How To Take the Shame Out of Your Biggest Problem

Think of a circumstance you wish did not exist in your life right now. Something you cannot change in this moment. For most of us, this is easy. It's something heavy on our minds.

Perhaps life has thrown you a serious punch: the death of a loved one, an illness, injury or disability, the loss of a job or relationship, infertility, betrayal, a mental health diagnosis.

Or perhaps you are riding the stressful waves of everyday life: relationship discord, family drama, an unrelenting boss, a job that sucks the life out of you, unwanted weight, debt.

Notice what your mind makes this situation mean. Does your mind make it mean something about you? That you really messed up, are deeply flawed and somehow different from everyone else?

Our minds love to take a circumstance and make it mean so much about the kind of people we are.

Here is something to try.

Take your problem and see it through this lens: as a natural disaster. 

I learned this tool years ago from Dr. Christine Carter when she mentioned accepting her divorce as more of a natural disaster than something she could stop from happening. Her thinking went like this: I am what I am and right now I am getting divorced. The best I can do right now is to be present in this situation, and deal with it as it comes. 

What happens when you see your problem as a natural disaster?

You take the shame (and blame) out of the problem.

Brene Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

Shame is not productive; it doesn’t help us improve or take effective action. It keeps us hiding and can lead to unhelpful behavior.

A natural disaster just happens. It can result in great loss and pain. But it doesn’t have the added meaning about the nature of the people involved.

Without shame, self-compassion and acceptance (essential steps in healing and problem-solving) come more easily.

When we offer ourselves a healthy dose of compassion (This is normal; I'm not the only one) and accept our situation instead of fighting and railing against it, we gain presence and take the most effective action.

We can ask ourselves:

"What do I want to stand for in the face of this?”

So stand tall, shoulders back. Love your people and do what you need to do. Don’t waste your gifts because you are caught up in a shame storm of unworthiness.

Show up for your life as the person you want to be (regardless of circumstances). That is all anyone can ask.

3 Steps To Get Your Life in Order

Do you ever feel like there are so many changes or improvements you want to make in your life that you don’t where to start? Or so many tasks or projects you don’t know what to tackle first? Maybe you’re feeling a little off-course, inauthentic or overwhelmed?

Me too.

It’s ok.

Here is what I have learned.

You can put your life in order by putting your loves in order.

This concept of putting “loves in order” comes from St. Augustine.

Our lives turn upside down and lack meaning when our loves are out of order.

If I gossip about a friend at a party, I am putting my love of popularity or approval above my love of friendship or loyalty.

If I consistently avoid my workout routine, I am putting my love of comfort over my love of health.

This is a tough one: If I constantly criticize my spouse’s parenting, I may be putting my love of parenting above my marriage. Is that ultimately what’s best for my kids?

How often do we value being right (and feeding our egos) over uncovering the truth (and strengthening a relationship) in an argument?

Lack of meaning, discontent, unhappiness and disorder stem from acting out of line with values.

Where to start?

1. Practice Acceptance

The first step is accepting that we cannot do or change everything at once. Yes, I would like my website re-done, files organized, appointments completed, house clean.. I want to set a workout routine, figure out the right foods and supplements…

All the things, ALL.RIGHT.NOW.

But when I think I need to do everything, I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed and don’t do anything.

Sit with the feelings that come with things undone or unchanged. The ability to sit with discomfort will keep you from habits of avoidance (eating, drinking, working, scrolling…)

Remind yourself that taking small steps will show your mind that progress is possible and give you momentum to keep going.

Even with all the things undone or unchanged, you are still okay, worthy, lovable.

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. - Carl Rogers

2. Put Your Loves in Order

It is worth sitting down and figuring out what is most important and putting your time, attention and energy there.

Turn to page 16 in my Blueprint for 2018 to guide you. Note adjectives and verbs in the life areas that apply to you.  Rank values in order of importance. Notice what is very important and in need of your attention to make your life workable and meaningful.

