As an emotional health life coach and I am often exposed to inspirational quotes and encouragements shared publicly by other people in the life coaching industry. One of the popular ideas that I come across is that “You have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to grow”. This thought has been so popularized and regurgitated that most people accept it as being the truth without questioning it.
The idea implies that you must go about making an effort to create growth in your life, that you won’t otherwise grow unless you put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Very few take a moment to questions this, to ask: “Is this true?”.
I have noticed that people who embrace this idea without questioning it create intense internal pressure and suffering for themselves. I see a lot of exhaustion and self-sabotage in people who believe THEY HAVE TO push themselves to see progress in their lives. Most often than not, such persons refuse to allow themselves comfort. Sometimes out of shame, other times out of a sense of lack of worthiness. Continuous lack of comfort creates exhausted, overwhelmed, zombie-like people. Burnout people are more often emotionally injured by their uncomfortable circumstances than they are expanded by them. To me, the statement is incomplete and extremist. It misses out on the possibility that growth can also happen in comfort, in peace and support.
Refusing to allow ourselves comfort makes us emotionally and spiritually bankrupt and desperate for being comforted through methods that harm us in the long run.
The supporters of this idea also argue that you wouldn’t try new rewarding things unless you dared to be uncomfortable. I disagree- the way I see it, we are wonderfully capable of reaching for new experiences when we are at peace, comfortable and confident. To further this point I think it’s incredibly important to make a distinction between growth and intensity. I can see how always being outside of your comfort zone can create intensity- like jumping off a cliff with a paraglider would.
But just because you’re having an intense experience doesn’t mean that you’ve created growth. Abuse is often intense but almost never expanding.
Comfort isn’t supposed to be intense, on the contrary, it’s gentle. Growth can be both intense and gentle/gradual. Both must be acknowledged. The issue with seeking intensity thinking that it alone can provide growth is that people miss out on the opportunity to experience peaceful, gentle growth. Another issue in equating intensity with growth is that intensity can actually be harmful and create trauma- like a paraglider who hit the mountain wall. This is one of the major dangers of embracing this idea without further examination: many people seeking growth end up harming themselves unnecessarily. The fear we experience outside of our comfort zone is an important signal that we might not be safe, that it is time to protect ourselves. When we ignore our fear for the sake of some potential future growth we can harm ourselves unnecessarily, we can lower our boundaries at a time when they need to remain strong and we may enter in agreements we really can’t honor.
Another premise the idea that pushing oneself outside of their comfort zone is a necessity is based on the belief that comfort brings complacency, that we get lazy when we’re comfortable. That, once again, isn’t always the case. For some, their comfort zone allows them the emotional resources to examine fears and transform them gradually, in a safe setting. In comfort, we can also explore, test, apply and implement new expanding behaviors. Some of this “comfortably seeking” is simply unavailable for people who would normally experience debilitating panic, self-doubt, and uncertainty. For such individuals, being outside their comfort zone can create the opposite of growth- stagnation. Our four most common reactions to fear are FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE or FACADE. None of these are known for being particularly conducive to growth.
Also. the idea that “we have to” intervene in the natural course of life to have growth creates a controlling attitude to life, an attitude that doesn’t allow for trust or faith that life will manage our growth without us HAVING TO meddle in it. With such an attitude it’s easy to buy into the illusion that growth is always noticeable to us. Or, if the growth we think we’re seeing is not matching our expectations of how much we should be growing then we have somehow failed at mastering our own growth- “Well, I guess, I didn’t push myself enough”.
Should growth be a human calculated choice? Do we even know ourselves enough to be able to predict the amount of growth we should be experiencing?
Could it be that life organically offers us all kinds of opportunities for growth? I believe that our human make-up offers an organic PULL towards growth, a calling that comes naturally, as opposed to the man-made so-called growth creating PUSH. With this perspective, I often find myself grieving our unconscious resistance to the benefits of ORGANIC growth, and our attachment to orchestrating the growth that we imagine we need.
