Lisa McCourt teaches writing, creativity and joy to passionate souls who are ready to substantially up-level their success in work and in life. Her most recent Hay House release, Juicy Joy, is the culmination of three decades of full immersion in the world of personal development, training with top gurus to decipher the secrets of radical, lasting joy. Lisa’s 37 published books spanning all genres have sold over 5.5 million copies, won six publishing awards, and gone into 11 languages. A live and online trainer to thousands, Lisa is a frequent speaker at both writing conferences and self-growth events. Learn more at www.LisaMcCourt.com
We all experience life challenges that looking back we can see were the catalyst for living a deeper, more authentic life. What has been your greatest personal challenge that you’ve overcome that served as your pivot point to transformation?
To say my greatest personal challenge has been overcoming my people-pleaser tendencies would be a vast understatement. I was a people-pleaser of epic proportions. Olympian-level. People-pleasing was my superhero power.
From a lifetime of developing this skill as a survival technique, I’d gotten to the point where whoever was in front of me, I could immediately intuit exactly who that person would most like me to be, and become that for my interactions with them. It could be a friend, an employer, a lover, or the kid at the deli counter making my sandwich; it didn’t matter. Whoever it was, I could instantaneously become whatever would delight that person most.
My driving force — the thing that’s propelled me throughout my life — has always been a desire for connection. For as long as I can remember, I’ve craved genuine, meaningful connection with others. But ironically, this superhero power I’d developed was the very thing that made true connection impossible for me. Because when you go through life with a skill like that – no matter what love or admiration or affection anyone tries to offer you, you can’t receive it. You know deep down, that this love is contingent upon you keeping up the façade you spontaneously created for that person. So no matter how much love anyone tries to give you, the love has nowhere to land.
People-pleasers have a reputation as being super-giving, super-caring, super-loving types, right? We’re not. That’s just the illusion we project. The truth is that people-pleasers are the most selfish SOB’s out there. Everything they do is motivated by a need to make you like them. Because your attention, your admiration, is what sustains them—it’s their lifeline—it’s like blood to a vampire. They’re going to do anything they can to suck it out of you.
I struggled with my people-pleasing addiction until the day I finally, after an excruciatingly long learning curve, locked into the deep knowing that I am whole and complete whether anyone approves of me or not. That may sound terribly mundane to you if you’ve never been afflicted with a people-pleasing addiction, but I can assure you it was monumental for me. My whole world opened up from there.
Describe the transformational moment or wake-up call when you realized that life change was necessary? For many, it’s a spiritual awakening, an emotional downfall, or a life-altering experience that shakes us awake.
I have a solid foothold in plenty of victim stories. I could tell one now and make you cry. But the truth is, my most transformational pivot-moment came in the form of a tipping-point, after many years of gradual accumulation. I was in a beautiful place, clinking wine glasses with my best friend, watching my perfect, healthy children play. I had the manifestation principles down, even back then. I’d been studying metaphysics my whole life and I’d manifested it all – the husband, kids, beautiful home in my favorite part of the country, stellar health, a lucrative dream career as an author of parenting books and kids’ books that were selling millions of copies. But I was screaming inside. Aching. Always hoping maybe the next self-help book or the next seminar might patch that up, and if didn’t, at least I was always really good at hiding it, and as long as it stayed hidden everything would be okay. Here’s how I describe my turning-point moment in Juicy Joy, 7 Simple Steps to Your Glorious, Gutsy Self:
A garlic-infused breeze kicks up the palm fronds beside the table at my favorite neighborhood bistro. “What do you want?” Sarah asks me. Her kids and my kids—all smart, sweet and beautiful—chase one another around the plaza fountain. Sarah gets up to bring them wishing coins.
What do I want?
I want more.
I want to crash out of this invisible armor I’m trapped in—to tear away the shackles and freefall, delirious and wild. I want uninhibited, unbridled, uncontained passion. I want to plummet naked into a velvet ocean at midnight and roll in the ecstasy of the waves.
I want to peel back my layers and hold my raw wounds up to the sun for healing.
I want to slice through these suffocating wrappings and grab onto core me—whoever that is—and never let her go; make her into the real me, the only me, for some to love and some not to love . . . and I want to not so painfully care who does and who doesn’t.
I want to feel, taste, devour it all—no filters, no censors, no gatekeeper telling me what is rightfully mine to take and what isn’t. I want rapture. I want free, primal, abandon at the top of a mountain under a full moon. I want to absorb me, embrace me, the light and the dark, the glorious and the hideous, and cherish it all and laugh at it all forever.
Sarah’s back. “So what do you want?” she asks.
What do I want? “Caprese salad and a cup of pasta fagioul.”
We close our menus and clink our chiantis as my daughter slides, sweaty and precious, into my lap.
