Beyond Shame

After what feels like weeks of constant motion, I’m delighted to be sitting still this morning. I know there is work to be done today (I’ll get to it), but to be still and in total silence for this moment is delightful. It’s a cherished moment. It’s a reminder that I need this every week—a moment of sabbath. Exhale . . . 

I discovered a major truth about myself last week—I’m moving beyond shame! This may not be a big deal to others, but it’s a huge moment in my life. I’ve struggled with feelings of shame for many, many years. I’ve wrestled with this in therapy, I’ve battled it in silence in my alone time. I’ve fussed with God about it. I thought I’d never conquer it. In my mind, I thought it may have been the thorn in my flesh, but I’m thankful to know the courageous work I’ve done is finally paying off.

What’s shame?

Well, Brene Brown (aka one of my favorite authors) says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” According to her, guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort. On the other hand, shame is 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. That’s deep! Guilt is good, but shame is bad, real bad. Shame means something is inherently wrong with me, as a result I’m a failure at many things.

I know shame all too well. For a long time, shame was my first and middle name (perhaps my last name too). It is extremely hard to live with. In some ways, I wish it was an official diagnosis and there was a medication one could take to make it go away. I mean, it’s not depression, it’s not PTSD, but it’s a real thing. One has to struggle, wrestle, and fight with shame to overcome its grip. It’s a hidden thing that outsiders looking in probably cannot understand, but it’s real.

Shame has been a beast in my life! For many years, it has caused me to distance myself from my extended family and isolate in social settings. It has also caused me to make some poor decisions. The good news is, I’ve made great progress! Often we don’t even realize the progress we’ve made until we encounter an experience that would throw us back into our old behaviors. That’s where I was a week ago. Something happened that usually would’ve thrown me into the “woe is me” narrative. For a hot second, I felt shame, but I quickly snapped out of it. I evaluated the situation and realized, I had absolutely no reason to feel shame. Yes, I was guilty of a thing or two, but the shame narrative that tried to creep in had to go! In response to shame, I declared I am enough and I am worthy!

I believe moving beyond shame will give me the courage to open so many incredible doors in my life that have been present for some time. It frees me to live and love. It frees me to be me without feeling like I’m undeserving or unworthy. It frees me to live out my dreams without thinking they’re too big or too crazy for me. While I know, I’ll have to actively fight shame for all of my days, I’m thankful that my past experiences and feelings do not have to determine my present or future life. I can move beyond shame!

It’s in the View!

A few weeks ago I decided to do something a bit out of the ordinary…I decided to take some time off just for me!  Initially, I thought about going out-of-town for a bit, but I opted to just stay home and have some relaxing alone time!  That’s not to say I didn’t go out of the house, or see people…I treated myself to a spa day and went to my photography class, but I made an active decision to not allow the normal stress to enter my path.  We all need to protect our space at times.

In a recent conversation, I admitted that I put a lot of pressure on myself.  There are times when I want my 20-year or lifetime goals to be accomplished in this very moment, and for some crazy reason, if I don’t reach these long-term goals immediately, I get irritated and upset with myself.  True enough, they are lifetime goals, but I value myself based on the amount of progress I’ve made towards reaching those goals.  That’s absolutely the wrong way to approach life.  I should value myself on the progress I’m making despite the challenges I encounter.  But, for whatever reason, I can’t be content with losing 2 pounds in a week…nope, that’s not good enough…I’m the one who needs to lose 5 pounds a week consistently week after week in order to be satisfied.  I can’t be content with saving $100 per week or making it to the gym 3 days in a week…no, I’m discovering that I’m an all or nothing person.  I have no gray zone, I live in a black and white world and this is CRAZY!  It causes a ridiculous amount of self-inflicted stress; I have to find that place of “good enough”!

I’m not even going to lie to myself and think that I can change my behavior patterns overnight.  These behaviors are ingrained in me.  I’ve been doing this for years, but over this past week, I’ve attempted to shift my thinking in how I approach my daily living, how I look at my long-term goals and how I view personal success.  Previously I’ve put strict timelines on my goals, now I’ve simply started listing things that I would like to accomplish in my lifetime without the time limit.  I really started thinking about what brings me happiness…is it reaching a list of goals in 1, 2 or 5 years, or is it experiencing life to its fullest?  Honestly, does it really matter if I start a photography business in the next 6 months or not when I can go out tomorrow and take some amazing pictures and find happiness in that alone.  Or, does it  matter if I’m at the gym for 90 minutes every other night when I can take a brisk walk over lunch, or do an exercise video at home – it’s really my health that’s important, not keeping up with or beating the person next to me in the gym.  So what if I’m not in the same shape I was in 2 years ago, so what if I’m not at the exact size I want to be…I’ve been to hell and back in these 2 years and despite what I think, I’m fine just as I am.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, but I’m okay as is!  It’s tough for me to take this approach to living my life because I’ve always felt that I’ve had to prove myself and my worth to others, yet I’m finding that I can and should focus more on experiencing and living my life and appreciating my unique qualities and less on comparing myself to others.  It’s about how I view me, not how you view me or how I stack up against others.  I’m uniquely created and it’s time for me to start viewing myself as a valuable creation!

