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  • Money porcupines: How to spot (and stop) financial self-sabotage

    how to stop money self sabotage

     

    Let’s talk about the sneaky, invisible saboteurs holding us back financially. Or, as I like to call them, money porcupines.

    They’re a defence mechanism. They mean well! They are there for our protection. To keep us safe. To keep us doing things the way we know best, to avoid pain that we learned a long time ago was best avoided. To avoid taking risks that might not pay off. To keep us in familiar patterns, in line with who we perceive ourselves to be and who others have dubbed us. They anchor us in what’s familiar, comfortable, safe.

    And… they may not be serving us any more. Money porcupines are prickly little beasts actually repelling riches from our life – self-sabotage. These deeply held beliefs are pushing away money before it even enters our orbit.

    These little devils play havoc under surface. You’ve seen Inside Out, yeah? These gremlins are pulling the levers and stomping all over your intentions.

    Let me give you some examples from my own life…

    I can’t make money doing what I love. Why hello starving artist mentality! I thought I would have to compromise my creativity. Turns out I just had to think about it differently and channel it in new ways.

    People won’t pay me that much. Oh, yes they will. It took me years to work up the ladder but you know what? It wasn’t so much them. It was mostly me. I needed to build my own confidence so I could raise my rates. I have no doubt I could have commanded much more a long time ago if I truly believed I was worthy of charging more. The more I earned in my day jobs, the more I learned about what other people are actually making, and the more I saw from online entrepreneurs, the more proof I gathered … that’s what made the difference for me. Now I have the evidence – not just from others’ success, but from my own.

    If asked for money, I have to give if I can. A wicked twist on, can you really afford that? If I literally have the dollars in my account, shouldn’t I honour that request?

    You can see pretty easily how these money porcupines might show up in my life, shape my actions, and hurt the bottom line.

    They tend to lie dormant for years…

    When starting out and you don’t have two cents to rub together, struggling to make ends meet … who has time for this stuff? I didn’t have the time or energy to go any deeper. Day to day struggle consumed all I had – and more.

    Then things start to get a bit easier. You can breathe more freely and loosen up.

    You probably hit some roadblocks, get through the growing pains, and keep going. You learn that you can get through hard shit and bounce back strong.

    Then you get to the point where you’re living within your means, saving and investing … but somehow you feel stuck.

    Tripping up over old money wounds rooted in the past. Getting wound up in anxiety and fear about the future. Leaking money here and there through weak (or nonexistent) boundaries. Doubting your worth and worrying about losing what you’ve built. Feeling guilt about having what you have, yet still wanting more.

    That’s where I was a few years ago. And then shit really hit the fan. It was a make or break moment. The biggest financial/personal crisis I’ve ever faced. And I wallowed and wavered for far too long. Seriously.

    But eventually I 100% committed to finding a solution. One day, I just knew that’s what I was going to do. How? Meh. I simply felt the shift inside me that came with the certainty of what I would achieve.

    I started looking around. Waking up. Facing the whole world within me that has been driving the show from under the surface. It was finally time to unlock it, face it, and integrate it. If I wanted to change things, break cycles, and make more money than I ever had before, I had to get this foundation right.

    I now know I can use my skills to earn a good living. I’ve banked the evidence.

    I now know I can handle rejection and ghosting, and that not every opportunity is for me.

    I now know that other people’s money problems are not mine to solve, and I need to put myself first – always. It serves no one if I give grudgingly.

    I faced my bullshit, ploughed through, and I still keep clearing the path as more keeps blowing back and building up.

    Breaking self-sabotaging money patterns and beliefs

    Isn’t it funny how we always tend to doubt our instincts? Come up with an idea or solution and then, the next thing that crops up in the mind goes something like: will that work? Is that really true/possible?

    And yet when the opposite happens – when fears or doubts arise – we don’t question them. We just take them as gospel. Shy away, shrink back, avoid looking too closely at them.

    What if gave them equal treatment? What if we were just as sceptical of our doubts as we were of our instincts?

    Cross examine the belief. That’s really all it takes.

    If we were to simply apply the same philosophy, play devil’s advocate, often we find they don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    I don’t deserve this. Why not? Is that really true? Or is this belief a hangover from old hurts that it’s now time to cut loose?

    Get curious about those prickly porcupines. Notice them. Sit with them. Interrogate them. Disarm and dismantle them.

