Knowing You are Good “Enough”

blue star backdropIn this day of fitting in one more thing, or “reaching for the stars” it can be difficult to see what we are actually doing. It can seem like no matter how much we run from one work task, child’s activity, volunteer task, paperwork, financial document, or exercise class, the only feeling that we feel is run ragged. At the end of the day, all we check off in our heads are the to-do checkmarks left undone and the tasks that didn’t make it on the list at all. Even when we feel like we have had a “busy day,” we can feel unaccomplished and unworthy. The measuring stick of accomplishment can seem like it constantly is moving. All of us in this society of perpetual bootstrap-upping are asked to be masters of their own homes, successful in their careers, genuine spouses and expert parents, financial gurus, accomplished socialites, and oh wait, have the lean body of Gillian Anderson? All of that, while also accomplishing the basics (which often go by the wayside) of feeding, watering, and resting ourselves. It is even a wonder with those expectations that we don’t show up forgetting to put our pants on in the morning. Have we even counted up the hours necessary for that cacophony of expectations? My gracious. No matter how much Steven-Coveying we do in planning sometimes it feels like we are still going to end up in the negative. All of this with most of us working a US average of 47 hours a week and spending more time with our kids than any time in US History (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/19/AR2007031901972.html). We continue to raise the bar on what it means to be “an adult” in America while constantly feeling like we are failing.

A good friend, who is a wonderful mother, and the organization guru that I only aspire to in my wildest imagination, said to me this week how she went to the gym with her four children, did a class, and had her children participate in a class. All had a wonderful time and she had a feeling of pride at this new accomplishment. However, the enthusiasm was dampened when she met another woman who also had four children, all approximately 6 months older than hers, but she told me that they all seemed to do things a bit “better.” Coordinated exercise outfits, organic snack in between activities, etc. etc. and they had been to the gym four times that week. All my friend could think of (and frankly, myself too!) was “HOW DID SHE DO THAT?” She did everything that I did….but better??? My friend’s excitement at having made it to the gym with all of her kids withered and it bothered her, because all she could see was the image in front of her, and like a cruel mirror it said, “Haha. Nice Try.”

Why did her image of her accomplishment change? Why does all of our moments of accomplishment change, that alters that sense that we “are enough.” Many times it is the moments where we look around and see what we perceive to be each other’s “baseline of operation” and judge ourselves for not cutting it. We concentrate on the magic trick in front of us, not knowing the circumstances from where this comparative image comes from and forget to see what we are doing day by day in creating the life we have. From an evolution stanpoint, I suppose this makes sense, in a rather “survival of the fittest sense.” We want better for the next generation. And I think that sometimes this translates to what we perceive as “the next generation” of ourselves? Like New Year’s Resolutions, we try and imagine the next “version” of ourselves. Not all of us have children, but each day we have the opportunity to make ourselves better, a rebirth. Does it truly make us better? How is that even defined?

The author Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements” offers us this: he states that one of the four basic rules of living is to “Do Our Best”—nothing more and nothing less. Only our best. Ruiz states that we can only do our best and that our best is customized and personalized only to…you guessed it, ourselves. He states “Our best will change from moment to moment, will be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” One of our greatest mistakes is comparing our best to someone else’s best, without truly knowing all of the circumstances surrounding the person we are comparing ourselves. Yes, they may have done the seemingly impossible—successfully wrangled four polite children in coordinating outfits to the gym four days a week—but we don’t know who may have helped her at home with that, what some of the other areas of her life looked like, if her house is as messy as mine….who knows….and frankly, should we care enough to compare? Does it serve us to care or compare, or does it make us simply feel bad about ourselves and our contributions? We cannot possibly have the energy and focus to “be the best” in all areas of life, and even if that were the case, what best would we be comparing ourselves? Ruiz states “always do your best” not “always do the best,” which is a gigantic difference in perspective. It is the difference between feeling like you have done enough, and that you accomplished something, and the feeling like you are always coming up short. Do we do our best when we feel like we are always coming up short or does it deplete us? Give yourself the gift of feeling like you are enough by acknowledging your accomplishments, and see how you feel. It may “the best” thing you do for yourself all day. 

