Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘vulnerability’

Life Is Our Story to Write and Re-write

Living Vicariously Through an Oft-Repeated Story

Hallmark StoryI love a story with a moral. I adore a story with an uplifting or inspiring message. Where I didn’t expect to find either was in the boiler plate, “boy meets girl in an unlikely place, or hates her on sight, only to find common ground and love by the end of the movie” theme used in most Hallmark and Lifetime romance movies. Yet the more I watch and re-watch them, the more I see the messages hiding beneath the fluff, and skillfully embedded in oft-repeated and re-woven story lines.

I’ve found a lot of things in unlikely places, not the least of which were the ideas for my three novels-in-progress, as well as my children’s book, which also awaits another edit and rewrite. The only thing that came to me as a somewhat dubious gift was the topic for my memoir, though even that has produced a lot of surprises along the way.

No one’s life runs as smoothly as a Hallmark movie, even with the predictable and repetitive dramatic moments they add to give the story a smidgen of relatabilty. There are always twists, turns, and lessons learned along the way. Quite often the most important ones involve something painful, and thereby, memorable. My life has certainly been no exception, though everlasting love is a story line I seem to have missed, unless you count the long line of cats who’ve owned me over the years.

Every Chapter Has Value

It isn’t that I don’t believe in true love, else why would I binge watch so many sappy, romantic https://www.flickr.com/photos/jslee/420574961/in/photolist-Dayhr-DaxXz-PH2XRJ-DaxBQ-6wyJCM-Q7Qs-Q7Q7-DaxQs-DaxK6-M5tZS-2etGoi-DaxLj-DayoW-cdfuY-DaxYZ-GRrsjX-Day3S-DZPnx-M5tYf-DaxuR-DaxHd-DaxAv-oPay9M-4VPXSt-56635o-DaxYn-DaxCk-Day1i-71dpo5-Day2u-Y62h-57R1nL-Day9y-6MtkU6-pHSVQ1-DaxqA-Days4-72V4qY-4P9zGm-Dayoh-7M8fgp-ptyCqq-Day4P-DaxRF-oP7HE7-DaxSB-DaxUT-Dayj8-5HDdsX-pttx4xmovies. As I look back, it was more a matter of having a barge-load of baggage to slog through in this lifetime; all of it necessary and important. Letting go of it has always been my albatross, but one I finally started cutting loose over the last couple of decades. Old habits die hard, and for awhile, I tried to replace what I’d given up with more baggage, until I finally realized I was sick and tired of carrying around what amounted to a bag of dead, stinking fish heads.

The wiser among you might ask how I could have dragged a load like that around for so long before realizing the pointlessness of it all. In the first place, you’re probably more enlightened than I. In the second, I come from a long line of martyrs, and honestly believed I deserved to not only wear what amounted to a hair shirt, but to repel people so I could live out my life as a pariah. It took some doing, and a whole lot of pain when I emerged from my self-imposed cocoon to realize most of my beliefs were pure crap, as were my assumptions they’d come from reliable sources.

In truth, they came from people who were as brainwashed and self-deprecating as I was for my first 40 years or so. Hindsight opened my eyes to the fact they’d allowed those beliefs to ultimately destroy them, and to make me realize I no longer wanted to tread the same path that took them down their own rabbit holes of loneliness and misery. They may have succumbed to the tradition of binding themselves in marriage ’til death did them part, but I don’t believe they ever found their happily ever after.

Defining “Happily-Ever-After” On Your Own Terms

https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/5553015049/in/photolist-9sGDUM-5EBqW9-7A6Tdw-4gDtmh-aH1FQZ-9FbnL6-GymTWs-26fkr9f-5t3PNx-cec9oY-WMQdCP-bA2uTS-28EnC2y-VHjUDL-28EnB8u-MAb7Yo-2dLwChQ-PchPS-NCzeCi-RQra6J-ciZcrj-2akrLTS-buxsYi-pic2z7-ZVksGY-UFYUDP-MqWXKx-WsCN9A-EaFk7u-bE2XQ9-REsNPQ-JCtDs6-941tK5-p1HRmt-2dZ8F3V-brd3vY-bEEkqK-L1AxbK-YyFiMk-SobxGk-2bdufAm-2dZ8CoM-egeuTm-29STX8v-YHukp7-RR7Dmo-Kn2kZh-Tr68cF-28j8uyd-23xUoYqOne thing I have learned is “happily ever after” doesn’t have to mean you found the love of your life, settled down, had babies who grew up, and gave you grandchildren to dote on you in your twilight years.  Sometimes it means finding your true self, reveling in the person you found, forming true and lasting friendships, building a community, and above all, following your passion.

For many of us, finding our own passion and joy means living a less-than-extraordinary life for years; even decades before realizing massive demolition had to occur before rebuilding on both a firmer foundation, and in an entirely different style.

My walls began to crack when I was 36, in a miserable marriage where the only shining spot was my beautiful, 4-year-old daughters. I woke up one day, said to myself: Life is too short to be this unhappy, and filed for divorce a shortly thereafter. I had no idea what the road ahead meant, but knew somehow it would be better than what I had. At least I had a career that, while iffy at times, paid enough to keep my daughters and me fed, clothed, and housed.

