#191 Focus on Self-Awareness

Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#191

Focus on Self-Awareness

Some might think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, that ‘denial is safe’ yet living in a state of either can lead to rather dysfunctional coping and/or relating. As a psychotherapist, I find that a number of people entering my office are experiencing one or the other albeit, often unconsciously. Even though it may seem rather counter-intuitive – being ‘aware’ is the emotionally healthier option and so much of my work is to help people become “aware”.

Self Protection

If I could teach people in the world any one skill, it would be an ability to become self aware. It’s not necessarily an easy task! Sometimes, we don’t like what we see when we are able to see everything. That’s where avoidance and denial come into play – they protect us from seeing what feels bad. Who wants to feel awful about themselves?

No Judgement

The only reason we don’t’ want to ‘see’ these things is because on some level – we are judging them. Think about it. If you get a tattoo that you love but your mom hates – no problem. You like it so there’s ‘no judgment’. If you get one during a drunken stupor even though you’ve vowed never to ‘ink’ yourself, you may have a judgment about it and seek to cope with your own disappointment by creating a story that makes it ‘ok’ for you. The preferable scenario is that you simply accept both the drunken stupor and the impulse to get a tattoo without any negative feeling.

Frankly, regret is a waste of your emotional energy. For most of us, we do what we do in each moment because it makes sense based on what we know/feel – at that point in time!! And then, like Maya Angelou said “when you know better, you do better”.

Self-honesty

Even though it may be difficult, seeing yourself clearly – how you think, why you think and feel the way you do, why you engage and react in the manner that is common for you – those are important to know. Nothing changes unless you know it exists. Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire so if it works for you… it’s ok. However, if you are missing a piece of that link then a good hard look at YOU is in order. And since we are always changing in response to our relationships and our environment… it’s an ongoing process.

If your goal is to live with authenticity, then its imperative that you develop a lifelong goal to …

Focus on self-awareness.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

#208 Reflect Honestly

When we are hiding from what is real, we are unable to demonstrate our most authentic self; to feel our absolute best.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#208

Reflect Honestly

Survival

I’ve encountered a lot of people who prioritize truth telling yet lie to themselves. If we are attempting to live our best possible life, it’s important to self reflect with complete honesty. We avoid the truth because it may induce feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment; none of which feel good. We conjure stories about our lives that help us cope with living them – sometimes regardless of whether or not it’ a reflection of what is real. We create subjective narratives for emotional survival.

Objective View

One way to access our life honestly is to step back from it and view it as if it is a stage play with players you don’t know or perhaps a television show with characters that are not emotionally attached to you. If your life was a television show – would you watch it? Would you be screaming at the screen trying to tell one of the characters something? Would you be disgusted and turn it off? How would you rewrite the script?

Sometimes taking this perspective means seeing things we don’t want to see. It means we may need to make a change that we don’t feel prepared for or equipped to make. It means accepting that what we wanted, may not happen or what we believed, is actually false.

Support

If you believe you have been avoiding a compelling truth in your life, garner a support system be it another family member, a trusted friend, or a counseling professional and begin the unraveling of what is true. Sometimes it’s a simple effort; at others, it’s more complicated because one lie often begets another and they become convoluted and woven into reality. It may take time and patience to see yourself in well focused light.

As a professional, I often find myself in the position of helping people in this manner and one of the distinctions is aiding clients in understanding the difference between ‘who’ they are and ‘what’ they do… one is personality and the other, behavior. Clarity may take time but the benefit is authenticity.

Authentic Self

Authenticity is not possible without truth. When we are hiding from what is real, we are unable to demonstrate our most authentic self; to feel our absolute best. There is great freedom in living only from a truth place. It’s the origin of true happiness and possible only when we …

Reflect honestly.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#235 Strive for Authenticity

On major topics many of us do a fair job of staying true to ourselves and yet there are little things that are sometimes disguised as keeping peace …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#235
Strive for Authenticity

No Compromise

One of the most elementary components of those living in a state of peace, contentment, and happiness is their ability to sustain authenticity in their day to day lives. These people know ‘who’ they are and they don’t compromise their values or beliefs to keep the peace or avoid confrontation. Wait, what? Am I suggesting that you refuse to compromise? Isn’t that the cornerstone of relationship success? The answer is “yes” if the compromise is about likes and dislikes; we’ll eat Mexican today and Chinese next week or we’ll watch Golf today and HGTV tomorrow. It’s a big fat “NO” however, if we are faced with compromising our values and core beliefs.