Until next time…

Yearly Reflections…

As another year comes to an end, I’m once again setting aside time for a bit of introspection.  As I get older, I find that reflecting on both the positive and negative aspects of myself helps me identify ways in which I’ll try to approach my life a bit differently in the future.  Whereas I once avoided this hard work, I now find that it helps to ensure I’m always moving in a positive direction.  So, tonight, I’m going to share part of this reflection process (I’m taking this one area at a time) as  I feel strongly that writing things out makes one more accountable, and more importantly, sharing my goals publicly surrounds me with individuals who can ensure I’m not slacking in working towards my personal goals.

I’ll start with what’s perhaps easiest area for me…fitness & nutrition!

What will I do?

What will I do?

The first things I shall acknowledge are:

1.  Innately I strongly dislike exercising,

2. I would prefer junk food over healthy food most days of the week, and,

3.  I’ve been an epic failure in the fitness and nutrition areas of my life over the past year!

The blessing is, despite my natural tendencies and failures, I recognize the importance of both exercising and healthy eating, and would sincerely like to live a healthier life in the coming weeks and year ahead.  For several months now, I’ve moaned and complained about gaining weight and additional soft layers, but feeling sorry for myself has gotten me nowhere.  As the picture so eloquently states, “The question isn’t can you, it’s WILL you?”  That said, I will do better in 2013 than I did in 2012.  I fully recognize that I MUST slow down and release the clutter that fills my mind, my life, and my space so I can focus on leading a healthier life.  I heard the question asked in a podcast this week, “What works better for you…finding an hour a day to exercise now or being dead 24 hours day a later?”  Ummm…I’ll take an hour of exercise for $100.

In 2013 (well, really I think I’ll get started now), I WILL be more intentional in planning my meals and snacks weekly, I WILL make preparing a variety fresh veggies every week a priority, and I WILL write protected gym time into my personal calendar.  I know I can become a bit obsessed with things of this nature, but I need to be obsessed…tomorrow is not promised, so I need to take care of the vessel that God gifted me with!

Until nest time…

Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway!

Baltimore Women’s Classic 2012

Last weekend I did the seemingly impossible.  I ran (and completed!) my first 5k race, the Baltimore Women’s Classic!

For some, the idea of running a 5k means nothing, for others, it’s viewed as a bit crazy, but for me, it was freeing, and perhaps therapeutic.  I faced my fear, and did it anyway!

Here lately I’ve been more open to the notion of pushing through challenges, even when the only things I feel are fear, worry, and anxiety!  This is so challenging for me.  Despite what many think, I’m extremely shy (almost too shy) and reserved.  I often avoid trying new things, going places alone and speaking up in tough situations/environments.  In new places, I try to go unnoticed and blend in the background.  In a crowd, I’m rarely the person who will talk to a complete stranger, I’m quite content being alone.  I generally behave in this manner until an environment (or person) becomes comfortable.  I’m not completely sure why this is my nature, but I’ve been a loner for as long as I can remember…I don’t seek to surround myself by a large circle of friends, it’s always been that way.  I’ve often said to people that it’s just me in my life…me against the world.  And while, this isn’t necessarily the healthiest approach to living, it’s just the way it’s been…but increasingly I’m finding myself moving out of my comfort zone.

For the first time ever (perhaps!), I’ve spent a lot of time honoring every emotion that I’ve felt this summer…that’s tough stuff…and on two occasions along this journey, I’ve run into this statement, “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway!”  The first time, I just read it, and put the piece of paper back in my bag.  The second time I stumbled upon this quote, I began to question how the piece of paper on which it was written got into my work bag and why I kept on randomly finding THIS piece of paper.  After sitting with this thought for a few minutes, I came to appreciate that this quote has extreme relevance in my life at this very moment!

