Buddy Up and Giddy Up…

I’m learning to ride a horse, which is a lot like driving a car, if cars were nervous and unpredictable and expressed their anxiety by leaping suddenly sideways and accelerating uncontrollably whenever the breeze picks up. Also their shock absorbers were made out of jerky. And they bit.

So I sit on this huge beast named Buddy like a fruit bat clinging to a human’s scalp, and I’m supposed to make him do what I want without reinforcing his suspicion that I’m a serial killer. My options are limited: I can tug on the reins, tap with my legs, or wiggle. Buddy and I must agree on what each of these actions will mean.

The process boils down to what my teachers call “pressure” and “release.” Tugging, tapping, or wiggling is pressure; a typical horse will start trying anything to make it stop. When Buddy does something I want—going forward, backing up, turning in place, composing poetry—I’m supposed to release the pressure and relax. This stillness–relief from pressure–rewards him.

It occurs to me that this is how my Essential, or Big Self (or soul, or whatever) communicates with my Small Self. Self is the Rider, and in this scenario, I’m like Buddy the horse. My Rider asks me to move by creating pressure: unease, discontent, irritation. When I do what my Big Self wants, my Small Self experiences stillness, peace, and relief.

You may feel your own Rider Self guiding you right now, tugging at your head, tapping your sides, trying to wiggle you out of your job or into learning French or adopting a child. Begin tuning into it. Pay attention to the subtle tugs and flutters. Try something—anything. Then try something else. When you go toward your best option, the pressure will suddenly disappear. Pay attention. Repeat.

It may feel awkward, but eventually this always works. Always. The more you practice, the more quickly you learn to interpret the Rider’s requests accurately. And your Rider has some big plans, friend. I don’t know what they are, but when you calm down and tune in, the two of you will have adventures your Small Self could never even imagine. Get quiet, get responsive, and giddy up.

P.S. Martha started a brand-new “Riding the Windhorse” workshop for those who want to share this amazing experience. The September 2014 event sold out, but click here to join the “Hey, I’m interested!” list. Martha’s events fill up fast–“Riding the Windhorse” sold out in four hours–so joining the list means you’ll be the first to hear about the next one!

Video Sneak Peek of the New Book!


Here’s a sneak peek of the stuff I’ll be discussing in my new book:  what’s YOUR “call of the wild”?

Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want will be released December 27, 2011. Reserve your copy on now. 

The Body Compass: How Your Essential Self Communicates

We Martha Beck coaches are obsessed with helping clients communicate consciously with what we call their “essential selves.” As opposed to the “social self,” the essential self is always focused on our best lives and will actively resist anything that is not in our genuine best interest. Unfortunately, the essential self is not verbal, while the social self thinks almost exclusively in language. To access our essential selves, we pay close attention to the physical body, which responds with tangible tension and resistance when we try to take the wrong path, and leaps forward joyfully when we take the right ones.

Lately, several coaches and clients have asked me what to do when the body gives contradictory instructions – for example, when we feel powerfully attracted to a romantic partner who has damaging character flaws, or we want to quit a terrible work environment but have heart palpitations at the thought of losing the income.

The way to address these situations is to realize that they have many components. Test your body’s reaction to each component of a situation, and you will find that you may have strongly negative reactions to one element while being drawn toward another. For example, your attraction to a dysfunctional person might be urging you to spend just enough time to recognize your own dysfunctional patterns; it is the learning, not a long term relationship, that is calling you. In the case of the terrible job, you may find that your fears are based entirely on your own negative thoughts – thoughts like “I have to keep this salary,” or “Jobs are scarce. I’ll never get another one.”

A key to recognizing when it’s time to tease out different components of a complex situation is staying alert for a sense of “revulsion,” rather than simple fear. Following our hearts is often scary, but the fear feels clean, and does not spoil the desire or yearning to experience our heart’s desire. Revulsion feels like eating something poisonous. It sickens and disgusts. When you feel fear, simply examine your frightening thoughts until you can see where they may be exaggerated or unfounded. Revulsion is telling you to give certain components of your experience a very wide berth.

