Vulnerability – Part Deux

I have been playing small with everything in my life for months now. I thought a contributing factor was the accident, but it was going on before that. It certainly didn’t help matters. Maybe I started then to doubt my purpose. Is that why the accident happened? To challenge how much I value the life I worked so hard to achieve? Who knows.

What I can tell you is that even months before the accident, I was coasting. I was “playing” life instead of achieving it. I was inconsistent with almost everything in my life except for a few aspects. Pilates and paddling were consistent. I just read the last section of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and if you haven’t heard of her check her out. Her books not only changed my business, but also changed my life.

As I was reading the last ten pages of a book I all but finished almost three years ago, several epiphanies occurred. The one constant in my life is my family. It is not necessarily my blood kin, as mentioned before I do not really distinguish between them anymore. One person in particular I think has been waiting for me to snap. I don’t mean snap as in implode into a ball of goo. I mean snap back into my true self. Snap back into vulnerability and action. Snap back into being seen again.

don't grow easy

I wrote two essays recently, one about stepping back into my true self via paddling. The other explaining how hard and simultaneously awesome my life is. I used to pretend it was roses, sunshine, and butterflies. At times it was certainly like that, and I realized it was true when I was being vulnerable and being willing to fail. I was out of integrity by continuing to tell the story of how my life was everything I wanted. Integrity is one of my core values. It’s one of the reasons why I broke my co-dependency and moved. I felt like a fraud. By telling the real story, the good, bad, and the painful I was taking another step towards being my true self again. It was hard to hit the publish button, and to let people see the struggles of my real life. It was brave and courageous. It was real. And the response was amazing.

Actions in proportion to fear is what determines progress.

One of the epiphanies I had after reading that section helped me clarify something I haven’t been able to identify for months. I stopped being seen. I went back to almost being invisible, but not quite. Because despite not accomplishing much in many months, people still look to me at times. It’s not as much, and it shouldn’t be. I have not become an asterisk. Even after I haven’t accomplished much with any of my passions in a long time.

One might ask why that is. It is the value I bring to the communities I am involved with.

This may be selfish, but I don’t want to become an asterisk. I want to be seen and be the example for people. I just realized that I want to strive to be “this is what happened to her, and this is how she rebounded to be even better”. So people realize that you can crash and burn, and come out a bigger badass then before.

I look back on when I was really rocking it with all aspects of my life. and what was different. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time trying to pinpoint what was different. I was different. I was bold and daring. Ready and willing to fail forward as often as necessary. And I did, repeatedly. I swam paddling when trying maneuvers; failed in writing, and failed repeatedly and often with my business. Until I got better and achieved the momentum necessary to explode to be seen for the badass I am. It was an incredible feeling of accomplishment and joy. It was something I did it. I showed up. It might not have been pretty and I might have been wet, but I showed up.

What happened? A combination of things, and all of them referenced in the Gauntlet if you’d like a more in depth understanding of it. The underlying cause? FEAR. And Self-worth.

that is pain

It was like a 2×4 to the face. As Brene Brown says (I’m paraphrasing), “there is nothing as uncomfortable or heartbreaking than standing outside of your (my) life looking in and wondering how I got to this point?” What happened to the courageous woman who broke through the reinforced concrete barrier of being seen?

Life did. I didn’t realize how much I had shrunk back until we were talking about it with one of my best friends today. I still don’t know why the accident caused me to shrink back into self-conscious and low self-worth again, and it’s something I will puzzle out. It’s another piece of the deeper reason behind all of this.

The realization took my breath away with all the implications yet to be uncovered. But it is also an epic relief. I can fix this. This is something I can now tackle. I will be vulnerable again with failure and imperfection.

magic in water

Paddling is my outlet for this. THAT is what I was missing all those months. The challenge, the fear, the action, and then the reward. Of doing something that provided me with such passion, clarity, and sense of fulfillment. A phrase I heard used today is perfect. Listen through the fear, and I’m going to go one step further and then act on the fear. This is why paddling is so important to my psyche. It’s the physical manifestation of working through listening through the fear. It’s about setting that challenging and rising to meet it, and therefore increasing my self-confidence in the process. By doing so, you are raising your own bar of expectations to the level of excellence in your life.

Advertisements

Hitting Your Lines and Missing Them

The Tohickon Creek release was this past weekend, and it is my favorite creek.  It is challenging without being terrifying (most of the time), easily accessible, and a solid class three creek.  Yesterday I hit most of my lines that I wanted to, and when I didn’t I was able to avoid the obstacles I didn’t see coming.  I even hit my line perfectly at the notorious Second Ledge, which is in my opinion is one of the hardest rapids on the whole river because it’s pretty manky and technically challenging.  It is such an amazing feeling when you hit a challenging line just right.  This is true in life as well as paddling.  You feel like you can conquer anything.

