I am a survivor of emotional abuse in childhood, constant depression until I was 28, and in a marriage: domestic violence, infidelity, and sexual abuse and manipulation. However, I don’t identify with being a survivor or an overcomer.
I used to identify with being an overcomer, until a couple of years ago at a live event hosted by my favorite mentor. There were only maybe 30 of us in attendance at this laser-focused personal intensive. He was working with someone who also identified with great pride as being an overcomer. He brought to her attention that her attachment of value to all that she’s overcome will only lead to having more and more trauma to overcome.
Hold on—if my unbelievable overcoming created my self-esteem, then to keep my self-esteem up, I will have to keep overcoming extremely difficult circumstances over and over again?
A light bulb went off in me.
It’s NOT because I shouldn’t celebrate overcoming! I absolutely should honor myself and recognize my growth and success against great odds. That is wonderful!
It IS, however, about placing value and self-worth on “being an overcomer.” The coach was drawing to her attention that when she found her self-worth through “overcoming” and experienced validation as such, then she, of course, had to keep putting herself in a position to tolerate difficult situations until they were so awful she could overcome them too, thus perpetuating her self-worth.
I thought about this today when I noticed how much slimmer I was finally getting again. I have a fitness challenge starting on Monday, and I thought, Oh, no! I didn’t measure or weigh myself at the highest point, and I’m already shedding. Now I’ll never know for sure how many inches or pounds I dropped!
Suddenly, my self-coach kicked in. Pardon me, Tanisha, but is it really about how much you’re OVERCOMING or is it actually about the RESULT you want?
I heard myself with a new voice. Yes, it is definitely about the result I want.
The “overcoming” is awesome when recognized just for a moment (heck yeah you can celebrate and acknowledge you did a hard thing!), and then move on—I don’t need to feed all those pounds and inches any more attention than they already get. The real focus is in the results—in the physical tone, the energy, my favorite clothes fitting well, and on and on. It doesn’t actually matter if I shed a single pound or fifty, the only thing that matters is achieving the bottom line.
So, yes, I am a survivor, but I don’t attach value to merely surviving, and I don’t measure self-worth by the mounds I have overcome. My real joy is in loving myself at all times no matter what, and in the thrill of living outside of my comfort zone in the magical realm of everything I truly AM!
I have said, and it’s true, I have largely overcome the depression and self-hatred that I somehow endured practically 24/7 from childhood until I was 28 years old. (I was told I had a chemical imbalance, ironically only a few short years after internally rolling my eyes at a high school classmate who said she had the same thing. Karma?)
Even though I have come a long way, I still have to watch myself daily, as it’s so easy for it to creep in and flatten me. My lows are just as low as in the past, with the wish that I could not only die, but stop existing in every way altogether. But my “normals” and highs are much higher and much more often.
In fact, my “normal” is indeed normal—it’s my general state of being, and it’s generally full of positivity, drive, and fun. That was a foreign concept when my “normal” meant depressed all the time.
Aren’t I too short for this ride?!
I generally claim that I’ve overcome depression because I have. But I thought that being an effective life coach and kung fu master and instructor meant that I could never be depressed and have such horrendous lows.
With that type of belief, you can imagine how much worse I felt about myself when I struggled with depression over the last two holiday weeks of 2014, when I had extra time off from kung fu classes, coaching appointment, or networking events. I planned to get a huge chunk of work done in my businesses, but instead spent most of my time crying in bed wasting time binge-watching Netflix. (Kind of like the Martha Stewart story I shared on a particularly hard day during this period, from which I rose up beautifully like a phoenix.)
Those two weeks were a massive roller coaster with some crazy awesome successes, but still littered with these intensely deep lows. Those successes included yet AGAIN breaking through my income ceiling in my belief system and in my literal results by topping both my biggest single day and week (in only 5 days!) of income generation. I did things that took me out of my comfort zone on some specific personal development areas I’ve been working on and had amazing experiences doing so. I made some health upgrades with so much ease, it was almost as simple as breathing. I mean things were (are still) really progressing well for me!
