living intuitively

blog

Posts tagged compassion
D E T O X
Photos by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Photos by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

The other day I was talking with a friend about dealing with toxic people in our lives.

We’ve all experienced negativity in our lives. That’s showbiz. And by showbiz, I mean LIFE. It’s part of the gig! And sometimes, that negativity is more chronic/severe, bumping it to the toxic zone.


You cannot heal in the same environment where you got sick.

Sporadic negativity is to be expected. Navigating life can be tough, man, and there are so many contributing factors to negativity: change/loss/curveballs/hormones. Ideally we’ll get to a place where we live what the Stoics preach: being solidly at peace no matter what happens. That’s a journey and a whole other conversation, so let’s table that for this post’s purpose.

Back to handling toxicity, particularly when it comes to toxic people in our lives. I’m a firm believer in empathizing with unacceptable behavior but not condoning it.

detox 1.jpg

Let’s unpack the first part of that: empathy. Everyone has bumps and bruises they’ve accumulated from being, you know…HUMAN. And let’s face it, some people get dealt realllly shitty hands. It doesn’t seem fair, right? And comparison is futile. Not everyone’s challenges are equal and they don’t have the same effect on everybody. Again, there are multiple contributing factors (history, current emotional/physical/mental state, etc). What’s tough for me may be easy for you, and vice versa. And what may have been a breeze for you in the past may knock you down now. Life isn’t necessarily linear.


Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion.
— Marshall B. Rosenberg

And some people are carrying some heavy burdens we know nothing about, driving them to act in certain ways, like lashing out/getting irritable/becoming erratic, etc. Our exterior (including our behavior) is a reflection of our interior. Our fears/insecurities have a way of hijacking us and driving our behavior. So let’s recognize this in one another and try not to judge/condemn/dismiss/etc. We’re all human and we’re all in this together, doing the best we can. Truly! We don’t get to decide what qualifies as someone else’s best; it’s different for everyone and is affected by what load the person is currently carrying. If that load is heavy from fears and insecurities, it’ll weigh the person down to the point where they’re exhausting all effort and energy to merely stay afloat. We’re not privy to all that adds to the load; therefore, we’re not fit to rule on it. And sometimes, a mental health matter is causing the issue.

Once we’ve empathized, now we can address how to handle the toxicity. It’s entirely possible to empathize with behavior, but not condone it. Understanding where people are coming from and why they do what they do, is not the same as rubber stamping their actions and saying it’s okay. For example, let’s say you have a friend who constantly competes with you. Rather than celebrating your wins, they minimize your accomplishment, or try to one up you. Digging into it, you discover this is because of your friend’s insecurity and need for validation, having been raised to believe one’s worth is conditional. This leads to your friend constantly seeking validation to “earn” their worth, and to prove to themself and others they are worthy of love and acceptance. This also results in a scarcity mindset, believing the more success you have, the less they will have.

Detox 4.jpg

And/or let’s say you have a partner who regularly criticizes you and puts you down. You realize this is because of your partner’s own feelings of inadequacy and shame, and because your partner is mimicking the dynamic they saw with their own parents.


Empathy without boundaries is self destruction.
— Silvy Khoucasian

Okay, so we get it: There are reasons why people act the way we do, and it’s key to invite humanity into the situation and view it with love. BUT this is also where boundaries are crucial. To fully love ourselves AND others, it is vital we set and maintain boundaries. If someone crosses a line, we respond accordingly. This can be hard, I know - but it’s like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it will be. And boundaries help us eliminate anger/frustration/shame/resentment to make room for more love/joy/compassion. Like Brené Brown says, boundaries are essential for true compassion.

If someone resists and challenges boundaries you set, it’s more evidence the boundaries are necessary.

So stand up for yourself. Accommodating toxicity is a disservice to all involved. It’s unfair to you, because you shouldn’t have to put up with that, and it’s unfair to them because it perpetuates the cycle, shows them it’s okay to treat people like garbage, and prevents them from healing and evolving. It’s unfair to you to not honor the negativity’s impact on you.

