Self-Critical Self, Contributions, and Honesty

Last night in class, we were doing an exercise where our professor asked us 25 rapid fire questions and we did a mind dump on the paper. Less than 30 seconds per question. Quick – what does your gut respond?

As we were going through the questions, there was one question that made me stop in my tracks. If you’d like, before I share it – grab a piece of paper, open a new word processing document, and let it rip for like, 15 seconds. Ready?

Spiral notebook with some accutraments such as wooden pencil, mechanical pencil and a sharpener

What would you consider to be your greatest contributions to those around you or the world?
(Question from Franklin Covey workshop)

My skin started to tingle and my heart tightened a little bit. I jotted down a few notes, but knew this was a question to come back to.

We finished the exercise, debriefed a little, then had break. During break, I went up to a few colleagues to talk, and made a comment about my Self-Critical Self, which in retrospect, is huge. I never talk about that stuff outside of my personal counselor’s office. But, the conversation? It was so helpful in acknowleding that I’m not alone, and that in some ways, Self-Critical Self works overtime and I need her to chill the f*** out. During conversation, I joked that meant locking her in a room with books, comedies, and a comfy chair.

Not too far off base from what I find relaxing. Perhaps we aren’t too different from one another and there is a darn good reason Ms. SCS sticks around. (She just needs to chill out a bit.)

Today, on my drive to my graduate assistantship, the question of contribution wandered into my head. I was sitting at a red light, and my skin started tingling again. And it’s not the answer to that question that has gotten me a bit anxious – it’s the fact that I’m honestly asking it… and honestly finding answers.

There are times in this world that it’s really freaking hard to acknowledge the ways in which we positively contribute to this world – we’re told (by others and ourself) to simmer down, because we don’t want to get a big head, or really, it’s (we’re) not that important. We’re worried about what others might think. We compare our contributions to others and think we fall short. We see context, not content. We think we’re only trying to make ourselves feel better. And then, Self-Critical Self, who hasn’t had the luxury of a real vacation, starts pouncing on these vulnerable spots.

My response has been to dismiss the whole line of questioning and just keep doing what I’m doing and (quietly, subconsciously, endlessly) question what I’m doing and if it is Enough. (No wonder Self-Critical Self is tired.)

For today, how can we recognize the gifts we have and that we offer this world – which so desperately needs people awake enough to know what they offer?

If nothing arose for you when looking at the question above – is there space to be made, some relaxation for your own Self-Critical Self?

 ***

(N.B.: And I don’t say all this to cut an entire piece of myself out of the equation… I learned from a counselor long ago, when we were working together, that I can’t simply cut something out of my mental life without leaving something in its place. It creates a vaccuum that will demand attention. Rather, right now, seeing Self-Critical Self as a named thought process is helping me to see those nagging self-critical thoughts in a different way, to allow some compassion and understanding for a part of myself I’ve always seen as destructive and Needing To Be Gone. This is fodder for another post, hopefully coming soon.)

Finding community in diversity

Holy two months away from blogging, Batman! I won’t apologize for the absence, because I think it was necessary, on many levels. But, boy, it is good to be back. Here’s hoping for a while!

2014-03-30 14.38.40

All different, all together, being ourselves, allowing others to be themselves.

One of the things that I have been thinking about a lot recently is community. I went to a professional conference last week and, upon coming home, everyone is asking “HOW WAS IT!?”

A fair question to be sure.

The answer that bubbles to the surface quickest is “Wonderful. I found my people.” And I usually get laughter and asking what I mean.

Again, a fair question.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, but there has been a lot of feeling like I am floundering in a lot of areas of my life, not knowing what direction I want to go in (and oftentimes, wanting to go in ALL directions). I’m learning that is not sustainable.

So, when I was sitting in a presentation that combined some of my interests, and people were talking together about different ways of healing and knowing and understanding… I felt heard and seen. No closer to having Answers, but closer to feeling more settled in myself, because I was not alone.

I’ve had multiple experiences like that recently, where there was a sense of groundedness in being able to be with those who are different – yet we are all in the same place and able to have conversations with compassion.

Having that experience of being able to be seen and have compassionate conversation has reminded me of pieces of myself that have been quieted over the past (nearly) ten years. While there is wondering where it went, there is also compassion that that might have been the choice I needed at the time.

And yet, as I walk through this year of unfolding, there are real implications and imploring to embrace all parts. What still fits? What do I get to keep? What no longer serves?

I’m learning unfolding is as much about discarding as allowing… all in gentleness and all in curiosity.

