SUNDAY MORNING SURPRISE
It was a typical Sunday morning: I slept in, did some laundry, just got back from exercising. Then I saw the notification I had a voicemail on Whatsapp from my friend Gloria: "I was just thinking of you...you inspire me a lot with your sincerity, genuineity, and Kylality." She went on to say she was at the beach and thinking back to when we met at the swimming pool in Mumbai, while we were both there for a Corporate Happiness Bootcamp training in June.
During an activity in which we had to see (through movement) how much we thought we were creating change in our own organizations at the bootcamp, I could feel my body physically hesitate. I didn't feel as if I was really creating change yet. Gloria firmly took my hand, and led me to where she was standing: the firm "YES, I am creating change" section.
It was hard to not fall madly and deeply in love WITH Gloria: she had the kind of warmth that made you feel like you had known her in a previous life. She gleefully stood out because she didn't fit in to any social norms. Whether she was sitting on the floor cheering, or hugging participants she had just met, or singing and dancing to her own tune (literally and figuratively), she truly embodied HAPPINESS.
Whenever I spoke to the Indian gurus, they would inevitably bring her up: "You know, think about Gloria. She doesn't really care what others think of her. She has really done the work to get to that stage of oneness."
On Friday night, I invited some new coach friends over for dinner. Over pork adobo and stir-fried bok choy, we eagerly chatted about everything we had worked on (and were still working on) to get to where we were as coaches. I confided in them that I was at the 25 mile mark with my book. I could almost see the finish line, but I wasn't sure if I could make it to the end. I further admitted that I had had a mini breakdown WITH my hubby about it all a few days ago. Both coaches talked about their parents and how their parents had made them feel "Not Good Enough." Everything they shared, I felt like I had experienced the exact same thing in my own life.
I nodded, inhaling deeply, sipping on my ginger tea.
After a story I shared about how I had met my hubby, one of them said, "Kyla, you're such a great storyteller. I should bring you home so you can tell some stories to my kids!" Nobody had ever said that to me before. The other coach chimed in, "Wow, I have goosebumps."
After they left, my apartment felt re-energized, heck I felt re-energized. We (the apartment and I) were glowing with a new found possibility. My stories meant something--not just to me--but to others.
BEFORE GETTING TO -ITY
As the Indian gurus mentioned, Gloria did the work on herself. You have to do the work on your SELF, WITH your SELF. An old high school friend put it to me like this when I was going through my quarter-life crisis, "It's like peeling an onion, Kyla. You have to keep peeling, and it may smell, it may make you cry, you may not like the process, but once you get to the core of who you really are, that's where the real you is."
And I would add, that is where the -ITY begins.
What is it that makes me, ME? I used to be a people pleaser, and a whole lot of other things, because I always felt I was not good enough. But what is this Kylility that Gloria spoke of? The question lingered in my head well after she sent me that voicemail. I think it's a turning inward to see who I really am, rather than running away or finding external validation. It's a mindset of being kinder, more loving, more compassionate toward and WITH my SELF. It is my true vulnerability: the tissue on my face when I leave the house, my unbrushed hair, my imperfectness, the uncomfortable sometimes awkward things I write about and speak about, it's a gumption (my friend MK likes to say that I have a lot of it) to create change that is so necessary but so hard at the same time, it's speaking unspeakable truths, it's the audacity to want to lift an entire country's happiness set point (look out, Korea!), and bring myself up, up, up WITH it as well.
Can be found not neatly wrapped in a gift box, but through inward work, struggle, tears, and everything in between. It is in those moments where you believe you are at mile 25, and you can see mile 26, and it is an uphill climb. When you feel as if you really don't know who you are, your -ity will be just waiting to be found, discovered, uncovered, again and again. It will evolve as you do, as it should.
And just when you thought you couldn't climb that last hill, just remember the data from positive psychology: when you look at a hill alone, it seems steeper than it really is. However, when you look at a hill WITH friends or other people, it seems a lot more manageable.
Thank you, Gloria, and my new coach friends for making that "hill" seem that much more manageable.
I have never fit in.
Attending British schools in Hong Kong, I was never quite British enough. During summer vacations in the U.S., I was never quite American enough. Once I got to boarding school in California, I quickly shed my thick British accent, wanting to fit in. But then I found myself feeling more Asian than anything else given we were in the minority there.
