“At some point, we need to say enough is enough and I deserve better” with María Tomás-Keegan and Fotis Georgiadis

At some point, we need to say enough is enough and I deserve better. It’s at that point that we can orchestrate a change, from the inside out. Starting with the premise that we deserve better, we can start to imagine what that might look like. Start with a re-evaluation of core values, focus on them and use them to guide your next moves. Every choice considered can be checked against the core values to be sure the decisions are in alignment with what you value most in life.

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview María Tomás-Keegan, who is an expert in guiding women to find their way through and beyond life transitions, by helping them to focus on adapting to the fundamental changes happening in their lives. She is a Certified Career & Life Coach, specializing in Transitions, and her company is called Transition & Thrive with Maria. María is also a bestselling author. Her latest book is Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. María helps women adapt to life-changing events — like divorce, trauma, loss, layoff or caregiving. From personal experience, she knows how these transitions can have a profound effect on our confidence, how we perceive ourselves and how we show up for our careers, families and community. She helps women learn to become resilient, and step into their authentic selves, creating a firm foundation upon which they can move forward. Becoming centered on our core values, having a crystal-clear vision and passion for taking meaningful action are three-legs of that foundation.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here.

I love telling this story of how I became a coach because it allows me to pay homage to the mentors and coaches I’ve had in my life and career. They have been my teachers and role models. I admire them and aspire to be like them.

I was brought up at a time when I was expected to go to college, and get a good job working for a good company, making a decent living. I honestly never considered doing anything else. So I spent many years in corporate America, making my way up the ladder. The last 20 years of that corporate part of my life were spent at IBM.

One of the best things about that “gig” was I learned to become a better mentor and coach, through their formal mentoring program. While it wasn’t my profession, it was what I loved most — helping others to become their best, while learning from those who mentored and coached me. It was a beautiful circle of getting and giving.

When IBM made a business decision to shut-down my team, it came as an enormous surprise. One I was not prepared for, because I never saw it coming. I had never been laid off before. After the shock wore off, I thought long and hard about whether to parlay my extensive business experience into another corporate “gig” or to explore something new. As part of the severance package, I got to work with a career coach — and the work we did together intrigued me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So, I did some research into this industry called “life coaching,” and I liked what I learned.

Rather than work for someone else again, I took a huge leap of faith and trained to get my certification as a career and life coach. As I was going through that training, it occurred to me that the number of life events I experienced over the years that caused me to change profoundly might be an area for me to focus my coaching. Once I completed my certification training, I started my first company. In 2018, I rebranded to make it crystal clear what I do and who I serve. My company is now called Transition & Thrive with María.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

I am very excited about this. Thank you for asking.

My latest book and journal were written for just that reason — to help women face those particularly difficult times in life with more resiliency and courage. I call these the upside-down moments of life. This book helps women step back into their power with renewed confidence.

In Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph, I shed a light on the phases of transition by sharing my journey, and those of other women. The road takes us from a major turning point through profound change and ends with self-understanding. Throughout the book, I share strategies and lessons that will help others know they are not alone and that there is hope on the other side of a life transition.

I was inspired to write this book by a prospective client who said, “I wish you would write a book.” I asked her what she thought a book would do for her. She said that she knew there was a lot of stuff she needed to sort through so she could move out of her rut, but she was scared about what she would uncover. If she had a book to walk her through a process and it got too hard, she could put the book down, work through it and pick the book up again when she was ready. If she hired me as her coach, she wouldn’t be able to put me down when things got tough.

That made a lot of sense to me and I wondered how many other women might have similar thoughts. So I conducted a very unscientific poll of my clients, my online group and women I met networking and I asked: if you were going through a life-changing event and you didn’t know what to do about it, what would be your first go-to resource to find help? Very few said they would hire a coach first. The majority said they would buy a book. That inspired me to help women by writing this book.

