The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Trust

When I finished my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I had a literary agent reach out to me and request a full manuscript of my novel. The manuscript wasn’t ready at the time, so I kept working on it, rereading, rethinking, and revising, until I had a solid, workable draft to send. I sent it to her a few weeks ago, and last week, she let me know that she wouldn’t be interested in representing it.

Of course, I was disappointed. It felt like a squandered opportunity. Like maybe I should have worked harder before I sent the manuscript because she reached out to me, after all, and maybe I had disappointed her. Maybe I missed a big shot. Maybe I missed my only shot.

Logically, I knew that wasn’t true, but still, I struggled for a little while with feeling like a failure. Rejection is a part of being a writer, and I will face it 100+ more times if I take the process of getting published seriously, but that opportunity felt different, and I let myself wallow a little bit. Eventually, I realized, that it wasn’t just the rejection that hurt, but the missed opportunity to accomplish something. I told my husband, as he was trying to comfort me, that what truly felt so bad was that I wanted validation through my accomplishments.

I started a new job last month, and it’s different from any other job I’ve had in that it isn’t focused on tasks. For the most part, I am in control of my schedule and I get to decide how to spend my time. I’ve been having difficulty acclimating to this because I go in to work feeling like I have nothing to do since no one has assigned me a specific task, and I leave work feeling like I did nothing to contribute to my team since I didn’t complete a specific task. The rejection from the agent came during the height of my anxiety about this new job, and the two experiences really held a mirror up to my insecurities.

Even though I’ve worked hard on self-acceptance and personal growth this year, I still seek esteem through what I do, rather than who I am.

If I’m too busy focusing on tasks and results, then I will miss chances to be creative and innovative.

When I started to rethink my approach to my new job, I gained some confidence to be curious. I gained some trust in myself to approach my supervisor with ideas, instead of asking her for more tasks. I redefined my work day as a chance to experiment, instead of an obligation to produce something.

That newfound trust is something I’ll have to keep working on in every area of my life. I’ll have to keep trying new things.

I’ll have to keep going for it.

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That trust won’t be static. Some days, I’ll still feel anxious. Some days, I’ll still ache for validation through accomplishment, and that’s okay.

When it comes to writing, this trust is highly valuable.

If I miss opportunities to create and innovate because I’m too worried about creating a product, then I miss the whole point.

If I trust myself to write the story that’s in my heart (sorry for the cheesy cliché, but I can’t figure out any other way to say that), then I’ll write something that matters; then I’ll know when enough is enough and my manuscript is ready; then I’ll trust myself to go for it.

Some days, I’ll let rejection wash over me, and some days, it’ll get me down. Some days, I’ll sit down to write and feel great about even just a few words, and other days I’ll feel shitty for not finishing something; regardless, I can keep training myself to trust in the process.

I can teach myself, through my words and my actions, that I’m valuable with or without an accomplishment to show for the day.

I can redefine what accomplishment means.

I can trust that my definition of what’s good is good. I can let less productive days be merely blips in my existence.

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What could you gain from trusting yourself? What insights could you glean from focusing on process over product?

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The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Purpose

I did a Teal Swan meditation.

If you don’t know who Teal Swan is, then this probably doesn’t mean much to you, but I clicked on her video with a tinge of desperation in my heart, which is exactly the kind of vulnerability she consciously attracts.

Teal Swan has been called a Suicide Catalyst after her first client committed suicide under her care. She approaches mental health in a very unorthodox and dangerous manner. She’s been described as a cult leader, and after learning more about her, I have to agree.

When I clicked on her video about finding your life’s purpose, I raised my metaphorical hackles in skepticism and self-protection. I rolled my eyes at the lulling waves background behind her and her tendency to talk in circles, but I kept listening, interested to hear how she advises her followers to find their purpose. Unsurprisingly, she asks that you find the “negative imprint” of your life, or the cause of your pain. She’s known for this kind of shadow work, which can take people to very dark places.

Nevertheless, I closed my eyes as she led me through a meditation to find this pain.

At first, the word that came to my mind was loneliness.

She warned me that finding this negative imprint would not be an enjoyable process and that when she first did it her skin felt like it was burning off her bones. While I did not have that intense of a reaction (and I’m doubtful that she did herself), it was painful to meditate on loneliness, but that didn’t feel quite right.

There was something underneath that loneliness, and I ultimately ended up recognizing my negative imprint to be shame.