Over lunch with the Bootcamp ladies the other day, we talked about how "home" has taken on a whole new meaning for them as they have created lasting friendships and bonds, like the one we have here in Korea as opposed to back home. They continued to share how neat it was watching their kids grow up as Third Culture Kids (TCK), a term I kind of wish was around when I was growing up, or maybe not because it would have confused me even more?
I love Korea's cafe culture. There is nothing I love better than whiling my afternoon away over a beautifully curated matcha latte--you know the Instagram-worthy kind. Yet I don't drink coffee. In my late 20s and throughout my 30s, I stopped drinking alcohol, because my body just couldn't handle it, but I would go with friends to bars to dance/socialize and have a good time. *wink*
I always longed to be able to say, "I'm from ______." Just a one word answer. I looked up to people who had grown up on the same street, knew all of their neighbors, frequented the same establishments akin to The Brady Brunch. In the same way people looked up to child prodigies and math geniuses.
I never really seriously dated in my 20s. I mean, I tried, but nothing really stuck (no errr pun intended?!). In my 30s, before meeting Edgar, I was always that one friend who showed up to house parties alone; the friend that people would say, "Ohhh, you'll find someone soon...you're so nice and such a catch" to. My mom thought I was a lesbian.
I think I spent a good chunk of my life trying to just fit in.
When I first started my job as a professor at Yonsei University, I wore suits, high heels, and pretended to be organized. I wanted to emulate the few other female professors that were around. Truth be told, I was far from it: I would often leave rosters and other important papers behind in class or on my desk, I would show up to class with toilet paper remnants on my face, and I would sometimes wing activities when other activities didn't quite go the way I expected them to.
After my first semester, there was a change.
It was a tipping point: I started feeling super accepted by my students without really having to try to be someone else. It was when I stopped trying to be someone I wasn't, (which let's admit, is super tiring) that my students were less stressed, because I was less stressed. I began teaching in my quirky style. I began wearing more comfortable clothes and shoes. I began bringing a lot more creativity to whatever we were learning.
I could breathe again.
You know how you kind of identify yourself with your work big time? Well, that was me. After I left Yonsei, and took 2017 off, I realized it wasn't about fitting in with others. I mean, heck, I was like that weird-shaped peg trying to squeeze myself into a square hole...over and over again. And each time thinking: why doesn't this work? Why isn't this easy? What?!
I realized it was more about fitting in WITH yourself. Accepting yourself for the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else in between.
Then something even more magical started happening.
The more work I did on myself whether it was through my life coaching work, or my research/work on happiness, the more I began fitting in WITH myself. Then, I started meeting these awesome coaches who had done similar work on themselves and WITH themselves. First, at the World Happiness Summit in March in Miami, and then more recently here in Korea.
Over Vietnamese lunch yesterday under a perfect fall sun, one of my new friends remarked, "Gosh, I just wanted to tell you guys, this is the first time I can say I have found my tribe."
The fact that she was able to say that, having known us less than a month, spoke to just how much she not only fit in WITH herself (and all of the work she had done on herself WITH herself), but that she had mirrored that very same work that we had done as well--back to us.
And just like that, we were 3 weird-shaped pegs not fitting into square-shaped society, but helping each other STAND OUT more.
100 Things I am Grateful for
At the end of one of my recent workshops on the U.S. Military Base in Seoul, two U.S. Embassy-related participants looked at me eagerly after they asked this question: "Well, your workshop was great and all, but the real question is how do we maintain and sustain happiness in our daily lives?"
I nodded in complete agreement. Having been to a women's retreat last December, I was struggling to keep up my meditation rituals, yoga for beginners, and all around zen-ness. I wanted to come up with an eloquent and inspiring answer, but all I could muster at the time was "I do these monthly workshops in Seoul at WeWork, would love to have you join!"
They walked away most likely as dazed and unsatisfied as I was. I knew all of the research around GRATITUDE, I kept my own daily GRATITUDE log, yet it was something I rarely if ever shared with others, especially clients and workshop participants. It wasn't as if I was hiding it nor was I ashamed of it, but perhaps it become so ingrained, like brushing my teeth that I didn't think it would be a big of enough thing to mention?