Activity: As it is the beginning of the month, look back on February and think of all of the things great and small that you accomplished. Did you finish a proposal or paper? Were you friendly to someone when you didn’t exactly feel like it? Did you exercise (even once!)? Did you cook dinner at home for your family? Clean your house? Did you make a tough decision? Or deal with some lingering grief? Do a small home project that you had been putting off? Log more hours in at work? Did you make a therapy or doctor’s appointment that you have been putting off? Do something new or out of your comfort zone? Go out with a friend…or phone one that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Anything counts, and should, as a good first step in recognizing what you bring to the world.

And remember, the old saying, reach for the moon because if you miss you will land among the stars is an astrological impossible quest. Stars are further than the moon, so in reaching for the moon you will just land in the earth’s deadly atmosphere. Keep it local people. Reach for being your best self….which is complicated in and of itself!!

5 Tips for Successful Resolutions

2015 New Year celebration2014 has come and gone, for some the year was difficult and couldn’t have passed fast enough. For others it was like a dream and saying good-bye was bitter sweet. Whatever your 2014 looked like, here you are in 2015, another new year in front of you and new aspirations and dreams you would like to see realized, and with the right approach those dreams will become your reality this time next year.

We’ve all been there before, thinking “this year I am going to do it! This will be my best year yet!” Or maybe you just want to recover from the year before, shooting for better instead of best. Resolutions can be fun and inspiring, but often they loose their luster right about February. January holds strong but after the first couple of weeks countless resolutioners fall off the change wagon.

So how to you make a resolution that sticks?

  1. Be realistic

When changes need to be made, having an achievable goal is crucial. Big pie in the sky ideas are fun and seem grand but they are pie in the sky for a reason – they stay in the sky and can’t be reached. Find something that you can actually accomplish in a year or can see yourself doing every day. If you want to decrease the stress in your life by meditating for an hour each day and changing nothing else, I hate to break it to you but you will be disappointed and just as stressed as ever. However, to start cutting out unnecessary stressors in your life a little bit at a time will lead to a calmer lifestyle.

  1. Be specific

General statements are nothing more than general New-Years-Resolutions-Photostatements and they will get you nowhere. Picking one thing that is a priority to change and really fleshing out what the change will look like and how to get there is the best way to realize the change. Loosing weight doesn’t magically happen because you wish it to happen. It happens with specific dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and consistency. Weight loss is successful when there is a plan for achieving that. Is it 5 lbs. or is it 20? When do you want to loose it by? What foods need to be eliminated from the diet and what foods need to be introduced? What physical activity needs to be present every week? Definition folks – that’s how you’ll now what you are changing and how you are going to do it!

  1. Build in deadlines/benchmarks

Do you remember back to when you were in school and all of a sudden you had 4 papers and 2 tests all the same week and you had no idea how you were going to get everything done and get in some studying? It is a terrible feeling and can be completely overwhelming. Gradual progression towards a goal is much less overwhelming than having everything dumped on you all at once. Build in small goals to achieve the bigger overall goal, this shows progress and forward movement – so much more encouraging! Going on a big trip is much more doable when each month you commit to saving so many dollars that will add up to your trip budget when the time arrives. Running a 5K can be dangerous for your body without training, but committing to running a little more each day will prepare you for the 5K. There are a lot of cool programs out there that lay out weekly goals/benchmarks for common resolutions, like the Couch Potato to 5K in 8 weeks and others. Have fun finding programs that others have been successful using!

  1. Have accountability

When you keep something to yourself no one can encourage you or help you through the tough times. That is why support groups exist at all, accountability and support! Keeping resolutions to yourself take the opportunity away from your friends and family to be your cheerleaders. On top of that, doing things alone is a little scary and not nearly as much fun. When you have decided what your goal is and found markers to track your progress look around and see who would be up for doing it with you or who will ask you about it every week or so. Maybe a friend or family member would like to make the same change and you can both work on it together.

  1. Make your changes for you, not someone else

When I work with clients I always ask some form of the question “What brings you here?” Sometimes I hear “I don’t know, my (insert family member here) made me come.” Well, those clients never stick and doing accomplish much at all. They aren’t doing something for themselves; they are being pushed to do something for someone else. Changes that are a part of someone else’s agenda are changes that only that person can address – you can only address the changes that are on your agenda. When being pushed to doing something someone else wants there is often guilt, shame, or blame. This trio is the enemy of change and they are very damaging. Examine your goals and make changes that are meaningful to you. You will be more successful and more fulfilled!

