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There’s nothing wrong

Today I was reading the latest blogs on Chipur, a leading mental health website when my heart broke. A guest blog by Mental Minds titled “No matter who I see or what I take, I still feel like crap” was the culprit.

I have previously shared (elsewhere) about my own journey towards mental health. I want to share here: I have also written a guest blog for Chipur about my experience of depression as a teenager and a young adult. Re-reading it today, I was surprised at how top-level and un-messy an experience it conveys. In reality, this is as messy an experience as there ever was!

Mental Minds’s post reminded me that my own stories went deep. They were tangled up in my self-worth. I had control issues around food. I dieted needlessly, and binged out to numb myself. The dieting made me high – it was my only real high.

I self-harmed – this created more distance between myself and everyone else. It was addictive and made me hate myself.

I felt isolated and left-behind by my more successful and social acquaintances. I approached any social event with a sense of impending doom. Any mistake or faux pas I made would echo back to me later that night, ten-fold. I was all awkwardness, all liability, all the time. I had to double down and manage myself. How could fun ever exist in that place? My only fun was being curled up with a good book, alone.

My forte is being that support for other people – I can reassure the socks off anybody that their suffering, what they cannot be with in themselves, is absolutely normal, human and a result of a story that is not serving them.

And in other people’s bold shares I can see myself. Thank you, Mental Minds, and everyone who has shared boldly with me.

Regardless of how biological we consider our pain, our problems and issues – I have heard it said countless times that depression is “caused by genetics or neurotransmitters or something else I cannot control” as a fundamental denial of personal, social and spiritual factors – I want us to consider that there is nothing wrong with us if we are depressed. Or anxious. Or different.

There is nothing wrong with you or me.

It is normal to have a weird, uncomfortable relationship with our feelings. It’s normal to want to try to fix everything, to think that we are wrong or broken. That is normal. It is normal to concoct crazy stories all the time to try to explain why we are the way we are. It’s normal to look at what isn’t working for us, not what IS working, and to flagellate ourselves as a way to fix it. Many high-functioning people do this, in fact.

It’s normal to create a story that has us be a victim all the time.

Normal will keep us alive.

But if we want to thrive, we will want to go beyond the stories. We will need to move away from making ourselves wrong and broken. We will need to accept and own our emotions in a way we never learned as children. We will need to connect with each other wholeheartedly and share boldly.

Ultimately, I want to leave a legacy of complete mindset shift in everyone.  I want to empower people to create the conditions that will have them thrive.

My mission is to:

  • Coach people wholeheartedly to connect with their greatness (and move beyond normal/survival)
  • Create a movement that uses connection and emotional awareness as an antidote to depression.

Last but not least, here is my guest blog on Chipur – consider it my story about my stories.

Neediness and People-Pleasing: a list of thoughts

1. Neediness is difficult to be with. It’s repellent, slimy, and pervasive.

I had a taste of neediness from an acquaintance – I wanted to help him but he wanted more – a friendship, dating – more than I wanted to give. I let him know that I had offered all I could offer. I did not say “I do not want to be your friend” as I found it difficult to be with how I felt. And I definitely did not see myself as this person’s friend. I made myself wrong for wanting what I wanted – peace and quiet.

He sent  me a string of pleading and confused texts that gave way to texts to hook me back into communication. He wrote awful things. Then a final message telling me to “go away.” Then he blocked me. This was painful for me to receive. Here I was, thinking I was breaking the message softly to him, only to be smacked in the face by his tantrums.

2. This experience brought up my own neediness.

My over-thinking communications so as not to look too desperate/sad/alone (“Don’t send three texts in a row, that looks like you don’t have a life!”), holding people at arms-length because I do not trust myself and if I mess up or become attached, then how can I live with that? People-pleasing and other control patterns are relevant here too. All of these throw a heavy blanket over any authenticity that might otherwise exist.

3. How do we stay disempowered, distant and confused?

Someone might offer me a muffin and I’ll want a basket of muffins. But instead of just asking for it, I will launch an insidious guerrilla attack to try to get what I want WITHOUT ASKING FOR IT.

