Having a Solid Sense of Self

confidence and sense of selfI prefer my nail polish slightly chipped. My favorite sunglasses are zebra stripped and come from a lonely truck stop in the middle of Kansas (I bought ALL the pairs). I’m always in layers. Always. My socks rarely match (and I’m equally as surprised as anyone else when they do). I’ve mastered the art of appearing higher maintenance than I am. I could live in my worn out $30 boots from Target (the ones with the worn spot on the toe and the soles that let water in). If you run into me at the grocery store, I’ll probably be lip syncing and full on rocking out to whatever old school song happens to be on the radio, because, obviously, it’s my jam.

One upon a time, I had zero sense of self.

And because of this, I let the judgments, opinions, and expectations of others dictate what was okay and not okay for me. From the clothes I wore, to the things I was interested in, to the people I spent time with. The movies I watched, the books I read, and the music I listened to. Everything.

Unfortunately, I was also surrounded by some pretty judgmental and opinionated people who felt a need to comment on every. single. thing. I did or said… and I didn’t have ANY clue who I was, so I faltered. I shifted. I tucked what little “self” I did know away. I tried to find my place. I tried to blend.

And really… I just lost myself completely.

One of the most important things I’ve learned on this journey is how to cultivate confidence. Confidence comes down to owning it… whatever “it” is for us. Whether it’s the zebra striped sunglasses, the cheesy song I’m likely belting out at the grocery store, or the chips on the tips of my fingers, I’m owning it, and I don’t care what you think.

A funny thing happens when we stop caring and we just embrace who we are… other people embrace us too. Exactly as we are.

Everyone? No. But the people who matter and belong in our life. Because confidence is just energy. When we shift away from a needs-approval-and-acceptance-on-everything-we-do energy and into a this-is-who-I-am-take-it-or-leave-it energy, we exude confidence, and people don’t question us. Instead, they wonder what we have and how they can have it too.

How they can be more expressive.
How they can have a unique sense of style.
How they can find their own voice.
How they can be so comfortable in their skin.
How they can rock the zebra striped sunglasses.

You know those people you see walking around, just doing their own awesome thing? The ones that are so carefree, confident, and expressive? Yeah, they’re just owning it. Whatever “it” is for them.

It’s that simple.

But in case it feels less than simple, here are some things to help you start cultivating confidence today:

Settle In and Let Your Body Lead

I found my footing one stride at a time.

After experiencing the greatest loss of my life, I instinctively started running. I remember the first run… I felt like an emotional zombie, and I huffed and puffed three quarters of a mile on the treadmill at the gym. I hadn’t run in almost five months, and my body was like, “WHOA NOW, what do you think you’re doing?” But my spirit, fueled by an anxiety I had never experienced, pushed me forward. We needed this. And so we ran.

And then I just kept running. 

Nearly every single day since I returned from the funeral. Even on the days my calves screamed and my ankles faltered. The days I was so exhausted from lack of sleep, that I could barely see straight. The days I was weak from not eating. And the days I had so much anxiety I didn’t think I could stand another moment inside my own skin.

Before I knew it I was running 1.5mi, 2mi… and now I can breeze through 3mi, and then do it again the next day. The level at which I’m able to stand tall in this life again is directly proportional to the distance I can cover.

I found my center one sit up at a time.

A few years ago I went through a hard breakup that challenged me on so many levels. I was hurt, angry, betrayed… at and by myself. I had let myself sink into a situation and space that really didn’t serve anyone involved. I stayed with someone for years who wasn’t right for me, and who did some things that really cut deep. And so I headed to the gym. I started working with a trainer that pushed me harder than I’d ever been pushed. Much of our work centered around core strength, something I’d always hated… until I started finding my center in both physical and emotional ways.

And I kept going. 

Every day, sometimes twice a day when I needed it, I would go to the gym and push my limits. Everything I did revolved around core in some fashion, because the stronger my ab muscles got, the more grounded in my body I became. I felt like I could stand stronger in this world, and like I could take on anything.

I found myself one loop at a time.

Not too long ago, I had run my body into the ground with stress, obsession, and unhealthy habits. I had a clear, simple truth surface: slow down and try something different. And so I slowed down and stopped pushing myself so hard, obsessing, and driving my body into the ground. Instead, I started walking. I went for short little treks on the paths near my house, picking sunflowers, listening to music, and just letting my mind wander. And suddenly, there I was again. I hadn’t even realized I was gone.

And so I kept walking.

I walked for miles, every single day. The further I walked, and the more days and miles I logged, the more divine inspiration and guidance flowed through me. The more deeply I connected to myself and my purpose. Poetry, blog posts, future TED talks, and clear guidance poured into and through me. I was home, I was connected, I was back to myself.

how-to-listen-to-intuition

When our spirits go through the hardest challenges they’ll ever face, we have to settle in and let our bodies lead.