Distinguishing between a generalized “negative body compass reading” and a cluster of little yellow flags is key to negotiating our complicated world and resolving our psychological blind spots. Rather than running from everything that gives you a twinge of discomfort, take the time to read your compass thoroughly. It will be well worth the investment as you become more discerning and less likely to make unconscious decisions.

Essential Self/Social Self

In this fun video, Martha shares the difference between your “social self” and your “essential self”.

[Can’t see the video above? Watch it online!]

I Rest My Pace

This week I sliced my thumb nearly to the bone, smashed my knee so hard my head exploded, bought $400 worth of software it turned out I did not need, and spent one long day griping at everyone I saw. This, gentle reader, does not fulfill my self-help motto “live it to give it.”

At the end of that awful day, bruised and bleeding from both my thumb and my bank account, I realized I had lost the life rhythm of my essential self. I was working flat out and accomplishing very little.

This is not a first for me.

Past experience has taught me that although we all have the same amount of time in one day of our lives, we can put a great deal of life in our days by re-establishing our natural rhythm. It’s not about working harder, smarter or faster; it’s about working in harmony. (Check out this month’s telecourse below to get Terry and Susan’s take on this issue)

The rhythm of our essential selves is like almost every other rhythm in nature. It has two phases which I call “rest” and “play.” When you rest in harmony with your essential self, you feel as drowsy and contented as a cat in the sun. Right now, look back on a wonderful lazy day in your past. Maybe you were falling in love or you just finished a huge project. For some reason, you’ve given yourself permission to just goof off.

For the next ten minutes, give yourself that permission again. For me, it helps to pretend I’m in the company of “resting buddies.” These are real people in my life with whom I’ve goofed off in the past. As I picture them, that energy of loving relaxation comes back easily. It can also help to be around an animal — a horse, an iguana, or a dog — who is just being.

As you stay connected with your essential self through rest, there will come a moment when something piques your interest. You will want to get up and investigate, or you’ll be thrilled by the idea of exploring some area of your life – familiar or unfamiliar. (For me, this often takes the form of something I want to write.)

This is your signal that the essential self has finished resting and wants to play. Let it.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the idea of using the word play to replace the word work. If you have no way to feel playful doing your work, get different work. One of my coaches will be happy to help you.

This is not to say that play is easy. Real creativity, which is the essence of play, can feel absolutely grueling. But ultimately there is a sense of joy and meaning in having done it. The essential self doesn’t mind hard work. But it will reject meaningless work.

Of course you may not always be able to dictate the times when the external world wants you to work or play. So make conscious deals with your essential self (I’ve shown you how to do this in my first-ever video blog) Say right out loud, “Essential self, I promise you, that if you get up now and drive to the office with me, I will spend 2 hours goofing off this evening.” (For me “goofing off” is always watching TV with my family.) Or “Essential self, my body’s too tired to keep playing and I need rest. I’ll play your favorite computer game so you can wind down.” You’d be amazed how your energy cooperates when you make and keep such promises.

This is what I did to get back in touch with my own harmony. Though I felt as if I were slowing down, every good thing in my life suddenly quickens. People who had been ignoring me once again began returning my emails and getting my work done. Once I’d rested deeply, the project I was “playing” on developed with astonishing speed and ease.

You get more life in your time when you find the path of harmony, rather than the path of force. And it really, truly feels as if you have more time in your life, too.

More time. Can you imagine that?

Shout YES from the rooftops

 by Pamela Slim

When I was younger, I went crazy for Salsa. I don’t mean the kind involving chopped tomatoes and chili peppers, I mean the sexy, sweaty Latin dance variety.

Nothing, nothing, made me feel better than being whipped around the dance floor to the intoxicating rhythms of salsa music. While dancing, I felt like a combination of a Hollywood temptress, prom queen and Jennifer Beales in the finale of Flashdance.

My passion for salsa dancing was a little problematic since as an Anglo wannabe Latina, I didn’t have too many friends who shared my enthusiasm and were willing to go out dancing with me. Showing up as a single blond was not always recommended, as it was akin to putting a “cheap floozy looking for quick fling” sign on my chest. But my love for dancing overrode any fear of embarrassment.

Salsa dancing is one example of things in my life that make my essential self scream YES.

When I do it, I lose track of time, feel absolutely present in my body and have an involuntary silly grin plastered on my face.