Or the opposite – someone will want a basket of muffins from me and I’ll finesse things so I only offer one muffin. Even though it is crystal clear they want more than I want to give. AND I NEVER SAY ANYTHING.

What do those two have in common? Not asking for what I want.

What is the probably result? I do not get what I want.

4. Neediness is just fear.

When fear (and fear’s minions: neediness, people-pleasing, and people-controlling) show up, they hide the beauty of who we authentically are.

Neediness is repellent. Authenticity is magnetic.

Own the fear – neediness is just the fear that we are unloveable.

I believe we can separate the fear from who we are. We are not our fear.

5. You get to choose who you spend time with. Be discerning.

Despite meeting people who ‘desperately need help/saving’, I do not have to save them. I’m not a people-saver.

I deserve people in my life who love me and express that to me.

In the past I’ve suspended rules of common decency for folks who have their trauma, their issues, their ‘stuff that they are going through’. “I wasn’t myself” they say, by way of explanation. And I make that mean that it won’t happen again. But it does. It’s a pattern.

Instead of riding the storm with them, I shall free myself. I recommend you do the same.

It’s okay to want what you want.

Own this: “I have been putting up with too much, pretending it has been okay. I’ve been inauthentic. When in fact I don’t enjoy this any more. I want a relationship that has love, adventure and joy in it.” Do you want to create that with me? Or how about we call it quits? Your choice.

Practicing discernment in this way is tricky for a hard-core people-pleaser.

“But I’m saying no to someone! I’m rejecting them! That’s cruel. That’s unkind.”

When it is actually cruel and unkind (and inauthentic) to: (a) pretend that a bad or ho-hum relationship is a good one and (b) continue to subject yourself to it slavishly.

Who is a HELL YES for practicing kindness to ourselves and others?

6. Neediness makes your wants illegitimate.

Neediness only exists when we do not see that we can legitimately have what we want. Perhaps that is the love, help and support of other people. Perhaps it is a sale. A client.

We are somehow not worthy or deserving of what, deep down, we know we want.

Who would say yes to us willingly? With neither a carrot nor a stick to tempt or herd them?

Who would not? They are not your people.

7. Neediness can be banished by speaking your truth.

Separate from whether someone can give something to you, what do you want? Apart from whether you are ashamed at your needs, share with others: what are they?

Banish your agenda.

Do not try to guess what someone likes or doesn’t like. Do not edit your vast love letter to fit into their puny mail box.

Give ’em what you’ve got.

 

Some Red Flags of Neediness and People-Pleasing:

  • Your friendships and relationships – are you getting what you want? What are you tolerating?
  • How are you trying to change your relationship or the other person into what you want?
  • How are you changing yourself to become something that people will find more attractive, loveable and less awkward, old or sad-apple-y? Look at everything – do you wax your forearms because you think they are ugly? Do you avoid saying anything that will reveal your age? Or the fact that you still live with your parents? Eat Cheez Whiz? etc.
  • Conversations with people you love – how much do you talk about the weather and what you ate for supper, and other superficial topics? How much do you talk about the past? How much do you talk about the future? About what you want to create? How vulnerable do you get?
  • How much do you edit what you are going to say to make it more palatable to the person hearing it? E.g. “I must not tell my Mom about the man I am dating because she will push me for details and then continue to follow up, and it’s only a new thing for me, so instead I’ll pretend he is a friend and I will use gender-neutral language so she won’t catch on to anything.”
  • How much do you avoid pestering people in your life and try to do things on your own? There’s nothing like moving furniture to remind us that it’s good to have friends.
  • How often do you fill your cup with the things that you love? Other people don’t give us love – they share the love that we already have. Make sure that you give yourself some.
  • Who are you currently trying to save?

Noticing what I was running away from

All of the world could fall under the heading ‘Craving and aversion’. We are truly designed to resist what is unpleasant, aversion, and chase after what is pleasant, craving.

Our brains are designed to keep us stimulated and thinking about what we crave and strategising about what we do not want, what’s difficult.

