Tag Archives: Dr. Dan Siegel

“Goodbye Miss Universe”

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Small prizes for self-destruction. Source: http://capriciousd.hubpages.com/hub/7-Things-I-Wish-I-Understood-Sooner

Small prizes for self-destruction.
Source: Superstock.com

This past month I have thrown myself back into a previous work environment. I am back to work at a children’s hospital in the critical care programs. I have not worked there for over 4 years and the break has done me well, but I returned to keep up my neonatal and pediatric skills. While re-orientating in the unit with an old friend he mentioned in passing ” …I know that you are a bit of a perfectionist, but since you will only be working casually here, you will have to ask for help occasionally.”.  His next words became fuzzy as I processed that statement. Wow, he was right. I was a perfectionist. When he had worked with me I was endlessly fighting to prove myself every day and be flawless. No mistakes could be made. Good enough was just not in my vocabulary. I have, thank goodness, begun to evolve and grow in many ways this past year. I used to be a devout perfectionist, but now I am doing the work of recovering from this affliction and have great hope for myself in the future!

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

I can almost hear some of you contesting in the background. Shrugging shoulders and scoffing in disagreement. You are asking yourselves what is so very WRONG with perfectionism. Doesn’t it make you better? Motivate you? Keep you ahead of the pack at work? Some of this may be true, but what will happen if you make a mistake? If you are caught being imperfect, you will get an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. Dread and fear. You will feel a flush of heat up your neck and into your face. Shame and embarrassment. These are not pleasant feelings. You will then vow to be even more perfect, placing your nose to the proverbial grindstone and working even harder at your perfectionism. Running from shame and judgement, forever and always.

 perfectionism

Such weight of responsibility we feel from our perfect hair to our excellent, trendy choice in shoes! To look and act and live perfect lives is exhausting but you will only recognize this if you can step away. Like a long commute in for work every day of the week, you will only know the relief of the strain of perfectionism once you have stopped the daily habit. What if you could take this weight off your shoulders? What would that feel like? I know you’ve often wondered. When paired with the weight of the iron mask of my own projected self image, my attempts at perfectionism were like chains, anchoring me to a treadmill that never stopped moving. I could not step off, because if I did, I thought myself lazy, and not worthy of any positive thoughts or love. I would be judged, feel shame and there would be fear. The fear of the loss of attention for my huge efforts. I could not risk it. The consequences would be too great.

There must be some escape from this cycle of self-destruction. I can tell you that there is and I hope to show you a way. I view myself as having thrown off all but one or two small lengths of chain with both feet planted on the stationary sides of the treadmill. I hover above it, loathing the endlessly rotating belt. It stares me right in the face and I make no effort to look away. I shout out “I know you are there, and I WILL be rid of you soon.” But there is still much work to be done.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen: Anthem

A huge step in my personal journey evolved when I discovered mindfulness. Becoming aware of your emotions and not over-identifying with them as defining who you are is very challenging and the concept needs to be adequately explained. Dr. Dan Siegel’s work on the Mindsight project is pivotal  in helping us navigate our identity : self, separate from emotion. Not ‘I am sad’ but ‘I feel sad’. Wading through a minefield of possible highs and lows every day and letting it flow. You, as a person and powerful being, afloat and in control of how much emotion you experience. The concept is life changing.

I have my children to thank for this personal evolution because becoming a new parent is one of the scariest, most vulnerable positions to ever find yourself in. Their entry into my life kick-started some amazing changes. No control, no study guide, no possible chance of perfection. I was wrong on many occasions, I needed to adapt and learn but I had no answers readily at hand. I can now very easily admit to my children that ‘Mommy should have done it differently’ and that I too, was learning.

I have historically been very hard on myself. I was never allowed mistakes and I still marvel to this day at people that can take a correction with no offense. Could I ever be that kind to myself? Could I ever love myself enough to say ‘It’s ok Christy, even with your flaws, you are good.’ ?

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. – Christopher K Germer

Great change and self development is always work, but it is my life’s work and it has become a new passion. I see now that perfectionism,  quite frankly, is boring and a dead end. Seeking a better motivator than temporary nods of approval, I am choosing a life free of chains, full of mistakes and laughter over my imperfection. Seeking a commonality with others on their own journey, I am learning to open up and share my ‘woops’ moments. Laughter and connection are becoming a new driving force. I am not alone anymore.

CB

Note: A good portion of my inspiration for this blog-post came from Brene Brown’s book – The Gifts of Imperfection. Reading her work can be transformational if the timing is right. Watch her first TEDx talk here.

Intuitive Parenting?

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Strive to thrive, not just survive.

Strive to thrive, not just survive.

The active child. The quiet child. The talker. The screamer.

How can we let go of preconceived ideas of what our children should be? How they ‘should’ behave.  Is it really helpful to use someone else’s theories and methods on parenting on OUR own children?

Before I had children I was bombarded with ‘information’ on how to create the perfect baby. How to eat, how to sleep, how to take yoga classes when I was pregnant. Once the little peanut arrived, how to breastfeed, how to make home-made organic baby food, how to create an amazing sleeper. But did anyone once tell me what I really needed to know? That the very act of parenting would release childhood emotions of my own. That the tears and the unrestrained anger exploding from a toddler could elicit responses from my own inner core that were as yet unprocessed and raw.

Here’s a thought… what if you were to ignore all the input from others and learn how to REALLY listen to your child? What if you practiced extreme empathy? Would your child’s behaviour speak to you and tell you the answers? Perhaps you could you do a better job on your own than by using most of the ‘helpful’ suggestions from parenting advisors.

