People Pleasing is a Prison

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(Photo of “Captain Wil” October 2008)

Live your life as a people pleaser, and you live without true confidence and without true expression. People pleasing can only offer a fleeting false confidence that is buoyed by another’s acceptance of your a…ctions that just as quickly dissipates when that acceptance is denied or not forthcoming.

I know this because I have lived it. On occasion, I catch myself going back to that dreadful people pleasing place, but once I notice it, I put a screeching halt to it. It is a prison to live there, and I never want to go back.

If I was still a fully functioning people pleaser, I would not be able to write this. Admitting this side of my personality gives you the opportunity to judge me, and people pleasers immediately cringe at the thought of being judged, because their whole existence hinges on being accepted.

I still prefer to be embraced over being rejected, but it is now for a completely different reason. If am trying something new or just putting myself out there for any reason, as long as I have an inner confidence about it, positive comments from others now serve as encouragement rather than validation. If I receive negative comments, depending on the nature of the comment, I now view them as expressions of someone who cares and is worried about me, or someone who simply doesn’t agree with my choices.

Validation is not needed if I already have an inner confidence that what I’m doing is right for my own growth. The beauty of not needing validation, is I do not fear the judgment of others if my new venture does not succeed. That fear alone would have prevented the people pleasing me from trying new things. Now, if I do not succeed at my new venture, even if it is viewed as a failure by others, it is not a failure to me. It is a learning experience that has given me more perspective on my strengths and weaknesses, and further increases my confidence in which way to direct my next steps. The pure freedom of allowing myself to experience new things is exhilarating.

Fear has the power to deprive us of this exhilarating feeling if we require acceptance from others every time we want to have a new experience. If we look into ourselves, and gauge our decisions by our own inner compass, then trying new things serves as development for our own personal growth regardless of the validation of another. We may or may not succeed, but if the focus is our own growth, the fear of failure has no power. Whatever the outcome is of our new venture, we have learned and grown from it.

Though I’m advocating our decisions be our own, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your ideas and thoughts with friends. Sharing with a trusted friend only increases your valuable bond and encouragement from friends can be a powerful motivator. The point is your strongest motivation must come from within. If we do not have that strong inner desire to try something new, then we are setting ourselves up to be swayed by the opinions of others.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, period. Do not view them as good or bad, they just are what they are, and once we identify them, and really get to know them, we can better build our confidence and direct ourselves to more fulfilling experiences.

Sometimes we do not make the best choices for ourselves, but like anything, practice makes perfect. The more we work to hear and follow that voice, the more we learn about ourselves, the clearer that voice becomes, and the more success we experience. I’ts not an easy path, but unless we follow a path that is truly ours, we cannot experience lasting fulfillment and confidence.

Shortly after our son, Wil, was born, and we were told he had Down syndrome, my inner voice spoke up loud and clear. It told me I knew absolutely nothing about what was going on, and what Down syndrome meant for Wil or our family as a whole, but no matter what, I loved my son completely. That voice practically shouted in my ear, “If you want the best for him, you have to start with getting yourself educated and get your family some supports. Now go!”

Most parent’s biggest desire is for their kids to lead fulfilling, productive lives. The only way Wil can have this opportunity is if he and others know his capabilities. This can be accomplished by first educating myself, so that I can support him and find others to support him in every way possible to be the best he can be. If I’m educated, I am also able to educate others on how bright a future he can have if given the chance.

I simply could not advocate for Wil if I did not step out of my people pleasing shell. By stepping out to advocate, I immediately put myself in a place to be both applauded and criticized. The latter is not a comfortable place for many, especially a born people pleaser. This experience has literally shed me of the shielding power of this shell, and for that I am very thankful.

Having this experience, I believe that we need a focus on something much greater than ourselves to get over ourselves. Being a people pleaser is very selfish and very limiting to personal growth. People pleasing is selfish because the focus is on yourself and other’s opinion of you. It’s nearly impossible to truly give of yourself if your focus on what you give is how it will be perceived. How freeing it became when I got over myself and got out of my own way!

This experience in advocating has taught me to try new things in my life regardless of the opinions of others. I continue to value friends’ and family’s opinions and advice. There is so much to be learned from one another, and the bond I share with those close to me is immensely treasured. However, the final decision on how to proceed can only be mine and not persuaded by another.