    With a new perspective, you can then try on and eventually adopt a different belief. It might simply be the exact opposite of the belief you just took apart. Or maybe it’s something in the middle. If the opposite feels like too much of a leap, try:

    “I’m learning to…”
    “I’m becoming…”
    “I’m on my way to…”

    And keep sticking with it. It takes time to embed a new belief. Habits aren’t built overnight: they’re anchored in with practice.

    Money porcupines don’t just go away. You don’t get fit and healthy once, then coast for the rest of your life. Your mental hurdles don’t, either! If anything they are even more pervasive and stubborn. Acknowledging and then rising above them is a lifelong practice.

    The good news is, every time we do the work to send them back to where they came from, we strengthen that muscle. The next time, it gets a little easier to say “not today” and carry on to channel your most abundant self. Once you recalibrate, and question the validity of each money porcupine, you can ask the real question: What would the wealthiest, most self-assured version of you do? Let the answers come to you, and let them guide your next move.

    (NB: Our thoughts and beliefs are powerful. So are wider forces and circumstances beyond our control, too numerous to count. This post is solely about the former – the part we have influence over.)

  • Just another take on lockdown parenting

    We’ve been lucky to spend more of the pandemic living relatively normal lives than not.

    I’ve never been so glad to live in little old NZ than I have been the past 18 months.

    Complaining about being in lockdown right now feels indulgent, so I’ll try to keep the whinging to a minimum.

    As a working parent of a high maintenance toddler, this is the hardest thing I’ve been through yet. The slog gets harder every day.

    Spud’s birthday earlier this month was a bright spot, but obviously any Covid birthday is somewhat bittersweet. Last year we had just come out of lockdown and it was touch and go as to whether that would happen at all, so we kept it low key and didn’t plan a party. And for his first birthday … shit was going down and life was a mess. We didn’t do much at all to celebrate.

    One good thing this lockdown has been the chance to detox Spud with a cleaner diet and learn a little more about gut healing (talk to me about this, if this is in your wheelhouse!) as his intolerances had been flaring pretty bad just before lockdown. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the brief period when he was only on Neocate before starting solids – that was a golden time.

    Being around him 24/7 and watching him grow is something I try not to take for granted. I get to do this – rather than I have to do this.

    He’s been through a couple of developmental leaps just in the past few weeks, and it’s a gift and privilege to witness these spurts.

    But largely, I relish the moments just after he finally falls asleep at night. #justsayin

    I can’t help but imagine being in lockdown on my own, wondering what that would be like. (I have never lived alone though I would have liked to.) I’m not under the illusion that it would be easy or perfect; in my first year out of my childhood home, I remember one stark moment of feeling such intense, stabbing, and overwhelming loneliness that I almost couldn’t bear it. I don’t think my flatmate was home at the time. I called one of my best friends, desperate for human contact. I’ve never felt so panicked about my place in the world as I did then, and wouldn’t care to repeat it.

    But I’m not a fan of what-ifs, and despite the state of things, I truly believe (more than ever) that I’m right where I am meant to be for now.

  • What are you feeding your mind? Hacking your brain like it’s the Facebook algorithm

    hack your brain like the fb algorithm

     

    Humans. We’re complex and unpredictable. Yet deep down we all just want a few basic things – to feel seen, heard, understood. Our minds are so incredibly powerful and yet, the base operating system is … well, pretty basic.

    It’s at once humbling and amusing to realise this.

    Your brain basically has a nifty little Facebook-like algorithm powering it

    You can shape, feed, train it to support your goals. I mentioned the reticular activating system in my last post – this is what is always working to show you what you want to focus on, bringing you the best stuff, surfacing new opportunities that you can capitalise on. Helping you get where you want to go.

    If FB can serve you ads for all the things you want to buy and all the content you want to read, your brain can absolutely steer you likewise, bringing your attention to opportunities you want. Maybe that’s finding a new job. Turning your eye toward ways to make more money. Finding the perfect house or partner.

    The flipside of that, of course, is it can reinforce negative patterns. I’ve had to consciously work to let go of a number of deeply ingrained beliefs and replace them with more useful ones.

    I can’t make good money doing what I love >>> I get paid well and have fun doing it

    Oh hey, ex journalist over here with a starving artist mindset and pegged to poverty-level income from the beginning!