“What do I love? What are the things I really love? And in what order do I love them? Am I spending time on my highest love? Or am I spending time on a lower love?” - David Brooks as told to Oprah

3. Take the Next Right Step

Looking at the greatest discrepancies between how important a value is and how effectively you’re living by it, what is the next right move? To be more at ease with yourself? To make earth look a little more like heaven? To be more of the person you want to be and reach your goals?

If the next right action is spoken, what might you say in the next opportunity?

If the next right action is something you can schedule, put it in your calendar.  If a relationship is in need of your time and attention, can you schedule a time to be present and engaged with that person?

Then do the next right thing.

You can even budget your time across priorities the way I budget my money (I use a program called You Need a Budget in case you’re wondering): Take the time you have and first schedule what is most important. Then, with additional time, what is next in order of priority?


The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, 'What is the next right move?' Not think about, 'Ooh, I got all of this to figure out.' What is the next right move? And then from that space, make the next right move and the next right move ... then you won't be overwhelmed by it, because you know your life is bigger than that one moment. - Oprah

You may wonder what beliefs are driving you to put your loves out of order or leading you to self-sabotage (hint: they may worries about what other people think or unhelpful beliefs about yourself). Get to know your thoughts and triggers and let go of unproductive habits and automatic reactions in 2 coaching sessions. Schedule here.

These Are the Life Skills You Didn't Learn in School

Life is kind of hard ALL OF THE TIME. School does not teach us how to...

  • Manage our minds and emotions
  • Think about our thinking
  • Identify our triggers and automatic reactions
  • Understand the coding that keeps us captive
  • Disrupt patterns
  • Alter entrenched habits of thought
  • Make our lives meaningful
  • Accept ourselves and believe we are enough that we can be the people/partners/parents we want to be. 

I'm here to guide you through these life skills and help un-do the unhelpful messages you've picked up along the way. 

If you're not living the life you want, let's talk about it. Interested in e-mail coaching? Let me know. 

What's showing up for you is a reflection of how you see yourself. - Oprah

Are You Too Self-Conscious?

I have described my youngest daughter as the most confident person I know. Even as a baby, she would smile as she entered a room as if she could comprehend that everyone already loved her.

Then, around age 5, something changed. Molly started refusing to wear certain clothes. Anything “cute” was out of the question; it had to be “cool.” When I would ask her about the reasons for her clothing choices, she would actually refer to other kids’ thoughts, opinions, comments. This did make me sad. It’s one thing to wear what you really love, another to dress worried about what others will think.

My husband and I wonder if Molly’s self-consciousness has to do with getting so much attention and so many “You’re so cute" comments early on. She seems to want to avoid such attention now and may be too smart to be blissfully unaware. Maybe it’s just part of growing up. But sometimes, it gets in the way.

What does it mean to be self-conscious?

Wikipedia defines self-consciousness as a heightened sense of self-awareness. It seems to be an intense focus on oneself, either on inner thoughts and feelings or as one is viewed by others.

We focus on what other people think of us.

We know ourselves better than anyone else and we know exactly where we fall short of ideal. Combine this with egocentrism - our tendency to view the world from our own perspective - and no wonder we think everyone else is focused on our flaws.

This is normal but not helpful if it keeps us from doing what is important.

Self-consciousness can keep us from speaking, engaging with others or our environment (because focus is inward not outward), participating in activities that are challenging, unfamiliar, or require wearing a swimsuit. :)

Have you ever noticed the difference between posed photos and candids? Subjects are less self-conscious in candids. :)

Self-consciousness can make us think twice about running into the grocery store on a bad hair day (or is that just me?).

What to do about it?

  1. Remind yourself of a phenomenon called the “spotlight effect.”  Thomas Gilovich, PhD, and colleagues coined this term after conducting studies including one in which college students were asked to wear an “embarrassing” t-shirt (of Barry Manilow) and enter a room where others participants were sitting. The students wearing the embarrassing t-shirts were asked to estimate the number of people who noticed the t-shirt. The students wearing the t-shirts overestimated the number of others who noticed (they guessed about 50 percent would notice, but only about 25 percent noticed!). So remind yourself that the spotlight effect leads you to overestimate the amount of attention you’re actually getting.