Our bodies are beautiful, wise animals. They’re wired to survive, and to carry us through this life, handling so much of what we throw at them.

When I found myself battling anxiety for the first time in my life, all due to a tragic death, my body said we have to move. And so we moved. Through that movement, my spirit calmed, my anxiety dissipated, and I came through the blurry fog with more clarity and strength (physically and emotionally) than I’d ever had before.

When I found myself lost in a heartbreak I’d caused myself, all due to choosing to stay with the wrong person, my body said we have to move. And so we moved. Through that movement, my wounds healed, my emotions leveled, forgiveness flowed, and I came through the pain with more connection to my truth and center than I’d ever had before.

When I’d gotten so lost in things that didn’t matter and was running myself down, my body said we have to move in a new way. And so we moved. Through that movement my grip loosened, my spirit opened, my muses returned, and I reconnected to myself on a level I’d been missing for some time.

Settle in and let your body lead.

Your body is of this world, and it’s wise in ways we’ll never fully understand. Trust your body. Really tune in and listen, no matter what you’re going through in your life right now. Your body knows what’s needed.

Take a deep breath, move out of your mind, and just feel into this beautiful animal that you inhabit. What does it need?

Embrace the “Woo”

Once upon a time, I rolled my eyes at the “woo:” people who had gemstones, tarot and angel cards; people who said things like “step into the flow” and referred to “The Universe” as if it was something other than a bunch of stars and planets swirling around aimlessly; people who talked about energy, divine guidance, manifesting and all that “silly, woo woo” stuff.

You know, people like me.

The “me” then would have rolled her eyes at the “me” now.

But the “me” now feels pretty sad for her because she was totally out of alignment with herself and yes, the flow. She had tucked away her intuition and was so wrapped up in other people’s energies that she couldn’t feel her own. She thought she had to do it all alone, and not just from a “receiving help from other people” perspective, but in a “there’s nothing at all divine about this life” perspective.

And I get it.

It can’t be seen or touched in a traditionally tangible way.

It can be felt, but we often aren’t tuned in enough to notice.
It can be experienced, but we often brush it off as coincidence.
It can be seen, but we often refuse to acknowledge it for what it is.

But one day I started listening.

I opened my eyes and I started acknowledging what was really going on around and within me. And everything changed. I started listening to the tiny whispers from within, but more importantly, I started acting on those tiny whispers. And everything started falling into place.

Click here to read the full post on Over the Moon Magazine!

How to Be in Love with Life

be-in-love-with-life

I’ve had several conversations lately where I find myself admitting, “I’m just a lover of life.” If you’ve followed me long enough you know that I wasn’t always this way, In fact, I was quite the opposite. I battled varying levels of depression, felt totally stuck and lost, and really believed life was out to get me and that “life sucked”.

And now? I’m obnoxiously positive and happy, and think life is the coolest thing ever. If the me from years ago met the me today, I don’t think we’d recognize each other. I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I’ve gotten to this place and want to share some of the top things with you today.

How to be in Love with Life

Cultivate curiosity.

I don’t care how many degrees you’ve held, how much you’ve traveled, or how many people you’ve had deep conversations with, you don’t know everything. It’s impossible. At some point in becoming a grown up, we stop being curious. We fall into patterns, ruts, and routines, and we just settle in. We don’t learn or grow or question anymore, and that’s such an unfortunate things. Start asking questions, regardless of who you’re talking to or what the concept is. Be open to whatever there is to learn in every situation, and from every person you meet.

Maintain a sense of child like wonder.

Life is pretty cool if you take a moment to pause and think about it. More important, if you take the time to really engage with it and all the amazing people around you. When’s the last time you looked up at the stars with wonder, or watched airplanes take off in awe? When’s the last time you were excited by something as constant as nature? The world is a fascinating and magical place, we just get too wrapped up in the day to day to really see it.

Remember that life is truly a miracle.

You don’t have to stop and think about it for very long to realize that being alive is truly miraculous. The fact that we have bodies, that we know to breathe automatically, and that we grow and shift and change and age. That fact that we’re born. The fact that we love one another. The fact that we can do and create such amazing things in this life.

Surrender to the flow.

A big reason we begin to believe life is hard and crappy is that we resist it. Everything in this world is energy, and all that energy flows beautifully if we just let it. Including us. Including our relationships, personal growth, goals, and work. If you feel like things aren’t going your way, you’re probably resisting the flow, or you’re trying too hard to control every aspect of your life. You’re also likely out of tune with your intuition. When we trust our intuition, we instantly surrender to the flow and allow it to guide us through life. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s amazing, but we can’t resist.

