Imagine a world where your perspective is locked downward. Your focus unwavering from the path before you. No break from the reality of unrelenting tunnel vision. The pain in your neck twinges as you march on, hyper-focused on the next step, the next move, the next *fill in the blank*.
We humans are perpetual creatures of habit. We find safety in the ruts we create within our lives, solitude in our reliable routines. While this focus on comfort is endearing, it can also leave us in a state of stuck-ness. Perhaps a reliably consistent theme not only within the therapy room but in my own life is that our gaze can become stuck in a downward glance, comfortable in the discomfort of one fixed outlook.
When I experience this particular sensation of stuck within my own life, my mind wanders to the mountains.
My husband and I share a passion for hiking, particularly in the undulating terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Being that I am a Florida native, navigating precipitous paths is not my strong suit. Funny enough, we habitually place bets on the number of times I am bound to trip prior to any beginnings of a trail. Of course, this sparks the competitive zeal within me, and I find myself hyper-focused on the earth beneath my feet as we begin our march up the mountain.
Unlike the Florida flatness that I’m numb to, these mountains emphatically encourage me to pause and look up. The views, the colors, and the idiosyncrasies tantalize my fixed downward gaze to shift and bare witness to the wholeness of the present moment.
Can you imagine how dull the hike would be like if I never looked up?
Can you imagine how exhausting life could be like if we never shifted our focus?
Our souls rely on these shifts. Our mental and emotional well-beings satiate themselves on refocusing our lens from time to time. It is utterly valid that a particular routine or standpoint is necessary for our functioning within our worlds. The workplace is one situation that demands this often. However, one viewpoint is not necessary for the duration of our days that fade into years. Just as my soul is numb to the beauty of Florida, it craves the reminders to climb out of my rut in the ways I experience my world.
So how can we remain mindful to the vitality of these shifts out of our normative tunnel vision ways we hold onto from day to day?
Do me a favor.
Close your eyes for a moment and let your mind wander to a place you find peace.
Where did it go?
Perhaps it’s your back porch when the sun is tucking itself in for the night. Or maybe it’s the symphony of song the morning birds orchestrate outside your window as you wake up. It could be the experience of going for a jog, sipping on your morning coffee, or reading your kiddo their favorite bedtime story. Wherever your world sheds it’s glimmer of peace, make it a point to check-in with yourself. Relax your jaw, release your shoulders, and fill your belly with a breath. Move your neck from side to side, as it could be aching from the fixed stare at all that lay in front of you.
You will get to where you need to go.
However, the journey is far more radiant if we just remember to look up and bare witness to the wholeness of our present moments.
As I mosey along this life journey of mine, I find myself in the position of asking questions and listening to other’s narrative vs the latter. Subconsciously, I think I’ve somewhat adapted to playing to role of empathetic listener and inquirer in and out of the therapy room. It’s a running joke in this field to hold off on disclosing what you do for a living to others, because it’s all too common to get responses like “Oh, I need to come see you!” or “Are you analyzing me right now?”.
So, it’s a unique experience whenever the table is turned, and someone inquiries about me that goes deeper than the stereotypical “what’s shakin’?”. I must admit, these times are mildly unsettling because I am so unused to having the coin flipped. Recently, this question was “What makes you feel confident?”
Perhaps this is just a therapist thing, but I had to take a raincheck on my answer because I wanted to sit with it. It’s one thing to say you’re confident, but it’s another thing to identify what exactly perpetuates this confidence.
As I continued to mull over this question in my mind, I invited it into the therapy room. Posing the question to others as we toss around other relative themes such as self-worth and self- image. I have to say, it’s led to very fruitful processing and exploration.
I’ve been discovering that confidence and worth are two phrases utilized interchangeably within our worlds. Two words referred to as synonyms, however they’re actually quite different. It would be like saying a doctor and a dentist are basically the same thing. Good luck having a doctor fill a cavity!
Let’s take worth for example. We have a tendency to put our worth into the hands of others or into the places we cherish. Tying our worthiness to the temporary sensations of validation from others, or the goals we set that are influenced by many aspects largely outside of our control. There is a roadblock with this framework for one’s worth because we are viewing it as something that is transient. Where in reality, our worth is constant. Grounded. Anchored to the uniqueness each soul holds within themselves. Our worth is tied to our voice, our values, and our resiliency just to name a few.
