forgive

How To Forgive

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“How do I forgive? How can I let go? When will this feeling go away? How do I get over this?”

These are phrases I hear daily. These are phrases I’ve asked my own therapist.

The best advice I was given is to find compassion for the person or the behavior as well as for myself. I had no idea what this looked like. I wasn’t even really open to the idea at first. It seemed that if I was compassionate, I would be excusing the person and the behavior. It took me years, if not decades, to allow that compassion to slowly become more present in my life and feel it make a home in my heart. It was DEFINITELY not an easy process.

The more compassion grew inside of me, I finally understood why it is so important. I thought of all the years I spent (perhaps wasted) in anger, fear, and anxiety that hurt me much more than it hurt anyone else.

Be open to compassion. If not for someone else, at least for yourself.

When you are compassionate with yourself, you model for others how to treat you. When you are compassionate with others, you invite them to be compassionate with you.

You deserve it. You are worth it.

trust yourself

Trust Yourself

“When you look around, feel insecure, and wonder who you can trust, know that you can trust yourself.
We often stand like little children, holding out our hands, waiting for someone to lead us somewhere, anywhere. We hope that someone can show us what we need to do next…Trust and respond to your own heart. Trust the wisdom and guidance within you.” ~Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart

Did you know that you don’t have to wait to see where/what the Universe/God/Source wants you to go or do?

Nope. You get to say, “Hey! Let’s do this! This really excites me and brings me joy!”
I know, I know, you may not know what it is that you want to do or what brings you joy. Or you’re scared and feeling unsure. We all are! Courage is doing something even though you are scared! We are all making this thing called life up as we go! All of us!
Be curious and prompt yourself often with, “Wouldn’t it be nice…” and see where that takes you. Perhaps you commit to using this prompt daily for a month or multiple times a day for a week!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all trusted ourselves?
roses

What Roses Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Aaaahhhh roses…. Such a beautiful flower with such wonderful feelings and meaning associated with it.
And yet, with all their natural beauty, vibrant colors, velvety soft texture, and delicious smell, they also come with thorns on the stem should we grab hold of them. We sometimes forget how vicious those thorns can be if we’re not actually growing and cutting them ourselves.
And yet in their natural state, roses have thorns. That is just how they are. With the wonderful, we also have to accept the not-so-wonderful.

What would it be like if we could do this with ourselves?

To honor and celebrate what’s positive, while accepting our challenging areas and holding space for them just as they are? Not needing to be in a rush to change them or make them different.
When given a bouquet of roses, we don’t put them in a vase upside down so we can highlight the thorns. We focus on what is wonderful about the roses and make sure we can see the radiant blooms.
Rather than beating ourselves up for having thorns, let’s experiment with being excited about what’s wonderful about ourselves!
laughing

A Love Letter To Letting Go & Laughing More

Time and time again, I have seen proven, that laughter truly is the best medicine.

I am a full-fledged recovering serious person. I am a firstborn, people-pleasing, recovering-perfectionist. In the past, I’ve known myself to be very anxious and not a stranger to panic attacks.
Today, thanks to years of therapy, a library full of self-help books, mindfulness, meditation, reiki, my dear friend Zoloft, and an easy-going husband with a wonderful sense of humor (who happens to have a professional comedian on his resume) I have slowly, and at times painfully, learned to “lighten up.”
One major reason why I decided to live lighter was that it was too damn exhausting to be so damn serious all the time. Many would have called me rigid. Things had to be a certain way…MY way. My anxiety caused me to be controlling and perfectionistic.

Does this ring a bell for anyone?

I began to recognize that what may have worked for me at one time (anxiety=control=protection), was causing more problems than it was helping. I didn’t need to protect myself as much as I once did and therefore I didn’t need to be as controlling or anxious. As a result, I slowly and cautiously started allowing myself to have fun.

But I had to learn how to have fun.

It was not something that came naturally to me. And I had to accept that my version of “fun” (read books for fun, have deep conversations, go to bed early, wake up early, contemplate the meaning of life…) was not always the same as others.
I began to get to know myself and what I needed at any given moment. I had a better understanding of my anxiety when it did come to visit, but it was no longer a constant companion.
Now I balance my high-achieving nature with a “good enough” mentality. I don’t need to give 110% to everything I do. I honor myself and what I need and want at any given moment.  And I look for every appropriate opportunity to find humor and laugh.
silly

Embracing the Silly Things in Life

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Be silly.
Be honest.
Be kind.

This is my Mantra!

The last two come very easily to me. That first one though…being silly…has taken a lot of intentional practice.

