Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Life Lessons (page 1 of 6)

3 Reasons Why You Should Make Sleep a Top Priority

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If you’re an ambitious, go-getting, proactive, dream-chasing kind of a person, it’s likely that you have at some point in your life — or are currently — falling into the devastatingly bad habit of sacrificing sleep in order to win some extra hours from the day. This is a common tactic of hard-nosed business tycoons and creative artists and entrepreneurs alike, but also of people who don’t really enjoy their day jobs very much at all, and who want a bit of extra time each evening to watch TV, listen to music, surf the web, relax, and just do things that aren’t in any way related to work.

But no matter how much you may need or want those extra few hours in the day, you’d be better off doing without them, or with getting them by cutting out virtually anything else other than sleep. Here are some reasons why a chronic lack of sleep will ruin your life, and why you need to make sleep a top priority.

Lack of sleep could completely change your personality

In the 1950’s, radio host Peter Tripp decided to attempt a record-breaking 201-hour-wakeathon. He was observed by medical professionals who warned him adamantly against the experiment, but he went ahead with it anyway for the benefit of a charity he had selected. What happened to Peter Tripp is a terrifying insight into the tremendous importance of sleep, and the degree to which sleep deprivation can destroy a human mind.

Tripp’s personality radically changed, and he even ended up developing split-personality disorder during the experiment. When the experiment was over and he had slept, he thought he was back to normal. The people who knew him didn’t agree and declared that his personality was forever changed for the worse.

Get enough sleep, or you can become a completely different person. 

Lack of sleep can devastate your health

Recent research has found evidence that lack of sleep can cause systematic, multi-organ damage, chronic inflammation, and can lead to any number of diseases and conditions developing in the body. This isn’t too surprising considering that prolonged sleep deprivation is fatal, and that the body appears to do much of its repair and brain-management during sleep.

If you’re cutting hours out of your nightly sleep cycle to work, you’re not just sacrificing luxury time. You’re sacrificing your health and lifespan. Needless to say, not even the best personal injury lawyer can help you when you inflict the damage on yourself with a lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep can make you worse at everything

When people are sleep-deprived, their mental performance drops dramatically; they are less perceptive and less adept at reading social cues, and worse at regulating their emotions.

It’s a darkly ironic twist, considering that many people skip sleep in order to be more productive during the day; but the evidence suggests that not getting enough sleep makes you less efficient and robs the hours you’ve freed up of their vitality.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that you’d be far better off having fewer hours in your day at work and performing at your peak during those hours, than having more hours, during which you’re an under-performing, error-prone wreck.

 

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Ideas for Generating Self-Love and Why It’s Crucial

Self-care and emotional health are two subjects that readers of this blog said they’re interested in reading more about. It’s not always easy to love ourselves, but it’s important to work on it. The need to practice self-love has never been more necessary.  Today, we live in a world, where so many people suffer from low self-esteem that we’re in the middle of an emotional epidemic. This is evident by the amount of people we hear about committing suicide or suffering from depression. 

Interestingly, a lot of people struggle with this area of their lives because they feel they should naturally have high self-esteem by default, as if having high self-esteem is a human’s default state.  When, in fact it isn’t.

Self-esteem and self-love must be generated from within.  Just like how we teach our children to love, respect, and value themselves, we need to do the same for ourselves, and it’s a never-ending process.  Perhaps your parents did a great job at helping you generate self-esteem, or perhaps they were deficient in this area themselves, and couldn’t teach you what they simply didn’t know. Now that you are an adult or a parent yourself, it’s up to you to figure this out for yourself and your kids. 

Self-love as a Practice: See, self-love is a practice, just like yoga is a practice – you don’t do it once, and then you’re suddenly flexible.  You must practice. Yet, not everyone knows how to practice self-love. It’s not as tangible as doing a few yoga poses with an instructor. 

Positive thinking: Self-love, self-worth, and a high self-esteem are feelings and beliefs we must generate for ourselves… yet, have you noticed how the majority of people don’t tend to practice self-love? Instead they practice self-loathing, where they focus much more on their mistakes and faults than their achievements and qualities. When you find your inner critic being incredibly harsh on yourself, tell him or her to go away, and think of at least one positive thing about yourself–right then and there. 

