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?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Acceptance

Self-acceptance is the fundamental of personal growth that I feel the least comfortable with. It is the one that I’m still trying to figure out, all the time. Every time I think I’ve finally laid down my flaws and imperfections, something will happen to remind me that no, actually, I still have a deep pit of self-loathing inside of me.

Rather than act as if I have this shit figured out, I’m going to share some ideas and suggestions that I’m either currently trying, or plan on trying. Of course, of all the fundamentals, this one is probably the most personal, so really, the only way to figure out how to accept yourself is through a deeply personal process where, once again, you spend a lot of time alone. Basically, the moral of all these fundamentals, is go be

A   L   O   N   E

like Squidward in the episode of Spongebob Squarepants when he finally gets to be by himself, away from Spongebob and Patrick.

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Some other strategies to try:

1.Don’t wait until you accept yourself to care for yourself

If you’re anything like me, you think you have to have X before you can give yourself Y. The way we feel about ourselves, though, is related to how we treat ourselves.

Your actions tend to chisel away at the raw marble of your persona, carving into being the self you experience from day to day. It doesn’t feel that way, though. To conscious experience, it feels as if you were the one holding the chisel, motivated by existing thoughts and beliefs. It feels as though the person wearing your pants performed actions consistent with your established character, yet there is plenty of research suggesting otherwise. The things you do often create the things you believe. – David McRaney 

So, if you aren’t taking care of yourself because you don’t accept yourself and you think you don’t deserve care, well then, you’re likely always going to feel that way. If you take care of yourself, you are showing yourself that you do, in fact, deserve it. You may not cultivate self-acceptance right away, but the more you act with compassion toward yourself, the more you will start to believe that you deserve your own love, care, and acceptance.

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2.Take your interests, passions, and pursuits seriously

When you believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile, even if just for your own enjoyment or sense of accomplishment, then you will reap more benefits from it. For example, if you engage in, let’s say, oh I don’t know, writing for a hobby, but you think it’s “just a silly hobby,” and treat it as such, then you are, in effect, not accepting the validity of your own interests, and not accepting your pursuit of it.

Taking your interests and pursuits seriously doesn’t mean that they can’t still be fun, it just means that you are acknowledging the impact that these interests and pursuits have on your own life and self-esteem.

3.Take your problems seriously

In the same vein as above, if you are experiencing a hardship, but you attribute it to being just a “silly problem,” then you’re not accepting the impact that it’s having on you, and you won’t be as willing or as determined to take the steps to heal, or remedy the problem. When you can accept that you’re suffering or hurting, then you can accept the treatments or help you might need to recover.

4.Take ownership of the ideal

You have the power to define what’s ideal. The world, society, or your culture tells you that a particular way of being is ideal, but ultimately, you get to decide if that’s true for you or not.

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I really struggled with this post. I had a whole different draft ready to go on Saturday, and then I recoiled in fear because it was way too personal. I don’t feel as though I have any grounds to write with any authority on self-acceptance, as I’m still struggling, so I want to reiterate that these are suggestions that I’m still trying. Please tell me your own.

How do you approach self-acceptance? Did you grow up being taught to accept yourself, and so it comes naturally to you, or is it something that you have had to cultivate? If so, how did you do it?

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?

How to Spend Time Meaningfully

My husband likes to give me a hard time about supposedly not being able to relax. Whenever I fall a slight bit ill, he is quick to blame it on my stress.

The thing is, while I acknowledge that he is partially right, I also find it hard to totally agree because I have had a tendency to merely maintain an appearance of business by wasting time, rather than actually working to get anything meaningful done so that I can fully relax later.

I have to give myself credit, though, because I’ve been getting a whole lot better with time management as I’ve been seeking employment, as I’ve become more serious with my writing, and as I’ve gotten to know myself better, but wasting time is still something that plagues me. Now, though, it’s more because I have a broad definition of what it means to waste time, than because I’m actually still sitting around wasting a lot of time.

When I’m honest, wasted time is only time that’s spent on things that don’t bring me joy.

