Friday, March 29, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Taming Your Thoughts

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Taming Your Thoughts

Periodically I go through this phase where I’m convinced that I’m living someone else’s life.  I know it sounds silly.  Yet the way I envision myself and the life I’d like to live is such a sharp contrast with my reality that I feel I’ve been robbed of my true identity.  And so I begin my trek towards a reality I feel is more in tune to my inner being.  That usually results in a long look in the mirror.  I slowly pick myself apart.  Do I speak well enough?  Should I smile more?  Is my tone friendly enough?  Am I approachable?  Is my demeanor offensive?  After I’m convinced that I have all the social skills and etiquette in check, then comes the difficult part.  Because I can change my tone.  I can control my attitude.  But I can’t change what I look like.  Don’t get me wrong.  I realize that I can polish my appearance, but the way I look was genetically assigned and is difficult to alter unless I have a plastic surgeon and a few thousand grand on standby.  Then comes what I call the “too not enough” talk.  Perhaps you’ve engaged in a dialogue with yourself similar to this before.  It goes something like, “You’re too this.  You’re too that.  You’re not enough of this.  You don’t have enough of that.”  When this starts to happen, I’m in need of an emergency evacuation plan.  Abort!  I’m self-destructing in T minus 05…04…03…02…01!

My battle set ablaze, that’s when I begin to reconstruct my thinking.  What I’ve done is focused on negatives to the point that I’ve drowned my confidence, self-esteem and more desirable attributes beneath layers of internalized inadequacies.  I have an index card that lists questions to reflect upon.  These three questions help ground my thinking.  I guess you could call it my emergency evacuation plan because after truthfully answering these questions, no matter what the situation or preconceived notion, I can bail on whatever process of thinking I internalized that led to this point.  I’d like to share them with you.

?    What am I asking myself to believe?  What am I saying?  What’s the message?

This question helps to identify the original thought so that I can begin to undo the damage that has resulted from it.  The purpose is simply to be conscious of what I’m telling myself.  In the case of the negative self-talk described above, I told myself that I wasn’t enough of those qualities I feel would help to achieve my desired outcome.  But the way I went about it only compounded the problem.  It’s difficult to make positive changes if I only respond with negative energy.  Also, could it be that I’m blaming something that’s beyond my control for not having gotten the results I wanted?  Am I making a scapegoat of myself?  From what I’ve described above it seems the message is, “Oh, poor you.  You are such a great person with so much potential, but no one can tell because you’re hidden behind too much superficial crap and there’s not enough of the good stuff projecting.”  Inadvertently, the message becomes that the reason for my failure is some grand scheme of genetics that has masked my potential and ruined any chances I posses of improving myself.  And that’s terribly convenient because now it isn’t my fault that I’m an underachiever.  Thus, I’m no longer responsible for this mess that I have deemed an ascribed status. 

?    Why do I need to believe this about myself?  Is this true?  Is this constructive?

The truth is that when a person results to scapegoating it’s usually out of fear.  There is a fear of failure that makes it much more bearable to assign blame as to why I’ve fallen short of my goals to some extraneous factor and flawed logic than to put forth the effort to try, and risk the failure.  I could very well need to brush up on those qualities that would be tremendously useful in catapulting myself towards a life more ideal for who I am.  But by reassigning blame or eluding responsibility, I’ve not constructively veered towards a better outcome.  I’ve told myself that it’s ok not to continue to try with my “too not enough” talk because I’m genetically inferior.  My negative self-talk has sabotaged my confidence and self-esteem.  I’ve spoken and thought as though I’m a self-declared failure.  If I feel that I’m such a worthwhile person and want that goal or desired outcome enough, I should change my declarations and thoughts to build the person I hope to grow into rather than destroy her before she even has a chance to thrive. 

?    How can I convey a more accurate message positively? Constructively?

