You only see as much as I let you See!!

I’ve always felt a bit hesitant to share my thoughts, writing a Blog is one of the scariest things I’ve done. It tells you how I’m doing, where I am in my dark corner and what are my thoughts. I’ve always been a private person especially when it came to my emotions. Whether it was my childhood, or my time in the Military, sharing my feelings isn’t easy for me. This year it’s about being more authentic, and also being vulnerable, letting people see the real me. I’ve been a bit hesitant to share my blog especially on Facebook. I think sometimes especially with social media, people tend to only show their best, you don’t see them when they’re in the trenches. What you see is only their best, the fun times, the laughs the cute pictures of their adventures. Of course that’s never the whole picture, you’re seeing it through the lenses they’d like you to see. It’s like taking a breath-taking picture of you at the Top of Mount Everest, we didn’t see you crawling to get there, and we’re definitely not going to see you fighting for you life to get back down.

I’ve been following The Daily Love for some time now, and I’ve found it to be a great inspiration. I especially like that the writers tell you aboutKathleen their struggles, you get to see them battle daily just to get where they are. For me that’s encouraging because I see an expert having a hard time, I’m no expert, so it makes sense why I would also struggle. In reading about their quests for happiness, I find that I’m not alone, we’re ALL struggling to make sense of our lives. Some people are just doing it for all the world to see, WOW and that’s extremely brave. One of my favorite writers by far is Kathleen Chelquist, I love reading her posts because she always seems to bear it all, she’s not afraid to be naked, and show who she really is. She published something today, it gives a bit more back story about who she is. I think she’s incredibly brave, and thought I’d share it. Here’s her newest entry in her blog: “Are You HERE Kathleen?”

Kathleen again gets to the heart of why I write, YES I’m struggling with the things I write about, however that doesn’t mean that what I have to say doesn’t have any efficacy. I can’t say that I’ve suffered with depression as she has, I have my moments when I don’t want to talk to ANYONE, and just stay in my room; yes I make a great roommate! I think it’s also important to let people in, life is about choices, I’ve chosen to live the way I do and for the most part I don’t regret my life. I write because I don’t want you to struggle if you don’t have to, have you ever said “I wish someone had told me this!” Well that’s what my writing is about. If you find that you’re focusing on who I am, rather than the message I’m passing on to you form God/The Universe (you believe or not believe in the things you do, the choice is your), you’re going to completely miss the message.

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How Fear and Shame has made me feel like a Failure!

Shame

It seems as though it’s been a few years ago since I last served in the Marines, but the reality is that it’s been almost 7 years. I’ve accomplished a lot, but I’ve also not accomplished what I thought I should have by now. For some time now I’ve felt stuck, like I’m living someone else’s life, and that I can’t seem to get free. Last year has been a year of great personal growth, and I feel as though this year will be even better. In-spite of great personal growth, I’ve still felt that I’m not living up to all that I should be.  I’ve adapted a new mantra for my life going forward, be vulnerable, live with intention, and don’t take things personally. I think the biggest hurdle of that will be the vulnerability part, I still have to overcome many societal, personal, and family norms if I’m to triumph over that one. I’ve come across a writer/researcher/academic who has devoted many years to studying vulnerability, and her work has shed a lot of new light on this subject. If you’ve never heard of Brene Brown, her TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is a great way to be introduced to her work. I was looking for a book for a friend a few weeks ago and came across Daring Greatly, it’s one of several books written by Brene Brown. For the first time I’m beginning to feel as though the layers of the onion are finally starting to be revealed.

There was a movie from the 80’s Gremlins, where these little creatures wreaked havoc on a small town. Although it’s been decades since this movie came out, the term Gremlins is synonymous with something wreaking havoc. For me the more I read Daring Greatly, the more I think that fear of failure and the shame of feeling like I’m not enough, is something that’s holding me back. In her book, Brene Brown talks about how men and women handle shame differently. While I understand that this could be a bit of confirmation bias, I still feel as though without facing these two “gremlins”, it will be hard for me to continue the personal growth I’ve started last year. Without shedding light on these gremlins, I feel as though I may sabotage any progress I’ve made so far.

