Relating to Ourselves: Who Are You – Part III

How well do you know yourself? Here’s Part III of Andrea’s re-blog, Relating to Ourselves: Who Are You, a timely nudge to delve inside yourself to know and love the uniqueness that is you. 

Andrea Chilcote; Relating to Ourselves

By Andrea Chilcote

Want to know how to get what you need from the relationships you value in life? Know what you need. And, knowing what you need is a result of knowing who you are.

In my experience, an essential price of admission for healthy, satisfying relationships with others is a clear and grounded sense of self. I’m not talking about self-indulgence or selfishness – I’m referring to the settled sense that comes from knowing and loving the uniqueness that is you.

As a coach, I utilize instruments that help me quickly (and painlessly) assess clients’ core drivers, productive behaviors and the consequences of unmet needs. When revealing the results of these assessment tools, I’m sometimes met by a distinct response, a bewildered astonishment that I could reveal aspects of their personality so carefully hidden away. Often they themselves had not consciously considered these traits, but when faced with the data, they have a whole new world of choices. Recently I met with a new client over dinner to review the information I had compiled, a combination of feedback from others and her Birkman Report. At the end of the evening, she remarked: “Well it was very enlightening to have dinner with someone who knows me better than I know myself.”

Andrea Chilcote, Character ValuesWhile these tools are quite helpful, the fact is you don’t need a report to tell you who you are. You know when you are your best, most productive self. You know the activities and people from whom you gain energy vs. being depleted. You know what makes you feel most alive.

Do you let your true self be known in your day-to-day interactions with significant others? Is there some aspect of your personality – some core need you have – that’s hidden away? There’s a cost to holding back. At a minimum, when we don’t acknowledge and reveal who we are and what we need, we miss the most basic satisfaction in life. At worst, we find ourselves entangled in personal and professional relationships that can be destructive to body or psyche.

So, what is it that you need from a key relationship in your life? Take responsibility by naming it, then examine what you are doing (or not) to nurture that quality. A relationship is a product of the interaction of two parts. Changing your awareness alone can shift everything. My client has managed to change the perception of her work team by revealing herself in day-to-day interactions. What can you do to show up as who you are?

Andrea Chilcote


Revisit parts one and two of the Relating to Ourselves blog series:   

Relating to Ourselves: Putting Self First – Part I
Relating to Ourselves: The Need for Renewal – Part II

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Relating to Ourselves: Putting Self First – Part I

This New Year 2017 is off to a swift and catalyzing start! We thought this re-blog, Relating to Ourselves, is timely and may it be a helpful nudge towards remembering to honor ourselves and our own need to act from a personal state of integrity. Join us as we reflect back to Andrea’s original blog written in 2012.

by Andrea Chilcote

This post is the first of a three-part series entitled Relating to Ourselves. This segment deals with honoring yourself first in order to build capacity for helping others.

self-care_relating-to-ourselves-rev5

Lately it seems I have less time and more demands on that precious time. Sound familiar? When I recently shared this lament with a trusted confidant, she asked me to do something that on the surface sounded simple. Her request? “State the following, then tell me how it feels to you: ‘I am the most important person in my life right now.’”

Well, it felt incongruent. Even though I believe that unless I care for myself first I cannot possibly care for important others in my life, I sure did not feel it in the midst of my all-too-busy day.

Many women tend to be healers – we’re the gender more often charged with care-giving. (This is not intended as a criticism of the many care-giving men out there who are natural nurturers – it’s simply a fact that women usually assume the role more explicitly).

So my friend’s question sparked thoughts about the great equilibrium of giving and receiving. It can be out of balance literally, or in our heads. Rejuvenating activities, gratitude or compliments from those we love, as well as simple acts of kindness shown to us, all produce healing energy. Are we allowing enough of that in our lives?

‘Am I the most important person in my life right now?’

Consider the literal examples. We can starve ourselves by constantly doing for others, never taking the time to replenish in whatever way creates true enjoyment. We can surround ourselves with people who take only (energy vampires, as Dr. Judith Orloff describes them), rather than spend time with people who know the beautiful dance of give and take. If you are one of these givers, you probably recognize the toll it takes on you, and, most likely, the things that you seek – acceptance, purpose, love – are elusive.

More insidious is the type that is made up in our minds. In this scenario we do a lot and are offered a lot, but – we don’t notice what’s coming back to us because our mental drive is so focused on the next task. I get caught in this mind trap often.