Don’t Use Retail Therapy: The antidote to many of our emotional challenges can be found in this area of self-love and positive thinking. Yet often, we reach for external solutions such as a new wardrobe, furniture, or even a fancy car.  If you need these new things, then of course, there’s nothing wrong with heading somewhere like https://auto.loan/ in order to find the best way to finance your purchase.  The bit that can make purchases unhealthy are when there’s an over reliance on material objects in order to prop up your self-esteem or you can’t afford the things you are buying.

Relationship issues: The same can be said for relationships. Indeed, when it comes to being in a relationship… it’s necessary to first love yourself before you can love another person and have a healthy relationship.  A good way to view the importance of self-love is to consider how airlines will always instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping anybody else, even your children. See, we can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask if we are starving for air, and similarly, we can’t truly love and support someone if we are deficient in self-love and self-esteem, as then we can become desperate and starved for these emotional fuels.

The challenge, with relationships is that if we don’t have a healthy level of self-esteem and self-love in ourselves, then we end up giving love in order to receive love, almost out of desperation, and we operate from a depleted, somewhat needy state, where we are needing to be “filled up” like a car in need of gas.

Conclusion: We can expend a lot of energy looking to tackle our internal challenges with external solutions, like being in a co-dependent relationship or practicing retail therapy or overeating; yet this replacement approach is only temporary relief that can leave us feeling more hollow inside.

That said, if you were to shift your focus to pampering yourself because you deserve it, and nourishing your body, such as preparing healthy meals, along with a candlelit bath and your favorite bath bomb from https://lush.com  ,then you’re focused on tending to your emotional and physical needs. That is a tangible and healthy way to practice self-love. 

The solution, and the secret to self-love, is that you must take responsibility for generating a feeling of high self-esteem within yourself–positive thoughts, meditating, healthy eating, doing activities you enjoy and make you feel good about yourself–and fill yourself up, rather than expecting anyone or anything else to do it for you.

(contributed post)

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5 Tips For Getting Healthy and Active This Summer

In the Midwest, we have been having quite a heatwave. So for some of you, you may read this title and think: What? Is she crazy? There are heat advisories every day! But some of these tips can be done easily–not or hot–and I like them because they are practical, so this is definitely one of those Practical Moms Unite posts. (contributed post)

If you would like to make sure that you are getting as healthy as you can during the summer months and are looking for inspirations on planning your active summer, read on. 

Leave the Car Behind

While it is more convenient to take the car everywhere, and you can’t do the weekly shopping without it (and carry all your bags), you might want to walk or cycle to places that are less than a mile away. Make yourself a promise to do this, provided that the weather is nice and it is safe to do so. A good way of deciding whether you should take the car or not is working out if driving saves you more than 15 minutes. If it does, you might take the car; but if it doesn’t, including circling around trying to find a parking place, you could walk or cycle.

Eat More Fresh Produce

In the summer months with the heat and sun, many of us crave fresh foods and fewer carbs than we do in the winter months. Start weaning yourself off carbs gradually. Swap your pasta for cooked vegetables, your corn flakes for a fruit salad, and visit the local farmers’ market regularly to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. To stay on top of your wellbeing, you might want to reduce your intake of processed food items and opt for organic and fresh meat and fruit instead.

Raw Food Diet and Salads

With the higher availability of fruit and vegetables in the summer, you might want to go on a raw food diet for a week to help your body get rid of the toxins and improve the condition of your skin, such as acne, while also treating some digestive issues. You can cut out white rice, chips, and pasta, and switch to vegetables and fruit to improve your mood, your diet, and your overall wellbeing.

Day Trips

You can also take a couple of day trips to change your environment, see something new, and practice mindfulness. Find inspiring places and notice new things every day. Take your mind off your daily routine every now and then. Even if you are only visiting the closest nature reserve, you will return relaxed and rejuvenated, after getting close to nature.

