Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Finding your Way Through Change

In a world full of constant change, there are millions of people who put their energies into avoiding, fearing and resisting it. “I hate change,” is a phrase I hear quite a bit in my sessions. But I think that if people had more knowledge about what to kick into gear when change was inevitable, they’d probably not hate it as much.

Many of you came to me because of some life-altering event that unglued you in some way. Transitions can often feel sad, confusing, painful, and bleak. And over the years, I’ve worked to help determine how my clients can get through them with the least amount of damage. What I’ve learned is that there’s a particular set of resources that resonates better for some than for others. It’s like writing a personalized survival guide for how to best weather an emotional storm.

Everyone has unique experiences with loss and uncertainty. And that’s what transitions are – some kind of loss, followed by a lot of certainty. So there’s not a one-size-fits-all way to approach these situations. And because of this, I like to use clients’ own life experiences to figure out where to start this process.

Find somewhere to sit quietly and recall the times in your life when you faced something incredibly difficult. Maybe it was after you moved to a new town, adjusted to a new school, or dealt with a major illness. Or perhaps it was a painful breakup, your parents’ divorce, or a project at work that really kicked your ass. Whatever it was, no matter how messy the process, you did survive it, right? SOMETHING got you through. Now, try and remember what helped. Was it having a strong support system? Praying? Staying busy? Spending time outside or at the library? Did you get counseling? Cry a lot? Or was it simply the passage of time?

These memories help give you an idea of what works for YOU — the elements that helped you weather other bad storms.

For me, I know that if I can stay connected with my body in some way, survival and healing usually flow from that. Because if I feel PHYSICALLY confident, it helps me stay strong with other good choices for myself. It’s my North star. So what do you think yours is?

Our survival resources fall into four different categories: People, Places, Things, and Activities. See below for a form I created to help you identify those that have helped in the past, and those you know could help you now. If you’re going on a long and challenging journey, you want to be prepared for it. Trust me — establishing these unique resources ahead of time will really help.

But there’s one thing you’ll need to know after figuring them out.


You’re not always going to FEEL like using them or putting them into practice.

As long as you know this ahead of time, you’ll be less discouraged when it happens. I’ve learned to say this to myself: “Feel the suck and do it anyway.” Do it anyway – that’s the key. If you don’t FEEL like going to the gym (or yoga class, or for a walk), DO IT ANYWAY!! If you don’t FEEL like writing in your journal, DO IT ANYWAY! If you don’t FEEL like asking a friend to come over and talk, DO IT ANYWAY! It sounds stupidly simple, but that’s it. That’s the fundamental rule about getting through tough times.

One foot in front of the other, using what helps you, over time, equals surviving. Equals healing. Equals getting to the other side — and feeling a bit more comfortable with change.


Not My Job

Not My Job Blog

These declarations are to remind us not be codependent in our relationships. This is not an act of selfishness. Rather, it’s an act of love to let others own their feelings, be responsible for themselves, and to keep healthy boundaries so that we don’t get sucked in and suffocate.

I can choose to do nice things for you, but…

  • It’s not my job to keep you from getting upset.
  • It’s not my job to pick up the mess you made.
  • It’s not my job to remind you to take care of yourself.
  • It’s not my job to read your mind.
  • It’s not my job to look the other way when you do something stupid.
  • It’s not my job to be in charge of everything.
  • It’s not my job to rescue you when you’re broke.
  • It’s not my job to apologize for something I’m not sorry about.
  • It’s not my job to make life easier for you.
  • It’s not my job to accommodate all of your plans.
  • It’s not my job to take on your stress.
  • It’s not my job to agree with everything you say.
  • It’s not my job to stay quiet when I want to scream.
  • It’s not my job to jump when you need something.
  • It’s not my job to put your needs first and my needs last.
  • It’s not my job to make all the arrangements.
  • It’s not my job to thank you for every little thing you do.
  • It’s not my job to be all things to all people.
  • It’s not my job to do everything perfectly.
  • It’s not my job to make excuses for you.
  • It’s not my job to always make peace with you.
  • It’s not my job to be generous when I feel depleted.  AND…
  • It’s not my job to comfort you when it’s me who needs to be comforted.


Stopping the Self-Help Madness

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.54.45 AMWith all of the advice from self-help books, podcasts, social media, magazines, and workshops, it’s no wonder that we’ve become a culture of women who feel unfulfilled, overwhelmed, and highly self-critical.

