6 Words that Change Everything

You get to be 100% yourself, 100% of the time! 

It’s true: this is 10 words (plus the two %-signs). I’m getting to the 6-word version. Stick with me.

One of the primary reasons I remain compelled by and committed to the “be-100%-yourself” idea, by authenticity itself, is because it serves as a direct contradiction to patriarchy, capitalism, and all that (endlessly) strives to keep us “in our place,” silenced, shut down, and often shamed. We live in a world that is adamantly committed to us NOT being 100% ourselves. It wants us wanting. It wants us to see ourselves as not enough. And it wants us endlessly searching for (and buying) any and everything that we’ve become convinced will make us better, more, perfect, seen, heard, valued, worthy . . . Blech!  With authenticity, all of this falls away. You are no longer lured by the promise of a future or “someday” you because the current you is 100% present and accounted for. More than enough. And never too much. I’m also compelled by you being 100% yourself, 100% of the time because it serves as an incredibly  powerful discernment tool.When you’re NOT being 100% yourself, 100% of the time, you have something VERY specific to look at, be curious about and investigate. Here’s what I mean:

  • Consider a scenario or situation in which you felt “off.” Maybe something just wasn’t right. Maybe you were uncomfortable, even if only internally. Maybe you sensed tension – whether within or without. Maybe there was an edge of insecurity that hovered around you . . . or a tinge of anger. Maybe you pulled back or withdrew. Maybe you withheld your opinion. Maybe you felt ever-so-slightly (or blatantly) invisible.
  • Now, as you place yourself back in that particular scene, ask yourself this question: Was I being 100% myself?

When I look back on so many conversations, circumstances, relationships, even jobs in which I felt “off” (or any of the other myriad possibilities named above) I already know the answer to the question. “No. I was not being 100% myself.” Instead of being irritated by such, ashamed, frustrated, or self-berating, I can choose to be curious. I have new questions to ask. New things to wonder about. And new data to rely on that is housed in my very emotions and body! Here’s a quick example:In my most recent corporate position, after a sudden and shocking leadership change, I found myself feeling an increasing level of irritation. I was frustrated almost all the time. I felt levels of tension and stress that had not existed before. I was pouring one extra glass of wine at night. I woke up feeling exhausted before I even began another day. It took me a while to acknowledge any of this, believe me; but once I looked closely enough to determine what had changed, I saw that, indeed, I was NOT being 100% myself. My relationship with my new boss had me second-guessing myself, compromising, complying, and feeling a low-grade level of fear that I’d do the wrong thing. In both big and small ways, I was contorting myself into what I thought he wanted me to be. This was a powerful “seeing” for me. It allowed me to put my emotions and bodily responses in the context of authenticity (or lack thereof), I had all the discernment I could have needed – and the necessary next steps. Clearly, the work ahead was to be 100% myself, no matter what; to watch what would happen when I was genuine and authentic 100% of the time; to not compromise or comply; to choose to trust my voice, my perspective, my opinions, my experience – come what may. I knew it wouldn’t go smoothly. I knew I would ruffle some feathers and upset an apple cart or two. I also knew that I couldn’t not be me! Not anymore. Not after years and years (and years) of doing so throughout my life. Not after working so hard to identify who that 100%-me actually was!It didn’t take long (less than a month, I think) before it became clear that I could not stay. Of course, I felt every bit of the risk and fear that went along with this. I was severing myself from my source of income, after all! But at the very same time, I felt confident, sure, and strong. I trusted myself and my decision. Being less than 100% myself was no longer tenable.

So, the 6-Words that change everything form themselves into a question:

Am I being 100 percent myself? 

I’d cannot encourage you strongly enough to ask yourself this question again and again and again. NOT from a place of self-critique or self-criticism or irritation or shame; rather, from a place of gentle and grace-filled curiosity. When your answer is “no,” you now have information, data, and context to work with. That’s exciting! It means you can ask another whole series of questions that helps you understand and discern even more!

