Monthly Archives: June 2017

Losing My Voice

It is fairly accurate to say that up until about two years ago I had a very idyllic view on the world. I knew bad things happened, and that the good guy didn’t always win, but I had never really been in a situation where I was on the receiving end of the injustice.

Then, suddenly, I was.

I was in a situation where I once felt safe. I felt as if I could be myself, and that I didn’t need to water myself down for anyone, or anything. I love to banter, and I love to give people a hard time. I’m also very straightforward, and I’m a fairly transparent person. You know if I don’t like you because I can’t fake like I do. It’s just not how I’m wired.

I had learned that there was a time and place, and certain types of people I could banter with. I mean, it pretty much comes with the territory of having my personality. I’m an acquired taste, and some never quite catch on. Not everyone can handle a person that doesn’t back down and is more than happy to go toe to toe matching wits the entire time. Not everyone can handle someone that calls it like it is, either. Or a person that refuses to be a yes-man, and also refuses to back away from sticking up for themselves (I affectionately refer to this as “refusing to eat shit,” because that is what it is to me).

The details regarding the moment I realized the good guy doesn’t always win is not the most interesting. Let’s just say, a person that acted like they could handle my personality, suddenly couldn’t. Perhaps they figured eventually I’d come to their inner circle and be one of their minions, and when they realized that wasn’t my thing, they turned. Either way, it was horrible and hostile. It was people questioning my audacity to speak up, and me telling them I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was painful and it was discouraging. It changed my perspective on everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Soon, I got over it.

Life moved on, and I was lucky enough to never really have to see this person any more. Things had finally started to calm down.

And then, I choked.

I mean, not literally. I was bantering with someone I don’t know all that well, but knew well enough to know I could joke with them. However, in the midst of the banter, I panicked. Suddenly, it was if I had forgotten how to speak.

I had lost my voice.

Again, not literally. But, it could have been. I thought I could be “me” again, but suddenly I was shown that I wasn’t able to be. No one was holding me back, or telling me that I had to be quiet. It was all me. I started to relive the hostility. I was starting to feel discouraged all over again. I started to water myself down.

Weeks later I notice this watering down BS bleed into other facets of my life. I’m angry now. I’m angry because I’m afraid. Afraid that if I am myself, I won’t be liked and that people will no longer want to be my friend. Angry that I even care.

So, here I am, pounding on my keyboard hoping that by pouring my heart out on this computer, I will somehow find the answer to make it stop. To make me stop watering myself down. To make me stop caring if others like me, and wondering if I need to change who I am.

I just want to stop.

I want to end this post with a nice, warm fuzzy, filled with all sorts of sunshine and rainbows. Sadly, it’s not going to happen.

Instead, it will end with a type of declaration:

I will stop watering myself down. I will start to trust people again. I will not change who I am to make anyone happy. I will embrace those who choose to be around me, both professionally and personally, and be thankful that they are there. And to those that think they have broken me? I will continue to live in such a way that each time you see me succeed, it will be as if I am sending a gigantic “F*CK YOU” your way.

I will find my voice and I will not lose it again.

The Art of Saying No

My toddler is going through that stage where “no” is the response to everything. Even if I know she wants something, or to do something, she always gives me an enthusiastic “no!” There are times where after I ask her again does she suddenly want exactly what is being offered. I figure it comes with the territory of being a toddler. Too many emotions and thoughts swimming around, so having a do-over on a decision is a perfect opportunity for them.

While I find myself getting more and more annoyed at being told “no” all the time, I am also finding a lesson in it. I often say “yes” to things out of the feeling of obligation, when in reality I just want to say “no, thanks.” This type of situation, where I agree to something when I don’t really want to, just breeds angst and unhappiness.

Not so surprising confession: I am a people-pleaser.

Well, I was.

My days of acquiescing to the wants and desires of those around me are over. Instead of being worried that someone will be upset with me if I don’t go along with their plans, I worry more about the toll it will take on me if I keep saying “yes.” It’s called setting boundaries.

Have I started to be like my toddler, and enthusiastically say “no” to every request? Of course not.

But what I have done is determined if whatever I am presented with is truly something I want, or want to do. If it isn’t, I decline. If it is, I eagerly join in.

Obviously, it isn’t all black and white. I don’t say, “see ya later, suckers!” to less than desirable situations right out of the gate. I also don’t recognize that I’m not feeling it, and then stick around for hours.

For me, the art of saying “no” comes down to a few things:

  • Listening to your gut: there is a stark difference between putting yourself out there and experiencing new things, and doing something you absolutely don’t want to do. Being able to identify the difference when you’re offered an adventure is paramount to keeping true to yourself.
  • Being polite: No one plans to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings, but the way you decline has a direct impact on how your message is received. Some people will worry that your desire not to join them is a reflection of how you feel about the person who invited you. When you pass on an offer, be honest about why you aren’t joining them. It is acceptable to admit when you’re too tired, need a break from other people, or just want to be alone. You don’t need to make up an excuse in an effort to avoid hurt feelings. The truth works just fine.
  • Returning the favor: Every single one of us has been faced with a situation where we just weren’t interested in doing something with other people. I’m the world’s biggest extrovert, and even I need a pass every once in a while. That being said, when it comes time for someone to decline your invitation, graciously accept. You’ve been there, so you understand.

