Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Tag: Personal Growth – Professional Growth

Discover Your Shadow Self and Embrace Who You’re Meant to Be

If your life appears to be satisfying, yet you feel like an inner struggle never ends, you might need to integrate with your Shadow Self to feel whole again“We tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there’s a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.” ~ David Whyte

Do you have secrets you’ve never shared with anyone? Perhaps something that happened to you as a child? Maybe it’s simply a feeling that is so raw you’re too uncomfortable to share it with anyone?

All of us have secrets we hide from others and perhaps even from ourselves. (Carl Jung called this our Shadow Self.) We hide what we dislike about ourselves or feel is unacceptable because we want to feel safe, respected or accepted. If we reveal how we really feel deep inside, we’re afraid we’ll be rejected.

When do you develop this Shadow Self? And how does it undermine your life, your relationships and your sense of purpose?

Your Shadow Self is usually developed in your childhood. Maybe your parents or teachers taught you what they’d been taught – “don’t cry, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, put on a smile, be strong.” You got the message that it’s good to bottle up or choke back your emotions. Over time you came to view certain emotions and qualities as “bad” so they must be hidden when you feel them.

It’s a lie.

Denying your emotions actually makes you weak, needy and more vulnerable to life events. Sadly, most of us walk around cut off from our body – the vessel for our emotional experiences – and live our lives from our thinking mind only. This makes us incomplete.

While working with hundreds of clients, I’ve discovered that there’s usually a pattern underlying current challenges. At some point in our past, most of us thought we had to leave behind or abandon our younger self to survive and become an adult.

But that Shadow Self is still there under the surface. Often it shows up as unresolved issues, limiting beliefs or unchallenged “truths” along your journey to adulthood. The associated emotions may disastrously resurface as anxiety, depression, or illness.

When this happens our reflex is to push our Shadow Self back, to get rid of it or deny it. It feels foreign, scary and confusing to acknowledge your past hurt, sadness, grief, or loss. You want to just forget it and keep it in the shadows.

How can dredging up the past possibly bring you closer to healing?

It’s common to imagine that embracing your disowned emotions will devastate you and interfere with your ability to be a functional adult. Yet the truth is that you’re not operating at full capacity when you’re not connected with those parts you have disowned. You are literally missing parts of yourself.

As a child, we have a coping mechanism; we develop adaptive skills to keep the disowned ones hidden. For example when you disown vulnerability you might:

  • Develop an inner perfectionist to avoid feeling “less than” when making mistakes.
  • Develop a tough exterior, becoming overly self-reliant and independent so you’re not disappointed and hurt by others.
  • Develop a need to take care of everyone else because no one is taking care of you.

Yet the truth about vulnerability is that it can be empowering if we develop what David Whyte, my favorite poet, calls “robust vulnerability.” This seemingly counter-intuitive concept is to allow vulnerability into your life so that it strengthens you from the inside.

Do you see how these adaptive skills can keep you from realizing your wholeness and true self? Your Shadow Self keeps you from letting your light, your true brilliance, shine. And when you’re always trying to hide who you are, you won’t have the energy to forge close, rich relationships. (In reality, you’re not hiding it very well either.)

The good news is that you can become whole again! You can learn to welcome, deeply hear, understand, and value everything about yourself, even the disowned parts of your Shadow Self. Then you can integrate them back into who you are and how you express yourself.

For some this can be quite challenging and frightening to do alone. I’d love to support you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Isn’t it time to “see and embrace the elephant in the room” and finally take the steps to feel whole and in harmony with who you’re meant to be?

Become Indispensable – 8 Steps to Fearlessly Tackling Any Project

If you want to become indispensable at work or in any relationship, develop a can-do self-starting attitude that moves you to execute your goals effectively“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Isn’t it true that the world is full of people with good intentions? Yet the ones who accept a task and execute it promptly are rare. In that way, they become indispensable at work or in any relationship because you can count on them to follow through and not let you down.

Is that the kind of person you’d like to be known as?

