On art as self-care

Struck with a bad cold I spend the last days alternating between the bed and the couch. As there was a definite emotional dimension to my illness, I self-medicated myself with some culture as well as echinaforce.
The_Clan_of_the_Cave_Bear_cover
The first two days I reread the Clan of the Cavebear. I read the book once before when I was fourteen. I remembered there was a lot of sex in it (which wasn’t the reason I picked it up, mind you). Surprisingly enough there was only like two pages of sex talk in 400 pages of description of medical herbs, mamoth hunting techniques, etc. It sounds boring but I LOVED the book all over again. It helped me reconnect with the little girl who would spend her days in the forest looking for berries, carving spears, and preparing “witches’ soup”. The nine year old girl in the zoo studying monkeys for hours. The nineteenyear old who choose Cultural Anthropology as a major. The twenty-something who would regularly take the train to the Ardennes with friends from campus to put up a tent in the wilderness and walk for days in a row while avoiding ‘civilization’. You might say it led me to reconnect with the cro-magnon girl within me.
MV5BMTUxNzYwMTE3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDY2NzU4Ng@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_
Day three I watched “Extremely loud & incredibly close”. I read the book already, but, fortunately, I had forgotten the plot (as I always do). I cried throughout the whole movie from the first scene till the last. I guess I really needed that. I was shocked to read on IMDB that so many people hated the movie and thought the main character was a spoiled brat. I thought it was a brilliant movie dealing with loss and grief and how to let go when it feels impossible to do so.
After the movie this poem by Rainer Marie Rilke showed up on my FB feed. It fitted the theme beautifully:
This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.
 
And to die, which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on and cling to every day,
is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows joyfully under
and after him, wave after wave,
Day four, as I was regaining my strength and fitness, I played myself some good old “Living on a Prayer”. Still to weak for living room dancing, but definitely feeling fueled by the sound of youthful optimism and daring. The Kings of Convenience topped the day off with their breathtaking song Homesick.
I know what homesickness feels like. And I know I can’t make that feeling go away. Just like I can’t stop a cold. But thankfully art is there to support me through it.
Please tell me in the comments below: Do you ever use art as a form of self-care?
If so, what bands, books, movies, paintings, poems are able to rekindle your flame when your spirits are down?

How to cultivate confidence?

We’re often led to believe that in order to make our business, our career or even our love life a success we need confidence. People who feel insecure are told:  “Believe in yourself!” “Get over it!” “Just do it already!” or  “You’ll be great!”

All good intentions besides, these comments hardly ever work.

You can’t make yourself feel confident. Just like you can’t make yourself stop blushing, or stop feeling fear.

So what CAN you do?

 

  1. ACCEPT

One of the things you can do is accept your lack of confidence. As long as you resist and fight it, you give it power. By accepting it you create space for other experiences.

Maybe you’ll discover that while you are insecure with certain people or in certain settings, you’re boosting with confidence in other areas of your life.

Or you’ll discover that next to insecure, you’re also sensitive, intelligent and a good observer.

 

TAKE DISTANCE

Don’t let your perceived lack of confidence define who you are. You are so much more than that. “I don’t have confidence” is just a thought; it’s not the truth. Imagine you were stranded on a deserted island. Would the thought: “I don’t have confidence” still have any meaning to you? Or imagine you were giving birth, or saving someone from drowning, would you still be thinking: “I don’t have confidence?“ at that very moment?

Try the following exercise. Write down all the thoughts you have about yourself on a piece of paper. Put this paper in your pocket and carry it along for the day. In the evening when you empty your pocket look at the piece of paper. You did everything you did today while carrying these thoughts with you.

They are just thoughts. Try to replace: “I can’t do this” by the phrase “I have the thought that I can’t do this”. Feel the difference.

Another way to surpass your lack of confidence is the following. Instead of thinking: “I can’t do this” try asking yourself: “What would help me gather the courage to do this?”. Asking your mind to come up with solutions will make it creative and supportive of your plans.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says: invite your fear to accompany you wherever you go, but don’t let it sit in the driver’s seat and decide the destination (Big Magic, 2015).

 

  1. COMMIT TO ACTION

I know from my own experience how tempting it is to let a lack of confidence stop you from taking action. But every time you decide to let a lack of confidence stop you from doing something, you give your power away.

