Reporting To You From the Trench

My plan was to talk a bit more about self care in quarantine but as I was writing away – I realized it was feeling inauthentic because right now – I’m struggling.  So here goes…

I wrote recently about getting back on my feet after making some mistakes early on in this quarantine life.

Welp – it appears I have taken some steps backwards and I’m lying flat again.  Are any of you there with me?  It’s called quarantine fatigue and it’s a real thing.

I was driving to our office yesterday to shoot some videos with Jason and I was reflecting on all the balls I am dropping – I was thinking about all the roles I play and how I am feeling like a failure – as a wife, mom, friend, teacher, daughter… the list goes on and the voices were loud.

This post is challenging for me to write because I truly feel like I am in the thick of being down in the trench.  It’s so much easier to share after we are back on steady ground versus from the depths of despair.  Especially in this over-edited world we live in.

As I literally process this all out loud here – I am trying to sort through – what isn’t working?  What happened?  How did I end up here yet again?

Maybe this is a good place to start – reflection – and from there we can create a plan for how to work our way back out of the trench.  This isn’t the time to fix – rather, this is the time to explore and listen to ourselves.

Identify How The Heck We Ended Up Here

(Do you like how I am saying we versus me?  Maybe I feel more comforted knowing there are others out there in my shoes.  I also think I am desperately needing community and to know I’m not alone.)

#1 – So as I look back over the last 2-3 weeks, one of the things I am identifying as a challenge has been not having some rest and reprieve over the weekend.  Over the last two weekends, 3 of the 4 weekend days has been taken up with good things (Jason did an on-line EMB, Mother’s Day, Jason’s birthday) – but things that prevented me from really being able to rest and recoup and have white space on the calendar.

#2 – I’m also noticing this need for in-person connection with others outside my little family.  I am desperately wanting to socialize with friends.  I see photos from before quarantine and I see the way people are close together, without masks on, and something in my heart pauses and yearns for those days to return.  I don’t just want this, I need this.

#3 – This is WAY personal – but I decided a couple of weeks ago to taper once again off of my anti-depressant.  (I have slowly been tapering off some meds for the last couple of years following this lovely episode.)  I usually take it super slow when I start the taper but I didn’t go so slow this time.  I know this is playing in.

#4 – Margin – I didn’t honestly have much margin prior to March 13th when this all started impacting my day to day.  Instead of intentionally taking things off my plate – what did I do?  I ended up just adding on-line school and full-time parenting (versus having 30 hours a week of space) into my already packed schedule.  This is causing the days to run together because of the constancy.

#5 – Another vulnerable area for me to share – body image.  I really didn’t think I would be impacted by the quarantine-15 but I’m afraid that’s not the case.  This is week 11 in quarantine and let me just tell you – it’s impacted me physically.  Because of my history with an eating disorder; crash diets / fad diets / almost any diet doesn’t work for me.  And while I have done a lot of work to heal in this area – there are still times when it will rear it’s ugly head.  And this is one of those times.  I’m feeling frustrated, flabby and powerless to change it right now.

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I’m thinking about Joseph’s life right now – specifically the time he spent in prison.  In my mind, the prison was dark, musty, cellar-like – a place where he truly had little to no information as to when his time there would end.

He was in the trenches.

And it’s scary in the trenches because we don’t have that 360 degree view.  We have less control and can’t see what’s around the corner (or in trench speak: he didn’t know what was coming from up above).  I hate this.

What I love, however, about the story of Joseph is that even while he was at his lowest point – God was with him.

In addition, I love what Kelly Minter says in her Bible Study – Finding God Faithful – she says – We can’t always see what God is doing, but just like Joseph –  we can choose to be faithful and trust in Him (p53).

This is my hope for all of us – that we would remain faithful and continue to put our hope and our trust in Him.  God will show us the way.

As always – I would so love to hear from you!  We are in this together and if you are standing on level ground – I want to celebrate with you.  If you are in the trench or making your way down (or back up), know you are not alone.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

Trigger Threshold Video

Hi Girls –

About two weeks ago – I stole away to the RL office for a couple of hours to write a blog post and ended up shooting this quick video after I realized I wasn’t able to make an infographic that made any sense.

The video goes along with this blog post – specifically where I talk about triggers and having an awareness of our trigger threshold and essentially how when we are stressed – our threshold for getting triggered is lower.  Lower sounds misleading.  Having a lower threshold for being triggered actually means we will feel the trigger more.

Be aware that when we are more stressed, our propensity for being triggered increases.  In addition, when the threshold is lower, the trigger is going to feel stronger.  This awareness can help us be more gentle with ourselves and put safeguards in place while we navigate stressful times.

