What gets in the way of telling people that you love them?
Not just partners, spouses and friends, but people all around you.
Last year, I kept having an urge to send Valentine cards to my coworkers and employees. But I knew that most people would find that corny.
Why would an operational manager at a large corporation send cards to her employees? Don’t people grow out of that in the 4th grade?
That’s what held me back. I was afraid to be perceived as corny, even though I truly grew to love those that worked with me (in an “agape” sense, not a romantic one).
It’s probably very uncool to love your employees.
That is me, totally uncool.
The more I think about it, the more I am proud of that fact. I believe in a model of “servant leadership” in which the person who leads is actually in service to the people they lead.
And yet, I think it is the most effective way to lead people. To love them, to witness them grow, to help them attain their career goals… that was what made me effective in my previous role.
The clients I serve now? I love them too. Not in a creepy way. But in a way that shows how much I value them as capable individuals, striving toward growth and excellence. We often have similar insecurities. We are all in this together.
Never again will I let the fear of being “corny” get in the way of my ability to show love for people I value.A resolution for today and for the future. Life is too short to hold back.
**This is an edited post from January 2018. It is a relevant reminder for the workshop I have coming up on the 27th.**
I have noticed a lot of flyers in fitness centers and around bulletin boards that invite people to “become a better you.” I really dislike this slogan.
You are just fine the way you are. Right now. No exceptions. You are worthy of love, compassion and forgiveness. Just because you are human. In this moment, and always.
Are you perfect? No. Are you human? Yes. You are an imperfect human being in the process of growing and becoming, as are we all. And that is a beautiful thing.
Are there some things you wish to change about yourself? Probably. Most of us want to lose weight, make more money, become more patient, perhaps become better partners or spouses. And this is fine. But this does not mean we become “better” as people. If we cannot accept that we are fine, and worthy of love and compassion, in this moment and always, it will be much harder to grow and change.
What bothers me about this “better” you is that it implies the you RIGHT NOW is not enough. But that is never true. You are enough. You are doing your best and that is always enough. You are worthy. Always.
You will not become “better” if you lose weight. Perhaps your health will be better, and you will have less discomfort in your body and more vitality if you lose weight. Those are all worthy goals, and by all means strive for those goals if they are important to you. But you must accept yourself and who you are in this very moment to allow transformation to occur.
Does that sound paradoxical? I thought so at first when I encountered this idea. If I’m not striving and trying and working toward it, how can I be “better” at it? Certainly skills take practice, and many of us learned that working hard is the answer, or the way to riches, or even the way to God.
When you have goals that are important to you, absolutely you should work for them. Put the time in every day if you can. But realize that there is no “better” version of you that awaits. You may feel better about your skills, and you may accomplish great things. Wonderful! Congratulations!
But the YOU remains the same, lovable and worthy. Flawed and imperfect. And marvelously human, adaptable and growing all the time. If you accept all parts of yourself, the good and the bad, you begin to feel such compassion for yourself and others as well.
No person is better than another. We are all just doing our best, even if it seems like not everyone is trying. We actually are doing the best that we know. Try this belief on for a bit. When I really came to know this as true, it gave me so much peace. And ironically, my thinking and emotions evolved as I embraced this acceptance.
You are the BEST YOU right now. And that is enough. Let go of the struggle to become better. Accept who you are. Love and cherish your essence.
Throwback Thursday – an edited post from December 2017 that feels timely.
This time of year can be difficult, especially for anyone dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that may originate from the lack of light and lack of fresh air.
Symptoms I experience can include anxiety, the blues, and changes in my mood or appetite. Many of us have increased cravings for carbohydrates, and we may feel sluggish or have difficulty concentrating.
For several years, I have used exercise, dietary strategies such as a vitamin D supplement in the morning and magnesium at night. I try to get enough vegetables for their anti-oxidant properties and fiber, but in Minnesota nothing is fresh this time of year, so it can be difficult.
