Finishing Strong

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I realized something about myself that I am curious about. I realized I am really good at starting things, but often not so good at finishing them. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not. I don’t want to be that way because not finishing things leaves me stuck where I have always been and sometimes even moves me backwards. I want to be someone who finishes strong in everything I do, someone who keeps moving towards second base without always running back to the comfort of first base.

What things do I finish well? The first thing that comes to mind is school. I finished my Bachelor’s degree online without taking any extended time off once I started the program. After I finished that, I went on and completed my Master’s degree the same way. That got me wondering if finishing had something to do with the cost associated with school. I don’t think that is the case though because I am currently taking two online classes that are free and I am staying on task and just as committed to these classes as I was to the classes I was paying for. Something else I completed was training for and completing the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk about 5 years ago, which involved walking over 60 miles in 3 days.

Other things I finish well are projects with a clear deadline, tasks I feel confident about, or tasks that are just part of a normal routine: things like doing the dishes, picking out clothes for day, paying bills (most of the time), various tasks at work, sitting with a hospice patient I see weekly, and for almost two months now, tracking my food intake everyday.

So, what things have I started and not finished? Several projects and tasks at work continue to get moved around on my desk without being completed. I have numerous quilting projects in the works, along with two different cross-stitch projects and another needlework project. I went to a coaching certification class and haven’t done anything really significant with what I learned there. I started working on improving my relationship with my husband by making attempts to communicate more and better, and to look more at what I need to change or improve in myself. I went back to putting up a wall by keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself, and recently started working on improvements again. I have started working on getting fit and getting to a healthy weight more times than I can even count and have never made it to a point yet where I feel like I have finished what I started. I have started exercising regular on numerous occasions, and then fallen back to not working out at all or only working out sporadically. I have started and not finished balancing bank statements for a business my husband and I run. I set a goal of doing one blog post per week and did okay with that for a few weeks and then stopped posting regularly. I have also started and not stuck with various routines for taking better care of myself.

I think a good place to start sorting this out is by looking at what are the costs and benefits of starting, finishing, and stopping somewhere in between.

One of the benefits of starting something new is that it is a new chance to succeed. I feel a sense of excitement and determination and I like those feelings. The possibility of achieving something or crossing something off my to-do list is a benefit for me. Growing as a person and learning something new are benefits. The costs include being unsure if I can complete what is in front of me, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by all that I add to my to-do list, and risking failure at what I am trying to do. Something I see as both a cost and a benefit is letting go of stories and beliefs I have had about myself for years. I see this as a benefit because letting go of stories that have limited me for much of my life opens the door for me to make up new stories, and I see this as a cost because I am letting go of what I know and what is familiar and doing so is often scary.

Benefits of finishing something include the sense of accomplishment I feel, learning something new, feeling stronger, and increased self-esteem. I am realizing as I am typing this that a cost is that I have more to be accountable for when I succeed at finishing some things because then I know what I am capable of, and often so do other people.

The costs of starting something and not finishing include a lowered sense of self-esteem, feelings of failure, and staying stuck where I have been instead of moving forward. One benefit of not finishing things I have started is getting to stay in my comfort zone where things feel familiar. In some situations a benefit is getting to continue believing the stories I have told myself about not deserving better, and not standing out and having too many people watching me. In other situations, the benefit is continuing to be the go-to person for many things at work when I don’t complete projects that will give other people the tools they need to do their job without my help.

One of the stories I recognize I have been telling myself is that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything and when I don’t feel like I am doing something the right way, or I am not sure how to do it the right way, I get stuck and stop moving forward or I retreat back to what I know and what feels safe. I also tend to get stuck or move backwards when I spend too much time comparing myself to other people and where they are in their journeys.

Releasing weight is a good example of this. I have been within 10 pounds of my current weight for well over a year, and probably for almost the past 2 years. I have started and stopped releasing weight, tracking everything that goes in my mouth, exercising, and making healthy food choices numerous times, each time experiencing a certain amount of success and then moving backwards. I never realized before now that the times I have moved backwards have really been the times where I wasn’t measuring up to what I considered the “right” way to do whatever I was doing at the time. When I missed a couple of days of tracking my food intake, I quit altogether because the “right” way in my mind was to track every bite every day. When the number on the scale wasn’t going down quickly enough, or at all, I quit making mindful choices that would move me forward.

I started writing this post believing I would come to the conclusion that the reason I continually choose to give up on myself, even when I don’t consciously realize that is what I am doing, is because I don’t think I deserve better. I’m sure that is one of the stories I sometimes tell myself, but I also know I have grown a lot in that area and believe more and more that I do deserve better than the way I have treated myself for so long. I’m glad I let myself be open to the possibility that there may be other reasons I have often not finished strong.

