?
Do I have a back-up plan?
Is this person safe? Not all people are capable of meeting you as you try to connect and come out of shame. If you are not sure about your personal relationship, it may be helpful to first do this work with a professional to ensure the maximum safety for yourself. Even when working with a professional, try establishing the relationship’s security before sharing highly sensitive material.
Are they capable of supporting me? Someone may love you a lot and be very trustworthy but lack the ability to show up in the way that you need during this vulnerable time. Sometimes, you will not know if someone is capable of supporting you until after you have tried. That is totally fine. However, if someone has proven themselves unable to show up in the way you need, you will be better off waiting to share with them until you have shed some layers of shame.
Do I know what will help me? Very often, the answer to this question is no. However, it is still worth thinking about and finding some answers to. When you know what you need, it is that much easier to get it for yourself. We often learn this by getting what we do not need and then using a process of elimination to learn what works best for us.
Do I have a back-up plan? Crossing this divide can seem really risky. There are reasons that you decided to hide rather than connect. Not every attempt is going to be met with success. In fact, your defense mechanisms might make it impossible to feel successful even if many successful features are present. Taking good care of yourself means knowing where you can go or how you can take care of yourself if your situation ends up being less than optimal. In time, as you grow in this skill, it becomes less necessary as the whole process will become easier.
It is helpful to keep in mind that the vast majority of people deal with some kind of shame that holds them back or shuts them down. You are not alone, and your bravery not only paves the way for your own expanded life, but also helps others heal from their shame.
An important element in overcoming toxic shame is learning to love yourself. Read more here to learn why this is so important >>> “7 Reasons to Love Yourself First.”