I am by nature a deep thinker, a firstborn, highly sensitive, highly empathic, and intuitive person. I can naturally see the seriousness, depth, and intensity of any issue. So much so that it can paralyze me. Or at least in the past, it has.

I love the depths to which I can go and those who can join me there. I also know I feel better when I don’t live in that space. It can make me very anxious and depressed. I’ve learned to live in the “Both, And” space of being deep (which can have a heaviness to it) and being light, fun, playful, and yes, even silly.

I used to fear being silly because I equated it with looking foolish.

In the past, I was pretty mortified with the idea of looking foolish. I think it was fueled by my anxiety and need for control. Now that my anxiety is pretty non-existent and I have embraced the ebb and flow of life, releasing the need for control, I don’t fear looking foolish. I have embraced silliness with a sense of confidence.

When I am silly, I am playful, laughing, and light.

And that feels wonderful!

I got a wonderful compliment from my 8-year-old daughter last night after a big event with lots of kids and parents. She said, “I’m so glad I have a CHILL mom!” My eyes just about popped out of my head! I looked at my husband and asked, “Did she just call ME chill?!” He nodded, knowingly.

All my intention and perseverance are paying off! Not only do I feel so much better, but those who mean the most to me are also benefitting too!!

overthinking

Free Time: Overthinking It?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

When thinking about Free Time and “being” rather than “doing,” I am reminded that I am not only a “do-er,” I am also a “thinker.” A pretty deep thinker at that. My mind can go to places that are seemingly quite unnecessary. I’ve learned over time that this is one of my greatest strengths and one of my greatest challenges.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking is wonderful.

Over-thinking is what is the issue for me. It’s the thoughts that I can’t stop thinking. The what-ifs and the should-haves and the panic and fear that I’ve done or said the “wrong” thing. This was a prison I felt I was in for a very long time. The prison of anxiety kept me from fully and completely expressing myself in the fullest capacity possible.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that fearlessness is a theme for me. If you watched my Creative Mornings Louisville talk on Silencing Fear you know about my stint with improv comedy and how it brought me to tears.

What I realized about fear and anxiety was that it was a prison that I was putting and keeping myself in. What was the key that would unlock the door to the prison?

The phrase, “Fearlessness resides in the softness of the heart,” was my key. I thought this was what a yoga instructor said in class once. When I asked her after class who wrote that saying, she responded, “That’s not what I read, but maybe that’s what you needed to hear.”

As I began trying new things like improv comedy in my “free time” I chose to place myself outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t about succeeding at improv comedy. It was about doing something that scared the shit out of me and sticking with it. After 9 months of classes every week, it became less scary. I still didn’t enjoy it, the actual performing that is. What I did enjoy and was “in joy” with were the friendships I had made, following through with a challenge and commitment I made to myself. and proving to myself that I could “do hard things” (“Untamed” reference!).

So while you may choose to do an actual activity with your free time, perhaps something other than improv comedy, I wonder if you are also avoiding free time like I can find myself doing.

For those of us who have a tendency to run a bit anxious or are constant do-ers, sometimes it is the quiet of free time that scares us.

This week, I challenge you to embrace the solitude of your free time, to sit with yourself, and remember that, “Fearlessness resides in the softness of the heart.”

free time

Free Time: Ever Heard of It?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“You will accomplish great things in your free time this week.”

-Fortune Cookie

I was having lunch with a dear friend and her family recently and received this message in my fortune cookie. It was quite fortuitous as I was out-of-town and in “vacation mode” so there was lots of “free time.” You know what I’m talking about, right? That feeling of unstructured playtime you can do whatever you want with. Yes, even as adults we get playtime! Most of us only feel it when we’re on vacation…sometimes. Sometimes “vacation” is more of a “relocation” when we feel like we need to entertain and cook and clean and plan. We don’t often get that sense of freedom that comes with “free time.”

Free time. What a wonderful concept.

I’m wondering if you feel like you have free time on a weekly or daily basis – time that is unstructured and open for you to do whatever you want. Maybe you choose to just be in the moment and do nothing. Maybe you choose to treat yourself to a coffee or trip to your favorite store. Whatever it is, it is time that you are free to do what you want to do, not necessarily need to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things we THINK we need to do and things we actually need to get done. On this recent trip I noticed that while I was away, I was not needed (by work, family, life, etc.) as much as I had felt the weeks and months leading up to the trip. I started wondering if I was putting the pressure on myself to be DOING all the time and therefore “needing to do” stuff that perhaps didn’t really NEED to be done. Are you feeling me here?!

So I decided to start an experiment.

Those who know me, know I love a good experiment! I decided to see if I could go home after this vacation and bring with me the same feeling of “not NEEDING to DO” that I felt on vacation.

