Please watch The Social Dilemma. It will show you why we spend so much time on social media, what it is doing to our thinking, and the resulting social divide.
On a personal note, it helped partially explain to me why my brother-in-law and I, both good people, see the world so differently.
The reason I’m writing this Love Note though, is because the real take-away The Social Dilemma reminded me of, is the importance of learning to trust ourselves instead of our newsfeed.
Part of getting my PhD was learning how to gather, analyze, and manipulate data. Have you heard the phrase “the data doesn’t lie?” Data doesn’t, how people use it though, shapes what we see from the data. We see what the data presenter wants us to see.
Your body doesn’t lie.
Our body, if we learn to pay attention to it, tells us our response to a situation, not what someone wants us to believe.
Your body is more trustworthy than your phone.
If you are like most of my clients when they start working with me, you haven’t learned how to pay attention to your body’s wisdom.
That’s because most of us learned to not listen to what our body is telling us. That’s why we work when we are exhausted or sick, why we need coffee in the morning and sleep aids at night, why we do things for others even though we feel resentful.
Here are some statements I heard as a kid that taught me not to trust my own body. I’m sure you’ve heard similar, or maybe even worse, comments.
“You can’t be hungry, you just ate.”
“Don’t eat now. Wait until dinner.”
“Don’t be stupid, that’s nothing to feel bad about.”
“Sit still!” (I heard that one a lot as a kid with ADHD)
These comments told me what my body was feeling was wrong.
My parents and other authority figures weren’t bad people. They weren’t trying to create a lack of trust in myself. I was a lively little kid and what my body was doing wasn’t convenient for them.
I learned to be convenient, I learned to listen to them instead of my body. It helped them, and it kept me out of trouble.
It also cut me off from a huge source of wisdom. For 20 years I have been learning how to listen to my inner wisdom again.
How to do that, you ask? One tool I often use with my clients when they can’t decide what to do is this—
Close your eyes and pretend you’ve made your decision one way, and notice how your body feels. Do you feel tension, heaviness, a sense of dread? Do you feel lighter, calmer, a sense of moving forward? Do you feel contracted or expanded?
Open your eyes. Then close them again, this time pretend you made the other choice (we are often deciding between two choices) and notice how your body responds this time.
Your body is giving you information about your choice. Which decision feels better?
When trying to decide something, I gather information using my mind and my body. When they agree, I go for it. If they conflict, I frequently choose my body’s response. I have found over the decades things work out better when I do. Most important, I have learned to trust my body, and myself more.
It’s a grey Seattle morning. I’m drinking coffee and reading “Detox Your Life” by my friend and colleague Rebecca Gould. I highly recommend you get it.
I can barely sit still because I am reading her section on saying “no.” I LOVE it!
As a child I learned that “no” was not an ok response. Around the age of 50, I decided to declare “my year of the bitch.” I told everyone to expect me to act more bitchy that year. In reality, I was just going to practice saying no, but that doesn’t have the same pizzazz. For me it is more fun if there is pizzazz.
That year started me on a path to freedom.
All my life, I had believed if someone asked me for something, I was obligated to give it to them. I was wrong.
Yet I felt like a totally bad person if I didn’t say yes. It was time to shift that belief.
So I said no, mostly when it would have been easy to give someone what they asked. I practiced saying no to little requests because it felt excruciating to say that two-letter word. For example, if someone asked me to go for coffee that week (one of my favorite activities pre COVID)
I said no, just to know I could, and nobody would die.
That sounds extreme, but it felt so awful inside when I said no, that it felt like death. I still cringe inside when I say no, but it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as when I say yes when I don’t want to.
Saying “yes” when I want to say “no” feels like a violation of me—because it is.
Even now, eight years later, “no” can be hard to say. In Rebecca Gould’s book she lists Marcia Baczynski’s 12 ways to say “no.”
I’m a no to that, but I’m a yes to you.
I’m not so into that, but you go have fun!
I want to be in connection with you, but that doesn’t work for me. Can we do this instead?
I’m a no for now.
I’m not available for anything like that right now.
I need to build more trust before I’d be willing to consider that.
No, thank you.
I don’t have the internal resources to pull that off.
Hmmm. That’s not going to work.