Realizing that I am most often getting hung up on doing things the “right” way feels freeing! I feel a lightness in me right now, like I just let go of a weight I have been carrying around. I feel open to possibilities and ready to take some risks to finish some of the things I have on my plate right now, and to continue on with other things I have started. If I try doing something one way and it doesn’t work out, I can look for another way to get it done as long as I remember that the potential mechanisms for getting where I want to go are endless!

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Looking back earlier in this post at some of the things I listed that I have started and not finished, I can see them with fresh eyes. Since completing the coaching certification, I started this blog as a way to share with and encourage others, I chose to work with a coach who is helping me see that I can often coach myself and that I do have something to offer other people, and I have continued to grow as a person. The number on the scale may not have gone down a lot, but it has gone down some and I have lost inches. I may not be where I want to be as far as fitness is concerned, but I can now do a variety of exercises with ease that I couldn’t even imagine doing 18 months ago, and I have gone from needing to be accountable to a trainer in order to get a workout in to being accountable enough to myself to complete workouts on my own and push myself further than ever before.

Do any of you struggle with not finishing things you have started? Have you looked at the costs and benefits of the choices you are making? I would love to hear how you push yourself to finish what you start, and also what your thoughts and feelings are when you don’t finish something you started!

 

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What makes a good coach?

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I have recently done some reflecting on what makes a coach a good coach. This train of thought started a couple weeks ago when I went for my weekly training session at a local branch of a big box gym. I have been meeting with a trainer for almost a year and a half now. I started out with twice per week, later moved up to three times per week, and I’m currently with a trainer once per week. I started working with a trainer (aka coach) because I was telling myself that it was the only way I was going to do any kind of strength training. I could go to the gym on my own and get on the treadmill or the elliptical machine, but the various weight machines, free weights, kettle bells, stability balls, etc., were intimidating to say the least. I already felt self-conscious just walking into the gym and I figured if people were looking at me or laughing at me when I was doing something I was familiar with, they would do so much more if I attempted on my own to do something I was completely unfamiliar with.

Let me back up a little bit and explain a little more about this self-consciousness I experienced back then, which I have since learned is a form of pride. I didn’t want to join this gym at first because one whole wall is windows and I was worried about people watching me make a fool of myself when I was working out in any way. My sister-in-law pointed out to me that this gym is right next door to a McDonald’s and that the people walking or driving by are not paying any attention to me in the gym. She said they were likely hoping I, or anyone else in the gym, wasn’t watching them walk into McDonald’s next door or pull into the drive-thru.

So, I joined the gym and quickly realized my sister-in-law was right. Not only did people outside of the gym not pay attention to people in the gym, people INSIDE the gym didn’t pay attention to people inside the gym. Once I was inside the gym, I no longer thought about what was going on just outside the gym. I did wonder often what other people were thinking inside the gym, but this gym has a television connected to each piece of cardio equipment so I would just plug in my earbuds, find something interesting to watch, and start walking.

After a month or so, I became interested in exploring some strength training and I knew I needed to work with a trainer to stay consistent and to learn proper form. I didn’t trust myself to go on my own, and I certainly didn’t think of myself as someone worth working hard for. The first six months of working with a trainer were pretty good. I didn’t release much weight and my measurements didn’t change much, but I gained strength. I went from barely being able to do a couple of push ups on my knees to doing 10-12 on my feet. This was quite an accomplishment for someone who always claimed to have the weakest arms in the world.

Periodically, the trainer/coach would ask me to step on the scale to check my weight, check my BMI, and take measurements. In the second six month period she also added in taking pictures, which is something I am very uncomfortable with. The second time the trainer took my picture she recognized that I was uncomfortable with this and it was the first time I perceived a different attitude in her. She has not asked to take pictures since then, nor has she weighed me, taken measurements, or even mentioned doing any type of assessment. Under different circumstances, I may have felt only relief about this. Instead, I feel a mix of relief and also disappointment. I feel relief because I really don’t find it helpful to have my picture taken in front of other people because it is evidence to me of where I have not measured up to where I think I should be by this point. I felt disappointment because I think the trainer has given up on me and is just going through the motions of each training session because I have already paid for them. We make small talk a little bit and she answers questions when I ask them, but I no longer feel like she is invested in me succeeding.

Sometime last summer I had the opportunity to visit Impact Fitness in Baraboo, WI. I noticed right away that there is something different and special about this gym. Every person I have met there has welcomed me and accepted me, just as I am. The focus is primarily on who you are on the inside instead of on how you look on the outside. Yes, this is a gym with a focus on fitness, but the clear message here is that lasting changes on the outside start with lasting changes on the inside. There is no judgment and no one there is going to find your answers for you. They believe in you and know you already have your own answers, even when you can’t see that for yourself – yet. Stay connected to the people at Impact Fitness, and you will begin a journey to finding out who you really are and loving the person you find inside.

