personal development

I see you.

If the greatest human need is to be acknowledged, it's no wonder the greatest human fear is public speaking.

Asking for what you need or to be seen and vulnerable and face rejection? Yeah, right. No thanks! It can feel terrifying to put yourself out there, even if it's what we most crave and need.

And that's where most of us spend our whole lives--in that balance. Waiting or wondering for how to make things different. How to put ourselves out there and be seen so we feel acknowledged.

It may be even harder for those of us who were born lucky enough to face significant adversity, like I was. I say lucky because it's my opinion that facing adversity is a gift. It's a blessing. It's how we nurture resilience and become gritty to overcome the challenges of life. If we have enough tools and resources, adversity is great. Without enough of what we need, adversity is...not so great.

Ironically, more resources doesn't always make it better. Sometimes, the more privilege we have or are given in our family unit or in society, the harder life's challenges actually can feel. When things come easy to us, anything HARD feels HARDER. But when hard is what you know by default...you get what I'm saying. What are your particular circumstances? Have you ever stopped to consider this?


Being seen and acknowledged and valued is essential to our survival. Lots of people want to pretend they are beyond or above it but there's probably something else going on with those folks. This primal human need to feel connected and be acknowledged is why social media is a hot damn mess and also why the news can be so hard to stomach right now because we see so much invalidation of human lives in so many different ways. It can trigger this feeling in us like, "whoa. Look at the lives lost. Am I even valuable?"

When we see this all day, every day, we can feel overwhelmed. Human beings treating other human beings unkindly is nothing new but the news and social media makes it seem bigger and worse right now. I try to keep perspective on it based on what I know from my days teaching Social Studies.

In those moments when we feel overwhelmed, when the compassion fatigue sets in, it may help to just start with seeing yourself. My inner child cries out to be seen especially since my relationships with my family have changed and I don't have their presence or support. To be honest, this isn't anything new and based on our differences, it's something I've come to accept. I'm learning to be ok with things as they are because I trust it's for the best. But the primal need to be seen and acknowledged is always there, in all of us. And one thing we can do in each moment is say, "I SEE YOU."

I did this on my morning walk and was surprised how quickly it worked to calm my anxiety. To hear my own voice acknowledge my own presence, it was like a magic spell! I thought how long I've walked around with this solution and didn't use it!

I encourage you to use it.

And you know what else? I see you. I see your attempts to improve your health. I see how you're trying to make the world better. I see how you're working hard to get by. I see how much you do for your family. I see how you're seeking to understand people who are different than you.

I see you.

I SEE YOU.

Being seen helps us relax and feel connected. It inspires and encourages empathy, which is the cure and antidote to what's affecting human beings right now. We're working this out and it's messy and complicated and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

If you want to help in a way that really works for you and others, you can start being seeing yourself and acknowledging what you're doing to make things better or worse.

Focus on the positive.

Choose one thing to improve.

Go from there.

Know who you are.

Kanye West is making news from what he sees as his powerful self-expression.

It's confronting people and challenging them in many different ways.

I feel compassion for him. I wonder if he's actually doing ok. I wonder how much of what he's sharing comes from intentional choices to get media attention or because he's actually ignorant.

At a basic level, I do support his self-expression. I support him saying what he thinks is true and real. We all deserve that. But he's speaking from a position of power in our society, and incredible wealth and privilege at the moment. And with that platform comes responsibility.

People have strong feelings about what he's saying and doing.

It comes down to knowing who we are, not only for ourselves with our own opinions and perspectives but who we are in relation to all human beings. We don't exist as islands. We have impact. We all have relative privilege and disadvantage. Each and every one of us, some of us more than others.

I shared this sentiment on the two panels I sat on this month, once in Pittsburgh to an audience of tech/startup-minded individuals and last week in NYC to an audience of activists, social media marketers and all sorts of other people.

I am consciously positioning myself on those panels and outing myself as a #transgender person to share insights about privilege and power and identity development. I'm working to help the current social awareness of trans* people and what we can do or are capable of being and where we belong. I am also just sharing from the deep reservoir of information and knowledge I've acquired throughout my career.

Most people don't know who they are outside of what society has shaped them to be. Most people aren't given the tools to explore identity and know themselves as complex, dynamic beings capable of changing and evolving with each moment.

It's the work I've been doing for my entire career. It's the message I've been sharing since becoming a coach. It's starting to gain traction. The time is now for me to keep expressing myself and sharing this knowledge to help others. I know everyone won't agree with me and the ways I'm doing it and how and why.