  • Why am I not being 100% myself in this situation?
  • What would happen if I was?
  • What is it costing me to be less than 100% myself? Where else and how is this impacting me in other aspects of my life?
  • Is there a pattern (or a person) that consistently brings this tension to the fore for me? What does that awareness invite me to explore?
  • What behavior(s) do I demonstrate that lets me know I’m not being 100% myself?
  • What emotion(s) do I feel that give me a clue that I’m not being 100% myself?
  • What happens in my physical body as powerful reminder that I’m not being 100% myself?
  • In what small (or large) ways can I experiment with being 100% myself when this situation presents itself again?

We know when we’re in the company of someone who has cut through hesitation to be brilliant, gentle, ridiculous and natural. They evince the most compelling and authoritative quality there is. Enough, just be who you are.” ~ Susan PiverWhen you are 100% yourself, 100% of the time, YOU are that person! Brilliant. Gentle. Ridiculous. Natural. Amazing. Wise. Witty. Kind. Generous. Creative. Courageous. Strong. Tender. Compassionate. Winsome. Grounded. Whole. You evince the most compelling and authoritative quality there is. You are enough. Just be who you are. No hesitation at all.

May it be so!

Everything You Need

In the midst of life’s ups and down, I am grateful for that which is steady, familiar, and comfortable.

I haven’t always seen things this way.

Too often, I’ve resisted the “ordinariness” of my life. I’ve fallen prey to the myth that I should be better and more. I’ve been exhausted by endlessly waiting for something, anything, everything to change. I’ve searched and searched outside myself for a fix, for respite, for “salvation,” so to speak.

I still do sometimes. Thankfully, less and less.

These days, “ordinary” feels like respite. Better and more feel like lies (because they are). I rarely wait or hope or pine for change. And bit by bit I am learning to look within and somewhat-miraculously discover everything I need.

Even this is comforting: these slow-but-sure shifts.

“Comfort is so much more than bubble baths and chocolate. Not that both aren’t fabulous, but the popular conception of comfort is often about numbing out or escaping, not about truly finding a way to face into things honestly and authentically.”  ~ Jen Louden


True, deep comfort is found when we face things honestly and authentically, when we ARE our honest and authentic selves. The opposite is also true: when we are NOT our honest and authentic selves, (deep) comfort is impossible to find.

I came across a different expression of this truth in a book I read this past week (and highly recommend): Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May.

She says, “We ‘want’ in the archaic sense of the word, as if we are lacking something and need to absorb it in order to be whole again. These wants are often astonishingly inaccurate: drugs and alcohol, which poison instead of reintegrate; relationships with people who do not make us feel safe or loved; objects that we do not need, cannot afford, which hang around our necks like albatrosses of debt long after the yearning for them has passed. Underneath this chaos and clutter lies a longing for more elemental thingslove, beauty, comfort . . . “ 

“Chaos and clutter” come when we look outside ourselves for wholeness; when we forget that WE are what we need. Said another way: WE are the font from which deep comfort flows. 

Quite frankly, even knowing what I know now, it is still a struggle to trust all that dwells within me, to receive the deep comfort that is and always has been mine. I want nothing more. And I am certain that every bit of this—this learning to turn within—is a process, a journey, a heroine’s quest, an endless discovery, the gift of life itself.

“A woman discovers the way home to herself in a quiet descent into the richness of her own life. In the descent, she reverses the tendency to look outside of herself for salvation. In the “deep places,” she reunites with her essential self and reclaims her natural resources.” ~ Patricia Lynn Reilly

THIS is comfort, yes?

A woman who knows to live in ways that are not dependent on external circumstances, other people, better and more, success or not.

A woman who knows to dive deep below the surface to find respite and calm; to be and remain whole.

A woman who knows she can quiet the clamor and din, discern among pressures and demands, by listening to her heart.

