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Sometimes Success Looks Like Failure

We live in a perfect world. A world that rewards perfect and only perfect.

The world’s filled with beautiful ideas, shared in awe by others while the ‘Pinterest fails’ are shared in mockery and mirth. As adults, we often belittle ourselves and, in some cases, others, when we make mistakes. So often we hear words like, “I could never do that, I’m not a [fill in the blank].” As adults we’ve learned that unless we’re perfect, we shouldn’t even try. We became square pegs in square holes.

Take a moment for that to sink in.

When we limit ourselves to what we’re already good at, we are merely square pegs.

For a long time I was a square peg, unhappily sitting in a square hole. Fear of mistakes crippled me and held me in place. My self worth hinged on being good and right all the time. If you’ve never lived in that kind of world, let me tell you, it’s a miserable place to be! When I saw my children showing signs of living in a perfection based world, I knew something drastic needed to change.

How can we teach our children they can learn anything, be anything, do anything if we constantly send the message that we need to be perfect the first time we try something? How will our children learn that practice makes perfect, if they see us never try anything new? But also, how will they learn that not being perfect is okay, if we never point out our own mistakes?

I made a cake this week. It’s not the first cake I’ve made, but it was the first time I’ve tried this technique. It turned out great! (For a first try). Everyone gushed over it (well except that one person that sneered and said, “it’s okay.” But we won’t talk about him anymore! lol).

As I made the cake, Ella and Agatha gushed over how awesome the cake was and how amazing they thought I was. Nothing feels better than knowing your children admire you!

My cake wasn’t perfect. Not even close! It looked like a zombie garden gnome (a la Harry Potter). Not pretty! The fondant ripped in a few places, and the entire thing looked a little creepy. I’d go so far as to say it’d be worthy of a ‘Pinterest Fail’ post. Except, I’m ridiculously proud of this cake. No. It isn’t perfect, I’m very aware of the differences between mine and the professional’s cake. But I tried.

I tried something new and I think it turned out really good, for someone that doesn’t do this every day, or even every month.

I’m not a cake decorator, a baker, or a chef in anyway (sometimes I despise anything to do with cooking), but it makes my children happy to have fun parties and fun cakes. It makes them feel loved and so I do it. Even though it takes all my will power to place that cake, with all it’s faults, in front of other people, I do it.

Today it’s cakes, a different day it was wire sculptures. Sometimes it’s words. I try. I work. I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. Sometimes it looks like failure. Sometimes it feels like failure.

I tried something and it didn’t go the way I envisioned. I compare myself to others. I compare myself to the person I wish I was. That person that knows what to say and how to say it. The one that makes gorgeous cakes and throws elaborate parties, while also looking amazing. I see the dissonance between who I am and who I wish to be. Sometimes the distance seems so vast, and then I see how far I’ve come.

It may look like failure to some, but to me, it’s a huge success.

I want my children to see these moments of failure as success too. I pointed out the differences between the way my cake looked and the way I wish it looked. Together we watched the video I used as inspiration. We talked about the differences between what she did and what I did. We took maybe 3 minutes to really pick apart the problems with my cake, then I changed course and talked about how wonderful I thought my cake was. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great try and I was able to see where my mistakes were, which meant I could learn from it.

Success!

Now that you’ve seen my cake, this is the video I used as inspiration:

 

 

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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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The Danger of Positive Thinking

Some of you’ve heard me talk about Positive Thinking before and how important it is to me, specifically to my journey through chemo. So you may wonder why I’d suggest ‘positive thinking’ is dangerous. I’d like to explain why I believe it’s dangerous as well as why things like positive affirmations and ‘support’ from friends and family are also harmful.

Really what it comes down to is a base misunderstanding of what real positive thinking looks like as well as how our brain responds to it.

Many people believe positive thinking (as well as positive affirmation) is as simple as telling yourself what you want. When a person offers support to a friend it often looks the same, “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!”, “You’re an awesome mommy”. The problem with that is our friend knows the truth – and our friend’s truth is that they aren’t doing a good job, or they wouldn’t feel horrible!

When I was going through chemo I used positive thinking every single day to get me through, but I used the truth to lift me up, vs holding me back.

Here’s two different ways a person may use positive thinking over the course of two days.

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “Wow. This is tough, it’s really hard to sit up today. But I did it! I’m so strong. I sat up even though it was so hard!”

The first way are empty words, they’re sugar pills, placebo words that may or may not help depending on the day and the person. The second acknowledges the work, but also acknowledges the success.

Day two:

  1. “I’ve got this! I’m strong! I’m gonna beat cancer!”
  2. “This is easier than yesterday. It’s still tough, but I actually climbed out of bed today! I’m getting stronger each day!”

The first one doesn’t acknowledge the work done or how the person is feeling. If the person has a bad day or a bad moment, it will quickly negate any positive thinking because confirmed truth is stronger than empty words every time. But the second example has confirmed truth built in, so even if a bad moment happens, it’s easy to see it for a moment and nothing more and continue to believe the positive thoughts.