Closing my eyes in a tent on a farm in Hawaii during a silent meditation retreat ushered in thoughts, moving images and sensations. I had a long list of food that I was craving that would spring to mind – I wasn’t even hungry! Mmm, bacon.

The gong rang early at 4:20am to remind us of meditation from 4:30 to 6:30am. Then breakfast. Then shower and laundry. Then more meditation. Then lunch. Then free time (but not to write, read or take photographs!). Then more meditation. Then tea. Then evening meditation, a discourse, and a bit more meditation.

We sat for an hour. This is a long time when you are learning to meditate. Even the physical aspect of sitting cross-legged for this long was painful. My hamstrings were hot and tingling, my back creaking and cracking, my shoulders heavy and my right knee sore. So many things to be with!

Often the urge was overwhelming to move, scratch, rub my face, move a hair, open my eyes, check my watch. Very slowly I grew better able to sit still. First I needed to shift my legs every 5 minutes. From crossed to feet on the floor, back to crossed. Then every 10. 15. 20. By Day Ten I could sit still for 35-45 minutes.

My hamstrings gave. They went from concrete – tough, unyielding – to flesh. They no longer hurt. They were pliable. The rest of my aches and pains faded – not completely, but significantly. Or was it simply that my ability to be with these aches and pains had grown?

The true test of meditation came after I left the retreat. After saying goodbye verbally to my copilots on this voyage of discovery, I drove from Hilo to Kona to stay at my somewhat affordable studio condo with a partial ocean view. The view was a sliver between two buildings and across a rather busy road. The condo was dark, dated and dirty. I could see long, black hairs on the floor. There was a VCR and a boxy old TV. I marched over to front desk to complain about the lack of ocean view. And I marched back a second time when I saw clearly that the floor needed cleaning. She asked for 30 minutes to sort it out.

I went for a frantic walk down Ali’i Drive – Kona’s main drag. I almost missed the splendid sunset and magical pink sky over the surfers riding the storm swells. I was all over the internet looking for other rooms. Everywhere else was booked up – this was high season, after all. I had spent half the day driving and my mindset was something like “you must enjoy this fresh air, this walk and the rest of the evening must be amazing .” No pressure.

The lady at front desk had managed to put me into a different condo while they cleaned mine. The next day I could move back.

Did I mention it was Valentine’s Day? I had bought a pizza, beer, and pint of ice cream to treat myself – this was not a day where I was celebrating romance, being single, so it was more about numbing. (and yes, I have a disempowering relationship with V-day, okay?)

“What else have I been numbing?” I wondered. I nearly laughed out loud when I recalled my debacle with the dirty room which had almost ruined my evening.

Wow – I couldn’t even be with that! Not for all the meditation in the world.

I had been compelled to run away from the dirty room, search Ali’i Drive and the internet for last-minute available rooms elsewhere. Hilarious that I had just conquered 10 days of silent meditation, camping in tents, to stick up my nose over a slightly shabby condo!

The next day I cannot possibly describe how glowing and beautiful, clean, bright and airy that same condo looked. Yes, it still had a TV and VCR but I also found a delightful drawer full of 80s movie tapes like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Its seemed even brighter and airier than the temporary condo. The kitchen was fully stocked. There were windows on either side so a nice cross-breeze. I never had the air conditioner on. I could hear and see the sea.

Something had shifted in me that enabled me to see how lovely my condo was!

I was able to laugh at other things – the parking garage that had an oceanfront view – oh to be a car, or to set up my tent in there! The lack of patio furniture – an invitation to bring a comfy indoor chair out! The sign that said “do not drape towels over the railing” – so bathing suits are okay to drape?

The key for me was noticing and acceptance – in laughing, I was accepting that I was running away from something that bothered me. There were many options – in fact I could have swept the floor myself, and there were cleaning supplies right there in the condo. Or I could have taken the next flight home. Or just left my shoes on. So it was all completely okay. There was no judgement – after all, I’ve run away countless times from things I didn’t like in the past.

What is different now?

A space has opened up between the stimulus and my response. A space of compassion and joy. A space of insight. A space of choice, of freedom.

