Category Archives for Approval

Getting to the Root of How to Say No and Mean It

how to say no and mean it when someone wants to give you something
People love to be of service. But what if you don’t want their service? I’ve had to learn how to say no and mean it because saying no didn’t come naturally for me.

Saying No Is Not Always Easy

Just one syllable, “No,” can be the hardest sound to make. Especially in the moment when it’s most crucial to utter this sound.

Not being able to say no is a debilitating handicap that I grew up with. But with practice, I’ve learned to find my voice.

What is involved in saying no? Why is it difficult? And how could it become easier?

No Itself Is Not Difficult

It’s what I’m thinking and believing in a particular situation that makes saying no so difficult. And each situation is different because my thinking is different.

In one situation, I can’t say no because someone expects me to say yes, and they will be disappointed if I say no. They may withdraw their love from me as a result, and I’m afraid of that. In another situation, I predict that someone will be offended if I refuse to agree with them, and I fear that they may attack me as a result. In another situation, I worry that someone may start beating themselves up if I say no and go into a depression because of what I said.

There are so many different situations where no is difficult to say. But it’s always my perception of what will happen if I say no that stops me. Instead of listening to my heart, my honest no inside, I get caught up in the other person’s business, worrying about how they will react, and trying to protect myself, or trying to protect them.

There Is No Magic Formula for How to Say No and Mean It

There’s no external formula because it’s always my internal thinking that stops me from saying no each time. My thinking is different in each situation, so I can’t simply apply a one-size-fits-all technique if I want to get to the root of how to say no and mean it.

To really mean it when I say no, I have to actually see things differently. And that takes real inquiry.

In order to say no and mean it when someone may be disappointed in me, I have to see that it’s okay for them to be disappointed in me. In order to say no when someone may attack me for saying no, I have see that the attack may not be as personal or as terrible as I imagine. And in order to say no when someone will be hurt by my no, I have see that it’s not actually my responsibility to think for them and protect them. 

I have to see a lot of things differently in order to say no and really mean it. And that can take a lot of stretching and changing of my point of view.

My Favorite Way to Change my Point of View

Instead of using a technique for saying no, I like to question my thinking. I like to play with lots of different points of view. I like to question my assumptions about the other person. And when I do, I often find that my thinking was not actually showing me the whole picture. When I start to see these other points of view, saying no becomes very simple.

Here’s How I Do It

I do something called The Work of Byron Katie (The Work), a simple form of self-inquiry. And I do this with any situation where I don’t know how to say no and mean it. I may use a situation where I failed to say no as a place to look at my thinking and question it. Or I may use a future situation where I know that I want to say no but am afraid that I won’t be able to. 

The main thing is to find a real situation.

When I use a real situation, I know exactly what I’m thinking about that situation. I’m very familiar with the reasons why I’m having trouble, or had trouble, saying no. Then I literally write down my thinking and start to question what I wrote using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

I Use a Worksheet for This

I write my stressful thoughts about the other person on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. For example, if I was afraid that the person would disapprove of me if I say no, I would write a worksheet like this.

Line 1: I am afraid of her because she will disapprove of me (if I say no).

Line 2: I want her to like me.
I want her to keep being my friend.
I want her to understand me.

Line 3: She should understand that my no is not a rejection of her.
She should not take it personally.
She should appreciate my courage to be honest with her.
She should see that we can be closer when we’re honest.
She should see that I love her.

Line 4: I need her to share openly why it’s hard for her.
I need her to use it as the start for deeper communication.
I need her to be willing to be vulnerable with me.
I need her to thank me for being so honest with her.

Line 5: She is scary, intimidating, reactionary, not understanding.

Line 6: I don’t ever want to feel intimidated to say no to her again.

This whole worksheet is about a very specific incident. I’m just getting my stressful thoughts onto paper. Then I go through and question everything I wrote. For each statement, I ask myself:

1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know it’s true?
3. How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought?
4. Who would I be without that thought?

And I turn each thought around:

“She will disapprove of me” becomes:

1. I will disapprove of me.
2. I will disapprove of her.
3. She won’t disapprove of me.

And I find examples for each turnaround. For example, I find that what hurts most is when I disapprove of myself. This actually hurts more than when she disapproves of me. I’m the one who takes it all the way into my heart. And it’s also possible that she won’t disapprove of me, not as much as I am imagining. And not more than I can handle, or more than our friendship can handle.

