How to make a difference when you’re completely overwhelmed

 

Raising hands

I want to tell you a short story about how a single sentence changed my entire perspective on making a difference – and how it can change yours, too.

Six years ago I attended the Net Impact Conference. I was considering a total career change from leadership development into sustainability (which wasn’t THAT much of a stretch since my undergrad degree is in conservation biology) and I attended the conference to see if I really wanted to make that leap.

During one panel discussion, a member of the audience asked how he could make the biggest difference.

Dave Stangis, then Chief Sustainability Officer for Campbell’s, said the words I’ll never forget:

Start from your position of impact.

YES.

I immediately wrote down the words in big capital letters in my notebook and drew a square around the sentence.

At the time, those words guided me AWAY from a career in sustainability because I realized MY position of impact comes from speaking, training, coaching, and guiding groups through development programs. I had no idea at that point that I would start my own business, but I knew I made the biggest impact when I did these things. And I love them, too (also very important🙂 ).

I know you want to make a difference, too. I’ve heard from so many of you who want to bring anti-racism work into your organizations and be a part of real change in your communities.

I also know you’re overwhelmed. You’re overwhelmed because you are inundated with resources and articles and directives to action – and you have no idea where to start. You’re overwhelmed because you’re worried about not doing it right. You’re overwhelmed because you have a million other balls you’re also keeping in the air.

And, oh yeah – there’s still a pandemic going on too.

So instead of being overwhelmed with all the potential things you could do, ask yourself: What is your position of impact?

To get your thinking started, here’s how that has looked for me:

Right now, my biggest position of impact comes from speaking and facilitating webinars. In the last month alone, I’ve led webinars on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Creating Your Own Rules For Success with hundreds of people from multiple different organizations.

I used to skirt around the edges of racism in these talks, bringing it up indirectly by using words like “power structures” as a cause of imposter syndrome.

No more.

Now I talk about it directly, saying that racial discrimination is one of the causes of imposter syndrome.

In Creating Your Own Rules For Success, I share directly how different groups of people are taught they need to follow different rules through seemingly small things like a performance review.

For example, I’ve gotten the feedback multiple times that I’m too direct. But I’ve never been called angry – something a black woman doing the exact same thing that I did would likely be told.

In the scheme of things, these are tiny actions. And I have A LOT more learning and work to do.

But these were small actions I could take right away to create impact. I didn’t do them perfectly. I know I stumbled over my words. But they happened.

What about you? What is your position of impact?

How can you alter what you’re ALREADY doing to create change?

Answer the question. And then go do that thing.

I’d love to hear your reflections. Post a comment below about how you’re acting from your position of impact.

 

P.S. If you want to dive deeper into working from your position of impact, read this blog I wrote in 2017.

Why living the life you desire isn’t selfish

Passion led us here

A woman said to me last week, “I’m working on living the life I desire, not the life I’m supposed to show up for.”

Wow. Her words hit me right in the gut.

Isn’t THIS what it’s all about?

Letting go of everything you’ve been taught you were SUPPOSED to want and instead showing up to live the life you ACTUALLY want?

And let’s get this clear right now – living the life you desire IS NOT SELFISH, for so many reasons.

One – When you’re happy and filled with joy for life, you show up better for other people.

Two – When you throw away the rules you’ve been taught and create your own rules for life, you break barriers. You become a change maker.

Three – When you stop worrying about doing what is “right” you do MORE good in the world.

Four – When you let go of perfectionism and proving and people pleasing and follow your true inner voice, the voice of your desire, you make an impact. You’ll share a dissenting point of view with your boss. You’ll put the idea out there that you’ve been pondering for months. You’ll write the song or poem or book and share it with the world. You’ll decide your heart is calling you to start a business or run a nonprofit or become a teacher and you’ll go do that thing.

Five – Pleasing others is not the purpose of life. YOU get to create your own definition of success. Impacting others and making a difference is definitely part of that definition, but when you let go of expectations and live the life you desire, that impact comes from your soul. It comes from your truth. It’s driven by mission and purpose, not pressure and standards.

The belief that living the life you desire is selfish is just a lie you’ve been taught.

It’s time to create a new belief.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😀

THIS is what my new program, Beyond Perfect, is all about. It’s for women that identify as overachievers, overdoers, perfectionists, and/or people-pleasers because this is my story and the story of so many of my coaching clients. These are the challenges getting in the way of so many women living the life they desire and sharing their true voice with the world.

Not the voice you’re “supposed” to share. Not the cookie cutter voice of the overachiever. Not the hustle puppet. Not the imposter voice. Your voice. Your truth.

