Dare to be different

I started out this post with the idea that it takes courage to be different. But I got to thinking that when we dare to be different we are, in effect, daring to be ourselves.

We’re all born with our own talents and interests and inclinations. But somewhere along the way, most probably in school, some of us learn that it’s best to fit in and not stand out. To conform. To be the same. To not be different.

Even though it is our differences that help us contribute to life. It is precisely because nobody else thinks entirely the same as you, that makes your question or recommendation valuable.

We tend to compare ourselves continuously, no matter that there will always be someone better or worse than us. But then, as no one is exactly alike, what is the basis of our comparisons?

Dare to be yourself. Not a half-baked, one-sided version of yourself to accommodate other people. Dare to be intensely yourself. (I’ve borrowed this idea from Cara Stein).

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No more perfect perfectionistic perfectionism…

I have this thing: I just can not allow people to see/realise that I’m not perfect, that I do not always know what to do in situations and that I sometimes mess up. Let me give you an example of how far perfectionalism has infiltrated my life:

I have made macaroni with cheese sauce at least 528 times in my life. But let somebody stand next to me to see what I do, I’m suddenly SO aware of, oh, a number of things: Oe, the microwave’s not as clean as it should be… Is the flour not past it’s best by date? Oh my goodness, did I just touch my nose and continued without washing my hand first? The result always have lumps, is always too thin, not salt enough, not cheesy enough, just not right. So of course, next time, I’ll yell: DON’T WATCH ME/GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN/GET AWAY or something to that effect when somebody wants to watch me cook.

But as I take my job as mother as seriously as my doing other things, ja wel, perfectly… and my son has to, of course, be able to cook his own food someday and he did indicate an interested in the preparation of food… I have actually let him HELP me…[gritting of teeth]. I have found that I do not always work well with “shared responsibility” because, of course, the other person’s perfect is not the same as MY perfect…

Ha! Ha! Ha! [Cover your ears to the sound of my laughter!] You might not believe me, but I just received a video blog on this very topic! You can check it out here: Video: Coach 4 2day – Perfectionism.

Summary: If you’re a perfectionist and you decide not to be a perfectionist but you can’t give up your perfectionism perfectly, you’re gonna judge yourself about it.

Rather: allow yourself to be perfectionistic and allow yourself to be imperfect as a perfectionist.

This basically boils down to: Be a perfectionist but you’ll never, ever be able to do anything perfectly, but that’s OK.

Back to my original story: Perfectionism can be very isolating, though: all alone in the kitchen… excluding myself from my family/guests. Once you acknowledge that you are not perfect (and for that matter nobody else either!) and allow yourself to be vulnerable to the presence/help/watchful gaze of somebody else, what you gain is so much better than having a perfect end result.

What you gain is companionship, that special bond created when doing things together.

Stress management 101: solve the problem or wait patiently

Apparently there are two strategies to handle stress. One is focusing on the problem and doing something about the problem. The other is sitting tight, not getting upset and patiently waiting for others to change the situation.
Three guesses which strategy do I use?
Hint: I’m not one of those people using the strategy with the word “patiently” in it.

When I first read about these strategies, I had the audacity to think that MY strategy was the better one. And for work it often is.
BUT: Fact is that not all problems can be “action-ed” away. I think I can explain why having and raising a child was/is so stressful for me.
I want to do things to change bad/negative/sad/hard situations. But sometimes all a situation needs is time to resolve itself: When you fall from your bike, you need some time to, maybe, cry a bit, re-evaluate your knowledge about what happens when you stop pedalling and not put your foot down, maybe get a plaster stuck on the eina, and then tentatively go and try again.
Here it would be best if a mother could “patiently waiting for someone else to change the situation…”
But no! I want to tell him how to do it, and then he must just do it. No falling, no getting use to the idea of balancing. Just doing. OK?

I think I have to admit that MY strategy is not working all that well in the real world outside of work.

