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Brave in Sunny San Diego

San Diego…what a beautiful place! I’m here for a few days to attend a behavioral health business conference. It’s been a positive experience. I generally love conferences because I walk away inspired and energized. I needed this considering I’ve been drained.

I admit the first day, preconference, was rough: a 3 hour flight and then I couldn’t figure out where to enter the hotel due to construction. I drove around several times. There was a slight problem with my hotel reservation, but it was resolved. My ears were plugged up for the rest of the day. I was tired and irritable. My nose was congested.

I felt better when I woke up Thursday morning at 3:14 a.m. My body still thinks it’s 2 hours ahead in Texas, so I woke up on time. On Friday, I woke up at 3:48 a.m. I’ve still been getting a little less than 6 hours sleep. My attitude improved after I wrote Thursday’s blog post.

I decided to make the best of this trip because how often do I get to come to San Diego? It’s a privilege I’m able to travel to interesting places for work. This is my first time in California. I’ve never particularly cared about visiting…go figure. I enjoy networking when it’s the right group and I had an inkling this would be that group. On Thursday, I made some connections, gave some compliments, passed out my business cards, learned some valuable information, and overall embraced the day. I also received a few site seeing recommendations from a conference participant I met from Minnesota. I had something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I spent some time in Seaport Village and I loved it. Although I can’t swim and am afraid of large bodies of water, the water had a calming affect on me. I took lots of pictures and soaked in the breeze.

I took my time strolling. I walked on a pier. I enjoyed watching other people taking in the view. In some ways, Seaport Village, particularly by the pier, reminded me of Chicago (my home town), on the Lakefront. Instead of the Pacific Ocean, Chicago sits right on Lake Michigan. In other ways, the location reminded me of Austin because of the open beautiful, blue sky.

Eventually, I was hungry, but indecisive about which restaurant, so I perused through menus until one felt right.

I landed on a place where my food was mediocre at best, but the window view on the water made up for it.

Thank God for smartphones and GPS because I rely on them so much when traveling. I got nervous when I missed a turn in this very unfamiliar city. For a moment, I thought, “just go back to the hotel”. However, I was determined and when I found my destination along with a parking space, I was relieved.

It was a relaxing and wonderful ending to a great day. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to do a little exploration of San Diego. It wasn’t much and I won’t be here long, but I wanted to get back to Austin with some good memories of San Diego. The fact that I’m attending this trip solo confirms my commitment to growth. I’m so used to operating outside of my comfort zone, I seem to gravitate towards activities that do just that, without much thought. At the end of the day, I grow in confidence, knowledge, and experience.

Light lessons:

  • Be brave
  • Take responsibility for your growth
  • Live outside your comfort zone sometimes

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You need a tool box

As a grown up person, you have to realize you are responsible for charting your own course despite past circumstances and upbringing. If you want to gain more confidence, do the work to increase your confidence. If you are not fulfilled in certain areas of your life, do the work to become fulfilled. If you want to write better, do the work to improve your writing. If you want to lose weight, do the work to release the pounds. You get where I’m going with this…Light lesson: Ultimately it’s up to you to manifest the life you want, and to get there, you must take action. I want to empower you with this: You direct the changes/enhancements you want in your life, but not without putting in some work…at times, some soul stirring, gut-wrenching, sweaty, messy, frustrating, humbling, confusing, unpretty, exhilarating, rewarding, and satisfying WORK.

Some of us have done the work, but I believe we also need periodic refresher courses. When you have a professional license and/or certification, you’re required to maintain a certain number of Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) to maintain the license in a specific timeframe. This ensures you’re keeping up to date on practices in your field. I haven’t renewed my social work license yet because I’m short on ethics CEUs. Those are hard to come by, especially with my schedule. In essence, refresher courses, like CEUs ensure you’re keeping your skills sharp.

Over the years, I’ve studied to earn an advanced degree, worked jobs that took me out of my comfort zone, gained parenting skills, improved my fitness level, improved my cooking and baking skills, learned how to cook vegan meals, learned how to be a better wife, learned how to garden, honed my communication skills, lost some weight, and on and on. I’m a constant learner. I’m an action oriented person. I put in the work.

All I do to gain knowledge and enrich my life adds to my self-confidence. Occassionly, I need a refresher course because despite my high confidence, sometimes I have doubts mostly due to my damaged wiring. Yes, although we may put in the work to conquer past demons, resolve old hurts, forgive past mistakes and people, there may be some residual damage of which we learn to live with. It doesn’t mean we haven’t done the work. It just means there are remaining mental and/or psychological scars and damage. We can’t control the memory triggers, but we can work on how to cope with them.