When I’m being a harsh self-critic, though, wasted time is anything that doesn’t produce some sort of quantifiable result.

This is where my husband likes to prod at me about relaxing, and this is where I can agree that he’s right.

I picked up this desire to remain ever busy, or appear to be ever busy, from my dad, who picked it up from his dad. I admire my dad and grandpa, and I want to make them proud, but they are a little too extreme in their efforts to spend their time purposefully.

My grandpa has been the property manager of a block of apartments for as long as I can remember, and he always has a project to do over there. When he’s not working hard on the apartments, he’s got a project at home. My dad has a long list of projects, too, lest he be caught idle for one second. I have a distinct memory of him, having just barely recovered from back surgery, hastily planting a tree in the backyard. He didn’t further injure himself, but if he had, then he really wouldn’t have saved any time by getting to work on the yard sooner than the doctor recommended.

When I was younger, if I didn’t have something that I had to do, I was constantly bored.

I even had a list of activities, much like my dad and grandpa have their lists of projects, so that I could stay busy when there wasn’t anything to do. But, I didn’t usually enjoy the way I spent my time. It always felt like I was doing things just to fill the hours until there was something I had to do, which is a habit that stretched long into my adulthood.

As I’ve discovered more about myself through writing and challenging myself to try new things, I’ve grown less anxious about wasting time.

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This is largely because I’ve developed hobbies that aren’t mindless scrolling or binge watching, and because I actually enjoy these hobbies, I’ve stopped seeing them as ways to waste time.

I can now sit down to read, more often, without thinking “I should be working harder on my own novel,” or I can sit down to write without thinking, “I should be doing the dishes,” or I can sit down to practice my calligraphy without getting antsy to clean the house, or do those chores that I used to feel were more important.

Plus, in getting to know myself better, I’ve learned that I thrive in a more structured, routine environment, and I can relax better at the end of a day if I’ve accomplished a few goals. Sometimes those goals do involve cleaning, but more often, now, they’re creative or personal goals.

I’ve been able to create an effective structure for myself with these four strategies:

1.Set Intentions

At night before I fall asleep, and/or in the morning while I journal, I make a plan for the day. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, and it’s usually nothing more than: “Today I will ___ and ____ and ____.” But, even having a few intentions for the day helps me to accomplish meaningful things, which helps me to relax easier when I’ve fulfilled those intentions.

2.Limit or eliminate multi-tasking

I’m terrible at multi-tasking, as I think we all are, but it’s always a good to have a reminder to stay present in the moment and focus on one task at a time. The more energy I put into the task-at-hand, the more I can get out of the process, and the sooner I can move on.

3.Experiment

I’ve tried different kinds of daily routines, different browser applications to block the Internet, and different timer techniques. Nothing has stuck, but I continue to experiment. Some days, I need to set a timer to get things done, and some days I don’t. I used to have email and other distracting sites consistently blocked for several hours during the week, but I would just find workarounds by going to different browsers, so now I only use the option where I can block the Internet for an hour or more at a time when I’m really struggling to stay focused, but, to be honest, since I took the daily block off the Internet, I haven’t needed to to block the Internet much. I guess it’s the whole, what is forbidden becomes more appealing concept.

I continue to experiment with ways to avoid distractions, and I have found so much freedom in allowing myself to try different techniques, rather than relying on one.

4.Stop to reflect instead of deflect

I mentioned something similar in my last posts about goals and procrastination, but I’ll mention it again because it has been working so well! When I start getting incredibly distracted, it’s most helpful when I shut things down or turn things off, and consider why I’m having so much trouble focusing, because when I deflect, I waste time.

It seems like reflecting would be the real time waster, but it’s not.

Maybe I’m working on the wrong thing that day. Maybe I need to take a prolonged break. Or maybe I just need that moment to reflect, and then get back to working on something meaningful (or those occasional obligatory tasks).

Having a structured routine in which I can accomplish some goals has, paradoxically, given me freedom.

