Step 7 How Not to Take COVID-19 Personally: A Lesson in Humility Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Step 7: Learned to embrace our uniqueness and connectedness to others in the spirit of love and humility.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Humility is such a strange concept, one we don’t hear about very often and probably think about even less. During this time of polarized politics and rapidly changing expectations of what life will hold for each of us, it may even feel unsafe to think about humility. But humility can be the foundation of the changes that are required of all of us as we face what to do next in this world health crisis, because like it or not, we are all in this together.

If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.

Mother Teresa

Humility is the acceptance of reality. We demonstrate humility not just when we win an individual award and acknowledge the effort of the team behind us, but also when life slaps us upside the head and we realize It’s not just about me.

Humility can help us put our lives in perspective. Such simple adjustments in how we look at life around us can take the pressure off. When we accept that we can’t have that elective surgery we were hoping for, we can understand that the needs of others are greater than our own and that we can survive. We can realize we are not alone in being fearful of riding public transportation. Humility is also the feeling of empathy when we look at our refrigerator trying to figure out dinner as we wish that our favorite restaurant hadn’t closed, and then remember our favorite waiter who is now out of a job, and our heart aches for him. 

Humility is not humiliation. Humility is not the belittling that we may have experienced as a child. This process doesn’t involve shaming (Step 6). Humility does not focus us on what we are not, our defects, our vulnerabilities. It is the opposite. Humility can focus us on what and who we are, accepting our strengths, skills, and insights, traits we began to articulate in Step 4. Humility is seeing ourselves within the context of our lives. Humility frees us to be ourselves.

Humility helps us to not take things personally. “It’s nothing personal” is a common phrase, but here the it is COVID-19, which is impacting you personally. So what can you do? This is where humility comes in. Humility helps you focus on something truly important: how connected you are to others who are also struggling. You are not alone. There’s comfort in this. Take it—you need comfort and deserve to be soothed during this time of stress. Feeling supported by fellow sufferers is part of this.

Humility provides a window into our place in this life. By offering an acceptance of ourselves and our needs, and by anchoring ourselves from within instead of fueling the railing against our fate by screaming and gnashing our teeth, humility can help change our focus. Humility offers us a perspective of genuine gratitude for what we do have, for what we have done. We can begin by seeing the heroism in many of the small gestures we and others have displayed during this pandemic.

Your Hero Within: Humility in Action

Above all, be the heroine in your own life … 

Nora Ephron

“I never thought I would be a hero, I just wanted to help others.” Statements like this are being heard around the world as those in the front lines are being asked to push themselves to their physical, emotional, and even spiritual limits to help contain the coronavirus. Nurses, ER physicians, cleaning staff, dietary staff; the staff handing out sanitized carts where I buy groceries; the farmer at our new Farmers Park-It Market who delivers groceries to my car, are all finding creative ways to offer more as they see the suffering around them.

I found a powerful example of this locally. The local drug and alcohol rehab where I consult gave all salaried employees a $100 thank-you check to acknowledge their work with the neediest, those affected by the opioid epidemic during this coronavirus pandemic. A dietary worker I know received this thank-you check and took her $100, bought fabric, and organized women she knew to make masks for resident, and staff at the facility where she worked. When the CEO thanked her, she thanked him for recognizing her role in their system of care, inspiring her to be part of a larger solution. “I just wanted to give back.” 

Understanding What YOU Give

As you are still quarantined? Or are you beginning to phase back to your place of work? As you do this, be cognizant of what you are doing to support yourself and to support those around you. No, this isn’t about being grandiose; it’s about being honest about your impact on others during this time of intense worldwide stress. 

Are you feeling freer to give a smile, or just chat with your roommate or spouse? Is the time you are spending with your children helping you to see them in a new light as you wonder at their gifts and curiosity? Are you more connected to those you care about who you can’t see in person but can speak to through some type of technology? 

Are you more connected to yourself? Humility is also about appreciating yourself and the growth you have made during this time of very real struggle. 

Within the AA framework, Step 7 is about committing to a new way of approaching and living your life. COVID-19 is demanding that we make changes just to survive. Ask yourself if you are using this crisis to positively enhance your sense of yourself. More about this in our next step, Step 8. 

Exercise for Today

On a piece of paper or in your journal, record your answers to the following questions.

  • How are you not taking COVID-19 personally? 
  • How has this crisis put into perspective what is important to you?
  • How has acceptance of the changes COVID-19 brought helped you make decisions that are helping you?
    • What you are doing to keep those you love safe? 
    • Notice what you are doing to keep yourself safe. Are you following distance guidelines, wearing a mask, and gloves when needed? Have you decided not to visit a loved one?
    • Are you more aware of what you need? 
    • What would be important for you to do even if no one noticed or thanked you?
  • Ask yourself where you are being heroic today. What have you given to yourself? To others? What are the small gestures you do that make a big difference in your life and in the life of others?