About a month ago, I was thinking of writing a blog post on confidence because I’ve encountered several women lately who lack confidence. They know it. I supervise a couple of them. I believe once they conquer the confidence factor, the sky is the limit on what they can do. This is important to me because I know how important confidence is in life and business. This blog post is really about how I’ve gained and maintain my confidence.

To help myself in my own periodic struggle with confidence, I recently opened my tiny purple tool box that rests on my dresser in my bedroom. It’s about 8 years old. In my field education class in graduate school, my instructor had each student decorate a tiny box. Once we completed the task, she had us write a positive message about each person in our cohort on tiny pieces of paper. We passed the tiny pieces of paper to each person, folded our own tiny messages, then placed them in our box. It was a brilliant and beautiful exercise. It’s like a time capsule in that strangers who bonded years ago shared their impression of you at the time. I read the tiny pieces of paper recently and a smile emerged on my face and heart. Talk about a confidence booster! I needed that refresher.

You may not have a tiny purple box filled with notes of inspiring messages from classmates, but my point is to find something that reminds you of what makes you FABULOUS. Also:

  • Take some life refresher courses, literally and figuratively
  • Create a tool box, literally (like my tiny purple box with powerful messages) or figuratively (books, activities, quotes)
  • Educate yourself
  • Plan and take action

We have access to so much information. No EXCUSES. Do the work.

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Happy Birthday to me

Today, I turn 44 years old. I was talking to my 78 year old mom on the phone yesterday, reminding her of my birthday and she exclaimed repeatedly, “My BABY is turning 44!” Yup, mummy, its true…your baby turns 44 and I feel great. I love the confidence, wisdom, discernment, patience, focus, and unapologetic self-assuredness that comes with being in your 40’s. These attributes helped me nail the best job interview of my life on Monday, 5/15/17, resulting in a promotion. I’ve been floating all week. 

Sure, I see more defined frown lines on my forehead and bags under my eyes. I was just telling my hubby this week I can see I look older. I recently noticed some small lines on both sides of my mouth when I smile. After Zumba class last week, I actually questioned if I was getting too old for all the jumping because I was unusually sore the next day after giving it my all and “leaving it on the dance floor”. I later concluded that I probably should have gone to bed early instead of attending Zumba class because I was exercising on an almost empty tank after a long day. I toned down my intensity in subsequent classes. I do get the occasional aches and pains. However, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been and even have muscle definition in my arms. I wouldn’t trade my emotional, spiritual, and mental growth to be back in my twenties where I was depressed, unhappy, insecure, and didn’t appreciate my size 8/10 shape. I admit those old insecurities still come, but I know how to manage them.

Office birthday party favors 5-19-17

This time last year, I didn’t celebrate my birthday because my husband had brain surgery…on my birthday. We visited the emergency room twice in May 2016 and had to cancel our trip to Florida. My very first post to my blog was about that whole experience which you can read about here. My hubby is doing much better. Little did we know that 4 months later, I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. At the Caribbean themed birthday party my coworkers coordinated for myself and another coworker yesterday, someone commented, “You guys have been through an ordeal!” My response was that we did get some mileage out of our health insurance plan and you better believe we met our deductible! We got a good laugh out of that. The point is life happens. You deal with it, make adjustments, and keep moving forward. I’m thankful to be alive and thriving with the ones I love. 

Today, will be a low key day with my family. I plan to get some rest because I’ve worked late all week as a result of getting acclimated to my new job which includes managing staff. Long work days will become a new normal, but I am not deviating from my self-care strategies. Exercise, eating well, reading, sleeping, writing, catching up with friends…these are all things that rejuvenate me. 

We may hit a movie and dinner later, but for the most part, I want to be around the house. I’m content because I have everything I need and am grateful to be alive. I can’t wait to see what this next year of growth has in store for me.


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Confidence, humility and ego

This week will go down in the record book as a memorable work week. I was debating a bit on the adjective that best describes it, and “good” didn’t quite cut it.  It was “memorable” because I received such a wonderful compliment on Wednesday that it had me floating through Friday.  I’m hesitant to type that my week was “fabulous” or “fantastic” because the work highs come far less often than the lows and I don’t want to let it blindside me. In my work environment, I often have to balance confidence, humility and ego.