I need to think about that more.
Regardless, there are so many benefits to GRATITUDE:
Ok, I have never been a fan of long lists, but have always admired and respected deeply the effort in which it takes for people to create these lists, so I thought I would create my own Gratitude List pulled from my own Gratitude Journal. So here goes:
The Basics (to me)
1. Drinking Water (More than 40% of the world's population does not have access to drinking water)
2. Electricity and how affordable it is in Korea
3. Hot Water (In 2012, I went to visit my sister in Rwanda where she was living in a tiny village: there was no hot water and intermittent electricity)
4. Clothes (Even though I probably only wear 20% of my closet, it's nice to be able to have a closet full of clothes to choose from)
5. An Oven (In my studio apartment where I lived the first 5 years of my time in Seoul, I didn't have an oven)
6. Furniture from Ikea (Additionally grateful that my hubby helped assemble most of our pieces while I was away speaking at a conference)
7. A washing machine (When I lived in Beijing during the summer of 1999, my roommate Dessi and I did not have a washing machine, so we washed all of our clothes by hand)
8. A built-in dryer to the washing machine
9. A roof over our head
10. A/C (This summer was one of the hottest recorded summers in years)
11. A working toilet (Having lived in Beijing and traveled to countries with squat toilets, I can appreciate a nice working not squat toilet)
12. T.V. (This is the first time in my adult life where I have actually owned a T.V.--well, part-owned with my hubby)
13. Plates/Bowls/Utensils (When I lived in my studio apartment in Seoul, I literally had one bowl and plates and utensils that were kindly donated to me my friend Katherine's mom)
14. Shampoo and Conditioner
17. Contact Lenses
18. Glasses (You can get them made super inexpensively here in Korea)
19. Things to write with like crayons, pens, pencils, colored pencils, etc.
20. Lots of paper to write ideas on and brainstorm on
21. My community here in Songdo, Korea (some of the most generous and thoughtful women I have ever met)
22. My bootcamp class
23. My hubby who is the most loving, positive, inspiring, intelligent, encouraging human I have ever met in my life
24. All of my friends around the globe (thank you for all of your support, encouragement and love)
25. My family (thank you for always being there with unconditional love and support and encouragement). In particular, I am grateful that my sister has been more supportive of my parents, my dad has thoughtfully stepped into his role as my mom's caregiver-hubby, and my mom has become a super grateful person!
26. My fruit lady (who always gives me the best fruit, delivers fruit for free, and updates me on the neighborhood happenings)
27. The Eye Glass Shop Guy (who always gives me and hubby a few free contact lenses when we buy mine)
28. The Barber Shop Peeps (who patiently listen to how Edgar wants his hair cut in English)
29. The Paris Baguette Owner (who has the warmest smile and always asks after Edgar whenever I go in alone)
30. The Staff at My Gym for always being super polite, kind and helpful
31. Strangers who Smile
32. People who are changing the world
33. Any public transportation driver who drives safely
34. All of my former students who have inspired me to be my best educator self and continue to do so
35. My colleagues (former)
36. My WeWork "colleagues" for inspiring a different way of working and for believing in my Happiness work here in Korea
37. My collaborators around the globe
38. My Coach friends around the globe for having done the work on themselves WITH themselves and inspiring me to do the same
