living intuitively

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Posts tagged self expression
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.

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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
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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

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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.

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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.

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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-



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I N T O the S H A D O W S
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Modeled by Nicole Spinnler  Assisted by Cari Spinnler

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Modeled by Nicole Spinnler

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.
— Carl Jung

 

Where there is lightness, there is darkness. Yin and yang. The blazing sun casts a deep shadow. Put simply, it is N A T U R A L. Therefore, it is natural for even the lightest souls to also contain shades of darkness. It is within every single one of us. We all have a shadow. 

When it becomes problematic is when we deny this shadow. We pretend it's not there, or even actively reject it. Why is this problematic? The shadow doesn't easily take a hint, then take a hike. No, it lingers. It lingers and it gets its due by seeping into our thoughts, our actions, and our words, whether we're aware of it or not. Ultimately, it blocks true happiness, authenticity, and evolution. 

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So what is the shadow? The shadow is a concept discovered by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists mainly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the desire for power. 

Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we will keep trying to slay them in the outer world. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there we must do our work.
— Marianne Willamson

The personal shadow is the disowned self. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own, including inherent positive qualities.

As I mentioned, these unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. As if. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t eliminate them. They're stillll there.

We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Put simply, the unconscious is everything of which we are not conscious. 

These emotions are part of our shared humanity. We're all in this together. But as we grow up, something happens.

Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected. We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, safety and security needs, and needs for belonging. These needs are biological and instinctual.

As humans, we are motivated by our needs. So when we perceive an aspect of ourselves as threatening one of our needs (typically the needs for safety, love, and belonging) we shove those aspects into the shadows. We pick up cues from our environment, so if we experience/witness a trait being condemned by others (especially our caretakers), we repress and deny, baby. Repress and deny.

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I mean, think about it. If you go deep and consider this from an evolutionary standpoint, our very safety and existence depends on our caretakers' (parents - biological or otherwise) acceptance and approval. We ain't tryna repel them, leaving us to fend for ourselves. We need them to feed and protect us. And even socially speaking - generally, to be "successful" (personally and professionally) and happy and fulfilled in life, we need social connection. So we will do our damndest to hide any trait we've perceived as socially unacceptable. We want to be liked and accepted by our friends/colleagues/bosses.

Let’s say you realize your need to take better care of yourself (especially you moms and dads!). You create a self-care routine and are feeling psyched about it.

A few days in, though, you start receiving blowback from the people in your life. Maybe your kids are banging on the door while you're working out/meditating, or your boss guilt trips you when you ask to leave work early (or on time!).

Your doubts and fears creep in about this whole self-care thing. You worry you are being regarded as "selfish" and decide to bail on the self care. Before you know it, you’ve taken yourself off your priority list and might even secretly take pride in your selflessness. That’s what “good” people do, after all. Right?

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In your quest to be good (likable, lovable, worthy, enough), your ability to focus on yourself has been pushed into the shadows.

In the above example, the shadow is the desire (or need) for self-care. But, somewhere along the way, you were convinced that focusing on your own needs was wrong or bad (aka selfish) so you rejected those desires by denying their existence. You designed your life so it would always appear you were doing “right” by others.

Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow, which then keeps us from freedom and true acceptance (internal and external).

All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves moves to this dark side.

Trouble pops up when we fail to see it. 

Get this: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious takes the wheel. Remaining unaware of the shadow harms our relationships with our spouses, family, and friends. It will also impact our professional relationships, as well as our leadership abilities.

When we deny ourselves a safe outlet to express our dark side - or refuse to even acknowledge its existence - it builds up and becomes a powerful force capable of destroying our life as well as the lives of those around us.
— Debbie Ford

And those parts of ourselves we slide out of view? We then see them in others.

Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others.

In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we conceal within us.

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
— Hermann Hesse

For example: Let's say you're pissed at someone for selfishly taking two cookies instead of one, or for interrupting you. This doesn't mean those actions aren't rude. It just means deep down, you recognize those in your shadow self. It should be noted we usually aren't aware of these projections (hopefully you will be after reading this).

These projections distort reality, creating a solid boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality. 

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Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.