I am excited to play with this more spacious, tranquil and free version of myself. I am excited to bring this to all who I speak to and work with.

Meditation has many gifts. I can heartily recommend Vipassana meditation. The retreats are by donation to allow anyone who wants to attend.

 

 

How the mantle of invisibility will crush your business, and what you can do about it

Allow me a dollop of nostalgia – I am celebrating my first two years in business this month and yesterday night, on top of the busy-busy-busy I’ve created in the last few months, I applied for my Associate Certified Coach designation.

This marks the end of an era. The era of invisibility.

Invisibility is one of the oldest gremlins I know.

 It kept me safe through a very dangerous time in my life – adolescence. It paved my way through a competitive family system.

 Just duck down and do different things, it said – do not compete with the valedictorian (my older sister) or the social butterfly (my younger sister). Create a safe space and live there.

 Nobody understands you. Keep your head down at school – the other kids hate you, envy you and will kill you just like those teens killed Reena Virk. Make yourself scarce, it said.

I was the artistic, brainy, quiet one who was on the yearbook committee. Who skipped public speaking week because I was terrified. My goal was to survive high school.

 Others did. I watched.

 Even when I was 5 years old I refused to participate in our circus day – I preferred to sell tickets, to be on the sidelines.

 What I now hate about being invisible is that I don’t even know that I am doing it.

When I first set up as a life coach, I rented an office in downtown Victoria. I was in a beautiful historic building that gave me a profile- hello, a sign downstairs with my name – and a nearly empty echo chamber of an office to ensure my future clients total privacy. There I sat. I brainstormed people to reach out to and sometimes did, by emailing them to meet for coffee or some other inoffensive suggestion.

 I volunteered with Bridges for Women but rarely mentioned my new profession. I was invited to coffee by another life coach who, lacking my timidity, tried to sell his coaching program to me after suggesting I had totally underachieved with my life so far. Or I imagined he had. I wanted to run away but stopped myself from being “impolite.”

 I gave up the office, which had seen one client only. The client didn’t start to cover the monthly rent or anything else. I was tired of the echo chamber. I went to London for the summer of 2015, planning a ton of fun and adventure. I connected with friends and created new connections with startups. I created another client.

 I became fed up with grinding away online to create clients. I slashed my prices hysterically and signed 3 people. I knew they couldn’t say no to that value.

 It wasn’t until this summer, pretty damn recently to be honest, that I started picking up the phone and dialling. Everything previous I’d created via email. From my comfortable and safe place where it is easy for people to say no.

 I still have yet to create a client from connecting by phone.

 However, my very first client I created in person. I presented a talk to the Victoria photography club and I engaged an HR manager who happened to be there. I was presenting on two of my passions- photography and travel. I was coming from who I am- joy and adventure. That night I had difficulty winding down because I had been on such a high. That was September 2014.

 I’ve learned what doesn’t work for me.

 13 practices to keep me invisible and disconnected:

1. Not telling everyone I’m a coach

2. Spending hours refining my website

3. Waiting for clients to email or call me instead of reaching out

4. Taking care of everyone else and forgetting myself

5. Asking for likes and shares on Facebook

6. Writing blog posts for better trafficked websites to somehow promote my coaching work

7. Signing up as a Coach.me coach and writing content and asking for likes – grinding.

8. Not offering coaching for fear of it being awkward

9. Not proposing to a client at the end of a coaching session

10. Not connecting everyone I know who needs to be connected

11. Taking part in any Twitter event – retweets have never hugged me

12. Joining a Facebook group and hiding out

13. Hanging out in an office by myself

One day a coach called me because she was promoting a workshop. It was the highlight of my day. It turned out I couldn’t make it, but I felt important and human because of her call and her manner on the call. I thanked her.

I have wrestled with connection for a long, long time. Possibly forever. Picking up the phone is still edgy. I sometimes wonder if I sound dorky or desperate. Or am I imposing on someone’s busy day? Will they respond aggressively or even abusively? What am I walking into?