Let me know what you think and here to answer any questions you might have.  Just leave a comment below.  I read them all and for the most part respond to all the comments.

xo – Shelley

 

Getting Back on My Feet

Well girls – I shared in the last blog post about my not so ideal reaction to this COVID-19 situation.  It took me three weeks to fully crawl back onto my feet  (and when I wrote the last blog post, I was on my knees) – you can read briefly about that in my latest newsletter.  (And if you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter – you can do that here.)

What I was reminded of, once again, is that I am a very slooooooow processor.  It takes me quite a while to fully work through changes, especially stressful ones.

I realized three different things that played into my wipe out and I want to share them with you in hopes that it might help you get back on your feet if you are still on your back. (And can I just say – for those of you that might be on your back or on your knees – be there.  I was there again yesterday – this is truly one-day-at-a-time-kind-of-work.)

1 – Acknowledging loss.

I don’t know what you might have lost during this quarantine.  But we have all lost something.  Part of me shifting from stunned, barely breathing on my back to a place of grounded, firmly planted and aware was to acknowledge the losses.

Here is a partial list of what I lost:

1 – time to be creative (I love developing content, writing, working on the boundaries course, shooting videos; not to mention decorating my house and dreaming up how to make it more comfortable and more of a home).

2 – three coaching courses that I was scheduled to take in April and May – cancelled.

3 – a May retreat that I had signed up for in Lake Tahoe (part of my quest to not accept crumbs anymore and to love myself well) – rescheduled.

4 – quiet time in my home to actually think.

5 – I feel like I lost 11 critical weeks of planning for the summer (’cause summer causes me some major stress).

Now I realize that my losses might look differently than yours, and that’s okay – it’s so important to name the losses, whatever they might be.

Once I was able to acknowledge and grieve the losses – I was able to give myself space to reflect on the benefits and celebrate them – but I wasn’t able to do that until I had acknowledged the losses.

2 – Old coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns.

It’s like the flip of a switch, it’s so automatic in me.  Stress and danger cause me to go back to the old patterns and old ways of doing things.  For those of you that are familiar with this book – I’m an Avoider.  What that means is – my default setting is to restrict my emotions and needs and to be independent.

To be clear – this old way of coping isn’t effective; it might have been growing up (at least in some ways it worked back then) – but it isn’t anymore.  The key is to be aware of the old coping mechanism cropping back up and to course-correct as soon as possible.

Think about what your old coping mechanisms look like.  It could be isolation, eating your feelings, procrastination, making sure everyone else is okay and forgetting about yourself, numbing out by watching too much media, etc.

It wasn’t until I cried it out in vulnerability and asked for what I needed that Jason reminded me – we are a team.  And he can help.  He can give me the much needed quiet that I was so desperately wanting (and he did just that by taking the boys on a 4 hour car ride to nowhere the very next day).  Game changer.

Some of you, I realize can’t cry out to your husband.  It would do no good.  It’s still important to cry out to someone – to God, to a trusted friend, to a therapist or coach.  Take that step.

3 – When stressed – the trigger threshold is lower.

About six years ago, I started getting migraines after I would exercise.  It was pretty dreadful.  I was desperate to get rid of them and I came across a book that helped me conceptualize migraines in a different way.  What the authors postulated was that we are all susceptible to migraines.  For some of us – our threshold for getting a migraine is lower (as in, it’s easier to get them) and for some of us our threshold is higher (as in, it’s harder to get a migraine).

The key is to do whatever we can to increase that threshold level so that we stay further away from activating a migraine.  (So I had to stop eating tomatoes and peanut butter and almonds.  It was sad.)

Back to triggers – know that the exact same principle applies.  Remember, triggers find us – we don’t have to find them.  And – when we are stressed (think: worldwide pandemic) – our threshold for getting triggered is going to be lower (as in – we are going to be more apt to get triggered).

Simply put: more stress = more triggers.

So during those first three weeks of quarantine – I was more hypervigilant.  I was watching Jason – and found myself being super sensitive to certain things he did or didn’t do.  My trigger threshold was lower and even small things were sending me into a state of panic and distress.

Again, awareness is key.  I needed to do what I could to decrease the stress I was experiencing in order to increase the threshold for getting triggered.  I also needed to communicate to Jason what was going on.  I needed him to partner with me in navigating the triggers.

I shot an off-the-cuff quick little vid for you to watch just to make sure I explained this properly. I have to be honest – it’s hard for me to post it – why couldn’t I have at least put on some lip balm and nose powder?!  Nope, not even. #keepingitreal

I will post the video soon – stay tuned!