It is a beautiful irony of life that when we truly follow our own hearts, the focus on ourselves evaporates and we become fully able to give of ourselves to others.

Namaste,

Christie

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Go You Good Thing!

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Becoming a better you is one of the most unselfish things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Did you notice I used the word “becoming” instead of “become”? We are continually evolving and learning. To our dying day, we have the opportunity to change and expand our reality.

When we have a sense of inner well-being, others can feel that in our presence, and are more apt to reflect that back to us and those around them. If we are tense and bitter, that tension reveals itself, and others may absorb those feelings and reflect them back. Each type of emotion has the ability to grow and build upon itself.

We are all human, and have a broad range of feelings. I’m not advocating becoming a swami that remains in a constant state of contentment, though I’d love to know what that feels like!  It’s just that when we are feeling good about ourselves, those around us seem to soak that up, and it leads to more pleasant and cooperative encounters. Also, when we have a sense of well-being, we are more equipped to handle obstacles that come our way.

Stress, worry and tension zap us of our ability to think creatively. Those emotions impede our thinking process from summoning up new options and solutions.

Having a child with special needs has taught me how to overcome worry. You’d probably think the opposite. Yes, there is a lot to anticipate, and I do have to stay on top of things, but that doesn’t mean I have to worry. Worry is probably the worst thing I could do because it prevents my thought process from creating and discovering alternative options.

My son, Wil, has Down syndrome, so we have goal setting meetings, called IEPs, with his teachers and therapists. As you can imagine, there are many decisions to be made. This can easily cause me to feel overwhelmed. However, if I am mindful of my emotions, I catch myself allowing these overwhelming emotions to take over me, and realize that all these emotions are preventing me from finding options and solutions. The best I thing I can do for my son, is to acknowledge these emotions, then direct my focus instead to creative thought and productive conversations with his teachers and therapists. Depending on the situation, I may have to re-direct my focus from these overwhelming emotions multiple times, but each time I make that effort to do so, the better off we all are.

There is always something we can find to stress about. The economy, problems on the job, family issues, health issues, the list is endless.

Yes, these are all big, important subjects, and yes, we can cry over them or stomp our feet in anger over them and get overwhelmed by them. Crying and stomping can help release some of that built up tension, worry and stress. The only thing is, it won’t solve it. So stomp away, cry your eyes out, then once you’ve got it all out, pull up your big boy/big girl pants, and focus on YOU.

Yes, YOU!

Whatever you have surrounding you, the only thing you can change is your pattern of thought. And you can better handle yourself when you have a sense of internal well-being.

To build this sense of well-being, is something done over time, and as I said earlier,will continue over a lifetime. It starts with taking care of yourself today, and every day. There may be days that are harder to take care of ourselves than others. Stress may overtake us in certain situations, but use those situations as learning experiences.

Exercise is one great way to take care of you.  Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, which lifts the mood. Even walking 10 minutes a day is helpful in clearing your mind and gives you a sense of contentment.

Treating your body well with exercise, leads to better eating habits. Once you start to take care of your body, you begin to notice an increase in energy, and decrease in stress.  That serves to motivate us further to continue our healthy eating and exercise habits. As you nourish your body, you nourish your mind, as well.

Hobbies you enjoy also lift the spirits and build inner contentment. Think of how good you feel after doing something you really love. That feeling lasts well beyond the completion of that activity.

Time by yourself is key to inner peace. I know its hard to do, but even 10 minutes driving in the car by yourself with the radio off is helpful. It gives you time to think and reflect.

Mindfulness is very important in overcoming negative feelings. Be mindful of everything you do. You will catch yourself in negative habits and thoughts. When you are mindful, you are more able to direct these thoughts in different, more positive directions. Being mindful also draws your attention to the small details in life that can bring joy, which, in the stress and rush of the day, you may otherwise overlook.

With my kids, if an issue comes up, my instant reaction is to be concerned and that grows to stress or worry. If I have been practicing the above, I am much more capable of noticing these feelings happening, acknowledging them for what they are, then letting them go so I can open my mind to new options.

