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A Sure Fire Way to Improve Difficult Work Relationships–Part 2 October 29, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development, Uncategorized.
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The More Real You Get… July 15, 2013

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As you have probably figured out by now, the focus of my coaching is on relationships. Relationships with others, the relationship with yourself. I believe that it’s wise and productive to be intentional about what you want to create in your relationships. And I like to practice what I preach.

Suffering fools

Today I did something that I don’t often do. I did not hold my tongue but pretty much said what I was thinking and what’s more I did not apologize for it. (Now before those of you who have coached with me think that I have suddenly had a frontal lobotomy—let me specify that I am talking about a family relationship here, not a coaching one. In coaching another, I mostly (but now always, say exactly what I’m thinking).

But today, I had just had enough of the dynamics of this particular relationship. It’s one that I have been tiptoeing around for a long time—doing my best to keep it on an even keel, trying hard not to rock the boat. Forgiving and trying to see the bright side of the person’s actions and personality. But today—today, my last nerve was stomped on and I just spoke my truth without prettying it up.

Usually when I do this I feel bad about it later and think that perhaps I could have been a better, more loving person, etc, etc. Today, I gave up that story and just stepped right in it because I felt the situation called for it. The other person termed me rude and if that was the way I came across then so be it.

Your relationship with yourself is important

One’s relationship with oneself is every bit as important as those we have with others. To keep on keeping your mouth shut in the face of what you view as injustice, lack of ethics and moral standards, or whatever else gets you torqued up, can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

About 10 years ago, I was in a relationship with a person that I really cared about and one which I wanted to continue. However, his actions befuddled and hurt me. I spent about two months not addressing it and lo and behold, I found that my jaw began to hurt constantly—I mean really hurt. It was all that biting back of my words that did it. Once I noticed that, I put an immediate end to the situation.

The first relationship to work on is the one you have with yourself. To keep denying that which is your truth can be very destructive and unhealthy in the long run. Sometimes standing in your own power and being okay with who and what you are is the hardest, yet most self-affirming thing you can do for yourself.

Know who and what you are

Once you’re comfortable with who you are and what makes sense to you in the world, you are better able to get on with the business of having relationships with others. In order to keep your own identity in any relationship, it’s helpful to know what you bring to the table: the good, the bad and/or the ugly. From there you can do your work on yourself and be a solid participant in any relationship you choose to pursue—family, friends, business colleagues, lovers.

I’m feeling pretty good, in spite of having an unpleasant exchange with someone else. Do you have a situation or two that needs to be addressed with some candor? Are there some eggshells you need to stomp on? Maybe it’s time to be who you want to be.

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If you’d like to coach with me, visit www.lifecoachingwithspirit.com and sign up for a strategy session. Or email me at ann@lifecoachingwithspirit.com.

Not Seeing Is Believing June 26, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Self-Development.
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My conscience has been bothering me because I have not been posting on my previous weekly schedule. Well not really my conscience, just that little inner voice that pipes up when I’m not living into my declarations about my life. And this blog relates to the one that in which I declare I am a writer.

OK—that’s said and now I ‘m over it. The reason for the title of this blog is that it became necessary for me to have a second eye surgery to repair my torn/detached retina. I was unpleasantly surprised because I am used to being able to pray, meditate and visualize my way to good health. Hmmmm, what up?, I wondered. Then I decided that there was some very good lesson I needed to learn through this process and I set about learning it.

The first question I asked myself was “What am I not seeing that I need to see?” There was a lot of great stuff to mine from that one. So what follows is what I have seen without the use of my eyes.

Everything happens for a purpose.

All right, I admit this is not a new learning for me. I have long believed that everything does indeed happen for a purpose but I got some extra practice in remaining steadfast in my belief about that. I think in my case it was just time for me to have time to re-evaluate some important aspects of my life. There were a couple of relationships that I wasn’t sure needed to continue. In one case, I concluded that it should and in the other that it was time to let go of the relationship and what it represents in my life. As I was preparing for the first surgery, my friend sent me a quote (he said I said it but it’s much better than what I said) that I think really speaks to this ‘everything for a purpose’ idea.

