Living your life from the inside out

Most of us are doing it all wrong. We’re living our lives from the outside in, when really life wants to be lived from the inside out.

The outside in approach is a source of constant stress and anxiety. It’s understandable that we ended up here. At this place of confusion, overwhelm, and constant struggle. We’ve been conditioned by our surroundings, our peers, our well-meaning but sometimes equally confused parents and communities to look outside of ourselves for all the answers.

That’s the paradigm that most of the modern world (at least the Western world) lives in. (I would argue that the Eastern world has – and has always had – a much better grip on this topic.)

view from behind of woman sitting on bench looking at water

I want to challenge you to flip that paradigm on its head. To awaken to the incredible power you have within you to create your own reality and be in charge of (not necessarily in control) of how you experience the world around you.

Let me illustrate my point with some examples.

When you are living from the outside in, you:
– seek the approval of others define your value as a human being, and consequently your own sense of worthiness
– measure your success by the magnitude of your external achievements
– are constantly trying to prove yourself (and your worth) to the outside world
– compare yourself to others, because everything is a competition and if you’re not winning you are losing, and therefore “less than”
– are so focused on yourself that you miss out on opportunities for connection with others
– feel unsure about who you are and/or what you want because you’ve been too busy trying to do and be what you thought you were supposed to do and be
– are stressed, overwhelmed, or burned out because you’re saying yes when you mean no, or no when you mean yes and are stretched too thin to take care of yourself or recharge
– are either worrying about the future (anxiety) or obsessing about the past (regret) and/or have mostly negative emotions throughout the day

When you are living from the inside out, you instead:
– choose to love and accept yourself, fiercely, and release the need for external validation
– measure your success by your willingness to try and fail, your commitment to continued growth and learning, and by being a kind and good-hearted person who has compassion for others
– train yourself to focus on your own priorities, and if you feel jealousy arising you  celebrate their success, and use it to inspire your own commitment to your goals
– you are so grounded and accepting of yourself that you can focus your attention outward and be present during opportunities to connect with others
– are doing the inner work to know yourself and your desires intimately, and then are calmly moving and growing toward those goals and dreams
– prioritize self care, set strong boundaries, communicate clearly and very intentionally choose how you spend your time, energy, and other resources, leaving you feeling an inner peace and balance while still being productive and efficient.
– plan for the future and learn from the past, but spend most of your time in the present and know how to manage your emotions, and experience mostly positive feelings through the day

Can you relate to any of the above? Are you living mostly from the outside in or from the inside out? If you are admitting to yourself that you’re mostly outside in, it’s time to let that shit go. Seriously. It’s making life so much more painful and complicated than it needs to be.

side view of man walking down stairs holding box

So take my hand and come join me in the inside out. (Sounds almost like a Stranger Things reference to the upside down, haha!) I’m not there 100% of the time (I doubt anyone is) but it’s where I spend most of my time these days and I can teach you how.

It takes work and patience. You have you practice. There will be discomfort. You’ll need to retrain your brain and untangle a pile of stinky old habits, but it’s absolutely possible.

And the rewards are delightful.

Not only will you start to feel a blissful sense of inner peace and calm, but you’ll start to be able to manage your own energy and emotions with the power of your mind. It feels like some sort of spooky magic. Basically, you become the wizard of your own magical world.

view from front of woman with hat sitting on a bench looking to the side

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about being delusional or ignoring the facts and science of the world around you. I’m talking about teaching yourself to see the same world that everyone else is living in and looking at through a completely new set of eyes, with a heart full of self-love and gratitude, and an unquenchable curiosity and passion for life.

It’s awesome. Come and play. Want support with this? I’d love to help.

Sensitive much? How to not take things so personally.

Sensitive? Feel like you take things wayyyyy too personally? Welcome to my world. I’ve spent much of my life feeling like there was something wrong with me because I am so sensitive and tend to take things too personally. Maybe you can relate.

girl sitting in the back of an SUV

Here’s what I’ve learned: Being sensitive doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong with me”. And if you can relate, it doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong with you” either. (Plus, how absurd is it that we are so quick to judge ourselves so harshly like that?!)