It’s really hard for me to say no to people, but I’m practicing being braver and more honest, so I’m going to say no right now. (That’s my favorite.)
Aren’t they great? I’m sure you can come up with some of your own too.
My favorite method to use when I want to say no, but I’m afraid of disappointing the other person is to say “can I get back to you on that?” Then when I am by myself, I shore up my courage and practice how to say no in that situation. It works every time.
Sometimes it feels too hard to say no in the moment when we believe the person will be disappointed. That’s why it’s helpful to disengage for a bit, so we can also get in touch with how it would feel to disappoint us, instead of the other person.
We aren’t in charge of other people’s feelings. We are in charge of ours.
Here’s the magical thing about learning to be ok with saying “no.” We don’t take it as personally when someone tells us “no.”
Saying “no” is about someone taking care of themselves. It is NOT a reflection of how valuable you are.
How freeing is that thought?
No is about saying yes to your own value, and wants, and desires.
That is why “no” is one of the most powerful words in any language.
More precisely, I want to give you a helpful tool to be with fear without it feeling overwhelming.
I was talking about the power of fear with a friend and colleague I was visiting recently, and she practically jumped up and down as she handed me Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World. She opened it up to Kristen Ulmer’s chapter on how to deal with fear.
Kristen Ulmer knows fear. She was the best woman extreme skier in the world for 12 years. She’s the author of The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead.
Here is what she says about fear:
“Fear is not a sign of personal weakness, but rather a natural state of discomfort that occurs whenever you’re out of your comfort zone. It’s not there to sabotage you, but to help you come alive, be more focused, and put you into the present moment and a heightened state of excitement and awareness. If you push fear away, the only version of fear available to you will be its crazy, irrational, or contorted version. If you’re willing to feel it, and merge with it, its energy and wisdom will appear.”
Kristen has a simple, fast (1-2 minute) process to deal with fear:
Spend 15-30 seconds affirming it is natural to feel the discomfort. We are supposed to be scared when we do new or big things. (What really helps me in this process is saying “This is just a feeling…I am simply feeling a feeling; There is no tiger chasing me.”)
Spend 15-30 seconds being curious about how you are responding to the discomfort. If the feeling seems out of proportion to the situation, or irrational, it is a sign that you have been ignoring your fear, so it is getting louder to get you to pay attention. Feelings are meant to be felt, not repressed. Ask what it has been trying to say that you have not acknowledged, e.g. “You might want to start your taxes soon so you won’t be up all night trying to finish them before the deadline.”
Spend as long as it takes to feel it. Important—Don’t try to get rid of it. That would be disrespectful to fear. Kristen writes, “The key is to feel the feeling by spending some time with it, like you would your dog, friend, or lover…After which, fear, feeling acknowledged and heard, often dissipates.”
For the rest of the day, whenever you feel anxious, stressed or upset, do the process again. Kristen writes, “…I turn toward my discomfort and try to have an honest relationship with it by engaging in this fear practice. I focus on my discomfort, fear, sadness, anger, or anything else that seems unpleasant—all of it—and that effort not only affords me insights but, even though you’d never expect it, also thoroughly and amazingly sets me free.”
I have found the same thing. Our feelings are not here to traumatize us and make us feel horrible, they are here to communicate to us how we are living our life. If we honor them by paying attention, we will have more awareness and freedom of choice in our life.
A client of mine recently shared with me, “I’m learning I have a life to live. It is influenced by emotions and fear. They will always be there. I have a choice to be frightened or to embrace them and keep going; new ones will come. When I first came here, I was stuck in my thoughts. I’m learning to have greater peace. When you have peace, your soul is satisfied. You can take what comes at you. You are not defensive…It allows me to be who I am—who I want to be.”
This is what is possible when we are with our feelings rather than repress them.
So, go ahead, try this practice of being with your feelings, and notice the difference in your life.
P.S. My book is published!!!!!!! You can buy it in paperback or on Kindle, here!
Also, my interview on Lisa Zawrotny’s Positively Living Podcast is up! Lisa and I are kindred spirits. In it you will hear my story about how I made my life hard in Kindergarten, and at the end, you’ll hear 2 super simple practices to reduce your stress.