Finding the things that delight and enthrall you is a critical step towards finding a life that not only fits you but thrills you. It helps you make complex decisions like whom to marry, where to go to college and whether or not to quit your job to start a business. It also works for simple things like which restaurant to go for dinner on Saturday night or which color to paint your toenails.

In my last post, I led you through an exercise about identifying your inner NO from Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star that was sure to leave you drained and unenergized. I made you imagine a scenario where you were being judged by people you didn’t respect on things that you hated to do. I swear, I was not trying to chase you into the arms of a therapist, I just really wanted you to experience what it felt like when your essential self screamed NO.

Today, thank god, we get to swing in the opposite direction, into the people, places and things that make your essential self shout YES from the rooftops.


This slightly involved but very powerful exercise is lifted directly from Finding Your Own North Star, starting on page 38. There is a lot more detail in the book and some hilarious examples of each question, but this stripped down version should still give you enough information to be effective. Take out a pencil and paper, or click on this link to open a Word template: just-say-yes21 You are going to identify a number of ways in which your essential self says “yes.”


1. Nuclear energy.

List three things that can always get you moving (Examples: “The family New Year’s party,” “Playing pickup basketball,” “Going to the mountains.”)

Energy-inducing person, place or thing #1: ________

Energy-inducer #2: ________

Energy-inducer #3: ________

Look over the list and circle the response that makes you feel most enthusiastic.

2. To Your Health.

Try to remember three times when your health seemed better than usual. What was going on in your life at that time?

Situation #1: ________

Situation #2: ________

Situation #3: ________

Circle the situation that has the most positive associations for you right now.

3. Memories, Light the Corners of My Mind ...

Where’s your supermemory? If you can’t think of anything, you’re probably overlooking the obvious. Ask some friends and loved ones what they ‘ve noticed about your ability to pick up certain categories of information. List these categories below.

Info-type #1: ________
Info-type #2: ________
Info-type #3: ________

Circle the type of information that
interests you most. Be honest; nothing you enjoy is stupid or trivial.

4. Time Warp.

Write down the types of activities that make you forget what time it is.

Activity #1: _______
Activity:#2 _______
Activity #3: _______

Circle the activity you find most absorbing.

5. Emotional Intelligence.

Name three people who make you feel socially adept and confident, people who seem to understand you and enjoy spending time with you.

Person #1: _______

Person #2: _______

Person #3: _______

Please circle the name of the person who makes you feel most comfortable and relaxed.

6. Magnetic Attraction.

List times when you felt strangely drawn to a person, place or thing. You may have temporarily become unable to concentrate on anything else. What was the object of your desire?

Urge to merge item #1: _______

Item #2: _______

Item #3: _______

Circle the thing that brings up the most positive feelings.

7. A Natural High.

List the last three times you experienced a wonderful mood, particularly if our good mood came at a strange time or from an action other people may have criticized.

Good-mood setting #1: _______

Good-mood setting #2: _______

Good-mood setting #3: _______

Circle the situation that makes you feel the happiest.


Step 1:

In the spaces below, list the answers you circled on the exercises.

List your:

A. Most high-energy activity: _______

B. Person who makes you feel most relaxed: _______

C. Best-health situation: _______

D. Information you remember most easily: _______

E. Activity most likely to make you forget the time: _______

F. Item that created the strongest Urge to Merge: _______

G. Best mood setting: _______

Step 2

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate response.

Your Own Best-Case Scenario

It is an incredibly beautiful day. The air is clear, the scenery dazzling, and you’re setting out to do (A: Your most high-energy activity)


with (B: your favorite person)


You’ve got no other responsibilities, no immediate deadlines, and no major problems weighing you down. You feel great, even better than you did back when you were (C: your best health situation)


In fact, you are in the best physical shape of your life: strong, lean, robust and full of energy. You’re having a great conversation about (D: the information you remember most easily)


When a message arrives for you. It’s a letter from the president, saying that you have been chosen to receive a lifetime of financial support for doing (E: the activity that makes you forget time)


This will require you to spend a lot of time with (F: the person or situation that creates the Urge to Merge)


You feel just the way you did when (G: your best-mood setting)

happened, only more so. Lie back for a minute, take in the scenery, and enjoy knowing that this is basically how you’re going to spend the rest of your life.

