transformation

The Wizard of Pos(itivity)

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What is to give light must endure burning.

-Viktor E. Frankl Man's Search for Meaning

Very recently, I was invited to share a story of my life in a public setting. When I solicited suggestions from my Facebook followers and friends, one person said this:

"You're just such a positive person. I admire that about you. Was there ever a time in which you struggled with loving and accepting yourself? I just feel like someone else who may be struggling with that would be inspired by you."

It's really beautiful and very important to me that people experience me as a positive person now, especially if it inspires them to transform their own perspective on life. But I realized there is an important story to tell about my path to positivity. My journey reminded me of a similar story, so I'll call this The Wizard of Pos(itivity).

When I was in college, I had the Midas touch. Do you know that story of King Midas? Everything he touched turned to gold. That's how I felt in college and into my early young adulthood. I'd say I wanted to have or do something and it would literally materialize before my eyes. On the first day of college, I squinted at the people moving us into our dorms and said, "that will be me, someday." Indeed, two years later, I became a hall/resident advisor. It was also that year that I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I needed to raise a lot of money, but I applied myself that summer and raised $3500 to fly myself across the Atlantic and made my 10-year dream to go to South Africa come true.

Things like that kept happening for me well into and throughout my young adulthood.

And then, a few years ago, something happened. I fell into some kind of rut where things worked decently but not the way they had for many years. It got worse with each month and then things sort of bottomed out for me. It didn't look like that to a lot of people, but it FELT that way to me. My business was suffering and my mental and emotional health had plummeted. I grew increasingly discouraged and disheartened with each passing month until last year, I heard myself say, "I lost my Midas touch. I can't make things happen like I used to."

My light had almost gone completely out. I was growing increasingly negative and fearful. I had become spiteful and often complained and compared myself to other people and their perceived success. Despite achieving so much, other success or accomplishments seemed elusive. The infamous Gemini tendency toward duplicity sort of ran the joint on a daily basis.

I hardly recognized myself. Despite my awareness of my behavior, I felt unable to turn things around.

I was desperate to understand what was happening and what I could do to change it.

I started digging deep, really deep. I came to fully embrace that was raised in a family that tolerated my existence but rarely celebrated it.  To overcome that neglect, as a child, teen and younger adult, I sought out a lot of loving and wonderful people once I realized what love could feel like. From the time I was young, I was always gregarious and loving so I always seemed to find these people, even if they were sometimes hidden among the weeds of a toxic or dysfunctional environment or community.

But the part of me that knew neglect, abandonment and the feeling of not being cherished or adored, still sought out people and places that would reinforce that experience for me. It was familiar, after all, if not all that comfortable.

Despite making some really great decisions to remove myself from situations or relationships like that during the past few years, I was still subconsciously doing it in other areas or with other people. Since I had made great progress and so much WAS working, I couldn't see these blind spots. But they were there, and eroding the confidence and strength I strived to build in other areas. They were counteracting the progress I'd make and set me back for days or weeks.

But I began to see it. Ever so slowly. I started experiencing the same patterns in every aspect of my life--a person here or there would be a clone of another. I heard these people complain about others, compare themselves or speak in ways that revealed a lack of self-awareness of their actions. They all seemed, in varying degrees, unwilling or unable to see or be responsible for the impact of their choices and behavior. They were resistant to the actual hard work of personal growth and appreciation of themselves and their own gifts, despite evidence to the contrary. From the outside, they presented the image of being "put-together" or "the pinnacle of positivity" but were actually very different if triggered or shaken or confronted in some way. These were very different relationships from my old friends, those people I had found earlier in my life, who had lit my path with the light of self-awareness and a passion for growth and healing. These people in my life now seemed to be showing me one face and the world another, and it confused me so much--particularly when I confronted them and suddenly became the focus or target of their projections. I went from trusted confidante to Enemy #1 sometimes overnight.

And then I realized why: I was acting as a mirror for them and vice versa. As I spent more and more time around people who were resisting their own vulnerability, authenticity and inner demons, I took on their secret negativity and insecurity. As I surrounded myself with people who focused their energy more on putting up appearances and avoiding the painful complexity of life than confronting it, I did too. I complained. I gossiped. I hid. In this environment, my gender transition, an already delicate and vulnerable process, became increasingly less of a celebration and more of a prison as I rejected and resented people more each day. I saw threats at every turn and doubted myself and my abilities. It wasn't who I had ever been, but I absorbed it and sent it back out into the world.  And, just like these people, I managed to develop two versions of myself: the one I was "behind the curtain" and the one I showed the world.

I had become the Wizard of Positivity--pulling off the feat of impressing the world with my strength and courage but also feeling like a fraud as I feverishly manipulated controls and switches to keep up the illusion of happiness, confidence and inner peace.

