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: 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?

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: 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: 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?

Being Sick is Like Hitting the Reset Button

Last week, my husband and I both got sick. It was one of those yucky head colds that verge on feeling just bad enough to maybe be the flu, but then also we were well enough to get out of bed, but also we could hardly breath through our noses and our heads felt like balloons.

I hate being sick, not just because it sucks, but because whenever I’m sick, I always struggle with guilt and doubt.

If I have to call into work or cancel plans, I feel like I’m lying about how sick I am just to get out of my commitments. While getting to stay home and watch TV or sleep is a benefit to being sick, the novelty of doing nothing wears off fast, and then I begin to realize that the worst part about being sick isn’t so much being sick, but that my routine has to bend so that I can rest.

I struggle between the knowledge that I’ll recover quicker if I rest, and the guilt of putting things or people on hold; the fear of losing momentum toward my goals.

I recently read an excerpt from Matthew Sweet’s blog post “The tyranny of the perfect day” that mirrored these frustrations I have with my routine being disrupted quite perfectly. It’s a little long, but it says more than I can figure out how to say about this topic:

A while ago I discovered my “perfect morning”. I liked to rise before the sun, meditate for a while, read whilst drinking a few cups of coffee, then write for a few hours. After that, I’d squeeze in whatever else my relationships, commitments and ambitions demanded of me. So, I thought, why not try to make every morning like that? I tried and it was surprisingly successful. But it also made me fragile. If I didn’t get up early enough then I felt the morning was lost. If my meditation session went terribly then it threw me out of rhythm. If I couldn’t focus whilst reading I felt annoyed. If I sat at the keyboard and nothing came to me, I’d wind myself up into a hybrid state of anxiety and fear. I was seeking uniformity in my mornings and Life was giving me the middle finger, thwarting my quest in mostly consistent, but sometimes unexpected, ways.

By Wednesday of last week, I had reached maximum grumpiness and laziness from being sick, but I could not convince myself that it was okay to rest because I wanted, so desperately, to get back to that perfect routine.

I know that it’s normal to be grumpy when you’re sick, but having to deviate from my routine made me feel like I was crawling my way back to dark places of self-loathing.

I could hardly let myself off the hook for a week of being sick.

Even writing it now, a week seems like way too long a time.

Eventually, through desperate journal writing to try and get myself out of a dangerous thought spiral, I came to these questions:

Have I really learned to accept myself, or have I just built up a routine that keeps me from feeling like a loser?

Have I just structured my life in such a way that there’s no room for me to be mean to myself because I never let myself falter or fail?

I think that maybe I have.

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I feel a little confused because I had been singing the praises of routines and structure, but now I’m seriously questioning routines for their fragile inflexibility.

At the end of Matthew Sweet’s post he says this:

I don’t fall into the trap of thinking that my perfect days should be uniform and repeatable. Instead, I labour under the assumption that perfect days can only be revealed in hindsight, not planned or prepared for in advance.

I think that I have reached the limit on introspection with this subject. Nothing will change if all I do is think about it. I have to make some tangible efforts to free myself from my own routine, and show myself that I am worthy every day, not just the perfect ones.border

Do you feel like your routine is too rigid? Do you feel as though all your progress or motivation to move forward gets reset when you’re sick?

How to Recover from Disappointment

One of my biggest fears is being disappointed.

I hardly even let myself get excited about things, because I’m afraid of being let down.

In my experience, disappointment is the most painful emotion. I think this is because, when I do get excited about things, I create vivid, realistic pictures in my mind about how amazing something is going to be.

For example, I recently applied for a job I really wanted. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and hand-delivered my resume to the office, which was in a great part of town. I saw myself working there, walking down to the nearby coffee shop at lunch, or stopping by the cookie store after work to get me and my husband something delicious before I came home. I saw myself feeling confident and proud in a position where my work aligned with my values. I saw myself expressing my creativity, sense of curiosity, and adventure. I saw it so well that it felt like the job had to be mine. I imagined talking to the hiring manager on the phone the following week and setting up an interview. I played through the kinds of questions I might have to answer at that interview.

