the abuse and mis-use of self-help

It’s one of the classic self-help exercises: you write a letter to someone you’re furious at, letting them know every little thing that they’ve done wrong. You let it all hang out. You tell them in no uncertain terms how screwed up their behavior was.

And then, you burn it.

There’s a really important reason why you burn the letter–because actually sending it to the person is a shit-stirring maneuver that amplifies the drama. Also, it’s hypocritical (you’re doing to them what you didn’t want done, to you). Finally, it’s point-blank unkind.

To send that letter would be an abuse and mis-use of self-help; it would take the entire point of the exercise, and turn it on its head.

We live in times where self-help is exploding. More and more people are becoming life coaches, and Oprah’s got a channel dedicated to “living your best life.”

And sometimes, because we’re human and fallible, people take the concepts of self-help and abuse and mis-use them, turning what could be medicine inside-out until it’s poison.

The Classic Scenarios

Using “I’m speaking my truth” to tell someone off; to berate, to chastise, to put someone down.

Using “I needed to practice self-care” to get out of a commitment (when the real issue is poor time management and planning). Sadly, life coaches do this all of the time…to other life coaches.

Using “You need to take responsibility for your choices” to take the focus off of yourself, to minimize someone else’s feelings, or to victim-blame.

Using “you should believe that there’s enough for everyone” as a justification for copying (or very closely copying) someone else’s work.

Making a request and saying that there’s no attachment to outcome (the response), and then getting totally pissed when someone says “no,” or deciding to judge them as being selfish (happens all of the time for coaches when someone requests a free product/service/session and if the coach says no, the person making the request acts like the coach is a miserly Scrooge who has issues with sharing).

Getting upset with someone simply because they disagreed with you, declaring that they “don’t support” you or your goals.

Running up a ton of debt on things that you don’t really need, because “it’s important to prioritize feeling good.”

These are all examples of taking a great concept, and twisting it inside-out until it does more harm than good.

Feeling Good or “feeling good”?

There’s “feeling good” and then there’s Feeling Good.

“Feeling good” is all of the above. It’s using “I need to speak my truth” to make someone feel bad…which, if you’re honest, only ever makes you feel…bad.

Then there’s Feeling Good, which uses “I need to speak my truth” as a pivot point for greater clarity and connection in a relationship. Someone might not like it, but when the truth is delivered with kindness, you’ll know in your bones that you can feel proud of what you said.

Somatic Clarity

Of course, anyone reading this has got to be wondering, “Since ‘feeling good’ can be so illusory, how do I know whether or not I’m doing it? And how can I get more Feeling Good happening?”

It’s allll about somatics.

Developing the skill of somatic awareness is a hugely potent super-power. I’ve written about somatic awareness, before .

When you want to know the difference between “feeling good” and Feeling Good, it’s all about how you feel in your body (because your body doesn’t lie).

If I bail on a commitment due to poor planning and find myself telling the person, “I needed to cancel this in order to practice self-care,” I feel like a schmuck as the words are coming out of my mouth.

That’s somatic awareness. It’s knowing that the feeling of being totally out of integrity is actually the worst feeling there is, and that any time I compromise on myself in that department, I’m going to feel awful.

That feeling awful? That’s the sign that my choice is “feeling good” rather than Feeling Good.

While it might be awkward to tell the truth (“I did a poor job of planning my week and now I’m completely overwhelmed, and I’m choosing to cancel because I want to correct that with some self-care. I’m really sorry about that”), it still feels better than the lie of making it seem as if you’re under the knuckle of some unavoidable circumstances.

Feeling Good is actually rooted in taking responsibility for your choices. It’s knowing why you’re making them, grounding in them, owning them wholly and completely.

“Feeling good” is the sucker’s game, the siren song of “Life is hard and owes me something, and it’s hard to face that, so quick! over here! let me ‘feel good’ with this shiny new distraction!”

Just so that we’re clear: it’s your divine birthright to wake up in the morning Feeling Good. It feels good to Feel Good!

Where we get askew with self-help–which is what slants towards abuse and mis-use–is when we get stuck in dogma, using a concept to justify our own behaviors.

Feeling Good isn’t about dogma or justification. Feeling Good is about being in flow with your life.

You won’t know it when you see it–you’ll know it when you Feel it.

live from where the truth resides

So, Fabeku just nicely summed up how I run my business. Here he is:

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 1.45.06 PM

The day that I decided I was done with client no-shows, late payments, offering a gazillion different freebies to prove my worth before a client would decide to work together, holding back in a session for fear that a client would get upset if I stopped colluding with her story that she couldn’t create what she wanted to create in her life, not fully being myself in blog posts, running “giveaways” and every other manner of salesy gimmicks just because business “experts” said I should…the day that I decided that that wasn’t worth it, anymore, everything changed.

A core idea behind the Coaching Blueprint digital marketing program, is this: if you’re not running your business, your way, it doesn’t matter how much money you make (also, you’re probably not making much money. Money is slow in coming when people are inauthentic).

Here’s a little love note that I received the other day:

“I’m reading the Blueprint, just got it yesterday, thinking, “What the hell. Good people are recommending this; you’re at a crossroads, tired and bored of your business. You’ve meant to go back to coaching for some time. Read it.”

And so I did and am.  And as I read, I want to hug you often. 

I’m not a gushy person, generally, but the honesty with which you talk about yourself is really doing wonders for me, seeing the same thought patterns, observations, and complete UNWILLINGNESS not to be 100% aligned with what I do in life anymore.

There is more, deeper fulfillment, and I know it, and it’s gotta work for me, or Hell, why are we in this game.

