Look To the Western Sky

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

Tag: Self-help

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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Working Through The Comparison Trap

Recently, I was in a video/book study called The Comparison Trap. This little four-week course is life-changing. Well, I should say: it can be life changing if you put into practice what the book discusses. (Side note: There’s a spiritual element to this book. It quotes Bible verses, and the woman who wrote it is married to a preacher. EVEN IF this usually does not do it for you, I recommend fighting through this and reading the book anyway. Every place she talks about God, can you think of Higher Power or Universe instead? I’m stealing this idea from the book You are a Badass! But I think it is an excellent point to not get hung up the “G-word.” And who knows what can happen in your life if you keep an open mind? ) Onward…

Before week one, I never realized how often I compare myself to other people and how shitty it makes me feel. Sometimes, I compare myself and I don’t measure up. I don’t have a loving husband or boyfriend. I don’t live in “the best school district” (although I love mine and the location of my house). I don’t have as much money as friend A, B or C.  I’m not 25 anymore. I could go on and drive myself crazy. I also do the flip side: Well, at least, I work full time. Well, at least, I have a book published, and so on. All of that thinking and comparing is exhausting and not helpful to anyone, most of all me.

The class had anywhere from 6 to 8 women in it each week, ranging in age from mid-40s to retirement age. And it was powerful. It was so powerful that we actually met for 5 weeks, instead of the 4 that the author recommends. Let me tell you the two moments that sealed it for me:

  1. The last week, we were asked to think of a time in our lives when we couldn’t celebrate other people’s good news. When we heard good news, did we react with jealousy or did we celebrate with the person? At first, I thought: this is a no-brainer–I celebrate. When I read the daily devotionals about overcoming this “jealousy”, it didn’t fit me, until I started thinking about when I was trying to get pregnant. It was very difficult for me to get pregnant, and I thought it would never happen. During this time, whenever I found out someone was pregnant, I was not celebrating. I was saying: Why me? In class, I even shared that I skipped a few celebrations because it was so heartbreaking to attend baby showers. It was a dark time. I am not proud of myself; and even though you may be thinking, well, I can understand why–that doesn’t excuse it. I was comparing my life to theirs, and my life is nothing like theirs. It’s not healthy, and it takes an extreme amount of faith in the Universe or God or your Higher Power or whatever you believe in to get out of the darkness and move on. I am happy that I did it. I am happy that once I let go, I got pregnant (just like everyone says).  And I think I still do that “jealousy thing” a little bit today now that I am divorced. But I am stopping it! Right now! I realized as I was writing this post: Sometimes, when I’m thinking about my relationship status, I will count up the number of people I know who are also divorced and without a partner. But really, this is terrible. If my friends and family want to be in a relationship, then they should be, and it should be happy and healthy and enriching. And I should celebrate it with them and let go of this notion that makes me compare myself to find my worth. Because frankly, it is exhausting.
  2. The two big messages that are driven home in this book are everyone is unique and special with their own talents. AND if you have a heart of gratitude, you will find contentment. We discussed these philosophies at length and honestly. Because let’s be real, isn’t it hard to take sometimes when you look at your neighbor and she is beautiful, owns a fancy car, and has a successful career,and a loving husband? Why did she get all of this and you didn’t? It can be hard to take when you are looking OUT. So what I learned in this book and this class and even writing this post is–you have to look IN. What are your talents and blessings? What are you grateful for? We also discussed how being content does not mean you can’t have goals or improve your life. But you should create these goals and improvements because you looked IN and it’s what you really want–not because you are looking OUT and trying to be as good as Mrs. Jones.

If I remember nothing else in a month from this study, this phrase, which is now hanging on the bulletin board in my room, will be something I remember: There is NO win in comparison. 

 

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A Letter to a Narcissist

A little bit of creative writing I’ve been working on…

Dear Narcissist:

I am no longer going to be a supply for you. What do I mean? I know where you get your energy. You get your energy from me, from her, from anyone who will allow you to come into their lives and wreak havoc. But today, I am putting my foot down, and the thing is, I’m not telling you.

This may seem unfair to anyone who doesn’t know a narcissist. But if I tell you, if I let you know that today, I’m done allowing you to make me feel like I don’t matter, to make me feel like I am less worthy than someone else in your life, then I won’t be able to stick to this. All I will be is your supply for the day. You will make me feel guilty. You will make me feel wrong. I could be wrong, but the thing is that doesn’t matter. What matters is how I feel after dealing with you–whether it’s a conversation, an in-person meeting, or no response to my attempts at contact.

