Today’s Episode of “Annabelle Goes to Therapy”: The Story Behind the “WHY”

Today my therapist asked me:

“What are you most scared of happening if your business fails?”

He prepared to write my answer on the whiteboard, steadying the grip on the expo marker.

“That everyone will think I’m a fraud” 

He turned around and looked at me.
His eye widened.

“Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. That breaks my heart to hear.” He wrote it down.

Cue the tears.

Seeing that sentence written on the board reminded me of something that happened during my first year of college. Essentially, a group of girls who didn’t even KNOW me had accused me of doing something I didn’t do. They acted sweet and friendly to my face and then talked about me behind my back for the rest of the semester. 

When I found out what was happening I was humiliated. Suddenly it felt very unsafe to be me, and so I put on a mask, metaphorically speaking – like everyone does at some point in their lives, and distanced myself from people at school.

I didn’t even realize how much that experience had impacted me until today. And it makes sense. It was my biggest fear coming true. 

I’m a 3 on the enneagram. Three’s are often called “The Performers.” We are characterized by our ability to be a chameleon in social settings, and by our insatiable desire to achieve. Both of those traits are awesome – but they are often fueled by the fear that we won’t be loved for who we are; so we over-perform. 

But that’s not where my story ends – what’s really wild is that when that semester ended, I met my first mentor, Will. I’ve talked about him before and the incredible impact he’s had on my life, and I will probably talk about it for the rest of my life.

He was someone who took one look at me and saw me for ME. He saw all of my potential and my power and my passion for helping others before I could see it in myself, and he supported and believed in me to achieve my dreams. Like me, me. The real me. The me I was afraid people would see and not like. 

Flash forward to yesterday – I was sitting in my business mastermind group earlier this week frustrated. I joined the group to have extra support with the launch of this brand new Leadership Program called “Lead With Light” that my biz partner, Rayna, and I have spent the past 6 months creating.

I was frustrated because we were focused on marketing and I couldn’t figure out WHY I created the program or even WHO I created it for, which is a MAJOR mistake in business – don’t make things without SOME SERIOUS MARKET RESEARCH!

But I couldn’t help it!!! Something told me to create it!! I knew deep in my heart that this program had significance and would add major value to people’s lives but I didn’t understand WHY.

And then after my therapy session, it clicked.

I want to SEE you. The real you. Like Will saw me, and I want to help YOU see that who you really are is absolutely ENOUGH. I want to BELIEVE in you so that you can step up to the plate and confidently be who you were born to be. I want to believe in you so you can believe in yourself.

I want you to feel seen, supported & loved.

I want to see my students & stand for them.
But most importantly, I want to give them the skills to do the SAME thing for other people.

If you’re curious about the program , click the image below to find out more!

A Day to Remember

This weekend kind of weird. I was trying to figure out what was “right” or “wrong” to do for the fourth of July in the midst of political unrest, rising COVID-19 cases, and my own desire to find a bit of joy in the midst of it all. I didn’t want to seem complacent but I also didn’t want to feel guilty for enjoying the holiday.

Should I celebrate?

Should I stay at home?

Should I get dressed up?

Should I wear black?

Ultimately, I ended up spending the day to soaking up some sun in the backyard and helping my mom and sister (Ellie) build a new tank for Sheldon, Ellie’s pet turtle.

This is Sheldon checking out his new tank.

There were no Fireworks. 

There was no BBQ.

There was no party.

I did however, hang out with a very happy turtle and reflect on the state of this country. 

And to my surprise, despite the growing pains we’re working through, I felt immense gratitude.

My father was an immigrant. So is my Maternal Grandmother. They both came to the united states from different countries in South America in search of freedom and possibility. If either of them had doubted their ability to create a better future for themselves, I wouldn’t be here.

No, it’s not perfect. In fact, this country is far from it. Right now, we are caught in a roller coaster of events, ideologies, and agendas. It’s easy to feel like all of our power has been stripped from us – like nothing we do will matter or change anything. It’s easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed and frustrated and like you’re not doing enough.

I felt that this weekend. 

But as I was thinking about my family history, I was reminded that I am an agent for change. I was reminded that I have the power to impact generations and create a better reality for them, just like my dad and grandmother did for me. AND I am here to remind you that YOU are an agent of change too. WE have the ability to create a better future for ourselves.