Camping and Hiking

If you have more than a day to spend away from work and your routine, you might want to combine camping and hiking. Find a location that you haven’t visited before to set up camp, make a walking goal, and bring the right camping equipment to cook and eat fresh during your trip. You can read more about camping hacks that will make life more comfortable when away from home while maintaining a healthy diet.  

Staying active is generally easier during the summer months, as you don’t have the excuse of the cold or snowy weather. Get on your bike, go hiking, and reduce your processed carb intake to make the most out of your health.

How will you get more healthy this summer? 

 

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3 Ideas For Improving Your Emotional Health And Feeling Positive

(contributed post)

If you’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately, there is a decent chance you will benefit from some of the following advice. Caring for your emotional health is critical and can hugely impact your physical health if you don’t. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to turn things around, but most people can use some of the ideas below. The goal is to work out which parts of your life are causing issues and then work on positive change. With that in mind, take a couple of minutes to read these suggestions and then work out which will work best for you.

Take some time out

Sometimes, you need to remove yourself from stressful situations and take some time out. That could mean booking some time off work and arranging a vacation with the people who matter to you most. Parents might ask a family member to care for their children for a few nights, so they can remove themselves from the family home and unwind for a while. The possibilities are endless, and you are the only person who can make the right arrangements. Maybe you could visit a place, where you’ve been before that always brings happy memories?

Remove the stresses from your life

For most people, modern life’s stresses revolve around the same things. If you work a stressful job and you don’t like the work, then looking for a new job might benefit you. If you’re in an unhappy relationship or marriage, maybe contacting experts, such as a therapist or marriage counselor or like those at the Vendt Law Firm can help you figure out the next steps that are right for you. Some people benefit from selling their home and relocating to a new town or city or downsizing to a smaller home or apartment. 

Make a positive change

If none of the other suggestions on this page appeal to you; it’s possible to work out the best route forward by ensuring you do something that makes a positive change. That could mean moving to an area where house prices are low, so your wages stretch further than they do right now. Maybe you feel lonely and would like to move closer to friends and family members. You could start a business, according to writers from Entrepreneur. You might also learn to play an instrument or do anything else that you’ve been putting off: running a 5K, organizing family photos, taking a class. Take the time to work out what will make you feel better, and then put one foot in front of the other until you achieve that goal.

Now you have some ideas to improve your emotional health and feel positive this year; it is time to create your plan of action and put the right measures in place. When all’s said and done, you are the only person in the world who can identify the best moves and make things happen. 

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6 Easy Tips to Stay On Top of Your Well Being

(contributed post)

Self-care has become a hot topic in the wellness industry and popular media lately – the idea that little acts of tuning into ourselves, listening to our instincts, and taking small steps to address potential problems or complications can have a big impact in our lives. And it’s true that small steps over time can have a large cumulative impact, especially when it comes to our health. Our daily routines can introduce steps that lead to great well being – and it can all start with the simplest of actions.

Start The Day With A Cup of Hot Lemon Water

Instead of turning to the caffeine the second the alarm goes off, why not start your day off with a cup of hot water with the juice of half a lemon instead? This wonderfully simple ritual has some huge health benefits. It kickstarts good digestion that will help your gut to process food better, gives your metabolism a boost, alkalizes the body, supports your liver to cleanse itself, and hydrates you. Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach has been shown to up our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This slows down the body’s natural ability to eliminate toxins, deal with fatigue, and burn fat efficiently. Adding raw apple cider vinegar to the mix can boost positive effects even further.

Connect With Nature

Studies have shown that immersing ourselves in the natural world has a huge impact on our sense of well being. Spending just 30 minutes a day outdoors lowers stress levels, boosts our cognitive abilities, and leads to enhanced problem solving skills and creativity. So create the opportunity to be out in nature, like using your lunch break to fit in a walk or switching your gym membership to an outdoor workout.

Book Those Tests

Good health relies on intercepting small problems before they have the chance to turn into larger ones, and that means keeping on top of routine health checks. So make sure you have that check-up at the dentist, book for an eye test, and visit your audiologist. Far from being a waste of time, you are proactively taking care of your health and identifying problems before they worsen to the point of needing major treatment. Similarly, if you have any recurrent injuries, like that bad back you ignore and just pop a pill to deal with, meet them head-on and find a decent chiropractor who can work with you to identify and solve the root cause of your discomfort and stop any further complications developing.

