How to Accept Your True Voice and then Find the Grace to Let it Go

Episode 13 with Dr. Anne Foradori

We have a great episode today, filled with information about accepting your true voice and navigating the changes in life while finding a new expressions for your Voice of Influence. Don’t miss the great lesson at the end where Dr. Foradori helps us learn techniques for making our speaking voice resonate and carry through a crowd.

Anne Foradori has appeared in recital, concert, and opera in the Midwest. She has performed works by several American composers, and has presented at national MTNA and NATS conventions. She made her New York debut at Symphony Space in 2007. Dr. Foradori has published in the Journal of Singing and contributed to the American National Biography. Dr. Foradori teaches voice and coordinates opera and musical theatre at the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she is Professor of Voice.

Transcript

(approximate transcript)

 

Andrea: Well, I am here right now with my former voice professor, Dr. Anne Foradori. I’m so excited to be here. We’re actually sitting here in person. Thank you for meeting me.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Thanks for asking me. I looked forward to this since you brought it up a while ago so…

Andrea: Yeah this is so fun. So we were already kind of started to talk about voice a little bit but I think, we should start…we’ll go back when I was here. I came in as a junior.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: And what was really funny is that I started, and this is something that I will tell everybody and show off from the rooftops, but I started doing voice major at another school. That’s a very pretty famous music school in Nashville and I got here and just working with you blew all of that away, all of it. I learned so much like I walked in the door, and first of all, you were just nice and then I remember you asked me if I could belt.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes. Well, because of where you’d gone to school and what I could hear in your voice. So I wondered if that was anything you had a background in.

Andrea: Yeah and I was like “Oh sure I can.” I had no idea what it was. I just thought that singing loud. So you had me start to sing and I just started singing loud. You were like “Whow, wait a second, you’re gonna kill yourself.” I don’t know if you remember that but I do.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I do and later on that you another student were both accepted to the NATS winter workshop master class. And so we had to prepare for that. So we had a trip to New York that was very exciting.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. It was unbelievable. I mean, again, it was sort of like you came out of blue and you just sort of handed it to me, “We’re gonna go to New York.” You found a grant and you just took us to New York to be on Broadway and see Broadway. I started to sing and that was unbelievable. I think it was one of those things that helped you to see that even though you’re in a little small Nebraska school, because you’re in _____ right now. I don’t think I introduced that but University of Nebraska at Kearney, which is really close to where I grew up, and just the idea that we’re not limited by our geographical situation. Of course, you are to some degree but you really help me to see that you could really reach beyond that. It was so cool.

Dr. Anne Foraderi: And fun for me too, fun for me to be a voice teacher of students who may not have had opportunities yet to spread their wings and go to other places and to provide those experiences for them.

Andrea: Yeah. I think you do that all the time. It’s just what you do, right?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Well yes.

Andrea: Definitely it is. Yeah, so how long have you been teaching voice?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Okay well, the short story or the long story? I finished the master’s degree in 1979, and started to teach right away. I’ve gone to Cleveland Institute of Music, and I taught for their preparatory adult education students. So I had a great big voice studio, and I also taught for a community college in Cleveland and taught music appreciation class. And I taught for music for senior citizens classes then I taught voice class and class piano at a community college to teach a lot of preparations.

And was a music director for a couple of shows then I taught four years at an all girls’ high school. So I had a choir, large mixed choir and a show choir, those were sort of up and coming and I taught a drama class and was music director for whatever we did for musicals. So I did that for about 10 years and it was very satisfying and I love working with high school students.

But there was something in me that when the students were ready to graduate, high school students are ready to graduate and going to college, there was a part of me that “Oh I just wanna give them two more art songs. I just wanna have them lessons as college students. I just wanna get you to a competition.” So I made up my mind to go back to school and get a terminal degree. I had always thought at the back of my mind I might get a doctorate but I was teaching and I was enjoying it.

So it took some soul searching. I don’t make decisions quickly and at that point, I thought, well there are three areas that interested me. One would be to get a doctorate in voice, which I did and the other was to get a doctorate in  comparative arts for that then you end up going to teaching in combined college arts program. And the other one was to be an attorney.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, because I had the energy for it and I had interest in the law. And I thought “Well, if I work as an attorney and I want to do anything very much with it and that makes it difficult to balance that in the family,” and I could not get singing out of my system. There was more to be sung and more to be taught. So that it made that choice pretty easy in the long run. So then I went to school and got a doctorate and then taught for a year in Indiana State before I came here 23 years ago.

Andrea: Wow!

Dr. Anne Foradori: I know a long time.

Andrea: But that’s impressive that you stuck yourself a long here.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, a lot of people change career paths, but I always found something new and exciting, either developing a class or students I’m working with or my own singing and research that just keeps me motivated to work at this.

Andrea: I’m just wondering, why teaching and not performing, you know as far as a focus?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, you and I have spoken a little bit about personality types and I was telling you about different, not assessment, I’m not sure what to call them, tests. Everything from the Myers & Briggs to other personality tests and I always have…well, two things, first my mother who was both a teacher and then a theater administrator. The professional side that she works in, she was a managing director. She did all the business end of the theater for professional theater. But she taught before that, she taught high school and she taught college. So I had that role model.

And the second was, because I love them both, and they each that needed to be scratched as performer, I could do in a city large enough like Cleveland, I had a soloist position in a large prominent church in the city. I could do whatever gigs I want to during the year and balance that in my teaching. So it was sort of the best of both worlds to be able to do things and then it was also a way to get invested in both but not that to commit to one till I felt like I went back to get a doctorate.

By the time I went back to get a doctorate, I was already in my 30’s and that’s not late. But in terms of making opportunities as a performer that’s older than most of the summer assistant programs and things like that usually dry up by the time you reach your late 20’s. And by then I had firmly thought that really what I want to do was continue to develop my own voice and to work with others. I had made that firm decision and then got to work in graduate school as teaching associate, so it sort of cemented it and I’ve been in to look for that path.

Andrea: That makes sense.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It does and I think for people who want to teach in a college level, there are kind of two ways to get there. The first is to have been a famous singer off somewhere and made a career in that and then come to college teaching with the information you have from your experience. And then the other is to follow a path where you do some performing but do a lot of more studying of pedagogy in working with students and that’s the path I took.

Andrea: It fits you so well and one of the things that I always really appreciated was you’re so attentive to your students from you walk in the door and you sense that some things is off.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It’s an interesting balancing act, because we are not your counselors, we are not your parents; we’re your voice teachers. But that being said, we teach this discipline in a one-to-one manner. It’s not the same as going to a lecture class where other students in it where the teacher may notice you or may not notice you unless they call on you. There is no escape, it’s just the two of us for the half of hour or the hour whatever the time period is.

And so there’s that and that kind of symbiotic type of relationship we have. The other is that, I think I’m biased because I’m a singer, more than any other musician, we have a different personal investment in what we do and we just do. If you’re singing and you don’t like the sound of your voice and it’s not a technical aspect that can be fixed, we go through a lot of soul searching and learning to love our voice giving ourselves permission to love our instrument. That’s a hard thing to do. We joke about it, we say “hate my voice, hate me.” We cannot take it personally. Can I get spiritual here for a moment?

Andrea: Of course.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Just the gift God puts on each of us to be an individual as a singer, you might be able to tell a certain pianist by a style or certain wind player by their tone. But you can always identify a singer. So with that comes both this great celebration of the gift we have, the individual gift and also the horrifying responsibility of having to achieve at a certain level. And if you don’t, is it because I have not learned my techniques enough or is it because my voice is unworthy and not beautiful enough instrument?

And that’s the thing that young singers struggle with a lot and even older singers struggle with and getting through that discovering your voice literally and figuratively is a challenge. And that’s one of the things I hope I do with students by the time they enter the studio and then by the time they graduate that they’ve had enough Aha-moments and have come to the realization that they are worthy. And that their instruments are worthy of developing and that their voices are intrinsically tied to their being but it’s not the sum of all their being.

So I have a framed card, it was a greeting card with a code on it that’s on my desk and I love it because it was , but she said she really got it from her French writer. So good for her for giving up the credit there, but it says “The end is nothing, the road is all.” And that’s really profound and it’s true in terms of finding your individual voice, but it isn’t true entirely with musicians because what we do is very public.

So for students having to come to groups with knowing that the journey is always present and the journey isn’t less as important as what you discover. Because you discover things about yourself along the journey before you get to the end. But no one wants to hear a C- choir. We have this struggle all the time of wanting to invest in the journey and know that we’ve grow and our voice grows by following the path and the journey. But knowing that still we have to be a little product oriented and that can be tough.

There are a lot of students who studied in high school or were involved in their plays, musicals, and choirs in high school, when they get to college and maybe start as a music major but then, I don’t want to say it’s no longer fun, the party came easily to them and their voice grows and developed and they find that it’s not fun as they thought it would be. And so it’s time for them to leave that in a good place in their hearts and spirit and to be participating musical where they want but maybe not pursue it as a career.

Andrea: Oh, of course while you’re talking, I’m remembering both my experience as a student but then also my experience in the last few years of this figurative voice that you’re talking about. This Voice of Influence that I’m trying to grapple with and I love the comparison of the two because it’s just seems so incredibly powerful and true that everything you just said also applies finding your voice that’s going to make a difference. And I have this saying that your voice matters but you can make it matter more and it’s that idea of developing your voice that yes, there is a product.

And so when you do put out something whether it’d be singing in front of people or a black poster whatever, it needs to be edited. It needs to have gone through a process of refinement in a sense to really make the biggest different that it can make and really connect to the audience or whatever. So all that you’ve just said I feel like it totally applies to this other voice as well. Do you feel that way?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, and that’s why I said, the voice is not the sum of your being. Sometimes when the students will do a recital, I will tell them specifically to do not listen to your tape for at least two weeks. Don’t listen your recording. You need to live in a moment of euphoria that comes with performing and with feeling like you put your whole heart into your activity and that you communicated with your audience.

And you don’t ever really hear that entirely on a sound recording because you don’t see their facial expressions and their acting and how visual they are with it that they don’t experience what they’re experiencing in life with the audiences reactions and things. And so just know that this is a little museum piece of what you did and this is a snap shot of a moment. You will sing these songs different ways on different occasion.

If I can count on one hand the times in lifetime when I think I had a perfect performance, then it’s just not entirely there. I remember saying to a colleague once when I was performing some new music and I wasn’t sure that everything I sung was a correct pitch. Some of it maybe a little “ish” and this colleague said, “Well, you know when someone is hitting a 3.33 batting average and they’re on a baseball team, that means that every three times they come up to bat, they get a hit.”

And we think that at 3.33 batting average is pretty damn good. So why do as musicians, because we’re in the midst of creating live art that’s very fluid and changing. If I sang only a third of the right note, I would think I was a failure. Yet in other aspects of life, someone would get a third or something accomplished and depending on how you view project as a whole, then you would think it was a great success otherwise.

And that was a really good way for me to look at approaching performing, and in this case, performing a new music where you part of bringing a piece to life is working with the composer. And sometimes, you’re a little wrong and you have a note that flipped up, you have to be kind yourself about that. Know that you’re creating fluid art. This is not a sound recording or commercial sound recording…

Andrea: Where you go back and make all these little changes, yeah.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So yeah, I think that discovering your voice whether it’s your voice in a classroom as a teacher or in a studio as a teacher or as you said writing a blog post or doing a podcast, finding your voice is a life-long process. I mean, it isn’t anything we ever entirely get to…we get to stages I think where we’re happy with our voice.

In 2007, I had West Nile encephalitis, probably bitten by a mosquito of gardening in the evening and I ended up in the hospital for several days and then home for three weeks. And it was difficult for me to think clearly because of the encephalitis and I eventually came through it well. But it started sort of an emotion of other things happening that my immune system and defense system were not strong.

And so I had that in 2007. I had aortic stenosis and a heart valve replaced in 2011, and then in 2015, I had two kinds of cancer. And with each one of these episodes, each one of these challenges, I begin to look at my own message, my own voice what was my next step, what was next role. And I have, one doesn’t say bounce back, but I have recovered from each of these, thank God and I feel like I have more to give to things.