You are powerful.

You have influence.

You are creating a new world with every breath and every word and every action.

That’s why self-discovery work is so important.
It’s important to know your feelings.
It’s important to know what it means to be in alignment.
It’s important because if we are going to change the world for the better, we need to make choices and take action from a loving place.

The world we create on the outside is an exact reflection of our internal world and the way feel on the inside.

I am here to help you figure that out.
I am also here to remind you that it’s okay to start small. 

The theme in the Virtual Big Sister Network this month is “Welcome”, and I think it serves as an excellent place to start exercising your power + influence.

How might you make other people feel welcome?
Start with your room,
then your home,
then your workplace or your classroom.
Then, that feeling of being welcomed, feeling safe and feeling seen will expand to the school, the town, the community center, the state, the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

What people don’t realize about influence is that it compounds exponentially. Each person you share a little of your light with is given the energy to do the same for someone else.

The catch is, we need to be reminded of what that light feels like sometimes.

It’s why I am here. It’s why I write. It’s why I started the community and the business.
My work is here, at this keyboard, writing this post to remind you just how powerful you are AND that you are supported on this journey to heal yourself and to change the world.

My work is to remind you that there is hope and that WE NEED YOU.

If you find yourself in a state of disarray and you’re looking for a way to check if you’re in alignment, ask yourself these Qs:

1. How am I contributing to the current situation? Can I change that?
2. Am I showing up as the best/highest version of myself? What would he/she/they do?
3. Have I considered and accepted the consequences of my actions? (Even doing the “right” thing has consequences) Am I still committed to my choices?
4. Are these choices from a loving place?
5. Have I taken care of myself and gotten what I needed to feel alive and happy? if not, Rest and Recover! It’s okay to rest so that you can continue to lead from a place of empathy and compassion. “Self-care is an act of resistance too!” -Lorena Roque
6. Start small. Do what you can to make the world a better place, even if it just means building a better home for a turtle.

With warmth + light,
AB

P.S.

If you’re struggling with processing the events in the world right now or need a gentle permission slip to release some emotions. I invite you to grab the Personal Check-In Packet.

If you’re still trying to figure out what YOUR work in the world is or how to use your gifts to create sustainable change in your community, the Purpose Packet will be really fun and insightful to go through.

Use the code “TURTLE” at checkout for 15% off.

“THE JOURNEY” to Heal

This image is what we lovingly refer to as “The Journey”
It is the process of growth.
It is a process to heal
It is a process to bloom.

The kind of “growth” we’re talking about here can be difficult to understand because it’s an internal process. We rarely notice the external signs of the change unless they are “obvious” or unless we know how to look for them.

What we’ve outlined here are 6 steps that serve as an imperfect guide to the change in self-awareness we might experience in this lifetime. These steps are generally experienced in this order but sometimes, life might have you skipping around a little bit + that’s ok!

This image is the “Social Justice” version of those same steps. I did it to see if it would help me manage my overwhelm AND help get a grasp on what’s happening in our world right now on both the individual and collective levels.

What’s really fascinating is that these steps can be applied to any national or global conversation/movement that has involved an oppressed group. It can be applied to the #BLM conversation happening right now, to the #MeToo Movement, to U.S. Immigrants + immigration policy, the LBGTQ+ community, the history of Indigenous people – ANY group that has been oppressed or marginalized.

I believe this current moment in history is a time of immense growth for most of us individually and collectively. To have deeper compassion + understanding for each other – and this is what I understand to be the path we take to get there.

In light of the #BLM conversation that we have all found ourselves influencing in one way or another, I have taken the liberty to carefully breakdown and outline each step using examples of racism in the U.S.

**I only took a few race/social justice classes in college so I have a minimal background/education in racial justice history. If you have edits you’d like to suggest, I’d love to hear what you might add or remove!

STEP 1: UNALIGNED + UNAWARE

Cruelty. Ignorance. Physical + Verbal Attacks. Systematically oppressing “others” in order to maintain power.

