Marianne Williamson

Sister Giant: Three Responses to Feeling Insecure

Last week I was touched by your comments on my blog post about how insecure I was feeling about stepping out into new phases.  First, I always love comments as they remind me that someone out there is reading what I write!  But, more importantly, it's good for all of us to open up when we can about our experiences and feelings so we can each say, "me too!" Because so many of us are familiar with feeling vulnerable, I wanted to follow-up on that post and share with you a bit of encouragement.  It comes from a conversation about politics, but I assure you that each point speaks to us in any insecure spot we're sitting.

Sister Giant-- Our Call to Engage in Politics

Last weekend I attended Sister Giant--a conference designed to encourage women to run for political office as an effective way to bring about justice and care for the vulnerable in our world.  The event organizer, Marianne Williamson, is a well-known spiritual teacher who made an incredibly strong case over the weekend that the realm of politics is actually the only place where we can change legislature to actually prevent some of the causes of injustice, rather than only donating to non-profits that are set up to respond more the symptoms.  Even advocating or lobbying for change in legislature isn't always effective as there is no money or power behind hungry children, prisoners, or the impoverished.  To look at broken systems, like our prisons, and figure out how to better respond to non-violent crimes-- we need big-hearted people in office to care.

The case was well made of the difference that women can make and the need for more of us to show up in that world as candidates, or as women who will support other female candidates.

I can get behind bringing transformation to this world and I know that it is more likely to happen when women hold up our half of the sky. I felt convicted when Marianne said, "Women are indeed called to be homemakers and mothers.  What we forgot was that we are called to do it for the whole world-- to be more homemakers of this planet and mothers of all children."  Indeed we need more of us caring that there are 17,000 hungry babies dying every day.

How to Show Up When It Sucks

But just watching congress is enough to discourage the best of us!  A couple of news interviews listening to party-lines and egos and defensiveness and blame is all I can take. One of the attendees asked the question then that so many of us feel, "I can't even stand watching politics on TV as it all seems so mean-spirited and ego-based-- how would I ever survive in that world long enough to bring about any positive change?"

Marianne answered that question with three points that I think pertain to all of us who feel insecure at times, and she even started with the importance of female friendship:

  1. Develop a Positivity Team:  She quickly acknowledged how fierce the arena can be, and immediately suggested that we need to surround ourselves with positivity teams-- women who will cheer for us, hope with us, and pray for us.  That answer obviously gets my female friendship juices going!
    • If we were running for office, the jobs of whose on the positivity team are tangible-- women who would call every morning to tell our friend how amazing she is, women who would defend her in the press, women who would help pick up the kids after school, women who would remind her that whatever is said by the opponent isn't necessarily true, etc.  How fabulous does that sound?
    • I quickly thought of all of us who might not be running for office, but still need positivity teams.  Our friends are hopefully versions of that all the time, but if you're going through something big, something temporary, or something that leaves you feeling vulnerable-- maybe the best thing we can do is bequeath this title on them and make sure they know what we need the most right now. We're allowed to ask a friend, "While I'm going through this, will you call me more often and just remind me what you love about me?"  Yes, we are.
  2. Add good, rather than eliminate the bad.  There is so much research out there to support this concept now.  Whether it's emotional research that reveals it's more significant to add good moments to our lives than it is to try to eliminate stressors or medical research that supports that it's proving more effective to fight bad bacteria by adding good bacteria (i.e probiotics) than it is to just zap the bad ones gone-- the point is that we effectively deal with the bad by adding the good.
    • So in politics, her point is well made that the political climate isn't going to change until we add a bunch of good, caring, compassionate, and courageous female candidates.
    • But in our private lives that can often feel stressed out and insecure, the remedy is the same.  We can't (nor should we want to!) avoid risks, big decisions, and new opportunities just because they increase our stress and fear.  But we can add in extra moments of energy and joy when we know we're in stressful times.  What makes you happy?  What boosts your energy? What stimulates you?  What brings you laughter? Try to add some of those!
  3. And lastly, Show Up in Your Own Armor.Marianne told the inspirational story of David & Goliath.  For those of you not familiar with this Old Testament story, David, a sheep-herder discovered that none of his brothers or their comrades in the military would go fight the enemy giant.  David believed in their cause and offered to take on the giant.  The King quickly gave him all his best armor and choice of weapons, but David could barely move with all that extra weight.  He finally just said, "I'll stick with my slingshot and handful of stones." The iconic story ends with David hitting the giant with a stone between the eyes, or the place that many people call the third or inner eye.
    • Her point to women in politics was that we don't have to show up acting like everyone else; we'll be most effective when we come with who we are.  We don't have to act like the current congress.  Just because it's that way now, doesn't mean it's the only way.
    • And that hit me for all of us who feel insecure.  It reminded me of running for student body president as a college freshman.  Someone told me I couldn't win because I was a girl, a freshman, and I had no former experience in the student association.  The night before my speech, I turned those very three obstacles into the three reasons the study body should vote for me. And, I won.  I was grateful this weekend to remember that story.  It provoked me to make a list of what I consider my inadequacies to be now (i.e. no MBA) and turn them into my strengths.  How is it that I can come through this moment better and stronger for who I am, rather than for who I'm not?  I may feel a bit like David-- but Goliath can come down while I stay true to who I am.