When I went about my days without any intentions, I was much more rattled by anxiety about “getting things done,” and by the evenings, I would feel bad that I hadn’t accomplished more with my day. While I don’t think it’s wise to only permit myself to do things I enjoy after I’ve accomplished a certain amount of things, I do find so much more joy in relaxing and exploring my hobbies when I’ve worked at a few goals or fulfilled a few intentions. When my husband badgers me about relaxing, he’s not saying that I should sit around and do nothing, he’s saying that I should invest my time in things that bring me joy, and I can agree with that.

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I’m curious to know about your relationship with time and routines. Do you find yourself worrying over wasted time, or does it not phase you? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

5 Reasons I Procrastinate

To be honest, I typically don’t procrastinate. I am very alert to deadlines and have never operated well under last minute panic. I am often ahead of schedule, when there is a schedule, but in regards to tasks with nebulous or extended timelines and goals, like writing a novel, I find it difficult to stay ahead of the game.

I’ve observed the reasons why I procrastinate because the ways in which I procrastinate, like watching mindless YouTube videos or staring off into space like I’m searching for life’s answers, only add fuel to the anxiety around getting started on whatever it is I’m working on. The more I procrastinate, the less I want to get started. The less I want to get started, the more time I spend procrastinating.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley

The five main reasons I seem to procrastinate are:

1.I’m afraid to face the emotional work

This reason for procrastination came up in the past week as I was applying for a job that I was genuinely excited about. My qualifications were a great match, and I was excited by the company’s values. As I started drafting my cover letter, however, I began clicking in and out of my web browser, scrolling through YouTube or checking my email. The rest of the week I’d been very focused in writing my documents for job applications, so I wondered – what was different with this one?

“Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think about what you are doing.” – James Altucher

I clicked out of my browser to explore what was happening and I realized – I didn’t like how excited I was getting about the job because I didn’t want to have to feel disappointed if it didn’t work out. That fear of disappointment, consequently, is another big reason why I procrastinate.

2. I’m afraid of being disappointed

As a reason for procrastination, this doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

I’m always more disappointed when I allow the fear of disappointment to keep me from even trying.

Nevertheless, this fear still ensnares me in its gnarly teeth more often than I’d like. However, becoming aware that this is an issue makes it much easier to push through and get started, even if I’m worried about the emotional consequences.

It always seems counterproductive to me that acknowledging negative emotions is the key to moving past them, but it always works. When I faced the emotional baggage holding me back from putting my all into the cover letter for that job, I was able to buckle down and write a pretty damn good cover letter, if I do say so myself.

3. I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is

This one used to get me in college all the time when I had to write essays. I’d have an essay due on some obscure topic like the emotion of sound in a novel and I’d think, dear god, how am I ever going to argue that point, but then when I finally got started drafting my thesis, it would always come together with much more ease than I anticipated.

I still get hung up on this one today when I’m working on my novel. I’m in the revision stage right now and when I hit a particularly challenging spot, like if I need to reorder some chapters and I’m not sure how, or if the plot point is faulty, I doddle pretty hard.

When I finally get started, though, it’s always so much easier than the mountainous trek I had built it up to be.

4. I’m afraid it will never be good enough

(aka – the fear that I’ll never be good enough)

If I’m honest, this reason is probably at the core of all these reasons.

The fear that I’m going to fail, or that I already am a failure, haunts me from a dark place inside my mind.

It would be so easy to give in to that fear and never do anything again, and I think procrastination is a twisted way of testing myself.

Will I give in to my fears? Will I decide that I’m unworthy? Or will I decide that I’m good enough?

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Thankfully, I’ve learned that even if I procrastinate, it doesn’t mean I’ve already given into the beast of self-doubt. I can always still decide that I am, in fact, worthy of the effort.

5. I don’t have an action plan and I don’t know where to start

A lot of times when I sit down to work on my novel, I have no idea where to start. There are a million places I could start. How am I supposed to know which is the best place to start? If I start in chapter five and something changes in chapter 3, then all the work will be moot, anyway, right?