Some of us are simply more sensitive, and that’s okay.

Whether you’re just wired that way and always have been, or became that way through conditioning or trauma, it’s okay. In fact, I would argue that for most of us, it’s actually a gift. IF we are willing to accept and embrace it. (And that can be tricky, at first.)

Once we stop resisting this part of ourselves – the tender, sensitive part – we can learn to actually harness it as a powerful aspect of our identify.

Let me explain what I mean. Most of my clients, many of my friends and colleagues, and I identify as some or all of the following: introverts, empaths, HSPs (highly sensitive person), intuitives, or healers of various kinds. When we compare ourselves to the mainstream “ideals” that have been presented to us culturally about what success looks like (in the Western world), it’s not surprising that we have been taught to judge ourselves as weak, overly sensitive, or high maintenance.

We’ve been told to “get over it” and “not take it so personally” all our lives.

Instead of cultivating our gifts, we’ve ignored them and tried to mold ourselves into something else. Something more acceptable and comfortable to the rest of society. And guess what? It doesn’t work!

If anything, it shames us into playing small, attempting to atone for our apparent lack of value, and judging ourselves incessantly. NOT HELPFUL. Not only is it painful for us, but more importantly, it robs the world of our legacy, because we’re too busy trying to change who we are, rather than focusing on our unique gifts and the potential impact.

one person holding their hand out to another; the second is resisting

Luckily, I think modern mainstream culture is finally starting to catch on to the fact that some of us are different in this way and that it’s perfectly okay. We’re being heard (literally and figuratively) more in boardrooms. We’re being put in leadership positions. We’re starting to have a seat at the table (assuming that those who naturally dominate the conversation have learned how to listen and invite us in).

Ironically, this is nothing new. Rather, it seems to me more like the modern world is re-learning some ancient and universal truths again. Thankfully.

This is all great news. But in the meantime, daily life as an empath or HSP can be hard. We absorb the energy of everyone and everything around us. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We feel everything. Deeply. It can be exhausting if we haven’t learned how to manage our own energy and the energy coming at us and moving through us.

But it doesn’t have to be. The more we learn about how to accept, embrace, and navigate these parts of ourselves the more we can not just survive, but thrive, in an extrovert’s world, in a still pre-dominantly patriarchal paradigm that values other things.

Young girl looking intensely into the camera.

Once we learn to be okay with who and how we are and figure out effective ways to navigate the outer world, that’s when the fun starts. From there, we can learn to harness our gifts. To not only not take things personally, but to use our highly tuned sensitivities to connect deeply with people (which the world desperately needs) and to heal and transform others. It’s bananas.

So, this one is for the introverts, the empaths, and the HSPs. Here are a few of the tips and tools I’ve gathered over the years that have helped me and my clients.

Here’s how to not take things so personally and to, instead, own who you are – ALL OF YOU – and to do what only YOU can do with the unique gifts that you have.

Because you are not only good enough, you are important and crucial to the world, and especially to what the world needs right now.

Breathe
It’s amazing how many of the things we get worked up about can melt away and become insignificant if we would just remember to breathe. Just pause and take a big ass breathe before you do anything else. It will help, I promise.

Slow down
Slow down and make space. Like, seriously slow down. Build time into your schedule to do things slowly and deliberately, so that you have space to charge your battery before being social, time to decompress after, and permission to process external circumstances and experiences at your own pace (which may be more slowly than other people).

It’s about them not you
Remind yourself that what other people think, say, and do (especially when it’s directed at you or is about you) is actually about them! I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. Whether what they say or think about you is true or not, they are seeing it through their own filter – through their own life’s worth of experiences, fears, insecurities, failures, wisdom, prejudices etc. Much of the time they will actually be projecting their own fears and judgments onto you. Let them have their opinion. For the advanced people: Acknowledge it even! Validate them in their right to believe what they believe. When you remember that you can have compassion for them and respect their journey. And remember that it’s not about you at all.