    This was a gradual process over years, but the data points added up and eventually, this shift happened for me too. As I truly came to see and believe what was possible, I made damn sure I pursued the money and steeled myself to ask for it.

    • My friend from uni who landed a $60k starting salary (obviously not in journalism…)
    • My colleague who went to a PR agency, constantly got told what a great job she was doing, and given a pay rise every 6 months.
    • My colleague who went on to do social media at a financial institution for $80k
    • Hearing about PR reps and media/comms managers on $130k

    I devoured salary surveys, staring at the numbers until they imprinted in my brain. I did the same with the salary bands on the intranet, burning those figures into my brain. If those people could make that much money, so could I. Why not?

    I shouldn’t spend money on myself >>> I get to have nice things if I want them

    My immigrant parents definitely modeled intense frugality. Honestly, I still have a mental anchor around $20 being what we spent on shoes and gifts. I bought a $25 swimsuit once and lied to them about what it cost. Shopping sprees – buying more than one non-essential item at a time? Get outta here! And on top of that, I had a block around having nice things, knowing they can be taken away (like when my mum gave away my Westlife CD to a friend’s kid, or the multiple times I’ve been burgled, or other people taking/using things of mine).

    I work hard and I deserve nice things. I know this gets some people into trouble, but I am more of the underbuying, self-denying variety 🙂 Little luxuries, like hand cream or nice cheese, elevate daily life SO much. You can’t be what you can’t feel, and pleasures that help me feel like a million bucks actually support my success.

    I’m not an ideas person >>> I know my stuff and I own it

    A particularly formative experience for me involved receiving unexpected, harsh criticism from a parent. That probably fueled my reluctance to put myself out there and to do anything to avoid the discomfort of going through similar pain. But of course, I wound up dating someone who told me, albeit jokingly, “I’m surprised you came up with that by yourself…”

    Until recently, the word “idea” was literally a huge trigger for me. I’d panic if asked for ideas. I’d panic ahead of “brainstorming sessions”.  Spontaneous ideation was not a thing for me, so I worked really hard to overcompensate and overprepare.

    Being asked to prepare presentations on my area of expertise at work was a daunting challenge every time. But each time, I was able to synthesise industry trends and formulate great decks based on my own knowledge, and surprise myself.

    Now, I embrace my subconscious and know that great stuff flows out from there when I relax and let it. I try not to overthink things too much before speaking up. I trust my value and power, because over time people have validated my contributions over and over. The data points added up. I now finally believe them.

    I’m a bad communicator >>> I am an articulate and thoughtful communicator

    My parents were terrible communicators. Not that they realised it. They told me I was, projecting their issues onto me. Everything was my fault. And of course, we gravitate to what we know, and I’ve experienced the same pattern play out with others since then.

    I communicate fantastically through writing. I’m much better at verbal communication than I used to be. I am often complimented on how articulate and thoughtful I am, and recently a colleague literally told me she learns a lot from I work and communicate. My communication style continues to evolve for the better as I heal, become more emotionally mature, and learn more about psychology and human nature.

    Clear your cache, upgrade your brain’s OS

    Where the hell did all that stuff come from, anyway?

    As you can see, it’s mostly shit we’ve taken on from external sources and formative childhood experiences. That noise is like retargeting – stalking you, haunting you, following you around. Whispering (or shouting!) at every chance it gets. 

    When you become aware of it and start to really observe what’s happening, you will realise that your brain is probably telling you mostly unkind thoughts. You’re stuck with it, even though it’s not that helpful. We’re stunted, frozen in time emotionally, playing in adult bodies.

    What if you flipped that around and nurtured your mind with encouraging thoughts instead? What could you do? What could you have? What could you be?

    Clear your cache. Each belief you shake up is like clearing your browser cache, emptying out all the accumulated weight. 

    Upgrade your operating system. Eventually, you’ll notice a dramatic difference. Rewire enough beliefs and it’s like running an entirely new OS. If you’re about my age, you’re probably still running something like Windows XP when now Windows 10 is available. We’re up to a WAY newer version and just haven’t updated.

    There’s a whole new world waiting on the other side. You may not look any different, but you will feel like an entirely new person.

  • Money, mindset, and manifesting: Why I’m now making mindset work a daily practice

    i'm working on my mindset like a full time job

     

    Years ago, I noticed something odd. Little windfalls seemed to come my way just after I gave money to a charitable cause. This happened over and over again.