Step 3
As you did with the “worst-case scenario,” read over your “best-case” story carefully. Picture the images as vividly as you can, and notice how you feel. There’s considerable evidence that just visualizing this scene greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll experience something like it at some point in the future. In fact, no matter how impossibly wonderful it may appear, the scenario above is only a pale shadow of the splendid realities you’ll find on the path to your own North Star.

What does it feel like to you, this sense of your essential self saying “Yes! Due north!“? How would you describe the sensation– or is it a sensation at all? Many people experience their true path not as something that happens to them but as the simultaneous loss of self and complete connection with the universe. When the essential self is really in its element, you may be so involved with the work at hand, the people around you, and the things you’re learning that you won’t be aware of yourself as separate from them. This state is the goal of many mystical practices, both in Western religious tradition and in the East. It’s been described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “flow,” by anthropologist Joseph Campbell as “following your bliss.” What do you call it?

Identifying your inner YES, along with last post’s inner NO, are critical steps in fine tuning your internal navigation system that will lead to better decisions and a more joyful life.

I ask you, maybe even beg, to take the time to complete the exercises. Please share what you learn here, as well as the questions that pop in your mind about what’s next.

In the meantime, pardon me as I take a spin around the dance floor.

(Update 10:24am PST: comments work now, please share your thoughts!)

Was Nancy Reagan right? How just saying NO can change your life.


by Pamela Slim

I knew my soon-to-be three-year-old son Josh had achieved a new level of negotiation finesse when his vigorous “NO” was tempered into “No Thank You.”  It is hard to get angry at a little man who is exceedingly polite about totally refusing to do anything I ask him.

Josh, stop throwing Legos at the wall and GET YOUR SHOES ON.”
“No thank you Mom!”

Get off that little boy and stop choking him Josh — he doesn’t like to play rough!
“No thank you Mom!”

Josh, you have to eat your veggies if you want to be big and strong like Spiderman!
“No thank you Mom, pass the Cheetos!”

Do you see what I mean?

Josh’s outright refusal to comply with my requests are the manifestation of a very clearly expressed essential self. Unencumbered by the need to please anyone but himself, he feels perfectly empowered to tell me and anyone else who will listen that he will NOT do anything that doesn’t feel good.

The concept of essential and social self was described in Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star:

“Your essential self formed before you were born, and it will remain until you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil.  It ‘s the personality you got from your genes:  your characteristic desires, preferences, emotional reactions and involuntary physiological responses, bound together by an overall sense of identity.  It would be the same whether you’d been raised in France, China, or Brazil, by beggars or millionaires.  It’s the basic you, stripped of options and special features.  It is “essential” in two ways:  first, it is the essence of your personality, and second, you absolutely need it to find your North Star.

The social self on the other hand, is the part of you that developed in response to pressures from the people around you, including everyone from your family to your first love to the pope. As the most socially dependent of mammals, human babies are born knowing that their very survival depends on the goodwill of the grown-ups around them.  Because of this, we’re all literally designed to please others.  Your essential self was the part of you that cracked your first baby smile; you social self noticed how much Mommy loved that smile, and later reproduced it at exactly the right moment to convince her to lend you the down payment on a condo.  You still have both responses.  Sometimes you smile involuntarily, out of amusement or silliness or joy, but many of your smiles are based purely on social convention.”

Since writing her newest book, Steering by Starlight, this definition has been updated:

“I used to think of the human psyche as having two sides:  the
“essential” self, which determines our talents and preferences, and the
“social” self, which predisposes us to respond to other people’s influence.  Over the past few years I’ve also come to believe there is
a third self, one that goes beyond the boundaries of both the genetic
and social selves.  Buddhists call this “no-self,” a confusing term
meant  to focus our attention on something the intellect can’t grasp.
Other traditions call it the great Self, an identity that is shared by
everything that exists.  I’m going to call it the Stargazer, because it
never loses sight of your own North Star, your destiny.”

Pressure on the essential self

If Josh’s life progresses along the path that most of us take, as the years go by, his willful determination will be tested by nagging parents (me and Darryl), zealous teachers, managers, mentors and eventually a spouse.  His natural inclination to only do what feels good will be tempered by the need to please others.