The first few years were indescribably hard mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was always stressed out, in need of sleep, and desperately lacking a proper diet. The last was on me as I simply didn’t care enough to put any energy into maintaining a healthy diet while trying to keep the rest of my life from tipping me into a swirling pit of despair. All too often, I found solace in a pint of Haagen Dazs in the wee hours after I danced until the bar closed.

Making the Most of Life’s Twists and Turns

My mom’s suicide when the girls were 6 widened some of the cracks in my protective walls, andhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/4038592452/in/photolist-79SQQm-TfUffd-pgu9hJ-qfYXYE-pDVWDB-6UQgZM-KFog6C-TFYhqd-29TMHM-fP6i28-j73ZT5-atsnGd-C4HxXs-5eRdT5-YoKVff-24PBcMS-28G1ckh-AqrzL-haocsM-o1RCfj-4iigfF-6hbQxG-TCfZem-qVx4n8-U63bC7-dCTxQg-amkKyF-eiY1qF-Ct5hqm-hSGXpV-BcaCh-8c2bVB-27RWaS2-eQjYy1-cJWTgw-ehKQWJ-AJSt63-ay4RXc-cxa1zW-UFe9Vq-aC3EP1-pkL1fr-ehKSrs-qxMMJj-bvMGyV-VG1fkR-ay4Sgv-aDNaMx-aE1tNY-h7171r gave me another reason to keep going, if only to avoid losing the same battle that had led to her ultimate and irrevocable surrender. At times, my only motivation was sheer stubbornness and a raging desire to be more than my mom. For a long time, I told myself a little white lie: I didn’t want to leave my daughters with the same legacy. In time, that lie became my ultimate truth.

By the time my dad followed my mom for reasons of his own, my walls were getting flimsy, and I was holding them and myself together with chewing gum and baling wire. The only way I saved face for the next 6 years was by continuing to keep everyone except my daughters at arm’s length. As long as no one got close enough to see the cracks, the lies I perpetuated continued to survive, if increasingly unstable as time went on.

It was my eldest daughter who gave my walls the final, fatal shove that sent them toppling. She did me the biggest favor of my life by forcing me to start writing about my experiences. Though I’m still working on clearing the rubble and strengthening the new, improved structure of my life, the experience continues to teach me a lot about myself, as well as the rest of humanity.

Learning to Be a Participant Instead of an Observer

No one is meant to walk through life alone. We all need opportunities to help other people, but also to allow others to help us. The lies I’d been told about hard work and self-sufficiency had kept me from letting people see my true, imperfect self for too long. I’d cheated a lot of people of the opportunity to get to know me, to be there for me, and to form bonds. But then, I didn’t know how.

It scares me to look back and realize I almost passed that legacy on to my daughter Heather. She truly is the stronger of the two of us because she resisted building the walls our family history dictated, and threw herself out into the world in all her vulnerable, real glory. I ached every time she got kicked, bruised, or battered. I tried hard to protect her and fight her battles. Thankfully, she resisted my efforts and we’re both better for it.

I’m no longer depressed, downtrodden, or angry. I find the positive in the world I encounter more often than not. In fact, there have been some who deemed me “too positive”. I can live with that a whole lot better than I could the person I’d become until a couple of decades ago. I’ve found at least one of my purposes in life, and am open and willing to find more in whatever time I may have left.

Most of all, I enjoy every minute of my journey now; of the new chapters I’m adding to my story. In the past, I slogged through far more days than I now care to admit , but even those seemingly miserable steps led me right to where I needed to be. The difference now is I’ve learned to appreciate the tough roads, and even the times I wasn’t the most likeable person on earth. They were necessary. But more importantly, they’re part of my past.

Enjoying the Blessings Life Gives Me For the Asking

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for all the roads I’ve traveled that brought me to where I am now.
  2. I’m grateful for my daughter Heather without whom I may never have gotten here.
  3. I’m grateful for my parents’ choices. While difficult at the time, and even for decades afterwards, they were necessary for my own personal growth.
  4. I’m grateful for the stories I’ve told, and the ones I’ve yet to tell.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, happy endings, community, connection, vulnerability, peace, health, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Reading Between the Herd of Turtles’ Lines

Messages from Turtles

baby turtlesI’m one of those who, I learned as a teenager, are the rare few who dream in color, and remember their dreams, often in vivid, kaleidoscopic detail. I’ve learned when a vivid dream fails to politely remove itself from my memory like most dreams do shortly after I’ve woken, there’s a message I need to take away from it. Sometimes, it also means I need to take some kind of action. On rare occasions, it’s a warning as well.