In This Way, I Look at Every Angle

And as I do, my thinking starts to shift. I find myself less afraid of her reaction, and more empowered to say no.

Doing The Work on situations like this can be an ongoing process of learning how to say no and mean it. I’m not forcing myself into saying no. I’m questioning the underlying thoughts and beliefs that stop me from saying no. And in doing so I often find that I start to gain freedom in expressing myself.

In my experience, this gets to the root of the problem. As I’ve done these worksheets, my ability to say no has become stronger. Even in new situations, I find myself seeing though my old patterns, and I find myself spontaneously less intimidated to say no.

For me, learning how to say no and mean it is a side effect of my ongoing practice of The Work of Byron Katie. Through this practice, I’m becoming clearer not only in how to say no and mean it, but in many other ways as well.

If you want to learn how to do The Work, or start using it on a regular basis to look at all the angles your mind may not be seeing, I invite you to participate in my online course, The Work 101.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Honest communication begins with you communicating with yourself. It means responding with what is true for you, regardless of how someone may react to your answer. First you have to discover what is really true for you. A dishonest yes is a no to yourself.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

No and Yes Are Equal, Unless I Want You to Like Me

black and white clouds

Black and white are equally important in a photograph.

The Word No Is Almost Taboo

Or at least it has been in my life.

Taboo because I believe that people don’t like me when I say no.

Taboo because I don’t hear others saying no too often either.

My conclusion has been since growing up that no is a kind of bad word. And so I’ve avoided using it as best I could.

But it leaves me with only a partial vocabulary. In my attempt to have the world like me (by not saying no), I handicap myself.

It’s like driving a car with only an accelerator and no brake. No wonder I don’t want to go more than five miles per hour. No wonder I panic if there’s a slope.

It Takes Courage to Say No

But only if I want someone’s approval.

Wanting someone to like me is the nemesis of saying no. So, if I want to strengthen my ability to say no, I have to question my desire to be liked.

This works best for me one situation at a time. It’s hard to question, “I want other people to like me” in a general way. It quickly becomes philosophy. But it becomes very real and concrete when I’m dealing with a concrete situation.

Here’s An Example

I remember when I was young, my mom wanted me to be a doctor. And I wanted to live in an ashram meditating instead. I wanted my mom to approve of me, which made it very difficult to say a clear no to her ideas for me. My solution was to stay more distant from her.

To some degree, not being able to say no to her cost me having my mother in my life. I remember when I moved to the ashram, I didn’t tell her until a few weeks after I moved. I was trying to stand up for myself, but the best I could do was a cowardly version of it.

If I Was Doing The Work on it Today, I’d Have Some Options

I might start by writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on her:

1. I am afraid of Mom because she won’t approve of me going to the ashram.

2. I want her to approve of my decision.
I want her to let me live my own life.
I want her to forget about medical school.
I want her to stop judging me based on career.

3. She should see that I’m a seeker.
She should let me follow my own path.
She should stop trying to make a duplicate of herself.

4. I need her to respect me.
I need her to let me explore freely.
I need her to love me unconditionally.

5. She is materialistic, selfish, closed-minded, controlling.

6. I don’t ever want her to disapprove of my decisions again.

I can see, just writing this now, that it still has some charge for me after all these years. I’m going to put this in my queue of worksheets to work.

The Point Is that It was my Desire for Approval that Stopped my No

I’d be willing to bet that if I had questioned these thoughts in my twenties, I would have been much closer to having a fearless conversation with her about what I wanted to do.

In fact, I bet I could have even listened to her side with an open mind, without feeling obligated to please her. That could have been a very different relationship.

But luckily with The Work, it’s never too late. I can still do this work now.

The Other Piece of it for me Was Not Wanting to Admit Confusion

I wasn’t 100% clear about my life in my twenties. I felt a lot of confusion in both my career plans and in my personal life. My mom would have probably been a great person to talk with about it, but I couldn’t because I believed that she was expecting perfection from me.

I had assumed since fourth grade that she expected perfect grades from me. And my goal was always to please her by being as close to perfect as I could be.

And I assumed that personal life was the same. I had to be perfect. No confusion allowed. And that left me isolated from her. Separate. Miserable in what I later called my “terrible twenties.”

Again, there is another great Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets here:

1. I am distant with Mom because she expects me to be perfect.

2. I want her to stop expecting perfection from me.
I want her to be approachable to talk to.
I want her to drop her motives to change me.
I want her to be a safe space for me to explore things with.
I want her to not judge me for being confused.