To undo the damage, I have to make some changes in my conversation with myself.  That comes with an adjustment in attitude.  To begin with, I’ll replace my “too not enough” talk with positive affirmations.  No, I’m in no way genetically inferior nor of some lowly ascribed status.  That is untrue.  I’m competent to have control over my thoughts, achieve my goals and value myself as a human being, well worth the effort.  Rather than tell myself I have too much of what seems a less desirable quality, perhaps I would be better receptive to focusing on what I hope to add or improve.  “I’m too shy…or introverted…or closed” could be better noted as “I’ll allow myself to be more transparent… or I’ll participate more in social activities… or I’ll risk making a fool of myself in the name of fun.”  If it’s “you’re not enough… or whatever area of lack I’ve focused on, once I change the language that I use I’m certain to feel better about myself.  Statements like, “There is an opportunity for you to improve…” subconsciously help build a better person rather and deconstruct an already fragile one.  Followed through with action and purpose, I can constructively guide myself towards a healthier attitude, generate more confidence in myself, increase my self-esteem and maximize my potential towards achieving whatever goal.     

Putting myself back on track is sometimes the easiest part.  The challenge is to stay on track.  Once I have reunited with my self-esteem and confidence I have to make a conscious effort to remain in a place where I posses and exude these qualities daily.  To refrain from allowing them to dwindle, one thing I can do is make peace with myself each day.  I playfully refer to this as my “comeback plan” to restore self-esteem and confidence as needed.  No matter what failure I have endured, a routine “mental cleanse” will help to guard against engaging in “too not enough.”  Put whatever failure or disappointment in proper perspective.  Everyone has encountered both.  Instead of nursing it and feeling as though the world has come to an end, it would be more constructive to learn from the mistake, failure or disappointment and include the lesson in my revisions to whatever future plans I have.  Also, I can commit to keeping a focus journal where I can manage my thoughts and how I respond to life’s impromptu moments.   Doing so will create a concrete point of reference of my growth as well as what areas are in need of improvement.  Summoning my support system for encouragement is an important building block as well.  Whether it’s a family member, friend or combination of people, having someone to reaffirm my worth helps improve my outlook about who I am and how I feel about myself.  After all, being there is what family and friends are for.

 Your “comeback plan” can be whatever you envision will help restore you to a more positive and productive thought process.  Engage in a favorite activity that will help maintain serenity and balance, making certain that it remains stress-free.  There are some things we enjoy that are stressful.  Save those activities for after you’ve regained focus.    Once you’ve grounded your thinking, continue to reevaluate your goals, what’s needed to achieve those goals and create opportunities to master those qualities that will put you closer towards your desired outcome. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Identifying Toxic Personalities

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Identifying Toxic Personalities
True friendships are a true blessing.  It’s been said that if you have one true friend, you have one more than most.  And although I do believe that each person is capable of being a true friend, sometimes the quest to find personalities that mesh well to create the magic of true friendship manages instead to lead us into an ambush of personality disordered codependents or caught up in some paradox mistaken for a friendship.   Learning to identify what I’ve defined as toxic personalities early could save you some stress and help to attract, maintain and nurture friendships with people whom you are socially compatible.  Below are just a few that I’ve encountered and consider red flags.

The Boss

Unless you are extremely passive, you and this personality won’t have a fulfilling friendship.  This person thrives on dominating.  (S)he is only interested in control.  You just happen to be the person that (s)he feels  comfortable enough to dictate” who what when where and how” in your life.  (S)he will make it his or her business to convince you of who you are (somehow(s)he seems to know that better than you) and why you should probably do things as (s)he has suggested.

The “If You Ask Me”

We all know someone like this.  This person will more than likely volunteer his or her opinion because –  guess what?- nobody asked.  This opinionated person will rain on any plans, goals or accomplishments you make.   No matter what you do, it will never be good enough.  Minimizing your strengths and accomplishments while spotlighting mistakes and failures will have become an art.  Be cautious of spending time with this person because the energy (s)he creates could suppress your own.  If you ask me, you continue to listen to this person and you will more than likely begin to believe him or her.

The Leach

Is there nothing of yours that isn’t subject to borrowing or imitating or shadowing?  Not with a person like this in your life.  You’ll discover that this person isn’t an original human being, but more of a composite of others personalities or characteristics.  (S)he likely lacks direction and goals needed to manage his or her own life and therefore simply follows in another’s footsteps.  (S)he may not be a problem at all if you don’t mind looking up one day to find that you have a twin because (s)he has gone out and bought an exact replica of the brand new outfit you purchased.  Or you decide to tackle a new genre and coincidentally find him or her seated next to you in a seminar or class. 

