“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”



6a3740ed036581a2919d7d447841185fWaking up a little draggy this morning I turned to RuPaul. She perked me right up, so of course I had to share!

Five more Inspirational Quotes from Momma Ru:

      • “True wealth is having the knowledge to maneuver and navigate the mental obstacles that inhibit your ability to soar.”
      • “When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.”
      • “Rise up and be a Masai warrior. Stake your claim in this lifetime. Remember who you really are. Unleash the dragon and let these bitches have it!”
      • “…You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!”
      • “Biggest obstacle I ever faced was my own limited perception of myself.”

And one of the best positive calls to find a good therapist I’ve ever heard:

“Learn to love yourself, ’cause if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Did I miss your favorite RuPaul-ism? You must share, too! Click on the Comments button above the post to pass on the wisdom. <3

Choosing A Pleasurable Life



Roman Flowers

Courtesy Sofia Francesca

“I don’t know if it’s a function of age or temperament, but I’m no longer seeking those major exclamation points of pleasure. I want a life that has pleasure contained within it.”

~Terry Gross

Teens@Risk: The Dark Side Of Smartphones & Social Media



Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Your teen’s smartphone may not be as smart as you would like it to be. Teens today are presented with a world that did not exist that long ago. Giving your child a smartphone can introduce risks that you may not anticipate.

When teens open various apps such as KikMeetup or even Facebook, they could be inviting predators into their lives without realizing it. This can introduce cyberbullying, sextortion, blackmail and relationships that can become lethal. Yes, that means it could threaten their safety and ultimately their life.

Recently I was interviewed by a reporter who knew of my work with adolescent girls. In the article ‘Sextortion’ of girls can make smartphone as lethal as a gun, I’m quoted:

“It’s a very vulnerable age. They need attention. They are trusting. They want to feel loved,” Maleski said. “They also may feel like they’re in an adult relationship, so they feel mature and that they can handle it.”

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Don’t *Should* On Yourself!



downward ddog

A master at work. Courtesy Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

Yoga class. Downward dog. As my hands push into the floor and my legs quiver in response to a deep stretch, I begin to wonder… Am I doing this right? Are my legs and arms where they’re supposed to be? In an instant my attention is off my mat. My eyes and mind wander to the others around me in the room. I begin comparing their postures to mine and wiggle around my mat to make what I think are the adjustments I SHOULD make.

Before I know it I am no longer gently working on myself but rather beating myself up! Becoming aware of this, oddly enough, I start to judge my judging! “Wow what a cycle!” I thought as my confidence began to dwindle.

Then I remembered the intention I set for my practice that day: “Listen to your body.”

Gathering my thoughts, I gently escorted them back to my mat. Refocused, I coached myself through letting go of all of my high expectations, the things I thought I should be doing. The object of my attention became just sensing my body, awareness of my pose. My thoughts shifted to “I can do this. I will do my best.”

Soon my self-doubt and uncertainty faded. A sense of calm and stable confidence replaced it. As I leaned into the stretch of the pose with my breath and attention focused, my downward dog not only felt more comfortable but it was in a deeper position than before!

Only a few minutes worth of thoughts on my mat but, oh, how they represented my daily life struggle. Always striving to be better, to meet high expectations and to do what I “should” be doing, it took a long time to see how these thought patterns keep me anxious and feeling guilty. Now with the power of my “I can only do my best” mantra, I can feel confident and therefore more at ease.  Who would have thought!

Here’s your gentle challenge: Turn a curious eye to how often you put a “should” or “must” on yourself today. Instead, be kind. Remember that who you are and what you’re doing is your best in this moment. And that is good-enough!

Nicole Newcomb-Chumsky practices mindfullness and cognitive behavioral therapy at Explore What’s Next. Contact her today to learn more.

9 Ways To Help Teen Girls Find Their Voice



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Whoever said being a 14 year old girl is easy probably hasn’t been a 14 year old girl!  The struggle she has to go through to find her True Self and still be accepted can cause many a teen girl to lose her voice.

The article How Can We Help Young Girls Stay Assertive, describes research on adolescent girls “losing their voice” resulting in low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness. This phenomenon can cause teen girls to feel like they don’t belong, leading to isolation, even self-harming thoughts and/or behaviors.

Anyone who is a parent of a teen girl, a counselor or teacher accepts the job to help them feel more secure and to speak up for themselves! Here are some suggestions to help. The first five are from the article. The last four are from my work with teen girls:

1. Encourage her interests. Support her in her pursuits, whatever they are.  Linda Hoke-Sinex, Indiana University Bloomington, says, “When she [the teen] has an area in which she feels confident, it can act as a touchstone to build confidence in other areas of her life.”

