Self-Reflection

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I learned self-reflection during Sunday School as a pre-teen.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that the concept was introduced to me there.  I think it was when our teacher told us that when we pray, we should include prayers of thanks and praise and not just ask God for a bunch of things.  Aha!  Be less self-centred.  Think of things in a new context.

I know it doesn’t seem to relate exactly to self-reflection, but for me, this was the beginning of learning to really analyze my own thoughts and actions and to step outside of myself.

Self-reflection has come in very handy for me in marriage.  When I find that I am overwhelmed with anger or frustration and I am blaming my husband for it, I try to calm down and realize what it is about me that is causing me to have these emotions (and my usually loud, obnoxious reactions). It is almost never as easy as blaming my husband; it usually comes down to something bigger that’s bothering me and I am taking it out on him, or it’s stemming from something I don’t like about myself and it’s easier to blame my husband than face the fact that I could be my own problem.

If you haven’t self-reflected, you need to.  I do most of my thinking at night as I settle into bed.  Sometimes I bounce things off of my groggy husband and he will give me validation and honesty.  When I realize that there is something about myself that I need to change, I make a plan on how to change and work hard to put it into action.  For example, there was a time where I harped about someone for a few weeks and it seemed like the person was simply under my skin and too in my face.  However, upon further inspection of the situation, I realized that I was in a funk, revelling in negativity, and that the person was in my space because they were trying to be helpful and kind.  When I accepted that I was the problem, not the other person, it made it easier for me to enjoy the person being in my space and to get rid of the cloud of negative-thinking that has been following me.

It is imperative that everyone self-reflects.  I’m sure you have come across someone in your life that you feel just cannot see the real situation.  They are blaming you for their problem, and that is wrong.  You know it, I know it, and anyone outside of the situation can see it.  The only way for the person to see that they are, in fact, the problem (not the person to whom they are transferring) is for that person to self-reflect.  The first step is admitting you have been wrong to yourself, then you can go about righting those wrongs for others.

Remember: we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.  Do yourself a favour and make self-reflection a regular activity in your day.  You will feel better and you will improve all of your relationships.  If you learn this now, you will be so far ahead of the game as you get older.

Holistic Approach to Wellness

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Did you know that our health and wellness is affected by more than food and exercise?  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that to be truly healthy we must be balanced in all areas of our lives.  Wouldn’t it be nice if marketers pushed introspection instead of diet supplements as a means to happiness?

I have been putting a lot of thought and effort into reevaluating where I am at in the following seven categories:

Spirit, Physical Health, Mental Health, Emotions, Intellect, Nourishment, and Relationships.

*There are other important things like finances, goal-setting, letting go/permission to change – I put these items under other categories but feel free to add them to your “most important” list.

Each of these things makes up a portion of my well-being.  Therefore, when I am fulfilling every area, I feel whole.  On the other hand, if I am lacking in any of the aforementioned categories, I tend to feel fruitless and bored and my self-esteem is usually decreased.

Approaching holistic health takes work and commitment, but after some time it becomes second nature.  The important thing is to remember that once you’re in the groove, feeling good and fulfilling yourself in all of the seven categories, you must check in on occasion to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.  It’s too easy to not realize you’ve been slipping until you’re all the way back at the bottom of the hill.

Here is my web, illustrating my holistic approach to wellness:

Start with a web.  These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Start with a web. These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Here are the ways that I fulfill each area of my life:

I realize that I left out finance.  I would put my financial health under "Mental Health", because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down.  When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it's own bubble.

I realize that I left out finance. I would put my financial health under “Mental Health”, because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down. When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it’s own bubble.

Goal-setting has not been a priority of mine for a while (although I have done it subconsciously off and on for the last few years), so I have decided to make it a conscious part of my life this year to see how it impacts me.

I have been implementing a “less is more” lifestyle these past few months and am looking forward to continuing with that.  I can tell that my mentality around “stuff” and what it can give me is changing.  For example, I might go to a store and put a few things in my cart as I wander the aisles.  After some times passes and I look at more and more things I feel bombarded and I really don’t like being marketed to.  (The next time you shop, ask yourself what the marketers must think about you to try to sell you items in the ways that they do.  Hint: they really don’t think too highly of you or care about your holistic well-being.  In fact, they usually prey on our biggest insecurities in order to make money.)  I look into the cart and decide that none of these things are worth the time I will spend in the checkout line or the money I will spend from my account.  I would rather spend my time and money on experiences and people I care about.  *This will also positively impact your finances.