The Trash Talker

Everyone entertains gossip on occasion.  And we all know one of those “go to” people to get updates on the latest in social happenings.  But if there’s this one person that always has something to say about someone else – and hardly anything good – you probably should tread lightly on your dealings with him or her.  The same way (s)he volunteers all the juicy details of another’s folly, you can be certain (s)he will make you that same ill-fated subject of conversation amongst others.

Many times I’ve found that the associations I’ve formed are a direct result of my attitude and stage of growth at the time we became friends.  It’s sad to say that as we mature, we sometimes outgrow who we’re friends with.  And although we don’t have to say goodbye, distancing ourselves from people that  always take but never give emotional and social support frees us up to find those qualities in another.  Take what you’ve learned about yourself from your experience with those friendships you’ve outgrown and apply that to forming new friendships that make you a better “you.”    

*always keep in mind that any person that limits your potential doesn't have your best interest at heart.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Making the Big Move

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Making the Big Move
Whether it’s due to employment opportunities, promotion, family issues or whatever the reason, relocating to another city can seem pretty overwhelming.   To make the transition as smooth as possible begin planning as early as possible.  Below are a few ideas to help you get started.

Before you get there-

ü  The earlier the better.

You’ve already discussed with your landlord or realtor that you’re planning to move and made the necessary steps to begin vacating your current dwelling.  If you’ve used a realtor to find your new place, you’ve likely already considered the following steps.  But if you’ve made preparations for your move all on your own, you may want to follow up on where you’ll be living by completing a little research.  Include in your search what communities and surrounding cities are nearby, taxes and fees that will change the cost of living, public transportation system routes and fare, differences in road safety/driving laws and all other information pertinent to becoming acquainted with you new residence. 

ü  When it comes to the children…

If you have children you should probably plan your move during the summer months to avoid any lapse in school attendance and confusion that could arise from securing transcripts and enrolling in a new school.  Consider what education system you will be moving to and school ratings.  Try to find out school bus routes and expected departure/arrival times.  Knowledge of nearby resources like libraries, afterschool programs and other kid-friendly recreational venues would also be helpful.  Do a cautionary search of the sex offender website and crime ratings to make sure you’re not walking blindly into a bad situation.   

ü  Make a checklist.

Jot down all the things that you can think of that will be necessary and helpful to make your transition a smooth one.  It might also be helpful to include a list of contacts you can call on to help with the unpacking and travel if need be.  Be thorough, because this is the list that you’ll be working from once you get started.

ü  Gather boxes and supplies early to save time.

If your move has been long expected, minimize last minute hustle and bustle by gathering your packing supplies immediately.  That includes boxes and crates, tape, labels, newspapers and other materials.  You can always ask your employer for boxes to minimize costs.  Also ask you local general store and grocery store for boxes that their dry goods were shipped in.  You never know.  They just might let you have a few. 

While you’re packing –

ü  Confirm everything.

When the time comes to begin packing, make sure your moving assistance reservations are intact.  You’ll also want to confirm dates that you’re expected and be sure your current landlord or agent is aware of your final day occupying the property and what the process is for turning in keys or completing inspections.  Being on the same page with everyone will minimize any possibilities of unexpected surprises that could delay your move or make it that much more difficult. 

ü  Label everything.

Clearly mark all boxes for handling, contents and room assignments, such as towels/kitchen, fragile/décor/LR and etc.  It would also be helpful to number your boxes and list them on a spreadsheet.  Mark one box that you’ll need as soon as you arrive and keep that one close.  It should contain toilet paper, cleaner, cleaning rags, a clock radio, candles, matches, paper plates, paper cups, napkins, cutlery, trash bags and any other items that you would probably need to use immediately upon your arrival.

ü  Record everything.

After you’ve packed and cleaned, make a recording of the condition of the residence you’re vacating to avoid mix-ups with deposits and other discrepancies.  It’s also a good idea to do the same for your new residence.

Finally, home-

ü  Call and let someone know you’re there.

Your first phone calls will probably include family, friends and your current landlord or realtor.  Gather as much help as you can unpacking the rental and getting situated in your new place.

ü  Rest

Once you’ve unpacked the truck, you’ll probably be exhausted.  Did you pack a pillow in your specially marked box?  Take some time to rest before tackling the other boxes.  Listen to some soothing music or catch up on current events via your clock radio while you get a nap.

After you’re settled –

ü  Begin your new life.