This is quite fascinating to me as I have spent the last several months really challenging myself with this concept. Before vacation, I was paying attention to whether or not I was forcing things to happen or allowing them. This is a tricky concept because I get caught up in the “doing” of MAKING (forcing) things to happen. I busy myself with a lot of things I think I NEED to DO to make something happen. What I’ve seen over the years is that while there is a fair amount of doing that needs to take place in order to make things happen, there is also a fair amount of being that is also needed.

Just Being.

What I am reflecting on lately is that some of the most wonderful things happen when I am just being. Wonderful things also happen from the culmination of my doing as well. So there’s a tension between the two. In this tension and in most moments of tension I ask myself, “What is it I really want to do?” and “What feels best to me right now?” I have also noticed that the more I ask myself these searching-types of questions, I stay away from judging myself, being hard on myself, and “Shoulding” all over myself. I’m not telling myself what to do, I’m asking myself respectfully, what will be best for me at this moment. And that feels wonderful!

So when I think of accomplishing great things with my free time, I am reminded that in my free time I feel FREE. In that freedom comes openness, creativity, imagination, dreaming, excitement, wonder, options. This is the type of thinking I’m aiming to cultivate in the monthly class I offer (beginning in January) AND the rejuvenating women’s retreat happening in Napa Valley in January 2022. To find out more, visit my website!

worry

Worry Too Much?

Anxiety, we all have it from time to time. Though rarely welcomed, it can be a healthy response to life’s challenges and is a natural human response. In fact, anxiety acts as our body’s alarm system, allowing us to anticipate when we are in danger or in harm’s way. But if left unchecked, anxiety can be an overwhelming, never-ending cycle of worry that keeps us from understanding important parts of ourselves.

If you experience anxiety, ask yourself this:

If your mind wasn’t full of these current ANXIOUS thoughts, what would you think about? Although not necessarily pleasant, anxiety can serve as a distraction from dealing with what really needs to be addressed at the core.

Here are some signs that worry might be problematic in your life:

  • Chronically on alert and thinking about potential future dangers or threats.

  • Consistently making negative predictions about the future.

  • Tend to overestimate the likelihood that something bad will happen.

  • Repeat worried thoughts over and over again in your head.​

How can I tell if my anxiety is normal?

Anxiety is problematic when it is constant and goes unresolved, interfering with your lifestyle and relationships. An anxiety disorder can keep a person from coping with life’s ups and downs and make a person feel anxious most of the time, sometimes without any identifiable cause.

If this sounds like your current experience with anxiety, perhaps it’s time to change your relationship with anxiety by altering your perspective on it.

You don’t have to go it alone. Seeking professional care for your anxiety can provide hope and clarity on how to best navigate it.

love

Love Loves Love

Love loves love.
Period.
End of story.
Love yourself.
Even the things you wish were different.
Love others.
Even when you disagree.
Allow there to be enough space for differences to reside.
We are where we are in this moment.
Love does not force.
Love respects.
Model the Love you want from others, to others.
Not because it’s a lesson you’re trying to teach, because it’s the person you ARE. Compassionate. Loving. Kind.
AND have excellent boundaries for yourself.
This is Self-Love.
Know when enough is enough before it’s too much.
Learn from experience.
Be clear about your wants and needs.
You’ll see who can respect your boundaries and who can’t.
And that gives you more information to make appropriate decisions for yourself.
To love and respect yourself and your own boundaries.
Let’s face it. If you don’t respect your own boundaries, how can you expect others to respect them?
Love loves love.
Period.
overachievers

A Message For All Us Overachievers

“Achievement is not about what you’ve done, but what you gained from your experience.” Lynn Hill
Wow. What a wake-up call!
I’m a highly motivated, driven person. I like to say “Yes!” to new experiences. I’d even say I do things just to say I’ve done them. You could call me an overachiever. And yet, what have I gained from that? What an excellent question.
What I gain is an openness to try new things, to change, to new ideas that are different from mine, to people who are different from me.
What I gain is fearlessness, which has been a focus of mine for a few decades now.
What I gain is the richness of life and all the many flavors it has to offer.
What I gain is seeing life in full color.
What I gain is the Feeling of Being Alive. 🤩
When was the last time you felt fully alive? When you felt fully present and grateful for what was right in front of you? Or are you feeling that hamster wheel feeling of working so hard and not getting anywhere new or different?
Want to feel more alive? Wonderful! Start saying “Yes!” to new experiences and ideas! Step outside of your comfort zone just 5 or 10% and say, “Yes!” to yourself!