 

Have you had a successful resolution? What are your goals for this coming year? Share your thoughts with us!1
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Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

How to Turn a Set-back into an Opportunity

catching-fire-photos-post-art-2In light of the recent release of the third installment of the Hunger Games, I can’t pass up this opportunity to write about the symbolism in the story. I have been a big fan of Katniss and the Hunger Games trilogy since reading the books several years ago. I think there are a lot of life-lessons we could all take away from the books, but I want to focus on the significance and symbolism of the arrow.

Arrows are different from other weapons/projectiles. There are more independent and flexible and their operation is unique. In order for an arrow to move forward and be effective it has to be pulled back. And not just pulled back, but pulled with great force and tension. When the tension is strong enough the arrow will fly forward and will go much farther than it possibly could if it had been thrown forward. So what makes it go farther and stronger? It is a combination of pulling back and tension or pressure.

Life does that to us too, it pulls us back and there seems to be a mountain of pressure ready to dump on us an any given moment. The pulling, we know that as a set-back. When was the last time you experienced a set-back? Did it feel like everything you have been working for was just beyond your reach? That you were actually moving farther away from your goal than you started? That can create its own kind of pressure but sometimes there are external pressures to add to the pile.

Those moments when it feels like there is a set back or when there is too much pressure and to goal is further than where you started, those are the moments when being goal-oriented is crucial. When there is a focus, a direction, there is still a target. That makes it impossible for you to stay in your set back forever. You have to move out of it and when you do you will move towards your goal. But that only happens when there is a release of pressure. That release can come from you – you can take control of the situation and let go of the pressures that don’t serve you, the pressures that hold you back. Sometimes we have to patiently wait and let others release the pressure, keeping your focus until that moment will still allow you to move forward to where you want to be.

You are the arrow and life is the bow, and you are the one who gets to pick the direction. You have the power to turn set-backs and what seems like overwhelming pressure into an opportunity to fly forward. Turn your stress into good stress and launch yourself forward!

 

When have you been an arrow? What happened as a result? 1

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

The Power of Meditation

In our fast-paced, frantic world it seems like the thing we want most is to be able to just sit and relax! And then we get the opportunity to do just that . . . woman-computer-phone-internetand then the TV goes on . . . and the smart phone . . . and the tablet – and before you know it there you are surrounded by technology and providing your brain with no less than 4 separate tasks. Does that sound relaxing? At all?

Meditation is pretty much the exact opposite of that. It is an opportunity to be mindful and completely present, an opportunity to take control of your thoughts and not let them kidnap you and run away with you. There is an abundance of research on how helpful mediation is in calming anxiety, stress, and general unhappiness. It has incredible short and long-term benefits. It is free and takes no more than 20 minutes a day. So why aren’t we doing it?

It is so hard to slow down and to give yourself the luxury of doing nothing but sitting and being present. Do you even know how to do that? It certainly isn’t intuitive, you have to learn how to do it and work on being present and still. Meditation is an act of cultivating stillness and silence. Those are two things that society tells us is bad, that to be happy we need to be seeking the next best thing and to be doing something fun and enjoyable. If that were actually true wouldn’t the search for happiness be over?

Something must be off, so let’s try something different and look inward for sustainable happiness. Something that doesn’t fade and doesn’t have conditions on sticking around.

How do you meditate?

Meditation Postures 008This is a very simple question, simple process, but with difficult follow-through. In order to meditate you sit in a quiet place in a comfortable position, generally on a chair (not a lazy-boy), and close your eyes. Then focus on your breath, breathing in and out being mindful of you body, remaining still and silent. You’ll have a lot of thoughts come zipping through your mind “Did I pay the water bill?” or “I want ice cream” or “This is boring.” Just let them pass and fade away and remain still and silent, focusing on your breath.

So easy, right? After you sit for 20 min, let me know how easy it was to stay focused on your breath! It is challenging but the cultivation, the continuous process of bringing your attention back to your breath and the here and now, that is the mediation. That is what will lower your stress and anxiety. The decision to respond to life’s challenges in a mindful and intentional way is how you can stop stress from controlling your life and stop anxiety from creeping in when you least expect it.

