Validation For Dummies

This is me primping for a 50’s costume party.


For twenty years I sat on the overstuffed leather sofa in a pricey psychoanalyst’s office wondering how to be happy. I assumed it was to become someone else entirely.

Dr. Waddington didn’t ask what I actually wanted for my life. Instead, he jumped straight into how I could be better for other people. That would do. When his suggestions didn’t appeal to me, he offered words of encouragement like, “just fake it ’til you make it.”


That didn’t feel great. I might have received a better ROI if this guy had supplied the one thing you take for granted in a therapeutic setting:


Unless someone modeled this for you at some point, you may not really understand what it is. I just learned it in a class last week.*


Validation is acknowledging that another person’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors have causes and are therefore understandable. It is finding the kernel of truth in another person’s perspective. The end result is that you have allowed that other person to be fully human. Just like you.

If you totally disagree with them, how does that work?  

First, it isn’t about agreeing with their seemingly wrongheaded ideas. Validation removes the pressure to prove who is right. That reduces negative reactions. By showing we have taken the time to recognize where the other person is coming from even if we disagree, it improves the relationship. We have demonstrated that they matter to us regardless. It makes closeness possible. In sum, it is a more peaceful, more human way to relate.

If you aren’t agreeing with them, then what are you validating?

The person’s experience. Their emotions, beliefs, opinions, or thoughts. Their suffering. You don’t have to agree with them to validate that they have a different life experience than you do.

Why is this so important?

We all have a right to exist exactly as we are. And we all want connection. That other person needs you to let go of your own ego and just BE with them. If not, it devolves. When someone finds herself in an invalidating social environment, it can be very difficult to regulate emotions.

I can vouch for this. When I feel strongly about something and don’t feel heard, my head feels like it’s going to explode.

When people do not allow you to have your perspective, you receive the message that they don’t care how you actually feel. Your feelings are weird, wrong or bad and you shouldn’t be feeling them. As a result, you feel invisible. It’s the worst. None of us wants to have that effect on another human being.

This sounds hard. I thought you said it was validation for dummies.

Fine. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Be Gentle. No judging, moralizing or skeptical facial expressions. No emotion negating statements like, “that’s silly, you shouldn’t feel that way. THEY DO so let them.
  2. Act Interested. Listen. Lean in, make eye contact. Don’t interrupt. If they want to talk about it later, respect that.
  3. Understand where they are coming from. With words and actions, show that you really get the other person’s feelings and thoughts, i.e., “I realize this is hard for you.” See the world from their point of view.
  4. Have an easy manner. Do not pressure them to perform for you or be what you need. Be light-hearted. Hold untroubled space for them to say what they need to say. And if it’s nothing at all, let that be okay.

That’s really it. But if you are like me and want to know WHY WHY WHY this is so critical AND possible, keep reading. This is the key to being able to validate literally anyone.

According to Dialectical Theory, everything in the universe contains the seeds of its opposite. In Chinese Philosophy it is the concept of Yin and Yang. In Western Philosophy it’s the idea that the world is ever-changing. Creative and destructive forces are both constantly in motion.

What does that mean in practical terms? 

Two things that seem like opposites can be true. Here’s a list:

You can want to change AND you are doing the best you can.

You can be independent AND want help. (You can allow someone else to be independent AND also give them help.)

You can want to be alone AND also want to connect with others.

You can share some things AND want to keep some things private.

You can be with others AND be lonely.

You can be a misfit in one group AND fit perfectly in another.

You can accept yourself the way you are AND still want to change.

You may have a valid reason for believing what you believe AND you may still be wrong or incorrect.

Someone may have valid reasons for wanting something from you AND you may have valid reasons for saying no.

Because of this ongoing paradox, we must constantly balance opposites like these:

Accepting reality AND working to change it.

Validating yourself and others AND acknowledging errors.

Working AND resting.

Doing things you need to do AND doing things you want to do.

Working on improving yourself AND accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Problem solving AND problem acceptance.

Emotional regulation AND emotion acceptance.

Mastering something on your own AND asking for help.

Independence AND dependence.

Openness AND privacy.

Two truths! The idea that all truth is paradox helped me better understand how to be there for someone without feeling compromised myself. It is natural for others to hold an opposite truth and IT’S OKAY. It’s how this all works. Our differences make this big ole world go round and it’s actually beautiful.

Also. This insight landed as a relief in my role as a parent. I can be present to my kids’ perspective instead of focusing on bringing them around to my point of view. They actually hate that. I love that I can abandon this relationship-damaging communication style. Even twenty years into parenting. Better late than never, right? (Smh.)

I will give you an example of something that came up the other night that demo’s this two truths theory in practice.

We share technology quite a bit in our house. My husband Mark was on Facetime with one child and another was conducting a Google search on a connected device in the next room. The eye-popping search terms suddenly appeared on Mark’s computer screen. Needless to say, the subject was NOT something that child would have wanted his dad to know he was sitting around wondering about. It was a perfectly normal topic of curiosity but that kid would be totally mortified if the whole family were in on his private thoughts. Just a guess.

So, what are the two truths? 

  1. The internet is chock full of information we want to shield our kids from—we are responsible to monitor everything they are consuming.
  2. Children need to be allowed to have their own inner world without their parents making themselves privy to every stray thought.

And in case you are in the camp of, ‘I really do need to know my child’s every move for their own good,’ there is supporting science that we have an epidemic of kids who do not feel any real agency in their lives. This could be causing a cascade of mental health crises. The theory is that it stems from being micromanaged every minute of every day by a well-meaning adult.

This opposing truth isn’t popular among us 2022 parents. Nonetheless, there are important considerations to keep in mind. Autonomy is essential for developing what psychologists call an “internal locus of control” — the sense that your choices and actions affect your life, that they matter — and that’s exactly what today’s young people lack.

So. Two truths! Leaving young people alone is a surprisingly radical idea. Remember how we were allowed to think our private thoughts and come home when it got dark?

Ya but we didn’t grow up in this crazy world with so many more dangers.

Let’s look a little deeper into that one too.

wouldn’t hurt to wear a helmet for the morning wheelies ijs


Bottom line, validation and finding the middle path is essential to being our full selves while cultivating a healthy bond.

When none of us has to be right AND we can all be right, everyone feels understood. When we all feel like we matter, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



WRITING PROMPT: What are some opposing truths in your life? Are you comfortable in conversations where you disagree? How do you handle those interactions? How do you feel afterwards? Can you give up the need to be right?

Ready to start doing some work on yourself? Email me to schedule a free Discovery Session at Curious about coaching? Learn more at And if you are family or a friend, I have an amazing coaching community ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*Mark and I are taking a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills class with the best DBT therapist in town and a group of parents. Yes, we have a kid in college and two more close behind. But we will be parents for a lifetime so it’s worth the TWENTY FOUR flippin weeks!


It’s Okay To Say No

How often do you say yes without even considering no?

It is so culturally ingrained to give an automatic yes that we often do not even notice when we DON’T WANT to do the thing at all.

Noticing what happens in my body when yes is really no has helped me find the no: a sinking feeling in my chest, an anxious jump in my solar plexus when I imagine actually doing the thing. After I experience those physical sensations, I have even pulled the plug a few times. I can count that de facto no on one hand.