I am going to hope that between his life coach Mom and medicine man Dad that he will still turn out a happy, confident and balanced young man (Meet you back here in 20 years to see how my predictions turn out, deal?).

But here is the interesting part:  Josh’s inner NO won’t go away, it will just go underground.

For some people, it gets buried so deep that they can’t even hear it anymore.  Some don’t believe it exists!  That is when Martha and I hear our clients say things like:

  • I don’t know what I am passionate about
  • I don’t even know what I feel
  • I am not sure which decision to make – should I stay or should I go?

For these situations, identifying your inner NO is the first step in reconnecting your essential and social selves.

Ready to try?

Getting your essential self to Just Say NO

This slightly involved but very powerful exercise is lifted directly from Finding Your Own North Star, starting on page 17.  There is a lot more detail in the book and some hilarious examples of each question, but this stripped down version should still give you enough information to be effective. Take out a pencil and paper, or fill out this Word template Download just_say_no.doc .  You are going to identify a number of ways in which your essential self says “no.”


1.  Energy crisis.

Try to remember three different events or types of events (dental appointments, jobs, classes, social functions, etc.) where you had to show up but felt reluctant and low-energy.

Event #1:  ________

Event #2:  ________

Event #3:  ________

Now please circle the response that has the most negative associations for you.

2.  Sick, sick sick.

Try to remember three times when your health was below par.  What was going on in your life during each of these three time periods?  Please list each situation, along with the physical symptoms you suffered. Don’t worry if these situations are the same ones that came up in the last section, or if all three caused the same symptoms.  Repetition is welcome in this game.

Situation #1:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Situation #2:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Situation #3:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Circle the worst symptom.

3.  Forgetting.

Write down the information that you find difficult to remember (for example, “people’s names,” “my kids’ school schedules,” “where I put my important papers”).

Info-type #1:  ________
Info-type #2:  ________
Info-type #3:  ________

Circle the type of information you forget most often

4.  Bundles o’ Blunders.

Write down three stupid mistakes you remember making.

Mistake #1:  _______

Mistake #2:  _______
Mistake #3:  _______

Circle the most disastrous mistake.

5.  Social Suicide.

Name three people who bring out your very worst social behavior.  It might help to review hour life’s most embarrassing moments; the two are often linked.

Person #1:  _______

Person #2:  _______

Person #3:  _______

Please circle all three of these names.

6.  Fight or Flight.

List times when you couldn’t sleep, slept very poorly, or slept so much you felt groggy and squalid.  What was the problem in your life that caused the sleep disturbance?

Problem #1:  _______

Problem #2:  _______

Problem #3:  _______

Circle the issue that most disrupted your sleep.

7.  Addiction.

Name a bad habit or obsessive thought pattern you’ve been unable to eliminate:  ________________.  Now remember what happened to trigger that bad habit the last three times you fell off the wagon. (For example, “I’d had an argument with my mom,” “I’d been working day and night for a month,” “I was facing a performance review.”

Habit Trigger #1:  _______

Habit Trigger #2:  _______

Habit Trigger #3:  _______

Circle the “trigger” that is the most likely to make you tur to your addiction or habit.

7.  Moody Blues.

List the last three times you experienced a very bad mood or a mood that seemed inexplicable, unjustifiable, or extreme. Again, note what was happening in your life at the time this occurred.

Bad-mood setting #1:  _______

Bad-mood setting #2:  _______

Bad-mood setting #3:  _______

Circle the situation that brought out your worst mood.


Step 1:

To get your essential self to “speak” to you, we first need to assemble all the things you hate most.  In the spaces below, list the answers you circled on all the exercises in this post.

List your:

A.  Lowest energy situation:  _______

B.  Three people who bring out your worst social behavior:

1.  _______

2.  _______

3.  _______

C.  Worst medical symptom:  _______

D.  Most forgettable information type:  _______

E.  Stupidest mistake:  _______

F.  Problem that most disturbs your sleep:  _______

G.  Worst bad habit “trigger”:  _______

H.  Setting for your worst mood:  _______

Step 2

Now we’re going to create a little scenario together — a scenario that should set your teeth on edge.  Using the items you’ve written on the list in Step One, fill in the blanks in the following story.  For example, if you wrote “dental appointments” next to the letter “A” in Step One, you’ll write “dental appointments in the blank labeled “A” below.