So if you feel insecure right now-- take those three steps to heart.  I am.

And if you're thinking of running for any office-- let us know so we can support you!  :)

 

 

 

6 Books to Help Your Friendships

I often quote the research from BYU that revealed just how important friendships are to our health.  The sentiment of the research didn't surprise me at all, but what they compared it to sure did! After compiling extensive relational studies, researchers revealed that if you feel disconnected-- it is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, twice as harmful as being obese, and as damaging as being an alcoholic. What shocks me most is how little training and teaching we get, outside of our own experience, in this ever-important life area of relationships.  Compare how much attention your teachers and leaders have given to the three things listed as less significant than your relationships: obesity, drinking and smoking.  Seriously! We have laws against smoking and drinking, yet it's never been illegal to be isolated! We have  billboards and commercials showing the effect of smoke on our lungs and the aftermath of driving while buzzed, but I've never seen one showing the effects of loneliness.  Even if your nutrition and physical education classes in school left a lot to be desired, at least they had them.  I never took a class on healthy relationships.

In an area that is touted to be most significant to our health, happiness, and longevity-- we just hope healthy relationships comes naturally. Unfortunately, with 85% of us admitting to having toxic friends, I'm not blown away by how well we've taught ourselves.

6 Books that Teach Healthy Friendships

Here are six books I think could help us start being more intentional in our healthy friendship education:

  1. Consequential Strangers, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman, Ph.D.  As the tagline suggests, "The Power of People who Don't Seem to Matter But Really Do," you may not feel inspired to buy this book because you may not realize just how significant your connections through out the day can be in your life.  However, this book is hugely revealing and has much to teach us about our wider networks. For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Connectedness, this book is all about just how important the left-side of our continuum can be.
  2. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.  The middle third of this book is one of the most impressive visions of healthy relationships on the market, not just friendships. While her field is spiritual growth, her case is that all our personal growth happens in our relationships.  She showcases the importance of every interaction we have, from what seems inconsequential to us all the way to the people with whom we have lifetime assignments. Her call to us to give love rather than project fear is inspiring.  To show up with others on a soul level rather than ego level would change the world.
  3. The Power of Female Friendship: How Your Circle of Friends Shapes Your Life, by Paul Dobransky, M.D. This book goes way past warm-and-fuzzy to give you really fabulous scientific charts, graphs, and formulas. His definition of friendship ("Friendship is consistent, mutual, shared positive emotion") is still one I use in my teaching-- helping women know the 4 things that must be present in a healthy friendship. He breaks up friendship in some of the most thought-provoking ways teaching psychology, boundaries, emotional health, and brain function.
  4. Best Friends Forever, by Irene Levine Ph.D. This tagline will sell the book: "Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend."  She's quick to remind you that it's an unhealthy myth to believe that your friendships should last forever, with most of us staying in touch with only 1 out 12 of our friends.  She's also quick to sympathize with why it can, ironically, sometimes be harder and more painful to end friendships than it is to end our romantic loves.  Her guide will help you thoughtfully process which friendships to let go, how to do it, and how to heal.
  5. The Friendship Fix, by Andrea Bonior, Ph.D.    This recent book is a fast and fun read as it aims to help women in their "choosing, loosing, and keeping up" with their friends.  I'd recommend this book especially to those in their 20's and 30's still trying to figure out how to do friendship as adults beyond college. Her style is witty and helpful in identifying what kind of friend you are, how to transition friendships through the marriages and pregnancies, and how to think through friendships with exes, family members, and work colleagues.
  6. Find Your Strongest Life, by Marcus Buckingham. This book isn't about friendship per say, but is about how women can live successfully and happily by leaning into your strongest role (9 options, we all have 1-2 primarily).  I put this book on the list for those of you who already have a fulfilling circle of friends as I think this is a fun way to get to know each other better.  The five-minute online test is free, but unpacking the results and learning about how you each give differently in the friendship is priceless. This is a great book to go through with a group of girlfriends as you all commit to cheering for each other as you seek to live your strongest life.