3. She should see that her desire to influence me keeps me away.
She should tell me that we are all just finding our way in the dark.
She should share stories of how she was confused too.
She should destigmatize confusion for me.
She should be an example of vulnerability for me.

4. I need her to listen without judgment to me.
I need her to accept me as I am.
I need her to love me.

5. She is judgmental, harsh, motive driven, unforgiving.

6. I don’t ever want her to expect me to be perfect when I’m confused again.

So, once again, more thoughts between me and honest conversation with my mom.

The Only Things Stopping me Were my Beliefs.

And now I see that these beliefs can be questioned. I want to do this work even now, after my mother is dead, because the same beliefs that stopped me then from being honest and saying no in the face of her potential disapproval, continue to stop me today with others.

This is how doing The Work on one situation, one relationship, can open up possibilities for the whole of life.

This is why I love The Work.

Through Inquiry, No Becomes Equal to Yes

When I question the stressful thoughts that keep me from saying no, saying no begins to be easier. It becomes a good thing, not something to hide in taboo.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Honest communication begins with you communicating with yourself. It means responding with what is true for you, regardless of how someone may react to your answer. First you have to discover what is really true for you. A dishonest yes is a no to yourself.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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The Trap of “I Need to Do an Amazing Job”

stone carver at work

Devotion to one’s craft is wonderful but obsessing over results is debilitating.

This Is a Trap That’s Easy to Fall Into

I’ve spent much of my life trying to do an amazing job at everything I do. And in many respects, I’ve succeeded. But it’s never been enough. And it’s always been a extra burden of stress for me.

When I was young, I didn’t want to just pass my classes in school, I wanted to do them perfectly. This meant that studying didn’t just take an average amount of time, it meant that it had to take all of the available time.

In business, I did the same. As a photographer, I obsessed over the details, and went above and beyond the extra mile for my clients. And again, it took all of my time.

I Was Always Motivated by Wanting to Look Good

I wanted to look good to my clients, I wanted to look good to my family, I wanted people to be amazed. And basking in their amazement, I hoped I would finally be somebody.

But not only did it not work (which was depressing), it took all my time and all my energy. And a part of me rebelled. A part of me always wanted to get out of my job, or out of my school assignments—to just take time for me.

So I did that too. I lived in an ashram for a decade. And it was good. But even there I tried to be the perfect student of enlightenment. And again the pressure. Again the frustration. The same trap.

It Was Not Until I Did The Work on it that I Found Some Peace

I have questioned many variations of “I need to do an amazing job” in different situations, and what I’ve found is that it is not true. I don’t need to do an amazing job at all. I just need to do an average job. That’s good enough to make a living, to learn new things, to grow spiritually, to keep a balanced life.

In fact, this article is a great example of this for me right now. For some reason, the thoughts are not crystal clear as I’m writing. They’re still just forming. And I notice the impulse to scrap it and start over and keep researching and refining my thoughts before posting this.

But as a result of what I’ve found through inquiry, I am practicing a different approach. And I really love it. The approach of “good enough.” Everything is a work in progress for me now. I don’t need to wow anyone. Things start tiny and sloppy and grow from there. That’s good enough for me.

It’s less and less about pleasing others, and more and more about me just honestly doing what I can at each step and moving on. It’s less about glorious end goals, and more and more about just doing the simple job at hand.

Here Are Some Ideas of How to Do The Work on This

If you have similar perfectionistic tendencies. Here are some ways you can do The Work.

1. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please?” in the situation where you are trying to do it perfectly. Then write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on them. For me, it was my mom who used to both expect high grades and praise me when I got them. But she shows up now in other people in different situations.

2. Ask yourself, “Who am I afraid will disapprove?” Again, this leads to a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, or some one-liners about that person.

3. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Write it down, and then question, “I want to accomplish…” I love questioning my motives, and finding more effective and more peaceful action without them.

4. And finally, question, “I need to do an amazing job.” It can be so freeing to question this one.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The irony is that the struggle to win love and approval makes it very difficult to experience them. Chronic approval seekers don’t realize that they are loved and supported not because of but despite their efforts. And the more strenuously they seek, the less likely they are to notice.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love Is That True?

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Practicing Public Imperfection

junk pile

Everyone’s got a junk pile. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

Hiding Is Where the Problem Begins

In my attempt to be something other than what I really am, I have to manipulate. I have to hide some things, and promote other things. I can’t just be.