I’m here to support you every step of the way. Let’s get started.

Get all the details about Beyond Perfect and sign up here.

Registration ends this Friday. See you there!

The single most important question to ask yourself to get past the fear of disappointing people

Writing in a journal

On Friday I hosted a webinar on letting go of proving, pleasing, and perfecting. We had a FANTASTIC group of women that shared SO openly.

If you weren’t able to join the webinar, let me tell you now – YOU ARE NOT ALONE in struggling with perfectionism or people pleasing or feeling like you have something to prove.

(Side note: Last week I did an Instagram poll about proving ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of people said they felt the need to prove themselves. Wow.)

A lot of themes came up in the webinar, but there’s one in particular I wanted to share today: A fear of disappointing people.

The fear of disappointing people was underneath so many other situations – having a hard time saying no, feeling like everything has to be perfect, doing or believing something different than what you were taught by your parents, teachers, or church growing up, working yourself into the ground to be successful (or to avoid failure, because that would be disappointing people).

Here’s the single most important question to get out of the disappointment trap: What is more important?

What is more important than disappointing people? What is more important than putting out “perfect” work? What is more important that questioning what you were taught and choosing a way that works for you?

Make the thing that is more important BIGGER than the fear of disappointing people.

The more important thing is completely up to you. It might be something big like expressing yourself or living aligned to what you know is most important or setting an example for your daughter about living a free life.

Or it could be something small, like it’s more important to sleep for an extra hour than to potentially disappoint someone by not responding to their email at 9:00pm.

What is more important to YOU?

 

Feel like you’re spinning on a hamster wheel? Here’s what to do.

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Let me tell you a quick story….

I was out running Saturday errands a few years ago, shortly after I started my business. I had a long list of things to get done and somewhere between the grocery store and making returns at Kohl’s, I noticed my whole body rushing with an urgent need to make it through everything on my to-do list.

It was like there was a hamster wheel inside my chest, and I could feel it spinning faster and faster, whirring inside my body.

Instead of ignoring the feeling and rushing to the next task, like I’d done my entire life, I stopped. Literally. I stopped my body in the middle of running errands while standing in a crowd of people that were probably also rushing around checking items off their to-do list.

I took a deep breath.

Within a few seconds, my rational brain kicked in and said, “This is ridiculous. Nothing you are doing is an emergency. You don’t need to feel this way.”

I took another breath.

The whir of the hamster wheel in my chest began to quiet down. My heart rate slowed. The underlying anxiety pulsing through my body subsided. I realized I could be productive and calm at the same time. Rushing didn’t help me get through my to-do list any faster; it just made it less enjoyable.

I call this rushing manic mode. It’s the feeling that there’s not enough time and too much to do. Everything in your body goes on high alert. You feel yourself almost tipping forward with a desire to go faster.

There are so many things underneath manic mode – wanting to make everything perfect, fear of things slipping through the cracks, guilt and vulnerability when you do slow down, believing there will never be enough time to get everything done, etc.

It’s not healthy. Or fun. And I want to help you get out of it.

Yes, you can do exactly what I did when I noticed myself rushing and stop and take a breath. It will definitely help you get out of manic mode in the moment.

But to really get out of it we need to go to the root cause. We need to get to why you are in manic mode in the first place.

That’s what we’re going to cover in my free webinar this Friday on how to let of people pleasing, perfectionism, and feeling like you have to prove yourself.

In the webinar, you’ll discover what’s standing in your way of letting go so that you can slow down and reclaim your joy.

It’s happening this Friday, May 15, 12:00-1:00pm central. Sign up even if you can join live – I will send out a recording.

Sign up here.

So many people feel the weight of proving, people-pleasing, and perfection. So many women especially live in manic mode. Please share the link to sign up for the webinar with anyone that needs this (here it is for easy copy and paste: https://is.heatherwhelpley.com/lettinggo)

See you Friday!

 

What to do with BIG feelings

Woman with little birds flying out of her head

There are a lot of feelings happening right now, aren’t there? It’s totally normal to feel anxious, sad, overwhelmed, happy, creative, grateful, and angry all in the same day. Or the same 10 minutes.

Even though it’s normal, sometimes it’s hard to know WHAT to do with these big feelings when they pop up. For a long time, I preferred to ignore them. I shoved them down and got on with my to-do list. I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings!

The numbing happens next. It’s the extra glass of wine. Baking multiple pans of brownies. Binge watching The Crown. Endless scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, or – if you’re cool – Tik-Tok (I’m not. Not a cool gene in me 🙂 )

But you all know that when we don’t actually feel our feelings, they get stuck. They fill up our bodies, causing actual physical pain, like a tight jaw or shoulders. Sometimes they overflow in snippy comments, anger, or a long, ugly cry (nothing wrong with that last one – crying is good!).