So please take sometime to know yourself before you adopt the comfort zone pushing method of growth. Take your own makeup into consideration when deciding you need to be dragged into something that feels scary. For some people, always pushing/hustling/grinding can indeed be expanding. For others, it simply makes them burn through their emotional resources. Not everybody has the same emotional resilience to discomfort.
Some of us truly function better in peace…what is best for you?!?
Questions to take home:
have you paid attention to what makes you grow? Was it gradual and consistent care or was constant pushing?
what are the side effects/price you pay for always pushing yourself? can you notice?
can you trust that whatever your life offers it includes organic growth? can you surrender and let life grow you?
Today I caught myself feeling really grateful for the small black plastic trashcan in my bathroom. This made me smile. I have never before been so mindful of the good in my life as to appreciate a trashcan. To a part of me this felt like a sort of graduation. I have been actively working on my ability to feel appreciative for everything that I am allowed to have and experience. I feel strongly called to take nothing and no one for granted. I want to fully see and feel all that has taken shape in my life. I call this the purposeful appreciation practice. Purposeful Appreciation Practice (or more affectionately called The Bliss Bubble Technique 🙂 involves making time to experience and embody appreciation for all the things and beings that positively impact a comfortable and enjoyable life experience, no matter how small the impact may be. You may ask: well, how do I know if something makes a positive impact. Here are the questions I use to help me with this:
Does this allow me to do or be something I enjoy?
Does this simplify my life in any way?
Does this facilitate something meaningful to me?
That this help or support me in any way?
Does this contribute to my well-being in any way?
This act of purposefully scanning our lives for things that we enjoy having is an empowering and reassuring practice. Observing and acknowledging the presence of what works well in our lives infuses us with the realization that we are already taken care of, provided for and met by life with so much of what we need. There are times when we get scared or worried about something and we lose perspective of our overall situation. This practice balances our mind and creates a tangible reassurance, based on what is often observable. Most importantly this practice allows us to SHIFT FOCUS. When we are overwhelmed by some aspect of our lives we tend to become obsessed with it. We can’t think clearly anymore because we cannot see anything else. Choosing to look for and cultivate appreciation relaxes our bodies, our minds and our nervous system and allows us to reset ourselves.
There are two levels you can do this on: internal and external.
Look at what is around you. Choose to acknowledge things that are contributing to your joy and comfort. What around you makes you smile? What around you pleases your eye? What around you feels comfortable? What around you feels safe? Some of us are sometimes challenged to see the good in our lives. If we have been suffering, our pain can blind us to the good that is there. You can visually scan your surroundings or think about the things you know you have but are not immediately in front of you: your car, your job, your sky set in the closet. When I do this I take each item at a time and imagine what my life would be without it. There are times after an appreciation session when I decide to donate items that I notice bring me no joy and are simply clutter. There are times when after 20 minutes of appreciation I start crying realizing how much I have been given and how much I have to enjoy.
If you have been feeling down for a while and things have been chaotic in your life you may have a home that is messy and you may be challenged to see the beauty and the joy of the things around you. in that case I suggest going for a walk in nature: a park, the beach/lake or forest. Many times observing the blue sky and a bird flying can completely change your perspective. Whatever your circumstance is and wherever you may find yourself there will be something to find appreciation for. Keep seeking until you find it.
Consider doing the same with what is inside of you. Take a moment and scan all of the mechanics that are happening inside of you: physical, emotional, spiritual. Are you able to breathe, digest, sense, think, feel? Our heart beats for us, our blood travels throughout our body nurturing it and cleaning it. Our emotions arise and make themselves known to us. Our mind is always available to help us understand and find solutions. Our subconscious works and communicates with us through dreams and synchronicity. Loving humans were created to exist on this planet at the same time with us and be our companions in this life experience as friends, mentors, partners, children, neighbors. There is so much happening at the same time to allows us to be well.
See if you can really take in the layers and the richness our lives have been given in every moment. Notice how it feels to allow yourself to receive life’s bounty. How is your breathing when you notice what is good in your life? How does your body feel when you focus on what’s working in your life? Practice this mindfulness. Let is seep into every cell of your body. Acknowledge how loved you are!