Eat Mindfully

Often when we eat our meals or a snack, we do so without conscious intention. We are watching TV or reading through the paper, even scrolling through our social media feeds mindlessly. This means that we consume far more calories than we need to, as we block out the natural signals the stomach sends to the brain that it’s feeling full. Make a habit of eating mindfully by banishing outside distractions. Concentrate on the sensations of eating and fully engage your senses with each bite. Not only will you feel more satisfied with what you eat, but you won’t be at risk of overeating by default. Taking the time to chew your food thoroughly also releases more digestive enzymes that help the body to break down and process your food and use the nutrients from it more efficiently.

Practice Stress Management

Stress, anxiety and unfortunate events are a part of most people’s lives, but it’s the way we deal with them that counts. Taking the time to practice a few simple techniques, made easy with a mindfulness app, can really reduce your stress levels and help you to deal with negative situations in a calm, collected manner. It introduces positive perspective and helps you to manage any negative effects in your life. Some deep breathing techniques have the potential to make a lot of difference in how you handle and react to external stress factors, such as work and family.

Balance Work, Exercise, and Relaxation

The key to taking care of yourself is to balance the different elements of your life, and schedule in enough time to get active but also to relax. Even light exercise is hugely beneficial both mentally and physically, so find the form of activity that inspires you – whether that’s running, yoga or something different like sailing or boxercise. Just 30 minutes three times a week will make a big difference to your well being. Then also create time for relaxation, like taking an aromatherapy bath with relaxing oils or just taking the time to read a really good book for some mental escapism.

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Why You Should Get Organized and Reduce Your Stress Level

A couple years ago, I picked organization as my word of the year, and I did get more organized. But I still have a long way to go! It is so true that when you are organized you have less stress–it doesn’t mean no stress, but there is less. So I really liked this contributed post when it came across my inbox. Here we go…these are all excellent reasons to get more organized, along with some tips on what to do to organize yourself! 

We are all guilty of misplacing documents or forgetting about deadlines. If you would like to make sure that you’re making the most out of your life and productivity, however, getting yourself more organized will help. There are plenty of easy ways of learning how to manage your time and resources better, improve your well being, and have more time to spend with your family. Read on to find out more.

Improved Sleep

If you don’t have to worry about missing a deadline, not paying your bill on time, or forgetting about a family member’s birthday, you will have fewer negative thoughts going around your head when you are trying to sleep; and as a result, you will get better rest at night. Once you know that everything is in order, the kids’ lunchbox is in the fridge ready to go in the morning, or your car is checked out before your road trip, you will have fewer things to worry about in the middle of the night.

Clearer Thinking

If you organize your life, you will have more space for new ideas. You can think clearer and focus on opportunities, instead of problems. It is a good idea to declutter your home every couple of months, so you are able to get rid of the things that no longer serve you and hold you back from achieving your goals. When everything is going smoothly, you will have the energy to focus on finding your true self, instead of going with the tide.

Being Prepared

One way to be organized is to be prepared for emergencies and mishaps. One of the most important ways to do this is to make sure that you have the most important emergency numbers handy, maybe a list on your fridge. You can also use a notebook, which can come handy, as you can list all the professionals’ details you might need in the future: doctors, dentists, police station, firehouse, car mechanic, etc. Alternatively, a calendar and contact list app can serve the same purpose just as well. You don’t want to spend hours trying to find a local hearing aid repair  company or a car mechanic if you have to get the kids to school.

More Time For You and Your Family

When you are organized, you use your time more wisely, and therefore, you have more time to get things accomplished and to spend with your family. For example, while your children are at football practice, you can do your grocery shopping, instead of wasting time sitting in your car or driving home and then having to drive back to pick them up. Likewise, you can team up with other parents to share the school run, so you have more time to get organized around the house while your kids are out of it. If you are accomplishing chores while your kids are busy, you’ll have more quality time to spend with them when they are home. 