Are you bewildered by how anyone could keep up with all of the hacks that tell you how you’re supposed to look, love, and live? Me too.

Other people know me better

If you seek answers outside of you all the time, you’re basically believing that someone else is more of any expert on who you should BE and what you should DO. But here’s the truth, my dear: Only YOU know yourself the way that you do. You know more about yourself than ANYONE on the planet. It’s just EASIER to make someone else give you the answers.

But hey — it’s also easier to let other people clean our house, or do our shopping, or be our designated drivers (thank you, Uber!).

When you cut back on reading and listening to all the advice out there (better yet — go on a self-help FAST for a while) you’ll learn that you have to rely more on your own inner compass. Using your own heart and brain will strengthen trust that you’re actually the perfect problem-solver for your life.

How Do I Tune In?

The answer is simple, but not necessarily easy. Silence is the key. If you can figure out a way to shut up the cacophony of thoughts in your head, and the advice that you’re given, the answers will eventually come to you. I promise.

It may not happen right away, but keep at it. Meditate, journal, brainstorm, do something trance-like (walking, cleaning, weeding, driving) and see what comes up organically to questions like:

  • Am I doing enough with my life?
  • Should I stay in my marriage?
  • How do I juggle it all?
  • Why don’t I have more friends?
  • What do I really want?

Relax, my dear. Take comfort in knowing that you already know the solutions to the problems that require your attention. You don’t need anyone else to tell you.

As a therapist, I’m trained to help you come up with your own solutions, not just hand out advice. People are pretty shocked when they talk through something with me and then — bam! — something dawns on them for the first time.

I’ll wrap up by just saying this: You’re already doing a LOT of things that are pretty fabulous. Don’t let all the advice fool you into thinking that you’re completely flawed and still don’t have your shit together.

Give yourself the credit you deserve for the shit that you HAVE done well. Love your marvelously messy life, be quiet enough to listen to yourself, and crawl out of the addictive wasteland of outside advice.


Twice a year, I go away for the weekend to a nice hotel and have what I like to call my own little Personal Retreat. Last weekend, I stayed at La Quinta Hotel in Mason and had two a half days all to myself, which ended up being a very restful and insightful experience. So I thought I’d share some elements of it with you, in case you’d like to replicate something similar for yourself.

Know What You Need
This might come easily to you — I need alone-time. I need sleep. I need fun. I need time to think. But sometimes the needs aren’t clear because we’ve been so busy caring for everyone else that we’ve stopped being able to tune into what we need. Just spend some time journaling or talking to a good friend ahead of time. What are you craving? What sounds amazing? What would you love? When you can start the weekend with some kind of goal(s) in mind, you won’t waste time trying to figure out what you want to do once you start.

Choose Your Place
For me, it was a nice local hotel with a big bed and white, fluffy towels. For you, it might be a cabin in the woods, a place at the beach, or an Airbnb in the city. Go wherever your heart would feel most at home. Seriously, it doesn’t have to be fancy or cost a lot of money. Just getting away somewhere that your soul feels comfortable will be therapeutic in and of itself.

Pack Your Favorite Things
This means your favorite clothes, blanket, books, food, beverages, magazines, art supplies, and whatever else you’re drawn to. Remember, this weekend is supposed to reinvigorate the Real You. You may play many roles in life, but what qualities, things and/or activities have been shoved to the back burner? Let these things come along to nurture and enliven your true spirit!


Expect Some Withdrawal
When you start your weekend, your system will still be running on full steam, so you’ll have to allow it time to acclimate to the new setting and slower pace. You might start by simply taking a nap or doing some yoga, walking, or meditation. I used a great app called Insight Timer that has a lot of meditation formats to choose from — I’d highly recommend it! I did a LOT of meditating over my weekend because it helped to calm down my racing thoughts and put me in a more peaceful mindset to take good care of myself.

Take Yourself Out
One thing that was important to me was to eat well in a great atmosphere. So yes — I went to restaurants alone!!! A trick I used was to eat up at the bar, so it wasn’t so obvious that no one was sitting with me. But however you feel comfortable, go somewhere to be served. You do a lot of serving throughout the year, so allow someone else to do the cooking, serving, and clearing. And order what you want. There’s no worry about calories or money here. Get the more expensive glass of wine and the amazing dessert at the end of the meal. Again, this is YOU time!

