There’s something I want to talk about today that has nothing and everything to do with embodiment, living as your true self, dancing, and everything else I’ve been writing about lately.
It’s the topic of Safety.
I first realized the importance of safety 2 years ago. I was leading a True You Journey group and that week’s lesson was about “Free to be Me”. It dawned on me that if we don’t feel safe as ourselves, there’s no way we’re going to give ourselves permission to be ourselves.
The conversation in our group that day was a beautiful one, although difficult for some. I learned that even the topic of Safety doesn’t always feel safe. I am trusting that you know what is best for you, and so you may want to check in with yourself right now reading this. Do you have what you need to read on?
That day, a group of 5-6 women shared what makes them feel safe. Most of the answers boiled down to this:
Trust boiled down to this:
There was also mention of money in the bank.
Let’s start there.
While I’ve shared quite a lot about my history with food, I haven’t been as open about my story with money.
Mostly because in recent years its been chaotic, and chaos hasn’t been a safe place for me.
Translation: I haven’t been able to trust my self, others, God, or the universe with my bank account. I haven’t had a judgment-free relationship with money. And practically speaking, there wasn’t much of it in the bank.
Two years ago I started looking at my relationship with money more closely. I sensed that the downward spiral I was on was more than just circumstantial. Deep down I knew I had a part to play in it.
Mostly because I was becoming resentful and critical of my husband’s spending habits, had a huge desire to control where every penny went, and was stretching myself thin trying to increase the balance of my bank account.
There was a constant low-level-anxiety, buried under the self-righteous assumption that I knew best when it came to money management, and a somewhat manic flow of creative ideas on how I could generate more income.
Luckily I could see past the guise and realized I was repeating some old patterns that had previously manifested into a unsustainable relationship with food and my body.
This time, instead of trying to reach a specific number on the bathroom scale for everything to be OK, I was relying on the number in my bank account to bring me peace. And similar to when I thought I had my eating and exercise under control, I was in denial that the choices I was making with my time and energy were equally unsustainable.
This familiarity led me to create a picture in my mind of how I wanted to relate to money:
“I want it to be like air.”, I said.
My desire was to have it flow in and out of my life as easily as I breathe air.
I don’t give air a second thought. I don’t lay in bed at night worrying, “Is there going to be enough air for me to breathe when I wake up tomorrow?” I don’t take a deep breath, and then freak out, “I just took in too much air!”.
You can do one of two things with money; breathe it in, or breath it out. Give it, or Receive it.
I was breathing out way too much, with only short, staccato, inhales.
There was a time in my life where my inhales and exhales were pretty balanced. My income was greater than my expenditure and I had surplus each month to cover the basics, save, invest, donate, and treat myself to pretty shoes and clothes.
That balance shifted 5 years ago. I left my job to follow my heart. I was inhaling way less, and while I exhaled less too, it wasn’t enough to stay in balance.
While it’s been easy to attribute this imbalance to the typical growing pains of starting your own business, here’s what’s really been going on:
As a recovering people-pleaser, it’s always been easier to give than receive; and I’m not just talking money. It’s always been easier for me to give away a part of myself in order to keep the other party happy. A baseline assumption that, ‘Their needs are more important than mine.’ For me, this translated into not valuing my time and skills, and not asking to be paid what I needed in order to create financial security.
As a recovering control-freak, it’s always been difficult to receive. Anything from compliments, support from others, gifts, orgasms, and a robust paycheck. A record player that only plays two tracks; ‘I need to do this on my own’, and ‘I need to do/give more to earn this first’. Which translated into literally rejecting cold hard cash when it was offered to me.
As a recovering workaholic, consistently giving regardless of what I receive, I’ve run myself into the ground trying to get to the point where I feel I’ve achieved enough to prove my worth. Except just like the numbers on the bathroom scale, you never reach ‘enough’.
Two years ago a seed was planted that shifted my trajectory. I decided to train as an EMBODY Dance Class teacher, and in doing so began a schooling in pleasure, play, and expanding the expression of my emotional range.
Note that, when you are busy people-pleasing, control-freaking, and workaholic-ing, there is no true pleasure or play.
You may throw caution to the wind and over-indulge, or engage in risky behaviours that give you a thrill at the time, but this is neither pure pleasure nor play. All you’re doing is overcompensating for the very narrow emotional bandwidth you usually operate from that consists of guilt, anxiety, and a heavy dose of not-good-enough, ie shame.
Any time you reach out for a taste of something different… like a day-off, a yoga class, or even finally going to see a therapist… those three follow you. You feel bad for needing this support, you worry you should be doing something else with your time, and you can never really enjoy it because deep down you believe you don’t deserve it.
The invitation here is for more freedom. To freely breathe in as much as you’re used to breathing out.
To receive as much as we give.
Here’s what I’ve learned about receiving: It’s an invitation towards a more feminine way of being. This is not a gender specific invitation, although for women, it’s likely that receiving makes up a large part of our natural blueprint; if we ever learn how to embody this gift.