A woman who knows that being her honest and authentic self is her birthright – whether or not that creates dis-comfort for others.

A woman who knows joy is to be found in the ordinary, in the rhythms and routines that provide both structure and support.

A woman who knows she has more to express, more to reveal, more to offer, more to give; who nurtures all that she carries within; who cannot help but birth ever more of her true-and-beautiful self into the world.

We’re invited to all of this and then some. We’re invited home . . . to ourselves . . . at last. Comfort, to be sure.

May it be so. 

It’s a relief to tell the truth.

“It’s a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.” ~ Karen Maezen Miller

My thoughts about truth-telling are supported by two bookends. One the one side is my deep and inviolate belief that you already know your truth. It’s that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within that cannot and will not be silenced; it never leaves you. On the other side is the acknowledgement that your truth-telling often comes with risk, cost, and consequence – which is the very reason you, me, most women, often forego it, tone it down, keep ourselves safe, all of the above.

What’s missing though, is what Karen Maezen Miller (above) offers in naming truth-telling as relief.

Without rest as promised-reward, truth-telling often remains too daunting and not worth either the effort or the exhaustion. Pretending then, becomes our default.

About pretending. 
We are conditioned to pretend from a very early age. We learn how to be what others expect, what others need, what others demand. And confusingly, our ability to do and be exactly this, is what earns us affirmation, praise, and belonging. (No wonder we’re exhausted.)

“In the fullness of time, we become dizzy from swirling; our lives ache from being twisted out of shape; and our spirits become depleted from servicing others with our energy and attention.” ~ Patricia Lynn Reilly, A Deeper Wisdom: The 12 Steps from a Woman’s Perspective

To tell the truth, to NOT pretend, feels far more like labor than rest, far more like risk than reward because pretending is what we’re used to, what we know best, what we become best at. But to keep pretending, even though potentially “easier” (deceivingly so), chips away at our true self, our wholeness, our groundedness, our very experience of who we are as a woman in this world.  

In thinking a lot about this in the past few days, I decided to compile a cursory inventory of my own pretending:

  • I learned early that being smart, witty, and a “thinker” would get me the most attention from my dad. I wasn’t pretending to be smart, witty, and a thinker but I DID know, somewhere within, that it was required to feel loved. Being who he wanted and needed me to be allowed me to feel seen, heard, and valued.
  • As a teenager and through my 20s, I pretended in ways designed to summon male approval. It didn’t work a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t committed to trying. If I pretended to be what they wanted, surely I would be wanted.
  • During five years of infertility, I pretended to trust in God’s will by (trying to) believe in some higher plan for my life. The truth—what I really felt—was too dark, too hopeless, too devoid of the faith I had learned to display, no matter what.
  • During way too much of my marriage, I pretended that I was OK with what was happening around and within me. The truth would be too disruptive, misunderstood, the beginning of the end. Pretending felt like self-preservation, relationship-preservation.
  • In a later relationship, post-divorce, I pretended to be fine with his distance, his cutting sarcasm, his utter disappearance emotionally. Pretending meant I didn’t have to be alone.
  • In more than one corporate position, I pretended that feeling like I was the crazy one was normal; that it was “just the way things are” as a woman in leadership. Pretending meant that I could stay, that I had a seat at the table, that I belonged.

Now I know better.

  • The truth is that I am worthy of being seen, heard, and valued because of who I am – not because of what I do or how I act, even how smart I might sound.
  • The truth is that I am worthy of being wanted, period.
  • The truth is that the heartache of infertility was hardly a divestiture of my faith, but a fierce (and faithful) clinging to any faith at all.
  • The truth is that my marriage was pretend as long as I was pretending; what I was working so hard to preserve was not honest or real.
  • The truth is that being in relationship with someone who couldn’t stay, couldn’t express emotion, and wouldn’t honor me is not worth being in at all.
  • The truth is that I am not the crazy one; my seat at the table is deserved – even if not given or allowed.