I'm holding spot #7 for a book that is to be released in January (you can pre-order) titled "MWF Seeking BFF" where the author, Rachel Bertsche writes about her year of weekly friend-dating as she went from friendless in Chicago to establishing a local circle of friends.  This will be an inspiring read for most of you who know what it's like to need to make new friends but feel the fear and insecurity of actually starting friendships from scratch.

And then spot # 8?  Well maybe I should write one?  :)

So there you have it.  Gold stars for those of you who actually decide to read one of these!  I really want to remind you that to simply sit back and hope for more friends isn't going to do it. Much like the fact that you have to get off the couch to get healthy, we're truly going to have to learn to keep making and fostering healthy friendships throughout our lives.

To reading that can change your life....

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement.  Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.

"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."

That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?

In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction.  But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.

  • Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds.  Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses.  I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently.  How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
  • Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations!  Ugh!  It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others.  And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
  • Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?"  So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives.  It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story.  I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life!  It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons.  This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.

It's hard to hold our own peace around others.  They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us.  Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears.  Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)

Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.

But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:

To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones.  But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.

It's a concept I'm holding to.  I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace.  But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?

It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning.  It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.

So if you're annoying, bring it on!  :)  I have lots of room to grow!

Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson

______________________

I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.

How Friendships Can Contribute to the Power Vs. Likability Conundrum

"Women can be powerful. Women can be likable.  Being both is hard to do." says Fortune editor Patricia Sellers in her post this last week, "Facing Up to the Female Power Conundrum." My Own Power Struggle

I totally resonate with this battle. And it's not just a theoretical fear.  From experience, I know that as others perceive me in leadership, power or influence that my relationships more frequently have experienced jealousy, competition & criticism. As a people-pleaser, it's a temptation to choose popularity at the expense of my power.

On Friday, I spent part of the day in a coffee shop with a girlfriend of mine.  Part of our conversation centered around a workshop we had both attended last weekend where six of us participants went through a process of discovering our essence.  While hard to explain, it's basically stripping away all the titles, identities and things we do for others to land on a handful of phrases that captures who we truly are.  An acorn has the essence of an oak tree-- that which it is meant to become.

The hardest part of that workshop for me was owning how powerful my essence feels.  For me, standing in that group and stating my essence was really difficult (even though they all validated and pushed me to see what they saw.)  It felt presumptuous, vain, bold and big.

The little voice of my critic kept whispering "Who do you think you are to say those things about yourself?"

I was raised being told that I could be anything I wanted, but somewhere along the way I received messages that it wasn't acceptable to look like I wanted it. Rather, I felt like others celebrated false modesty, encouraged giving all credit to others, expected me to undersell my contributions and wanted me to pretend I didn't care for ambition and accomplishment.

To be truthful, I know I have a greater power and force than I am currently owning. My fear? As the article nailed on the head: losing likability.

The Role of Friendship in the Power Conundrum

There is still a huge difference between how we perceive men in power versus women in power.  And it would be easy to point to men as the obstacle to us owning our power, but in my experience it is definitely more my relationships with other women that will influence whether I step into my ambition.  Apparently, both genders have a harder time liking women in power as much as we like men in power.  But I'll argue that women have a stronger influence in empowering or preventing other women from having to choose one or the other.

Two years ago, sitting in the living room of a girlfriends home, she read us all the famous Marianne Williamson quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

And we sat in a circle, vowing to each other that we would rise to the occasion of being women who would contribute to all of us being our best.  It was powerful, to say the least. And now for two years they have proven that to be true. We have all chosen repeatedly, and it's not always our first impulse, to cheer for each other even if it makes us jealous and taps our own desires. But we hold to the belief that when she wins it will inspire my own wins.  It's not an either-or where only one of us gets what we hope.

The role of a friend is to remind us that we will both applaud each others happiness, not just our own.

Choose Both & Let your Friends Choose Both.

I can only hope that in the GirlFriendCircles.com community that we will continue to try to be women who show up in ways that prove that the choice doesn't have to be between likability and accomplishment. We may not be able to solve the media bias or bring equality per se, but in our own small way, we can offer each other friendship that can be sustained through whatever ambitions we each choose to chase. If we cheer for each other, we will at least know we are liked among those who know us.

On Friday, my girlfriend modeled this.  She is pushing me to trust that whatever I step into, she is going to be there. So while I totally understand the power struggle that women feel, here is one girl who isn't being forced to choose only one.

I will choose to own both my power and keep my friends.