Tag Archive: empowerment

Standing up for Yourself

If you don’t stand up for yourself, how can you stand up for anybody else.

-Mrs. Green, a marcher in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement on Washington

Gloria Steinem related this in her latest book My Life on the Road. Mrs. Green happened to be marching beside Gloria on that day, and Gloria was telling her about all the efforts she and her friends took to get a man of influence to listen to them and take up their cause. That’s when Mrs. Green shook her head and said: You white women! If you don’t stand up for yourself, how can you stand up for anybody else?

I’m a life coach and therapist. My job is to help people re-empower themselves. And yet there are times when I come up against something that scares me, and all I want to do is hide in a corner rather than deal with it, hoping it will be taken care of by someone else. But, paraphrasing Mrs. Green, if I don’t stand up for myself, then how can I facilitate that in my clients and those I care about?

Here’s how I help others, and can use as a reminder for myself frequently:

  • Choose your battles. Not every event I disagree with is one I need to fight. But the ones I engage in are important to me spiritually. I speak up for equal rights of all races, because I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have equal rights. I actively fight against all animal cruelty, and increasingly, the equal rights of wild nature to live freely in their own habitat.

There are many things I don’t agree with that I won’t take the time to fight against right now. For instance, I disagree with using salt on winter roads, but I’m not willing to take the time to fight for a less eroding alternative.  That’s going to have to be someone else’s fight.

I’m sure you have a lot of things in your life that you don’t like or want to change. Which of those are personally important to you, that you’re willing to spend your energy on? Not that’s important to your spouse or loved one, unless they are that important to you; but that deeply moves you, so that you can sustain the effort it will take to stand up for.

  • Be clear on what you want to gain. Is it something that can happen this year with effort? Or in a few years’ time? Or something that can only get started in this lifetime? Gloria Steinem didn’t have a clear idea in 1967 of what she was ultimately fighting for; all she knew then was that she wanted to empower more women. So she decided to walk in the Civil Rights march (after having almost talked herself out of it).
  • Take action. All of us has more power than we know. We have the power to influence the course of our lives and of others’ lives. Ms. Steinem showed up in 1967 and walked. That’s all she did that day. And that led to other things that ultimately culminated in a world-wide women’s rights movement. Every step she took was scary and required a huge stretch on her part. That’s true for you and me.

What is important to you right now, and what can you do to make it a reality?  How can you stand up for yourself today?

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

3 Lessons on success from an Arab business woman

Standing up for Yourself

Quote of the Week
How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we’re not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?
― Katie McGarry, Dare You To

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Bullying and moving beyond


You might have heard of Lizzie Valasquez, a motivational speaker and author. Lizzie suffers from a rare congenital disease that makes her stand out, whether she wants to or not. In her latest book Dare to be Kind, she talks, among other things, about bullying.

Even when she was a young child, people would sometimes react negatively to her physical appearance.  As young as 5 years old, she would hear adults comment in hurtful ways about her appearance, unable to understand how they as adults could hurt a child who hadn’t done anything to them. She’d want her parents to righteously protect her, but instead, one of them would approach the adult and say “This is my daughter Lizzie.  Would you like to meet her?”

It took Lizzie a long time to recognize the wisdom behind her parents’ response. Instead of seeing one person as victim and the other as perpetrator, they saw 2 people who needed help in 2 different ways: Their daughter needed to be made visible in a truly supportive way; and the bully needed to be seen for who he or she was in that moment – someone who was hurting.

Only people who are hurting hurt others. The bully lashes out because they’re hurting, and they don’t know how to better handle their pain.

Here’s how to deal effectively with bullying.

  • 2 choices. In this situation, you have only 2 choices: you can choose to ignore the bullying, or you can respond to it. Neither choice is the “right” one, and only you can determine what’s right for you. One suggestion: consider the consequences of your choice.
  • Ignoring it. Is this a battle you really want to fight? If the bullying isn’t extreme, if it’s a one-off situation, or if it’s potentially dangerous, you might consider ignoring it. Putting yourself in physical danger is rarely justified, and there is no shame in turning away if that’s what you need to do.
  • Responding to it. This takes courage, and if done effectively, can end bullying, or at least suppress it. Effectively responding to a bully requires empathy – putting yourself in the shoes of the person you feel is being a bully, because we all have the potential to bully.  If I’m hurt and feel isolated, I’ll respond or react to anything or anyone with, at the very least, caution and self-protection.  If, on the other hand, I feel safe, I’ll be a lot more open to giving others the benefit of the doubt.