First, it’s important to determine what’s getting in the way of executing your goals. Do you procrastinate or get distracted? Too often our minds are so full of “stuff” we lose focus. Or maybe you don’t know something, so you get stuck on the “how” and stall out.

Perhaps your past is getting in the way? Maybe you’ve been discouraged by a lifetime of others putting you down. On the other hand, overindulgent parents might have spoiled you, making you think the world owes you a favor. Just remember, those behaviors are their choices, not yours.

You have a choice to make: blame others or build a fire in your soul for developing the attitudes and habits that make you indispensable. How?

It all starts with developing the character to view everything you do as worthwhile. No matter what the job is, do it cheerfully. Appreciate the opportunity to see your strengths and make note of them.

When you work at excelling at everyday tasks, extraordinary opportunities will come your way. When you use each assignment to hone your natural talents, you can turn them into a discipline that you master. This may well become your “calling” in life, if it brings you great joy and it serves the needs of others.

The secret to becoming indispensable is to take action without hesitating. Practice the following steps until they become a deeply imbedded system in your life:

  1. Accept the assignment and get started. Don’t wait for all of the answers. As you proceed, you’ll often find better solutions than if you had mapped it all out at the beginning.

 

  1. Ask for clarification. Asking a question isn’t a sign of weakness. Work out what you can and then ask the right questions to fill in the blanks.

 

  1. Outline a plan of action. Keep in mind your ultimate objective; strategies for achieving it; breaking it down into manageable bits; making a step-by-step checklist; and measuring your progress.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to expend some resources and ask for help. Worthwhile objectives usually cost money, time, and help from others. If it’s worth doing, do it right.

 

  1. Measure your progress. When you get stuck, show what you’ve done so far and ask for feedback. If you’re off course, this will put you back on track. Even if you don’t answer to anyone, review your progress and see if you’re still on course.

 

  1. Set reasonable expectations and always exceed them. If you want to be trusted with vital tasks, develop a reputation for getting the job done better, sooner and at a lower cost than expected.

 

  1. Accept mistakes as the cost of learning. Perfection is unrealistic. Mistakes are simply information not judgments on your character. Reflect on what they teach you.

 

  1. Be proud of your work. Remember your wins. Find the harmony between action and fear. Courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the ability to act despite it.

You will become indispensable when you’ve integrated these action-oriented habits and attitudes into your life. If you’re ready to accelerate your rise to excellence so you become indispensable, respected and trusted, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to partner with you on this journey.

Leadership 101: How to Inspire a Shared Vision

If you want to make a difference in the lives of others’, learn how to inspire a shared vision with them by helping them see themselves in the big picture.“I believe the risks I take are justified by the sheer love of the life I lead.” ~ Charles Lindbergh

What does the family who goes on the vacation of a lifetime have in common with the company that consistently exceeds its marketing goals? On the surface…nothing. But when you look deeper, in each case you’ll see a leader who knows how to inspire a shared vision. If you want to make a difference, this is an essential skill you’ll want to master. Let’s take a closer look at each story…

Within the family, the mother sees that the kids will soon be leaving for college. She knows that once they’re out of the house, they may get so busy with their own lives they might not have another chance. So she shares her vision of a great family vacation with her husband. He agrees and together they work out how to make it happen. As the family discusses it, they excitedly pitch in their ideas. Because they’re on the same page, working toward the same goal, it’s not a hardship to stick to a budget or schedule. Their shared vision becomes a success.

In the business setting, the marketing department brings a new strategy to the boss, and she thinks it’s a great idea. She takes that visionary thought and lays out a plan to her employees. She details the vision to them and gets them excited to do their individual and collective best. She knows it won’t happen unless all departments are on board with the idea. And because she connects with each one on the level of their specialty, each department excels.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve experienced the frustration of working with someone who tries to lead but keeps the details to themselves. You don’t know why something is important and you don’t understand the process because you don’t know all the steps. As a result, the “vision” never succeeds, because you couldn’t clearly see your role in it.