Detox 5.jpg

Stop holding onto toxic people just because you have history together. Stop holding onto toxic habits because you find comfort and security in routine.
— Kylie Francis

Addressing it can be complicated, and I think should be on a case-by-case basis. It’s key to consider where people are mentally and emotionally. Sometimes the person acknowledges and stops their toxicity and remains in your life. And sometimes, unfortunately, for your wellbeing, it requires removing them from your life. Sometimes this communicates to them the severity of the situation and the strength of your boundaries and is enough to motivate them to change their ways. And sometimes…it’s a permanent farewell.


Sometimes you must forget how you feel and think of what you deserve.

Maybe it comes down to their role/significance in your life, and/or the degree of toxicity. If it’s an acquaintance, it’s easier to minimize contact and love from afar. If it’s a coworker/close friend/partner/someone more fully integrated into your life, minimizing contact isn’t always a viable option. If the toxicity is serious enough, this may require a significant shift in your life. Prioritize your wellbeing over your connection. Just because someone is blood/best friend/spouse doesn’t mean they deserve to be in your life. YOU design your life and what/who goes in it. Sometimes, the greatest act of love is cutting contact and loving from afar.

detox 2.jpg

Sometimes you have to realize some people can stay in your heart but not your life.

Or maybe simply a gentle but frank convo is warranted. Ideally they’ll take it well, but if they don’t, you can rest assured you handled it maturely and gracefully, and honored the highest good.

And please - do what feels right to you. People will likely offer advice on what you should do, but you are the boss here. You get to decide. Sure, possibly seek insight from those you trust, but ultimately, it’s up to you.


Sometimes you have to be done. Not mad, not upset, just done.

And guess what? An unfortunate truth is sometimes…we’re the toxic one. We’re the one who needs to change our ways. This is why shadow work and self reflection are so dang important: to prevent our “stuff” from infecting our environment. If you’re not right with yourself, this impacts those around you. Your toxicity pollutes not only your inner being and those around you, but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. Eckhart Tolle discusses this is in his powerful book, The Power of Now. So sometimes that hard convo and tough love need to be directed at ourselves. Or sometimes others let us know we’ve violated their boundaries. Not fun to hear, but it’s a chance to heal, to grow, and to lean into love.

So let’s show up for ourselves and others and commit to toxic-free life.

xx,

-w-

P U R P O S E
Model Nicole Spinnler  Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography  Assisted by Cari Spinnler  MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin

Model Nicole Spinnler

Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin



So Whit, do you think our goal is comfort and happiness or to do epic shit? ‘Cause I don’t think you can do both.
— My badass amigo

Personally, I feel our collective purpose is to live and to grow, to be present and enjoy life.

That doesn’t mean life will be easy, and that we should avoid the hard stuff and resist the trials. It means we should find beauty and meaning and purpose in it all. We should celebrate. I think it’s about identifying and aligning with your purpose, and identifying what you personally need to grow, and to contribute the most value to the world. Not to your accomplishment record, but to the world.


purpose image 1.jpg
When we match compassion with purpose, we begin to change the world.
— Zachariah Thompson

Some people’s purposes require high-profile roles; some slower paced and more low key. I think aligning with your true purpose and talents and potential allows you to work smarter. It allows you to focus and leverage your talents and skills for maximum impact, which helps you feel fulfilled, motivated, engaged, and progressive.


Find the WHY in what you do and you will always be on the right path.

Everybody is different. We’re all on different places on the balance spectrum, and require different lifestyles to balance us. That’s why self awareness is key: We need to reflect and do our shadow work and level with ourselves, to know where to step it up + venture out (literally/figuratively) and where to pump the brakes and ease up.

purpose image 5.jpg

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Ask yourself: What are my motivations (in life in general, and for denying/accepting individual opportunities)? Am I copping out and staying in my comfort zone because I’m scared? Am I staying busy to avoid facing something? Am I taking this opportunity because I feel pressured (by family/friends/society/others)? Am I chasing a certain lifestyle/income/status because society exalts it? Does this resonate with me?