On the other hand, every time you do something that is scary you’ll gain confidence. Even, if your actions aren’t a success.

When you commit to doing something despite thinking that you can’t, you show yourself that you are not your thoughts and you are capable of taking your life into your own hands.

4. EXPERIENCE FAILURE

A Dutch proverb says that “Man suffers the most from the suffering he fears, but never appears.”

 

A study conducted amongst people living in a home for the elderly shows that the happiest inhabitants were those who during their lifetime pursued their dreams. Even those whose endeavours failed massively looked back on the experience with joy.

People often think that failure will damage their confidence. Even it may do so in the short term, on the long term failure helps cultivate resilience.

As “The Circle of Confidence’ below illustrates one of the best ways to cultivate confidence is by learning to cope with a loss.

crcle

The best way to build confidence is by allowing yourself the experience of failure. Once you fail you’ll learn that you have the strength to get back on your feet and try again.

The fear of failure is much more debilitating than the experience itself. By allowing yourself to fail you ultimately allow yourself to succeed.

Start with doing little things that scare you, celebrate small victories, take pride in your failures as a battle scar, find what works for you, and do more of that.

Cultivate confidence like you would a vegetable patch, which is not by telling it to grow up.

Is lack of confidence holding you back from living the life you love, contact me for a free consultation at carla@carlageenen.nl. Or visit my website www.carlageenen.com (English); www.carlageenen.nl (Dutch)

THE GIFTS OF DISCOMFORT

ring_of_fire_312677

I walked up to her and said: “About the other day,….”

She smiled at me and gestured for me to sit down at her desk.

I looked her in the eyes and thought to myself connection, connection:  “I know you only wanted to help, but it dídn’t feel good to me. I felt a bit cornered in a way and I didn’t know how to tell you.”

She looks at me brightly and says she understands. She had already felt as much and she is so glad that I came to see her to talk about it. She’d wanted to apologize. She thinks I’m courageous for speaking up and coming to see her.

We laugh. The clouds have dissolved and we shift to talking about our plans for the summer. The room feels bright again.

I feel strong. Just as I’d expected I would.

Just before walking into her office I’d reminded myself that the fear and apprehension I was feeling were normal. That there is nothing wrong with discomfort nor with uncomfortable conversations; if anything they are a great vehicle for authenticity, growth and belonging.

I stepped into the office knowing that no matter what was said, or remained unsaid, as long as I would focus on the connection we would be fine. Uncomfortable conversations will often lead to wonderful bouts of vulnerability and intimacy. I’d reminded myself that I would feel stronger and more resilient afterwards.

I remembered my promise to myself: “I WILL WALK THROUGH FIRE”.

I have an image of a ring of fire. I’m in the middle of the circle. I’m safe there, but the place is limited, there is not much room for growth. The only way out is through the fire. It might hurt a little, I might get burned a bit, but the ring is only a few centimeters thick, and as I walk through it I enter into this space of seemingly infinite possibilities. I will walk, play and live there until one day I’ll reach another ring of fire and another and another. Once we have cultivated the willingness to step through fire and surrender to uncertainty our possibilities for expansion and growth become boundless.

Brenée Brown in her bestseller “Daring Greatly” coins the term “Normalzing Discomfort”. Brenée points out that there are not many people who are truly comfortable with either giving or receiving feedback, even though feedback is an essential part of working or living together. Brenée is often asked by organizations to help them install a culture where giving and receiving feedback is normal. Her answer is that she can’t take away the discomfort around feedback, but she can help people normalize the discomfort.

When I read those words I felt as if I had just found the missing piece of a 1.000 pieces jigsaw.

I suddenly realized that I don’t need to change, I only need to stop fighting the discomfort. There is no need to hide, to get rid of , or to avoid discomfort. It’s a part of life. Normalizing discomfort is part of living a life worth living.

I don’t know about you. But for me this insight was a  game changer.

It helped me lean into the discomfort. To actively look for discomfort and o start viewing discomfort as the place where the real learning, the real living, begins.

I found that every time I lean into discomfort amazing things happen. Wonderful conversations and opportunities arise. I feel strong and alive. I feel like a loving vibrant Universe is holding me in an all-encompassing embrace.