Stop making assumptions; instead, ask for clarification
In my experience, much of the time when I take things personally, I am actually making assumptions about what the other person is thinking. Let’s say for example, maybe they said something relatively innocuous, but I felt that their tone was condescending, so I assume that they are judging me and consequently feel bad. One of the easiest ways to avoid that whole situation is to simply ask what they meant. You might even be able to have a laugh with them about how silly your negative assumption was, once you hear that the intention was harmless.

Know your triggers
The more you become aware of your own triggers and insecurities, the more you can catch yourself in the act of being triggered because you’ll recognize the pattern. Instead of going into an unconscious knee-jerk response every time, you can develop a conscious ritual for handling those situations instead. Come up with strategies ahead of time for how you ideally would like to respond in the face of one of your triggers and make it a point to practice doing that instead.

Focus on your purpose
When you are tempted to let the words or behaviors of others bring you down, come back home to your WHY. Meditate or just think about what’s most meaningful to you, what you’re all about, what you’re here to do, and then notice how much bigger and more important that is than whatever that person was causing you to feel.

Two people laying on the grass with backpacks, looking at a map

Those are just a handful of my favorite tips and tricks. Choose one or two that resonate for you and practice. Be gentle with yourself because un-training our brain out of our unhelpful tendencies, like taking things personally, takes just as much time (if not more) than training our brains to adopt more helpful ones. Be committed, be patient, and just keep going.

The more you’re able to let go of the HUGE waste of time and energy that we sensitive types like to spend on taking things personally, the more you’ll have to invest in what truly matters to you.

Relationship hack: An easier way to keep in touch

Can you think of a relationship you struggle to maintain? I mean just staying in regular contact with the people you love? I know I do.

Stack of old letters: how we used to maintain a relationship from afar

Whether it’s living too far away from extended family and old friends, being too busy with work and other obligations, or simply not having the energy by the end of the day, we have plenty of compelling excuses for letting our most important relationships fade away.

Sure, most of us loosely follow each other on social media these days but, let’s be honest, looking at and liking someone’s vacation pictures is NOT the same as actually having a conversation with them.

Most people I know would love to have better contact with certain people in their lives. And yet how many of us actually make an effort to change it? This has been on my mind recently because, personally, I’m pretty terrible at keeping in touch with people. The most poignant example of this is my contact with my dad.

He lives in Sweden and while we have a great relationship and I try to go visit when I can, neither one of us is very good at initiating contact or doing so regularly. I hated that sometimes months would go by without us talking.

So I decided to finally do something about it! 

I used one of my favorite time management hacks, which is putting things on a calendar instead of (or in addition to) a to do list, as a way of truly committing to and prioritizing them.

This is something I recommend to clients all the time. And I realized it’s also a powerful strategy when it comes to deepening relationships. Here’s what you do:

Simply add a regular recurring event to your calendar as a standing date with the person you’d like to reestablish or deepen your relationship with. That’s it! 

A couple of months ago I suggested to my dad that we schedule a weekly phone call. We found a time that would work most weeks, despite the 9 hour time difference, and now every Monday I get to start not just my day but my week with a 30 minute phone call with my dad to go with my morning coffee. I get off the phone feeling so happy (and tender) after our conversations and it’s very comforting to know it’s a weekly thing.

Jars of coffee beans, because sharing coffee together is one of the sacred ways we bond and deepen a relationship

Whether we are simply catching up and sharing our plans for the coming week or laughing together and telling stories, or going deep and philosophizing about the world and life, it’s been incredibly meaningful for us to have that regular check in, since we historically haven’t. It’s been working so well that I even set up a similar but in person version of the same thing with my sister!

Now, it’s your turn. Is there someone in your life you’ve been wishing you could have more frequent contact with? Get them on your calendar!