Once you’ve unpacked and gotten situated in your new place, you’ll want to become familiar with your surrounding area and community.  Pick up a newspaper to get familiar with what’s happening.  Be sure to complete notices of changes in address at your local post office for mail forwarding.  Secure voter registration at your courthouse and find your local polling location.  Learn of your local representatives and government officials.  Follow up on locations of physician offices and other places you’ll need to frequent to continue your healthcare.  Find local parks, salons, grocery stores, pharmacies, support groups, community service organizations and other resources that you’ll take advantage of as you begin your new life. 

Take advantage of your fresh start and enjoy all the excitement that moving to a new city has to offer!  Don’t forget to host that housewarming party once you’re situated!   

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

The Big Girl Chronicles 

“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.”

This bit of fortune cookie wisdom has been tremendously insightful in my life.  So many times I’ve given way to the pessimist to the point where I’ve had obsessive thoughts about things that were serving no meaningful purpose other than to drive me to my wit’s end.  It wasn’t until that day that I opened that fortune cookie and read this quote on that snippet of paper that I realized what I had been doing with my thoughts.  Each time I allowed my thoughts to be directed by whatever negative influence, I was giving more power to it. I was praying about it.  I was sleeping with it.  I was spending money on it.  I was eating with it.  I was showering with it.  Every step I took throughout the day and night, I was accompanied by this negative influence that I allowed to hold me captive.  Did you get that?  I allowed myself to be held captive – voluntary submission.   Because at any point I should’ve been able to realize what my obsession with whatever negative influence was doing to me.  Instead, I was protecting my pessimism and negative thoughts. 

I don’t know what negative influence you have given your power to.  I couldn’t even begin to guess. We are bombarded with so much throughout the day that sometimes before we realize it we’ve allowed something to creep in and attach itself to our thoughts and shape our perspective.  Whatever it is, I challenge you to begin to untangle yourself from negativity.  Chances are you didn’t find yourself swamped with it overnight.  Understandably so, you’re going to have to allow yourself some time to correct your thinking and make the changes necessary to put you on track to a more productive train of thought.  The task can seem overwhelming.  You’ve likely picked up several habits as a result of your pessimism or negative focus that you’ll also have to discard.  But it can be done.  

Try a meditation or point of reference.

If you find yourself always drawn toward negative or pessimistic thoughts, a first step that you can make to begin to change your thinking is to meditate on something positive.  You don’t have to make it a ritualistic “ringing of the bell and chanting” ceremonious type thing.  You can simply rehearse the phrase in your mind once you awaken before you even open your eyes to get out of bed.  Then again as you’re brushing your teeth.  A couple more times as you shower.  I know it can seem redundant, but realize that you didn’t begin to dwell on whatever has your mind boggled overnight.  Replacing those negative thoughts will take just as much obsessing as what got you to this point in the first place.   

Put your words in action.

Whatever meditation or focus you have chosen, begin to follow through with action.  Once you find yourself engaged in negative thought process, remember your meditation and try to redirect yourself.  Instead of remaining pessimistic about it, use a positive thought to center yourself.  Channel positive energy to counter the impact of the negative that will likely want to remain embedded in your thought process.  What could also prove helpful is to keep a journal to follow your progress.

Notice what’s different.

The more you practice this the more you’ll begin to realize how much pessimism and negativity had become a part of you.  Continue to take notice of those things that will change as you apply more positives in those places where you were obsessing over some negative thought.  Are you feeling better?  Smiling more?  Less bothered by things that have no real purpose in your life?  You could possibly find that friendships and associations you made were based upon your negative thoughts and now must be tweaked to accommodate the positive changes made.  The difference in your view of the world when surrounded by negative influence and the way you view things now that you are applying a more positive outlook could be surprising.

Help someone else.

If there’s someone else that you know of who could be experiencing something similar, try to help.  I’m not suggesting you become attached at the hip.  But an occasional positive affirmation when you know that person could be on the road to becoming a victim of their own pessimism could be helpful not only to that person but you also. 

There are many obstacles that life holds for each of us.  Some can easily be managed.  Some are more challenging.  One can easily be engulfed in negativity and pessimism if you don’t learn to balance your thoughts.  Take some time to focus on things that add to your value as a human being.  Invest in you, and surround yourself with people who compliment your goals.  By doing this, you will take the power you had conceded to negative influence.