Individually: This might be expressed as murder, discrimination, racial slurs, slavery, implicit biases, and the overall acceptability and acceptance of this behavior.
Collectively: This looks like slavery, segregation, lynching, appropriation, outward violence toward an agreed “other”, etc.

STEP 2: NAME THE PAIN

Identifying problematic stereotypes, systemic issues, injustices, oppressive behaviors.

Individually: This is the recognition of their participation in the oppression, and questioning why the world is this way.
Collectively: This might look like an increase in conversations – oppressed groups finding their voice. It is the beginning of a cultural shift in the acceptability of these things.

STEP 3: CHALLENGES

Accepting the responsibility to heal. Desire to face the discomfort that comes with change.
Individually: This might look like choosing to stop using certain words, supporting certain companies or policies.
Collectively: This looks like demanding structural change through protests, petitions, policy changes. Pushing past “band-aid” fixes.

STEP 4: LEARN THE LESSONS

Seeking guides or educational material, to learn more about the circumstances and how to change them. 

Collectively: This might look like acknowledging the hardships endured by the oppressed group and understanding why these things are wrong.
Individually: This looks like following educators on social media, reading books, listening to podcasts.

STEP 5: FIND YOUR TRIBE  -> INTEGRATION + INFLUENCE

Integrating the things you’ve learned into your daily life. Share these practices with your circle of influence.

Collectively: Integrating the “other” group. Formation of movements and organizations to educate, create change, & raise awareness.
Individually: Aligning with people whose values you admire/respect. Sparking conversations in your personal circle of influence, attending protests, etc.

STEP 6: BLOOM

Mobilize your community & resources to create new, inclusive systems.

Collectively: Redirecting funding to restructure broken systems, initiatives to close the gap between the oppressed and the rest of the community.
Individually: Implementing new policies to prevent injustice in the workplace.

My hope is that we can use this circle to understand where we are on our journey and then help each other to grow to the next step. I hope this step by step breakdown provides clarity and dissolves that overwhelm.

Figure out where you are & what you can do to keep moving towards a full bloom.

Annie’s Doorway

Photo By: Shane Spangler

I really like supporting people.

I like watching them grow with confidence and skill. 
I like seeing them happy.

I know that I would NOT be who I am today (and the woman I will be in the future) without the love and support from others. I made it a point that I would give back & thank them by paying it forward. I decided it was the best way to show them how powerful their love is. Seeing your impact in people you’ve never met or seen before is powerful. Meaningful on so many different  levels. 
I really love to mentor younger people and help talent grow, but I haven’t really had a chance to do it publicly – until now. 

Opportunity is my new business. 
Opportunity is what we live for (or at least what I live for). 
I enjoy building doorways so opportunity can knock.
I like building doorways for other people too. 

Which brings me to Annie, the first of many (hopefully) doorways I want to build. 

Annie is a young determined poet. She and I bonded through Instagram over how much school sucks. She’s a first-year, and I’m an old fart but we both are well aware of what our society expects of us. A degree, a solid job, a minimally sufficient contribution to society, a good retirement, and finally, death. We bonded over the stress and the weight and the unfairness of it all, and finally, we started talking about the good stuff. “What is your passion? What really makes you come alive?” I asked her. She told me she liked poetry and I told her I’d help.

And well, now we are here. I wanted to highlight her because her excitement and passion for her craft makes me want to work harder. It makes me believe that maybe if we spent more time supporting each other instead of projecting our own ideas on each other, we might actually be able to change the world. Like really truly. And that is inspiring.

This is one of my favorite poems that Annie has written.

Paint Me Beautiful
By Annie

When I read this all I could think was Pslam 149:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Why should we fit ourselves into a box when we are made for so much more than that? Not just from the outside, but from the inside too. Our passions were given to us to use in the world and make a footprint that will forever change it. In a good way…. in the best way possible. 