In any case, progress won’t happen by chance. Inspiring leaders acknowledge and welcome the strengths of each person and create an environment were talents can flourish.  They give a clear objective so people know what to do. They give a clear reason why it’s important, so everyone remains motivated to get it done. It’s not enough for the leader to have a vision. An effective leader inspires others by knowing how to share the vision so that it takes on life in the hearts of all those involved. They can see themselves in the picture!

First-class leaders learn to look far into the future, not merely seeing the end of a current project. Instead they see how each project impacts their organization years down the road. In the above example, the mother saw her family slipping away, so she took action to bring them back together. The far-sighted boss saw how one marketing campaign would boost morale and generate customer loyalty. Because they took into account the hopes and wishes of others, those involved became very supportive.

Effective leaders see that it’s important to make time to look ahead and not get consumed with day-to-day busyness. They also don’t feel that they have to be the visionary. But they know that it’s their job to get everyone involved and keep them working at the top of their game.

It’s not always easy to communicate your vision in a way that draws others into it so that they adopt it for their own vision. However, it’s easier if you incorporate metaphors, word pictures, and stories that people relate to. Don’t be afraid to express the depth of your emotional involvement and excitement, because it’s that passion that will fire up others.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to inspire others for a future project is to connect with them mindfully in the present. If you’d like to learn to inspire others and make more meaning connections in your life, please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my close friend Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. It’s going to be life-changing!

Unlock the Power and Magic of Emotional Attunement in Your Relationships

Life is sweet when you feel emotional attunement in your relationships at home and work, yet many feel distant, so if you could use more, use these five tips to fine-tune your emotional attunement.“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Have you ever tried to talk with a person who was stone-faced, showing no facial reaction at all to what you were saying? It didn’t take long before you began faltering for words, losing your train of thought and finding it hard to carry on, did it? Why is that? Because when there’s no emotional attunement, no empathy, we don’t feel connected, understood or valued. We need to feel like people are getting what we’re saying.

Emotional attunement takes more than looking at someone or hearing their words. It means using all of our senses to understand what they’re feeling so much that we feel it too. It takes being able to sense, interpret and respond to someone so that she/he doesn’t feel alone any longer. Our eyes become moist with tears when they hurt or beam with happiness to mirror their joy. We lean in and touch their arm with a gesture of compassion. We reflect back to them their emotions with words such as, “That must have been so frustrating!”  

We learn to regulate and manage our emotions at an early age from our mothers. She reacted to our emotional state and responded in a way that cared for our needs and soothed us, making us feel secure. A mother gives her child this wonderful gift – the ability to decipher feelings and learn to self-regulate them. If, however, feelings are ignored or put down, the person will carry an inability to interpret and express emotion into their adulthood. The good news is that even if this gift was lacking from your life, you can still learn how to experience emotional attunement in your relationships today.

At times, everyone struggles with emotional attunement. We get caught up in our own drama or daily pressures distract us from really connecting emotionally with others, whether you’re an intimate couple, friends or business associates. If the situation makes you feel blamed, you may fall back to a defensive mode, which makes it impossible to see what the other person is feeling. It’s easy to settle for a transactional kind of relationship, solving problems and sharing responsibilities, without sharing your emotional self and listening for each other’s emotional needs. 

The magic and power of emotional attunement is that it doesn’t require a lot from you. It simply takes listening with your ears, mind and heart. You don’t have to “fix” anything or offer advice. This is a huge aha moment for many men especially. You can do so much by doing nothing but tuning in!

Here are some reminders for fine-tuning your emotional attunement:

  • Be fully immersed and attuned to what your friend is experiencing.
  • Remain emotionally open to her friend’s feeling even if it makes you uncomfortable.
  • Use subtle bodily reactions to make powerful connections – shed tears, touch her arm, nod, tilt your head in sync with the tilt of your friend’s head.
  • Reinforce your being present by saying a few words that convey that, “I’m here for you” or “Yes, I understand”.
  • Keep this as your goal – make your friend feel less alone.

