Do you know those things that make you sweat? The things that make you feel anxious? The ones that make you want to apologize when you didn’t even do anything wrong? Well, that is how I feel when it comes to verbal communication.
Communication has never been a strength of mine. Well, let me rephrase that–verbally communicating how I feel and what I need has never been easy for me. My brain was wired to devalue my feelings and needs and overvalue another. It was a learned behavior that I needed to learn how to harness.
Courage to Communicate
I remember distinctly the first time I verbally voiced what I needed to my husband.
My husband and I were sitting on the couch one night after he had gotten home from work. I knew that walking, yoga and physical activity helped me manage my anxiety and could feel my anxiety slowly creeping up. I wanted to go for a walk by myself to breathe, take a time out from the kids, and relax. However, with two small kids at home and a husband that was working a very physical job, I felt that his happiness and relaxation were more important than mine. Asking for a “break” made me feel guilty.
However, at that moment, I knew exactly what I needed and I needed it so badly I had no choice. I swallowed my fear and verbally communicated to my husband that I needed to go for a walk. I paused. And waited. Brian, my husband, said, “Go, hun. I’m good” without flinching. I felt an immediate sense of relief at that moment.
This may not seem like a big deal to some but for me, it was a milestone. That moment where I voiced my needs and wants set a solid foundation for my future. Today, I am able to voice bigger things like my views on parenting, life, and business. It’s also led me to now be able to agree to disagree, be okay with someone not liking what I have to say, and setting time for myself and not feel like I have to ask for permission.
Learning How to Listen
About ten years into recovery, I discovered that I didn’t know how to effectively communicate. I also learned that how well you listen has a major impact on the quality of your relationships with others.
I didn’t know how to listen. I was continually projecting what I thought others were thinking and saying before they even finished talking. With that, I was actually preparing for a rebuttal and would instantly shut down or bark back the moment I would receive a response that I didn’t like.
I had to relearn how to listen.
Even though listening may ‘sound’ easy, listening well is a gift that not everyone has. Improving your ability to listen well will enable you to assess situations with more clarity and gain insight into other people, their opinions and the overall circumstances of an event. Listening well can prevent you from misreading a situation and making mistakes –like I was doing.
Make Your Voice Heard
I decided somewhere along myjourney, with the help of the yoga I know, meditation, and fully embracing the love of those around me to press on. To keep voicing up. To keep asking those uncomfortable questions. To say what I need to say.
Speak up, friend. You deserve to speak. You have something valuable to say and your voice matters.
And each time it will only get better. Each time you voice up and choose to communicate instead of hold it in, you will get better at it. Each time you ask that uncomfortable question it feels less uncomfortable. Each time you will get more precise at what you need to say and how you need to say it.
Work in Progress
I have learned time and time again in life and business that it is MY responsibility to ask questions, inquire, and do research if needed. This practice, in a sense, is putting myself first, and at the same time putting the other person first as well, because now communication is open. My advice, start with safe people. Start in safe environments and with small less scary things to communicate. For me, it was wanting to go for a walk. For you it may be voicing that you want Mexican food tonight instead of just saying “I don’t care”.
Full disclosure, doing these things is super hard for me. Still, I’ve discovered that time and time again; I am continually putting others’ well-being, happiness, comfort, and satisfaction above mine. And I am so grateful I have developed an ever-growing toolbox to help me build up these muscles in my life and business.
Let me help you get rid of stress so you can press on to the next phase of your life.
I truly believe that the more we know about ourselves, the closer we can get to becoming the best version of ourselves.
Today’s world is chalked full of opinions. Good, bad, and ugly–everyone seems to have something to say about everything. It leads people to start to look outside of themselves for validation. However, I believe that real validation lies inside. It really does. People ask me all the time, “Hope, how did you recover from such a horrific eating disorder, the tragic loss of a baby, anxiety, and depression without any medications.” My answer: I focused on my self-awareness.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness means recognizing what you are thinking, feeling, and doing when you are doing it. It is a practice of mindfulness, which is the idea of being 100% present and engaged in whatever you’re doing–free from distraction or judgment.
“Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self-consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.” -– Tony Robbins
Why is developing self-awareness so important?
So, why is developing self-awareness so important? Well, it’s pretty simple–you CAN’T control everything that happens in your life, but you CAN control how you react to it. Once you are more self-aware, you want to make the changes needed to be the best version of you that you can be.
For me, focusing on my self-awareness meant that I had to take a hard look at my emotions. The emotions that caused me to struggle with anxiety, depression and addiction. I had to learn how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way so that I could find clarity and peace. Yoga was my saving grace. After my first yoga class, something inside me flipped. And even though I wasn’t very good, I felt relief. Quiet. Stillness. No urges or anxiety of any kind. Just relief. Yoga helped me at a time when I needed it the most. Yoga helped me help myself. Yoga forced me to deal with my emotions. Yoga helped me to become more self-aware.
Here are some great ways that you can start to develop your own self-awareness.
KEEP A JOURNAL
That’s right, the good old journal. You know, the one that actually requires a pen or pencil to write in it? LOL–Well, all kidding aside, the best way to start to truly learn about yourself. Journaling gives you a place to think, write, and organize your thoughts and feelings and it is imperative to your developing self-awareness.
Meditation will help you become more self-aware and will help to improve your overall health and well-being. Breath awareness, or mindfulness meditation, reduces stress, anxiety, and anger, and sharpens concentration and attention skills.Counting Breath for Stress Relief & Relaxation is a guided meditation that helps focus the mind and relax the body. This 5-minute meditation will allow you to de-stress and step back into the present moment; helping you to relax, breathe and dig into your breathing so you can step back into life ready and willing.
Simply stated–mindfulness is self-awareness. Self-awareness doesn’t always mean being mindful. Mindfulness means having an awareness of your thoughts and feelings. When you’re mindful, you are able to accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them. As you know, when I was a teenager, I suffered from an eating disorder. When I learned that when I felt an urge to purge, I turned to the yoga mat. I recognized the thoughts and feelings that would arise at that moment and I was able to take a breath and not act on them. I was acting purposefully–or being mindful.
When you become more self-aware, you will be able to see the greater good in yourself. Self-awareness can help you get anywhere you want in life as long as you know how to use it to your advantage.
“Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.”
No words can describe how I felt that day. It’s interesting because it’s over a decade later, but I still have that feeling of what it was like. I don’t think that ever goes away. For those of you who have lost a loved one—that numbness, that void, you don’t even know what to feel, or how to explain what you’re feeling. I remember walking out of the hospital thinking, “Every mom walks out with a baby. I’m a fraud. I’m not a mom.” And that process of grief, and learning how to live with loss, really settled in that moment.”
– Hope Zvara
In an episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, I was interviewed by Heather Stang. Through my own experience, I have learned firsthand how yoga and mindfulness can help calm the mind and help us take a step or two away from self-defeating behaviors, such as addiction and eating disorders. I have also learned how to cope with the reality of loss by living my life in honor of my daughter, Faith, and helping other people live their best lives.
But all that didn’t come right away.
What my daughter Faith has shown me is the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. This actually came to me at a point where I always say when we see a butterfly, it’s Faith saying hello. One afternoon I was thinking about her, and thinking about what a butterfly means. I Googled it and to my surprise, it means hope.
For those of you who lost someone, it’s not a textbook experience. It’s not, “you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this.” It is such raw emotion. What yoga has taught me through working through addiction and being in recovery now for 15 years, and losing my daughter, and finding life after the loss of my daughter is that you have two choices… You either choose to live, because they don’t get to anymore, or you choose to die with them.
No words can describe what I felt that day. For those of you who have lost a loved one, that numbness, that void. You don’t even know what to feel or how to explain what you are feeling.
If you are going through grief, loss, or addiction, I have a special meditation of Hope for Grief & Loss. I also have a course in my online studio that I offer to you for free, so that you may find a way to transform… to see your butterfly. Here is a Practice in Mindfulness that will help you move beyond grief.