The appeal of manipulation is to hypnotize others into believing I’m something other than what I am—in the hopes that, when they believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too. It’s a complicated way of trying to fool myself into believing that I’m something other than what I am.

Luckily self-inquiry cuts through all this pretending like a knife.

Last Week I Was Inspired to Make Some Changes

In fact, I had been wanting to make these changes to Inquiry Circle for a long time. But my other routine work kept my days filled and I never had a chance to get it done.

I also knew that once I got into the job, it was going to take longer than I thought. That’s why I kept putting it off. But last week I took the plunge. The result was that other things had to get pushed aside.

A year ago, I would have stressed out about all the other responsibilities I was dropping, but this time I was consciously practicing public imperfection.

In Early September I Did a Worksheet on Something Similar

At that time, I had two deaths in my family and was stressing over not having time to do my work responsibilities AND travel AND be with my family. I wrote my worksheet on the new participants of The Work 101 (the course was starting at that time and I hadn’t set everything up).

I believed that they were dependent on me. I believed that they needed me to start on time and would be disappointed if I didn’t. I believed that they would even lose interest if I started a week late. I even quoted the old saying to myself, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” And I stressed myself out trying to be perfect for them.

When I worked the worksheet, I discovered that no one is dependent on me. In fact, I was dependent on them, mainly for their approval. My game was to make them believe that they were my one and only—that they were my top priority, even when they weren’t. In fact, I’ve used that as a lifelong strategy to get people to like me.

After doing The Work, I could see how understanding they would have been if I had delayed the course by a week. And I saw that the best “first impression” might actually be to let them know they weren’t my “one and only”—my top priority—and to allow myself to be less than perfect in their eyes. To show up real instead of perfect makes sense to me now.

So This Became my Living Turnaround

Last week, when my priorities shifted, I allowed them to shift. And I allowed myself to not do everything perfectly for a week. I didn’t write my newsletter. I got behind in The Work 101. I didn’t check my email for several days. I let everything slide except what was my true priority last week: to renovate Inquiry Circle.

And strangely, I didn’t feel much stress. It felt like I was being irresponsible, but in a really good kind of way. I was being true to myself, and not pretending to have it all together with everything else. I was not manipulating anyone by trying to be “perfect” to get their approval.

There was a lot of freedom in letting things slide. Instead of trying to manipulate you into thinking I’m perfectly organized and always get my newsletter out on time, I loved letting you down. It felt like the end of trying to be that person that I’m not.

And same with email, and same with The Work 101. It was actually fun to be honestly saying no to the things that “make me look good” and yes to what I really wanted to do. Pure selfishness for all to see. Pure disregard for others. And it was a real turnaround for me.

My Living Turnaround Was Literally to “Show up Late”

And so I did.

And now I don’t have to pretend to be the one who always shows up on time—another false identity blown away by inquiry and by living the turnarounds that I found in inquiry.

That’s why I love The Work.

And now my priorities have shifted back to writing my newsletter. But the difference is I know I don’t have to do it. I’m free. I do it when I can, and I love to do it, but I don’t sweat it when I can’t, or when I don’t want to do it.

That is the end of manipulation. The end of dependence. And the beginning of just being me.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“When you say or do anything to please, get, keep, influence, or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result. Manipulation is separation, and separation is painful. Another person can love you totally in that moment, and you’d have no way of realizing it. If you act from fear, there’s no way you can receive love, because you’re trapped in a thought about what you have to do for love. Every stressful thought separates you from people. But once you question your thoughts, you discover that you don’t have to do anything for love. It was all an innocent misunderstanding. When you want to impress people and win their approval, you’re like a child who says, “Look at me! Look at me!” It all comes down to a needy child. When you can love that child and embrace it yourself, the seeking is over.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Letting Go of Perfection Once Again

two tracks in a grassy field

Nothing causes me more stress than being presented with two diverging paths.

Two Is My Least Favorite Number

And so is three, four, five, etc. In fact, the only number I’m really comfortable with is one. It’s probably just my brain. I don’t multitask well.

But when I look more deeply at it, the reason why I don’t multitask well is that I am a perfectionist. I want to do a really good job at everything I do. I’d rather not do something than do it poorly.

And underlying my perfectionism is my desire for approval, starting originally with my mom when I was a young boy in school. My mom, rightly, expected me to do well in school. But I—wanting her approval so dearly—made it my mission never to disappoint her.

As a result, I did very well in school, but I planted the seeds of stress for myself. Especially when diverging paths have presented themselves and there is not enough time to go in both directions fully.