I took it one step further and created a companion journal, so as women read the kindle or print editions of the book, they can capture all their ideas, insights and imaginings within the journal. All the activities in the book are also in the journal, and it becomes a keepsake to reference any time another life event happens. It’s a mission of mine to put the book and journal into as many women’s hands as I can.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

Yes, there was a turning point for me. It’s how I start my latest book. I believe that we often experience pivotal moments that cause us to stop and take notice of where we are and how we got there. This often leads us to making significant changes in our lives and moving in a direction that takes us from where we are. Case in point:

My first marriage ended because of infidelity. It took me by surprise and made me question everything I believed I knew about him, about me and about the life I thought we were creating together. I divorced him and moved on. To everyone around me I appeared to weather the storm and bounce back better than ever. It was a beautiful mask I created — so beautiful that I believed it myself.

It took a couple of years of throwing myself into my work and going through the motions of life before I met someone who swept me off my feet. I was sure I had it right this time. We married and everything was great for the first five years. We renewed our vows (something we promised to do every five years).

My career skyrocketed; his plummeted. I saw a side of him that I didn’t know was there. His jealousy caused more than one fight. But I didn’t want to be that woman who was divorced twice, so I kept trying to make it work. Compromising myself, my values, my ethics at every turn. Giving in. Giving up.

We did renew our vows at year ten, but only to keep up appearances. By then, everyone we cared about knew of our promise to do so and I didn’t want anyone to know I was failing at marriage again.

After our last knock-down drag-out fight, he slept upstairs, and I slept in our room downstairs. I cried the entire night. Getting up in the morning with a pit in my stomach and puffy, blood-shot eyes, I realized something had shifted in me. I dressed feverishly to make a quick get-away before he came downstairs.

As I grabbed my briefcase from the kitchen and headed to the garage door, I heard a voice I barely recognized say, “Where do you think you’re going.” I spun around to see my favorite chef’s knife pointed at my stomach and he was on the other end of it.

I let out such a scream that the cats ran for cover. He dropped the knife and dropped to his knees sobbing, “I’m sorry.” I was shaking uncontrollably, realizing what could have happened had I not screamed and shaken him out of his rage.

That was my turning point. I was done trying to save a marriage that took everything good out of me.

That decision took me down a road of self-discovery and a new-found acceptance. It got me back in touch with my values, which I compromised along the way. I began to dream new dreams, after the old ones were shattered. I started to put my vision into action, one small step at a time. As I learned to stop beating myself up and forgive myself, the road got easier and the light got brighter.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

As a woman who has struggled with carrying some extra pounds around since she was a young girl, I know what it feels like to be dissatisfied with my appearance.

I think we create a lot of dissatisfaction when we compare ourselves to others. I believe we are each created to be unique, so why should we try to live up to someone else’s standard. The consequence of that is dissatisfaction. If we can’t measure up, we think less of ourselves. That can lead to making choices that make us feel even worse. It can be a dark rabbit hole that is difficult to climb out of.

It’s not easy to turn off all the outside influences — in today’s world they come at us from every electronic angle. We are bombarded with images that can cause us to feel inadequate, unworthy and unimportant, if we let them. What we should be teaching, by example, is that everyone is beautiful just the way they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I would recommend we make healthy choices, so our lives are happy, and we are strong. But it doesn’t mean we all need to be a size 2 and 5’10”.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

Sure. The simple answer is, the world is a better place when we show up in a loving way. We can’t do that well unless we love ourselves. It starts from within.

When we are confident, hold ourselves in high-esteem, and authentically love who we are and what we can bring to our world, we get to set a great example for others, especially our children. That’s important.

Imagine you just walked into a room full of people. It might be a networking event or business meeting. Everyone seems to have something on their mind and a scowl on their face. It’s not a very inviting environment, for sure.

Now imagine, that as you intentionally circulate through the room with a genuine smile on your face, you compliment people, you share a private joke with one or two of them, and you watch the mood shift. You have made an impact. There are smiles now and some laughter.

