For YEARS the joke was that I was “allergic to being embarrassed.” But really it was allergic to any type of attention. I could literally feel the allergic reaction coming on when a stranger would talk to me, or I had too many eyes looking my way. My neck and cheeks would get warm, and then hot, with red splotchy skin appearing. Y’all, if my mouth was not admitting that I was uncomfortable, I tell you what, my neck never lied. In fact, for years if I had to give a presentation or talk in front of a group of people, no matter how well I knew the subject, I would wear a turtleneck because it would at least hide some of it. And many times I had people ask me if I was ok, or having a real allergic reaction, because it is really what it felt and looked like.
Along with being so uncomfortable with any type of attention being drawn to me, I also struggled with things like birthday parties or other celebrations. I just never really had parties that were in my honor. At least not as a teen or adult. In company meetings, if I was being recognized, I’d try to pass the attention to anyone else as quickly as I could. I truly spent decades of my life wishing I would blend in with the wall, and just disappear.
I think the strong aversion to attention also fed into me being a people pleaser. For instance, if I went out somewhere, like to a restaurant or salon, and something wasn’t quite right, I would never say anything. Because saying something and drawing attention to myself was worse than actually talking to a manager to get the situation resolved. I literally have had my hair dyed in the salon, paid over $100, hated the way it looked because the color and/or cut was not what I asked for, and left without saying anything.
And not only did I not like having the attention, I didn’t really feel like I was worth the fuss of saying anything. I overall felt rather unworthy of much of anything. Later, both of my marriages would reinforce that message, that I wasn’t worthy of time, attention, money, “the fuss,” or much else.
But I promise that this is not going to end a sad sad tale. Oh no, we are just getting to the good part. The part where I tell you all about how I turned this all around for myself, and I’ll give you some tips of how you can do it for YOU too. Because one of the things I learned along this journey is, if one person is struggling with it, likely 100 (or more!) others are, too.
The point for me when things really started to turn around, when I really had the thought that I was worth more than I had been accepting, was When the Worst Day Turned Into My Saving Grace. You can read all about that story HERE. But to summarize, it was a day in which my then husband told me, in front of my children and my parents, that I should stay home from the family vacation to Mexico, because I had offered to help load the luggage in the car, when he wanted the kids to do it. In that moment I had the thought “I don’t know exactly how I want to be treated, but I know this is so far below what is acceptable in my life, that this is making my choice very easy.” You might be asking why my ex yelling at me has anything to do with my aversion to attention? Well, it’s because I had to get really sure of myself in order to stand up to him.
In the process of divorcing a Covert Narcissist, I had to learn to stick up for myself and that meant being seen. I had to set really clear boundaries that I knew I would stick to. I had to be ready to stand up to him, and stand up for what I wanted. As I learned to stand up for myself, some of the red splotchy spots started to go away. But ultimately this divorce led me to finding a life coach, having a life changing experience with her, and then choosing to devote my life to being a Life Coach for other betrayed women.
In the process of becoming a Certified Life Coach I found a new woman inside myself. I didn’t actually know very well yet, but I LOVED her! You see I had spent years in therapy thinking that something was wrong with me. That either something happened that “broke” me or I was inherently “broken”, and that I needed fixing. I went for years with minimal progress. When I was introduced to coaching, I learned that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you, that you are perfect and whole and right, just as you are. That there is nothing you can do to become more worthy of love and belonging than you are right now, and there is nothing you could do to become less worthy. We were all born worthy and that is how we stay.
I learned that really the only thing “wrong with me” was that I thought feelings and emotions came from our experience with our surroundings. To put it simply, I thought that other people or things caused our emotions. I felt at the will of others and my surroundings, and I was just trying to do the best I could with what I had. The day I learned, and really grasped, that our THOUGHTS cause our FEELINGS was a life-altering day. There was my life before that day and my life after.
When I really understood that all of my feelings were created with my thoughts, I first felt a little shame and anger that I had been talking to myself in my head so negatively for years. And then I felt wonder and excitement at what it could possibly mean, and then I felt lots of curiosity about how I could put this into play, and wondered what new results I’d get as I tried this out.
If this next idea sounds a little radical, that’s ok, I stand by it 100%: All the love that you ever feel in your life comes from your own thoughts. All of it. So when your partner, parent, family member, or friend says, “I love you”, and you FEEL love, the truth is that it didn’t come from that person. The FEELING came from your THOUGHT about the words that person said. I’ll break it down into a Coaching Model below. (If you’d like a refresher on the model, visit one of these previous blog posts HERE or HERE.)
Circumstance- Mom said, “I love you.”
Thought- Mom loves me
Actions- smile, hug mom, feel warm inside, skip, say, “I love you too” to mom
Results- Feel loved
Now, that might seem over simplified, and you might be thinking that the feeling of love really is coming from mom. But let’s use another example of other words that mom could say, and see how different people would have different thoughts about the same neutral circumstance and create two different feelings and results.
Circumstance- Mom said “You need to pack your lunch for school tomorrow”
Thought- I don’t need mom to remind me about my stupid lunch.