What’s the big deal about doing things for other people that might benefit them so much so more than it will bother you?

I’ll tell you. When we ignore our inner voice, we silence the part of us that knows what we want and need. Not just, I prefer herbal tea over coffee. Critical stuff like this relationship isn’t right for me or this is unwanted touch or this stranger is dangerous. Access to this innate information is deeply important to our wellbeing. When we ignore that voice about the little stuff, it doesn’t speak up anymore about the big stuff.

Saying no is a way to take mental, physical, and emotional care of ourselves.

I speak from experience on the perils of ignoring that inner voice. Throughout my life, I dismissed the whispered directions to my true path. To this day I am realizing things about myself that I paid no attention to for decades. Tapping into that inborn wisdom is the only way to have a WHOLE and happy life.

If you also have difficulty saying no, there is no need to beat yourself up about it. That part of you has been working incredibly hard to do everything for everyone all the time. This is our cultural training and it runs DEEP. The only thing the relentless worker inside you needs is gratitude for all that labor and to be allowed to rest.* There is no rush to heal. You don’t have to be perfect at that too.

So, how do we do it? Since I struggle with this as well, I look to the pros. When someone asks Martha Beck, Oprah’s Life Coach (and the one who trained me), to do something, her answer is, “let me check.” She isn’t consulting a calendar. I mean, afterwards she probably does, but initially she is checking in with herself. Does the idea of saying yes create a feeling of expansion or contraction? Expansion is a yes. Contraction is a no. The body has access to so much more information than our verbal mind. Pro and con lists don’t begin to cover it.  

Once a friend of Martha’s got upset with her when she did this. She asked why. The friend said, “because you had to check.” The only folks who have a problem with you setting healthy boundaries for yourself are the ones who have benefited from you having none. I heard that somewhere and it’s definitely been true for me. If people truly value YOU, they would want you to take care of yourself, right? 

And speaking of Oprah, she considered it a revelation that she could decide for herself how she spent her time and energy. She didn’t learn how to say no until the age of 42! Unlearning an automatic yes began when she asked herself what her intention was behind her yes. If it was I don’t want this person to be mad at me, she said no. A genuine YES came from her heart. And it changed her life.**

And speaking of life-changing, Tricia Hersey, author of Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, teaches the importance of pushing back against Grind Culture: “I say no to 90% of what is asked of me. I don’t overbook my calendar. If I do that it would not allow space for mystery, curiosity and for the sacredness of what COULD happen in those spaces. I want to say yes to things I really feel a YES about.”

Resting and taking time out—there is information for us in those spaces. To slow down is to allow the portal inside to open to create a better world for everyone. Running ourselves ragged prevents us from realizing our true potential.

So. When a friend says no, try honoring that no. There is a good chance it was extremely difficult for her to say it in the first place.

And P.S. if you feel resentful receiving a no, ask yourself this. Who are you really mad at? Could it be you for not having the courage to say no when you didn’t want to do a thing? Your friend didn’t break the code when she refused your request. She took care of herself because if she doesn’t, no one else will. To say no, especially as a woman in this culture, is a radical act.

So try saying yes only when you feel it in your heart. You will like your life a whole lot better and make space for others to do the same.

When you honor your real needs by listening to your inner voice, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



WRITING PROMPT: What happens to your body when you say yes when it’s really a no? How do you feel about yourself when you say no? Who do you say yes to more often, other people or yourself? Does saying no effect your self-esteem?

*The 10/13/22 podcast We Can Do Hard Things covers the violent history of Grind Culture and how critical it is to our collective liberation to allow ourselves to rest. Check it out. It is revolutionary.

**Oprah has a daily reminder sitting right on her desk to honor her own no.

Curious about coaching? Learn more at Email me to schedule a free Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have an amazing coaching community ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today.  And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



A Path Through The Messy Middle

A few minutes into my morning run, familiar signs of stress crept in. Inside my cheeks felt ragged from teeth grinding, the night’s sleep interrupted.

The body will always tell you how you are doing.

In our house, it’s application season. The real work, however, has nothing to do with the online forms. The details are not my story to tell, but the urge to do it my way, on my timetable, definitely is.

I’m having a hard time stepping back and allowing my child to mobilize. Or not. If you feel pulled to solve problems for your nears and dears, I see you, my friend.

Yesterday, a trusted observer said, “you are the only one doing the work, Elizabeth.”

I blanched at the truth of that. It’s not my style to rob my kid of agency. Once upon a time, this same kid rode his bike to elementary school alone. In our town, that level of independence is practically unheard of. Ever since Covid, however, I’ve indulged in the mad urge to swoop in and take over. It is undoubtedly parenting malpractice.

If you’ve tuned into these Friday Stories for a while, you know they begin with a problem and usually end with a tidy solution. Not this time.

Welcome to the messy middle.

Why am I inviting you into a problem with no end in sight?

A few reasons. First, everyone deals with hard stuff. Often, we handle it alone, no matter how willing our support system.




If you are like me and prefer your story to end like a renovation reveal, I feel you. Maybe you’ll debrief your people when it’s over, just to keep folks in the loop. I am lucky to always have a story to write or a coach to call up. My vulnerability is safely contained.

Sharing face to face with an actual person is far more difficult.

So, why do we keep the messy bits to ourselves? We justify our silence with some version of the following:

Everyone struggles with something— why bother discussing it? 

I don’t want to look like a disaster to other people. 

Support is for the weak. 

I don’t need anyone to solve my problems.

No one really cares.

People don’t know how to listen.

At one time or another, I have believed every one of these painful thoughts. And you’re right, not every little thing is meant to be shared. But that last one about listening? That one happens to be true.

But letting others in for the big stuff actually matters. We share to be seen, not fixed. When you reveal your truth, you get to be your whole self with someone else. That vulnerability creates human connection, there’s just no way around it.

Finding someone who can listen deeply is tricky though. Most of us aren’t—it’s not a skill any of us was taught in school. Algebra? A must. Listening to another human being: useless.

If you’re short on good listeners, I have a tip for you. Become a really good listener yourself. The universe is one big ole boomerang.

The best tutorial on the art of listening comes from Untamed author Glennon Doyle. She demonstrates what not to do. I have been a few versions of this terrible listener. And I’ve been “listened to” in those ineffective ways too. The shover, the comparer, the fixer—not listening.

Do your friends and family a favor and watch this:  

As a coach, I am now trained to listen. Admittedly, I do better in a coaching session than in conversation. Old habits die hard.

So. Back to the original dilemma. How am I going to step back from trying to solve my kid’s problems? How do any of us resist the urge to fix what doesn’t belong to us?

I’ll start by acknowledging what this is really about. For me to stand by and allow him to feel the painful consequences of his own mistakes is excruciating. I imagine it sucks for most parents.

The truth is, taking the pain away really isn’t about saving my kid. It is about saving myself from the pain of watching my child suffer. But by robbing him of a difficult growth experience, he misses out on the lesson the pain showed up to teach. The deeper truth is that I have actually saved him from nothing. I have only deferred his pain into the future, possibly creating a worse problem with higher stakes later in his life. And that sucks WAY worse for him.*  




So how do I stop the madness? There are a few possibilities which I am just going to have to experiment with because I’m not sure.