This is something I'm constantly working on. And you know what? It's not a process from which one ever fully graduates. Sure, it can become easier and more rewarding and enlightening, depending on how you frame it. I've trained myself to appreciate and be grateful for glimpses of my shadow; I now view it as an opportunity to progress and improve myself. But as I indicated with the yin and yang: it's the natural balance of things. Lightness and darkness go hand in hand. It's natural. That darkness has a purpose. Don't let it control you. Accept yourself and accept others. View it with love. Own your darkness and liberate yourself! That will help your light shine even BRIGHTER. 

xx,

-w-

Sometimes someone isn’t ready to see the bright side. Sometimes they need to sit with the shadow first. So be a friend and sit with them. Make the darkness beautiful.
— Victoria Erickson.
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H O N E S T . L O V E
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Befriend the man who is brutally honest, for honesty is the highest form of respect.
— Daniel Saint

One of the things I value most in my friends is their willingness to tell me like it is. They're never abrasive and intentionally brutal - but they love me enough to call me out when needed, and to sidestep the sugarcoating. That right there is true friendship. True honest love. 

Think about a time when you were hesitant to be completely honest with a friend for fear of hurting their feelings, making them feel worse, etc. As friends, we often feel compelled to show support. Solidarity. Multiple exclamations of "I gotchu, girl! You tell 'em!" High five them for letting their boss have it, praise them for sticking it to their spouse, applaud them for blowing off an obligation to go out with friends instead. Rationalize their decision for ditching their goal to do xyz. That's what friends are for, right?! W R O N G O.

Now it's time to be honest with yourself. Ready? Okay, here we go. Ask yourself: Why am I reluctant to be honest with my friend? Is it because I feel unsupportive if I don't confirm and validate their action/opinion? Is it possibly because...I am trying avoid the discomfort of telling them like it is? 

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The vulnerability that honesty requires isn’t something that everybody can handle. Lying allows people to be comfortable.

Chances are...it's the latter. Of course, a small part of it is us truly not wanting to rub salt in the wound/make our friends feel bad/worse. But if we're being honest with ourselves - we just personally don't want to experience the uneasiness of acknowledging the truth. Right?! It's easier for everyone to just pretend like, "YES - lighting into that biotch for daring to look at your man was totally the right thing to do." "You go girl for quitting your third job this year - they clearly don't appreciate what a gem you are." "That guy is DEFINITELY into you. He's obvi scared by how much he likes you, so he's not texting." "Yes, you should absolutely buy those $200 jeans even though money's been tight - they look phenomenal on you!"

Being honest doesn’t get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.
— John Lennon

But if you're truly a good friend - you'll prioritize your friend's overall well-being over your present comfort. You'll sacrifice your comfort for their welfare. Ask yourself: What will serve them best long-term? Leveling with them and gently acknowledging their hurtful behavior (hurtful to you, to them, to others)? Kindly helping them face facts and address their issues? Guess what?! Doing so will help them significantly more in the long run, by helping them grow and evolve and escape their limiting thoughts/actions.

Once you've spoken your truth, offer support and love. Provide encouragement. It's not enough to just identify the issue - actually help them through it! If roles were reversed, wouldn't you rather have someone give it to you straight, instead of simply placating you? It might sting initially, but trust me - confronting the issue head on now stings a helluva lot less than if you were to avoid it and have it grow and sucker punch you later. 

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Be honest, brutally honest. That’s what’s going to maintain relationships.
— Lauryn Hill

Furthermore, when you're honest with someone, your praise and compliments will carry considerably more weight. They'll recognize your authenticity and know you mean what you say. 

Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No ulterior motives. No hidden meanings. An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality. As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.
— Charles Swindoll

The truth is... I love you all.

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xx,

-w-

M O N O C H R O M A T I C
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography


One can speak poetry just by arranging colors well.
— Vincent Van Gogh

Color is so fun to play with when getting dressed. It can have a powerful effect on the vibe you're projecting. This rings true for guys and girls. Think about it - if some dude showed up in a fuchsia suit, what's your first impression? Obviously, the man doesn't take himself too seriously, right? He's likely playful, knows how to have some fun. Color is the easiest avenue for self expression.


I love working with varying shades and hues to achieve a monochromatic look. As you see in the pictures here, I paired a maroon turtleneck with a popping red.

It doesn't all have to be in your clothes. Try pairing a punchy orange lip with a muted peach top, or an emerald clutch with a moss green outfit. 


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Spring is a perfect time to experiment and brighten it up with new, fresh color combos. 

 

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What color combos are YOU going to try out this season??

 

xx,

-w-