She then advised me to consider the opposite. She gives a rather convoluted explanation about how we can’t know anything without first knowing its opposite, and the video is edited with images of segregation and the civil rights movement as an illustration of this, which I found odd and off-putting in a video about personal purpose, but I stuck with it because for all my skepticism, this meditation did seem like it could be useful. I did some brainstorming on the opposite of shame, and the word that most resonated with me was dignity.

The video ends with a hopeful feeling that this meditation will have helped you find your purpose, but Teal doesn’t give much explanation about how you’re supposed to use this knowledge. She has a tendency to take people to very dark, vulnerable places and leave them there. I do feel like the idea behind her meditation is useful, and I’m curious to see how I can employ the idea of dignity into an exploration of my life’s purpose, but I would be weary of recommending this meditation to anyone since Teal doesn’t provide much support for using the knowledge to your benefit. (I wouldn’t recommend Teal Swan as a source of help or inspiration in general, anyway. While she might have some nuggets of good advice here and there, she purports more harm than good).

When I googled “How to Find your Life’s Purpose,” I wasn’t very impressed with any of the other videos I found on the subject. It isn’t a topic that can be easily distilled into the “10 Tips” format that is so common online.

Even though I knew Teal’s reputation, I clicked on her video after scrolling through other videos with beefy men in the thumbnails because I’ve been wondering about my life’s purpose a lot. It’s a topic that consistently comes up whenever I talk about my sorrow and insecurities with my husband. Just last night, I was telling him how I often fantasize about being a cop or being employed in a profession of authority because I feel so sensitive and out of control so much of the time, and it’s nice to visualize myself in a role that requires so much confidence. He told me that he finds his confidence in his purpose. He is passionate about helping kids and families because of the pain he endured in his childhood, which aligns with Teal’s message about finding that old pain and reaching for its opposite. I still don’t recommend her meditation, but, it does seem like the general idea has some validity.

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Shame has been the scourge of my existence for as long as I can remember.

Some of my earliest memories are heavy with this burden, and many of my current experiences in life are dictated by my desire to avoid feeling shame or embarrassment. When I think about the opposite of this, I think about self-respect and dignity. I envision myself as someone who has confidence, even when I make mistakes, and I see myself using that confidence to do good work.

I used to have a tagline on my blog which read:

Demystifying and dismantling shame through storytelling.

Recognizing the power shame has had over me is not a new revelation, and I’m not too sure yet how to build my sense of purpose around its opposite, but I’m excited to explore it.

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Is your life driven by a sense of purpose? How do you act on that purpose?

Will I Always Feel this Way?

I interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging, The Fundamentals of Personal Growth, for a much needed reflection.

When I have a really low day, I have a tendency to start generalizing my emotions to my entire life. I felt really anxious at work today, and on the drive home I was thinking about how I’m sick of always feeling like that, but then I remembered that just this morning, I’d been feeling really great. I had even thought to myself, “wow, I feel really great.”

Then, my mood started to shift downward during the last two or three hours of my shift, and I started to feel so anxious that I felt nauseous and wobbly. I couldn’t take my eye off the clock. I couldn’t stop thinking that someone was going to come scold me and tell me I was doing my job wrong. The anxiety hasn’t subsided much since I got home, and I keep wanting to burst into tears, which makes me feel incredibly embarrassed and ashamed, like I can’t handle my own emotions.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my past, which has been exacerbating my anxiety. I’ve been thinking about how my childhood shaped who I am. I’ve been wishing certain things were different when I was growing up. I’ve been feeling anger toward some of the messages about my body and my sexuality that I got from home, church, and school. I’ve been wishing that someone would have noticed how much I struggled with anxiety, back when I was a teenager. I wish someone would have seen how lonely and isolated I made myself to hide from a world that scared me so much.

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I still feel like that little girl a lot more often than I’d like, and when my emotions get the better of me, I turn into her, and I fill with shame, which makes me want to hide. It doesn’t do me any good to hide, but when I think about talking to someone about these feelings, I worry that I’m being needy. I’d like to email my supervisor about something that came up at work today, but then I feel like processing my emotions is not her job, and I just want her to validate me and tell me everything is okay, and I don’t want to be the person who asks for that. I want to be strong and confident enough in myself that I believe I make the right choices and do the right things. If I sought validation every time I made a choice I wasn’t confident about, then I’d be reaching out to people asking for their approval all day long. I always feel unsure.