Feeling our feelings is hard for many NOT during a pandemic – and now it’s even more in your face because all feelings are heightened. I wrote a blog for Empower Equity Partners on three steps you can take to feel your feelings when they come up. They aren’t hard. They require a little time, but not much. Here’s a link to the article with those three steps: https://www.empowerequitypartners.com/find-inspiration-the-blog/2020/4/17/what-to-do-with-big-feelings

One final word….your feelings aren’t too big. You’re allowed to feel whatever your feeling. You have the capability to feel whatever you’re feeling.

I like to think of our feelings like a wave. If you try to fight the wave and keep your head above the water line, the wave inevitably comes crashing down on you. But if you take a breath and dive straight into the middle of the wave, you’ll come out the other side unscathed.

Feel like you’re failing at everything? Here’s why and what to do about it.

Outline of a person in front of a clock.

A few days ago I posted a poll on Instagram with the question, “Do you feel like you’re failing at everything right now?”

85% of people said YES.

That’s a whole lot of people feeling like they’re failing all over the place.

And I know enough to confidently say – there’s no way you’re failing. You’re amazing. Your mind is just playing tricks on you.

And it also makes sense that you feel like you’re failing – even though it’s a total lie.

Here’s why:

The entire definition of productivity has changed in the last six weeks. Instead of being at work and doing work, you are now multitasking in a million areas at the same time. That makes you feel like you’re doing everything half-way (ie, failing).

It’s also harder to find the time and space to do the deep, uninterrupted work that makes you feel like you’re really accomplishing something.

On top of all of this, our culture constantly gives you the message that you’re worth what you produce. That you better wake up and hustle every day and prove your worth. So when you’re not living up to this ambiguous standard, you feel behind.

And if you’re an overachiever or perfectionist TOO – well, then. This is a recipe for feeling like you’re failing.

Here are three things you can do right now to let go of feeling like you’re failing:

  1. Define what “enough” is – what are the 1-2 work things and 1-2 personal things you need to get done each day? Write them down and know that this is your threshold for enough. And do your best to be realistic in what you deem to be enough! (I know…this one is hard for me, too)
  2. Look for the evidence of what you are doing really well. Things you’re proud of. I assure you, there is plenty of it when you start to look.
  3. Whenever that feeling of failure comes up, repeat to yourself: I am worthy for who I am, not what I do. Say it over and over. You will start to believe it.

P.S. I’m talking a lot about topics like this on Instagram – both in posts and in my stories. Come join me at @heather.whelpley if we haven’t connected there already!

Stay Awake – A poem for those feeling big emotions

Inner voice painting

Last Friday I shared the most raw blog post I’ve ever published. I live alone and I had the realization that I hadn’t touched another living thing in two weeks and it would probably be several more weeks before I did touch another person.

I felt deeply for a few hours. And then I wrote about it. And the next morning I shared that blog here and on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It was one of the most freeing and healing experiences I’ve ever had.

People popped up from all over the place saying the felt the same way I did and that they were touched by my story. And so many people offered to connect – it was amazing.

It’s also already the second most read post I’ve ever shared – and it’s only been out there for eight days.

Publishing that story of sadness and grief showed me that we can share hard feelings with people. You don’t have to be grateful and happy all the time – even if you are a grateful and happy person!

Right now, with so many ups and downs and uncertainties, it is so important to slow down and give yourself space to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You don’t have to deny your emotions.

On Sunday I wrote a poem about diving into your feelings that I want to share with you today. I call it “Stay Awake.”

When you feel a crack inside of your soul,
Slow down, pry it open, dive into the hole.
Sink, swallow, and let your truth thrive,
This is where you are most alive.
Shed the layers that kept you from hearing your heart,
Take a moment and listen to your whole in the parts.
Find freedom in allowing your feelings to flow,
Nothing held back, you can let it all show.
Stay awake for the wonder, the chaos, the pain,
Stay awake for it all, let go of the shame.
See the light shining from deep in your soul,
Nothing to fix, you were already whole.
So when the going gets tough, let tough be your guide.
Dive into you’re your depths, that’s where magic resides.

The cracks in your soul are an invitation to slow down and feel. You are most alive when you allow your feelings to flow through you – sadness, anger, joy, wonder, and everything in between. This is where your magic resides 🙂

Living alone during a pandemic

Woman looking out a window

Earlier today I went on an early evening walk in Hidden Falls Regional Park. It was a gorgeous evening – unexpectedly sunny, almost no wind, and a downright balmy 52 degrees for late March in Minnesota.

