Self-Pity is a Thief

gardnerSocial media can be amazing when it comes to connecting with people you might never have encountered otherwise. It can be a beautiful forum for sharing ideas, laughter, concerns, gratitude, tools for living well, and beauty. I’m in contact with people I haven’t seen for twenty years because of Facebook. I get on this page every day and am blown away by you people, and how thoughtful, kind, compassionate, enthusiastic, honest, intelligent, funny and thought-provoking you are. I get emails from people that are raw and brave, and I have zero doubt this is one way we can show up for each other. We can reassure each other that we’re not alone, and people care, and more importantly, strangers care. I think that’s huge to know, because it restores our faith in the goodness of people, if we need to have our faith restored. I see people rooting each other on in the comment threads, offering support, or condolences, or ideas. So those are some of the ways this world is not virtual at all, and can be a real blessing.

Having said all of that, sometimes social media, and I’m including Twitter and Instagram and whatever else you might be doing, can be a source of pain for people, if they’re feeling badly about themselves, or moving through a dark time. It can really seem like everyone else is having this idyllic, carefree, fulfilling life with their bare feet in the sand, and their annoyingly perfect dog in the background. Or that everyone is wittier, more cutting edge, better informed, more engaged, cooler or hipper or hotter or glossier or whatever-er. It can become a source of feeling “less than”.

Social media is certainly not the only contributing factor that might make a person wonder if they’re measuring up. Most media is designed to do that, after all. If you want people to buy products, apparently you have to barrage them every day with messages that they just don’t cut it. They don’t look right or smell right or feel right, and there are a million products, diets, supplements, cars, pills, and different kinds of beer that can help. We could talk for hours about the way women are relentlessly encouraged to be as tiny as possible. Perhaps we should all disappear, and don’t even think about getting angry around that topic, because then you’re really taking up too much space. Men don’t fare much better. They’re supposed to be virile and unafraid and able to take charge under all circumstances. Video games start to look awfully appealing if those are the standards men are supposed to meet. In a virtual world, that might be possible, but in the real world, it’s asinine to think we’ll never be afraid, or we’ll always have the answers, or know the next right thing to do, and that goes for both genders. Anyway, my point is, most advertising is designed to make us all feel like we’re blowing it, in all kinds of ways, and if you’re feeling vulnerable, you can get sucked down the rabbit hole.

Self-pity and self-doubt are thieves. They rob you of your power, of your belief in yourself, of the desire to take ownership of your life. Blame and shame and rage are poor traveling companions, but sometimes it’s hard to take action when we’re already feeling like we should just give up. It’s easier to point our fingers, and make other people the cause of our unhappiness, or to feel angry at the world at large because it’s so unfair. And you know what? It is unfair. It’s not a level playing field. Some people are born into loving, nurturing families where there’s no concern about health insurance, or keeping a roof over everyone’s head, and other people are born into abusive environments where they weren’t wanted, or their parents were too young to be responsible for themselves, let alone a baby. Some people have to deal with loss and grief and mourning that just brings you to your knees, and other people have a path that’s a lot smoother. Here’s the thing. There might be a few people living a life where their hair is always done, and their cars are sleek, and they talk to their housekeeper about the meals for the week. That doesn’t add up to a happy life if there isn’t happiness on the inside. Most of the crap we see that’s designed to sell us something, is just so far removed from most people’s reality, it’s laughable. I think most people know this, it’s just easy to get sucked in when you’re feeling tested, down on yourself, rejected, hopeless or really confused. It’s a distorted perception of reality when we’re moving through times like that, and believing we’re not good enough. Or that other people are more deserving, or more likely to get the breaks, or the girl or the guy or the promotion.

If you ever find yourself thinking, “No one likes me”, or “People suck”, or, “Everyone cheats”, you know you’re hanging out with the White Rabbit. Extreme thinking, sentences that involve “always” and “never”, are good indicators that you’re not thinking clearly, that you’re allowing yourself to spiral downward, or spin out of control. When we feed self-pity, we make ourselves sick. It’s likely we’re all going to feel sorry for ourselves at one time or another, so please don’t misunderstand me. Sometimes horrendous, deeply painful things happen to beautiful people, and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being “singled out”, especially if many unfortunate things happen at once. I’m just talking about self-pity as a way of life, as a way of moving through the world. There’s no possible way you’re going to uncover your gifts and share them freely, and light yourself up, if you’re in the blame/shame/rage cycle. You really have to step off that wheel, dust yourself off, and start again. That’s the beauty of being human. It’s never too late to start where you are, until your final exhale.