The more I did this, the more I experienced rejection and reprisals. My own behavior was literally creating the alienation I experienced from people and opportunities. All the healthy food and personal development trainings in the world weren't filling the void of not feeling appreciated, valued or cherished for who I was.  It felt like a sinkhole and the more I tried to grasp at a solution or a person, the more I felt them slip through my fingers. The way out was elusive and I knew a despair deeper and darker than any that Anne Shirley could ever imagine.

But I knew why I was experiencing all of it. It was my creation. I had allowed the parts of me that didn't believe I deserved love, recognition, support or success take over and I had put myself into environments or among people who weren't truly thriving themselves, despite their illusion to the contrary. I had fallen for those illusions, just as others were, and now had to reconcile with the truth. A lot of things look and feel a lot like love. But where there is a question, there is no love. And where there is real love, there is no question.

I had chosen to settle for less because it resonated with a part of me that felt it was all I deserved. And conflicts that came up were from a different part that knew I deserved better. Despite the pain and fear of changing, I knew I had to remove myself from anything or anyone that wasn't real love--in work, relationships and anything else.

And that's exactly what I did. Hand over hand, I climbed out and through and away from identities, behaviors, habits, situations and people that kept me from being fully expressed or fully seen and appreciated. The more I did, the better I felt and it gave me confidence to keep going.

The pain of whatever was lost wasn't stronger than my will to overcome that dark, negative place I had been in for so long. I began to see everything come into relief--everything made sense as my life improved over three months and then six and then nine. Positive and encouraging oppportunities seemed to serendipitously find me again, effortlessly. When I found myself chasing something or someone like I had before, I instantly saw the dead-end sign and would turn back.

And that's where I am now. I'm experiencing relationships and business/life opportunities like the ones I knew before and also the ones I dreamed about. I'm rather feeling like I've been raised from the dead. Things are happening in my life that make no logical sense and are mind-boggling for me, but they are the things I used to want so much---so I won't second-guess the Universe and look a gift-horse in the mouth. It seems I've definitely got my Midas touch back!!

The work keeps expanding in front of me, because the old habits are strong and deeply rooted in that part of me that needs to heal fully and completely. It couldn't heal in environments that reinforced it--it is healing in atmospheres of abundant love and reciprocity.

It would be great to say my transition made this all possible, that it inspired the change I needed to make. But the truth is, I've never felt more like the "old me" than I do right now. I just sound a little different and have bigger muscles.

Perhaps it was the courage to transition that allowed me to finally overcome whatever held the "old me" back. It was the genesis of finally exposing what hadn't ever really been given room to breathe.

And being alive feels great--especially since I've known what not living feels like. I've known all that fear, shame, rejection and neglect. I remember how it felt to be around it and who I became as a result and how hard I had to work to keep up the dual identities. I don't want to experience that again so all I can do now is be love and feel love and share it.

And the most important part of all is now when people call me positive, I can agree with them.

What Happens When You Ask For Help

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  We all know the joke about men not asking for help with directions.

Have you heard the one about the woman who tries to do everything "her way" and then says her husband doesn't help her? The punchline is: "he wasn't doing it right."

Except, it's not a joke. It's what people do.

Men try to figure things out alone rather than ask for and receive help and women...well, they do the same thing. Actually, many human beings do this. 

Why? What happens when we ask for help?

WE MIGHT GET IT

Well, we might just get help, only it might not come in the way we want, expect or anticipate. If we have our sights set on how others can or can't or should help, we miss out on the opportunity to actually receive the help we think we need. Or we do get help and then what happens to our Savior Complex? yikes.

WE MIGHT NOT GET IT

Sometimes we ask and people aren't actually willing to help and that feels like crap. We are stuck in the same situation we were before we asked. Except, there are a few other people we could ask...

WE LOOK STUPID

Or we ask and we think we look stupid for asking. That person thought we had it all together and now they know we don't. That image we stood behind felt so safe and now people know we are a fraud. Freakin' great.

 

These fears or experiences can lead us to think we don't even need or want help.

Somewhere deep down, we may not think we deserve it. Or maybe it is too hard to accept it and it is easier (albeit more difficult and painful) to do it ourselves. If this worked perfectly, it would be awesome. Unfortunately, I know more than a few people who take this stance and then complain. Frequently. That's tricky, right? Nothing bad or wrong there, just...something to see.

*sorry. I'm back. was just looking at that for myself*

Here's what I have learned from asking for help or from working with people who ask me for help: it puts us in a totally vulnerable state of receiving. We all like to look like we are juggling 10 balls perfectly, right? YEAH! What a feeling of power and control. Holy crap, the seduction of that facade is so tempting.

Until we actually come up against our limits as humans. See, we have a limited field of vision based on the experiences we have had. While we might be smarter than the average bear (or person), we still can't possibly know it all. The opinions and perspectives of other people are tremendously helpful, particularly if they have a viewpoint or life experience that relates to ours.