    That really was the beginning of my journey in relation to manifesting.

    I’ve gone on to manifest lots of things, small and big. But my favourite example has got to be a tailor-made-for-me job (no kidding – a new position at a dream organisation that didn’t previously have a team in this department, let alone an office in my city). I truly believe in the power of setting an intention, then stepping back, and taking actions that flow in the right direction.

    Just recently, I received an email that I’d written to 2021 me, three years ago. No joke: I have everything I outlined in that letter, none of which I had achieved back then, and had no concrete idea as to the HOW – only the WHAT. That’s not to say my life is perfect. Far from it! There are some things I didn’t specify, didn’t touch on at all in that letter – and those are currently the most deficient areas in my life. They are worse than I could have ever imagined, to be honest.

    Now, I’m still not crazy about the word manifest. It’s a little too woo for me and I know it turns a LOT of people off. But the fact is, my experience has shown me that:

    • I can achieve what initially seemed like impossible goals once I DECIDE to go all in
    • The more I give, the more comes back to me

    Barring certain external limitations (physical, societal/systemic/structural factors, etc), what I need to succeed is already within me. And therefore on the flipside, all that’s stopping me is also within me.

    Sometimes you hear something phrased in a way that just clicks for you.

    We are mental health sanitation workers.

    (Courtesy of The Hello Seven podcast)

    It’s not all about money, although a lot of my goals have been financial. And let’s face it, most goals require money.

    In my quest to work my way up to six figures, I have had to do SO MUCH inner work, training my brain to absorb and accept new thoughts, ideas, and patterns. Moulding it to help me. Building those neural pathways. The brain is a muscle, and it has so much power to help or hinder you (as anyone with anxiety, etc knows). Opening my brain up to new possibilities helps it to see more opportunities and then to take advantage of them.  No wonder so many entrepreneurs treat working on their mindset like a full-time job. I’ve tried to adopt that mentality too. It’s what has helped me get through Covid, along with a ton of … other life stuff. I’ve made mindset work a daily practice, and I only wish I’d discovered it earlier.

    Getting my brain on board with change

    What really clicked for me was learning about the Reticular Activating System (RAS), a lovely big bundle of nerves that basically connects the subconscious and conscious part of the brain.  (This is basically the science that serves as the base for anything vaguely Law of Attraction-y.) When you learn a new word then start hearing it everywhere, buy a new car and start seeing the same model everywhere, or instinctively snap to attention when you hear someone call your name – that’s our buddy RAS kicking in. It tunes us in to the things we care about, filtering out all the masses of information that the brain is constantly taking in and processing and honing in on what it thinks we’ll be interested in.

    It’s basically nature’s version of the Facebook algorithm. It’s always looking for data points to back up and validate your beliefs. It shows what it thinks you want to see and what it thinks you care about. But it doesn’t actually know what you really want unless you explicitly tell it. And that’s where all the mindset work comes in – training it to prioritise stuff that will help you achieve your goals and help you become the person you want to be.

    Three things that have helped me a lot in the past year, and that I frequently return to, are:

    • I can choose a new thought any time (and everything that exists once began as a mere thought)
    • A thought just needs to be 51% believable
    • Envy = evidence. Take others’ achievements as proof of what’s possible

    Manifesting brings opportunities your way.

    After that, it’s up to you to do the work. Seize the opportunities, capitalise on them, and see how the results flow.

  • Money always needs a purpose. What’s yours?

    your money needs a purpose

     

    Every dollar has a job. That’s the principle behind a budget. If you don’t have a purpose in mind for your money, you’re not going to have it for long.

    Likewise, without a concrete goal, it’s hard to bring in more money.

    For me, at least, I can’t seem to just make more for the sake of it. I need a reason. Whether it’s clearing a debt, saving for a SPECIFIC thing, taking a trip … there needs to be an end goal that I can visualise and focus on.

    I’ve had a lot of big goals that I had no idea how I was going to accomplish. But I did – every single time. Whether it was a round-the-world trip or buying a house, I had to take a leap of faith and trust that my strategy would see me through.

    I’ve been amazed, over and over, by what I can accomplish by simply DECIDING to achieve it. Once I put aside the doubts and what-ifs and just mentally commit to making it happen. Trusting that it’s possible. It’s often about letting go of attachment to a specific outcome, roadmap, or timeline. The pieces usually start to fall into place after that.