You are not less than. Less than what? Other people? You’re you. You cannot be less than you. We have about seven billion people on this planet, but we only have one you. So what are you going to do with your spark? What are you going to offer up? Whatever it is, you’re the only one who can do it, and you can’t buy that knowledge, you have to dig for it. You really don’t want to move through life feeling bitter and resentful, and unable to be happy for other people’s good fortune. I can’t think of too many things that would feel more unfulfilling than that. There’s so much beauty inside you. If you’ve been hurt, disappointed, heartbroken, allow those experiences to open you and make you a more compassionate, understanding, empathetic, patient person. Don’t believe the hype. You aren’t missing anything. You don’t have to be anything other than yourself, your authentic self. Let your pain inspire you to grow, let it mean something. And stick with the social media that lifts you up! 

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Courage–Take Heart

couragewayneFear can hold us back in so many ways. It’s a completely natural feeling that we’ll all experience, but as with everything, it’s what you do with your fear (or don’t do), that matters. The root of the word “courage” is “cor”—the Latin word for heart, and when we fail to grapple with our fear, this is really what happens—we end up betraying our own hearts.

If you tell yourself that you’re irrevocably broken at some root level, if you worry that you may not be good enough, or “something” enough, you set yourself up to reject love, to doubt the sanity or judgment of the people who offer it to you. If you ask yourself who you are to follow your dreams, if you tell yourself you’re better off toeing the line because you probably aren’t special enough to do anything else, you’ve let fear stop you from exploring how life would look and feel if you were living in alignment with your intuition.

The best definition of courage or bravery I’ve ever heard is, “feeling the fear, and doing it, anyway”, whatever “it” may be. It could be that you long to ask someone on a date, or you want to ask for a raise, or quit your job, or have an uncomfortable conversation with someone. There are all kinds of situations that are challenging, that might elicit fear, and the only thing worse than someone telling you you can’t do something because you don’t have the right stuff, is telling that to yourself. Self-limiting beliefs are like the bars of a prison cell you set for yourself. If you believe in them, you’ll be stuck. If you take a chance and gather yourself up, you’ll find there’s no “there” there.

Maybe you’ve been carrying around doubt for years. Perhaps you grew up hearing that you didn’t measure up, or would never amount to anything. Maybe you’ve been hurt, betrayed, abandoned or abused, emotionally, or otherwise. So many things can damage our confidence in our ability to see things through, but feeling the fear and doing it, anyway, is such a great way to rebuild that belief in yourself.

A painful conversation might seem daunting, but it’s better than living in quiet desperation, and you’ll probably find it’s the first sentence that’s the hardest. If it’s a personal situation, you might try, “I’m in pain, and I need to talk to you.” If it’s a business associate, your boss, your colleague, or anyone else who might hold some power over you (the power to keep a roof over your head, for example), practice with someone you trust, first. You might start with, “I’m glad we have the chance to talk about something that’s been on my mind for awhile.” The same goes for asking someone on a date; practice, and remember that it’s not even the outcome that matters. What matters is that you’re feeling good enough about yourself to ask for what you want.

Few things feel worse than wanting something and being unable to act on your own behalf. Usually the fear of stepping up has to do with a lack of self-esteem, and the paradox is, if you can make yourself rise to the occasion, you’ll automatically feel better about yourself. You don’t have to repress your fear, deny it or run from it. Go ahead and feel it, but then do it, anyway. You can be scared and brave at the same time, they aren’t mutually exclusive feelings. Life is too short to leave your deepest desires unmet.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If you enjoy the posts, you can find the books here.

The Green-Eyed Monster

jealousyLet’s crack open the green-eyed monster. I’m talking about envy, but while we’re at it, let’s tackle jealousy, doubt, insecurity, fear, a history of betrayal, doubt about self-worth, and abandonment issues, too, shall we?