I can get caught in that loop of figuring out the best place to start for way longer than I care to admit. When I create a plan, or at least come to my writing with an intention, then I am able to jump right in and not even hesitate over clicking open my word document before anything else.

. . .

There are a lot of reasons why I procrastinate, and many of them are not nearly as profound or emotionally deep as the five reasons listed here. Compliment this blog post with my Medium article “The Real Reasons I Procrastinate: Internet, dogs, and coffee.”

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I’m curious to know, are you fueled by last minute panic, or do you generally operate ahead of schedule? Leave me a comment and let me know!

I Really Like Being Alone

A friend of mine recently told me that I’m really good at being alone. If that sounds harsh, let me assure you, she meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one.

I absolutely love to be alone.

Of course, I still struggle with it in certain circumstances, but for the most part, if I’m choosing between a social event or being alone, I’d rather be alone.

When I’m alone, I can watch whatever I want on TV. Listen to whatever music I want. Watch YouTube videos that meet my daily quota for mindless entertainment. I can read without distraction. I can journal. I can write.

Solitude is precious because I can decide exactly what I want to do, and I can go at my own pace.

If introvert is defined as a person who recharges by being alone, then I definitely fall into that category. It’s exhausting to be around people. There are maybe only three people in the world who actually give me energy when I’m with them, and that’s my husband and two best friends. Everyone else tires me out.

Solitude is precious because my energy isn’t being drained by navigating social relationships.

I have learned, though, that being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with others.

While socializing is draining, I still crave it. I still need it because I’m human.

I’ve come to view socializing and cultivating meaningful friendships as a part of my self-care practice. I have to make a conscious effort to do it though, otherwise I won’t. I’ll settle into my routine of being alone by telling myself that I’m happy with my family and the friends I’ve sustained over the years, which is true, but they don’t live where I do and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like – as often as I need to in order to tend to my social need.

Solitude is precious because it reminds me that I do need to see people, and more importantly, I do need meaningful relationships in my life.

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A few ways that I have found to meet this social need are:

1.Bumble BFF

This is an app that helps you find friends in your area. I connected with a friend through the app that I’ve been texting with every week since we first met up.

2.Local events

Even if I don’t talk to a single person, like the time I went to a concert alone, it can still be enough for me to simply get out and participate in a local event to see people out in the world, participating in gentle humanity – to remind myself that not everyone is an idiot on the Internet.

It’s also a great way for me to challenge the possibility of connection, like the time I went to a poetry group at my local library and thought I might never go back because the guy sitting next to me was getting on my last nerve.

I have a tendency to discount experiences when one element isn’t quite right and thinking like that is a fast way to stay isolated.

Instead of making up my mind to never return, I wrote down my contact information to be reminded of the next group and, at the end, I thanked the group leader, who gave me a hug.

3.Connect with people online

A while back, I started using social media as a place to engage with others, rather than a place to passively exist. I have been 100% happier with my experience online since I started doing this. Sometimes, I leave a comment on someone’s post or ask a question at the end of my own posts, and they get lost in the void, but sometimes, I receive meaningful replies. It doesn’t matter if I get a response or not though, the point is that I’m engaging. I’m making an effort to make connections and that’s a hell of a lot more fulfilling than never even trying.

4.Be generous in working relationships

At the start of the summer, I began the process of getting hired with VIPKids to be an online English teacher. A woman in my community hosted an event to help new teachers get started. I ended up being the only person interested, but she still agreed to meet with me and be my mentor through the process. When I was hired, I treated her to coffee. We discovered that we have a lot in common, and though the job with VIPKids hasn’t panned out exactly as I had hoped, my mentor and I are now friends!

5.Express gratitude for the relationships I already have

I have a wealth of meaningful relationships in my life. I met my best friend when I was only five-years-old and we still see each other at least every month. I think that’s something to be incredibly grateful for, and I tell her often, in our own non-sentimental way, that I’m grateful for her friendship. When I reach that point where I’ve been alone a little too much and I get that wave of loneliness, I don’t need to rush out and make new friends, all I need to do is give my husband a hug, drive up to see my parents or make plans with my sisters, go for a walk with my granny, or text one of my long-time friends who will reply, without a doubt, in no less than a day.

