Easter Bunny, Lazy People and Other Myths

I don’t believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or Prince Charming any more.  Happy endings only happen if you create them.

I also don’t believe in lazy people, mean people, stupid people, people who don’t care or who want to be negative, trouble makers and other miscreants.

This is not to say I don’t believe in anything.  I do believe that climate change exists, that we should reduce our national and personal debt, that everyone is inherently lovable, worthy of respect and full of talent.

I’ve frequently written in this blog about perfectionism and not being able to say No.  To me, it’s really easy to understand that emotional and psychological approach to dealing with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, as I’m a recovering perfectionist/control freak  myself.   Those that choose to view us compassionately see us as being driven by needing to prove ourselves repeatedly, despite our achievements and talents, and only focusing on how we are not quite good enough.  We’re also easy enough to deal with (in my opinion) – just get out of the way and let us take care of everything.  You have to admit, it has its advantages.

What about the opposite extreme?  Lazy, sad, unmotivated, dysfunctional, rebellious ne’er do wells.   They have some inherent character flaw that makes them this way, right?  Or maybe they don’t want to change?

This question came up in the Inspired2ignite blog.  Denise Hisey talks about Kurt Cobain’s pain and depression driving his creativity.  She also asks the thought-provoking question:  Would he have wanted it to be different?  What a great question.  Thank you Denise!

It had me thinking about the people I know who might be considered lazy, depressed, selfish screw-ups and so forth.   I often hear those accusations that this is “just how they are” and “they like being that way.”  I do agree, that this is how they are.  I mean, if they weren’t that way, they’d be something else.  There’s a level of acceptance implicit in that statement that belies our lack of control over most of our lives and especially someone else’s.

I don’t like that statement, however, because it implies resignation that we cannot influence or guide others, or that the other cannot or does not want to change.    This may also be true since the readiness to change happens on a unique, individualized timeline, and they may or may not ever reach that point where they are ready.  But I believe that everyone wants to be happy, optimistic, productive and successful.

What stands in the way of people being happy, optimistic, productive and successful?

I suspect these folks are stuck in dysfunction/underfunction for the same reason I was stuck in overfunction/enabling:  it’s how they deal with their self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy.  Let me explain.

I work hard to prove I’m competent and needed; they may avoid tasks to avoid demonstrating their incompetence.

I try anticipate what people need and problems before they occur so that I can believe that I’m a good person; they may avoid initiating activities to avoid feeling like they made the wrong choice.

I was a good student because I wanted to believe I was smart;  they may avoid working hard in school because if they failed it would prove that they’re dumb, not indifferent.

I was always the good girl because I wanted approval; they may avoid conformity because they want to avoid rejection for who they really are.

The other hard lesson I’ve learned over the years is that we overfunctioners are often unwittingly reinforcing these underfunctioning behaviors.  For example, my need to prove myself constantly then makes it hard for the underfunctioner to step up.  I mean, why would he take a chance if I will do everything and he doesn’t have to risk making a mistake? It’s a win-win.  I can prove how competent and worthy I am, and he doesn’t have to stick his neck out.  I can say he‘s lazy and he can say I’m uptight.  We’re both invested in this dysfunctional dance while pointing the finger at the other.

A classic family or group dynamic is the Problem Child scenario.   It’s so tempting to blame our problems and unhappiness on someone who is causing trouble, like the Problem Child.  But that Problem Child behavior is often reinforced by the family because it provides a convenient distraction and decoy to avoid tackling the real issue, whether it is abusive behavior, addiction, mental or physical illness, financial issues, etc.  Problem Children are also often expressing the emotions that the group is unwilling to confront.  For example, the Problem Child may be having difficulty adjusting after a family catastrophe, but is merely expressing the anger/fear/grief/sadness that the individual family members are trying to suppress.  Their failure to acknowledge the problem and feel the emotion is preventing the PC from working through her feelings.  Ironically, the family reinforces PC behavior because it allows them to stay in denial.

If you’ve read to this point I hope you can see that perhaps I’m not completely in Denial-Land myself, that there are things I DO believe in.  What I believe is that everyone, regardless of how they assuage their self-doubt, wants to be happy and live their life to their fullest potential.  We each have unique ways of expressing our fear, sadness and doubt, and that just because we may not understand each other, does not mean we have to judge one another.  Rather, by using forgiveness and compassion and looking at ourselves to see how we are contributing to the problem, perhaps we can help both ourselves others – both over- and under-functioners – find that peace and self-actualization we all deserve.