Things don’t happen to us, they happen for us.


It’s ok to be vulnerable and in need as long as you don’t make it a way of life.

Man, I don’t know about you, but it is sometimes hard for me to ask for help. I pride myself on being a non-needy person who only makes requests that are appropriate for the size of the relationship. Suddenly I found myself needing to ask people to drive me places, mow my lawn, listen to my fears about losing my eyesight, and so on and so on. And it’s been my great blessing to have people in my life who were more than willing to offer me the help and reassurance I needed. So I now see even more than I did before that it’s necessary to be able to receive as effortlessly as it is to give.

Sometimes we need a Significant Emotional Event (SEE) to see what’s been right in front of us.

It’s the darndest thing but we human beings are silly animals at times. Instead of learning our lessons in laughter and love, we seem to need to be turned upside down and shaken a bit before we pay attention. That’s my metaphor for a SEE—and it’s no coincidence that the letters spell that word. When we are very upset emotionally about something and we feel as though we are backed up against a wall, it is then (and only then) that we change our perspective. I have changed my opinion about what’s important in my life since I’ve had this SEE. Seeing is important in my life—forget about how well I dance the tango, or if I look terrible without eye makeup or whether I’m keeping up with my writing goals. Nope—seeing is important—both physically and metaphorically. The rest of that stuff matters but its relative importance has changed. Additionally I have had plenty of practice in navigating my mood. It’s been challenging but I know I did the very best I could. Another quote that I have been daily holding in my hot little hand helped with that a lot (once again courtesy of my friend Michael):

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.  Eckhart Tolle

Think about it….






Are You Connected? March 27, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations.
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girl eating spaghetti pink sherbet photography ccYesterday I made spaghetti and meatballs. So what, you may say. Well, the ‘what’ is that it was a wonderfully comforting and nostalgic experience. That’s because, rather than opening a jar of Ragu and buying frozen meatballs, I decided to use my mother’s recipe. And if you know anything about Italian cooking, you know that it was a little time-consuming. And while I was completing the various steps I had time to reflect.

Passing on the tradition…

My family was coming over for dinner last night and I wanted to make a dinner I knew they would like. I wanted to continue for them the tradition that this recipe represents. And the results were wonderful—my grandchildren reflected on how “‘Grammie is good at just everything.” Now that was worth any amount of trouble I took.

The recipe is written on a stained and raggedy piece of paper

As I was making this very familiar meal, I thought about my parents, both of whom have passed away. The recipe is written on a stained and raggedy piece of paper in my father’s handwriting. Even though it was my mother’s family recipe, it was my chemist father who wrote it down. My mother, like most good Italian cooks, measured by eye and used some sixth sense about how much it took to turn out an amazing dish. So my father sat with her once and stuck measuring cups and spoons under each ingredient before it went in. The result was a recipe that my brother and I both treasure and use.  It calls for Hunt’s tomato sauce (with “no substitutions” noted) and salt pork which I usually don’t put in (because sometimes traditions need to be altered a bit—tell that to the Catholic Church—oops did I say that out loud?)

The recipe is also the basis for an annual spaghetti dinner that St John’s Catholic Church in Borger, Texas, has been using as a fund raiser since the 1960’s and which my parents began. Everyone always referred to it as ‘Bert’s(my father) recipe,’ but it was really my mother’s recipe.( This could inspire a homily about women’s roles in the 1950’s and 60’s but I will spare you that)  And I digress…

My mother’s company

As I was rolling the meatballs and browning them in oil—yep, no healthy baking of meatballs here, I  could feel my mother’s presence at my elbow gently reminding me not to make the meatballs too large and to be sure to drain them well after they browned.  I remembered the many times I had sat with her in her bright 60’s vintage kitchen helping her cook and getting valuable coaching on what it took to make the food wonderful. So even though I was alone in my kitchen yesterday, I had the best company I could have wished for.