Stay open.

Being open is hard work, because it means we’re putting ourselves and our hearts out there with huge risk. It means we’re feeling everything, and sometimes that’s painful. But it’s also really amazing. If you close yourself for fear of getting hurt, you also close yourself to love, passion, joy, and connection. One thing I’ve learned in my short time on this Earth is that the more deeply we’re hurt or broken, the greater our capacity for the good stuff. Let yourself feel it all and just soak it up, you’re alive and that’s a beautiful thing.

Connect, connect, connect.

Many of us have a lot of people in our lives… maybe that’s family, a significant other, co-workers, and fiends, but how many of us are truly connected? We’re afraid to dive deep and really see the other people in our lives, or open ourselves up to be witnessed fully, yet it’s what we all crave. Rejection can be a bummer, but living a life totally disconnected and on the surface is far worse. You have one life, do you really want to spend it on the surface, talking about things that don’t matter with people you can’t possibly adore fully, and who can’t adore you, because neither of you are willing to be uncomfortable?

Play.

Stop being such a grown up and have some fun! Life isn’t meant to be taken so seriously, it’s meant to be enjoyed. Play on the jungle gym, skip through a pile of fall leaves, start lip syncing and busting a move at the grocery store when your favorite song comes on… I do these things all the time (to name a few) and it’s a blast. Who cares if that grumpy old man behind you thinks you’re ridiculous?! The point of life is to be alive, so be alive. Have fun. Play, regardless of whether the kids are around. Do what your heart desires.

Just be yourself.

It takes a lot of energy to try and be someone or something you’re not, so just be you. There’s no one else like you on this planet, not even close, so own it. Love yourself fully and don’t worry how that makes anyone else feel. Life is too short, and you have so many gifts to give by just showing up fully, as you are in each moment. I spent a lot of time in my life trying to be someone I wasn’t and hiding parts of myself from the people in my life… but since I’ve settled into myself with love and appreciation, life is so much more amazing. I feel so much more connected and appreciated, and I’m really living in alignment with what’s right for me.

Be grateful.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… gratitude and what not. But seriously. Give gratitude a real go and create a real practice. Gratitude is one of the fastest ways to raise your vibration and experience more joy and fulfillment. Do it every day, especially when it seems like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Remember, this life is amazing, just the fact that you woke up today is plenty to be grateful for, and there’s always more. Make it a habit to express gratitude for the gift of another day when you wake up, and at least three things when you fall asleep at night.

Love.

Love hard, deeply, fully, and completely. Love everyone and everything. Love is such an underused emotion, yet it’s something we all have access to if we simply open our hearts. Place your hands over your heart and think about someone or something that makes you feel love. Focus on that energy, and work to amplify it until it feels like it’s pouring out of you… until you want to go around hugging people just so you can share it.  Remember that you have this energy within you all the time. All you have to do is tune in and turn it up, then send it out to others.

Take action now!

Are you ready to fully love your life? Choose at least one thing on this list and commit to really following and implementing it in your life for the next 30 days. Share with me what you’re going to do to really create a shift.

Death and Destruction, Creation and Rebirth: Goddess Kali

On the first night of my holiday trip to Hawaii, I woke up to the worst voicemail of my life. Learning of this close death literally took the wind out of me. I cried for almost 24 hours straight, 20 or so if you take into consideration the three or four hours I slept thanks to the sleeping pill my mom gave me.

For the next two days I remained in bed… moving between sobbing, staring at the ceiling, googling grief, and waiting for what seemed like an endless, painful amount of time until I could board my plane to head home early.

goddess-kaliThe night before I flew out I had a very vivid dream. In it, a beautiful blue goddess with many arms was trying to show me something. Someone was there trying to explain her to me, but I couldn’t make sense of his words. I was enchanted by her presence, and I remember trying to think of her name to google more about her at the end of my dream. I knew her, and yet I had never seen her before.

At some point the following morning, I finally did type “blue goddess with multiple arms” into google, and was presented with the Hindu Goddess Kali… a Goddess of Death, and more specifically, all things ego and physical.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Gods and Goddesses of other cultures, knowing full well that there are certainly things to learn from their meanings, mythologies, and stories, yet never felt drawn to any particular one. And since I believe in divine guidance and messages, I didn’t brush off the fact that a very clear, specific Goddess had come to me during my sleep… possibly the only meaningful period of sleep I had reached since the horrible news.

At first, learning about Kali startled me.

After all, this beautiful (sometimes terrifyingly depicted) woman wears a necklace of skulls, a skirt of severed arms, and is holding a severed head and blade in her left hands.