Photograph taken by Brent Burke. Hitting my line at 2nd Ledge on the Tohickon Creek in spring of 2014.

The Lead-In

The rapid after Second Ledge is called Race Course, which is tied for first and second place in my opinion with Second Ledge in terms of technically challenging.  It is also significantly longer than Second Ledge.  I was doing really well, hitting the lines, and cutting when I needed to to make the necessary moves.  This was until there was an unexpected obstacle in my normal line.  A kayaker who had come out of their boat, which is called swimming.  It is not usually a favorable situation to be in, and I have swam Race Course.  It is not a fun swim.  So I dodged the kayaker, and thought I was good to go.  However, I did not see the rather large hole in front of me when I turned.  Luckily I was going mostly straight, but did not have enough momentum to push through.  And in I went.  I learned two things, my drysuit is not dry and I deserve to work on my brace this boating season.

lower yough oh shit moment

Lower Yough oh crap moment (I did not swim there, but thought it illustrated the moment)

The Lesson

Life is going throw obstacles at you, and some of them pop up like Whac-a-Mole.  Unexpected and random.  Three things to do in that moment:  identify the problem, set-up a solution, and execute.  Sometimes those three things need to happen very quickly, like in a rapid or while driving.  Other times, you can take a little time setting those things up.  You will either come out victorious or you will come out wet (meaning you failed).  Crucial part of this:  both of those outcomes are perfectly fine.  Feeling on top of the world is the best high ever, and instead of living in that moment build on the momentum.  Don’t stop for anything.  Failure only becomes a mistake when you fail to learn from it.  Meaning if I don’t work on my brace when the weather gets warmer, because I will be getting wet from practicing that, than when I flip next time due to no brace, than that becomes a mistake.  Choose your poison and evict the word mistake from your vocabulary.

The Crippling Pursuit of Perfection

What is perfection really?  It is a stubborn mistress that we court, but are never quite found good enough for the Ball.  Perfectionism is different from striving to be better, because that is a competition with ourselves.  Perfectionism is more about proving/convincing to yourself and others that you are good enough. It’s a stifling and oppressive way to live life.  It is often much safer to not go for it, and say I am not going to even bother because it won’t be good enough for insert here (usually yourself when you really dissect the reason).  The threat of rejection and disappointment are far greater than the reward of showing the progress of discovery.  This is some of the most self-destructive things people can do to themselves, not including bodily harm.  The void of rejection catapulted my self-esteems issues even further because I didn’t think I was even worthy of presenting my skills if it wasn’t perfect.

barriers-to-love

Self-Pressure
Perfectionism is like having to pee in the middle of the night.  Stay with me here, I agree it’s an odd analogy.  You are slightly uncomfortable with the pressure, but you are so warm and cozy in your bed you hate to get up.  You’d much rather stay under the safety of the blanket until it becomes too much and you give in.  Except there is no safety blanket, and eventually you choose to show yourself and your talents to the terrifying world.  Or you pee in the bed, and shrink into self-loathing.

Take this entry for example, I had so many good ideas and lines when I started the concept, but I can’t think of a single one.  And they were good. You know what happened to those ideas I had five minutes before writing this?  I said to myself, “ooo, I like where this is going.  Let me get downstairs and get settled into writing mode before starting to write this entry.” POOF, gone.  I could have written them down where I was, but I didn’t.  I am going to publish this anyway to prove a point because this is an important topic for me.

Judgment
Perfectionism isn’t really about presenting your perfect work.  It is using it to hide behind your excuses, self-doubt, and flaws so people don’t know your vulnerabilities and insecurities.  To have your “best” self always on display, scared of being judged of not being good enough is a crippling mindset that weighs heavily on every decision one makes.  Every decision leads back to “am I good enough to reveal this?”  It’s much easier to show something that you believe is your best effect and have them bring judgment, than it is to show a work in progress and have it ripped to shreds (e.g. first draft of a paper).  It’s the same with my Arbonne business, photography, writing, paddling, and now art.   I used to get ashamed if I swam (it’s where you fall out of your boat in a rapid) while paddling, but it has a become a source of pride because it means I tried something and pushed myself.  Fail your way forward.