I have spoken to a few people recently that share my reluctance to pick up the phone. I imagine that there are quite a few of us in the world. One of these people, hilariously, is someone for whom I left a voice message. She walked into the cafe, saw me and joined me for lunch, not knowing I’d be there. I didn’t even plan to be there- I just said yes to a craving for great food.

Last month I made 10 cold calls. These are fun because I catch people by surprise. I have picked up their cards from community boards at cafes and I tell them so. I only pick up ones that speak to me. I think one man I called has a crush on me. Four have said yes to a sample session.

I now feel powerful on the phone.

 Imagine a phone call that made you feel special. Who was calling and why? Imagine being the cause of that feeling. Now, what’s stopping you from picking up the phone?

 13 Practices to make you visible and connected*:

  1. Reaching out directly to someone I admire
  2. Noticing what my 10s are and focusing on those
  3. Having conversations in which I am honest and vulnerable
  4. Writing blog posts in which I am honest and vulnerable
  5. Changing my URL to connection coach.co – hello, talking point!
  6. Saying something, with love, that might piss someone off.
  7. Listening wholeheartedly and hearing what is being said
  8. Offering honest feedback to someone who has disappointed me
  9. Listening to someone who wants to drop out of my program
  10. Disarmament – opening ourselves to feedback
  11. Letting people know what I do and inviting them to connect
  12. Getting complete when they don’t show up
  13. Hanging out with intelligent, creative people in fun and social places

*What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you – drop me a line and let me know how you created connection in your life.

Mind Body Love: a new mastermind group for relationships

Mind Body Love tile

I’ve created a 12-week mastermind group that is limited to only 5 women who want to dive deep into what can be possible for them and the relationships they want to create.

While reading and completing  Calling in the One by Kathleen Woodward Thomas, I experienced numerous shifts in what I thought was possible for myself. Some of my breakthroughs came from realising fears or behaviour that had been limiting me. For example, my fear of asking for what I want and feeling so indebted when I was given something valuable that this burden weighed heavily upon me.

This awareness allowed me to experiment and play with asking for what I want and to practice gratitude.

The power of creating the space and time to do this work fully is something I am compelled to share with others (and this workbook and its exercises kick ass!).

I believe that a relationship mastermind group is not so different from coaching entrepreneurs. Relationships are at the very core of what it is to be human. And one of the key challenges of an entrepreneur is to forge rich, symbiotic relationships that will support their business.

Entrepreneurs are also, when they go home and hang up their coat, humans who want fulfilling and loving relationships.

The Mind Body Love group will meet weekly where we will explore all the themes of Calling in the One, support each other to complete our weekly practices and bring our awareness to the breakthroughs and shifts that group members have experienced.

After we finish Calling in the One, I will support the group to create relationship projects that begin with an inspiring vision. The last 4 weeks of the group will be dedicated to kicking off these projects, now complete with milestones and actions, and practicing self-compassion.

Throughout our journey together, group members will meet individually with me for coaching to look at aspects that are interesting or tricky for them.

We will shift hearts from scarcity to abundance. We will go from the shadows to the spotlight.  We will evolve from making complaints to making requests to creating a desired vision. Participants will create lives that are balanced, emotionally healthy and selves that are confident and even bold.

I am looking forward to sharing the love at our first meeting on September 14th 2016.

Enrol here.

For more information, check out the brochure: Mind Body Love Group brochure (pdf).

If you have questions about Mind Body Love please contact me.

 

10 Reasons why Entrepreneurs Hire a Leadership Coach

The work I do as a leadership coach is about helping people access their ‘inner advice’.

I work with entrepreneurs and nomads who have ‘burnt the bridge’ and are all in.

The level of courage and tenacity it takes to be a successful, determined, unstoppable entrepreneur is HUMUNGOUS.

We play all out.

Win or fail.

Get up.

Do it again.

I have found that when people make a paid commitment to doing anything, it goes from being a ‘should’ to being a ‘must-do.’

My own coach calls it ‘having skin in the game.’

Did you hear the level of commitment triple?