A good introduction to mediation is to practice mindfulness, I have posted about mindfulness in daily life and mindfulness for stress relief, but there are also great resources out about mindfulness meditation that are a great addition to your personal library. 1

Have you ever tried to meditate? What was it like for you?

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Feeling Powerless

There are so many different instances where any of us find ourselves with a lack of control over our circumstances. These happen at work, at home, at school,powerless-underwater1 in public, in traffic, in our health, the list goes on. I would imagine that any of us could look at a given week and find over a dozen instances where we didn’t have the control, didn’t have the power to alter or influence our circumstances.

Lack of control doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have any power. Lack of control can be making a conscious decision to defer to another person/entity/ group, the control you still have is whether or not to maintain your deferred status or to trust the “other” with your decision making. When something is out of our control we can still be at peace with that and find a new point of control within the circumstance.

A mild example is that lunch is being catered for an event and you have a strong dislike of what is being served. The choice of caterer or menu was out of your control, your point of control is to find an item here or there you can tolerate, to suffer through a lunch you dislike, or you can seek an alternative food source. Jimmy John’s delivers almost anywhere!

Lack of control in one area means there is control in another area, once you find that you open up new options for yourself, more on how to manage when life happens here. When you can find your point of control it’s like getting your feet underneath yourself – you gain stability and security.

Powerlessness is a deeper problem. There is no choice there, and powerlessness is where anxiety and fear live. Powerlessness is a space where there is absolutely no choice, no opportunity for impact, input, or control. This is others making your decisions for you or the situation being so out of hand that there is nothing you can do to change the course of movement. Powerlessness is often accompanied by a feeling of hopelessness and defeat.

Did you know there is a silver lining there? For most of us, day-to-day life will include loss of control masquerading as powerlessness, but there are very few times when we genuinely experience total loss of power within our own lives. When that happens, when those feelings of hopelessness and defeat are all that come to the surface, we need an advocate. We need someone to come to our aid and help us see, reclaim, and wield our power, to show us how to regain control over our lives and how to use our power as strength.

Advocates come in all kinds of packages, sometimes it is a parent, a friend, a child, a sibling, a stranadvocateger, even a part of ourselves that still maintains the fortitude to push through. And their firm, gentle encouragement can often be subtle, as simple as a hand on the shoulder or a genuine smile. The real silver lining is that when you experience powerlessness you don’t have to stay there. Let me say that again – you don’t have to stay there and chances are that you won’t stay there for long! Your advocates will find you, maybe even you will find you, and will help you to fight to regain control over your circumstances.

 

Have you experienced powerlessness? How did you find your way out of that situation? 1

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Gift from the Sea: by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Picture1Recently, a surprise came to me in the mail, unmarked, but a completely perfect gift.  I later found out that my sister had sent me the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a book that she had mysteriously found while vacationing at my grandmother’s home.  It had been my mothers and had filtered through 3 generations.  This book is timeless in how it captures the common struggle of finding time to live, to pursue, to raise children, to work, to struggle, to find purpose and meaning, and to not go completely insane in the process.  It is also, I was surprised to find out, written by the wife of Charles Lindbergh, not only the wife of an adventurous aviator, but also the courageous woman who went through the terrible uncertainty and loss of having her first child kidnapped and found out later, killed.  I was also surprised to find out that included in their history were five other children, an escape to Europe for safety and privacy life that was interrupted by war, and a return to the states where she and her husband lived by the ocean with their children and wrote.  Her pursuit for peace amongst so much chaos and tragedy is inspiring, especially when life can feel so uncertain.  I think that in grief, whether that is of a loved one, a broken relationship, or of a lost dream, most all of us know that there is a good deal of looking back, but that also included in grief is a look forward, of what we might be seeking once we come out of the clouds of grief.  For the Lindberghs, without knowing them personally, it seems like from their story they went to the ends of the earth in search of peace, and by finding that peace they also found wisdom.  Here is a small excerpt from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s learned wisdom:

“Vague as this definition may be, I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be “in grace” and other periods when they feel “out of grace,” even though they may use different words to describe these states.  In the first happy condition, one seems to carry all one’s tasks before one lightly, as if borne along on a great tide, and in the opposite state one can hardly tie a shoe-string.  It is true that a large part of life consists in learning a technique of tying the shoe-string, whether one is in grace or not.  But there are techniques of living too, there are even techniques in the search for grace.  And techniques can be cultivated I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others.  There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow.  Simplification of life is one of them.