  2. Watch your mind as it assumes knowledge of what everyone else is thinking of you. Notice your mind when it tells you what’s wrong with you, where you fall short, that you can’t dance, sing, write, speak and that everyone is going to see this if you dare do such things. Just notice the words going through your head. When you’re watching your mind, you’re not in it. Most people do not do this.

  3. Work on accepting everything about yourself and your life. Fully. Sounds like a lot to ask, right? It’s from a place of acceptance that we do great things. So, in full knowledge of your weaknesses and awareness of your thoughts and feelings, stand tall with shoulders back and do what you need to do to make your life workable and meaningful.


Want to explore this a little more? Let’s talk.


My Favorite Podcasts


In the past few months, I have a become a big fan of podcasts. I would venture to add podcasts to my "What's Saving My Life" list (more on that list this summer after my "What's Saving My Life" party).

This past week in particular, I listened to MANY podcasts. My husband took our three daughters camping for a few days and podcasts provided company, entertainment and education while I cleaned and organized (but not while I worked of course). Podcasts are my go-to audio for workouts and solo drives. 

I would love to hear about your favorite podcasts (e-mail me or comment below). Here are a few of mine in no particular order. 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Author Gretchen Rubin discusses happiness and good habits with her sister Liz Craft.

Happier in Hollywood - Liz Craft (Gretchen Rubin's sister), a TV writer and producer and her writing partner Sarah Fain talk about how to be happier and healthier in a crazy, chaotic, superficial world.  It's light and funny and fascinating to hear about working in Hollywood. 

Selfie - Bloggers Sarah James and Kristen Howerton talk about self care and all sorts of random (often hilarious) topics. 

Good Life Project - Jonathan Fields has conversations with some of my favorite authors, writers and speakers about "living a fully-engaged, fiercely-connected and purpose-drenched life."  Who doesn't want that? 

The Simple Show - Tsh Oxenreider has conversations with co-hosts about breaking down big ideas and saying "yes" to the right things. 

Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations - If you haven't watched or listened to these shows, they are life changing. 

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield - For online entrepreneurs, Amy provides a wealth of helpful information on extending your reach and growing your business. 


Hit the Reset Button

Here is a simple way to get present when you are caught up in your thoughts & feelings (i.e  worried, overwhelmed, distracted, frustrated...).

It's also a way to develop genuine confidence. Confident people are engaged people. They are present & focused on the task at hand, whether it’s having a conversation, taking photos, or running a meeting.

This mindfulness exercise is found in The Reality Slap by Russ Harris, MD. Try it five times a day when you need to pause or "hit the reset button."  Kids love this one too!

Drop The Anchor

Take five to ten seconds to do the following:

Push your feet hard onto the floor and straighten your spine.

As you do this, take a slow deep breath.

Look around and notice five things you can see.

Listen carefully and notice five things you can hear.

Notice where you are and what you are doing.

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Enough of "Enough"

If you could eliminate one word from your mental vocabulary, what would it be? For me, it would be "enough."

I wake up already behind without enough sleep. I don't have enough time to do everything.  I'm certainly not good enough to do it all. And then I go to sleep having not accomplished, you guessed it, enough.

Whatever your word (failure, fat, loser, broke, "bad mother," mess...), here is a little coaching tool (from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to take the sting and power out of the word:

First, take a benign noun like "lemon" or "apple."

Now repeat "lemon" or "apple" over and over again out loud as fast as you can for about 30 seconds.

Then, take your word and repeat it aloud for 30 seconds.

Notice what happens. Does the word become a meaningless combination of sounds?

Good. Because that is all it is.

Who would you be without that word?

You can start filling out your free Blueprint for 2013 planner anytime of year. It's here.



Don't Treat People The Way They Treat You

How often do we let other people's actions determine how we act?

I don't know how many times I have heard a client say,

"Well, if she's not going to respect me, then I'm not going to respect her."