But, there I go again, generalizing. I don’t always feel unsure, but I often feel unsure. And I know that at work, this feeling of uncertainty won’t last, but in the meantime, I get upset with myself for not knowing everything, and I’m upset with myself for being upset about that because how could I possibly know everything already? How could I possibly know everything, ever? I’ve worked pretty hard on overcoming my perfectionist tendencies in a lot of areas of my life, but apparently, I haven’t overcome it with work. I hate not having the answers. I preface all my questions with “this is stupid,” or “I should know this already,” because I’m terrified of people thinking I’m dumb or incapable, but I also know, logically, that no one would ever think that about me. I’ve yet to have someone be annoyed when I ask them a question. I’ve never had someone laugh and say, “how don’t you know this already?” so why do I constantly feel as though they might? Because I have unrealistic expectations for myself.

I hold myself to some unattainable standard. I want to be perfect. I don’t want to make mistakes. I don’t want to do anything embarrassing. And mostly, this is because I don’t want anyone to notice me.

And yet, paradoxically, I want to be noticed so bad.

That little emotional part of myself that used to hide from the world is so sick of hiding. I want to be important. I want to be valued (by people other than the obvious – family and close friends). I want someone to look at me and think to themselves, “I’d like to be her friend.” I want someone to say hi to me first when I walk into work. I want someone to think, hey, Trisha would be good at this, I’ll go ask her. But how would anyone know what I’m good at if I walk through life with my head down? How can I expect anyone to know what I’m good at when I just started work last month? Why am I so damn impatient?

On the drive home, as I reflected on how my day went from great to anxious-filled, I thought about how I really, really, really hate the part of myself that is mean to myself. She has never done anything good for me. She treats me rotten for no good reason. She puts me through a lot of unnecessary pain. I wondered, should I try to love this part of myself? Should I invite her over for tea and ask her what she needs from me?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m ready to have compassion toward her.

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Development

I took piano lessons in the first grade. I picked up the basics pretty easily, but as soon as it started to get challenging, I wanted to quit. And I did.

I played volleyball in 5th and 6th grade, and then joined the school team in junior high, but I was put on the c team and I never went to another practice.

I played the violin in elementary and junior high school. In seventh grade, the orchestra teacher forgot to assign me to a chair. I cried from being forgotten, he scoffed at me and harshly cast me to the back, in second violin. I looked up toward the first chairs and felt like a big failure. In elementary, I had been so good. I’d been the best.

Instead of working hard to get myself out of the back and be among the best again, I gave up.

I rarely took my violin home, and by high school, I’d given up altogether, with excuses aplenty like I hated the orchestra teacher, or I wanted to pursue art instead.

Having given up on the violin, I picked up the guitar and took lessons in high school. I had a really weird teacher who believed his spirit animal was the buffalo. He had little buffalo stamps all over his car. His house was full of buffalo motif. Like many weirdos I have met, he was a skilled musician, and he was very adamant that I practice every day. I didn’t, so I got a new teacher who was much more relaxed. He would be annoyed with me for not practicing, but he kept working with me. Then eventually, I quit again.

A buddy from college wanted to start a little band. He played the banjo, and I played the ukulele. I wrote our songs and sang, but I only kept up with it because of him. He nagged me to practice. He helped me learn new chords. He signed us up for an open mic night and kept us on track when we practiced the few songs we played that very quiet Sunday night at the bar. I don’t remember explicitly quitting on that. It just kind of faded out of existence, but I did quit to the extent that I never gave it my best shot.

The only skill I’ve never given up on is writing.

When I decided to invest in it by taking creative writing classes, submitting my poetry to literary magazines online, and eventually getting my Master of Fine Arts, I felt proud for finally committing myself to developing a skill.

All my past failures had a lot to do with perfectionism.

I would always pick up the basics really quick, and then get mad when I couldn’t master higher level challenges. When my buddy would riff on the banjo like it was in his DNA, I felt unbelievable silly practicing my scales.

I didn’t want to have to practice or put in effort. I just wanted to be naturally good.

I see how wrong that is now, and I wish I had been given some guidance back then. I kind of wish my parents hadn’t let me quit so many things. It would have been nice to be good at a sport or to be able to play more than a few chords on the guitar, but I can’t go back and change the past. I can only work to develop skills now.

I have chosen to put my efforts at skill development into writing and calligraphy.

Instead of beating myself up for not being a master, I have learned that it is gratifying to see progress.

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I’m currently working on rewriting a novel I wrote four years ago for NaNoWrimo, and it’s so cool to see how much more knowledge I have about what makes a good novel. And when I go back and look at some of my earliest attempts at calligraphy, I feel so proud that I didn’t default to my perfectionist precedent and give up, because man, those early attempts were awful, but I continually put in the effort to practice.