I can try being a comfort instead of a fixer.** I can be there, steady and present to his experience, as best I can, instead of hijacking the whole business for myself. I can hold my own space, like an oak tree in a storm.




When I start to feel anxious and pulled in to rescue, I can step away and feel those difficult feelings about witnessing the struggle. Maybe seek support of my own.

That’s all I got.

So. Have I convinced you to share your messy middle with a trusted friend? Or to start by being that good listener for someone else? I hope so. I’m going to give it a whirl myself. After all, authentic connection is what makes us feel like it’s all going to be okay.



WRITING PROMPT: What big truth is right there waiting for you to discover? Do you have someone to share it with? A good listener, perhaps? Are you a good listener?

*This is also about something else which I didn’t realize until I this Friday Story had already gone out. We also clean up the mess because we worry about what other people think of us just standing by and watching it happen. We imagine their thought bubble, what were the parents thinking? That is such a given I didn’t even think to mention it.

**This insight came from someone I coached. This is the magic of coaching! The sessions are co-created so there are gold nuggets for all in every session. Ready to start doing some work on yourself? Email me to schedule a free Discovery Session at Curious about coaching? Learn more at  And if you are family or a friend, I have an amazing coaching community ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe. And if you are so inclined, forward to a friend. You can also come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



You Are Every Age You’ve Ever Been


You Are Every Age You’ve Ever Been

At my thirty-fifth high school reunion, I lived this theory all weekend. Reuniting with the amazing people I grew up around brought the girl I used to be out to party. It felt like we all became those same giggly goofballs who wanted to spend lots of time together, catch up on what we had missed, and reminisce about the crazy stuff we did back in eighties. Like teenagers anywhere, we all just wanted to be young and wild and free.

That spunky former self of mine wasn’t the only one who showed up. Like our adult selves, the younger versions are also complicated.

At the big event on Saturday night, the angsty, insecure version of me popped in too–during a chat with a boy I had liked. That “boy” is 53. Back then, it was pretty clear I didn’t mean much to him. No shade intended, it was me who sent the message that it was cool, I’d stick around regardless. The confident adult I am now felt a stab of pity for that needy girl.  


It may sound odd, but quick access to those old feelings says something. Those vulnerable parts are still there, unresolved. And they need attention—particularly around their fears.  If we never revisit them, they just hang around, feeling angsty in perpetuity. Ideally, we want to feel fully integrated and whole but that takes some work.

A bit of self-compassion for our tender inner selves helps to realign so that we don’t end up making decisions or acting out from those unresolved selves. Instead, we want to lead from our steady core when we face challenges. We would all prefer to operate from the calm, clear, confident, curious, connected, compassionate, courageous, and creative Self who isn’t rattled by anything. Every one of us has that Essential Self. If you aren’t in touch with that part of you so much, this work is calling out to you. (See below for a detailed explanation.*)

It’s called Internal Family Systems, i.e., “parts work” and it can be done by yourself, in therapy or with a coach. I did it myself and demo-ed this valuable tool in a prior Friday Story.** When you feel a strong emotional reaction to something and the need to act out, that’s a signal for you to take a look inside.  


For me, that same self-conscious girl pops in when I am in a crowd of friends and clams up. She felt intimidated as a relative newcomer to this group of high school friends with long standing friendships, many since junior high and even elementary school.

So, in service to that sixteen year old who goes to every party with me, I will address her concerns. I have figured some things out as an adult which it seems like she may need to know. Maybe at the next party, she can relax a little and perhaps feel a wee bit less self-conscious.

Here goes:


  1. You think you need to change so much about yourself, but guess what? All you need to do is accept yourself exactly as you are. Once you love yourself better, you will take better care of yourself. It comes naturally. That is what we do for people we love. You will eat well, exercise, hydrate, and take time for yourself because it feels good. Not because you have to. That includes the people you allow access to you. They will be the ones who deserve you.
  1. You believe it’s better to hide the messy parts of you so that people don’t reject you. It’s a big NO to that one too. When you share your truth, people can relate. The more personal, the more universal. When you have the courage to show up exactly as you are, it creates space out in the world for others to do it too.


don’t worry, I’m fine, this is an old photo 🙂

  1. Your young mind believed all you had to be was thin, pretty and rich to be happy. LOL! That was just the culture trying to sell you stuff (looking at you, Cosmo.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s fun to be all of those things but that’s not the recipe for happiness. All these years later, I know super rich folks who are miserable, and thin, beautiful, people who are painfully insecure. It means jack squat. Happy is an inside job. And if you aren’t working on your inner life, it’s bloody impossible.
  1. You thought setting limits would alienate others and that boundaries are for people who don’t want relationships. That you should go along with everything just to keep others around. In truth, having no boundaries is only for people who want bad relationships. That bit of intel came back to me like a sack of hammers when I thought about my little sixteen year old self with a raging case of mommy AND daddy issues. SHEESH. That girl was so desperate for attention, it hurts to even thinking about it. Good job not getting yourself in more trouble back then, little miss.


  1. Friendship. Despite lots of friends, you felt like a lone wolf. You always assumed it was because you didn’t quite fit in. All this time later, it’s clear that you have difficulty in big groups and sometimes get overwhelmed. It’s a sensitivity thing. You worry about saying too much or too little. Your heart sinks at the thought that you won’t have any meaningful conversations and it will all be for naught. Know that there are always opportunities to connect. I found many this weekend and it was amazing. My old friends are the absolute coolest people ever. And I no longer have qualms going off alone to take care of myself. I no longer worry what anyone will think. Several of us acknowledged that we get overloaded and need space to recharge. I did that a few times—took a long run in the crisp Fall weather, meditated regularly, and followed a schedule that worked for me. And felt fine about it. Actually, I worried a little, tbh, but I did it. A few of us discussed how great it is to finally be okay taking care of ourselves. Progress, eh?
  1. You weren’t the only one struggling back then or now. You may have felt self conscious about how nuts your home life was but the truth of it is, everyone had hard times. Some we didn’t have a clue about until now. Abuse, alcoholism, neglect, you name it. And most of us kept it to ourselves. How great to be able to share what we went through from the safety of adulthood. How unfortunate that the kids we used to be just white-knuckled their way through it alone. Hug a teenager today. Tell them it’s going to be okay. They are carrying the weight of the world.


  1. You had the right idea about dancing it out. Angsty energy does need OUT of your body. Back then, you practiced and performed with your squad and took your show on the road with a fake ID and a buddy (love you Larue!) to go dance at a club whenever you could. Movement is an extremely effective spiritual and emotional detox. Not to mention, great for your physical health—a total reset of the nervous system. Animals do this all the time. If you watch the nature channel, two animals have a brawl, then run away, stop and shake it off. Quick way to start over. In high school, you were so smart to do it regularly. Good job.