I had built a future in my imagination.

Then several weeks went by, and I didn’t hear anything.

I was so disappointed, and I chastised myself for ever getting excited in the first place. I told myself I should have known better than to think I could have gotten that job.

I told myself that my disappointment was unjustified because if I hadn’t gotten so excited in the first place, then I wouldn’t have felt so let down.

Disappointment really hurts.

There’s no way of getting around it, but there are ways of getting through it, and maybe even growing through it.

I used to let disappointment completely wreck me, but, even though I was disappointed about that job, I noticed that I bounced back from it a lot quicker than I used to bounce back from being let down, and I think that’s because I have made use of these strategies:

1.Accept

This has been a recurring lesson in my life lately; that it’s better to accept negative emotions and situations rather than constantly try to fight them. I accept that I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the job I really wanted. I accept that it sucks because I worked really hard and went outside of my comfort zone to deliver my resume in person. I accept that I wish it could have turned out different.

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2.Mourn

It feels a little elementary to say this, but I think we can probably all do with the constant reminder that it’s okay to feel sad. I don’t have to bounce back to my baseline level of happiness and energy immediately after being disappointed. I can mourn what I feel I lost for a little bit. I can hate on the world for a while, and begrudge all the disadvantages of being a young, freshly graduated person in a competitive job market.

3.Acknowledge personal responsibility and power

Though it’s perfectly healthy to feel sad and frustrated for a while, If I continue to sulk and blame the world, then I’ll continue to be disappointed. After I indulge in my “angsty-everything-sucks-parade,” there comes a time to pick myself back up and keep going. I have the power to persist. I have responsibility over my choices and emotions.

4.Don’t compare

When I get really disappointed, I am quick to compare my life to others and decide that they all have it easier than me. I’ll think about my colleagues from college who got jobs without even having to apply because they had social connections, and then I’ll let myself get bitter because I’ve had to work really, really hard, and have had few results. This is still something I’m working on. I’m getting heated up just thinking about it, but I’ll never get over it if I don’t confront it. So, while this is a step I’m still working through, it’s an important one. Getting bitter over other people’s successes doesn’t do me any good, anyway. In fact, it sets me back. All I can do is focus on what I want and need, and how I’m going to get there.

5.Keep going

Persistence is the only way I have ever achieved anything, and it will continue to be the only way I’ll ever achieve anything. When I feel like giving up, it just means that it’s time to change my approach or my mindset.

I will persistently feel disappointed, but I can’t let disappointment keep me from feeling excited because excitement wards off the looming sense of dread that keeps me from trying.

I may continue to fear disappointment, but I can be more confident going to battle with it knowing that I have the tools to recover and persist.

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Fearing disappointment is such an integral part of my life, so I’m curious to know, are you afraid of disappointment, or are you unabashedly excited about things in life without even considering that you might feel disappointed?

Job Hunting and Self-esteem

A few weeks ago, I quit my part-time job so that I could put all my energy into finding a more stable, and to be honest better paying job that utilizes more of my skills. And yet, the first week I began expending this energy toward my job search, I only applied for low-paying jobs that I knew I could get, and a I got a few of them, but ended up turning them down because I realized I wasn’t doing what I set out to do.

I wanted more for myself, but I was scared.

When I graduated, I made a goal not to conflate my self-worth with my job, and in so doing, I set my sights very low. I was applying for the same kind of jobs I had before I graduated with my Master’s degree. Jobs with little autonomy and few responsibilities. Jobs where I could exercise competence, but have no chance at growing professionally. Jobs where I hadn’t been very happy in the past. I wobbled between convincing myself that these jobs would be good enough – I could learn to be happy, and knowing that I wouldn’t be happy long-term.