Here’s the thing though… we people-pleasers, control-freaks, and workaholics; whose expertise and identity consists of action, achievement, giving, producing… we are they way we are because of one word:
It’s not that we LIKE putting other people’s agenda’s above ours and selling ourselves short,
or ENJOY being so uptight about getting things perfect that we end up bulldozing our relationships,
or that it’s fun to be always ON, checking emails during all the hours that everyone else is turned OFF.
We do this because we think it’s what needs to be done in order to keep ourselves safe. A survival instinct that’s gone sour, still on the shelf way past its expiration date.
To understand what’s happening for most stressed-out and burned-out women, consider this:
Giving others what they want protects you from conflict and emotions (both yours and theirs) that feel dangerous or uncomfortable. I’m talking disappointment, anger, and the cocktail of lonely, sad, hurt and shame that follows rejection.
Making sure that everything goes ‘just-so’, also protects us from that same cocktail; this time it arrives when failure is lurking nearby.
Producing, performing, and going above and beyond, ensures that even if shit hits the fan on the other two fronts, you can still cobble together a sense of self that you can live with. All of your achievements and items crossed off the to-do list temporarily stop you from hitting the “I am worthless” self-destruct button.
What I’m saying boils down to this:
For a woman to breathe in, relax, and begin to embrace her feminine; she needs to feel safe first.
Safety that includes basic needs being met; and equally if not more important, co-existing in a judgment-free environment so we can trust enough to let go of our facade and return back to our true selves.
A Self that is not afraid to wade into chaos, from chaotic bank accounts to chaotic emotions, because she knows that even in the messy imperfect chaos she is being held, supported, and cared for. Something besides herself has got her back.
A self that allows for relishing in activities that feel good because she has finally stopped working so hard to hold onto the reins. She’d much rather show up as Blissed-out than Strung-out, and now she finally can.
A self that finds ways to enjoy the ride even if things don’t turn out her way, because her safety is no longer tied to her self-worth. Which means she is now free to detach her self-worth from her performance, and finally just be… free to be me.
This is what EMBODY has taught me.
There is a huge part of me that wants to put the responsibility of creating safety on everybody else, but the truth is, this is on us.
It is possible, and our job, to create our own safety.
Until we take ownership of our own state of affairs and sense of self, we will remain reliant on others to keep us safe. Which means we will continue to go down the road of giving away our power, trying to regain it through achievement and perfection, and burning ourselves out along the way. Which means we will never really feel safe as ourself, or be safe with ourselves or others.
I am writing this to you not from the outside looking in, but in reflection of where I am sitting in the middle of my own process and with sight of the possibilities.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve taken steps to honor the places in my life where I didn’t feel safe and secure to be my true self.
In teaching EMBODY, I noticed where I did not feel embodied; where I did not feel grounded or connected to my truth, where I could not trust my Higher Self instincts, and where I could tell my actions were still rooted in guilt, shame, and fears of rejection and failure.
I will share my process with you, not because this is the only way to create your own safety, and not because I am fully ‘there’ yet, but because sometimes we need a reminder and permission to trust what a part of yourself already knows.
There is a part of you that never forgets who you are; that stands for the possibility of a life where you fully embrace and embody your true self. That part of you will advocate for your highest good, even if it’s in the form of messy relationships with your body, business, bank account, belief system, or your boo.
It will do what it has to do to bring your attention to where you are not keeping yourself safe, so that you have a chance to be your greatest ally.
Here’s what’s been working for me lately. It may or may not work for you.
- Slow down your actual breath. This helps re-regulate your nervous system and can give you a baseline starting point to feel safe in your own body. Breathe in and out through your nose (nostril breathing is calming, where as mouth breathing is activating). Try counting to 4 on both your inhale and exhale. Notice if it’s easier to breathe in or out. Just notice. Remember: judgement-free = safe.
- Become aware of your own judgements. Not because you want to wallow in them or have a party with your inner-critic, but because the first step to creating a judgement-free zone is to clear your own house. Note this is an on-going never-ending process (unless you are Jesus), so be kind and start where you are without needing to perfect or finish the clearing of your junk drawer today.
- Beware of “Too much, too fast, too soon.” This is the golden mantra in trauma-recovery circles. And let’s be real here, when we’re talking about safety, stressed-out nervous systems, and patterns that mirror fight and flight mode, we’re talking about trauma. Yours might be obvious to you, or it may be more obscure; like a slow drip you didn’t notice that drowns you over time. Either way, you’re not trying to fix everything overnight. Take things slow, one step at a time. Try something different and the next time you’re about to put another item on your to-do list (because you think you’re the only one to get it done, you want it done right, and you don’t want to ask for help), ask yourself, what is another choice you could make that feels NOURISHING, is KIND to yourself, and keeps you CENTERED and CALM.
- Ask for help. I know, you can do this and you’ve got this; AND you’re not God. You are not a therapist, a plumber, an accountant, a lawyer, a marketer, a grocer, a CEO all-in-one. You may be one of those things or none of those things. It doesn’t matter. Do what you do well and engage support in the other areas of your life and business.