How other people act is their business.  When you hinge your behavior on that of another person, you are handing over your power. You are not being the person you want to be. You are not acting in line with your values. You are missing out on an opportunity to add meaning to your life.

If being kind is important to you, then you can practice kindness toward others who are unsupportive and even mean.

If you feel judged, you can still be accepting.

Even if you have been hurt, you can act loving.

And when others are hiding and perfecting and presenting, you can still be authentic.

You can be the person you want to be no matter what others do.

Subscribe to these tips on the Blueprint Blog here.

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Do You Get Irritated with People?

We all become irritated with others. Some of us walk around in a general state of irritation. I was thinking about what causes this irritation.

It's the words in our heads.

He should...She shouldn't...

The baby shouldn't scream. The kids should clean up.  The teenager shouldn't talk back. My hair should be straight. My husband should appreciate me. Katie should put down her phone.  Larry shouldn't say anything. They should know better. Johnny should agree with me. Old Sally shouldn't write checks at the busy grocery store checkout.

To life coaches, the word "should"is a red flag. It is the root of so much mental angst.

What can help?

Just noticing the reason (the stream of words in your mind) for your irritation can help. Find the words interesting. Recognize, as Byron Katie famously notes, that getting caught up in  the "shoulds" is "arguing with reality."

All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is. -Byron Katie

Stepping outside of and observing your mind allows you to handle challenging situations as your best, calm, non-irritated self.

Want more on this? Click here for one of my most popular posts.

Happiness = Plants + Pets + Photographs

Something that distinguishes happy families from less happy ones? Happy homes often have many plants, pets, and photographs in common areas.  Plants and pets give us opportunities to extend care beyond ourselves. Photos can prompt us to savor happy memories, a research-tested happiness booster.

In our home, we have an extra large pet (see above) and plenty of photographs (this is why), but only one little plant!  As much as I would love a couple tall plants in the living room, our toddler (the subject of many happy photos) & plants do not  mix.

Despite our lack of greenery, the Captain house will be featured in a future home tour on Design Mom. I will be sure to let you know when!

Don't miss the tips to make your day-to-day more manageable & meaningful.  Subscribe to the Blueprint blog here and the newsletter here.


You Might Be Good Enough

You know that pesky "I'm not good enough" story we all have? Maybe your mind says you are not good enough to have a successful business, pursue a dream, put yourself out there, take on a project, accept yourself, help others, offer your ideas, accomplish a goal, or try something new.  Perhaps your body, your job, your home, your partner, your income, your life  is not good enough. If you are a parent, you are not good enough many times a day.

Maybe it's too much for your mind to believe that you are good enough right now. If so, say these thoughts to yourself, let them marinate in your mind, and notice if you feel differently:

  • I may be good enough.
  • I just might be good enough.
  • What if I am good enough?

Does that change anything for you? More possibility? Hope? Lightness? That Not Good Enough story is not helping any of us be and do our best.  Let's do what we can to get some space from it.

Ask Your 80-Year-Old Self

Making a decision?  Feeling stuck? Burdened by financial pressure or the overwhelming demands of daily life?

Tap into the wisdom of your 80-year-old self.

What would she say? What comforting words would you hear? According to her, what really matters?

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Quick Relationship Tip

What if, by some magical wave of a wand, your partner  started behaving exactly as you wish? What if your husband or boyfriend was your ideal mate with no annoying habits? What if your wife or girlfriend was always supportive of you, never critical?

If that was true, how would you behave?

How would you describe the sort of partner you would be? Think of three adjectives (ideas: supportive, engaged, grateful, compassionate, loving, forgiving, authentic, kind).

What thoughts would you have about your partner?

Be that person now.

Apply this to your relationships with kids, family members, or co-workers and notice if it's helpful. I am going to try this with my kids (because lots of time together during the summer is not always easy!).

Image via Geoff Captain Studios.

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When You Feel Like Giving Up

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I get to work with teenagers who are struggling - academically, emotionally (usually both). Recently, I was ready to give up on one of them.