Rest and Indulge
If you’re going on this retreat to get stuff done (paperwork, a new budget, catching up on emails, etc), then YOU’RE NOT ON A RETREAT! So do not bring any work and don’t expect to accomplish any big projects. This is a time to rest and recharge. So sleep in, stay in your PJ’s, go get a mani/pedi, read or write to your heart’s content, or just sit by the ocean, next to a fire, or on a rock. Do whatever your body feels called to do.Your body’s voice is what’s been ignored for far too long. Let it now speak to you.

Return Anew
Hopefully you will have gained some new awareness or insight on your retreat. Ask yourself, “How has this time alone helped? How will I show up differently to my life?” Before you return home, I recommend making a couple new vows to yourself. They could range from I will make more effort to rest on a regular basis to I will stop apologizing and feeling guilty for taking care of myself to I will only keep my tasklist to 5 things a day. Write them down in a format that can be put up somewhere at home to remind you of them.

Personal retreats give us an opportunity to lift ourselves up, out of our selfless and frantic lives, and put us back down in a different and more conscious state-of-mind. They can decrease or eliminate underlying anxiety and tension. They can also affirm and strengthen our relationship with our true nature. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, and it can take place over just one weekend. So pick a date, make the reservation, follow these guidelines and you’ll be better able to tune in, rather than stay tuned out.

Be well,

TY-Blog-3p.s. I wanted to give a shout out to a book called “A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough,” by Wayne Muller. It ended up being the focal point for my weekend, shedding light on how to find fulfillment without the need for constant achievement and endless task lists.

Life as a Social Chameleon

dreamstime_s_100780031Social chameleons are people who know how to quickly blend in to any other person or group by picking up on and then embodying their way of acting, speaking, and various other ways of, well…BEING. Like a beige-toned color, they can go with just about anything, unlike someone with a distinct color that can only be complemented by certain hues. This ability is actually be a pretty cool super power. Imagine being able to go to any country and knowing how to conform to its culture and speak their language without even thinking about it!

But as adaptable as it is, this super power keeps someone from knowing who they truly are. In another country, we could say we’re American, we speak English, and have these idiosyncratic behaviors, beliefs, and lifestyles. But for a social chameleon (aka Sochams), it’s not that easy to describe themselves as an individual.

I guess it’s important to know HOW one develops this unique coping skill. Usually it’s due to one or more of the following ways they were raised:

  • They weren’t allowed or encouraged to have their own opinions, styles, voice, or decisions.
  • They feared any kind of clash or confrontation.
  • They got their needs met for approval, love, attention and connection by people-pleasing and making others comfortable in their presence.
  • They modeled similar behavior from a parent or other caregiver.

Because they don’t feel safe discovering their own uniqueness (or know how) , Sochams just borrow other people’s identities and often convince themselves that that’s who they really are. That can go on for a while, until a different person or crowd comes along. Then their color may change again.

“Oh no, that wasn’t me…actually I’m more like THIS!”

This causes especially significant problems when they become adults and get involved in close relationships.

At first, they likely present themselves to their partners in a way they know will blend well with them. It could even go as far as moving forward with marriage plans, buying a house, and/or having children (or not). It’s just too easy for Sochams to get sucked into the current of the energy surrounding them.

But then imagine this relationship several years down the road. Sochams don’t know this, but they all have a hidden storage box of tiny little resentments that add up over time. Anger and irritability will seep out from that storage box now and then, because their true spirit is fully aware that they have not been in touch with nor expressed themselves in authentic ways.

Instead, they are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. And over time, it gets awfully uncomfortable.

The time when Sochams finally “burst” is either around their 40’s, or after their children have been raised and are semi-independent. They just have a vague “knowing” that something is amiss. They start to question everything.

“What do I really want?”  “Do I truly like this?”  “Are these my honest beliefs and feelings?”  “Why have I been doing THIS all my life?”  “Why am I unhappy?”

Many people might call this a “midlife crisis,”  but it’s no joke. Sochams finally come out from behind everyone else’s wants, needs, and choices and start looking for their true Selves in the mirror. It’s a clouded mirror, so it won’t show who they are very clearly at first. But with some focused attention and work, they can clean this mirror and eventually have it reveal their true nature.

What do I mean by “attention and work”?

Sochams will first need to decide that they are worthy of spending time, energy, and perhaps even some money on discovering their own uniqueness. It sounds like a simple act, but this decision alone, especially if it’s not well supported by their loved ones, will be their first test of strength.