My latest sticky dream involved having a whole bunch of tiny turtles in my house. The first one came strolling in my front door when I opened it for a visitor who’d come over to talk about a recent break in where nothing was taken. Although I tried to politely escort it back outside, it thwarted all my efforts and made its way into the kitchen. Another came in through the garage door, and before I knew it, there was a small herd in front of my stove, and the cats were going nuts. What were these tiny armored creatures who’d invaded their home? Some tried to bat at a turtle, then scurried away when the turtle moved.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the small pile of baby turtles milling around in front of my stove, though doing them harm was definitely not an option. The dream ended before I figured out how to make them comfortable until I could find a place with the appropriate habitat for them to thrive.

Searching for the Symbolism

Hours later, I looked up the meaning of turtles in dreams, and specifically, lots of the little soldiers. I learned it means a couple of things, but mostly good fortune, prosperity, fertility, and that I’m loved and protected by my friends and family in all my endeavors. Also patience. Slow and steady wins the race, as it were. An alternate meaning is something is going to happen that will cause me great pleasure. My material situation will improve and I’ll have great success with my work.

It all does make sense at this stage of the game. I’ve been concerned about increasing my clientele, especially in light of the new law in California, and a pending one at the Federal level which seriously curtail efforts of Independent Contractors and freelancers in a wide range of careers, including mine. To get a sign like this that the eventual outcome of it all will be positive goes a long way to bring my stress level down, and keep me focused on meeting or beating my production schedules.

As I browsed through images I’d collected during my 10 years of blog writing, I noticed there were a lot of turtles. In reflecting on the times I’d used those images, I realized it was typically when I’d felt the need to shut down and retreat into my turtle shell for awhile. Somehow, none of those images portrayed the feeling I got from a pile of tiny turtles in the middle of my kitchen. Isolating and shutting down didn’t even enter the equation this time.

Seeing Signs is a Personal Preference

I realize some see dreams, signs, and the like as a bunch of garbage, so this post isn’t meant for those self-proclaimed realists. I’m not here to convince anyone to change their views on anything, except maybe mental health and suicide. But that’s an entirely different conversation.

At any rate, I’ve had far too many instances when a dream alerted me to unexpected events; a tragedy in someone’s life with whom I’d lost contact, or changes in my own life, to ignore one like this that nagged at me until I followed the dots and looked up the various meanings for the most insistent part of my dream; the herd of turtles.

Not Necessarily a Herd Mentality

message in a bottleI find it interesting there was an interpretation for a large number of the creatures as opposed to just individuals of various breeds. Frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference between a box, snapping, or red eared slider turtle when a bunch of tiny ones were playing tag around my feet. In hindsight, they also moved more quickly than I’d imagine a tiny turtle could move, but no one ever said dreams had to be completely accurate. The turtles came to me to make a point, not to exhibit perfect turtle behavior.

The fact that the interpretations fit quite well into my life at the moment only underscores the likelihood the message was intended. I’ve also learned how painful it can be to ignore those messages that come to me clearly and vividly. This time, it came gently, and left me with a feeling of calm and hope. I always have the option to ignore or dismiss the message, but the Universal head slap I know will follow makes paying attention the first time my wiser choice.

Embracing My Uniqueness

What I’ll do with this information remains to be seen. For now, I’ll spend less time worrying about attracting clients and “doing the do”, and more time showing up, writing, posting, commenting, reading, and re-sharing. Although I’ve been told by several professional copywriters that what I’m sharing, where I’m sharing it, and how I’m sharing it is ineffective, I believe it’s a matter of interpretation.

They are, for the most part, people who write sales copy. They’re good at what they do, and have built successful, lucrative careers. I’m more of a “let’s get to know each other” kind of writer. I talk about the more touchy-feely, or woo topics not everyone is comfortable touching. I reach deep inside people and find their heart; the one that’s been beaten up, broken, and put back together with spit and bailing wire over and over. I get cozy with their vulnerability, and help them use it to find their own tribe; the people who will love working with someone who gets them.

Calls to action have to be introduced more subtly (at least in my opinion). I don’t think opening your soul should be followed by a big red button proclaiming “schedule a call. I can help you do XYZ”. I’m more of a “if you like what you see, maybe we should connect and get to know each other better” kind of gal. I suspect many see that as naive, but for me, helping people is certainly what I want to do for a living, but it isn’t the entire reason I do what I do, or connect with people on a deeper, more personal level. In all honesty, I’m relatively new to that particular level, and am enjoying the process too much to want to rush through it.

Taking the Long Road

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/4038592452/in/photolist-79SQQm-TfUffd-pgu9hJ-qfYXYE-pDVWDB-6UQgZM-KFog6C-TFYhqd-29TMHM-fP6i28-j73ZT5-atsnGd-C4HxXs-5eRdT5-YoKVff-24PBcMS-28G1ckh-AqrzL-haocsM-o1RCfj-4iigfF-6hbQxG-TCfZem-qVx4n8-U63bC7-dCTxQg-amkKyF-eiY1qF-Ct5hqm-hSGXpV-BcaCh-8c2bVB-27RWaS2-eQjYy1-cJWTgw-ehKQWJ-AJSt63-ay4RXc-cxa1zW-UFe9Vq-aC3EP1-pkL1fr-ehKSrs-qxMMJj-bvMGyV-VG1fkR-ay4Sgv-aDNaMx-aE1tNY-h7171rI meet too many people, especially from my generation who spent decades closed up and afraid to show any sign of imperfection because that’s the way we were raised. I truly believed there wasn’t another human alive who cared about my feelings, or who wouldn’t take advantage of me if I stumbled. For years, my experiences supported this belief, not because that’s how everyone was, but because I attracted what and who I expected to see.

