Monday, March 19, 2018

Good enough!

Winston Churchill once said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." Most definitely, there were many times during World War II when he was uncertain about the outcome. But he kept moving ahead—and kept Britain moving ahead.

In a book titled Keep Calm and Carry On, author Mark A. Reinecke describes the most disabling of distorted thinking, perfectionism, as "the belief that there's a best solution and that nothing less than the best is acceptable."

He goes on to say that as we face our problems, "We need to find the solution, the approach that brings only positive outcomes and has no negatives or downsides. Expecting nothing less than the best brings more security and guarantees a positive result, doesn't it?

"Actually, it's quite the opposite. Seeking perfect solutions can magnify our anxiety as the future unfolds. ... Because we can't predict how events will present themselves over time, there are no perfect solutions. If events don't develop as planned, you may believe you have failed, which leads to feelings of disappointment and regret and to a reduced sense of efficacy and control."

By now, I think we all realize that we should not let perfect get in the way of good. Seeking perfection can keep us from finding perfectly acceptable and workable solutions to our problems. Or as some people say, "Many things worth doing are worth doing badly!"

Are you a perfectionist? I'm a recovering one—still working to be satisfied with good! Good is good enough!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Don't let social anxiety get you down

Most everyone wants to be liked, loved, admired, respected and treated well. Some of us want it too much, however. Have you ever experienced that? And when that happens, are you angry with yourself for wanting approval too much? Angry that you haven't stood up for yourself or shown more self-esteem and self-confidence? Upset with yourself that your fears got the best of you?

Let go of the anger at yourself. Drop the shame. Instead, take a look at your patterns of behavior in a variety of social or work situations. What are the situations that most trip your triggers? And what are your responses? What are you thinking at the time? What fears are driving your behavior? Do you "awfulize" (everything is absolutely disastrous)? Do you overgeneralize (this always happens to me)? Do you magnify (blow things way out of proportion, similar to awfulizing)? Do you compare yourself, always coming up way below average and below everyone else in the room?

Challenge those thoughts and see whether there aren't more reasonable ways of seeing the particular situation(s) in question—and of seeing yourself.

Then develop some mantras or self-statements that you can repeat whenever you find yourself in a situation that might trigger your social anxiety. For example, "I'll be just fine. Others here are anxious, too. We are all in this together." Or "I am calm and serene, and I won't let my fear and insecurity rule me." "Everyone has baggage and insecurities. Some just hide it better. I will be friendly and show compassion to all I meet."

Over time, you just might see your anxiety reduced. It takes time, attention and intention to make changes like this. But it's so rewarding.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sharing brings strength

 A daily devotion I read recently discussed the fact that many churches don't have what's called "testimonies" from members. But, as a pastor, she wondered whether it might not be a good idea. She said this, "I sometimes wonder what testimonies the people in our pews need to hear. Do they need to hear someone say that there is life after the marriage implodes? Do they search for an assurance that chemo was hard for everyone else too? Do they long to know that everyone is a little afraid of growing older and depending on others more?"

It raises an interesting point: Are we vulnerable enough to share those fears and stories that can reassure each other? For it's in sharing our stories (and our fears) that we receive support, compassion—and, yes, even hope.  That's why support groups are so valuable for all manner of situations. We gain strength from each other's stories.

Who needs to hear your "testimonies" today? And who might reassure you if they told theirs?

Monday, March 12, 2018

'Love more'

Even though I'm a Norwegian, I have to hand it to those Swedes! One of their proverbs goes like this: "Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours."

I can't argue with that. And, of course, I'm just teasing about the Swedes—even though this really is touted as a Swedish proverb.

More hope and less fear would be a good thing right now. So much of what is happening in our country (and around the globe) these days is fueled by fears of all sorts. We'd be far better off truly facing these fears and addressing them than to lash out at others because of them.

As for chewing more, yes, one of the things I learned in Weight Watchers was the benefit of chewing more slowly. By doing so, I was told I would eat less. True enough. It's still something I'm working on, however!

