Posts Tagged ‘self-talk’

Make Mistakes–Pretty Please!!

I have been surrounded in the past few weeks by reminders about how important mistakes are to the process of being human.  While listening to the audiobook “As You Wish,” I was struck when author Cary Elwes describes a quote from his father: “It is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.”  And over the weekend, I heard famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson say that “any day I make a mistake is a good day, because then I have learned something.”

Both of these statements make me intensely happy.  And the reason that they make me happy is that they reflect a truth that I try to convey to my clients on a daily basis:

[tbpquotable] Mistakes aren’t failure. They are an essential part of being a healthy, growing human being.[/tbpquotable]

In a world where we are graded from an early age, with the possibility that our online mistakes might live with us forever, it can get easy to be swept up into the story of why mistakes are dangerous.  We can buy into the idea that a mistake says something about our essential worth.  That idea make us so paralyzed by our fear of making mistakes that we stop doing anything.

I want to call BS on that idea.  There is no skill that we have, from crawling to talking to writing our names, that we haven’t acquired after intensive practice. And that practice included mistake after mistake.  Mistakes that brought us one movement closer to mastery.  Human learning and growth is entirely a process of moving from mistake to competence.

During the month of February, I participated in the Real Happiness daily meditation challenge from Sharon Salzburg.  I appreciated the reminder that she often shared that distractions are chances to change how we interact with ourselves. Distractions aren’t failure. They provide the opportunity to shift from frustration with our mistakes to kind acceptance and redirection back to the meditation.

This compassionate, gentle outlook is such a lovely way to view mistakes.  And if you can bring that compassion to other parts of life, then you have the chance to begin taking action, happening to the world, and moving closer to healthy, connected lives.

So today, I would love to invite you to make some mistakes.  I’ll be there right along with you.  In fact, today, I am trying to master knitting a hat in the round.  I can promise that many mistakes will be made along the way.  I’m not sure that I will end up with anything vaguely resembling a hat.  I’ll post a picture of the results in the comments later for you.  Feel free to share your mistake-making adventures in the comments too.

And if you are feeling paralyzed by the possibility of a mistake, maybe I can help with that.  You can reach me by clicking that appointment button to your right.


Happen to Something


I was recently talking with a client who is dealing with some very difficult PTSD and depression concerns.  She was describing her sense that many of her goals have been interrupted, and her struggle to take any action since she couldn’t see how it would connect to a goal.

I think the feelings she described are true for many folks who have been affected by illness or trauma.  When life is severely disrupted, when the things we thought we would be doing begin to feel out of reach, it can be hard to see why we should bother engaging at all.  We struggle to see the point.

What I have learned is that sometimes, when we are in the dark, action and engagement are the point.  Trauma and depression are emotional experiences that provide us with a constant litany of all the ways that the world is dangerous or that we have failed.  In a misguided effort to protect us from pain, depression and anxiety can tell us that we should just not bother trying anything.  Here are some common messages you might be getting from your depression or anxiety:

  • It’s just going to backfire anyway.
  • I have already missed my deadline to do this, so doing it later will still feel like a failure.
  • Nothing ever works out for me.
  • I don’t deserve to succeed.
  • Doing this small self-care won’t get me a job (finish my degree, fix my relationship, etc.), so why bother?

When my clients share thoughts like this with me, I remind them of two things.  First, that we can appreciate the work our depression and anxiety put in on trying to protect us from harm.  That is true. What is also true is that depression and anxiety will use lies to try to reach that goal. They will lie using pieces of truth.  And the fundamental lie that they will tell is that lack of action keeps you safe.

Lack of action doesn’t keep you safe. It keeps you stuck.  So, today I am going to invite you to engage with your life in some small way that brings you joy.  I know that you may be facing pain and challenge.  I know that the future may feel too complicated to face.  So don’t face the future.  Don’t worry about where your action is taking you.  If the struggle to understand how this makes change is keeping you frozen, step around the struggle. Do something because you can and because you like it.

Today, this moment, do something that you love.  Happen to the world instead of the world happening to you.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  Cook something delicious. Stand in the sun.  Do a 5 minute lovingkindness meditation. Snuggle your pet. Watch something funny. Take a long shower. Do something that you can start, even from a place of darkness, something small and manageable. But happen to the world.  Happen to yourself.  Create a ripple of joy and connection.

If you’re willing to share how you happened to the world, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  If you need some help getting started–click on that appointment button to the right.

