living intuitively

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Posts tagged self awareness
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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).

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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

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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






Helping the H U R T
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unrestrained. All work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around this individual.

Next, each person in the tribe speaks to the individual, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted.  All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and fully.  This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.

At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration occurs, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.

I’ll go ahead and answer my own question: phenomenally beautiful

We all know hurt people hurt people, right? If you didn’t realize that then, well, now you know. It’ll explain A LOT on why people do what they do.

If people are acting a fool and are being rude/unkind/inconsiderate/nasty/etc, it’s because they’re not right with themselves. They’re insecure/traumatized/etc. They’re so consumed by pain and negativity, they have little to no capacity for empathy and love. And since anger feels better than pain/shame, people lash out. Here are some examples of people masking their pain/insecurity with hatorade:

  • An employee vilifying their boss for not promoting them

  • A jealous person blaming the other woman/man for “seducing” their partner (“You homewrecker! You ruined my relationship!”)

  • A business owner demonizing a competitor

  • An individual reviling a provider of well-intentioned constructive feedback

We could go pretty deep here exploring the many elements to this, but suffice it to say: Hurt people hurt people.

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I’m grateful I realized this truth early on in my life. It’s softened the blow when I’ve had venom spit my way, or faced betrayal. Don’t get it twisted: it can still sting, but at least I understand the cause, and know not to take it personally. That’s crazy liberating. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble protecting your sense of self worth, deflecting the hate and doubt from permeating.

And just because you empathize with the causes of someone’s negative behavior doesn’t mean you condone it. That’s where boundaries come in. You can still love them while making it clear certain words/actions are unacceptable.

And also - and this can really bite the big one - be wise and humble enough to recognize the truth bombs in negative feedback. Sure, that person’s delivery could REALLY USE SOME FRIGGIN’ POLISHING, but try to remain open. Try not to shy away from reflection. View it as an opportunity to become even more of an allstar. If the feedback hit a nerve, that right there reveals an unhealed part of you. Lean into it. Figure out why.

And maybe the affected nerve is the one of caring too much of others’ opinions, and requiring external validation. The key to making it through the cleansing - but often brutal - fire of negativity-inspired self reflection is to operate on a solid foundation of self love. Knowing your shadows don’t define/control you, and neither do others’ opinions. Knowing you’re strong enough to brave the blows and use them to become even STRONGER and more self aware. Knowing you can directly face the negativity and extract what you need to evolve and get better, not bitter. This comes from loving yourself through ALL of your phases, even the ones where you feel beaten down or less than. You may not feel you’re quite there yet, but it is absolutely within your reach.

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The hardest thing in the entire world is to remain kind even when people aren’t. Remain honest even when you’re met with lies. Remain good even when things go terribly. And above all, understand the pain and heartbreak you feel isn’t a reflection of something you’ve done wrong or anything you lack. When people hurt you that means there is pain within them and something they lack that they haven’t figured out how to process or heal from. Hurt people hurt people. But don’t let them change you. Understand those are the people who need love the most.
— Kirsten Corley

So I was listening to a podcast with Marianne Williamson on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Marianne introduced a novel perspective:

When people are physically injured, we typically react with compassion, and usually try to help. You’re bleeding, I’mma grab a bandage/tourniquet/etc. But if someone shows us (intentionally or - more often - unintentionally) their insecurities/traumas/etc, it’s easier for us to ignore/judge/dismiss. But they’re the people who need the most compassion!

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Sure, as I mentioned, boundaries are key. You can empathize with people and not condone certain behavior, and it can be tricky distinguishing between empathizing and enabling. But no matter what, you can always offer love and kindness. Sometimes this must be from afar, but love is always the answer. We all get “hurt” and all need love. Some are better at healing themselves than others, but we all have healing power within us we can apply to both ourselves and others.


xx,

-w-

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F I E S T A like there's NO MANAÑA
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life should not only be lived, it should be celebrated.
— Osho

I love celebrating. Celebrating people. Events. Ideas. Progress. Being alive. Tacos.

