Hi, I’m Ellen. I am a Master Life Coach. I help teens get emotionally ready for college. But what I really do is have deep conversations with really cool people who are ready to create a life they love.
I don’t cry pretty. When I cry,it’s not like a Hollywood cry. I go straight to the ugly cry with a twisted face… swollen, bloated and red. When I have an injury, it’s not sexy. No breaking a leg skiing. No, I am the one who rips a tendon trying on Spandex.
And I am definitely not pretty when I make a personal breakthrough to change my life. Shouldn’t positive change be a lovely, pretty thing?
In my mind, when I have a personal breakthrough there will be a beautiful moment of enlightenment. The music will swell. A look of realization will twinkle in my eye. Then, with a tilt of my head a slow, “Yeaaaah” would escape my lips. My life will change and things will be better.
But reality? Picture, if you will, a cat over a toilet bowl. Claws are out, grasping at anything possible to avoid getting wet. Wild scrambling. Fur flying. Picture a baby who does not want the spoon-full of medicine you are trying to force in her mouth. The baby suddenly has the strength of ten men.
I am not pretty during personal growth.
But I am normal.
Once I realized that it’s normal to resist change, I stopped resisting quite so much. It’s normal for my mind to want to think the way it’s been thinking for a long time. The old way had been working for me pretty well. But pretty well is not good enough for me any more.
I’m on the hunt for consistent awesomeness.
Now that I know that resistance is often part of the process, I notice it more easily in myself and others. It’s fascinating. It’s an opportunity. It’s OK.
When I get my ugly on, it’s my brain’s final fight to avoid creating new synapses. It’s the car wreck on the neural superhighway that forges a new road for my thoughts to take.
So I take it easy on myself.
It’s like childbirth. A new and wonderful thing comes out of something painful. The pain is part of the process. It isn’t as scary if you know it’s supposed to happen.
And come to think of it, childbirth was not what I would call pretty.
But it was beautiful.
Some people are getting all bent out of shape about Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.
Some have taken it as a slap in the face to stay-at-home Moms.
Are you Team Home or Team Workplace?
If you aren’t doing it all, you aren’t working hard enough.
It’s a regular hornet’s nest.
The book isn’t really about work life balance. But frankly, it doesn’t really matter what the book is about. It’s like bumping a spot that is already bruised.
It’s a sign of pain in our society.
Women are feeling pain about trying to please society.
Some women are trying to follow society’s rule that a good woman puts her family first. Some women are trying to follow society’s rule that to be successful you need to climb the corporate ladder and make as much money as a man.
Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.
Did you get that?
A woman in American society can’t make everyone happy.
We hear it, we say it, but we don’t internalize it. We still try to make everyone happy.
There is only one.
Do what is right for you. Listen to your gut.
Then let what everyone else says go right by you.
I think life is like a swing. Sometimes you lean in and sometimes you lean out. It takes both to make the swing soar high. Corporate ladder or home, they are not at odds, they are a partnership.
It takes some work to get rid of those old rules in your head. But it is so worth it.
Swing those legs, girl.
Rewrite the rules.
Make the view yours.
If you watch reality television on TLC, you have been getting a sneak peek into people’s personal transformations for years. And I’m not talking just stripping their clothes off. They strip them of their beliefs about themselves and the thoughts behind the decisions they make. Stacy and Clinton, the hosts of What Not to Wear take their subjects through change and transformation with frank but kind guidance. And here I was thinking it was just a lesson in how to pronounce empire waistline. (It’s ahm-peer.)
Their tools? For your consideration…
They take someone who does not dress in a way that brings out their best features. (Let’s cut to the chase – friends and family are embarrassed to be seen with them.) They select someone who is going to look vastly different in their before and after shots. After all, it makes for better television.
They start their journey on day one when they are given a few rules, but essentially left to their own devices to shop for a new wardrobe. And like usual, even with the new rules, shopping is a disaster. They make the same bad choices they always have. (Oh, the metaphors are just screaming at this point.)
They are put in the position to think: How do you feel when you think the thought, “I look bad in clothes” ?
Then Stacy and Clinton swoop in on day 2 and ask, Who would you be if you didn’t have the thought, “I look bad in clothes?” (OK – they don’t actually say those words, but that’s what I hear.) They show the disheartened woman all of the wonderful clothes that will make her look like the best version of herself. (The viewers cheer.)
And they turn it around. The subject looks good in the opposite of what they thought they looked good in. Baggy clothes only accentuate your big tummy, not hide it. Thigh high patent leather boots only make a 50-year-old woman look older rather than younger.
So here is what I have noticed from these TV shows: there is the same struggle just before the breakthrough. There are a lot of beliefs that are behind how they present themselves to the world. Beliefs based on assumptions or incorrect information. (Like that only Grandmas wear dresses, and our family’s hips just don’t look good in an A-line skirt.)
Change is more gentle and kind if you take it in turtle steps. But, that’s not what get ratings.
If you are up to a brutal look in the mirror, you will have some wickedly awesome dynamic change. The problem is, unless you know that the internal struggle you feel is the sign that a great change is about to take place, your normal human reaction is to avoid it at all costs. Run from an uncomfortable feeling. Skirt it, ignore it, suppress it by eating an entire cheesecake.
Ah, but it’s that struggle that let’s you know that a breakthrough is imminent.
It makes sense. There is always a struggle before a big shift in thinking. Frustration is often the feeling. Like the frustration of trying to learn something new, like riding a bike, or hitting a ping pong ball. It’s a struggle until finally one day, you get it. You go sailing down the hill on your big girl bike, and you pedal back up the other side. And back down again! Because you made the transformation. As of that day, you were a bike rider! Or you think you are ugly, so you wear loud prints and dress like a character to distract people from the fact that you aren’t movie star beautiful. Until a TV show comes a long and holds you up to the mirror, and makes you struggle until you see your beauty and how to present it.
So here’s the thing:
You need to be looking for the signs. Not about what to wear, but the struggle in any area of your life. If you feel anxiety and struggle, it’s awesome. You could be on the brink of figuring out something great. Relax into the anxiety, and know that the struggle is just your brain trying to stay on the same neural pathway.
You are challenging your brain to think a new way.
See things from a new direction.
Create new neural pathways.
Open yourself up. And often, once that breakthrough happens, the floodgate opens and a whole new and wonderful way of doing things comes your way.
You see it on the show every week. The women realize that they really are beautiful, they just haven’t been showing off their best attributes. They struggle to keep their favorite old stained sweatpants from the 60’s. But once they realize how crappy they look in their old worn out clothes, and how fabulous they look in their new flattering outfits, hair and makeup, there is no stopping them. They are addicted to fashion and their new image.
There have been a few episodes where women get all the way through the process and haven’t really changed. They went through the motions and got the new wardrobe, but you can tell that when they go back home, they are going back to their gaucho pants and leopard print halter tops. I would be totally fine with this if I thought it was what they truly wanted. But what I saw in their eyes was fear. Fear of being bullied by a TV show, fear of seeing themselves as someone different, and most of all fear of change. They got to the edge of the cliff but were too afraid to make the jump to the other side.
So keep watch. Look for times of struggle in your life. Make the realization that your brain is fighting this change, and go ahead.
Take the leap.