I think that last question is key: opting only for what truly resonates with you. And a good gauge is choosing opportunities that scare you, or opportunities that light you on fire.

I’ve had multiple opportunities to move to DC to work. It’d be catalytic for my career, but I know it’s not ultimately where I belong. I wouldn’t be happy there. My money/time/energy would be better spent invested in a place and position aligned with my purpose and desires. At the end of the day, my career might be popping but my personal life and fulfillment would suffer. And isn’t that what matters most in the end? To what everyone seems to circle back, and ultimately discover? Isn’t that what people seem to realize after living certain lifestyles? And that’s not to say that specific lifestyle is sans value. For some, that fits their purpose/personal preference, and would leave them the happiest. It can be tough distinguishing between what you’re resisting because of fear, or because of intuition (ie sending it’s wrong for you).

purpose image 6.jpg

This is why it’s important to learn to tune into yourself. Get to know yourself. Identify your thought patterns, particularly those based in fear. Understand why you do what you do and think what you think, to help you recognize when you’re being led by fear/trauma, and when you’re being led by intuition/wisdom. Practice separating from your thoughts, your mental narrative. Get comfortable dialing into your core, your true self, your inner wisdom. You know what you need. You always have, and you always will. It’s simply a matter of you holding space for yourself to acknowledge and honor your inner guidance.


The real joy in life comes from finding your true purpose and aligning it with what you do every single day.
— Tony Robbins

purpose image 7.jpg

This I know for sure: You can live a meaningful and fulfilling life wherever you are. It’s not the outer climate that matters, it’s your inner climate. You can have a profound impact on people whether you’re living in a small town or a booming metropolis, whether you’re a globe-trotting activist or stay-at-home parent, whether you’re a high-powered broker or a hometown hero. This is ever more true, with technology shrinking our world and allowing more connections than ever.

The goal: do you, and be happy doing it.

xx,

-w-


Every human being has a gift of genius and a personal calling encoded in them from birth. It is up to you to discover it, to develop it, to own it, and to share this gift with the world. This is your life’s purpose.
— Oprah Winfrey






Ya F E E L me?

Now on to the second Great Untruth, as outlined in The Coddling of the American Mind (an amazing book I read and first mentioned in an earlier post):

Always trust your feelings.

[Note: This relates to your emotions, not your intuition.]

Don’t get me wrong, emotions are helpful. Emotions are valuable messengers, revealing what’s going on below the surface, in your subconscious. They illuminate unhealed/repressed/insecure/etc parts of your being.

However, it’s imperative you view them through the right mindset: tools to increase your self awareness and heal yourself. Means to make you even more of a BAMF (bad ass motha you know what). Doing so requires willingness and discipline. It can be all too easy to give in to your initial feelings of anger/envy/contempt/fear/etc. But nope - be stronger than that.

If someone says something says something that rubs you the wrong way, or triggers feelings as resentment or rage, ask yourself:

  • Could I possibly have misperceived their words/intent?

    • Maybe I misheard them, or misunderstood them. Maybe they misspoke, thereby concealing their true [pure!] intent. Did they offend you unintentionally? [Have come across the wrong way? I know I have!] Try not to assume!

  • What can you glean from your emotional reaction?

    • Why did it affect you so strongly, in that way? Did it hit a nerve with you based on some past slight, of which the person is unaware? If so, this is a great opportunity to resolve the issue(s) within yourself

Do yourself - and others - a favor by going that extra step to check your automatic emotional reaction. If you operate off pure [initial] emotion, you’re limiting your self/interactions/connections and dooming yourself to a life of victimization, hurt, anxiety, and ostracism - regardless if these emotions are justified.

And so what if they are justified?

What if the person actually was intending offense? By reacting hostilely and lashing out (as tempting as it can be), you only deepen the divide and nurture the status quo.