I’m feeling pushed outside of every wall that defines my comfort zone!  In the case of work, where I would once just go with the program, I no longer feel like I have to do that…I can truly take a stand and speak up for what I think is right and what I think is wrong.  I no longer have to doubt my knowledge, my skills, or my worth!  If people don’t like me for that…oh well, I can’t change me just to fit in.  I’m who God created me to be!  From a health and wellness perspective, I’ve chosen to no longer be defined by the demons of my past who would lead me to believe I can’t be in amazing physical shape.  So, I took a leap of faith and decided to sign up for the 5k run not knowing if I was going to be able to complete it or not, but I felt like I had to prove to myself that I’m more than any naysayer says I am.  Similarly, biking 30 miles was definitely not in my plan, but I just rolled with life and did it.  With family, I’m trying to be more open to connecting with folks, sharing what’s going on in my life, letting the wall down a bit…it’s not easy, but I’m doing it.  And finally, in love…now that’s the toughest area for me…even those who know me best, can’t understand the fears and anxieties I experience when it comes to love.  I struggle to to trust that there are people who believe in genuine, unconditional love, but I’m slowly learning that I may be wrong about that.  As a result, I’m trying to be authentic and raw with my emotions, and if I get hurt along the way, at least I will have given myself an opportunity to love fully, honestly, and without restraint…that’s all I can strive for!

So, at the end of the day…I’m human, there are things that scare the life out of me, there are things that make me want to run away to a secret hiding place, there are things that make me cry, there are things that I wish I could avoid, there are things that I wish would just work themselves out without me needing to put forth a lot of effort.  But life isn’t that simple, yet I am an overcomer!  I am an OVERCOMER who has made the active decision to feel every ounce of MY FEAR and DO IT ANYWAY!

Until next time…peace!

5K Ready…Right?


Over the past year, running has become a pseudo-hobby of mine.  I was originally planning to run the 5K race at the Baltimore Running Festival last year, but a knee injury crept up and sidelined me for the October event.  But, I’m a fighter, so that didn’t keep me down…I recently learned of a women’s 5K run/walk event in the city that seemed doable, so I got back on the training routine…running 3 days/week and 2-3 days of strength training.  And given that the race isn’t until the end of June, I figured I have more than enough time to prepare, right? After all, I’ve comfortably got 2.5 miles under my belt while running indoors most days…I’ve only got about another half mile to go to reach my race goal.

I got this…or so I thought.  I’m not sure I’m sure I’m really cut out for running!  I’ve been struggling (at best!) with my runs for the past week.  I’m not sure what’s going on..fatigue…lack of heart…generally feeling over this whole running thing…not real sure, but I’m going to keep at this thing until I conquer this challenge.  Why does running matter so much to me…

Running has proven to me that I’m truly capable of overcoming any challenge that lay before me.  Growing up, I didn’t believe I was capable of running long distances…I struggled to run a complete lap around the track (or perhaps I was just being lazy), and you could forget me making it the entire mile.  One could argue that this was embarrassing on some level, but since I wasn’t alone in my defeat and I was still rather athletic in my own right, the sting didn’t appear to penetrate me so deeply.  As an adult, being able to run beyond a mile, and actually finding joy and relief from life’s daily stress in the act of running is unexpected and definitely MAJOR.  It’s proof to me that no goal or dream, no matter how crazy, is unattainable.  When I first started going to the gym, I used the elliptical trainer for 20 minutes at a time with no hills, then I progressed to 25 minutes…30 minutes…added a hill workout, then some cross training, and eventually some more time.  Then, I stepped up to spin class, and I went from barely making it to looking forward to the challenge of the hills and all the calories I was going to burn.  Lastly, I dared to give running a try…I started out on the treadmill, slowly adding a few extra minutes to my workout, then some incline, and eventually making it to an outdoor run.  This process showed me that (as a friend said to me last week), “baby steps do work”.

So, as I get back into the running game, I have to constantly remind myself that I will get back to where I was, it won’t happen overnight, but if I’ll just keep taking baby steps, I’ll knock that 5K out…even if I have to limp across the finish line.  And with that…I shall head out for a short run!

Peace and blessings!


No Problems…Only Lessons!

My life is not filled with problems and challenges, rather it’s filled with so many great lessons to learn!  Everywhere I go, every experience I have, every person I meet is an important component of the lessons I’m intended to learn!

Can you imagine how amazing our lives would be if we looked at life from this perspective?  Can you imagine how many things we would learn if we simply changed our “lens” and looked at life from a new vantage point?