So, what makes a good coach? To me, it is someone who remembers my name, is invested in me meeting my goals and finding my own answers. It is someone who helps me learn that I have value and worth, regardless of my size. It is someone who will ask me questions to challenge me and help me dig deep when I need to, and someone who will point out and celebrate my successes right along with me. The best example of this I have found so far are the people at Impact Fitness.

http://www.imfit2.com

The End Became the Beginning

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/daily-prompt-the-end/

I have an addictive personality, which has led to poor habits that I have quit or tried to quit. Drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and smoking cigarettes are three habits I quit over time. Each time I tried to quit one of these habits I used the cold turkey method. It stuck for a while and then I was right back at it until the next try at going cold turkey.

I don’t really remember how old I was the first time I took a drink of alcohol. My Dad was a drinker and we always had a cabinet above the stove in the kitchen that was full of various bottles of alcohol, a drawer in the fridge full of Pabst Blue Ribbon or Old Style beer, and a second fridge in the garage that had a half barrel of beer in it. I remember drinking with friends beginning in 7th grade or so and that continued all through high school, college, and beyond. Drinking was not my poison of choice in later years, but was something I still continued to do when I was using drugs.

My exposure to drugs was limited to marijuana and hash until 1993. I knew people who used other drugs, but I was always too afraid to try them. My life turned upside down in 1993 and I was desperate to be anyone but me, and to get out of my own skin. I’m not going to share all the details of why at this point. What I will share is that my drug of choice became crack and I was hooked the very first time I used it. That drug took away all of the pain I had inside, along with every other emotion I was feeling and all the thoughts and fears I was consumed with about what was going on in my life at that time. As long as I was using, I didn’t have to think or feel and that was such an immense relief that I did anything I could to use as much as I could. Eventually, my use of this drug took away so much more – security, self-respect, jobs, homes, relationships, and even my children. I had a few periods of clean time where I was free from drugs and alcohol, but I was not free at all on the inside. I couldn’t stand myself and didn’t know how to believe that anyone else could stand me either. In the throes of addiction, I convinced myself that my children and the rest of my family were better off without me.

I spent some time in various treatment centers and put together small amounts of clean time from a couple weeks to several months. Eventually my drug use led me to incarceration where I stayed clean for 23 months, which was the longest I had been clean in years. I continued to stay clean for a couple more years after being released from incarceration, until I fooled myself once again into thinking I could have a “normal” relationship with someone who was still an active and abusive addict and didn’t see any reason to change. I had this idea that I could save him. I was doing so well and I thought I could save him and bring him along into this new life. Instead, he almost destroyed me and drug me straight back to the hell we lived in for so many years. He is the last person I used drugs with. Our addictions and our relationship was so bad at the end that I truly believe one of us would have killed the other if we had stayed together any longer.

Along the way, I was led to move to a new city, live with my younger sister, and get involved in Alcoholics Anonymous. I gained some clean time and some inner strength through going to AA meetings when my significant other was incarcerated for short periods here and there. I got a little stronger each time he was gone and was willing to settle for less abuse each time he was back. One day I made a decision that I deserved more and that I would rather be alone the rest of my life than settle for being hit one more time. He didn’t handle that news well and ended up incarcerated again and I sought help for myself on a mental, spiritual, and emotional level. So much ended for me with that one decision, but that end became the beginning of a life I had rarely even let myself dream about. I have worked in the same department for 5 years and moved from delivery technician, to customer service supervisor, to director. I met a wonderful man in recovery and we have been married for 3 1/2 years. I have my children back in my life, and have four amazing grandchildren who have never had to experience the pain caused by my addiction. I have true friendships based on heart connections and shared interests. It is truly a miracle that I can say, today I have been clean and sober for just under 8 1/2 years.

Quitting smoking didn’t happen until several years later. Smoking was harder for me to give up than the drugs because it didn’t cause pain and chaos in my life the way drugs did, and it’s legal! I never went to jail for smoking a cigarette. The difficulty with quitting smoking came from it being a part of everything I did for over 30 years. I smoked after eating, when I was driving, when I was talking on the phone, when I was feeling any emotion I didn’t want to feel, and when I was feeling emotions I loved to feel!