If they can get past this initial step, they’ll then need to spend time tuning in and learning to listen for their Inner Voice. For Sochams, the voice will be very quiet and timid in the beginning, because it’s been locked in a closet and abandoned for a long time. But the more attention it’s given, the louder and more confident it will get.

If you think you’re a Socham and feel stuck, here’s a good exercise: Go around your home, room by room, and pick out your most favorite things — a picture or painting, certain books, a coffee mug, a jar of peanut butter, a sweater, a pair of shoes, or a bottle of shampoo — anything you LOVE! Now bring them all together onto your dining room table. See if you can see a pattern in these items. Are you drawn to cool or warmer colors? Do you like certain styles or themes? What textures feel best? Write about why you love each of these things and see if they have any qualities in common.

The point is to get your brain programmed to pay more attention to things that look, feel, sound, smell, and taste GOOD to you. Practice being SURE about your preferences without anyone else’s input. Bringing more of those things into your life will strengthen that Inner Voice and coax her out of hiding.

At first, the people Sochams are connected to will be confused or even angered at their changes. But this is human nature. Whenever you radically change something about yourself, your family and friends will want to push back. They’ve known you as one way for many years, and now you’re becoming a different person. That feels threatening to them and to your relationship.

But the Social Chameleon will need to hold on to his or her real shape and color, and try to avoid slipping back into people-pleasing behavior. If they truly want to embrace more of their authenticity, there may unfortunately be some casualties in the process. Certain relationships may need to end. Others may need more distance, time or boundaries.

But know this.

The relationships that do survive, and the new ones that will develop, will be the ones Sochams can be sure will love them for who they really are.

It is an Almighty Aha moment when a Socham realizes that finding their OWN identity outweighs the costs of shedding their beige color and sycophant capabilities. It’s scary and it’s not easy, but going from a Socham to being able to say “I am” is the most profound and liberating super power they will ever possess.

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part III

Loving Sid Vicious

I know.

I left you waiting for the last part of the Rediscovering Your Dreams trilogy. It’s been months since I published the second part, and I could give you a lot of excuses for why this is late, but what happened was this. After figuring out my dreams and organizing all my ideas, I ran into the very same roadblock that almost everyone faces when it comes to taking ACTION on them.


sid2.jpgYeah, that sneaky bastard moved into my head and convinced me that my ideas were just bullshit, and that I didn’t really know how to teach people how to build dreams when I couldn’t even do it myself! It suckered me into believing that I was a fraud and that my voice wasn’t as important as other, more deserving therapists and coaches.

Now I know I mentioned Obstacles that might come up, in my last post, between where you are now and where you want to be, but I think this stage of dream building bears a blog post in and of itself. It’s what I’m going to write about because this very stage is what keeps ALL of us from launching forward with what we truly want, right?

I was about middle-school age when I started hearing that Bastard Voice of self-doubt. Actually, an old friend of mine posted this picture of me on Facebook, not too long ago. I was at her birthday party, back in the 70’s. Seeing this picture, I couldn’t help but remember the shame of how plain, boyish, and uncomfortable I looked. But it was an accurate depiction of how I felt inside — awkward, emotionally fragile, and terribly insecure in the midst of authority figures, social activities like these, and my own voice or opinion about anything.

Fortunately, there were two adults of whom I wasn’t afraid — Brother John and Brother Michael. They were the youth group leaders for our church, at the time, and I thought they were cool as hell. They were all about having fun, being inclusive of everyone, and teaching and modeling how to be decent and confident kids. They loved and accepted ME — not the pianist or the good student — but just me. And they gave me a nickname — Sid. I later learned it was because my choppy, red haircut reminded them of Sid Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols. It seems hilarious to be now (I mean, what Franciscan monks would listen to the Sex Pistols??), but I knew they’d given it to me endearingly. “Hey, it’s Sid!” they’d say with big smiles, when I’d come into the Teen Lounge. They’d each give me a warm hug and I’d settle into the safe place they kept open for me at all times.

What I mean to say here is this. Every child needs a grownup that just loves and accepts the gawky and self-conscious person who is in the process of becoming. It’s the inner voice that doesn’t hold judgment for whether they become something exceptional, beautiful, or even successful. Similarly, working on a dream is a process of developing. You show up and do the best you can, despite the agonizingly self-conscious, pre-teen feelings you have. But here’s the thing — we also have to be the grownup that sits quietly nearby, totally accepting and being compassionate about the blunders and fears that come up during its evolution.