I’ve learned it’s not only OK, but preferable to show my soft, mushy side. In doing so, I’m allowed to see the softer, more vulnerable side in others, and I cherish the experience as one of life’s greatest gifts. I won’t say I didn’t get clobbered a few times when I started admitting I wasn’t perfect. I had to shed a lot of people I’d acquired while I still believed in shielding myself from everyone. Not all those relationships died peacefully.

But as my personal landscape changed, it became less dangerous to be me, and in time, I learned to see the red flags early enough to dodge the worst of the fallout. It’s dreams like the herd of turtles which remind me I’m still on the right track even when things look like they’re falling apart, or are already in complete disarray. There are times all I need is a gentle reminder to proceed cautiously, but hold my course. It may be a dream, or an unexpected delay, but I’ve learned to read the subtler signs.

While my life will never be a smooth, straight road (and frankly, that would be insufferably boring), it will always be interesting, and I get to learn new things all the time. I’ve learned my job is to show up no matter what, instead of letting my frustration over a perceived lack of progress lead me to give up on my dreams. That would be the true tragedy.

Finding Infinite Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I’ve learned to take my dreams seriously when the memory stays with me long after I’ve started my day.
  2. I’m grateful I see life as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, and a bit of an evolving road map.
  3. I’m grateful for a mind that doesn’t always require solid evidences in order to believe.
  4. I’m grateful for my imagination.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; signs, symbolism, dreams, imagination, joy, love, persistence, friendship, community, connections, inspiration, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Badass by Attitude, Not Physique

Learning by Watching

Going to the gym 3 times a week gives me a lot of time to think. At the moment, I only use the strength training equipment as my daily walks and dancing give me plenty of opportunity for cardio. If I get really bored, I can always clean house!

Resting between sets, I look around and see the usual complement of men flexing, hoisting, and performing the rituals which make them a community in their own right. Though fewer in number, women form part of this community as well, though more often than not, in their own, smaller circles.

Certain ones seem to keep a similar schedule to mine and range from beginners to serious body builders, and everything in between. At one time, I would look around and compare myself to others, both favorably and otherwise, but have learned it’s a losing proposition either way. Now, I look to pick up new ideas for my own workouts; nothing more.

Earning the Right to Wear the Attitude

It’s hard not to notice those who are serious about their physical fitness though. attitudeNot only are most of them both lean and muscular, but they carry themselves with an attitude that says loudly and clearly: “Mess with me and I’ll turn you into a human pretzel without breaking a sweat!”

Still and all, their air is not so much aggressive as unapologetically confident. They’re not looking for a fight. They simply have nothing to prove—to anyone. When I see the word “badass” bandied around in so many women’s entrepreneurial groups, this is the image I see; not the skinny young woman leaning against an expensive car bragging about how she’s making 6 figures. In my mind, money (especially the fake kind) doesn’t make you badass. You only find that when you are genuinely self-confident and need no outside validation in order to feel and believe in yourself.

Needless to say, I cringe whenever I see the words “badass business babes” appearing on my news feed. In my mind, it’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes” version of business success. When a woman uses these words (and I have to say, I don’t see it used by women of a certain age, so perhaps it’s a generational thing), my mind says: This woman is seeing herself as she wants to be, not as she is.

Walking the Talk the Right Way

badassNot that this is a bad thing. Many follow the “fake it ’til you make it” doctrine. Somehow, I don’t think the intent behind that premise is to tell the world a bunch of lies in the mistaken belief they’ll buy something from you and make your declarations true. If you’re going to fake it ’til you make it, I believe the answer lies in having a genuine attitude of gratitude for what you already have, who you are, and the endless possibilities at your disposal.

I guess I class the people who use this phrase in with the ones who believe in cold calling. They’re the same ones who will send you a friend or connection request and upon acceptance, send you 12 inches of spammy sales copy in a private message. To me, that’s a clear message they are NOT uber successful, much less selling something I’d want or need.

One Woman’s Spam is Another’s Sales Style

I broached the subject of the spammy messages in my favorite Facebook group, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ekilby/16654251449/in/photolist-rnFoJn-apL7G5-8dGq5W-3w8Ke-8hXDgU-jghTD-88g1hy-5TtJq-4HTyY3-bKMwoD-gmMGf-8SggFs-aR1use-9QsYh-6Lego9-dHJajk-6Uqg5T-HBz66U-6wBgGs-6EMd2b-3i2FAx-RdqC6h-aBYCYg-8cSZJL-eSGonX-3i1qEx-ov2XaG-eSTPh3-6KYT7T-dg1bo-3i2hPa-YC8cK9-3i1vc4-f9zQVL-79EZcb-6KYSRe-josrJ-imGePS-josiC-joscd-3i6Gk9-6LbHPt-jore9-9ZD8oy-5cot6h-2un1k7-jorVf-jorbz-4H1Zbr-7GDbMJGorilla Army Nation (Getting Sales Without Being Salesy) after accepting a friend request I had doubts about. My doubts were confirmed with an immediate (if not premature as it came in before I accepted the friend request) message that began:

I’m reaching out to you because we work with thousands of clients and companies over the past 14 years to achieve their goal in their business.