Developing skills requires a growth mindset, which is the idea that we can improve our skills and intelligence through hard work. I have had to recognize that while I might have some natural inclinations or be driven toward certain things like art or music, it does not mean that I am or will be naturally good at them; that seems like a lesson I should have learned earlier on, but here I am, 26 and learning to work hard to achieve the outcomes I want. I’m glad I got here, even as a late bloomer, because the more I work to develop my skills, the more confidence I gain, and the more confidence I gain the more I feel firmly rooted to myself, my opinions, my dreams, and my passions.

borderWhat does growth mindset mean to you? Did you develop skills early on in life, or were you a quitter like me? What are some of the skills you’re developing right now?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Exploration

When I started this series, The Fundamentals of Personal Growth, I wanted to write in a different way. I wanted to get outside of my own personal story and do the typical type of “How To” blog post where I tell you what to do, but I don’t feel good about that anymore. I started this blog avoiding you, and I did that because I find the directive to be an egotistical way to write, as if I can ever tell you what to do. As if I have some answers that you have never thought of or sought for yourself. If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been deep in a rabbit hole filled with naturopath scammers and con-artists, and in this rabbit hole I’ve begun to wonder about the fine line of writing blog posts in the directive and pretending to be an expert. Now, I’ve never touted myself as an expert, but I do find it slightly uncomfortable to tout any level of authority over a subject which I can know only from my own personal experience. Personal growth is just that – personal – and so I’m going back to my original idea behind these blog posts, which is that all I can do is write about my experience and how I’m navigating my own journey of personal development and growth.

This week, the fundamental is exploration, or perhaps the process of finding myself.

I was a freckly, shy and quiet little girl.

I grew in to a freckly, shy and quiet teenager, and because of my outward appearance I felt as though people often presumed me to be a bookworm. I readily accepted that label (whether it was true or not) because it fit with my shyness, and later what turned out to be anxiety, which was really what kept me quiet. Truly, though, I couldn’t get through a book and remember anything I’d read. I had so much anxiety that reading was merely a façade.

I’d have a book in front of my face, and I’d be looking at words, and I suppose connecting them to their context in the sentence, but really, my mind was racing with other thoughts about how ugly or lonely I felt, or about where I was going to escape to at lunch time.

It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, when I took a college level composition class, that I started to wake up to myself a little bit.

We wrote five papers in that class, and we got to choose our own topics, which allowed me to explore ideas that mattered to me. It allowed me to try new things. For example, it was during that time that I tried going to a Unitarian church as research for one of my papers. I will forever attribute that class to being the catalyst for me developing critical thinking skills and learning to explore and communicate my own opinions.

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background image source: Seb and the Sun

It wasn’t until college, though, that the bookworm label felt like something that could be true for me. It wasn’t until Dr. Nye shared his passion for Milton and Jane Austen that I started to find some passion of my own. It wasn’t until I got to read YA novels for actual assignments, or when I got to write my own YA novel for my undergrad thesis that I started to find myself in that presupposed bookworm label.

The bookworm label (or idea of myself) was never really wrong, I just needed to cultivate some confidence and inner-peace, through exploring and communicating my own ideas, to find out that reading and writing were a refuge for me.

I remember having weekends dedicated to reading Jane Austen, and I no longer felt that dread that I’d felt in high school. I could finally relax enough to parse meaning from the words. I remember even looking forward to laying in bed all day with an Austen novel.

While I wouldn’t boil myself down into a bookworm, I would say that books have given me a tremendous ability to explore my interests and figure out who I am.

Writing has done quite the same, but this process isn’t done, and it will never be done.

This fundamental requires a lot of experimenting, and that can be hard for me sometimes. I’ve built up quite a complex over feeling like a quitter, and exploration ends up in a lot of dead ends. I’ve had to learn that giving up is a lot different then moving on. Sometimes I try something new and it just isn’t right for me and I move on, and that’s okay.

Moving on, though, can feel bad too because sometimes I get this crazy idea in my head that if I can just get to a point where I have “found” myself, then I will truly be happy. If I have to move on, then it must mean that I haven’t found myself. I’ve come to realize, though, that happiness lies in that process of exploration. Sometimes fear and anxiety lie in that process, too, because self-exploration requires me to go outside of my comfort zone, but there isn’t some golden pot of aged-to-perfection happiness at the end of the process because the process never ends. For that reason, I don’t have a four-step plan to share about this fundamental. There are no steps because self-exploration is a part of every step I take.