After experiencing your personal wake-up call what were the most powerful steps you took to change your life?
I’d reached that tipping point and I had to really look to figure out what I was doing wrong with my personal development practice because I knew this was good stuff and it worked and yet I was missing something with it. And what I discovered was missing was pure, unadulterated authenticity and self-love. I was taking all these really wonderful, powerful principles and spending the time and effort to really learn how to use them – but I was only applying them to my external shell – this persona I had created and started calling ME a long, long time before. It wasn’t who I really was at my core. I’d spent so many years as this persona that I didn’t even remember who I was. I had no idea. But that’s who was screaming. She wasn’t gonna let me ignore her anymore. She wanted out.
I recognized at this point that on some level, I’d been intentionally blocking my core self. I was terrified of anything surfacing that might threaten that shell. Once I realized that authenticity and self-love were the deficits that result in a people-pleasing addiction, I began funneling all my personal-development practices into the specific goal of transforming myself in those two areas.
I discovered that I wasn’t only being inauthentic in my interactions with others, but even within my own self, I was inauthentic about my own feelings. If you’ve been on a spiritual path for a while, maybe you know what I’m talking about. It’s easy to get the impression from many spiritual teachings, that the goal is to eliminate all negative thinking. We’re taught that negative thoughts and feelings will bring us more negativity, so we need to keep our vibration high by thinking happy thoughts, happy thoughts, all the time, in order to bring more happy circumstances our way.
I’m not saying this advice has no place in a well-rounded consciousness program, but without a super-skillful application of it, this goal can become a deadly dangerous practice. You are a human being, and you have human emotions for a reason. The goal should never be to eliminate the “bad” ones, but to train yourself to feel joy in all of them. Pushing away a negative emotion never really gets rid of it anyway. Repressing or denying any of your feelings just causes them to get lodged in your subconscious energy stores.
Every natural human emotion is a gift. Sadness is a gift. Anger is a gift. Shame is a gift. Our suffering around these emotions is caused by our resistance to feeling them. Without the resistance, they flow right through us — naturally, beautifully, perfectly. It’s what they’re meant to do. Every emotion is an exquisite message from the divine, and if we stay open to them, and grateful for these messages, we don’t have to suffer from any of them.
You are an energetic system and your authentic emotions are energies that reside within that system. Denying and suppressing your genuine feelings is denying YOU. It’s a form of self-loathing, self-abuse. So the most powerful steps I took to change my life were the steps that led me to full acceptance of every feeling and emotion that surfaced for me. Learning to embrace the broad spectrum of my authentic emotions led me to a level of self-love I’d never come close to experiencing before.
Please share a Positive Mental Shift tip that woman can implement today to support them on their journey of transformation and empowerment.
To know your feelings is to know you. Decide right now to honor and embrace every feeling that comes up for you. It takes practice because most of us are not in that habit. Start by simply setting the intention for yourself every morning when you wake up: “Today, I’m going to check in periodically and ask myself what I’m feeling.” You might set a goal of deliberating observing your feelings at least once every hour. Then every time you look at a clock, let that serve as a reminder to check in with yourself.
Whenever you notice having a positive feeling, make a point to appreciate it. Your positive feelings are always a cause for celebration and the more you celebrate them, the more you’ll have.
When you notice a negative feeling, consciously welcome that feeling, too. Invite it in. Observe how your default would be to resist the feeling, or push it away or deny it. Choose to do the opposite. Put your hand over your heart or your gut or whatever helps you to intensify the experience of the feeling. Mentally pull back into the frame of mind Buddhists call the “witness state,” and observe yourself. Say to yourself, “How interesting that I’m feeling this right now.” Ask the feeling what its gift is, and remain open for an answer to come to you, even if it doesn’t right away. Try to feel grateful for the feeling.
I know you want to get to that BETTER feeling, so here’s a self-honoring way to do that: As often as you can throughout your day, stop and ask, “What am I feeling right now?” After fully accepting and embracing whatever answer you get, next ask yourself, “What would I LIKE to be feeling?” Directing your attention to what you want to feel (and vividly imagining that feeling) will naturally open up ideas and possibilities that will lead you to have the feelings you want.
The more you are able to expand your emotional range, the more comfortable you’ll be in your own skin. You’ll connect better with others. You’ll get to the point of truly welcoming every feeling without resistance. And here’s a big bonus benefit: Every time you welcome a new feeling that matches the energy of an old feeling you’ve previously repressed, you’ll actually be releasing the negative energy that got stored in your energetic body with that repressed emotion. All those undigested emotions you’ve stored away will gradually work themselves up to the surface until you eventually start experiencing the ongoing bliss of true emotional freedom in your daily life.
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