#365feministselfie – One month in…

While I may not always be good with following through on challenges (or e-courses), I’m still trucking along on the #365feministselfie challenge for the year. I have been amazed at looking through the photos over on Instagram. It’s been amazing to see the reality of women’s experiences – both the highlights and the tough days.

imageOne of the things that struck me this week was how the selfie was able to catch sparks of something that I hadn’t recently had the chance to see… having the selfie allowed me to see myself from another angle. Don’t get me wrong – seeing myself daily has been hard. To acknowledge (and let go) of that voice in my head telling me that I am being narcissistic, selfish, blah blah blah. It’s been a challenge to notice it regularly. Because things, in general, have been hard. I’m finishing week 4 of school and feeling rundown (already… yes, already).

I know I’m stretched too thin. Sometimes, it’s been hard to be anything but glum in my selfies recently. But one of the selfies this week caught that little spark and showed it to me when I needed it. Even now, this is probably one of my favourite pictures from the year so far, because it captures something that hasn’t been a full fledged experience as of late. The camera was able to catch that joy-filled, kind of sassy, lighter, laughing Steph.

It was a needed reminder. One that keeps me trucking and reminding myself that I need to light that spark a little bit – in part through taking care of myself.

And somehow, it strikes me now, that taking care of myself also means showing up for myself  so that I can be reminded of other parts of myself… even when (especially when?) it’s hard.

Dreaming big and keeping on

2014-01-21 09.59.26I’m supposed to be working on a case presentation report.

I’m having a hard time focusing today (this week).

I think there are a lot of reasons, but one major one? The excitement of starting the semester is over and reality of taking three classes, working part time, doing clinical, participating in two research groups, and trying to maintain some sort of practice(s) in my life has come crashing down (along with hormones, but that’s another story).

Overwhelm, of a slightly different flavor than I’ve previously talked about, abounds. But, the same sort of emotions come up. If I’m honest? It comes down to truly doubting what I have to offer this world and if I can do all (any) of this, because I’m letting the overwhelm elbow out the energy of Beginning. At the start of things (including a new year), I tend to feel a huge surge of I CAN DO ANYTHING! I dream big. I dream and make a whole list of what I want to do.

In my experience, it can be anywhere between a few hours, days, weeks, or months later,  but evening, reality and the realization that expectations I have are super high. It’s not that I can’t do it – but I can’t do it all at once and get where I want immediately. The dreaming big settles into questioning, doubt, fear. The reality of getting the work done hits me, and I am frozen with uncertainty.

I have to laugh in that knowing way, because if you’ve ever participated in National Novel Writing Month, you know how hard week 2 is. The freshness and excitement of week 1′s start is over, and you are stuck in the middle slog of Why am I doing this, again?

So what I find myself asking in the middle of this all – how do I keep going? How do I hold on to that fire while plodding along? How do I keep myself from freezing out of uncertainty and fear? And I think, sometimes, it’s a different answer for each project, for each person. Acknowledging that this is part of the process is helpful. That I go through this, a lot.

And the recognition that when I let fear stop me, fear wins. And that?

That is not what I want. Fear never gets to win, in the long run.

How do you keep yourself going during long-term projects? How do you keep fire for what you are doing?

#30dayjournal – day 1

Jessica Maya and I are friends over on Instagram. I have come to appreciate her pictures and writing inspiration. Recently, she told me about Roots: a #30dayjournal project- a free 30 day series of creative journaling prompts from Lisa Sonora Beam.

I did the first prompt today and was really surprised at what came out. Writing about beginnings, I ran smack into the topic of fear. I actively worked to keep my seat, to remain at the page, when all I wanted was to distract myself . If this is what came up on day 1? Here’s to 29 more days of exploration.

2014-01-19 20.30.31From my writing today:

All the lists, the expectations, all the unneccessary bullshit. What happens when I let it go?

(How do I let it go?)

New beginnings are refreshing and so heavy with expectations – I see white pages and think of all the bad things that could happen, all the ways I stumble, fall, screw up – and it makes me freeze in place. … New beginnings, so full of possibility, full of the realization of how it might all go [wrong].

Breathing through the anxiety. New means things I don’t know, things I don’t “have a handle on” – and yet new means possibility. To dwell in that world is scary.

fear puts a damper on things. fear eats away at my confidence. i have to fight against it every day.

(What happens if I stop fighting it? Instead, invite it in, allow it – know it has something to teach me, allow it to be a teacher, but not a tyrant – what face would I give to fear if I allowed it, along with my fledgling assertiveness, my kindness and empathy, my curiosity?