Roy and I hitting a rock - hard - in the rapid. Good times. Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Roy and I hitting a rock – hard – in the Cucumber Rapid on Yough River.  Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Self-Validation
The projects don’t have to be physical in nature; they can be emotional as well.  Or the most vulnerable of all, when it is the combination of both.  The vulnerability of art for the world to see, which is always an express of an emotion of some kind, oftentimes gives me the most pause in sharing it.  And being completely vulnerable with all of you, my latest self-discovery is how much I like to doodle.  I like drawing the lines, the shapes, and all of it coming together to make something kind of beautiful in its own unique way.  Art is terrifying to me, so this is a huge discovery.

doodle

One of the hardest things I have worked on in the last 4.5 years is to make an effort to kick my self-judgment to the curb.  It means you have to confront yourself, which is another entry altogether and discover some of your inner demons.   Be real with those closest to you, and I was surprised by the outcome of this.  In my experience, I discovered those who truly love me for who I am becoming and embracing my true self.  I also discovered those who will always see the old me, and who have a hard time accepting the self-confident version of myself.  It can be a brutal wake up call. Give perfectionism an eviction notice from your mind and soul, and be a vigilante when it comes to visit.

Be the Catalyst

Get Dirty with Change
People say that is change is hard, and it can be. It is also inevitable, and it can be beautiful. It is important to embrace the changes happening in your life because they are coming either way so you might as well embrace it. If the change is unpleasant, the sooner you deal with it, the sooner it will change into something tolerable. If the change is good or long-term beneficial, then embrace the journey to get to the beautiful place on the other side. While paddling I came up with an expression, “on the other side of the mud is often a beauty hidden by the effort to get there.” It is the same with change.

courage-fear-do-it-anyway

The Push
Quite honestly, the catalyst in my growth in the stages of my business has come from outside sources. I do much better historically when helping other people. I am more focused, more determined, and it’s because I genuinely enjoy being a part of helping other people achieving their dream. It’s the part I play, and I play it well. However, it is time to grow out of that. I have written how that is really not enough, but for me it is how I have measured my worth by adding to a cause. As if I am not enough just being me. It’s not true. There are things I am privately passionate about and very important to me that deserves to be heard, known, and acknowledged. These are the ones that only a select few know about, and that scare me for people to know.beat-her

Sparking Your Catalyst
All of it is coming to a climax. Tony Robbins says “change happens when the pain of staying the same is bigger than the pain of change.”  Everyone has demons, and every person has at least one that likes to linger. A lingering whisper is the fear of not being worthy of the amazing friendships I have built in the last 4 and half years. Which is completely ridiculous, and thankfully doesn’t surface often anymore. It’s the old me popping up like a prairie dog, and the part of myself I deserve to beat whac-a-mole style. Its presence has lessened since I am coming out of a transition period that seems to be inevitably messy. The result is a new level of leadership being born. One that I am ready to take on because staying hidden behind some type of misplaced pride is becoming too uncomfortable to stay idle. It’s like a bug molting into a new shell because it’s outgrown its old one. It’s painful, it’s uncomfortable, and as it happens you are incredibly vulnerable while growing into a new stage of development and waiting for it to harden.   It is time to be the catalyst for change and become the adult we are all destined to be.

Codependency and Responsibilities

The two biggest lies about adulthood is that your life is now your own, and that you should live your life to be “comfortable”.

The other thing that people don’t tell you about adulthood is that it is Fraking Hard. You essentially have two choices once you reach the pinnacle moment in adulthood: to stay or create a the cloud of comfort known as mediocrity or change into something bigger. The something bigger is almost always painful, and often times brings you into positions that you’d never thought you would have to fulfill or want to fulfill.

two-options

Responsibilities

This is what being an adult comes down to responsibilities. This is why I love certain aspects of my life, because I have none in one of my jobs. I still do them because I have a strong work ethic, but it’s not expected. And if you don’t, there really aren’t consequences that are noticeable at first. Depending on where you are in your life, those consequences may not surface for a very long time (raises hand).

This is what has separated my apparent adulthood from actual adulthood, codependency. I paid most of my own way for most of my life, except college, which will be forever grateful for, except living space. It was easy and comfortable, and I settled into a cloud of mediocrity. I am sure that my parents thought they were doing me a favor and I am grateful for them, but they didn’t realize they were doing me a disservice.

My life was not ultimately up to me. If I didn’t make “rent”, it’s not like they were going to kick me out. So I stayed, and I stayed far longer than I should have because of the cloud of codependency and comfort of mediocrity allowed me to.

As I am making epiphanies as I write this, it is evolving as I write it. Here is what I have learned about being comfortable in a fog of mediocrity: it is comfortable, but truly unfulfilling. You begin to question your own self-worth, as well as so many other things about your life.

Decide to Thrive

The word Decide means to literally cut off. Who wants to cut off a portion of themselves? Nobody. If a person has gangrene, and it was up to them most people would let it fester and spread throughout their bodies. Why? It’s easier that way. The pain of surviving that pain is often worse than living in their current state.