Yoga Found Me and Saved Me
First came yoga. For me, yoga has transformed my life. I remember walking out of my first yoga class… and thinking “Oh my gosh. I have no thoughts.” Once I befriended my breath and was able to get back into my body, I began the journey of rediscovering my life’s meaning. I had to choose life because my daughter didn’t get to. Every single day after she had passed away, I had to wake up and tell myself that. I had to look in the mirror and say,
I have to live because she didn’t get to. Please give me my purpose.”
I always say that my Wednesday night yoga class became my weekly ritual of second chances. Those second changes eventually lead me to a yoga teacher training. That training became a platform for me to really heal and feel. Not only that, it put me in a position to teach others what I had learned through the HOPE process.
When I first found yoga, I did not realize I was holding my breath all the time. I don’t think anyone ever told me that I was breathing. Until that point in that first yoga class, and then in my training, I didn’t realize that this whole breathing thing was really important.
Helping Others Purposefully Excel – The HOPE Process
My marriage not only survived the death of her child, but it thrives because of mindfulness and mutual respect. We can grieve differently, but we don’t have to grieve alone. Losing a child can strain a relationship, but in our case, it brought us together.
Through all of these struggles, through all of this challenge, through middle school and high school and through my early twenties, something always kept telling me to keep pushing forward and keep going. At the suggestion of a caring soul, I found yoga.
Breath, Body, and Belief
Breath, Body and Belief are the pillars of the HOPE process. These three things are the cornerstone of everything that I teach. Everything to do with yoga, with healing, and with finding your path and life beyond grief.
Get in tune with your breath every day. Practice meditation. Practice just noticing your breath for a minute a few times a day.
Use your body with purpose. Move it every day. If you need a place to start, my Mindful Movement Online Studio is only $9.99/month and has a variety of classes, tailored to your needs.
Finally, it comes down to your belief. Pray, meditate, and give thanks to the universe for the life that you have. Live your live in honor.
All day I have been thinking about it. About her.
All day she has been on my mind.
And part of the long car ride home from speaking… I cried.
I cried those special tears that go deep. That I feel everything all over again. Not just losing you. But when I first found out I was going to lose you. It was hours. Literally hours after I had just came to terms with becoming a mom and welcoming you into my life. Our life.
I didn’t know it then but you would become the best thing to ever happen to me. Your showering of gifts that would have never happened if it wasn’t for your life exactly the way it was.
The insights. The personal push into taking back my life and truly standing in recovery and never looking back.
You gave me compassion. Insight. Perseverance. Determination. Trust. You lead me to feel in a deep way. A deep way I didn’t even know was possible to feel. You gave me three beautiful children. Of whom would not be in our life if it wasn’t for you and your life.
You gave me a deeper sense of purpose. Purpose to live. To be bold. To be brave. To pick up the pieces and move forward.
A few weeks after you left me. I dragged myself out of bed and looked in our bathroom mirror and told myself I needed to find something good in this. That this pain. This unexplainable pain. This pain I would never wish on my worse enemy had to not be for nothing.
And then it happened. I started to see the blessings. The blessings that only carrying you in my womb, and holding you in my arms and watching you leave this earth tightly nestled within my grasp. Then giving you away leaving me with the most empty feeling I could never fully explain to anyone could feel.
But it happened. The blessings. I started to see them randomly on occasion, but I knew it was you. Then more frequently. Things would happen and the only explanation was you.
And now 12 years later I have experienced dozens, hundreds if not thousands of blessings your life exactly the way it was could have given.
My biggest blessing was in losing you. Losing you gave me purpose to live. Losing you pushed me to forge on fully into recovery. That because of you I wasn’t going to waste another second. Through your death I found life. Like a real life. One worth living. One worth striving for. One where I wanted to not just live but become the best version of myself while helping others do the same.
But I’m not going to lie. Losing you was one of the darkest, most difficult, incredibly painful experiences ever. But that pain brought your Papa and I closer together. It showed us truly what it meant to have a healthy baby. What bringing another life into this would meant. And how valuable our own lives truly are.
It is on this day each year that I am reminded of what you gave me. And I am forever grateful for you and for you coming into my life. I couldn’t fully see it at first because, well, grief is hard, and messy and complicated and as much as people try to box it in-it’s impossible to.