I don’t know how or when my perspective changed, but at some point over this past year, the light bulb went off in my analytical mind and I stopped looking at things and situations in a negative light (i.e. problems, barriers, etc.) and began to seek out the lessons I was supposed to learn in the midst of each situation I have faced.  This has helped me to not resent my current place in life…not that things are horrible…but there are some things that I wish were a bit different.  I find myself in the midst of a quarter life crisis perhaps.  Not in every area of my life, but in my career.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about science and medicine…I never once considered pursuing a career outside of this area, but now as a thirty-something, I am questioning if this is really how I feel.  I question why I didn’t take an opportunity in college to take classes outside of this area just for the sake of it…why didn’t I take a business class or two…why didn’t I take a computer science class, or photography class…just to see if there were other career options that I’d like to pursue!  Perhaps it’s because I was young and knew it all back then…but now, I realize just how much I didn’t know.  And even more, I now realize:

  1. I’m not doing what I was called to do!  I really do feel like we are all called to do something in this life.
  2. I was created to have an IMPACT on people’s lives!  I was created to SERVE others…deep down I have that nurturing spirit.
  3. There is a free spirited, a creative, and an artsy person that lives in me that is dying to get out and be nurtured!
  4. Money is good, but it’s far from everything!
  5. I really can pursue my creative passions…I don’t have to be locked into a career path just because that’s where I am right now!

These 5 things are amazing lessons I’ve learned about myself.  Now I have to pray hard and discover what direction my life will take moving forward.  Learning a lesson means nothing if one doesn’t strive for growth as a result of it.  I’m too safe to make drastic and risky decisions, but I am certain that I have to start honoring the person I am called to be or I will continue to be frustrated with how I spend most of the hours of my week.

Until next time…


Awww….To Be Focused!

What a joy it is for my life to feel somewhat in focus again!  Until this week, I don’t think I fully understood just how hectic my life has been over the past several months.  It’s amazing how a lack of focus in one area of life has a significant impact on every other aspect of one’s life.  Always being on the go and never truly having a home base was my norm.  I just rolled with the punches and made the important things (you know, working, eating, sleeping, etc.) happen, but I was never completely focused on any one thing.  But, in the last few weeks, life has taken on a new focus.  I moved into my new place…what an exciting moment…and have begun to live MY life again!  Having my own home base has been so freeing, even though it’s only been for a few short days.  I had no idea just how overwhelmed my life was.  I now feel free to focus again on so many things that are important to me…exercising, eating healthy, finding time to spend with friends, posting on this blog, and the list goes on.

So where shall I focus my energy first…

I’ve got three areas of attention for the time being…my career, my photography, and my exercise commitment.  While I’ve found balance in my home life, I’ve also found that lack of balance in my life career wise.  True enough, I’m among the blessed right now because I have a stable job, but somewhere along the way I lost focus on my passion and in turn, I find myself working at a job that doesn’t make my heart burn…it pays the bills, but I don’t feel like I’m making an impact on this world.  In light of this, I’m going to be putting forth a lot of energy over the next few months to position myself to be who I am called to be.  The other areas…my photography and exercise commitment…well, these are the two things that got brushed to the side while life was out of focus, so I’m just recommitting myself to these things that bring me joy and relief from stress.

No matter how life unfolds in the future, I’m going to put forth my best effort to always stay focused.

No More Excuses…I’m My Own Change Agent!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time observing the behaviors of myself and others.  I’ve quietly watched, listened, and, in turn, thought about a number things, but one thought resonated deeply within me.  It was simply “No More Excuses!”  I have decided that this will be my mantra for 2012!

As people, we have a tendency to make an excuse for why we choose to remain in our current state of being rather than make a decision to make some changes that will allow us to be in the state of being we desire to be in.  I find myself talking a lot about how I need to make some things happen, how I want to be in this place or that place, how I want to do this, not that, and such, but I am now forced to ask myself the question, “What am I doing to be the change agent in my own life?”

I talk a lot about the direction I want to see my life take, but I’m not so sure that I’m taking the steps to get there.  For instance, I’ve gained a few pounds over the past few months.  I’ve got a great excuse for this, but if I want to get back on track, I have to let go of the excuses and start engaging in behaviors that will yield results (the homemade  cookies are not helping the cause).  I could give a number of similar scenarios in other areas of my life, and the same principle holds true.  I state that I want to observe a change, yet I’m not taking the appropriate steps to get there.  But…in 2012 (well, really starting today!), I’ve decided to be the change agent in my life!

At one point in my life, I definitely did not have the confidence to step out and take the risk that is innately associated with change, but that’s no longer the case.  Change is still difficult to embrace, but I fully recognize that in order to find winning results, you have to experience the challenges of change.  At different points in life we have to expand our skill set, expand our circle of friends and associates, put some restrictions on our behaviors, cut off some friends, take a stand for what we believe in, do something that everyone else thinks is crazy, be uncomfortable, cry, smile, laugh, feel hurt, feel anger, show love, and go through growing pains.  These are elements of change that are needed if we choose to no longer make excuses for not being where we want to be.

For 2012, the excuses are thrown out the window and door.  It’s time for me to be about the change.  I am my own CHANGE AGENT!

It is easier to find an excuse than to find a reason. -Doug Brown

There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

-Art Turock