The importance of connections

That got me thinking about the importance of connections, not just to me, but to all of us. It is our connection with others that fulfills us and gives meaning and richness to our lives. These connections can be with family, friends, co-workers, pets, or even those who are no longer on the earth. I think the important thing to remember is that we need to be intentional about making connections for ourselves. We can ask ourselves questions such as

  • Do I feel connected enough in my life or do I feel like an outsider?
  • Do I have a tribe? Who are they?
  • What connections/relationships would be most fulfilling to me?
  • What actions can I take to bring the connections/relationships that I think are missing?
  • Am I doing my part to nurture the Important relationships in my life?
  • Are there connections that are not serving me well which I need to move away from?

Acknowledge that connections are important and necessary

The important thing is to understand and acknowledge that being connected through relationships is a basic need that we all have. One of my coaching clients once said to me that relationships weren’t all that important to him. I have known this man for over fifteen years and his actions tell me that relationships are extremely important to him. What he was saying was that he just didn’t want to do the work that I was requesting of him.

And sometimes analyzing what to do about relationships and then acting on it is a pain in the you-know-where. And as a ‘relationship coach’ I would offer that while it may be difficult it’s not optional. (But of course I would.)


Who Are You Being? March 6, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Uncategorized.
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2418629901_0eceaf6e82One of my favorite questions of people I coach is “Who are you being?” (And one of my favorite most-hated questions is “Name 10 things you love about yourself.” However, I’ll save that for another day. )

What are you about?

Why do I love the question ‘Who are you being?” Because it really speaks to what you want to create in the world. And if you’re not conscious of what you’re creating, you are very likely to create a lot of muck and greatly annoy those around you. And since the guiding principle of my coaching is to get effective work done by intentionally building relationships with others, it follows that I’d like to know who you are being (or at least who you think you are being).

Who do you know?

When someone has a consciousness about who they’re being, it shows up in everything they do. Think of some of these people who are in your life. One person who comes to mind for me is Lori, the owner of Sangha Space in Media, PA where I take tango class. Lori is all about creating a tango community that is vibrant and welcoming. She speaks about these goals and her actions point to this commitment. Her energy and her desire to make everyone welcome is constant and when she’s not at the studio, the place is just not the same. Lori’s actions and words are a match and ‘who she is being’ is enriching her life and that of others. She is acting into a strong declaration about the purpose of her life.

You can be a whole bunch of you’s

Who are you being? There is no one answer to that question, of course. Sometimes I am being supportive, kind, and  loving. Other times I am being judgmental, impatient, and selfish. And I am ok with either end of the spectrum. However, I do have a declaration about who I want to be and judgmental, impatient, and selfish is not part of that declaration. So the trick is to constantly rely on my Observer—that element of myself that can step outside , take a look at how/what I am doing, and allow me to self-correct when I am not acting in integrity with my declarations about who I want to be.

Try this

This week figure out what you’d like to do more of in order to act in alignment with who you want to be. Kinder? More hard-working? Better organized? A friend to all? A setter of boundaries? You decide. Just decide. And then when someone asks you that annoying question about who you are being, you’ll have an answer.


‘Tis the season for kinder and gentler December 19, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations.
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Christmaspigccbyshallowend Ok—we all know it’s the winter holiday time of year—no matter which particular holiday you choose to celebrate. I like to think of the holidays as a time to light the darkness that is with us (at least in the northern hemisphere.If you’re reading this in Australia—hope you’re enjoying your bright summer days.) Lighting up the darkness is a primal human need and no matter how sophisticated we believe we have gotten, we still fear the darkness on some level.

The winter solstice is on December 21st—the shortest day of the year. Well, we say that but I guess we really mean it’s the shortest daylight of the year. I digress…love to do that. However, darkness can be literal or metaphorical. Most of us know quite a bit about how to light up the darkness in a literal way. But I’ve been thinking about lighting up the darkness metaphorically. And while there are many ways to do that, I’d like to suggest one that seems to fit in with the spirit of the season.

How about you give the rest of the world a break? Take a break from judgments, innuendo, criticism, and rolled eyes. I know, I know…that can be a challenge. But I for one am going to give it a shot. Maybe you’d like to as well. I warn you though, it will sneak up on you in a heart beat. One minute you’ll be full of good will and the next you’ll be fantasizing about throttling that person who is oh-so-annoying.