That being said, you under-achievers are not off the hook.  You have to find the courage to step-up just as much as we over-functioners have to find the courage to let go.   Remember, these are all self-fulfilling prophecies.  If you fear on some level that you are incompetent, your actions will subconsciously control you until you have proved to others that it is so.  (Note to all:) Caving to your unconscious script/story is worse than any failure you might experience by taking a risk. 

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.” – Sven Goran Eriksson

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.” – H. Stanley Judd



Love the One You’re With

Seems we’re obsessed with love, judging by the endless number of songs about finding or losing love.  Why?  I think we’re all trying to have a love that is so fulfilling and gratifying that we no longer have to resonate with those mournful melodies.   Boy was I tuned in and resonating with music like mad toward the end of my twenty year marriage and beyond. I went from feeling I had that soul mate (I Will Always Love You) to: knowing I didn’t (Cry Me a River), to: wondering if there was even such a thing (How Can Love Survive?).  There was a surreal period where I felt literally like I was floating in space adrift, with no anchor points.

Is that it?  Is that all there is?  Will I ever find someone who will actually fulfill my needs and love me the way I’m supposed to be loved?

Then it hit me.  Du-uh.

No, duuuu-uuuh (include several inflections for emphasis).

“Wherever you go, there you are” – Unknown

In other words, I am the only constant in my life.  So I must fulfill my own needs and love myself.

What I mean  is that we can provide everything we need to ourselves without relying on someone else.  If I want to feel loved and valued, I have to love and value myself.

Since this, like so many other things, are easier said than done, I considered the Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, for guidance.  Chapman says that people communicate love in five different ways:  touch, service, gifts, time, and words.  Interestingly, we may express our love using one or more languages that are different than how we might perceive love. For instance, I feel loved when people spend time with me, but I express my love in service – doing things for my loved one.  Odd, isn’t it?

(You know where this is leading…) Problems can arise when you  communicate love in a way that doesn’t synch with your partner.  So, if my partner feels loved when given gifts, he may not see my service as an act of love.  In addition, gifts are not on my love language radar so I don’t give gifts very often.  The result will be that he feels unloved.  Cruel, isn’t it?

This concept has four major implications:

  1.  Start seeing the love that is already there.  Don’t believe your story that you’re unloved, because you are.
  2. Communicate your love needs to your loved ones. Maybe they don’t know how you prefer to be loved.
  3. Love your partner in the way that makes them feel loved.  Ask if you’re not sure.
  4. Love yourself in the way you need to be loved.  I think this is the most important step, so I saved it for last. (Read more about the first three in Chapman’s book.)

Since time is the way I feel loved, loving myself means spending time with myself.  What this mean for me is that if I don’t have a partner or one willing to go do stuff with, then I go on my own.   I do not let “being alone” stand in the way of what I want to do, or what would make me happy.  Accordingly, I go to the gym, go to movies, volunteer, ballroom dance, take long walks, sit in coffee shops, try new restaurants – regardless of whether I have someone to go with me (Dancing With Myself  – well, I find others to ballroom dance with.  I’m not crazy after all, just sometimes alone).   I soon find I do not mind doing things on my own; in fact it has its advantages.  Being alone means I am more open to meeting people than if going as part of a couple.

If I want my partner to help uncover my innermost thoughts and beliefs, but I don’t have a partner, then I can explore my inner world by myself.  I journal and meditate to discover my inner world and study to understand its implications.  Being alone means I could really dig deep and be honest, since there is no one to judge me or lead me down a false path.

If I want my partner to make me feel like the most important person in the world and loved and accepted unconditionally, then I value and celebrate my unique qualities and talents.   I invest in those talents because they’re important .  I decide to love myself unconditionally, no matter what I find in my quest for self-discovery or whether I feel in the moment like a miserable excuse for a human being.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this.  Everyone has different love languages and is unique in what makes them feel loved.  Your self-gift of time will look different than mine.  Be as creative figuring out how to love yourself as you might with someone you love.

For someone that is a strong extrovert (gets energy from being with others), this has been a major paradigm shift for me.   It does not prevent me from sometimes feeling lonely.  But it does help me feel whole independent of what someone else does or does not do.

In my current relationship, I now do not need my partner to make me feel whole.  Losing that neediness allows him to be himself and our relationship to develop holistically, without the burden of my unrealistic expectations. I am now also a better partner as I communicate in his love language and ask him to love me in mine.

Finally, I now no longer need melancholy love songs.  Footloose and Celebration are the songs on my playlist now.

De-Stress in One (Sort of) Easy Step

Stress relief

Stress relief

I don’t believe in stress anymore.  I think it’s highly overrated so I suggest you just dispense with it.