What made it worse is, she mentioned a group which I stopped following months ago, and am not even posting in, which means she trolled the member list and pulled my name out of her…hat.

I’m a fairly transparent sort these days. I write a lot about my opinion on various sales processes regularly on my website in posts like Removing Desperation from Your Playlist   and How You View Relationships Makes or Breaks You.

As both posts are fairly recent, and are linked to my Facebook business page as well as LinkedIn, a cursory investigation into who I am and what I represent would bring them up for someone truly interested in learning about me as a prospective client. In all honesty, I’m not likely to do business with someone who isn’t, either as a consultant or a client. The people I choose to work with from either position are those who want to build relationships, not just get a quick fix and move on.

Doing Right by My Clients

Created with CanvaThe nature of the business I’ve chosen to build depends on getting a real feel for the person I’m working with. They have to know, like, and trust me enough to emulate their beliefs and style in a believable fashion. I have to understand them and their message on a fairly deep level in order to do that. I’m willing to put in the time it requires, but only for someone I know is as committed as me to that type of business relationship. It definitely isn’t for everyone, which is a good thing, or there’d be too little of me to go around!

One thing I detest is thinking I’ve shortchanged a client. If I do, I’ll eventually get up the nerve to reach out and see what I can do to fix things so they at least feel they got what they paid for, if not more.

Long ago, in the early days of my working life, I often heard “It’s not personal, it’s business”. That concept was fine when I was a cog in a gigantic wheel or working behind the scenes where client contact was limited to billing and payments. Still, there were a lot of facades in those days. Showing your real self; your vulnerability was almost a kiss of death.

A Warmer, More Honest Business Model

I’m grateful the hard, cold, impersonal days of doing business are behind me, but replacing them with “badass” doesn’t sit right either because in my mind, it’s merely another facade. It keeps business relationships impersonal where clients or customers are nothing more than dollars and cents on a P & L or numbers on a pipeline.

With all that said, there is definitely a place in the business world for self-proclaimed “badass business babes”. It just isn’t in my world. I prefer self-confidence that’s real and developed over time, and business relationships that aren’t forged on sleazy practices, subterfuge, and worst of all, disrespect.

Some might consider me part of the badass tribe because I do carry myself with confidence most of the time. That confidence was hard won, but its foundation is honesty and forthrightness. It can also be misconstrued if viewed from the outside without taking a look behind the curtain. Not all are brave enough to take that step.

Many who say they’re “badass” are easily discouraged or intimidated, at least from where I sit watching, listening, and taking notes.

Leading Off With an Attitude of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I don’t need labels to make me feel confident.
  2. I’m grateful for the hard lessons I’ve had which make me who I am, without the need for false advertising.
  3. I’m grateful for the people I’m connecting with and building relationships. They are my long-term and my future.
  4. I’m grateful for a world where many different business models can survive. You have to find what feels most comfortable to you, then embrace it wholeheartedly.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, vulnerability, authenticity, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, support, friendship, dancing, community, harmony, peace, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Connected vs. Disconnected

Feeling Connected is Mind Blowing

Many times I’ve written about feeling detached and disconnected when I go dancing, even though I’m in the midst of my friends and dance community. Today, I’m writing, somewhat bemused about being connected.

The last couple of dance nights, I felt like my level of interaction with everyone jumped a few thousand points on the connection scale. Suddenly, I’m in the middle of groups chatting about whatever, or talking to someone and really listening to what they’re saying. Have I suddenly started learning how to engage with people naturally? Without talking to myself about really focusing on them and not going off into the dark, windy roads of my own mind?

What amazes me most is how good it feels to be engaged with the people I already love and respect, yet still felt a bit like a fraud and an outsider. I allow stupid differences to distract me: things like spiritual/religious preferences, political leanings, and even having (or in my case, not having) aging parents to care for.

Overlooking or Overpowering Insecurities

On a conscious level, I know those things are minor differences as far as the big picture goes. My connection with these people isn’t based on those factors at all, but on our mutual love for dancing, keeping healthy, and getting out into the world on a regular basis for something besides a J.O.B.

We all have our insecurities, though some of us have become better at getting past them than others. There will always be that little voice in our heads trying to convince us to pull back into our shell where it’s “safe”. It’s the voice who is perfectly content to remain inside our comfort zone, or what I not-so-fondly refer to as a rut.

In her 2012 TED talk, sociologist Amy Cuddy suggested that striking a power pose (AKA Wonder Woman Pose) could cause others to perceive us as more confident, and that perception could, indeed increase our own confidence. I’ve found it can also help overlook all the differences the voices in our heads are trying to magnify beyond any reasonable level.

