How to Stop Worrying about What People Think of You

Worried womanYour mind won’t stop.

You just talked with a friend or finished an important meeting.

Over the next few hours or days, every detail of the conversation plays itself over and over in your head.

As each detail flashes by, a voice in your head asks, “What did they think of that?” “Why did you say it that way?”

Or, the voice just screams, “Wow, that was stupid. They probably really hate you now.”

You wish you could go back and fix it. Maybe you try. You send an email to clarify what you meant. And another.

You look back at those emails, and the same voice speaks: “Why in the world did you say that?” And then, “Why haven’t they written back?! Oh, no! You probably just made it worse!”

You lose sleep. You relax only when you find out for sure that they aren’t mad at you.Continue reading

Why You Should Take EVERYTHING Personally

Why you should take everything personallyDon’t take things personally.

You’ve heard this before, right?

About how much happier you’ll be when you do it?

So, you’ve tried to put it into practice. You give people the benefit of the doubt. You refocus. You tell yourself that you don’t need people’s approval.

And, things have gotten a little better. Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you manage to stay calm as you tell yourself that they’re having a worse day than you are.

But, someone pushes a button. . .you know, THAT button, and the ground you’ve gained instantly slips away. You’re as upset as you’ve ever been, or even more so.

What happened? Why can’t you overcome this problem, when it seems like everyone else has? Friends say how great their lives are now that they don’t take things personally, and you just shake your head. There must be something wrong with you.Continue reading

3 Relationship Cures That Never Work (and the One That Does)

What to do when your relationship drives you crazy.It’s always easy at the beginning. You meet someone new, you go on a few dates, you fall in love. With the most wonderful person.

Then, it starts creeping in. There’s that one thing they do…

If they could only be more _________.

If only they would stop _________.

The tension builds between the things you love about them and the things you hate. You have to make a choice about how to move forward, and you have some options. One of these is probably your default, so keep reading until you find the one that you recognize.Continue reading

The Most Remarkable Word You’ll Read Today

Surprised womanThe word is “already.”

What’s so remarkable about that word, you ask? Here’s some context.

You are already good enough. Yes, YOU. Just as you are right now.

Without losing another pound.

Without earning another dollar.

Without putting on make-up.

Without finding the perfect mate.

Without your child bringing home straight A’s.

Without the promotion.

Without cleaning your house.

You are already good enough.

Uh-Oh

You don’t believe me, do you?

Would you believe it if your mom said it? Or your best friend? Or if it came from a respected mentor?

Would you still believe it tomorrow? Or, the next day?

Or, would you sink back into that “not good enough” place, just like you have all of your life?

Hearing that you’re good enough from someone else never really sticks for long, does it?

So, You “Do”

You try to earn your way to “good enough.”

Do more.

Be more.

Be nicer.

Get organized.

Wake up earlier.

Work later.

Work harder.

Work out harder.

Eat better.

Eat less.

Right?

If you just do enough, you will feel good enough. You look at people around you, and they are clearly good enough. If you could just be a little more like them, you could be good enough, too.

But…and this is a hard thing to swallow…you can’t earn this one. Not even if you’re an expert earner, and you’ve been successful at every single thing you’ve put your mind to.

So, You “Think”

You go to therapy and faithfully follow all of your therapist’s instructions.

You read the latest guru’s book.

You do all the affirmations.

You use your guided meditation every day. Twice on Monday.

If you can just think differently, you’ll finally feel good enough. But, you wake up each day right back in your “not good enough” hole.

You’re beating your head against some invisible wall, and you’re not even making much of a dent.

The Wall You Must Get Around

That wall is your rational brain. While it is operating…while you are doing and thinking…you can’t access the part of yourself that stores how you feel.

In order to change at the deepest level, you must bypass that wall.

Beyond the wall is your sense of self, which stores how you feel about being human. Trapped inside that storage bank is the feeling you absorbed early in life that there is something wrong with you being just the way you are.

Not only do you experience that rotten feeling repeatedly now, but your brain actually uses it to generate the negative moments of your life. So, you feel it and the situations in your life confirm it.

You’re hit with “not good enough” from all sides.

But, there’s hope. When you get beyond the rational brain wall and tap into your sense of self, you can really change that feeling.

The Key to Bypassing the Wall

You might think that meditation or hypnosis will get you around the wall. But, they only put the rational brain on the sideline, and it snaps back into action all too easily.

The good news is that your rational brain shuts down entirely every day…while you sleep. And, sleep is when your sense of self recharges itself. These two factors make sleep the most optimal time for deep and lasting change.

It’s a bit tricky, though, since you’re asleep when you need to access your sense of self. A researcher named Mimi Herrmann spent 20 years discovering how to give your sleeping brain permission for change, and I worked with her for 5 years, helping her refine how to tell your brain the specific changes you want to make.