But the yo-yo back into the lows made me feel like “What the hell is wrong with me?!”
This is not normal for me. That down side is something from my past and the worst part about it was feeling like a hypocrite when I am all about empowerment, being happy, and living the live you love, but here I was hating myself again the next day.
Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing Head
Until I remembered that being a coach, kung fu master, and a person who loves herself and others never meant being perfect and never having lows. I remembered that my deep-feeling, analytical strengths come with the potential for hyper-sensitivity, over-self-evaluation, and heightened emotions most of the time. I would never give up those strengths that allow me to so effectively coach others and myself, and to bring people down to their wall-less core so they can communicate truth and needs to each other, and so many other benefits, for the freedom of never being depressed again.
And besides, I am not like I was my first 28 years—I can manage my depression. I normally do. I am normally everything I portray with my positive outlook and friendly and happy spirit. That is my normal. This is just a low I have to deal with sometimes (this one came with more consecutive days than usual), and it’s okay to be that way. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because it means my dreams and goals are bigger than they’ve ever been and that scares the little girl inside who is still getting used to the idea that I matter. It’s beautiful because I can love ALL of me, the best and the worst parts of me.
But here comes the coolest thing ever.
I read an article somewhere about some guy’s battle with depression and how he still managed to go to school and get a job and create some good things in his life. There was nothing really spectacular about this article, but it showed me what I needed in that moment—it reminded me of this truth as a metaphor for life…
When it’s time to go on stage, we do it even if we’re scared. We don’t have to eliminate the fear in order to perform on stage, we just need to do it regardless of how much fear we feel.
Our lives are our one stage production with no dress rehearsal, and we are living it even if we are depressed. If it’s okay for the actor or speaker to perform with fear underneath, then it’s okay for me to live with depression underneath.
The INSTANT I realized it was okay for me to be depressed and I didn’t have to “fight” it or hate myself for it, I wasn’t depressed anymore.
The moment I realized it was okay if depression won me over once in a while, 90% of the depression got knocked out of me, and a song came on that hit me just right with its empowering base and touching harmony that knocked the last 10% out of me. (It wasn’t even a song of hope or motivation, it was just a regular song with the right tones, vibrations, beats, and harmonies for me in that moment.)
I returned to my normal self-honoring and self-respecting place with ease. There was no pain or hard effort, just pure acceptance of either choice, which led to my ability to make the better choice. I didn’t even have to actually make the choice, I merely set my subconscious (which makes 99% of our choices for us anyway) up for success through my realization, and it responded with the best choice, and that was it.
The pressure and negativity was simply cleared away and what was left was the real me.
I spent the rest of the evening listening to a new empowering playlist for 2015 while organizing areas of my home, dancing on the stairs and being me.
Whether or not depression is “bad,” makes no difference to me at this point because it’s far more important for me to love myself through whatever I go through than to tell myself to “stop being bad,” which only makes me feel worse about myself and pushes me lower.
Besides, going through lows and feeling terrible isn’t bad. It is just part of each of our cycles, and we all go through them differently. Of course I don’t want my life to waste away sinking into a depression I can’t get out of, but when most of those low moments are riddled with self-beratement for being depressed in the first place—when that stops, the depression is free to stop as well.
Um, hello?! Live the life you love, of course! What all of this is about in the first place. Growing and embracing our best selves.
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If you’ve been following me on Facebook, then you might have read that I was interviewed yesterday for my very first national radio show interview! I knew I was going in this direction in a real way when I started making clear steps last fall, and I have been laying a cleaner personal brand and coaching program foundation.
The only problem, is I’ve never done this before. I don’t know anything about it, other than the fact that I’ve heard a radio show… Thank goodness my big “why” is strong enough to keep me going, stretching, expanding, and getting the hell out of my comfort zone! And thank goodness I signed with an awesome manager to walk me through the media and PR stuff.