39. Every single woman out there who has overcome some societal expectation of her
40. #MeToo women
41. Savings in the bank
42. My laptop
43. My iphone
44. My iphone battery-charging case
45. My chargers
46. Being able to travel for work + pleasure
47. Internet Access at some of the fastest speeds in the world and even underground!
48. Food delivery without a delivery fee
50. Onsen/Jijimjilbang/Spa time
51. Vacation time with my hubby
52. Being able to visit friends + family in the U.S. as often as we do
53. Baking with Almond Flour
54. Access to baking supplies on iHerb
55. Getting books sent to me through Amazon
56. Extremely reasonably priced public transportation
57. Nearby Parks, outdoor areas, rivers, and other nature options
58. Not having to have a car
59. Living in a relatively safe neighborhood with low crime rate
60. Feeling safe walking alone at night as a woman
61. Chicken delivery
62. Being able to eat out inexpensively and healthily
63. You can get free additional side dish orders
64. If you become friendly with some shop owners, they are likely to give you some free stuff here and there
65. I can speak enough Korean to get by and survive around Korea
66. Korea has some of the best cafes I have ever seen
67. Green Tea from Jeju Island
68. O'Sulloc (A green tea cafe chain)
69. Jjimjilbang (Korean spa)
70. Convenience stores everywhere--I recently bought a pair of socks in one!
71. Noraebang (karaoke rooms)
72. The Ajummas (Aunties) who carry your groceries on the bus when you give up your seat to them
73. Little Korean kids who wave to you
74. Clean and efficient public transportation
75. You get gym clothes and socks at the gym here so you don't have to bring your own!
76. Many Millennials here now speak English and are open to speaking to and meeting foreigners
77. A good conversation with a Korean taxi driver: Usually consists of a little bit of politics, the latest in Korea, where to eat the best kinds of Korean food, and why I am in Korea
78. Customer service is super efficient and the people in the industry are usually polite
79. You don't really ever have to wait in line for a long time anywhere
80. My Korean neighbor (she is a grandma, often gives me hugs, and we have been exchanging letters and gifts in Korean recently)
81. Sunny days
82. Being by the ocean
83. This ocean side cafe in Songdo
84. My Dream Jar
85. Lobby and my other stuffed toy animal buddies
86. That my life, work, purpose, core values are aligned
87. That I get to do the kind of work I do
88. That I get to meet the kinds of people I do because of my work
89. Summer Vacation
91. Learning how to surf
92. Horse-back riding
93. Learning new recipes
94. Learning new languages
95. The combination of good home-cooked food, good conversation with good friends
96. I don't have to work under anyone anymore (except for myself)
97. I get to work on myself WITH myself
98. Writing as a therapeutic process
99. People who are humble
100. My life
*Dedicated to and inspired by all of the people who have come into my life, inspired so much GRATITUDE around it, and continue to do so.*
Thank you for choosing this year to diagnose my mom with early onset dementia. It has brought my family closer together both geographically and emotionally, and we have been able to help my mom get the help and attention she needs.
Side Note to Dementia: Thank you for choosing my mom. Although you are an unsolvable riddle and there is as yet a cure for you, you have given my mom the "power of now" as Eckhart Tolle would say. She no longer holds grudges or holds on to events that were negative, and she remains in the present. Thank you for allowing us to take care of her the way that she has taken care of us.
Back to you, 2017. Thank you for showing me that no matter the challenge, I have the tools within me to work through them. It is the path to myself, that leads to my inner self, that often is the trickiest path to find and stick to, but once there, the sky is the limit.
The Eraser Test: What would you erase from your life if you could?
Reading this part in Gawdat's book, Solve for Happy, my mind immediately jumped from event to event in the hopes of finding something to erase. As I read on, and as my mind went on, I realized, Holy cow, I can't. Those seemingly negative experiences led to seemingly positive experiences. And just as Gawdat says in his book,
"nothing is really good or bad."
If I erased my mom's dementia, I would also have to erase my becoming a licensed life coach, the sheer amount of depth added to my book writing/coaching, my pop-up cafe, learning how to surf, doing a ton of work on myself WITH myself, and the list continues. Whoa, game changer.
So 2017, you have been an extraordinary year for growth, change, self-awareness, and so much more. You have pushed me to become the best version of myself by actually helping me realize that I could do it all along. Perhaps I just needed that nudge, hey?
As Gawdat mentions in his book, 2017, you showed me how to see past one of the illusions called FEAR: Pushing past this, realizing that what was at the core of this FEAR was actually fear of rejection, I created this blog and an F-word FB Live Video Series.
Gawdat talks of blind spots like memories. I would hold on to memories that would keep me from doing something or moving forward. However, I recognized that my memory of surfing being scary was just that and not the truth. So I moved through fear paralysis and tried it! YEAH! 1-Kyla 0-Blindspots.
