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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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Seeds

It happened again.  I was at my local body shop store the other day with my husband (rare treat for him to accompany me there, so it was like a date…not really) and asked the cashier for the location of the products that I couldn’t find. She responded with hesitation then asked me what my name was.  I told her and she smiled while she led me to the shelf that I had already examined. Her suggestive expression piqued my interest, which led me to study her face more intently. I did not recognize her initially, but upon close examination, I thought I might have a hunch.  Several competing thoughts were running through my mind: 1) I guess the memory really does start to go after 40 because she caught me completely off guard; 2) I have no idea who she is; and 3) who is she?

It took me a minute, but I eventually blurted out the first name of the individual that we both have in common.  She said “yes” and I felt my lips and cheeks expand with a huge smile because I was proud of myself for remembering.  I was also happy that she remembered me.  She was his girlfriend. He was my client.

Moments like this fill my heart with joy.  And it was literally was just a moment…long enough for me to find my products, catch up, and check out.  It turns out they are doing well.  Their family has expanded and she even noted that he finally “got his stuff together”.  I’ve written in an older post located here about running into a previous client and how one of my goals when I entered direct practice in mental health was to plant seeds of hope.

I can’t take credit for whatever progress my clients make.  They are the ones who put in the work, but I firmly believe that when people feel supported, loved, cared for, and important, that they can do things that they never thought possible.  Believing in these things yourself may not come naturally in the beginning, but eventually you learn. For example, children’s sense of themselves (self-esteem) come from what they see about themselves through their parent’s eyes. I am a mirror to my own children.

I also plant seeds all the time, all over the place and they flourish when they’re ready.  Sometimes on an unassuming day, I’m fortunate enough to see the fruit.

 

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Say yes

Last week’s blog post was about learning to say “no”.  My focus this week will be on learning to say “yes” when you really want to say no. “Why the switch?”, you might be wondering.  I can best explain with a scenario that happened last week.  Now, I don’t discuss my current job much because as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how much I can divulge in this forum.  (I need to look into that soon.) I will say that I work in public mental health policy.  As such, a part of my many duties include making presentations to internal and external stakeholders.  I made a presentation last week about the proposed future of some of our projects to a group of stakeholders and it was well received.  What on earth does this have to do with saying “yes”? Well, my ability to say “yes” over and over again in situations that took me out of my comfort zone, landed me in my current professional position where I mostly operate out of my comfort zone.  Over the years, I have soaked in all of the uncomfortable experiences like a sponge, and as a result, have grown exponentially.

I am an introvert/extrovert (ambivert), leaning more toward introvert because I am best refueled in solitude and I constantly process internally.  I can also dance like nobody is watching in front of a crowd of people (Yes, I am also a licensed Zumba fitness instructor). Society nowadays values extroversion, especially in the business world, which is contrary to how a lot of people operate, including myself. I read a book by Susan Cain called Quiet and it blew my mind because it resonated with me so much.  You can see Susan Cain‘s Ted Talk here.  I also met her for a book signing at a behavioral health conference last year and she gave me some sound advice (that may be another post).

Growing up, I didn’t know what “introverted” meant, and apparently neither did my family or anybody else I knew, so I was labeled as “shy” or timid.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that being “shy” indicated that there was something wrong with me because I was different.  That was just one of my problems.  I really didn’t fit in anywhere, which gave me a huge complex.  I’ve never been a clique-type person either, but I did have friends (some may argue that my friends were my clique).  I see all of this now as a gift, even though it didn’t feel that way for years, especially considering that people like to point out how different you are.  In a lot of ways, I was defiant too and liked being different, but it took some time to develop the courage to own my uniqueness and to own it without guilt.  I often pretended like it didn’t bother me that I didn’t fit in, but I knew the truth.

I think that not fitting in put me on a path to be able to do the internal, self-examining, work to figure out who I was without relying on other people’s opinion. I read an article today of a lady writing in asking for advise on a topic and she indicated that she was concerned about what her mother, her sisters and friends would think. That’s an example of something that I would not have a problem with because I listen to my inner voice, pray, do what’s best for me, and if I so choose, may share my decision with others later (unless it involves or impacts my husband and our children, in which case I consult with my husband).

I have developed the courage over time to say “yes” to trying things that take me out of my comfort zone.  Earlier on, starting with my family, I said “yes” to standing up for my identity and setting my own path, which definitely did not feel comfortable, but I did it.  I later moved to a different state, completed my degrees, worked at different agencies, met new people, joined a different church, and tried new things. I also said “yes” to going after my dreams and testing my limits.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised that the presentation was well received.  I was not overly concerned with how I would present because I knew that I would be professional and confident.  I was concerned about the content itself, how I would convey the work that was done over the years, and how I would manage the backlash, if any.  I had support in the room in case I needed backup and they chimed in minimally.  The beauty of the whole thing is that all of the “yeses” I made in the past for my own betterment led me to that experience.  And don’t get me wrong, that experience was not the pinnacle of all experiences.  I will be facilitating more stakeholder meetings very soon, and for all I know, people may run out of the room screaming “bloody murder”. I am simply acknowledging what it took me to get to this place and know that I have the tools to manage different situations.

It does not feel good to make mistakes, but that’s how you grow, especially if you take the time to learn from them.  Believe me, I’ve made many, but you really don’t know what you’re made of until you get out there.  You have to do different things, hang around different types of people, and go to different places to grow. You have to pursue your dreams and goals. I hate it when Jillian Michaels says, in one of my workout DVDs, something to the effect of “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.  That is not my natural inclination.  I love being comfortable in my own bed. In fact, when I have the blankets just right, I tell my husband that the bed has been transformed into “the cocoon” because it’s so comfortable.  As much as I love the warm, gooey, feeling of comfort, I really love how much richer my life has become because I’ve grown so much as a result of putting myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable.

So you now see that this week’s “yes” is a different vein from last week’s “no”, but I hope you find something you can use from each. It’s a balancing act for sure.