How to Transform Fear into Courage

How to Transform Fear into Courage

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

When was the last time you were scared to do something? Were you able to turn fear into courage or did the fear overwhelm you, preventing action and keeping you stuck?

The definition of courage would have you believe that courage is facing some type of challenge without fear but my experience is that one cannot exist without the other. Fear and courage are two sides of the same coin.

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Understanding Fear and Courage

Step one of transforming your fear into courage is understanding the relationship between the two. And although there are a variety of theories on fear and courage out there, the one which rings most true to me is by Stanley Rachman.

His book Fear and Courage outlines courage as being the ability to overcome a challenge despite the presence of fear. In other words, courage can’t exist without the presence of fear.

Think about it for a minute. What do you consider your most courageous feat in life thus far? Could those feats be considered your most courageous because of how much fear was involved?

In my own life, there have been two feats I consider my most courageous. The first is my college senior recital and the second is finishing graduate school.

Senior Recital

This post describes my decision to pursue a fine arts degree in music despite significant struggles with performance anxiety. As you can imagine, the study of music requires frequent performances for both small and large audiences.

For me, performance anxiety meant sweaty, shaky hands and nausea. I would start imagining the worst case scenario which typically involved making a gigantic mistake and being laughed off stage. A close second was fear of throwing up on stage in front of everyone.

And to make matters worse, my instrument of choice is piano which has a long tradition of performing solo repertoire without music. No music as in completely memorized. Nothing in front of you to help get back in track if you lose your spot.

Although I loved the instrument, I lived in constant dread of each and every upcoming performance.

But I dreaded none of the other performances as much as my senior recital. In music programs, the senior recital is a capstone project or a final display of all you have learned throughout your degree.

It’s typically at least 30 minutes of solo music prepared by the student.

A terrifying proposition for someone with significant performance anxiety. In the months leading up to my recital, fear dominated my thoughts. All I could think about was my upcoming performance and the many ways I could humiliate myself.

The fear was overwhelming.

Finally, the day of my recital came. It was a cold day in early December with all forecasts calling for significant snowfall. And snow it did!

I remember walking across campus in my long dress and winter boots, slipping and sliding on the snow-covered sidewalks which hadn’t yet been plowed.

And I also remember the terror growing by the second as the clock inched towards show time.

In that moment, part of me thought about faking an illness, giving in to fear, and heading back home. But the other part of me knew that I would forever regret throwing away the opportunity to be courageous in the face of intense fear.

And when the clock struck 2, I walked onstage. The old familiar sweaty hands and nausea returned as did the intense fear of messing up. But in the midst of it all was a strange sense of calm in the knowledge that this would all be over very soon. This was the moment of transformation from fear into courage.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to learn piano as an adult.

Graduate School

My career path has been a long and winding road. Although I started with aspirations to teach piano full-time, life’s curveballs sent me down a completely different path.

Shortly after finishing my fine arts degree, I went back for a two year nursing degree. I had a baby, got divorced, married again, had another baby, and finished up my baccalaureate degree in nursing. It was at this point that I set my sights on a graduate degree in nursing.

I remember mailing in my application to the program and being confident that I could tackle this. My grades had always been good so I knew that academically I could do it. Although I was working full-time, my employer was understanding and flexible. I had two kids but as I shared custody with my ex-husband, really only had one on a full-time basis. This program would be a piece of cake.

Ready for the curveball?

Not even a month after mailing the application, the test was positive. We were expecting baby #3.

And suddenly the confidence I had in being able to complete the program plummeted. Two kids plus an infant, grad school, and work seemed utterly impossible! Almost immediately, a sense of fear and overwhelm took over.

Fear haunted me throughout the program. This time around fear revolved around not finishing the program or failing out. It didn’t present in the same dramatic way it had during my music degree but was rather a constant dull ache in the pit of my stomach.

Despite the constant presence of fear, I somehow inched through the program, eventually emerging triumphant on graduation day.

Transforming Fear into Courage

Whether fear surrounds a specific event in your life or whether it’s generalized, courage can’t exist without its presence. We need fear in order to show up courageously. And the greater the fear, the more courage is required to overcome it.

Whether you’re considering a career change, launching a new venture, or going after a hobby you’ve sidelined for a few years, fear can quickly extinguish the flame before it even ignites. It all starts with an idea to try something entirely new and different which suddenly pops into your head one day and you decide to entertain it for a few minutes. Excitement courses through and your mind races with possibility. The “what-ifs” are positive and exhilarating!

But then the “what-ifs” take a different turn. “What if this doesn’t work?” “Will I look stupid?” “What if I fail?” Suddenly, fear takes over and what seemed entirely possible one minute is utterly impossible the next. Your mind races with negativity. All the reasons why it not only couldn’t but WOULDN’T work. And all of a sudden, you freeze with fear.

I have been in this place so many times. The place where even if the idea is positive and will push me in a fantastic new direction, I shut down and overwhelm takes over. Fear crowds out everything and the clear choice seems to be giving in.

Did you catch that? The clear “choice” implying you have a decision among several options. Fear doesn’t control you … you can flip the coin and instead choose courage. It only seems as if fear is the singular option but this is actually an illusion because courage is always there. The hidden path among the overgrown weeds. The lesser chosen option due to obscurity.

Fact vs. Fiction

One of the funny things about fear is that in many cases, we are our own worst enemies. Our mind takes a turn for the negative and begins fabricating all kinds of stories about why something won’t work. We convince ourselves that it’s impossible and then immediately begin looking for evidence to support this outcome.

Throughout my grad program, I had convinced myself that there was no way I would make it through. After a while, even the tiniest inconvenience became a gigantic roadblock which would undoubtedly derail my progress. I had myself so convinced I wouldn’t succeed that the only evidence I took into consideration was the negative.

And do you know what? 99% of my fear was completely made up and not based on any reality. It was a figment of my imagination.

When transforming fear into courage, stop paying attention to the negative. Look for the positive and ground yourself in reality.

Start asking whether what you fear is actually happening or whether your mind is playing games with you. Challenge the negative thoughts and begin actively looking for the positive.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to achieve a positive mindset.

Embrace Fear

In many cases, our fear of fear is worse than the fear itself. We do everything possible to avoid feeling fear and in so doing, make our situation even worse.

I routinely considered switching majors to avoid performance situations required in the music degree. But I love music and knew that if I switched out, I would forever live with the regret of not trying. And although music does not provide a steady income stream at this point, I will always look back on the degree with pride and accomplishment.

We have to learn to not only live with but to also embrace fear. It is a normal part of our lives and everyone experiences this emotion at one time or another.

And in certain situations, fear may actually save our lives. Fear can be a mechanism of protection or warning that something is wrong.

It can also be our subconscious trying to protect us from something which doesn’t even exist. Remember all that stuff about our tendency to dwell on worst case scenarios even when there’s no fact behind it? Our subconscious can’t tell the difference between true and false. In other words, if you are consistently focusing on the negative, your subconscious thinks it’s reality.

Fear is the immediate response because your subconscious is trying to protect you by keeping you away from danger.

But in most cases, fear is only serving to hold you back from trying something new or accomplishing your goals. Fear leads directly to self-sabotage when you try to avoid it rather than face it.

And even though fear is scary, you have a secret weapon.

Choice Turns Fear into Courage

The secret weapon is choice. Every time you choose courage, you get stronger and the fear gets just a bit less scary. One courageous choice leads to another and another and another and pretty soon, courage is the only option.

Your consistent choice to turn fear into courage makes you stronger.

Choose courage over fear because at the end of the day, there’s very little we have control over in this life. We can’t control the weather, other people, or even the stability of our jobs.

But we can control our own actions. We can choose to live in the shadows of fear, constantly stewing over any and all possible negative outcomes. Or we can choose to step into the light, be courageous, and become a stronger person for it.

Choose courage.

It’s Your Turn

The next time you find yourself staring down a fear-provoking situation, carefully weigh out your options but use fear as a compass to instead find your inner courage. Embrace fear and take time to sort through where the fear comes from. And then make the choice to refuse to allow fear to control your life and prevent personal growth. Embrace courage and hang on tight because big changes are headed your way!

And if you’re looking for a little extra inspiration, check out one of my favorite reads!

Leave a comment below about the last time you chose courage over fear and the impact it had on your life!

Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work

Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work

How are you holding up right now? Are you living and loving life? Or are you struggling with overwhelming anxiety and a sense of impending doom?

Recent events have impacted every single one of our lives, to some degree. Whether it’s the virus, social injustice, or a tanking economy, stress is everywhere you look. Anxiety lurks around every corner.

It seems as if each new day presents a fresh reason to stress out!

My own struggles with anxiety have taken me to dark places in my life. Places where it’s impossible to focus on anything other than fear concocted by my subconscious. And places where peace, joy, and happiness are nowhere to be found.

But you can take back control of your life and tame those racing thoughts! Each of the following anxiety relieving activities has a positive impact on my own life and is worth trying in your own.

Much like storm clouds taking over a sunny day, so too can anxiety overshadow your life with negativity. Make a choice to stop the cycle of negativity and give these anxiety relieving activities a try today.

Before we get into it, let’s chat about stress, anxiety, and how to determine when you need help.

Stress, Anxiety, or Both?

Although people often use the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably, there are differences between the two. Stress is typically described as a reaction to something happening in the here and now. Anxiety, on the other hand, is worry about the future.

Let’s break them both down a bit further.

Stress

Believe it or not, stress can result from both positive and negative life changes. The birth of a new baby, starting a different job, and buying a house are all examples of positive life events capable of triggering stress.

Any time you make a life change, the potential for stress exists.

An event that one person considers horrendously overwhelming may have little to no effect on the next person.

The physical and emotional effects of stress are also variable from person to person. You may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep at night. It may suddenly become difficult to concentrate. You may also find that you feel extremely exhausted all the time.

Or maybe you’re so easily irritated that the slightest inconvenience sends you in a rage. Some people react to stress with depression. Still others begin overeating.

Although stress is a normal part of life, when left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your health and your happiness. It can also morph into anxiety.

You may enjoy reading this post about finding peace despite chaos.

Anxiety

Would it surprise you to learn that approximately 40 million Americans have some form of an anxiety disorder? Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized state of worry about any and everything to specific phobias such as a fear of spiders or of flying.

It is similar to stress in that it affects people to varying degrees. Some people experience only occasional twinges of nervousness about an upcoming interview or work presentation.

Other people, however, obsess about the potential downsides of every little decision. What can start out as stress stemming from a life change turns into a hamster wheel of worst case scenarios. Anxiety dominates every waking thought. Soon it becomes difficult to focus on anything other than fear of the unknown and typically, the unlikely.

Physical symptoms often accompany anxiety and may include chest pain, rapid breathing, or feeling overwhelmingly tired.

Although everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it becomes problematic when it dominates your thoughts and consistently interferes with your daily life.

Even occasional anxiety can cloud your thinking and put you in a negative mood.

But you can break free! Let’s get into some amazingly effective anxiety relieving activities!