Changing sucks. It just does. What I have learned about change in the last year is that it happens, and often at odd times in one’s life. It forces you to grow into a role that you didn’t expect to ever take on. Roles that you never wanted to take on, sometimes. Circumstances dictated you to be the rock., be the one to ask questions, and be the painful truth teller in your family.

It would have been so nice if your journey had stopped there. But it doesn’t.

The Choice

fear pass, regret not

Growth and change never stop in the world of responsibility and adulthood. When it does, a person starts sinking into the mediocrity of comfort. I was used to love being comfortable, until one day it wasn’t. I craved more. It was easy. I am OVER it being EASY. Nothing good happens there, bring on the pain.

Here’s the choice that we adults get to make every day: be comfortable or grow into something better. There is no judgment for being comfortable. I lived in comfort for about a decade, and I struggled sometimes in the mediocrity of comfort.

I spent the majority of my life being “comfortably” uncomfortable. It was easy, it was being meh, and it ended up not being enough. I have written before that most of my life was spent trying to be invisible. One day someone saw something in me, and suddenly that was not enough. It shouldn’t be enough.

The pain and growth I experienced in the last 4.5 years was worth all of it to experience the journey of self-discovery.

The regret? It will suck worse than any of the intensely person growth I have experienced in the last 4.5 years. It is about being an inspiration to not only others, but more importantly yourself. Choose your inspiration.

Type of Decisions

Life is not a series of moments; it’s a series of decisions. I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of decisions. One is deliberate where you choose to go after something in your life. Two is passive, where you let the decision come to you. Three is where the situation determines your decision. The third option may seem like passive, but I beg to differ.

Passive is where you are ambling through life, but situations arise and you ride that flow without participating in it much. Situational decisions are where you make an active decision driven by circumstances where you decide to drive your own your circumstances. If you don’t see the difference, please continue to read.

done-to-me-human

I have always enjoyed puzzles, and life is no different. I have always been good at dealing  with problems and obstacles, regardless if they were mine or someone else’s. I have never been one to panic when faced with an obstacle because it’s an objective problem I can fix. When my car bumper was literally hang by a few pieces of metal, I fixed it with cable ties. When power has gone out, I grabbed my head lamp so we could search hands free. The pragmatic and solution oriented approach to problems have always come easy and natural to me.  It is a situational decision brought on by fear.

Everyone goes through things in their life that are presented as obstacles. Last November life presented me with a series of the biggest obstacles I have ever faced, and I used it to propel me forward. I responded to the situational decision, and I used it to fuel me. I grew more than ever, both in life and personally.  This post is not to brag about that level of growth, for which I am proud of accomplishing and grateful for.  The growth I experienced was driven primarily and instinctively by fear.  It is a small way to grow, however.  I would like to show you a better way to grow without external stimuli.  Fear will push you into greatness only so far.

two-options

This post is what happens when there is no crisis or obstacle, and you still have an all-consuming desire to grow.  When there is no life event that makes you realize that you have been playing small, and you better step up.  It is what happens when you turn from an amateur (in anything) to a professional.  Because your decision and action is not propelled by fear, but it is propelled by love and faith in something bigger than you.

I have heard time and time again in my network marketing business it takes a decision. It takes a shift. Each time I promoted, it was because of an external event. It’s not enough. To be truly better, you deserve to strive to be better when there is no propelling reason to be. This is that moment for me. I have no external struggle happening in my life, but I have not felt this much internal determination to be better than yesterday in quite some time.

Situational decisions will only get you so far before you hit a wall of your belief. If you feel the pull to greatness, be aware that your mindset and soul deserve more than to be pawns in a situational game. Be an active participate in your greatness, and make that decision now to live in a life that is not fear based.

The Push

The last few months I have been living in the status quo.  I have been working my business and my life, but not to the degree I should have been.  More importantly, not to the degree I deserve to be.

Every time I have pushed myself it’s because of something I didn’t really understand.  College I pushed to get a degree, but why?  I went district manager because I had a day to complete something I worked so hard for, and I was going to be damned if I didn’t make it.  I truly don’t know what happened when I completed Area Manager with Arbonne.  It was quite honestly a blur of phone calls, activity, and wonderful mayhem.  Inspired action is the magic word.

Actions in proportion to fear is what determines progress.

This push is different, and it’s different because I realize WHY I am pushing.  In some ways it is worse.  Before, I wasn’t thinking of why.  I was ignorance on fire.  I was focused on the result, which will get you to a certain point.  I did not have a reason of my story of why I wanted something bigger.  It was a different push.  It was an external push, so to speak.  My previous pushes and epiphanies were fueled by grief  and/or stress.