But the last voice from the cancer combined with turning 60 and then having a very aggressive chemotherapy treatment really did the end of my singing voice. And you can hear my speaking voice is rough now. So again, that was me looking at what is my voice as a teacher and if my singing voice is not going to be my singing voice, what will be my voice? What is going to be my outlet for creativity and what will be the next step I take? And it’s unlike when I got to the sort of the end of the road teaching high school and teaching for 10 years between degrees. And I was thinking, what was my voice be next, will it be in the classroom, will it be in a courtroom which would mean going going to law school. Where is my voice most connected to the core of me?

And so for me when I was going to chemotherapy, I talked to a lot of great school friends on Facebook who have lots of advice for me. And someone said “Oh, write a blog, do a blog.” And then someone suggested, “Oh do a blog about getting through cancer.” I was like “Oh my gosh, how horrible would that be.” Because I don’t want any illnesses I’ve had to define me. I feel like that’s part of as my sister said, “Any scars you have in surgery is like the path or the map of your life, different travels you take.” And people do that now saying “Oh see these stretch marks on my elbows when I blah, blah, blah.” “See these stitches on my skin I got as a kid.” And mine are much bigger stitches but they’re just a part of the story of my life, not my whole life. So that’s how I got involved in the other blog I’m doing now.

Andrea: So tell me about the other blog. It’s a food blog, but I would love to hear more about why that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, since I was going to not try to sing on a professional level anymore, I thought “Well, what was I thinking of when I went to college? What would I have majored in if I didn’t major in music?” You know, go back to the things that you like the most. And before we use the word foodie thing right, other people got subscriptions to National Geographic. We got subscription to housing garden magazine and gourmet magazine. So that was the reading magazine around my house when I was growing up. And my parents’ idea of a good time was to go to New York for weekend, go out to eat and buy some French cookware.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I guess I had no choice I was sort of indoctrinated at an early age. And I remember even as preteener or teen when the gourmet magazine came, there were two things that always struck me. One was a gourmet travel section where some would just go and snap pictures of wonderful food all over the world and I would think, “What kind of job is this, this is great?”

And the other one was something they put out every month that was called gourmet meal of the month and it was a whole menu that was some kind of a protein that would be a roast, turkey or goose or whatever and then several side dishes or maybe a salad of some kind and then dessert. They’d have it all in a sort of a big banquet table and then they even suggest wines for it.

And every month, my parents made at least a portion of the gourmet meal of the month. They never bought the fancy wines but they would do things like make the roast or whatever and several side dishes and maybe the dessert every month. I just thought, it was the most wonderful way to grow up. My parents, one of their combined voices they had as a couple was in the kitchen. My dad is like the chef. My mom is the baker and I have more pictures of us with my parents in the kitchen cooking or serving big family meals.

And this was just a part of our lives that, part of my getting my new voice because I was going to use the singing voice so much was my culinary voice and my storytelling voice. So I worry the first I thought for every recipe I put, and I have an eight paragraph story that goes with it. And I wondered if people would respond to that, and so far, they have been. I have a small following but I can only do it as much as time allows because I still teach fulltime.

Andrea: Right. How does your story connect with your food?

Dr. Anne Foradori: It might something as simple as…or there was one week, I went in the recipe files from my mom’s. We moved out here. My dad moved out here and lived with me. And they’re all handwritten cards or my grandmother’s cased typed cards. She typed them and she had always would have the date and who gave her the recipe on it. And then she’d have her own little stories to tell about “you can use this or this, but I like to use this first or something.”

And there are some recipes in there. I made a pineapple upside down cake, a recipe that belonged to my great aunt, who I’m quite sure was my mother sister-in-law, my grandfather sister. And she was Aunt Ally who was smart and a smart, snappy dresser and really beautiful and would show up for these family events with this pineapple upside down cake. I’d remember this as a child, and I think she finely relented and gave the recipe to my grandmother who felt it was triumphant to get all if she gives her this recipe.

So these family stories about food, and I have another recipe card that’s in my grandmother’s handwriting marked 1919 that was from her mother-in-law about sort of a homemade Fig Newton cookie, sugar cookie with a ground fig filling. And the back of it, my grandmother had thought and wrote something like “Oh mother I love these cookies, her eyes lit up every time she made them and she thought she was a making a delicious cookie and it was still frugal.”

And just this whole little narrative that went around this and you know, that is not anything new. There are new family stories told around the dinner table and family occasions. And so a part of what I’m doing is finding recipes. Some of which are re-imagined that have been family recipes and stories to go with them. This week is going to be about Mother’s Day and I have a picture in the blog that will be my grandmother holding me as an infant and my sister who is about 16 months looking at my mom sort of smiling next to her, introducing my sister to me.

So three generations there and just the joy in my mom’s face and her voice what she did as a mother and what she discovered in a creative hand she had in our upbringing and what she introduced us to. That’s all part of the side stories about my grandparents and my dad. And it has been good because whenever I do the blog, it’s sort of a family affair because I cook what I want and then my son who is artistic takes beautiful pictures. And I’ve had a couple of other former students who are now photographers take pictures.

And I told students “No, I wasn’t making money on this but you can take home dinner to your family.” And I said come on over, have a meal and when I was writing this up originally, the narrative word or something has become sort of a catch phrase I use in it. There was just sort of our life that I use in this now was there’s always room for one word at the table. And that’s sort of a philosophy of life that I live and a philosophy that my parents always lived.

So for me, room for one more at the table means you have someone wants a voice lesson and I’m not horribly overloaded, there’s room to squeeze another one in during the week. Or someone needs some extra advising and something like that, there’s always another hour to make that happen. Part of my voice is wanting to have a generosity of spirit. I felt that sort of drives to me. So anyway, that’s a little bit about with the blog is about.

Andrea: Have you always felt this connected to your family?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes

Andrea: Or it’s just a new thing?

Dr. Anne Foradori: I would hear my grandmother tells us a story of their youth and then I would say something to this aunt who’s 10 years younger. I said, grandma told this story of such and such. And she said, “I didn’t remember that.” Or she’d say “I didn’t remember those details.” Well, of course, they may have lived over the same thing but with 10 years of difference in their childhood. So I always thought that that was interesting in terms of hearing my grandmother relayed that she had a great sense of drama in telling our family story and how other siblings who were younger may have lived through it. But the experience was not the same because of the distance and that. So yes, my grandmother was a great story teller. I’ve always had this connectedness.

Andrea: I’m curious what it was like for you when like emotionally when you realized that you didn’t have as much of a singing voice anymore? Was that difficult?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes and no. You are prepared for different stages of life, different ways. When I was 49, once I got 49 and a half, I just started to refer to myself as almost 50. So I said, “Well, I’m almost 50, I’m almost 50.” When I turned, I thought “Well, I’m only 50.” So I think in my mind I have prepared myself and knowing having said in that voice in pedagogy to understand that woman’s voice have changed and cartilage that was once flexible becomes more calcified and with that all the things that come with it and that some people are singing to their 60s and some do not. It’s like preparing yourself for anything when you get to middle age and then wake up one morning and say “Oh I couldn’t have any more babies, could I?”

So there was not sadness, there was just an adjustment to other things and my students have said “Well, come and sing, sing first.” And the truth is if I got one drop enough, I could do more singing and I can always demonstrate lessons. But again, that comes to how I judge myself and what I want to experience to be and if the experience is going to be such that it’s difficult for me or painful for me because I can’t sing as I do when I was 40, 20 years old, then instead of being sad about it, I turn the corner and say “But there’s other things I can do. There’s so more I ca n do and my interests are broad.”

So I’m working on a paper now to send up to publication and five musicals that changed the face of musical theater in America. So I’m interested in that and food blog and working on projects with students. So I don’t miss it because the minute that one thing was taken off the table, many things came in in it’s place. I think there’s a passing of that and I think because I always combine singing with teaching, it’s not like one day, I woke up from the Metropolitan Opera and couldn’t sing, you know.

I always knew it had to be part of a balance for being a teacher and a musician. So sad for about five minutes and then I thought and through chemo and I’m alive. And so the bigger picture for all of that was…I had my surgery done in Omaha and then I had chemo back here but I know when I was in the hospital in Omaha and due to complications I had to stay about 10 days. And I remember the physician, my colleague just come in and said she could not believe what a positive spirit I had. I was just so positive and I just said to her “You know, I’m just glad this was caught and I’m alive and I’m just glad to be here, just grateful to be alive and so what was there to complain about. I have so much more than so many other people.

I tried to keep that as my focus and my approach of things. I remember when my son was little, we had many talks about the difference between need and want. He would just “I need, I need, I need.” And I said, “No, you want, you want, you want,” and that’s different than needing. So do I need to sing? No, I don’t need to sing because there are other things. I need to live. I need to have a voice. I need to feel like that voice matters. But it can be done through many different ways. One of my friends once said that the people who are most successful in life have a good Plan B. So I’m okay with going with Plan B sometimes.

Andrea: You mentioned the desire to be generous before and the fact that you feel that gratitude and also you have this attitude of abundance that you can be generous then. And I think that that is a really powerful thing too to have those core beliefs that there is enough, there is always room for one more, there is always…and I’m grateful for what I have. That puts you in a position of power to be able to offer generously.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Here’s a saying in among the philosophers that a reflected life it is worth living. So I try to be thoughtful in how I make decisions especially if it all includes other people. I try to be thoughtful and I try to examine my life a little bit everyday and that’s different from beating yourself up for the things that you aren’t accomplishing immediately. You have to be patient with yourself. But in the long run of life, I see…some of like I mentioned my mom about being a good role model. And one of a very few people I think I know in life who I think died with maybe no or very little regret because she lived a very honest, very true life. And she when was at her most ill and I went home to visit and I knew I would not see her again and I was teary, and she used like great line from A League of Their Own,”There’s no crying in baseball.” We had that as running joke and we cry “There’s no crying in baseball.”

And I think that was her way of saying, I have lived a good life. Don’t be sorry for me. So that would be the greatest thing if anybody said at the end of the day, the end of whatever my end of the day is I lived a good life. I was a good person, I lived a good life. I think that’s a huge accomplishment. It sounds very basic and it sounds like a “Are you underselling yourself? You don’t want to cure cancer? You don’t want this, you don’t want that?”

But I think that some people are made for overt big changes. Some people are meant to discover things scientifically or go to the moon. And then some people work consistently and quietly for change and good things through their own way. And I think I’m in that category B. I always want to be in the classroom or in a studio with the students. I didn’t want to be an administrator running a program.

I think half of discovering your voice is recognizing what your gifts are. Not feeling dwarf by saying “Well, I’m not really good in this,” but understanding what your gifts are and how to use those gifts to speak to others. What are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? And from that, how do you develop those gifts to be a voice that you can use to bring your point of view for an advocate for others or whatever you want to do with that.

And I think that’s interesting, understanding and recognizing that your voice comes from your gifts. So the first part of that is understanding, recognizing, and appreciating yourself and your own gifts. And if you appreciate your gifts then you think you are worthy to bring them to the table and then you develop your voice and serve others too. But it comes with the recognition of “These are the things I do that are good and worthy and are good to share with others.”

Andrea: I think maybe everybody does this to some degree but where we view other people’s gifts and we admire them and then we kind of make this assumption that our gifts aren’t as powerful, strong, meaningful, or effect2ive or whatever it might be that we’re trying to aspire to be. How do you think that people can recognize their gifts as being good?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Sometimes, it’s good to what I say as a personal inventory. What are the things I like and what are the things I don’t like. So I might make a list of “Here are the things that I wish were different in my life.” I only can put down things over which I have control. I can’t say world peace, because that isn’t my personal responsibility. I’m only responsible for myself contributing towards that. So I might make an inventory or I might do that with singers, I might say “We’re gonna talk about your voice today.” Especially if they’re having a hard time with something technical and they’re frustrated, I’ll say “Here are the things, I can write down five things about your voice that I really like.”

And I then I don’t let them necessarily write down things they don’t like in their voices. And you write down five things about your voice that you like and then we’ll compare the notes. So they have to start by looking at themselves in a positive light instead of do’s and dont’s, what do I like and what do I don’t like. So I’m just going to say, this is what I like about your singing voice and this is what I like and I want you to write down five things about your voice.

Andrea: How does that affect them?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, I think they’re surprised because it’s usually hard for them to come up with five things because they want to be critical of themselves and I just make them do it.