One of those Seeds Planted in Youth Sprouted Last Weekend

It was a tough week in my family. First my step-dad died. And then the day of his funeral, on the other side of my family, my step-mom’s mother died. My partner and I have been doing a lot of traveling as a result.

But here’s where the two diverging paths presented themselves for me. The conflict for me was between family and work. On the one side, I wanted to just be with my family during this time of mourning. And on the other side, I had an unusually large workload implementing changes to Inquiry Circle and The Work 101.

Either one, family or work, could have filled my week completely. But when both presented themselves at the same time, I experienced stress. Because I didn’t want to compromise with either.

In the End, I Found Ways to Make it Work

But I see now that I have some ongoing work to do now that the crisis has passed. Here are some ways I can do The Work on this situation.

1. Identify stressful one-liners (individual stressful thoughts to question).

Here are a few that come to mind.

I don’t want to compromise.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my family.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my work.
There’s not enough time to do both.
It’s more work if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I leave Inquiry Circle in a state of transition.
I will look bad if I don’t show up fully for my family.

These one-liners can be questioned directly, and they also lead to the second way to do The Work on this situation.

2. Write some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets

The last three statements on my list above point towards some possible Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets. For example, I could write a worksheet on The Work 101 course participants as a group. My Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet line 1 would be, “I feel bound by them because they expect the course to start on time.” And I could go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet based on what I wrote in line 1.

Likewise, I could write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on Inquiry Circle participants. In this case, I have one particular person in mind. My line 1 statement is, “I am anxious with him because he expects me to be organized.” And I can go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet from there.

Finally, I can write some worksheets on my family, or family members, in different situations. For example, I can choose the moment when my step-brother said that he had hoped to hang out with me during the week. My line 1 is, “I am sorrowful with him because he hoped to hang out with me.” And I can continue writing the rest of the worksheet on him in that moment.

That’s the Cool Thing About Last Week

There are a lot of good angles for doing The Work that came out of this situation. It reminds me that every stressful situation is really just an opportunity for self-inquiry. Because, if it came up in this situation, you can bet it has come up before, and that it will come up again.

The Work is about getting stronger, and clearer—finding new ways of being in all the different situations that life presents.

I can guarantee that I will be presented with diverging paths many times again in my life. By working my stressful thoughts about this situation, I am laying the groundwork for a less stressful experience the next time it happens.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The job you do out there in the apparent world is secondary. It’s only a place for you to judge, inquire, and know yourself. Your true job is to appreciate what is; your primary profession is to be clear.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Why Do We Feel Guilt?

house on the hill

I stayed in this house one night, and promised the owners some photos that I never delivered.

Do You Ever Feel Guilty?

It comes up from time to time for me, and it often brings me back to doing The Work.

But how do you do The Work with guilt? It’s kind of a strange emotion. It’s not like anger, where it’s usually easy to find the stressful thoughts to question. Guilt is a bit more covert.

Here’s What I Notice About Guilt

Underlying my feeling of guilt is often the belief that I need or want someone’s approval.

Not getting their approval can lead to guilt or anger. I feel anger if I’m not getting their approval because of something they are doing. For example, if they are not being fair, or they are being “impossible” to please.

But I feel guilty when I think it’s something I’m doing that is preventing me from getting their approval. For example, if I’m not doing something that they want me to do.

Instead of owning, “I don’t really want to do it,” I opt for guilt. Feeling guilty is a way of holding onto both of my conflicting desires: the desire for their approval, and the desire to stay in my integrity.

By feeling guilty, I don’t have to choose.

Guilt Shows Me My Desire for Approval

And not just my desire for approval, but often a desire for approval that goes against my integrity.

For example, I took the photo above of the little house on the hill covered with flowers back in 2009. I was photographing the balsamroot flowers that spring in Washington State. While wandering the hills, I came across this house and asked for permission to park there and to photograph on their property.

They were very generous and allowed me. And they invited me to stay overnight so that I could get up early the next morning when the light was good. I was grateful, and accepted, and got some great photos the next day. On leaving, I promised them a photo.

But the Problem Was That I Offered Because I Thought I Should

My offer was not 100% sincere. Yes, I was sincerely grateful to them, but I was also in the middle of moving, starting a new job, and dealing with a lot of competition for my time. I was promising them something that I wasn’t in a position to deliver easily.