Your own worst case scenario

Imagine for a moment that you are in (A:  Your lowest energy situation)


You are surrounded by (B:  all three names on your list)




You are not feeling your best, in fact, your (C:  worst medical symptom)


is bothering you more than ever before.

You’ve been given a lifetime assignment that involves working with (D:  most forgettable information)

All the people in the room are authorized to watch you constantly, criticize your performance, and punish you if you make any mistakes.  Speaking of mistakes, you have just done (E:  stupidest mistake)


a fact that is being noted by your three supervisors.  Your life in general is pretty difficult right now; that whole thing with (F:  most sleep-disturbing problem)


is happening all over again.  You’re also trying to deal with (G:  worst bad-habit trigger)


To top it off, (H:  your bad mood situation)


is more intense than ever before.

Just when things are at their worst, (B-1: the person who makes you feel most uncomfortable)

walks up.  He or she orders you to sit up politely, smile in a way that is both humble and worshipful and say to the entire assembly, “I admire you so much.  Thank you, thank you for letting me be here.  You are such a terrific person, and this is just what I deserve.  I want to live this way for the rest of my life.”

Step 3
Read over this scenario, once you’ve filled in the blanks.  Really put yourself into it.  Then pay attention to your own reaction.  How do you feel?  Rotten, I hope.  If you vividly imagine this horrible situation, you’ll experience your own particular blend of anger, despair, illness, and anxiety.  This should reach a peak when you imagine facing the person you hate most and turning over all your power to change anything.  Whatever you feel in this moment is the sensation of your essential self saying NO!

Don’t run away from this feeling just yet.  Focus on and wallow around in it.  Explore its particular shape, texture, and size.  Notice how it differs from other negative feelings.  Your true path will take you through frightening challenges, saddening departures, angry resistance and a number of other profoundly unpleasant experiences. But the pain you experience en route to your North Star feels clean, necessary and right to the essential self.  It is very different from the intense aversion you would feel in the scenario we’ve just created.  You’re not supposed to feel that way, ever.

That feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you’re steering away from your North Star towards a life you were not meant to live.  When you feel it, you must change course.  You must say to the people around you what your essential self is saying inside:  Nope, Not going there.  Not doing that.  Sorry, but the answer is no.”

Or, as Josh might add, NO THANK YOU!

I have been told that as a toddler completes the rite of passage of “not a baby, not yet a little boy,” (sorry Britney) a cheerful YES will occasionally pop out of his mouth.  I’ll believe it when I see unicorns and leprechauns doing my yard work.

For now, I am learning from Josh to embrace my inner NO.  I suggest you do the same.

And don’t worry, there’s a positive side to all this: next blog post (April 1) we will complete the exercise for finding out how your essential self says “Yes.”  Feeling that, instead of what you felt doing this exercise, will give you the gumption to say “No, thank you,” to everything that doesn’t feed your soul.

I’d love to hear what insights you glean from this exercise!  Please share in the comments.



Is there a conspiracy by The Man to keep you down?


by Pamela Slim

I had a friend from college named Javier who was convinced that Walt Disney had it in for him.  I don’t remember the particular conspiracy, only that it involved subliminal messages, Mickey Mouse and lots and lots of oppression.

Walt Disney was not the only tyrant in his life, there were many more:

•    Academia
•    The U.S. Government
•    The IRS
•    The CIA

I am sure I am only scratching the surface.

The funny thing is, none of these monolithic institutions held a candle to the sabotage Javier did to himself.  He had tormented love affairs.  He would lose school papers on his computer just as he was about to finish them.  His promising internships always ended in a fight with a boss or co-worker. His sharp intellect and gigantic heart were prisoners behind a curtain of anger, hurt and bitterness. All he knew was that Everybody was out to get him.

Martha explains this phenomenon in Finding Your Own North Star:

“In fact, everybody’s Everybody is composed of just a few key people.  Our social nature makes us long to fit in with a larger group, but it’s difficult to hold the tastes and opinions of more than five or six individuals in your mind.  So the resourceful social self creates a kind of shorthand:  it picks up a few people’s attitudes, emblazons them on your brain, and extrapolates this image until it covers the entire known universe.  The vague compilation of folks, you call Everybody is what psychologists term ‘the generalized other.”