Andrea: Why is that, why do we do that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: We blame it all on original sin. I think it’s in our human nature if you were raised in an atmosphere family whatever where you taught humility. It becomes a habit. But I mean, it becomes sort of something that informs how we view ourselves and we view the world. But there are also as false humility and that’s something we have to be careful of. If you have a gift like a gift of a voice and if you choose to develop it and develop it to the best of your ability then bravo for you. And if you don’t then that is your loss, but everybody has some gifts. Everybody has something to give and it’s precious because it was given to you.

We don’t self manufacture gifts. Those are given to us. We develop them. We bring them to the light. We can do that but we’re hard on ourselves. I think understanding where gifts come from really important. We don’t receive gifts unless there is some good intention behind it. After my junior recital that’s way back, I wasn’t entirely pleased with how I sing. I was very hard with myself. And sometimes after recital when visiting with friends and family and a couple of people came up to me and said nice things to me and then I tried to talk it the way like “Yes, but then there was then one note and dah dah dah.”

And my voice teacher, a wise woman, came stood up next to me and I felt a little pinch on my arm and she said “Just take a compliment.” I remember thinking “Yeah, why can I just say thank you and be done with it.” That’s hard to do, but I think it’s important to do and important to recognize that you have the gift. And I think you mentioned earlier people comparing themselves with one another, “Is my gift big enough? Is my gift good enough? Is it good enough to develop?”

I have heard more voices what I would consider a very good instrument, not the top natural instrument to come to school but a very fine instrument who work like dogs. And in the end, you know, it really is a little story, The Tortoise and the Hare of who gets ahead. The person who was taken what they have as a gift and work and work and work to develop it. So that’s a puzzling question on why we’re so hard on ourselves and why we don’t just accept gifts.

Andrea: Okay, so I have some like technical questions.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Okay.

Andrea: Now, I think that most of the people they’re listening, Influencers who are listening is not necessarily thinking about their singing voice. But I think if they just got a ton of other information which is fabulous, but I do think that we each have a speaking voice. I think that so much of what you taught me about singing applies to speaking whether it would be one-on-one or in front of a crowd.

And so I’ve noticed this in some speakers who might have a powerful voice in a sense. They have very strong opinions but in particular women tend to hold back on the way that they express those opinions. And I’m not even talking about theoretically now or figuratively. I’m actually talking about actual vocalizing of the way that they’re talking, where almost that connection of breath and phrasing those sorts of things, and breath support, they aren’t there. And I’m thinking I want to get them singing so I can show them what’s this means. So I think that you do a better job than I do right now explaining what connection of breath is and why that matters.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, if I spoke this whole time where I should be speaking, my voice would probably not have been tired. So if I were going to work with a professional voice user and developing there tone and timbre and strength with their speaking voice, there are few things I would address. The first is define what we call an optimal speaking pitch. We are not valley girls anymore but we’re in a society fry in the end of it. I hear from mostly young actresses and people who are interviewed, they talk and all of a sudden their voice fries at the end.

Andrea: Yes that vocal fry.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And that’s not very good for your voice, so to find the optimal speaking pitch, should I do this in piano?

Andrea: Sure that would be great.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So to find your optimal speaking pitch, so I’m going to say for a mezzo-soprano your two octave range, I’m just going to say is a e. So we’ll just pick that up [played piano]. So the top note of the bottom third…is about where your optimal speaking pitches. So what I would do first in working with someone is I would just say, I want you to talk and I’m not asking you to sing but I want you to keep this pitch in your ear, this is your optimal speaking pitch.

So my name is Anne Foradori and I’m doing this interview today with Andrea Wenburg and we are talking about developing voice or finding your voice. So if I had spoken like that through the whole time this interview, my voice would not be roughed, but it might sound affected. But when you’re speaking it in front of a crowd, you do not mind a little bit of a lift because we don’t want to fry at the end. So I would say the first thing would be defined about where your optimal speaking pitch is. So for here, I would say would be about for you is e. So you want to give it a go?

Andrea: I really do enjoy speaking and read about that tone.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yeah, okay. It seems high.

Andrea: Yes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I usually say to people if it seems a little high, give yourself a break and go back down half a step and work on it like that. So finding an optimal speaking pitch is the first thing. The second is to do some exercises with that where you are whether I have that pitch still in my head, I would be saying “Unfrozen, stop holding back and release the real you.” Then I would start to try to connect voice to it. And for people who are Harry Potter fans, I say it’s the professor Trelawney School of Divination.  So I have students play that for fun on their optimal speaking pitch or trying to speak an elongated fashion.

The other thing to find if you see my voice cleared up breath, part of the other thing you find if you use an optimal speaking pitch is that you cannot sustain that higher pitch of speaking without graph. So speaking quietly, you don’t need breath support like that but if I want my voice to carry, I have to have breath connected to it or you run out of it.

So I would probably work on some exercises and made them do that too then I would also work on the two what I just call ‘quick’ or exercises that are great that are noninvasive singing exercises. But first is a lip throw like a motor boat and they put voice on that. A lip throw is one the fastest way you can warm up a voice if you can’t be somewhere where you can sing loudly and that you can take that high. Shall we do it together?

Andrea: Sure.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Let’s go ahead. Okay, so when you take that high, you don’t feel pressure on your throat but you can feel pressure up on your resonate area in your face. And you see how much breath pressure you need to get up that high to sing so that’s a good reminder of how much breath pressure you need when you’re going to speak. But I would say for anybody who wants to develop their speaking voice to find their optimal pitch and then they warm up their voice like they would as a singer.

There’s a phrase in Italian: sing as you speak, or I’d say, you speak as you sing. And so the same rules apply to singing as applied to speaking. And there have been an occasion to hear a professional singer speak whether on the stage or somewhere else, the voice is elevated like this, you know, you hear resonate sound. Those are the first things I’d start with that would help somebody or professional speaker to develop their speaking voice or their singing voice.

Andrea: Uh-hmm and that vocal fry thing, I remember you’re giving me an article actually and you’re explaining too that that’s just a vocal chord beating each other up really and that’s what I’m doing right now kind of. But I speak up higher then my vocal chords are not hurting each other so I can do it longer.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: I’ve got more longevity with this particular voice at this particular time and in general. I’m not going to end up with vocal nodules so not be able to really talk. The other thing I remember you’re saying too which I think is very interesting and powerful is that well placed vocal abuse is okay sometimes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, so…alright, for instance say your singing a musical theater piece where you want to growl and a sound like that, so someone wants told me in terms of…I don’t know if I heard this on a funny episode or something like phrase or what, but someone was talking about how dry they wanted their martini and the response was, I want a fork full of liquid. Well, the joke of course is a fork full of any liquid is just a teeny bit of liquid as you can imagine. So you want a fork full of a liquid for anything that you do that would enhance the sound or for something in the sound like a vocal fry or a glottal stroke or any of those kinds of things…

Andrea: Explain the glottal stroke real quick?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, instead of starting with the air puffing the glottis apart, the vocal chords apart, and the truth if you’re singing in German and start with a vowel sometimes that vowel starts with a hard sound or glottal stroke. So a little bit of bad is okay, won’t kill you or people. Ethel Merman of whatever she was singing in a hard belt with a lot of some vocal abuse in there too.

But a phrase I use a whole lot with students who are using especially learning belt is I’d say “Don’t make your sound breath starved. Don’t cut it out, you know, you don’t want your voice to sound like you pulling the neck on a balloon. Let me hear out that the breath is what feeds us all the time.” So having the breath in the sound is important terms of the development of speaking voice too.

Andrea: I think that that’s really important. Breath is huge and we often don’t take a big enough one.

Dr. Anne Foradori: We often and we often sort of speak to the end and impress the sound. All of that is hard and the voice in terms of the fatigue factor.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for this time.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well thank you. This has been sort of gone all over the place but that’s okay.

Andrea: That’s the great thing about having your own podcast. You can do whatever you want to.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I guess.

Andrea: Well, yes, thank you so much and I appreciate your voice in my life on so many different levels and the experiences you have given me. Thank you for what you’re doing to students as well. I appreciate it.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And I especially like before we started that you’re articulating through this in a voice that each voice is worthy to be heard. Everybody’s voice has something to add to conversation with your voice no matter; even it feels like it’s a small contribution. All contributions are welcome and that the table is big enough for people to be there and every voice deserves to be heard.

Sometimes even the voice that may seem like it’s a voice in the wilderness or they may seem like the message is a small, it’s important to that person and so it’s important that it’s heard. We all become more generous and are giving if we feel like what we offer is acknowledged and appreciated even on the most basic level, even if what we do seems like the most basic act of kindness. Sometimes even just someone saying, thank you is all we need to feel inspired to be more generous and to be a better giver.

Andrea: Uh so true. Thank you!

Dr. Anne Foradori: You’re welcome!

 

END

A Family Miracle: Polygamist Cult Survivors Part 2

Episode 08 with Anna LeBaron of THE POLYGAMIST'S DAUGHTER and Ruth Wariner of THE SOUND OF GRAVEL

In Part 1 of this interview with cousins, authors and polygamist cult escapees Anna LeBaron and Ruth Wariner we learned the back story of what makes their relationships so extraordinary. In this episode we hear how the cousins relate to one another’s painful experiences, healing journeys and the messages they feel called to speak to the world.

Share this one with a young woman you love (teen+). There is so much we can relate to here and their examples are powerful for helping others realize that their voice matters.

Mentioned on this episode:

Ruth Wariner’s Website

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

Anna LeBaron’s Website

The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Anna LeBaron

Shannon Thomas – Healing from Hidden Abuses

Brene Brown – Website

The Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group (Join here)

Listen here, or on iTunes or Stitcher

Thank you for subscribing, rating and reviewing the podcast on other platforms! It really does make a difference!

 

Transcript

Hey, it’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. Today, we have Part 2 of extra special interview with Anna LeBaron and Ruth Wariner. Now, these ladies are both authors, they’re cousins, and they’re polygamous cult escapist. And if you have not heard Part 1 of this interview, you need to go back. Stop this right now, and go back and listen to Part 1.

So many amazing things that they share about the way that they met, their interaction, and how that’s been healing for them. It’s fabulous. Now, in today’s interview and today’s episode, we’re going to dig a little bit more into what it was like for them to not have and then find their Voice of Influence.

Andrea: Welcome back to the podcast Anna and Ruth!

Anna and Ruth: Hi!

Andrea: Okay, so we’re we left off in the last episode was that you were discussing the fact that sharing your stories, even quoting your stories out there for each of you was healing for you. But it kind of brought up some other things with other family members know that it’s difficult for them. So have either one of you had any resistance to sharing your stories with the world?

Anna: Oh my gosh, I know that for me having witnessed other people in our family, having written their stories and then listened as people reacted to and responded to the things that we shared, the difficult situation to be in telling such an intimate details about your family. And then finding out those things have impacted other people sometimes in negative ways.

And that has been a reality for me hearing from family and then hearing from others who hear from family where you know that what you’ve done by sharing your story has impacted others negatively and that’s a hard thing.

Ruth: Uh-hmmm. It is.

Anna: It’s a hard thing to process and navigate and work through; however, I knew that it will impact people just because I’ve seen it happen so many times before because there have been so many books written about our family, even made for TV movie that was just horrible and horrifying to watch myself.

Ruth: It was for me too, yeah.

Anna: Just watching what happened, and the fact that these things transpired in our lives and then having to _____ them through other people’s lives.

Ruth: Through another perspective, absolutely.

Anna: And the key was that, it’s somebody else’s perspective.

Ruth: Yeah.

Anna: So when I watched that made for TV movie in 1993 on television, it was impactful and that it was told through somebody’s eyes that I wasn’t very familiar with. And so the scenes and the things that played out, I was a little bit surprised like “Oh my gosh, these things are odd or unreal.” But it was actually very real but it wasn’t my perspective. The story wasn’t told [crosstalk].

Ruth: It wasn’t your experience.

Anna: And so when I started writing, I had gone to the place where I knew that everyone has a story and every story matters. And even me writing my story was going to impact people that my story mattered. And so, me being able to tell my story even knowing that people were going to be having to make shift their inside….

Ruth: In their own understanding.

Anna: Their own understanding of what happened. Those shifts were going to happen and it was going to be difficult for some people, I just felt like I needed to…I’ve known, I needed to tell my story for decades.

Ruth: Me too.