Make it a monthly or weekly thing. Whether it’s a get together, a Skype date, a phone call, or even just a text check-in, committing to the regular practice, just like you would with any other practice (e.g. a morning ritual), removes so many of the challenges – the mental challenge of remembering to reach out, the scheduling challenge of finding a time that works, and the emotional challenge of feeling guilty that you’re not maintaining that relationship. Try it and let me know how it goes 🙂

In middle school I desperately wanted to be popular

In middle school I desperately wanted to be popular.
 
Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was well liked by most people (since by then I was pretty adept at the art of people pleasing, ha) and I definitely had a little core group of awesome friends.
 
But, I was by no means one of the “popular kids”. I remember standing by my locker, I think it must’ve been in 8th grade, being happy enough with my middle school existence, but often staring longingly at the lockers across the green, where the popular kids were. I wanted to be part of their world.
two people's feet and one backpack
 
I grew more bold toward the end of 8th grade. By the time I was ready to start planning my 13th birthday, I decided to take a risk.
 
I would throw myself a big party. And I would invite THEM. Gulp 😱
 
What if no one came and everyone laughed at me? What if they all came, and then all laughed at me? TO MY FACE!
 
I was terrified. But I did it anyway. My mom helped me rent a room at a hotel in Redondo Beach. We hired a DJ. I sent out invitations. Then I sat by the phone, in agony, praying that someone would RSVP. At first, crickets. I was convinced no one would come.
 
Then eventually, the RSVPs started to roll in. Lots of them actually. Even some of the cool kids said yes. I was excited but skeptical. One girl called and casually asked who else was coming.
 
I froze. My heart sank. All my fears about the popular kids were coming true. She’ll only come if the other ones come. See?! They don’t care about the little people like me. I mumbled that I wasn’t sure yet, but offered to read some names from the invite list. She must have heard some names she liked, because she said “ok great, I’ll come!”
 
The day came and I stood in the empty hotel room, a mix of confusing emotions swirling around in me. Proud of myself for taking the risk. Excited at the prospect of a fun party. And almost nauseous by how outside my comfort zone I had been for weeks.
 
I can still see my outfit clearly. White denim shorts with a belt. White T-shirt. A patterned vest. (Remember the vests?! Omg, the 90’s.) I had a perm (because, obvi) and a side part and had blow dried my bangs. I’m sure I was wearing some jewelry from Claire’s Boutique. Probably a peace sign choker. 
 
And then they came. They all came. And it turned out to be a really fun party. We danced. We opened presents. We ate cake. It was innocent and fun and for a few hours I felt accepted and free.
 
That day taught me a lot of things. It taught me that taking risks is important. That my assumptions about people are not always true.
It taught me that while, sure, a few of the popular kids were popular for the wrong reasons, most of them were just normal kids, who were probably popular because they were extroverted, friendly, and brave enough to connect with people.
 
It also confirmed to me that I wanted to break out of my shell, stop playing it so safe, and connect with lots of different people.
When I got to high school I took very intentional steps to do so. I took a public speaking class, two years of drama, and challenged myself to engage and connect more in the social circles I found myself in. And it worked. I loved high school, had great friends in several different groups and finally let go of the desperate need to be like by any particular social group.
 
Now, at 37 years old, as I spend more time outside my comfort zone and find myself addressing a bigger audience, I find some of those old familiar fears coming back to whisper in my ear. Right now they’re extra loud because I’m forcing myself to be vulnerable and put my latest offering out in the world.
 
Fortunately, I have the tools and wisdom now to see them for what they are. When they show up, I greet them – my inner critics, my ego, and the fears that I’ve come to know so well. I thank them for so reliably doing the job they’re meant to do — keeping me safe.
 
I also hear the voice of the little girl inside me. 8th grade me. Wondering if anyone will show up to the party. What if no one comes? And everyone laughs? It’s amazing how strong those past beliefs and fears can still feel.
 
And then I also hear the obvious strength in her tiny voice, the power that’s always been there, urging me to take the risks and do the things.
 