  1. It is totally normal to feel insecure. It’s part of the human condition to want to belong and to feel like you really don’t. By nature, we are social creatures searching for connection, common ground, and acceptance. We all feel a little misunderstood. When we feel bad like that, it’s a sign that it’s not true. Truth feels free and expansive. We all belong to each other. Everyone is struggling with something. Assume that is true for everyone and you start from a place of love and compassion—for yourself and everyone else. Only good can come of that. And THAT, my friend, is the truth.
  1. Don’t worry about doing everything right and rushing to “get somewhere in life.” You are never too late on your own path. There is no finish line. If you follow your truth, it will unfold exactly as it is meant to and it will be beautiful.
  1. You’ve got this. Now go get ‘em tiger.

What can you tell the insecure teenager inside of you? She’s still in there. I know. I hung out with mine all weekend.



P.S. Lots of love to the class of ’87. You all are the absolute best.

* This is an awesome tutorial on Internal Family Systems and why it’s so valuable:

** This is my demo piece on IFS from a couple years ago.

*Curious about coaching?  I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder model designed by Martha Beck. If you would like to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session. And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community who are ready to partner with you. Learn more at

For more on the Self we want to be in charge of our decision making, check out:

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



Judge Me All You Want

Being judged is the worst. When it’s happening to us, there is a palpable energy to it—both leaden and jarring. When we take that in, we feel wretched.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t let it end there. After I marinate in the judger’s icky vibes, I turn the hose on them and judge right back. At nearly 53, it’s not a good look.

Judgmental roots run deep in my family. The OG was Nana—my father’s mother. Nana and my mom could not have been more different.

As a posh Jewish wife from New York City, Nana did not get Mom’s whole earth mother thing.

My mother was Nana’s polar opposite: an independent Californian who set about marriage and family with a full on DIY philosophy. My parents left San Francisco to raise their kids in a half built adobe in remote New Mexico. Mom taught herself to bake bread, make yoghurt, whip butter, and even tried her hand at gardening. When my brother had trouble with cow’s milk, Mom bought a goat. Twice a day, she sat on a little stool and milked Buttons for Matt’s bottle.


When my grandparents came to visit, Mom aimed to please. My parents even slept on the floor so Nana and Grandpa could have the only king sized bed. They got the royal treatment, including when Mom was pregnant.

Nana said very little. Except when it came to my mother’s appearance. She warned that my Dad would look elsewhere if Mom didn’t drop the baby weight. When Mom slimmed down, Nana was concerned other men would woo her away.

Beyond the premium she placed on looks, it was hard to tell what Nana really thought about anything. Her husband made the rules and she followed them without question.

During a trip out to introduce my then boyfriend Mark to Nana, I got a glimpse into what it must have been like to be her. After Grandpa died, she kept the same silent vigil around her new husband Lee. Despite her continued restraint, Nana looked happy.

“He doesn’t care about my weight,” she said with a smile. I was glad she could finally relax, but it made me sad that it seemed to be the only way in which she had permission to be herself.

All this time later, these little vignettes of Nana land differently. She was doing her best to fit into the tiny box where society had stuffed women of her generation. She endeavored to do right by being a slim, pretty, obedient wife for her husband. That’s it.

As I write, it strikes me that Nana must have felt very little agency in her own life. She was beholden to her husband in all things. Down to her ability to satiate her own physical hunger. I cannot imagine.

With a bit of compassion, I might have recognized that her judgment came from a place of concern for her son’s marriage. She worried about being rejected herself if she didn’t look a certain way. And she fretted over Mom for the same reasons. Was it right? I don’t think so but nobody asked me. It was none of my business then or now.

Looking back, it’s obvious to me that I am guilty of assuming the worst about Nana—that when she critiqued my mother, she was being snooty and shallow. I have behaved the same way that has bothered me so much when I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

So. What is my takeaway from digging down to the roots of my family judgment? It may sound bizarre, but I am going to try my hand at welcoming the judgment of others.

Why on earth would you want to do that? 

Because judging someone else for judging me just makes me feel worse. That’s a sign that what I am thinking isn’t true.* Telling someone else how they should operate, even if it is for my own self preservation, is still the fruit of the poisonous tree. I don’t have to own what anyone else thinks of me.

When I offer that grace to those who judge me, I also offer it to myself. I’ve engaged in a lifetime of unsolicited advice and judgment. The behavior originated from the same place as Nana’s—worrying about how other people are doing their life and trying to make it better. When they didn’t ask me. I have both Nana and my mother inside me.

We all just want to be seen and loved for who we are, not the version someone else would prefer. So. Before you tell someone how they should be, think about that. Be curious about what they might really want for themselves. Maybe even ask.

Okay, that is all. Happy Friday.



WRITING PROMPT: (I missed calling these writing prompts so it’s back!) What happens to you when you are feeling judgmental? Are you feeling anxiety over someone else’s choices? What helps you break the cycle?

*The Buddha said that you will know enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom, just as you know the ocean because it tastes of salt. This implies that I achieve enlightenment every time I can flow with the process of life, without feeling triggered or reactive in any way.

I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder Coaching model designed by Martha Beck. If you would like to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community who are ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!


The Myth Of A Happy Marriage


As a doe-eyed newlywed, I had no idea what it took to have a happy marriage. On mom’s side of the family, marriages toppled like dominos, all the way down the line. On dad’s side, Nana buttoned her lip around Grandpa until he died. That seemed worse than all the divorces.

On 9/9/99, I signed our marriage certificate at the Coral Gables Courthouse and set about doing it my own way. A couple of decades whizzed by before I realized how much society and family patterns had influenced us, despite all efforts to break the mold.

Subconsciously, I believed everything in our domestic realm was my job, including the health of our marriage. I bought the books, registered for classes, and, when we needed a tune up, made appointments with counselors. My husband Mark was expected to show up and participate, a role he executed flawlessly.

With enough research, I’d be sure to discover the recipe for wedded bliss—of that I had no doubt.

To my surprise, the secret could not be found anywhere. Twenty-three years in, I finally understand what it takes. It isn’t saying the right things, selecting the perfect gift, or knowing the right flowers to send.

Not that I haven’t fully expected those things too. It took years to realize that the times when Mark didn’t get it right, the feeling of despair told me more about how I treated myself than about my husband’s love for me.*

I now understand that my dashed expectations were a convenient cover story for being dissatisfied with my own choices. For giving away too much. For not putting myself anywhere on my list of priorities. From the perspective of a major course correction, I finally recognize that.

And before I dive too deeply into blaming myself for not knowing how to do life right, let me just say to the over-sacrificing part of me, I will not heap shame upon you for how hard you tried. All parts of me deserve acceptance and love. As do all parts of you.

Sidebar: many of us, women especially, are constantly worried that our efforts are not good enough. The culture feeds us this message constantly. I bet there are people you worry about judging the way you do life too. Let’s not be part of our own problem, shall we?

Okay, back to expecting others to do for me what I was unwilling to do for myself. Most of the time, I didn’t acknowledge my own needs until my husband didn’t meet them. Each time he didn’t do the thing I wanted, I felt a familiar stab. A person who takes care of themselves wouldn’t hand over that kind of power to anyone.  

And there’s my work.