So I thank you for offering me a mirror in a kind voice, smart eyes and clearly, generous heart. I appreciate it.”

The same is true for my life coach training program. People have told me they’d sign up if it was less money (even though costs only a third of other training programs, but I digress); they’d do it if the calls were on a different day; they’d do it if life wasn’t so busy right now.

And honestly? Those are all completely legitimate reasons to wait on diving in to something. I don’t mind. I think that it’s good when people are honoring themselves and their needs.

But at the same time, I also recognize if this is not a clear, resonant, YES, it’s not the right fit. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.

In fact, if it’s a resonant YES, you’ll feel it in your body. Your body doesn’t lie. When it’s the right fit, it’s molecular. Every cell knows when the truth of what you desire is right there, and every cell knows when you’re cheating yourself by keeping yourself from what you want.

The excitement can barely be held back (and right on the tail end of that, the fear, because that’s what happens when you’re stepping out into the unknown).

In short:

Yes, you could be more accommodating and find endless ways to change things up so that everyone gets exactly what they want–but really, you’ll never feel quite right about that. Not deep down. Not where the truth resides.

So there it is. Live from the place where the truth resides. Set up your career, your business from that place. Set up your relationship from that place. When you connect to that, and live from that, it is impossible to go astray.

the courage to be sacredly unapologetic

Like peeling layers to get closer to the core, every successful person has to learn the art of becoming more and more sacredly unapologetic.

The courage to be sacredly unapologetic is in knowing that even when people, perhaps even people you love, feel blecch about your choices, you’re still going to choose to be grounded in them–without apology.

What it is, what it’s not

To live in a space of being sacredly unapologetic, is this: you know what your priorities are, and the highest among them is to make choices that feel good.

That means:

  • You don’t hang out with people who don’t bring out that feeling within you. You don’t make obligatory phone calls to those people. You don’t opt to spend holidays with them. You don’t pretend not to notice when they’re rude or unkind.
  • You desire connection, so you do wish to practice compassion, forgiveness, and all the other pieces that go along with messy human relationships.
  • You ask for what you need in group settings.
  • You have clear boundaries and you throw down on them when someone blows past them.
  • You’ll only work with service providers who are impeccable, who deliver.
  • You go after what you most desire.
  • You price your work in alignment with its value, and you give, because giving feels good.

 

It doesn’t mean:

  • That you write people off with a big “fuck you.” That’s a huuuuuge misconception about what it means to live powerfully, and it’s a prime example of the abuse and mis-use of self-help.
  • That your needs and preferences trump everyone else’s. They don’t.
  • That you aren’t open to negotiating (some people see negotiating as a form of backtracking on their desires for self-care, like if they compromise anything then it’s all out the window).
  • That you do it all for the money.
  • That service providers are your servants.
  • That you put other people’s lives or standards of living at risk in the pursuit of your own goals. For example, if you leave your job so that you can pursue a career that lights you up, awesome, but someone who has kids has an ethical responsibility to find a way to do that while still putting a roof over their heads.

 

Being simply “unapologetic” often translates to steamrolling right over people and only looking out for Numero Uno.

Being “sacredly unapologetic” is about being in the fine glow of connection, with your choices supporting more connection–connection to yourself, to others, to what you’re up to in the world.

The Backlash

People who don’t practice being sacredly unapologetic in their own lives haaaaate it when others do.

They’ll tell you that you’re too picky, too precious, too sensitive, that you think too highly of yourself, that you’re narcissistic, that your prices are too high, that you expect everyone else to bend over backwards, that your work isn’t worthy, that you’re selfish.

I spent years of my life fearing being called “selfish.” Then I figured out that a.) I was being called selfish even at times when I’d tried really hard to be accommodating, and b.) I was being called selfish as a maneuver, when someone else wanted me to do things their way.

(So there’s a clue.)

What’s hard about being sacredly unapologetic is the backlash. You’ll have a day where you’ll price your services higher and in will roll an email from someone who asks how you dare to charge what you charge. You’ll decide to opt out on a family gathering and then suddenly this throws a big, shiny light on the fact that the relationship is strained.

The first few times this happens, it’s going to feel ridiculously awkward and painful, the slow peeling off of a band-aid that you’ve been clinging to, to avoid just this very feeling.

You breathe your way through, until you realize that the worst of it is over. It never feels quite as bad to be criticized as it does that first, shocking time.

You stand in your courage, your shaky tenderness. You understand that prolonging the moment when you’ve gotta pull off that metaphorical band-aid does not actually make the pain any better when inevitably, it’s gotta be done.

The Bridge

When you get more practiced with this, something pretty amazing happens: you look around at your life and realize that a helluva lot is going the way you’d always hoped it would.

You might have fewer super-close friendships, but those that you do have, are all quality–they’re people who respect your “yes” and your “no” without questioning your character.

You’re making the kind of money you always wanted to make, doing the kind of work that you always wanted to do.

Your wardrobe looks and feels like “you.”

You feel an expanded capacity to give something back, to be part of the worldwide community, to be a healer.

You have less resistance to your personal commitments–you don’t bail on meditation, or that daily walk you said you were going to start, or making time for art each day, or eating in ways that nourish your body.

Most importantly, you get it–you get unapologetic because you understand that this is the one lifetime that you’re consciously aware of. There are no do-overs for any particular year. You want to make them count.

When you are sacredly unapologetic, you are refusing to apologize for making choices that enliven you–because you are here, and you are here to truly live.

You’re not apologizing for that fact. You’re too busy living.