Reframe Your Thinking

In any given situation, you have a choice. You control your thoughts. And there are positives to be found in even the darkest situations.

But once anxiety gains a foothold in your life, your thinking skews to the negative. Seeing catastrophic disaster around every corner can turn into something of a habit. Your brain becomes conditioned to block out any positives and to instead hone in on any little thing which is slightly amiss.

After a while, your entire world turns into one of those cold, dreary, miserable January days. I’m talking January in Wisconsin. For those of you who have never been to Wisconsin, January is the absolute worst! The excitement of the holidays is over and the novelty of snow has worn thin. Temperatures average around 20 degrees but are quite often below zero. Even the sun abandons the state around this time every year. Summer seems so far away that it’s painful to even think about blue skies, warm breezes, or green grass. It’s easier to pretend none of it exists than to acknowledge how long it will be before you can experience the magic of summer again.

See what I did there?

Yes, January is a long, dark month. But there is a positive side to anything in life, even January in Wisconsin. Snow means sledding, snowboarding, and skiing. It means hot beverages after a cold day spent outside.

I can tell you from experience that if you obsess over every little negative, January will crawl by. But if you actively look for joy, it will reveal itself and before you know it, spring is right around the corner!

Start looking for joy in your life and the world will suddenly seem a much brighter, less anxious place.

You may enjoy reading this post about how to achieve a more positive mindset.

Ground Yourself

One side effect of anxiety that I find to be particularly challenging is that my mind races. But it’s not in a helpful way like when I’m constructively thinking through my latest blog post. It’s more like that 3 A.M. can’t get back to sleep because I’m re-living every stupid thing I’ve ever said or done kind of way.

Annoying.

Remember what I said about you having control over your thoughts?

It’s absolutely true.

This anxiety relieving activity stops that hamster in its tracks and gives you an opportunity to regain control.

When our mind is racing, it’s often revolving around things which are either in the past or the future. In other words, imaginary things which we can’t do anything about. Continuing to think about them is pointless! It only serves to fuel anxiety and feed into the sense that we are out of control.

Take back your thoughts by using your senses in this incredibly easy anxiety relieving activity.

The next time your mind is racing, remember that you have 5 senses. Next, use each sense to gather one piece of information.

In this moment, here and now, what is one thing you can see, taste, touch, hear, and smell?

Shifting your focus to something tangible is a powerful tactic to distract you from the imaginary. Take back your power and get back on track!

Avoid the Sugar Trap

This next anxiety relieving activity is all about preventing anxiety before it even starts. And as you may have guessed from the heading, it involves sugar.

I will be the first to admit that I love sugar! There aren’t too many things I can claim as my guilty pleasure but sugar is definitely one of them!

And in today’s world of highly processed foods, you don’t need to look far to find it. Sugar is hiding in everything.

I don’t know about you but when I’m feeling a bit drained from all those racing thoughts, something sweet seems the perfect pick-me-up.

But sugar is a liar. It tricks you into thinking you will feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.

And you may feel that way for a short time. But eventually your body will crash, leaving you feeling worse than ever. Worse than before you ate that gigantic piece of leftover birthday cake. Or that chunk of frosted brownie. Much worse.

Our bodies crave stability and predictability from the food we take in. We function best on nutrients which break down more slowly and cause a more gradual energy spike.

Nutrients such as proteins provide a more effective fuel source for your body. Protein will give you a more sustainable energy and won’t leave you with that “hung-over” feeling.

And if your body is fueled adequately, your mind is more likely to follow suit.

Anxiety Relieving Activities Work Best With Help

Although there are a host of effective anxiety relieving activities out there, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Especially if you feel that anxiety is taking over your life. There are many ways to manage anxiety and some people require professional assistance to do so.

Speaking with your doctor and/or a counselor can be extremely beneficial in helping you manage anxiety. Anxiety can be accompanied by other diagnoses, including depression, so it’s important that you receive the appropriate treatment.

Your primary care provider can determine whether medication on either a long or short-term basis may be the right choice for you. Not everyone who has anxiety requires medication but it can be helpful, especially in the beginning, to get things under control.

The most effective treatment of anxiety involves an emphasis on taking care of yourself, body and soul. If you are lacking in one area, anxiety has the potential to creep back into your life.

And a counselor can help you untangle those negative pathways in your mind which are feeding into anxiety. They can help you set a more positive mindset and challenge the false realities you create for yourself.

This past spring has been like no other. If recent events have left you feeling unsettled and drained, please get help! You’re never alone. And there are people out there who both understand and can relate to what you’re going through.

You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

Spend Time in Nature

“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”

John Muir

Of all the anxiety relieving activities on the list, this is my favorite! I am a firm believer in the power of a little sun and fresh air. There’s just something about getting out into nature which feeds the soul.

The beauty and solitude is a reminder that peace exists. There is so much out there which is bigger than we are. A little sun on your face and the wind in your hair is enough to convince you that everything will be ok after all. And suddenly the anxious thoughts once taking over your mind seem insignificant compared with the majesty of nature.

Although Wisconsin winters present a variety of challenges, there are still ample opportunities to enjoy nature. My favorite winter days often follow the biggest snowstorms. Not nice for driving but freshly fallen snow sparkles like thousands of diamonds. Everywhere you look, the world seems shiny new. Paired with a bright blue sky, this view is like nothing else and will take your breath away!

I especially love pairing nature with exercise! It’s the absolute best way to naturally raise your endorphins and banish negativity!

The next time you find yourself reeling from repetitively negative thoughts, strap on your tennis shoes and get outside. Focus on nature all around you and I promise you will be shocked at how quickly the anxiety disappears.

Funniest Anxiety Relieving Activities

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine but did you know it’s actually true? Not for everything, of course, but for certain things it’s unbeatable! Especially when you find someone else to laugh with!

Similar to exercise, laughter releases feel good hormones known as endorphins. It also decreases your body’s stress response leaving you feeling calm and relaxed.

Research has also proven there are long-term benefits of laughter which include a stronger immune system and better overall life satisfaction.

The next time you’re struggling with anxiety that you just can’t shake, take a laugh break! I’ll even give you a recommendation to get you started!

I discovered Charlie Berens about a year ago and I have to say that before him, I wasn’t a big fan of being a Wisconsinite. Between the frigid winters, the quirky eccentricities of small town life, and the state’s obsession with the Packers, it seemed like there was nothing cool about being from Wisconsin. In my opinion, it was the most boring state. Except Iowa, of course. I’ve heard Iowa is even worse on the state cool meter.

Anyway, Charlie has a way of spinning Wisconsin life to make it seem much cooler than it actually is. He takes snippets of daily life in the dairy state and by using humor, oddly makes me feel better about living where I live. Not that I was ever particularly distressed about being from Wisconsin but it’s definitely not as cool as being from New York, California, or Florida.

If you’re unfamiliar with Charlie or small town Wisconsin, here are a few videos to get you up to speed:

1) Confused about what goes in a casserole? Not sure what a hot dish is? This video explains it all.

2) Ever wondered what your husband does while you’re strolling the aisles of Target? Find out here.

3) I’ve never been to an Ikea but after watching this video feel as if I get the gist.

4) Curious about how quarantine in Wisconsin is going? Find out here.

5) Tips and tricks on backyard deep frying.

It’s Your Turn

Anxiety sucks. But there are ways to overcome it and I hope you have come away with inspiration on taming the negativity! Stop letting anxiety hold you back from living your best life. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your tips on controlling anxiety! I’d also love to hear about videos you find hilarious or that keep you sane on a bad day!

How to Overcome Perfectionism

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is sneaky. It often starts as a coping mechanism when we’re young and unable to recognize its lies. Although it disguises itself as a desire for excellence, perfectionism is actually an intense fear of failure.

This fear has the power to destroy confidence, self-esteem, and relationships. It keeps those in its grasp believing that our worthiness comes from achievement. That we could never be valued or loved based solely upon our status as a human being.

Perfectionism is a toxic force which often associates with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even suicide.

If perfectionism is ruling your life, it’s time to set yourself free. Ditch the inner critic and choose peace. Start here.

The Perfectionism Myth

Perfectionism has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s tough for me to recall a time when I didn’t obsess over every little detail of everything I do. Or procrastinate because I believe that I’ll never complete something to my own impossibly high standards.

It’s funny how quickly our own maladaptive coping strategies weave their way into our lives, blinding us to their truly negative impacts.

At least not until something challenges our inner world. Although I have recently had one of those “reality check” moments, I once regarded perfectionism as my super power. Deep down inside, I secretly believed that my success in life was directly related to my perfectionism.

I believed that my tendency to stubbornly cling to ridiculously high standards drove me to greater heights than I could otherwise achieve.

In fact, perfectionism eventually permeated my thinking to such a degree that living any other way was simply unimaginable. My constant need to control every aspect of my life was exhausting but felt safe. It wove its way into my very being, wreaking havoc on my motivation, confidence, and even my self-esteem.

And it all starts innocently enough, often with the simple desire to succeed. But instead of focusing on achieving success, the focus is on avoiding failure.

Over time, the focus continues to narrow in on avoiding failure. It consumes you and soon it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the journey because you’re too busy fixating on failure.

You tell yourself that you’ll be able to relax once you achieve the goal. Except the goal you’re going after is constantly moving. The bar is always being pushed higher.

And there is no celebration because perfection does not exist and you will therefore never achieve it. This is the myth of perfectionism.

You may also enjoy reading this post about overcoming self-doubt.

Signs of Perfectionism

Perfectionism can take many forms. It may show up in your life as rigid, all-or-nothing thinking. Soon this can morph into the desire for greater control. Then follows the nagging thought that if you only had more control, then you could achieve perfection.

Or maybe perfectionism manifests as having unreasonably high expectations of yourself or others. Thus the difficulties with achieving both inner peace and harmony with those around you. After all, it’s tough to have a sense of calm when nothing ever feels good enough.

It’s that voice in your head which points out every tiny mistake in an endless array of life scenarios. A misspelled word here or an awkward interaction there. Such mistakes may cause you to seriously question your worth as a person. How could anyone ever love you after such gigantic blunders?

Maybe you even find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed but unable to delegate anything to anyone else. After all, there’s no one who can do it like you do. No one else has the attention to detail or commitment to the project. It would only result in you needing to do everything all over again anyway.

Procrastination is perfectionism when you put off tasks due to fear of being unable to complete them to your high standards. You’ll never succeed anyway so what’s the point of starting?

And being unable to accept compliments from others is yet another sign perfectionism is ruling your life. Anyone who compliments you is clearly lying because there are a million things wrong with this project. Either that or they’re too oblivious to realize all the mistakes you made in its completion. And at the end of the day, neither scenario is flattering.

Perfectionism Holds You Back

Regardless of how perfectionism shows up in your life, it’s holding you back. It holds you back from your true potential, from authentic relationships with others, and ultimately, from happiness.