By engaging in three integral actions—working with a guide to understand this change process, sleeping with a recorded message that is a catalyst for change, doing simple daytime work to shift your feeling—you can permanently remove layers of that horrible feeling that there is something wrong with you.

The Other Side of the Wall

One of my clients is an expert at “earning.” She’s at the top of her field and she has always succeeded by working hard. But, she hit her “not good enough” wall recently. On a day that should have been a celebration of her personal and professional pinnacles, she was all alone.

“It was the best day of my career, and I looked better than I’ve ever looked before, and no one wanted to share it with me. If I could do all of this and still be alone, I must not be lovable.”

Being good enough was still something she had to earn.

We spent a couple of months removing layers of “not good enough,” and she realized one afternoon that what people think of her doesn’t matter. For the first time in her life, she felt free to just be who she is. In years of working on herself, she had never felt this way. All the books and gurus told her this is how she was supposed to feel, but just knowing that (with her rational brain) never took away “not good enough.”

Not only does she feel different, but she’s speaking up for what she really wants, even with people she’s always deferred to. She’s expressing herself without reservation or worry about what others will think, and people are reacting to her in wonderful, new ways she never expected, certainly not from just being herself. Even in her career, things feel better and more effortless.

This is what I hear from clients all the time. “Wow, Sara, I never thought I could just be myself. It’s so weird to finally feel that I’m good enough, and people seem to like me even more!”

It Was Already There

Notice that my clients don’t mention learning this new feeling. That’s because it was already there.

The core of who you are as a human being is the feeling that you are just right, exactly as you are.

You don’t need to create that feeling. You just need to uncover it.

It might seem selfish to spend time and energy uncovering the feeling that you are good enough.

But, it’s the most unselfish thing you could ever do.

At your core is the uniqueness that you are here to express. And when you are plugged into it, there is more light for everyone.

The world is in trouble in a myriad of ways. Your uniqueness holds the solution to some piece of that trouble. The world needs you to unlock your uniqueness and put it into action.

And, as a little side benefit, your life will get better, too. But, if that feels too selfish, just focus on the good you’ll do for the world by finally feeling that you already good enough. Because you are. Yes, YOU.

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

The Myth of a Clean Slate (and Why You Don’t Want One, Anyway)

clean slatePeople talk a lot this time of year about beginning with a clean slate. It’s a lovely idea to start over without all the baggage that weighs you down, isn’t it?

There are lots of ways to try and wipe the slate clean. Many people try to end certain habits or cultivate new ones. Some people end a relationship or start a new one. Some move to a new house or a new geographical location, altogether. Others start a new job or career.

Have you ever done any of these things, only to find your same, old patterns creeping (or crashing) back in? Maybe you have even thought, “This time, it’s really going to work! I’ve worked so hard, and I’ve done everything right this time.” How frustrating!

Why the Slate Is So Hard to Wipe Clean

So, why is it that we keep getting dragged back into our old patterns, no matter what we do? Not surprisingly, it all goes back to childhood. By the time we’re 2 1/2 years old, our major life patterns are set. From conception until age 2 1/2, we absorb how it feels to be human from how people around us feel about being human. From that absorbed feeling, our brains develop a sense of self that automatically generates every moment of our lives and a survival mechanism that allows us to fit well within the world around us.

Our thinking brains don’t begin to operate until the age of 2 1/2. Since we aren’t able to think during the early absorbing time, none of what we absorb or develop is rational. Some of the feeling that we soak up from others is called Learned Distress, the feeling that there is something wrong with us being just the way that we are. If we could have made some rational decisions, we would have thrown that feeling right back out, but unfortunately, it just becomes part of how we feel that it is to be human. And then, we develop survival mechanisms to cope with or control the Learned Distress, and they can seem downright crazy to our adult, thinking brains.

For instance, one major survival mechanism is dependence on others, and one way the brain puts that into practice is for someone to be unhealthy or even very sick. We all know rationally that being dependent and sick isn’t good for us. But, this person’s 2-year-old brain isn’t concerned with what makes sense. It just knows that survival depends on being reliant on others, and a good way to do that is to be sick. Hence, they might work very hard to get healthy, only to find themselves dragged back into unhealthy habits or conditions, or even developing new ones, inexplicably. It doesn’t make rational sense, and this person isn’t intentionally practicing self-sabotage. This is just the powerful 2-year-old trying to survive. This part of us has been there the longest, and no matter what control mechanism we try and impose on it, the 2-year-old eventually wins.

These negative patterns can happen anywhere in life—in health, relationships, career, and how we express ourselves in the world. Every aspect of life ultimately comes back to our absorbed sense of self and our survival mechanisms developed early in life.