So what do I have to feel ashamed of? As a male we are told many things, be brave, be strong, don’t be weak, don’t show emotions, you’re supposed to be a provider etc. Not to mention the pressure families put on us, in my culture having children is always a Shame on yousign of prosperity, even if you don’t have a place to put those children, just having them seems to trump everything else. A close second to children, is being married; at least kids should be on the way soon. Then at the least if you’re not married or have kids, having a “good job” and being a “good provider” is an ok substitute for third. While I’m not going to get into why just looking at those things aren’t a healthy way to measure your life; I will admit that I don’t fit any of those criteria. I’ve always seen myself as a rebel and trend setter when it comes to those things, but that hasn’t stopped the questions from family members. After reflecting about it, I’ve realized that not having a secure job for the past 7 years since the Marines, is a pressure that I put on myself. I know that taking 4 years out of that time to go to school is a great use of my time, however it doesn’t stop me from thinking that I should have more. Thinking about those things has led to a feeling of shame, although it’s not at the forefront of my thoughts; I think that it’s the reason why I feel stuck.

Despite my optimism and that I have faith and believe that I’ll get through this, that doesn’t stop the fear from creeping into my thoughts; what if I’m wrong and I never find a “good job”? What if I never get married, or have children? What if what I’ve accomplished is as far as I’ll ever go? What if …? The societal, personal, and family pressures to be successful plagues all of us. Like many others I’m struggling with these things. Despite these burning questions though, I know that I have to wake up each day, and take it one step at a time. So what if I’m not married, being married is the easy part, maintaining a healthy relationship for the rest of your lives is the hard part. So what if I don’t have children, many parents raise their children to be Emotionally unhealthy, or even dysfunctional adults. So what if I don’t have a “good job”, many people who do never spend time enjoying life, or worse yet don’t spend it with their families. I’m at a point where I’m aware of the negative impacts we can have even if we have those things, that knowledge will make me better equipped when I do have those things.

Fear and shame effects ALL of us, we all struggle with it in some form. However we don’t have to let it control our lives, left to grow, shame can make us feel 10 times smaller than we are. Shame can stop us from living fuller happier lives, it can stop us from ever actualizing our full potential. Brene Brown suggests we build up our shame resilience, her research has found that as we look shame in the face and call it out, it’s power on us weakens. As we live each day with intention, being vulnerable to show our real selves; we are able to live more wholeheartedly. So what if you’re ashamed of the way you look, feel, or your education. Einstein didn’t let his look stunt his creativity. Steve Jobs never graduated college; his education didn’t hamper him from creating Apple. To fear and shame I say SO WHAT! I’ve been writing less because of some criticism I got a few weeks back, I allowed someone else’s fears about themselves to influence how I felt about myself. I started writing to show others that they’re not alone in some of their feelings. I don’t write because I’m looking for recognition, or fame; I would have required that people pay me to read my posts if that was the case. We all navigate this world in our little bubbles, and the one thing that’s fundamental is that we all want to feel understood. So I’m saying I hear you, I too feel shame and I’m afraid. To help in overcoming shame, Brene suggests you speak to someone who you trust. I know I’m going out on a limb here and sharing my story with everyone, but I’ll also be asking questions from those close to me. I should mentions also, only tell your story to someone who has shown they are capable of being trusted, if they’ve betrayed your trust before, you probably don’t want them to know you’re ashamed, just saying!

With each day that passes, I grow stronger, and more courageous. I’m confident that I’ll make it, but my life isn’t about the stuff I have at the end of it, it’s about what I do with my time, the people I influence, and those I’m able to help accomplish positive changes. Oh and for the critics I’ll leave you with this gem from Brene Brown:

“If you’re not in the arena with the rest of us, fighting and getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

I Trust You!!

Trust

Trust is one of those things that’s quite easy to loose but very hard to build. I’m currently reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, she’s the same speaker who gave a TED Talk on Vulnerability.  I’m finding that her work has been very inspiring especially since I’m embarking on a journey to be more authentic, intentional and vulnerable. It’s been a blessing to learn about the work she’s done and thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learnt so far. It’s also interesting that when you’re going through certain things, life seems to give you the answers you need; still can’t get over how amazing that is.

I’m currently reading a chapter that talks specifically about trust. It’s something we all battle with, but how do you earn it, how do you know who you can trust, and how do you recover when you’ve been hurt? All great questions, to which I’m trying to figure out myself. What I’ve had to remember though is despite my best efforts, some people will violate my trust. Trust like communication, is a two way activity, if I’m telling you the truth about how I feel, but you’re hiding your true feelings, someone is bound to walk away being hurt. According to Dictionary.com Trust is “Reliance on the integrity , strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” Also according to Dictionary.com to be Vulnerable means “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.” In her book Brene Brown highlights that vulnerability is something we have to be intentional about. To be vulnerable is to open ourselves to being hurt, as opposed to injury just being inflicted on us. Her research found that trust and vulnerability have a co-dependent relationship, as in we need to feel like we can trust people to be vulnerable in front of them, and we also need to be vulnerable (open ourselves up) before we can trust. That sound a bit mind boggling, but the two need each other to exist, you can’t have trust without vulnerability and vice versa.