Again, try to avoid assumption. If something rubs you the wrong way, respectfully acknowledge your possible misperception. This allows them: 1. an opportunity to clarify; 2. an opportunity to learn and see how their words/reasoning could be misconstrued and negatively impact others. (Wouldn’t you appreciate the same opportunity, if roles were reversed?) This likely heightens their awareness, thereby hopefully bridging the gap, lessening those divisive lines, and decreasing the likelihood of it happening again, to you or someone else. And maybe they stand by their assertion and maintain their racist/sexist/homophobic/ etc intent and view. It is what it is.

At least by responding with love and respect you can rest assured you’re not contributing to the problem. You can hold your head high knowing that by choosing to respond with love, you’re doing your part to soften the divide. And don’t get me wrong - sometimes you need to show a little fire to emphasize your point; but if you’re all flame and fury, you’re only exacerbating the situation.

A great principle to live your life by is the principle of charity: interpret others’ statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible. The ease with which you do this shows how solid within yourself you are. If it’s still challenging - time for some self reflection, amigo.

And while you’re self assessing, try not to label emotions as negative or positive - they’re just emotions! Like, I said, they’re tools to help you become happier, healthier, and stronger. Means by which to become S O L I D.



Choose not to be harmed - and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed - and you haven’t been.
— Marcus Aurelius

I’m a big fan of stoicism and Marcus Aurelius.

Don’t let others control your mind and cortisol levels. There will ALWAYS be offenses and offensive content (especially online!). Good news! It’s not up to you to right every [perceived] wrong, and school those with whom you disagree. (How easy would it be for them to change your mind? It’d likely be just as tough to change theirs.) As we strive to lessen hatred and heal divisions, we must all pick our battles and ignore some of what we see, and just carry on with our day - if only for your own sanity’s sake!

Shine on, babes.

xx,

-w-





Copy of d a r k . 2. L I G H T
Concept and images by me  Model: Byron Hunt

Concept and images by me

Model: Byron Hunt

I don’t live in darkness. Darkness lives in me.

We’ve all faced darkness. Sure, some more than others but we’ve all been there, experiencing it ourselves/encountering it in others.

We’ve also all experienced challenges and struggles; again, to varying degrees.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how much you have in your bank account. It doesn’t matter if your social life is poppin’ or if your abs pop. Darkness is equal opportunity. It affects people of all classes, of all races, of all backgrounds.

Some people have enough inner light to repel it. Yeah, they might feel down and out for a bit, but ultimately, the light triumphs. Glow baby glow.

For some people, the darkness permeates, and sometimes it’s harder to shake.

It doesn’t matter what your experiences are - being a human can be tough stuff! Just as we’re advised not to compare our highlight reels - we also should avoid comparing our “lowlight reels” so to speak. Our behind the scenes. Our challenges and obstacles. Our sucker punches life throws us.

We’re all on different journeys, with different psyches and pasts and mindsets and cumulative experiences. Maybe you’re a single parent eking out a life for yourself and your young. Maybe you’re a cancer patient fighting to keep a smile on your face and a resolve in your heart. Maybe you’re a teenager navigating your way in a world of bullies and heartbreaks. Or maybe you have a fantastic life by all general standards yet still feel empty.

dark image 2.jpg
How beautiful is the relationship between the moon and the dark night sky. So contrasting, yet so incomplete without each other.

It’s all hard!! Try not to compare your “hard” and try not to feel guilty for feeling knocked down by life sometimes.

Just accept! Accept your emotions. The more you deny yourself feeling them, the stronger they become. As they say, what you resist, persists.

Life offers ebbs and flows. Peaks and valleys. No two experiences are the same - even within your own life! It depends on your current mental/emotional state.

Think about it - sometimes an issue that would normally knock you on your face barely fazes you, while other times, merely dropping a pen can elicit instant rage and a “F M L!!!!!!!!!!”

And the comparison can flow the other way too! Try not to diminish/discredit others’ experiences. Just because someone hasn’t confronted the same quantity/quality of challenges as you doesn’t mean their life is easier. Like I said, it depends on their current mental/emotional state, which depends on multiple factors: their upbringing, their relationships, their health, etc. Shoot, even their current spot on the hanger scale! We truly have NO idea what people are working with and feeling. So let’s all hug - or at least high five - one another - and show kindness and empathy.