The first time I really quit for more than a day or simply because I didn’t have enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes was after delivering some medical equipment to a patient who was also on oxygen. I hadn’t had a cigarette for several hours and had no idea that I still smelled like a walking ashtray until she pointed that out to me. She pointed at the tubing in her nose and said, “You take heed deary. You better quit smoking or one day this will be you too.” I called my doctor right away and asked her to call in a prescription for Chantix, which was the latest drug out to help people quit smoking. I quit smoking then and stayed smoke-free for 13 months. My husband continued to smoke and I went back and forth between feeling bitter that he could smoke and I couldn’t and superior because I had quit and he couldn’t – neither of which were healthy attitudes. I had a fight with my husband after those 13 months and had the crazy idea that smoking a cigarette would make it all better and really show him, so I bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked again for the next month. I was so disgusted with myself that whole month for starting up again and I knew I didn’t want to see my family for Christmas and have them smell the ashtray smell on me again and know I failed, so I called my doctor and asked her for another prescription for Chantix. I quit again in December, 2011 and have not looked back. I have no desire to smoke again and no longer have any feelings of bitterness or superiority about any of it. The best part is that my husband quit a month or two after I did the second time so we enjoy a smoke-free home too.

Quitting various things in my life has not been painless or free of struggles. In fact, I think working through the pain and struggles without going back to whatever it was I had quit is what made each quit so significant and opened doors to new beginnings. In order to hold out my open hands to accept something new, I needed to be willing to uncurl my fingers and loosen the death grip I had on what I had known for so long. This was not done without fear, but I learned along the way that when the pain of where we are is greater than the fear of where we are going, we’ll go. That has most certainly been true in my experience and I am contemplating where else in my life I have the opportunity to loosen my grip, stretch out my hands, and be open to more new beginnings.

Changing Directions

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I’m sitting here in my favorite new writing spot – a newly remodeled Starbucks. I love the atmosphere here and the feeling of warmth as my latte hits my belly. I spent the afternoon with a pit in my stomach that has been occuring more often lately than I would like. I haven’t figured out yet where this feeling is coming from and decided some time spent writing about it may help me sort it out. I was talking to my coach a couple days ago and mentioned this uncomfortable feeling. She asked if it is more of a dread feeling or more of a feeling like I’m going to puke because I know something I am about to be involved in will be really big and impactful, and also scary at the same time. At the time I said that it is more of a feeling of dread, although I didn’t know exactly why I was dreading what was coming up. On this particular day, it was a meeting with my supervisor. I told myself I was going to practice being grounded and focus on that during my meeting so I could feel more confident. The meeting didn’t turn out so well.

My boss started out asking me a couple of questions to which I did not know the answers. Her reaction was judgmental and demeaning and that set the tone for the rest of our meeting. Practicing ground and center went right out the window and all I seemed able to focus on was how I once again didn’t know enough. I wish I could stay that I was able to use positive self-talk and quickly get myself back in a good space. Instead, I cried. I am not a fan of crying in front of other people, and especially when the other person is my boss. She asked me what the tears were about and I told her I don’t feel like I will ever be able to meet her expectations because I have no idea what they are. I also told her I have no idea when she is happy with my work, angry with me, disapointed in me, or pleased with me because I only see her a total of twice per month. One hour per month I meet with her alone and her comments are often ripe with criticism and void of praise, and then I see her one other time in a leadership meeting with about 15 other people. I have reported to her for 10 months now and don’t know her any better today than I did 10 months ago. The words she spoke said she was sorry for making me cry. The tone of her voice and the look on her face said she was in her glory and loving every minute of it.

I would love to tell you that I left work and that whole situation at work and went home and enjoyed the rest of my evening. That would be a lie. I went home and told my husband all about the meeting, cried some more, and basically let it ruin a perfectly good evening. The next morning I replayed the dialogue from the meeting repeatedly in my head and cried a little more. I went to work and felt sorry for myself and hopeless about my ability to make this situation any different.

I have also handled several situations at work lately with upset customers, two who ended up complaining to administration, which is then relayed back to my boss. Today was another of those situations. I talked to an angry customer right before I left work for the day and although I believe no wrong-doing was done on my part or by any of my employees, the call ended with the customer stating she is going to call the Better Business Bureau. I hung up the phone and immediately noticed the pit in my gut. It’s like that feeling that something is about to happen.

I spent a little quiet time thinking about all of this after work today and trying to sort out what it is I am dreading so often lately and what is going on when I start feeling that pit in my stomach. I realized that each of these situations are challenging me to prove that I have grown and learned that I am enough, just as I am. So what if I can’t live up to the unknown expectations of my boss? Do her expectations even matter in the grand scheme of life? What is more important to me is living up to my own expectations. I have to live with myself everyday, not my boss. The same is true of the situations lately with challenging customers. The resolution I have offered has not been enough to meet their expectations and I have let that mean that I am not enough.

How quickly I reverted to being a victim in challenging circumstances! How easily I went right back to that miserable place of feeling unworthy of simply being me. Yet, how quickly I have been able to get to the root of this feeling of dread too! And that means I can get right back to being responsible for my own choices. I chose to interview for the job I have and to accept it when it was offered to me – even though I had heard plenty of horror stories about my boss and the way she treats others. I chose to accept the responsibility of dealing with challenging customers as part of my job duties, with no guarantee that every situation would end on a positive note. I chose to let these situations temporarily define me as not enough.