2. Point out pressure from social media. Unrealistic media images and the pressure on women to look and act in certain ways is constantly in young people’s faces. Girls may be subject to brutal criticism or bullying on social media because of how they look or act. Unless parents monitor interactions on social media they might miss communication that contributes to corrosive self-doubt.

3. Watch your own talk. Dr. Mendez-Baldwin of Manhattan College says, “Sometimes, women inadvertently send messages to their daughters by focusing on their weight and their appearance. [They say] ‘Oh I need to lose weight’ or ‘I don’t look good’ or ‘I need to get Botox to remove these wrinkles,’ and then that sends a message to the girls that they need to focus on their appearance and that their self-worth is connected to their appearance.”

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Seven Rules for Surviving an Abusive Boss



A few years ago I wrote this piece originally for PsychCentral. The message is still relevant today.

~***~

At the interview for my first professional job, my future boss asked me, “I notice you’re married. Are you planning to get pregnant?” After I picked my jaw off the floor I stammered, “Uh… no?”

It was a totally illegal question and the shocker was it came from a woman. What I should have done was run screaming for the nearest exit. But the job was offered, I took it and three years later I quit with a raging case of Post-Traumatic Boss Disorder.

Rule #1: How you are treated from ‘go’ is a good indicator of how you will be treated on the job. The first phone call, your interview, how an offer is made and how negotiations are handled…

My boss made me think I was her confidant. She gave me the plum jobs and ‘confided’ to me that everyone else was inferior. I was young, naive and, frankly, full of myself. For two years my feet hardly touched the ground.

It didn’t last. The Boss-zilla is a soul-sucking manipulator of narcissistic proportions. He hooks you in with compliments and seductive ‘let’s be friends’ invitations. First you are the golden child, held above all others and then he tears out your heart and shows it to you while it’s still pumping..… uh… Did I say that out loud?

Rule #2: Keep a healthy distance. You cannot be friends with your boss.

Into the third year, my work was bounced back to me bleeding red edits. My boss started calling me into her office for ‘feedback’ sessions that got more and more humiliating. How did I lose my touch? Answer: I didn’t. I was the same hard-working nerd I always was; it was my boss’s attitude toward me that had changed.

Rule #3: You are neither all good nor all bad.

My co-workers hated me. As long as I was the ‘good’ one I didn’t care. When things went south I couldn’t take being isolated anymore and I started talking with other staff. Generously they forgave me and shared their own horror stories of abuse from my boss. What an eye opener!

Rule #4: Keep open diplomacy among co-workers.

They don’t have to be your friends but you should be able to compare notes just like siblings do about their parents. Dysfunctional bosses often use the old divide and conquer game to keep staff malleable.

Once I realized it wasn’t me, that it was a sick, dysfunctional corporate culture that allowed my boss to be abusive, I had a decision to make. My moment of truth came when I realized I had become someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t like. Depressed, obsequious, timid, who was this person? I wanted my spirit back and the only way for me was to leave. So I quit. That sounds easy. It wasn’t. It took months to find a job that felt like a good move, not a big step backwards.

Rule #5: Learn to define yourself by who are, not what you do.

Or “Don’t forget to have a life.” A lot of us were raised to think our end-all and be-all is our occupation. The first thing we tend to ask each other after being introduced is, “So what do you do?” I’ve had clients, grown men miserable in their jobs, shrink from the idea of quitting primarily because they have no idea who they are without the job. Family and friends (my husband was great at this) help us remember we are parents, church and temple members, coaches, thinkers, readers, spouses, travelers, life adventurers and more. These roles are constant no matter what the job is.

Rule #6: Always remember you have options; quitting is only one of them.

If you think you don’t, you will become depressed, a burnt-out shadow of your former self. Find a psychologist, life coach or career counselor to help you regain the perspective you’ve lost in abusive boss hell.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one Boss-zilla story. A power-mad night supervisor at Taco Bell or a VP at a Fortune 500 company, it’s all the same. Post-traumatic Boss Disorder (PTBD) is no joke. It took me a good year to stop shaking every time my new boss asked me to his office for a conference.

Rule #7: Living well is the best revenge.

Giving notice to Boss-zilla was as bad as I thought it was going to be. She called me ungrateful; I was told my poor performance would follow me wherever I went. What kept me calm throughout her tantrum was knowing my new job was at a very prestigious institution, which had to be killing her. She didn’t need to know there was no salary increase.