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How do you make socialization a part of your self-care routine? Or, does socializing come easy to you?

Disagreeing with Motivational Quotes

About a year ago, my dad starting sending daily motivational quotes in a group message to our family. I understand that the intention is one of kindness and love for us, but when you receive these platitudes daily, they really start to lose their meaning.

None of the following quotes I’m about to disagree with are ones my dad sent, I just got inspired to disagree with some of the more commonly seen quotes as an exercise in critical thinking because I have certainly been guilty of liking or reposting motivational quotes without thinking too much about them.

1.“There’s no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you’ll make time for it.” – Unknown

I can agree with this to some degree, and I definitely feel irritated with people who go on and on about how busy they are, but you know what, some people really are that busy.  For some, being busy is a choice, and that’s when I get annoyed by the complaining, but some people are that busy just to survive and squeezing an extra second out of a day would be difficult. This particular piece of “motivation” really only applies to people privileged with extra time.

 2.”People don’t care how much we know until they first know how much we care.” – Zig Ziglar

I wish! How many times have you been in a social setting and seen people nod their heads in amazement at that one person who can’t shut up about everything they “know,” meanwhile, the person who has shown how much they care by providing a listening ear to everyone who has talked to them at the party, is shut down every time they speak up about what they know or care about.

If you’re loud and good at bullshitting, you don’t have to care about anything.

3.”It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” – Zig Ziglar

I don’t think I even have to say why I disagree with this one.

4.“Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” – Marilyn Monroe

Fear isn’t stupid, and if we think that it is, then we’re denying a piece of our humanity. We need to challenge our fears, sure, but fear itself isn’t stupid. Sometimes, fear is a great motivator and it’s there for a reason, as are regrets. Sometimes, it takes a big regret to make a better decision for the future.

5.“Fear less”

I think we all ought to keep being afraid from time to time because if we never have fear, then we can never challenge it, and then the whole concept of courage becomes irrelevant.

6.“Your past is just a story. And once you realize this, it has no power over you.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Your past is a part of you. It’s important to accept it as truth and recognize how far you’ve come, and then you can relinquish the power it has over you.

7.“Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream.” – Unknown

I can agree with “save while they spend,” but I cannot stand this mentality that we just need to work harder, faster, better, more. And as someone who never partied as a teenager and overachieved in my academic work in college, I can say that I wish I would have partied a little. I think I missed out on a lot of opportunities to learn about who I am as a person, what I value, and what I’m willing to stand up for because I never went to parties. There are a lot of ways to learn, and socializing is one of them. Plus, if you want to “live like they dream” shouldn’t you be doing a little partying? I don’t think any of us are dreaming about working and learning all day.

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8.“You attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, then be great.” – Unknown

Plenty of people are GREAT and still not getting greatness in return. Life just isn’t fair.

9.“You can’t get rich thinking poor.” – Grant Cardone

This is not only insensitive, it’s incredibly irresponsible.

There are plenty of motivational quotes that have a strong emotional resonance, and certainly there have been times when my dad has sent a quote that really stuck with me and gave me a desire to do better on that particular day, but there are just so many of these empty words on every corner of the Internet, and haunting the hallways of schools and offices that it’s hard to parse meaning from them all the time. It’s important to remain critical of the information we’re getting from these quotes because it could be easy to internalize the idea that we’re lazy if we’re constantly seeing quotes that say we just aren’t making enough time, or we’re not working hard enough.

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What’s a motivational quote you disagree with?

Tuesday Treat: Today is a Good Day

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This morning my Dad sent the family a quote in our group text message that read:

“If we have the attitude that it is going to be a great day, it usually is.”

– Catherine Pulsifer

I decided that today will be a great day. That doesn’t mean I’ll deny any negative feelings in favor of a great day, it simply means that I will savor the day for all it’s worth.

What will you decide about today?