Mother, Wife, Working Woman. These titles all come with some perceptions of what it means to be successful. They all label and in define me in some way. Without knowing me you may have already pictured in your mind who I might be. You may imagine you get what my day is like. You might identify with me already before you even hear my story. Whoever you have thought me to be, whatever you have pictured is a less harsh view me, than what I imagine myself to be.
Why do we do that to ourselves. Why do we imagine the ideal for someone else and yet only see the flaws in ourselves. I am guilty of this and I often feel overwhelmed when I think about where to begin to “fix” things. When someone undertakes the job of self-improvement where exactly is the best place to start? Is there a “best place to start?”
Well here is where I am starting.
1. Quiet. So much of our day and our energy is spent answering questions other people have asked of us. So much time is spent explaining ourselves. We so long to be understood it can feel like we are shouting our truths at each other rather than engaging with each other. All this energy we are giving away needs to be reigned in. I intend to spend a few minutes a day in silence. Even just 10 minutes. Carve it out and enjoy it. It might be uncomfortable at first but if I make it through the initial discomfort, I can actually hear myself think! Those thoughts are important. They are my own and they help me discover how I am really feeling in a given moment. Some of them are silly, some of them are the lies I tell myself, some of them are the truths I have needed to connect with. They are all mine and they all matter.
2. Write it down. Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way suggests writing first thing in the morning, anything that comes to mind and avoid editing yourself. This is a freeing practice and one I am working on.
3. Sort it out. Sorting my thoughts is an important step. There are truths and the stories we tell ourselves. I need to lose weight and eat healthier may be the truth but why is it packaged in derogatory terms like “You look like a huge pig.” You may feel that way but it’s highly unlikely you look like that. Listing my story as it comes to mind in one column completely unedited and in another column I list my truths. How to tell the difference? Truths will probably sound more like unbiased fact than untruths which may sound like judgements.
4. Kind words. Replace derogatory words with kind words. I struggle with this one as well. I tend to start the day well but as it wears on I slip back into the unkind habit. My husband helps me by pointing out when I unjustly speak negatively about myself.
5. Accept as fact that doing one thing at a time and doing it well, is the best way to multitask. Every job interview seems to require the ability to multitask and we all seem to think that means being able to do several things at once. I challenge that definition. We are only able to do a few tasks at a time and do them all well. Focus will bring us success. My husband brought this to my attention recently as I was trying to figure out how to mother, work, keep up the home and be true to myself all at once. I couldn’t. I had to think of what was priority, do that and do it well and then move onto the next task. I got through more work that way than if I’d set out to do it all.
6. Pray, Meditate and Align your thoughts with your values. What do I value in the world around me? What do I hold as truths. What do I think I owe my community, if anything at all? I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in God though my exact definition and how that looks in my life may be different than how it looks in yours depending on our faiths. Perhaps you are atheist. Being true to who you are is important. I believe in prayer so I will be praying that the path I choose to embark on is blessed. I don’t practice meditation as often as I should but I will mediate on my life and the decisions and choices I have to make in the future. If you are atheist perhaps you’d think of the community you live in if your goals add value to your life and your community. Ultimately I want to be of value to the community in which I live. It simply means I want my existence to contribute something to the overall benefit of my community.
7. A Step in the Right Direction. There is a lot of advice out there about going big or going home when you want to make a change. I’m sure a lot of it is good advice but what if you can’t make a big change. What do you do then. I have made little changes in the direction I want my life to go in. Little things add up. I guess it just depends on what the right thing for you is. Sometimes a big drastic change is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes it’s just a few definite actions getting you daily closer to your goal. Sometimes it’s both. The most important thing I guess is to act! Do, Live, Be the change.
8. Have a strong will and a light heart. I have found it to be true. People will only take you as seriously as you take yourself. If you want something go after it. If someone stands in my way I can try to convince them they are on the wrong side of the table and get their support. Or ask them to step aside. If neither works I’ll find a way around. There is always a way. If I treat myself with respect and I know I’ll garner it. That said, if you don’t laugh at yourself, you won’t be happy to learn others will sometimes laugh at you. It’s ok! I try to give myself a break and giggle. Most people would rather laugh with you than at you anyway. Plus I’m super funny.
9. Imagine. I am watching my son play and learn through the power of imagination and I know I must do the same. If you want change you must see it first. I know I started this post saying if you are lost how do you know where to start but if you got this far with me, then you’ve already begun. This is the fun part. There is no rule saying you can only see one future for yourself. I have several ideas what would make me happiest. In imagining scenarios though I have found elements that appear in all my hopes and dreams. These are my big picture goals. I try not to get too wrapped up in the details. There may be more than one path to my bliss and I accept that. I’m just picking the most direct and realistically achievable path I can think up to what I want and starting there. I do leave a bit of wiggle room for miracles in my dreams however because I do believe in them.
10 Enlist. It’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge your thought processes. People who are walking similar journeys or who are mentors as well as friends. This last one is tricky for me as we tend not to socialize a lot. Mostly for logistical reasons more than anything, we tend to be loners. My husband and I enjoy each other’s company and don’t make as much a point of socializing as we probably should. We have each other and big loving families and that’s worked for us for a long time. This is not always a good approach however, different voices and opinions from trusted and respected sources can only add to our lives on the whole. I know we have a lot of love and kindness to give in return as well.
So that’s it. That’s where I am starting my journey to the me I envision for myself. That woman is just that much more awesome than the one typing now and I’ll get there. I’m doing it for myself. I’m doing it for my husband and my son because they are my world. Remember what works for me is not necessarily what will work for you. I hope there is some spark of inspiration in my writing however and ultimately you find an approach that does work for you.
That’s all for now.