Don’t Drown in a Cup of Water

Okay, true confessions time. Sometimes, I like watching creation-based reality shows. Things like Top Chef or Project Runway. I know, contrary to their title, that there’s not much reality in these shows. I know that they are heavily edited to amp up the drama. I know all of this. But I love watching people make things. I think that making things is good for you, and the research would back me up on that.

But this post isn’t about my no-longer-secret vice. Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I don’t hesitate to use popular culture to help my clients really grab my point (remember the “Princess Bride” post?). My family and friends will tell you that I am constantly making blog-related notes to help me remember those pop culture moments, and that happened recently while I was watching an episode of Project Runway. One cast member turned to another, and said:

Read more here.

Celebrate the Small Wins

I’ve had bronchitis recently. I don’t know if you have ever gotten to dance with this lovely respiratory ailment, but it completely zaps you. Between the coughing and the fatigue, getting off the couch and back into my normal routine has been a major ask. Before the bronchitis, I had been working on getting more exercise, using a simple tracker to count my steps and active minutes. I was getting better at adding daily activity. I was hitting my targets more consistently.

And then I got sick. And I didn’t move for four days. When I did start to move again, my stamina was shot.

But even with the low stamina, there came a day when I managed to go from getting one blinky light on my my tracker to two. And I was thrilled. Before the bronchitis, a two-light day was a very low activity day, and I would have counted it as a loss. After the bronchitis, two lights was major progress.

I’m not telling you this because I think you really care about my activity levels. I’m telling you because it was a great reminder for me to celebrate the small wins.

It would have been easy to knock myself for that two-light day. I had been getting five lights and more, when I was healthy. Two lights was less than 40% of my total goal. There were plenty of chances to turn that moment into self-blame or self-shaming. But I made a different choice. I knew that even 40% of my total goal was way more than I had been able to achieve when I was really sick. And instead of focusing on the distance between that number and my healthy goal, I focused on the fact that I was improving, that I was headed in the right direction.

Celebrating the small wins is one of the ways that I help myself stay clear, hopeful and focused on the present moment. We don’t always get to have big wins. Those are few and far between. But we can create the chances for small wins every single day. We can shift from a habit of self-blame to a habit of celebration.

That’s my invitation to you today. Do you have a big goal that you have been struggling to reach? Has that struggle left you paralyzed and procrastinating? Then I’m inviting you to carve out one small bit of that big goal. Do that small thing. Then celebrate your win. Want to share it with us! Please do! You can find me here in the comments, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Fear vs. Worry

Bear with me folks. Today’s topic might feel a little nit-picky to you, but I think that it’s an important one to explore. I’d love for you to think a little bit about two emotional experiences that often get mixed up together. I don’t believe that they are the same, and I hope that you (and my clients) can learn to tell the difference between them. The definitions I’m about to use are not dictionary definitions. Instead, they are my own working definitions, drawn from lots of great researchers (Brene Brown, Rick Hanson, and Robert Siegel are just a few). But for the purposes of this post, these are the definitions I’m working with:

Fear: An emotion tied into the “fight-or-flight” sympathetic nervous system, triggered by situations in which we experience emotional or physical danger.

Worry: An emotion tied into the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system, triggered by anticipation of things that may cause emotional or physical stress.

Now if you look at those definitions, they look a lot alike, at first glance. In fact, they start off identically. That’s because they set off the same series of responses in our bodies. They use the same neurochemical pathways.

But worry and fear are different. And we don’t treat them that way. Our language acts as though they are the same. Here’s an example: “You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” WRONG! If there is a tornado bearing down on you, or someone pointing a gun at you–you are in danger and you should be afraid.

Fear is your brain and body’s way of letting you know that you are in a dangerous situation. It is supposed to trigger your sympathetic nervous system to help you respond appropriately to danger.

Worry is a fear-mimic, which generates an endless list of possible dangers that you should prepare to be ready to respond to. Worry doesn’t keep you safe. It just drains your energy. It keeps your body in a state of high alert that is toxic. Worry actually makes it hard for you to notice real, appropriate, self-protective fear. If you are reading about tornadoes in other states, you’re not in danger from them. You don’t need to go into fight-or-flight mode. That’s a worry response.

Worry is one of the primary things that stops us from living as though it will be okay.

So I’m going to ask you to join me in an experiment this week. I’m inviting you to notice your responses and try to sort them based on these definitions. Are you responding to a current physical or emotional threat? That’s fear. Are you preparing for the possibility of some future physical or emotional threat? That’s worry. You don’t have to do anything else. Just try out how it feels to notice the differences and call them out.