Why You Don’t Want a Clean Slate, Anyway

A clean slate might sound pretty good right now, but here’s why you don’t want one. There is something even deeper within you than your Learned Distress and survival mechanisms, and it is pure good. This natural well-being is the kernel of energy that you began life with, and it is the feeling that it is completely good to be you, exactly as you are.

Your well-being was meant to be the totality of who you are, and your early life was just meant to be a time when it expanded in ways that allowed you to express your uniqueness. But, since people around you didn’t feel good every moment, you absorbed Learned Distress from them, also, and here you are, wishing for a clean slate.

But, what would be better is to wipe away the Learned Distress, so that your well-being can finally expand and take its natural place as the automatic, generating force in your life. Your well-being contains the unique goodness that is yours to express in the world, so allowing it to flow freely from within you gives the world a vital piece of the whole that you are meant to contribute.

What Well-Being Looks Like

One of the first things people say to me after they’ve peeled away a layer or two of Learned Distress is that good things happen so much more easily. When Learned Distress is in charge, we have to control it or leap over it in some way and make good things happen. We’re used to working hard for the good things. But, have you ever gotten out of bed and vowed to work really, really hard to make something bad happen that day? Of course, not. Learned Distress generates that for you.

Taking the Learned Distress out of the way allows well-being to generate your good moments in exactly the same way. So, clients call me and say, “I can’t believe it. For the first time ever, eating right was so easy this week.” Or, “I’ve always known that I should just tell people what’s on my mind, instead of worrying about what they think. But, this week, I just kept surprising myself by being really honest, and it worked so much better than I ever thought it would.”

My favorite part of helping people uncover their well-being is discovering with them what their uniqueness is. Sometimes, people worry that if we peel away their Learned Distress, there won’t be anything of them left. But, they soon find out that they have hidden desires and gifts that lead them along the unique path they are here to travel. As they unlearn layers of Learned Distress, pieces of their uniqueness are revealed to them, sometimes as complete surprises. And, because well-being is the driving force now, this good feeling propels in ways that make new twists and turns easier to navigate than they have been before. A client of mine just moved to a new country for a job that came about as the result of unlearning big layers of her Learned Distress. Major factors fell into place easily for her in the move, such as finding a buyer for her house instantly and effortlessly.

So, next time you’re wishing for a clean slate, you might wonder instead what it would be like to open up your well-being like a great big present. What unique surprises might be hidden within you, just waiting to delight not only you, but the whole world?

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.

On the Holidays, Grieving, and Finding Inner Strength

How to move gently through grieving.I know that the holidays can be a really hard time, especially if you are grieving in some way. Grief can result from so many situations, as a client reminded me yesterday. She said that this holiday season, she finds herself grieving for the life she wishes that she had, but doesn’t, especially including children and a mate.

As I was considering what to post this week, I felt the most helpful thing I could do was to republish this piece I wrote last spring on grieving and finding our inner resources in the most difficult of times. I hope that you find it helpful and will pass it along to anyone you might know who is struggling this holiday season.Continue reading

How Success Lies Beyond Being Perfect and Playing by the Rules

Woman in sunny fieldOh, boy. This is not the topic I had planned for this week, but the unfolding of this blog post has been such a big shift for me and actually so fun, that I had to share it with you.

I overbooked myself this week and found myself at the point where I needed to write something for this space. I thought to myself, “Oh, no! I’ve run out of time to come up with something good enough.” Then, “Well, I can’t cop out and run another archive post this week.”Continue reading

6 Reasons the Holidays Stress Us Out (and the Antidote to All of Them)

Holiday stressDo you feel rested and relaxed once January 2 rolls around each year? Or, do you breathe a sigh of relief, grateful to have survived one more holiday season?

If you fall into the second category, you already know that you’re not alone. The negative feelings that we encounter during the holidays run the gamut from mild stress to anxiety to profound depression. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am always looking for the reasons within us that allow any situation to trigger such negativity.

In this article, I’ll describe a few of the biggest core issues that can make the holidays feel less than wonderful. All of these issues fall within a larger body of negative feeling called Learned Distress®.

Early in life, we all absorb this feeling that there is something wrong with us being just the way that we are. This Learned Distress becomes the automatic, generating force behind our negative moments and situations. As we absorb this negative feeling, our brains also develop survival mechanisms to help us cope with or control the feeling that there’s something wrong with us. Unfortunately, even our survival mechanisms can offer big stumbling blocks to happiness and success.

The holidays have the capacity, like any major life stressor, to trigger the most intense of our Learned Distress and survival mechanisms. So, let’s look at some of the most common. You may find that one or more resonate for you.