I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily–like a hermit crab.  But I do not.  I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.  My husband and five children must make their way in the world.  The life I have chosen as wife and mother entails a whole caravan of complications.  I involves a house in the suburbs and either household drudgery or household help which wavers between scarcity and non-existence for most of us.  It involves food and shelter, meals, planning, marketing, bills, and making the ends meet in a thousand ways. It involves not only the butcher, the baker, the candlestickmaker, but countless other experts to keep my modern house with its modern “simplifications” (electricity, plumbing, refrigerator, gas-stove, oil-burner, dish-washer, radios, car and numerous other labor-saving devices) functioning properly.  It involves health, doctors, dentists, appointments, medicine, cod-liver oil, vitamins, trips to the drugstore. It involves education, spiritual, intellectual, physical; schools, school conferences, car-pools, extra trips for basketball or orchestra practice; tutoring; camps, camp equipment and transportation.  It involves clothes, shopping, laundry, cleaning, mending, letting skirts down and sewing buttons on, or finding someone else to do it.  It involves friends, my husband’s my children’s, my own, and endless arrangements to get together, letters, invitations, telephone calls and transportation hither and yon.

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals and so on.  My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives.  It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.  It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.  And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America. I stress America because today, the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life.  Woman in large parts of the civilized world has been forced back by war, by poverty, by collapse, but by sheer struggle to survive, into a smaller circle of immediate time and space, immediate family life, immediate problems of existence.  The American woman is still relatively free to choose the wider life. How long she will hold this enviable and precarious position no one knows.  But her particular situation has a significance far above its apparent economic, national or even sex limitations.

For the problem of the multiplicity of life not only confronts the American woman, but also the American man. And it not merely the concern of the American as such, but of our whole modern civilization, since life in America today is held up as the ideal of a large part of the rest of the world (22).

…(29) Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. But I am starting with the outside. I am looking at the outside of a shell, the outside of my life–the shell. The complete answer is not to be found on the outside in an outward mode of living. This is only a technique, a road to grace. The final answer, I know, is always inside.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: A Gift From the Sea, Written in 1955,  p. 18-22 & p.29

3 Ways to Get More Sleep and Why That Is Actually Important

We are hearing from everyone all the time how important sleep is. I don’t know how your calendar looks, but mine is packed, often with things scheduled as early as 7 in the sleepermorning and ending at 9:30 at night. Does your candle burn at both ends?

When I think back to the times in my life where I got 5-ish hours of sleep or less I also recall the coffee I needed to wake up, the groggy feeling that followed me all morning, the lack of energy I felt, moodiness, higher stress levels, and a constant sense of being overwhelmed. Any of those things are reason enough to find the source and terminate it. Study after study tells us how important sleep is to our vitality, to our life in general. With all this research, why are we not getting the hint and sleeping more? Our culture plays a huge role in the fast-paced, never miss a thing, workaholic type of lifestyle that undercuts so many of our efforts to live well and sleep well.

Sleep studies show nights of sleep disruption for 14 consecutive nights show the same negative impacts as sleep deprivation for 2 nights, specifically that cognitive functioning decreases steadily while the experience of sleepiness plateaus. The individual may not feel very tired but their brain is not operating at full capacity. 1

Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM sleep, is a deeper quality of sleep and researchers with the American Psychosomatic Society have linked increased REM sleep with

decreased subjective emotional responsiveness to negative stimuli and a decrease in amygdala reactivity

These same researchers found,

Poor sleep efficiency has been related to lower levels of perceived social support . . . perceived social support moderates the link between threat-related amygdala reactivity and trait anxiety. In addition, poor sleep may likely cluster with other negative health behaviors. 2

 

The bottom line is when you get don’t get enough sleep (approximately 8 hours or more for adults) you experience:

  • Decreased Brain Functioning
  • More Mood Swings
  • Less Social Support
  • More Unhealthy Behaviors

With that being said, the no-brainer is to start sleeping more so you can reduce your level of stress, feel better physically and emotionally, and get more done while you are awake. Easily said, not easily done. So here are 3 easy ways to get more sleep.