Why had I spent so long not meeting my own needs? I had somehow accepted the belief that as a wife and mom, it’s not okay to take care of yourself. To make sure YOU are okay. To, God forbid, seek fulfillment as a human being.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have left the store with a carload of groceries only to realize I had neglected to buy my own basic requirements. The over-sacrificing mother is one of our culture’s favorite tropes.**

If I had to name one thing, overgiving to others and undergiving to myself is probably the biggest threat of all to my marriage. 

Depending on my partner to provide what I need to be okay is unfair to him and places me in the role of victim. Part of me resists this insight because I still a little bit buy into what the culture has told me I deserve as a wife and mother: i.e., not much. In the words of my own dear mother, it’s enough already.

So what is the recipe for wedded bliss?

It turns out, the way to be at your best together is made of the same ingredients as being happy alone. Filling your own cup yourself. Taking care of your own needs provides a surplus of goodness to share with your special people. 

The crucial piece is to notice what lights you up and to have the courage to follow it.

And that goes for both of you. Your partner could also be stuck in their own overgiving, over-sacrificing rut. If that is you, save yourself. No one is coming for you.

Lucky for us, we both want an amazing life and have kept at it until we got here.


In the last several years, Mark’s work had grown tiresome, the politics unbearable. In service to our monthly financial albatross, he toiled away at a big fancy law firm. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He bet on himself and left. Mark loves his new firm and the exciting matters that fill his days. His personal goals have also kept pace. Last year, he competed in the JFK 50, the oldest 50 miler in the country. He plans to train for a 100 mile ultramarathon despite a setback from long covid. At nearly 59, this guy is living his best life.

For me, even though I fretted about people’s opinions, especially my lawyer crowd, I got past it and made the decision to coach. My work is more joyful and fulfilling than I ever thought possible. As a result of getting coached myself, I have the capacity to hold untroubled space for my clients, have better relationships and improved boundaries. I am amazed at the level of peace and contentment I have created.

We are far from perfect, but we are learning all the time. I’ll take that over perfection any day.

So. If you can be happy on your own, what’s a marriage for then, you might be wondering.

When our youngest turns eighteen, Mark and I will have been parents together for twenty-four years. Soon it will be just the two of us again. Every now and then, I have wondered who we will be on the other side of this all-consuming role as parents. Who will we be to each other?

A few weeks ago, our daughter had left back to college, our older son was still out of the country and the little one had an extended sleepover.  An empty nest simulation day fell into our laps.

We hopped out of bed, took a long walk together, brunched at a yummy spot nearby, sunned ourselves at the beach, found an amazing taco place and toasted to each other with margaritas. The day ended in each other’s arms singing our favorite seventies loves songs. We are still each other’s person.

When you realize that you are in charge of your own happiness, you get the sense that, no matter what, it’s all going to be okay.



*Also. A great way to take care of yourself is to ask for what you want. Your partner should know where to go for your special things. If you think that is too demanding or takes the fun out of it or whatever, you do you, my friend. After Mark read this piece, I sent him a follow-up email with a fresh list of all my favorites. He is encouraged to do the same for me. And if he wishes to surprise me, he has been invited to check in with my friend Serena whose taste is impeccable. Just as the carpenters do, ‘measure twice, cut once.’

**I know we all laughed at this one, but it made me want to throw something. Also cry.

If you are ready to find out what lights you up and how to get there, I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder Coaching model designed by Martha Beck. You are invited to find out if this work is right for you by scheduling a free Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are welcome to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



Less Ego = More Joy

According to Mindfulness Instructor, Cory Muscara, “desires that arise in agitation are more aligned with your ego. Desires that arise in stillness are more aligned with your soul.”

This quote gives me flashbacks of parties where I nodded and smiled while inside I wanted to flee, of home renovations where I obsessed over nearly imperceptible details, of scrutinizing my appearance in dressing rooms my whole life.

Our ego is the boss of our “not enoughness.” When we experience that agitation, it’s our ego—our inner 7th grader—trying to fit in. The yearning to do it right, to win the approval of others, for who we are to make sense to other people. Trying to be who we think others want us to be is not the way to a happy life. I know, I tried it.

The cosmic joke is that no amount external validation is ever enough for our ego. It convinces us to keep striving for the next thing because THAT IS THE THING that will finally make it stop. The ego is a big liar.

It’s persuasive though, especially considering how deeply conditioned by the culture we are to let it dictate our every move.

I had a situation this week where that ego agitation rose up over and over. When the stakes are low, watching the ego operate can be a great little personal growth lab. Returning to that peaceful, easy feeling to discover what I really wanted was a struggle.


Here’s what happened.

I received a note from my favorite charity, Educate Tomorrow about their Fall fundraiser.*

Now that my coaching practice has expanded into the twenty-something age group, it gave me the idea to be a corporate sponsor and maybe donate some sessions. For their upcoming Fall event they just needed a cash donation and my logo.

The logo though. A couple years ago, the web designer made my initials a defacto logo. For coaches and consultants, it’s common practice to use your name as your brand, so the easy choice was to leave it as is. An actual logo with a new name would invite tech work for which I have neither aptitude nor enthusiasm.

BUT. I love naming my special stuff! Just ask my bike Freda, and my typewriter Louise. It’s SO fun and there’s a psychic connection that happens which I won’t get into lest you think I’ve truly gone round the bend. (There is though.)

Always choosing the practical option over the exciting one can have some unintended consequences. It is choosing contraction over expansion for your life. It keeps you small. A coaching session helped me give myself permission to choose the path that made my belly jump with excitement. Thank you once again, Coach Hope.**


When I thought about a design, I wanted birds! When I spot a bird outside my work space, I take a moment to be present in a happy state of curiosity and wonder.

My tech savvy friend Katie suggested which allows graphic artists to compete with one another for your job. I signed up and within minutes, dozens of colorful logos flooded my inbox.

Immediately, I felt bad about saying no and felt responsible for hurting their feelings. I wrote them effusive thank yous and apologies. I resented the website for exploiting the artists. I turned my fun thing into a codependence sh!t show. It took a while to snap out of it.

All weekend, I perused the multiplying choices and by Sunday, I had finally settled on a concept and an artist whose work I loved…and stalked. I looked at all his other work. Each design was more magnificent than the last. My guy Olimpio is from Tuscany for Pete’s sake. I compared my simple design to all his other super detailed, colorful logos and figured mine could use some sprucing up. I made requests and obsessed.

Can you take some elements from your other designs and put them in mine? Any way to make the birds seem happy and hopeful? I’d like to see more birds. Can I see all the birds actually?

 It had to be the most amazing design. And I wanted EVERYONE to think so. But I hadn’t listened to what I wanted yet.

The design website noted my indecision and offered to take a poll. God no. Once I gave over to the opinions of strangers, I was done for.

I asked my family. At least they knew me.

My daughter said, “doesn’t it only matter what you like?” Don’t you hate when people give your advice back to you? Don’t live by committee, I advised just last week. There’s a reason I harp on this stuff. I desperately need it.


When you soften your grip on superficial desires, you become more attuned to your deeper desires.