Actions- stomp off, yell “why do you always have to nag me?” postpone packing lunch, avoid mom, be rude to others in the house
Results- Don’t pack the lunch when reminded, and end up forgetting lunch
The result this child created is directly connected to the thought they had about what mom said. Below is a second possibility to another child reacting to the same (neutral) words.
Circumstance- Mom said “You need to pack your lunch for school tomorrow”
Thought- That’s so nice of mom to remind me, I have a field trip tomorrow, and need an extra big lunch.
Actions- says “thanks for the reminder mom,” packs lunch, puts lunch in fridge and a reminder note on backpack for the morning, gives mom a hug, picks out clothes for the field trip.
Results- Packs a lunch and is prepared for their day.
Notice how the words that were said were interpreted two different ways. Although most of us think that saying “I love you” is a pretty nice thing, and makes people feel loved, there are people who could hear those words and feel repulsed, and the thoughts they have about someone saying that would not create the feeling of love. So when we understand that all emotions come from our thoughts, that’s when we gain control of our lives.
When I finally understood this radical idea that all love was created in my mind, it meant that all embarrassment was created in my mind. This made perfect sense to me because I always had all kinds of thoughts about being seen, worthiness and such, that were swirling in my head at the same time my neck was getting red and splotchy. So I started experimenting with new, intentional thoughts during moments that would usually cause embarrassment, and the new thoughts worked. They actually worked amazingly well. It was almost like an instant cure. I do still have those old thoughts creep in every once in a while, but I can now catch them, and replace them. And the red splotchy, allergic reaction is almost entirely a thing of the past.
All of this “thought work” also gave way for exploring the idea that I was worth celebrating. That I could say “I’m proud of myself.” I spent so many years being afraid of those words. But when I know that everyone else’s FEELINGS of worthiness just come from their own thoughts, I was like, then I can create that feeling for myself too. And I did.
The biggest, and most recent example of this work in my own life was when I graduated as a Certified Life Coach. I had worked really hard, put in a lot of hours, and was proud of myself for the result I had created. I had started my own Life Coaching Practice, and was helping other women. And I wanted to CELEBRATE! As any good celebration does, it went on for days. Our ceremony was online (and honestly quite boring) so I ordered a colorful graduation cap on Amazon and wore it the whole time. Seriously, I highly recommend wearing a graduation cap during a really boring zoom call, it spices it right up! I took pictures, I made silly cupcake toppers since it’s not graduation season and the bakeries didn’t have any. I planned a whole day, canceled anything “extra”, went out to lunch, took the kids out to dinner, and played a game. And you know what, I didn’t feel embarrassed at all. I loved the attention, I felt worthy of everyone spending time with me, felt worthy of the money spent on my celebration. I felt worth it, and I didn’t get red and splotchy AT ALL. Not once, all day, even while wearing a graduation cap I ordered myself, on a zoom call. Ha!
But the party doesn’t stop there. That was just what we did on the day of my graduation. That weekend I flew my kids and I to Disneyland to continue the celebration. Y’all, I didn’t even spend as much on either wedding reception (honestly probably both combined, but I’m not sure) as I did on this graduation celebration. The biggest difference is that now I believe I’m worthy of time and money being spent to simply celebrate me. Some might think it’s frivolous, others might think it’s wasteful, and others might think the certificate I got deserves a smaller celebration than this. Guess what, I don’t care what they think. The thoughts I’m thinking are creating a lot of fun memories, feelings of love and worthiness, and results that I’m proud of.
What other people think is their own problem. Their thoughts are creating feelings, actions, and results in their own lives. I used to have judgy thoughts like the ones listed above about others, but they lead me nowhere nice. So I stopped having them. When thoughts aren’t serving me, I can simply stop thinking them. (For more on judging others go to this blog post HERE.)
I highly encourage you to think about the thoughts that you are thinking, and about the voice that is inside your head. Think about what you are saying to yourself, and examine what feelings those thoughts are creating. The work I do with my clients is to clean up their thoughts. To understand the thoughts that have gotten them to where they are now, then decide where they want to be in the future, and find the thoughts that will get them there. It is incredibly powerful and life-changing work. It has been the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced.
I would love to help you, too. If you are struggling with celebrating yourself, if you don’t remember the last time you were proud of yourself, or if you have negative self-talk swirling around your head on repeat, I want to talk to you. I want you to experience the power that is in this thought work for you. In fact, if you will trust me with 60 minute of your time, I promise that you will have a moment where you understand your thoughts better, and how your brain has been working on autopilot, and we will make a change and create a new thought pattern for you, or I’ll refund what you paid for the first session. You have nothing to lose, and possibly a whole new future to gain. So please give yourself the gift of this hour. I promise you will not regret it.
To sign up for your first 60 minute Introductory session go HERE.
If this story has resonated with you, and you’d like help finding your own emotional freedom, I’d love to help you. I have devoted my Life Coaching practice to helping people just like you find the freedom and happiness I now enjoy. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know it can be hard to find help. No worries, I’m here and ready to help you. Schedule a 60 minute Mindset Makeover call to learn new tools you can put to use right away, that will help you make clear choices in your relationship and help you find emotional freedom. I believe in YOU and I’m excited to share these tools with you. Sign up for your Mindset Makeover, and start living a Trigger-Free life HERE.
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