PTBD struck again many years later. Older and wiser, I recognized the signs early and took action quicker than before. From then on I’ve been self-employed. Today I’m happy to say my boss is usually pretty reasonable.

Originally published on PsychCentral

8 Ways to Ask: To Selfie Or Not To Selfie?



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Editor’s Note: Here’s Nicole with some ideas about how to selfie in a way that grows your self-esteem!

~***~

Selfie: Noun: an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks (Merriam-Webster)

Imagine that you just spent an hour trying to take a selfie in your awesome new outfit. You did your make up just right, your hair fell just like you wanted and after 30 different poses you got the perfect selfie for your new online profile pic. Trying different poses, lighting and facial expressions to make everything look just right took time and energy. You are so excited to post it and see what compliments you get. After posting and waiting a while the comments start to flood in. There are some compliments about how great you look but in the mix of comments a friend posts that you don’t look as good as you used to. Instantly, your flame of excitement burns out and turns into a self-critical mind warp. You are left being self-conscious all day.

It seems most profile pictures these days are selfies and the word has even made it to the dictionary. For a while I was nervous about this new trend where the intent was to portray yourself (seemingly in promiscuous ways) to appeal to others. As the trend caught on and selfies became more about making memories, I began to be more open-minded. I even started taking a few of my own! However, I could not stop my brain from analyzing the pros and cons. I began wondering if this trend was something that would benefit or hurt me.

Like anything you do too much of, or do irresponsibly, selfies can have negative consequences. They can open the door to:

  • Attract attention. Not all attention you get on social media is positive. It is important to be prepared to handle criticism or unwanted attention. Knowing how to handle these situations before hand can help create a more positive online experience.
  • New preoccupation with looks. If you were not already concerned about the way you look, you might all of a sudden find yourself worrying about it. Don’t forget, life is not about your looks but rather the way you interact with the world!
  • Worry more about what others think. If you are posting a picture of yourself and choosing how others see you, it is normal to think, “What will my friends think about my new tattoo.” However, it is more important what you think. Be proud of what you are promoting in your selfie!
  • Over sharing. As stated earlier, it is important to be responsible with what you decide to share on social media. Letting people know where you are and who you are with at every second leaves you vulnerable. Not every one needs to know you are “out with your whole family and the poor dog is home alone.”

Making a presence on social media has many risks. It has a very well know link to cyberbullying. But what about the positives? Let’s face it, social media is not going anywhere. Used responsibly, I can see where it can have benefits such as:

  • Build your own identity. You get the chance to decide how you want people to see you. We are not talking photo shop here! You can portray your artistic, fun loving or adventurous side. Your selfie has the capacity to communicate a lot more than your looks.
  • Gain confidence. It’s ok to show off your strengths! Let people see that you can do a headstand or that you won an excellence award. Why strive for growth if we cannot share it?
  • Spend more time with yourself. I cannot sit here and say that you won’t think about how your physical appearance looks in your selfie. So, turn it into time for self-care: primp, wear outfits that make you feel good or practice your smile! These self-care tips promote higher self-esteem and make for a good selfie!
  • Make more memories. By taking selfies, you are not always the one behind the camera.

So how do I choose whether or not to selfie? Ask yourself, “Does posting these pictures making me feel better or worse about myself? Is it safe?” If it makes you feel truly better and you do it responsibly, selfie it up! If you feel worse or are being risky with your behavior then it might be beneficial to hold off and talk to a therapist about your experiences.

Give Nicole a call at 585.737.4564,  find her on Facebook, or email her at nicole@explorewhatsnext.com to schedule your fee-free initial consultation!

7 Ways to be Nice to Yourself



Photo courtesy ArtSmog

 

Many people complain that whatever they do it isn’t ever good enough. Then they get a rash of “I get so angry at myself” –itis. Who is their harshest critic? You guessed it. They beat themselves up with what amounts to verbal self-abuse.

Boy, do I know how that feels:

“Why did I get an 89 on that report? It should have been 100. I’m an idiot!”

“What was I thinking when I called in sick? I should have gone into work anyway. Now my boss will think I’m a bum. I am a bum!”

“Why did I eat that pie? Why did I eat two pieces of pie? I’m fat and out of control!”

A lot of us are guilty of being mean to ourselves in a way we would never tolerate form anyone else.

It has got to stop! Here’s how:

1) Tune in, like you would a radio dial, to the voices in your head. How are they sounding? Supportive or nasty? Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how cruel we can be to ourselves until we detach just enough to listen as an observer. Write some of it down. Let that help you realize the extent of the verbal self-abuse you’ve been sustaining. During an episode of depression I did this and was surprised to learn how unkind I was to myself.