Here’s where intention comes in. I intend to drop negative judgments of other people until after Christmas. (I figure if I set the bar low I can raise it later.) I know that 100% is a real stretch goal, however I intend to see it as possible. And with that in mind I’ll definitely do better at it than if I did not articulate my intention. As I write this I am thinking of a certain individual who is so pushing my buttons at the moment and whom I would really like to exclude from this declaration. But no, I am standing firm.

Why make this declaration at all? I feel better when I am not finding fault with others. I feel as though I’m the person that I want to be.

What do you think? Want to take this on?

No matter how you plan to spend the holidays, I hope that they are full of light, literal and metaphorical, and bushels of inner joy.


Better Living Through Chemistry July 11, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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Isn’t it great when you have  chemistry with someone? You love to be around them, your conversations are interesting and enjoyable and while you may not always agree on everything, there is an almost built-in respect and trust. And it’s just all kinds of fun to be with them.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy that kind of rapport with everyone  particularly the important relationships in your life where it’s missing?

Can great chemistry be created?

I was chatting with someone this morning about the notion of creating chemistry and his immediate response was that it’s not possible to manufacture chemistry—it’s either there or it’s not. And as much as I wanted to disagree with him, I reluctantly agreed. Yes, there is something indefinable about that magic that sometimes happens between two people. It’s well—magic. (One of my great talents, in case you have missed it, is my ability to state the obvious.)

Is creating chemistry a bit like making yourself fall in love?

That conversation did start me thinking about how to improve those relationships that are more difficult and less satisfying  than the ones that click. And maybe trying to create chemistry is a bit like convincing yourself that you should fall in love with someone when you’re not. I’ve never had much success with that particular endeavor. But maybe, just maybe  if you took a look at how you act with another person when the two of you are clicking you might uncover some possibilities.

Here’s my list of some things I’ve noticed:

  • I look directly at the person when I’m talking to them and make significant eye contact—not just little glances here and there—I really see that person.
  • I notice the nuances of their language choice and even remark upon it when I find it compelling or thought-provoking.
  • My body language unconsciously mimics that of the other person and theirs of me. I know that this is something that scientists tell us and I noticed it once again a few days ago. I recently was having a conversation with one of my coaching clients with whom I click. We began the conversation with each of us forward in our chairs, then when one of us moved back or moved forward the other person did the same. It was a bit like a dance.
  • I often tell the person what I find interesting, great, unique, enjoyable about him or her. It’s easy to give appreciation to the person.
  • There is a give and take in the conversation with no one person dominating. It ebbs and flows with each person speaking for a time and then turning over to the other.
  • There’s a lot of laughter and lightness in the conversation even when the topic may be serious.

I could go on but I don’t want to do all of your work for you. Take some time to make your own list of behaviors that you notice when you’re clicking with another person.

Next Step

Once you have determined what your own particular set of behaviors are in that circumstance, think about applying these behaviors with other people. I’m talking about the relationships that could benefit from an infusion of better chemistry.  Am I suggesting that you’ll be able to manufacture what does not exist? Well, not exactly. But I hearken to the often-repeated advice: Fake it till you make it. You may not suddenly start clicking with the person but my guess is that your change of intention and/or action will make some (positive) change in the relationship. Who wouldn’t respond to someone telling they are amazingly clever and entertaining? Or to being listened to as though every word that escapes their lips is a gem of great magnitude. You may have to do this consciously at first but my guess is that as time goes on you will find a change in your own attitude and theirs. Just remember not to be a big goofy fake or that will do more harm than good. But don’t you think it just might improve things all around?

I offer that it would…


The Very Best Way to Get ‘Er Done May 23, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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Last week I had a conversation with my granddaughter that got me thinking about how easy it is for things to go south when you’re working with another person. The example is a little roundabout but indulge me a bit, ok?

How do you eat an apple?

I was eating an apple the way I have always eaten an apple. I had it in my hand and was taking bites from the apple until it was gone. (Unlike many people though I eat the entire apple, core and all. A remnant from many days of dieting in which I wanted to eat everything I was allowed. And yes I know it’s weird but it’s what I do.)