But the more I read, the more Kali resonated, and the more I felt blessed by her presence in my dream. Whether or not you believe in the specifics of other religions and their symbols, I truly believe that we learn and grow more as individuals and spiritual beings when we stay open to the divine messages and messengers that appear in our lives. You can still be a devout [insert religion here], or anti religion completely, and receive divine guidance from other sources.

The more fully we step into our spiritual nature, the more the walls and divides between religion and their individual semantics fade away. It’s all about love, energy, and connection when we get to the core, and there are lessons that teach us how to be more spiritually aligned from everywhere.

The best way to explain in modern terms what a deity is, is to understand deity as a unique vortex of energy. Sometimes that energy vortex takes recognizable anthropomorphic form (for instance, in meditation visions). Sometimes that energy is felt through the sound vibrations called mantra, or through the geometric pictures, called yantras, that map the way that energy looks in “blueprint” form. To learn to experience these distinct energies, with their distinct powers and qualities, is the invitation of Awakening Shakti (divine energy). Recognizing and decoding the various “tastes” of the goddesses is a way of deepening your capacity for living with passion and depth. It’s a practice for mining your soul’s connection to the cosmos. It offers a powerful means of understanding the capacities of your own psyche. And it can reveal spheres of consciousness that are ordinarily beyond the range of human understanding.

Awakening to Kali, by Sally Kempton

What resonated most clearly in the moment was that Kali was not a Goddess of human death, like the Grim Reaper or the Devil… Kali is about death to the ego, and any illusions we have about what’s “real” in this life, especially about ourselves and our existence. And she is about libration… liberating her children from the illusion and confines of the ego and attachment to our bodies, our human form. She brings us back to the truth: we are more than our bodies. We are spirit, soul, and divine energy, manifesting in this world in human form. But we are not our bodies, and when we kill the ego, or leave the body and the physical world, we return to the truth and the divine flow, and move onto what’s next for us.

This is a truth I’ve known for some time now, yet needed so desperately to be reminded of as I began my decent into a grief I had never experienced before. We don’t know what happens after our physical bodies die, but how can the energy that makes up our soul, spirit and essence (born of the same energy and makeup of the Earth, the stars, and the Universe) not return to the greater flow of life?

Beyond the immediate resonance of Kali, I recognized her as a long time presence in my life. Destruction, chaos, tearing down what’s known, and revolutionary change inside and out. When I first started in on my quarter-life crisis, the catalyst for the work I’ve done and the life I’ve created, it was filled with chaos and destruction. Ending of relationships, challenging everything I knew to be “true” and “right” in life, quitting jobs, releasing old beliefs, shattering my sense of self in the world, and allowing parts of me that needed to die, die.

Kali is a long time friend, I just didn’t see her there.

The icon of Goddess Kali shows her holding a severed head and a bloody sword, signifying her power to create revolutionary change, dissolve ego, and overthrow hierarchies and structures. In the physical world, she shows up as sudden earthquakes and hurricanes, but also the revolutionary life-changes that shake up cultures and disrupt societies. You’ll find her in intense experiences of all kinds, especially the experiences that destroy what is outworn and prepare you for new creative growth. You find her energy in endings that presage new beginnings, and in the powerful impetus to create change and transformation in your life and in your world.

Awakening to Kali, by Sally Kempton

I don’t know exactly what Kali’s presence, or this huge loss, means right now. I still truly believe everything, even the horrible and hard for us to understand, happens for a reason. With my whole heart and soul. I also know that this loss has moved me closer to my truth and my purpose, and so all I can do is simply lean into that while giving myself the time and space to grieve and heal.

Whether you choose to believe or resonate with Gods and Goddesses, or traditions of other cultures is absolutely up to you… but I challenge you to be open to the messages, lessons, and gifts they have to give. Divine guidance comes in many forms, and usually works through people. I’ve received the clearest divine guidance from status updates on Facebook, the same as I have through spiritual experiences such as meditation, journaling, or other sources. Whoever you believe in, whatever you believe in, whether God or the Universe or simply the flow of life, you are always receiving guidance and messages, you just have to be open to them.

For me, Kali brought peace and a sense of grounding, as well as guidance for how to move forward in my life and work after such a big loss. For you, her message may be smaller and less complex. But I encourage you to stay open to whatever is here for you too, and whatever has yet to come.

Kali challenges us by daring us to look her in the face and find the love behind the pain of life. – Sally Kempton

If you asked me two months ago what topic I wanted to base my business on, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. With her guidance and support, my business is up and running and I have created my Individual Coaching Package and two Transformational Quick-Guides. I’m currently coaching my own clients and there are several other products and packages in the making. The best part is that, by working with Stephenie, I have been able to overcome my own mental blocks so that I now feel so much more in-tune with my own creative flow. — Jennifer Twardowski