To me, life is meant to be celebrated.

And as you can see from my examples, I’m an equal opportunity celebrator. Life itself is a celebratable moment. Celebrate the small and big wins

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Celebrate getting out of bed in the morning. Celebrate choosing water over soda. Celebrate your decision to choose love over judgment (toward yourself/others). Celebrate overcoming fear. Celebrate your promotion, your new commitment to a life of health + purpose. Celebrate a perfect record of overcoming everything life has thrown at you. Celebrate being ALIVE.

I truly feel this is one of the keys to a truly happy life.


The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
— Oprah Winfrey

And I believe people are meant to be celebrated. That’s why I love birthdays so much. Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate that person’s existence, and their latest trip around the sun.

Celebrating is a way to show our gratitude for what we have. A way to express our appreciation for our blessings in life. A way to say thank you to yourself, to others, to the universe/higher power. And gratitude is ESSENTIAL in life.

Sure, it’s important to exercise discipline, and work hard. As with everything else in life, it’s about balance. But to achieve true balance, we should regularly acknowledge our wins. Not be so consumed by our ambitions that we fail to recognize our accomplishments, and what has gone well in our lives. It’s easy to be consumed by the daily minutiae, or our major objectives. Celebrate the steps you’ve taken, the hills you’ve climbed, the obstacles you’ve overcome on your way to that peak. Don’t wait until you’ve summited to high five yourself/others.

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Small celebrations sustain us along the way. Because guess what’s happening along the way? Life. Life is happening as we’re working toward our goal(s). And life is meant to be celebrated.

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Celebrations can take many forms. They don’t have to come in the form of huge bash with confetti (though those are fun too!). Here are some others ways you can celebrate:

  • Send your friend a thoughtful, appreciative note/text

  • Take a luxurious bubble bath

  • Eat your favorite meal

  • Treat yourself to a massage

  • Buy someone a thoughtful gift

  • Allow yourself extra alone time

  • Booking a photo shoot to show your progress

The options are endless!

Celebrate others. Celebrate life. Celebrate YOU.

xx,

-w-

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Eating vs. Getting Bread
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me


Success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but by how many people you have brought with you.
— Dr. Will Rose

You know how drive + hustle are glorified? We’re told to strive for more: more money, more recognition, more ______.

I personally take issue with that. Why?

Because we are all different, with different dreams, different definitions of success, different ideas of happiness.


Success. There is no one definition. Everyone’s success is different. You can’t compare your success to someone else’s.

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For some, happiness means a simple, stable, routine life: working, hanging with family/friends, etc. Who are we to say that’s unacceptable? Who are we to define happiness for others?

Sure, it’s important to ensure you’re not merely seduced into complacency by your fear/comfort zone. And I don’t think a non-hustling life releases anyone from striving to be the best person they can be - that’s a human responsibility, independent of lifestyle choice.

But let’s live and let live! Happiness is different for everybody. Values vary.


It is not success if you’re unhappy.

What a CEO considers a successful life may not match a schoolteacher’s idea of such. To some, success means total financial independence with a sizable savings account. To others, success may mean freedom to travel the world and try new endeavors. To still others, success may be leaving a profound legacy of improvement and change.

Cool, man! It takes all kinds to make (and balance!) a world. It would be too chaotic if we were all overachievers. Dare to live your truth, “motivational” quotes be damned. We all have roles to play, and contributions to make. We all have value to add.

So decide for YOU and ask yourself: What is my definition of success? What does happiness look like for me? By what standards will I measure myself?

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And don’t forget this important part: Be okay with and detached from others’ standards they may try to apply to you. Stand solid if they attempt to recruit you to their way of life. Smile if they try to nudge you in a certain direction. Realize we’re all on our own journey, trying to figure life out and orient ourselves in the world. Not everybody will accept you and get you, and THAT’S OK. It really is. It’s wildly liberating once you realize that.

People should determine their personal definition nof success and release others’ definitions of success.

Know you. Do you. Love you.

-w-

Try not to be a person of success, but a person of value.
— Albert Einstein