As always – let me know if you have any questions, I love hearing from you!

xo – Shelley

 

 

 

What not to do during the quarantine

Weyal Girls.

I’m not sure as to exactly how we got here – but here we are.

Feels to me like I’ve been in the twilight zone since March 12th when we were notified that school would be cancelled until April 7th (now April 7th feels like a dream).  Something I know about myself – and have been reminded of lately is this:  it takes me a looooooooong time to process things.  I get overwhelmed easily and stepping away and getting grounded is critical.

The thing is – I don’t know that I ever really landed since the 12th.  And here we are – March 28th.

While I want to share with you some things to look out for specifically to the recovery process as we navigate this social distancing and shelter in place (I promise to do that in the next blog post) – in this post, I’d like to just share what NOT to do to make your life easier during this time.

And if you think that I’ve been doing these things over the last couple of weeks – well, you’re right.

So in the spirit of authenticity – I share with you what hasn’t been my finest of moments:

#1 – Look at the COVID-19 news right before your head hits the pillow.

#2 – Look at the COVID-19 news the second you wake up.

#3 – Eat a whole bag of tortilla chips every. single. day. of quarantine.  Possibly while reading the news.

#4 – Feel resentment and anger toward your sweet children for being born.

#5 – Get really angry at your husband for scheduling your email upgrade for the busiest work day of the week.

#6 – Get even more mad when said email upgrade doesn’t work and all the emails you send land in the recipient’s junk folder.  Three days later, the problem still hasn’t been fixed.

#7 – Get super annoyed at all the people on Insta for saying this is the time to live your best life by cleaning closets, organizing drawers and starting a new exercise regimen.  (Do these people understand what is going on here?!)

#8 – Get sick.

#9 – Did I mention the bag of tortilla chips?

#10 – Weep over the number of Rival Nerf darts you find in your kitchen, lying on the floor, in your sheets, and under the couch.

Speaking of Nerf Rival – this morning, Jason and I decided to conduct a business meeting in the living room and while we were having our very important discussion – our children were in the middle of a Nerf war.  I think I got shot in the back of the head and all we could do was start laughing.

This. Is. Our. Life.

So whether you are hitting it out of the park and living your best life stuck in your house – organizing, cleaning and making the most of it – Or whether your life looks more similar to mine – feeling so very thankful to have this past week in the books and thanking sweet baby Jesus that we will never ever have to repeat that week again – I do want you to know:

We are going to make it.  It might not be glamorous or glitzy.  In fact, it might look a little ugly at times (see above) – but we will make it.

Would love for you to share how you are really surviving these last couple of weeks.  And to be clear – I read every single one of your replies and try my best to reply back.  So share below – I would so love to connect with you.

xo – Shelley

Photo Credits here and here

 

Giving all our Emotions a Seat at the Table (not just the pretty ones)

I was walking home from school this morning and I was thinking about a relationship that I think has permanently ended.  It made me feel super sad.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to myself – but essentially I shut down giving myself space to feel sadness, disappointment and frustration.

My default setting is to try to talk myself out of my emotions, at least the negative ones and if I’m honest, sometimes the positive ones as well.  Not sure if this is programming from childhood or part of my DNA (I’m a one on the Enneagram and sitting right next to the nine – I have to admit that I thrive when there is harmony) or maybe it’s something else.  But it’s there and active and alive and something I have to continually be aware of.

When the negative emotions start to surface – I hear – “you shouldn’t feel this way” or “be grateful for what you do have” or “you really just need to move on”.

As I rounded the bend and headed down my street – I realized that I needed to give the sadness, the frustration, the disappointment a seat at my tableEach one of these emotions deserves space to breathe, space to have a voice, space to be heard and seen.

I’ve been using this metaphor recently and when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will literally walk out to my dining table and sit at the head of the table. (I know, I’m weird.)  I will then look at the empty chairs around the table and acknowledge that there are emotions and feelings that I am experiencing that all deserve a space.

Sadness – you sit here.  Frustration – come on over.  Disappointment – I see you – sit there.

At this point – it’s less about solving the overwhelm and more about acknowledging the overwhelm and experiencing it in order to work through it.

And this is the harder work – to acknowledge the emotions and feelings and sit with them versus to shush them and push them away  Pushing them away leads to isolation, loneliness, despair, stress.  Acknowledging them leads to connection, clarity, authenticity.

Depending on where you are at in this journey of betrayal – your table might be a 6-seater.  Or – if you are like me in the early days – I was looking at a banquet sized table – many many emotions and thus many many chairs.

Own your table and make space for those emotions!