The push I am having now is internal.  I have realized my reason for doing this business, and going for it so big that it scares the living schnikes out of me.  Internal pushes are as scary as any class four rapid, any height (I’m really scared of heights), or any disappointment in myself.  They will push you to the brink, and then beyond if you choose to take the challenge.

I have never backed down from a challenge, and I’m certainly not going to start now.

Gut Punch

Occasionally there is something in my life that delivers the ultimate gut punch.  My mentor made a video that freaking set myself on fire, again.  I am not going to lie, the past month or so, while doing what I should be doing, and I wasn’t going for it 100%.  I didn’t know why, and I honestly didn’t even know I was playing small until a few days.  Now I know why.  Sometimes leaders are jackasses too; it happens.

My “old self” was keeping me down, and it’s evolved into being super sneaky that way.  I used to be able to identify quite readily when my old-self was creeping in and taking over my confidence.  It seems to have evolved into something that sneaks in for a brief period of time, then retreats, but the tiny seed of doubt is left there.  This will be stopping as of right.

beauty in the cocoon

There are many things that are crippling, but a major one that people don’t think about is judgment.  Your choices in the past are just that, in the past.  They have help create who you are today, but they do not define your future success or failures.  The only thing judgment provides is guilt, a poverty mindset, responsibility dodging, and possibly depression.  Judgment is the lame person’s version of strategy, because it is the easier way out.  If you take judgment out of your decisions and detach emotions from the outcome, you will be astonished by how much better you feel about your accomplishments and your life.   The fear of judgment and failure is gone, and only rationality remain.  I didn’t know how well this entry would go with my previous, but they really do complement each other quite nicely.

When trying to achieve a goal something that is helpful is strategy as to why.  Notice I said why, and not how.  If you know and understand the WHY, you will get to the how.  For some reason, this is just how our mind seems to work.  Big or small, fast or slow, strategy and why will beat how every time.  The how is small ball; it is the version of yourself in a chicken coop eating grain from a metal tube.  The Why is yourself as a free-range chicken eating whatever you want to in the big, open world of freedom.  You choose which version to be.

 

Limits, Goals, and Expectations

There are a few things in life that can be as crushing as expectations, either by yourself or others (big or small).  There is an immense fear of failure in this country, and probably throughout the world.  This point of view is an immense scarcity in perspective.  I have learned far more from my failures than my successes.  Is it easy to acknowledge failure?  No.  However, there is not much accomplished when you pretend it didn’t happen, or worse, fail to take responsibility for the reason.  In my opinion, it’s only a failure if you didn’t learn from it.  Those eye-rolling, I used to be you.

I made a personal vow to myself in my business that regardless of if I was close to, achieved, or if I  wasn’t even close, I would go for it with everything I had.  I have had experience with doing the opposite because I thought not even trying to achieve it was better than failing miserably.  You know what the result of that little experiment is?  It makes you feel kind of shitty about yourself.  Because there’s doubt on top of doubt.  There’s doubt about your goal/ability to begin with, and then there’s doubt because you may have been able to accomplished the impossible if you gave it your best, die-trying effort.  And sometimes trying hurts, and sometimes it hurts a lot.  Failing hurts, too.

decisions regret

Regret also hurts and lasts far longer than any failure you have.  I have had many experiences in both.  Regret lingers because it haunts your subconscious.  There are a  couple of things crippling about regret.  The unknown of doubt, positive or negative, is a plague on many souls.  What ifs, because what if it worked?  How would my life be different?  The scale doesn’t really matter, either.  Been there, done that.  Big or small, lifetime or daily, the same thinking applies.  However, dwelling on the past and beating yourself up about it does not serve anyone.  Move on and learn how to do it better.

Buried

The
amount
of
pain
in
discovery,
healing
is
related
to
how
deeply
buried
the
Pain
is.

 

It is
Raw,
Visceral.
the
Pain
and
Power
are as
Real
as
any
Break.

It’s
easy
to
Bury
it,
let it
Be.

the
memory
of the
Pain
stays
Hidden.

It’s still
there,

Lurking
in your
subconscious.

Like
a
slow,
suffocating
Cancer
of
your
Spirit.

be
Brave

Reach
into
the
Abyss
of your
soul,
Pull
out
your
Pain.

Expose
it
to
Light,
air,
and
Watch
it
Ignite

into a
Fiery
Whisper
of
Ashes.

Your
Burden
of
Memory,
Pain,
Regret
is

Gone.

Like
ashes
in
the
wind.