  -Cory Mascara


I slept on it. During the stillness of my morning meditation what I already knew came back to me. I loved the simplicity of the original design. It drew me in immediately. And I adored the Carolina Wren—that’s the little bird— curious about her companion. The birds didn’t need to be happy, hopeful or any kind of way. Just present and curious. And that is how I show up to my coaching practice.


When we dissociate ourselves from the egoic mind, the ego-identity dissolves. You remember who you are, and can connect with yourself. -TyaCemellia Allred, LMFT


That is what stillness does. If you don’t have a meditation practice, just sitting for a few minutes and listening to your breath can bring you back to yourself.

My other takeaway was becoming more aware of the tendency to mind other people’s emotional business. The habit has put me in some uncomfortable spots. Overstepping with unsolicited advice, for one. Putting pressure on myself to fix it, feeling hurt when people don’t do what I say and getting upset with the person for resisting my attempts to control them. The need to fix things that don’t belong to me continues to cause trouble in my life. This building awareness will help me modify the behavior a teensy bit at a time.

And guess what? Making the joyful choice didn’t have any of the negative tech consequences I had imagined. I purchased the website and when the sale is final, it will send you directly to its own dedicated drop down which is already available on my existing website:  How cool is that?


Bottom line, the creation of this little logo put a spring in my step and helped me dream of the possibilities. One day I may want other coaches to join my practice. Now there is room to grow! And I am so excited to donate to my friends’ charity. I can’t wait to see Lucky Bird Coaching doing lots of good out in the world.

When you choose peace and joy there is no doubt that it’s all going to be okay.



POWERFUL QUESTION:  What patterns do you notice? Are you allowing yourself some grace or beating yourself up about it? Do you believe all parts of you deserve love, even the ones most resistant to change?

*ET was started by dear friends nearly twenty years ago to assist youth transitioning out of the foster care system, utilizing state funding to provide tuition waivers for higher education. In the years since its founding, an entire system of support has grown up around the education piece including coaching in physical and emotional wellbeing, affordable housing, you name it. All these years later, the young adults whose lives have been changed for the better number in the thousands. The whole idea is so deeply GOOD: This is their fun event this Fall if you want to come! And speaking of doing good, I also love The Seed School started by the same awesome people. To hear how it all happened, check out my Instagram Live with Founder Melanie Damian, Esq. from 3/20/21. It’s truly an amazing story.

**Coach Hope Cook is REALLY GOOD. Check her out.

I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder Coaching model designed by Martha Beck. If you would like to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community who are ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!



Welcome To The Jungle

When faced with a problem, we are accustomed to applying logic to solve it. Weighing pros and cons, brainstorming, and advice-seeking are standard operating procedure. This may be the way you’ve done things since forever. For most of my life, it’s been my way too.

The down side is this: the logical part of our brain is subject to cultural conditioning. Since before we learned to talk, we’ve been programmed to worry about what other people think, even if we don’t consciously realize it.

By the time we reach adulthood, our parents, religious communities, and peers have filled our heads with messages about what we should want for ourselves.

Building a life by committee can leave us facing each day wondering: is this it? I did what I was supposed to do. Why don’t I feel satisfied?



And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”


Here is the good news. Even if it feels a million miles away from you now, you do know what you really want. That knowledge has always been inside you, untouched by anyone’s opinion. And you can gain access to it once you know how. It’s just science.

If you aren’t familiar with how the brain’s two hemispheres function, you know exactly how hanging out in your right brain feels.* It’s that moment when you take in a stunning sunrise, or when you sink into a hug from someone you love, or the blissful surrender of final relaxation in yoga. It’s wordless, peaceful, presence. For most of us, it’s far too fleeting.**

How can you access this magical place without a trip to the beach? Simple. Engage your creativity. It happens in my coaching practice all the time. Using your imagination to tap into the calm, connected, real you supplies the information that will point you toward your destiny. That part of your brain hasn’t been trained by anyone. It’s forever wild and free. And it knows ALL.

I will demo how this works using a session from this week where another coach practiced the metaphor tool on me.

At the top of a coaching session, you identify a problem—something that consumes more energy than you’d like. If you figured it out, life would be better.

I chose to focus on how to minimize work interruptions. Sounds boring, but it really bothers me. My coaching practice and writing life take place from home, so I am on the front line for kid-related schedule changes. Being the parent to cancel plans is a twenty year old deal I made back when I first left the practice of law. At the time, Mark suggested a live-in nanny for our two litigator family. Having been outsourced myself as a kid left too many unpleasant memories for that choice to feel right to me. I wouldn’t trade any of that time with my kids. But. This work feeds my soul and I need more time.

Clearly, our deal is up for renegotiation.

We have had some uncomfortable conversations. Mark’s solution is the same as it was all those years ago. If I want to work undisturbed, we need to hire someone full time as the driver, afternoon supervisor, responsible adult for doctor’s appointments, all of it.

It didn’t feel good to me then and stills feels like the wrong thing for us today. Now that my kids are teenagers, it just seems weird. And yet, when my workday is infringed upon, I despair, wondering when my own life will matter as much as my husband’s career.

Kellee, one of my favorite Wayfinder coaches, asked me to think of a metaphor for this issue of work interruptions.

A tiger popped into my head.

“What’s the tiger doing?”

“She’s pacing in one of those zoos that appears to be animal-friendly but still sucks. The enclosure is hard packed dirt and barren with a little greenery where the other tigers are laying about. The tiger stands at the edge of the moat that separates their enclosure from the rest of the zoo. She stares into the deep cavern below. She glances back at the other tigers under the one palm tree, sort of piled on each other. She says to herself, we could all help one other get out of here, but they aren’t getting up. They seem exhausted. She thinks, what’s the use, if we all get out, we’ll all be shot. Who wants a bunch of tigers loose in the zoo?”

“Then she backs up and pounces across the moat. She makes it across and walks along the low stone wall, afraid to enter the zoo. She waits to be taken down by a sharp shooter any second. She creeps along, trying to be invisible.”

“A kind zoo keeper appears and calmly leads the tiger away, signaling to zoo goers that all is well. He guides her to the back offices where she rests on the cool cement floor. She is relieved to be alive and out of the enclosure. The zoo keeper sits down at his desk and studies the problem of this tiger who is discontented enough to risk her life to escape. He knows going back isn’t an option.”

“To the tiger’s surprise, the zoo keeper arranges a plane that takes them back to the jungle where she came from. She scampers off into the lush wilderness, happy to be among all the other wild animals. The zoo keeper stays. Although he is part of civilization, he prefers to be where all wild creatures can be free.” ***

My coach asks about each symbol. I answer, not knowing what is coming out ahead of time. I don’t think about it, just free-associate.

“I am the restless tiger.”

“The barren enclosure is the despair I feel when my work is canceled.”

“Jumping the moat is my writing.”

“The pile of tigers are other women in my situation who are worn out by this but can’t summon the energy to do anything to change it. They watch me jump and understand they can choose to do it too.”

“The benevolent zoo keeper is my calm husband who has been part of the system that has kept me trapped but also a willing partner in my liberation. As soon as I need him to show up, he is there. He doesn’t allow his emotions to overtake him as I sometimes do and instead simply makes the plans to move us out.”