Switching gears to confidence, this is where the fluidity we experience comes in. Confidence is a wave that is notorious for waxing and waning throughout our lives. Some days, we are rocking our favorite heels paired with that perfect lipstick and we walk down the sidewalk to that meeting we know we will crush. Confidence oozes from you as you feel as if you could conquer the world. Then, we have days where all of our clothes feel frumpy, our hair is doing that weird flippy-thing, and all you want to do is curl up on the couch with your cat and lock away the world. Confidence level those days could be close to zero.
Confidence is a product of our humanness, worth is inherent of our being.
Our worth demands to be respected, and runs deeper than the materialistic contributions that may boost our confidence. Our confidence deserves compassion for its fluidity as a part of the human condition. It’s OK to feel “extra human” sometimes, however our worth is unwavering during these experiences. If anything, our worth is highlighted during our “frumpy” days because when our vulnerability is showing, our worth glistens from our persistence and resiliency traveling along our journeys embracing the beautiful, messy, imperfect, feeling souls that we are.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
I’m a little disappointed that this candy-riddled day falls on a weekend. Since I work with a lot of youngsters, I have a special place in my heart for these kinds of fun days that can spark different flavors of processing and exploration. Therapists enjoy a smile-worthy shake up from time to time.
The narrative revolving around this rosy-colored day has always irked me. Our culture embraces such a linear take on love, and I am rolling my eyes as I type this. We can celebrate nine types of knowledge but only one type of love? Wake me up when this snooze fest is over.
But in all seriousness
Valentine’s Day could use a reframe.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are frequently thematic points of conversation in the therapy room. We live in a world that hyper-focuses on extrinsic joys and motivation yet neglects intrinsic or self-reflected anything. Our culture thoroughly draws attention to the latest and the greatest thingamabobs and the burst of joy that could ensue if one were to obtain such doohickies or accomplishments. Just turn on the TV or glance at social media and they will prove my point.
Same goes for love. We tend to place a price tag on love, just as we do on the whose-its and whats-it in the store. I frequently hear “If I could just lose 10 more pounds…” or “If I would have tried harder…”
Rip that price-tag off!
Genuine and authentic love is priceless. We are inherently worthy of this love for the mere fact that we are uniquely us. Layering on the materialistic hoopla can distract away from the love that’s meant to be celebrated not just one cloudy February day, but every single damn day.
So, here’s a thought…
Recognize the intrinsic love within your world as well as the extrinsic. If you have a honey, share those extra words of affirmation and carve out time to embrace cherished moments of connection. However, don’t forget to celebrate the day by weaving in some self-love and compassion, however this looks for you. Each soul is worthy of this kind of love.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, parenting is one of the hardest, most convoluted adventures one can embark on. There is no hard-set playbook for the rights and the wrongs of how to be a proficient parent, and that can be so inconvenient.
Saying “I’m sorry” is a vital component of being an attentive and skilled parent. It’s necessary to model humanness to our little humans and acknowledge even superhero Mommies and Daddies make mistakes sometimes.
However, there is an art to apologies, and this is a very handy trick.
I witness so many parents come down with a case of the “I’m sorrys”. Not-so-ironically, many of their children embrace the victimhood mentality and challenge boundaries with every breath they take.
When this is the case, I encourage these empathetic Mommies and Daddies to cut it out with the apologies. For the most part, they are saying sorry for being a proficient parent. It’s OK to set limits, bedtimes, rules around electronics, and family time. It’s also OK for your kiddos to not approve of or like these boundaries.
Because here’s the thing.
It’s crucial for youngsters to learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. As hard as it is to witness our children displeased, it’s an essential growing pain for morphing into an independent and confident adult. By unapologetically setting boundaries, you are not only modeling that boundaries demand to be respected, but you are encouraging your kiddos to problem solve and de-villainize tough emotions.
Apologize for and acknowledge human moments such as being late to pick up your child from school. Unless you kick your kid in the shin or embrace the parenting mentality of Matilda’s Mom and Dad, pause and think of what exactly you are feeling the urge to apologize for.
Instead of apologizing for the boundaries necessary for wholesome parenting, validate and normalize that uncomfortable emotions are tough and not easy to learn how to sit with. Validation is far more powerful, and growth-inspiring than apologies in these instances.