2) Whose voice is it? It isn’t yours. Your genuine voice is thoughtful, even when you legitimately need a kick in the butt. Trust me on this. Often that harsh voice you hear is a parent or other adult who had an impression on us when we were kids. Back then our brains were sponges that soaked up and internalized everything, including repeated criticisms.

Isolate and defuse that negative voice. Identify where it came from and realize its origin was outside of yourself. Take another moment to filter through the ‘noise’ of the mean voice. Underneath all that muck is your genuine voice or your ‘gut’. That voice is reasonable and supportive. Listen to it.

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New Year Resolutions & Our Self-Esteem



Screenshot 2014-12-31 21.14.41Resolution |noun|  1. a firm decision to do or not do something.

I am not a big fan of the New Year’s Resolution. Because I failed at keeping mine year after year, leaving me feeling quite depleted, I finally figured out resolutions are best avoided. I have New Years Guidelines instead.

Not that resolutions are all bad. They can be friendly reminders to keep us on track when we need an external nudge, kind of like the kiddy bumpers at the bowling alley. But the truth is, for most of us, by the end of January our resolutions are piled up like a bunch of bill payment notices, nagging at us for what we haven’t done, not inspiring us to do what we can.

Did you ever wonder who that rare creature is who is capable of living up to their New Year’s Resolutions? God bless you if you are one of them, but I’m about to reveal your secret.

Back when I was in college I took an industrial psychology class. We studied what makes some people higher achievers than others; those people who set a goal for themselves and actually accomplish it.

You might think that high achievers set big, fat goals but they don’t. Research shows that the most successful people chose flexible, mid-level goals.  The bar they tend to choose requires a bit of a stretch, just outside their comfort zone,  but well within their grasp. 

That’s a life lesson for anyone who tends to feel like they are always coming up short, always a step behind, always failing at what they set out to achieve.

For example. Losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up short on that one. After countless tries, I finally learned that if I made the misguided promise to journal every-single-thing-I ate-day-after-day-from-now-on-forever-and-ever, by the end of January I’d have already messed up. The resulting inevitable failure would only make me want to eat more.

On the other hand…If I tell myself, ‘Today I will keep a food journal!’, I believe I can achieve that. The chances for success go way up, boosting my self-esteem. If I don’t keep a journal for one day, it’s only a one day blip, not a for-all-eternity failure. That could mean the difference between a slightly bruised self-esteem versus one that is deeply wounded.

Here’s another thing: My list of possible resolutions is endless. Keep a food journal, meditate daily, hang out with friends more, ride my horse, Annie, more, exercise more, blah blah blah. All that is terrific, but it misses the point. Which is to be grateful and content now, right now. After all, who we are and what we have right now is pretty fricking awesome!

And if “happy” is too far a reach (achievable goals, right?) then “satisfied” will do. If you’re like me and tend to postpone satisfaction with myself until I’ve lost a few pounds or can afford a trip to Europe, let’s “resolve” to cut it out. Because doing so is not only sad, it’s judgmental. And who are we to judge?

By giving ourselves permission to be content just for today, to be grateful for what we have now, our self-esteem will smile because it feels nurtured, relaxed, strong and resilient.

Happy New Year!

Have an opinion? Of course you do! Please share it in a comment.

A New EWN Group: Women Empowering Women In A Changing World!



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“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

Don’t you love that quote? I don’t know how many women I’ve met who say this quote is an all time favorite. Why does it speak to us?

Because change is scary. Because it takes a lot of guts to face the change instead of avoiding it, to take charge of our own story instead of handing it over to someone else to tell for us, to take center stage and be the star of our show instead of sitting on the side lines!

Yup, it’s all risky. ‘Cause who can tell us how it’s all going to turn out?

We have fooled ourselves into thinking we can handle it all! Society and our own perfectionistic-y egos tell us we should be able to handle it all! Yet despite all our resources we begin to get frayed around the edges. Exhaustion, sleep troubles, emotional eating, irritability…

We become the frog in the pot, cooking ourselves slowly into shadows of our former selves.

During times of transition we can all use a little help from our friends to remind us how awesome we are!

That’s where our new Explore What’s Next group comes in!

Why go it alone? Transition can be overwhelming! It’s OK to think that, even say it out loud. Coping with aging parents and children’s needs, empty nesting, illness, changes at work or in a relationship and more – sometimes all at once!

Our new group is designed to give you support on your path of change. Our goal is for you to grow out of Overwhelmed and into Empowered! We provide a safe, comfy place where you can just be you, inspired by new ideas and perspectives, validated and encouraged.

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