I am blessed with a loving husband as well as friends, clients and animal companions who give me as much or more than I give out. But often I miss these precious gifts because the to-do lists in my brain trick me into believing I have no time for them.

re-focus_relating-to-ourselves-revThe affirmation offered by my friend – “I am the most important person in my life right now” – was profound. Once I made that statement, I was forced to re-focus on the present moment. What I was doing did not change, but the way I did it changed significantly. I came back alive, appreciating the small and
beautiful give and take in the interactions of life.

As I moved through the next several days, I did, as usual, a great deal for others. What I provide the people and animals I love brings me great joy. And I en-joy that work when I come from a place of integrity in myself and my capacity.

So, take the challenge given to me.

Can you love yourself enough to care for those you love?

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Compassion for Yourself

by Andrea Chilcote

I love it when this happens: someone very wise states a basic truth in a simple and elegant way and I hear it anew.

Andrea Chilcote; Brene Brown

That’s what happened when I read scholar Brene Brown’s advice to examine my judgments, to see if they’re really self-criticisms that compare something I feel is inadequate in me to someone who I view as “worse.”

I’ve known about this mirror thing for many years. The things we like or dislike about others serve as a mirror for those things we like or dislike about ourselves. The judgments we have of others are really self-criticisms. It all make sense, yet Brown’s message gave me a tool to go beyond self-awareness – to transformation. And, it’s important because without the process she outlines, looking in the mirror just produces more self-criticism.

Like every great tool, her process lends itself to interpretation. I’ll share mine here, in the hope it will be practical and useful to you too, spirited women.

  • Examine the judgment. Ask yourself: “In what way does this behavior I’m judging in someone else remind me of something I don’t like about myself?” This step requires introspection. Don’t rationalize it – seek the insight, even if it seems illogical.
  • Give yourself a break. Practice self-compassion. Forgive yourself. This is the most important step, and it’s easier because you have company.
  • Then, (are you ready for this?) – feel empathy for the person you were judging. That’s easy too, if you acknowledge the ways in which you thought or acted in similarly. Compassion for the other person becomes automatic because – and perhaps only because – you just felt genuine compassion for yourself.

This new insight doesn’t change the inevitable fact that judgments will arise in me. It doesn’t change the need to practice self-acceptance. But in the week or so I’ve been focusing on this, I’ve transformed quite a few criticisms of myself and others – things that were sitting below the surface affecting my quality of life in some small way.

Brown says the practice will bring more joy. I welcome that. How about you?

“It starts with showing compassion for ourselves. Only when we feel comfortable with our own choices—and embrace our own imperfections—will we stop feeling the driving need to criticize others.” —Brene Brown

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Can you let it go?

Andrea Chilcote

by Andrea Chilcote

I’ve been thinking about beliefs lately. How they form, how we let go of them. I know for sure that they often operate unconsciously, driving everything from our self-talk to simple choices and life decisions. Anyone with even an ounce of self-awareness knows that they “believe” (or at least have believed) some things that are irrational or untrue – often because of the thought patterns that were formed at a very young age and remain unearthed and unexamined.

I have beliefs I don’t even think I believe. For example, in good conscience I would tell you that at my very core I know that I am safe and secure, and will always be able to create and maintain a life I love. But every now and then, fear slips in and I become sure I will become one of the bag ladies Martha Beck talks about. There’s a complex biochemical activity unfolding in my brain’s amygdala and on some very basic level I’m just harkening back to the remnants of a belief system that I’ve spent my life learning to let go of. If, in one of those moments, you tried to offer me a logical, rational argument, I would nod my head and say I believe you. But some part of me would not even listen.

Why do some belief systems show up as impenetrable shells, biases that preclude even mere consideration, while others can be informed, enlightened and shaped upon examination?

Once I attended a legislative committee hearing on a state bill that I have a keen interest in opposing. Once again I saw how our beliefs color our ability and even desire to listen. I watched as compelling, intelligent arguments were made, and hoped they would, at a minimum, provoke dialogue. Yet those whose opening statements revealed opposite views didn’t even ask any questions. When it was time to vote, they parroted back their opening lines and remained true to their initial stand. It was as if no new information had even been introduced.

I wrote about the ways in which our listening gets hijacked by our beliefs and biases in my post, “Attention Please”  I suggested presence as a method for better listening. But there’s something that comes before presence. It’s motivation. I’m reminded of an admittedly blunt response I have been known to offer clients when they ask me how to transform some simple habit or behavior that, on the surface, looks easy to overcome. “Ya gotta wanta,” I say with a smile.