In the past when I dreaded a conversation I would often let fear stop me from following through. Nowadays I still feel fear, but I’m not intimidated by it anymore.

I’ve learned the gifts of discomfort.

I learned there really is nothing to be afraid of.

We are all taking care off, always.

It might not always be comfortable, but who says it needs to be.

A Spark of Joy

Due to personal circumstances I was feeling down and confused. My feelings were numbed by the acts of shopping and consuming chocolate. As neither seemed to help I found my way into the bookstore. Books are medicine, and I was in desperate need of a cure.

I left the bookstore with Marie Kondo’s bestseller ‘The life changing magic of tidying’.

I had read the reviews before, but the book had never really spoken to me. If anything I’d felt resistance by the emphasis on the mundane act of tidying, and skepticism at the prospect of talking to my socks in order to change my life.

As I laid down my 12 dollars I couldn’t believe I was spending it on something as trivial and boring as a house cleaning manual. My house wasn’t even particularly untidy to start with and I had gotten rid of most of my stuff already (partly thanks to Courtney Carver’s 33 project .

What lured me into buying the book  was Marie’s promise that:

”When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.

As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, what you should and shouldn’t do.”

I started to read and within a few days I found myself stuffing my clothes vertically and thanking my outfit for the hard days work. I got a bit discouraged by the organizing methods fopr they didn’t really appeal to me and I never came arount to ‘Konmarying’my apartment.

Still, with hindsight I can affirm that those 12 dollars spend on the book paid themselves in gold.

candle-light-1264534_1920

Marie Kondo states that when done properly we have to tidy our house only once. We do this by taking every item we possess into our hands while asking ourselves: “Does this spark joy?”. If it does, we keep it and give it a designated place. If it doesn’t, we throw it out.

Anything that doesn’t spark joy gets discarded. But before we discard it we thank the item for what it has done for us. This makes it easier to let go. For example if you have a dress that you bought years ago but never wear, you could thank it for giving you a thrill on the day that you bought it. Or for reminding you that dresses are just not your thing, or that this particular color doesn’t suit you.

We shouldn’t hold on to something just because we have invested in it in the past. We can show our appreciation for what it has done for us, before gracefully letting go.

Also, Kondo reminds us not to hold on to stuff out of fear for the future.

While tidying our focus should be on the things we want to keep. By discarding what doesn’t bring joy you create more space for the things that you love.

While I haven’t really applied this tidying philosophy to my house, I have applied this wisdom to my life, with amazing results.

At the time when I started this habit I didn’t know what I wanted with my life. I had just come out of a longterm relationship. Money was sparse. Business was uncertain. My social life was stale.

Different areas of my life needed attention, while I had temporary lost contact with my dreams and inspiration. Instead of working towards a goal I found myself floating on a life raft on an unpredictable and hostile sea.

I couldn’t get myself to start peddling again and I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go. However I could muster the energy to ask one thing:

“Does this thing/person/activity/place/idea spark joy?”

And whenever the answer was yes (even just a tiny wee bit of yes), I made it a priority to make room in my life for that activity, or that person or that particular pursuit.

It made all the difference. Slowly I recovered my happiness and rekindled the fire in my soul.

I still think it’s one of THE BEST questions to ask:

“Does it spark joy?”

Your body knows.

Carla Geenen MSc

Life & business coach

 

 

 

 

Messy

Today I wrote about perfectionism and how to move beyond it. My desk sits next to my kitchen. So whenever I looked to my right I saw this.

12804618_1683351291922825_4313151411971366415_nAnd you know what. Miracles of miracles. It didn’t get to me. I didn’t feel any less happy for it. And I sure as hell didn’t let it distract me.

I simply said to myself: “That kitchen sure has seen better times, but I will see to that later. Right now I want to work on my dreams. Thank you. I’m not gonna let a little mess stop me.”

The perfect place to write for me is a clean, fresh and orderly environment.
But live isn’t always clean, fresh and orderly. Often it’s chaotic, unsettling and uncomfortable. Things get in the way. We’re sidetracked by people, thoughts and aching bodies.

The way I see it we have a choice to either fight the discomfort, putting all our energy into trying to get rid of it. Or normalize the discomfort. Accept the discomfort as part of the human condition and move on.