My granddaughter watched me as I ate and then asked me a (to her) perfectly logical question, “Grammie, why are you eating the apple like that?” That stopped me for a moment. Hmmm, isn’t this the way everyone eats an apple, I thought. But then, since I am such a devoted grammie, I really thought about her question. Obviously she asked because she wanted to know. And then I got it. Five year olds don’t eat apples in that way—their mouths are too small to eat their way around an apple. Five-year-olds have their mommies (or daddies) cut the apple into slices so that they can eat each slice in a bite or two. While I still didn’t have a good answer to her question other than” That’s just the way I do it,” it did start me thinking about something called background of obviousness.

Our background of obviousness is part of us

Everyone has a unique background of obviousness that is made up of their experiences, conversations, training, and family culture, to name a few sources. And that background says that the way I do things is the way everyone does them—or at least the way they should. Only problem with that is that everyone’s background of obviousness (BOO) is different. And I bet if you thought a little bit you could come up with some disaster scenarios that have been created when you assumed (you know what they say about assuming, right?) that others were thinking and acting just the way you would in a situation.

However, so you don’t have to distract yourself by thinking of a situation, allow me to give you one to ponder.

Here’s an example

John Z is a manager in a small financial company. Because the company had been growing in staff he noticed that office space was becoming very scarce. People were sharing offices.  It was obvious to John that something had to be done to alleviate the situation.  No one could do their best work in such crowded space. Deciding to take the initiative John found out that there was some office space available two floors down in the building. After finding out the details of the lease possibilities John took the information to his boss, sure that he would be delighted with the information. Unfortunately his boss had not seen a problem with the existing set up and was angry that John had spoken to the leasing company without his agreement.  John’s relationship with his boss took a hit that day because they were both operating from two different BOOs.

Try becoming aware of your background of obviousness

Figuring out your own background of obviousness or at the very least realizing that you have one can enable you to avoid a lot of misunderstandings. So how does one do this? After all by definition, it’s in the background. You may not always get it right but the best way is to be open to the possibility that there are different interpretations to almost everything in life. So what you think should be perfectly obvious to everyone seldom is.

Take the position that you’re not always right

Try this for a week: Every time you find yourself getting frustrated with another person for being stupid, obtuse, uncooperative, or a PITA (not that you ever do), try taking a look at your own BOO and see what is causing your frustration. Once you come up with something, perhaps you might even take the time to have a conversation with that person in order to see what they see….Try it…You’ll be surprised at what you learn…And you might even get it done right the first time… And if you find this working, how about adopting it for a permanent practice?

It’s not what you think February 28, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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The older I  get the less I believe in truth. Wow, that’s a good beginning sentence, isn’t it? Shocking. It would seem that as one grows older and wiser she (or he) would learn the secrets of life and be able to dispense these ‘truths’ to an ever increasing number of avid listeners. Huh….that’s a nice idea but it hasn’t been my experience.

Do I feel wiser than I did in my 30’s –most definitely. But the difference is I no longer think I have ‘the truth of it.’ People who have ‘the truth of it’ can be hard to be around. They and they alone know how the world works or at least how it should work. And it’s always according to their own particular (and sometimes peculiar) set of standards. Now, I’ve just offered you a very nice assessment that says a lot about me—read on.

Why do some people get on your last nerve?

What I really want to take a look at is how the things that annoy us are really more about us than about those who are getting on our last nerve.

Case in point. The other week my business partner and I were listening to some presentations that our students were giving to mark the close of our work together. The person who gave the presentation has a sense of humor that is a bit biting and cynical. This person was seemingly speaking in a negative way about the material that Lee and I had spent the last nine months presenting. I found it amusing because I knew there was going to be a turnaround at the end and because I knew that this guy had really come to understand and appreciate what we were teaching him. My partner, one the other hand did not find it a bit humorous and later told me that he had to really work to keep a positive mood during the presentation.