Set a Bed Time for Yourself

If you have kids this gets a little trickier, but if their bedtime is 9, your is 10:30. Make it a 3805sleep-beautypriority to get to bed by 10:30 every night, or the time that makes the most sense for your schedule. If you can sleep until 8 then 11:30 may be a better bedtime for you. Before we had the luxury of lightbulbs and technology we had the sun to mark our days, when it went down we started working our way to bed. Getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning does so much to regulate your body and get yourself on a schedule. The more consistent you are the easier this is.

Stop Drinking Caffeine After 3 pm

no-coffeeI have definitely been guilty of the 3:30 coffee to get me through the end of my work-day. The problem with caffeine late in the day is it leaves our nerves agitated and postpones the body’s ability to sleep. When you hit that afternoon slump instead of hitting a cup of Joe, take a walk around your office, do 15 jumping jacks, if you are really ambitious do a 2 min headstand. You will feel more energized and better able to tackle the end of your day without killing your sleep cycle.

Avoid Electronics with Back-lit Screens in the Evening

Do your eyes ever feel dry after you have spent most of the day on your computer? Yep, you have experienced eye agitation first hand. The blue light that is incorporated into your computer screen is incredibly stimulating for your brain and it agitates the eye. Sitting in front of your computer, tablet, or phone before bed is like giving a child a piece of cake with ice cream and 30 minutes later at the peak of that sugar rush telling them to go to bed. The solution is to stop using electronics after 8 pm or to install f.lux on your devices to naturally take out the blue light in the computer screen. This happens gradually and will help your eyes and brain adjust naturally with the time of day. There is also the option to get a pair of glasses like the ones I wear to protect your eyes from the harsh light.

I have made all these changes in my life over the past year and my quality and consistency of sleep has increased greatly, I physically feel better, and I get sick less often.

Have you experienced the negative effects of poor sleep? How have you dealt with it? 3

Notes:

  1.  Kerkhof, G., & Van Dongen, H. (2010). Total sleep deprivation, chronic sleep restriction and sleep disruption. In Progress in Brain Research (No ed., Vol. 185, pp. 91-103). New York, NY: Elsevier.
  2. Prather, A., Bogdan, R., & Hariri, A. (2013). Impact of sleep quality on amygdala reactivity, negative affect, and pervieved stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75, 1-9.
  3. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Finding Confidence #likeagirl

girl-running-on-beachIt was recently brought to my attention that some people think that women or “girls” are less credible than their male counterparts. Wait . . . did I say recently? That wasn’t true at all. I’ve lived with the knowledge for a very long time that society often discredits or undercuts women and girls starting with the ages of 11 or 12 and continuing through to adulthood.

There are certain things that girls should do, like, say, and be and certain things they should not. My mother as a doctor was pegged as being “emotional” when she was passionate about the health of her children and patients and had research and evidence to prove her position. I as a young professional woman am often not taken seriously at first; I am often interrupted or not addressed directly. Traditional male roles, when filled by a woman, create unease and society becomes discontent with this broken boundary.

Yes, I believe it is true that men and women have different and unique strengths – but isn’t it just as true to say that people have different and unique strengths from other people? When did we decide it was ok to attack the female population during their formative years? Puberty is a difficult time for anyone where the person is building the foundation for who they will become and what life path they will follow. It is also a time where any deviation from cultural expectations is harshly punished and youth are told they must stand out, but they have to stand out within a certain set of guidelines so as to maintain the greater balance.

Really, this whole issue of “like a girl” isn’t just about critically looking at our own stereotypes and how we develop those greater ideas about what is normal and what is not. It is about celebrating each girlkickperson as an individual and exploring what they are capable of. There is an awesome campaign out there that does just that. This short 3 min video does a fantastic job of explaining what this post is all about. What messages has the culture you live in pushed onto you? What boundaries are you trying to break and reshape? How are you living up to your full potential and celebrating your own abilities? Admittedly this has been a little bit of a rant, but I am too invested in my family and community to let negative phrases be thrown around so mindlessly.