    It’s not magical thinking; it’s about locking in an intention, knowing that I’m capable of getting there, even I didn’t have every detail ironed out, and letting things flow from there. And when they do? I’m 100% positioned to capitalise on them and run with it.

    What about you? Does having a specific money goal to reach help accelerate your financial momentum?

  • All the things I’ve learned from the single most important relationship in my life

    lessons from the most important relationship

     

    I have a funny relationship with external validation. I crave it more than anything else. It gives me the most delightful warm glow in my belly. But I also feel intensely…uncomfortable receiving it?

    Sometimes you need others to believe in you before you can believe in yourself. You can borrow their convictions and try them on for size until you get comfortable in them.

    I’m now 33 (what a cool number) and only now do I REALLY feel like I’m starting to come into my own. And I’ve been reflecting on the most important relationship in my life. It’s not with my son or his dad or any of my family. It’s not even with another living creature.

    It’s with my work and career

    I’ve gained so much through my work that I can’t possibly begin to quantify or articulate it all.

    Through work, I have had people advocate for me. Observe my contribution when I couldn’t see it. “They’d have been screwed without you.” “You handled that really diplomatically.” (On one occasion, this led to me saying semi-jokingly, “Send all the angry men my way.”)

    I’ve been told I have a really interesting way of thinking. That nobody else in their interviews said what I did. I’ve been told by a leader, “I always value/appreciate our chats.” I’ve been dubbed the “silent assassin”.

    I’ve been a second choice for a job, but been told it turned out for the best 🙂 As a junior on a project, I’ve caught and raised major red flags early on that nobody else spotted.

    Being pushed to create and deliver presentations for teams forced me to reflect on industry shifts, see trends, and synthesise my thoughts. To think critically and originally, drawing my own conclusions.

    Through writing and the power of words I’ve been able to fund my dreams, connect with others, learn about countless industries and topics, heal, and grow. I’ve received an education in coaching and personal development by proxy, just through editing books.

    I learned to trust my instincts and how to approach tough situations with tact. When I became the target of a toxic leader, who picked on me in meetings publicly, I didn’t take it personally.

    Through work I learned how I should and shouldn’t let people in my personal life treat me. I’ve learned so much through the interpersonal aspects of professional life that I now bring into the rest of my life.

    When all else fails, work was an escape and a break. There, I was competent and confident.

    I will have this always. When my son is grown, I will have all the gifts my work has given me, on top of financially supporting my lifestyle, and I know that I will continue to find joy and satisfaction in for years to come.

  • 3 times insurance totally saved me in the last year

    3 TIMES INSURANCE CAME THROUGH FOR ME

     

    I’ve had a lot of reasons to be thankful for insurance over the past year. When insurance companies come through on claims, it’s so worth it.

    Getting a new (used) car through insurance

    Even though it’s a slight downgrade – a slightly older model, where the lights and wipers don’t automatically turn on/off when it gets dark/rains. Still well worth it. The old car had a few major issues after faithfully serving for many years – and then there was an accident that resulted in insurance writing it off entirely.

    Getting a new shed through house insurance

    Last year, the shed down in the back corner of the yard caught fire in the night. (It’s still unclear why. The best working theory is stray sparks from the neighbours, who often BBQ just on the other side of the fence from the shed.) It’s just lucky it’s situated so far away from the main house.

    Home insurance covered the shed replacement. Because the old one was an ancient, falling-down structure full of asbestos, they replaced it with a metal kitset shed. The whole painful process took six months from lodging the claim to completion of the shed – but it’s done! The new shed is infinitely more usable, too.

    Getting Spud minor surgery through health insurance

    Spud has always had a lot of issues with noisy breathing, reflux, his sinuses, nosebleeds, and constant colds/coughs. (Weirdly, no ear infections, as far as I can tell. Either that, or he’s such a trooper he just doesn’t let on.) A couple ENT visits and an X-ray later, we learned he has enlarged adenoids. After taking a wait-and-see approach for a couple more months, we went the surgical route. The operation took less than an hour and went super smoothly. Way better than expected! The difference was instant. Turns out that airway was more than 50% blocked by those supersized adenoids. It was, of course, quite scary to contemplate upfront. Now, I wish we could have done it earlier. Oversized adenoids is another fairly common thing, it turns out. This has been a huge step on my own personal journey, away from putting up with whatever life hands you, not making a fuss, powering through.

