Read an Excerpt
excellent as you are
A Woman's Book of Confidence, Comfort, and Strength
By Sue Patton Thoele
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2002 Sue Patton Thoele
All rights reserved.
On a trip up the coast of California and Oregon, I learned a valuable lesson about mutual support from the majestic redwood trees that thrive there. Redwoods are inclusive beings—as they grow, they incorporate objects around them, including rocks and other trees, into their basic structure. Although redwoods have shallow roots, they are noted for their strength and longevity because they share their roots with others. Each individual tree is invited into the whole and, in turn, helps support the entire group. This adaptation appears to have worked brilliantly, for redwoods are among the oldest living things on earth.
Feminine energy is naturally inclusive. In order to survive and thrive, we need to learn to consciously share our roots with others, to ask for encouragement and support when we need it, and stand ready to give the same to those who come to us.
By sharing our roots of compassion and support, we women, like the redwoods, create a safety net in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I have the courage to ask for support when I need it. I am willing to support others when they need my help.
Heeding Physical Clues
We can have confidence that our bodies have been given to us as miraculous vehicles for our consciousness, and it is our sacred duty to appreciate and care for them. No one but ourselves is privileged to the information our bodies give us. Only we can weave safety nets of personal health and well-being by heeding the clues of our wise and deserving bodies.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed and thank your body for its wisdom and the faithful way it serves you. Gently bless your body. With as much acceptance as you can, focus your attention on any pain or illness you are experiencing and ask your body what you need to do to help alleviate the discomfort. Open your heart and mind to recognizing and acting on the clues your body is giving you. I encourage my body by listening to its wisdom.
I encourage my body by listening to its wisdom. I honor and care for my wondrous body by recognizing the clues it gives me. I have the courage to explore the psychological causes of my illnesses.
Gathering Ourselves Together
Our lives are often like fall storms, flinging the leaves of our concentration and contentment to the four winds and causing us to wonder how we can keep on keeping on. When we feel fragmented, we are actually beside ourselves energetically and need to gather ourselves back together again.
Close your eyes and visualize your physical, emotional, and mental selves. After you see or sense these three aspects of yourself, envision your Higher Self—your spiritual part—above the other three. Softly say, "Together, together, together," three times—a total of nine togethers. As you repeat the words, picture the symbols for your physical, emotional, and mental aspects gathering together under, and finally into, your spiritual part. As you visualize, gently repeat the series of nine togethers until calm replaces chaos.
Even though this exercise may seem simplistic, it speaks powerfully to our subconscious minds and allows us to gather our energy together, thereby naturally balancing and harmonizing our feelings. Standing in our own skins, rather than being "beside ourselves," allows us to move constructively through our busy lives, feeling in sync.
I have the power to replace chaos with calm. I balance and harmonize the four aspects of my being.
Finding a Hand Up When We Bottom Out
There are times in each of our lives when it feels as though the pins have been kicked out from under us and we're absolutely sure we've bottomed out. Some of us feel guilty if we can't go it alone during such difficult times. But it's often healthier for us to ask for a hand up when we find ourselves in the pits. Trying to deal with things by ourselves can magnify our pain and lead to feelings of depression and isolation.
If you are grieving or in pain, ask yourself if you are gritting your teeth and trying to handle the situation all by yourself when you might feel better reaching out. Or have you clenched your fists in anger and defiance at your misfortune and, consequently, could not accept a helping hand even if it were offered? If finding a hand up when you bottom out creates a secure and comforting safety net for you, give yourself permission to ask for help when you need it.
I honor what I want and need when I'm in crisis. I am able to reach out to others for help. I allow others to give me a hand up.
Acting as the Arms of God
Acting as the arms of God by opening ourselves to service for others is a beautiful pattern we women weave into our safety nets. Lending a hand and an empathetic ear can be a tremendous heart-lift not only for the person in need but also to the person serving. By opening ourselves to the needs of others, we often find that we are "in the flow," where opportunities to be helpful present themselves in the most serendipitous ways.
