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

Kicking Shame to the Curb – A story from 1987 and today

I remember it so well.  The shame.  One of my earliest memories of wanting to try to hide my entire being.

It was the summer after 4th grade.  I had become friends with a girl down the street and she had an idea of a prank we could make on a boy in her Sunday school class.  We were going to call his house and invite him to a surprise birthday party.  We agreed on all the details of the party and made the phone call.

We asked for him to come to the phone and gave him the details of the party.  He agreed to come.  (To be clear, this surprise birthday party was for his close friend at his close friend’s house.  Said close friend wasn’t having a surprise birthday party.  It was all a concoction that I knew was so wrong to carry out, but I did anyway.)

It wasn’t until the next week that I heard my friend had asked this boy about the party during Sunday school class.  That’s when he finally knew who placed the call.

It wasn’t long before my parents found out.  And they insisted I go to his house and apologize to him and his family.

I remember being sick to my stomach as we drove over there.  I’m pretty sure I was kicking and screaming the whole way.  I even remember the struggle my dad had in pulling me out of the car.

I only remember the boy’s father coming to the door, not his son.  The cruel look on his face was enough for me to know that what I had done was horribly terribly wrong.  I remember not being able to talk.  I just stood there with tears rolling down my freckled face.  He waited with his arms crossed.  Waited with a mean look on his face.

He would have waited all day staring me down, it seemed.

I finally peered up and said what I was told to say – “I am sorry.”

He sneered at me and told me what a horrible terrible thing I had done to his son.  How embarrassed his son was.

I made my way back to the car.  Not feeling one bit better after that interaction.  And that’s all I remember.

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I wonder today – was this when shame made it’s way into my heart?  Into my soul?  Is this when I started the real struggle of feeling like I had to be perfect in order to be acceptable?

Remember – shame is an indictment on our being.  It’s saying “I am a mistake.”  “I’m a mess up.”  It’s one of Satan’s top tools that he uses to keep us from freedom and from basking in the sweetness of God’s grace.

The antithesis to shame – it’s intimacy.  It’s being fully known and sharing the mistakes we make.  It’s risking – truly, it’s taking a leap of faith and hoping, praying that someone, anyone will accept us just as we are, mistakes and all.

Because shame is such a strong undercurrent in what Jason dealt with in his addiction, I am very weary, very careful to try not to pile the shame high on my boys.  Please hear me say – I am not impressively great at this.  It takes one that struggles with shame to pile the shame high.  I know how to do this.  And I regret the mistakes I’ve made in this area with those I love.

And yet, one of the things I love about parenting is trying to redeem the broken pieces of my past, of Jason’s past.

That brings me to last week.

I walked out of my office with sweat coming through my shorts – it was so hot –  to see one of my littles blowing air through a straw and onto applesauce which was then splattering all over the kitchen.  The sweet sitter I had with the boys was frantically trying to clean it up, paper towels everywhere.

I was so confused, overwhelmed and hot that I brushed the whole incident off and whisked the sweet sitter (she is so sweet, really) away on her bike.  It wasn’t until later that I started to process what had happened.  Had my precious son really been blowing air through a straw and watching the applesauce hit the floor, counter and walls?  Yes, yes he had.

I knew I needed to help him see that what he did was wrong.  But how could I also make sure he knew he is loved all the same?

I started by exploring with him – how could he make amends to the sitter?  What could he do to make it up to her?  Maybe an apology?

The memory I shared above came rushing back.  The shame hit me again.  I wanted to hide under the coffee table.

I shook it off.

No, no, no, I didn’t want my son to feel shame.

So how could I handle this in love and yet not heap on the shame?

We talked about the fact that we all make mistakes – that’s why we need a Savior.  We talked about some of my mistakes.  I reminded him that he is loved no. matter. what.

This is what we settled on – he wrote a note to the sitter, apologizing for his choices.  Jason then took him to the grocery store where he used his own money to pick out something yummy for her – an amend of sorts.