Getting enough healthy fats in my diet more recently has been a wonderful benefit to my health overall. I have learned more and more on how balancing our brain chemistry with healthy fats is really important. “The Chemistry of Calm” by Dr. Henry Emmons, contains some wonderful advice there on how to overcome anxiety. He presents the information from both Western and Eastern traditions. I strongly encourage you to check it out if you want more scientific background on drug-free ways to overcome anxiety.
I still struggle with insomnia periodically, usually when the seasons change and/or when I am under stress. I know how important sleep can be for good healthy, so I try valiantly to get more, and sometimes it still eludes me.
Over the years, I have learned some strategies which help. It is a learning process, and I have to accept that it takes some time to change old habits. I am undoing a pattern that was established (and possibly reinforced) for 25-30 years. I may not unlearn it overnight. But due to the remarkable neuro-plasticity of our brains, we are capable of training ourselves out of old patterns.
The biggest factor to remember is to have compassion for ourselves, and not to label ourselves as “anxious” or to consider ourselves flawed in any way. Instead of saying, “I am an anxious person” try instead: “right now I am struggling with anxiety and I am learning how to manage it.” Thus, the condition is temporary and not a part of our identity.
It is important not to identify too strongly with any label, as this may convince us we a permanent, unalterable condition. The truth is that we have far more capacity for change than any of us realize. And this learning how to manage our struggles is where wisdom is born. Nothing is wrong with us. This is the human condition.
About half of our life may be happy or joyful (or maybe slightly more). But about half of or life will be negative emotions. This contrast is what makes life so rich and interesting. If we can go easy on ourselves, realize that sadness and feeling down sometimes are a part of life, then we can truly appreciate the joyful moments.
Compassion for ourselves and for other people is really the engine that helps us live a good life. We sometimes have that inner critic that resists compassion, questioning if we deserve it, speculating that we do not. If we come from religious backgrounds where original sin was a big part of the emphasis, this may be harder for us.
It may take some time and practice to cultivate compassion for ourselves. But it is possible. And with this self-compassion comes the ability to have compassion for others as well. In this time of dark, cold, weather, that can go a very long way.
If you are struggling with SAD, anxiety or depression, please get help from a trained mental health professional, and/or seek support. It is not a time to “go it alone” when you are dealing with this stuff. Sometimes families are not as understanding, so try to find someone who can help you get the support you need.
After my period of organizing journals yesterday, I opted to read through some few early ones. I was only 18 then, just graduated from high school and readying myself for college. I noticed a few things that made me sad for the young woman I was then.
I had such intense body hatred and frequently chided myself about my weight. I was convinced that no guy would ever want me because I was too fat (even though I was just a few pounds overweight). I was hard on myself about academics and I was very achievement-oriented. I did not cut myself a lot of slack. I seemed to feel lonely and disconnected a lot, while I also craved and valued alone-time.
I longed to comfort that earlier version of myself, the one who worried so much, and felt I somehow never measured up or fit in. I wanted to send her some love. So I wrote a little note that I stuck into the last page of the journal:
Dear Cristy (of times past),
You are lovely the way you are. No need to beat yourself up so much. You will find love someday and more compassion and appreciation for yourself. You will be just fine, and your life will turn out to be more exciting than you can imagine. Try to worry less and enjoy yourself more. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it.
Love Cristy (the older and wiser one)
It occurred to me that the older version of myself, perhaps 5 or 10 years or more into the future might give the me that same advice. As I continue to practice compassion and extend forgiveness toward myself and others, the burdens of life lighten. As I have begun to know myself better and appreciate the light and the dark, I continue to be curious about what I will discover.
We are always moving forward in life. I do not cling to the past. But now and then, reflecting on those lessons I have learned gives me appreciation for the person I am today. If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give? What would your future self tell you?
Today seems like the perfect day to cover the topic of energy vampires. When you first read the title, did you get an image in your mind of anyone in particular in your life? Or an activity that can feel like a “vampire” – sucking the life-blood or energy out of you?
In my experience people or activities can function in ways that give us energy, or sometimes deplete energy. Sometimes this effect is not a result of the person specifically, but perhaps some thoughts we have about the person. For example, we all know that person who constantly complains about their lives. Nothing ever goes right for them. They are victims and life is unfair.
When we allow some compassion for them, acknowledging their sadness or distress, sometimes it can feel like they “feed” off our sympathy and continue to engage in their sad soliloquy. Other times, we want to cheer them up, so we do a “Tigger/Eeyore” type of interaction, which makes neither person feel better in the end. For me, I allow for empathy, but also acknowledge to myself that I am not the cause of their distress. While I may want to alleviate their suffering, sometimes it is better just to be a compassionate witness, and then move on.
Some activities can feel like energy vampires as well. For me, shopping for clothes has always been an energy-draining prospect. I don’t enjoy it, and I order nearly everything online. Sometimes I do need to go out and shop, but I find myself much happier when I minimize that activity. I also find it easier on the wallet not to shop for things I do not need!
What I find is that when I fill my time with people and activities that increase my energy, I have a lot less time for the others. It may not be possible to avoid them entirely. But it is important to make space for the vitality that comes from being around people, ideas, and activities that energize rather than drain.
Consider the people who fill you with energy, or the activities that bring you joy. How can you spend more time with these people, and do more of these activities? You may need to get creative with this question. I dare you to have fun with it.
Tonight begins our trip to London Heathrow airport from MSP. I will write on the necessity of having a plan when you travel on overnight flights. It can be difficult to stay healthy and balanced when you are throwing your body out of its normal rhythm. But as a frequent flyer I have experimented with a few strategies that make it less painful.
The first bit of advice is this: If you can, try to go to bed early (1 hour at least) for a few days before your trip. Even if you do not drop off to sleep right away, you are allowing your body and brain to relax and get more rest. Stay off your electronics at night. Try reading an old-fashioned paper book, or taking a shower or bath before bed to help transition to sleep.
Getting extra sleep and rest before a trip helps you know that, even if you only get 3-4 hours of sleep (which I would consider a “good” amount for me), you have allowed yourself some quality rest in your own bed.
I like to bring some herbal tea on board when I travel overnight. I like Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea, since it is a nice blend of chamomile, spearmint, lemongress, etc. Generally airlines seem to offer coffee and tea, but they do not always have non-caffeinated options, so I bring my own, and they supply the hot water.
I have noticed that you are often served meals high in carbohydrates, flour and sugar. While partaking in a small quantity may be fine for you, I always bring little bags of mixed nuts with me in my backpack or purse. Protein and fat help you have less ups and downs in your insulin levels. I get less cranky when I have my own healthy snacks.
Airlines typically feed you at least every 2-3 hours, with maybe a 4-5 hour break during overnight flights. This can feel obnoxious if you want to go to sleep right away, and don’t feel the need to graze like a cow for the whole flight. It serves as a distraction for the passengers. My theory is the extra carbs put people into kind of a “spacey, dreamy” state that makes it easier for flight attendants to keep us calm.
I used to drink white wine with my dinner on the flight. But I realized it did not help my quality of sleep and I felt too groggy upon waking up dehydrated. If it helps you relax or you are a nervous flyer, it may okay. But be sure to drink lots of water or something else that hydrates you. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect and planes dehydrate you more than you might expect. There is a reason flight attendants make a few extra rounds with water during the flight.
I pack my supplements of magnesium with me that I take daily anyway. For me, 400-600 mg of magnesium calms my nervous system and helps my sleep in general, so I am sure to pack supplements in a place I can access easily on the flight.
On the newer fancier planes, you will often find advanced video screens with a plethora of offerings of movies, t.v. shows, music and entertainment. While I often enjoy a t.v. show or movie while I am eating my dinner, I try not to overindulge on electronic things at night. Using an eye mask and ear plugs while others are staring zombie-like in front of their screens can be helpful when you want to wind down.
My final bit of advice if you want to wind down and calm your nervous system is to meditate. Nowadays you can find apps for this even on planes, or you can just sit quietly with eyes closed, relax your body and watch your thoughts. Notice the sounds around you, without judging them. I often practice loving kindness meditation. I offer kindness especially to myself and to strangers. “May you have ease of being” is a nice mantra.
Being kind and compassionate on flights, with yourself and others, goes a long way toward diffusing any frustration or impatience you may feel. Happy trails!