So, I tell the fears to kindly fuck off. Because, I’ve got this. 
I’ve got my big girl pants on now and I know that it doesn’t actually matter what anyone else thinks. I can speak my truth, take inspired action, and create things. I’m always going to be okay because I am enough and I am worthy and everything else is just a fun experiment in this amazing journey of life that I’m on.
two wooden hearts, one with the word "love" on it

Thank you 8th grade me. Thank you for your innocence, your insecurities, your imperfections. Thank you for being an awesomely awkward and angsty teen. And thank you for having the wisdom, from an early age, to also be willing to grow and learn, to question things. Thank you for paving the way for this weird ass path I’ve been on. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I forgive you. And I love you.

6 Simple Ways to Change Your Life

The deeper I dive into personal development, the more I’m struck by the fact that some of the most profound and life altering transformations come from the simplest of shifts. One slight change in perspective, or way of doing things, can fundamentally alter your life.

In service of that truth, here are six super simple things you can to do in your daily life that could completely change how you experience your life and how people experience you.

1. Answer the question “how are you?” honestly
Ditch the default answers like “fine” or “busy”. Instead, pause for a moment, check in with yourself, and then speak your truth. No need to tell a whole story. Just tell them how you really feel in that moment. They may shrug it off and be on their way. Or, you may be pleasantly surprised to find you’ve created an opening for a real, genuine connection.

Close up of young woman's face

2. Receive compliments gracefully
If you get awkward when someone compliments you, this one’s for you. Instead of denying the compliment (which robs the complimenter of the pleasure of acknowledging you), just thank them sincerely. Don’t automatically return the compliment (which can belittle theirs) or deflect it by changing the subject either. Just take a deep breathe and receive. It can be very vulnerable for people to give genuine praise, so when they do, honor them by savoring the moment, letting it land, and appreciating the feedback.

3. Make good eye contact
It’s amazing how much connection you can create with another human being (or animal, for that matter) simply by looking them in the eye. Don’t stare in a creepy way, obviously, just pause and look for the feeling of their energy coming into contact with yours. It’s such a beautiful and simple thing that I’m afraid many of us are too busy and distracted to take advantage of. Look, connect, and smile. You might make someone’s day. Or your own.

Cute dog staring into camera

4. Pause and breathe more often
Simply pausing long enough to take a long conscious inhale has SO many benefits, not just for you, but the people around you too. Imagine what kind of world we’d be living in if more people slowed down, breathed deeply, and felt more grounded? Set a timer to ding every hour if you need to, or train yourself to associate mindful breathing with something you do a bunch anyway (like drinking water or pulling out your phone).

5. Do things differently
We are such creatures of habit, and it’s healthy for our brains to switch things up. Here are a some examples to get you started: Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Take a different route to work. Read a real book instead of your Kindle. Talk less, and listen more. Wear something unconventional (for you) to work. Get creative. Question how you do everything. Each moment is an opportunity to challenge your habits and grow yourself.

View of bridge from car driving on it

6. Stand tall
Our physiology has a huge impact on how we feel. Practice being more aware of your posture when you sit, walk, and especially when you interact with other people. Not only will you come across as more confident, but you’ll feel more confident, and be in a better place to own who you are, speak your mind, and be true to what’s important to you. Plus, it looks much sexier than poor posture 😉

These are all incredibly simple and straight forward ideas. But, any one of them could absolutely change your life, how you feel, and how you impact the world around you, if you really committed to it. I say pick one and give it a go.

Start where you are

Indecision. Analysis paralysis. Perfectionism. Procrastination. Fear. And the list goes on. There will always be excuses for not getting started on the thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve used all of them myself, multiple times.

Today is just a short one to remind you (and myself) that you don’t need to have the whole thing figured out before you start. You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Stop waiting, just start. Put on your shoes, walk out the door, and start down the path. The next steps will reveal themselves once you get moving.

woman putting on boots

While dreaming and planning and finding killer strategies is great, don’t stay in the thinking space for too long. That can lead to spending a ton of energy in your head wrestling with things, when just taking some action will give you more clarity much faster. Imperfect action is generally always better than perfect inaction, as they say.