The truth is that typing every one of the sentences above IS a relief, even now. Though some were a long time in coming, each were a relief then, as well. 

“It is a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.”

Where have you felt the exhaustion of being someone other than yourself? What stories come to mind? What “inventory of pretending” might you compile? What blessed relief might you know if you did speak the truth, your truth? 

These are not easy questions. Answering them with intentional choice and bold action IS risky, costly, and full of consequence. But so is pretending.

You deserve to be yourself. You deserve to experience every moment of every day fully and completely yourself no matter what. You deserve to speak your truth. You deserve to never pretend at all. You deserve to know that who you are is beautiful, worthy, and wise no matter what. And that IS a relief.

Is this exactly the life I want?

Is this exactly the life I want?

My answer is sometimes a definitive and enthusiastic “yes,” and other times, just as definitive but far less enthusiastic, a “no.” So many aspects of my life have far surpassed what I would have imagined for myself . . . and . . . I am not the same woman I was twenty, ten, even five years ago. What offers meaning has changed. What matters has changed. What I want has changed. At the same time, there are realities (within and without) that are not exactly what I want; there is so much room to grow and change, so much with which I both struggle and hope.

Years and years ago, I would have pondered this question and been extremely frustrated. “Why am I not further along? Why am I not more satisfied? What is wrong with me?” I am pretty sure I felt an implicit and explicit demand to get my s**t together – harsh, contemptuous, self-critical. I don’t particularly like admitting this but somehow, remembering and acknowledging it is like opening the windows for the first time in Spring, the freshest breeze, a fragrance that wafts through the room and carries the memory of so much healing and growth during the seasons of darkness and cold.

Years and years ago I would have been determined to come up with an answer that was specific and detailed and lofty, I now feel no need to come up with an answer at all – which is an answer in and of itself.

I’m far more compelled by the life that I have than wondering if I’m living the one that I want. 

This is not to say that the question is not relevant. It most definitely is! Years and years ago and still today. It’s the asking that matters. 


Is this exactly the life you want?

Your answer offers you crystal-clear insight into the life you have right now: all that you can honor, all that you can change, and all that remains yours to take agency in/with on your own behalf.

Your answer gives you profound perspective into the life you have right now: what you know and experience in relationship with others, what might be missing, what needs to be said, what needs to be forgiven, what is yours to do and say and celebrate.

Your answer ushers you right into the center of your desire right now: no ignoring it, no toning it down, no compromise or compliance. And that is a VERY good thing!

Your answer calls you home to the truth of what “is,” to the life that is already yours, to the day-in-day-out reality of here and now. Which feels like the point of even asking the question in the first place. It is an endless and arms-wide-open invitation to live boldly, period. Not perfectly. Not adeptly. Not even consistently. Embracing struggle and hope, painful setbacks and leaps forward, old stories of self-contempt alongside increasing moments of self-love, loss and celebration, grief and joy. This IS exactly the life we want, yes? For ourselves, for others, and for our world.

May it be so.

About Being Ordinary

The desire, temptation, and lure to live an extraordinary life is strong; to figure out our “one thing;” to do, create, be, achieve, rise up, astonish, accomplish, shine.

When we consider this within the expanse of time, it is a relatively new phenomenon. For generations, life was shaped by survival and perseverance, seasons and hours, shelter and sustenance, tribe and family. Ordinary life took precedence. And somehow, in the midst of such, extraordinary lives were lived.

A few examples from the stories I reimagine and retell?

  • Hagar: a slave who was forced to bear the child of the man who owned her, she was then banished to the desert with her young son, Ishmael. He became the patriarch of Islam.
  • The Midwives: two Egyptian women who birthed the babies of Israelite women, they were ordered by the Pharaoh to kill all newborn boys. They did no such thing. One child spared was Moses who freed the Israelite people from slavery.
  • Mary: an engaged girl trying to make sense of an unexpected pregnancy became the mother of Jesus.