Reduced Expenditure

Being organized and making preventive appointments will save you money and time! If you keep an eye on the maintenance schedules for your car or book your kids for a dental check, you can save money, as well. It always costs more to deal with emergencies than preventing them, so it is important that you book the important appointments well on time. If you decide where you want to go on holiday in the summer back in January, you will benefit from lower prices and more time to book your attractions, hotels and activities.

Better Health

Being organized also has health benefits. First of all, your reduced stress levels will help you maintain a hormonal balance that is necessary for your immune system to function. If you can plan your meals ahead, you will not have to rely on microwave food or takeaway options, and your diet will have a positive impact on your health and well being. Further, if you can schedule regular physical activities, you will lose weight, reduce stress, and feel stronger and healthier.

Improved Productivity

Being organized will also improve your productivity. If you don’t have to spend time trying to find manuals or emails containing information you need for work or your kids’ activities, you can get on with your work or scheduled activities straight away. An organized work space can make you more productive and efficient, no matter what your profession is. Lower stress levels, clarity of thinking, and being able to find all your documents and invoices at ease will make your life so much easier.

Getting organized has multiple rewards. If you are one of those parents always complaining about the lack of time, getting your life in order might be the solution for your problem. Improve your financial, professional, and family life by taking control of the things to do and making it easier to manage your tasks.

What are one or two ways you reduce your stress? 

 

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Maybe We Should React With Empathy: The Situation at the U.S. Border

I have read so many incredibly disturbing stories, tweets, and Facebook posts about the situation of illegal immigrants’ children being separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border that I can’t stay quiet any longer. Maybe I’m encouraged by Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, and I will try to state my opinion clearly and kindly without offending anyone. But that may be impossible.

What I don’t understand is all of these parents who are actually saying things like: “Well, the parents are at fault. They broke a law. So the children should be taken away.” I have to think that the parents who are saying this have never felt desperation to save their child from a future like they had. Do you think these parents would leave their home and risk everything if their situation was good? Many of these parents are not selfish and horrible. These parents want something better for their lives and their children, and they have been told time and time again that this future is possible in America. Is it? Who knows? But it’s what they have been led to believe their entire lives, and they feel it is in within their grasp.

If you can’t understand that, and you are a parent, can you understand what it would be like to have your child ripped away from you? Your baby? Your child with a disability?

But let’s actually look at this from the CHILDREN’S point of view because they are the ones who are innocent victims of a big political mess and governments that seem to not always take their people into consideration. We were all children once. Many of my readers and Facebook friends grew up in the Midwest and have similar backgrounds. Can you imagine being ripped away from your loving parents who sacrifice everything for you, and put in a strange place with other crying, upset strangers, where you have no idea what will happen to you day after day? As adults, most of us would do horrible in this situation, and these are kids–many of them under 5! Where is our empathy?

I have no idea what the answer is to the problem of illegal immigration. We live in a messed up world. Every single country, including the U.S., has injustice, poverty,  and crime. But I know the answer is not to take people’s children away. The answer is not to separate children from their parents. And for everyone who is quoting Bible verses or talking about Christianity–just stop. The point of Christianity has been lost in this case.

It is a confusing, complex, terrible situation without an easy answer. It is painful. It is horrible. Maybe that’s what we should be saying. There is no simple answer to this problem. But we can all react with kindness, right?  We can all state truth. We can all have empathy for these children who are living in fear, in conditions we wouldn’t want to live in.

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How to Survive the Silent Treatment by the Narcissist

If you know a narcissist as a friend, parent, family member, co-worker, or partner, then you’ve experienced “the silent treatment.” This is on my mind today because I’ve been working on a novel with a narcissistic character, and he just gave the main character the silent treatment. I also recently saw a post on a Facebook group by someone who has dedicated her life to helping men and women get over narcissistic abuse and live a healthy life again. She said something like: “Look at the silent treatment as a gift. You are not dealing with the narcissist during this time.”