Take my clients, for example. Their life experiences range from many different vocations, races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations. What do they share in common? Choosing change. Every single one of them comes up against the fear of change and their own personal limitations. They want to shift something in their lives and that requires a perspective that will be different from the one they have known.

This is something I know really well, having changed my job, religion, my state and neighborhood of residence, gender presentation, sexual orientation, gender identity AND heck, my own damn name and my body! Anything that can be changed, I've changed. And I haven't done this by myself. I've done it by constantly asking for help when I come up against my own limitations or my own ability to see clearly what I could change.

My client who felt stuck in his job? He just needed help changing his definition of what job he "should" have. He was held back by this one idea that required credentials he didn't have. Once we redefined it as something to earn money while he found something ideal, he made the shift.

Someone asked me for help with something intimate the other day. She read me as a guy and it was probably hard for her to ask me, since it involved her body. She overcame the perception of my maleness as a barrier and instead saw me as a person who could help her. And help her, I did. She felt weird, she overcame the fear and she got exactly what she needed.

We all need help with something in our lives. Something we want to change or something that hurts.

We like to think we can do everything ourselves, especially if we are particularly good at DIY-ing other things in life or if we've tried to ask for help before and have been hurt in some way. Shit happens when we ask for help, it's totally true. I tried to ask for help from someone who is this big social media expert and he completely flaked on me. Whatever. Maybe the Universe was helping me dodge a bullet. Maybe this guy had nothing to tell me that I don't already know and that was the lesson I needed.

Whatever the result, pleasant or not, we learn something by asking for help. We learn how to ask, who to ask and when to ask.

Finding the ability to ask for help and seek it from people or places who are ready, willing and able to provide it are essential skills to living healthy, happy lives. It's an art, a practice, not an exact science.

 

What would happen if you asked for help with something in your life today?

 

 

image courtesy another great article on LinkedIn.

Guest Post: The Magic Words You Already Know by Kate Bartolotta

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I am so, so pleased to share this inspiring blog post from my new pal and colleague, Kate Bartolotta from beyoumediagroup. There are many similarities in the messages we share with our respective work, and I'm thrilled to provide her words today to inspire you on your path toward transformation. 

“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing, and even today words retain much of their magical power.” ~ Sigmund Freud

Much has been written on manifesting what we want in our lives, but we forget that 99% of that is incredibly simple. We realize we are thirsty, so we get a glass of water. We want to do something, so we get in our cars and go. The lag time between most of what we desire and achieving it is so effortless, that we forget about it, and we imbue the ideas of larger manifestations with some mystical qualities.

There are magic words you need to use to move forward in life. Chances are you are already using them, but if you aren’t careful, they might be getting you more of what you don’t want.

I want.

We talk about things that we think we need, but there is a difference between this and acknowledging what we want. Acknowledging desire is noticing that there is a gap between what’s currently going on and what we wish would happen. It’s an easy habit to cap off our wants with a “but.” “I want this, but it’s too hard, unattainable, might mean I have to change something, etc.” What if instead we looked around at the present moment and gave thanks for the things that spark that desire? What if we looked at things that draw our gaze, and instead of feeling unsatisfied, said, “Aha, there’s what I want. That’s what I want more of in my life.” All of those simple things we attain began with the moment where we noticed our desire. Notice what you want. Acknowledge it. It isn’t magical thinking to recognize that putting our intentions into words and making them clear is a necessary precursor to making them happen.

I will.

This is the first step out of the liminal space. This is taking an idea from intention to action. It’s too easy to hedge our bets and say, “Well, I might do this,” or “I could do that.” Our lives are a grand, ongoing experiment, and success is not some linear path with well-lit signposts along the way. We must make those choices and step into our own unknown territory if we’re going to get anywhere wonderful. We must decide, and in doing so leave behind those other options. We must unwaiveringly say “I will” to the things we want to accomplish, because that statement is the first step towards doing them.

I am.

When you say “I am,” every cell in your body leans in to listen to what comes next and prepares to reflect that statement. Far too many of us internalize someone else’s ideas of who we are, and speak it over and over again until we live it like it’ s gospel truth. The single most important creative act you will ever undertake is taking charge of your own identity, and ultimately, your destiny. Every day, we are faced with a choice. We get to choose whether to be defined by external messages, old baggage and false ideas about ourselves, or whether to listen to the voice in that still place inside and acknowledge it as truth.

Choose what follows those two words wisely; they are your compass.

(While all of this we must define and decide for ourselves, there is one more thing I know is true: the best gift we can give is to honor and validate these things for each other. Compliments and encouragement are wonderful, but it’s a far better thing to listen to someone as they tell you what they want, what they’ve chosen to do and who they are, and say, “yes, you are.”)

This post was originally published at beyoumediagroup.com and was reprinted with the author's permission.

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Kate Bartolotta is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. Her book,Heart Medicine, is available on Amazon.com. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal and The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Connect with Kate on TwitterFacebook and Google +.