Perfectionism is a mask we use to hide our true selves from others. Something which starts as a coping mechanism evolves into a completely skewed view of the world.

Perfectionism has you believing that your worth is based upon your accomplishments. That you have to earn love and acceptance. And that showing your flaws to others will only push them further away from you.

Perfectionism keeps you from trying new things. It paralyzes you with fear of failure. And it keeps you stuck where you’re at.

The worst part about perfectionism is that it lulls you into a false sense of security. It feeds you the lie that you’re in control and as long as you’re calling the shots, nothing bad will ever happen.

But the truth is that as long as perfectionism is running the show, you’ll never be the person you were meant to be.

The person who simply tries their best and is ok with the rest.

Or the person who can actually kick back and relax without fearing the world is coming to an end.

And you’ll never find the inner peace of someone who accepts themselves for who they are, flaws and all.

As someone who has lived the lie of perfectionism for the past 20 years, my greatest wish for you is to find peace.

The Path to Recovery

If any of the above rings a little too true with you, congratulations! You have achieved the crucial first step of awareness. It has taken me years of discovery, self-development, and counseling to unpack the negative impact perfectionism has had on my outlook.

But I couldn’t have done it without opening up to someone. I had to let someone in so I could finally see that all my self-imposed rules were ridiculous. My goals were unattainable. And all the negativity was only feeding into my anxiety and depression.

Perfectionism tends to keep you locked in your head avoiding action. But opening up to someone you trust releases those thoughts and gives you outside perspective.

Although friends and family are great for support, I recommend finding a professional, at least in the beginning of your journey. A neutral third party, such as a counselor, is essential for giving you completely unbiased feedback.

Loved ones mean well but they often have their own opinions about your life. This can actually be counterproductive when trying to break free from people pleasing perfectionist tendencies. Their feedback has the potential to trigger the perfectionism in such subtle ways that in many cases, you will be completely unaware of it.

A trained professional can help you identify these behavioral patterns. They can also help you develop ways to overcome them.

Although I have been known to joke about my perfectionist tendencies, it is a serious issue which requires attention. Just the other day I read an article about a beautiful woman and mom of 3 little ones who struggled with perfectionism and unfortunately, took her own life. Her family was very clear that perfectionism was a contributor to her suicide.

Get the help that you need now to overcome the negativity. You matter!

Stop Comparing

Comparison is a slippery slope to perpetual unhappiness. There will always be someone out there who is prettier than you. Smarter than you. Wealthier than you. And someone who has a better Instagram feed than you.

Their house is bigger, cleaner, and more tastefully decorated. Maybe their kids are better-behaved and their husband does all the cooking. They’re always driving late model SUVs. And they were recently promoted at work.

There will always be someone out there who appears to be further ahead than you are. It’s a fact of life.

The reality is that we all struggle in one way or another. Perfectionism wants you to believe that you are the only one struggling.

It has you believing that you need to look and act a certain way to gain the approval of others. That you will never receive love or acceptance if anyone sees the messy parts of you.

Perfectionism is a liar.

We all have messy parts in our lives. Everyone struggles, fails, and starts all over again at some point in their lives. Not one of us has gone through life without failing at some point.

There is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist.

So stop the comparison trap. Turn off social media. Take time to do those things which make you feel good about yourself and who you are.

Meditate. Exercise. Journal.

Do whatever it is that makes you feel like the person you were created to be.

You may also enjoy reading this post about comparison.

A Word About Self-Talk

Self-talk is the language we use with ourselves. It includes both the easier to identify conscious and the more subtle subconscious.

What does your self-talk sound like? Is it encouraging and uplifting? Or does it sound more like the mean girls from middle school?

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, chances are good that your self-talk is the latter. It’s time to put those mean girls in their place. Middle school is over. You’re an adult and as a human being, you deserve better than that.

Start paying attention to the words you use with yourself. If you’re having difficulty identifying whether or not your self-talk is positive, write down your thoughts and read them out loud.

I had no idea how truly hurtful my self-talk was until I started asking myself whether I would say the thought out loud to a friend. It’s shocking how clear the nature of your self-talk becomes when you use this filter.

And I became immediately aware of just how critical I had become of myself.

Self-talk is powerful. It can either build you up or tear you down. It’s the most frequent voice you hear so you owe it to yourself to make it a positive one.

Mute the inner critic. I promise that you will miss her even less than your 8th grade bully!

Shift Your Mindset

Once you begin working on your self-talk, it’s time to tackle your mindset. Perfectionism has you believing things are black and white. Gray doesn’t exist. There is only success or failure.

Perfectionism is a liar.

There is a gray and it’s the place where the most growth happens.

Failure can never exist if you instead re-frame it as learning.

Whenever something doesn’t work out as planned, you have a choice. You can either allow yourself to be defeated or you can pick yourself up and try again. Learn from the experience and apply those lessons toward a different future outcome.

Perfectionism has you believing that you are powerless. A victim to circumstance.

But do you want to live your life that way? Wouldn’t you rather be the heroine of your own story? The person who never gives up and never surrenders?

I do.

Shift your mindset. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. Remember that failure can never exist if you learn and grow from it.

Ditch the black and white thinking and start living in the gray.

You may also enjoy reading this post about achieving a positive mindset.

Live, Laugh, Love

Perfectionism is an evil cloud blocking out the sun in your life. It’s time to get serious about confronting its subtle lies.

You deserve happiness. Life is messy and unpredictable. But you are more powerful than you realize. You are the heroine of your story and can overcome anything, even perfectionism.

Stop hiding behind the lies and start living. Don’t let its lies steal even one more moment of happiness from you.

Get the help you deserve.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how perfectionism holds you back and what you’re doing to overcome it below!

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

Self-doubt is sneaky. It swoops in, stealing your confidence, your productivity, and most of all, your self-esteem.

There are many ways in which self-doubt can show up in your life. You may have vague feelings that you aren’t good enough or that you can’t handle what life throws at you. Or you may have overwhelming feelings of defeat regardless of the goal you are seeking to accomplish.

Self-doubt shows up in my own life as a place of inactivity. It leaves me constantly questioning whether or not to move forward with new ideas and keeps me stuck where I’m at. This negative mindset tends to feed into my perfectionist tendencies and keeps me stuck in the procrastination zone.

I have allowed self-doubt to creep in so many times. Sometimes I wonder how much farther along I would be in certain areas of my life if only I had refused to let self-doubt take over.

But we can’t spend our lives looking in the rearview mirror. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and resolve to do better tomorrow.

There are many reasons why we struggle with self-doubt. We may be carrying false beliefs from childhood. Or maybe we have had failed experiences in the past causing us to lose confidence in ourselves. After all, we failed once. What’s stopping us from failing again?

Whatever the cause, self-doubt holds us back from our full potential.

After realizing just how much self-doubt was preventing my own growth, I devoted time and research into figuring out how to overcome it. Although there are still times when I give in, my awareness of its effects has increased. Self-doubt is therefore much easier to spot early on which means I can quickly deploy tactics to divert it in its tracks.

1. Conquer Self-Doubt Through Awareness

“Being self-aware is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to learn and correct them.”

Daniel Chidiac

As with many things in life, awareness is the very first step. It’s tough to fix something if you’re completely unaware it’s an issue.

But how do you know whether self-doubt is what’s holding you back?

Your self talk often holds the answer to this question. During moments of fear, doubt, and overwhelm, do you find yourself thinking any of the following questions?

  • “I’m not good enough to do this.”
  • “I just can’t do it.”
  • “This is too hard.”
  • “I don’t know how to move forward and even if I did, I would probably fail.”
  • “I’ll never be able to accomplish that.”

If the above comments sound familiar, chances are good that you are struggling with self-doubt. Recognition is powerful. It’s the key to changing this negative mindset.

Because the truth is, you can accomplish things. Big things. Hard things. Seemingly impossible things.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t … you’re right.”

Henry Ford

But first your mind has to be in the right place. And being frozen by self-doubt is decidedly NOT the right place.

Practice identifying the subtle negativity hidden in your own self talk. If you are feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt, stop and ask yourself whether you would say these things aloud to someone else.

Chances are good that you wouldn’t. And if you wouldn’t say them to someone else, don’t say them to yourself either.

Stop self-doubt in its tracks by putting a name to it and refusing to feed into the negativity.

Take a vow to stop getting in your own way!

You may also enjoy reading this post about achieving a positive mindset.

2. Get Back to the Basics

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Lucille Ball

Banishing self-doubt requires confidence in yourself. It requires confidence in your decisions, abilities, and in who you are as a person. And there’s no better way to start than by showing yourself some much-deserved love.

Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually is crucial. You can’t build a house without a solid foundation and basic self-care practices form the foundation of success.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are all requirements for success. Without these pillars, it’s almost impossible to move forward.

Although there have been times in my life when I have struggled with all three, sleep deprivation has by far been the most personally troublesome. Whether the lack of sleep was related to new babies or stress, those were some of the most challenging times in my life. Sleep deprivation robbed me of my motivation and hung over my life like a haze.

I can still remember walking around like I was auditioning for the part of a zombie extra in The Walking Dead. Waking up utterly exhausted day after day actually caused me to wonder whether I had some type of sleep disorder.

It was during this time in my life that my self-doubt was at an all time high.

I questioned everything. Each and every seemingly insignificant decision became a matter of life or death. From second guessing dinner plans to what I had chosen to wear for work that morning, everything became a big deal. I was constantly doubting myself.

Although I was eventually able to get my sleep back on track, it was a long road to where I’m at now. The road back did start with sleep testing, a story you can find here. It continued with learning everything possible about how to better manage my sleep patterns.

Even today, I am fiercely protective of my sleep because I know what happens when I don’t get enough. And I never want to be in that place again.

Although sleep is my weakness, you may find that self-doubt creeps into your own life when your diet is off. Or when you stop exercising. You may even find that when you stop taking time to pursue meaningful activities, self-doubt sets up a stronghold.

Take some time today to make sure the basics are present in your life. And if they aren’t, what can you change to make things better?

3. Remember Past Success

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”

Unknown

Our mind plays so many tricks on us. If we listen to the negativity, we are suddenly convinced that we are the only ones in the world struggling. No one else could possibly be going what we’re going through.

And nothing we’ve done has been as difficult as whatever hurdle we’re facing. This is by far the toughest thing we’ve ever encountered. And there’s no way we can overcome it because nothing we’ve done has ever prepared us for this.

But is that actually true?

NO!

It’s a lie fabricated by your subconscious to protect you from the unknown. Our brains are wired to keep us safe. By sticking to what we know, we are lulled into a false sense of security.

But this is absolutely not the case!

It’s in these moments that we tend to forget all our truly amazing accomplishments! The things that you once thought were truly impossible but yet somehow attained.

Moments of self-doubt are the perfect time to recall all of those incredible feats. You have, in fact, done hard things. Very hard things. Even in those times when you did not do what you set out to, you learned. As long as you were able to take something away from the experience, consider it a win.