Emotional attunement can be learned, but it’s learned experientially. It takes time, but you can learn to sharing your emotions and to trusting your own judgment in reading other people. When you surround yourself with people who practice emotional attunement you can speed up your own progress. If closer emotional connectedness is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. This can be your Big Goal that we work on together.

Grow Professionally with 5 Rapid Transformation Strategies

If you want to accelerate your professional growth, here are 5 tips anyone can use to grow professionally and enjoy life more fully - tip 4 may surprise you“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” John W. Gardner

Isn’t it amazing to watch people completely transform themselves? One moment they’re a shy person and the next moment they’re confidently leading others. It’s as spectacular as seeing a beautiful butterfly emerge from a cocoon. How do they grow professionally, seemingly overnight?

The truth is this kind of transformation doesn’t happen overnight, does it? We aren’t born professionals – it takes time and concerted effort. However, there are strategies that you can use to grow professionally that will fast track your transformation as a confident leader in your field. Take a look at five of my favorites below:

1) Take advantage of targeted education. 

New practitioners, therapists, and coaches often struggle with maintaining focus, because there’s so much to learn when you’re starting your own business. It’s normal to get sidetracked. In order to grow professionally, you’ll want to fight that tendency and keep your goal foremost in mind.

Focus allows you to pick the most appropriate education for your current situation. Education is easily accessible via local or online courses, books and audios, podcasts, and joining specialized online communities, so take full advantage of these, but please do so purposefully. When you master one thing, move on to the next.

For example, over the years I’ve studied both traditional and non traditional methodologies. I started with western psychology and added specializations such as Hakomi, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Self-Relations and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. But what really accelerated my transition from therapist to Somatic Coaching is the deep study of The Feldenkrais Method® and Neuro-Liguistic Programming.

Just as a caveat: searching for a “perfect” program may become an excuse for not taking action. You may find that working with a personal coach helps you focus on the most effective path toward your goal.  

2) Ask for specific feedback.

It boosts the ego when someone says they like what you’ve done. But without specific feedback on what’s working and what’s not, you won’t be able to grow professionally.

It takes time and effort to establish a reputation of excellence and it starts with the right attitude. For example, professionals aren’t defensive when they receive criticism, because they know that, somewhere there’s a nugget of truth they can use. Then they willingly invest in themselves to become the best version of themselves possible.

3) Network for progressive advancement.

Whom you associate with directly affects how you grow professionally. You may not view yourself on the same level as well-known people like Stephen Gilligan, Byron Katie, Robert and Diane Masters, or Richard Strozzi-Heckler, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how approachable influential people can be when you sincerely reach out to them. Social platforms let us show interest in what they do and how they do it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. (For example, please feel free to post your questions or comments about leadership, professionalism and personal growth on my Facebook page. I’m happy to chat with you.)

4) Go the extra mile.

Even if others are happy with a so-so result, hold yourself to a higher standard of excellence. Since an “okay” experience is quickly forgotten, push yourself to perform something truly memorable. Think creatively about how you can make it easier, more enjoyable, or more valuable for your clients.

5) Before saying “Yes” or “No”, mindfully consider your options. 

Some choices can be scary and that can make you say “No” reflexively. On the other hand, out of embarrassment or pride, you may be tempted to say “Yes” before fully knowing the scope of what’s required. Slow down and ask yourself why you’re reacting as you are. Then ask clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand the project at hand. By being willing to try new things, you demonstrate self-confidence, which inspires others to have confidence and trust in you as well.

Many years ago, one of my most influential mentors said to me: “When you are asked to do something, Say YES and then figure out how to do it!” This bold approach can bypass all the fear and anxiety of trying something new. It’s not for the faint of heart, though!

Which of these strategies are you ready to try? If you want to grow professionally it’s essential to have a plan. So, what do you really want to accomplish and how will you do it? Why not schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me so we can explore your options? I’m happy to meet in-person, by phone or via Skype.


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