As for the delivery of the note and candy, I gave him a choice – did he want me to talk to her upon arriving at her house and he could stay at the street?  Or did he want to talk to her?  We started our walk over to her house.  I held his hand and made sure he knew how much I loved him no. matter. what.

He decided he wanted to come to the door with me and say hello.  We knocked, but there was no answer.

I was so disappointed to not get a chance to show my little guy that saying sorry doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  It doesn’t mean he’s a terrible horrible person.  It is simply acknowledging that we hurt someone with our choices and we wish we could take it back.

We placed the note and the Twizzlers in the mailbox.

We turned and started our walk back home, me basking in the fullness of knowing there is grace for my son and not only that – but I believe he felt it.  There was more there, too – I was also able to bask in the fullness that there is just as much grace for the little girl that made that awful choice way back in the summer of 1987.

Kicking shame to the curb.  Now that’s redemption.

xo-Shelley

On what I’m learning about shame {A 2016 Intentional}

Shame.  It affects all of us on this planet.  And for those of us that share a similar story here – let me tell you – we know it well.  Not only for our husbands, as this is a huge part of an addicts world and propels them right back into the addictive cycle.  But also for us wives.  If you’ve ever thought, “if they really knew, they’d think I’m worthless” or “if only I were sexier, my husband wouldn’t have done what he did”…  That my friends is shame talking.

2016Intentionals

I mentioned here that I wanted to focus on shame this year in my personal life.  And that I’d share some of what I’m learning here on the blog.  So here goes…

Going into this new year, I was aware that shame is something I’ve really been struggling with.  In the past, I’ve called it “wanting to hide under the coffee table”.  And for whatever reason, I didn’t make the connection that what I was experiencing was shame.  Naming it has been huge.  But I need more than simply naming it.

How do I move through my shame?

Well, in usual-God-orchestrated-timing, I had an experience about two weeks ago where I found myself deep in the shame hole.  I won’t belabor you with the story.  Just know that over the last 3-4 months, I feel like my mothering has been questioned.  And I’ve walked away in every instance feeling this deep shame.  Am I enough?  Do I even know how to mother well?

I was in the middle of Daring Greatly when I fell unexpectedly back into the hole.  What great timing.  And then, this past weekend, it just so happened that the sermon at our church focused on shame.

shame1

So I realize, God is helping me out here.  I want to work through my shame?  God says, “Okay, let’s do it!”

So as I lay the foundation in this post for future posts, here is what I want you to know:

  • The first step for myself in working through shame has been to admit that I struggle with it. It’s part of our human condition and we can’t escape it.  In fact, we can trace it back to Adam and Eve in the garden.  Genesis 2:25 talks about how Adam and Eve “were both naked and they felt no shame.”  It was after eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were open and they covered themselves.  They felt shame.  (By the way, shame here is described as “a feeling of worthlessness.”)
  • The second step in working through my shame is recognizing that it’s not going away.  This side of heaven, it’s part of our human condition.  So although we can’t stop shame from happening, we can figure out the best way to respond to it and work through it in a healthy way.
  • And third, for myself, my shame is wrapped up in trying to live a life of perfection for many many years.  I now know – there is a strong connection between perfectionism and shame.  If I attach my worthiness as a person to perfectionism in any way (whether socially, physically, emotionally, etc.) – it’s inevitable that I will feel unworthy.  Why?  Because it’s impossible to be perfect.

This third point might not hit home for you.  You might not struggle with this notion that in order to be worthy, you must be perfect.  That’s okay.  Just know that there is probably a connection between your shame and your false beliefs, too.  If you can’t name it yet – that’s okay.  Chances are, it’s an area where you know you need to extend grace or favor to yourself and struggle to do so.

I invite you to come alongside me on this journey.  I think it’s going to be good.  It will give us gals insight into ourselves as well as insight into our husband’s behaviors.

xo-Shelley