When talking to our friends, the same holds true. For instance a friend is struggling with a situation, lets say a parenting situation. A friend complains about their child’s behaviour, or even just curses while talking about their child, or admits they’ve yelled or hit their child. I often see and hear others say something along the lines of, “We all make mistakes, don’t worry, they’ll survive. You’re the best mommy for you child.”AdobeStock_80739055.jpeg

On the surface these sound great, but they don’t acknowledge the truth of the situation, the feelings our friend is experiencing, nor does it acknowledge the subtle (or severe) damage caused to the child. They pretend the problem doesn’t exist. It hides from the complex emotions and buries them under ‘positive’ emotions. Of course we see they aren’t really positive, they’re just pretend!

Instead saying something like, “It sounds like you’re really struggling right now. You sound so upset about the situation/how you acted.”

Open a dialogue with your friend, allow the truth and emotion to pour out. As that happens, you can support your friend while she processes the situation. If your friend needs help, you can offer it, or you can offer to help her find help.

It doesn’t matter if the situation is about parenting, a job, losing weight, or any other aspect of life. The first step in offering support, is to listen. The second step is to acknowledge what your friend has said, and understand what that means. Ask questions if needed. Once you understand, then you can let your friend know you’re there. You don’t need to solve the problem.

When positive thinking is used as a bandaid to cover reality, it doesn’t help us move forward. What happens when we use positive thinking incorrectly is we leave ourselves feeling like we aren’t good enough. We may feel anxiety or anger surrounding the situation, or we may feel hopeless. Positive thinking is not a blind cheering section, but when we use it as such, we hurt ourselves.  Instead positive thinking is supposed to be used as a means of seeing the positive parts of reality as more important than the parts that leave us uncomfortable.

If I were to catch myself yelling at my children, I might say to myself, “Wow. I feel horrible right now, I bet they do to. Yelling isn’t a good parenting strategy. I can be more respectful. I’m going to apologize to them as soon as I have a solution to prevent yelling next time.” Then I’d think up a solution, a plan for the future, apologize, ask forgiveness, and then I’d use positive thinking like this, “I yelled, but I managed to stop myself from yelling longer. I walked away, and I apologized. It wasn’t a great moment, but it was better than yesterday. I’m becoming a more respectful parent each day. I can continue to improve, even when I make mistakes.”

It can be difficult to admit our mistakes, but when we do, we can focus on learning from them and growing. That growth is positive thinking. When we grow, we focus on the positive and learn from everything else.

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Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

It takes a lot of soul searching, and twice as much work, to elevate myself to become a person I admire. It’s incredibly difficult to admit that I didn’t like who I was. It’s so hard to peal back the layers, find the parts I don’t like, amplify what I do, and rewrite new layers. I’ve spent many days crying as I search back to discover why I think or behave certain ways. Growing isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. But it’s so worth it!

I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone more and more often. Last week Ella had a bad experience at her first tumbling class. A coach shamed her in front of others for not knowing how to do something, on the first day of her first class. Ella felt humiliated. When we got home she sent an email to the gym, explained what happened, explained that it wasn’t acceptable, she wanted to know the gym didn’t find it acceptable, and wanted a response back so she could decide whether to remain in the class, or not. After three days she’d received no response, she decided to withdraw from the course. I needed to call the gym, withdraw her, give a reason, and request a refund. The gym has a no refund policy without a doctor’s note.

Normally a phone call like this would result in me yelling or crying, depending on which childhood programming surfaced at the time. That type of phone call is also one I’d usually avoid making if at all possible. I did consider sending an email instead of a phone call.

I made the phone call. To someone I didn’t know, to make a complaint, to withdraw my daughter, and to request a refund. Pain, pain, pain!

It went really well! I neither yelled, nor cried and they agreed to provide a pro-rated refund and processed the withdrawal.

Besides making difficult phone calls, I’ve also stepped so far out of my comfort zone and volunteered to model at the True Beauty Gala. I also agreed to dance, a choreographed dance, at the Gala. In front of people!

Participating in the Gala means I need to drive to Calgary several times until the end of October. It means overcoming so many fears. Fear of something happening to someone. Fear of falling on (or off) the runway, fear of being ridiculed for not being pretty enough, fear of not being coordinated enough, of messing up the dance.

I’ve allowed my fears to control and limit me for so long. The first weekend I drove to Calgary, 3 hours away, I barely slept the night before. Partly because Brom doesn’t sleep anymore, but also because I kept picturing all the things that could happen.

When I see the scary images start, I say, “No!” I pray. I then purposefully picture the day being amazing. Instead of picturing a car accident, I picture a fun drive singing, and enjoying quiet time.

It’s still uncomfortable, but not crippling. I’m showing up. I’m trying. I’m putting real effort into the event. My past patterns protected me from pain by not bothering to even try. If I failed, it wasn’t a huge deal because it’s not like I put effort in to anything. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t able to admit to fear. I wasn’t able to admit to not knowing or not understanding. I wasn’t able to learn and grow.

It isn’t easy being uncomfortable, but it is better.

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