But instead of not offering it, I acted out of guilt. I did what I thought I should do. And I felt guilty. Guilty, first of all, for leaving my integrity in the first place, and then guilty for not delivering what I said I would.

Over the months and years after that—despite my guilt, or maybe because of it—I could never could bring myself to make good on my promise. To this day, I’ve never sent them a photo. Of course, I conveniently lost their name and address after some time, making it even harder.

So Here Comes The Work

Here are some thoughts I can question:

I want them to think I’m very grateful.
I want them to like my photography.
I want them to remember me glowingly.

Without these thoughts, all of which have to do with getting their approval, I could have stayed in my integrity and not offered any more than I could at the time.

But It’s Never Too Late

I plan to question those thoughts. I may also write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on them in the moment when I was promising these things.

And I may also question some other guilty beliefs that have come up since then:

I have to make good on my promise.
If I don’t deliver the photos, they will be disappointed in me.

It’s Funny, I Haven’t Even Done The Work on It Yet

But I’m already feeling lighter.

If I question some of these thoughts related to the guilt, who knows what I may do! I might even drive out to their place and deliver them a CD with all my photos from that shoot.

Not because I want their approval, but only if it feels like my integrity to do so. My work will help me find my truth and open the options for me to take.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“The irony is that the struggle to win love and approval makes it very difficult to experience them. Chronic approval seekers don’t realize that they are loved and supported not because of but despite their efforts. And the more strenuously they seek, the less likely they are to notice.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

If you like this article, feel free to forward the link to friends, family or colleagues. Or share the link on Facebook or other social media. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about it, please leave your comments below.

Get two new articles about The Work of Byron Katie every week. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

Fear Doesn’t Always Feel Like Fear

sky scrapers

Pressure to be great can be another form of fear.

I Thought I Was Through with Fear

I remember a few years ago when the baseline fear I used to feel stopped being there. That little feeling of anxiety in my stomach went away due to a lot of work I was doing on my motives.

I was questioning thoughts like, “I need to make more money,” “I want to be successful,” “I need to be happy,” “I need to be healthy.”

The turnarounds, “I don’t need to make more money,” “I don’t want to be successful,” “I don’t need to be happy,” and “I don’t need to be healthy,” were bringing me a lot of peace.

So I thought fear was done.

But There Was More

It didn’t show up as the feeling I recognize as fear this time. Instead, it feels like a pressure to perform. That’s what’s up for me these days. I feel it as a pressure in my neck and back. And a strain in my eyes and head.

I wouldn’t think of this as fear because it’s not in my stomach.

But I realized last weekend that it was the same thing showing up in a different form. The pressure I feel is a pressure to do a good job (at whatever I’m doing).

It May Not Sound Like Fear, But Look at This

The pressure I feel is not so much of a pressure to do a good job. It’s a pressure to do a prefect job. Which means that it’s really just a fear of doing something wrong, even just a little wrong. And ultimately, this is a fear of disapproval. That’s what I fear more than anything. And that’s what makes me strain and push myself. I’m trying to avoid disapproval. That’s the biggest stress in my life. I think it always has been.

For me, it goes back to when I was in school. I got the feeling from my mom that anything less than 100% was not quite good enough. I know she wasn’t really that strict on me, but I wanted her approval more than anything.

Again, it wasn’t really her approval that I wanted, because when I got her approval, it was never really all that satisfying. Instead, it was the fear of her disapproval that motivated me. I rarely saw disapproval from her. But that fear is what kept me running. That’s why doing a great job on one thing was never enough. There was always the next job waiting to be done. Which was yet another risk for disapproval to be managed.

And in my twenties, when I started to find my own way in the world, I believed that my mom did not approve of some of my choices. And that depressed me, even when I was doing what I wanted to do.

I Realize Now that Some of that Is Still Unworked for Me

Because I still fear disapproval. That’s why I try to be nice to everyone. That’s why I try to do a perfect job at everything. That’s why no matter what I do, it’s never enough. That’s why I work so hard. That’s why I’m afraid to do anything that I really want to do.

So while it doesn’t show up as fear in my stomach, the pressure I feel in my neck and back and head is my clue. It’s time to start looking at my motives again. And it’s time to start seeing who I am trying to please. It’s time to start writing some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on the various people whose disapproval I’m still trying to avoid. It’s time to do The Work on this.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“How do you react when you think you need people’s love? Do you become a slave for their approval? Do you live an inauthentic life because you can’t bear the thought that they might disapprove of you? Do you try to figure out how they would like you to be, and then try to become that, like a chameleon?” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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Judgments Depend on Where you Stand when Judging

orchard grass

The orchard grass is predominant when I’m almost lying on the ground.