Write down the actions which have brought pride. Keeping track of your accomplishments and learning experiences will give you a bank to draw from when self-doubt tries to halt your progress.

You’ve done plenty of hard things in the past. And you’re definitely up for the challenge of tackling more in the future!

You may also enjoy reading this post about identifying your strengths.

4. Be You

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E. E. Cummings

You are unique. There’s no one in this world quite like you. And the world needs your exclusive blend of personality, interests, and talents! The authentic you, imperfections and all.

No one needs some watered down version of who you truly are. We need the real you!

And guess what? You’ll never be anyone else so you might as well be the absolute best version of yourself!

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with self-doubt. I know it may seem off topic but it actually has everything to do with this negative mindset trap.

Just as self-doubt has a greater chance of sneaking in when you’re not paying attention to your health and wellness, so too does it creep in when you’re paying too much attention to other people.

Self-doubt often occurs in relation to other people. Situations in which we either compare ourselves to others or situations in which we are too absorbed in what others think of us.

Either situation quickly fans the flames of self-doubt, causing it to rage out of control.

The truth is that you are you. You can never be anyone else. Comparing yourself to anyone other than who you were in the past is a waste of precious time and energy.

People tend to show us their best sides. Their sunny sides. We typically don’t see the storms or secret battles they wage within. There’s no way of knowing just how much they’ve had to wade through to get where they are today.

So stop the comparison trap. You’ll be happier for it!

And stop worrying about what other people think. It’s impossible to simultaneously please everyone in your life. So please the person who actually matters and who you have full control over … you.

Be you!

5. Conquer Self-Doubt by Taking Action

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Self-doubt thrives in small, dark places. It looks for each and every tiny insecurity you have about yourself and grows it from a seedling of doubt into a gigantic, tangling jungle of negativity. After awhile, the jungle of self-doubt chokes out your confidence and so deeply entwines you in its tangles that it’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Self-doubt, if allowed to grow, keeps you stuck where you’re at. And stuck feels safe. Staying where we’re at is familiar. Our subconscious loves familiar because it knows exactly what to expect. There are no surprises. No possible hidden threats.

Except that one big, hairy gigantic threat. The threat of you believing the lies stemming from your own insecurities.

But how do you overcome the tangled jungle of self-doubt?

You take action.

It starts with the smallest possible step. Once you tackle the first step, move on to the second. And so on and so forth.

With each step, your confidence grows. Every step is an opportunity to chop away at that tangled mess just a little bit more.

But the longer you stay stuck in your head, endlessly pondering worst-case scenarios, the tougher it will be to take a step forward. Stop ruminating! Take action! Messy, imperfect, forward, and enthusiastic action.

You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

It’s Your Turn

Overcoming self-doubt is far from easy. It requires consistency and the desire to overcome a negative mindset which is holding you back from your full potential.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain on a consistent basis, it may be time to seek medical care. You may have an underlying condition contributing to your mindset and would benefit from accurate treatment. Getting help just might be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!

And talk with someone you trust about what you’re going through. They may be able to give you insight into the mental blocks holding you back. Chances are, they can actually help you dispel some of that negativity and move you toward taking action.

I hope you have found a few helpful tips on your journey toward conquering self-doubt! Don’t forget to comment below about what you found useful and where self-doubt is showing up in your life.

Now get out there and take action today!

Quarantine Truths: What I’ve Learned So Far

Quarantine Truths: What I’ve Learned So Far

Quarantine … like it or not, it’s been here for awhile now.

It’s hard to say exactly how long it will be around but here in Wisconsin, we’re bracing for at least another month.

I’m doing my very best to stay positive and to continue learning and growing through the chaos.

And do you know what?

I don’t absolutely hate quarantine.

But I do hate bats.

I can handle basically any other creepy, crawly critter out there.

Snakes?

I once killed one with a shovel.

Mice?

I don’t like them but they’re not the worst thing in the world.

And spiders?

I’ve probably killed every single one I’ve ever met.

Bats on the other hand … WORST. CREATURES. EVER.

You may be asking yourself why I’m starting a post on what I’ve learned during quarantine with a rant about bats.

The answer is that I was reading an article about COVID-19 in a medical journal the other day and it is believed to have originated in bats.

Our world is a chaotic place right now, all thanks to a disgusting bat.

And did you know that bats carry rabies?

This is a fact I’ve known since the age of 5 and is probably the reason why I’ve always despised them.

It’s a fact my husband has frequently argued with me as he mistakenly believes rats carry rabies.

I laugh every time he tries to argue the point with me.

He’s obviously got this one incredibly wrong.

He even taped a news segment one time about rabies transmission and triumphantly announced that it featured rats.

Except when we pushed play, the news segment was actually about bats.

Boom.

I win again.

Marriage, like an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway, is the place where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

Much like our world right now.

You may enjoy reading this article about rekindling the romance in your relationship.

My Work Life

Quarantine has changed the way we live.

My husband and I are both considered essential employees and as such are still going to work every morning.

Just like before.

As a nurse practitioner who sees patients in the nursing home, my position involves working with one of the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.

My husband’s position as a nursing home administrator also places him squarely in the center of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Those of us who work in this setting are doing our very best to make decisions which are in the best interest of the population we care for.

But this is not an easy task in the midst of such an unprecedented event.

The rules are changing rapidly.

Sometimes even on an hourly basis.

Quarantine = Change

And the truth is that no one really knows with 100% certainty what should be done right now.

Although I am new to the position of nurse practitioner, I was a nurse for 9 years prior to graduating with a doctor of nursing practice degree.

In terms of practice area and personality, there are many different types of nurses out there.

But I am the type of nurse who thrives on organization and structure.

I appreciate consistency and clear guidelines.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing right now.

Everyone is in survival mode.

Every morning when I walk into work, the only thing I’m certain of is that there will be some type of change.

Sometimes these changes are big, such as when nursing homes made the very difficult decision to prevent viral spread by prohibiting visitors.

I had honestly never considered a world where families couldn’t visit their loved ones.

And having had a multi-week hospitalization during my last pregnancy, I can tell you how much those face-to-face visits meant to me.

But I do know that the decision to lock down facilities was not made lightly.

On other days I walk in to small changes.

Fewer people to see on a daily basis because hospitals are limiting elective procedures and there are fewer people sent for rehabilitation in the nursing home.

The need to wear masks all day long.

And having my temperature taken upon entry to the building every single morning.

Change is tough!

Especially when uncertainty hangs in the air like a thick, black cloud.

Despite the rapid pace at which these changes are made, I’m surviving.

I’m learning that I can survive, no matter what.

Quarantine Means New Opportunities

Each day brings a new opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and to become a stronger person for it.

And guess what?

You too are surviving massive change.

The world is a different place right now but it’s not all bad.

Pollution over major cities has decreased dramatically.

We are spending more time with our families.

Embrace this time we’ve been given.

If you, like me, are that person who loves structure and organization, now is the best time to practice adapting to change.

Because if you can make it through this with even half your sanity, you truly can make it through anything!

You may also enjoy reading this article about finding peace despite chaos.

My Home Life

Quarantine has impacted my work life in big and small ways but has definitely not spared my home life either.

Two of my three kiddos were in school and the third was happily thriving in daycare prior to the ensuing chaos.

Unfortunately my daycare closed at the exact same time school closed.

Thankfully we have been able to find several awesome sitters to watch our kiddos while we truck off to work each morning.

I couldn’t be more thankful for these wonderful sitters who bring structure and creativity to my kids.

Because my husband and I have no energy left at the end of the day to engage them in any type of project, creative or otherwise.

My social media feeds are filled with pictures of kids actively engaged in learning at home.

I am not that mom.

Household Homeschooling Coordinator

My aspirations have NEVER included homeschooling.

And I have zero confidence this will change at any point in the near future.

Unfortunately, yesterday we officially received word that schools (in Wisconsin anyway) would not open back up for the remainder of the school year.

Bummer.

Up until now, I had been coasting by on the thought that in all probability, schools would be back in session at some point this year.

Surely my kids would not have to depend upon my half-hearted efforts to replicate a lesson plan which resembles those of their talented teachers.

Teachers who have spent considerable time, energy, and effort to hone their craft.

Dedicated men and women who actually enjoy and excel at engaging kids in learning.

Have I mentioned how much appreciation and respect I have for teachers?

I recognize how tough but important their job is and feel ill-prepared to assume anything which resembles teaching.

I’ve been engaging my kids in activities only deemed educational through a very large stretch of the imagination.

Example …

The other night, the moon was huge.

I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a science lesson.

Because anything involving the moon is science, right?

So I called my kindergartener over and pointed it out.

It took a minute but he finally spotted the gigantic moon through the neighbor’s tree.

He gazed at it for a bit before he asked if he was bigger than the moon.

My obviously very intelligent response (sarcasm) was that the moon was much, much bigger than him.

I’m not sure whether he accepted my answer or not but he shrugged his shoulders and headed off to bed.

As he walked away, I had a moment of guilt and defeat.

“I should have planned out some type of fun learning activity for him instead of letting him sit in front of the TV tonight. Why am I failing at this?”

Parenting Through Quarantine

But the truth is that we can’t do and be everything to everyone.

We have all been given certain talents, time, and energy.

And we have to make the most out of what we’ve been given.

Living in a place of guilt and defeat is not the best we can do.

Figuring out how to use our strengths to the best of our ability is the place we need to strive for.

So what does this mean for my newly appointed status as household homeschooling coordinator?

I am striving to intentionally interact with my kids in ways which also stimulate their minds.

This may be as simple as reading books with them or including them in the preparation of meals.

Going for walks and throwing out math problems are also included.

I am trying to make everyday activities more educational but also giving myself grace to just enjoy my time with them.

If you too are freaked out by the pressure to assume the household homeschool coordinator role, dial down the pressure.

Your kids will be fine, even if school doesn’t start up again until next fall or later.

Do the best you can to be present with them and don’t worry about the rest!

Let’s take this opportunity to support ourselves and do what works for our families.

You may also enjoy reading this article about overcoming mom guilt.

It’s Your Turn

Quarantine is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your own life.

What makes you happy?

Are there aspects of your life which are completely draining you emotionally?

Where are the areas you need change and adaptation to keep moving forward instead of remaining stuck?

How can you become more of the person you were meant to be?

And where do you need to give yourself grace?

Quarantine is a reset button for all of us.

Take this opportunity to celebrate areas of your life which are going well and to re-evaluate areas where change is needed.

Always remember that you’re stronger than you think you are.

You will make it through this a better person than you were before because with each day that passes, you’re only getting better!

Don’t forget to comment below on what you’ve learned since quarantine!

I’d love to hear the big and small changes quarantine is bringing out in your own life!

Imposter Syndrome Is Holding You Back

Imposter Syndrome Is Holding You Back

Imposter syndrome shows up in our lives in various ways.

It holds us back from reaching our full potential and is, unfortunately, incredibly insidious.

I have always remembered feeling as if I didn’t deserve the successes I’ve had in life.