It is hard work, and sometimes these feelings overcome me for a time. But, every single time I notice them happening, and literally tell myself to put on the brakes, my mind is much more able to think in a more creative and calm way.

The only way I’m able to put the brakes on these emotions, is if I am being mindful, and have been treating myself well. If I don’t have a strong sense of inner well-being, these feelings can easily overpower me and lead me in a direction that is not productive.

Whatever feelings you have, grow. If you are tense and stressed, more tension and stress will be invited into your life. If you have a sense of well-being, your mind is more capable of creative thought to overcome obstacles. Having a sense of well-being does not mean that you do not encounter problems, it just means you are more able to handle them, and they do not have the power to grow and create more problems within themselves.

Be good to you, and you will create more good around you and more good for your loved ones. Go you good thing!

Christie

Enduring Success

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My parents, sister and I love to exercise. So, it was no surprise that while sharing a hotel suite on vacation, we pushed the living room furniture against the walls, and did an Insanity workout together.

I happen to have diminished capacity in one of my muscles, so during one of the exercises, my sister said to me, “These must be hard for you.”

Though she was simply being considerate, I could have used those words as an excuse to sit that exercise out.

I’ve always been aware that I’m not able to do this certain exercise as powerfully as her, but I’ve never given it much more thought than that. I’ve always done it the best I can, with other muscles compensating.  Doing this exercise in a less powerful way does not take away from the fact that I am still building strength and endurance.

This experience made me think of how congruent it is to many things in life. No matter where you go, there will always be someone who is stronger than you, has more money than you, is smarter than you, quicker than you, and has more time than you.  When things get tough, it can be really easy to sit back and say, why bother?

The answer to that is, no matter what level of capacity you are able to do something,  as long as you are not stationary, you are building strength and endurance.

Each time we try something new, we become a little bit wiser, a little more confident to try the next thing, and with that, our joy and quality of life increases. There will always be experiences that don’t bring us joy in and of themselves, but its the lessons we learn from these experiences, and the confidence we gain, that brings us joy.

My son, Wil, has low muscle tone, which is common in people with Down syndrome. Its simply a fact he will not be the fastest runner in his gym class. He will most likely be the slowest runner throughout his school years. Does this mean he shouldn’t run? To the contrary. Because of his low tone, performing functional tasks are more difficult and tiring for him. If he remains stationary, he will have a multitude of problems as he grows older if he doesn’t continue to build his strength.

Wil loves to run. Though he tires quickly, I’ve rarely seen him running without laughing. He pushes himself to do the best he can, and even though he runs out of steam before the other kids and comes in last, he is still enjoying himself, improving his strength, endurance and health. Each time he runs, he gets better than he was the day before.

With this attitude and drive, Wil is a success whether he finishes first or last.

Success is both an outward and inward concept. Success can be measured outwardly by how many races we’ve won, how much money we have, how many diplomas hang on our wall, and so on.

Success as an inward concept is something we all have the ability to achieve no matter what our abilities or place in life is. We have complete control over it, and it will grow depending on our perceptions of life’s challenges. We can have inward success with or without outward success, but outward success is rarely lasting without inward success.

We’ve all heard stories of how people who seemed to have it all, ended up losing themselves in drugs, alcohol or other types of destructive behaviors. They had outward success, but were lacking inward success.

People that have a strong inward success practically shine. You can feel and almost see their confidence, joy, and sense of well-being. Its not that those with inward success don’t also feel sorrow, pain and defeat, but they do not let it overcome them. They know that getting through these experiences will only strengthen them, and bring them more confidence and grace once this time has passed.

The only true, enduring success, is inward.

~Christie

The Battle of the “R” Word

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The “R” word is one of those words that, if you know someone with cognitive delays, you instinctively cringe the second you see it, read it or hear it. If you are not close to someone with cognitive delays, my guess is you speak it, read it or hear it, and it passes right by without a single thought. If you are part of the latter group, you might even be asking what the heck the “R” word is.  Google it…I can’t bring myself to type it.

That is the battle of removing the “R” word from our vocabulary.  The word is used by bullies and casual users alike. Whether the use of the word is intended to wound or simply as way to express someone’s “uncool” actions, it causes damage.