More about Annie:  

What inspired you to start writing?I always loved stories and how it can connect and touch people. I wanted to inspire people and I think writing is the perfect way to do it since it comes so naturally to me. Writing always made sense to me when nothing else did. Its something that I know that I’m supposed to do.
Why do you like poetry specifically?
I like poetry because it can be so simple and yet have a powerful impact on whoever is reading it. I like how when it comes to writing poetry there aren’t really any rules. Yes, there are rules on how to structure a poem and etc, but you can do whatever you want. For me, I feel like I write my best pieces when I’m not put into a certain box. If that makes any sense. It should be more about the writing and the message behind it then the structure.
What drives you to write when you do? How often do you write?
Anything and everything. What inspires me the most is seeing how people respond to my poems. That’s always a great feeling. As far as my writing process,  sometimes I get lucky and an idea or even a line comes to me on its own. I like to say that you can never rush creativity. But i always have that thought of “What if I don’t have it this time? Or what if it just never comes back.” But I know that my writing has a purpose and I will continue to live out ( or “write out” rather) that purpose for as long as I can. If that makes any sense.
Other times I really have to sit down and think about what I wanna write. I’m a perfectionist, so I really aim to write my best. I always ask for feedback. Always. It’s helpful to have another  ” set of eyes” look at your piece and give constructive criticism. This allows me to grow as a writer and a creator. Even though sometimes I get a little annoyed but I do appreciate it! Lol! Sadly, I don’t write as often as I should or as I would like. But what’s so great about being a poet and a writer my mind is constantly thinking about new ideas and new pieces. That part of my brain is never turned off. I’m always thinking. Always trying to come up with new ideas. I love it.

Follow her poetry on Instagram: @annie.writes

The Yellow Brick Road

IG: @mykellsawyer
Website: Michael-sawyer.com

Today I was walking with my new friend Alex, and he asked me “What was your happiest moment in the past month?”
“Just one?”
I shared a few different things, and then I thought about one of my shoots in NYC.

The first day I was there I shot with a photographer named Michael Sawyer. Our shoot went well and he invited me to shoot again, this time at a studio.

I show up to the studio that weekend and find a make-up artist and two other models. I was immediately intimidated. These girls looked like they had been modeling for a while. They were taller, had straighter hair, and flatter stomachs than me.

I got dressed, had my make-up done, and ended up being first in the rotation. I did o.k. I was little bit awkward, a little bit insecure. He coached me and was kind to me. He showed me photos to copy and kept coaching. I was a little embarrassed.

Then the next model went up.

I immediately grabbed my phone and started looking up photos of professional models. I searched for similar poses he was looking for; how different models did similar things but were still beautiful in their own way. I was interrupted by a loud “YES!”
Sawyer was shaking his head, “ah you are amazing dude.”

She smiled and moved her hair out of her face.

I decided to pull up a chair and watch her. I wanted to learn how she moved, and what she was doing that Sawyer liked so much. She switched her weight in her legs, kept a slow flow of movement, and never broke her serious face. It took me a little while to realize that what made her so good was her confidence, and how she used the thing that made her look different to her advantage.

The other model went up, she was goofier, different, but seemed a little uncomfortable despite the fact she looked beautiful.

Then it was my turn. I decided to own it – my make up, my petite size, my own stomach, and my hair. I owned who I was. I was proud too. We blasted some music and I got into a character I had never seen before. This Annabelle was strong, sexy, brave, and CONFIDENT.

I knew I nailed it when I hear heard him yell out in excitement – he showed me the photos and I didn’t recognize myself.

Damn.

IG: @mykellsawyer
Website: Michael-sawyer.com

At the end of the shoot, he told me “I knew you could do it. I wouldn’t have wasted my time and money inviting you here if I didn’t see it.”

I wondered how there are so many people, maybe even including you, that need a little push, a little direction, or someone to believe in them one time to reveal something beautiful within them.

I have this vision in my head of my calling. It’s not clear. It’s kind of like Dorothy on the yellow brick road. I can see there is a path to follow, friends to make along the way and strong desire to make it to the emerald city,  but instead of red poppies it’s fog, and instead of the wicked witch of the west its insecurity and self-loathing. But during this shoot, some of the fog finally cleared and even though the wicked witch made an appearance, she didn’t capture me.

Anyway in that room I realized that it’s my energy that makes me different. It’s my relentless love for others that makes me taller, it’s my perseverance that brought me into that room. And it was kind words from a stranger that tied it all together and brought it out for me to see and share with the whole world.

What sets me apart is what I have to offer in the unique way that I offer it. It is my difference that will make me successful.

IG: @mykellsawyer
Website: Michael-sawyer.com