Make a note in your journal about how this works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the seventh of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. More tips will be available in my new ebook (to be published later this summer), and are available on my blog, The Powerful, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at

How I Overcame My Anxiety in Grand Island, Nebraska

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“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I was walking my dog this morning when a neighbor asked me where I’ve been. “I didn’t see you last week,” she offered.

“I was in Nebraska,” I proudly shared, “in the land of strong prairie women, speaking about not only trauma and addiction, but also about girly thoughts!”

When she learned I’d spoken to close to 175 people in each group, she was surprised and flustered, adding she could never speak in front of a group.

Interesting, I thought as I considered how I do address groups of all sizes.

If You’re Going to Dream, Dream Big!

“I let my passion for my topic help me get through any anxiety,” I shared. And as you know, I have plenty of passion about not only how you and I as women are unconsciously internalizing societal standards—which can be traumatic and drive us to drink—but also how you and I can fight these messages in our own toxic, inner dialogue that I’ve named girly thoughts.

To learn more about what I said in Grand Island, Nebraska, and about the reaction of both men and women in the audience, read the article that appeared in The Independent, and let me know what you think.

Join Me—Next Stops:

  • New York City, NY: May 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. “The Big Apple: Leadership and Girly Thoughts.”
  • Worchester, MA: June 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Girly Thoughts and Addiction.”
  • Lake Placid, NY: July 11, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Book signing at Bookstore Plus.

You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power

Girly Thoughts at Age 3

Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Sometimes we need a study to prove something we have known for a very long time—that we have been feeling bad about ourselves for as long as we can remember.

Read It and Weep

In an article originally published in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention and blogged about by the British Psychological Association, researchers found that beginning as early as age three—before we even learn to read—we begin to understand that thin is good, thereby setting a standard for acceptability that proves to be damaging for a growing girl.

Why I Developed the Term Girly Thoughts

As a psychologist who works with women, I’ve seen a need to make the impact of these societal standards on women easier to identify and grasp. As I wrote in my book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan,

Your burgeoning girly thoughts were unconscious, and they’ve remained that way for the most part—until now. Your girly thoughts formed over time and through numerous sources of input, and they are reinforced every day through your family of origin, intimate relationships, friendships, business and professional influences, family pressures, and, most especially, media.

By putting a label on this negative, internal talk, you have a handle on the price you are paying by trying to live up to these impossible images of perfection.

Your Girly Thoughts Cause You Further Grief

It is also vital to realize the ways you internalize these messages into a toxic self-talk. Here are just a couple of ways you may be dramatically affected by your girly thoughts:


So many women experience depression. While hormonal changes, working a day job and coming home to what is essentially a second shift in the home can describe some of why women take their anger out on themselves, those don’t explain all of it. A missing piece to this puzzle is how society makes us feel so inadequate for not having the perfect body, beginning at age three!

Overeating + Overdrinking

Because the messages we receive are so toxic, women often self-medicate with food. Have you ever thought, It’s been a really hard day, and I’m overweight anyway, so why not have dessert? Has that glass of wine while you’re cooking dinner ever become most of the bottle? These attitudes can eventually lead to other problems such as weight gain and addiction, to name a few.

What You Can Do:

  • Stop thinking it’s just you. After a luncheon address I gave, a corporate executive told me, “I used to think it was just me. Now I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad to realize it’s all of us.”
  • Have fun naming and identifying girly thoughts during your next Girl’s Night Out. That will really help drive home the point that it is not just you.
  • Read The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power in your book club, and Skype me in for a fun discussion.
  • Speak to the young girls in your family about the assumptions they are making about their body shapes and sizes, and help them learn that their self-worth should not be based on their looks.

Join Me—Next Stops:

  • Grand Island, NE: April 30: I’ll be giving a workshop on “Trauma” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and a speech over dinner titled “Girly Thoughts” from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • New York City, NY: May 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. “The Big Apple: Leadership and Girly Thoughts.”
  • Worchester, MA: June 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Girly Thoughts and Addiction”
  • Lake Placid, NY: July 11, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Book signing at Bookstore Plus

You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power

Coming to Grand Island with NO Girly Thoughts

Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Have you ever gotten something really wrong? Have you ever based your conclusions on little fact and many feelings, and as a result you painted a truly erroneous picture for yourself of what you were dealing with?

I know I have, and recently.

My latest error didn’t begin with misunderstanding a Facebook post, or by reading too much into a quizzical look from a neighbor. No, it began with an invitation to speak to a group on the subjects of trauma and addiction, and to do an evening presentation for women on girly thoughts.

How did I feel? This invitation made me happy! So far so good—but I had never heard of the location: Grand Island, Nebraska . . . and this is where I made a mistake. I did what many of us do: I filled in my lack of information with my fantasies.