It doesn’t take much to aid and abet a better atmosphere, when you approach it from a place of loving yourself. I believe it can take just one person who loves herself to impact how many others feel. It will snowball from there.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

For me, staying in my second marriage at least five years longer than I should have, was firmly based on the belief that I would be judged as a woman who couldn’t hold on to her man. Somehow that mattered to me greatly back then. It was my Catholic upbringing. Divorce was frowned upon — especially a second one. I compromised my values and had no foundation to stand on. Until I reached my turning point and found a different path to follow.

Some of my clients have stayed in mediocre relationships because they were conditioned by their previous experience that this is all they deserve. They saw parents mistreating each other and thought this is how relationships are done. To expect more is to expect too much. They thought, who do I think I am to expect so much?

At some point, we need to say enough is enough and I deserve better. It’s at that point that we can orchestrate a change, from the inside out.

Starting with the premise that we deserve better, we can start to imagine what that might look like. Start with a re-evaluation of core values, focus on them and use them to guide your next moves. Every choice considered can be checked against the core values to be sure the decisions are in alignment with what you value most in life.

The next step is to create a vision for your future that lights you up — the one you deserve. Finally, start putting that vision into motion by taking steps to make it happen. It’s simple advice — yet it’s not always easy to do.

When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

Before I reached the turning point in my second marriage, I asked myself the questions, why are you staying in this marriage? What is the life you want for yourself? Why are you pretending to be happy?

The answers to those questions are what finally led me to the decision to leave that marriage behind. It was not an easy decision and it took some time to get to the final choice.

I love these probing questions, because they make us think more deeply about how we feel and what we really want. Here are a few questions I ask my clients when they need to explore beyond their comfort zone:

What if it was your idea? What would you do then?

What if you knew you could not fail? What would be your first move?

If you had a magic wand, where would you be one year from now?

If I told you there is no such thing as failure — only lessons to be learned — what is the biggest lesson you have learned from one of those times you thought you failed?

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

Great question. I think it’s important that we create a safe and judgment-free zone, removing ourselves from any outside influences, so we can think. Like finding an empty room, turning off all your electronic devices, and just sitting quietly.

I believe we get comfortable with who we are when we are alone and quiet with our thoughts. We get to explore our beliefs without judgment, assuming we are not judging ourselves. This time allows us to hear our own voice, hear the voice of our heart, and the voice of our spirit. It helps us to explore the depths of who we are and what we stand for.

This can absolutely be a scary time, until you get used to it. I recommend starting slowly, perhaps by setting aside 15 minutes to listen to a guided meditation and just breathe through it. After a bit of time, you’ll be able to sit for that 15 minutes in silence and allow your own thoughts to guide you, as you breathe through it.

My favorite practice is to start each day with stretching, yoga, quiet time/meditation and prayer. It makes for a “Miracle Morning,” which is a book by Hal Elrod. I am thankful for his inspiration to create my own practice.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

Here’s where the fun starts. It’s a cycle of love.

When we authentically show up from a loving place, which starts with loving ourselves, those we encounter throughout the day will feel that love. Then they feel safe to open themselves up to receive it, if not immediately, eventually.

Through that opening, there is the opportunity to send and receive, back and forth. When you are authentically loving, you become a mirror and reflect love back.

You can’t help but enrich relationships coming from this place. That kind of love is like a magnet. You get more and more of it as you show up that way.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

The first things that come to my mind are: reserve judgment; live and let live; and agree to disagree and move on.

Both individuals and society would be better served if we reserved judgment of ourselves and others. I know of only one authority who has the right to judge me. If we did not feel judged (even self-judged), we are more likely to feel better about who we are and find the best way to fit in this world and share our gifts.

All of which goes hand-in-glove with allowing ourselves to live and let live. When there is conflict, understand that there is no benefit in “winning,” make the choice to let it go and move on.