The mess is part of lifes beauty. It’s an open invitation to enter the flow and surrender. It tells us there is space for the messy and the imperfect. We are cared for, whether we’re messy or not.

So today let the messy in me greet the messy in you.

Love on.

Carla

On Living Brave with Brené Brown

the_man_in_the_arena

Today I signed up for  Brené Browns online class on Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. It’s the last day you can sign up, so if you’re interested, you’d better hurry.

For those of you who don’t know Brené Brown, she’s an expert on shame and vulnerablity. She became famous after a TED talk that went viral. In this talk she shares her scientific discovery that wholehearted people, the ones who love the most, feel the most, are happy the most, all share one trait in common. They dare to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability, accoring to Brown,  is about showing up and being seen, when you cannot control the outcome.

Do you feel that? Do you feel how scary that is?

Still, accoring to Brené it’s the only way. And from what I can tell from my personal experience so far, I think she’s right.

But between knowing how important it is to be brave, and vulnerable, and actually being it, there is a gap. One you need to bridge.

I’ve read her work, but it’s not enough. I’m taking her class in hope that it will help bring her work alive for me. Knowledge can only change the worl if people act on it.

Also I have never taken an online course before. As I’d love to design online courses myself in the future, it will be an interesting learning experiment.

Personally, I have no patience with watching video’s, so I’m curious how I will do with that. But I just watched her first video and I didn’t yawn or fast forwarded once. It was really engaging, and powerful, to the point where I was getting goosebumps.

So far, I love her straightforwardness. Like when she assures you that “if you’re going to be brave with your life, you’re going to get your ass kicked”

<>-:

And:

“If you’re not also in the arena, getting your ass kicked in the arena, I’m  not going to be interested in your feedback.”

(-:

Anyway, I’ve embarked on the journey. And just wanted to notify all of you of this event, that I think could be very interesting for those who want to live with more power and authenticity.

I’ll keep you all posted about my experience.

ps. When you use the couponcode “fbtribe” you get a discount and only pay 120$.

Love on,

Carla

 

 

On money

2644OP782AU4191

On my wall is a painting by the Italian renaissance painter Caravaggio. It’s titled “The calling of St. Matthew”.  I first drew my attention in a little church in Rome.  It was a fairly little church on a not very significant square. I walked into the church out of curiosity, expecting the usual stained glass windows and fresco’s. How big was my surprise when along one of the ailes I saw this amazing Masterpiece by one of the greatest painters of all times. Seeing it isplayed in a church and not in a museum made my heart jump. But what really struck me was the depicted scene itself.

It made a huge impression on me at the time. I had just been through a religious phase. In which I had thought a lot about “why we are here” “what makes a good life” and “what is the worth and the peril of money”.

In the painting you see Matthew surrounded by other tax-collectors counting their money.  Two poor men show up, dressed in rags. It’s Jesus and Petrus. Jesus points towards Matthew and asks him to join his group.

Matthew is shocked. “Who? Me?!”

I don’t know if he’s thinking: “Me? The sinner? How could I be worthy to join your ranks?” or: “Me? Give up my wealth, power and possessions? Are you kidding?”.

Matthew probably experienced a mixture of both.

Still, he did gave up everything and followed Jesus. Which makes him one of the bravest man in my book.

What this picture tells me is that the accumulation of wealth and status is not what we’re here for. We’re here to follow a higher calling. The calling of our soul.

I don’t think this means we should forego money, or live in poverty. Having no money or resources might actually get in the way of reaching your goals.

I keep this painting on my wall because it reminds me we are worthy, even when we feel like we’re just shit. That God, or the Universe, has big plans for us. That all we need to do is be willing to let go and follow our heart. It’s only when we fully surrender that we can experience that we are taken care of. Always.

When the things we’ve accumulated don’t serve our true nature, or when they stand in the way of what we are here to do, let them go. When our aspirations are all about money, maybe it’s time for a review and repurposing of our life and values.

Money is only money. No matter how good it is to have money. Money is just a means to reach our goals. Don’t confuse it with the goal itself.

Build your live around your values and your higher purpose, and you can never really loose.

Build your live around money, and you’ll always be scared that there won’t be enough.

Love on,

Carla

I’d love to know:

What’s your take on money? Do you have any stories around money that inspire or lead your life?