Using Fantasies Instead of Reality

And such fun fantasies I had. The “island” in the name conjured images for me of the Caribbean, or Nantucket, beautiful islands in the sea. But I knew there was no sea in the middle of our country (at least I got that right). I thought maybe there is a lake with a small island in it. Yes, in this small town, there is a lake with a little island in it. I thought, How sweet. I pictured the people of this prairie community as so optimistic for wanting an island, for naming their town not just any ole’ island name, but Grand Island.

I was so wrong. Not only is Grand Island not a quaint small town, but it is a major metropolitan area— in fact, it’s the third-largest city in the state! And it is on an island in a very large river!

But my whole inner process began my process of thinking about how easy it is to jump to conclusions about so many things, from geography to our girly thoughts.

Girly Thoughts = Major Wrong Assumptions

Years ago, I heard the expression, When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me; making assumptions is easy to do, yet so harmful. So don’t do this with your girly thoughts. Instead:

  • call them out for what they are—a toxic self-talk.
  • jot down which girly thoughts keep coming to mind so you can figure out how to target these girly thoughts in particular.
  • help your friends identify their girly thoughts.

Coming to Grand Island to Speak About Girly Thoughts, and Trauma + Addiction

Yes, I’ll be in Grand Island on April 30, and hope you can join me. For more information, visit my website:

Next stops:

  • Grand Island, NE: April 30, I’ll be giving a workshop on “Trauma” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and a speech over dinner titled “Girly Thoughts” from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • New York City, NY: May 17, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. “The Big Apple: Leadership and Girly Thoughts.”
  • Worchester, MA: June 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. “Girly Thoughts and Addiction”
  • Lake Placid, NY: July 11, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Book signing at Bookstore Plus

You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power

One Billion Rising….by Dancing?

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

Author of: The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (publication date 3/5/13)

Pre-order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

One billion? and we’re not talking about the Sequestration, which is planning to cut one trillion anyway, or the population of the US that is only about 315 million.  No, we are speaking about a global effort involving more than three times the population of the US — we are speaking about women uniting around the world to end violence against women and girls, and doing this in a distinctly female way – by dancing, walking out, rising up, even giving voice to our concerns by demanding, that the violence, END.  By drawing attention to our concerns, by using the skills we have, and even perhaps having some fun in the process. Why? Because, right now, 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime, about one billion women, and that number includes some of you reading this blog.

Sometimes when something is so very common is feels even normal.  We have what I call our girly thoughts to thank for this, those societally driven messages concerning how we are to blame for all the misfortune we experience, and we are often not even aware that we are listening to them.

Girly thoughts are not new, and we come by them honestly. After all in the Bible, isn’t there a prayer to God, thanking HIM, for not being born a woman?  This example, and many, many others have resulted in many women being seen as less-than and as a consequence, acceptable targets for needing to be controlled, and for the rage of men.  And due to their girly thoughts many women even believe it was their fault.

But this doesn’t stop women from being courageous—you know what that is—acting in the face of fear, courage is not the absence of fear but taking action when you are, well, afraid.  On a daily basis we have all seen that being a woman can be very dangerous, particularly if the woman believes she has rights. But that hasn’t stopped so very many of us.   A woman could be shot in the head is she wants to go to school, have her clitoris removed, be targeted by a commanding officer, be slipped a drug so she is unable to fight off an attacker, or beaten by a drunk father or boyfriend who says he loves her.

So it probably sounds incredible to believe that we can make a difference by dancing.  How unreasonable is that, you may be wondering?  You may be asking where are the guns, the armies, the rockets – the real power?  After all isn’t that how we all been shown to demonstrate our power, through muscle, through clubs, through armaments, not to mention tradition and laws?  Well, that is how many show their power.  That is how we have been trained to understand power, as: might, intimidation, force.  But as for the real power, the answer is clear.  The real power is within each of us. This is the message of our recovery programs, the message our mothers wanted or perhaps did send us, and it is the message in this worldwide effort–onebillionrising.  We can begin to own our power, by uniting with other women, and men, in ONEBILLIONRISING/ is a global call to women and men across the planet to gather in their communities to dance and demand an end to the violence girls and women face, no matter what the cause.

What can you do?  First check out— then dare to use your personal power to consider creating your own event in your school, office, block, town. Plan to make it meaningful and perhaps even fun.  Break out of your comfort zone and even think about making an outrageous statement that is so engaging that others will want to dance with you, with all of us, enjoying the power of community, and the end to violence.  Realize that whether you are a woman in recovery, an ACoA, a sexual abuse survivor, you are connected to all other women who have experienced similar pain, trauma, discrimination, today, and in the past.  But understand that together we can all join to reduce, and even eliminate, the violence of the future, all through the improbable action of dancing together.

Need a little inspiration?  Listen to Lee Ann Womack “I Hope You Dance” after the jump…

Continue reading “One Billion Rising….by Dancing?”