Perspective Makes all the Difference

The Work is all about finding different perspectives. The four questions and turnarounds of The Work often open my mind to very new perspectives. But there’s another area of The Work where perspective plays an important role.

And that’s the area of writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

Stand in one place and you’ll judge a person one way. Move to another position and your judgments may be very different. This is why you can write many different Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on the same person in different situations.

This Idea Was Helpful when Working with a Client Recently

She deeply loves her boyfriend and wants nothing more than to be with him. But she gets embarrassed at the thought of introducing him to her friends and family.

How do you write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in this situation?

If she writes a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet directly on her boyfriend, it doesn’t really touch the issue because she sees him as wonderful. One way to address the issue is to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on a particular friend or family member who she thinks will judge him. This could be a good direction for exploration.

But Here’s What She Did that Really Worked

She imagined herself being together with her friend and then turning and judging her boyfriend from there. The perspective was totally different. Because she was standing next to her friend, her values were different. So when she turned to judge her boyfriend, she saw him totally differently than how she sees him at home.

The first line of her worksheet was, “I am embarrassed by my boyfriend because he is blue-collar.” And the rest of the worksheet flowed from there.

And working that judgment, “He is blue-collar,” was powerful. This belief lay at the root of her embarrassment. And, as she started to do The Work, she found several genuine examples of how he is not so blue-collar after all: he is up on current affairs, he likes to travel, he likes to wear nice clothes, and he is a successful entrepreneur.

The Examples Had to Be Valid Even While Standing with her Friend

It was not enough for her to find examples that were true for her when she was alone with her boyfriend. She had to look for examples of how “He’s not blue-collar” that would hold weight with her even when she was standing next to her friend. Because that’s the perspective she is working from.

Already a little exploration in this direction is starting to shift things. Next up will be the turnaround, “He’s blue-collar. Yay! Is that really a problem?” Can she find examples of how, even if he is blue-collar in some ways, that it’s not a problem—even when she’s standing with her friend? And so The Work continues.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“We’re so secretive about what makes us feel ashamed that we even try to keep it from ourselves, clinging to our pretense of self-respect while our thoughts run on about how terrible we are and how unforgivable the things we’ve done. Secrets cry out for inquiry. You can’t be free if you’re hiding. And in the end, the things we’re ashamed of turn out to be the greatest gifts we have to give.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“We’re so secretive about what makes us feel ashamed that we even try to keep it from ourselves, clinging to our pretense of self-respect while our thoughts run on about how terrible we are and how unforgivable the things we’ve done. Secrets cry out for inquiry. You can’t be free if you’re hiding. And in the end, the things we’re ashamed of turn out to be the greatest gifts we have to give.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Insecure About How You Look?

my necklaces

I used to feel insecure about my pearls.

I Don’t Feel Insecure about them Anymore

I’ve always worn my birthstones. But a recent addition of a choker strand of pearls got me feeling very self-conscious. I found myself hiding them. I found myself not wearing them with a T-shirt. I found myself worried about what others thought of them.

And it all came to a head when a 12-year-old girl asked me, “Why are you wearing a girl’s necklace?”

Boy did that trigger me. I was defensive. I wanted to escape. I felt shame. As if all my suspicions were confirmed.

So I Wrote a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the Girl in that Situation

It went like this:

Line 1 (situation):

I am hurt by her because she is judging me.

Line 2 (wants):

I want her to understand why I wear my pearls.
I want her see that I also wear ruby and coral.
I want her to stop judging me.

Line 3 (shoulds):

She shouldn’t be so direct.
She should see these are my birthstones.
She should say, “Wow! These are awesome. Let me see.”
She shouldn’t look for a weak point to get a rise out of me.
She shouldn’t tease me.

Line 4 (needs):

I need her to approve of my pearls.
I need her to not think I’m cross dressing.
I need her to respect me.

Line 5 (judgments):

She is hurtful, judgmental, ignorant, right.

Line 6 (don’t ever want):

I don’t ever want to be judged for wearing my pearls again.

And I Worked it Over Two Weeks in Steady Pace Inquiry

What I found was that they are my birth stones. I like wearing my birth stones. Why wouldn’t I wear them? And the necklace was a gift from my partner. Another plus. And the jeweler told me he couldn’t combine them with my coral beads because the holes were different sizes. Once I owned my reasons for wearing them, I felt more secure.