Anna: And had to go through a long healing process personally before I could get to the point where I could tell my story and share that was really intimate, really impactful things that happened to me with the world.

Ruth: And that was something, as I was writing, it was a conflict that I had honestly I was writing because it was so important for me to be honest and for me to share my truth and my experience because I hadn’t felt this as a child. And really when I started writing my book, it was more for family. I wanted my younger siblings to remember our mother and to know who she was because they didn’t have a memory of her.

But I wanted them to know who she was through the experience that I have with her from my perspective and that part of it was really important to me. And so my memoir ended up becoming more of a we-moir I guess. It was about our family experience but I was very concerned about how that was going to affect my family. And that definitely influenced the way that I wrote about the religion in the book because I have so many family members that are wonderful and I adore that are still practicing polygamous and practicing Fundamentalist and still believe that my dad is the prophet.

I knew that I was writing and I took that into consideration. But at the time I was ready to share my manuscript with the publisher, I had my siblings that I’m closest to, which are all of my mother’s children, I had them read it and I want a feedback from them. And I wanted them to be okay with the way that I told the story. But it was impossible obviously to break outside and to get feedback from people outside of my nuclear family.

So my brother Matt, he was still in the religion. He still lives in Colonia LeBaron, he read it and he loved it. So for me, that was important and he also helped me. You know, I had been 20 years removed from my childhood in LeBaron when I first started writing and I was reflecting and remember. I used a lot of photographs. I’d been back to the Colonia LeBaron a few times and it helped with my writing and my memories.

But he definitely helped fill in a lot of little memories and little stories that we both remembered. We spent a lot times of impactful conversation about what happened. And I remember asking him, I’m like “Did this happen? Is this true?” You know, because it was so bizarre to me after having left the town for 20 years basically. It was important for me that it was okay with him because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship in real life.

It was exciting that he was able to not only understand my perspective. And he said that, he said “I know that this is your perspective.” He was very understanding of that and not only understanding but he was excited for me and he wanted to know as the book was being released. He wanted to know how it was doing.

So that part, I felt really good about that my mom’s family, the family that I’m closest to was okay with the story. And not only okay with it but they loved it and they all said that it was healing for them to read from my perspective and understand where I was coming from and really understand why we ran away. That was a very big part of me for my little sisters to understand that.

Andrea: Because you played a big part in getting your sisters out as well.

Ruth: Yeah, my mother passed away in a tragic accident and we lost a little brother and they were 5 months, 2 and 4 years old. And my brother Aaron was only 10, and I a special needs brother who was Luke was 17 and I was 15. And we grew up with a stepfather, another polygamous man who also believed in my father and his priesthood. He then incredibly _____ us as we were growing up and I found out not long after my mom died that he was continuing to abuse my special needs brother.

And it was at that point that I called my brother Matt working in the States – he was only 18, already out on his own. He left home at 14 and has been working hard labor in construction for those four years. I called him. I explained situation the situation. And you know, after my mom died, there was this part of me that was so profoundly just this really strong primal mother bear instinct that I had for my sisters because my stepfather even right after my mom’s funeral wanting to take my little 4-year-old sister and be alone with her.

And I was like “There’s no way you’re taking that little girl anywhere without me.” And you know, he had apologized for his abuse of all different kinds. He apologized and everybody was like “He’s repented, you need to forgive him.” And that’s how the community responded to him. When I found out about my brother, I was like “There’s no way, we’re staying. There’s no way that he’s gonna start taking my little sisters and being alone with them.”

And so I called my brother Matt. My stepfather had left. He had work in the States so we didn’t know when he was coming back. And I called my brother, I told him exactly what was going on and I said “You are not gonna leave us here anymore.” I was just like “There was no way.” My mom wasn’t there anymore. She wasn’t keeping us and that had always been. She had been the rock. She was the person that did everything for us.

And he came down literally the next night and in an old ____ station wagon. We throw all the kids stuff in the car. We turned off the lights and we literally just lurched out of town so nobody would notice in the middle of the night. It was terrifying because we didn’t know when he was coming back. We didn’t know his family was going to see us leaving. And by the time we got to the border, the sun was rising and going into the border at Arizona.

It was probably a few of the longest seconds of my life as we were waiting. I don’t know for people that have been in border town situations, the lines are long. And it was always frightening to me to cross the border either to Mexico and or to the United States, but it was something that we were definitely well practiced with. But we had never crossed the border without my mom.

And my brother was in the car. I was in the car with my sisters and I was teaching them how to say, you know, to say Americans, so that when they ask us our nationality, we’d all be ready to say American. The border patrol woman, I remember she shined a flashlight inside the car. She looked at each of us and said “Why were you in Mexico?” And so my brother said same thing that my mom had always used to say and it was “We were buying clothes for the kids over the weekend.”

She looked around. She didn’t have any reason to believe that we were newly orphaned or that our mother had just passed away. We were taking the kids away from their father and she let us through. And that was literally the moment in my life definitely when my time and my childhood in LeBaron….it was like that night that cut my life into parts. Yeah, coming out of that was we were safely lived at my grandmother. So that part of it was good but also left behind my family and life that I knew and I was raising a family at that point, my little sisters. My grandmother wasn’t in position to take care them by herself, so I stayed home with them and her with them and then eventually moved out when I was 19 with my sisters and I raised them in Southern Oregon.

When I was raising my sisters, I first just a teenager, a woman in her early 20’s, a single parent with them and you know, it was so important for me for them to understand what had happened that they have a memory about. But since the book has come out, I’ve had a little bit of resistance from the people in Colonia LeBaron, my family there. And I think really the hardest thing for them, you know, my half sisters like I said who they’re wonderful parents and they’re wonderful people but they don’t understand the situation that I left in. I think that they’re the most resistant that I’ve had or had been from people that haven’t even read the book. They haven’t read it and they don’t understand the perspective.

I’ve had one sister in particular call me out pretty _____ on social media on Facebook publicly. She hadn’t had a conversation with me in years and in fact, I don’t know her very well. She’s quite a bit older than I am. But I also realized too that she’s in her 60’s or in her late 50’s, and she remembers my father. She remembers the man who was charismatic and who was a leader and who created this church.

He was obviously very confident and a visionary and that’s the person she remembers him being and I don’t have that connection with my father. And I think that just the fact that I’m questioning whether or not what he said was true, whether or not he was a prophet has really impacted her personally that I would consider that “no, he was not a prophet.” Does that make sense?

Andrea: Oh yeah.

Ruth: Yeah, so that part of it is very personal and very real for her in a way that’s not for me and I understand that.

Andrea: Yeah, Ruth, this idea that the people who have provided the most resistance to your book and to you. Those people haven’t even read the book that sounds a lot like growing up and not having a voice, not being able to share the story, to share your perspective. When other people were telling you, you needed to forgive your step father, when they were saying he’s repentant, you know, you need to just forgive him now; did that cause you to question your own perspective?

Ruth: Oh I definitely did not feel this in to and the fact that so many people supported my stepfather in spite of knowing this had he’d been definitely affected the way that I felt about myself. I’ve struggled with feelings of very insecure feelings and also not knowing how to value myself because I didn’t feel valued. I didn’t feel heard, and that was definitely part of it. The way that the community reacted, but really more importantly the way that my mom reacted and her decision to stay, had a profound impact on my life.

I did struggle with a lot of self doubt. I thought I was going crazy like I know. I had always been very intuitive that there was always something about my stepfather that really bothered me. I didn’t want to be around him. And even before he became abusive, he was very religious and I knew there was something that wasn’t right about him. So part of me learned to trust that little voice inside me, that intuition that I felt and that I felt very alone in feeling.

But as my stepfather became more and more abusive, I realized that there was something real about the way I felt and that I needed to listen to that. And it was the same intuition that when I found out he was abusing my special needs brother, it was that intuition again that told me I needed to leave. And because I had been right before just in that instance, especially in regards to my stepfather, I knew that I needed to listen to it.

Andrea: Yeah, your book indicated that you’re really resolute at that point. You just knew.

Ruth: Oh yeah. No doubt.

Andrea: Whereas before, you might have been questioning but then when it happened to somebody else and when it was possible that it might be happening to other people in your family that mother bear said “No.”

Ruth: No way.

Andrea: So Anna, Ruth mentioned her mother and the fact that her mother stayed was a significant difficulty for her, what it was like for you knowing your mother and her background and the fact that after you left, she stayed?

Anna: Well my mother is still alive so that was one of the things that I had to consider strongly in deciding to write my book. For the longest time, I thought I’ll wait until she passes because she didn’t know a lot of these things that happened to me and I know it would just break her heart to read about them. But then that’s not how things ended up being which I wrote the book even though she was still alive and with us. And I knew that it would impact her life to read these stories and for me to talk about the ____ of polygamy that she’s still very strongly believes in and resonates with and that guides her faith and her practices.

And so I had to overcome some of that resistance within my own self to talk about the things that happened to me knowing that it would be very difficult for my mother to read those things and to share those things like a lot of people don’t tell their parents when negative things happened to them. There’s just some kind of silence or something that happened inside of children when bad things happened to them and telling others is just hard especially telling your own parents. And so that was something that I had to overcome.

Andrea: Why do you think that it is the way that is? Why is it so hard to tell your parents?

Anna: When things are happening to children, oftentimes they’re being told don’t tell and threatened and bullied into not telling so that’s part of the experience. But then you also have that internal dialogue that happens that makes you afraid to speak up or to say what’s happening.

Ruth: Absolutely! I think there’s a tremendous amount of my experience with the same and that there was a tremendous amount of emotional manipulation from stepfather. He was always saying….as I was watched my mom, she has 10 kids and was 38 when she died and she had three special needs kids. It was a tough situation and I had watched her suffer so much. And so when my stepfather was abusive, he asked me not to tell because he didn’t want me to hurt her and so that was something that was very sensitive to me.

And because of the narcissistic personality that he had, he knew the part of me that was easy to manipulate. And there’s also the part in children that blames ourselves and so it’s scary to tell somebody else that we may have done something wrong. It was hard for me really as a child not to blame myself to what was happening in my life and to not have as sense of shame for myself and my body and who I was. And that made it harder to talk about for sure.

Andrea: Yeah. So Anna, you eventually did share your book with your mother, right?

Anna: Yeah, I did.

Andrea: Will you tell us about what that experience was like?

Anna: When I started writing, I knew I needed to tell my mom that I was writing and she was actually very nervous about what I was going to say. So one of the things that I did during the process of writing book was I just maintained some contact with her periodically and sporadically letting her know what was happening in the publishing process, because it was a very long process.

So it was several years of updating her and letting her know where we’re at and then I told her that once I had turn in the entire manuscript to publisher that I would get on the plane and come visit her and talk with her and read it to her. And I wanted her to know what was in the book or what was going to be written about before that book showed up on her doorstep delivered by the postman.

I didn’t want her to be blindsided and to _____ understanding that her choices, her actions and decisions impacted my life so negatively. I didn’t want her to sit with that alone. I wanted to be there beside her and allow her to see that I had grown and matured and healed. I wanted her to see with her own two eyes in flesh and blood. I wanted to be in her presence to be a comfort to her heart with my very presence.

Ruth: Giving you that space that you talked _____.

Anna: I know that like so many people in my family, especially my immediate family. My mother’s children – they have a lot of conflicting feelings as well as I do. I have conflicting feelings about my own mother because she holds to those faith practices that were so devastating to so many people’s lives. So there’s a lot of conflicting feeling even though I feel tenderly towards my mom, there’s still that aspect of being in a relationship with her that’s in conflict with my own values, moral standards and things that I hold as dear in my own faith practices.

So that conflict is there. It’s internal and it’s ever present in every interaction I have with her, however healing or whatever. But I will say that having her grieved and mourn while I was reading even though she regretted because one of the things that you touched on earlier is that there are people in the community we’re born and raised in, they’re still believe that Joel was the prophet. I will say that there is nobody that I’m aware of that’s alive today that believes that Ervil was any kind of prophet at all, not even my own mother who followed him through his death.

Ruth: Wow, I didn’t know that.