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So I gave the emotions this morning a seat at the table.  I saw my disappointment.  And then I explored it.  I heard my frustration.  And then I looked at what about the situation was causing me to feel frustrated.  I felt my sadness.  And acknowledged the reasons within that were causing the sadness to bubble up.

Fast forward to this afternoon – nothing has changed in the relationship.  Nothing has been solved.  But I feel more whole versus segmented.  Seeing and hearing the emotions has allowed me to be more deeply connected to myself.  I feel authentic and can breathe.

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I’d love for you to try this exercise next time you sense that there are some heavy emotions bubbling up.  Give them ALL a seat at your table.  See them, hear them, give them space to breathe.

Then explore the emotions.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

What is causing this emotion to rise up?

What about this emotion scares me?

What would be the benefit of seeing and hearing the emotion and not doing anything else about it?

And for those of us that are ready to fix:  what does this emotion say about a next step I need to take in my journey?

While it’s true our emotions shouldn’t always be the predictor for the next decision we make – our emotions are there for a reason.  They are God-given, apart of our heart and soul.  As Proverbs 4:23 says –

Above all else, guard your heart.  For everything we do flows from it.

Let’s remember this as we go about our days.  Let’s honor and guard our hearts as we acknowledge what we are feeling, give the emotions a seat at the table and allow them to be seen and heard.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

 

Developing Our Internal Power

After a really rough morning getting the littles to school – I trudged toward home in the snow and truly believed that it was only me and no other mother in the neighborhood that struggled so much to make life happen and it wasn’t even 8:15am yet!  (I hate it when I start to believe those lies that simply aren’t true!)

I sat down and put pen to paper and naturally started to figure out how to “fix” my woes.  I’m a one on the Enneagram (love this book if you want to look more into it!) so looking at things and trying to improve upon them – well, that’s my specialty!

I started with my little that was giving me so much trouble – crying and whining all morning long.  Then I moved onto Jason.  Then someone or something else.  Before I knew it – I realized that my “problems” had so much less to do with them and so much more to do with me.

I couldn’t fix anyone but me.  I held the power, not them.

(I hate it when I realize this!)

So often we give others power in our lives that only belong to us.  Sure – other people’s actions affect us.  We experience a lot of emotions – all across the board – based on our interactions with others.  This is a given.

But when we start to operate from a mentality that everyone around us needs to change in order for us to be okay – that’s when the slope can get slippery.

* To Be Clear *

Because most of you reading this have a similar story to mine – one of betrayal, lies, deception and manipulation from the one that was intended to protect you the most – I need to insert a caveat.  I am NOT saying that you should just ignore or move on or only work on yourself in the midst of your husband’s betrayal.  Not even close.

The absolute best way to work through betrayal is when he goes first and leads the way on doing the *hard* work of repairing the marriage.  You are working hard, too.  Grieving, finding your voice, grieving some more.  He is the one working on fixing the damage done.  His choices are not your fault and you don’t need to even begin to look into yourself for why he did what he did.  Absolutely ridiculous.  He can look into himself for those answers.  You are an innocent bystander to his choices.  (Don’t even get me started, I feel my heart pumping just typing this out.)  This is the way we have done things at Redemptive Living for the past 13 years and we stand behind the methods we use.

– Back to the Story –

What I am speaking to is more from a 30,000 foot view in the way we operate with others.  In our day to day interactions.

As I continued to journal – I realized that it was me and only me that could enforce what time my boys go to bed.  Clearly part of the morning melt down was lack of sleep and the boys going to bed too late the night before.  It was me that needed to change the bedtime routines and push them up by about 60 minutes.

I realized that I couldn’t change Jason’s demeanor and the heaviness he brought into our house this week (did I mention he is a four on the Enneagram?!).  Can I care about his heart and where he is at?  Absolutely, I can and I do.  But at what point do I need to separate myself from the heaviness and weight that he is carrying and not allow it to take me down?

These are the questions I have been pondering this week, my friends.

If you are into psychology – there is a word for this – it’s called internal locus of control (versus external locus of control). It’s something that I talk about ever so often in my groups and it’s a great way to conceptualize figuring out what we can own and have agency to change.

With that said – here are three practical tips to help cultivate and strengthen our internal power (or internal locus of control):

Get Grounded

First and foremost when I start to circle the drain in this way (think:  me freaking out in my head and thinking I am the only mom that ever struggles in the morning) – the first thing I have to do is get grounded and get some perspective.

This oftentimes mean wading through the situation and then stepping away from it to breathe a bit.  Getting outside and walking can help, expressing my feelings by getting them out of me (writing them out or processing out loud to a friend or to Jason) is also super helpful.