So love and create a safe place for your Sid Viciousness. Take it by the hand and step into the gawky Unknown of your creative dream building.

The creative process (i.e. dream building) is therapeutic in many ways, but the biggest way is in learning to love and accept yourself, even if what you end up with is a bit clumsy, wonky and imperfect. I know it sounds cliche, but this is fucking HUGE. That Bastard Voice comes from well-meaning parents who probably put high expectations on you during your childhood. But the adult version of you can record over that voice and instead give way to encouraging and warmhearted words like “Yeah, you can DO it!”  “This is beautiful! Keep going!” and “It’s okay…it’s all part of the process.”


Taking ACTION on things that feel in alignment with your soul is what I know to be the real catalyst for positive growth in anyone’s life. Yes, it can be horrifying. And no — you won’t know all the answers or have clear direction sometimes. But, like GPS systems, you’re not going to be given the entire journey at the beginning. You start with “Turn left.” And you need to allow room for happenstance. Don’t be the grownup that already has a hard-wired vision for what your work should look like. If everything is predestined, then you not only feel judged all the time, but you limit yourself to only the outcomes YOU can imagine. Leave space for ideas and results that might go way beyond that!

So love and create a safe place for your Sid Viciousness. Take it by the hand and step into the gawky Unknown of your creative dream building — whatever it might be. Again, show up, do some work, don’t judge, then come back and do some more the next day. Trust that allowing your voice to be heard and your gifts to be shared — while totally accepting everything that comes up — will serve you much better than listening to that paralyzing Bastard Voice of self-doubt.

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part II

In the first part of this “Dream Trilogy,” I talked about how, as children, we allowed ourselves the freedom to openly use our imagination and create all kinds of worlds in which our minds and bodies were able to play. But somewhere in our development, the wide open space we had became more limited. As adults, we put up fences and walls that blocked out what we came to regard as silliness and naiveté.

But I encouraged you to peek over those walls and set your judgment aside for a moment, in order to remember and write down some dreams you might have entertained back then. I wrote how it’s actually NOT silly, but in fact a SERIOUS need to pay attention to and evaluate ideas and dreams that still linger in the crawl spaces of your psyche. Hopefully you were able to come up with at least a couple of them, or generate some new ones, so that you have something now to design and develop.

Part II of this process is providing your dreams and ideas with a new and welcoming space in which they can live and grow. This GE commercial is a wonderful illustration of how you should open your doors to nurture such new, scary, and messy ideas. Watch this real quick, before you keep reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmQvc6tB1o

dreamstime_l_12584250-jpgPractically speaking, this space that you’re going to create for your dreams and ideas can be a notebook, binder, file box, poster board, or project folder on your computer. Create a landing strip for all of your thoughts that surround this idea or dream. An example might be that you have a dream to build and live in a log cabin somewhere in South Carolina. Your binder could have one tab for pictures of log cabin designs that you love. Another tab could be a list of companies that make log cabins and their contact numbers. Still other tabs could be for interior decorating ideas, information on select cities in South Carolina, job opportunities out there, etc.

Wedding planners use this method, by the way. A bride will have a “dream wedding” in her mind, and the planner will set up a binder with tabs (physically or electronically) for everything from the registry to the invitations to the flowers — in order to attend to every aspect that will need to come together to create the perfect event.

It’s basically project management.

So that’s the physical place for your dream(s) to exist and grow. Now consider whether you are able to provide a safe mental place for it/them to be.

It’s very easy to think of all the obstacles that stand in the way of your dream — like the funding for it, for example. Or having the time to work on it, or the ripple effects it might have on your family, or the education you would need, etc. I’d encourage you to write down every obstacle that you can think of on separate sheets of paper — and don’t forget to include the beliefs that are also standing in your way.

Not really believing you could do this, is a big one.
But so is “what if I actually could?!”

Marianne Williamson wrote, in her book A Return to Love, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Your negative beliefs are like the fences and walls that kept you away from your dream in the first place. Despite feeling unsure, scared and doubtful, you will need to choose to believe: “I can do this” “This is going to work” and “Change will be okay.” Positive affirmations like this will be game changers because they will re-wire your brain to start accepting and using your powerful abilities. They will give your dream a safe mental atmosphere in which to exist.