Conviction

In order to get good at this, we need to have clear focus about what we believe and/or what feels ‘right’ for us as an individual. If you don’t want to take the risk of driving with someone who refuses to wear a seat belt – don’t. If you feel strongly about drugs, alcohol, or sex… own your stance and stand your ground. Work to disregard any judgment that seeks to undermine your position with negativity or ridicule. Most often, those convictions are ignited from the core of ‘who we are’ and when we honor them, we are our most authentic selves.

Physiological clues

Our bodies are amazing barometers of our state of authenticity and its helpful to learn how to read the measurements they provide. When a friend is being racist and that behavior is in deep contrast to your value system, how do you feel? Where do you feel it? Are you nauseous? Is your heart racing? Do you get headaches? Step away from the friend and notice if the symptoms dissipate? If so – your body is blatantly telling you your friends behavior is contradictory to your core either you remove yourself from the condition or you equalize it by sharing your perspective. To stay and do nothing would be disingenuous to you.

True to you

On major topics many of us do a fair job of staying true to ourselves and yet there are little things that are sometimes disguised as keeping peace or just making things easier that corrode our sense of authenticity over time. ‘Going along with the crowd’, ‘not speaking up’, and ‘giving up’ are some of the reasons we fail to honor our core selves. Once or twice may not make a big impact on our system but I find that when it is consistent, our sense of ‘self’ is greatly diminished.

“Why didn’t you go back to school?”
“Because my husband wouldn’t have liked me taking so much time from our family.”
“Why don’t you golf anymore?”
“Because my wife wants me to sleep in with her on weekends.”

Pay attention

When you are present in your life and checking in with yourself on a regular basis, noticing these moments of in-authenticity are easier. Learning to communicate about them so that you are consistent with meeting the needs of your core is helpful as well. Being in tune with your body, honoring your heart, and using your voice are critical skills as you …
Strive for Authenticity

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#357 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

When we sing, we literally send vibrations through our body and affect brain changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who sing experience less anxiety and have better quality of life.

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#357 Sing

As children, we sing songs to learn things and to just have fun. We sing with carefree voices regardless of our tone. We celebrate our birthday, our school loyalty, and our patriotism through song. As we move into our teens and young adulthood we tend to associate songs with events such as first dates, key dances (prom), weddings, and fun times.

I recall singing along with favorite songs frequently in my lifetime, particularly when I was alone and happy. I never thought too hard about how good I sounded. I was just in the moment, enjoying the music, and expressing myself in unison with the beat; mostly.

When we sing, we literally send vibrations through our body and affect brain changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who sing experience less anxiety and have better quality of life. Think of the last time you saw someone in a car singing along to a song, perhaps alone and yet seeming to be in the process of intense enjoyment. Singing can produce higher levels of dopamine and oxytocin – both brain chemicals that are associated with happiness.

After a particularly challenging time in my life had started to settle, I spent a long weekend alone finishing a list of abandoned responsibilities that had been badgering my psyche. I turned on some calming music and set about the tasks at hand. Before long I realized that I was humming along to the familiar tunes and stopped for a minute because I realized it was the first time – in many years – that I found myself singing.

It was one of those things that you didn’t notice was missing until you found it. It was a moment of realization that I recall because it was proof in my own mind that the changes I had just finished making were in part, survival for me. I was singing again.

I don’t have a nightingale voice. Indeed, one of my vocal chords was paralyzed during Thyroid surgery a few years ago and since then, any ability I had to carry a tune has been impaired. Our brains don’t care about tone – they care about the act of singing – the rise in happy chemicals. The point is to sing, with or without other people; with or without accompaniment; with or without the right lyrics…

Just sing.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo on Foter.com

A Letter to Myself Series – Age 30

This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!!

Third in the series A Letter to Myself

I remember thinking that if I hadn’t ‘made it’ by the age of 30, my opportunities would be gone. For some reason, I had developed the notion that whatever impact I was going to have on the world, would have to have begun before the age of thirty. Consequently, that particular birthday was notably difficult as I hadn’t yet influenced the world in any significant way.

I greatly admire and applaud the energy that young people step out into the world with. I am in awe of the motivation and dedication new college graduates bring to their first job and far too often I see the light get sucked out of their spirit because life does not unfold the way that was anticipated. It’s another problem with expectations that we conjure along the way… our neglect of developing realistic aspirations or the ability to combat disappointment. If we are going to have one – we must have the other.