A bullying person is a hurt person.  Respecting that they hurt, and at the same time respecting your own needs, may make the difference between a potentially dangerous and explosive encounter and a minor incident.

If you’ve ever been bullied, being empathetic isn’t easy. It’s a personal affront – hurtful, ignorant, abusive and disrespectful. It might help to understand that everything we see, do and say is a reflection of what’s going on inside us. To bully others, we must first bully ourselves.

To move on from being bullied means being able to leave it behind, emotionally and mentally, so that it doesn’t take up any space inside you.  Moving on means that the current encounter, and all future encounters are no longer a problem – that you’ve mastered them.

Choosing to respond to bullying in an empathetic and balanced way is empowering.


If you’re interested in knowing about your natural character traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Our fickle memory


True story: a man and his fiancé were going out for the evening.  As it happened, his car was like one that was driven by a man who’d just raped a woman.  He also looked a little like the aggressor.  The police spotted his car and picked him up.  The he was put in a line-up, and the victim noted that he looked “like” the perpetrator.

That was enough for the police and he was charged.  By the time the trial came along 6 months later, the victim was now saying he “was” the same guy.  This man was convicted and sent to jail. He was a fighter and managed to convince an investigative reporter to take up his story – and that reporter found the real criminal.

You might be thinking: Whew! I’m so glad he got off and was completely exonerated.  Well, he did and he was, but he couldn’t let the injustice go. It cost him his job, his fiancé and all his savings. He died in his 30’s of a stress-related heart attack.

This story was told by Elizabeth Loftus, a scientist who studies memory.  Ms. Loftus gives more examples on how our memories are faulty.  More to the point, our memories are most faulty when we are in a stressful situation, like that female victim was. She goes on to show how politicians, ad agencies, and the like, use this fact to manipulate others. What I’d like to focus on, instead, is how we can manipulate ourselves with false memories.

I have a story about my brother and father. My brother has a different story. My sister, who wasn’t actually present but heard about the incident has yet a different one.  Which is true? From my perspective, I was attempting to save a situation; my brother was trying to escape it, and my sister may have been trying to support my brother and father.  We were seeing the event from quite different perspectives, and were focused on different things.  We were all excited and even anxious, and that no doubt leant weight to how we saw it.

Which of the stories is true?  I don’t know. I believe that parts of what I remember are true and objective; so does my brother.

That’s one of my childhood stories.  Here’s another one: As a child, I wanted to get my mother a birthday gift and didn’t have any money.  It was early summer, the lilacs were coming into bloom, and I saw an opportunity.  I visited every yard in my neighborhood and cut a few lilac stems from each yard.  Then I went door to door selling back these lilacs.   At the time, I thought this idea was brilliant (and a little cheeky – my excuse being I was a kid), and I made enough to buy Mom her gift.  I like that memory, and remember it whenever I feel stumped.

I have other childhood memories that aren’t as pleasant, and that can bring up feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.  But if I can change the perspective, even a little, those stories cease to trouble me and get in my way.

Part of who we are, are our stories. Our stories provide a powerful context for how we see ourselves.  So it makes sense that if we change that context, we also change who we are. For instance, let’s say a child was hit by a stranger, and managed to crawl into something the stranger couldn’t reach.  If that child remembered the event with the man as huge and all-powerful, and him – the boy – as small and powerless, that will impact him and his life in one way.  If instead he remembered the event as the man being huge and brutish, and him – the boy – as smart and resourceful, that will impact in a completely different way.

Same story.  Which is true?

We all have childhood stories.  Some are empowering and some aren’t.  We have the power to change our perspective on the disempowering stories, and thereby improve our lives.

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.