How about these?

Andrée de Jongh saved hundreds of Allied airmen escaping from the Nazis, and Freddie and Truus Oversteegen spent their teenage years luring Nazis to their death by seducing them. Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve on the US Cabinet. Aung San Suu Kyi spent fifteen years on house arrest in the name of non-violence and democracy. Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb ran in the Boston Marathon after being rejected because she was a woman. Amani Al-Khatahtbeh started a pioneering publication by and for Muslim women. Rosalind Franklin discovered the double helix structure of DNA. Sybil Ludington rode twice as far as Paul Revere to warn about the British. Mary McLeod Bethune served on FDR’s “Black Cabinet” working as an activist for education and civil rights. Lee Miller spent years photographing all the heroic women of World War II. Gertrude Bell was a legendary explorer who helped establish modern day Iraq. [Source]

In her book Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the true story of three black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. In an interview, she said:

History is the sum total of what all of us do on a daily basis. We think of capital “H” history as being these huge figures—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Martin Luther King. Even so, you go to bed at night, you wake up the next morning, and then yesterday is history. These small actions in some ways are more important or certainly as important as the individual actions by these towering figures.

Generations of women have gone to bed at night and woken up the next morning. They have birthed life into the world in every form. They have sustained and saved life in infinite ways. They have survived life itself. Each of these are “certainly as important as the individual actions by towering figures.”

Ordinary women cannot help but live extraordinary lives. 

I’m certain you have stories of your own:

  • When you say no to anything that compromises you or others.
  • When you choose courage over compliance.
  • When you risk everything on behalf of what you know to be right and true.
  • When you refuse to let your boundaries be breached yet again.
  • When you love who you love—regardless of laws or opinions.
  • When you do the hard and ongoing work of acknowledging your own internalized racism.
  • When you demonstrate, lobby, and vote on behalf of women’s right to their own bodies, their very choices.
  • When you speak up in a meeting at work even though doing so goes against the grain.
  • When you refuse to internalize patriarchal messages that intentionally have you doubting whether or not you are enough.
  • When you do not believe the overculture that says you only matter when you are young and beautiful (and that we must endlessly strive toward and purchase such).
  • When you stand humbly alongside other women who have known harm, violence, bigotry, and bias that few of us can begin to imagine.
  • When you refuse relationships that require your silence or perpetuate your shame.

It is in living an ordinary life that YOU are extraordinary. 

Not because you try. But because you survive and persevere and “be” – day-in, day-out. Good and bad. Easy and hard. Joyful and excruciating. Wins and losses. Gifts and hassles. People and places. Normal, everyday, ordinary.

Nothing more. And certainly nothing less.

If, in the mix of all that you write a book, or stand on a stage, or build a successful business, or raise a family, or get a promotion, or take a demotion, or make your mortgage payments, or crochet an afghan, or nurture a garden, or (fill in the blank), it will be because you have – in obvious and ordinary ways – taken the next step, done the next thing, walked through the next door, lived through the next day. NOT because you have pushed and prodded and persuaded yourself to be more amazing and incredible than you already are.

You being you is extraordinary.

Last week, in one of Jena Schwartz’s beautiful posts, she included this quote from Anna Quindlen:

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

That same wisdom could be stated this way, as well: The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being extraordinary and *just* being you. Because, after all, you being you is extraordinary!

May it be so.

Letting go of what no longer serves

A few weeks back I posted a quote from Adam Grant’s book, Think Again on IG and FB:

“. . . let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well . . . “

Let’s start with three questions:

  • What are some of the things you learned (often like the back of your hand) that are still present in your mind and heart but really don’t “fit” anymore?
  • What are some of the opinions you inherited and imbibed from your family of origin, from the culture, and about yourself, that sit within you unchecked and undisputed?
  • What are the precepts, doctrines, even rules you took in (and took on) over the years that, when you look closely, are things you don’t actually believe or follow anymore?