“The tiger’s precarious journey crossing the zoo trying not to cause trouble for herself represents these last five years of having our kids at home. As long as we stay the course, we will arrive back to the jungle. We will have planned interruptions like school vacations, etc. We can share responsibility to be equally available for those. We can work together.”

“’The jungle’ is our plan to move to New Mexico once the kids are all in college/off doing life.”

She asks what other insights occurred to me from this exercise.

“When I have needed to go off and be myself for a while, my husband has booked every single flight out of town for me and made himself available for the kids. Has he been super excited to change his work schedule? Not particularly, but he knew I needed the time to myself and made it happen.”

“And ever since I raised the idea of relocating to Santa Fe, he has been sending me real estate listings. He seems genuinely excited about it.”

Then Kellee says, “I have a hunch, can I share it with you? Something just kept coming to me so clearly.”

This is the part of the session that shows how we are co-creating all of this. There is no hierarchy in coaching so she has some insights if I am willing to hear them.

“You don’t need anyone to look after your sons. You can partner with them to make sure you get your work done without interruption. They can take responsibility.”

It’s true. If we hired someone to surveil the boys all afternoon, the little one would go bananas. He said he doesn’t want his phone back because he didn’t like being watched on Life 360. Freedom can be his if he is willing to rise to the occasion.

I am immensely relieved by having done this exercise. I have to admit, when I watched the tiger leap out of the cage it freaked me out. I thought to myself, oh crap, do I have to leave? The thought made my heart sink so I know it’s not true. And it was a little weird that my husband was my actual keeper. But this is us. He is a planner and part of the system that has sustained us for all this time. And I am the wild animal who needs help getting back to the jungle where I belong. He will book the flights.



When you are willing to solve your problems from your imagination, you let go of all the shoulds to get to what you truly need. Once you find a sense of freedom in your solution, you know that it’s all going to be okay.



POWERFUL QUESTION: Do you wake up feeling like there could be more? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Are you interested in doing this work? It is the most fun you can have trying to fix a troublesome situation, I guarantee it. If you’d like to find out if one on one coaching is for you, email me at to schedule a Discovery Call.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*Neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor describes what it’s like when your left brain goes offline and the right brain takes over. It’s total euphoria. Check it out.

**If you meditate, you practice right brain living regularly. This practice makes you far more likely to operate from this peaceful, connected place because you are laying down neural pathways leading directly there.

***This use of the metaphor tool is a quite extended version. In non-coach sessions we don’t spend as much time in the metaphor world. In this one, however, the images kept coming so my coach just allowed it to keep going. Lots of good information in there!!



Overgivers Anonymous


I swear we need a twelve step program for overgiving.

Not to mention an overhaul of the culture that has trained us to do it. Barring such improbable changes, you can learn a simple technique to override the habit.

The following discussion provides the cultural context of overgiving in a hetero marriage which is my own point of reference. If this doesn’t apply to you, go ahead and skip to the end for the exercise.

Where’s this coming from, you might be wondering. For me, this issue never strays far from my mind. Honestly, it’s the most likely reason my own family of origin splintered apart. I imagine my mother wanted to be a person again, not just an invisible caretaker of four children while her husband came and went as he pleased. Having lived through this cautionary tale, I’ve been actively trying to unlearn my own conditioning ever since.

The best way to do this, imho, is to understand the context. A favorite coaching partner sent me a podcast yesterday that put it so bluntly I felt compelled to share.


In Episode 33 of Bewildered, Martha Beck and Rowan Mangan invite their dear friend, author Elizabeth Gilbert in for a chat. She gives a firsthand account of the hostility our society shows childless, single women who refuse to be free labor for a society that chooses not to take care of its citizens (see American childcare, healthcare, eldercare, education, etc.) 

For one of her books, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elizabeth learned the statistics.* She explains what sociologists refer to as the “marriage benefit imbalance” in which married women fare far worse than married men.

According to the studies, married women are more likely to suffer from depression and addiction than married men and even die ten years earlier than single women. Married men live an average of ten years longer than single men (a haunting data point if there ever was one). Married women are more likely to suffer a violent death than single women—usually, at the hands of their own husbands.

Conversely, “there is no better thing a man can do than hitch himself to a woman,” Gilbert says. Married men are healthier, accumulate more wealth, enjoy greater career advancement, and are far less likely to die a violent death than single men. Married men report themselves to be much happier than if they remain single. They suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression.

For the married woman, however, every gain a married man makes is her loss. She cares for everyone, providing all the invisible labor in the family. Dentist and doctor’s appointments, parent/teacher conferences, the gatherer of supplies and planner of all. On top of the care, feeding and loving of children and old people, she is also expected to work the same hours as a man who has free domestic labor at home: his wife. 

There are outliers, obviously, which I bet if you are married like me, you prefer to count yourselves among them.

Of course, I sent this podcast to my husband. We talked about it last night while we were both brushing our teeth.

“Is this your way of asking for a divorce?” he said with a smile.

To be clear, this is much less my own personal message and more the hard facts about marital health and satisfaction. If my husband and kids understand our conditioning around the invisible work we expect of women, we can all make healthier choices.**

As for my own marriage, this awareness affords us the opportunity to evolve. These days, grocery shopping, cooking and carpool are shared. With a bit less time on the family caretaking clock, I have more time for my own work. Not as much as I’d like, but it’s a process. We can do better.

The flip side is my husband’s conditioning that his value is based on the money his work brings in for our family, not on his physical and emotional presence in our lives. Also not true.
The reality is, we’d both be more fully actualized humans as equal partners in all of it. And if we both remain bogged down in our separate spheres, sharing the burdens equally will never be possible.

In both of our cases, the conditioning is real. It took me decades to even notice how all the free, invisible labor I provided my family and community actually made me feel. If you are constantly overgiving it could actually be making you sick.

The list of chronic diseases and mystery illnesses my married friends and I have suffered over the years is long. Chronic fatigue, migraines, breast diseases of every variety—who knew there were even this many.

Here is the good news. We can get in front of overgiving by checking in with ourselves FIRST. We can pay more attention to how it feels in our bodies to do certain kinds of work and to put ourselves in the company of certain people. That is a critically important clue to healthier decision-making.

This whole week, I have been inviting clients to use this readily available, always reliable tool. The body is constantly delivering signals which we have been trained to ignore with our intellect. We allow our verbal brains to make all our decisions when it is our nervous system that collects nearly three times the information.

Our bodies house our intuition. When we ignore the body’s signals, the communication lines between mind and body are cut. Without our intuition, we can make all kinds of decisions that aren’t right for us. We can even get ourselves into physical danger.

So how do you access your body’s wisdom? I’ve written about The Body Compass in previous newsletters. If you didn’t take the time to calibrate your compass then, here is your opportunity. This method will guide you on a purely intuitive level towards a life that works better for you. When we ignore our intuition, we stray from our true path.


Make yourself comfortable in a quiet space and breathe deeply.

Do a body scan, moving slowly, from body part to body part starting from the tip of your toe all the way up that side of your body and back down to the other, not judging anything, just noticing any sensation.