After going to a few interviews and thinking “I don’t want that job,” instead of “I hope they call me back,” I sat down and reworked my resume. I realized that I had been selling myself incredibly short. I started to see how the skills I gained through work experience and education could apply to positions that had seemed out of my league only a few days ago.

 

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I’m tempted to say that I lost an entire week to applying for jobs I didn’t even really want, but I know that I didn’t truly lose any time because I learned a valuable lesson.

I learned what I don’t want.

I learned that I can expand the breadth of my search, and doing so doesn’t mean that I am neglecting my goal to not conflate my self-worth with my job prospects, it simply means that I am recognizing and honoring my skills.

I am giving myself permission to search for something that could make me happy.

And, maybe I won’t get the job I really want. Maybe I’ll get my second, third, or tenth choice, but I have allowed myself to dream a little bigger.

I’m still scared, but fear is better than being complacent or resigned.

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Do you need to give yourself permission to do what you really want?

I Went to a Concert Alone

I don’t like to admit to this, because it’s a little embarrassing for me, but I have anxiety about going places alone.

I know that it’s common to have anxiety about being alone in public, but it’s the last piece of my anxiety that I feel is really holding me back.

I don’t do as many things as I would like to do because I don’t have friends nearby that I can call whenever I feel like going out for brunch, taking a hike, or hitting up that concert.

Over the weekend, there was a big free music festival and one of my favorite musicians, Katie Herzig, was playing an evening set. It was a little last minute to invite a friend and my husband was out of town, so I decided to go by myself.

Well, I tentatively decided to go by myself and then spent the whole day making up excuses about why I wasn’t going to go.

My excuses were pretty pathetic:

  1. I don’t want to drive forty minutes to get there

  2. It’s going to be difficult to find parking because everyone will be downtown

  3. I don’t want to leave the dog alone

  4. I’m going to be leaving around dinnertime and I don’t want to spend money to eat at the concert

  5. My student loan payments are coming to maturity soon and I shouldn’t be doing anything fun at all because I’m a big fool who spent an obnoxious amount of money on school and I don’t deserve to do anything but be miserable until this debt is paid off

That last excuse almost kept me from going, but in the end I recognized it for what it was. A bullshit excuse.

I decided to treat these plans I had made with myself as though they were plans I’d made with a friend. I needed to take them seriously. I needed to get there on time. I needed to be there for myself.

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And you know what?

  1. I listened to an audiobook on the drive over, the traffic was light, and I was there in no time.

  2. I only drove around for about 10 minutes looking for parking and it wasn’t that far from the stage.

  3. The concert was only an hour, so the dog was alive and perfectly fine when I got home.

  4. I had a quick snack before I left so I wasn’t hungry at the concert.

  5. My student loans don’t have to keep me from enjoying my life. I can’t go back in time and take out less money or skip school altogether. I can’t escape paying back the loans. I was privileged with a good education, I enjoyed the experience, and there’s no point in being miserable while I pay off this debt.

Most importantly, though, it was freeing to be at the concert alone. I felt so proud of myself for going that it erased all the anxiety I’d been feeling earlier that day. I was able to relax and have an even better time alone because I didn’t have to worry if my company was having a good time, and I didn’t have to make any compromises for anyone. I simply enjoyed the experience just for myself.

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Sometimes it feels like I’ve been on this journey to overcoming my anxiety forever, but going to the concert by myself put things into perspective for me. I used to struggle being in crowds even when I was with my family or friends. I would clam up in fear that I would lose sight of familiar people. I would practically tether myself to whoever I was with so I didn’t get lost. But, I navigated through the big crowd at this music festival, all by myself. I stood in the middle of a crowd surrounding the stage, all by myself. I feel a little bit like a five-year-old being proud for doing something “all by myself,” but whatever, I’ve earned my pride.

I’ve come a long way and I deserve to feel accomplished.

While I know that the next time I go somewhere alone I’ll still have a little bit of anxiety, I will be far less wrecked by it.