I’d like to say that each person you talk to will understand, but that is totally not the case. You will encounter those that understand, but you will also find those that try to make you feel guilty, or make you feel like you are somehow hurting them. They just don’t know how to handle someone putting up boundaries. But, the more you persist, the more they will learn. You may even be an example to others that need to learn to put out boundaries too!

So, the next time you’re given the opportunity to do something you’re on the fence about, what are you going to do?

Some Days You’re the Pigeon

Some days you’re the statue.

I think today I’m the statue.

I have a deep-rooted fear of failure. And when I say deep, I’m talking into the depths of the ocean deep. It is totally debilitating.

I’m so afraid of failing, of making a mistake, of looking like a fool that I overthink things, plan things out, consider every single scenario, and obsess.

My version of spontaneity is thinking something over for a month, and then one day suddenly deciding to do it.

Perhaps it is because I lack faith in myself and my abilities. Maybe I give too much credence to the thoughts of those around me. How about both those things together wrapped up in a tightly wound ball.

*sigh*

I often give up before I’ve even started, simply because I don’t think I’ve done everything perfectly.

Yes, I know that last statement was ridiculous. Believe me, I know.

Every day is an exercise in reminding myself that mistakes are good. Mistakes are to be overcome. Mistakes are what helps us learn and grow. It is exhausting.

I have what is often referred to as a fixed mindset. This implies that if I don’t inherently know how to do something, or do something right the first time, I immediately think I’m terrible at it and should not go any further.

Conversely, a growth mindset implies that you know you won’t be good at anything the first time, and that after much practice and experience, you’ll eventually master whatever you set your mind to. You know it takes time, so you don’t sweat it.

I think the day I learned the term “fixed mindset” it was like one big Aha! Moment. Suddenly, my habit of being hard on myself made sense.

So, what do you do when confronted with the idea that it is practically ingrained in you to remain stationary out of fear of failure?

Hole up in the basement with some sodas and pizza?

Yes!

Wait. No, no you don’t.

You fail. Repeatedly. You damn near make a sport out of it, seeing how often you can fail and how spectacularly. The more fireworks, the better.

Doesn’t that sound totally uncomfortable? My whole body aches just thinking about it. Purposely making an ass of myself for fun?! What am I thinking?!

I’m thinking that this fixed mindset is for suckers, and I want out.

You can find your way towards a growth mindset, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

It is a constant exercise in remembering that no one is good at something the first time, and if they are it is pure luck.

Everyone has to work at something. No one has a perfect day, or experience, every time.

It is intentionally living in such a way that leaves you space to make mistakes and not kick your own ass for it afterwards.

It is striving for excellence; not for perfection.

So, while today I feel like the statue, I know it will get better. Mistakes are the fuel to be better and do better. Mistakes are what make life interesting.

Ha! Just kidding. Mistakes suck big time.

More importantly, though, is that while today I feel like the statue, I know tomorrow I’ll feel like the bird.

Onward and upward!

 

 

Creating Your Own Definition of Success

Have you ever wanted to try something new, and hoped you’d be really good at it from the get-go? You started this new adventure, and while you thought you were doing really well, you also hoped someone would tell you how great you were doing, and how you should keep on going? Did you wait for someone to tell you this new adventure is a success, or did you decide for yourself when you were successful?

How do you determine if you’re successful? Is it when you’re making six figures? Is it when you’ve paid off all your consumer debt, and can vacation as you please? Or is it when you wake up knowing you’re doing a job you love, instead of doing a job you loath?

By and large, it would appear that success is defined more by the things we have, than anything else.

Big house? Check.

Boat for the lake? Check.

Luxury car? Check.

All these things equal success, right?

Or does it?

What if you don’t have a big house, or a boat, and drive a modest mid-size car? Are you still successful?

Are you still successful if, instead of having employees working for you, you are down in the trenches working with them?

Are you still successful if, instead of going to Hawaii multiple times a year, you and your family vacation at a KOA near your favorite lake?

Are you still successful if, instead of making a six-figure income, you’re making enough to provide for your family, and you’re in a career that is significantly more fulfilling than a job that would pay you twice as more?

What if instead of keeping up with the Jones’s we take stock of what is important to us and keep up with that?

What if we aligned our priorities with what matters to us, instead of trying to keep up appearances?

What if we dropped the façade, and lived an authentic life?

What if we worried less about what others thought, and instead focused on what we thought about ourselves?

Creating our own definition of success is a lesson in bravery. It forces us to measure ourselves against no one but ourselves. It is allowing yourself the space to be honest about what you want to achieve, and what is important to you.

What do you think about how you spend your days?

What do you think about where you are in your life?

What gives you the motivation to continue to reach out and try new things, even if others may think you’re crazy?

What is holding you back?

Be brave, my friend. It is never too late to take stock of where you are at and compare it against where you want to be, and make the necessary changes to get on your right track.

Remember, it is important to create your own definition of success before someone defines it for you.