The Gifts of Imperfection

A few hours ago, about 15 miles away, author and psychologist Brene Brown took the stage at a conference and spoke, likely, about her newest book and research. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience her lecture in person, but there are plenty of her past interviews and talks to listen to online.

brownI can’t remember, but I feel like I’ve probably written about brown in the past. I first learned about her if you jobs ago when we read the book “Daring Greatly,” which focuses on vulnerability. It particularly resonated with me because she discusses that when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we can help eliminate the shame we feel about our imperfections.

I recently purchased Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” to help me continue on the path to “knock down” and remove the power of my so-called perfectionism. You see, perfectionists like myself aim to be good at everything – or, at least on the surface – so that we don’t have to deal with the shame or hurt feelings as a result of making a mistake or being imperfect.

My past history with an eating disorder clearly matches up with a perfectionist personality. When I didn’t want to feel, I would attempt to numb my pain with food. Well, guess what, that didn’t work!

Through years of hard work, I’ve been able to tackle my perfectionism and exist with my feelings – good or bad. But, let me tell you, it is hard!

I listened to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast where she interviewed Brown. Listen. Trust me, it’ll be 30 minutes well spent. And there is a part two!

Brown mentioned something that has been resonating with me all day. She said that we don’t pair “joy” with “gratitude” enough. We need to take the time to relish the good things that happen every day, whether it is the wind on our face as we open our sunroof and windows on a beautiful day….or the company of a good friend over an unexpected lunch date….or a morning with little traffic on the way to work.

I can tell that I’m conquering my perfectionism. I made a silly mistake today at work – no big deal and typical for someone still learning their job after only being there for 3-weeks. I am not obsessing over it the way I would have in the past. I acknowledged it with an “oy vey!” and moved on (besides writing about it here!). In the past it would have kept me from sleeping at night – this silly little thing that means nothing in the scheme of life. But tonight, I will not let it fester. I will work hard to let it go!

I will continue to look for things in Brown’s writing and research that resonate. I look forward to discovering more of her wisdom and using it to grow as a person.

Now, go out and dare greatly!

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The Importance of Good Sleep

cea1e377395511529d66103cf19c6183Every have one of those good night’s sleep where you wake up so refreshed and energized? I know. Seems to good to be true, right? I remember having one of those nights and just feeling so incredibly content the next day.

Sadly, for me, it has been a very long time.

I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in several years now. I don’t always remember waking up at night, but I can guarantee you that, every morning, no matter what time I went to sleep the night before, I wake up exhausted. For years I suppressed this and chalked it up to stress, but more recently, I’ve realized it is like due to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea, according to WebMD, ” is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep….sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain– and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen.”

Woah! You wake up 100 or more times during the night? Well, no wonder I feel exhausted when I wake up in the morning! And you stop breathing? Double woah. That’s scary. I remember when I went on a cruise and was matched with a roommate as part of a “singles” trip, she commented, “It’s so cute. You stop breathing during the night!” I responded, “That’s not cute – that’s sleep apnea!”

Imagine the crap I’ve been doing to my brain all of this time. And, other side effects include: high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and headaches. That’s some scary, serious stuff.

I’ve done an “at home” sleep study and the results came up inconclusive. What is the reason I’ve held off doing the “in hospital” study? One reason: money. It is going to cost me between $2,000-$3,000 after insurance kicks in. For those of us who have been on a fixed budget, that’s daunting. But, I’ve spoken with the sleep center and I can go on a payment plan.

I realize now that this is something I must do. I can’t go on walking around like a zombie all of the time. I seriously never feel rested. For years. It’s terrible.

I can’t wait to write about this in the near future and comment on how I don’t know what I did before I got a CPAP, which is the machine that delivers oxygen to you while you sleep.

Sweet dreams, dear readers!

 

 

 

External Forces 

It’s been a tearful week–sometimes joyful, moreso, not. I’m working hard to treat myself kindly and respectfully, but it’s hard to fight the external forces that are cruel and unkind. There is a potential light at the end of this emotional tunnel, but it is somewhat out of my control. The light symbolizes growth, focus, and reprieve from the unkind forces. Unfortunately I’m surrounded by the unkind forces despite my best efforts to leave them behind. I long to leave them behind without looking back. 

I blame myself. How did I get here again? And, how can I escape these dark forces?

I have started believing that I don’t deserve to be treated with respect because of these outside forces – you’re not good enough, you don’t work hard enough, you need time for yourself & we don’t accept that. 

I am fighting hard against these forces and need to believe I will come out, on the other end, unscathed and at peace.

I am determined.

Self Worth

df12f790163687ca82751dc370d9baafSelf worth. What does that mean? It’s not self esteem, but rather, it is more about feeling worthy.

I’ll admit it. There are days that I can feel little worth. I come home from work, defeated, because I waited all day for a “thank you” or a”good job” or a smile.

And I got nothing.

According to an article on PsychAlive,  studies now show that basing one’s self-worth on external factors is actually harmful to one’s mental health.

Jennifer Crocker, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research,  did a study of 600 college students during their Freshman year. Their self esteem was pretty high, in general. Go frosh!