When we envy what someone else has, it’s because we’re coming from a place of lack. We’ve stopped focusing on all that we do have, and have become transfixed and obsessed with what we don’t, and with what others do. When we’re envious, we fear that someone else has taken up our space in the sun. Now our chance is gone, because the sun can only shine on that other person, and any hopes we’d had are dashed, and we never get any breaks, anyway, and maybe we just have really bad karma. Or maybe that other person is a lying, cheating whore who’ll stop at nothing to get what s/he wants. The green-eyed monster isn’t at all pretty, and it has bitter breath, too. It gets in our heads and tells us tales of how we don’t measure up and probably never will, and you can choose to feed the monster with your fear, or you can send it packing. But I’ll get back to that.

Jealousy is a close cousin of envy. We worry that someone else may have something we don’t, or may take something we have. We doubt our own value. We feel threatened and insecure, and we focus on our perceived weaknesses. We dwell on what could happen, we worry about imagined slights. Jealousy makes us sick, and if we let the sickness grow, the symptoms are ugly. Jealousy makes a person check their partner’s texts, emails, pockets. Jealousy whispers that what you treasure most could be stolen from you. You can feed that fear, or you can send jealousy packing, too. But I’ll get back to that.

You may have a history of having been disappointed, disrespected, betrayed, unheard or unseen. Maybe you put up with treatment you never thought you would. Maybe you were left as a child, or maybe it happened later, at the hands of the first person you really, truly fell in love with. Maybe you think everyone cheats, simply because everyone you’ve picked has cheated. Maybe you’re so worried about being left or betrayed, you bend over backwards to be perfect so that there’s no way your current partner would do those things to you, but they don’t get to really know you that way, either. And you know that they don’t, so the relationship won’t be satisfying, anyway. You’ll be “perfect” for them, and unfulfilled. Unseen, unknown.

When we doubt our worth, it’s because some deep part of us thinks we might not be truly lovable. There’s something in us that believes we might be easy to leave, or betray, or disrespect. Let me circle back, here. How do you send envy, jealousy, doubt and fear, packing? You pick up your mind and direct it toward all the things you do have. You remind yourself that there’s only one you. Something like seven billion people on the planet, but only one of you. You remind yourself that you have your health, you have people in your life you love beyond words. You have people in your life who know you and see you and cherish you. You have a particular, gorgeous song to sing. You have a beautiful, tender heart, and you have gifts only you can share. If you start to train your mind on all that abundance, the nasty green-eyed monster will climb out of your head and slide off your chest and vaporize before you so you can breathe again.

Be mindful about what you’re feeding yourself. When you’re feeling vulnerable and insecure, try not to push those feelings away, see if you can lean into them, and find the source of your doubt and fear. What’s really bothering you? What’s happening now, and is it reminiscent of something that happened long ago, that pierced you and made you doubt your own beauty?

If you find yourself trolling around on social media, feeling sick because everyone’s statuses are pithy and positive, everyone’s pictures are shiny and insta-perfect, and you feel like crawling in a hole with a bag over your head, try to breathe. We all have those days. Everyone you encounter has pain. Most people don’t put that stuff in their updates. Put your phone down and go for a walk.

You are not here to worry that you aren’t good enough. You are not here to chase after people who don’t see you. You are not here to convince anyone else of your worth. You are not here to be in relationships with people who make you feel sick and full of fear, wondering if you’re going crazy, or if it’s them. You really aren’t. Life is too short for all of that. If you’re not sure you’re lovable, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, energy and heartache if you deal with that doubt before you try to do anything else, like be in a relationship, or follow your dreams. Those things are hard enough to do when we feel good about ourselves. It’s near-impossible when you’re riddled with self-loathing and anxiety.

Wishing you love, peace, strength, and the ability to focus on everything that is right and good about you. There’s a lot.