Until we honestly name the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped us, we can’t hope to let them go. Four personal examples (of many) that I grew up with:

Knowledge: a clean house is imperative.
Opinion: anything less is unacceptable.
Belief: my worth is connected to, even measured by, not being messy (yes, in my home and other spaces; but more, in life).

Knowledge: vote “yes” for any and all tax increases.
Opinion: not voting “yes” for tax increases is ignorant and wrong.
Belief: intelligent people vote the same way as me.

Knowledge: thin is healthy and desirable.
Opinion: not thin is lazy and irresponsible.
Belief: my weight determines the quality of my character (and others’)

Knowledge: attending church every Sunday is the right thing to do.
Opinion: goodness is equated with discipline and devotion.
Belief: my value (and eternal security) is based on my obedience.


So, if I do not name these specific things — the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped me — it is dangerously easy to wander through life believing that:

  • my worth is connected to perfection
  • people who aren’t like me are stupid
  • if I’m not thin, I’m not a good person
  • unless I’m devout and faithful, I’m doomed

But when I do name them, I can see them for what they are and intentionally let them go.

  • my worth is a given, no matter what
  • difference is respected
  • my weight has nothing to do with anything
  • my value is intact and inherent; religion has nothing to do with it

I already know these four things, of course. Over time and in so many ways I have “let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving [me] well.” Still, to see them in black and white — where they came from, how they were reinforced and interpreted, and then intentionally releasing myself from their grip? Mmmmm. Good stuff!

Then there’s this: I can reverse-engineer this same process to discern and affirm the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I WANT to hold onto, even develop and deepen:

  • What is the belief that I want to hold?
  • What opinions / thoughts would support that belief?
  • What knowledge would support that opinion and thought; what can I learn?

[For the record: I grew up with lots of knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I still value and cherish. I’ve chose some very obvious and overly-blatant examples here in order to make my point.]

Let me add a final example by way of a story:

I believed in my heart-of-hearts that divorce was NOT the right thing to do. I had a whole truckload, a whole lifetime, of opinions and “knowledge” to back that up. So, when I found myself in the hardest seasons of my marriage, I could not let go of that belief. I argued with myself (and others) from every angle, trying to see a way clear, a way through, a way out, but because that belief was so deeply entrenched, I stayed cemented in place for a very, very, very long time.

I was unable to let go of the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that were no longer serving me because I didn’t ever consider the possibility that I could! Was such a thing even allowed? They felt like they were in my DNA, in my bloodstream, part and parcel with who I was.

I remember waking up early one morning to a thought that had never crossed my mind:

Maybe, just maybe, my value and worth were not defined by me-as-couple. Maybe, just maybe I was of value and worth because I was me, period.

I know! This sounds so obvious when I type it out. But I’m telling you: it was a radical idea for me, given the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs I’d grown up with.

To consider the possibility that I could change my mind, change my beliefs, and let go of those that were no longer serving me felt radical and shocking. But once this new thought had taken root, I could clearly see what was NOT serving me. I couldn’t not see! And it wasn’t too much of a leap from there to consider that maybe, just maybe, divorce wasn’t right or wrong at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was a way to honor myself and even my husband (though he wasn’t quite as convinced of this) because I would be honest, in-integrity, and whole.

When I let go of that belief, I was finally able to hold onto myself. I have so many stories like this one, so many experiences of becoming aware of a belief that was so deeply embedded and reinforced that it didn’t occur to me (until it did) that a) it was definitely not serving me; and b) I could actually let it go.

I’ve listened to thousands of stories from women over the years and witnessed the same: seemingly poured-in-concrete beliefs (often about self) that, once exposed, can be released — allowing for freedom, strength, and sovereignty. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I wonder what stories have come to mind for you today. I wonder what knowledge, opinions, and beliefs you hold that no longer serve. I wonder what you might let go of in order to hold onto yourself. And I hope that you will do just that.

May it be so.

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