Anna: She does not believe that he was a true prophet anymore. She does believe that there’s another that was and you’re probably familiar with that thinking that would cause her to kind of shift gears in that way. So just knowing that she shift and make that shift away from that kind of thinking and that mentality that kind of keeps you _____ sort of kind of stuck. In her mind, she’s not stuck. She has a different [crosstalk] than I do. But from where I was sitting, she was very stuck and the fact that all of her children have now left that way of thinking as far as that who she believes as a prophet currently.

It’s just a lot of conflicting feelings that’s where I was going with it. There’s conflicting feeling in this relationship that I have with my mother and yet, the community that she’s involved in right now doesn’t require her to not have contact with people that are outsiders or considered outsiders. So for that I’m grateful because I have been able to have this experience with her even though internally there’s still that conflict.

Ruth: Absolutely. That makes sense. It totally makes sense and that’s something about my story that has been really hard for me as to not have that opportunity to have a conversation with my mom.

Anna: Is there a part of you…now, I’m talking and…I’m having a little…

Ruth: She’s having a little interview right now.

Andrea: Please, please, please feel free.

Anna: Is there a part of you that can look at my experience with my own mother and think she might have had that thing response.

Ruth: She might have and that’s a good question you know when I think about my childhood. Had my stepfather been the one who passed and not her, would she had married another polygamous and stayed?

Anna: I have not thought about that.

Ruth: Yeah, so you know that’s a good question and I spent years in therapy. And my idea about my mother was always that she would have eventually left because all of my stepfathers’ wives did leave him eventually and you know that we would be friends because I still felt so close to her as a teenager when she died and there were so many feelings of betrayal that I didn’t get to resolve with her.

And thinking back during my therapy actually and this is something that my therapist said to me, she said, do you think you’d have a close relationship with your mother had she survived? And my initial feeling was, yes of course. I would have forgiven her. It would have been amazing. She would have been my friend and I would have known her as an adult and all of my life’s problems would have been solved.

But you know, that might not be the case. I mean, I don’t know extensive the abuse might have been towards my other siblings and how disturbed I might have been have my mother never left. Those are all unanswered questions for me.

Anna: Well, I have siblings. We have _____ feelings with my mother.

Ruth: Yeah, I can imagine.

Anna: Because she still believes those things and still practicing and still…she’s walking down that road.

Ruth: Yeah and hearing your story about your relationship with your mom too, I realized that mine probably wouldn’t have been very perfect either. I probably wouldn’t have been dealing with a lot conflicts and in fact it is true for me and my brother and I. My brother, Matt and I were very close when we’re young. And when he decided to go back to LeBaron and take a second wife, he has 15 children now and has been married a few times but that’s something that’s hard for me.

It’s been hard for us to be able to continue to have that close relationship and relate to each other’s experiences in life because the decisions that my mother made and that my stepfather made in polygamy were so devastating to my life. And so it’s hard for me to watch and go back to it even though I don’t think his situation is not as harsh as ours was growing up. So he has evolved in that since and he’s not nearly as abusive. They have a better lifestyle than I did when I was there but yeah definitely the way women and children were treated, it’s hard for me to watch. It hard for me to see that happening again in my family.

Anna: Agreed.

Andrea: At what point did you each begin to believe that you voice actually did matter, that you mattered and that you expressing your thoughts and feelings, that people might actually listen? At what point that that actually happens for you?

Anna: Well, I’ll just start and kind of ____ with what was being said earlier about therapy.

Andrea: Please do.

Anna: It was for me was when I started my down the road in the healing path that I took when I accepted an invitation from a friend that offered to make an appointment for me with the lay ministry counselor at her church. And I didn’t know I needed therapy but she could obviously see the signs that I was in distress emotionally. And so she made that appointment for me and then after an hour with this woman, she wisely referred me to a licensed professional therapist and that began a five-year journey of what my therapist called ‘peeling back layers of an onion.’

And when I first sat down in her office with her emotionally, I was very stuck. I was very shutdown. When you’re raised in that environment and even after getting out, finding your voice, finding your feelings, or finding expressions for the emotions and the thoughts was really big part of my healing process. I learned how to cry, how to grieve, which those are things that I…I was a grown woman with children of my own and did not know how to express grief. I didn’t know how to express emotions.

I had what I called ‘a very limited range emotionally.’ I couldn’t go very far negative, I couldn’t go very far positive just because being raised in and groomed for eventually becoming just wife, you’re taught to shutdown emotionally.

Ruth: You have to.

Anna: You’re taught to restrict your emotional expressions and so you live a very limited human experience without that big wide range of emotion that’s possible and that’s very normal.

Ruth: That’s human.

Anna: That’s very human and so just being able to tap into and access that emotional expression was such a big part of my healing journey.   Just having tears come out at the corner of eyes, you know, it took my five years to heal.

Ruth: To give yourself permission to feel.

Anna: Yeah. And so the way I talk about it now is because I’m now able to express the negative emotions, grief, and anger and you know rage, sometimes I have permission for that expression in a healthy environment, in a healthy way. There’s a healthy expression of anger and just having access to those negative emotions and the freedom to express them has given me access to the range on the other’s end of spectrum to all the joys and the peace and love in its very wide space.

Ruth: Yeah, it’s so inspiring. That’s amazing.

Andrea: How did other people respond to you when you did start to express yourself? The people that were around you, did they notice sudden change? Did they accept this new expression of your humanity?

Ruth: Good question.

Anna: It wasn’t sudden. Like I said, it took five years for me to open that inner space inside of me that had just been held down for so long. And then I mean, once the dam broke I think I cried for days and months to have let all that grief out that had just been held in for so long. Even years after that, my healing journey has been decades long and I would say that my sister that’s closest to me, Cecelia, that I write about a lot in the book just because we have so many shared experiences.

She has said probably in the last two years or so, that’s why I’m saying this is a decade long process. So none of it was instant, none of it happened quickly. But she has watched me just locked them into the person that I naturally am, the person that’s me, the real me. And just seeing from her perspective and from her eyes and hearing her talk about what she sees in me and how beautiful it is to her that I have finally found my voice. That I have found my full expression of who I am and just seeing that through her eyes and having her expressed that to me has been such a powerful experience.

Ruth: Yeah, I can imagine.

Andrea: How about you Ruth?

Ruth: We’re still healing. We’re still in the process, we’re still finding our way and I’m still finding ways to express my voice to say what I have, find the confidence within myself too. Express myself and to feel those feelings too.

Anna: Yeah because you are.

Ruth: For me while I was raising my sisters, I really feel like I was on autopilot for so many years and I just got up. I got up and I make sure everybody was fed. I was in a state of survival for many years. And when I finally finished graduate school and started teaching and I had the benefits to get help. I started to go first to counseling and I started there and sat down in a group situation with a minister and there were other.

You know, there were other people who have just suffered tragedy and I started to talk about my mom and my brother and my little sisters and my situation. I was shaking and crying and after the meeting, a couple of people walked up to me afterwards and asked about how long it had been since my mom passed and we left LeBaron, and I said, it had been 15 years. And they were like “You know, you looked like it something that happened yesterday.”

And I realized, you know, there was so much going on inside of me that I had not given myself the permission to feel and to heal and in a lot of ways raising three kids by myself was a distraction from who I was and how I was suffering. So because I was so young, I think it was something that I eventually became okay because I started to seek counseling and help.

When I was about 30, I was 29 I guess when I first started going to therapy. And I think I was ready, you know, I was ready to express that trauma and I was ready to begin to let go of it. It was definitely…I felt like I started to learn about who I was really when I was going to college. I took a lot of world’s religion classes and I was just fascinated by the idea of comparative religions and the philosophy. I wanted to dig so deeply into that because I wanted a loving God, and I wanted a God that was not what I grew up with.

So I just looked for that everywhere and I found little negative truth everywhere and it ended up becoming a very personal journey for me that part of it. And I really felt like sitting in some of those classrooms and thinking about those things and feeling inspired, I remember sitting down just being lit up with inspirations about what I was learning and how exciting it was that I got to choose what I believed in. Yeah, so I think it started there and then it was the way that the therapist called it peeling away layers of an onion. It was definitely like that for me too and it’s still is that way.

I was seeing a therapist for ____, gosh I think I still go, I probably need to. But that’s where I really started to find different ways and started to break away from that fundamentalist way for women where they didn’t really get to express their feelings or ask for what they wanted. And even as I was raising my family, when my sisters finally moved out, when they were teenagers going up to college and everything and I was on my own for the first time, I think I was 33 years old. I’ve been in therapy for a few years at that point.

But I had a major identity crisis because I had never learned, like I taught my four younger siblings all how to drive and we always were in the car together. We took our trips together. We did all together and I always listen to their music. You know, they were listening to Pearl Jam and all the 90s, big 90s rock people. And you know, I love that music too, but it was always their choice. It was what they wanted and so when my youngest sister moved out, I literally like “What do I like? What do I want?” And I was in my mid 30’s.

I had never considered those things before again, because I never had the permission to do it. I was on this earth the way I was raised and as I was on this earth to get married and have children, period. There was no room for wants and desires and choice. And I found a tremendous amount of healing and freedom and realizing that I had that choice. Yeah and it’s been actually…it was intimidating at first having so much choice and trying to decide and really taking responsibility for my life and what I wanted to do with it. Those were huge steps for me. Therapy definitely helped me get there.

But you know now, it’s fun for me. It’s exciting to plan a trip and go somewhere and you know, to have the freedom and money to be able to do that. So that it was a tough road but really, it has been incredible to me to realize that who I am inside of me that what God gave me was a spirit that could survive and that’s stronger than the circumstances I grew up in. It’s powerful. It’s been empowering for me to recognize that.

Andrea: Wow, I look at both of your stories and I realize that you both left your families, the polygamous cult at a young age. And Ruth, you were 15?

Ruth: That’s right.

Andrea: And Anna you were 13?

Anna: 13

Andrea: Just think about that for a minute. You know the children who are out there who are 13 years old or 15 years old, how strong they are and could be. I was also just really struck by the idea that what you did and the way that you have continued to heal since then has said so much about what it means to escape this feeling of being trapped and emotional manipulation or physically being trapped. So I would like to ask you to consider here for a minute, what would you want to say to someone, be a young woman or an older woman even a man, who feels like they are trapped in a situation that is not good for them? What would you want to say for them?

Anna: I’ll just go first.

Ruth: Go for it.

Anna: What I would say is find a safe person and talk about your experience, about the feeling of being trapped and then see where that conversation goes. Brene Brown talks about safe people in her book, Daring Greatly and the Gifts of Imperfection and even Rising Strong. There are safe people in the world whether that’s a friend that you can have a cup of coffee with, a small group of people that you’ve come to trust with your stories. When you tell someone your story, it’s important to have someone like Brene Brown quotes that somebody that has earned the right to hear your story.

Ruth: I love that.

Anna: So that’s my thing. It’s finding the safe person, someone that has earned the right to hear your story and even if that friend, a mentor, a counselor, or somebody that a minister type person that you have trust their guidance or just a professional counselor. Find someone and speak.

Ruth: Absolutely and Brene Brown too when I read one of her books years ago said that there is a tremendous amount of shame in silent and shame grows in silence. And that makes so much sense to me so I think the methods to speak to someone and to speak your truth, to say your truth and to talk to somebody is very important. And that was definitely my grandparents for me having a place to run to when we escaped.

And also what were important for me in my survival was that intuitive voice and listening and trusting yourself and what’s inside of you and you know develop your intuitive muscles and question your feelings about situations that are uncomfortable. And even though things might seem okay, I think it’s so important that we listen to ourselves. For me I feel like it was that part of my intuition that warned me and told me there was something terribly wrong with our situation when I was LeBaron.

You know, listening to that and trusting that gave me so much strength and it literally saved my life. And we are given this intuition to protect us. I feel that it is a tremendous gift from God. It’s something that I’ve always felt very blessed to have and you know finding that part of ourselves and realizing that is…it is stronger than a situation and it is possible to get help and survive and finding the people you trust, that was a big part of my life for sure in addition to that.

Anna: The part that helped me all along was reading books that shaped the way I thought and felt and thought. And I say books mentored me.

Ruth: Uh-huh, I think me too.