It is simple, but far from easy, to put aside one’s biases and beliefs. And I know that doing so improves the quality of our lives in so very many ways. But, – ya gotta wanta.

You Have to Ask

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

I was standing on a ledge just wide enough to clear the length of my feet. It had those wrought iron bars you might find around a window box, and they stopped midpoint between my ankles and knees.

Perched many stories high with my back against the brick of the building, I cautiously looked down to the right, then to the left. There was only a thin strip of concrete on either side of my perch, and nothing to hold onto. No windows to escape into. I held my breath as I realized there was no way down.

Back to center, I straightened my head and thought hard. There was vague realization in the recesses of my consciousness: “This isn’t really happening. It’s just a dream.” Yet I couldn’t force my mind to wake.

“Pray!” The thought came to me clearly and just as I formed the words, “please help me,” my tiny platform began to descend. It was as if it had suddenly attached itself to a hydraulic lift and I was descending rapidly, feet firmly planted.

I hit the ground with a soft thud, exhaled and whispered “Thank you.” And then added: “A little slower next time, but really, thank you.”

Ask and you shall receive.

I can recite the verse, yet one difficult day (or year) can cause me to lose faith. And it seems that just about the time I begin to doubt, I get a powerful reminder. With my waking mind out of the way, I’m able to connect with the part of me that knows I’m always safe.

Several years ago I had a different but vivid dream that confirmed the same. I wrote about it in my post What Is Your Anchor? The lesson then and still today is to confront my fears, but not allow them to consume me. One of those simple messages, but not one that’s always easy to hear.

My belief is that the part of me that creates these dreams is the part I can and should trust. My waking mind is useful, but it sure can cloud the truth. In my dream state, I assessed a dangerous situation, saw that my human capability was of no use, and called upon the superpowers.

Let’s see if I can remember that lesson over the next few days. How about you?

Rest By Any Other Name

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

I’ve been busy. (“Ha ha,” you say. “Tell me something new.”)

Seriously, there is something new here. I have a lot going on, yes. But I also have this emerging core value I’ve been attending to. I haven’t found a just-right word for it yet, but self-regard comes close. It’s a familiar state of being, one I’ve honed for years now. And even though I genuinely feel such things as self-respect, compassion for my own shortcomings, and deservingness, my behavior doesn’t always align. I often “dis”-regard my own needs in light of an abundance of things to do and people to serve.

And so I get tired. Exhausted, sometimes.

Earlier this year, I decided something has to give. And the answer, I knew then and know still, is not to simply do less. It has more to do with the quality with which I carry myself through life than the length of my to-do list. It has little to do with the amount of hours I sleep and is more about what I do with the hours I’m awake. Regard for my own needs is paramount if I am going to truly contribute in this life.

In the last week, a friend (who knows of this new pursuit), has prefaced a number of statements with “If you’re not resting …” Each time I heard or read those words, I had a visceral reaction. I wanted to shout: “Of course I’m not resting, I’m busy.” Or, “I don’t need to rest – I’m energized.” At the same time I was thinking these thoughts, I was carefully managing my energy. Despite a packed work schedule, in the last three days I’ve made time for exercise, fun visits with friends, a great book, a good movie and a weekday lunch with Arthur.

After examining my reaction to my friend’s implication that I needed “rest,” I understood it. It’s the word, and what the word connotes to me.

Resting takes many forms of course. Some rest on the sofa while others rest on the dance floor. We can rest in motion, or rest … errr … at rest. Mental rest is different from physical rest. In my analysis of why the word itself produces such a reaction in me, I realized that I judge rest. In the crazy way I have it wired, some is deserved, some not. Some is for sissies, and some is to be savored like fine wine. Even the dictionary definition of rest seems polarized. Descriptions like “Death,” and  “To lie unfarmed,” sit beside “A place to stop and relax” and “Freedom from anxiety.”

How do you view rest? Is it an essential chore, or a delicious and deserved reward? How do you practice rest? Do you crash exhausted or plan the things that uniquely refresh you?

I’ve reframed my point of view on rest. Does yours need a reset too?

Intuition’s Subtle Nudge

Andrea Chilcote, Erik's Hope This is an everyday story that’s not “important” on the surface. But I’m sharing it for one very important reason: Life’s big lessons often come to me in very subtle ways. I bet the same is true for you.