Feeling Confident or Being Confident?

I’ve tried this method myself, though often mentally rather than physically when going into a confidence kicking situation like a meeting with a potential client. I’ve found even mentally seeing myself in a power pose is quite effective in raising my confidence. Yet it never occurs to me to use it in a social situation where I’m often more susceptible to feelings of inferiority and ineptitude.

The truth is, when it comes to my work-related skills, especially those I spent over 30 years practicing and honing, I know what I can and cannot do. I know I can figure out a way to make just about anything work. It’s like the numbers on a ledger sheet, black and white with no room for question.

Playing to Our Strengths

My social skills, on the other hand may not be as rusty and underused as they once were, but too often I’ll compare my skills to others and find myself lacking. Doing so creates an almost palpable feeling of wilting. When that happens, I’ll quietly move to the outskirts of the conversation, physically, energetically, or both. Then I’m back to being the disconnected hermit who hides out all day in her dark, quiet room with only her cats and a computer screen for company.

I’ve made a conscious decision to alter my trajectory, both in business and socially. In so choosing, I find myself turning to the power pose more often, at least until my confidence can hold its own without artificial augmentation. I pay attention to the times when I feel connected so I can analyze the situation later and see what I was doing right.

Polishing Up My Social Acuity

Up to now I didn’t see what Landon Porter calls “social acuity” as a necessary business tool, which could explain why building my business has seemed like such an uphill battle. Until you can read a room, as it were, and understand where people are coming from and what they want and need, you can’t really craft an offer that will resonate with them.

Where I got lost in the weeds was in losing sight of the fact it’s not a business I’m trying to appeal to, but the people who make decisions for a business. Whether I like it or not (and my introverted self still quakes at the idea of socially interacting, but less so than it used to) all successful business people are good at building relationships. They find connections between themselves and others that are much deeper than the obvious, superficial preferences.

The funny thing is, I’ve had the tools to get beneath the surface all along, but old habits still linger. I tend to mask or discredit my empathic response to people instead of listening to it, and more importantly, to them. Listening itself is something I’m only beginning to fully understand. The words you hear spoken are really the smallest part of the listening process.

Using the Tools We’ve Always Had at Our Disposal

When I do feel connected and engaged with someone, I feel their emotions rising and falling. I start to connect with what makes them feel passionate, angry, sad, or exuberant. I know when they’re talking about something which gives their life its real meaning. What I’m learning at this point is to avoid shutting myself down or panicking when I feel those waves of emotion flow over me. Instead, I have to learn to use the information to help gain an understanding of the unspoken wants and needs of the person I’m speaking to.

I was talking to someone recently who I’d always seen as strong, confident, well-connected, and socially active. Yet the strongest emotion I felt radiating from her when I left my guard down was loneliness. She’s simply learned to show that confidence and strength to most people, and I’m sure her many life successes have contributed to that confidence and strength. It doesn’t mean she, like the rest of us doesn’t have moments of loneliness or insecurity. She’s just learned to be selective about who sees that very vulnerable side of her. To say I was humbled and honored by the trust she put in me by sharing that side of herself is like saying rain is wet.

Taking Relationship Marketing to a New Level

It also gave me a whole new understanding about the idea of relationship marketing. It’s necessary for both sides to be willing to drop the shields to some degree, and you don’t get to that point without feeling you can trust someone.

Many of us are jaded by the game playing and power struggles in the corporate world. We’ve learned to hold back the most important parts of ourselves and trust no one. Though it may keep you safe in a jungle where it’s everyone for themselves, it’s a liability when the health of your passion project depends on trust and openness.

What it all boils down to is I’m learning to take what I’m discovering as a neophyte social creature and apply it to the rest of my world without qualification. I trust my instincts in most social situations; who to open to and who to shield with all my might. It’s time to practice those lessons in a world where the stakes (at least those which will allow me to continue following my passion) are a great deal higher.

Leading with a Grateful Heart

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people I’m learning to connect with on a deeper level.
  2. I am grateful for a rising awareness of the tools I’ve always had, but was afraid to use.
  3. I am grateful for the support and friendship I’m discovering has been there, in some cases, for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to see it.
  4. I am grateful for a new and improved outlook on the future help of my writing business.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, trust, faith, confidence, inspiration, motivation, tools, friendship, support, mentors, teachers, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Rawness is Beautiful

Reveling in Our Rawness

A few years ago, I gave myself permission to stop living down to the expectations of others; to rip off the masks I’d donned to conform with those expectations, and expose the raw gem I’d been hiding away. It was the best decision I have ever made.

We spend too many years trying to be what others expect us to be while our true selves are dying inside for lack of sunshine and air. Yet as we chase someone else’s dream, any chance of happiness and fulfillment disappears in the distance. It stays behind along with the self who is honest, true, unadorned, and unadulterated by society’s arbitrary expectations.