Anna: Because I was a voracious reader and for anyone that feels stuck in a circumstance whether it might any kind of trauma or abuse, there’s a really great resource from an author named Shannon Thomas. She has a book called Healing From Hidden Abuse and that is a resource that I would recommend to anyone who has been through to any type of abuse situation. And she calls them hidden abuses because there are so many abuses that don’t need marks and scars in the body. They leave marks and scars on the skin of your heart and your soul and your spirit. And so healing from those types of abuse that may not be visible for the human eye or the people around you, or even to yourself. So that’s the great resource that I’d love to recommend people who are beginning a journey. It helps you recognize what’s happening around you.

Ruth: What’s the name of the author again?

Anna: Shannon Thomas.

Ruth: Shannon Thomas.

Anna: She’s a license professional therapist specialized even this type of…helping people heal from this type of abuse. So I think a lot of people…you don’t have to grow up in a polygamous cult…

Ruth: Absolutely. It’s just an extreme situation but it happens everywhere.

Anna: Right, it resonate with the things of our story.

Ruth: It’s universal – a lot of universal aspects to our stories.

Anna: And the other part was when work with the therapist who’s very recently been involved in my life in the last few years and she was able to tell me that it was post-
traumatic stress that I being triggered by posttraumatic stress just being able to name it so was so helpful to me. And it was like a relief to me like “Oh my gosh, of course.” You know, it never occurred to me what I’ve gone through was traumatic or even trauma.

Ruth: Well, we didn’t recognize because that’s the way everybody was treated.

Anna: It was normal. It was our normal.

Ruth:   It was our normal.

Anna: And so having her identify that and named it made the healing process go a little bit quicker for me.

Ruth: That’s great.

Anna: And the other part of it is that healing is the moment, you know, you can have moment in time where you make huge strides and you think “Okay, this is it.” And then you realize a little bit later “Oh healing is a process.”

Ruth: Yeah, I thought I was better _____. I need more help.

Anna: I still need more work so healing has been long process for me decades long journey. And so I want to encourage anyone listening that if they’re just getting started or they’re significantly down the road and ____ if there’s bump down the road that make you realize, oh I need to kind of seek something out, seek more then it’s okay.

Ruth: I think to your point of stories and books, I’ve always been influenced by them. But I have had experiences that are often just from reading people’s stories even if they’re fiction. But if I can relate to a particular character, I’m one who needs meaning in a story. I don’t always just read for entertainment although that’s been sometimes, but I really love having takeaways and being able to resonate with characters and learn from them and find meaning.

And there have been some books in my life and stories and books that helped created little _____ shifts. I don’t know if you ever read like that amazing good books like you could just feel your self changing and growing as you’re reading because the stories are so incredible. And that’s been a huge part of my healing process. And I think that’s so important for us to find our voice and to find the ability to express it and tell it.

Andrea: Some great advice.  I want to close with one more question and this is related to each of you and your mission now, like how do you want to use your voice in the world? You each have a platform now. You’re authors, you’re speakers who would you want to hear what you have to say? And what is it that you want to drive home?

Ruth: The first word that comes to my mind with my own story and my own speaking practice is courage. To empower people to feel courageous, to take responsibility for their lives and to know that who they are is stronger than what they grow up with their current circumstances. And that we all have within us the power to change and to create a life that we live and make choices that are positive and impactful both in our lives and the lives of others.

And also too, I think it’s important that we tell these stories in spite of how sometimes hard they can be in a way that’s powerful and empowering and not victim minded if that make sense. I think it’s so important for us to tell our stories in a way that it doesn’t make other or ourselves feel like a victim because I don’t think that’s naturally who we are. I know for me personally, I had learned victim behavior and I held on to that pattern and it created a lot ____ in my own life.

And I was able to recognize that in myself and the choices I was making that brought that about and how I felt like a victim even after I became adult mature woman. That was something that helped me change quite a bit. I think that’s so important for people to understand.

Anna: For me, I would say that one of the biggest ideas that helped me has been one that I’ve been pursuing for the past decades, or a little more than a decade and that’s the idea of freedom. And the way that was defined by one of my spiritual mentors is freedom is becoming the person that you were created and redeemed to be. And so find that freedom journey that I have been on. I hope that any time I have the opportunity into the lives especially of women. And just because I’m a woman I resonates, I find that women can relate to me even though men have related and spoken out and sent things to me about the way my story have impacted their lives, mostly it’s women that I kind [crosstalk].

Ruth: It has been for me too.

Anna: It’s an incredible privilege and honor to kind of enter to people’s stories and hear them and listen to them tell their stories. Everywhere I’ve been hearing people say “me too,” even though it’s not polygamy other things that resonates. And being able to kind of point out the path for where people can begin their own freedom journey that’s a privilege for me and shining the light on “Here’s my story. This is where I began my freedom journey and here’s the path, I’m shining the light on that path.” So that others can begin walking their own that’s been important to me.

Ruth: The freedom to be yourself.

Anna: Yes!

Ruth: Absolutely!

Anna: Yeah.

Ruth: It makes sense.

Andrea: Wow, this has been just truly an honor. It’s been an incredible experience to hear you interact with one another and hear your story, your collected stories and then to really honestly be a witness over the past couple of years, myself personally, to see you guys really stepped into your Voice of Influence in the world. And I want to thank you for your courage and for your freedom that you have found, that you have courageously pursued and that you are now offering others. So thank you so much for your Voice of Influence. Thank you for being on this podcast.

Ruth: Thank you for having us.

Anna: Thank you. It has been an honor.

Ruth: It’s been an honor.

Andrea: Right before we leave here, Ruth, where can people find you?

Ruth: Through my website. I hear from a lot of people through email basically. My website is through ruthwariner.com and my book comes out in paperback this spring. So it’s available in I guess wherever books are sold.

Anna: Tomorrow.

Ruth: Tomorrow but it’s comes out tomorrow but it’s going to be in the future.

Anna: The paperback is already out.

Ruth: Yeah that’s a lot interesting. And my paperback is out and it’s great. I’m really interested about the paperback actually because there’s an interview with me in the back of the book and it’s also got the addition with the book club questions so that’s enough and it’s a beautiful book. And I’m super excited about this next page and about writing again and yeah. This has been awesome.

Andrea: How about you Anna?

Anna: My website is annalebaron.com. I’m on social media AnnaKLeBaron, my social media handle everywhere. So you can connect with me this way. My book is in store everywhere. Both of our books are audible.

Ruth: Yeah, we both write our audiobooks.

Anna: So our journeys have been a lot both similar so my book just came out a month ago, just released.

Ruth: Hers is called the Polygamist’s Daughter and mine is the Sound of Gravel.

Andrea: Awesome. Thank you so much and I hope that you have a wonderful lunch together and time together and so glad that it has worked out.

Ruth: Thanks for being a part of this and for welcoming us. You’ve been a wonderful host.

Anna: Thank you, Andea.

Andrea: Thank you!

 

I would love to hear from you. Share your personal reactions and reflections below, on social media or join our Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group.

Why I DON’T Think You Should Be Vulnerable

Do you hear people talk about “vulnerability” as though it’s something we ought to be? I used to, but I’ve changed my perspective on vulnerability. Listen to this audio explanation or read the transcript below. Do you think you should be vulnerable?

I recorded this audio for you. You can listen to it by pressing play here, or read the transcript below.

Basic Transcript:

You know, people talk about being vulnerable quite a bit, as if being vulnerable is something we should aspire to do or be. And as if it’s something scary.

I want to talk about vulnerability because my perspective on this has changed slightly over the years. As I’ve come to understand vulnerability, it’s not just about sharing things that are raw or hard. The idea of vulnerability means that we are susceptible or open to attack. If I show you that I’m bad at something and then you take advantage of me, I’m vulnerable to you.

Most of us don’t want to share things that we’ve done that are wrong or weak – failures – anything that we perceive that would make others think that we’re bad or whatever. That’s when we feel vulnerable.

“If I share this with you, you might not like me anymore and that would hurt me.”

“If I can be hurt by you in a real way, then I am making myself vulnerable to you.

I’ve got a little something to say about that.

My idea of vulnerability in myself in the past few years, has changed dramatically. Two years ago I started blogging and for the first time in a long time, I shared weak things about myself – experiences I was nervous to share. Just the idea of putting a blog post out into the world and waiting to see if anyone would pay attention – it felt very vulnerable. Because, “what if people reject me? What if people ignore me?” Either way, I was vulnerable to their response because I knew they could hurt me by rejecting or ignoring me. I knew they could hurt me by thinking worse of me – by thinking bad of me.

What I’ve realized since then is that the more I put myself out there, the less vulnerable I feel when I say what is true about myself – to share a story or “put myself out there,” if you will. Because I’m not as concerned about what other people think. I’m not going to say that I never care, I’m not going to say that I’m never worried about it. But, I tell you what, it’s way different than it used to be. My vulnerability now has more to do with my parenting or things that are really, really close to my heart. Ya, I’m vulnerable to one of my children or my husband getting hurt. Caring about – or loving people makes me vulnerable to getting hurt.

But at the same time, there is a certain level of…of knowing that I am going to get hurt. And when you can look at life and say, “I know that I’m going to get hurt and I am going to grieve and there are going to be really crappy things that are going to take place. But I’m not going to let the fear of those things keep me back – hold me back…”

I am so done with that.

I’m not going to let the fear of man – the fear of women – the fear of judgement and people looking down on me or whatever…I am so tired of worrying about that. It’s not worth it anymore.

When I act like that, when I’m really taking actual risks with what I’m saying and who I’m saying it to – when I speak boldly and passionately, knowing that sometimes I’m going to screw it up – sometimes I’m going to be wrong. Sometimes I’m going to say it really powerfully and be wrong and I’m going to have to eat my own…junk. I mean…for real.

That’s just the way it is.

And when I feel like that, I am less at risk. I’m willing to put myself at risk, knowing that I’m going to get hurt, knowing that I’m going to feel pain. And saying, “I can take it because this world is not my home…I can take it because I am loved, no matter what, by God. I can take it because I know my husband is standing with me.”

When I know that those closest relationships are solid, when I know that I’m loved no matter what, then I’m not vulnerable! I’m sharing real things like emotion, things that look weak to other people (but that to me it’s just human), I don’t feel vulnerable.

In fact, my biggest concern is that I’m going to hurt somebody. My biggest concern is that my kids will grow up resenting this part of me. Yet, at the same time I don’t believe that.

But the point is that you are only vulnerable to the extent you give other people the power to hurt you. Not just hurt but to the extent to which you think you can not get past the hurt.

I feel so different than I did three years ago. I just can’t even begin to describe it. Because I was hiding. I was hiding so much that I felt incredibly vulnerable. I felt like I was going to get attacked and if I said anything at all, I might get hurt. And so therefore I kept holding it in.

And I tell you what, it was rough. When you hold stuff like that in, all kinds of stuff goes on in your mind and heart that’s just not healthy. I mean, feeling like I was stuck inside my head and that everything I was thinking and feeling was stuck inside me and all I wanted was release. All I wanted was to get it out of my head, and yet I felt like I couldn’t because if I did, then I would get hurt. If I did, then people wouldn’t like me.

(laugh) And now I’m just thinking…

The reality is that sometimes I’m going to screw it up. I’m going to mess relationships up and I’m going to apologize and try again. But the truth is that I’m not as vulnerable as I once was. And yet I’m sharing more, I’m putting more out there than I ever have.

So the question for you is, are you vulnerable? What makes you vulnerable? Where are you giving other people the power to hurt you and hold you down? Maybe they don’t even want the power, but you’re giving it to them. You’re giving it to them because you’re afraid of what they think. You’re afraid they’re gonna reject you. You’re afraid that they might ignore you.

But I tell you what, the more you put yourself out there, step by step by step, the closer you come to feeling less vulnerable. You’ll realize you’re OK and you’ll be OK no matter what. I’m saying that on a philisophical level, but seriously. How vulnerable are you?

If you’re feeling really vulnerable right now, you need to take a risk that actually puts you in a place of being vulnerable to other people where you can take a hit. You need to take a hit.

If you’re feeling vulnerable, ya, you need to toughen up. And you toughen up by putting yourself out there and taking risks – going ahead and taking a few hits and realizing YOU can STAND BACK UP and you’re OK.

So, my friend. This is it. This is your call. I’m calling you out. If you’re feeling vulnerable, put yourself out there. Take a few hits, stand back up again and realize that you don’t have to be vulnerable.


If this post rings true to you or moves you, please share it with others. Your voice (likes, comments & shares) on social media matters. Big time.