(Confession: my weakness when it comes to shopping is my home.  I love decorating it and rearranging it.  I do allow myself to do this because my home is my sanctuary and it helps my creative juices flow to reimagine spaces.)

Here is something to remember as you ask yourself honest questions and work toward figuring out what best suits your holistic approach to wellness:

Never forget this.

Never forget this.

It is not necessary to make all of your life decisions today.  Decide what’s best for you today, and if that same thing is not what’s best for you tomorrow, you can change your mind.  You are allowed to change, but YOU must be the one to give yourself permission.

November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month in Ontario

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I was driving the other day and saw a banner proclaiming that November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month.  I have been “tweeting” with Girl Guides of Canada and a few others today about how each of us promote girls’ self-esteem and I wondered if low self-esteem is related to being abused as a woman.

While looking for information, I found 14 characteristics of abused women on Dr. Annie Kaszina’s blog.  (Go to her website for more information.)

Dr. Annie listed the following (I put things related to low self-esteem in bold):

*It is important to remember that characteristics are not the same as character or nature.

The 14 characteristics common to abused women are:

  • Abused women have to guess at what normal behaviour is.
  • Abused women have difficulty maintaining their focus and drive.
  • Abused women are often paralysed by their own negativity so that they find it hard to start something new and an uphill struggle to see it through.
  • Abused women judge themselves without mercy.
  • Abused women feel they always have to justify themselves.
  • Abused women have difficulty being light-hearted.
  • Abused women have difficulty trusting.
  • Abused women take everything very seriously.
  • Abused women overreact and catastrophize even over small problems.
  • Abused women faithfully record every last criticism they experience and they discount the praise.
  • Abused women need approval and affirmation and tend to look for it in all the wrong places.
  • Abused women usually feel that they are different to other people as a result of their relationship.
  • Abused women are extremely loyal, even despite the evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
  • Abused women envisage a future that will be just as hard as the present.

Dr. Annie also says, “Whether or not you feel able to shift these characteristics right now, please bear in mind that they are superimposed, they are not an integral part of you.”

I had a hunch that low self-esteem could lead to being in an abusive relationship, but Dr. Annie highlights specific traits that emphasize this.  It is so important to become a confident young woman in order for that high self-esteem to translate into adulthood.  I would also like to point out that although there are common characteristics for abused women, abuse is never ok and it is never the abused person’s fault.  I just want girls to know that if they continue down a path of negativity and self-deprication and don’t treat themselves well, it can allow someone else to also not treat them well.

Remember that you are unique and you have the power to do anything.  You are wonderful and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

…I would tell her, “Ugh, boyfriends”.

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Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em?  Yes you can live without them!

Listen, I was the perfect example of a girl who pined away for a boyfriend ever since my first true crush in fifth grade.  I was not the girl getting “asked out” (AKA-asked to be someone’s girlfriend) and I had to sit idly by and watch all of my friends have boyfriends…granted sometimes it was only for 30 minutes!  Some of my friends went out with boys that they knew I had a crush on and I let it affect me way too much.  First of all, friendships should not end because of a boy, and I am proud to say that none of mine ever have.  My relationships with friends always came first because I have great friends who I trust completely.  If one of them told me my boyfriend was scum, I would listen (even if it still took me a while to totally grasp the concept and dump the guy). :o)  Once, a boy that I thought I was in love with in high school asked my best friend to Winter Formal.  She told him she had to think about it and called me first.  She didn’t want to go with him because she didn’t want to hurt me.  I insisted that she go, though, because I knew deep down that even if she told him no, he still might not ask me and then both he and my friend would be unhappy.  So she went, but not until I swore to her that it was ok with me.  She also knew that great friendships always come first.

Any who, back to fifth grade.  I had the biggest crush on *Emilio (*if I’m going to change someone’s name for their privacy I might as well make it Latino).  :o)  Emilio was everything I could want in an eleven year old.  He was funny, kind, cared about his grades and he dominated the flag football field, which was perfect because I was a tom-boy and needed a guy who was strong.  He and I were no doubt friends and we could talk to each other without getting shy or weirded out.  But I was dying inside for him to LIKE-like me.  You all get the difference between liking someone and LIKE-liking them, right?  I even wrote about us holding hands in my diary.  (It was because the rules in “Medic” dodgeball were that you had to hold hands with someone to get them safely across the mid-line after freeing them from jail, but still!  He held my hand!  Isn’t that what silly girl dreams are made of?)  Well I crushed on poor Emilio for about three years.  I asked him out several times, and even though he always said no, he always made up some nice excuse so he wouldn’t hurt my feelings and damage our friendship.  My favorite was, “Well I like someone else right now, but ask me again in a few months.”  He always allowed me to keep hope alive!  Haha–I am hoping you can detect my sarcasm on some of this!