Plus, the more things I do alone, the easier it will get until I’m hardly even fazed.

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What’s something that’s holding you back? What can you do to begin the journey to overcoming it?

8 Positive Benefits of Life Changes

Change has always been an anxiety inducing experience for me. I remember being terrified about the nitty gritty details in changing from Elementary to Junior High School. I was most worried about who I would sit with at lunch, for example.

Change brings with it uncertainty, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve been writing a lot about how I don’t like change and how much fear and anxiety it causes me, so I decided to work on re-framing my thoughts. That way I can start taking action to combat the anxiety, instead of complaining about it and dreading it.

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1.Opportunity to Grow

I have long attributed my first step toward overcoming my paralyzing social anxiety to my first job working with kids, as a skills trainer. The job presented many challenges, but I overcame them. Besides having to interact more with my co-workers, kids, and their families, I also had the most autonomy I’d ever had in a job. It was a scary change, but I wouldn’t have grown in to the person I am today if I hadn’t made the leap to take the job and harness the opportunities it gave me to grow and become a better person.

2.Progress

I can’t achieve any of my goals without progress. Change forces me to make progress. Whether it be on myself, our financial situation, or a creative endeavor I’ve been working on, change makes me aware of what needs tended to and invites me to do something about it.

3.New Experiences

I’ve always been a big scaredy cat with a hidden sense of adventure. I want to be the person who can say she’s been sky diving or got lost in a foreign country, but I’m too scared to do it. Recently, I challenged my scaredy cat heart and went zip lining. I may not be any closer to signing up for a sky diving session, but change happens through a continuous progression of new experiences and events.

4.Shake up a Stale Routine

It doesn’t take much time for me to get comfortable in a routine, even if that routine isn’t particularly fulfilling. Life change forces me out of my practiced habits and daily drudgery and invites me to try new things.

5.New Choices for Happiness and Fulfillment

When change occurs, I’m presented with new opportunities to seek personal fulfillment. Sometimes, the fulfillment might come in a form I never expected. Back when I worked as a skills trainer, I never expected it to be so rewarding – I just wanted a job that wasn’t in a stuffy basement office – but the job ended up being so much more than new scenery and a better paycheck.

6.Learn Something New about Myself

To continue the running theme here, when I first started working with kids I had no idea that I would like it as much as I did. At first, I was so scared. I thought I’d be terrible at it because I’m quiet and I didn’t feel like a leader, but I quickly learned that I can reach a level of being myself when I’m working with kids that I never reach when I’m interacting with adults. I learned that I can be silly, playful, and way more compassionate than I’d ever known I could be.

7.Discover New Places

Change has always forced me out of my familiar haunts (mainly my house). I see new parts of town through work or meeting new friends. Recently, I was driving a friend home and we were on a road that I always take to get to the grocery store, but I never knew it was a through street because I’ve never had to take it that far. My friend busted up laughing and said, “I feel like I’m blowing your mind here.”

8.Arouse New, Fresh Motivation

Whenever I have a big life change I go through the following phases:

1. Excitement

2. Dread

3. Some sadness, sometimes depression

4. Everything becomes routine again

During the excitement phase, I become incredibly inspired by things I’d long forgotten could inspire me. Music, nature, movies, books, antique stores, food, crafts, fashion and almost any form of creative expression I encounter. It’s a wonderful phase that is quickly dulled when the overall effect of the change on my life becomes more apparent.

Now that I’m aware of the way I cycle through periods of change, maybe I can hold more tightly onto those excited inspiration strings. I can pull the kite through the tunnel of dread, reel it in for comfort when the peaks of sadness hit, and cast it back out into the wind for inspiration when the routine settles in.

The overall sentiment that I’m taking away from this re-framing challenge is that change is scary, but so is the alternative.

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What are some positive benefits of change that you can search for when it all starts to feel chaotic or overwhelming?