Often True Appreciation Affirmations
Take a moment and read the statements below. Notice how often you may be taking some of these things for granted. Notice how it feels to pause and acknowledge these things without which our lives would be much much harder.
I acknowledge that I feel safe in this moment.
It feels great to breathe freely.
I appreciate being able to feel to my body.
I really enjoy having a home.
I am glad my heart beats for me without any effort of my own.
I enjoy every time I am able to rest.
I’m thankful that I am able to feel love.
Why is this practice important?
When we realize and acknowledge how much we have going for us it becomes a bit easier to tackle challenging times. It builds emotional resilience. When we take life and everything good for granted we will be pummeled by the smallest inconvenience. We often have so much going for us and yet we spend so little time enjoy it. When we make time to take in and appreciate the generous support that life offers us and we won’t be so demoralized by unavoidable and necessary challenges.
Speed, efficiency, energy, power. We all desire them. But they are not always innate, for most of us they are practices that must be learned and developed. And because life comes in opposites and paradoxes, many of us have began to recognize that
power is not possible without powering down.
Continuous expenditure of energy without RENEWAL is not possible. Speed without slowing down is not sustainable. Nature shows us this all the time. Days are followed by night. Spring cannot happen without winter. All of the natural world exemplifies this duality and alternation.
So why are so reluctant to slow down? Why do we fall into the temptation to push ourselves to the point of breaking?
It takes 10 weeks for a bone fracture to heal. How long does it take to heal a broken spirit?
Can our tiredness, our exhaustion, our lack of focus, our depression, be a generous invitation into rest, into repause, into regeneration? Particularly after some of our greatest loses (accidents, heart breaks) a period of restoration is organic and supportive.
Ask yourself: What level of breakage will it be necessary for me to allow myself to slow down?
What will it take for me to give myself permission to rest? And when I do, what will I learn? What will I notice? What will I love?
I have been learning about stillness from animals. They are so comfortable enjoying a moment. No expectation. No “to do”. No end goal. Just being. Content. Still. Present. Watching them fills me with awe…It seems they have a superpower of being comfortable by themselves, no neediness, no phone, no numbing, no distractions. Being present with them, watching them reminds me of my own superpower of being. It seems as if humans will do just about anything to avoid accessing this superpower of being, including me. For us, being alone, doing nothing is often a curse. It’s painful, uncomfortable, something that must be covered, filled, changed. Yet, somehow, underneath my addiction to being busy, to “doing”, there is a deep and powerful calm. I know this peace! I remember it…I too once knew how to just be, I still do. I want to make that my practice again... Photo by me 🙂
The way I see it emotional shedding is the organic process through which our emotional body lets go of repressed emotions.
There are times when things are ok and we are able to slow down. And then all of a sudden, we seem to become very sensitive and emotional without any apparent reason. Then right after we’ve cried o have been kind to ourselves through our sadness we feel lighter than before. I call this emotional shedding- which means your emotional body finally has time to catch up with us. It’s like when we finally take that vacation we’ve been postponing for years and then we get sick as soon as we get there. It’s as if the stress that has been accumulating in our body is finally ready to come out and it’s showing up as sickness.
Emotionally we operate in similar ways. We walk around with a lot of unfelt grief or sadness. We may suffer a big loss and feel forced to tend to the repercussions of the loss: a funeral, medical bills, homelessness…we don’t have time to allow themselves to open up and let ourselves feel our pain. This goes for the smaller losses as well, especially for those of us who are addicted to “busy”. When we don’t make a habit of emotional house cleaning we accumulate this emotional dirt in the unswept corners of our hearts. And then when we slow down it’s like the automated self cleaning function of our heart turns on and we start feeling these older carried pains.
I’m going to give you another example: you’re being chased by the tiger in the forest so you run like hell, you scrape yourself on branches, you hurt yourself jumping over rocks and you finally get to your cave thinking you are all set. But as you get a chance to stop and rest you finally discover all your hurts and begin to feel the pain of the scrapes and bruises you accumulated in the process.