The following true story took place one year ago. It’s about trusting (or not) my intuition. It’s about how my thoughts create my reality, and how the energy of negativity and annoyance beget more of the same.

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I was actually looking forward to my hotel stay on Monday night. It turns out that the hotel my client suggested was the same one in which I stayed three years ago with my two good friends and my precious pup Kairos, when we drove him across the country at seven weeks of age. When I think of that time and trip, my sweetest memory is snuggling with him that first night together, and getting up every two hours to ride the elevator downstairs to take him outside. Returning to that special place and remembering that special trip would be a small pleasure.

When I arrived in Dallas and retrieved my rental car, I asked Siri to route me to the Embassy Suites DFW airport. I could have looked up the address on the detailed itinerary Laura always provides – but I was unaware that there happened to be two of these hotels, one north of and one south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, so I didn’t bother to check it. When Siri asked me to choose from a list of several, I quickly decided on the south location. Even though my choice was quick, I felt a strange incongruence, but the address looked right. In another century (the 1980’s), I worked for the company that owned this property and I visited it frequently – so the address probably struck a chord on some level. At the same time, I lingered a second or two extra on the second location listed, as it brought a memory too – a fleeting but sweet one. Why hadn’t I checked my itinerary?

My mistake was revealed when I tried to check in, and the clerk found no reservation. I briefly entertained leaving for the correct hotel, but the clerk grudgingly offered to change my reservation. The other hotel was 11 miles away and it was after 11 pm. I stayed put, though once again I felt a subtle yet clear “no.” His haughty attitude was contagious. But why didn’t I choose peace, even if it meant driving another 11 miles?

When I reached my room, it was obvious that this was not the hotel where Kairos, Suzanne, Barbara and I stayed. The decor was dark and dreary – reflective of the “other century” when it was in its heyday. More importantly, the AC was set on 65 – and was blowing – but hot. That should have been my third clue that I was in the wrong place, but now I was even more determined to settle in and get some sleep.

The front desk manager found me a cooler but still not completely comfortable room. I shared my displeasure with him, to which he just replied, “It’s been a long day.” I unpacked and went to bed.

I don’t recall the exact dream I had, but I kept hearing an annoying sound that I tried to quiet but could not. In the dream state, I must have thought I had remedied the problem but as these kinds of dreams go, I could not. Eventually it penetrated my consciousness sufficiently enough to fully wake me. At 3:30 am, I discovered the smoke detector chirping. You’ve heard it, the sound they make when the battery needs to be replaced. Were my subtle signals getting louder?

The unit was within reach. I dragged a chair below it, climbed up and removed the battery. It kept chirping. Hotel staff came and removed the unit.

After that, it felt as though I didn’t sleep at all until my 6 am alarm, but my recollection of odd travel-style dreams confirmed I had. (I dreamed a tedious script that included plans for shower order, timing of breakfast and walking of the dogs, one that was clearly a dream but closely enough related to my actual experience that I questioned the amount of rest I had obtained).

As if all of this was not enough, I had a disturbing encounter when I went downstairs for coffee just after waking. Recalling it now, it seems surreal after the night of interrupted sleep and odd dreams. At the coffee dispenser, another hotel guest made a jaw-dropping remark (to me) about a man at the breakfast bar who he presumed was Muslim. To my disappointment, he joined me on the elevator and unbelievably, despite my dismissal, he continued bantering about his fear of the “enemy.”

After battling heavy traffic to get to my morning destination, I decided that I would go to the trouble of moving to the originally intended hotel. There was nothing inherently bad about the one I left – but its mojo and mine were surely not aligned.

Andrea and Kairos ChilcoteI had to smile as I entered my room in the second hotel – I did recall that sweet memory of a fun trip and the joy of my new pup. And I slept comfortably, without waking even once.

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While my minor travel inconveniences are unimportant in the larger scheme of things, how many subtle signals are we dismissing about the things that really matter? How many chain reactions are we igniting with our thoughts, thoughts that seem inconsequential but are far from that as they impact each next step we take?

The energy field in which we operate is objective. It does not judge the gravity of consequences. It just operates in a reliable manner. It supports our intentions – positive or negative – but we have to listen.

My friend Debbie says the inner voice gets louder and more persistent the more we allow it and give it power. I’m grateful for this subtle voice, and respectful of the awesome power of the energy my intentional thoughts create.