Some of you are nodding your heads in agreement at the above sentence, and some of you are shaking your heads in disagreement. Its just a word, how can it cause damage when its not even intended to?

I’m so glad you asked! Allow me to explain: When the “R” word is directed at someone, whether jokingly or hurtfully, it is being implied that person is no smarter than someone with cognitive delays. That statement automatically puts a label on these individuals, and diminishes their value as a person to one that is stupid and worthless. Yes, words have that power. Why do you think stereotypes are so difficult to overcome?

The only way to overcome a stereotype is education. I can scream, beg, and plead with people not to use the word, but unless they have an understanding why, they will walk away shaking their heads and telling me to get over it already.

Not so long ago, people with Down syndrome, and others with cognitive delays, were institutionalized. That was very common, and though parents may have been torn over the decision, they allowed the doctors to tell them this was the best. It was “normal.”

How did that change? Education. Some parents actually had to argue with their doctors to keep their children home. Once home, these pioneering parents raised their child right along with their typically developing children(so sad that a parent should be called a pioneer just because they have chosen to raise their own child). Shocking news….these kids thrived! This awareness spread, and now our kids with cognitive delays hold jobs, go to college, get married, the sky’s the limit. Our kids are now productive members of society with fulfilling lives all thanks to these brave parents that ignored the stereotypes.

I’m not here to regulate people’s lives, and censor vocabularies. I’m here to educate and create awareness of why this word is hurtful. Please understand, our children with cognitive delays have a label slapped on them the day they are born, and they have to overcome these stereotypes having done nothing to deserve them. We parents and teachers watch how hard our children have to work for the things that typically developing children take for granted. They have lots of hurdles to jump, and I don’t see it as too much to ask to remove this one label by choosing another word.

If you still are not convinced, do yourself a favor and spend a few hours with a Young Adult Program for people with special needs. You will see, firsthand, how hard these people work to do what we do so easily. And they are so proud and have such pride in their accomplishments. Why use a word that pigeon holes them when an alternative word could easily replace it?

The new R word being proposed is Respect. How very appropriate. That word has no battle to it, it simply speaks the truth.

Respectfully submitted,

Christie

Dear Worry,

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Dear Worry,

We have come a long way together. Whenever I look to the future, you are there. Strong and steady, waiting for me patiently.

Whenever I look back to my past, you are there, carrying me along with you. You have such strength and power over me, and you create my future for me as long as I walk with you. You are loyal and faithful, I know you will never leave me.

However, when my mind is in the present moment, I can’t find you anywhere. You simply evaporate like a vapor. I’m so used to you next to me, that the feeling is both freeing and scary. I don’t know how to be without you, I’ve been with you so long. But I have to admit, the freedom is intoxicating.

Then, I think, what am I without worry. I look back to the past, and I see you there, and you remind me that I need you to survive in my future. Again, you are my loyal companion, and as long as I don’t lose myself in the present moment, you will be by my side.

I’ve decided to give the present moment a chance. You are a comfort to me worry, but I’ve realized you have been lying to me, and your comfort has blinded me to your lies. You are the one that needs me to survive, I don’t need you.

Worry, you keep reminding me of all my past mistakes, and how I am bound to repeat them in the future without you. You also alert me to all the bad things that can happen in the future, and how I will need you to survive. Though you have comforted me, and act as a safe place for me, I can not grow with you. You keep me safe, but it is a prison.

Worry, I know you are concerned for my safety and well-being, and I thank you for getting me this far. But I need to break free of your arms, though they are a comfort, they keep me from spreading my own wings.

Yes, worry, the world is a big place, with lots of evil. But, its also a beautiful place, full of life and adventure. I can only let go of you, if I let go of my past, and live in the present, with positive dreams of the future.

My past with you is of value, I have learned a lot with you. But, that is where our relationship must end. So, I thank you for your comfort and your education, dear Worry. I will live each day as it comes, with my eyes to a bright horizon.

Presently,

Christie

“Sing your heart out”

Sky's the limit! (my son, Wil, age 5)

I have this quote written on a piece of paper and taped to my bathroom mirror:

“Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is so easy to get caught up in the “bad” and not see the good. We lose so much time in blame and worry, and use our energy barking at the bad, that all we end up doing is blaming and worrying even more. We can get ourselves so deep in it, that turning our minds to the beauty of good is near impossible.