Finally, you showed me how to realize one of the ultimate truths: LOVE. Love does indeed cut through all of this Bull**** in our lives, Gawdat. And reminds us of what is truly important. I am so grateful for my hubby's unconditional love, my family's unconditional love, my friends' unconditional love. <3
Gawdat's Equation for Happiness:
HAPPINESS ≥ Events (Your Perception of them) - Expectations (Of How Life Should be)
Math was never my strong suit, but if ever there was to be an equation for HAPPINESS, it would simply be this one. To live your life happily, perception is everything. If you think an event is unhappy, your brain will tell you that. You will continue to think about that thought -> suffer -> inaction (i.e. not do anything about it), thus creating a vicious cycle. OMG, I used to do that all the time. Ok, I still do, but awareness is half the battle, right? If you expect your life to be a certain way, and it doesn't meet your expectations, you will also fall short of what really matters.
Ok, just stop to think about all of this and digest it for a second before reading on.
Let go of your perceptions, let go of your expectations, and just LIVE.
Gosh, 2017, it has been a roller coaster of a ride, but I don't think we would have wanted it any other way, right? I remain humbled, a life-long learner, open to even more growth/change/self-awareness, and whatever else your sibling 2018 brings me.
Farewell, 2017. I'll miss you, but I am looking forward to working WITH you 2018.
*This blog post was inspired by Mo Gawdat's Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. (If you haven't already read it, I suggest you do! It is a game-changer.) This blog post is dedicated to Mo's son Ali, who is no longer with us, but smiling WITH us from somewhere in the universe. Check out Gawdat's video below. I am totally WITH you Gawdat on making 10 million people happier. Let's do this!
I was skeptical. I mean, what could a life coach teach me about life? I can just talk to my friends about my issues. It's not worth the money. I don't need a coach. I can do it on my own.
At a coffee shop a few days ago, two girlfriends looked at me curiously, "Why would someone need a life coach?" There was that question that I had heard over and over again since I had become a certified life coach a few short months ago. Before I answer that question, allow me to tell a story. If you know me well, you know, there is always a story behind every life lesson.
"A bunch of us are going to this Italian restaurant we booked three months in advance. We are looking for a fifth person to join us..." When a health + wellness coach asks you this question, your answer should always be "Hell yes!" When in Rome for a global women's conference, my very first Global WINConference, we had a night off to go explore the city.
It was a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, tucked away behind beautiful quaint buildings, we meandered on cobble stoned streets chatting the night away. It was indeed an incredible night. 5 coaches + magnificent Italian food + introspective and deep conversation = best night everrrrr.
The seed had been planted a year ago, even though I thought I was simply along for the culinary ride.
"You are enough." Three words that helped change my life and pull me out of the doldrums of depression. I went to see my grandma's homeopathic doctor, Aviva, who as it turns out also doubled as my grandma's life coach helping her live a very dignified life until the ripe old age of 99 (!). I then started looking into life coaching programs, became certified, and then jumped right into finding clients.
"Think about going where you are needed, not where you think you are wanted." Some more wise advice, this time, from a life coach I have since hired. Her free 90-minute session was so inspiring, game-changing, I realized I wasn't really ready to start working with clients and had to work on some of my own issues first.
Ok, so here are some myths about life coaching (that I also learned the hard way):
1. Nobody needs a life coach. It's a bunch of bullsh*t.
People hire personal trainers, because they know they will not make it to the gym on their own. Personal trainers build up your physical endurance, why wouldn't you want to build up your life endurance as well? We all need extra support in life, and many of us are in denial about it.
2. It's too expensive.
I totally used to think this way. How do you put a price tag on life-changing work on yourself? You don't. It really is an investment, like a college education, where ironically, nobody teaches you about real life outside of college.
3. I can talk to my friends about my problems.
I used to do this a lot, and I still do. I had a friend become so frustrated with the fact that I haven't published my book yet, she was exasperated. It started to impact our friendship. Your friends are too close to you to be objective and give an unbiased perspective. They are also not trained life coaches.
4. I've seen a therapist and he/she didn't help me.
Therapists and life coaches are two very different professions. Therapists are often trained in psychology, have the ability to prescribe drugs, often dealing with deep-rooted dysfunction and the like. Coaches work to empower clients by asking questions to help get to core issues holding clients back from achieving goals. Sometimes, finding the right coach is like finding the right yoga instructor. You have to try out a few to find the right fit. The good news: there are a lot out there willing to help!
5. It is shameful to admit you need help.
I definitely used to feel ashamed about my depression often hiding my most vulnerable side, especially given my line of work. But even life coaches need life coaches, and admitting you have something you need to work on is less about shame, and more about getting the support you need to move forward and achieve what you are truly meant to achieve on this earth.