***

Huge thank you to Lisa Sonora Beam for her generosity in hosting this series.

When it all piles up: Confessions, breathing, and space-taking

Just a few moments ago, I realized that my inbox is creeping up toward 1,000 messages (again). Unsorted. Many unread. I recognize that I’ve unsubscribed myself from a number of blogs and newsletters to try and stop this behavior (confession: I’ve added others). I wanted to get in the habit of reading my emails, responding as needed, then filing or deleting.

This is only about 1/3 of the tabs... not to mention the links I've already sent myself via email.

This is only about 1/3 of the tabs… not to mention the links I’ve already sent myself via email.

Best laid plans.I don’t recall when I had it down to 25-ish in my inbox. But, it’s ballooned back up, and I wonder what I want to do about it. I think about going through all of it, sorting and deciding, and reading…. wondering where the time to do that will come. I think about most mornings, when I get up, see my emails, and click on “read,” simply so I don’t see the looming red dot by my Email app. And yet, it just exacerbates the problem.

While we’re at it, can we also talk about how out of control my tabs in my phone’s browser are? I started an email to myself listing some of the URLs, because I have amazing friends who post really interesting things, and, confession: I don’t always take the time out of my FB scrolling to read the article in depth. So I push it out to my web browser for later reading that never comes.

And, to keep the ball rolling, there are also the amazing blogs I used to follow and stopped around the time that Google Reader left us (RIP Google Reader). And I really want to start reading (and commenting) on blogs again. But, there’s a part of me that feels I need to read from when I stopped (in June/July) through now. (And, I’m still looking for a RSS feed that works for me.)

enter really deep breath here

Confession: I see how all of doing, list making, piling on all the shoulds and that must-dos makes me anxious.

Confession: I see how I hold tightly to the expectations I have for myself of what MUST be done and what makes me “good person.” (As though somehow, all of this – and the ability to complete it all – is tied to my self-worth.)

Confession: I’ve run myself ragged in my life playing by these rules and by these expectations. And the anxiety keeps me in a place of shame, guilt, and feeling tired all of the time. (All that anxiety revs up our body’s flight-or-fight responses and keeps one on high alert.)

another deep breath

Reality: I only have so many hours in a day. Amidst that, I have to ask myself what is humanly possible? (Confession: I often have to reframe it to say what would I tell a friend if s/he saw my own list of to dos and what would I say.)

Reality: I needn’t do it all, right now. I needn’t be perfect. I needn’t be everywhere. I am able to engage and withdraw as I need to – because there are a lot of other reality factors I need to consider.

Reality: Whether I post, comment, read… none of that is tied to my self-worth as a human being.

Confession: I sometimes have a hard time believing that last reality for myself.

deep breath… let it out…

Today, I will accept where I am.
I will allow myself to have a growing inbox and a huge list of blog posts to read and multiple browser tabs open of things that caught my interest.
I will allow myself curiosity and not berate myself for unfinishedness.
I will breathe into the places that scream for space.
I will breathe into the parts of myself that continually play the “must-should-DO-IT” tape.
I will allow reality and heart guide me.

What is your go-to response when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Body image, mirrors, and #365feministselfie

I don’t know where I introduced to the article about #365feministself (here it is), but starting January 1, 2014, I began participating over at Instagram (@visibleandreal).

I’m not sure what compelled me. I’ve tried doing Project 365 a few times, documenting daily moments of my life. I typically would forget until the end of the day, so I got a lot of my feet under covers in bed. But, this? This scared the jeebies out of me, in part because I would be seeing my face, every day, for a year. And yet… that’s part of what compelled me to do it. To see the grays that filter through my hair. To see who I am, daily.

Because, honestly? I avoid mirrors. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror and hate having my picture taken. The words that go through my head when I catch sight of myself … it’s harsh. And even though I admonish friends and acquaintances “No negative self-talk!” when those things come out of their mouths, the internal chatter doesn’t get such a quick shut down from me.

Enter #365feministselfie – a reminder that it is a feminist stance to accept who I am and what I look like (as I am, in whatever moment), that I needn’t look a “certain” way (read: magazine beautiful). That I can appreciate who I am, as I am, just as I do for my friends and those I follow on Instagram.

And when I click the hashtag on Instagram and see all of these beautiful, real faces of women across IG, I appreciate it. I value the brave it takes to be seen, and realize this is part of unfolding – allowing myself to be seen.

How do you allow yourself to be seen?

smiling self

Unfolding into who I am, daily, through pictures. Will you allow yourself to be seen?