If there is anything that parenting has taught me so far, it is that intuition rules. If I feel like my child needs a day of rest even though he has not played extraordinarily hard that week, I will keep him home from school. If my child continues to hoarde toys and retreat with them into a corner, I’ll declare a day of self-play and quiet. If my daughter is overly clingy and fussy, we will have a day of cuddles and cancel appointments that aren’t necessary. However, if I were to add any other adults into any of those situations, my responses to my children have the potential to change. My expectations of my children’s behaviour can be significantly different with an audience and the social expectation for ‘good’ behaviour. Clingy toy hoarders could be embarassing if I have high expectations for self-sufficiency in my own behaviours. I don’t ‘do’ needy. Needy makes me angry (it’s a long story). Suddenly my behaviour towards my children is completely changed. I am impatient, unkind and NOT listening. Suddenly, it’s all about me. In fact, the problem is no longer the problem, it’s my percepton of the problem that is creating all the drama.

I can no longer listen to my child and even if I did I would not hear what they were trying to tell me. My own, inner child is screaming too loudly, awoken by the crack and rumble of my shifting ego. Unfortunately, it is these emotional moments that most parent choose to try and ‘teach’ their children good behaviour. Urging them to share, threatening them with toy confiscation if they cannot, using time outs. Let me ask you parents… do you learn well in stuations of stress? No. You will both fail huge as you are in no emotional state to remain observant and calm, resulting in you shaming your child with your words and actions. The distance between you is created and it grows on every such interaction. Children are so very forgiving, but are only human. We never forget how a person makes us feel.

If you are willing to accept the fact that you yourself are a work in progress, you may just have a chance to create a wonderful human being. To do this, you will need to let go of becoming a perfect parent.  You will need to admit to your children that sometimes, “Momma is learning too”! If you yourself cannot communicate open and honestly with your friends and family, why would you be able to teach this skill to a new human being? If you fear change, your children will observe and feel your behaviour. Not a one of us came with an instruction manual. We must all battle with our inner child as we help our own children grow.

So where do we start? Try reading  ‘Parenting From The Inside Out’ by Dr. Dan Siegel. LOL, another referral… but this time a book that leads us to answer questions about ourselves and what we bring to the parenting table. More importantly, a resource that focuses on our ability to learn, change and grow in our role as parents. If you are asking your child to do these things, why should you not be practicing the same?

CB

A fine balance – Sources of positive energy.

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sunflower field

Energy…it flows through us and around us every day. The world is swirling, turning, and teaming with energy. So, why do we all feel so tired? Why do our days feel overwhelming and exhausting?  Is it because we are exhausting our energy stores without knowledge of  how to fill ourselves back up? Are we not making time for the things that create energy in our lives?

With this post I am hoping to give you some options. Ideas on how you may ignite a new spark of energy flowing into yourself instead of the endless river flowing out that you are likely very familiar with.

Idea #1 –Mindfulness practice. A few years ago, I was struggling with my first child as he made his way slowly and steadily into the ‘terrible two’ stage. I was a mess. He was a mess. I could not manage his random tantrums and they threw me so off-balance that I would end up on the floor beside him in tears. I looked for help. It came in several resources. The one that has made the biggest change in my life (and likely thousands of others) is Dr. Dan Siegel. If you have not yet heard about neuroplasticity…get Googling! Your neural pathways can be altered, your habits changed, your fears alleviated and your stress reduced. Books I suggest for learning about how to become more aware of your mind, brain and relationships around you are: Mindsight, The Whole-Brain Child and Parenting from the inside out. Once you begin the practice of disconnecting your emotions from your core belief of self…you can lose the negative and revel in the possibilities for good.

Idea #2 – Success and leadership coaching . There is nothing like a fantastic coach to boost your self-esteem and your drive to surge forward with energy.  Learn time management skills , how to set goals and actually achieve them, how to craft your vision for the future and how to lead without a title. I personally enjoy the teachings of Robin Sharma and think he is a GREAT place to start since he has so many free video resources on YouTube and his website. Jim Rohn’s book Twelve Pillars is a must-read also.

Idea #3 – Rediscover how to communicate. I’m just going to come out and say it. Television is toxic. Victims watch television. If you are sitting in front of the television between 1-3 or more hours a day and you are complaining about your life….then you are your own worst enemy. PUT DOWN THE REMOTE! Take control of your own life. Go out and join a class. Meet new people. Make things happen simply by engaging in conversation and participating in your own life! The only way to reap the rewards of a positive life with great energy is to do the work. Start reading and stop playing the victim. 

Idea #4 – Play, play, play. This point is especially key if you have children and feel so overwhelmed by a busy schedule. There is time for work and a time for play. Separate the two and find joy in games and play again. Rediscover fun and laughter. Swing on a swing. Race across the sand. Stop being so SERIOUS for even just an hour!! Remember that simple things can bring great happiness and good energy.

Idea #6 – Exercise the demons/You are what you eat. This one is so self-explanatory and we KNOW this by now! Exercise takes your energy to a greater level. It is necessary if you do not have  a job that requires physical labour (most of us!). The more you exercise, the more energy you will have and the more time you can commit to becoming  WHO you want to be and getting WHERE you want to be. Learn what a healthy diet looks like and make small changes every day to get you on the track for success.

Idea #5 – Choose your ‘peeps’ wisely. In my short 35 years on this earth, I am sure of only a few things. One of those things is that you cannot change other people. People can only change themselves. If you have friends or co-workers that routinely suck the energy right out of you by way of negative thoughts and comments, then you must simply choose to limit your exposure to them. Move on and surround yourself with those that do impact you positively. The negative ones WILL protest. They will call down your new choices. They will say nasty things to get you back under their dark cloud with them. Let them bray like mules and keep focused on the light ahead! You will be more beneficial to so many more people if  you find the BEST you.

Go for it!

CB