I’d like to think there is a way to encourage tenacity so that it overshadows disappointment; to promote endurance and patience in the pursuit of those amazing visions we have in our early years. It’s also important to allow for a change of direction because not everything is what we thought it would be and/or we encounter a split in the road that calls to us more strongly. Here is what I would want my thirty-year-old self to hear and heed…

Hey Lady,

Another decade in the dust and what a whoosie it was. I’m so sorry you had to endure those hardships but hey… look at you now! It’s like life is giving you another shot. See… in some ways it’s like adulthood is just beginning for you and truly… you have no way to imagine what is in front of you! In the scope of your life – you have just started.  All the stuff behind you – well, it sucks for sure but by now you know that good things can come from bad ones so keep that front and center in your life.

I am happy to see that you’ve realized that dreams get fulfilled even when they look differently than you had imagined – it’s only the beginning of that too! What I really want you to know right now is that there is so. much. more. Have I already said that to you? It’s really important to know that every moment is to be enjoyed so try and tuck away the fact that you have time to enjoy this!

Look at what a good mom you are. Through all those challenges, you stayed focused. Good for you – that had to have been hard. See… self-compassion isn’t that difficult! I want to encourage you to learn that now instead of later in life. You are going to have more children and I won’t spoil the surprise this time but they change you – they change everything about you – for the better. We’ll talk more about that when you turn forty but for now, know that there is much to look forward to.

Going forward, you will be served well to trust your heart more. It speaks to you frequently but you aren’t listening. Learn to pay attention! Yes, your life will be hectic and there will be less time for you to sit and be still – make it! Don’t let your ‘inner self’ take a back seat. You will always be a better mother, wife, and neighbor if you take care of yourself FIRST. It’s not selfish – it’s self-care and it would be better all-around if you don’t wait another twenty years to figure it out!

Oh – and let’s talk about your body. So… you’ve developed more body acceptance, that’s great. Now you have to take care of it!! You have some bad habits that need addressing – you know what they are. Again, make those changes now instead of years down the road and even though you ‘hate’ to exercise – please. Please. Please. Do it. If there is any single change that this older version of you wants you to change now – it’s this part. I know, I know…. Everywhere you turn people are telling you to ‘get healthy’ – it’s a buzz phrase for all of the 1990’s and it would be good if you could get on the bandwagon. If you don’t – you never will and your body… well, you are not going to like it!

I know people everywhere are giving you advice and like most everyone – you really haven’t listened. Are you aware of how stubborn you are? Why do you feel you must reinvent everything you do? Why not take advantage of the lessons people in front of you have learned? This older version of you is laughing at how hard you tend to make things! EASE UP!! Chill out!! You don’t have to do it all right. Let yourself make mistakes – try new things – experiment but don’t be hard on yourself. Let go.

You don’t physically change very much in the next decade but your whole perspective on life will change – it’s all good. As I said, motherhood changes you dramatically in really special ways and you will redesign your vision of yourself – that’s good too. Go with the flow – feel the vibe – the current – and relax on it. In part – it is your instinct… your intuition… and it’s authentic so it won’t let you down. Your only trouble happens when you are bucking the flow – did you hear me?? When you are not floating on your ‘authentic current’ – you will be unhappy. You eventually figure it out – but why wait??

That guy you just met… he’s part of your life lesson. No, he’s not going to die – you will be together for a long while but he is in your life so that you can learn. It will be up to you to find the lessons; the good and hard ones. It’s his children that bless you the most.

Keep going …

Me

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Who You Are

When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

The most common form of despair is not being who you are… ~  Søren Kierkegaard

One of the most common conversations I have in my office is the one that focuses on personal authenticity. It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ – “just be yourself” and some of us believe that we are – yet depression and anxiety live in the space between how we behave out in the world and how our hearts wish we would.

There are a couple of obvious examples that are stereotypical, commonly known – the Doctor’s child who is guided toward medical school but internally, yearns to be an artist or an accountant. Or the person who yearns for same-sex intimacy yet believes he or she is only ‘acceptable’ as a heterosexual.

I see problems with authenticity with people who believe that no matter what they do – it’s not ‘good enough’… perhaps what they are doing IS the best and authentic to them yet they are unable to recognize it as so.

We are so driven to meet standards from outside of ourselves. First – our family or teachers and then from our society or culture and then again, our partner/spouse and social circles. The struggle I faced as a kid to ‘fit in’ in terms of body shape and physical fitness was real. I grew up in the era of ‘Twiggy’ where pencil thin was in and my Victorian physic had been out for hundreds of years. Standards of education, socioeconomic class, sexuality, language skills… they exist in every realm of our lives and so we strive to meet them with little regard for the ‘truth’ or the sincerity with which we present those standards to the world.