As if somehow luck rather than skill has been responsible for where I am today.

Last year, for example, I graduated from a fairly intense 3-year doctor of nursing practice program.

Despite getting all A’s other than one A- (thank you first semester pathophysiology!) in graduate-level nursing classes, I was unable to shake the feeling that I wasn’t smart enough to succeed in this field.

As if I made it through by chance instead of by working hard.

And everyone around me was smarter and way more capable than I.

Graduation day!

Mysteriously Vague Feelings of Being an Imposter

I have always been a high-achiever with perfectionist tendencies and have trouble acknowledging my own success.

It’s tough to feel good about something when you live in constant fear that you will, at some point, be discovered as a fraud.

Or when your standards are so high that it’s not humanly possible to live up to them.

These feelings are tough to talk about with others out of fear that I truly will be discovered as a fraud.

Besides that, I had a hard time describing how I was feeling in a way which would make sense to anyone else.

Because by all regards, I was successful.

After graduating with a fine arts degree, I worked my way through an associate’s degree in nursing.

Then a baccalaureate degree before being accepted into the doctoral program.

All while working as a nurse.

And raising little ones.

My kiddos.

My feelings of being a fraud only solidified these feelings even more.

After all, successful people don’t feel this way.

They wake up every morning, live their awesomely successful lives, and revel in the lives they’ve created.

No doubt, no fear, just confidence and success.

All day, every day.

Imposter Syndrome is a Real Thing

And then one day not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast.

It was about something called “imposter syndrome” and it perfectly described the feelings I had been experiencing for so long now.

I was truly shocked to learn that there was an actual name for what I had been feeling.

Even more shocked to learn that imposter syndrome affects a wide range of people from all walks of life.

And that it is especially common among people who are, in fact, successful.

Hearing the podcast was life-changing for me.

I finally had a name for what I had been feeling.

And if I had a name for it, there was hope I could do something about it.

Hearing the podcast started me on a path of self-discovery.

What exactly is imposter syndrome?

And what causes it?

I started looking for answers.

Imposter Syndrome in High-Achieving Women

And found out that imposter syndrome was first observed by two female psychologists, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

Their work with high-achieving women in the 1970s uncovered patterns of thinking which revolved around feelings of fraudulence.

Women with advanced degrees and professional recognition who also felt that luck, and not intelligence, had gotten them where they were today.

Their paper, published in 1978, outlines the collective experiences of over 150 women from diverse fields including nursing, medicine, and academia.

They discovered that although some of these women also had co-existing anxiety and depression, many had no mental health diagnoses.

Clance and Imes even discovered that imposter syndrome was not exclusive to women.

Differences Between Women and Men

Although imposter syndrome impacted men, it was to a significantly lesser degree.

To explain this phenomenon, the researchers turned to the work of another woman researcher, Kay Deaux.

Deaux’s work hypothesized that society plays a role in the differences in perceived ability between the sexes.

In her work published in the mid 1970s she describes that society is conditioned to have lower expectations of women.

Women therefore often have lower expectations of themselves.

And are then more likely to attribute their own success to luck rather than skill.

Men, on the other hand, are conditioned to go after success less cautiously than women.

And are then less likely to attribute success to anything other than their own ability.

The work of these three women was eye-opening for me.

It provides a possible explanation for the themes which run much deeper than I ever anticipated.

Mom Guilt

In my life, I often feel like I’m fighting a variety of battles that I don’t completely understand but am doing my best to overcome.

Mom guilt is one of them.

I’m constantly feeling pulled between work and home.

Always trying to check one more item off my daily to-do list, whether I’m at work or at home.

And never quite feeling like the end result is good enough.

Or even if the end result is great, that it was simply luck.

Could it be that mom guilt also has its roots in faulty societal expectations of women?

That on the one hand, women are expected to successfully raise a family while working.

And are also expected to stay in great shape, continue socializing, and maintain their own self-care.

But on the other hand, and in light of their status as women, are expected to perform poorly at all these things.

Are we simply set up for failure from the very beginning?

And I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never heard of dad guilt.

Is that even a thing?

You may also enjoy reading this post about the secret to life as a working mom.

A Tale of Two Families

Even beyond societal gender expectations lies family dynamics.

Clance and Imes identified two separate family dynamics which can be used to explain why imposter syndrome occurs.

Family Dynamic #1

The first involves a scenario in which a sibling has been designated as the “smart” one while the daughter herself becomes known as the charming one.

The daughter then comes to feel torn between the belief that she is really just a pretty face and the desire to prove herself as otherwise.

She begins working even harder to prove herself academically yet her family refuses to acknowledge her as such.

At that point, feelings of fradulence begin to emerge.

Doubt sinks in and she wonders whether the beliefs of her family are in fact true.

Family Dynamic #2

The second family dynamic in which imposter syndrome begins to creep in involves the daughter being viewed as perfect in every way.

Whether it’s academics, sports, or music, her skills are viewed by the family as second to none.

And not only are her skills exemplary but she doesn’t have to work hard to achieve any of it.

Everything comes easily to her.

This is the dynamic which is intimately familiar to me.

The point at which imposter syndrome began to creep in was when something actually didn’t come all that easily to me.

It was the point at which I actually had to struggle when I began to doubt my own family’s assessment of my talents.

Maybe I wasn’t as gifted as they believed me to be if everything didn’t come easily.

And maybe I’m simply fooling everyone with the success I’ve achieved thus far.

Natural talent only goes so far and there comes a point for everyone in which hard work is necessary to go further.

Regardless of which family dynamic was present during the formative years, imposter syndrome is a sneaky belief system which is tough to pinpoint until you become aware of its subtleties.

It’s a faulty thought process which holds you back from your true potential.

Now that we have a better understanding of imposter syndrome and how it starts, what can we do to change it?

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

As with many things in life, awareness is the first step.

Although it seems contrary to what you feel, talking about your feelings with others can discredit your fears.

Talking about your feelings aloud with someone else can help you identify how truly false imposter syndrome actually is.

As an example, if you studied for a test, there’s a greater probability that you passed due to preparation than by luck.

Unfortunately, we have learned to doubt ourselves and have an easier time believing luck and not preparation was responsible.

Getting an outside perspective can help ground you until you begin to change the negative thought patterns associated with imposter syndrome.

After all, in many cases, imposter syndrome is based on “feelings” and not on reality.

When you boil it down, imposter syndrome is a false interpretation of actual events.

Until you speak those feelings out loud, they will continue to have power over you.

And you will continue to misinterpret the true source of your own success.

Root Cause Analysis

Likewise, journaling can be extremely beneficial in something I call “root cause analysis.”

I can’t take credit for this concept as it is one which is attributed to the field of nursing, among others.

It essentially involves dissecting a situation to determine the true cause of an error or dysfunction.

As an example, root cause analysis is frequently utilized in the nursing home setting after someone falls.

The ultimate goal in this scenario is to prevent future falls.

But you can really only do that if you figure out what caused the fall in the first place.

Did the person slip because they were barefoot?

Was their drink out of their reach?

Or were they trying to get to the bathroom by themselves?

Once you figure out the root cause, you can theoretically prevent future falls of this nature.

The same process can be applied to anything you deem a “failure” in your own life.

Spend some time thinking about a particular situation which didn’t go according to plan.

Determine which factors contributed to a lack of success.

In many cases you will find that those factors were actually outside your own control.

And if they were out of your control, how could you possibly do anything about them?

Never Give Up … Never Surrender!

We simply have no control over so many aspects of life and need to stop continually beat ourselves up for them.

Conversely, it is equally important to record your successes as a reminder that you are smart and capable.

You are deserving of success.

And even in the face of setbacks, you are constantly learning and growing.

Do you want to know a secret?

No one really knows what they’re doing.

The most successful people in the world experience imposter syndrome from time to time.

It’s not as if you reach a certain level of success and suddenly know everything or are confident 100% of the time.

But the difference between success and failure is never giving up.

Successful people never let feelings of being an imposter hold them back from taking the next step.

They take feedback from each and every experience and instead of letting it defeat them, they learn and grow from it.

And become more confident the next time because of all they’ve overcome to get where they are today.

You may also enjoy reading this post about the secrets to success.

It’s Your Turn

I really wish that I had some type of magical secret to immediately and permanently overcoming imposter syndrome.

But I don’t.

All I have is the gift of awareness.

Because once you become aware of something, it forever remains a part of you.

Once you have the knowledge, you can take steps to change it!

Take this opportunity to analyze your feelings and determine where you can make positive changes.

You don’t have to live in constant fear that you will one day be discovered as a fraud.

Because you’re not.

You are so much more smart and capable than you give yourself credit for!

Now … go forth and be awesome!

Don’t forget to comment below on your big take-aways from this post!

Where are you struggling right now and how are you going to take steps forward?

5 Secrets of Successful Women

5 Secrets of Successful Women

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Money, fame, achievement. Everyone craves success on some level.

And everyone’s definition of success is slightly different.

As a working mom, my definition of success includes separate achievements for work and home.

Both realms are demanding and it can sometimes feel like I’m treading water rather than making any real progress.

I certainly could decide to simply maintain status quo. It seems much easier to maintain rather than gain.

Maintaining is especially appearling when there are so many demands both at work and at home!

But this thought just doesn’t sit right with me. Something inside keeps pushing me toward bigger and better things.

After all, there are examples everywhere of successful women excelling both at home and at work.

What are their secrets to success?

And how can you achieve success in your own life?

The obvious answer is that it depends upon what you’re trying to achieve.

If you want to be a bestselling author, you have to write a book.

And if you want to be the CEO of your own company, you need to first start and grow said company.

If you’re looking for a more organized household, you have to figure out a realistic daily organizational schedule. And stick to it.

Although the steps required to achieve success vary depending upon the specific goal, success requires certain key attributes.

Successful women everywhere are proof that success is achieveable if these key attributes are central tenets in their lives.

You may be asking yourself exactly what these key attributes are.

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! Read on to find out.

Successful Women Work Hard

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”

Estee Lauder

Rachel Hollis is one of my all-time favorite successful women. She is both motivational and inspirational but also delivers honesty.

Brutal honesty at times.

In one of her recent podcasts, she made a statement which has stuck with me ever since.

“Success is supposed to be hard.”

On some level, I already knew this. But to hear someone say it was oddly comforting.

Sometimes I get lulled into the assumption that if something is hard, I must be doing it wrong. As if ease somehow guarantees the correct path.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Accomplishing anything requires time and effort. Repeated over and over and over.

Early mornings. Late nights. Sacrifice.

Successful women are not born that way. Success is merely the pay-off for all the work they put in towards their goals.

Although wildly successful now, Rachel definitely didn’t start out that way.

Her book highlights her struggles with anxiety, self-confidence, and carving out her own career path.

A path paved by long hours of volunteering alongside her regular job to learn what she ultimately knew she needed to know to succeed on her own.

She is adament that success doesn’t randomly find you. Rather, you must put forth the effort to find it.