And whining? Yup, we know how unattractive that is in children—and in adults, well, that's truly disgusting. As for making our words count—I'm sure we can all agree with that.

And love more? Yes, the world truly does need more love. If each person truly felt loved, how different might this world be? So let's each do our part—and add more love to the world.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Stories are life-giving

American author and essayist Barry Lopez once said, "Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."

Interesting thought, isn't it? Think about it: Don't our stories tell us who we are? Where we've been? Even perhaps who and what we might become?

When someone listens, really listens, as I tell my life story, I feel heard. I feel real. Alive. And when they affirm what I've been through and how I've come through it, I have truly been listened into existence.

Sharing our stories with one another is a pretty intense and deep way to get to know someone, especially when we don't hold back. Sharing your story is a gift. Hearing another's story is a gift, too.

Can you think of a time when you reminded a friend or loved one of a part of their story they'd forgotten? Do you recall their joy at being given that gift? I've had friends say to me, "Thank you so much for reminding me of that part of my story! I'd completely forgotten that. That helps me know that I can get through this situation, too!"

Yes, it's true: sometimes we really need our stories to stay alive.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Staying on good behavior

Most of us really do want to be our best selves. We try hard to take responsibility for our lives. We try to help others in whatever ways we can. We want to be good parents, good mates, good friends, good employees. And we're extremely disappointed in ourselves when we mess up.

Because of this, it's important to identify those things that trigger us to be less than our best or ideal selves. Are there certain behaviors in others that really set you off and pretty much guarantee that you'll come out with guns blazing? Not literally, of course. Behaviors that bring out the petulant child in you?

It's good to know your own triggers. Knowing what they are empowers you to make better choices when such situations occur.

A speaker recently reminded those of us in the audience that, in addition to any specific triggers we each have, an acronym expresses triggers common to us all. She encouraged us to think of the word HALT and tend to the needs expressed by it so we could avoid sinking into less-than-ideal behaviors.

HALT reminds us to ask these questions: Am I Hungry? Am I Angry? Am I Lonely? Am I Tired? Those four things are issues we're able to tend so we don't get triggered into bad behaviors. I know I'm paying more attention to those these days.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Barriers to self-love

A refrain I hear repeatedly from women is that it's so difficult to love themselves. We have been conditioned so well to care for others and to put the needs of others before our own. Doing so ought not push love and care of self to the back burner or to the very bottom of the list. It should not be a case of either/or. Either I love and care for my children, my spouse, others in my life OR I love myself. No, it doesn't work that way.

If this is an issue for you, I encourage you to try identify what barriers are specific to you when it comes to self-love and self-care. Do you find self-care difficult because of shame, because of fears, because of excessive responsibility or inferiority? Or is there some other barrier?

Once you identify the barrier, you can begin to work through it—perhaps by journaling, talking with a trusted friend or counselor. Should you wish, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary strategy session on this issue.

Once we can truly love our selves and care for our selves, we have so much more compassion and love for others. And then our own light and love can emerge and shine brightly!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Share the good news

I just read a post on Facebook by a woman who said she'd gone to a local grocery store for a few items. When she got to the checkout, the cashier told her, "Your money isn't any good here today." My friend thought, "What?!" Then the cashier told her that the person in line ahead of her had paid extra for those following behind. It just made my friend's day!

Well, guess what? It made my day, too. It's sometimes easy for me to get caught up by the negative news—school shootings, deadlock in Washington, wars and murder in so many parts of the globe, etc. And although I want to be aware of world and domestic events, I also want to stay positive. So reading about a random act of kindness really made my day. It's so easy to forget about the good people in the world and think the world is populated with evil, nasty folks.

Somehow, I need to maintain perspective and balance. I want to do what I can to help bring justice and peace into the world. At the same time, I don't want to get bogged down in all the negativity and pain. Most days, this can be a real challenge!

My friend's post reminded me to share good news when I hear or experience it. The good things that happen to us boost our attitudes. And when we share those stories, others receive a positive boost too.