Earlier this week a client was expressing frustration that interacting with a relative often produced a gross reaction, sending the client into throws of ugly and spiteful thoughts while she spewed derogatory remarks that came from an unknown place inside of her. “That’s not who I am”, she says. She emphasized that she didn’t like that kind of reaction and she really hated herself when it happened. “How do I make it stop?” she was pleading for relief of the ‘despair’ she experienced when she found herself tackling sarcasm and malicious sentiment, tit for tat.

While some may argue that her behavior in that moment was indeed ‘part of her’, it was notably not part of who she ‘wanted’ to be. She saw herself as a kind person, warm and considerate most all of the time. She never wanted to represent herself as someone who could be enticed into a verbal warfare of inflammatory and debasing commentary. And so, when she gravitated there – for whatever reason – she experienced a sense of ‘inauthenticity’… that particular behavior was NOT part of the person she genuinely wanted to present to the world.

I remember taking family photographs the fall before Hubby and I were first separated. We met with a photographer, wore similar outfits, and snapped photos all over a local Civil War battlefield on a cool Fall day. By the time we got the proofs back, our relationship was feeling more strain and the pretending I was actively engaged in was becoming tiring. I looked at those photos and thought about how disingenuous I was in almost every one of them. There was a smile on my face and we posed well together, but Hubby and I were definitely NOT authentic. I didn’t feel the happiness that was represented in the picture – I knew it was a lie.

Sometimes we don’t notice or understand – there is no conscious awareness that we are living inauthentically. Several years ago, my family deserted me for a weekend, doing their own things – scouts, golf, etc… I found myself in the house alone for a whole weekend. It was just before Thanksgiving and so I began my Christmas crafting – making a disastrous mess out of the kitchen and dining area but loving the fact that I could leave my stuff out – and all over – without impacting anyone else. I never even noticed that time was passing. I was content, satisfied, at peace.

By the end of that weekend, I realized that I was ‘fed’ by utilizing my creative energy. I knew that about myself and yet, over time, I had allowed the opportunities for artistic expression to become unimportant, or at least very low on my list of priorities. I noticed how charged and full of enthusiasm I felt by Sunday evening; I was glad to see everyone when they came home. I had utilized my energy in one of the most AUTHENTIC ways possible and my psyche understood. I’ve never allowed myself to forget that experience and I always have something in the works. In reality, I had to open an Etsy shop in order to have an outlet from where to part with all of the ‘creations’ that I had generated. They are simple, imperfect things but they are made from a Zen place… at least that’s where my mind is when I am in creative mode.

Today, I am using that energy to write (and maybe fitting in a craft or two).

I believe that the most important part of being authentic is accepting ALL of you – the parts you don’t like, the parts you want to change, the parts that will never change, and the parts that you think the world will reject along with all the wonderful, amazing, and talented aspects of yourself. My life completely turned around when I understood that the whole of my person wasn’t all great – and accepted it. When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

I can’t tell you how many times in a session when I ask a client to say “I love you” to themselves – there is an emotional block or a strong emotional reaction. When we accept ourselves AS WE ARE and strive to present ourselves to the world bearing the values and qualities that WE aspire, we are living authentically and then… despair cannot exist. Learn to love everything about yourself – even the things you want to change. You don’t have to like them – only accept that they are there. Then – change begins and you can be WHO you are.

The Value of Introspection

When we look for answers, we have to look in the right place and we have to be honest.

“Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow.”  — Margaret Fuller

Yesterday, I finished the story of my life – the memoir I wrote by posting a segment every day for 90 days. I truly didn’t start out to write the entire story all at once. I created this blog with the intent of daring to share how I became me… perhaps it was naïve to think that I could do that without telling the whole story but it just didn’t occur to me that in the course of doing this that I would end up with a book. Yup… if I delete the superfluous stuff that isn’t really a part of my personal story – there are just over 80,000 words that I can convert into a book.

Life is too funny really. This time last year my brother and his family were visiting for the holiday’s and I was just chatting with my sister-in-law. We were gabbing about goals for the upcoming year and I had a book on my mind. It definitely wasn’t THIS one… I have another idea for a motivational book but I never started it although I am inspired now! So… I didn’t do that book but I did write. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking with it long enough to get it written but it’s not over. Even though there are a number of people who read every day – getting a book into print is a whole other story. I’m going to set it up to publish electronically first and prepare a manuscript. I’ll need some copy editors (hint, hint – hit me up if you are interested in doing that for me). And then – the Universe has to help. I can see it – I imagine it in my hand and if I am truly honest… I can imagine myself sitting at a book signing.