That is great in theory, but the problem is that the love and communication the narcissist withdraws from you because he or she wants to punish you for whatever wrong you did or didn’t do is a form of abuse. It makes you feel shameful. It makes you feel desperate. It makes you feel insane and unstable. And it can occur for countless reasons that make no sense to you even after the silent treatment is over and the narcissist has forgiven you or at least decided you were worthy enough to be in his or her life again.

There are countless blog posts and articles on the Internet about the silent treatment and why it happens. Many of those articles end with some kind of warning statement about how you need to get away from the narcissist immediately or give him or her the gray rock treatment. But if you are reading this article, and are experiencing or have experienced the silent treatment, and LONG for that love in your life to come back, please know you are NORMAL.

You are not crazy. You do not like to be punished or treated like dirt. You are following a normal behavior pattern that is now a habit in your life, just like smokers, and in order to get out of this habit, you have to want to change and have the ability to do it. (For example, if you are a teenager, and your mom is a narcissist, you may have to learn how to deal with this–you’re not able to say good-bye forever or be a gray rock.) I had a counselor one time tell me that resilience is the way go when we have to deal with narcissists in our lives, and I don’t think she is wrong. Sure, you can get rid of some–if you are dating, for example–but it’s still not easy.

So how do you survive?

  1. Talk to someone about it: Find a friend or a therapist you trust and talk about the silent treatment and how it makes you feel. Keeping all of that inside will only make you feel worse.
  2. Write about it: Journal about how you’re feeling or exactly what happened, as you remember it. Write a letter to the narcissist about your feelings, but don’t give it to that person–just write what you really want to say, so you can get your thoughts clear.
  3. Give yourself a break: What will make you feel better? Is it binge-watching Netflix? Going to the library and reading a book? Taking a walk with a friend? Whatever it is that you enjoy, do it during the silent treatment. You need to practice self-care and self-love and try to relax.
  4.  Count your blessings: Chances are that you have some amazing things going on in your life, but they are hard to see because you are so worried about the narcissist, or he or she has made you feel terrible about everything in your life. Take a deep breath and find one thing you are thankful for. Then, the next day, find two things. For example, I have a beautiful daughter to hug. I have a house with heat.

The important thing to remember is that when you have an argument with someone, it is okay to take some time away from each other to cool down and figure out what you want to say. That is not the silent treatment. When you are trying to reach out to someone close to you, and this person is consistently not answering you or won’t communicate (aka the silent treatment), the only thing you can control is yourself. It is not okay for this person to be “punishing” you, but you can’t control it. You can try some of the strategies in this post to start building your self-esteem and practice self-love.

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What Happens When You Surround Yourself In Positivity

I really like this post below, which came to me as a contributed post. What I like about it is that they aren’t really telling you HOW to be positive, but they are showing you that if you can manage to have a positive attitude, here are the benefits. And I agree with everyone of these below. It’s not easy to always be positive–that’s for sure. And no one is saying that. What KT and I have been trying to focus on lately is our blessings. Every night, we are saying three things we are thankful for, and it really makes us examine our day–often we have more than 3!

Life has a nasty habit of getting negative. No matter where you go or who you meet, there are always things to see and be down about. The weather. Your job. Debt. All of these things allow a cloud to hang over your head and sometimes that cloud can be all consuming. The thing is, no one wants to walk around all day long with a cloud over their head. No one enjoys feeling unhappy or unmotivated; not only is it not productive for your day-to-day life, it’s just downright miserable, isn’t it?

You should instead be spending your life feeling happy, secure and motivated to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve. The key to this is people. People and positivity. If you’re surrounding yourself with positive influences, then you’re going to feel that happiness and uplifted spirit leech into your own life. You cannot have a life that is positive and happy if you’re dealing with negative emotions all the time; it just doesn’t work that way. So, what will go down if you start to surround yourself with positivity? Let’s have a look below and see whether you can live a fulfilled and healthy life.

New Attitude. Living a life of negativity can often lead to crutches like drugs and alcohol being used. Deciding to move away from these destructive behaviors isn’t easy, but choosing to surround yourself with sober companions instead of destructive ones will change your life for the better. Time with healthy people will change your attitude and allow you to feel happier and more positive every day.