    It’s not the first time we’ve gone to a specialist, having given up on the general care system. I’ve talked before about Spud’s food intolerances. He’s sensitive to half of the top 8 allergens. I’m grateful that he does not have severe instant reactions, but intolerances are a real pain. They’re hard to pin down and others don’t take you seriously. Babies and toddlers can’t communicate! Using a mix of scientific observation and tracking, and my intuition, I was finally able to identify the trouble ingredients (dairy, nuts, fish and seafood). I may not have hard proof, but I completely believe in my conclusions and totally stand by them.

    The first specialist was sceptical. Some symptoms Spud presented are not typical by medical gospel. However, shitloads of anecdotal evidence in online communities and private groups say otherwise. And all our experiences count for something in my eyes. Anyway, we finally got prescribed hypoallergenic formula – and that changed everything.

    But we still struggled with some bad eczema flareups. So we went to the most recommended paediatric dermatologist. “It’s quite bad, you know,” she observed. No shit. But not bad enough for a GP to care. So she gave us a routine to follow – with very specific descriptions of how much cream to apply on specific days – and it worked a treat.

    Have you been getting your money’s worth (or at least, peace of mind) from your insurance?

  • The way you imagined it may not be the way it actually happens

    it might not happen the way you imagine it will

     

    I recently had a client – let’s call her Ana – bail on a project. This was a real blow. It was an expansion on something we’d done together previously – I was so excited! I even posted publicly about it once we agreed to proceed (and maybe that was the problem…) I was paid for the work I did do, but it was only a small part of the total scope.

    I couldn’t help but think back to another client – let’s call him Rich – where something somewhat similar happened. I way overestimated his project – it hardly needed anything from me. (Seriously. When does that ever happen?!) I charged him something like 25% or 33% of my original quote because I barely had to touch most of the draft.

    Both times, I was very attached to that sum of money I had quoted. I needed it for something- it was already earmarked in my mind for a purpose. And neither worked out!

    But Rich went on to refer so many more people my way, which has paid off dozens of times over. And hopefully this instance this will make space too for something else to flow in. Already I’ve had another former client come back wanting help with almost the same thing Ana did…

    Looking back, things have actually happened for me when I least expected them. Usually once I’d given up and let go of all expectation. Not when I was pushing for them, obsessing about them. Only when I finally freed up the space for them to flow.

    At work, I’m always trying to figure out if we are tackling the right problem. What are we trying to solve? It starts with the strategy, or you could be focused on answering the wrong question. There can be many different ways to achieve the same outcome. Define the goal but don’t dictate the solution or even the timeline.

    And I guess it’s the same in life.

  • Parenting is like writing (painful, prolonged, precious)

    parenting is like writing

    <Unsplash>

    Turns out, parenting is a lot like writing.

    It’s a process. A painful, sucky, tedious process.

    It’s showing up, over and over again.

    Winning some moments. Failing in others.

    Sometimes you’ll hate it, in the day-to-day grind. In the midst of the dreary, repetitive, mind-numbing lows. Feel compelled to start screaming and never stop.

    It’s worth it for the magic moments that arise unbidden. The sheer sparkle of a cheeky smile and unbridled chuckle. Warm snuggles. Watching little legs toddle and run. Swapping jokes and banter. Marvelling at new leaps, new questions, new skills springing up overnight.

    And sometimes it feels worth it once you finally sink into the sofa at night, collapsing with an exhausted smile, relishing the quiet.

    It’s a marathon.

    You’re never really done.

    So you start again fresh each day and give your all.

  • How I’ve started doing shadow work (and why it matters)

    shadow work for money and life

     

    What is shadow work and why the hell should I care?

    This, along with reparenting, is pretty new to my lexicon.

    It’s all part of healing. Moving forward in life despite your baggage. And it pays off in improvements to your self-esteem, relationships, finances, LIFE.

    You know that feeling that you’re just playing at being an adult? It’s because really most of us are just children running around in adult bodies. We’re reacting and behaving instinctively and not in a particularly conscious way. These deep beliefs and instincts sprung up in childhood and are often based on something that might seem really trivial, once you trace it back to its origin. Often, they actually wind up sabotaging us.

    Until we wake up to this, we go around operating from/focusing on our conscious awareness, and that’s only part of the picture.

    Shadow work: a definition

    We all have flaws. There are parts of ourselves we don’t like. Some we don’t even acknowledge.