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What does self-discovery look like for you?

I Feel Like Giving Up!

I have a blog post  due next week, of the normal variety, which I hope I won’t give up on, but I really feel like giving up because I have WAY TOO MANY THOUGHTS that I’ve been suppressing in my mind from abject horror.

For the past week, I have been very deep down an Internet rabbit hole of scammers, con-artists, and peddlers of “miracles.” It all started with the YouTube channel, Jeff Holiday, which is to say nothing against him because as far as I can tell he’s a very kind person trying to expose evils in the world and teach people to think critically, but the con-artists he reveals have just cracked any hope I had in the goodness of people and flushed it down the toilet.   I shall carry on repressing my current personal feelings of  my own utter unlikeableness by looking at all these assholes trying to convince you that BIG PHARMA IS THE DEVIL BECAUSE THEY’RE GREEDY but hey, spend obnoxious amounts of money on their “natural” product. Or their process that’s way better than what the so called professionals use. Yes, they are not ruled by greed at all because they are against big pharma. Come to the naturopath side, we have salve that will destroy your cells. You can drink bleach and poop out parasites. No, no, no that’s not mucous or anything like that. That’s a big worm you just pooped out, don’t worry, the bleach is cleansing you. You have to pay top dollar, and then pay again for inevitable actual medical treatment, or even cosmetic surgery, but these products are natural, or at the very least not going to be prescribed to you by a licensed medical professional, so they work. It’s not scary at all over here in the woods where we practice earthing because, well, you know, do we really have to explain it to you?

I may have lost my mind in this, but hey, here are some fun things to ruin your faith in humanity, if I may so rudely pull you down this rabbit hole with me:

1. Miracle Mineral Solution or MMS – let it be known, in case you are tempted by the word miracle, this is not a miracle, and it will, in fact, be the slow death of you.

2.Teal Swan and the Completion Process

3. Barbara Snow and the supposed abusive cults of the satanic panic, which is all weirdly tied up in Teal Swan’s messed up, fabricated history of satanic abuse.

4. Urine Therapy

5. Dr. Bergman

6. Food Babe

7. Multi-level Marketing scams

8. Black Salve (don’t google if squeamish, which I know means that you absolutely 100% will now go Google, so have fun).

9. Jilly Juice

In a twisted way, I’m kind of enjoying the dark rabbit hole because to me, this is all so clear cut and obviously wrong. It can get exhausting to search for nuances and understand all sides of an argument, but with these brilliant examples of disguised evil, I find that there isn’t any nuance. It’s wrong. It’s deceitful. It’s illegal. It’s unethical and immoral. Well, Food Babe is perhaps not so much wrong as she is just incredibly dumb. Or, you know, maybe really smart because she knows what kinds of buzz words and topics will attract a fringe group of dedicated wackos to her. But, be it ignorance or genius, there is no excuse. It’s sort of fun because it makes me so mad and it’s nice to feel passionate about something. It’s nice to feel like I have standards and I have a belief system and I have critical thinking skills, which are apparently rare . . . I mean, you would think that people would question a product that claims it can cure all of your problems, but there are too many people who try shit like MMS (and goddamn it they give it to their children. Their children with autism. Goddamn it doesn’t that just make you want to poke those people’s eyes out). You would think that people would question something that makes you feel sicker, but these scum bags who design the products know that, and it’s all just a part of the healing process. Explosive diarrhea? It’s okay, that’s healing diarrhea. Stomach aches, nausea? It’s okay, it’s normal to feel that way you just have to be strong enough to stick it out before it will work (effectively making people spend more money on the sham). A BIG GAPING WOUND IN YOUR SKIN? Well, at least it wasn’t chemotherapy!

UGH.

I know this stream-of-consciousness style is not my usual, but I have been keeping all these thoughts so zipped up because they make me so damn angry and anger is the emotion I most love to sqash because venting and railing just don’t feel natural to me, and I’m kind of scared of it, honestly. But, since this is anger directed at IDIOTS and horrible monstrous parents, well, then I guess I shouldn’t be so scared. You know, it occurs to me that anger is pretty taboo in Western culture and that could be an interesting idea to explore. Perhaps that will be my next rabbit hole.

Alright, hopefully I’ll see you on Monday with my next Fundamental of Personal Growth. If I can escape from this rabbit hole for a few hours, that is.