And for anyone out there grieving the loss of a loved one…a child. The grief never leaves. It just changes. The waves become less rocky and if you are open to it, and ask to see them, the blessing will blow in.
I am sharing this because I know what it is like to struggle. To beg for your life. To want to die, and watch someone die in your arms. But I also know what it is like to get back up again. To not just survive, but to thrive.
You will get though this. I see you. I feel you. I hear your cries. I know your pain. And give yourself the grace to just feel this moment. Because it will eventually pass, but the hole in your heart, I’m not going to lie, will never go away.
But I have come to understand, it’s not suppose to. It is partly what has made you who you are at this point in your life.
But the beauty and blessing is, eventually a seed will sprout and a beautiful flower will grow. That flower would have never been there if it were not for all of this.
Tonight we prayed for you in gratitude for all the blessings you have given us. That we have all experienced as a family, all because of you. This family we are today is all. because. of. you.
On April 6th I get to celebrate 35 years of life, love and walking down this path we call life!
Why be shy about it? Why hide it? Why down play this celebration of life? Why not shine like the bright star you are?
This was not always my style of thinking. I use to be uncomfortable with the thought of shining too bright. I use to worry others would notice me and because I would be noticed, others would judge me.
That people would criticize me, and because they didn’t know my whole story…get the wrong idea that yes, I am a recovering addict. But I am successfully in recovery (well always working on myself). Except, even though I clawed my way into recovery, I still lacked the self-confidence to let my light shine bright.
In 35 years I have learned a lot. In 35 years I have slowly come to a place were I am OK with who I am. And more importantly, I am less concerned with what others think.
Let me explain. My entire life I have been WAY TO FOCUSED on what others think of me, my choices and life, and as a result my self-confidence was zilch.
I would run myself into the ground trying to please others and often time end up depleted, frustrated, and rundown.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly began to understand this is no way to live and no way to get ahead in life and as only killing my self-confidence at every pass. And it was around that time which I realized this entire approach to life was a learned behavior that I could in fact… unlearn.
To say that the process of breaking such a habit would be as easy, would be a lie.
Slowly, taking one situation at a time I have grown to a place where I am more confident, where my self-confidence shines more each day. I care about others, respect others, but no longer am willing to sacrifice my happiness and or my desire to walk the path my Creator has set for me simply on the fear others may not be happy.
I struggled with this because I would get wrapped up in my thoughts thinking that this was selfish, rude, and un-yogic like.
But it was yoga which taught me caring for myself and living my life in the best light I can, the way I feel I am called to do is how you can best care for others.
Here are five things that come to mind when I reflect on my own self-confidence and what helped me cultivate it.
5 Ways to Boost Self-Confidence:
Learn to be Uncomfortable. First on the yoga mat with poses, then in life with people. Just sitting with emotions, breathing, and letting things pass.
Use Your Voice. First through teaching, sharing my point of view with the understanding that others may not agree. Then in life, at first little things, and when someone would disagree, letting that conversation be, and not recanting myself to appease the other person.
Began to Ask Yourself What Feels Good to Me. Not one thing is going to be 100% right for everyone. No diet, no exercise, not even yoga. And knowing that is OK, there is no need to convince someone of your practice or lifestyle.
Get Quiet to Get Loud. Not yelling, but to use my voice with confidence I first needed to get real quiet and listen, feel, and process. As someone who would often shoot from the hip in life. This has served me well.
Realize and Fully Understand That Not Everyone in Life Will like You, and That is OK. I know some of you will feel the need to email me and tell me “I like you”. And I appreciate that, but it’s not necessary. I have found great strength in others not liking me, not agreeing with me, or flat out rejecting me. It has been one of my best muscle builders to help my light shine bright.
So today, let your light shine bright. Let it beam with self-confidence. Don’t worry a thing about whose eyes may not like it. Shine baby, shine and let your self confidence burn bright!
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this website is to provide community support and knowledge of various lifestyle topics. This website is for informational purposes and should not be seen as any kind of professional advice unless stated otherwise. We are not physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists. All our advice is based on our own experiences. This website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new diet or exercise program.