It's why I support Kanye sharing his truths, even if I disagree with him.

Ultimately, we all deserve to say what we need to say.

When we can do it with integrity and from a place of deep introspection and awareness, we can be even more powerful. When we can do it from a place of love and wisdom and compassion, like I did several weeks ago, we have the opportunity to change lives for the better. We can empower ourselves to inspire others toward their own self-empowerment.

This happened for me several weeks ago at my talk in NYC and my schedule has been so packed I haven't even been able to share about that. Here's a small video that's a bite-sized recounting of that experience. And know I'm working hard to make it happen again and more often as much as possible.

When we know who we are, we are unlimited.

The Ebenezer in everyone.

Everyone has an inner Ebenezer Scrooge. You know the guy in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens?

And it's such an excellent story of personal transformation.

If folks know the story, they often focus on his identity early in the story. If someone's being miserly (what a great word!) we call him a Scrooge! 

It's true that ol' Eb was the perfect example of Scarcity mindset. It's that state of saving, scrimping, hoarding, and withholding. In the story, Ebenezer did this with money as a metaphor for his whole life. He couldn't even hook up Bob Cratchit with an extra lump of coal to warm his office, which expressed his lack of empathy. "My office is warm enough!" said Scrooge, totally oblivious to Bob's request for compassion about his own condition. Ebenezer had a lot of money and over the years became completely focused on that and only that to the point that his humanity took a major nosedive.

YEAHHHHHHH. A poignant story for times such as these, eh?

But Ebenezer had a huge breakthrough! He completely transformed! He literally hurled out generosity and compassion and material wealth into the streets of his local community. How often do we celebrate a story like that?!

Not too often. And I think I know why. Because everyone has an inner Ebenezer. It's called our ego. It's the thing inside us that focuses only on what we don't have instead of what we do have. We can have so much abundance and wealth in so many different forms and yet, what do we do with our time?

Complain about what hurts.

Worry about the future.

Gripe about what others are doing with their lives.

Compare ourselves and what we have or who we are to other people.

Distract ourselves with an endless list of things and post things like, "I can't even," and "omg it's Monday again?!" and "is it wine o'clock yet?" and, well, you can fill in the rest. 

There's a lot of scarcity all around and it's more apparent to someone like me or you, if you have experienced significant loss and tremendous change in your life. The great teachers say that the deeper our spiritual transformation, often brought on by trauma or tragedy, the more clearly we see the world as we never did before. And what we see reveals the truth about what matters and what doesn't. That new lens is the silver lining to the clouds of difficult times.

But until you get there (and often even when you do), people are kind of caught in the matrix of striving and competing and struggling toward something and the result is never feeling like anything or anyone is good enough. You don't appreciate what you have and keep focusing on what's wrong because it feeds that feeling of not having enough. We think if we can fix it (whatever IT IS) then, FINALLY THEN, we can sit and relax. It's a hamster wheel and the Buddhists call it samsara. I wanted to call it the Ebenezer Effect but others got to that phrase first and mean something different by it. 

But we'll get there.

image from Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey

image from Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey

The Ebenezer in everyone is all over social media and it's in our daily lives with the people we know and work with and hang out with. Whenever you notice someone who really does have plenty complaining or worrying or focusing on what isn't there or what isn't going right or not happening, that's the inner Ebenezer.

And then what happened to him? What's possible for all of us?

He saw it. He got it. He had the epiphany. With the help of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Ebenezer realized that all the loss he'd experienced and the pain and fear he felt had hardened him into a miserly person who struggled to give and receive love, kindness, and generosity. If he stayed on that path, he was destined to die alone with nothing but his money.

Did you hear that some people are so poor, all they have is wealth? That's another blog post for another time. But that was Ebenezer's fate and he realized it and saw that all the things or money wasn't worth what he was missing out on every day in his life. The ability to help Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim or hang with his loving nephew and give money to the poor. 

He woke up and felt so grateful to still be alive, he changed his whole mindset. He celebrated his wealth and wanted to share it to expand the reach of it. He had the major catharsis that as long as he was alive, he had ONE MORE CHANCE to be the person he wanted to be as best he could.

image from Muppets Christmas Carol

image from Muppets Christmas Carol

And the best part of this story?

As long as you're reading this right now, you have the same opportunity. That potential Ebenezer is in everyone.