It fascinates me how we all have inner worlds to which no one else is privy. Every time I pass someone on the street, I want to know their story: challenges they’ve overcome, accomplishments they’ve achieved, etc. WE ALL HAVE STORIES.

dark image 4.jpg

I myself have experienced my own share of darkness. I’m definitely an empath, so when i feel, I friggin’ F E E L. And I take on other people’s energies/emotions. This sensitivity is both a benefit and a drawback. I appreciate it because it allows me to relate to and care for people on a whole other level (you fellow empaths can relate!), but it also gets me down and stresses me out. I feel the injustices of the world so acutely, particularly as they apply to others. Almost always, when I’m bumming/stressing, it’s on another’s behalf.

I’m still working on setting the boundaries for worrying about others, but as far as my personal darkness - my tried and true method for banishing the blues and maintaining a lasting zest for life - no matter my current situation - is facing it. Not denying it, or fleeing it, or resisting it. Leaning into it. Analyzing it. Letting others in. I’m a big advocate for therapy (and if you’ve tried therapy but didn’t connect with your therapist - keep looking! Vibing with your therapist is key).

And finally, be G R A T E F U L. Gratitude is deceptively powerful. So simple, so cliche…yet SO TRANSFORMATIVE. It truly makes all the difference. It may take significant effort initially to adopt an appreciative mindset. It’s a muscle you must strengthen, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

My trick is whenever I encounter a sucky situation or draining emotion, I think of three things for which I’m thankful. It’s straight MAGIC. It kicks those good vibes into gear and lights you right up.

No, really. Try it.

I also think of three ways the situation could be worse - and THAT also is profoundly effective. Suddenly, you’re feeling pretty dang good about your current status.

dark image 5.jpg
To deny your broken bits is doing yourself a great deal of injustice. It is the broken parts of you that grew you the most.

You’ve heard it before but that’s because it’s da TRUTH: Every challenge/obstacle/hardship you face is a b l e s s i n g. It’s an opportunity to grow and evolve. To get smarter, stronger, and better. To relate to others and inform your future experiences.

Acknowledge, accept, and honor your challenges. Be grateful for them, for they’re specifically what you need to evolve. Customized launch pads to strength, success, and wisdom.

xx,

-w-

*This post is not meant to discredit the use of psychotropics. Take control of your own health and please also consider consulting a psychiatrist/other mental health professional if necessary!











l i s t e n UP
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
— Winston Churchill

Listening is a superpower.

How many conversations have you had where the other person dominates the conversation and you leave thinking, “I know allll about their latest vacation/hobby/issue, but they know nothing about my life as of late?

Not so fulfilling.

On the flip side, have you ever had someone invest their total time and attention in you, and you walk away feeling heard and respected?

Mega fulfilling.

listen image 2.jpg
Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.
— David Augsburger

To listen well, try pausing before disagreeing, or giving advice, or referencing your own experience. Sure, doing these other actions can be useful, but listening is paramount. Assess the need for the other actions. Listening is the priority, and the others should merely complement and support.

Active listening is encouraged! Some ways to actively listen:

  • Nod

  • Make eye contact

  • Lean forward

  • Supply (genuine!) verbal affirmations like “Sure”/“Thank you”/“I understand”

  • Paraphrase

The first duty of love is to listen.
— Paul Tillich
listen image 3.jpg

Something I struggle with is interrupting - I’m constantly aware of and working on this with myself. My interrupting does come from a good place, however. I interrupt not because I deem what I have to say superior, but because I get so stoked on what the other is saying and it’s my way of “actively listening.” Showing I’m engaged and invested. This can easily be misperceived, though (and can be downright O B N O X I O U S and distracting) so I strive to minimize (and ultimately eliminate) my insertions. I always notice and appreciate when someone pays me the respect of attentively listening sans interruptions - my friends are brilliant at it.

If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.