Vision Casting + Implementation

Don’t let this scare you.  We can set a vision for the small things just as much as the big things in life!

Once I am grounded mentally – it’s important to think through where I want to be.  For myself – I realized that I really needed to set myself up for success in the mornings.  While I can’t control if one of my boys spins out – I can control managing my time better.  I can either get up earlier to give myself more time for the hiccups or I can take a couple of tasks off my plate by making lunches the night before, having the boys set out their clothes, etc.

It’s important to note that tweaking just one or two things can often make a big difference.  I’d encourage you to start there (with just one or two tweaks) else you might risk becoming incredibly overwhelmed and aborting the entire mission – then you’ll be back where you started.  No bueno.

Detachment + Visualization

I talk a lot about detachment as it pertains to setting boundaries and also in regards to self-care in the healing process.  Think of detachment as an intentional buffer or space between you and someone or something else.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care but rather that you’re going to need (for your sake) to move forward with your day even in the midst of the crazy (with your husband, someone else, or even the crazy you might feel in your head).

Lately, I have used visualization to help myself detach.  Case in point – as I was starting to lose my internal power because of Jason’s heaviness – I imagined myself walking down a road.  There were beautiful old oak trees on either side of the road reaching their arms over the road like a canopy shielding and protecting me (I like my visualizations to be pretty, ladies) and there is also a yellow painted line on either edge of the road (not so pretty but important).  As I am walking down the road – taking the next step in my day and in my journey – there are all these distractions and things that keep crossing the yellow line.  I then mentally and visually push those things back to the other side of the line with my hands to make way for me to move forward with my day.  I then I take a bunch of deep breaths.

What About You?

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts as to how you help develop your internal power.  I would also love for you to join me at Restore which is in just two weeks in sunny California.  You can get more details here.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

Fan the Flame – Part 4

Hello Lovely Ladies!  Here is the fourth and final installment of the Fan the Flame series.  In part one – we looked at some of the things that hinder our confidence and then in parts two and three – we looked at strategies to start to rebuild our confidence. 

As you read what Erika is sharing below – I want you to look for how she is using some of the strategies I mentioned in parts two and three.  Specifically – investing in herself.  You will see other things as well – subtle maybe – but there.

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As truths tumbled out of his mouth, I felt like the stitches were being ripped out, and the crocheted blanket that was my life began to unravel rapidly. Through the process of trying to put my life back together over the past 6 months, I am now starting to gain clarity on the lies I had bought in to.

Lie #1: I have to take care of myself because God may fail me
When I was 7 months pregnant, my husband asked me for a divorce. He said he never loved me. He denied having an affair and blamed me instead. I stayed and worked on myself. I found out much, much later that he lied.

If you had asked me at the time, I would say I relied on God.

I still think that is true to a degree.

But after my husband’s recent disclosure, I remembered a long-ago (18 years!) conversation I had with my sister. It went something like this… “I have done everything God has wanted me to do. I was an obedient child, neglected, and thrown away by our parents. I am a good wife and mom only to be rejected and blamed again. I need to have a backup plan.” (As in – I need to take care of myself because God isn’t getting it done and has disappointed me).

My backup plan was food. It was there to comfort me tangibly. Every time my husband would gaslight me (manipulate, blame, lie), act in (stare at me blankly, sleep versus connect, avoid being home), act out (although I did not know any of these terms at the time) I turned to food. Living in a world not understanding what was really going on ratcheted up my anxiety level. Food was like a warm cocoon, making me feel safe and secure. The problem is, its positive effects were short-term while doing long-term damage.

My physical health declined.

I have learned over the last couple of months that my vow—the backup plan—was harmful. That despite how it may look, God was ALWAYS there waiting to tend to my broken and wounded heart. I had to be willing to trust Him MORE than trusting the comfort of food. The short-term benefits of turning to food to numb my feelings pale to the long-term damaging health effects. Not to mention that food can never fill the hole that only God can.

Lie #2: If I were thinner, my husband would not have had affairs.
My husband repeatedly told me if I was thinner, he would be more attracted to me. He even went so far as to buy literature that supported the claim that men are designed by God to desire a thin wife.

I bought into it.

I spent many years using unhealthy techniques to lose weight to make him happy. I would lose significant amounts of weight for a while, only to gain it back, especially as my husband became increasingly absent in our marriage.

When I found out about his numerous affairs in May, I was sucked into the lie again, but thankfully not for long. This time, I realized that my weight is NOT a source of his addiction. No matter what I weigh, my husband would have still made the same choices.

I went back and looked at photos from the time that the first affair began, and I was shocked. In the photo was a young woman not who he had conjured, but a woman who was healthy and fit.