Different people have different ways of healing– some are able to feel their sadness and hurt right away. Others power through it, get done what they need to do and then they crash. Personally I have noticed that if I don’t mind my wounds they end up minding me. If I don’t take time to tend to my emotional pain my self healing heart turns on and surprises me with grief at times when I least expect it. How about you? Have you been surprised by bouts of sadness or sensitivity that are seemingly out of the blue? How do you take care of yourself when your in emotional shedding? Feel free to share below and make sure to be patient, loving and kind when you notice yourself emotionally shedding.
Working with a life coach is a highly personal experience that involves quality one-on-one time and deep meaningful inquiry. Most people who choose a life coach are not only looking for someone to partner with to relieve and heal emotional pain but also someone who can teach them how to do that for themselves. It’s a more intimate process than reading a book or doing an online course, and that’s why, when clients and coaches are matched well, profound life changes take place organically.
So, who goes to a life coach?
It’s often people who seek a deeper understanding of their situation and challenges—individuals who have perhaps already tried a method or two on their own and were left with gaps still unaddressed. Through one-on-one life coaching such persons can access a more individualized approach to their emotional healing and, together with their coach, can co-create a process that is both effective and feels genuine. Such a program is often customized with the guidance of the client during the coaching sessions and built to respect and consider that individual’s ways of thinking and feeling, as well as allow the appropriate amount of time for progress to take place.
Contrary to popular belief, seeing a coach is not about being given advice; it’s about learning to give oneself advice that can be trusted. The best coaches combine their powerful self-inquiry tools with their clients’ personal life experiences to build new nurturing patterns, release sabotaging behaviors, and implement long-term fulfilling strategies. At first, the coach will act as an accountability partner for the ongoing emotional work, but in time, the coach will be needed less frequently as the client will become continually more confident from within.
Here are 7 of the most common ways working with a life coach impacts individuals:
- Improved self-acceptance and self-compassion. Most people tend to put a lot of pressure and expectations on themselves. Life coaching encourages a gentler attitude toward the aspects of being a less-than-perfect human being while finding ways to facilitate progress.
- Expanded perspective. Advice from a friend or family member tends to offer information filtered through personal attachment. Coaches are trained to remain uninvolved and can more effectively expand their client’s perspective. Soliciting a second opinion about an important aspect of life from a professional coach can offer the reassurance needed or a brand new way of seeing the situation that wouldn’t have been otherwise considered.
- Identification and best use of strengths and weaknesses. Few people are aware of all the intricate aspects of their own personalities and character. Self-assessment skills built in life-coaching sessions allow individuals to discover versions of themselves they are not yet aware of—it’s like running a personal audit.
- Awareness of emotional needs and the support necessary to have them met. Just like most buildings require scaffolding during a renovation, most people also need a structured coach for the additional support necessary as they go about creating progress in their emotional lives. Some of the most successful people in leadership and business work with coaches on a regular basis to help fine-tune and support them through their growth.
- Reduction of self-sabotaging behaviors. Emotional health achieved through life coaching helps people move from “emotions are hell” toward “emotions are supportive.” Coaches combine clients’ self-awareness with implementation strategies to create healthy new habits.
- Reduced anxiety and depression. Many life coaches act as partners in healing, assisting clients to minimize stress and design personalized and comprehensive stress-management programs.
- Healthier relationship development. Having clear boundaries with others, and raising emotional resilience and emotional intelligence are important benefits of working with a life coach.
Life coaching enables regular people to become their own built-in, take-along inner therapist—whom they can access wherever they are and no matter what is happening. This offers lifelong benefits of self-reliance and self-empowerment.