When we commit ourselves to supporting and comforting ourselves by becoming our own good friends, a natural outcome will be the desire to recycle support by befriending others. The most important door we can open in our desire to be service-full is the one to our own hearts. Loving and accepting ourselves in a genuinely heartfelt way opens our hearts to others and invites God to use us as She sees fit.
I support myself and, in turn, am happy to support others. I open myself to being service-full. I welcome opportunities to act as the arms of God.
As women leap deeper and deeper into the often choppy waters of the business world, we face a new breed of fear. Will we succeed or fail? Can we swim with the sharks without becoming one? Do we have what it takes to capitalize on our knowledge, market our wares, and stay afloat in a sea of black, not red, ink?
Many of us are afraid to take the risks that seeing our dreams to fruition would require. One of the best ways to transform our fears is to discover how realistic they are. Some of our fears are based on fact and result from personal experiences; many others, however, are remnants of old inadequacies and beliefs from the past.
Give yourself the gift of facing your fears, gleaning self-awareness from them, and encouraging yourself to risk in spite of them. And remember to turn to friends for support and encouragement. Comforted by the response you receive as well as your own successes, you can more easily trust your abilities and maintain the courage to continue risking.
I face my fears and learn from them. I encourage myself to live my dreams. I accept risk as a part of doing business.
Building on Small Successes
Focusing on our successes, no matter how small, is an effective way to pare fear down to a manageable and realistic size. We all have special and significant successes upon which we can build. In order to have a happy and fulfilled life, we need to focus on the "build-ups" rather than the "tear-downs." Yet it's so easy to habitually tear ourselves down by concentrating on our limitations rather than building on our successes.
Building a bridge of small successes can land us on the shore of our aspirations. What small, nonthreatening step can you take right now to help you befriend fear and build your own unique bridge?
I allow myself to take small steps toward my goals. I accept and trust myself during successful and difficult times alike.
Overcoming Goal Blindness
It is very easy in our rush-rush world to be seduced into a state of goal blindness. We become virtually blind to everything but the specific goal in front of us. When we're afflicted by such blindness, a gorgeous sunset, a friend's birthday, or even our own children's childhood may come and go without our really paying attention. Reachable and realistic goals, interspersed with a few idealistic and hard-to-attain ones, are necessary and healthy; but being blinded by our goals—sacrificing spontaneity, fun, or family life for them—probably means we're being driven by some fear we need to uncover and heal.
Goal blindness leads to rushing, and rushing is dehumanizing and injurious to all living beings, including ourselves. Although it's hard to break the habit of rushing blindly toward our goals, we can do it. With awareness, willingness, and commitment, we can learn to sample in a more leisurely fashion all the delicacies life has to offer.
I give myself permission to bite off only as much as I can comfortably digest. I take one small step at a time toward rebalancing my life.
Standing by Our Core
The word "courage" comes from a combination of cor, which in Latin means "heart," and corage, which is French for "the capacity to stand by our core." Standing by our core by having the courage to honor ourselves and value our needs is often difficult if we've been taught to put others first and ourselves second, if at all. It takes a great deal of heart to counter old beliefs about the appropriateness of standing up for ourselves.
Often we feel unsure about living in integrity with our core because we fear moving into a "me, me, me" mode of selfish behavior. The opposite is actually true. The more we honor ourselves by standing by our core beliefs and feelings, the more loving toward others we become.
Having the heart to stand by our core requires that we pare away the layers of "he wants," "they expect," and "I should" in order to find the "I am," "I need," and "I can." By sensitively healing the fears causing us to betray our core, we can become accepting and supportive lovers to ourselves and others.
I have the right to honor who I am, what I need, and what I can do. I have the heart to love and support myself.
Leaving the Mists of "Someday I'll"
We are surrounded by innumerable opportunities. Possibilities for personal expansion, excitement, and happiness abound. Do we take advantage of them or do we crouch fearfully in the shadows thinking, "Someday I'll learn to speak up for myself, clear up this relationship, write my book ..."?
