At the beginning of the day, things look great. Alarm goes off, routine is happening, and then, an unexpected disruption. You’re out of coffee. Your child is irrationally upset, or traffic is unreasonable, putting you behind schedule both factually and emotionally. You tell yourself to just keep going, there is a long list of responsibilities to get to today. You stuff the emotional side of things down in an effort to move forward, putting your time schedule back on track. Can you relate?
Ever wonder why parts of your body ache, even though you were sitting all day?
We’ve all done this, but have you ever wondered where the emotions you stuff go? They don’t just disappear. They are held as tension in some part of your body and as the day progresses those tensions add up. Ever wonder why parts of your body ache, even though you were sitting all day? Or have mild indigestion, even though you didn’t eat anything irritating? Have you ever snapped at someone in an afternoon meeting (surprising you both)? Ever walked in the door at the end of a routine workday and wondered why you were so tired?
Over time, that body tension adds up.
This is what happens when you don’t give yourself what you need to acknowledge your feelings; the few simple seconds, and steps, it takes to acknowledge yourself in an emotion, giving yourself loving kindness and compassion. Stuffing emotions has consequences, both mental and physical. Over time, that body tension adds up. It can dissolve; a pleasant surprise, a deadline aced, a compliment, a hug, an amazing fitness class or walk. However, if the tension going out isn’t keeping up with the tension going in, you end up with off and on aches, bouts of inflammation (hello Naproxen), and an energy crisis making it difficult to get to that walk, fitness class or date with your friends.
Sit quietly for a few minutes and check in.
If this is ringing some alarm bells for you, take action. Eating right, moving your body intentionally everyday (and not just to walk to your car or to catch the bus) and getting enough sleep are all great strategies to support your well-being. So is listening to what your body is telling you. If you are white-knuckling your steering wheel on the way home, or clenching your jaw so often it hurts, check in with yourself. Sit quietly for a few minutes and check in. That lower back pain, it may be your sense of duty telling you to take some much needed “me time”. Your jaw ache may point to a conversation you need to have with you co-worker about including your ideas on the project you’re working on together. Mild tummy ache? Possibly you need a hug, or some quality time with a loved one. Once you know what to listen for, this doesn’t take very long (although it does need to be intentional), providing you with the tools to give yourself what you need, freeing both your emotions and yourself.
I have spent far too much of my life pretending to be comfortable in environments I am not - how about you? In the past, my professional trade-offs were around likeability, thinking that was the way to fill my desire for secure employment. “A relationship cannot be expected to fulfill all our needs; it only shows them to us and makes a modest contribution to their fulfillment.” (David Richo, How To be An Adult in Relationships, page 25). Truth bomb, you can be laid off even when your organization likes your work. Everyone needs to earn a living, so becoming attached to making relationships at work, work, is very human, but it doesn’t guarantee an organization can always afford to pay you. The ability to love yourself in your chosen field is what allows you to be resilient in a labour market that is often unpredictable.
...others cannot make you more secure, talented, or whole...
If you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin, you will never be made whole by the esteem and love (professional or otherwise) of others in your work. Even intimate partner relationships can only help fulfill 25% of our needs (another fact from David Richo’s powerful book). The rest comes from a network of interpersonal relationships you hold with family, friends, colleagues – and the majority of it coming from the relationship you hold with yourself. When you get your head wrapped around the fact that others cannot make you more secure, talented, or whole when you don’t feel that way about yourself, you have work to do.
...and leaned into the need to be at peace with myself...
In my case, when I stopped caring so much about others liking me (especially as that is not in my power), and leaned into the need to be at peace with myself (and doing the necessary work to make that happen), a beautiful thing happened. Others were more able to connect with me, allowing me to more easily build reliable relationships that support work I love. My gifts and skills are now more accessible to others, and as a result I am more employable in a greater number of contexts (and less reliant on any one employer).
Loving yourself in your own life and work is what empowers true belonging.
I fight the demons that tell me I am not enough every day. They live inside me, and may always be there, but now they are held “in check” through self-acceptance and a growing understanding of my needs and how to meet them. I now thrive without consistent affirmation from others in my work and, ironically, when I stopped seeking it, more consistent affirmation found me. Loving yourself in your own life and work is what empowers true belonging.