And if you find yourself rattling on because you feel socially awkward and unsure of what to speak about - and talking about yourself is your default because you are your most familiar topic - there’s a win/win solution for that! A simple hack is to provide a bit of information about yourself (eg “I’m so pumped for skiing this year”) and then turning it to the other person(s) (eg “Do you ski or board?”). Prefacing with a fact about yourself makes it easy and effective for multiple reasons:

  • Contributes a familiar topic to work with and solves the problem of where to start

  • Makes you relatable and breaks the ice for the other person to share

  • Allows an opportunity to segue into related topics

  • Lets you off the hook from carrying the conversation, as many people like talking about themselves (for whatever reason - like you, they are most well-versed themselves/they have something to say/etc)

  • It establishes a natural flow

listen image 4.jpg
Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.
— Frank Tyger

What about those situations where people confide a heartbreak or challenge or stressor they’re facing? Don’t knock yourself out trying to come up with the perfect response/solution. Unless they expressly ask you, “What should I do?” more often than not, people simply crave a listening ear. Receiving their words with empathy and love is far more powerful than the wisest and timeliest response. Simply holding that space for them and allowing them to vent and feel their emotions can make all the difference and be more beneficial than “solving” their problem.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
— Rachel Naomi Remen

If silence unnerves you, try to learn to be comfortable with it. Don’t rush to finish the other’s faltering sentence, or fill the gaps. This isn’t about you/your comfort - it’s about them. Allowing them the space to express themselves. Or just sit in supportive silence; simply your presence may suffice.

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.
— Larry King
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.
— Dalai Lama

I firmly believe we all have something to learn from one another (even if it’s how to have patience!). Running your mouth about what you know is definitely not the way to go about obtaining that knowledge from others. Even (or especially!) when you think you’re an expert on a topic - you’ll likely be surprised what you gain if you’re humble enough to sit back and listen/observe another’s perception regarding it. Maybe you’ll glean a different angle you hadn’t considered. This is where an open mind is K E Y. Try listening to learn, rather than listening to confirm [your current opinion]. At the very least, hearing the other side out will only strengthen your own position.

listen image 6.jpg

Removing your ego from the equation is crucial. Resist the temptation to flex and download all you know. There is ALWAYS more to learn. The minute you deem yourself a know-it-all is the precise minute you need to assess yourself, because that’s a sure sign your ego has hijacked you and stunted your growth. So tell your ego to buzz off and listen even harder.

The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.
— Jaggi Vasudev
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
— Jimi Hendrix

And in those heated moments where you’re battling with another and spinning your wheels in conflicted frustration, the best way to defuse the situation is to take a deep breath, step back, and…L I S T E N. Truly listen. Not only will this likely disarm your “contender,” but this simple action shows you value and respect them enough to consider their view. That right there has far-reaching effects. It shifts your approach from a place of one-sided triumph and win-lose to a place of resolution and win-win. It’s a clear reflection of your respect for them and conveys your willingness to remedy the situation and meet them halfway. It can make ALL the difference.

listen image 7.jpg

Listening is a very deep practice... You have to empty yourself. You have to leave space in order to listen...especially to people we think are our enemies - the ones we believe are making our situation worse.

When you have shown your capacity for listening and understanding, the other person will begin to listen to you, and you have a chance to tell him or her of your pain, and it’s your turn to be heard. This is the practice of peace.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

This is especially important when you’re feeling triggered. How many times have you been blinded by emotions/anger, then realize you misheard/misperceived the other? I know I have. Much can be lost in communication - for a number of reasons. Consider you might’ve misunderstood/assumed/pre-concluded. Hear the other out (this is where gentle paraphrasing is especially helpful!) to ensure you’re catching what they’re throwing.

And sometimes the other person won’t pay you the same respect of listening to you. It is what it is. It’s annoying as hell, sure, but you can only control yourself. Rest assured you did what you could to resolve the matter. When that happens, my tried-and-true remedy involves time and distance (and my Scream Spotify playlist I created to express the fire I feel; Body Combat also helps! ;) ).

Happy listening.

xx,

-w-



listen image 5.jpg