Have you had worry try to masquerade as fear? Has it stopped you from living the life you want? We can challenge worry–it just takes practice.


Rebooting. Restarting. Recommitting.

This topic isn’t a new one for me. In fact, I write about it at least once a year. Because at least once a year, I get off schedule and it takes me longer than I want or expect to get back in my groove. This time around, I gave myself permission to take spring break week off–I didn’t even schedule an archive post. (That was partly a choice, and partly a reflection of how busy I was before I left town).

And that part is just fine. I talk all the time about how important it is to walk your talk when it comes to self-care. Taking a week off isn’t a big deal.

The problem is this–it wasn’t really about spring break. My writing schedule had been off balance for a couple of weeks before I left town, and it’s taken me almost two weeks to get started again. The problem was my time management. I’m really busy in the office right now (therapy is a cyclical thing, and late winter is busy season!). And I wasn’t building in enough time to write. So, even though my writing is a commitment to my readers, even though it’s a part of my week that I really enjoy and look forward to, I let it drop.

I got out of the groove, and the ideas weren’t flowing as easily as I had gotten used to.

I changed my practice and following through got a lot harder.

I started to feel embarrassed about the fact that I hadn’t been on schedule, and that made it even harder to write.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does it parallel how you might be thinking or feeling about something that matters to you? Have you been trying to exercise, or meditate, or eat vegetables, or keep a journal? Did you do it for a little while, and begin to enjoy it? Were you starting to find your groove? And then life happened. The car broke down, or you had a flare-up, or work got busy. Something happened that interrupted your new habit.

Welcome to the club. The truth is, this cycle of committing and recommitting is what relationships (with ourselves or anyone else) are all about. We try, we succeed, we try, we drop the ball. The most important thing is that we keep on trying. And that we are compassionate and nonjudgmental with ourselves. This is what life includes. Getting out of sync isn’t a failure, it’s a sign of being present in a busy, dynamic, messy real life.

So, if you are in the “offline” position with your own self-care, I’m inviting you to join me. I’m rebooting. I’m activating my compassion and I’m reconnecting to my commitment to write.

What reboot are you starting?

Facing Fear: Engaging in Self-Care

This post is about a light bulb moment.

I wrote earlier this week about the wrestling match that many of us engage in: knowing that we need self-care and struggling to implement self-care. I promised in that post that we were just beginning a discussion. And the response in the comments seems to reflect that this is a discussion people want to have. Well, moments after I hit post, I had a conversation with a client. And we began exploring the issue of fear–how often fear was stopping my client from trying some things that may help them.

That’s when the light bulb flashed on.

The big question posed in my earlier post was from blogger and patient advocate, Liza Bernstein, who asked, “Why do we have such a hard time doing the things that we know are good for us? I explored a few of the reasons I saw for that struggle, and began to look at some ways to stop wrestling and start acting.

But my conversation with my client reminded me that I had missed a huge piece of the picture in my first post.

Because I didn’t talk about fear.

What does fear have to to with self-care? Actually, I think fear has a lot to do with self care. Here are a few examples.

  • When you are hurting or overwhelmed, you can be afraid that you just can’t handle one more thing to focus on.
  • If you have tried self-care in the past and gotten busy, overwhelmed, sick, or distracted, you may be afraid that reconnecting will simply lead to another failure.
  • If you have been struggling to have any sense of your future, simply the hope of committing to self-care may carry the fear of disappointment.

When I started thinking about it, I realized that fear is a huge component in the wrestling match that we have between what we know and what we do in terms of our self-care.

So We’re Afraid–So Then What?

Fear and self-care will both be part of upcoming posts–these are big topics and I try to keep these posts short and readable (short in my world, anyway). But here are a few thoughts to get us started.

Once you can see fear in the puzzle of self-care and why we do and don’t act, things begin to seem clearer. Naming the pieces of the puzzle is a huge step toward understanding the puzzle and navigating toward a solution. So, when we can set aside the self-blame and shame and call it out–that we are afraid of trying and failing, that hoping is scary–then we can begin to move.

And we can begin to meet fear with compassion. We can re-define the bar of “success.” We can remind ourselves that we don’t have to be perfect to deserve self-care. We can choose to meet fear with action instead of with paralysis. Because hiding from our fear only makes it stronger.

I’m committing to being braver and more self-caring. How about you?

Image Credit: Light Bulb amid Dark Bulbs via via Creative Commons License

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