The more we are grounded in who we are, what we value most, and what we want, the more accepting we are of ourselves. We create a firm foundation and a belief in ourselves. As we show up in confidence in everything we do — stepping into that power — we show society and the world who we are. I believe this is an individual responsibility to choose how we want to be seen and show people, through our actions, how we want to be treated.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

Self-care is an expression of self-love. So, starting your day with self-care is like giving yourself an enormous bear-hug each morning.

1. Me Time: I start my day with “me time.” First, I want to confess that I’m not perfect at this. We all tend to beat ourselves up when we don’t keep up with our routine of self-care. When I slip up, I forgive myself and get started again (which is probably my sixth favorite strategy). “Me time” consists of stretching, yoga, prayer, journaling, and reading my vision aloud.

On those days when I have an early meeting or I over-sleep, I try to get in one or two of these activities so I can still ground myself for the day.

2. Keep Trusted Advisors Close: I surround myself with people I trust, who believe in me, and who are mentors and advisors when I need input and feedback. I call these people my Personal Board of Directors. They remind me of my value when I’m feeling unworthy or unsure. They remind me of my accomplishments and help me to find joy in them. Knowing they are here to guide me is a very comforting feeling and it allows me to feel more confident as I step out into the world.

3. Celebrate Small Achievements (and big ones, too): Often we get so busy that we forget that we are moving forward one small step at a time, if we’re being intentional. Each one of those steps is an achievement and takes us closer to our goal. It’s worth celebrating those. It keeps us motivated. I like to do this at the end of each day to motivate me for tomorrow.

4. Talk to Yourself: My husband catches me all the time talking to myself — out loud. He laughs. But it’s my way of keeping my thoughts positive and consciously changing what I’m thinking when I find myself going down a rabbit hole. I call it Thought-Stopping. It’s also called Positive Self-Talk. Affirmations are a great addition to this practice.

5. Two Words. Each year I select two words that will guide my intentions and actions throughout the year. I think I pick these words, but sometimes the words pick me. This year my words are BELIEVE and TRUST. They picked me. Everywhere I turned I saw those words, or I heard them. They became my words for this year. They remind me that I may not see evidence right now of what I envision for this year, yet they instill in me the faith that it is coming.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

I love to read books that teach me new life strategies and broaden my thinking. There are so many books that can do this, and these are just four that have impacted me.

1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s an inspiring book that helped me to think differently about creativity and how to embrace it in my life and work.

2. Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I’ve read several of Dr. Dyer’s books, because they open me up and challenge my perspective. One of my favorite quotes comes from this book. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

3. I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver. My latest favorite book by a woman I admire for standing firmly in her beliefs and convictions yet opening her mind and heart to new ideas and welcoming new possibilities.

4. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. My list would not be complete without mentioning this book again, which launched my own morning routine that helps to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes looking up.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

I wish I thought of this first, but my friend and colleague, ShaRon Rea, started this movement, and I love what she is doing. Her movement is called “No Judgment — Just Love.” Putting those four words together has huge impact on how people think, what they say, and how they feel.

This movement is about loving ourselves enough so we can be kind and loving to others. Being the role model. Being the mirror. Her mission is to create a world filled with people who really do see beyond their initial impressions and treat each other well…because we care how we are treated. It inspires me to follow this movement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

I’m quoting myself here. This is what I share with clients all the time: “I believe we are both a Masterpiece and a Work-in-progress. Share and celebrate the masterpiece and be patient and kind with the work-in-progress.”

The Masterpiece is where our gifts and talents reside. Share them freely so that other people can learn from you. Don’t hold back — it is by sharing that you create a bridge for others to walk safely toward you.

The Work-in-progress is that part of you still learning. Reach out to those who are masters, walk over their bridge to put new strategies in your own treasure chest. Soon you will add to your masterpiece and make room for new things to learn.

I remind myself often to be gentle with myself as I move into unchartered territory, expanding my comfort zone and growing through every new lesson.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

“At some point, we need to say enough is enough and I deserve better” with María Tomás-Keegan and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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