- Get to know your story. Your money story and the story you tell yourself about You. You have one whether you like it or not. Both are inescapable and both are intricately linked. The value you place on yourself translates into how you use your time, energy, and money, and how much you are willing to receive. If your basic needs aren’t being met, start to ask why (without judging, blaming, or shaming yourself or others.)
- Become the loving adult that you are. If your income is not covering expenses like food, water, shelter and the likes, permission to generate income however you need to (that is legal and respects your body) in order to take care of your basic needs. Just because you set out to create a life-changing gadget, make art that touches people’s souls, or have solutions that will save the world, you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water. It might be that your journey includes bringing your gifts to the world AND generating income with other awesome skills you have so that you’re taking good care of yourself and your nervous system. Your genius isn’t going anywhere and will thank you for the space to breathe now that you are aren’t putting pressure on it to pay the bills. (Note: This one I wish I was told/heard/accepted sooner. Even if I had made all the same income-earning choices over the past 5 years, they would have been guilt-free.)
- Dance. Say what!? Ok, you don’t have to dance, but move your body in ways that feel good, is fun (not another performance), and aquaints you to a strength that ripples through your bones. My vote is for dance, specifically EMBODY, because you learn to intuitively move your body around the room in a judgement-free space (hello Trust). Then, once back at home, that same part of you starts to lead you through life (hello Soul).
- Trust. Here’s my cliff notes on Trust. Get to know yourself enough to know the difference between your Higher Self thoughts, your lower self thoughts, and other people’s thoughts (that happen to live inside your head). When you sense it’s your Higher Self, find the courage to act on that thought (baby steps!), and whatever the outcome, instead of judging it, show yourself some gratitude that you had the courage to put your Higher Self instinct into action. You might’ve got the thoughts mixed up; that’s OK. Regardless of whose thought it is, be open to receiving the gift that’s likely hidden in the process of taking courageous action. Cheer yourself on. Be your own best friend.
- Call in the big-guns. Cultivating trust with yourself is only part of the story. The missing piece is to Trust the part you can’t see, touch, feel, or have any certainty of. Trusting the process, the universe, God, the web that holds it all together, can be the hardest part because clearly this entity is out of your control. So now you get to practice all of the above with something outside of you. Some people start here. It’s my #9 because I found it hard to relate to, or trust, my concept of God when my sense of self was still scattered. The more I’ve connected to, been trusting of, and felt safer with, the parts of myself I can see, the more I’ve been able to trust what I can not see. Like I said, your journey may be different. Maybe you start here.
- Have fun with this. While saying goodbye to your inner people-pleaser, control-freak, and workaholic is no small task, it also doesn’t have to be heavy. My guess is you’re a heavyweight champion when it comes to fighting through the hard stuff. This time it can feel lighter, easier, with a bit more flow… like that gorgeous spaghetti-strap dress in the back of your closet that you save for special occasions. Well, today is a special occasion. Put on the dress. Break-out the heels. Sing in the car. Dance in the woods. I’ve done all these things and if I were a fly on my wall I’d think I was crazy too, but guess what? I don’t care, because each time the fly thinks I’m crazy, I feel Me. And when you can feel that part of yourself that feels familiar, effortless, ‘Me’, it feels Free. And if you’re feeling free, you’re feeling safe. Which means you’ve done it. You’ve created a judgement-free space within which you will continue to cultivate Trust, learn to Receive, and become ‘Free to be Me’.
Unlike the first 36 years of my life, I did not journey the last 2 on my own (see #4). The following are the top 4 resources that have helped me cultivate trust and judgement-free connection to myself and the Great Mystery, on the most recent leg of my journey.
- EMBODY Dance Class
- Somatic Experiencing therapy; Click here for UK practitioners and here for US
- Julia Cameron’s, ‘The Prosperous Heart’
- Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations
Additionally, the following books have helped me specifically with my money life.
- Kate Northrup’s, ‘Money a Love Story’
- Barbara Stanny’s, ‘Overcoming Underearning’
- Dave Ramsey’s, ‘The Total Money Makeover’
I also highly recommend including your body in the process and working on your Root Chakra. Google it.
I can’t emphasize enough that creating your own safety, cultivating trust with yourself, is going to require you listening to your Self. I can’t tell you want to do or where to start, because then you are following my way, not cultivating a relationship with you.
The above is very personal to me, and may or may not be your cup of tea. If you’re feeling a massive ‘should’ by anything I said, can I suggest that as a first step towards doing something different, don’t do the ‘should’.
Embodiment Tip: Notice in your body how that ‘should’ makes you feel. Chances are you don’t want to feel that way. Any time you feel this way, stop and ask yourself what would feel hopeful, excited, like a breath of fresh air or a weight lifting. I’d recommend going with that option; including any of the above.
Remember, this is your life, your body, your choice, your dance.
With Love – Kendra
If your getting the nudge that EMBODY may be part of your process, you can find a class near you at www.embodydanceclass.com. I am teaching in South Wales, Boulder, Boise, Nashville, and NYC in March and April of 2019. You can also get a free EMBODY-at-home sample to do in your own time.
If enlisting one-on-one support feels like something you want to explore, I am opening up space for new clients to dive into the above work together beginning in May 2019. You can book an exploratory conversation here.