Successful Women Never Give Up

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

And speaking of putting forth effort … successful women never give up! No matter what.

Success requires persistence.

Extreme persistence.

The persistence of a woman with a spark of an idea for something bigger.

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds including divorce and raising a daughter on her own, the spark grows.

And she writes. She continues fanning the flames of inspiration despite struggling to make ends meet.

Five years after the spark of an idea initially comes to her, she finishes the manuscript.

And the manuscript is rejected by 12 different publishers before finally being accepted by one.

Her persistence pays off and she eventually becomes author of the best-selling book series in history.

J. K. Rowling achieved remarkable success, at least in part thanks to her unwillingness to give up.

Remember all that stuff about working hard? A big piece of working hard is refusing to give up.

We just never know what life will throw at us next. And we have no way of knowing what’s around the next corner.

Success is a funny thing in that it requires an incredible amount of undefined effort.

In other words, when we decide to take action toward a goal, we have no idea exactly how much effort it will require.

We have no idea which big push will result in major pay-off.

But giving up on your goals virtually guarantees failure. And failure of this type is completely non-productive.

Successful Women Fail Forward

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

J. K. Rowling

Successful women embrace failure as a tool for growth.

Failure is actually a more effective teacher than success because the lessons learned are infinitely more memorable.

If you choose to see failure in this light.

Unfortunately, our own egos tend to get in the way of learning from failure.

It can be all too easy to latch onto the negative emotion accompanying failure rather than sort through to find the value.

Ultimately the negativity can morph into bitterness over time.

You may have heard of fashion designer Vera Wang but did you know that she grew up figure skating competitively?

Vera skated in the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with her sights on making the Olympic team.

Unfortunately, she didn’t make the team.

At that point, Vera had a choice. She could allow this failure to define her and overshadow every other good thing in her life.

Or she could learn from it and choose to move forward.

And move forward she did.

Vera ultimately chose to pursue fashion and became one of the top household names in the industry today.

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about fashion. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

And even I recognize her name.

Would the same be true if she had made the Olympic figure skating team?

There’s no way to know for sure but what can be gained from this story is the fact that you can choose to learn and grow from failure.

Failure in life is inevitable.

Don’t ever let it define you!

Successful Women Have a Plan

“Plan your work for today and every day. Then work your plan.”

Margaret Thatcher

Imagine getting into your car one day with the intention of going somewhere.

You have no idea where you want to go but have a vague sense there is somewhere you are supposed to be.

Your “to-do” list is a mile long but those things can certainly wait. After all, many of those tasks have actually been on your list for months now.

So you turn the key in the ignition and back out of the driveway.

What follows are 3 hours of aimless driving before you realize that the car is low on gas.

You pull into the gas station to fill up and suddenly realize where you were supposed to be.

At work giving a presentation.

Three hours ago.

Yikes!

Whether it’s a plan for the day, for your future, or for next week, successful women know the value of planning.

After all, how can you possibly know when you’ve achieved what you’re going after when you have no idea what you’re actually aiming for?

Planning gives you a sense of purpose and a road map to your destination.

You may also enjoy reading this post about time management for busy moms.

Successful Women Choose Gratitude

“Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”

Amy Morin

Life is unpredictable.

You can put in all the back-aching, up-all-night, totally exhausting work towards your goals and still face setback after setback.

And despite the setbacks, you can make the choice to learn and grow rather than letting them overwhelm you.

Sometimes all the planning in the world can’t even prepare you for what’s coming next.

I mean, seriously.

If I told you a year ago that in March of 2020, the entire United States would essentially shut down to prevent the spread of a virus, would you have believed me?

Probably not.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

And yet … here we are.

Despite the craziness, you still have control over one thing.

Your attitude.

You can still make the choice to wake up each morning seeing the rain either as a vital necessity or the horrible thing which cancels your parade.

Successful women actively seek out areas of their lives which are bright spots and express gratitude.

Taking this perspective shifts your focus off the negative of any given situation and instead allows a more productive thought process.

Learning to express gratitude rather than wallow in self-pity takes effort but is ultimately worth the work.

You may also enjoy reading this post about achieving a positive mindset.

It’s Your Turn

Although the definition of success varies from woman to woman, the secrets to achieving any type of success are similar.

Expect to work hard regardless of your goal. If success was easy, everyone would attain it.

Never ever give up! You just never know when you will break through the other side of whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

Learn from failure rather than letting it overwhelm you. Failure may be trying to point you down a completely different path than you have ever considered before.

Make a plan. Chances are, you’ll need to revise it on a regular basis. But it’s much easier to steer something that’s already in motion than to get it going in the first place.

And lastly, prioritize gratitude. There’s always something to be thankful for! Get in the habit of regularly looking for those bright spots in your life.

I hope you have come away from this post feeling a little more motivated and inspired to achieve success in your own life!

I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

5 Ways to Find Peace Despite Chaos

5 Ways to Find Peace Despite Chaos

The world is a strange place right now.

Here in Wisconsin, the governor ordered closure of all bars and restaurants earlier this week.

If you know anything about Wisconsin, it’s that our population relies on its dense population of bars and churches to survive.

And churches across the state closed their doors over the weekend.

Last week, nursing homes across the state made the incredibly difficult decision to close their doors to visitors.

The public school system has been shut down.

Sports stadiums everywhere are silent.

Companies are finding ways for their employees to work from home.

These are truly unprecedented times we are living in.

Life as we have come to know it is changing rapidly.

Amidst all the crazy toilet paper buying, doomsday prepping, and constant media coverage, anxiety is at an all-time high.

We have no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring.

The realities of preparing for the coronavirus have impacted most aspects of my own life. It feels like everywhere I turn, there are new reasons to stress.

It all feels very overwhelming.

Getting swept up in the madness is so easy!

But is that really how you want to live your life? At the mercy of whatever crisis the media is currently fixated on?

Or would you rather take charge of anxiety, grounded in peace that you, in fact, can handle whatever life throws at you?

You do have a choice. Either be consumed by anxiety. Or choose peace.

Lately I have been focusing on how to find peace despite the chaos.

And the great news? You can too! Here are 5 ways to get started today.

1. Find peace despite chaos through time spent with loved ones

In the midst of chaos, routines are turned upside down.

Soccer practice? Cancelled.

Your after-hours work event? Cancelled.

Cheerleading? Cancelled.

But do you know what hasn’t been cancelled?

Family dinner.

A walk through the neighborhood.

Game night.

Although we would never have expected our social calendars to suddenly clear, is it really such a bad thing?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my schedule is filled with obligations rather than meaning.

It can often feel like I say “yes” to things because of what others want me to be or do. I forget to listen to my own voice. And if I don’t prioritize my own time, there’s no one on this earth who will do it for me!

There is also a tendency to take the time spent with friends and family for granted. We can get lulled into thinking they will always be there waiting for us.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the mundane of the routine and forget to connect with those around us.

If there’s anything the uncertainty of the past couple of weeks has taught me, it’s that the time is now.

We can’t take anything for granted because we have no idea what’s coming tomorrow.

Uncertainty reminds us that being intentional about our time and creating meaningful connections with others are both incredibly important.

The silver lining in all this social distancing is actually a brand new start. The slate is wiped clean. We are free to start all over again with a better understanding of our goals and priorities.

Including, and especially, our loved ones.

You have an amazing opportunity to both reconnect with your loved ones and to find peace despite the chaos!

And thanks to technology, you can both reconnect and maintain social distancing guidelines.

So take a step in the right direction today. Give someone you haven’t spoken with in awhile a call. Reach out and make a connection.

After all, what better conversation starter could there be than a gigantic, nationwide toilet paper shortage? It really couldn’t get any easier than that!

2. Turn off the news

Yes, the news is important. It has a vital role in keeping all of us updated on happenings both local and around the world.

But they also want to keep you coming back for more.

They want you to choose them over every other news channel (or website) out there.

And how do they hook you?

By feeding into your emotions, namely fear.

Remember the principle of fight or flight? Biologically speaking, fear triggers an incredibly strong chemical response within your body.

The fear response is stronger than the response garnered by most other emotions.

The news media keeps you hooked by triggering your fear response. Over and over and over again.

They are making sure you continue to tune in by scaring you.

I am all for being updated on the facts of various occurrences.

But I am not about to be fed sensationalized versions of facts whose only purpose is to scare me into continuing to watch.

And my advice to you? Figure out exactly what it is you need to know and then locate an organization focused on the facts.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions and ways to stay healthy.

Local county health departments are tracking the latest statistics on people impacted in your area.

Neither source will give you sensationalized accounts of how everyone in America will eventually succumb to the virus and 50% of those people will die.

They will simply give you facts. Nothing more, nothing less.

Why would you ever need anything more than that?

3. Search for the positive amidst the negative

When everything goes haywire, it’s incredibly easy to focus on what’s going wrong.

Especially when the changes are as surreal as those happening right now.

If you had told me a year ago that a virus would close down the public school system indefinitely, I would never have believed you.

Likewise, I would never have believed that I would shop my local Wal-Mart at 7 a.m. and find the shelves as bare as I’ve ever seen them.

Or that those same Wal-Mart shelves would be completely devoid of toilet paper.

Changes this dramatic are very unsettling.

But focusing on the negative will only get you to a place of deeper anxiety.

As strange as all the recent events have been, it will all eventually fade into our memories.

Restaurants will open back up again.

Kids will complain about playing basketball in gym class (or maybe that was just me!?).

You will once again be able to meet up with your bestie for coffee without regulation that you sit at least 6 feet apart.

Believe it or not, good things are coming out of all this madness.

One example in my own life is my daycare’s decision to close, coincidentally at the same time my in-laws went on vacation out-of-state.

We have never relied too heavily on sitters so our list is incredibly short. Unfortunately, our usual sitter was already committed elsewhere.

My friend put out a Facebook post that her teenage daughter was available to watch kiddos. I decided to reach out and give it a try.

And do you know what happened?

The kids loved her! They had a great time and now our sitter list is just a bit longer.

Although it takes effort, we can choose to look for the positives in an otherwise negative situation.

Be a positive force in an otherwise chaotic world.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to get yourself into a positive mindset.

4. Find peace despite chaos through rest

I am guilty of completely over-booking myself. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

Between home, work, and my very limited social life, I feel compelled to constantly be doing something.

My house could always use some type of attention, whether it’s laundry, the floors, or the messy bathroom.

And based upon the piles of dirty laundry which appear every week, I swear to you that there are at least 3 extra people living in my house who I’ve never met. Which begs the question … why aren’t they helping with their laundry?

Also, would it kill them to sweep the floor once in awhile?

Work has also been a challenge as within the past year, I have transitioned to the new role of nurse practitioner. And when you take on a new role, there’s always an abundance to learn and improve upon.

Especially during such an unpredented time as this.

I do have to admit that my social life is essentially non-existent at this point and the virus is not entirely to blame. Between work and home, I simply have no extra energy left to devote to its revival.

Although I have never been someone with a wide social circle, the people I do consider friends are very near and dear to me.