Now that I have started working WITH clients, I get it. The more I work on myself, the more work I do WITH my own life coach, the more I can empower my own clients to change their lives as well. In a recent session with my life coach Maxine, I spoke about my fears around starting my own coaching business and finishing my book. She noticed I was making lofty goals for myself, often too lofty, such that I wouldn't do anything to work towards them because I was paralyzed by my fear. Now I work on breaking down these lofty goals into smaller less scary ones so I can work towards them slowly and steadily.
Whoa, game changer.
Let's go back to the conversation with my girlfriends in the coffee shop. That afternoon, I was at a loss of words of how to explain just how meaningful, just how life-changing, just how incredible life coaching has been for me, to me, and continues to be. Hopefully, after reading these words here, they and you (!) will understand just how much we all need to get a life...coach.
I care about EVERYTHING. Here are some things I care about and in no particular order:
Did I care too much?
Then I decided to tell the students openly and honestly how I felt, so I recounted the exact same story of how my husband had asked how my first week went and I had cried. Almost immediately, I could feel the air in the room had totally changed: gone were the attitudes, students started sitting up, paying attention, speaking English, and actually doing the activities. The change was palpable.
Had I not cared enough to tell them, would they have cared enough to change?
At a ladies lunch this past week, an expat friend lamented about how she felt judged for showing up at school not dressed to the nines. Her comment was greeted with "WHAAAT?!" all around, and another expat friend chimed in saying that she felt judged for driving the "crappiest" car of all the hagwon ("after-school academic center" in Korean) owners when she used to own a hagwon.
"What kind of car do you drive?" I asked, half expecting her to say a Honda or a Toyota.
"A Chevrolet Spark," she replied. Again, she was met with a chorus of "WHAAAT?!"
More and more stories were revealed about the pressure to look, act, dress a certain way. As the ladies were talking, I started thinking: Why do women put that kind of pressure on other women? I mean, let's face it, if we could, we would all walk around in our pajamas, right? Or was it a matter of caring? Did the women who dressed up care too much about how they looked? And for the women who didn't get dressed up, did they care too much about what people would say if they didn't? After all that's said and done, shouldn't we be worried about what kinds of mothers people are on the inside, rather than how they dress on the outside?
Perhaps all the caring was misdirected. Imagine if all of that energy put into caring about what other people thought was put into caring about themselves?
During this past week at GMUK, I cared a little bit less--about 10% less. Even though there were a few students who seemed spaced out, not paying attention, chatting with their friends, I didn't take it personally. As a student myself in Bootcamp, I was recently "caught" chatting with another friend during an exercise. I loved my Bootcamp class, I loved my instructor, and I loved my fellow class-mates. It was nothing personal. As humans, we get distracted, we want to catch up with friends, and try our darndest to multi-task, knowing it's a dying art.
So I guess my takeaway is care, but care 10% less about what (you may perceive) people are thinking of you. Use that extra 10% to care for yourself.
As an undergrad at UCSD, I always wanted to learn how to surf but I was too chicken, so I boogie-boarded instead. For those of you who don't know what boogie-boarding is, it's like surfing, but instead of standing up to ride a wave, you ride it on your belly on a smaller-sized board. I relished boogie-boarding in college, and soon spent as many warm afternoons out in the water as I could, making sure I always had my boogie board, beach chair, and beach towel in the trunk of my car ready to go.
Earlier this year, I finally overcame my fear and decided to learn how to surf in Honolulu. The waves were calm, my instructor was encouraging and kind, and I was able to stand up every single time I set out on a wave. My instructor even commented on how well I was doing in comparison to the Japanese dudes whose six packs could not keep them on their surf boards for very long (!). I would show off even more by sharing pics of me standing on the board and riding waves all the way into shore, but I have yet to find a computer/laptop that has CD capability! Surfing then made me realize how similar surfing was to life:
Fast forward to my second surf lesson in San Diego just last week. I was super excited to get back in the water and surf again. This time, I fell off my board almost every single time, and my instructor was not as supportive or enthusiastic at all.
"I am afraid," I lamented to my instructor who was half listening, half spacing out.