While trying to explain trust to her young daughter Brene uses a Marble Jar analogy. After searching the internet for a good visual, I realize that many people are probably familiar with this analogy, but I’ll share it anyway. Building trust is adding Marbles to a jar, and when trust is broken you take Marbles out. But how do you know when to add marbles, or even who to trust. Some people will blindly trust others, without knowing if that person can be trusted, we’ve all told a friend a secret, only to have it be told to everyone in the office. For me I tend to give people little pieces of information, and then use that to see if they can be trusted, then each time giving them bigger pieces. The problem with that is I tend to sometimes only trust a few people, and it’s mostly based on when we initially meet. If I don’t feel like we’ve connected, I’ll probably just move on, and not worry about it much. I like having a close group of friends I can trust, and of course even those people don’t know everything about me; no one person has all the pieces of the puzzle. There are some people who blindly trust others, not knowing if that person is capable of being trusted. I found this video that is a bit extreme, but I think it gets the point across that you just can’t go around trusting everyone; (follow this link to find the video: I trust You!!)

What about you, have you found it easy or hard to trust others? When people violate your trust and hurt you, how do you move forward? What strategies do you use to figure out who to trust?

I think I have Reverse FOMO!

FOMO

In this Digital age where everyone’s thought’s seem to be online for all to see, even the thoughts that should probably stay in our heads! I’ve been in a Reflecting mood lately, looking at my actions and how they reflect where I’m trying to go with my life. While others seems to be doing things because they fear that they’ll miss out, and are probably over-sharing. I feel as though I’ve not done all that I can to get the kind of future that I desire. I’ve let fear prevent me from not moving forward, fear of failing, fear of changing my goal when I’m too far along, fear if others would embrace me as a Life Coach. Fear, Fear, and what if scenarios plague my mind. I write because I’m a struggle daily to keep on track, I don’t write because I have it figured out, or because I’m somehow perfect and I’m doing better than everyone. Writing is an outlet for my thoughts, and partly because I want to encourage others who might be struggling. If you’re like me you try to figure out your problems on your own, and you only seek help when you’ve come up against a wall. Not to worry there is hope for me, at least I know I’m stubborn, and that’s what I’m intending to change this year. If you’ve ever said those words ‘I wish someone had told me …”

I’ve come to embrace the weekends now, on Saturdays I can go to church and strengthen my faith, then I can spend Sunday exploring and getting energy from nature to make it through the week. As always many of the inspiration I have comes from the message in church, or on my hikes. Last week I spoke to a friend, although we ended up mostly talking about me; I do feel bad about that. When I did listen, I heard a frustration from her, and that burning question, “Have I made the right career choices?” There are some days when I feel as though I’ve taken several steps back, and others when I feel accomplished for what I’ve learnt about myself. Luckily the self-doubt didn’t last long, and I noticed that a few thoughts that I’ve written about seem to be coming together. As I mentioned earlier I feel that fear is taking control of my life, but through vulnerability, living with intention, and being action oriented, there might be hope after all.

One of the first keys talked about in this Sunday’s message is Vulnerability. Being vulnerable seems to be the fastest way to let others see the real you, to have real intimacy (into-me-see), to let your walls down and show that you’re not perfect. Bearing your flaws for all to see isn’t the easiest thing to do, plus sometimes some people can’t handle seeing your flaws and nakedness. Although it’s frightening to imagine that someone will know about all of your skeletons, imagine how much more real your relationship will be. They know the real you and you know the real them, there’s no pretending, no lying or trying to cover up your flaws. For me being in a relationship with someone for 5+ years and then find out they were hiding a mega skeleton in the closet, that’s one of my biggest fears. Relationships take time, and a lot of emotional energy, energy that isn’t magically replenished if you break up. By being vulnerable and showing all of you, it helps give a deeper connection, and this applies to all relationships, not just in a romantic setting. Imagine how much more satisfying your relationship will be if they know the real you, and they still love you. That you’re loved in spite of your flaws, or that you’re loved because of your flaws, and that they make you human. Just as in other relationships, if I show all my flaws to god, he will embrace me for who I am, and we can have a deeper intimate connection. Because yet another person has talked about this today, if you’ve not seen it check out Brene Brown’s TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability”