And many of them are also in the midst of figuring out their own work/life balance.

But I have always felt that I could do a better job of staying connected with friends despite my very introverted tendencies.

I am constantly lying to myself about the possibility of a break. “I’ll just keep going until xyz and then I will take some time for myself.”

But when xyz happens, I never take the promised break.

And then I wonder why I’m constantly so exhausted.

Sometimes, we just need a break. And maybe this is God’s way of forcing a break on all of us.

Anxiety feeds off fatigue, exhaustion, and overhwelm. Stop anxiety in its tracks by taking a nap, a Netflix break, or by picking up a good book.

Take advantage of this moment to stop “being” and to instead just “be.”

5. Have faith

At a time when even churches have closed their doors, the world may seem a very hopeless place right now.

Although there are changes sweeping the nation and the world, we have to remember that we have never really been in charge anyway.

Whether it’s coronavirus or some other crazy disease threatening the world, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

We can only do our very best to do what we can with what we have and leave the rest in God’s hands.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 1-2

Anxiety never changes tomorrow’s outcome but it does steal today’s peace.

My challenge to you today is to choose peace. Reject anxiety.

Focus on the good. Make a difference where you can. Help someone else out.

And never lose your faith that all will work out according to God’s plan.

It’s Your Turn

There’s no denying the big changes happening everywhere.

Between all the closings, the constant news media coverage, and the empty store shelves, some would have you believe the world itself is ending.

But it’s really not all bad!

Social distancing is a technique useful for minimizing the impact illnesses such as the coronavirus can have on a population.

It’s a way we can both conserve resources and protect those who are most vulnerable.

Yes, it’s definitely unsettling to drive through an eerily quiet city.

But this too will pass.

And by taking these drastic measures, I pray the impact will be minimal.

I can only imagine that we will also have a much greater appreciation for having the ability to once again gather with friends and family.

Seize this unsettling time to find peace despite chaos.

Choosing peace will help you become a stronger and more resilient person, better equipped to take on the next crisis thrown at you.

After all, doesn’t surviving a toilet paper shortage equip you to overcome basically anything???

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post below! What are you struggling with right now and what has helped you find peace despite chaos?

Achieve a Positive Mindset … Achieve Your Goals!

Achieve a Positive Mindset … Achieve Your Goals!

I have a confession to make. A deep, dark secret which is tough to admit even to myself.

The secret is that a negative mindset has destroyed progress toward so many of my goals in life.

Goals such as getting (and keeping!) my house organized. Expanding my piano repertoire by learning new pieces. Becoming more intentional about my time by saying “no” to people pleasing.

The Root of the Problem

The problem isn’t that I don’t have a strong “why.” It also has nothing to do with being unaware of how to get where I want to go.

For me, the problem lies with negativity.

There have been so many times when I make actual progress toward a goal only to wake up one day with a negative mindset. Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before. Or maybe I missed my morning run.

Whatever the initial reason, negativity sinks its teeth in and takes over.

It all starts with doubt which causes me to question the validity of my goal.

Accomplishing the goal suddenly seems impossible, unattainable, and even a waste of time.

Something which once seemed absolutely worth doing loses its meaning in the face of negativity.

Does this sound like you? Have you ever started passionately chasing a goal only to be stopped in your tracks by a negative mindset?

A Cycle of Negativity

A negative mindset, however small it starts, can be powerful enough to send me into a cycle of self-sabotage.

The cycle goes something like this …

I get excited about a new goal and figure out which small, daily steps will help me accomplish it.

At first, I’m so excited about this goal that nothing can dissuade me from believing I will acomplish it.

Taking those small, daily steps is simple at first because when you start from zero, seeing progress is easy.

Regardless of the goal, progress gets tougher at some point.

The initial excitement of having a new goal begins to fade away. You hit a wall and are forced to either learn and adapt or abandon ship.

Growth is required to move beyond the starting point. And growth never comes without some type of turmoil.

Seeds of Doubt

And for me, that turmoil usually involves a tiny seed of doubt.

It typically boils down to perfectionism and (admittedly) unattainable standards.

The lie of perfection feeds thoughts of inadequacy and stalls progress. My mindset suddenly shifts from positive to negative.

It quickly becomes easy to find every excuse in the book to stop taking action toward my goal.

After all, with a husband, 3 kids, and a full-time career I don’t have to look very far to find an excuse!

Armed with an excuse rationalized as quite validly justified in my mind, all daily actions stop. And my goal withers away to nothing.

The tiny seed of doubt, watered by ridiculous excuses, soon grows into a huge tree preventing personal growth.

“We are all gardeners, planting seeds of intention and watering them with attention in every moment of every day.”

Cristen Rodgers

Goals, Mindset, and Success

If going after goals is so difficult, why do it? Why not just stay exactly where you are right now? And what does mindset have to do with any of this?

I am a firm believer that growth is essential to life itself. We are constantly evolving into different versions of ourselves.

Goals provide a framework and a direction for growth. There are a million different ways we could choose to grow. But chasing all of them at once means never making meaningful progress in any of them.

It’s only when we focus our attention on a specific goal that we see progress. Whatever has our attention sees progress.

Our mindset ultimately determines success or failure in the areas where our attention is focused.

If we don’t pay attention to keeping our mindset positive, overwhelm, self-sabotage, and a tendency to remain stagnant can easily creep in.

We remain stuck where we are if we don’t keep pursuing goals. We ultimately fail to accomplish what we set out to do.

And even beyond the disappointment of one failed goal is the pattern of quitting which can quickly establish itself.

A negative mindset can set you up to fail time after time. After awhile, negativity can convince you that trying again one more time is simply not worth it.

Awareness: The First Step Toward A Positive Mindset

We need positivity and small achievements here and there to encourage us to keep going even when it’s tough.

The abilites to enjoy life, experience happiness, and achieve success depend upon mindset. Achieving a positive mindset is crucial!

Are you ready to learn how to transform your mindset from self-sabotaging negativity to one of goal-conquering positivity? Although incorporating the following tactics does require some consistency, each one is actually quite simple.

As with most things in life, the very first step is awareness.

Pay attention to your thought patterns. Are the conversations you have with yourself dominated by motivational self-talk? Or do they tend to have negative overtones causing you to question yourself?

Capture your thoughts on paper by spending some time writing them down.

Can you identify any common themes to your thoughts? Can you figure out the root cause behind the negativity?

In many instances, self-defeating thoughts are driven by a random negative comment made by someone years ago. Or a past situation which you perceive as having ended poorly.

Our brains tend to drudge up negativity from the past and automate it into self-defeat or other negative thought patterns.

It’s only when we take the time to process through our automated thinking that we begin to make connections and positive change.

I have found that it’s incredibly easy to let my thinking go on auto-pilot. When on auto-pilot, the mind brings forth patterns of thinking which have developed over long periods of time.

Patterns which may be based upon completely false information but which evoke feelings of low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and defeat.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Transferring your thoughts to paper gives them an element of reality which is otherwise difficult to capture. Seeing the words in black and white gives you the opportunity to analyze and even dispute the negativity.

Patterns of thinking can become so ingrained into your thought life that they are nearly impossible to identify unless they are written down.

And yet these patterns are powerful enough to hold you back from your full potential and stop personal growth.

Once you have started writing down your thoughts, you can begin to challenge them. Is there any truth whatsoever behind those self-defeating thoughts? Begin to focus in on where the thought originated from and then work to re-frame it.

Through writing down my own thought patterns, I have discovered that perfectionism often holds me back from progress. I have held onto the false belief that everything in my life has to be absolutely perfect for my life to have meaning.

Perfectionism is a lie which has kept me stuck in a negative rut.

Unfortunately, growth is messy and imperfect. Mistakes and missteps are a prerequisite to finding the right path.

There is no perfection in life and continuing to believe this lie would forever keep me stuck.

Uncovering the source of my negative mindset has been incredibly helpful in moving toward a more positive one. Learning or doing something new requires mistakes!

My need to live up to some skewed definition of perfection has so often caused me to abandon goals and remain stagnant.

But the good news is that through awarenss, I have now been able to identify exactly where my goals derail. Instead of letting myself go down the perfectionism trail, I can use various other tactics to keep myself going toward growth.

Find a Mentor

Adopting a growth mindset is often easier when you are surrounded by others who have a similar mindset.

Seek out the company of others who are also interested in personal growth and maintaing a positive mindset.

Consider finding a mentor or coach to assist you in attaining your goals. This is especially helpful if you are looking to advance your skills in a particular area.

Finding a coach has been pivotal in several areas of my life, most notably in one of my favorite hobbies.

A few years ago, I decided to pursue a type of horseback riding called dressage. I grew up riding in a completely different discipline but had always been intrigued by dressage.

And so, I looked around for an instructor.

A couple of weeks later, I finally found someone with not only a great deal of experience in the sport of dressage but who also has a growth mindset herself.

It’s been 4 years and I continue to take so much value from not only the lessons themselves but their application to life in general.

Finding an instructor with a positive mindset has been such a blessing in my own life! I highly encourage you to find that person in a relevant area of your own life.

Accountability and learning from others propels growth in ways which are otherwise difficult to achieve.

Your Physical Health

And speaking of personal growth …. maintaining a positive mindset is nearly impossible if you’re not paying attention to your physical health.

The food you put into your body, exercise, and sleep all have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing and simply cannot be ignored!

The Gut-Brain Connection

Believe it or not, there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut.

Think about the last time you did something which made you nervous. Maybe it was a job interview, presentation, or even watching your daughter’s big soccer game. Did you have butterflies in your stomach?

If so, you have experienced the gut-brain connection firsthand.

Although we are only beginning to understand the science behind the connection, the fact that there is a connection simply cannot be disputed.

When your brain is stressed and in a negative mindset, your stomach is impacted. You may even experience abdominal pain and cramping during times of high anxiety and depression. Likewise, when your stomach is in distress, signals with the potential to darken your mindset are sent to your brain.

The great news is that there are certain foods which can reduce anxiety and therefore minimize abdominal distress.

Foods high in vitamin C, healthy fats, and magnesium work in different ways to naturally reduce stress hormones and elevate your mood. Look for ways to add foods such as pistachios, salmon, oranges, and avocados to your diet.

Move Your Body

I know that exercise may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but it does wonders for your brain health!

Exercise actually releases feel-good hormones in your brain, elevating your mood and giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Beyond the natural release of hormones which comes with exercise is the focus required to do it.

Shifting your focus to completing a physical task often leaves little mental space to ruminate yourself further into a negative spiral.

It gives your brain an opportunity to shift the focus elsewhere and to stop the tendency to spiral further.

One of the reasons that I love dressage so much is that it requires a great deal of both mental focus and physical energy.

Great riders make it look completely effortless but the truth is that the sport requires the rider to constantly adjust the horse into “effortless.”

The rider must always read the horse’s movements and transfer that information into physical movements communicated back to the horse.

In short, dressage requires intense focus combined with physical prowess and there is little room left over to ruminate on the negative.