These are my top reasons for hiring a leadership coach:

  1. Fully COMMIT to your life as you MAKE it.
  2. Gain an EDGE by fine-tuning your game.
  3. CHALLENGE your coach – they’re a paid professional- BRING it!
  4. Become FULLY accountable.
  5. Create a system for success – this is also known as a STRUCTURE for PERSEVERANCE.
  6. Draft a ROAD MAP for ACHIEVEMENT.
  7. Be a REBEL with a CAUSE – and KNOW that CAUSE.
  8. Be deeply listened to and HEARD.
  9. Take ACTIONS to GROW yourself.
  10. Have an ADVENTURE – the greatest of all is within.

Much was made of Team Raonic, the 3 coaches and 2 consultants who supported Milos Raonic to his first ever Wimbledon trophy recently.

Doesn’t that sentence say it all? Tennis players in the top 10 in the world are already experts. Yet he saw the huge benefit of calibrating his game by hiring coaches.

He refused to stop at ‘good’ and is on track for ‘record-breaking.’

Isn’t it time to fine-tune your game?

Then it is time to hire a high-impact coach.

P.S. If you like lists, Forbes has another list of 8 reasons to hire a coach.

Dear Fear

Dear Fear,

Thank you for attempting to keep me safe, especially when I board an aircraft (I read about crazy stuff happening in the news all the time) and take any risks at all, e.g. scuba diving, hiking, getting in a car even.

Sometimes you are way too loud and enthusiastic. I will ask you to lower your voice and, knowing that you are along for all of my journeys, respect that I am the navigator and decision-maker in all of this.

You do not get a vote in where I go or what I do.

That’s for me and my intuition to choose.

Thanks again for keeping your eyes on the clock and keeping me alert to dangers, one of which is letting the time tick away. Sometimes this in itself is a danger though – to quote the Dalai Lama, “unreasonable fear is totally useless and often destructive” and “we must keep this kind of fear in check.”

So I fully intend to go where my heart desires and contribute as much as I can before my time is up. And that includes embarking on a ton of adventures.

Love,

Danielle

Speak your truth

Speak your truth June 2016

These words are in me – asking for what you want is a major theme in my life, with my family also. It continues to be edgy to make a request, to ask. Even when I imagine that I’ve been told “no” hundreds or thousands of times, still to ask. To persist. Without making the “no” mean anything about me.

Receiving is seldom what I thought I would receive. The gift is incorporated in the asking, it is to be encouraged, emboldened somehow. Not to be thrown to the curb as I had predicted. To be welcomed in. So the act of asking becomes more natural. Perhaps I even get what I ask for too. Or I learn something. More feedback from the universe. I’m inspired to say “Okay, do I still want what I wanted?”

Receiving a clear “no” is also, in fact, a gift. Next..!

Telling on ourselves – that’s a gift of an open door to the truth. Putting it all on the table for everyone to see. The opposite of so many hilarious sitcoms that feature a lie stacked on a misunderstanding on a wobbly foundation of half-truths.

Man, the truth is powerful. Suppress it all we want, it will create its own way out.

Thank you for Katherine Woodward Thomas (Calling in the One) for the inspiration today. She writes:

 I spent a lot of time journalling and reading to try to sort through the many emotions, sensations, and responses that had, for so many years, remained unnamed…I had to own feelings and thoughts that were contrary to my image of myself as a ‘nice’ person…You really can’t be that invested in looking good if you want to know the experience of love.

As did I – as a university student, I was obsessed with trying to find the origin of my worries and my bad moods. I noticed: shame or disappointment in my choosing comfort over connection, feeling sadness at being alone (but also relief), feeling angry about someone else’s behaviour (even if it wasn’t actually inspired by or even directed towards me) and generally feeling frustrated, confused and relieved about being invisible (but fearful of being seen).

These were my first steps down a long path of self discovery. I’m still learning to stop suffering and ask for help.

I created this photograph in Mill Hill Park (Victoria, BC) – it was the end of a mainly uphill hike, and a fruitful solo outing taking photographs of the camas and a naval ship from the top of the hill. It’s a reminder that we don’t know what’s right around the corner, in this case, something joyful and beautiful. It’s our challenge to be present to find it and appreciate it.