So keep all your doubts and barriers under a tab labeled ‘Obstacles,’ where you can flush out what stands in the way between where you are and where you want to be. Don’t do anything with them just yet — just identify them. We’ll work on breaking them down in Part III. For now, it’s a big step to just open your doors and give your ideas and dreams a home where they have a much better chance of surviving and growing into their full potential!

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part I

dreamstime_m_11951874-jpgWhat did you play when you were a kid? What did you wish for, dream about, or see yourself having? As children, we have the innocence and lack of self consciousness to put no limit to our pretend lives. We might have put on various costumes to be superheroes, built entire neighborhoods with Legos, used Barbies to play out our fantasies, or used the outdoors to find new adventures. We could look at the clouds or a painting and see a hundred different things in them! Our imaginations were in technicolor — and we lived our lives wide open!

But as we got older, the cruel faces of self-consciousness, doubt, fear, worry, and criticism appeared on our mind’s screen. They made our lives feel more reserved and confined. They worked like erasers, slowly but methodically rubbing away the pictures of our imagined futures — the futures that would otherwise have made us feel powerful, have more fun, and awaken countless new capabilities.

What a tragedy.

I’m not saying this happened to everyone. Nor can I claim that ALL our dreams were squashed as we got older. But I do know that if we didn’t have loving guides who helped us preserve our innocence, foster our imagination, or bolster the optimistic views of our futures, then they sure were at high risk of dying.

So then…how do we learn how to dream again, as adults?

You may ask “Why would we need to do that? Isn’t that kid stuff? Isn’t that silly?” No. Actually it’s not silly at all. In fact, it’s very serious stuff. If we don’t have dreams, imagining ourselves having or doing the things we love, or if we simply settle for whatever our limited lives have become, then we are not really doing our job in this lifetime. 

More people need to understand that!

We live our lives either by design or default. We can play our hand or we can fold. Prince Ea’s video “Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives” is a clear message to us that, as grown ups, we have a responsibility to discover what it is that lights us up and plays out the purpose with which we were born.

Yes. We were all born to live out a dream with some kind of purpose. But not everyone knows this. So if you were allowed to go back in time and get your old dreams back, or were given full permission and opportunity to develop new ones — what would they look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like?

Would you write a book and become a famous author?
Would you become a pilot and fly all over the world?
Would you be up on a stage dancing or singing your heart out?
Would you be helping save lives in a hospital or third world country?
Would you grow award-winning chrysanthemums in a greenhouse?
Would you own an oceanfront beach house where your whole family could gather?

These are the kinds of dreams that we’ve forgotten how to not only HAVE, but to BELIEVE in. I’ve written before about achieving great things with hard work, but this has to do with the initial claiming and nurturing of the fantasies we would love to have come to fruition.

Take a moment and think about a list of the dreams you would reclaim or create. This might take a while, but it’s worth the time and effort. Save them in a journal or write them on pieces of paper to place inside a box. I don’t care how you store them, but treat them as you would any brilliant idea — with excitement, curiosity, and reverence.

I’ll share how to start making them come true in Part II, so stay tuned!

The 4 Key Components That Keep You REAL!

“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
I’m not exactly sure what year e.e. Cummings wrote this quote, but I do know that he died in 1962, so it was some years before then.  And back then, they didn’t have nearly the amount of media, advertising and social barrage that we experience today, pressuring us to be somebody else. Today, it’s become even more important to hang onto that which grounds us and reminds us that we are okay just the way we were designed.  Do you remember back when you’d get so drunk in college that the room would spin when you tried to lie down? (yeah….you do.)  The trick was to keep one foot on the floor so it sent a message to your body that you weren’t really spinning.So what’s your “flooring,” in the midst of your spinning world?  I break it down into four key components:

  1. The people who keep us honest and true to ourselves.
  2. The places where we feel comfortable and emotionally safe.
  3. The things that remind us to hold steady and stay grounded.
  4. The actions or activities that bring forth our most authentic selves.

When I was in college, I was in a very self-exploratory mode, and for some reason I thought it would be cool to change the spelling of my name from Tanya to Tania.  I was studying French at the time, so maybe I thought it looked more European.  At any rate, I’d written a letter to a friend from high school (yep, we still did that back then), using this new spelling, and he wrote back “What the hell is this T A N I A shit? Pretentious much?”  He totally, totally busted me!  LOL!  So he was a friend who kept me REAL.  He didn’t let me get away with being anything but myself, and that’s what I call a true friend.  So who in your life calls you out whenever you’re doing something stupid or against what they know you’re really all about?  Make a list of these people — past or present — and periodically ask yourself “What would ________ think of me doing this?”