Toni Morrisson, Song of Solomon


Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Are you aware of your potential? 3 keys to unlocking this awareness


Are you aware of your potential?  There is an inherit need for us, as humans, to want to rely upon experts. We all want to be the best at our craft, or with our health, so we entrust “experts” to help guide us to where we would like to be. The problem I have seen, however, is diving into trusting these “experts” so easily.  First, we have to ask ourselves how we define expert. A lot of online courses are deeming people experts in the medical and business field without vetting experience or approach.  You buy into the program, you get a certificate, and then you go find business. Sounds simple enough, until there are too many unqualified experts running around competing for your trust.

As a therapist, I see the above scenario a lot. It has to do with both wishful thinking, a need for someone else to validate what we’re trying to achieve in life, and from a place of trusting too much. No one wants to think or feel like they were led astray, so we buy into services that are more marketing platforms. Think about the term “health coach”. I am sure there are great health coaches out there, but many of them took an online certificate program and are now leading the decision making process for clients with serious health issues when the coach themselves doesn’t understand the health issues from the get go, yet they are using the term “expert” to sell their services.

We, as a society, buy into things. We are often looking to get paid without doing the work. We may have good intentions, but if there is a quick course to get certified as an expert without putting in years of training to achieve the status – well, most people are buying into the certificate! And we have this need to be perfect, to show off accolades (sometimes that aren’t earned), and to do more bigger and better and faster than our peers who may be competitors.

When you look at human behavior, you start to notice why it is we feel the need to buy from experts or have the best. Consider the iPhone platform. Each year Apple puts out a new phone. Are they stating the one you paid close to a thousand dollars for the year earlier is flawed? Yes, which is why you need the newer- more perfect- one. And the leader of the tech industry, Apple, is the one convincing you to shell out another thousand dollars. Is there really something wrong with your prior iPhone model? No. Can you live without a few thousand more pixels in your camera? Probably. But we buy because we are sold on the concept, not because the product is so much better a year later. Apple reinvents its marketing plan every year- not the cell phone.

Wanting to have the latest and greatest thing, such as a phone or a fashion item, is a part of psychology that is based on want and need. We want to be the best and we need to find ways to achieve it – even if it means trusting so-called experts with our businesses or our health. In order to break the cycle of bleeding money, time and trust, I suggest evaluating why you feel these “needs” when making decisions. Like I stated, there are some business advisers who mean what they say and do what they are supposed to do. There are health coaches who actually can benefit your well-being, but understanding the “why” behind your need will help you become a more selective person when it comes to vetting the people you decide to invite into your personal and professional space.

There are three things you need to understand about the “why” that will help you determine the expertise you really need, or even if you need an expert:

  1. Why do you believe you need an expert? Is it because you’ve tried everything you can think of and still have no answers? Or is it because what you want may not actually be possible? Do you need an expert to help you determine what’s possible and what isn’t? Or are you really looking for an “expert” to tell you that the impossible is probable? For instance, suppose you are beginning to find your energy can no longer keep up with the demands you put on yourself. It’s always been there when you needed it and now it isn’t. You’ve tried diets and exercise programs – even yoga; but still you find yourself no longer able to do what you could when you were 25.  Your doctor checked you out and declares you healthy; your naturopath has you on supplements; your closest friends have suggested that perhaps you’re overdoing it, but you have too much to do and simply don’t believe them.

Answering the “why” at this level requires ruthless honesty, but the payoff is clarity: you’ll have a good idea of what you’re missing, and will be able to eliminate many energy-robbing routes you might have otherwise explored.

  1. What is it that you’re afraid of? The reason why we turn to experts is because we’re afraid we’ll lose something important to us, and that we don’t believe we have the know-how to deal with the situation ourselves. Continuing with our example of energy loss, let’s say you get clear that you need an expert to help you identify what’s critical to do and what isn’t. Simply thinking of what to drop may bring up fears – of dropping the wrong thing and ending up loosing an important opportunity; of losing independence or your ability to support your family; perhaps of losing who you see yourself as – your identity.

This process can be enlightening and painful because it brings to the surface something most of us would rather not know about ourselves – our own vulnerability.

  1. What is it that you want more than anything? Knowing our own vulnerability will give us this answer, and that knowing will, in turn, tell us what we need to do next, which expert we really need, if at all.

By answering these three questions, you give yourself the gift of power because you have taken charge of the process, and are using experts to help you along the way.


Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .