Defeating self-doubt

Yesterday during a coaching session with my dear and wonderful coach, Elizabeth, I got an acceptance on another science writing and research contract offer. While I am in coaching sessions, I do not have my phone on. But I saw the message as soon as I left the session.

Last Friday I had put in the proposal, since it was on sleep research, a topic near and dear to my heart. I know that some of these postings get 20-50 proposals on the first day, so I had no idea if I would actually get it. But I wanted it enough that I crafted a hook in the first line that must have gotten through, even though there were many other applicants. My blog was the source of several of my writing samples!

Courtesy of Canva designs – copyright mexi-minnesotana 2018.

I realized that if I had let my self-doubt take over as I wrote that proposal, I never would have landed the work. I have this little naysayer voice in my head sometimes when I work. Do you have one too? It’s Anne Lamott’s little “Radio KF*CKD” voice. It says things like, “you’ll never get this one, why are you bothering? You’re too new to this platform. Your last client did not even leave a review yet…” 

But a wiser voice (the one I trust more) says: “well, if you don’t submit it, you definitely won’t get it. Just take a few minutes, put in the proposal to get some practice at this. You have to make a certain number of these proposals to see what “sticks.” Don’t be too disappointed if it does not come in, this is a numbers game. Just keep working at it.”

Yup. It’s true. No I am not crazy. Turns out this is normal: we all have this inner critic that tries to protect us from humiliation or “loss” by playing it safe, not risking anything. It’s easier not to take the chance, and more comfortable. Some of us have a “louder” voice than others. I have learned to turn the volume down on mine, but to thank it for the feedback (a Liz Gilbert suggestion).

People who succeed are often just the ones who put more stuff out there, try more things, take more chances. They are persistent, they keep making small efforts, and this builds resilience over time.  Keep working at it. You’re improving. Don’t let your inner critic win. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Giving and receiving

Did you grow up with the idea that “it is better to give than receive?”

It is a message I absorbed growing up, and I used to think it was about generosity. I hear a “lyrical” version in my head and think it might be from some rendering of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I thought it meant that I should always be giving, that somehow to receive is weak. 

I now understand that this belief no longer serves me. It has gradually been unfolding especially in these last couple of months of reflection. I have a deep longing to give, and to be of service in my life. It is a part of what I consider my purpose for being on earth. But now I recognize that receiving is also an act of grace and an act of faith. 

Receiving with gratitude is a beautiful experience. When you are open to receive you allow others to give and to share with you. You allow the generosity of others to come into your life. As humans, even though we can be tribal creatures, we also have a very natural “tend and befriend” instinct that allows for our survival. Giving and receiving are often reciprocal activities, but they do not have to be. 

In receiving, we make room for others to share their gifts with us. We open the flow of giving from ourselves as well.We start to give from true generosity rather than a scarcity mindset that may be present about not being worthy unless we can give. 

I grew up with an abundance of love and care from my parents and family members. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” in that regard, especially when I hear stories of neglect or abuse. So I guess my belief that I can and will always give comes from some sense of always having enough.

As a very independent person, I have struggled with asking for the help I need at times. Even last December, when my husband suspected I needed to go to the hospital, I told him: “I am fine, go to work, don’t worry.” Finally I had to surrender to his help when I literally could not get myself up off the couch to get my coffee (that never happens) all morning after I returned from an international trip. The pain was too much.

I accepted help (not that he would have given me a choice, he told me later). Later, after my appendix was safely removed, I visited my parents and my mother expressed such profound gratitude to my husband, I realized that this event was meaningful for so many reasons. 

My advice to you is: do not be afraid or reluctant to receive. You are worthy of receiving love and kindness. Everyone is worthy of that. If it touches you and inspires you to give to others, so be it. But if you are in a position where you cannot give at this time, then just gratefully receive.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – step away from the desk

For those of you out there who work at “desk jobs” where you spend a lot of time at a computer on a typical day, this one is for you.

There are days when I am at a keyboard for a long time. Whether doing research for a client, or writing or emailing or on a teleconference, it can mean long hours of being in one position or just sitting. Most of the time, I am restless enough that sitting for more than 45-60 minutes is impossible. I get up, walk around, get some tea, stretch, take a few deep breaths.

It can be harder when you are in an office, or a space without as much privacy. When I worked at an office, there were long hallways where I could get up and take myself for a walk. I tend to drink a fair amount of water and tea in a typical day. So getting up to go to the bathroom could be a mini-break. 

Getting up and taking a break has some great benefits. For one, you will get some circulation to your brain and body. Sitting for long periods is hard on your body, so standing now and then is not a bad idea. Some people like standing desks, and I used to use one of these occasionally. For about half an hour twice a day or so I would elevate the desk (especially during conference calls, which could make me a bit edgy) and try to adopt a good posture for standing. Or I would pace a bit in and around my cube. Fortunately it did not seem to disrupt my coworkers. 

Another benefit is that you might use your break as an opportunity to make a transition between projects. I am typically juggling anywhere from 3 to 7 projects at one time. It can be difficult to pull my mind from one topic to another. So a mindful break for 10-15 minutes can be helpful to allow a “rest and digest” of the item I just finished before moving on to the next task or project.

Now that I work at home much of the time, I find that scheduling a mid-morning dance class or a mid-day yoga break can be a great opportunity to move and get away from the desk. I typically return refreshed and with new vigor toward whatever project I face. Getting out for some fresh air can be great: just a 10-20 minute walk has benefits. Since it has been a bitter cold in MN this week, I have not wanted to do that so much…

How often do you get up from your desk? Do you have particular habits that help you remember to do this at least once every 2 hours? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Post eaten

Hi folks,

My blog post I was writing last night appeared to be “eaten” by WordPress. It would not save and it would not post. And this morning, it is clear that it is lost. Ah well. Not all words are precious. There are more to be found and generated.

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But that is okay. Pauses happen. Life does not always flow along without any glitches. Systems fail, and flat tires happen. The quality of our lives is determined by how well we accept and stay with the circumstances of our lives, rather than add suffering by wishing things had not happened.

Acceptance is the first step toward equanimity.

Hope you have a great day and week!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Making it up as we go

I have been experimenting with different titles on my Linked In page lately and the results are fascinating.

Recently it occurred to me that “researcher” describes a lot of what I do best and still love to do – constantly learning and taking in new “data” while evaluating and coming up with theories about how to apply knowledge in new ways. It made me giggle when I described myself in a new way on my page. I also added my company name (which is a little generic right now, a place-holder for the freelance LLC). I suddenly I had a lot of congratulatory messages on the new job. Ha, I thought. I am just making this up, people! 

No titles can ever encompass the totality of what makes you YOU in a professional or a personal sense. When you seek employment with a company, typically titles mean something specific, and have a particular job description that accompanies them.

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When you are a freelancer, or are starting a company of your own, nobody tells you what title you can have. A lot of folks like the “grand” titles: CEO, President, Creator, Founder… I like those too. But they imply a lot of things that I just don’t care to embody in my new venture. I don’t plan to have a slew of employees, so they do not apply.

I landed on “Principal Researcher” (for the moment) because it reflects a large part of what I truly enjoy, and I like it better than the generic “consultant.” But there are so many other phrases that could describe what I like to do – Creative Director, Facilitator, translator of cultural norms, etc. The “glue that holds a team together…” But since I am Minnesotan and we are taught not to brag, I’ll move right along. 😉

What’s great is that I get to make this up as I go along, and I can change it when I wish. There are NO rules! That’s liberating. I like to defy definition.  Of course, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than most, so that works for me.

What about you? What title would you give yourself, if you could just make one up? 

 

 

Oh the drama

The night of the election I stayed up until the 1 a.m. captivated by the drama of election returns, of the great sweep of the Democrats into the House of Representatives. After hanging out with some like-minded local political volunteers and neighbors, I came home feeling optimistic, happy and excited.

Turning the t.v. off was hard, but I reasoned that more would be known in the morning, and sleep was a better use of my time than speculation. In the morning, I spent time listening to my public radio station, reading news stories and absorbing the social media feed from my friends. I commented, considered the implications of the results and attempted to connect the dots.

After about 2.5 hours of that, my body and synapses were already feeling burned and tired. I opted to attend my favorite Wednesday Zumba class. It is a great way to dance it all out, and to get out of my head and back into my body. Ahh!

Since I had an interview in the afternoon for an Upwork contract, an opportunity to do some writing and research for a bio-pharmaceutical company, I did not turn the radio back on when I returned home. Instead, I showered, had some lunch, got quiet and prepared my questions for the interview.

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In the process, I was captivated by the research I was doing and felt a sense of flow emerging. I had no feeling of “FOMO” by staying off of social media. The storm of opinions will continue to brew while I get my work done, I told myself.

I figured I would return to it in the evening, flip the radio on and begin consuming the drama once again. But something in my body said “no, not right now.” I opted to run an errand, go to the grocery store and take care of the mundane habits to which we all must tend.

I listened to another chapter of an Ann Patchett book which I’d downloaded on Audible over the weekend as a “treat” to myself for those times when I want a break from work.

I considered my unwillingness to listen to the talking heads. I meditated. I wrote in my journal. I took my own advice from yesterday.  I felt peaceful and centered.

There is a theatrical aspect of politics which lends itself to using these stories as a form of entertainment. It is a serious endeavor, to be sure, but it is also drama. I have no wish to hear the president’s voice. I had already heard a bit on the car ride on the way home from Zumba, so promptly turned it off. He is not a good actor at all. Seriously.

Normally I love analyzing the semiotics and messaging of campaign language and considering the meaning behind the results. I expect I will return to that sometime.

For now, the dust will settle and I will turn away from it for a bit. With my new work contract starting, I am excited to make some “real monies” again as I joked to my husband. I shall savor that, and enjoy every moment of it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – rest and digest

Now that the excitement of this midterm election has come to a close, it is time to rest and digest. After all the “aerobic” energy of the campaign and election season, and as we process the results, we must enter a season of pausing and reflecting.

I am relieved this election cycle is over. Some of the returns have yet to be finalized but I am happy to see that the turnouts were high, and more women were voted into office than ever before.

Rest and digest.jpgThough I did not get to bed very early because I was still watching election returns, I know I will need some down time to recover this week. I identify as an introvert, so I am aware of my need for more down time than the average person. I have found that if I approach life in terms of cycles of intense activity followed by adequate rest, I am able to make better decisions for the long-term.

Maybe it is a product of age or maturity but I feel like it is easier to see the big picture than it used to be. I recognize that it is necessary to regroup and recharge between the intervals of intensity. As it turns out, this is how we best deal with stress in our lives. Stress in itself is not bad, and is in fact necessary in a healthy life.

But chronic and unrelenting stress for long periods take a toll on our bodies, our immune systems and our mental health as well. So take a break, gather your energy, allow some time for reflection and recovery. We will live and be stronger in case we need to “fight” another day for important causes that matter to us.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com