There were plenty of people walking, running, and fishing in the park. Some were alone like me, many in couples and families. As I passed groups walking in the opposite direction, they moved into a single file line and balanced on the edge of the concrete path, forcing every possible inch between us to ensure safe social distancing.

Towards the end of my walk, an exceptionally cute dog came towards me, happily bouncing down the path without a care in the world.

I found myself drawn towards the dog, wanting it to come near me so I could pet it.

Instead, it did what it was trained to do and sauntered right past me. It never even made eye contact.

I was disappointed.

I am not a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, but I’m a little afraid of the big ones (or really any dog that barks and growls at me) and I don’t have much patience for dog smell, drooling, or being all up in your face and everywhere else. Puppies and cute dogs are adorable, of course – I am still human after all – but I’m not generally disappointed when a dog walks past me without making an introduction. Usually I would feel relieved.

Not today.

I realized in that moment of disappointment that I hadn’t touched a single living thing in two weeks. No hugs. No handshakes. No simple touch of the arm. Nothing.

The realization skimmed over the surface and passed by without really impacting me. I finished my walk, stopped at Lund’s to pick up a few groceries, and headed home to FaceTime with my niece for a sing-a-long and watch Grey’s Anatomy.

And then I started reading How Will The Pandemic End in The Atlantic. Studying the different scenarios and timelines plunged me deep into the knowing that it will likely be many more weeks before I touch another living thing.

That’s when the tears started. I cried on and off for what seemed like longer than a reasonable amount of time. I tried to go to bed and realized there was no point.

So now I sit here writing. With dried tears salted to my cheeks and new ones intermittently streaming down my face.

I cry because I am grieving. I cry because I am uncertain. I cry because that’s what I do when emotions overflow. Their only way out is through tears.

Tears and writing.

I write because, I’ve realized in the last several months, I might be a writer more than anything else. I write to process. I write to create out of my grief. I write to share and find connection. I write to give words to emotions that right now are only coming out in tears.

I write. And I cry. And eventually I will go to bed.

Tomorrow will be better. And, at some point, this grief will come again. It has to. We are not meant to be without human touch. We are not meant to be alone, especially in a time of crisis and change and uncertainty.

We are meant to dance and sing and hug and play and cry and grieve TOGETHER.

And despite my amazing friends and family, despite my spiritual community and entrepreneur network, despite all the incredible support that I know many are not so lucky to have – I am alone. In the most literal, physical sense.

I don’t have uplifting words to end this monologue. This is just where I’m at right now. I’m leaning into the swirl and writing from inside the mess, from inside the grief, from inside a truth I never anticipated needing to face.

That is all.

Three questions to ask yourself right now

Three questions to ask yourself right now

The answers to these questions is all you need to do right now.

This is not a time to try and be perfect.

If you’re entire definition of productivity has changed in the last ten days, that’s completely fine.

If you’re so tired that all you can do is the basics, that’s completely fine.

If you feel super busy, but you can’t figure out why because you’ve barely left the house, that’s completely fine.

If you’re sitting at home bored because you live alone and your entire social life has been cancelled and you genuinely want to use this time to dive into personal growth, be creative, write, read, workout, whatever you want to do – that’s also completely fine.

There isn’t any one right way to do this. Listen to yourself, to your true inner voice, to your core needs – and find the way that works for you.

Fulfilling what YOU need – no matter what anyone else thinks

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Last week I cast my vote in the Minnesota primary and got an unexpected life lesson that had absolutely nothing to do with politics.

The voting started normally – I checked in, got my ballot, went to the cubby, and filled in the bubble to select my candidate. Then I took my ballot over to the scanner. That’s where I met the life lesson giver.

The woman manning the scanner was pushing 80 years old and perhaps the jolliest person I’ve ever seen. She made small talk as I submitted my ballot and I made small talk back.

And then, without any prelude or transition at all she said to me, “You know, I’m old enough that I just don’t care anymore. I know what I need.”

She wasn’t talking about voting or our government or anything having to do with politics.

She was talking about what SHE needed. On a personal, human level.

She needed to be around people. She needed the interaction.

She used to fulfill that need through teaching. Last week she fulfilled the need by volunteering to watch over the scanner – and probably chit-chatting with every voter like she did with me 🙂

I don’t know if this was a new realization that she could stop caring what other people thought and meet her own needs or if it’s something she’s been practicing for a long time.

Either way, I know with certainty you don’t have to wait until you’re 80 to unapologetically fulfill your needs.

You get to do it today, no matter what anyone else thinks.