instincts

Trusting Your Instincts

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“Be willing to trust your instincts, especially if you cannot find answers elsewhere.”~Brian Koslow

This means listening to your gut and your heart. You are the expert on yourself. No one knows you or your situation better than you. So trust yourself.

Many of us have a hard time trusting ourselves. This is to be expected when we are surrounded by others placing their expectations for us on us. Our loved ones love us AND they manage(d) their anxieties of being a parent by “parenting” us in ways that sometimes didn’t feel great for us when we were young (and perhaps even today as adults!).

Were they wrong or bad for doing this? Not necessarily. They likely didn’t know better and saw others doing the same.

What we can do now is offer ourselves new options.

Pretend we’re re-parenting ourselves. We all still have the little 7 year old in us who is still needing something they haven’t gotten. Ask them what it is they are needing. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you. And likely you already have a good idea.

Then allow your adult self to help get your 7-year-old self’s needs met. You likely do this easily and willingly for others. Now do it for yourself. You deserve it, even if you’ve felt perhaps you didn’t.

Perhaps you also allow this to have an impact on your own parenting?

Notice when you’re managing your anxiety by expecting certain things of your children rather than just allowing them to show up exactly as they are. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fine balance between guiding/teaching/parenting children and allowing them to be themselves. However, perhaps this is a reminder that we all just want to be loved and accepted for exactly who we are.

We all deserve that.

recovering serious person

Hello My Name is Megan, and I am a Recovering Serious Person

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I love to laugh. Being a recovering serious person, that wasn’t always the case. 

I think I really started to lighten up when I was in grad school to become a therapist in my mid-twenties. By then I had moved from Seattle to Tucson and was now in Louisville, KY. My adventurous spirit transformed my anxiety into excitement. My cohort helped as we collectively had to find some levity in the midst of darkness and heaviness.

Then I met my husband, who has had such titles as “University Mascot” and “Professional Mascot” and “Improv Comedian.” While he brought levity to my life, I also found myself digging into my old ways of seriousness in an attempt for him not to have too much of an influence over me so I wouldn’t subsequently “lose myself” in the relationship.

Then I became a parent and was in a tension between not wanting to be a rigid, overthinking, anxious person and wanting to do things the “right way.” (As if that is possible.)

Ultimately I realized flexibility was the key. Of course, I opt for a “flexible structure” so that I have a bit of a plan, but am not rigid about it. The more flexible I am with myself and others, the better I feel. And the better others feel around me.

And this flexibility does not mean getting walked all over. I love me some boundaries! I am very clear about what works for me and what doesn’t and I readily speak up for myself.

This brings me back to laughter. I’m realizing laughter is a wonderful medicine. We feel lighter when we laugh.  And perhaps it’s that lightness that helps us become more enlightened. 

stories

The Power of the Stories We Tell About Ourselves

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

Every night before my niece falls asleep, she makes one request: “Tell me a story.” Of course, I proceed to weave together tales of strong little girls who can fly, save the world, and do anything they put their minds to because that’s exactly who I hope she becomes.

My niece’s request reminds me that stories are the dominant language of our lives. We use them to make sense of our world and ourselves. And how we talk about ourselves in this world really matters.

Consider this: Do you see yourself as the hero of your own story?

The survivor? The overcomer? Or, in your story, do you write yourself as the disappointment, the “not enough,” the unworthy? Can you imagine how your view of yourself and what you are capable of might change if you dared to write a story in which you ARE worthy and lovable, just as you are, no matter what?

Perhaps it’s time to ask this question: Are you telling your own story, or someone else’s?

Is the story you’re telling made from a memory, institution, or belief? Are you stuck in a story you are desperate to get out of? Are you sitting, pencil poised, nervous, staring at a blank chapter, and unsure what to write? Do you feel that quiet little voice of excitement saying, “You can be anything, you know that, right?”

Whatever story you find yourself living today, just know, this is YOUR story. You can always add a new chapter, change the plot, or continue it the way it is. You can mourn your tragedies in one chapter and celebrate your triumphs in another. If nothing else, life is always changing. How lovely it could be to explore the dynamic possibilities always around you. Won’t you join me?

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!