Confidence, Unicorns, and Histrionic Behavior: You Don’t Have to Be the Unicorn

The other day I was playing with my daughter, which happens less often than I’d like, but life gets so busy! We were playing with horses and unicorns. I was cast as the little foal and decided that I would like to be a unicorn, when my daughter informed me that I can’t be a unicorn – but I can play with them. True to my natural interpersonal style, I proceeded (as the baby horse) to flatter the unicorn and say that I wished I could be a unicorn, too! My daughter promptly corrected me, saying, “No! Don’t say that! The unicorns want you to like yourself!” That was a truth bomb that I needed to hear, said in the loving voice of my daughter. I’ve been pondering this idea for a little while now, and I have some ideas of why I might naturally begin relationships in a self-desparaging way.

Growing up with a borderline mother, I witnessed bouts of “confidence” that were a bit frightening and off-putting. My mom was often not truly confident in her abilities or judgement, so she would over-compensate with bravado. (Bravado: a bold manner meant to intimidate)
I didn’t like this quality but always felt like I must follow her lead and obey/flatter/agree with her when she was in this type of mood. Her showcase of faux confidence confused me – confidence was sort of ugly when displayed this way. I decided I didn’t like that type of confidence. Who needed to be confident, anyway? It was overrated, I thought. I will stick with being insecure and just keep trying to “prove” myself.

This thought pattern of mine, in which I disliked confidence and preferred to put myself down, sometimes worked well for me. I was non-threatening. Sometimes sweet people wanted to help me because they could tell I wasn’t really sure of myself. I became the perpetual student, waiting for others to show me the way and to tell me I was doing things “right.” This, i’m sure, became a drag for the people around me.

A true belief in oneself – when combined with a fairly realistic appraisal of gifts and a humble acknowledgement of weaknesses – is a very attractive trait. I began to meet people who possessed this trait and for a long while I sort of hated these people. How did they get to have true confidence? Where did they learn this? Why weren’t they putting themselves down all of the time? Why weren’t they asking everyone else’s opinions? Why were they so free?? Honestly, I found it kind of annoying. Who do they think they are, waltzing around life with confidence?

It was when I had kids that I was able to let some of this negativity go. I wanted my kids to believe in themselves. I wanted them to be honest – to not be braggarts, but to own their gifts and talents and joys. I wanted them to enjoy their lives and themselves. Apparently, this feeling was somewhat mutual. My daughter was telling me that it’s okay to be confident. It won’t scare other people away. 

There was a time when the opportunities I had in life intimidated my mom, or made her feel jealous. This made it hard for me to feel deserving of the good things I had. Who was I to have them, let alone also be confident? It took a lot of reprogramming for me to begin to feel differently about this. Confidence is not everything, and yet it is in fact okay to be confident. It allows others to shine their light, too. I’ve always loved this quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My daughter, in her play, was letting me know that it’s okay… it’s okay to enjoy being the person I am. We can enjoy our own lives, whether we are cast as the horse or the unicorn. We don’t need to cower to those we think are superior or more powerful. And if we are faced with someone who seems to fear our success or joy or light, we need to acknowledge this (to ourselves).

These days I catch myself when I want to put myself down and ask, “Who will this serve?” When I am in a position of power (such as while teaching or coaching), is it helpful to model insecurity? Of course I know it’s not. It is freeing for others when I embrace what I have to offer, and offer it freely without explanation or apology.

Can you relate to this phenomenon? Have you struggled with confidence? How will you let your own light shine now? How have you been dimming it over the years?

Post-decision Regret and Acceptance: Life as an Art Project

They say once you trust your own decisions, that others’ opinions won’t matter. They say you need to tune in to your intuition, and then you’ll know. I’ve found both of these things to be true, but sometimes it’s really hard to tell what you like. Sometimes, you’ll change your mind, and sometimes, you’ll really just make a mistake. What then??

I remember sitting on the kitchen floor of a new apartment with my mom. She was freaking out. She hated the new apartment that her friend had found for her. We’d just moved in from out of state and my mom had rented the place site-unseen. I don’t remember how bad it was or wasn’t. My mom has good taste, so it probably wasn’t the best. I’m glad she found a new, better place for us. However, what I remember so poignantly about that night was the distress it caused her and how unsafe I felt because of it. I remember hoping I wouldn’t act that way as an adult – that I wouldn’t feel so torn up over seemingly small things (or so they seemed to me at the time). My mom ended the relationship with the friend who found her the apartment. There were just too many bad feelings.

Although I’d like to say I never have my own freak out moments when something goes wrong, it’s not true. I feel things more strongly than I’d like to at times, and things can seem unbearable when they don’t turn out the way I expected or hoped. However, I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped me enormously:


1.) Evaluate the problem separately from the emotions and think through options/solutions fully
2.) Don’t judge the emotions that come up: validate them and accept them
3.) Preserve relationships whenever possible

1.) Evaluate the problem separately from the emotions and think through options/solutions fully
2.) Don’t judge the emotions that come up: validate them and accept them
3.) Preserve relationships whenever possible

Things can seem so much worse, and so unsolvable, when we are wrapped up in an emotional moment. Oftentimes they are more solvable than we think. I like to write down the possible options for “fixing” a problem, even when it feels weighty or horrific. I am often surprised by how many solutions there are! I might have to be very patient, or save/spend money, but thinking that things might be able to change someday brings a lot of relief.