 

The Moment I Found A New Freedom

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been six years since we moved to North Platte and left an amazing group of young Hastings College women who stole my heart. But here we are, so many years later, and they’ve all moved on to new cities, new relationships and new careers. I’m as proud as a mother-hen kind of big-sister could be.

headshot-for-blogLaura Bernero is one of those young women, now living a life full of spiritual and relational depth in Denver, Colorado, finding creative expression through her blog, Laura’s Letters. If I know you at all, I know that her endearing authenticity and wisdom will have you wanting to read more, so click here and bop on over to Laura’s Letters. But first, here is the moment she found a new freedom.


I wrote a blog post last year titled “I’d Rather Have the Old.”

The post was an extended metaphor about how my love of vintage clothing and old furnishings and my grandparents’ old love letters were metaphors for my nostalgic heart.

I never published it.

At the time, I was dwelling on old mental and spiritual battles. Most importantly, I was using old names for myself. When I wrote that year-ago post, I was still holding on to years-ago hurt and fears and grief. Lost relationships. Friendships that fractured. Jobs and roles that I knew I’d never occupy again.

It was like playing dusty VCR tapes over and over, breathing in the familiar sounds and the familiar-but-fleeting comfort they offered me. Those old names still worked, but not well. They fostered hurt, rather than healing.

I remember this truth first hitting me on a glorious fall weekend last year. Me and a bunch of my best girlfriends went to the mountains for a retreat. We laughed and cried until our sides and cheeks were a little sore and raw. We played volleyball and ping pong and dodge ball and we screamed on the zipline. And suddenly, in between cries of worship and heartfelt conversation, I realized a new freedom. A feeling of being known and valued and loved without guilt, and without worrying about pleasing anybody.

One of our speakers during this weekend retreat said this: “Some of you have been playing old tapes over and over again in your head. Old lies. An old nickname someone called you, an old pattern, an old habit. You’re chaining yourself to that old stuff and letting it have power over you.”

It’s true – some of us enjoy playing these old tapes. Maybe because they are comfortable. Maybe because it’s easier to believe the old than to work hard to redefine.

However. We have an invitation each new day to choose our names – the words we want to be known by. And this invitation is for our good. Old names make us miss the beauty, the redemption, the growth, the good around us in the present, as well as the hope of what is to come. New names speak of hope and who we are becoming.

The beauty of Christ’s aliveness in us is that we are always invited into new territory. He’s redeeming each of us moment-by-moment, bit-by-bit, always. So you’re never going to be who you were. You are evermore the person you’re becoming. The person you were made to be.

Those old VCRs may be comfortable, but there are new and better and freeing messages that are just waiting to crowd out the old, dusty tapes.

Here’s some old lies, old names, old tapes I’ve believed about myself:

  • Little Miss Perfect
  • Teacher’s Pet
  • Follower
  • People Pleaser
  • Never Says No
  • Depressed
  • Failure

Recently, I have been on a spiritual and mental quest to phase out the old names for new ones. To replace lies with true words, degrading names with uplifting ones, old tapes with new technology.

Here is our invitation today and each day: Will we stop the old tapes and let God’s promise of newness become our name? 

rattlesnakeHere are the names that God wants to write, with new ink and new grace, on our hearts:

  • “Leader”
  • “FREE”
  • “Gloriously imperfect”
  • “Courageous”
  • “Strong voice”
  • “Treasured”
  • “Worthy of deep connection and relationship”
  • “Worthy of being heard”
  • “Life-giver”

 

What are these names in your life? Do you record them in your journal or write them on your mirror? Do you call yourself by the name that fits you best for this season?

Let us stop the old tapes and let God’s promises breathe life into us once again. Let’s turn off the VCR, friends. Amen.


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How to Say “No” When You’re Expected to Say “Yes”

We were new to town with a new baby and a new home. Every step into all of the new was a little scary and a lot overwhelming. I joined an organized mom’s group to have a place to go where I could meet other women and face the fact that my life had forever changed.

At one of my first meetings the kind leaders announced that a woman from the group just had a baby.

IMG_7002Well…that’s really nice, I managed to think as I looked down at my baby who was fussy (as usual). I anxiously bounced and hushed and pacified her so I could focus enough to engage in the moment. While I was scrambling around in the diaper bag, another kind woman in my group handed me a paper.

“When do you want to take a meal to this new mom? Our small group is responsible for eight of them.”

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I stared at the list of open dates.

I can hardly put a meal on my own table – how will I put one on hers? I don’t even know her. I can’t believe they are making me do this!

I don’t remember if I actually took a meal to the young family or not. And now I am confident most of the moms there would not have thought poorly of me if I explained and passed the opportunity. But in that moment, I felt trapped. Overwhelm escalated to internal outrage and a strong desire to rebel against this external expectation. Inside, I beat on the walls that were pressing in on me.

Under Pressure

There are all kinds of expectations and assumptions we deal with on a daily basis. Our jobs pulling for us to do this. Friends pressuring us to do that. Sometimes we know exactly what they want. Sometimes we make guesses and play mind games, trying to figure people out. In our heads we hear them say:

Don’t let us down.
Don’t question the status quo.
Work your way into the group.
Earn your keep.
You’re a bad person if you don’t.

Of course, I can’t lie and say people never think those things. We will always live with the expectations of others. They may be communicated explicitly or they may be implied. Sometimes they may just be in our head. But the important thing to remember when you feel trapped in expectation is…

You always have a choice.You choose to say Yes or no.The decision you make has conseq

No one can make you do something you do not want to do.* You are a valuable and valued human being who gets to make choices – choices with consequences. When you and I act like we do not have a choice, we believe we are victims and we may become bitter toward those who seem to be holding us under their power. But we give others that power when we accept the pressure placed on us and lock ourselves in their cage of expectation.

You choose to stay or leave.

You choose to say no or yes.

The decision you make has consequences, so choose wisely. Choose intentionally. Put the pressure aside and think hard about what you most want to offer – what you most want to protect. And then own your decision.

You will build more robust relationships when you build them one honest and intentional decision at a time.

So if I bring you a meal, rest easy and know this: I choose to bring you a meal because I want to do it.

*If you really are trapped and do not feel you are able to make choices for yourself, I encourage you to seek guidance from a professional. Tell a friend or someone you trust. You are valuable human being and your voice matters.

Originally published at Her View From Home.

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The Opportunity in Your Imperfections

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 4

Messing up is exhausting. Guess who didn’t wear her glasses to school again today? I mean, seriously! Four weeks ago I started this series talking about my sweet Amelia and how both of us forget to be sure she’s wearing her important reading glasses to school.  I don’t pay close attention to these details and I forget stuff like this a lot, so a few years ago I fell into a pattern of calling myself “stupid” and “an idiot” and “the worst mom” as punishment for my failures. And I tell you what, that self-shame didn’t improve my performance. In fact, it did nothing but make me feel horrible and act ugly toward others.

(Click here–>The Prerequisite to Empowering Others)

Just like most people, I would rather hide the ugly and weak parts of me than feel exposed. I don’t want to put myself in a vulnerable position where others might see these things and think less of me. You know…like in a blog post…on the Internet…for all the world to see! But as a reader, when do you feel the most connected to me as the writer of this blog? When I have all the answers and look good, strong and competent? Or when I tell real stories that expose my honest thoughts, feelings, weaknesses and the ways I mess up? IMG_5478

When do you suppose others feel most connect to you?

How Do You Love?

Love is such a confusing word. We love a great burger and we love our parents. We can be in love with that dress and in love with that man in my arms. But when I’m talking about loving others despite how I feel, I’m talking about a certain kind of love.

It’s not a pressure-filled love that comes from a place of shame. I’m talking about a kind of love that comes from a heart that knows what it’s like to be forgiven. It’s the kind of love that longs for others to experience the freedom of forgiveness, too!

And how do we know if we’re sharing that kind of love?

“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
— Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart)

When you…
take an honest look at your situation,
take responsibility for what you’ve done or not done,
and then you…
bask in the freedom of forgiveness rather than beating yourself up,
You are uniquely qualified and able to invite others into that kind of love, too! Because you are acting on what you believe.

Every time I feel exposed and have the urge to beat myself up with my thoughts and words, I have to ask myself again – what do I believe? Is it better to beat myself up when I mess up or to step into the light of love that exposes the reality of my situation and warms my heart to accept responsibility so I can also accept forgiveness and help? Which of these scenarios compells me to love others well?

Download this free printable poster!

My imperfectionsare anopportunityto let my lightshine.

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4. Boldly go and display this light of love by inviting others to be honest, allowing them to take responsibility for their mistakes or wrong-doing and then demonstrate your love and forgiveness for them.

It’s not easy or comfortable to invite others to be honest and allow them to take responsibility for what they’ve done or not done. It’s way more comfortable to say, “it’s OK” and try to make them feel better about themselves than it is to actually say, “I forgive you.”

It’s hard to ask for forgiveness and harder still to offer forgiveness. But when you’ve basked in the warmth that love and forgiveness provides, you know it’s more powerful than being defensive, making exuses or punishing yourself. Will you take the easy route or will you press in and dig deeper to both receive and offer real grace and forgiveness? It is, after all, the prerequisite to truly empowering others.

What is more compelling than that kind of love?

 

The Day I Realized I Was Hurting Myself

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 3

I remember the day I realized I was hurting myself. My head hung low, my shoulders nearly touched each other in front of my chest and my fingers gripped and pulled at sections of hair on both sides of my head. Then hateful words spat forth from my lips, “Why am I so stupid?! I can’t handle this!”

For two years after giving birth I suffered from depression and deep shame related to my experience. Fatigue complicated it all. After a 7 month period on anti-depressants and a good deal of soul-work I wasn’t completely better, but I wasn’t depressed. I was functioning at what I would call a steady low-normal. Yet, shaming self-talk kept creeping back into my internal dialogue.

“Why do you always screw up like this, Andrea?!”

Then I started researching the brain. Did you know that digital imaging technology research has proven that the same area in the brain that lights up when we feel emotional pain is the same area in the brain that lights up when we feel physical pain? This means that emotional pain is ACTUAL pain like breaking a bone is pain.  And yet we apparently have some control over both the physical and emotional pain we feel. Isn’t that fascinating?!

(Check out this video if you’re interested.)

One day I was in the middle of speaking angry words to myself again when I put together the pieces of what I’d been studying about the human brain and my own experience and I realized I’d fallen into a destructive pattern of self-talk that kept me down rather than helping me get better.

“I may not be cutting my skin or refusing to eat, but my words are self-harming! This has to stop.”

I learned that I wasn’t truly living in the forgiveness and grace I’d been given. Through this series we’ve been teasing out the four steps I identified that helped me step out of self-shame and into a more loving version of myself. (Find links at the bottom of this post.)

  1. Step into the light that exposes your weaknesses. See them for what they are.
  2. Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness where forgiveness is needed and help when help is needed.

It’s time for number 3. This step might just be the hardest one of all.

3. Enjoy the freedom from your burden. Bask in the warmth that love provides and say kind things to yourself and those who forgive or help you.

Forgiveness and grace say that you don’t need to keep beating yourself up or fighting to prove yourself. In fact, when you do these things, it’s probably an indication that you haven’t truly asked for forgiveness. Saying the right words is nice, but it isn’t enough to free you. It is in step 3 where the rubber meets the road.

Forgiveness is a tricky subject and I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that we need to forgive ourselves. But I believe that forgiveness is a relational word that takes place between two entities. You are a whole person, mind/body/soul, not a split person whose soul needs to forgive your mind, etc. I do not believe the problem is that you need to forgive yourself. I believe you need to actually believe you are forgiven.

I do not believe you need to forgive yourself. You need to actually believe you are forgivenWhen I ask for forgiveness but I don’t really intend on living free in that forgiveness, I am not actually asking for forgiveness! I’m asking for you to feel better about me. This request is based in shame, a feeling that I am worthless and I need you to change how you feel about me and treat me so I will feel more valuable.

If I want to fully bask in the warmth of the light of love and forgiveness, I need to stop minimizing the impact I have on others and feel the weight of that burden. When I feel the weight, I can release it fully when I ask for forgiveness.

It’s like carrying a big boulder on your shoulder. When you say with your lips “forgive me” but in your heart you mean “think better of me,” you are asking the other person to ignore the boulder along with you. It’s like coming to an agreement “let’s just pretend this isn’t here anymore,” but you still walk with a slump.