“To trust ourselves does not mean we can be sure we will face life without fear, attachment, control, or entitlement. To trust ourselves means that we surrender to being exactly who we are in each moment and that mindful awareness will kick in to show us an alternative to our ego habits.” – David Richo
Here is some gritty truth; I struggle with this time of year. While the natural world takes advantage of the diminished light and curls up to restore itself through rest, humankind is barraged by exercise videos, diet plans, tightened budgets, and all manner of reminders of how we are not enough. In essence, I find January to be a month of judgement. During these dark days, I feel bereft, like I’ve lost my light, the one I depend on to let me know I am OK. Sadly, I do this to myself, focusing on goals not achieved, on my clothing size, credit card debt…just about everything you can pick at yourself for, and ensure an excruciatingly unobjective self-evaluation. Can you relate?
Objectivity is hard to maintain...
Judgment does this, particularly self-judgement. Objectivity is hard to maintain when there are prompts everywhere pointing to what you might lack – as a species we are wired to compare ourselves, our circumstances, and our results, to those of others. It’s an act of self-preservation that was much needed when millennia ago we had to fight to ensure scarce resources (like food and water) were shared fairly within the tribe, but now in a digital age asserts itself as FOMO, comparison and shame.
...you are more than your perceived flaws.
Objectivity is an easy concept, but a difficult practice; yet one that gives us access to self-love. Objectivity has the power to elevate your strengths, the things you have in hand that support your light, your fight, your well-being and your amazing potential. It is all inside of you, perhaps right now it is hibernating as nature intends. Wake it up. It is time to be more than fair to yourself, to hear the self-judgment and to assert your objectivity in the face of it – you are more than your perceived flaws.
Gratitude keeps you in touch with all the ways you have, and are, enough.
Gratitude is a path that provides clear-headed and objective thoughts about who you are, empowering you to move from a place of what you have, rather than what you think you are missing. Introspection is a brave and necessary act, but it often looks at the past – a place you cannot alter or change. Within the acknowledgement and acceptance of your deficiencies are the bones of your strength (“I may not be where I want to be…yet”). Listen, learn, accept (without judgment) to understand how you identify yourself is core to your way of being. Gratitude keeps you in touch with all the ways you have, and are, enough. Seek this light inside of you in these darker days, and you will feel your strength hold you, supporting you while you continue to become the truest, most whole version of yourself.
“i hope that in twenty-twenty you become fluent in self-love. i hope that this time next year you know your worth like it’s your mother tongue.” s.r.w.
Hopefully you are reading this curled up at home, enjoying the warm afterglow of the holidays and looking forward to what the New Year will bring. New Year’s is often bitter sweet for me; it signals the end of the holiday season (here in North America), and a return to work (with the next break very far off in the distance). It can be overwhelming to think of all the things I want to change in the next year, and the barrage of suggestions from social media and magazines doesn’t always bring comfort.
This is a powerful list to compose for yourself...
So, may I suggest the un-resolution list? This is the list of things you did that went well last year; decisions you made, new habits you formed, self-care practices, etc. A list of the things that you enjoyed, felt right, and contributed to your wellness and wholeness last year. This is a powerful list to compose for yourself – it doesn’t have to be long (although if you give yourself a bit of time, a glass of something good and some soft music playing in the background I’ll bet your list grows longer then you thought it could). Once you have it, make a commitment to do more of those things in this New Year.
Give yourself permission to enjoy all of the potential your career and life have to offer you.
The un-resolution list is a fabulous way to support yourself going forward, because these are things you already know how to do, and you know they work. Give yourself permission to enjoy all of the potential your career and life have to offer you. Work to live, not live to work.
2020’s resource focus will be on wholeness. I’ll explore topics from building healthy boundaries to career development planning; emotional intelligence in real life, to listening to what our own bodies are trying to tell us. Essentially, putting working life needs front and center, so you can focus on actioning your un-resolution list. Along the way I’ll share valuable resources and, of course, weekly blogs allowing us to travel this path together.
I am honoured and deeply touched by having you on this journey with me.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in giving back to others in many tangible ways. When I learn something new, or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website. You can always find my latest blog entries here, on Facebook or Linked In.