The First Time is Always the Hardest
That’s what they say, anyway, and it seems to be true with everything else I’ve experienced… But with radio, I’ve only had the first time, so I’ll let you know after my second time if that’s bull-honkey!
I’ve been prepping my web site and social media, my blog posts and programs, and capitalizing on my drive to move forward and make a difference. I knew the day would come that I would actually be recording the show. At least my first time wasn’t live!
My nerves started creeping in a few days prior—it was like anytime I remembered, “Oh, yeah, I am going to be on a national radio show,” I started to have a gripping fear. I was able to breathe deeply and calm it down each, because I knew I was going to do it no matter what, so I might as well not freak out. Success.
“The Thing Itself” Nerves
Then came the actual interview… We recorded three segments, and for the first one, I was way more nervous and shaky than I thought. The producer told me today that it had to be scrapped! But no harm, no foul. It’s so funny because I have given, I don’t know, 100 live teleclasses and coaching calls, and I teach kung fu 15 hours a week, and I’ve been teaching and speaking in front of live audiences, so it’s not like I’ve never been front and center or shared my content before! Still, the radio was a new experience for me, and I knew this was just the first real step toward a much larger presence. That stretch out of my comfort zone seemed to really affect me! (We also used a different phone line for the first one, so the audio quality was also unacceptable… so we couldn’t have used it anyway…)
I was more conversational in the second two segments, so those are a go for this weekend and next! Overall, I did great, and they told me they want me back on! (See when Jim Brickman’s show is syndicated in your area. If you are local to me in Colorado Springs, it airs on K-LITE 106.3 from 8 am – 12 noon this Sunday 7/13, and another topic with me next Sunday 7/20.)
But before I heard any of that feedback, I hung up the phone, and started to have a mild anxiety attack. I stepped away from work to make lunch. I was shaky and chaotic. I called my sister and I was talking in circles and crying.
I just chilled for another hour or two, then busied myself with some housework, then tried on a huge pile of clothes my mom had given me to see what I liked.
I looked forward to kung fu later, especially Tai Chi where I really got in the zone!
All in all, it ended great. I did something new and scary. And I survived it all! The thing is, we all have reactions like these or similar when we dare to expand our lives into the big realm of the unkown. Unless you stop growing (in which case you are shrinking, because there is only growth or decline—the “plateau” is just an illusion) you will need to be willing and prepare to experience whatever your personal brand of “freak out” is.
Here are my best tips for overcoming anxiety when you stretch out of your comfort zone!
Breathe deeply. Seriously. Do it. You should do it all the time anyway, it does wonders for your health and state of being!
Smile and laugh! The excited energy from laughter is a similar intensity to the anxious energy, but in a positive direction. Fight fire with fire!
Take a break. Step away from the situation or work or pressure, and do something completely unrelated, relaxing, and fun.
Phone a friend. You might just be able to win that million dollars if you get support when you need it, thus continuing to grow yourself and your business. The sky is the limit!
Meditate. Jump into a Tai Chi or other meditation class, or do it on your own. It calms the whole mind, body, and soul!
(I am not a mental health or medical professional, so if you have a more severe issue, please get the appropriate help.)
For many business owners, April is the time when you are adjusting from either a very disappointing or very exciting first quarter, not to mention recovering from tax time. For students, you are likely wrapping up the semester and getting ready to hand in your last projects and take finals. For stay-at-home moms or dads, you are supporting your spouse and children in those aforementioned added stressors and managing umpteen other issues. If you’re human, you’ve got something stressful going on!
Will it end in two days when April is over? Or when summer hits? Um, no. We wish.
You Are Not Destined To A Life Of Unending Chaos
You and I both know there is always stress trying to disrupt us and make things difficult. There is always something going on, left unfinished, or popping up unexpectedly to interrupt your flow, if you even had a “flow” in the first place. While it may seem chaotic now, you are not destined for a life of unending chaos. Really, you’re not. And it’s not something you have to wait for. Circumstances will always come and go, but you can make one little shift to make the biggest impact on your life right now.