"Well, what are you afraid of?" He asked, somewhat interested in the answer but not really.
"I dunno...I guess falling into the water."
"Well, nothing bad will happen if you fall...it's just water."
I replayed his words in my mind. "It's just water. It's just water. It's just water." On my surf board, I waited for the wave behind me, the great unknown. As the wave got closer, my heart beat got louder and I could hear it out of my chest. I knew I would fall off the surf board again. I tried to cling to the side of the surf board, thus tipping myself up and falling into the depths of the ocean. I heard another surf instructor close by cheering for her students and wished my instructor would do the same for me.
I thought about more and different life lessons this time:
After my surf lesson, my instructor said, "It's not how you begin, it's how you finish. And you finished strong." He was referring to how I was able to catch some smaller waves towards the end of my session (before I hurt my ankle). Sigh.
After the lesson, I lay down on the grass staring out at the ocean beyond (totally disheveled). From afar, it seemed so peaceful and calm. Other surfers out on the water made surfing look so effortless as they glided on each wave. Perhaps there are things you can learn in every lesson no matter how much you get your ass kicked and no matter who your instructor is? Perhaps learning isn't always about staying on the board? And even though it may seem completely counterintuitive, letting go, will actually get you closer to where you need to be.
My first foray into not accepting compliments was rather formal. I was taking an intensive Japanese language course in Yokohama for ten months in my early 20s. It was my dream "job": studying a language for 8 hours a day; nights were spent "practicing" what we had learned in class at local karaoke joints. It was fantastic. I connected with a group of awesome women in my program and we soon called ourselves bijinkai ("the beautiful women's group" in Japanese).
Our classes were small. There was one instructor for six students. There was nowhere to run nor hide if you hadn't done the homework. I remember one particular class where we had to basically deflect compliments. It went something like this:
"Oh, Kyla your Japanese is so good!"
"Oh no, not at all. It needs more work for sure."
"Great job deflecting, Kyla."
Was it weird that I was getting complimented on deflecting compliments?
At a lunch with a bunch of girlfriends today, one of my friends asked the rest of us, "Does anyone here actually think that they are amazing?" We looked at each other with nervous curiosity. One by one, we shook our heads. Later over dessert, we talked about how we all deflect compliments. One friend said, "I don't take compliments very well." Another said, "I don't want to be that person who is seen as bragging or boasting." I nodded. It made sense.
We then talked about a close related "cousin" of deflecting compliments, saying sorry.
Why were women more prone to the S word than men? I knew the research: men are more likely to be seen as competent, women are more likely to be seen as arrogant if they speak their opinions. Women are more likely to silence their opinions if they are outnumbered by men. Men are more likely to ask for a raise and a higher number at that than women. Women will only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the criteria whereas men go ahead and apply when they only meet 60%. And women apologise more than their male counterparts. This last one was a kicker for me, as I started noticing it increasingly when hanging out with women.
So is it the way we were raised? Is it what is expected of us in society? Are we just harder on ourselves? Are we programmed to say "sorry" for every little thing that is not even our fault? And if so, why?
I even noticed the S word plague amongst my female students. They were sorry for being bad at English, they were sorry that I didn't hear them knocking on my door, and they were sorry for crying in my office. The latter, I have definitely apologised for too so I get it.
What worried me about my female students and women I found myself interacting with is that they were all really amazing and talented, but in their "sorries" they were negating and even stamping out their inner awesomeness.
So how do we change this? I saw a FB meme once that said something along the lines of "Replace SORRY with THANK YOU FOR..." It could be "Thank you for your patience while I think of this word in English," or "Thank you for not judging me while I ugly cry." Oh and that next compliment you get? Say "Thank you" too and only "Thank you."
On the walk home from lunch, my girlfriend was telling me that I did a good job with something or other earlier and I immediately deflected and probably would have made my former Japanese instructor proud, but then my girlfriend said this, "You have to take credit. If you don't, then you are implicitly saying for the next time something like this happens that you don't deserve the credit even though you did the work."
Whoa. Thank you, girlfriend.
But really, when you see a woman you know who is apologising/deflecting, touch her on the arm, and call her out. You may just remind her of what she is really sorry for: her inner awesomeness. And perhaps by doing so, we can all start a mini revolution turning HUMILITY into GRATITUDE!