Sweet Freedom!

But you don’t have to keep carrying the boulder! Instead, you can

  1. feel the weight of the wrong-doing.
  2. ask and believe that God truly forgives you and releases you from that burden.
  3. ask the other person for forgiveness.

Here’s the thing. The other person may not truly forgive you and you may end up with a strained or broken relationship. But if you believe God forgives you, you are released from the weight of what you’ve done. You may be sad that your relationship with the other person is broken, but beating yourself up won’t heal it.

No one can love you as perfectly as God loves you. He’s the only one who can see your heart and truly release you from your burden. And when that happens, you will not keep saying hateful things to yourself because it won’t be about you anymore. Instead, gratefulness and thanksgiving will pour from your heart and you will want to share the freedom of your love with others.

But more on that next time…

When you ask for forgiveness are you asking for the other person to come to an agreement with you to ignore the burden that comes with your sin and weakness? Or are you going to bask in the warmth that love provides by responding to forgiveness with words of kindness from a heart of gratefulness?

 

The Prerequisite to Empowering Others

Stepping Out of Self-Shame (Part 1)

Stepping Out of Self-Shame (Part 2)

The Opportunity in Your Imperfections (Part 4)

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 2

It happened again. I messed it all up. I let down some of the people I care about most last week by not paying attention to the details. It wasn’t that I intentionally blew my husband or my friend off, but I didn’t execute tasks with the kind of precision they required and I ended up putting more stress on people I care about. Ugh. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be the wife and friend you can’t count on.

Man, it’s tempting to let the old self-shaming talk drive me into a hole.

sun hat

“He would have been better off with a woman who wouldn’t screw up like this!”

“Why would she want me around if I keep letting her down?”

I’ve said these things before. But as soon as those thoughts started to enter my mind this time, I shook my head and said, “NO! I am exactly the wife Aaron needs. And I am a good friend in other ways. I’m not going to shame myself into hiding and resentment. No. I’m going to keep engaging with them because I care about them.”

The first goal when stepping out of self-shame is to step into the light of love and see the situation for what it is as I described in Part 1 (Click here)  but what do we do next?

2. Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness when forgiveness is needed and help when help is needed.

Do I need to ask for forgiveness or do I need to ask for help in a situation like this? Honestly, I’ve studied and analyzed this stuff for years and I’m still not completely sure. Some people pay great attention to details and they follow through with intense commitment. I put my intensity in other places – like working through relational and theological issues and being incredibly present with people in their pain. Do others need forgiveness when they aren’t there for me in these ways that are important to me?

Maybe we all need to be more free with our apologies, less offended by others and lavish grace on each other even when we don’t deserve it.

My struggle with the lack of discipline when I am distracted feels like a never-ending battle.

I can’t promise I’ll do better next time, but what can I do?

I need to help my future self. I can’t just assume I’ll do better next time because as leadership and strengths coach Laurie Hock says, “You’ve got to have a plan. You can’t just say you’ll respond differently because it’s unlikely you will without a plan of an alternative positive action.” So how can I take responsibility in a proactive way so I really am less likely to put undue stress on others next time? I can think of two important points:

  1. Live within my limitations. We all have limits to our time and energy and I am no exception. I am not able to do everything I want to do or think I should do. I should offer to do only what I am willing to invest my time and energy in doing. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. What will I say yes to?
  1. Manage my weaknesses. We all have responsibilities and we don’t want to write them off by saying “I’m not good at this, so I can’t do it.” After I get specific about what I will and will not commit to doing, I need to figure out how to manage my weaknesses. When I choose to take on a responsibility, I need to own it. Then I can plan ahead and figure out what safeguards I can put in place to try to head off the mistakes I made last time.

IMG_4775This time I decided I needed to apologize to both people. And in the future, I need to be more aware when I feel distracted while discussing details. If I’m distracted I need to choose which thing to think about in the moment and figure out when I will give my attention to the other thing. I simply cannot multi-task my thoughts because then I end up multi-tasking people. And that is not acceptable.

I am so grateful for the people who allow me into their lives. And I am grateful that we can have hard conversations when I need to take responsibility for my wrong-doing and my mistakes. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – relationships are messy! Life is messy. I am messy.

But I am loved. I have a lot to offer the people I love and I’m going to keep offering it, even when I mess up. More on that next time…

How do you know when to ask for forgiveness and when to ask for help? What safeguards do you put in place around your weaknesses? Answer in the comments below or on Facebook.

Self-Shame Series:

The Prerequisite to Empowering Others

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 1

The Day I Realized I Was Hurting Myself (Part 3)

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Stepping Out Of Self-Shame: Part 1

A week ago I shared a few reflections on my own experience with self-shame in The Prerequisite To Empowering Others (<—click to read the article before you read this one) so I will only share a snippet of it here.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the answer is that we need to be kind to ourselves and stop feeling so bad for when we mess up. But I believe the process is incomplete if we ignore or deny the impact we have on others. When we mess up without acknowledging those we have hurt, we diminish the influence we have with them. If you want to love well and offer your gifts to others, it’s time to stop putting yourself down. It’s time to stop the self-shaming internal dialogue and start believing in something more true.

I went on to list 4 steps that brought me out of self-shame and toward a humility that carries with it the power to love. Today I’m beginning a series entitled “Stepping Out Of Self-Shame” to take a closer look at each of those 4 steps, one by one.

Step 1: Step into the light that exposes.light-bulb-498289_1920

Have you ever gotten ready in the dark? How do you know if your shoes match your belt or if your shirt is on backwards?

When I talk about being in the metaphorical dark, I’m talking about being unaware or hiding what is true about yourself. Today I’m not speaking of your identity, though that is an exciting topic, itself. Rather today I’m talking specifically about weaknesses and wrong-doing. I’m lumping these two things together because I think we often get them confused.

Let’s start by identifying the differences between our weaknesses and wrong-doing.

Weaknesses are your human limitations. They are a result of the fact that you are, what I believe to be a creature, not the Creator. You need things like sleep, food, water and love to survive. You have hormones, a nervous system, etc. that can increase or decrease your ability to function fully. You are strong in some ways and weak in others. Weaknesses need to be honored and they often require that we ask for or accept help from others.

Wrong-doing is an ethical or moral breach. Sometimes we intentionally do things that we know feel wrong or we believe to be wrong. But oftentimes we hurt others unintentionally and even indirectly without knowing it because of wrong-doing in another area of life. Sometimes we cover up, hide or blame others for our weaknesses because we are worried about what others think of us. My heart sinks just thinking of it. Wrong-doing needs to be recognized and it often means we need to change our ways and ask for forgiveness from others.

How do we confuse them?

IMG_6592For example, one strength of mine is that I can think deeply and about life and have amazing conversations with others. But I’m weak on the flip side of that coin. I struggle to keep up with the day-to-day responsibilities of running a family. Shame tells me to beat myself up for not remembering to make sure Amelia has her glasses on before she gets to school. But that doesn’t help me remember next time, nor does it make me loving toward her when she comes home. I believe that’s wrong and hurtful toward my child. Humility tells me to be honest about my struggle to remember and ask for help or come up with a creative solution with Amelia to help her become more responsible for remembering her glasses. I believe that’s honest and a healthy way to empower her. I don’t believe I am wrong when my weakness show up. I believe I’m wrong when my anxious reaction about my weaknesses hurts the situation (my daughter) rather than helps it.

The dark can be scary

The unknown is often scary. And anxiety can turn me into a frenzied, defensive and unpleasant person very quickly. I don’t want to let my fear have control over me. I’d much rather be fueled by love. That’s why I want to step into the light where I can face my fears directly and see my weaknesses and wrong-doing for what they are. I don’t want to pretend I’m perfect because pretending like that is a lot of work! It is exhausting and anxiety-filled and it makes it really hard for me to love and empower others.

If I let my own anxiety about trying to be a good mom overtake me, I will transfer that anxiety onto those around me. I don’t want to do that. So I want to be honest with myself and ask…

What are you so afraid of, Andrea?

Are you afraid that your daughter might struggle in school? Or are you afraid that you will feel embarrassed if your child struggles in school?

Are you afraid that your daughter won’t learn to be responsible for herself? Or are you afraid that you will feel like a failure if your daughter isn’t perfectly responsible for herself?

A lot of times for me it is both. I am both concerned about my daughter and about how I will look. But if I want to empower my daughter to become all she can be, I can’t let my own anxiety that I will look bad get in the way of how I help her solve the problem.IMG_6609

The Light of Love

What are you so afriad of, friend? Do you have weaknesses that make you embarrassed? It’s time to face your fears and be honest. To the children of the world, let us be an example of grace and forgiveness, not self-condemnation and shame.

I believe God loves you and doesn’t look down on you when you are weak and He forgives you when you do wrong. But how will you know until you step into the light and take an honest look at yourself? Ask for help where you need help and forgiveness where you need forgiveness. Love is there to greet you.

But more on that next time…

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 2

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The Prerequisite to Empowering Others

I just got a call from our daughter’s school. Amelia forgot her glasses. Ugh. Those glasses are special glasses to help her eyes focus so she can read. Reading is pretty important in elementary school, so I hear. Immediately my heart sank and I began thinking on the dark side…IMG_6215

How did I not notice she didn’t have her glasses this morning?! I always screw stuff like this up!

And as I tracked down her glasses and ran them to school, I thought of all the things I forget – every meal that gets thrown together because I didn’t plan well…every piece of trash that was apparently lying around somewhere so the dogs could get to it and rip it into pieces…the dirty floors…the pants that need ironing…and on and on. By the time I got there, I felt worthless.

When I Put Myself Down

When I feel worthless, there are a few things that I automatically start doing:

  1. I start saying really mean things to myself.
    • “You never remember the important things.”
    • “Why can’t you be like ____?! She would pay attention to whether her kids have their glasses on or not.”
    • “Oh good grief, Andrea. You’re setting your kids up for disaster!”
  2. I show my attitude with my facial expressions and body language so everyone knows what a jerk I am.
  3. I begin to feel and act resentful toward others for judging me. Because if I can’t say anything good about myself, surely no one else can either.

But I’m pretty sure self-deprecation never made anyone more loving. And it certainly doesn’t make me any better at remembering things. My self-shaming comments make it nearly impossible for me to love others well. In fact, when I’m mean to myself, I’m mean to others.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the answer is that we need to be kind to ourselves and stop feeling so bad for when we mess up. But I believe the process is incomplete if we ignore or deny the impact we have on others. When we mess up without acknowledging those we have hurt, we diminish the influence we have with them.

Humility, Not Self-Deprecation

If you want to love well and offer your gifts to others, it’s time to stop putting yourself down. It’s time to stop the self-shaming internal dialogue and start believing in something more true. How?

By stepping into a beam of light that exposes the reality of your situation, while warming your heart with love. This is the kind of love John talks about in 1 John 4 of the Bible. It’s the kind of love that says,sunbeam-76825_1280

“I see you for who you are: all of your mistakes, all of your wrong-doing, all of your short-comings, and you are forgiven. Now live in the humility of knowing that you are not perfect, but you are loved anyway. Then go and invite others into the light of love.”

If you want to empower your kids or your friends or your students to become all they can be, stop putting yourself down. Walk humbly, with an honest sense of the reality of your situation.

  1. Step into the light that exposes your weaknesses. See them for what they are.
  2. Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness when forgiveness is needed. Ask for help when help is needed.
  3. Enjoy the freedom from your burden. Bask in the warmth that love provides and say kind things to yourself and those who forgive or help you.
  4. Boldly go and display this light of love by inviting others to be honest, allowing them to take responsibility for their mistakes and then demonstrate your forgiveness and love for them.

The fact is, it will always be a struggle for me to keep up with daily life. I will always be better at things that have nothing to do with keeping our family well-dressed, well-fed and on-time. But if I give my mistakes and failures more air time than asking forgiveness and/or help, then my little snafus will turn into a deflated Andrea, who ends up deflating others.

What unkind things do you say to yourself? Perhaps it’s time to expose the reality of your situation and walk humbly into the light of love.

Do you want to empower your team to empower others?

Click here to learn more.

 

Self-Shame Series:

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 1

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 2

The Day I Realized I Was Hurting Myself (Part 3)