Seeing that picture and knowing how many times he (falsely) rejected me, sent me down a path of freedom. No matter how fit I have been (or not been), my spouse has never been satisfied. I was able to separate his unrealistic, unhealthy, unattainable lustful ideals from my intrinsic value as a person God lovingly designed. I no longer feel pressure to chase after my husband’s skewed vision and am able to stop berating myself. The figurative weight of trying to measure up was lifted.

Two months ago, I began a weight loss journey with the assistance of a weight loss coach. It is NOT for my husband. It is for ME– to be a healthier ME, and to honor and trust God completely. It has been challenging. I am learning to manage stress better, get more sleep, drink more water, only eat what my body needs, and telling my emotions to take a back seat (more on that in a minute).

This requires INTENTIONALITY.

There are times I fail, but as I make more successful decisions, it gets easier to make the better choice.

Telling my emotions to take a back seat does NOT mean stuffing them for good. It requires me not to eat at that moment and set aside time to work through the emotions. Using tools such as digging deep and identifying where the feelings are coming from, praying, journaling, listening to praise music, exercising, talking with a friend or accountability partner, and recognizing success.

When I crave carbs to cope, I choose to eat a radish instead. Radishes work for me because they are crunchy, and the process of chewing is satisfying. The peppery flavor wakes up my taste buds, unlike the mindless swallowing of ice cream that leaves me feeling drained.

For me, using food to cope results in weight gain and muscle aches. I have not entirely done away with carbs; I just do not let them reign my daily food intake. Most importantly, I have learned that no amount of cardio or kale or carbs is going to heal the pain. Only God can do that.

What about you? Have you ever felt that God has disappointed you? Have you struggled with Him not showing up the way you expected? Like me, have you believed the lie from your spouse, society, friend, or relative that if you were thinner, your partner would not have had an affair or struggle with addiction?

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A little about Erika – she enjoys listening to audio books, working on jigsaw puzzles, and mentoring people with cerebral palsy.

Fan the Flame – Part 3

Hello All – Hope you are enjoying what seems to be the laziest of days between Christmas and New Years!

Let’s jump right into our deep dive on the five things we can do to build (or rebuild) our confidence after betrayal.  The first two I mentioned in this post (part 2) and if you missed part 1 – you can read it here.

#3 – Developing your Skill Set / Finding your niche outside of your family

In the first blog post, I mentioned that one of the threats to our self-confidence is when we feel financially stuck.  This might be because we have sacrificed our careers for our families (such a noble thing to do by the way!) or this might be because we are in a career where what we make barely gets us by.  In the latter case, tacking recovery work on top of barely making ends meet can make us feel even more overwhelmed.

So what to do?

Re-prioritize and make the time to invest in yourself.

I can imagine some of you now – saying “Shelley, you don’t understand.  It’s going to be impossible.”

Listen girls, I get it.  I have those same thoughts running through my head for myself!  I have wanted to take some courses for a couple of years now to help me be able to help women better – but I come up with a bazillion legitimate reasons as to why it can’t be done.

I’m finally at a place where I am ready to make the sacrifices to move forward with the courses.  Why you might ask?  Because I believe that the confidence that will come with empowering myself in this way will be worth it a year from now. Painful in the present but worth it in a year.

There is something powerful – no matter if you need the money or not – when we use our gifts and skills and get compensated for it.  I truly believe this is a huge way to restore dignity and confidence.

What is a service that you can provide that you can also get compensated for?  Is there a particular skill set that you feel like you need to develop by taking some classes?  I have seen advertisements for this on Instagram and while I don’t know much about it – I do find it inspiring to see all the different resources we have at our fingertips to learn and grow!

#4 – Changing your Mindset from “Victim” to “Empowerment”

I’m going to get a little personal here – and I really hope you can hear my heart because this could get dicey.

A couple of months ago, I was driving in my car and reflecting on how frustrated I had become with feeling like everyone else (which is so not true) has trust funds or an inheritance, or their kids’ college paid for by their wealthy extended family.  I recognized on that drive that I had been complaining about it a lot to anyone that would listen to me.  It got to the point where I was tired of hearing myself talk about it.

Tired of hearing myself talk about it?!  That’s a problem.

As I continued to drive down University Blvd, I realized that I was owning and operating from a victim mentality.  Poor me, it’s not fair, why isn’t this my story, why have we had to work for everything, where is our family legacy.

Typing this out makes me want to find the nearest coffee table and hide under it right away!  But I’m not going to do that.  I’m choosing to be fully known and sit in it.