Now, think of a negative memory—not a trauma— just something you didn’t enjoy. Like an argument, an uncomfortable meal or something of that nature. Imagine the full sensory experience, the sights, sounds, smells, like you are stepping onto a movie set of this memory.

While you hold the memory in your mind, notice the body’s reaction and observe the sensations, scanning the body once again.

Where are the sensations located? How would you describe them? Remember to stick to physical sensations (“achy”) as opposed to concepts (“negative”). Come up with an unusual word to describe this feeling. (Mine is called The Clench.)

Give it a rating on a scale from -10 to +10.

Take a deep breath and let the memory out of your body. Shake it out, stretch, however you choose to release it.

Now here’s the fun part. Bring to mind a time when things were really working for you. As if you are stepping into a movie scene, picture the sights, sounds and colors of that happy memory. Do the body scan again and see what physical sensations are present, remembering to stay away from concepts like “excited.”

What is happening inside your body during this positive memory? Describe the feelings with a unique word or phrase, a “feeling of flying,” for example, specific to the way the body feels.

Name and rate this one too.

When you are done, observe that the negative memory was one of feeling burdened in a way totally specific to your own body. Similarly, the positive one had a feeling of expansiveness unique to your own physiology.

You now have a reference point and a name for when you feel negative or positive about a particular course of action. (The initial body scan will tell you when you are neutral as well.)

You can further calibrate your Body Compass by going through your To Do list and giving each item a rating on your -10 to +10 scale. So much information is available to you simply by asking yourself how a particular decision feels inside your body. It may be the tiniest twinge one way or the other, but you will can recognize it now.

Pro tip: if there is something that rates low on your scale that you must do, ask yourself how you can improve the experience or reward yourself afterwards. All small nudges towards a more joyful life accumulate over time. Before you know it, you are living life on your terms, going where you want to go, with the people you want to be with, doing what you want to do.

No matter what is expected of you by the culture, you have agency over your own life and a tool to figure out what is right for you and what is not.

Now its up to you to point yourself towards more joy, one decision at a time.



If you would like guidance to calibrate your Body Compass, I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder Coaching model designed by Martha Beck. If you want to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on elizabethheise.comand subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!

*based on studies of heterosexual marriages

**Did you know that Henry David Thoreau, the supposed isolated woodsman and author of On Walden Pond, actually had his mother and sisters bringing him food and fresh laundry every day? Like it was just expected, a natural part of life, not even worth mentioning. (!!!)


Holding Steady In The Storm


As the mother of three teens, I’ve had endless opportunities to be the solid, unshakable force in my children’s sometimes stormy lives. Like any flawed human, I haven’t always been that. Every so often, old triggers sweep me up in the swirl of emotions and I’ve managed only to make it worse.

This time of year ushers in one of my most reliable triggers: leaving the house on time for school. During the last two Covid years, this became even more of a challenge as one of our children doesn’t hold academic performance or punctuality in particularly high regard. Sometimes he refused to attend at all.

His semi-regular opt-outs translated to changes to my schedule, which I haven’t taken well. The sudden loss of control over my life sparks a panic that, as a kid, became automatic. My mom had left and my father took to moving us without warning over and over again. It wasn’t something I simply got used to. I had to grow up and move away to make it stop.

In my own stable home, however, I am safe. And this year, I had every reason to feel optimistic. All things considered, we’d enjoyed a peaceful summer and seemed to be emerging from the emotional effects Covid—that silent despair of feeling all alone in your struggles. No amount of family togetherness held that at bay and the kids felt it acutely.

But here we are, a little roughed up from the experience, but among the very fortunate to come out the other end, still willing to move forward into whatever comes next.

This week, the new school year is upon us. Our previously unenthused student seemed to be on board for a fresh start.

On orientation day, I had clients before and after drop off, so it was up to him to get himself ready, breakfast and all. He was aware that I’d only be stopping by to let him know it was time to go.

Only he was still in bed.

“Why do I even have to go to orientation?” he asked, still under the covers.

“Seriously? How many orientations have you attended in your life. It’s so you know what you are doing and where you are going. What? Oh my God.”

Without warning, panic flooded my body. My heart pounded and my head filled with pressure. I walked away to have these feelings elsewhere.

A couple deep breaths didn’t do much to calm my nervous system but stepping away helped. I busied myself pulling out his lunch and tossing it in the backpack.

When I returned, a slow crawl from the bed had commenced. Not enough to celebrate, but it was something.

Time ticked away and my next appointment began at the top of the hour. After what seemed like the entire Paleolithic Age, he got in the car. I calculated the time to get there. Without shoes on, but he could do that on the fly.

He would be eleven minutes late.

As soon as we pulled out, calm returned. I would be back with enough time to clean up my energy and review my session notes.

After I wished my son good luck and said goodbye, disappointment that I was still dealing with this reaction set in. This pattern of panic and feeling like a victim had to go. Flooding my chest with stress hormones was terrible for my health, especially considering what I had just been through. And I didn’t love how I treated my son who actually needed my help motivating.

Over the next week, I worked on it. I journaled and listened to my favorite teachers. I scheduled coach the coach sessions. Glennon Doyle and Martha Beck filled the cabin of my car as I ran errands. During dinner prep last night I caught the Super Soul podcast with Bishop T.D. Jakes and Oprah.

Martha suggests sitting with the triggered feeling when it comes and allowing yourself to realize nothing bad is happening. She gave the example of a soldier who couldn’t understand why he was having panic attacks in the shower. He finally figured out that the scent of the soap was the same as the one he’d used in combat. He retrained his body to recognize he was safe now.

Bishop T.D. Jakes recommends against ‘anchoring our lives to a moving object.’ In my case, my son’s difficulties don’t have to become mine. Time-wise I was in good shape—there really was no reason to freak out. Being present to this in the moment would do me some good.

I am not defined by what is happening around me

 I am stable by what is happening in me.
-Bishop T.D. Jakes

So what’s the plan for next time?

  1. Talk to the panic and fear. Acknowledge it for showing up to help, as it always has. Tell it we are safe now, it doesn’t have to be in charge anymore.
  2. Step away to self regulate.
  3. Breath work. Long inhale, hold for a couple of seconds. Exhale for longer. As many times as it takes to stop the heart from pounding.
  4. Lastly, stay present to what is happening and acknowledge progress. As Glennon Doyle says, become aware of your pain and walk straight into it. First we surrender, then we rise.
  5. Speaking of surrender, I must be willing to surrender the outcome. He will do what he is going to do because it is his own path. And it doesn’t have to knock me off mine.

One never knows what is about to happen. Whatever it is, you can be steady in the storm.


Peace be the journey everyone!



POWERFUL QUESTION: What pattern do you wish to change in your life? How’s it going so far? What is helping?

I offer one on one coaching using the Wayfinder Coaching model designed by Martha Beck. If you would like to find out if this work is right for you, email me to schedule a Discovery Session at And if you are family or a friend, I have a wonderful coaching community who are ready to partner with you.

Do my weekly stories come to your inbox? If not, you are invited to sign up. Click on and subscribe today. And if you like, come find me on the socials: @elizabethheise.writer on Instagram and @heiseelizabeth1 on Twitter. Happy reading!