Looking at the world through an Everybody perspective leads to statements like:

  1. I would be more successful in my career, but The Company is holding me back
  2. More people would read my blog if the A Listers weren’t so selfish
  3. I would start a business but no one from my background ever succeeds
  4. I would be in a relationship if Men were not such dogs
  5. I would be better at handling my money if Schools didn’t discriminate against girls in Math

Such broad generalizations keep you stuck and powerless.  By believing them, you hand your creativity and motivation directly to the force you think is oppressing you.

To get a handle on who your Everybody is, try a couple of these exercises from Finding Your Own North Star, (page 63):

Everybody on Deck

Step 1:  Finish the following sentences by writing down whatever comes from your gut, no matter how silly it may seem to your brain.

1)    People judge me because:
2)    Everyone loves it when:
3)    When I do well, people feel:
4)    Nobody will let me:
5)    Everybody always tells me to:
6)    People just can’t accept the fact that I:
7)    When I fail, everyone thinks:
8)    Nobody cares when I:
9)    Society keeps telling me I have to:
10)    Everyone expects me to:

Step 2:  For each statement above, write the names of six people you know who actually, verifiably hold the opinions you’ve ascribed to Everybody.  You can use the same names for every question if that’s what pops up.

If you are like most people, you may be able to generate two, maybe three people for each item.

This list of people generally includes people you love and people you hate. Most likely, it is not everyone in the known universe, or even in your suburban cul-de-sac.

Create an alternate Everybody

Do you have a sense that your Everybody is either people you don’t care about or who don’t have your best interest at heart? Since Everybodys usually come from family, media culture, ideological camps, school, peers or organizations, their influence is strong. But are they really the right people to support you?   If not, you are ready to create an alternate Everybody using another exercise from Finding Your Own North Star (page 84).

Alternate Voices Exercise:

Step 1:  For each of these statements, make two columns:  in the left, people that have told you this statement is not true, and  in the right, people who have told you this statement is true. Fill in as many blanks as you can.  You don’t have to fill in all of them, and it’s fine if the same names come up in response to different statements.  Bother only with the statements you do not believe, and remember, no generalizing.

  1. I’m a natural born winner: always was, always will be.
  2. The world is full of people who would love to be my friends.
  3. I’ll always have plenty of money.
  4. I deserve a life of joy and fulfillment
  5. I’m physically beautiful, and I always will be.
  6. I can be wildly successful at my chosen career.
  7. I have an amazingly capable brain.
  8. I’m perfectly lovable exactly as I am.
  9. I’m highly creative by nature.
  10. My dreams are in the process of coming true.

Here is an example of the worksheet:



Step 2:  Look over the columns of names you’ve written down in the previous exercise, and answer the following questions:

  1. Whom do you like more?  (People on left/People on right)
  2. Whom do you respect more? (People on left/People on right)
  3. Which people have the happier, more fulfilling lives? (People on left/People on right)
  4. Which people have more stable, intimate relationships? (People on left/People on right)
  5. If you had a baby and were forced to leave your child to be raised by other people, whom would you choose? (People on left/People on right)
  6. Which individuals most deserve to have their opinions ignored, belittled and discounted? (People on left/People on right)
  7. Why in the name of all that’s holy would you give any credence to the people on the left?

Redefining your Everybody may feel uncomfortable since some of you, like Javier, have felt a giant boot in your neck for many years.

Changing perspectives does not mean that some people are not out to get you.  Nor does it aim to minimize hurt inflicted on you by real people.

As an example, just yesterday, an Anglo business colleague said to my husband (who is Navajo), while looking at his long beautiful hair, “Good thing General Custer is not alive, he sure would have loved scalping you!”

Whether you chalk this up to racism or good old-fashioned stupidity, it is apparent that The Man’s spirit is alive and well in today’s society.

But this I know for sure: if you dig deep and redefine your Everybody, you just might find there is a nurturing, supportive conspiracy to lift you up.

Trust me, Everybody knows I’m right.