New Accomplishments. People will always work better and harder when they feel happy – it’s the nature of productivity. When people are oppressed in the workplace, they don’t concentrate, and working is like moving through quicksand. When you surround yourself in positive people, you are giving yourself a chance to achieve more than you ever thought possible.

New Friends. When you’re in a low, you often feel too sad or depressed to speak to new people. When you are feeling positive, new people don’t seem so daunting, and you’re far more likely to be welcoming with new people around you. New friends can bolster your confidence and allow you to feel happier and contented in your life.

New Success. Successful people are motivated, driven and confident in what they do. None of that is prevalent with negative people. People want to spend time with other happy people, and it’s this that will draw the right people to you in a good way. Successful people take their time to get to know others, talk and carve out their own opportunities. And if you are feeling happy and positive, that’s exactly what you will be able to do for yourself.

Taking the time to surround your life with positive influences is only going to serve you well. Don’t be afraid to reach out and choose happiness: it’s all in your power.

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Finding My True Self: A Work in Progress

Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.

~Richard Bach

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the subjects of shame, belonging and authenticity. This is not light, beach reading, obviously, and sometimes, it takes me to places that I’ve been avoiding, well, my entire life. But I also know that these books, journals, reflections, and meditations are leading me closer to my “true self.”

We all have an ideal self–someone who we wish we were. This person looks perfect, acts perfect, and is perfect. And this person will never and can never exist because we are human, and no one is perfect. But our striving to be this person, this version of whatever we think is perfect, is killing us–it leads to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, drinking too much, and a whole host of other unhealthy things.

So to find my true self, I’ve been trying to recognize when I’m comparing myself to this ideal image . When I look in the mirror and I say to myself, why didn’t you use more sunscreen when you were younger? Or maybe you should skip that dessert tonight! Or even: why can’t you make more time to work on your novel–look at how successful your friends are? Why are you so impatient with your daughter whom you love more than anything else in the world? When I do this, I am being hard on myself, and I’m comparing myself to this ideal image of the way I think I should be.

Look, we’ve been doing this since we were kids. It’s why when we aren’t married to Prince Charming by the time we are 25, we start freaking out a little. It’s why when we get let go from a job we thought we would retire from, we feel defeated. It’s why when our book doesn’t make the bestsellers list, we think we have zero talent.

I would venture that many of us don’t know our true selves. I’m working on knowing mine. And the way I’m doing it, thanks to this book to the right and journaling, is by recognizing a few things:

  1. When I’m not sleeping at night because I’m analyzing my behavior during the day and wondering if I was good enough. Did I do everything correctly? Is anyone going to be upset with me in the morning? Now, I’m reframing this and saying: Of course, I wasn’t perfect, but I did some of these things correctly and next time, I might do this instead. Then I think of my blessings and go back to sleep.
  2. When I’m not authentic. One of the examples Darlene Lancer gives many times in the book is to ask yourself: do you find yourself accepting blame or saying you are sorry when you don’t really mean it? Do you say things at work or in your family that you don’t really feel to keep the peace? Sure, we all do this, and there is a fine line between always saying what you feel and respecting other people. But as Brene Brown pointed out in her book, Braving the Wilderness, we can listen with an open mind to everyone, and we can respond with kindness. It can still be authentic, such as, “I’m sorry I just don’t agree with that point, but I see where you’re coming from.” If we can learn that sentence, we may be closer to our true selves than we ever have been before.
  3. When I feel joy: I think since I’ve been thinking about this subject more than I ever have before, I’m actually feeling more joy and more peace. I think I’m sillier with Katie. I feel more in control.  I feel like I can do this single parent thing. This is not to say that I’ve got it all together. But there are more positive moments filled with joy than before. I’m not always doing something because I think I should (like planning an activity for Katie every day–some days, we’re staying home and she’s figuring out what to do herself). I’m prioritizing what brings me joy and what I need to do to feel organized and good about myself, and then doing those things.

As I’ve written about before, this journey I’m on is filled with imperfect progress. I don’t have any of this mastered yet, but I thought I would share because you might be on a similar journey, or these words might inspire you to join with me in finding our true selves.

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