Since they are arbitrary and at the whim of someone who is following their dream, it’s a full-time job just keeping up with its fluid nature. What does this exercise in futility give us except ulcers, and a host of other stress-related maladies? The one thing it does not give us is a happiness of our own, a joy in our own unique being.

Being Real is Scary. The Rewards are Infinite.

Certainly, it takes courage to expose the rawness of ourselves to the world. Those masks we wear give us a protective shell as well as a certain amount of invisibility in an often harsh world. What many of us fail to realize is if we have the courage to be ourselves and expose ourselves to the hurt, we’ll grow stronger automatically. Our skin will thicken with each trauma, creating a transparent barrier, even while we allow others to see the genuine article rather than some cobbled together version of what we think they want to see.

Which brings up another matter. We don masks and fashion ourselves in an image we believe will be attractive to others. The trouble is, that facade is created with the best information available to us and crafted with our own perception of the information we gather. As such, it will never perfectly fit what the person or people around us see as perfection, nor will it be a one-size-fits-all image. It means we’ll always be short of the mark with everyone; some more than others, and we’ll be constantly changing to fit each person’s expectations.

Sounds like an awful lot of effort for minimal return, yet it happens around us, and sometimes to us every day. I’d say it’s the true definition of the “rat race”, this constant effort to be what’s expected, but doing so without complete information or control over any changes in those expectations.

Sure, there’s a certain amount of modification to our behavior required to coexist with people and to hold down a job. We all have moments when we’d like to tell someone exactly what we think, but hold back for a variety of reasons. If you ask me, the only valid reason for tempering words and actions is to avoid hurting someone unnecessarily. Anything else is just bulltwaddle. Frankly, if you hide your light under a bushel because you’re scared to make waves, you are hurting someone, the most important person in your world: YOU!

Taking a Tip from the Millenials

Perhaps that’s one of the positive aspects the Millennials have tapped into. Many aren’t willing to be what someone else wants them to be or conform their behavior to the “norm” so they’re launching their own endeavors. Entrepreneurialism is certainly on the rise and more people are choosing to work from their own space than to commute to someone else’s. After reading about the horrors of one friend’s commute when the company she recently joined moved its offices to a far less convenient location, I’m even more inclined to stay off the roads during rush hour. (Which is also a misnomer if you’ve ever been on the 101 or 405 during heavy commuting hours. Except for motorcyclists, I haven’t seen anyone rushing anywhere!)

More and more, we see the words “authentic” and “genuine” thrown about. I’ve been known to do it myself as I’ve yet to find a better way to express the concept of letting people see who you really are, to expose your vulnerability (mostly) fearlessly. I can tell you I’ve learned people respond better to someone who lets their imperfections show. Why? Because we all have at least a little bit of insecurity, which prevents us from opening up to someone unwilling to show a few cracks in their shell.

Life Kicks Us Down But We Can Choose to Get Back Up

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have been slapped down a time or ten by someone who was stronger, or more likely, had stronger walls than we did. We’ve suffered an indignity or two and learned to mask our pain in public. Too often, we take it further than we should, and mask it from ourselves as well, only to discover we can’t do so indefinitely.

I’m learning it’s more important to let the scar tissue form and be our protection. We’ll be happier with our lives if we don’t let the lessons stifle the beautiful, sensitive, raw human being living inside our skin. Even more important, we’ll attract people who are more likely to fit us if we are ourselves and not some false front.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I spent the first 40 or so years of this lifetime attracting people who were wrong for me on many levels. Yet, they were right for the person I was pretending to be, and taught me some valuable lessons along the way. After years of wondering why I never seemed to fit in, I realized I never would as long as I tried to be someone I wasn’t.

It took years to shed the masks and break down the walls, and I know there are still a few left to vanquish, but these days, the people in my life are far more suited to the person I am deep inside. They communicate in a way my heart understands and responds to. They aren’t afraid to talk about the things they struggle with. Most of all, they aren’t afraid or ashamed to ask for help when they encounter a situation which requires additional insight or tools they haven’t acquired or mastered.

Break the Mold and Thrive on Originality

We live in a world where we’ve been brainwashed into believing we have to be some modern-day version of the Stepford Wives. That society was rotten to the core, and many parts of ours is too. The good news is, more and more people are breaking away from a model which assumes we should be happy with a hierarchical society where a few people run everything, and everyone else is a mindless drone. I say, it’s about damn time!

Like an uncut, unpolished gemstone, we humans are most beautiful in our raw form. That doesn’t mean we don’t clean up a bit or recognize a few social mores when interacting with others. It simply means being who we are or, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss “Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?” or “Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

This week’s Live with Sheri and Friends addresses the topic of Rawness too. You can find it here.

Feeling Grateful Every Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I’m learning to be comfortable without all the pretty packaging.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life since I stopped caring about fitting in.
  3. I am grateful for the beauty in my life now it’s filled with people who are real.
  4. I am grateful for inspiration from unlikely sources.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, health, energy, connections, dreams, goals, processes, joy, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Giving the Blog a Facelift Again

In Search of Authenticity

Once again it’s time to change the face of my blog to reflect the changes I’ve made in my life. The change comes because I’ve discovered how valuable it is to show the world our authentic selves. How many times do we get ourselves in trouble by trying to be someone who is not in alignment with our soul? I don’t mean the times when we fake it til we make it, but when we pretend to be someone we’re not for the sole purpose of fitting in. To quote Dr. Seuss “why fit in when you were meant to stand out?”

