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best yourself




I usually treat my birthday as my personal new year: a time to relive the highlights of the past and revel in the anticipation of what lies ahead. Last year, at 34, I beat myself over failures and missteps and felt the dread of another upcoming year wasted.

Not eager to repeat that performance, I've thought through what a happy birthday feels like now. I tell myself and others to make new mistakes so I'm approaching this milestone birthday differently in an effort to at least fail differently. I figure I'm a budding could I think about the future of Vanessa? What is #bestyourself2019?



Letters to my past self - August 2015

I don’t journal daily but moving surfaced a stack of notebooks filled with entries from my mid twenties until now. Last weekend, I flipped through an old notebook and saw that I kept referring to this idea of writing a letter to a random journal entry. And then on Monday, I started reading Stacey Abrams’s book Lead from the Outside. In the preface she talks about how she questioned writing the book at all, doubting if people would be interested in her story until she met a stranger who embraced her with a hug once day for being forthright and showing her a reality that she didn't think was possible or probable. I started thinking that maybe what I’ve learned from my past could be helpful to someone.

I’ve wanted to try this for some time but kept talking myself out of actually hitting publish for months. I had so many excuses: lack of time, too much travel, concern about quality, worries about how it would be received. Every time i thought about clicking publish my stomach turns at making my innermost thoughts digital. But here we are because I realized all of those excuses were crap. I wasn’t writing because I wasn’t writing…by choice. Whatever fears I had were neither fully formed nor truly terrifying. I simply ran out of reasons to procrastinate.

So I’ve typed a random journal entry from August 2015 with the intention of responding to it with the perspective and advice I wish I had known at the time.

August 17, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve journaled and a lot has happened. This last weekend has really been great for getting me out of my head and putting things in context.

Thinking small has made me both fearful and my worst enemy. I rewatched the Brene Brown TED talks which really put things in a new light. I’m scared of being success and i’m sure it’s related to not feeling worthy and deserving of it. It’s the same reason I get so anxious about my relationship.

The only way to overcome this fear of vulnerability and worthiness is to be exposed and open. I need to vocalize my wishes and desires because after all who gon stop me? Certainly not me.

In the car last night, N*** started talking about how he wished that he had become an entrepreneur sooner. He was always finding new ways to solve problems and feeling stifled by bureaucracy which has been my experience. I need to talk to him about making that shift. I really want him to mentor me.

This has really shown me the time for action is now. I have three business running in parallel.

I am entrepreneurial. I am an entrepreneur.

It’s time for me to claim that vision and fearless work toward it. The courage is in the effort and persistence, not the outcome.

I won’t say I don’t know because I know what I want. I don’t know is a symbol of doubt and that has no place in my vision.

My vision is full of creativity, love, beauty and financial prosperity. It’s mine for the taking.

Dear Vanessa of August 17, 2015,

You were really scared when you wrote this. Four months prior you quit a job that one could say (diplomatically of course) did not serve you or your purpose. You took a risk on yourself in ways that you hadn’t done since deciding to move to Mozambique in 2007. Your anxiety is at an all-time high as you try this new identity: entrepreneur. Which is interesting to say try because this is not the first time for you. Nevertheless, you feel the full weight of your decision as well as the burden of your anxiety judging yourself.

So you try these affirmations that people keep raving about: positive statements about worth and purpose. But it falls flat before the ink even dries on the page. You don’t even touch this journal for two more months when external circumstances have changed even if your mindset hasn’t.

Nevertheless, you see a glimmer of your true self in engaging in the exercise of daring to write that you deserve to be in that creative entrepreneurial space rather than disinviting yourself. Shutting down yourself is an express train to disappointment and dissatisfaction. You also see this self-reflection and self-sabotage for what it is: fear of success obscuring doubt of self-worth.

So you spread yourself too thin, working on three businesses rather than the one that you really want. You think that you are choosing and pursuing what you want when really your fear and anxiety make you work overtime to cover your bases. And although you write about vision and imagining this future, you’re afraid of what the next week, next month, and next quarter hold for you as financial tenuousness becomes entangled in larger-than-life anxiety.

In retrospect, it’s not the best step but it’s the step that you needed to take to believe that you were capable Without the glimmer of affirmation and validation, you would not have put yourself out there. Thinking small could have made you play small; instead you saved yourself from yourself. No parents, no boss, no mentor…just you letting yourself be yourself.

So even though the outcome you wanted to happen didn’t, the outcome that needed to happen did.

Fighting yourself is a lifelong battle only if you keep up the resistance. Now you know if you feel groundless doubt and that churn in your stomach that the physical fear response and the raging doubt are all smoke and mirrors.

So do what you want and not merely what you are expected to want. And bring Tums for that anxiety nausea.

Vanessa of August 28, 2019


Anxiety antidotes: Anti-goals


Anxiety antidotes: Anti-goals

So much of anxiety is excess activity. The terrorist in your head takes over your mental radio and spins the worst case scenario track all day. You say something inadvertent and possibly unflattering and you direct 1000 dramatic recreations in your head where you revise the script and the outcome to make yourself the hero. Or you lay down at night to finally relieve yourself of the day’s cognitive burden only to find that the mental terrorist has declared that it’s time to castigate you for failing to finish your to do list for a month from now.


Books I've Read: March 2019


Books I've Read: March 2019

1. Story Factor, Annette Simmons

I’ve been a little obsessed with learning more about storytelling and narrative lately. This was the first of many books that I’ve cued up to learn how to become a better storyteller. I started down this path to help me with improving the novels that my boyfriend and I have written but I’ve also started to see how it is applicable in so many other arenas as well outside of fiction writing.

People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith—faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it—a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas indeed offer what you promise…Story is your path to creating faith….People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith.

Simmons highlights six types of stories for all of us to keep in our influence toolkit:

  1. “Who I Am” stories

  2. “Why I Am Here” stories

  3. “The Vision” story

  4. “Teaching” stories

  5. “Values-in-Action” stories

  6. “I Know What You Are Thinking” stories

2. How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, david richo

This book was recommended to me by a friend. It got too philosophical and lofty for me at times but I did appreciate some of the passages below in thinking about how to maintain and sustain boundaries of self as well as the relationship. As someone who’s possibly (read: likely) to be too independent in my relationship, this helped clarified places where I need to bend and stretch more.

The five As — attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing — are the results of and conditions for mindfulness.

Attention from others leads to self-respect. Acceptance engenders a sense of bing inherently a good person. Appreciation generates a sense of self-worth. Affection makes us feel lovable. Allowing gives us the freedom to pursue our own deepest needs, values and wishes.

In a committed relationship we finally let go of our ego's formidable insistence on being right, on getting our way, on competing and wining. We may still have argument, but they do not last as long, they end in resolution, they involve less replay of the past. We take the content of the argument as information rather than as grist for the mill of resentment. Instead of demanding that our expectations be met, we seek agreements. Now we fight, but do not stop loving.

3. atomic habits, james clear

So many people have recommended this book to be and I see why. While most of the information was not new to me, I really appreciated his clear (ha!) writing style and graphics as well as the attention to embedding instructional design and assistive resources throughout the book.


This graphic had me shook not because of the improvement curve but the decline one. As a low key math and science nerd, thinking about all the times where I not only don’t engage in good habits but also make the “just one time” choice does serious damage to my long-term goals.

True behavior change is identity change.
The word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your “repeated beingness.”

4. books in progress

  1. Telling True Stories, Edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

  2. Make Your Mark, The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact, Edited by Jocelyn Glei

  3. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Daniel J. Siegel, MD