It completely engrosses me and by doing so, gives me a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment that few other activities do.

I highly recommend that you find some type of physical activity which mentally and physically challenges you. You will find it much easier to develop a positive mindset by regularly exercising!

Sleep Perks

Somewhere along the line, we have developed a distorted view of sleep.

In today’s world, it’s all about how much can be accomplished on the least amount of sleep. Society today wears sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.

Everywhere you look, there are ads for energy drinks, supplements, and caffeine-filled products guaranteed to help you stay awake for days.

Meanwhile, there are equally as many ads for medications and supplements guaranteed to put you to sleep when you’re struggling with insomnia.

The reality is our bodies NEED sleep. It’s the reset button which brings us back to neutral and refreshes our minds and bodies.

There is no positive mindset without adequate rest.

And we are making sleep way too complicated. Caffeine, screen time before bed, and unrelieved anxiety all work against quality sleep.

Simple adjustments to your daily (and nightly) routines can do wonders in helping you get a good night’s sleep. Check out this post for more tips on getting restful sleep at night.

Calm Your Mind

Learning how to calm your mind can also have a dramatic impact on your ability to attain a positive mindset. One way to do this is through meditation.

This ancient practice helps you become more aware of your thoughts. You can then begin to control your thoughts and learn how to manage negative feelings.

I was sceptical of meditation until trying it a few months ago.

Meditation does require practice however I immediately began noticing positive changes. It helped me develop an awareness of my thoughts and the need to stop thinking on auto-pilot.

I have also learned techniques for avoiding negative chatter in my mind. Negative chatter, fueled by insecurity and overwhelm, can swirl into a perfect storm of anxiety.

Although it can feel as if we have no control over our thoughts (and especially the negative chatter), we absolutely do.

Meditation clears space for peace and introspection within your mind, essential components to developing a more positive mindset.

Meditation is an essential piece of developing a more positive mindset!

If you are completely new to meditation, I highly recommend this app. I can’t say enough about the positive changes I have seen since I started using it!

It’s Your Turn to Work on a Positive Mindset

Goals are important because when done consistently, they build into habits. Habits form the backbone of lasting change and goal attainment. Without small goals performed consistently, goal attainment is impossible, even more so without a positive mindset.

I hope you have found these tactics helpful. You can do hard things! But you must work to establish a foundation based upon positivity in order to do so.

Developing a more positive outlook doesn’t have to be difficult. Take small action every day to see bigger changes down the road.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below on what you found most helpful! Until next time …. keep chasing after those goals! Remember, the only failure in life is quitting.

The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

After a particularly long and stressful day a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. It suddenly hit me that I am a working mom. Not a very timely epiphany as my first child is 9 and I worked before and after her birth. But an epiphany, nonetheless.

There are times when navigating a full-time career and managing a household feels incredibly overwhelming. In these dark moments, the questions in my mind arise.

“How can I possibly do everything that needs to be done in a day?”

“Is it selfish to take time for myself?”

“Am I taking anything away from my kids by also having a career?”

“Could I be a better mother if I devoted more time to it?”

“Why am I so hopelessly disorganized?”

These are the moments when I question everything. Maybe these questions have also arisen in your mind?

And although I do consider myself to have perfectionist tendencies, I am a terrible planner. I put very little thought or effort into thinking ahead about certain things. Life has a way of happening and I’ve always emphasized the big decisions while letting the smaller ones go.

But working mom life is tough! So tough that I wonder whether it is possible to excel in one’s career and at home. All while staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, excercising, socializing, and staying sane. Basically doing all the things.

How do you do all the things as a working mom? Are there other moms out there who feel the same way?

It begs the question of how I even got on this crazy path.

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Past and Present

Whether or not I should work has never been the question. Even after having kids, I’ve always felt a strong pull to contribute to my family financially. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I learned very early on that work is simply a part of life.

The act of working in and of itself brings me a great deal of satisfaction. But my career path has taken twists and turns that I never expected.

If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far, it’s that life is unexpected and forces you to pivot.

After graduating with a fine arts degree in music, I found myself living in a tiny Wisconsin town. If you know anything about tiny Wisconsin towns, you know that they are basically comprised of bars and churches. Bleak job prospects for a newly graduated music major. And although I did take a position playing Sunday services for a couple of area churches, I didn’t make nearly enough to support myself.

You may also enjoy reading Stop Caring What “They” Think.

I needed a new plan.

Luckily, I had completed a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in college and decided to apply for a position at a local nursing home. This one decision launched an entirely different type of career path than I had ever considered before.

A path which would eventually lead from CNA in a nursing home to nurse practitioner for people residing in a nursing home. Throw a marriage, a daughter, divorce, a second marriage, and two sons into the mix and here we are today.

But until recently, I had never sat down to think about HOW one goes about managing a career and family. What does this actually look like and can the two be meshed together in some type of cohesive way?

Career and Family

All great questions. My working mom epiphany was starting to lead me down a path of discovery. And so I did what I usually do whenever I have a curious thought which won’t go away. I looked for a book which could help me better understand this concept of working while raising a family.

The book I found was a collection of individual stories of women who work and also have children. Stories of women who climbed the corporate ladder and those who ultimately chose to adjust their careers around their home life. Women juggling PTO, sick days, vacation, and wardrobe malfunctions all in the name of excelling at work and at home.

An entire book all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a working mom.

And to be honest, the book was initially a letdown.

I didn’t need some book to tell me that mom guilt about being at work versus at my daughter’s school event is real. Or that a morning routine (or lack thereof) can make or break your day. I truly wasn’t looking for a story about another woman’s husband chipping in at home so she could work.

It was answers I was after. Answers about how to manage the overwhelming chaos of working mom life. Easy-to-follow checklists for taming the daily disarray. Hints about fitting self-care into a tumultuous schedule. Encouragement that yes, things will in fact get better.

Stories are nice but they aren’t answers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m super happy that Susan’s husband vacuums and scrubs the toilets. But how did she get him to take on these tasks?

And congratulations to Lindsay on cutting back to part-time hours! But what about the options if your family’s economic stability depends upon your full-time hours?

It’s amazing that Cheryl was able to negotiate her employer into allowing her some time to work-from-home. But how is this story beneficial when your career is not amenable to working from home?

I was beginning to think that there simply were no answers to the questions I was asking.

More Questions Than Answers

Despite my initial disappointment in the book’s inability to answer my questions, I kept reading it. Mostly because I was 50 pages in at that point and already invested.

After all, it was possible that the answers I was looking for were in the very last chapter. Or in some type of bonus chapter. It was also entirely possible that the secret to managing my working mom life was in an exclusive online book resource.

I had to keep reading to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything that all the other working moms somehow knew. Working mom life would be much easier if there was a secret to making it all balance. If not a secret, then maybe a magical fairy or elf.

Picture this. It’s been a long day at work, you’re tired, and your toddler screams all the way home from day care. And then continues screaming because you won’t let him lick the soap dispenser at home. His older brother, slighted because you asked how his day went, quickly joins in the screaming. Just to top it all off, their older sister starts yelling because she is annoyed at the screaming of the other two.

You’ve been there before too, right?

In this moment, wouldn’t it be great if you could tap into some deep well of knowledge? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you could suddenly feel calm, cool, and collected about all areas of your working and home life? If you could simply let the stress of the work day melt away amidst the screaming tantrums of your kids.

Admit how great it would feel if you could drop the constant feelings of competition between work and home. The feeling that because you work, you’re somehow dropping the ball at home. Or the feeling that because you take time off to care for a sick child, you’re slacking off at work. And on and on and on.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was looking for reassurance. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one feeling the constant conflict between work and home life. I needed to hear that I wasn’t the only one with more questions than answers.

The Working Mom Secret

It wasn’t until I was almost through with the book that it suddenly hit me.

I wasn’t the only one questioning how to make it all work! There was no magical “one size fits all” answer for achieving balance in your working mom life.

And do you know what else I learned?

There are forces beyond my control influencing my thoughts, feelings, and responses to “balancing” working mom life. Forces contributing to my feelings of overwhelm and constant questioning.

These forces run deep. Some are rooted in society’s expectations about male and female roles both inside and outside the home. Others stem from the influences of social media and comparison. Still others are deeply personal and come from your own expectations of who you ARE versus who you SHOULD be.

And let’s not forget the expectations of your spouse, friends, family, and coworkers. The unsolicited advice about how to learn more, be more, and do more. Advice on how to make all the bits and pieces of your life come together into a pretty picture.

In short, working moms are struggling against a plethora of outside forces. This struggle only sets us up for more and more questions.

Unless we stop and consider what is truly driving our feelings, emotions, and actions, we will never come to a better understanding of the issue.

And how does one come to a better understanding of an issue?

By asking questions, seeking out information, and sifting through one’s deepest underlying thoughts and beliefs.

The secret to a better understanding of working mom life is to ask more questions.

I know this may not be the answer you were hoping for. Believe me, I completely understand your frustration in now having more questions than answers.

But at the end of the day, working moms all have completely different hopes, dreams, and goals.

We are all individuals. Each of us has a unique perspective to contribute.

What’s Your Perspective?

By this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, great. But now what? How can I apply this in my own life?”

You can start by ditching the concept of “balancing” home and work lives. The word “balance” means equilibrium. Equality between two separate entities.

In working mom life, there is NO. SUCH. THING. as balance.

Life is unexpected. You will constantly need to make tough choices. Choices which result in favoring one thing over another.

This is just the nature of life. Accept that there will be times when you need to choose family over work. And vice versa. It’s ok.

Know that all working moms wrestle with these questions. If not these same exact questions, then eerily similar ones.

None of us really knows what we’re doing. We’re all just doing the very best we can with what we have. Approach each new day with the faith that you are making progress. Forgive yourself.

Talk with other working moms who may be going through the same struggles as you. Working moms are a community of incredibly strong, resourceful, and resilient women. We absolutely need to avoid tearing each other down but rather stick together!

And stay curious. If you’re struggling, look for resources. In today’s world, there is an abundance of information out there. Don’t keep yourself in the darkness of overwhelm when all you need to do is simply reach out and turn on the light switch.

Keep asking questions until you find the answers you’re looking for! Or at least until you get to the questions which get you to the root of your hang-up.

If you’re looking for a starting point, check out the book which inspired today’s post here. This book triggered so much emotionally for me and inspired my belief that the answer to this issue is complex and actually lies in the questions.

If a podcast is more your style, check out one of my personal favs below!

  • Do It Scared with Ruth Soukup
  • The Confidence Podcast with Trish Blackwell
  • Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis

And always remember that you’re not on this journey alone. Life with kids requires a complete transformation. You cannot live the same way you did before having kids. And my guess is that you wouldn’t want to. Kids add an element of fulfillment unmatched by anything else!

And now it’s your turn. What are your current challenges, questions, and stresses? Where do you find yourself constantly getting hung up? What are the forces beyond your control which are currently impacting you in a big way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this and more below!