It may seem counter-intuitive to spend time on something “extra” when you’re already drowning in responsibility and deadlines, but I promise when you use this time wisely, all of the rest will almost effortlessly fall into place. Seriously.
There is an old zen teaching that states:
You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.
This is absolute truth and a MAJOR key to success and stress relief. Don’t resist it and explain it away with your many excuses. Why do you think you’re so stressed in the first place? Because you’re not doing what works. Do what works and let it work in your favor!
Not Sure How To Meditate?
While there are methods to meditating that make it effective and enjoyable for you, you can actually just sit in quiet pondering (and/or prayer if your beliefs take you there). It’s more important to do it consistently and peacefully than to try to “do it right.” So find a quiet spot, breathe deeply, and focus on a question, your deep breathing, a tree nearby, or whatever removes all of your stress factors and allows you to just be quiet for a while.
Here are my favorite meditative practices:
Swim alone early in the morning and just think and ponder back and forth in the pool. Clears my mind and is absolutely fulfilling!
Learn Tai Chi, also known as “Meditation in Motion. If you are in Colorado Springs, I teach Tai Chi at my Kung Fu school, KungFuColoradoSprings.com. Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (719) 377-2108 to find out how we can do Tai Chi lessons via Skype.
Participate in my breathing & meditation class at my kung fu school. While this is a class geared for students, it’s a fantastic fundamental class for non-students and beginners as well. Contact me at email@example.com or (719) 377-2108 to learn more.
When I had my first major breakthrough, I followed a specific process (which is taught in one of the programs included in the Master Bundle Mega Closeout Sale). One thing was missing from the process as I learned it, and I instinctively added it in as a form of self-care. I honestly wasn’t even thinking about the meditative aspect of it, but I knew I had to do something very personally fulfilling to make me brave enough to let go of doubt, fear, and worry for the two weeks I had committed to.
Thankfully it was summer, so I got up early each day—I literally jumped out of bed because I loved it so much—to go down to the pool and just float and swim slowly back and forth. Then I would get out of the pool and dry off in the sun with a personal development ebook or scriptures and continue the meditative state for anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour and a half depending on whether or not I had early appointments.
It wasn’t until months later that I realized it wasn’t just enjoyable that made it so important, but I was also putting myself in a meditative state, so the entire experience was was supporting me double duty—fulfilling self-care and meditation. Win/win. It was so extremely fulfilling, my days were absolutely set up for joy and success. Life was much easier when I kept that up, at least five days a week.
In the off-season, I rely more on my other methods of meditation I practice through kung fu, and anticipate my pool sessions again this summer!
For you, find something you enjoy that can support a meditative state and you can absolutely experience stress-relief and pure joy each and every day no matter what else is going on!
You only have a few minutes at the most to even live without taking a fresh breath. It shouldn’t be that surprising that breathing can mean so much more for you than mere survival.
As a 5th degree black belt Associate Master in traditional Shao-Lin kung fu, I’m no stranger to breathing and meditation, and neither are my wonderful students. There are so many aspects to it, it may seem a little abstract at first, but once you start to experience the effects, you realize it’s an amazing practice that brings real results, and there is a lifetime to learn and improve in the practice as well!
One of my students loaned me his book Living Buddha, Living Christ. He has been studying Buddhism, and I am a Christian. The author, Thich Nhat Hanh, draws many correlations between the teachings of the two religious icons and the ultimate goal of love and enlightenment.
I love this technique shared by the author, and just had to share it with you, as anyone can benefit from it at any time, even without other knowledge, study, or experience in breathing and meditation.
Conscious breathing is the most basic Buddhist practice for touching peace. I would like to offer you this short exercise:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Lightly touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. As you think of the words in the exercise above, breathe in for the first and third lines, and out for the second and fourth, thus completing two breaths.
Take a moment and focus on this three to five times daily, or once an hour, or however often you will commit to being conscious about your peace.
Enjoy your oneness with yourself and the Universe!