In last week’s post,  I mentioned a presentation I made that went over fairly well at a meeting with some very important people from agencies that are very important to my agency.  What I didn’t know, but was told on Wednesday, was that during my presentation, one of the very important attendees, sent a text to my director (WHAT!) indicating how thrilled he was with the information I was presenting.  Another executive director told my director that she was so proud of me because I presented the information in a way that the stakeholders, who were not as familiar with the topic, could understand and get this…on top of that, she was so proud of me because I am a social worker like her.  I say, “What!” That tidbit about getting those stakeholders to understand is important because they are decision makers that have a lot of influence.  The other tidbit about being a social worker put a smile on my heart.  I could end this blog right here, but as you’ve guessed, I will continue.  My director came over and shook my hand after telling me this.  I was beaming from ear to ear.

Although I work in public policy and not in direct practice, I am fortunate to work in an environment where mostly (but not entirely) counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists are leading the work of mental health public policy in my division. Creating systems change to ensure that resources are adequately and effectively delivered to citizens in entities such as state government is difficult, but we take a stab at it everyday.

I am privileged to work with some very smart, educated people who have no qualms about sharing their knowledge.  I’ve learned so much from them. However, on occasion, the “sharing” can feel downright, overbearing, self-righteous and egocentric. What I’ve learned is that I (you) can’t be intimidated when working with smart people (or perceived smart people or anybody else for that matter).  You have to use your voice.  I’ve definitely seen egos flying around the office, and let’s face it, we were hired because of our knowledge. Ironically for me, most of the staff, including myself, are identified as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs- yes, we have an acronym) and we are required to collaborate on a host of things to make decisions that affect citizens. However, having the type of negative attitude I noted above is off-putting and unproductive.  I believe there is a way to operate without resorting to that.

I sometimes find myself on this thin line of balancing confidence, humility and ego.  I lean towards the belief that the work (whether hard work or lack thereof) you do and the integrity you demonstrate will speak for itself.  I’ve since come to realize that in some environments, that is simply not enough. I value humility, have integrity, and don’t like to compete with people (only myself). However, sometimes, you do have to “toot your own horn” and give yourself credit, especially if you want to advance.  Despite what you think, directors, managers and/or your colleagues, may not even notice all that you’re doing.  Those who are in competition with you for advanced positions will usually not speak on your behalf.  What is at stake is higher pay and possibly more prestige, which most people want for themselves.

The reality of many agencies (I’ve worked at private, nonprofit and governmental agencies) is that higher positions are few and far between which causes workers to feel pressure to stand out, and possibly (and I’m not implying “likely”), do unethical things to advance.  When I describe work situations to my good friend who’s employed in the corporate world, she says it sounds pretty “cut throat”, and at times, she is right. I won’t even go into the politics either.  The professions that I mentioned above are all required to abide by a set of ethical standards, but they are not immune from this type of pressure. It’s the scarcity of resources factor that many learn about in social science classes like sociology that drives this behavior.  Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s an excuse to compromise integrity and behave badly.

I’ve managed to balance confidence and humility without compromise, while still being recognized for my work ethic.  At the end of the day, I had to hone in on using my voice to shine the spotlight on myself at times, so how did I do that?  I’ve spent some time thinking about my accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. My “thinking” includes journaling, planning, and visualizing where I see myself. I ensure that I have a thorough understanding of what I’m expected to know, which means I do research and study.  I read all the time and when I’m not reading for work, I’m reading for personal growth or leisure.  I usually practice speaking about myself before interviews, presentations or other venues, but I find that the more comfortable and familiar I’ve become in my current role, that I don’t need to do that so much before presentations and other meetings.  I strive to be authentic, which makes it more comfortable.  To this day, it is not natural for me to go into a soliloquy (slight exaggeration) on the highlights of my resume upon first meeting someone, so I have to work at it.   I know I’m not alone in this.  There are cultural, social, psychological, and other factors that come into play as well.

At the end of the day, I do think it’s possible to be both confident and humble. On one hand, I don’t want to come off as a “know it all” (with the attitude), but I want people to know that I am adept at doing what I do. Truth be told, I don’t ever want to think too highly of myself that I stop learning.  I view the people I know, who do think they know it all, as very sad.  They become stagnant and I worry about becoming stagnant.  And as much as I love compliments because it serves as validation to a degree, I don’t want compliments to fuel my motivation or cloud my thinking.  I want to be clear and grounded so that I can keep producing quality work.

I’m thankful that I’m starting to see some fruits from my labor and that I received some recognition for it.  I admit it feels great, but it doesn’t end here.

I hope that this information encourages you to discover new things about yourself and use your voice.