Taking personally to a new level

Seth Godin provides an interesting argument as to why you shouldn’t take it personally – because IT is often not really about you, but about the person who is acting/committing IT against you.
In another post he challenges his readers about what they’d get done if they’d stopped actively sabotaging their own work.
Isn’t it strange how we wouldn’t take any insults or badmouthing from other people, but often commit utterly insulting badmouthing towards ourselves?

Fear limits destroy: face it – have I gone mental?

Raj Persaud wrote in his book Staying Sane that you should know your limits, and then destroy them. He writes about mental health, as you probably deduced from the title of the book. Most of us, supposedly, know how to look after our physical health, you know… exercise… eat right… that kind of thing (although you’ll agree that knowing is not necessarily doing 🙂 ). But we do not necessarily know how to take care of our mental health. Says Persaud.

Our natural response to stress is to withdraw. It makes sense to try and avoid something if we’re anxious about it. But we are obviously not facing our fears if we operate in this manner. And we’re definitely not being open to what life has to offer…

Facing your fear means feeling scared, frazzled, dishevelled… you get the idea? But you feel worse only in the short run and once you’ve faced the fear, you feel better in the long run. Facing your fear is better for your mental health. Because it also does wonders for your sense of achievement. And it motivates you to try other scary things as well. And then you feel happy.

Although Persaud claims this is not happiness, but pleasure. He believes happiness is a long-lasting, overall contentedness often confused with pleasure, a temporary sensation which results from a good thing happening in your life. But hey, a rose by any other name…

So, the big indicator of how mentally tough you are, lies not in your reaction to the good life. No, that would be too easy. It lies in your response to bad/negative events.

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one minute to the next – Mignon McLaughlin

Even heroes feel scared. But they become heroes because the fear doesn’t stop them from acting. Acting in spite of fear… Acting in spite of negative thoughts… acting in spite of negative self-talk…

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

Just caught the last bit of the movie All about Steve with Sandra Bullock on TV (about the world not always being ready to accept uniqueness…) and thought of a quote by Judy Garland:

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

In theory it sounds great, but being oneself is sometimes a bit of an acquired taste, just like red wine, I’m told. We tend to compare the worst of ourselves with the best of others. And we want the opposite of what we do have: If we’re short, we want to be tall; if we have curly hair, we want straight hair.

Getting to know yourself is a life-long journey.

We also tend to harshly judge ourselves and other people based on a single occurrence, ignoring the context leading up to and shaping that occurrence. Most of the time, people are just doing the best they can at that specific point time.

You can really count on dishes and facebook photos of yourself…

I read somewhere that you can always count on the dishes. They’ll be there when big things happen, and they’ll be there when nothing much happens in your life. The dishes won’t let you down.

I found it interesting that Ann Marie Woodall refers to the virtues of a clean kitchen sink in a chapter on vitality in her book Secrets of a high-heeled healer! Vitality – clean kitchen sink (OK, I am using a bit of poetic licence here, I’m leaving out the connecting tissue of her thought process: the long and the short of it is that clutter and chaos in your life robs you of your energy).

The chapter starts with a quote from F Scott Fitzgerald:

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but also the ability to start over.

After reading this quote, I am rather concerned that my dishes are exhibiting more vitality than I am…

But you get the point? Clutter is bad for vitality. Another aspect of clutter’s negative influence in our lives are body image (No, I am not using any poetic licence here. It’s in a section with the title: vitality vampire 1: the ‘clutter buts’). Her argument makes sense. When our wardrobes are filled with clothes in sizes we will never wear again; each time we sort through it we are reinforcing shattered dreams of sylph-like bodies or supermodel legs.

Talking about shattered dreams. Why is it that you can look yourself in the mirror every day and not see yourself quite in the same negative light as action photos of yourself on facebook? Do we look at ourselves objectively? When do we start judging our images and why?

 Maybe the real clutter robbing us of our vitality can be found in our thoughts.

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