1. I Don’t Have Enough Money

The feeling that “there isn’t enough for me” pops up in lots of ways for people, but money is perhaps the most common way that we experience it. There are many expectations that we often have about the holidays that require money. Gift giving. Parties. Charitable giving. Decorating. Special holiday meals. Concerts or shows. Dressy clothes to wear to all these events.

Whether or not your finances are tight, the extra expenditures that you may feel are necessary at this time of year can really trigger the Learned Distress that “there’s never enough for me.” Believe it or not, even people who actually do have the funds to afford all of these things often say things to me like, “All I worry about is where my next meal is coming from.” This is because this feeling of not having enough is stored deep within us from early in our lives, just waiting to be triggered by something like the holidays.

2. I Don’t Have Enough Time

Many of the same holiday expectations above trigger fear about not having the time or energy to fulfill them. Can I get all my cards done on time? Can I get presents purchased, wrapped, and shipped? While going to parties every weekend? And concerts or the ballet? Again, whether or not you do actually have the time and energy to do these things, your fear that you don’t can still be triggered in a big way during this season.

3. I Don’t Matter

Feeling that we matter is at the core of being human, so having this triggered is one of the worst things we can experience in life. The feeling that we don’t matter is stored within us from early in life and is really just triggered by circumstances, kind of like tripping an alarm. But, we gauge the feeling that we don’t matter almost entirely by how other people respond to us and treat us.

So, one of the big triggers for this awful feeling is loved ones being absent, either because they’ve passed away or because we’re separated from them temporarily or permanently. Another big trigger for feeling like we don’t matter is not having a significant other or close friends to spend time with at the holidays. Even if you’re usually content to be alone, the holidays can feel like a time when you should have people around, so the feeling that you don’t matter gets triggered.

This feeling often also makes us feel invisible, even in the presence of people who are close to us. Maybe you do your best to tell your loved ones how you would like to celebrate the holidays, but they don’t seem to hear you, and plans are made that don’t fit with what you really want, at all. This is the feeling that you don’t matter at work, generating situations over and over again where you get to feel that same way.

4. Everything Has to Be Perfect

Do you feel this pressure at the holidays? Maybe you have to send everyone cards. Or, decorate just the right way. Bake cookies for everyone. Throw the perfect holiday party. Look perfect at holiday gatherings. Cook the best holiday meal ever. Find just the right present for everyone. Or, maybe it’s all of the above with a few more things thrown in!

If this rings a bell, your brain decided early in life that the way you could survive, despite feeling that there is something wrong with you, was to always do things in the perfect or ideal way. Do you ever feel panicky at the thought that you might not actually achieve all of the above? Do you even know if doing these things makes you happy? Our survival mechanisms can be so strong that they don’t even really allow us to know if we’re doing something based on what is really good for us, or not.

5. I Have to Make Everyone Else Happy

This is similar to number 4, in that you may not even be aware of what would make you happy, because your survival mechanism has you so busy making sure that you give everyone what they want from you (or what you think they want from you!). Survival for you depends on getting everyone else’s approval or validation, so you expend lots of energy doing whatever may help you achieve that.

Very often, this pattern has a healthy dose of number 3—”I don’t matter”—built into it, so you may wake up on January 2 and think, “Well, I made the holidays great for everyone else, but what about me?!”

6. I Have to Win

Better. Bigger. Brighter. Than everyone else’s. Is this the pressure you feel around the holidays? That unless you are the winner of this year’s holiday in some way—decorations, presents, parties—that you will have failed in some way? This is a demanding piece of Learned Distress, and like numbers 4 and 5, it may not even allow you to consider what would really make you happy.

The Antidote to Learned Distress

Did you recognize some of your own Learned Distress above? The most important thing I want you to know is that these negative feelings and survival mechanisms are not who you are. Before you ever started to absorb Learned Distress, you were pure well-being, a pure bundle of feeling good being just the way you are. You still have this well-being at your core, and it is your true nature.

You have within you what you need to achieve what matters to you, including having enough money and time. You are already good enough, just as you are. You do matter, exactly as you are.

Unfortunately, I know that reading these things probably doesn’t help you feel much better about your situation right now. If I could snap my fingers and dissolve all of your Learned Distress today, I would. But, Quanta Change doesn’t offer any such quick fixes. If we started working together today, we could probably erase some of your significant Learned Distress in the next few weeks. And then, we would be peeling away layers and allowing your well-being to emerge for some time to come. The reality is that Learned Distress that has been building for decades doesn’t disappear by following some simple advice that can be contained in a blog post.

And yet, my holiday wish for you is that by knowing that there is this deep well-being within you, that you can walk through this holiday season with just a little more ease and joy. Think of your well-being as a present just waiting to be unwrapped. What if you let yourself peel just a little wrapping paper away to catch a glimpse of it this holiday season?

Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.