Relationships also require that we’re Intentional about our love. With work, kids, friends, church, soccer, tennis, swimming, etc. Missing OutIt’s not surprising that you don’t have time to continue to nurture and grow your relationship. My faith is strong now, but if I don’t continue to center myself and stay grounded in God; it’s easy to get swept up with all of the many cares of life. It’s always interesting and a great reminder to hear our Pastors say that they have to regularly reconnect with God. It reminds me that we’re all human, and no matter who you are, you still need to take time to keep your relationship healthy. So what are the non-biblical implications, with all the cares of life, we have to make an active effort to continue to “Date” our spouses. I heard a story on Facebook recently about someone who’s married but he’s still dating by Jarrid Wilson “I’m dating someone even though I’m married”. So no one gets upset, I’ll say that he’s talking about dating his wife, so I encourage everyone to check out the article. So just as I’m pursuing God and him me, remember to pursue your spouse, because if we’re not intentional, it’s easy to get distracted by the cares of this world.

The last area has to do with knowing your purpose or gift. If you know yourself, you’ll know what you’re capable of. Religion has been around for a long time, but sometimes people’s wrong beliefs about what God is like, causes them to walk away from faith all together. I’ve always been evidence based rather than on emotions. Sometimes we do things and we feel guilty, and then we assume that others will judge us. In that case I ask, what actions are they showing that they’re judging you? Have they said those magic words, “I won’t have done that?” or are they saying “it’s ok everyone makes mistakes, lets figure out how to fix it.” It should be quite easy to see that the lather is more concerned with picking you back up after you’ve fallen, so why do we sometimes think that inside they’re judging us? This is where vulnerability comes in, if you’re connected in a real and genuine way, you’ll be able to know how the other person actually feels. There’s nothing worse than knowing despite any of your actions or what you say, someone continues to think that you mean something different. So for me that means that I will go to God’s word to see what he says, instead of letting the judge in my head dictate how I feel. From a relationship perspective, by knowing you’r partner’s real thoughts, it should be easier to know how they actually feel, rather than going with your thoughts. Although this post is not about communication, it’s a very big part of the conversation. As I’ve painfully learnt, if only one person is using good communication skills, you’re still going to end up with misunderstandings. Sometimes it’s ok not to agree with everything I say, if you keep agreeing with me I’ll think that you share my point of view.

It’s always great to see things come together! These are a few things that I think will help me walk better in my faith, but like most of the things I write, this has implications for life and relationships in general. I’d like to add another piece here, I’ve kept you reading thus far. What I say are just some of my thoughts I’ve taken out of other things I’ve heard this week, I post them here because they are a few of the ways that I can make my life better. It may be beneficial for some, but may not apply to others. If you tend to look at the messenger and try to figure out what qualifies me to write these things, you WILL miss the message. I don’t claim to be an expert, like you I’m in the trenches and struggling, and some of what I say may not even work. Even though I have these thoughts, I still have to keep myself grounded each day, some days I do much better than others. If you find that you’re judging me as you read what I write, my advice is to stop reading, and perhaps either don’t read my comments again, or come back to it when you’re in a better place to be open to a different perspective. I understand that part of putting myself out there is that I’m opening myself up to criticism, and there’s a fine line between constructive criticism and criticism. For the critics my last comment is this: “If you’re not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback” – Brene Brown.

 

Lessons I learnt from Criticism!!!

Criticism

The past few weeks have been interesting, I’ve not taken as much time to write, and have been silent doing mostly reflecting. I had a conversation with a friend, and received some unexpected criticism. Although I didn’t initially take it seriously, in the weeks since I’ve mostly spent time processing the comments. I haven’t talked to others much, but in doing so, I feel as though it gave me a chance to look inward for help. Most importantly I didn’t go to the people I know will most likely validate my view of things, I took time to process thoughts that turned into doubt and negativity. In writing this I’m reminded of a valuable lesson, not because you don’t intend for something to sound negative means it won’t be received that way. While I’m sure there is a definition of criticism, it felt to me that it was something that tore me down, and didn’t give me an answer on what to do differently. Compared to Constructive Criticism, although you are torn down, you still receive feedback on how to fix or do things differently. One of the reasons I choose to write and put my words out there is to be seen. In my moment of self doubt, a friend posted a link about receiving criticism, imagine that just when I was facing the same struggle, someone posted something to pick me up. That’s why I choose to put my words and thoughts out there, because I never know when and how my words can help to build someone back up.  To get a better understanding of what I’m talking about check out Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Criticism “Why your Critics aren’t the ones who count.” In her talk this quote resonated with me and I thought I’d share it also.