"Someday I'll" does not honor the present, create a positive future or support self-esteem. Hiding in the mists of "Someday I'll" may appear safe, but usually it leaves us filled with regret for things left undone and unsaid.
But what if we're frightened about doing or being something new and have relegated the desired change to "maybe tomorrow"? We need to transform our fear by having the courage to look at it and heal it. We can start by asking ourselves what is keeping us stuck. If you have a dream languishing in the mists of "Someday I'll," gently encourage yourself to examine any fears that may be keeping you from realizing your dream right now. In the warmth of loving self-support, our fears dissipate and we are empowered to confidently follow our heart's lead.
I make decisions easily. I allow myself to follow my heart's lead. I do it now.
Blessings of Our Natural Child
Most of us are aware of our wounded inner child. But there is also a natural, playful child inside us. She may be buried deeply under layers of distrust and injury, but she is there and we can recover her. As we become loving parents to ourselves, our natural child will begin to emerge and we'll discover a little person who is curious rather than fearful, spontaneous rather than rigid, helpful instead of resistant, creative instead of bored, and open rather than wary.
If the spontaneous, carefree part of ourselves has gone into hiding, it's probably because we have been overly harsh with ourselves and unintentionally created an emotional climate in which our natural child cannot thrive. The best way to encourage her to appear is to make it safe for her to do so. By treating ourselves gently, we issue an invitation to the little girl that says, "It's safe to be here, Honey! You're welcome to come out and play.
Do yourself the service of recovering your natural inner child. She will bless your life with joy, laughter, and spontaneity.
I am a gentle and loving parent to myself. I invite my natural inner child into my everyday life.
Reclaiming Childhood Dreams
Were you ever told to stop being silly when you fantasized and imagined as a child? Were your dreams endorsed and encouraged or were they scoffed at by the big people you looked up to? Many of the hopes, desires, and dreams we had as children were indicators of the special gifts we brought into this life. If we have lost track of our dreams, we can reconnect with them now by encouraging ourselves to look back and explore them.
We can reconnect with our dreams and lovingly support ourselves in pursuing them by asking questions such as: What make-believe did I revel in when I was little? Where did I go in my fantasy world? And then, most important, ask: How can I translate my childhood dreams into adult realities?
Our childhood dreams and fantasies are gold mines of possibility. Denying dreams dulls us, but accepting them can energize and motivate us to expand into areas that our hearts have yearned for. Take the opportunity now to reclaim your unique dreams.
I honor and listen to my dreams—current and past. I give myself permission to play. I have the right to dream and explore possibilities.
Embracing No-Fault Living
In order to enjoy comfortable and mutually supportive relationships, we need to embrace the art of no-fault living. This doesn't mean that we allow others to walk all over us, but it does mean that we learn to curb our criticism of others and insist they do the same toward us.
No-fault living means accepting and supporting ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. When there are uncomfortable issues to confront, we discuss them in a way that leads to understanding and solutions but doesn't cast blame.
Everyone is imperfect, and having that fact pointed out to us in a critical fashion (and is there really any other way to do it?) decreases our chances of expanding and enhancing our capabilities. In the face of censure, we become fearful of doing or saying anything and learn to walk on eggshells. Criticism dams the flow of good feelings, whereas encouragement and support strengthen our abilities to become the best we are capable of being.
I always seek the good that is in people and leave the bad to Him who made mankind and knows how to round off the corners.
Irrigating Arid Situations
Many of us who are concerned about the environment are landscaping our yards with plants and shrubs that are drought resistant and can thrive with very little care and maintenance, creating what is called a xeriscape. This is a responsible thing to do so far as our yards are concerned, but it's not so good for our personal lives. How many of us live arid emotional lives, barely able to maintain our root system, let alone bloom beautifully?
In order to emotionally support ourselves, we need to become gently honest with ourselves about whether or not our lives and relationships are supporting us—giving us enough love and attention to thrive—or whether we're dying of thirst. And we also need to examine whether we are providing enough of the emotional essentials for those we love.
Excerpted from excellent as you are by Sue Patton Thoele. Copyright © 2002 Sue Patton Thoele. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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