Look inside to figure it out

Lest you think that I am painting myself as a wonderfully easy-going and accepting person, let me hasten to assure you that I have my moments too. Last summer I attended a writer’s retreat (which you know if you are a regular reader of this blog). There was one woman there who was destined to be my Buddha. Sara had lost her husband seven months before and her grief was raw and ever-present. Every one of our sessions ended with Sara in gut-wrenching sobs. I absolutely hated it and wanted her to disappear. And even as I was working my way through that, I knew that it was totally about me and had very little to do with her. After all, she had every reason to be grief-stricken.

I did a lot of thinking about that and spent a few hours talking to my very patient friend Rachel about it. I realized that when my own husband died twenty years ago, I had not been in the position to really indulge my grief. I had a five year old son whom I had to support and I was in a challenging career path. My grief had to be pushed aside to take care of life. So my annoyance with  Sara had everything to do with some unfinished business of my own. I recently came across a great quote that speaks to this:

What we want to change in others is what we haven’t loved in ourselves. – Dr. John F. DeMartini

Hot buttons are all about you, you, you

Jungian psychology points to the idea that we all have a shadow self that is present and impacts who we are and how we live our lives. Without going into a whole lot of detail suffice it to say that when you think you have ‘the truth of it’ about someone or something, you really have your truth—the thing you have to believe because of who you are. When something hits one of your hot buttons, this really points to something in your personality (or psyche, or whatever—I’m not a psychologist) that you haven’t accepted and don’t love.

If this has been coming up for you lately, that is, you’re finding yourself being annoyed and cranky with the world in general, the place to look isn’t out there—it’s inside. The people I love most in the world are the ones who are open and wondrous about other possibilities. Looking inside when you get annoyed is a great place to start doing your work. And while you’re there, have some room in your thinking for the possibility that it may be all about you. Because whether you’re 18 or 80, you’re still a masterpiece in progress.

Go paint or something..


Authenticity February 14, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being authentic and what that means. I got started on this train of thought after taking a teleclass on marketing as a solopreneur (cool new word). My friend Karen Talavera and an associate have put together a program for lonely marketers who have to do everything in their business from promoting it to doing the actual work. It’s called high altitude marketing if you’d like to check it out. http://highaltitudemarketingacademy.com/

One of their points is that in order to connect with your potential clients you have to cultivate a number of important attributes, one of which is authenticity. If you can come from a place that is true to who you are then you will be more compelling to your potential client.

As I thought about authenticity, I realized that it’s been one of my touchstones for most of my life. I feel the need to be truthful about who I am and what I believe. My personal code says I can remain silent at times but I can’t speak something I don’t believe in. Because of this, I don’t enjoy being around people who are not authentic, who try to put a positive face on everything, or who outright lie about who they are. That said, there are lots of times that I end up working with or being around others who I believe lack authenticity.

So I have developed a very finely-tuned bullshit meter. It’s weird how it works and it’s not just peculiar to me, I think. Most people have one. (Though I have been accused of being peculiar but only by those who have no imagination.) My bullshit meter goes off when I’m around someone who is coming from a place that is not consistent with who they really are. And the way that I experience it is by a feeling of tension that manifests in my body. The best way that I can describe it is a kind of cringe that starts out in my solar plexus and makes its way up to my shoulders. Over the years I’ve learned to recognize this as good feedback and react accordingly.

In the best circumstance it’s someone I know well and have a big enough relationship with to offer my assessment that they are full of shit. However, at times, I just have to suck it up. At those times I marvel at the capacity we humans can have for denial and story-telling. I should know, I’ve caught myself doing it plenty of times.

So what causes a lack of authenticity? I think the answer is simple. We are afraid that if we show up as who we really are we will be rejected by others. In a way, it’s a huge lack of self-love/self-esteem that causes us to be inauthentic. It feels unsafe for us to show our true selves.

So what’s a person to do when faced with the inevitable self-loathing that can lead to inauthentic behavior? My advice? Just say no…I have found over the years that the price I pay for giving away my power or presenting myself in a way that doesn’t feel right is way too large. And do you really think that no one will notice? They’ll notice.

Try practicing for just one day. For one day, say nothing that you don’t believe. You’re allowed to keep silent which is a way to begin. See how you feel at the end of the first day. If you like it, keep going. If you hate it, keep going.