Actually, I don’t think you will notice. You’ve started to groom someone else, someone else is supplying your high.  You have someone else worried about your every need; you have someone else who will do anything for you. You found others who are supplying that emotional energy you need, when you make them feel like less than themselves. You make them feel like you’re the only one who can fix them, the only one who will have anything to do with them because of how horrible they are. You basically have to do nothing in return, except for your grooming, because now the people in your life are just waiting, hoping, yearning for your approval, time, and attention. It really is a wonderful support system you’ve created for yourself. But it’s not real, and deep down, you know it. Everything in your life is a facade. How exhausting that must be to be grasping a life, filled with beliefs that aren’t based in reality.

Here’s the other thing. I’m not upset with you–not anymore. I used to be. I used to be upset about how you always changed the rules; how you said something and then when I did it, you changed your mind and said it wasn’t enough or it was wrong; how you blamed me for everything; how you didn’t consider my feelings; how you acted like everything you gave me was a gift that I was super lucky to have because you were so busy and great, and I wasn’t; and how you made me feel like I owed you for the nice things you did for me. I’m not upset at you.

I’m upset with myself–for knowing that it would never get better; for getting away from you before and then letting you back countless times; for feeling like if I could only do this ONE thing right, you would want me again; for wasting my energy with someone who clearly doesn’t care about anyone, including himself.

I only hope I can stick to the first line in this letter.

I’m not going to be a supply for you anymore.

Love,

Someone who has a long journey ahead

If you have a narcissist in your life, the pain that you may be feeling is very real and similar to what is expressed in this post. I have found an invaluable resource in Kim Saeed’s website, if you are looking for answers and need to start healing. 

 

 

 

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Share Your Sayings With Me (1st Official New Blog Contest)

Although I haven’t pinpointed exactly what this blog will be about, I know it will be a mixture of humorous and serious posts about being a single mom and a woman, who plans to get herself back in the dating game after having a hysterectomy, and who likes to write. I originally had the idea for this blog when I started writing notes to myself this past year, after separating from my husband and eventually getting a divorce. These notes were often scribbled on a piece of paper, and tacked up on the bulletin board in my bedroom, so  I could revisit them periodically. Here’s one of the first ones I wrote:

advice-to-myself

Why is this life advice on its side?

I’m still working on several of those life lessons above, but one morning while I was drinking coffee, something said: WRITE THESE DOWN, and I’m trying to be aware and work on at least one of these each day.

When I talked about this on my Facebook author/editor page, I received some great responses. So then I asked several people on Facebook to share their advice and/or the sayings they try to live by every day–again, the response was fantastic, and I thought: I should incorporate this into a blog somehow. Here are a few gems from that Facebook post:

  • Don’t wish away your life.
  • Break a big challenge into small steps.
  • Always be the better person.
  • Not my circus, not my monkeys.
  • A wise man learns from his mistakes, an even wiser man learns from another man’s mistakes.

So, to celebrate the debut of my new blog, I thought it would be fun to have a little sayings/celebration of new blog contest with PRIZES. You can enter by doing any of the things in the Rafflecopter form below, and you can enter more than once! ***The main thing I would love for you to do is to write a comment below and share a saying–something you live by, something you’ve seen on FB or Twitter and liked, something your mom/grandma used to say to you, or something you say to your kids. ANYTHING that helps you get through this thing called life. Once you leave a saying in the comments, DON’T FORGET TO CLICK ON THAT BUTTON IN THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM. You are not entered to win a fabulous prize if you DON’T enter on the Rafflecopter form, too.*** 

The person who Rafflecopter randomly chooses first will get their first pick  of one of the prizes below, 2nd person picked will choose 2nd, etc. There are 5 prizes:

  • $10 Amazon or Starbucks gift card
  • 10-page (2500 word) content edit for free
  • One of the books written by me (I have a YA, a middle-grade, or a picture book.)
  • A journal
  • R-E-A-D magnets (4 separate magnets that spell the word READ)

The contest runs until the end of the month–September 30 at 11:59 pm CDT. So let’s have some fun with this. Any questions or you can’t get something to work? Please email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com.

Thanks for playing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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