    Psychologist Carl Jung conceptualized our disowned parts, our ‘dark side’ and repressed desires as ‘the shadow’.

    Unfortunately, many of us do not know what is in our shadow — and these disowned parts may still be driving the show in creating our reality.

    – Thought Catalog

    Shadow work is about bringing those out into the open. Facing them. Accepting them. Uniting with them. Becoming your full, whole, true self.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a strong sense of self. It’s a product of various things, but the main two in my upbringing were:

    1. my parents and how they held their own perceptions/projections of who I was
    2. moving countries and feeling totally adrift, then trying to desperately fit in

    Facing your demons isn’t for the faint of heart. You may not be ready yet. I know I wasn’t, 10 years ago. Not even 5, or 3.

    Anyway, that’s all really fluffy sounding shit. What, exactly, does this process involve?

    Broadly, it starts with awareness. Then this allows you to start observing yourself in the moment. And eventually you’re able to choose a different path, a different thought, a different action. You’re taking control and acting consciously.

    In bringing in our shadow, we shine light on it and diminish its power over us. We learn to coexist with it and to gain control over it.

    Once you’ve got the awareness, then you can start to take action in the real world with tangible results.

    How I’ve been doing shadow work

    You guessed it. Writing. Journalling about things like:

    • Some of the things I believe
    • Why I have those beliefs
    • What results that’s gotten me
    • What other beliefs I could adopt
    • What emotions I was discouraged from expressing
    • What common excuses I use
    • How I sabotage myself
    • How I judge others

    That’s where the awareness begins. Then it’s about applying awareness in real life situations.

    Practicing awareness

    In a challenging or confronting moment, pause and breathe. What emotions are coming up? I try to walk toward the feelings. Acknowledge them. Name the sensations.

    For example: Spud is screaming in the middle of the night. I’m feeling ragey. I need sleep! Guilt. Was it the ice cream he begged for this afternoon – was that too much dairy for his system? Oh my god, why haven’t I learned? Worry. Can the neighbours hear and what will they think? Empathy. Poor thing. He must be having a horrible time right now. 

    I’m feeling hot, throbby, and having flashbacks to previous nights when he was younger and screamed his way through countless night wakings.

    Another example: Someone’s come to me with an inquiry about a project and I’m not sure how to charge. I’m feeling uncertain. Anxious. How can I scope this out?! It’s gonna take so much time – I’m already so busy! How can I make sure I make it worth my time? Will I scare them away? What’s the right answer here?

    I’m feeling panicky, with all those imposter syndrome vibes rushing up, my old beliefs that I need to work hard for money, that I’m not worthy of charging high rates (anchored in my old career and in early experiences knowing my parents’ hourly rates) and general scarcity mindset.

    Taking action

    Then I decide what to do, from a deliberate and unrushed place.

    There’s not much to be done with a screaming Spud. Hold him if he wants. Lie down with him, if he will. Offer milk, and add a few gas drops to it if he wants some. Refrain from self-blame.

    I think about what I feel is a fair project fee. I might Google to get an idea of what others charge for this kind of work, and what tiers there are. I take the time to thoroughly review the material, if applicable, and might spend a few minutes working up a sample for myself to get a feel for how long it would realistically take.

    I contemplate the true worth of the project. It may not be hugely profitable for the client – but that’s not the goal. The aim of this piece of work is to help them convert more clients as a result, to establish their expertise through valuable content. I think about all the other clients I’ve already helped and how they raved about the end product. I encourage myself to raise that number a bit from my original estimate.

    The result

    I’m a calmer, steadier parent, no longer sending off vibes of panic, guilt, and stress. Better for me, better for Spud.

    I’m quoting from a place of confidence and wholeness, trusting myself as an expert. Showing up with a different energy. I’m okay with hearing no; I’m not desperate for this. I remind myself that I don’t want to wind up resentful for quoting too low. My rate needs to be one that I’m happy to work for. I’m even making more than I ever have before. I’m enjoying it more, and honestly, I think I’m doing better work because of that! What a result.

    For me, the core of it boils down to: respond, don’t react.

    Acknowledge memories it’s brought up. Question the story I’m telling myself. Is this true? Be kinder to myself; start with empathy not shame, and extend the same to others. It’s a new and gentler, more conscious approach to everything in life. I’m liking the results, and the more I do it, the better it gets.