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Fierce, am I right?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Appreciation

It may not be in the best form to start off a piece of writing with word definitions, but I’m going to do that today because there’s a lot of overlap in acceptance and appreciation and I want to determine the difference.

While both accept and appreciate, denote some kind of action, I think of appreciate as demonstrably more actionable than accept. Accept, which means to give approval, is, in my opinion, more of an inner choice; while appreciate, which means to be grateful for or value highly, is, in my opinion, more of a behavior.

Appreciation is synonymous with gratitude.

When I’m grateful for the sunrise, I stop to watch it. When I’m feeling grateful for my husband, I let him know. When I’m grateful for a clean house, I light a candle and melt into the couch. I express my gratitude for beautiful things and people, but it’s a little harder to do that for myself.

Appreciation, in regards to personal growth, is a little bit like self-care, and self-care is a highly personalized routine or process, so rather than generally suggest ideas, I’m going to share some things that I do to appreciate and care for myself.

1.Keep track of my positive qualities

I have a habit of glomming onto the negative, and because I’ve been doing it for so long I have to make concrete attempts at noticing the positive. It feels hokey and cheesy to say phrases like “I’m good at ____,” or “I’m proud of myself for doing ____,” but the more I’ve practiced it, the more genuine it has become.

“Your real self moves with inconceivable rapidity as your thought moves.” – Prentice Mulford

2.Focus on my strengths

Besides just keeping track of my positive qualities, I try to focus on them above my weaknesses, which is a difficult balance because I have a habit of ignoring, too, but if I can tip the scales in favor of my strengths, then I have more motivation, energy, and peace.

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3.Express gratitude for who I have been and how that has made me who I am

There are times where I find myself in deep regret over my past. In high school, I completely withdrew from the world. I thought my social anxiety was a phase and that I’d grow out of it in college, so I waited. I didn’t grow out of it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and shake myself. Sometimes I wonder who I’d be if I had tried harder to have more friends or do more normal teenager things, but then I realize that it’s probably all for the best. I was so lonely in high school I probably would have done anything to fit in. That shy, timid girl made me who I am today. Eventually, she showed me what it means to struggle and overcome. She gave me some unwavering values, and I can be grateful for that.

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This was a short post because, I have to be honest, I ran out of steam. I think that the last fundamentals I have lined up for the year will be more varied and provide more interest. I hope.

What do you do to appreciate yourself? Besides trying to be positive in your self-talk, as I’ve outlined here, I’m curious, do you take yourself out for coffee? Run a hot bath? Order pizza?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Honesty

This week, my husband and I attended the funeral for his Grandma. It was interesting for me to contrast his family with mine because his family comes from money. I’d gone to a funeral for someone in my own family only a few months back, and the differences between the two were small, yet stark: cowboy boots and sneakers vs. black leather loafers and high heels or three-piece-suits vs. jeans and a button down. I don’t bring this up to put down my family or to shame his; I only bring it up to explain the following situation: During the reception, I sat next to his great aunt, and upon realizing who I was, she took my hand to look at my wedding ring then said “Oh, that’s some Denver jewelry.” I didn’t really know what she meant, and so in the moment, I had no response, but after thinking about it, I realized she was calling it cheap.

A similar situation has happened to me before; some vague comment about my ring that can’t necessarily be interpreted as an insult on face value, but when I take into consideration the entire context, I understand that more is meant by the broad-sweeping words. The real message is some variation of “Why didn’t your husband spring for a diamond?” or “How could you be caught dead wearing that unsparkly thing?”

Well, in truth, my ring wasn’t expensive and it doesn’t sparkle. It doesn’t have any diamonds and it’s not made out of precious metals.

But I don’t care. I love it. It’s the ring I wanted. I specifically asked my husband to buy it for me. Wearing the ring is a way of expressing myself honestly, and actually, for some reason, the ring is one of the few ways I’ve had as much confidence to express myself honestly.

While I don’t care if people like my wedding ring, I do often care if people like my opinions or if they approve of my job or if they think I’m lazy. I care so much about these things that I often find it difficult to be honest with myself in these areas.

I’ll think I’m being honest if the “truth” lines up with what I assume people want from me, but many times, my truth is different than these assumed expectations.

It was more painful for me when my husband’s great aunt asked me that dreaded question “What do you do?” than when she snubbed my ring because I stand by my ring and am proud of it, but it’s harder to stand by more personal choices. In the area of opinions and careers, it’s harder to express myself honestly, and make decisions about my life with confidence.