So there is a true conflict in my mind between being humble and modest about this accomplishment and being bold and inspired enough to imagine it being BIG…  Since I am such a big believer in the Law of Attraction – I am led to imagine it – to talk about it as if it is already so… to be so sure that it is – has already – become everything it can be. I am encouraged by my friends and family … the ones who read daily and compliment me. This week, someone said, “I didn’t know you could write.”

Well, me either. I knew I wanted to. I developed a strong skill while in grad school but those were academic papers. One of my professors was kind and when we eventually met – he told me how much he had wanted to meet the woman behind my papers. I thought he was just being nice. And then I started receiving compliments from people who love me. Thanks, guys. I love the way you motivate me. What I really need is someone from the publishing industry who thinks the way you all do. I am going to imagine that too. : )

 

So… I am going to keep writing – I love doing it and I’ve found that it is a wonderful way for me to relax at the end of each day. My thoughts when I first started were to focus on growth – on the way that we move through the world and why. I teach people to be introspective and I believe that everything is easier when we can understand. I believe I demonstrated that a lot in my story so here – I will continue to do it. I will use experiences from my life and from others to demonstrate how introspection leads to growth. I hope to have more ‘discussions’ in the comment section; if you can relate or if you have a question – let me know!

 

One of the things that I wanted to make sure and talk about was the final result of all the ‘health’ problems I had while still married to ex-Hubby. If you read my story, you might remember that I had Labyrinthitis and then went to the emergency room a couple of times with bizarre symptoms that included a distinct feeling that I was going to die. I wore a heart monitor and had a series of tests that produced nothing.

During grad school as I was learning about stress disorders, I was rather dumbfounded to realize that those incidents were panic attacks. I had never suffered from anxiety so I didn’t have a clue and not one of those doctors had asked me what was happening in my life. I think that if they had, they may have diagnosed anxiety; but then again I would have had to come clean about everything that was happening.  It didn’t occur to me to tell them – I had no idea it was related. The piece that makes it obvious is that after I made a decision to get a divorce – all of the symptoms DISAPPEARED. Nothing. I realized all of this in retrospect but its importance was tremendous.

That anxiety was my body sending me messages. I was spending far too much time trying to be the person that Hubby wanted me to be instead of who I really am. I was being inauthentic – disingenuous. I didn’t understand how trying to please him was moving in such juxtaposition to my spirit. Certainly, I was not aware of this discrepancy. My body knew, though.

When people with anxiety are sitting in my office, one of the first things I do is attempt to identify the life situations that might not be in accord with the clients’ heart. It’s rarely obvious and takes a willingness to investigate things that may not be acceptable in your mind. If they were, we wouldn’t be anxious about it!

Anxiety is a fear related reaction. It is born of dread, worry, and threat. We have to figure out the primal fear. I was afraid that if I wasn’t ‘who’ Hubby wanted me to be then he would cheat on me or leave me. Rational thought was overridden by the fear. The fear itself wasn’t what created the anxiety, though – it was the way that I coped with the fear. I engaged in behavior that ‘he’ wanted… I did what made ‘him’ happy – not what made me comfortable or felt right to me. The fact that I was coping with fear in a way inconsistent with my spirit is what activated the anxiety.

When we look for answers, we have to look in the right place and we have to be honest. Sometimes, I think that is the hardest part. Occasionally, if we are honest it is like opening Pandora’s box. This honesty means this… leads to that… which is impossible. Clients sometimes tell me that if they were to do what they wanted then they wouldn’t be in their marriage – or family – or job and leaving would be disastrous. Hmmm. Maybe they are doing what they want then… sometimes we only get to choose between two lessor items.

I know a lot of people who live by ‘should’s’ in their life – people who suffer from anxiety. Many of them are expectations that are not genuine to personal spirit – personal desire. Where do they come from? If they are not YOUR should’s… why do you attempt to fulfill them? It’s not an easy question to answer but it’s definitely worth asking and identifying.

I baked Christmas cookies today, not because I ‘should’ – not because it is part of the traditional expectation of people who have their shit together – not because anyone will be waiting for them -but because I ‘could’. I did it because everything else is ready and I wanted the house to smell good and I hadn’t done it in years really. No expectations… just a desire to do something that fit well into my life – and it was good.