To say it’s been a rough couple of months for me would be overstating the obvious. Yet it seems I’m not done with the latest series of Universal kicks in the ass. Yes, folks. We’ve gone way beyond head slaps at this point and I’m being seriously challenged to remain upright instead of throwing in the proverbial towel. To put it bluntly, at 62 years old I find myself in the unenviable position of needing to either rejoin a less-than-welcoming job market or somehow manifest some seriously lucrative freelance work. My friend Lucia told me last night that I know what I need to do. My response was to update and publicize my resume, though I know she meant I need to get past my fear and distaste and start pitching like a maniac.

The Ugly Side of Job Sites

Naturally, as soon as I made my resume public on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Careerbuilder I was inundated with emails from insurance companies looking for salespeople and franchise brokers looking for investors. I have to laugh as I would never have made my resume public again if I had money to invest in a new enterprise, much less something which is ultimately benefiting corporate America!

I’m waiting for the influx of employment agencies who have no intention of sending me on a single interview but would love to put me in their inventory to molder on the shelf. I expect a reprieve until Monday when they’re back at their desks.

Open the Window and See the Opportunities

In Neurogym’s winning the Game of Money, the first recording tells a story about walking across the desert, realizing you’re thirsty and have no water, and feeling a little desperate until you trip over a cactus and realize sources of water have been there all along. You just failed to notice or recognize them. I’m doing my best to remember that those cacti, those opportunities really are there. I simply need to alter my focus so I’ll see them for what they are.

To do that I have to avoid both wallowing in my misery and fear, and step a few more paces outside the comfortable and familiar. After all, I know what I’ll find there; more of the same. And yet, I went dancing tonight (against my better judgement), and tried desperately to hold it together. Needless to say, all it took was one person asking “are you OK?” and I failed epicly. But to my surprise, I learned that it’s the next step in living my authenticity. After a lifetime of being strong and independent, I’m still learning not only how to be vulnerable, but that I’m allowed to be vulnerable. To hear my friend Judy tell it, the Universe is going to continue kicking my arse on this one until I stop fighting it and just let myself need other people.

Vulnerability and Independence are Not Mutually Exclusive

This may not seem like anything world-shaking to most of you, but for me, it’s scary as hell to have to depend on someone else. Though I know on a conscious level it doesn’t mean I have to give up my independence, on an egoistic level, my entire being is on high alert, flashing red lights, sirens, and throwing every safeguard I know at what it sees as a security breach. How can I possibly impose on anyone? They have their own problems to deal with. They don’t need to listen to me whine about mine, right?

To hear Judy tell it, I’m dead wrong on this one. This is where I learn to accept help, be it human or Divine. This is where I get the wake-up call that I can’t do it all on my own, no matter how tough and independent I think I am. Until I walk this walk, I can talk all I want to about living authentically, but until I expose that naked underbelly of vulnerability, I’m just another woman behind the mask.

When Our Dreams Scare Us Silly

I had a dream a couple of months ago that I was alone and close to starving. Most of my cats had died because I couldn’t afford to take them to the vet. It’s hard to accept that it wasn’t a premonition of Toby’s death even though I know spending more money on his care would have been unlikely to prolong a quality life for him. But a part of me lives in fear that since I’ve learned how much worse off I am financially, others will experience health problems to make my premonition a reality.That, above everything else would be most likely to have me giving up on it all, so of course, I can’t let that happen. All the more reason to increase my awareness of those lurking opportunities.

Taking Another Leap Outside My Comfort Zone

Still I’m looking forward to the 1000 Speakers Academy I’ll be volunteering at next week. There’s nothing quite so uplifting and inspiring as spending time with successful business owners who are passionate about what they do. And it might be just the place to not only help others but allow someone to help me too! Stay tuned for updates on that!

In Loving Gratitude

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am grateful for my friends who are willing and able to help the Universe kick my butt when I need it.
  2. I am grateful for my lessons in vulnerability, even if I’m learning them, kicking and screaming the whole way.
  3. I am grateful for a young man named Adam who gave me such a high energy, fun, silly West Coast Swing tonight that it chased the blues away completely! (Some people dance WCS sexy and classy, and some of us are more of a Lucy Ricardo meets Mae West) Never again will I berate myself for not being the smooth, classy dancer I see other women being. My Authentic self is just perfect.
  4. I am grateful for being the silly, fun, sometimes irreverent with I am. Not everyone appreciates that in me, but then, I don’t need to please everyone either.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health (me and my family, both human and furry, friends, and acquaintances too!), dancing, vulnerability, authenticity, inspiration, motivation, Universal butt kicks, friendship, love, giving and receiving, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. She specializes in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

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