So, here’s to getting started. Have a dream, make a plan, take a breath, and dive on in. Take the first step, climb that first hill, and then suddenly you’ll have a new perspective and new information with which to determine where to go from there.

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
~ Arthur Ashe

And on that note, I will sign off here today, so that I can go and take the first few scary steps of a project that I’ve been dreaming about (but hesitating on) for months because I thought I didn’t have it all figured out. And I don’t. Which is exactly why I need to start.

Just keep showing up

“Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.”

The trainer who repeated those words over and over during a boxing class I was in several years ago probably has no idea how much he helped me that day. He helped me not just get through a grueling workout, but planted the seeds that would start blossoming into the increasingly unshakeable sense of perseverance I have today.

If you care deeply enough about something to want to get good at it, to succeed, and to have an impact, you’ve GOT to keep showing up. Over and over again. Even when it gets hard, or boring, or terrifying, or uncomfortable.

Sidenote: Just to be clear, this only applies to things that are important to you! Please don’t continue to tolerate something that is harmful or makes you miserable just for the sake of being persistent! 

As far as I’m concerned, your ability to persevere in the pursuit of your dreams far outweighs all other factors when it comes to creating an extraordinary life you love. The good news is that it can be learned, so if you haven’t already, make it a priority to get better! Here are some tips to get you started.

Be clear on the purpose
Be honest about why you’re pursuing something in the first place. Is it because you think you should or because you genuinely want to? Go for the plans and projects that are rooted in your values and light you up. It’s much easier to stay committed to something if you have a strong WHY to come back to when it gets hard.

Commit
Decide that this is important enough to put in the work. It will be hard. You will fail. Accept that from the get go as part of the process and commit to seeing it through. Make it non-negotiable. Declare your commitment to yourself, the universe, and your people (preferably the supportive ones who will cheer you on.)

Skateboarder at skatepark about to go

Confront your fears
Fear is a great indication that there is something important in front of you. It’s also a ridiculous source of energy. Feel the fear, then take action, even though you’re scared. Tap into the physical energy coursing through your body and channel it into the bravery you need to take that first step. If you let it, fear might even become your greatest ally, instead of your worst enemy.

Keep showing up
Get out there. Some days you’ll be excited, progress will happen quickly, and you’ll feel unstoppable! Other days will seriously suck. Just keep showing up. Day after day. It may feel awkward, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. You might want to give up. Don’t. Just come back. Over and over again. Remember it takes consistency to see results.

Skateboarder at skatepark

Embrace failure
Know that failure is simply part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s SO not helpful. Instead, pause and lick your wounds for a bit if you need to. Then take a deep breath, pick your ass up off the ground, dust yourself off, and climb back on the damn horse. It’s all about learning. Or as a yoga teacher of mine once said, “when you fall out of a pose, that just means you’re learning how not to fall out of that pose.”

Fall down seven times. Stand up eight. ~ Japanese proverb

One of my favorite frameworks to use when it comes to learning new skills is the conscious competence ladder, which this article explains in more detail. The middle phases are bumpy and that’s okay. You’re allowed to suck before you rock.

Gordon's conscious competence ladder

Get support
Like the stick figures helping each other in the diagram above, remember that getting support is part of the process too. It could be in the form of a coach or mentor, a mastermind group, a sports club, family, or just a workout buddy. Lean into your people and give them the great honor of letting them lift you up. We all need help sometimes.

Don’t compare
Don’t waste your precious time and energy comparing yourself to others. Cheer them on, celebrate their wins, and then go back to honing your craft. Your journey will likely look unlike anyone else’s, so honor your own timing and process.

Skateboarder in the air

Savor your progress
While the destination (let’s say mastering a certain trick on a skateboard or reaching a milestone in your business) may be an amazing reward in and of itself, undoubtedly the greatest reward is who you are becoming in the process. Acknowledge the small wins and how you are expanding as a person along the way.