Ever hear a dog start barking, then the whole neighborhood is full of barks? That is exactly what happens when we bark. Barking is loud and gets attention, and may even scare a few people, but it takes a lot of energy and doesn’t really do much but get people riled up.

I’ve barked before, and it can feel good, it even puffed up my ego for a little while, but it ended up draining me of energy after some time, and it never really got me anywhere. I’m too busy for that, now, and I have three kids to take care of, including one with special needs. Getting my ego riled up is a detriment to them, as my ego is all about my own bark and how good it sounds to me. I no longer give power to my own personal drama or anyone else’s. It is both the most difficult and freeing experience I’ve known.  I have gone on to live my own personal truths, chanting the beauty above my inner barks, and anyone else’s barks.

Do not misunderstand that this is avoidance of the bad, or even arrogance. Quite the contrary. Chanting the good actually staves off those barks, and when we chant the beauty, we are actually humbling ourselves and focusing on the big picture, not our own little world. Chanting beauty, is both an exercise that actually fills you with energy and invites people to chant your song along with you. No one gets riled up, instead they want to join you in your song. They want to help you and walk along with you in your journey.

Of course, there will be some who do not agree with your course of action, because the drama is what feeds them, and you are not participating in it, but if you are chanting the beauty of life, you can be confident you are on the right path and rejection is not a concern. Rejection means nothing to you, as you are confident in your forward movement. It is so freeing to be devoid of rejection and the need to bark.

I have had some firm discussions about my son, Wil, who has Down syndrome. It is a difficult task to keep my bark out of it, especially the conversations I’ve had to have with those close to me. I have written down what I’m going to say to keep on task. But, it is for Wil that I do this, because if I don’t, my ego will take over and I will start to bark. Then it becomes an argument over who is right and wrong, and who barked the loudest, not a progressive discussion about what is best for Wil.

I am not free of problems and turmoil, and it takes a lot of stamina some days to chant the beauty. But, I have had a taste of the freedom it brings me, so I will continue to dig deep to find the energy to chant, and my reward is always to be filled with more energy to sing my heart out.

Here’s to living your life with passion, purpose and delight,

~Christie

Get “Real”

 

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Last night, I had a brief conversation with an English teacher. She looked exactly like my favorite kind of English teacher…lovely gray hair pinned up in a unique barrette, a loose, flowing beautiful outfit, free-spirited and full of life. Of course, she knows her authors and the quality of a writer, and I was thoroughly enjoying listening to her knowledge on the subject.

This teacher was telling me about a woman who is an accomplished author who started her writing journey by blogging. This author she spoke of had a child with special needs, and her work surrounded those experiences. The English teacher spoke of how beautifully this author writes, and described her as a “real writer.”

Of course, every single one of us is “real” but the talent implied by using this word was understood. There are few of us that have a special talent in the arts, and it seems that those that have it, are just born with it. We can practice our hearts out, but never compose like Mozart, blow a trumpet like Miles Davis, or melt the heart like Josh Groban. Enjoying the gifts these talented artists share with us is one of the greatest pleasures in life.

Years ago, this conversation I had with the English teacher would have discouraged me from writing further. I am not a “real writer.” I don’t have that unique talent for the beautiful, written word. But, what I do have, is a passion for writing. Every time I write a blog post, it brings me joy, and it brings me hope. My hope is that at least one of these posts may open someone’s viewpoint, bring a smile or lighten someone’s heart, as these life experiences have done for me.

Audrey Hepburn is a true example of someone who did not have elite talent, but found great success pursuing her passion. Yes, she was a trained dancer, but there were many blessed with more talent. Yes, she could sing, but again, many could easily surpass her. But, she used what she did have which was a passion for the art of acting, and her own unique grace and style. It was this passion along with being uniquely herself, that won her the success she achieved. That is what I consider the true definition of “real.”

If you have a passion for something, go after it, and do it in the way that can only be yours. You might not have a rare talent, or know the applause of a crowd, but if you pursue your passion, it will bring a great joy to your life and others, and that is what makes us “real.”

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