I had been meeting with Sean weekly for 6 months to work on what was getting in the way of passing  his classes. But he continued to fail. He didn't even seem to care. That's what irked me the most.

At our last session, Sean was failing two out of six classes and barely passing two others.  With only a few weeks of school left, I knew it was not likely that that he could pass. He would have to repeat  Algebra & Biology, extending  his high school career (unless he chose to drop out).  So, of course, he was giving up. And I completely understood. My mind was trying to come up with reasons to try.

Chances of  Sean climbing out of this hole were slim.

Perhaps you feel like giving up.

You may be in a relationship that seems beyond repair. In so much debt that you don't know how to climb out.  About to break under the weight of caring for so many people.  Buried under clutter or responsibilities or an endless list of tasks. So far behind, you don't know how to catch up. Your ideal weight, job or life may be too far out of sight.

Perhaps you are tired and overwhelmed (I am no stranger to these feelings).

Here's how to dig out:

First, offer yourself compassion. This topic deserves its own post, but for now, give yourself warmth, encouragement  and unconditional acceptance in your internal dialogue. This means being kind to yourself in your thinking.

Next, remind yourself that challenges, failures, and pain are simply part of being human. We are all the same and we are all in this together.

Finally, step outside of yourself and observe your thoughts, emotions and sensations without judgement or resistance. This mindfulness makes new behaviors possible.

Then, connect with what is important to you and take one small step in the valued direction. 

It turns out that Sean did care and when he let himself, he cried about it. Much of Sean's pain came from the fear of disappointing his mom, who works hard at two jobs.  Sean felt that he was letting his mom down. So I tried to help him connect with his values. Sure, he wants to pass his classes, but that's not the only point. Right now, Sean can work hard (a family value) and learn.  He can feel good knowing he is doing what is important and making his life meaningful.  This also increases his chances of passing.  And if he does not pass a class, working hard and learning now can only help him  next time around.  His next step was asking teachers if he could make up assignments.

What is your next step?

Is it writing a list? Making a twenty-dollar payment? Drinking a glass of water, touching your running shoes, saying a prayer, giving a hug, making a call, opening a book, asking for help, breathing deeply, prioritizing, apologizing, resting, signing up?

You don't have to do it all right now.  You don't even have to know all of the steps. Just take one small step in the right direction.

You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. -via light-between-the-leaves

Did you miss the April Blueprint Newsletter? Check it out here.

Image via Geoff Captain Studios

How To Save Mental Energy

President Obama has a habit you may want to adopt. Or at least adapt.

As he explained to Michael Lewis in this Vanity Fair profile, Obama wears only gray or blue suits. "I'm trying to pair down decisions," he says. "I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

The President described himself as "routinized" and referenced research finding that the act of making decisions impacts our ability to make further decisions. This explains why shopping can be so exhausting.

This prompted my own reflection on how much time & energy I spend deciding which tasks to complete and when, or (one that really drains me), deciding what's for dinner. For the dreaded dinner question, Christine Carter at Raising Happiness has a great idea: automate meal planning so that it becomes a habit and takes less time & energy. Take a look at Christine's weekly meal plan for her family here.

You can also enter meals into a Google calendar and have items repeat every so often (so you can have Aunt Betty's famous meatloaf every 3 weeks!).

My free Blueprint for 2013 planner includes the question, "What routines or systems will support my goal achievement?"

I see this idea of systems & routines working in at least two ways. Automating tasks can save mental energy you need for creative, cognitively demanding activities. Establishing routines or rituals for important tasks (writing in a gratitude journal, exercising, reading to your kids) can also make it more likely that you will make room in your schedule for what matters.

Brene Brown & Oprah

I want to let you all know that Brene Brown is talking with Oprah on this week’s edition of Super Soul Sunday (3/17). The show airs at 11am ET/PT. For those of you (like me) who don’t get OWN, there is a simulcast on I believe part two of their conversation airs the following Sunday. Enjoy!