Today I choose to toss out that definition – AGAIN – and do what I know is the next right thing instead of trying to please everyone around me. I choose to measure my worth by how well I am meeting my own expectations and by remembering who I am in God’s eyes. Today I choose to be true to myself and know that doing so in my job will involve some struggles with my boss because I choose not to be like her. From my experience with her, I choose to learn how I never want to treat other people. I also choose to look at her with compassion and curiosity. I wonder what she has experienced in her life that has caused her to find power in belittling other people? I can imagine that being in her skin and portraying that image to others may leave her feeling rather lonely and I can empathize with that because I have often felt uncomfortable in my own skin and kept a wall between me and other people and the result was a deep feeling of loneliness. One big lesson I have learned from this woman already is how I never want to treat other people.

I have a choice in every challenging situation. I can choose to let it drag me down or I can choose to explore each situation for any truths I can apply and move on. I still tend to choose the first option out of lifelong habit, but I also choose to not stay there for long and that is improvement. My bounce back time is shorter and that amazes me. I sometimes think about getting to a place where I am unaffected by the negativity of others and don’t need to bounce back from the effects of negative situations. I’m not sure if that is realistic, or if that would mean I am disconnected from my emotions. I certainly don’t want that. I spent too much of my life running and hiding from my emotions and not knowing how to even identify them and I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way.

Now that I know I was moving in the wrong direction and reacting in old, familiar ways, I can do an about-face and get on with my journey in a new direction – sometimes hesitantly, sometimes with a spring in my step, and always with the knowledge that the choice is mine.

Dancing on the Inside

Dancing on the inside

In the past week or two I have become more conscious of the changes I am experiencing in my thinking and my behavior. I have become self-aware of learning to be self-aware. From the outside, other people may not easily notice the changes taking place on the inside. I’m okay with that for now. I notice them and that is progress in itself.

Last night I finished a workout that resulted in sweat rolling down my face, and numerous other places, and my muscles screaming at me. I was so pumped about completing the workout and KNOWING I really gave my all and I caught myself doing a little dance to the music I had playing. This was so significant to me because I don’t typically dance openly. I usually dance on the inside where no one else can see me getting down, shaking my butt, or attempting other crazy moves – that I imagine doing perfectly, of course! I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks when I dance on the inside.

The problem with this is that I also don’t get to be my authentic self and I am hiding the gift that I have to offer from everyone around me. Not only am I selling myself short, I am selling other people short too.

Back in March, 2013, I went to a leadership seminar where we had an amazing day playing in a redwood forest. The day started with loud, upbeat music and our team of fifty people dancing with each other and with staff members. I remember telling someone, “I don’t dance.” She never skipped a beat as she said, “It looks like you’re dancing to me.” That conversation popped into my head last night as I was dancing, alone in my sewing room, now doubling as my workout room.

How many times have I denied what I was thinking, feeling, or even doing, simply because it was something out of my comfort zone? So far out of my comfort zone in fact, that I couldn’t recognize being a part of it even when I was. As I continue to become more self-aware, I am learning to recognize when I am outside of my comfort zone, and I’m finding that while it feels uncomfortable and somewhat scary, it also feels really good!

The next step for me will be to continue this self-awareness and stepping outside of my comfort zone. The more I do this, the more I will gain confidence and start taking risks to dance on the outside. I believe the payoffs will be huge! The more I share my authentic self with other people, the more other people will feel comfortable to share their authentic self with me. This in turn will fill my need for relationships.

I’m sitting in a local Starbucks today as I write and I just listened in on a conversation in a coffee shop between a coach and a new client. The conversation was fascinating and was apparently part of an assignment for the coach. The coach was a natural at helping the client find her own answers and awareness. At the end of the session, the client said she knew this was part of an assignment, but she would like to continue coaching sessions. She wanted to know what the cost would be. The coach said she hadn’t thought about it before and asked how $15 – $20 for 30 minutes sounded. The client said she thought that $30 sounded more reasonable. The coach said she thought that was too much. In the end, they agreed on a rate of $25 for 30 minutes. What I found interesting about this is that I just listened to this client find immense value from this coaching session, and the coach sold herself short by not thinking what she was providing was worth more – even after the client was telling her it was!

This was such a valuable lesson for me. So often I discount my own value and what I have to offer. That is exactly what I am doing when I hold back and dance only on the inside. I love to help and encourage other people, and I am learning that the best way I can do that is by being me – and the best me I can be.

In what ways do you hold back from sharing yourself with others? Do you struggle with recognizing your gifts and what you have to offer? Become curious and gather information about your own thoughts and habits. Becoming self-aware is the first step in going from dancing on the inside to dancing like no one is watching.

Happy dancing!