Recently, I was faced with the option of accepting a part-time job which I knew I’d love, or a full-time job that I didn’t want. I went to the interview for the full-time job and absolutely put everyone in the room to sleep because I already knew I didn’t want it, but I felt like everyone would call me foolish for not even trying to get the full-time job when I could have a meatier paycheck and arguably more stability.

Psychologist Courtney Warren says that the cost of self-deception is living life with painful regrets, and after I left the interview full of drowsy and dull college administrators, I knew that I would regret taking that job. I was honestly thankful that I never received a call from them because it meant I didn’t even have to make the choice, but if I had gotten that call, I like to believe that I would have had the courage to turn it down because I was starting to be honest with myself. After the interview, I didn’t try to find little lies about how the job would be great. I didn’t try to convince myself that the gut feeling I had was wrong or misleading. I just knew, and I went to the job I already had with confidence that I’d made the right choice.

This past year, I’ve been heavily invested in my own personal growth and self-improvement, which has forced me to be more honest because I’ve realized the costs of not doing so.

According to Dr. Warren, along with regret, two additional costs of not being honest are:

1. You hurt yourself and others

“We are deceitful and exploitative of others only insofar as we are in

some significant sense dishonest with ourselves . . .

2. You won’t be capable of change because you can’t change something you can’t admit

— but in so acting toward others,

we also offend against ourselves” (David Carr).

Pain and stagnation are some pretty high costs.

 

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Being honest isn’t easy, but it’s a worthy endeavor, especially when it means you can have a life with more fulfilling relationships and change that encourages growth and success.

For me, the costs of self-deception are: anxiety, indecision, long-lasting unhappiness, and strained relationships.

In order to consider the costs of self-deception for yourself, and learn to be more honest, three ways that you might begin the process of self-honesty are:

1. Learn to listen to yourself

Listening to yourself is going to require some of that good old self-awareness because if you’ve been caught up in performing a version of yourself that you think others want to see, then you’ve probably got a lot of voices that aren’t actually yours swimming around in your head. You’re going to have to do something scary and spend some time, and by some time I mean a lot of time, alone.

2. Sit with discomfort

When you start listening to yourself, you’re going to be confronted with some uncomfortable truths. You’re going to want to resist that discomfort, but being uncomfortable is a part of honesty. That discomfort is why we resist it so much. Stop resisting it. While honesty is unsettling, it also offers a lot of relief.  A study out of Notre Dame even backs this up. “The Science of Honesty Study” shows that through the reduction of lying, you can improve your health. Participants in the study who aimed to reduce their daily lying, even in simple ways like not exaggerating or making excuses, reported fewer mental and physical health complaints.

3. Persist in consistently challenging yourself

Being honest with yourself is not a linear process. Just because you are as honest as you can be one week doesn’t mean you will have the psychological stamina to do the same the next week. And, even when you do build up a habit of honesty, new truths will come up at super inconvenient times, and you will experience new discomfort. Remember that with each wave of confronting uncomfortable truths, there’s an ever bigger wave of relief.

As was the theme with previous posts in this series, everything is connected. You have to cultivate a sense of self-awareness before you can be honest with yourself, and it might be a good idea to work on forgiving yourself before you come to the hard, critical work of being honest with yourself. Plus, being honest with yourself might also require some more forgiveness. Just like honesty is a non-linear process, so is personal growth. I’ve only prepared these topics in what I think is the most logical order, not the most linear.

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Do you find it easy to be honest with yourself? What about being honest with others? Do you think that we can ever fully represent ourselves honestly to others?

 

 

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Forgiveness

Last week, the fundamental of personal growth was awareness. This week, it’s forgiveness. As will be a theme with all these fundamentals, there will be some overlap. Everything is connected.

Forgiveness is important to personal growth because you’re probably harboring some contempt for yourself about the fact that you’re not who you wish you were.

You might regret that you aren’t more fit, or that you don’t wake up earlier. Maybe you regret that you don’t call your mom more, or that you’re terrible at remembering birthdays. These desires to do better are normal, but if you’re on a journey of personal growth then I have a hunch that you are holding yourself in much more contempt than simply having regrets.

You won’t get very far in your personal growth journey if you continue to believe that you’re an inadequate failure because you don’t live up to arbitrary standards.

This particular fundamental of personal growth is the one I’ve had to work the hardest at, and it’s one I’m still working hard at, and the biggest thing I can’t seem to forgive myself for is not being the person I want to be, or the person I believe I can be.