Does coming home to your parents’ house remind you of your roots and real self?  Does your best friend’s front porch allow you to be who you truly are?  What about a specific spot in a park or the woods?  Or a certain vacation spot?  One of my clients told me she created a little space in her walk-in closet where she goes to get grounded and feel safe.  It can be ANY space that has the ability to hold YOU and your real feelings, or brings forth the values you honor the most (even a church or maybe your yoga studio).  Write these places down as well — so that if you start feeling like you’re lost or losing some part of yourself, you have a place to go to get re-rooted.

Do you know why tickle blankets are so important to children?  Because they’re the constant in a world that seems scary and ever-changing.  Over the years, our tickle blanket turns into other things, like a stone we found, old pictures, or a special bracelet or necklace given to us, a meaningful tattoo, certain comfort foods — even our morning cup of coffee can be what grounds us!  Whatever you have to hold onto or wrap yourself in, it should be the thing that reminds you not to veer into the bright lights and sell your soul to get other, more superficial, needs met.

When I was going through my divorce in 2008, I did yoga EVERY…SINGLE…DAY.  The ritual and flow of it kept me focused on what was true and where I had control. Yoga kept me calm, humble, and honest, because my body always showed me what it could and couldn’t do.  There was no faking anything there.  So think of activities that resonate with you, that remind you of where your physical power is and — maybe more importantly — where it is not. Activities that bring us peace or release, so we can let go of that which no longer fits for us.

Once you have these components identified, I’d suggest carrying them with you in the form of a list — either written on a small card you can put in your purse or wallet, or you can use your ‘Reminder’ app on your phone to keep track of them.  However you want to do it, the list serves as your “flooring” when your life starts spinning out of control.  If you weren’t able to come up with some of these components, then make it a point to create and cultivate them.  Recovering addicts go to meetings and have sponsors, religious people go to their place of worship or read their scripture, nature lovers get outside and commune with the living world.  You can find your people, places, things, and activities that bring you back to your Self virtually anywhere.

Just realize that, more than ever, we need our personal army and ammunition in place if we’re going to keep fighting what e.e. Cummings claims is the hardest battle which any human being can fight. And boyyyyy do we have a lot to protect ourselves from!

Be well!

How to Develop Your True Voice

Being a poor decision-maker or having difficulty being clear about your own needs, interests or goals usually comes from being raised without being allowed to speak what was on your mind or express yourself fully. Or, if you were allowed, it was somehow criticized, marginalized, or disregarded (“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”).

Been there. Done that.


We were seen but not heard. If we disagreed with anything, we might have been railroaded anyway or even punished. It seemed as if adults just didn’t take us seriously. And so, we were left believing that our opinions, needs, interests, and emotions weren’t going to be valid until we were grown-ups.

When authority figures tell you what you like, how you really feel, and make all major decisions for you (without consulting you), how can you possibly learn how to do any of these things for yourself? Giving a child a voice, taking the time to fully understand what it is they’re feeling or thinking, and encouraging them to make their own decisions or have their own interpretations of things is one of the most empowering gifts you can provide as a parent, teacher, or other caregiver.

It not only gives them a sense of self-worth, but it develops a sense of competence and a clearer understanding of who they are and what they’re about. This helps with being a strong individual but, perhaps more importantly, it also helps them be in healthier relationships with others.

I have seen countless couples in marriage therapy where the communication breakdown has been, in large part, due to one or both of their inabilities to identify and adequately express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. They either err on the side of shutting down completely and developing strong resentment against the other, or they go to the opposite extreme of having complete and utter emotional meltdowns, rendering them ‘ridiculous’ and ‘irrational.’

What we need more than anything in relationships is to be heard, understood and respected. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a motto that can heal a lot of wounds between people, groups (think current hate groups, racial divides, and political parties, etc.), and even countries.

The only way to heal from being denied any kind of platform, as a child and/or teenager, is to take every opportunity as an adult to learn how to tune into yourself and pay attention to what’s going on inside. Meditation is excellent for this. So is journaling and therapy. Understand yourself first, then seek to be understood. Your voice will become stronger as the margins around who you are, as a person, go from being blurry and vague to being more clearly defined and in focus.