I usually judge myself so harshly when I make a decision I don’t like. I wonder why I asked so many peoples’ opinions, or why I didn’t ask enough people what they thought, why I didn’t meditate more, and why I didn’t research more. Sometimes, though, all the thinking and stressing in the world won’t ensure a “perfect” decision. I’m not omnipotent. I’m starting to accept that I make mistakes and I won’t always like the things I choose. It’s okay! I’m trying to look at my life as an art project: sometimes we need to erase or paint over a part we don’t like. It’s just part of the process.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to “act crazy” or beat myself up in order to change my circumstances. I can have strong emotions about a situation and calmly express what I want to do about it. I don’t need to blame other people for not protecting me from a mistake, either.

Recently, during my home renovation project, I made a decision and didn’t like the way it turned out. I had gone back and forth about the detail, and thought I made the right call. I went against some expert advice and did what I thought I liked better. I had polled a lot of people and they agreed with me. I felt semi-confident in my choice. Then, when I saw the result, I regretted it. It was a beast to change, but it was possible and I decided to go ahead and change it. Some people may judge me for that, and think I’m crazy or spoiled or ungrateful, and that’s okay. In this case, I can rest in the idea that because I trust my own opinion, other peoples’ opinions matter less.

It’s a funny road, learning to know and trust oneself. At times it feels like I take one step forward and two steps back. I feel thankful for those along the way who accept my process without judging me for it, because they know that these small decisions are about more than home design or anything else … they are bigger steps on the ladder of personal growth. There was a time when I had a lot of difficulty ordering a sandwich or buying a shirt. It took a lot of baby steps and trial and error to feel like a person who generally knows who I am and what I like. Little by little, I come farther along. I’m finally learning to forgive myself for the bigger mistakes and blunders, too.

Can you relate to post-decision regret and panic? Please share your thoughts!

Show Up Shamed

“You’re going to RUIN your life,” she tells me, and I know she has a point. If not ruined, I will at least miss the joy. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this phrase, especially because with every possible failure or worry of failure I tell myself the same thing: I could ruin this. I could mess it all up. And what then? What does the worst-case scenario really amount to?

Feeling like you ruined things is a horrible experience. As a child, I was bullied in the 4th grade and I ended up trying to cut off my teeth with nail clippers. After a few days of trying this technique, my mom found me, disciplined me, and told me I was going to ruin my teeth. The problem was, I felt I already had – the damage was somewhat faint but irreparable. The cracks and dentin shone through. Later in life, I tried to repair this issue with veneers but did not see a competent doctor. The repair was much more noticeable than the initial issue. “Take 2” of the repair ended up even worse. My colleague noticed both times and criticized me, and I was completely humiliated, in public. I couldn’t hide, I didn’t know how to fix the problem, and so I decided to leave my job and pull myself together. I was too ashamed to speak of what was going on. I was too ashamed to continue showing up.

If I had it to do again, I would have shown up even while shamed. I would have been honest with my boss before quitting my career. To most, it may have been only vaguely noticeable. To some, maybe not at all. To me, it was disastrous. But what if I had stayed present while trying to look for a solution? What if I had admitted my mistakes and my embarrassment? I would have still felt humiliated but at least it would have been more honest.

I think sometimes about what led me to this level of shame and concealment. Maybe everyone does this sort of thing, especially when the humiliation is physical. I’m not sure. I think it might be the result of taking personal the shame of others. As a young girl, when I was taken advantage of by a superior, my superior kept his job while I wasted away as a student with an eating disorder. When my stepdad abused me and denied it, I used this same tactic. I shrunk in shame, but I learned to show up in life somehow. Over time, I guess I grew a little weary and my shame became too heavy.

“Vanity is blasted but it’s rarely fair… I can smell the Prozac in your pretty hair.”


These days, I question it all. What if we all just showed up shamed? What if, in the midst of humiliation, fear, and dread, we just move through life anyway, with honesty? Can the world handle this?
I was once photographed by a photographer when I had no money to pay for headshots of my own. The old man offered to pick me up, and because his studio was far away, he said I could spend the night. As a young naive teen with few resources, I agreed to this. When I realized I was in a compromised position, taking naked photos in a foreign place, I felt afraid. I locked the bedroom door that night and held my ground. I later asked that the photos not be published, ever. He critiqued my teenage pimples.

People will go to lengths to shame you and put their shame onto you. Lorde, in her song “A World Alone,” writes, “They all wanna get rough get away with it” and that really rings true. People want to get away with hurting and shaming and then blaming it all on you. What if we all resisted?

“They all wanna get rough get away with it”


In some ways, I know I’ve ruined aspects of my life. I have let my shame, my perfectionism, my fear, and my failures, drive me away from the things I most love. As I slowly make my way back into the world, I’m revisiting the idea of showing up with honesty, even when feeling ashamed.

This week, for me, it looks like admitting I’m unsure about one of my home renovation choices weeks before it’s supposed to be installed. It’s embarrassing and might make a few people angry, but I value honesty and transparency. Even if I’m feeling ashamed, I can show up with honesty anyway.

How about you? What small or large things in life make you feel ashamed? Can you show up anyway? Do you sometimes choose to give up what you love, or hide in the shadows, instead? Please DM me with your thoughts.

Much love,