Who I am and Why I’m Here

I jumped right into blogging a couple months ago and never took the time to offer any information about who I am and why I’m here. My name is Mary and I am a trusting, vulnerable, worthy woman. At least that is who I am striving to be. Currently, I am a work in progress as I journey towards finding out who I really am inside and who I want to be. I WILL write a book someday, and that requires putting words on paper or recording them in some electronic format and this is my start. I love to write and in order to call myself a writer, I need to write!

I am blogging, rather than keeping a personal journal, because I love to write and because I have been encouraged to share my story with other people. I don’t have set topics in mind that I will write about. I will simply write about whatever is consuming my thoughts on any given day, or what I feel inspired to share with others. I am about self-improvement and helping others find their own answers inside. Other people should read my blog because I am learning, right along with them, and I’m willing to share what’s inside as I do so, no matter how silly, or ugly, or painful it may seem at the time.

I would love to connect with other people on a journey of self-discovery and growth, along with anyone who coaches people toward becoming their authentic selves and realizing their greatness. If I blog successfully throughout 2014, I would hope to have accomplished personal growth on my own journey, and to have established relationships with others who can learn from me and from whom I can learn as we find and develop our authentic selves. 

I’m looking forward to a new year of blogging, building relationships, and continuing on this journey of self-discovery together!

 

 

Two-Step

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I started following a nutrition plan and released several pounds, and then chose to give in to cravings for instant gratification and short-term satisfaction. I not only gained back several of the pounds I had released, I also went back to feeling bloated, fatigued, sluggish, and full of self-loathing. I was working out with a trainer twice a week and jumping on the treadmill or elliptical afterwards for some cardio. I was noticing changes in the way my body felt, the way my clothes fit, along with reduced stress and increased confidence, and then I chose to leave the gym right after meeting with a trainer instead of staying for any extra cardio, and not do any additional exercise during the week. Instead of feeling increased confidence, I am feeling increased self-consciousness and worry about what other people think. I started writing regularly and felt happy about the feedback from other people, and a sense of accomplishment about moving forward and taking action on writing goals I had set and then I chose to do anything other than write when the “writing time” reminder popped up on my phone.

I have been spending some time thinking about why I stop doing these things that move me closer to my goals and bring me happiness, improved confidence, stress relief, and a sense of accomplishment and forward movement. Part of the reason stems back to the idea I wrote about in my last blog post about enough. I stop making good nutrition choices, exercising, and writing when I start comparing what I am doing to what other people are doing and deciding that I don’t measure up. Comparing myself with other people steals my joy, causes self-doubt, and paralyzes me.

When I choose to compare myself with other people, I am really choosing to hide my true self from others. 

I stop all forward movement and run back to what feels safe and familiar – even when what feels safe and familiar is really oppressive and self-defeating.

Yesterday I realized a bigger reason for running back to what I know. Fear. My eyes filled with tears as soon as I acknowledged this feeling, this word, and let it roll off my tongue. The tears surprised me and led to more questions. What am I fearful of? What if I ignore the fear? What if I can’t get past the fear? Is fear a sign of weakness? Where else have I felt fear in my life and what did I do about it?

After quite a bit of thought, I realize that what I am really afraid of is succeeding – much more so than failing. Failing is familiar. Not meeting the expectations I think others have placed on me is familiar. Succeeding at something that adds to my self-worth or improves my physical or mental health is unfamiliar. I want to get to the point where doing things that I feel good about is a familiar action. The fear of succeeding is not about small or short-lived successes. The fear is more about not knowing how to, or not believing I can, maintain the success once I achieve it. It feels safer to run back to the familiar rather than take a chance at the joy of succeeding because I don’t have to risk losing that success. Reaching a goal and then going backwards has been more of a risk than playing it safe and selling myself short. How sad!

What if I ignore the fear? I don’t think the fear will go away if I ignore it. I believe the only way to get past the fear is to go through the fear, and then means acting in spite of the fear. I have taken some recent steps to do just that. I am writing this blog post after putting off writing. I worked out 5 of the past 7 days and I’m on my sixth day of tracking my nutrition intake so I can be more mindful of the choices I am making about what I am putting in my mouth. Each individual step may be small, but each is a step forward and the fear feels a little smaller or more manageable with each step I take.

What if I can’t get past the fear? A wise woman I know taught me the words can and will. I can get past the fear, and I will get past the fear – as long as I keep taking action and moving forward. Going back to the way things have been may seem like the worst that would happen, but really the worst that would happen is to never take the risk to leave where I have been.

Is fear a sign of weakness? I don’t believe so. I see fear as a sign of being human. Hiding, running, not taking any risks – those are signs of weakness for me personally, but not feeling fearful.