Self-forgiveness is about forgiving yourself for not always being the person you want to be.

To extend yourself some grace:

1.Identify Limiting Beliefs

Often times when we make a mistake, we respond with all or nothing thinking like “I always do that” or “I can never get it right.” Listen to how you talk to yourself when you make a mistake. Identify the particular negative form of self-talk you employ. If you can notice it, you can name it, and if you can name it then you can work on replacing it with something less harsh like “I’d like to improve in this area of my life,” or “I’ll do that better next time.”

2.Take Ownership Over Your Mistakes

Research psychologist Juliana Breines writes:

Self-forgiveness can have a dark side. Research suggests that while it relieves unpleasant feelings like guilt and shame, it may also—in some cases—reduce empathy for others and motivation to make amends. In other words, self-forgiveness may at times serve as a crutch, producing a comforting sense of moral righteousness rather than a motivating sense of moral responsibility.

If you can admit that you’ve made a mistake or done something you’re not proud of, then it will be easier to explore how you can do better moving forward because you’ll know how you don’t want to behave, or what actions are out of line with the person you want to be.

Without the recognition of wrongdoing, what would there be to forgive? – Juliana Breines

You probably know that it’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, but admitting to them can feel vulnerable because most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as failures, bad people, or immoral. I challenge you to consider this alternative:

Admitting your mistakes is empowering.

Doing something bad, or behaving in a way contrary to your core being, does not make you a bad person.

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3.Identify Your Values so You can Live by Them

This approach to forgiveness overlaps with stage 2 in the awareness fundamental because there are so many elements that can begin to fall into place in your life when you know your values. If you don’t know what matters to you then you won’t have a framework for decision making, and you’ll be more likely to feel bad about choices that you’ve made without knowing why or how to improve.

4. Express Compassion

A few years ago, I had a counselor who engaged in Gestalt therapy with me. When I first met with her I was nervous because I knew Gestalt to be an aggressive from of therapy (by aggressive I just knew it was more than simply talking about your feelings), but it ended up being the most helpful therapy I’ve ever received because it encouraged me to cultivate compassion for myself.

My counselor had me imagine the part of myself that I hated, and talk to her. I moved across the room, sitting in one chair and then the other, talking to myself and saying out loud all these awful things I’d been thinking about myself. I saw this person who I hated as part of myself, and my counselor showed me that I could be compassionate to her. In my mind, I wrapped this part of myself up in a loving ribbon, and every time I started to think negatively about “Little Trisha,” as I called her, I’d wrap that ribbon around her. The process sounds a little out there, and I was resistant at first, but I’m so glad I eventually poured myself into it because learning to love Little Trisha was the biggest step in my personal growth journey.

[S]elf-forgiveness is not supposed to be easy, and without incorporating empathy it can feel empty. – Juliana Breines

The best effect from learning to love Little Trisha was that it was easier for me to love and express compassion for others. I felt less frustrated at my husband and approached our disagreements with empathy and understanding. Our marriage became so much more enjoyable because as I grew to love myself, I became more trusting. I grew closer to my family and friends because as I learned to stop judging, hating and resenting myself, I learned to stop doing the same to others.

I’m not perfect in these areas, and I still find myself holding grudges at times, but it’s now so much easier for me to let go and move on because I have started with practicing forgiveness for myself.

This practice of self-forgiveness and compassion can be tied back up into awareness.

If you can become aware, admit your mistakes and forgive, then:

[You can] begin to understand how [your] emotional and physical selves are connected and develop more self-confidence to start living a fuller life and more effectively deal with problems. (Gestalt Therapy)

Everything is connected.

 

In her Ted Talk “The Real Risk of Forgiveness and Why it’s Worth ItSarah Montana speaks about the power of forgiving others, but I think so much of what she says can be applied to self-forgiveness, as well. In particular, she says:

Forgiveness is the only real path to freedom

The thing about self-forgiveness as a practice in conjunction with self-awareness is that it cultivates a realistic view of the self. You can recognize who you are, in the present, and acknowledge the dream of who you hope to be without hating yourself for not yet being that person. You can find such cozy freedom within yourself that your body will feel like home.

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Have you learned to forgive yourself? What is your process of self-forgiveness?

This is Not a Regularly Scheduled Post

I am only writing because 2 weeks ago I posted “How to Recover from Disappointment” and in my calligraphy image accompaniment, I spelled disappointment with only 1 p.

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I doubt anyone even noticed, but now you all know my egregious error. So bad. Such evil. Many unethics.