I’m not talking about the low amounts of stress that cause you to be productive, meet deadlines and do a good job.  I’m talking about anything beyond that, because then, by definition, the stress is counterproductive.  Don’t wait until you feel your life is out of control and your health and happiness are suffering to fix this.  Or maybe you’re reading this because it already is.

I used to do stress to the nines, complete with stress-related pain conditions and being grouchy and irritable.  All that stress was standing in the way of enjoying my life and feeling good each day.  I’m sure being with me was no Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte (this is how I imagine communal serenity).

Sunday afternoon

So I gave up stress for Lent.

Well.  Actually, I gave up stress for me.  To benefit me.   Giving up stress for Lent just sounds better.

I’m wasn’t sure what stresses other people so I did a little web surfing and found some causes of stress:

  • Problems – health, financial, unemployment, emotional, social/relationship
  • Unhappiness with situation – social (such as loneliness), career
  • Major life changes
  • Conflict between belief/values and life choices/situations

You may wish to add a bullet or ten to the list yourself.   But to me, it boils down to a simple bit of wisdom, from my man The Bard:

“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – William Shakespeare

Perhaps that sounds simplistic, but I believe most of human grief is self-generated and based on unrealistic or unfair expectations of self, others and the world.  Often these expectations are subconscious drivers of our behavior and feelings until they are brought to light, examined, questioned and even challenged.

Let’s re-categorize the above stressors into types of expectations:

Now that you’ve boiled your stress list down to one factor that you probably didn’t even realize was controlling your life, you can now deal with the stress in your life in a constructive fashion.

Find the balance between being accepting, but willing to change your perspective and the circumstances of your life.   In other words, if I don’t like my job, it’s because I’m having unrealistic expectations about myself, others, or my circumstances.

It doesn’t mean I should be passive about the status quo.  I can work to improve my situation there or to find a new job.  I can negotiate new salary, duties, space.  I can ask for and create changes that I think will improve the work environment.  However, until circumstances improve, I do not allow myself to get stressed or upset about what I cannot or have not yet changed.  If I feel taken for granted at work, I focus on ways that I am appreciated.   If I feel underpaid, I focus on ways that I am rewarded well.  (See (Uncover Your) Truth or (Suffer the) ConsequencesThe struggle itself is a gift and much can be learned from that endeavor.

The same is true with the difficult people in your life.    Accept them as they are, because like you, they are trying their best.   They, like you, deserve your forgiveness and compassion for being human.  Focus on how they are meeting your needs instead of how they are not.  It’s OK to try to influence people, but don’t tie your peace of mind to the outcome.

You can give up stress because you don’t need it.  You don’t want it.  Just do one thing:  Change your perspective.

Don’t you feel better already?

Brain On A Rampage

Cultivate your mind to bloom

Cultivate your mind to bloom

Friends don’t let friends live in a toxic wasteland.

Which is why we’re going to have this difficult conversation.

Stop it.   Stop letting your brain ruin your health and happiness.

Miraculous organ though it is, our brain can also be our own worst enemy.  Just because a thought pops into your head, it does not mean you have to believe its negative or self-destructive message.  It does not mean you have to obsess over mistrustful, victimizing, blaming and paralyzing thoughts.  It does not mean you have to spend all your time focusing on thoughts that do not bring you joy.

Allowing our minds to roam free into destructive territory is like letting your two-year old have free reign of the baking and cooking supplies.  It’s like opening our bank accounts to all salesman and swindlers, our naked bodies to the elements.  Why do we squander the precious resource that is our mind as if it has no consequence?

It does have consequence, and you should be actively giving your consent to where your mind resides.

You may not be able to control where it goes, but you can control where it stays.

  • Don’t stay in an angry place. Choose forgiveness.
  • Don’t stay in a resentful place.  Let go.
  • Don’t stay in a paranoid or mistrustful place.  Give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t stay in a helpless/victimized place.  Choose empowerment.
  • Don’t stay in a blaming or judgmental place.  Choose empathy and personal responsibility.
  • Don’t stay in a sad place.  Choose joy.
  • Don’t stay in a place where you feel deprived.  Choose gratitude.
  • Don’t stay in a dark place.  Choose the light.
  • Don’t just see the bad in people and situations.  Choose to see their good side and the opportunities.

Don’t waste your precious mental (or otherwise) resources on anything that will prevent you and those around you from feeling affirmed, joyous and creative.  A mind is truly a terrible thing to waste.  Don’t turn something so precious into a toxic dumping ground.  Instead, choose to make your mind a garden of Eden, and watch what blossoms.