Have you ever been put down with the phrase “like a girl”? Please share your experience with us! 1

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Finding New in Dark Places

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Over the years, several clients have said to me in one way or the other “I was stupid to hope…” or “If only I didn’t hope….,” blaming themselves for believing something would get better in a bad, sometimes brutal situation. It has always amazed me that these individuals who have survived against all odds have been able to keep their light of hope on, let alone let it eventually guide them away from those situations, once they decided on a new route.

We tend to blame hope for our hurt. If only we hadn’t expected so much…..if only I had just seen the stark reality of where I was and what I was doing….if only I had believed that person to be their darker side, rather than hoping that the other side of them, a lighter, more caring side would emerge and be a permanent resident. Hope can set us up for disappointment. Urgh! Darn hope! But hope also does something else to us that is unexpected. Many who are recovering from relationships will say that they hoped during that time for peace in their relationships, healthy conflict resolution, acceptance from the other person, and a loving, kind, responsible and fun person to share their lives with. All of those are very healthy desires for a relationship, and tell us more about what we want in a relationship, the type of person we want to be with and what kind of life we want to share with the other person. Listening to that voice that tells us what we are looking for helps our brain to determine if what we are looking for fits what we have currently. And if that answer is a strong NO….then some examination may be necessary (perhaps even with a good therapist!)  for change in the relationship and our lives. We may hope that the other person fits that bill very strongly, but determining that can only be answered in the very deepest part of our being, that nagging voice that says, “Is this right?” or “Is this really a good fit?”

In those dark moments where we are hoping that things will get better, we are holding on to hope as one would cling to the last candle in a cave. We hope while we are in the cave that the candle will help us survive the cave, but we are also looking to the candle as a way to lead us out. In the same way, the strong hope that a situation will get better will also be the same strength and skill set that leads us out. Out of the darkness into a place that is more authentic to who we are and what kind of relationship we want to be in.

 

Please Note: If you are currently in a relationship that is emotionally, physically or sexually abusive, it can be very dangerous to leave right away without a plan or other people knowing. If this is your situation, and you want information on how to safely leave, please call the National Abuse Hotline at 1800-799-SAFE (7233) or if you are in Louisville or the surrounding areas call Center for Women and Families 24 hour crisis line at (502) 581-7222. You can find resources at the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA) at http://www.kdva.org/victim_services/kydvcenter.html , however please delete this website from your browser after viewing for your safety.

Natural Born Fear: Anxiety is Learned

When I am working with a client for the first time one of two things happens. Either they can link their current level of stress and anxiety to one particular event or time in their life or they say, “I have always been really anxious.” Well that raises a pretty important question: What is anxiety?

Dictionary.com says anxiety is: “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.”

When we move a bit deeper than that we find that anxiety is rooted in the past or in the future. The mind is racing over something that has already happened, worried about what that means for the future or the brain is worried about what might happen in the future. An anxious brain is a brain that lives in the past or lives in the future, but never in the present.

loud-noisesAnxiety is also learned. Did you know that? People are only born with two fears:

Falling
Loud noises

 

Both of those are biological instincts designed to keep you alive. Imagine modern society’s primitive ancestors – loud noises could be a predator or some other red flag for imminent doom. Not good for the caveman = natural fear. Falling could also mean certain death. Also, not good for the caveman = natural fear.

So why is there this intense fear and anxiety over things like being late on a deadline? Over not having the perfect dinner prepared? Over having open conversations with the people around us? We all learn our fears. To this day you will not, and I mean never in any circumstance, convince me to put my body in water where I cannot touch the bottom. Will never happen. I was not born with the fear of water but somewhere along the line (or maybe with one too many Jaws movies) I learned that water meant certain death.

What are your learned fears? Learned expressions of anxiety? (Hint: anything you fear that is not falling or a loud noise) Please know that I am not saying that many of our fears are not in some way designed to protect us. All of our stress responses served a legitimate, positive purpose at one time, but somewhere along the line the stress and fear overwhelmed the brain and the nervous system and became anxiety instead of being that live-savor. More on that later, but for now, know your stressor, the triggers for you anxiety and start making a plan for how to regain control over your stress!

 

What fears did you learn and how are you conquering them today? 1

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953