Secondly, I realized that a girl of 12 is naturally thinking about the differences between the sexes. Not to mention that looks are everything in junior high school. She even commented on our Kleenex box which happens to have roses and red lips printed on it. She thought that was strange to have in a boy’s house. But I found through inquiry that just because she is in junior high, doesn’t mean I have to be!

And finally, I found that just because men in my culture don’t wear pearls does not make them feminine. Pearls have no sex at all. They are mineral. I was just buying into a culture bias. And the only reason I do that is because I want to be accepted. Without that thought, I can disassociate myself from the cultural norm and just be myself. Very freeing.

Now I Can Wear my pearls with a T-Shirt into a Machine Shop without Stress

It’s hard to describe the shift that happened for me without letting you read everything I wrote while working that worksheet. But the change was clear and dramatic. Now I don’t hesitate to wear my pearls.

I’ve been with people who I’m pretty sure were judging me for them, but it was no stress at all for me. Because I know why I wear them. And I just don’t get involved with whatever they may be thinking.

I understand where they may be coming from. I used to go there too. But that kind of thinking just doesn’t work for me anymore. So I don’t bother with it now. I love how this simple process of The Work works for me.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Notice how often you defend yourself (with words, actions, the way you dress, your tone of voice) and how stressful that can be. What impression—what “you”—are you trying to hide or strengthen? Whom are you trying to convince? What is the story of “you” that you perpetuate or want to perpetuate? What “you” would you be without this story?” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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Have You Ever Done a “Positive” Worksheet?

beautiful house trim

Seeing this beautiful trim is a positive experience, but it could become stressful if I get attached to it.

Most Worksheets Start with a Stressful Situation

That’s how you write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. You identify a time when you got triggered. A time when you had a stress reaction. And you revisit that moment in your mind to write down all the stressful thoughts going on for you in that situation.

But I love breaking the rules. Or rather, I love proving to myself that there are no rules.

So I experimented recently with writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on a “positive” situation. I put “positive” in quotes because, if I’m completely honest about it, there was a very mild feeling of stickiness mixed in with all that positive feeling of the moment.

What Was my Situation?

I was about nine years old. I was working in the yard with my granddaddy. I remember right where we were at the end of the driveway by the culvert pipe. He complimented my by saying, “You stick with the job until it’s done.”

This was a moment of approval from my granddaddy. I felt he was proud of me. And I became proud of myself. In that moment, my identity as the person who sticks with the job until it’s done was born. That’s why I remember the moment so clearly. A big part of me was born that day.

And I have referred back to that moment a thousand times over my life, each time reconfirming my identity as someone who sticks with the job to the very end. It even became a justification for what was sometimes an imbalanced obsession with completing things. I was bound by not wanting to lose that approval from my grandfather. I didn’t want to let him down.

So I Wrote a Positive Worksheet

Line 1 (situation):

I am happy with Granddaddy because he approves of my work ethic.

Line 2 (wants):

I want him to be proud of me.
I want him to keep liking me.

Line 3 (shoulds):

He should point out to everyone what a good worker I am.
He should keep seeing me as a good worker.

Line 4 (needs):

I need him to keep approving of my way of working.
I need him to never be disappointed in me.

Line 5 (judgments):

He is proud of me, approving.

Line 6 (don’t ever want):

I don’t ever want him to take back his compliment about me.

And I’m Having a Blast Working It

For example, without the thought that Granddaddy approves of my work ethic, it was just a sweet moment, like when my Granddaddy reached in his pocket and gave me a dime the last time I saw him in the hospital. Or the moment when he would help us write our letters to Santa Claus at Christmas. Or when he would have candy in his pocket for us.

Without the thought that he approves of my work ethic, I would just feel love for him. I would not be bound to always finish the job. I would be free. I would be myself. Flexible and always changing. Even aware of my tendency to finish things, but not making it a pivotal point on which hangs my grandfather’s approval.

I Invite you to Try it Out

I’m noticing that my identities are often hidden deeply inside of my positive emotions. Doing inquiry on these positive situations is unraveling my hidden bondage to these false identities.

Have you played with this kind of work? I’d love to hear your experience. And if you haven’t, I encourage you to give it a try.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“My entire life, my entire identity, had been built on the trust and uninquiring innocence of a child. Are you this kind of child? Through this Work, your toys and fairy tales are laid aside as you begin to read the book of true knowledge, the book of yourself.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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