This article was published in Natural Awakenings Low-country Edition.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health resources organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Visit www.nami.org for more info.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Find out more at www.nimh.nih.gov
People who give too much tend to create value for themselves through what they have to offer to the world. The more they offer to the world and the better appreciated that is, the more valuable they feel, the more worthy of love and affection they feel. Unfortunately that carries into their everyday life where overwhelm and exhaustion begin show up, especially when they constantly focus more on other people’s needs while neglecting their own’ Over-givers are very attached to the outcome of their giving. If they’ve offered your gift or service and it’s not well-received or well appreciated, they feel resentful , lonely and unappreciated. At the same time over-givers have a very hard time receiving. They often feel uncomfortable if they can’t offer something in return. Whatever you offer them, they feel the need to reciprocate right away or find something of equal value to offer you in exchange.
What are some symptoms of overgiving?
- Burnt Out. Exhaustion. Extreme Tiredness. Overwhelm.
- Disdain and judgement for people who are needy or acting helpless
- Resistance to receiving- feeling uncomfortable and unworthy of having their needs being made a priority. Feeling obligated to reciprocate or like they “owe” something
- Resentment when assistance, help or thoughtfulness is not reciprocated
What do people get from overgiving?
- Attachment and a Sense of Being Needed/Indispensable: by extreme caregiving, overgivers create a sense of dependency in their partners.
“If I serve you then you will want to keep me around. I want to make myself as indispensable as possible. The more you need me the less likely it is you will leave me.”
- Personal Value- “As an overgiver I create my value by giving. The more I give the more valuable I feel. The less I have to give the more worthless I feel.”
- Superiority and righteousness compared to those who give less: y anticipating needs, taking care of others and giving them what I think they need I get to be a superhero. I am more than those who don’t give.”
What is the real price of overgiving?
- Strained relationships. Disappointments. Expectations. Loneliness. Isolation
- Sets people for being in one sided relationships.
- Sets people up for being emotionally bankrupt because when I only give and am uncomfortable receiving, I will eventually run out of energy and self respect and lash out in resentment and anger.
Causes. Why do we overgive?
- I haven’t found my value so I have to create it by giving too much
- My relationship with myself is shame based so if I focus on you I don’t have to focus on myself
- I don’t know yet that I am already valuable as a human being
- I have become a human doing and think that only by doing am I worthy of love, respect and dignity.
Ways to transition into a healthier relationships dynamic:
- personal self assessment, self observation, self adjusting
- being helpful to self. What would be helpful to you?
I am giving you the privilege of having a well cared for mom. A centered mom. A financially secure mom.”
Obstacles to letting go of overgiving:
- feeling guilty, selfish
- feeling not deserving of rest and care
- worrying that others will be upset and accepting
Boundaries help us experience the world and our connection to other people in a in a safe way. You can imagine your boundaries as internal warriors that allow or don’t allow intruders to come in. The stronger our warriors are the more protected we are. Two ways you can strengthen your ability to honor yourself and what feels safe for you is to:
1) delay responding to an invitation when you’re not sure whether it’s something you want to do, offer or engage in
2) offer compassion and understanding when someone takes your boundary setting personally, instead of trying to change yourself to please them
We allow what we believe we deserve. Poor boundaries reveal unconscious beliefs about our lack of worthiness. If we weren’t allowed to protect ourselves against the shaming of others as children we will grow up to believe we don’t deserve to keep ourselves protected from the emotional aggression of others.
Emotional Health Homework on the topic of Boundaries:
- What are some personal boundaries you struggle to set every day?
- How do you experience your boundaries to be currently? How would you like them to be?
- What are some things you have experienced due to strong or weak personal boundaries?
- When in the past have you forsaken yourself for maintaining a relationship with someone else?
End of Year Emotional Health can seem very out of reach, especially since holiday season tends to be an intense time of the year for some of us. The end of the year is generally an emotional time of the year. Here’s why:
- It’s the end of something. Nature is desolate. The weather is more dull than usual. You tend to be more aware of the passing of another year of your life and well as be faced with the expectations and desires for the following year.
- If you’ve suffered any kind of loss recently, your heart may be tender. When our heart is tender, holiday time will be particularly challenging, an emotional marathon sort of speak. It’s like trying to run on crutches, particularly if you’re used to running away from your emotions during the year. It exhausting and you may feel guilty for not being happier. You may feel inadequate and undesirable.