Where else in my life have I felt fear and what did I do about it? I have felt fear during the times in my life that have involved big change, where I didn’t know what was coming next. I have also felt fear after a big loss, again, because of not knowing what was coming next. In each of these instances I have spent time running and hiding, either physically or by using other means such as drugs, alcohol, and food. Eventually, most often with support from others, I put one foot in front of the other and started moving forward.

I look back now at the life I led when drugs and alcohol were front and center in my life and I barely recognize that girl. I can learn from her though. She took a lot of unhealthy risks for what she made up her mind she wanted, which at the time was drugs and alcohol. She ran and hid from the people she loved and who loved her because she didn’t believe she could ever be who they needed her to be. As a result, she was lonely and filled with regret, shame, and self-loathing. That is not who I choose to be today. I am taking little steps to move forward and I’m finding that it feels a lot like dancing the two step at my sister’s wedding years ago. I take a couple steps forward, or sometimes sideways, and then a step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I feel like im goibg in circles, and what I notice is that I am always moving and taking action. More importantly, I am laughing and smiling and enjoying the dance.

Where in your life have you recognized fear and how have you pushed through it?

Enough

I am embarrassed to admit how often I have a committee meeting in my head, with the members loudly comparing notes about how I don’t measure up. The committee tells me regularly that I am not smart enough, not thin enough, not stylish enough, not brave enough, not attractive enough, not nice enough – you get the picture. I have talked to enough people to know that I am not the only one with these critical voices and their relentless messages. This negative self-talk is, in fact, rather common. This realization led me to two questions. What is enough? And, what are the far-reaching consequences of this self-talk?

When I am listening to the committee in my head, I am giving away the power to decide when or if I am enough. I believe this committee is made up of many members and the messages are based on the experiences that involved each of these members: my Grandpa who commented on my weight almost every time I saw him; the kids in school who made fun of me; my parents; the neighbor across the street who insisted I was pregnant when I was not, because of the size of my stomach. Most of my life I heard people say to me that I was not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, or smart enough. I recently learned a secret. Just because I heard people say these things to me, doesn’t mean they really said what I heard. Sure, there were people in my life who said hurtful things. There were also people who said loving things and expressed concerns that I heard as criticism because of past experiences. After a while, I didn’t need anyone else to tell me I wasn’t measuring up, because I was telling myself all the time.

I talked about perception in a previous post, and how my perception is based on my experiences and what I believed those experiences meant. My perception also has an effect on what I hear when someone is speaking to me, or what I decide a look or a gesture means at any given time. Today I know that my perception can change at any time if I choose to change it, even regarding past events.

So, what is enough? I have struggled with trying to answer this for myself. Merriam-Webster defines enough as occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations; in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2013). What I get out of this is that ‘enough’ is determined by each of us individually based on whose demands, needs, or expectations we are trying to meet or on what we deem as necessary for satisfaction. Tying all of that in with my perception, with my experiences, leads me to my own answer to what is enough. I started with this, enough is when I meet the expectations I perceive others have of me. Because perception is all about the  stories I am telling myself that are made up based on my experiences, I then revised my answer to, enough is really when I meet the expectations I place on myself to be or look or act in a way I believe is appropriate or acceptable. I thought about it a little longer and eventually ended up with this answer – enough is the stories I make up when I compare myself to other people.

I do not talk to anyone else in the harsh way I talk to myself. I don’t go around saying to other people, “Look how fat you look in that! You can’t leave the house looking that way.” “You are such an idiot!” “Stop writing, stop talking! No one wants to hear what you have to say anyway.” “You don’t deserve the job you have. You don’t have what it takes to lead other people and run a business.” “Look in the mirror! You’re so fat, it’s no wonder your husband doesn’t want to be close to you.”

I would not stand for anyone talking to my children, my friends, my husband, or my coworkers that way. Yet, these are some of the exact words I say to myself on a daily basis, and sometimes multiple times a day. What are the far-reaching effects of this self-talk? I think the far-reaching effects are similar to the effects on someone who is bullied, because all of those words are the words of a bully. When I think about people who are bullied, I think about people who are withdrawn from others, full of self-doubt and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal. I think of people who have a hard time connecting with other people at a heart level and giving and receiving love. Is it any wonder that all of those things have been true of me to some extent throughout my life?

Now what? I decided that enough is the stories that I tell myself when I compare myself to other people. I identified the far-reaching effects of negative self-talk and regularly telling myself I am not enough as self-doubt, hopelessness, lack of close relationships, and not being able to give and receive love well. What do I do with this information now? What I know to be true for me is that this self-talk, this act of comparing myself to other people, is not serving me well in meeting goals (or even setting goals oftentimes) or in developing close relationships. I can remain a victim of my own limiting beliefs, or I can take responsibility for changing my thinking, my self-talk, my stories, and my relationships.