Sidebar–this brings me to another good point that my dad taught me growing up.  If you want something, go after it.  If I ask a boy out, what is the worst that can happen?  He can say, “No.”  Can I deal with that?  Yes.  Not really a big deal in the scheme of things.  So I wasn’t afraid to ask a boy out and I never have been.  If I wanted to talk to a boy on the phone, I called them.  I wasn’t going to wait around for them to call me, because I knew that even if they wanted to call me they most likely were going to be too gun-shy to pull the trigger and do it.  Do you want to know where this really worked for me and makes me so glad that I took my dad’s awesome advice and just went for it?  School dances and DJ parties.  I was not the girl who stood in a circle of friends HOPING that someone would ask me to dance.  If I saw someone I wanted to dance with, I asked them as soon as the beat of a slow-jam started to play over the speakers.  And do you know what?  They almost always said yes.  The only time a boy said no it was because he had already promised that dance to someone else, but he kept true to his word and danced with me at the next song.  Thank God I asked people to dance and could go home feeling like I was walking on the ceiling instead of regretting that I didn’t seize the moment and go after what I wanted.  I hope that you can find the courage to do the same!

Back to boys.  Emilio and I have been friends all through school, and although we never dated each other, I did give my fifth grade self what she always hoped for during my first night at college.  Emilio and I were celebrating our first night away from home with a bunch of friends and he kissed me that night.  Nothing came of it because we didn’t want to be in a relationship (well, I guess I am speaking for him, but I definitely didn’t want a boyfriend with all the fish in the sea of college that I was about to swim through).  It just felt good and it was something that I think we had both always wanted to do.  After that kiss, the little eleven-year-old tom boy inside of me smiled and walked on the ceiling for a while because after waiting seven years, she got what she wanted.

I guess my point is this: it is a waste of time to pine away for boys.  I know you’ve probably heard it all before, but it’s true.  They are SO not as mature as we are!  And, they really don’t know what they want until sometimes, it is too late.  You should spend your time dreaming of the future and your personal goals for yourself.  Enjoy having a crush but don’t let it consume you.  I was convinced that I would never have a boyfriend, even though I had noticed that boys were paying me more attention in high school.  Yes they talked to me and sometimes I could tell they were “checking me out” but none of them were acting on it!  So I came to the conclusion that I was un-dateable.  Then, my junior year of high school, it all changed.  I went on dates, got my first kiss, had my very first boyfriend and it was all over from there.  Once I opened the door to dating, I could never seem to get it closed again!  Maybe my confidence went up and more people found that attractive or maybe it was just timing.  Whatever it was, the only time I didn’t have a date or boyfriend is when I chose not to have one.  This will happen to everyone single one of you!  Just when you think you’ll never be kissed or get asked to a dance, you’ll blink and suddenly be beating boys off with a stick.  I promise.  So, like I said, pining away is a time-waster and does no good.  Your day will come, and then you’ll find yourself saying things like, “I just don’t want a boyfriend right now, Tommy.  I’m sorry.  I hope you understand and can stop IM-ing me as soon as I sign on,” or, “I just need to be single at this time in my life, Pedro.  Good luck with the election, though.”  Get it?

It is unfortunate how we can draw conclusions about ourselves based on what boys tell us or do/don’t do to us.  They are just boys!  They are living their own lives trying to understand girls.  Which, again, I reiterate going after you want because sometimes the person you want to ask out wants the same thing but isn’t as brave as you are, so go for it!  At least if they say, “no”, you can move on (in my case, it took me three years, but I did move on from Emilio).  Find comfort in your friends and family, and enjoy your present life.  Don’t change yourself into something that you think someone else wants you to be.  I was a total tom-boy and probably the opposite of what guys were looking for, but I never tried to change that about myself.  To this day I say things that sound like they should come out of a sailor’s mouth and I can turn a mean double-play in co-ed softball, but I have a husband who loves me for it, and more importantly, I love ME for it.

Hang in there and enjoy your life because before you know it, you’ll be wondering where the time went and trying to find that stick so you can keep the boys back.