*This blog post is dedicated to the bijinkai and countless other amazing women who have reminded me of my inner awesomeness.*
I decided it was time to go see my grandma's homeopathic doctor, Aviva when I was in LA. To my grandma, she was more than a doctor. She was a companion, a confidante, a friend until the very end. She was always there with an encouraging word, homeopathic treatment, massage, and anything else my grandma needed and in my opinion the reason my grandma lived until she was 99 (!).
My first phone call with Aviva erupted in tears. Aviva calmly listened to find out how she could help me. Her voice gently assuaged my worries about my mom and then she said something wonderful, "You are a ray of sunshine, I can just tell." The first of many wonderful things she would say to me.
It was a sunny afternoon. I could feel the warm sun and the ocean breeze on my back as I walked towards her house. I was wearing my new outfit from Nordstrom's. I decided against a long summery dress and bought a 3/4 length pant romper instead. I was feeling confident I wouldn't break down in tears during my time with her.
She greeted me and hugged me like an old friend whom she hadn't seen in forever. I immediately felt at ease in her arms and flopped onto the couch as if I were in my own home. We talked and talked and talked. I did cry a little bit here and there, but it wasn't an ugly cry.
Then she said the 3 words that stopped me from continuing on my downward spiral of guilt and sadness around my mom:
"You are enough."
Thank you, Aviva. You saved my life.
This morning I excitedly got ready for Bootcamp class. A class taught by a former marine. And before you assume it's a guy, it's a woman. In one of our first classes, I went early, and before anyone else came, she told me how she was one of just 8% in her class who were women, how she had pushed through plantar fasciitis and would wake up 30 minutes before everyone else to stretch her feet out, because they were in so much pain. But she had made it through her own bootcamp.
What a badass.
This class had been recommended to me by countless expat women. It wasn't "Are you interested in taking a bootcamp class?" It was more like "Which bootcamp class are you going to?" I was hesitant at first. I mean, I could barely do a push-up, had no upper body strength, and sometimes couldn't even get through a door if the wind was pushing against it. I was also recovering from my own version of plantar fasciitis, but soon realized after hearing our instructor's story that anything can be overcome with mental grit and fortitude.
I ended up going and it saved my life too. Not only was the instructor welcoming and kind, she would modify things for those of us who were not as physically in shape, and she would never make us feel bad. The other women in the class were chatty, not judgy, and also made me feel welcome. It was my first real foray into being social since I had found out about my mom's D word.
In class, this particular morning I noticed our instructor was a little bit tired. She went on to explain that she was out of it, because her husband had been working long hours at work, so she had to pick up the slack at home with her two kids. Totally understandable. She kept apologizing, even though her low-energy day was like the average person's high-energy day, believe me.
I wanted to yell at her like perhaps her old drill sergeants of past did, "YOU ARE ENOUGH!" But instead I meekly said, "Don't worry, we will have to work extra hard to balance out your energy today." And I did work extra hard to try to make her proud.
After class, I caught up with my friend Nancy. She told me how she was moved by my first blog post that was dedicated to her and her mom. Then I asked her for advice about how to move forward with my own happiness coaching business. She had started her own business and in the moments when she doubted herself she thought about how she stacked up with others around her.
"Ok, take Tony Robbins for example," Nancy began.
"Yeah..." I had brought him up in bootcamp class because I had found out that his net worth was somewhere around $480 million (!).
"So, do you think that he is any smarter than you?"
"Well, did he go to Harvard?"
"No...I don't think he went to college."
I could see where she was going with this. She was giving me my own "YOU ARE ENOUGH" pep talk. Thank you, Nancy.
Watching Tony Robbins' TED Talk, I realized that all of us have the resources within ourselves to move forward, even though we assume we need external resources like money, technology, and so on. That is what I had been doing all along. I had assumed I wasn't good enough, I wasn't X, Y, Z enough.
So next time you go down that road of no return or you see someone going down that road, where there's a sign that says "NO OUTLET" think of these 3 words that could just save your life or someone else's: "YOU ARE ENOUGH."
*This blog post is dedicated to my awesome + awe-inspiring bootcamp instructor*
Happiness coach, Theta Healer®, author, WITH Warrior in Chief <3