Ally Hamilton

You can find my books here <3

Don’t Wait

When-someone-tells-me-noWaiting can be a particular kind of agony, whether we’re waiting for a call, an email response, the results of a test, a job interview, or a first date. We never know what’s going to happen, even though we like to think we do. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and we can make all the plans we like, we can create our routines and try to make order out of chaos, but there’s no getting around that truth, and for many people there’s the impulse to run from it, but I think if you accept and embrace that you don’t know what’s coming, or how much time you’ve got, it can also inspire you. A little fire under your a$$ can be a great thing. That way you don’t get caught up in the idea that you can “waste” time, or “kill” time, because you know it’s precious.

Why do we agonize when we’re waiting for the phone to ring? Do we really think our happiness lies in the outcome? People will like us and get us and understand us, and other people will not do any of those things. The news will be good, there won’t be any news, or the news will be bad. The real issue isn’t the news. It’s how you’re spending your time and energy. Waiting is probably not a great use of your time, because it takes you out of the power seat, and I don’t mean power over other people, I mean the power you can exert over how you’re going to use the time you have. If you have a dream, if you have something to say, something to offer, you just keep going. There’s no need to wait. If you keep directing your energy toward spreading some love with every day you’ve got, I really believe that momentum will build on itself. Giving for the sake of giving is the reward. It happens as you’re doing it. If you’re giving to get, that’s another thing altogether.

Is it okay to want good things in your life? Love, companionship, affection, at least one person who sees you and knows you and cherishes you? Of course, but if a person isn’t running in your direction, and I mean this whether we’re talking about a romantic or a professional interest, keep going. They can catch up if it’s the right thing. Waiting feels like sh&t. Waiting for someone’s approval, acknowledgement, love, attention, respect. Screw that. If a person doesn’t have it to give, get going. Give it to yourself, and keep giving it to yourself, and don’t let anyone or anything cause you to doubt your ability to offer something only you can. There’s only one of you. In a world of seven billion people. You think you were put here to wait? I don’t.

I’m not talking about patience, which is something else. We all need patience in this world. Sometimes we have to be patient with ourselves, and our inclination to give someone else power over us. Maybe we have healing to do. Maybe we doubt whether we’re lovable at our very core. Maybe we have to be patient with someone we love. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about hours, afternoons, days, weeks when most of your energy is spent waiting for something to happen, instead of living each beautiful day you’re given in awe and wonder and gratitude, or in deep sadness if that’s where it’s at, but not allowing your energy, your essence to be derailed while you obsess over what someone else might or might not do. How someone else might or might not reward you. How you might or might not be received and understood. What calamity might or might not befall you. That’s what I’m talking about. Life is too short for that, and you are too precious. Carry on, you.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Compassion: Tastes Great, Less Filling

Once when I was fourteen, I walked to the front of the room in my science class to hand in a paper, and I heard giggling. When I returned to my seat, this girl I had always liked leaned over and loudly whispered, “You can see your panties through your skirt. Nice flowers!” And then she and another girl I’d also thought was a friend, snickered. One of the guys in my class leaned forward from the row behind me and said, “Don’t worry about it, you’re looking good,” which only intensified my embarrassment. Shame is such a powerful, uncomfortable, debilitating feeling. It hits you in the gut and makes you feel wrong and bad and unworthy of love or kindness. I remember being annoyed with myself for blushing and making it obvious I was bothered. I wanted to be tough, to act like it didn’t phase me, to deny those girls the feeling that they had any power over me; things like that seem such a big deal when you’re fourteen. My heart was racing, and I was cursing myself for not having checked my reflection before walking out the door. I felt betrayed and confused by these girls I’d considered friends, who now seemed to be taking pleasure in humiliating me. Beyond that, I wanted the world to open and swallow me so I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day with people laughing because they could see through my skirt. I think about it now, as a grown woman, and shake my head. I wish I could go back to my teenage self in that room and say, this is so not a big deal, but it’s funny that it stands out, all these years later.

We all have moments when we feel exposed, when we’ve shown our fallibility and our vulnerability more than we’d intended; when we’ve accidentally let people see the flowers on our undies. There’s so much I could say here. We tend to be so hard on ourselves and on each other. Gossip magazines (which I never buy and encourage you to boycott along with beauty magazines which are anything but) are nothing but mean girls gone wild. Look at this awful thing this person is doing! Here’s someone else with their life falling down around them. Here are ten ways you really suck, and even though you’ll never measure up, here are ten things you can try so that you won’t suck so much, with an occasional story about a person with a fairytale life you could never hope to live. It’s a big plate of awful.