- At this time of the year we tend to both crave connection and fear connection. we may be faced with the fear of not being good enough to be in the company of someone else
- Because usually the holidays are a time gifts are exchanged, it may be a particularly challenging time for those who are afraid to receive.
Is it possible to manage the difficulty of the holidays? Only if you are willing to.
If you are willing to offer yourself an easier time during the holidays and create more end of year emotional health here are a few tips that might help:
- Preparation is key: just like there is a hurricane disaster relief plan, there can be a holiday disaster relief plan. Consider “donating” time and resources for your “relief”.
- Make several holiday allies– these are people you can reach to for support when you get overwhelmed
- Manage your expectations of how things should be. When you stay present and allow things to be what they are, you save yourself a lot of stress.
- Limit exposure to the elements: practice strong boundaries, know what triggers you and consider avoiding exposing yourself by staying away from potentially harmful situations or people.
- Stock up with supporting options: healthy snacks, healthy drinks, music, movies and peaceful surroundings.
- Have a worst case scenario plan. It can be reassuring to know that you have a plan B in case you get overwhelmed. Talk to your life coach ahead of time and get them to agree to make themselves available to you over the phone if need be. Also have the numbers of several crisis hot lines available.
- Count your blessings– be grateful for what you DO have. What can you notice around you that you’d be sad if it was missing? That’s what you’re grateful for.
- Give it over to your higher power: more than anything the holidays are about connecting with a higher source, a guiding star or a spirit we can hand our messy lives to, when we can no longer hold them. Consider surrendering your weight to be carried by “the spirit” of the holidays.
- Let your heart GROW IN SIZE by giving a hug, a meal or a ride to someone who has it worse than you. Consider sending a word of encouragement to someone else.
- Lastly, once the new year begins consider training yourself to connect with your emotions in a healthier throughout the year. End of year emotional health really depends on how much we have practiced it during the rest of the year.
In reality our happiness does not depend what we do, but what we are. What would you like to be?
Most people think that feelings such as fear, sadness, anger and shame are negative emotions. This classification creates an immediate resistance inside of us when one of these emotions arises. We already know that resisting our feelings does not support our emotional health. Embracing our emotions is what gives us a sense of balance and strength. Let’s focus for a moment on how to relate to these emotions.
Have you noticed how pleasant emotions help us be more present? Such as a feeling of awe as we watch a beautiful sunset or a feeling of connection when we’re in love?- We are automatically more alive energetically and spiritually during such moments and we become very focused and present with what is happening.
Unpleasant emotions have a different role: they make us act. The more intense an unpleasant feeling is the more likely it is that we will take action. For me it was during an intense time of unhappiness that I seeked out my first life coach. I know many people who made the greatest discoveries or acts of courage during their most troubling times.
So what can you do next time your old pal anger shows up?
- Fist tune into your body…where it is showing up? Your forehead, your facial expression, your posture, your voice? Notice you’re angry.
- Then take a deep breath and say it out loud. I’m angry. You may even share it with people around you: “I’m noticing that I’m feeling angry at this moment.”
- As you notice your anger see if you can ask this question: what are you here to show me?
- Get quiet and really listen!
I personally use this process on a regular basis and have found it incredibly powerful in communicating with the inner wisdom of my feelings. Sometimes my sadness tells me that the way I’m looking at things in that particular moment is not serving me or that I’m missing a big part of the perspective. Sometimes my anger tells me I have a need for respect and being valued. My fear helps me pay more attention and seek safety. My shame protects me from coming out of integrity. They might not be my favorite feelings but they are incredibly important, necessary and valuable to my life. To me they are positive feelings because of how I use their messages. What makes any emotion negative is what we do to ourselves in order to avoid it.
Would it be possible for insecurity to be good for you?
As long as we’re human we will be insecure to a degree. I believe that instead of trying to get rid of it, we can use it to propel us. more “How to Manage Insecurity”