Something shifted in me and I came to realize that I had a choice to make – I could keep complaining and wishing that the generations before me had done it differently.  OR – I could stand up, straighten my self up, and get to work.

I’m doing the latter – being proactive to do what needs to be done to plan for our future.  Getting real about what it’s going to take.  Taking my head out of the sand.  It feels empowering to take ownership.

And I want to caution you – just because we take ownership and tweak things to do it differently doesn’t mean we can’t feel the feels.  It’s important to recognize that we might feel disappointed or overwhelmed or defeated.

Acknowledge it.  Validate it.  And then ask yourself what your choices are and what you can do to turn the tide.

Is there an area where you feel like you have a victim mentality?  If so, what might it look like to shift from a posture of powerlessness to one of power?

Girls – we have agency to look at our situations, get honest about where we are, and then figure out the small steps we can take to do things differently.  I believe that as we do this – we are able to move toward confidence.

#5 – Connection

Y’all know I couldn’t land this plane without looping back to connection.  Because this is the wellspring of life. (And also why we are supposed to guard our hearts.)

Connecting with God, connecting with ourselves and connecting with others is at the heart of our journeys.  We could spin our wheels doing all these other things but if we aren’t working on community and connection – we’ve completely missed the point.

There is something so tangible and so magical about being fully known with others and then with ourselves – that can help bolster our confidence in ways that we never even imagined.

Oftentimes – I would go into my support group feeling defeated and dejected.  Insecure and without hope.  And 90 minutes later – almost like magic – I would leave feeling connected, empowered and confident.  And it was because I showed up in a safe place where I could be fully known.

Adding a little more to this fully known – I was also accepted in my cRaZy.

If you are looking for one of these places – just know there will be several new groups starting in February and March 2020 and I’d love for you to consider one of them.  Email me if you want me to add you to the wait list.

What about you?  What has helped you start to grow your confidence?  I’d love to hear!

xo – Shelley

ps. You won’t want to miss the last installment of this series where a former group member and now dear friend shares a little bit of her journey and how she has done some of the things mentioned here on her journey toward finding wholeness, confidence and dignity. 

Photo credits here and here

 

Fan the Flame – Part 2

In the last blog post, we talked about three things that can be a detriment to our self-confidence.

I’m interested in this topic right now because ladies – it’s something that I struggle with.  As I said before – while I do think the light within us might dim – I am confident (get it?!) that it will never go out.  We truly must fan the flame.

And fanning the flame is one of the things I am focusing on these days.

There are a total of 5 things I have identified which can help with this rebuilding of confidence.  Too much for one blog post so I am sharing the first two here today and the final three here shortly.

#1 – Investing Your Heart In Something Valuable to You

For several years now – I have wanted to do a boot camp at the exercise studio I’ve gone to for the last eight or so years.  I’ve always felt like I didn’t want to spend my money on it and I also felt kinda awkwardly vain desiring to do so.  What would it say about me if I chose to invest more than a regular exercise studio membership on my physique?

After discussing this with Jason – he encouraged me to give it a try.  (To be clear – his encouragement wasn’t coming from a place of wanting my body to look differently.  If that had been the case – I would probably have done something that I’d regret.)  Jason knows how long I’ve wanted to do this boot camp and he also knows how hard it is for me to spend money on things that aren’t imperatives.  Well – the opportunity came up right before Halloween this year and I enrolled in the 4-week boot camp.

I went in with some pretty high expectations.  I really thought I would see a radical transformation.  While that didn’t happen – something else did that I see as even more important and beneficial.  It gave me confidence, empowerment and I felt better.

The reason I walked away with more confidence was because I did something that was hard.  I challenged myself and made the boot camp a priority.  I wasn’t sure if I could swing it – but I did it.

It also gave me confidence because I made myself a priority.  I invested (time and money) in ME.

It got me thinking.  And I realized that part of restoring my dignity is investing (heart, soul, time, money, etc.) in things that I value.

I want you to think about what you value and how you can invest your time and money in those things in order to start to rebuild dignity and confidence.  If you aren’t familiar with values work – it’s super fun.  Email me if you would like some resources.

#2 – Doing Something that Helps Your Body Feel Well

Just so you know, this does not have to be exercise.  The end.

I have been sick this week and boy, does it affect me.  We were supposed to get professional photos taken at our office for my new website and I had to reschedule because I wasn’t feeling well.  Since then, I’ve gone from bad to still bad.

I was telling Jason last night that getting photos taken while sick sounds like the worst idea ever.  We want to feel at our best when we get photos taken – we want to feel alive and beautiful!  Not close to death’s door with scabs around our nostrils. Sigh.

When my body doesn’t feel well – my confidence is in the toilet.  Which begs the question – what can I do to help my body feel well?