The thing is, you’re always feeding yourself. You’re feeding your body, but you’re also feeding your mind and your heart with everything you watch, read, or dwell upon. You know the old saying, “You are what you eat.” If you focus on all the things people are doing that are terrible, and all the ways you’re disappointing yourself, it’s so defeating. You really don’t want to feed the idea that, “people suck,” because they don’t and you don’t, either. It’s simply not an easy gig, this work of being human, especially when you’re trying to be kind, conscious and compassionate. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant about what you feed yourself. If you look around and find you have contempt for people easily, it’s probably time for a change in diet: Compassion: tastes great, less filling. When you have some for yourself, you’ll find you have some for other people, too. We all make mistakes, every single one of us. We all have choices we’d love to make over again. It’s easy to be the person who points a finger and has that snarky, biting thing to say, but I don’t think it feels good at the end of the day, and it definitely doesn’t up the happiness quotient. Choose love, feed that.

Sending you some right now,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

Underneath the Words

Hear-the-meaning-withinIn the heat of conflict, so much can get lost in translation. When we feel attacked or wronged or misunderstood, it is so hard to pause and breathe and listen. But if you think back to your angriest moments, chances are, underneath the rage there was pain. When people yell it’s because they don’t feel heard or seen or understood. Some part of them is crying out for recognition, for help.

Sometimes we’re like a bunch of talking heads. We get so caught up in the story we forget to see the person. To look into their eyes and maybe put a hand on their arm. Sometimes we all need a tether. Need a way back to the moment. Need to know we’re being seen, and felt. But too often people spend time together and there’s no real connection, just a lot of words, a lot of editorializing. Have you ever walked away from lunch with a friend you love feeling lonely? Maybe you went with a story on your mind and you told your story and you guys talked about it, but it never really gelled. Because you went with a plan, and never allowed for the possibility that maybe your story didn’t need to be told. Maybe you’ve already told it too many times. Maybe something beautiful could have happened if you showed up and opened to the moment. Maybe you missed the fact that your friend had an energy about them. Maybe they needed you. Maybe there was a glimmer of mischief or pain or restlessness you missed and cannot have back.

People say things they don’t mean all the time, especially if they haven’t worked on healthy ways to express their feelings. Lots of people push things down until it’s too much, and then they explode. Words can be very powerful, and I’m not suggesting you don’t want to work on the way you communicate if what you’ve been doing so far isn’t working for you or the people in your life. Learning how to handle your anger in a way that doesn’t burn the place down, and everyone in it including you, is essential if you want to be happy. But no one operates from their highest self in every moment. I know people who write off relationships with family members because someone said something when they were drunk at a wedding eight years ago. Try to see underneath the words. Look for the pain because if you can see that in another person, it will soften you. And then at least you create the possibility that you can forgive them and release yourself from the burden of carrying all that anger around with you.

Last year a woman wrote in and asked how she could stay on the Facebook fan page, but not see the “inspirational posts” I was writing. She sent an email to me personally to ask. I told her the page was mostly the blog posts, and if she didn’t want to see them, she could just unlike the page. She wrote back and said she wanted to see the “other stuff” but not the posts. I was intrigued by the fact that she wanted to be sure that I knew that she didn’t like what I was writing. So I went to her page and saw that she was a writer and a teacher, and I understood something about my posting and the community we have going here was difficult for her to see. I couldn’t say exactly what was going on with her, but there was pain there. So I just responded with compassion. Because it’s terrible to feel frustrated or resentful or unseen, so much so that you want to lash out at a stranger.

A lot of the time we take things personally. It’s hard not to, especially when you feel criticized or rejected. The truth is, most of the time it has nothing to do with you, and once in awhile, someone will just not get you. I would say, always look for the feeling. Words can be misleading, but feelings are fairly clear. You don’t have to respond to someone’s pain with anger. You don’t have to take on their view as if it’s true. You don’t have to defend yourself over every slight. Most people have a lot of pain. Sometimes a hug, literal or figurative, goes a lot further than a thousand words. Sending you love. Ally