I recently watched a video of my oldest granddaughter singing with her first grade class at their Christmas concert. The words to the chorus I remember well – Take one step. Then another. Soon you’ll see, everything will be alright. What a powerful message for those first graders, and for me! I don’t have to change everything in one day. I just need to take one step, by telling myself to STOP everytime I start comparing myself to someone else or start telling myself that I am not enough. And then another, by turning that negative self-talk around and reminding myself of the positive choices I have made and of how I am taking steps forward. Soon I will look around and see that everything is alright, and I AM enough, just as I am.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2013). Enough. http://i.word.com/idictionary/enough

A Matter of Perspective

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When several important people in my life die in a relatively short amount of time, does it mean everyone I love will leave? When I don’t talk to my best friend for days, does it mean she’s mad at me or that I did something wrong? When my sister is diagnosed with leukemia, does it mean God doesn’t care? When my Dad wouldn’t spend time alone with me, did it mean he didn’t love me or think I was worth his time?

The answers to each of these questions, to all questions, all depends on perspective. Our perspective begins from a combination of our experiences and our environment. The really cool thing I have learned about perspective is that I can change mine any time I choose. The key lies in the awareness that everything I am telling myself, everything I believe, is just a story that I have made up about events and situations based on my interpretation of my experiences and my environment. Once I am aware of this and realize a story is not serving me, I am able to change the story to something that does serve me.

For years I was angry at my Dad. I was hurt and carried a lot of regret and resentment about him not loving me the way I thought I needed to be loved. I let that mean that my Dad didn’t love me at all and that there was obviously something wrong with me, both of which are completely untrue. Today, I choose to look from a new view and know that my Dad loved me the best he knew how, just as he was, and just as I was. He believed in me and wanted the best for me. When he did things like calling me names and criticizing my weight, he was reflecting his feelings about himself on me. Changing this story has opened my mind to memories of good times with my Dad that were blocked from my view for so long when I was focused on what I perceived I didn’t get from him instead of on what I did receive from him. I now have a different view of who he really was as a person and as my Dad.

One of my sisters was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I could have easily chosen the perspective that God doesn’t care. Four family members have died of various forms of cancer and three other family members previously had cancer. How much more does one family have to take? Only God knows, and my sister reminded me that we are called to do the possible and leave the impossible to God. He knows what he is doing and he sees the whole picture while we see only such a small part. Today I choose the perspective that God Uses all things for the good of those who love him, even though he may not heal my sister of cancer. Cancer is not good. What God can grow from a cancer diagnosis can be. For the first time in my life, I found the words to tell my sister she is important to me. Instead of rejecting me, she thanked me, and we can grow from here. Although I don’t know what lies ahead for my sister, I do know that God has a plan and she is already in the first stage of remission!

I once heard the statement, when the pain of where you are is greater than the fear of where you are going, you’ll go. Sometimes it takes a lot of pain or beating my head against a wall for me to recognize I am stuck in a story and I have the power to choose a different one. Sometimes I have the awareness and I am not ready to let go of a story, even when it is no longer serving me, perhaps because of fear of letting go or simply feeling safe in the comfort of what is familiar. Sometimes I need nudging from someone else to explore other stories that will help me move closer to my goals and serve me better.

What I am learning is that pain is a natural part of life, and suffering is optional. How long I hold onto stories that are holding me back from moving forward is my choice. I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to own my own power and change the stories that are no longer serving me in meeting my goals.

Worth it


After spending much of my life feeling less than, left out, lonely, and lost, I often feel unsure of the path I am currently walking on. I question everything and sometimes paralyze myself with information. I have been encouraged to write by several people for quite some time, and fear and lack of understanding or knowledge of my own value has held me back. More often than not I have believed that what I have to say is unimportant and not worth anyone else listening to.

I recently had an opportunity to go on a journey that involved some self-reflection and awareness of what was going on around me – what I saw, smelled, heard, perceived. During this journey I had thoughts about writing, and speaking, and encouraging others. I could feel a knot in my stomach, much like the one I am feeling right now writing this post and thinking about other people potentially reading it. I thought about the fear of putting myself out there like that and being vulnerable and exposed for other people to see. My first instinct was to change my mind, but I can’t forget what I already know.

As I walked on my journey I came across the words “worth it” painted on a concrete wall across the street. It spoke to me so much that I had to stop and take a picture of it. I am learning to trust my instinct, those gut level responses, and the various signs that reinforce those instincts. I walked right by these words earlier in my walk and didn’t notice them at all, and on my way back they spoke to me and told me that pushing through the fear and finding my voice will be worth it.

I have recently been letting little bits of me leak out by sharing what I am thinking and I am finding that doing so is not as scary as I had imagined it would be. Having something to share, a story to tell, and keeping it inside is starting to feel more scary than letting out what has been inside hiding for so long. What I have to say is worth it. Telling my story and sharing me is worth it. I am worth it.