” It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of Man in the Arenadeeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Before getting into what I was able to learn in my moment of Reflection, I’d like to share a few more thoughts from Brene Brown’s TED Talk that resonated with me. As I mentioned earlier, I decided to write because I wanted my words to help lift up others. If you’re like me, you probably struggle in silence, you don’t tell everyone, perhaps maybe a select few know your struggles. The great thing about social media, is that you can read how others are handling their struggles, learn those strategies without having to come out from your cave; as an Introvert with extroverted qualities life can’t get any better than that! While I’m making it a goal to be more vulnerable, putting myself out there is still scary, and I don’t quite trust everyone with my story just yet. By putting myself out there I WILL receive criticism, be misunderstood, and be judged. The 3 Keys Brene identified as being central to anyone who put’s them-self out there are:

  1. Show up, and be Seen. Be seen in your work and the life you live.
  2. This is who I want to be, I want to create something. If I’m going to be in the Arena, I will get my butt kicked.
  3. If you’re not in the Arena (also getting your butt kicked), I’m not interested in your feedback.

So what are some of the thoughts that spiraled me inward filled with self-doubt. I want to first acknowledge that what follows is not exactly what was said, but this is what I heard and the way I interpreted it, and I wrote it down afterwards: – I was told that I’m projecting an image that isn’t what I actually am, not actually being vulnerable. – My thoughts aren’t my own, I don’t have an original thought, everything I’ve said or done has come from a book, or from someone else (this is the one that really resonated with me, ouch). -My communication skills aren’t as great as I seem to think. I do things because I want others to think I’m smart, or more intelligent than they are. I’ve dealt with most of these, and searched my heart, and I’m ok with where I am. Many of those comments are misunderstandings, and perhaps a window into the thoughts of a friend that doesn’t actually know me. Although I do act confidently, you will NEVER hear me being boastful about anything I do, in many cases I down play my accomplishments. As for my image or communication style, in my mind I’ve never considered myself an expert in anything I do. If anything the philosophy I hold is that there are a lot of things I don’t know, but I’m always open to learning new things, just as long as they’re rooted in facts and figures rather than emotions. I do act confidently in anything I do, I take things with a kind of I’m going to do it attitude, rather than say I’ll try to do it (probably because as a Marine, CAN’T or I’LL TRY aren’t things that you said unless you wanted to be called all kinds of names, or better yet getting your ass kicked for acting like a wimp).

Despite the self-doubt I was able to look at myself critically and came away with a few points to work on, and do better each day:

  1. I consider myself being better at communication than the average person, but not even close to being an expert, it’s something I’m also passionate about studying further. However I must acknowledge that despite my best efforts, others WILL misunderstand me from time to time. I can try to cut down on that my being clear about my intentions, and asking questions to make sure that my message received, was what I intended for the other person to hear.
  2. Be aware that when I put my thoughts out there others may be judging me. I want to be aware of my tone, do I sound condescending or as if I’m putting down?
  3. How is my attitude or appearance effecting what people hear. Sometimes I believe that my ethnic background with my national origin may complicate the picture. What I mean by that is that I was raised in a different educational system, and sometimes I find that I’m switching between that system and the now American system I’m now accustomed to. I’m not saying that one system is better than the other, but they are certainly different. Sometimes I wonder how that complicates the image people see of me.
  4. Learn to embrace negativity and criticism. Although it’s not my view, it’s still a window into how the other person is interpreting me.
  5. Although I like interacting with people, sometimes I can be a bit cold or aloof with some people. It’s not meant to seem as though I dislike you, or have any nefarious thoughts, it’s just that we’re not connecting. I will admit that if I don’t connect with someone, I don’t give it a second thought, I move on with my life. I can see how that would seem cold to some personalities, I should make a better effort to get to know others, even if I feel that we don’t have a connection initially.
  6. Most importantly remember that unsolicited advice is rarely ever welcomed graciously. I’m a fixer, I like to find problems and fix them. Although my comment on how to fix something I see as a problem with you may come from a good place, sometimes I have to remember to just listen.

Show up anyway