I think the easy answer is exercise and eat well – and I agree that these things help.  But there is so much more than this.  Here are some other, sometimes more important things that help me feel well in my body –  listening to my gut, acknowledging how I feel, sharing my heart with those I find safe, recognizing my limiting beliefs (or lies) – and also – laughter.

What about for you?  It could be dancing or listening to music.  It could be brushing your teeth and doing your hair (I struggle with the latter of these). Think about what helps you feel well in your body.

Because confidence comes from within – it’s important that we are nourishing ourselves with the things that will help us feel well.

As we enter the final weekend before Christmas – I want you to hold tight to point #2 above.  Listen to your body.  Don’t ignore your gut.  Do what you can to help your body feel well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on these first two and stay tuned for the next three!

xo – Shelley

Fan the Flame – Part 1

Confidence.  It’s near and dear to my heart these days.  Confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgments.

I was reminded recently as to the importance of confidence and being proactive in my own life to grasp more of it (more on that in the next blog post).

Confidence is stripped from women (along with dignity and honor to name a few) when they are betrayed.

I have worked with women for more than a decade now and while there are some things I expect to hear that are right under the surface – the level of grief, trying to understand the why behind his addiction (or sexual integrity issue), grappling with trust and forgiveness (the list goes on) – there are other deeper and more insidious effects that sometimes we don’t think about at first blush.  I believe these deeper effects can really rattle our self-confidence.

Unaddressed Shame –

Early on in our recovery – we spent a lot of time focusing on the shame that Jason experienced, starting in childhood, that eventually became triggers that led him to choose to act out.

I as well was dealing with shame – and my shame had layers.  There was the shame of coming to terms with the fact that I married a man with sexual integrity issues.  The shame of this being my story.  This caused me to hide and not want to share my ugly truth with anyone.

I also experienced shame because I really thought Jason only had eyes for me.  And he was the first boy that I finally felt chosen by.  Grappling with the fact that he chose me and many others caused me to feel unloveable and worthless.

The layers of shame look different for each of us.  Sure, it almost always surfaces because of his choices.  But it also can come up as women try to figure out if she should stay married to him.  There can be shame in choosing to stay with someone that treated us this way – and even more so if he isn’t doing good recovery work.  “Am I this pathetic to stay with him after all he has done and he is still treating me this way?”

Confidence wanes as the shame layers start to mount.

Financially Stuck-

While this wasn’t so much the case for myself (we didn’t have children yet and I was the bread winner) – this is a massive issue for most of the women I support.

Working recovery is oftentimes a financial hardship. I remember stressing over how we would pay for the therapist that we were seeing twice a week.

Women affected by betrayal already feel powerless.  If finances are tight – it limits the choices available and can cause her to feel even more stuck and powerless.

In addition, most women that reach out to me have sacrificed their careers in the name of their families.  Some women could go back to their careers but have young children at home which makes the choice feel really hard.  Others have been away from their careers for decades and would have to do loads of training to return to their professions of choice.  It’s a hard call to make.

Feeling stuck from a financial standpoint can have massive effects on self-confidence.  When we have agency – we have confidence.  But without that agency – confidence can plummet.

Intuition Violations –

I know for myself – deep down I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was dating Jason.  This persisted on our wedding day.  I loved him, I knew I wanted to spend my life with him.  But something deep down didn’t feel right.  Ladies – our intuition doesn’t lead us astray.

During the first 3 years of our marriage – I continued to dismiss my intuition.  I continued to experience an unsettled and nagging feeling that something was amiss.  In order to stay sane – I either had to trust my gut and insist something was off or I had to divorce my gut to keep the peace between he and I.  I chose the latter.

Once the ugly truth fully came out – my confidence in trusting my own judgement was completely shattered.  How could I have done this to myself?  How could I have married someone that would treat me this way?  How did I not know?

My self-confidence crashed to an all time low.

Ladies – it’s not all bad news, though.  Why, you ask? (I’m so glad you did!)  Because I truly believe that each of us can walk through betrayal and toward our future with more confidence than we ever thought was possible.  As Maya Angelou said – “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”  As I think about this quote – with all due respect – I’d like to revise it.  The light might dim, for a season, but ladies – it will never go out.  We must fan the flame.

I’m curious if you can relate to any of these three areas that affect our confidence post betrayal.  I’d also love to hear what else comes to mind for you that has made an impact on trusting yourself.

Stay tuned for some strategies to help us start to rebuild the confidence we so desperately need to repair.  While this might be life work – I do think if we are intentional – we can make huge strides in this area rather quickly.

Love you ladies!

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here