When students were asked about what they base their self-worth on, more than 80 percent said academic competence, 77 percent said their family’s support, 66 percent said doing better than others, and 65 percent–70 percent of which were women–said their appearance.

Yikes. Lots of external factors. The people who focused more on external praise had….more stress, anger…..alcohol and drug use, as well as more symptoms of eating disorders. Ding. Ding. Ding. Yep. Yep. That’s me.

21b04491a57abbd3937c074608303830But I’m not a college freshman. I’m a 42-year-old woman who is still working on conquering perfectionism and finding her self worthiness from external sources.

So how what to do? Dr. Lisa Firestone called it our “inner critic.” How does one quash the inner critic and just embrace ourselves as we are?

One of the things that I’ve been doing is to focus on self care and less on my people pleasing. It’s hard, especially for those people who are use to me puckering up to them all of these years. But I have to be honest. My true friends…the people that really care about me….are encouraging me to do this. They aren’t challenging me looking out for myself. They’re actually supporting it.

Baby steps.

Fight for our right.

I was just writing an angry email to my mother – the only person I really open up to about my political views namely because we think alike – and I thought to myself, “I wish I had a forum to vent about political stuff” and I realized that I do – my blog!

I was just venting about the current administration working on repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood. Both make me so incredibly angry! As someone who benefited from so-called “Obamacare” when I was in between jobs, I found it to be incredibly important to have health insurance that wasn’t connected to employment. I was able to get a flu shot, stay on my medications, and seek medical care if needed.

And don’t get me started about Planned Parenthood! I wish the men advocating to defund PP would take a few minutes to learn about all of the things that PP does for our community. Some PP don’t even perform abortions, but rather, they offer healthcare options to college students, young mothers, and everyone in between. I went to PP when I first moved back to Boston because I hadn’t found a dr yet that I liked. I knew I needed annual tests so it was easy just to go there until I found a doctor. I know it is TMI to say I was just there for healthcare, but I’m just one example of thousands who benefited from PP’s services.

I can’t get into this stuff on Facebook because Trump supporters use it as an opportunity to throw stones at you. This isn’t about Trump. This is about women’s rights. I don’t tell you what you can do with your body, so don’t tell me what I can do with mine. Simple at that.

Phew, I feel better….for a minute.

Bad Medicine

There’s a simple reason why my last several blog post were a bunch of Debbie Downers. I was taking a very potent medication that, apparently, my body didn’t like. Over time, unbeknownst to us that the pills were doing more harm than good, my doctor slowly increased the dose, egged on by me because it was helping me lose weight. Little did we know that once we hit 50 milligrams, my body was going to completely rebel! As a result I was having abnormal anxiety that often turned into full blown panic attacks out of the blue. 
Like, for example, I would be sitting in my office & suddenly my hands would begin to shake uncontrollably. And my mind would split into a million directions. And I would frantically feel my heart begin to race. And pound. And I’d feel hot and anxious.

I couldn’t imagine life going on like that.

I rushed to my doctor’s office and we agreed: no more bad medicine!

Looking back, I am so relieved that we figured out what was causing my terrible feelings and anxiety. I feel so much like myself again–calmer, more “even”–if there is a calm version of me to be had!

Life is good.

Are you self-loathing?

download.jpegI’ve had a terrible epiphany recently. I’m a bit of a self-loather. Yep, horrible, huh? No matter what I accomplish in my life, I focus on the small mistakes and let them fester.

I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I can still remember bad things people have said about me from middle school. I can remember incidents at various jobs where I’ve done something or said something I regret, and I still beat myself up over it, including one specific incident from 2005 – almost 12 years ago!

But, as this article from Huff Post states, self-loathing is learned. One sign, says the article is that, “you set your hopes low to decrease the chances of failing.” I do this every day, but I refer to it as “self-preservation from disappointment.” I recently applied for a prestigious fellowship but I’ve already told already, “Don’t expect me to get it. It’s very competitive.” Or, I’ve applied for jobs in the past and said the same thing.

The article also says that you are self-loathing if you “You apologize for every little thing.” Holy shit. I’ve always thought I do this because I’m a women in leadership and have been put down pretty much my entire career. This is why I think I work so hard – to overcompensate for the cruel treatment I’ve received from some previous managers over the years. But I do apologize a lot! If I earned a dollar every time I’ve written “Many apologies…” in a work email, I’d be independently wealthy!

The article next discusses: “You try to motivate your work using tough love.” I am constantly punishing myself, making myself work harder and harder because I never believe what I’m doing is good enough. I am tough on myself! And then I make myself feel guilty when I take a break from work..or plan a vacation..but the good news is that I enjoyed my vacation this past September with no baggage. Pure joy!

Sign. Next up in the article: “You place emphasis on the times you are wrong.” Yep, yep, yep, and yep. See above.

Ok. We get it. I am a clear cut case.

Now, what do I do about it?

Simple. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it’s all about forgiveness and self-compassion. One of the things I try to do is put myself in other people’s shoes…it helps…and also to recognize that just because my mind is going there, doesn’t mean it is fact.

This article gives some great tips, including embracing being “good enough.” Still working on that.

The other thing I do about it? I write about it here – admitting it openly is a big step for me towards letting it go.