Learning to Lighten Up…The Challenge of Giving Yourself a Break…

Paco & Chico LaughingDo you ever hear people say, “Lighten up…don’t take yourself so seriously…”? When I hear people say these things to me I think two things: First I think (react with), “What the hell are you talking about? I am the most lightened up person I know! I love to joke, play, and chill!” The second thing I think (respond with) is, “Damn…you’re right. How come I have such a hard time giving myself a break? Is it my military background? Perfectionism issues? Being female? Fear of being caught off guard? I certainly want to lighten up but how the hell do I do that?”

What are the messages we hear when we relax, take a vacation, play, or (whisper voice here) call in sick to take a “mental health day” (shhhhh)? Is there a part of us that judges ourselves for being less that 100% committed to the work ethic that we use to approve of or prove ourselves? Does having fun or relaxing signal not being productive, signal being immature, or signal not meeting our or others expectations?

What if having fun or relaxing or not taking ourselves so seriously signaled living and enjoying life? What if we could re-record those tapes that run between our ears that tell us we have to be perfectionists, be productive, and meet all of those obligations?

So how do we lighten up? How do we learn to play and relax and not beat ourselves up for what is essentially called….(drumroll)….living. Ughhhhh… A suggestion would be to first find some self-compassion. Then search for the areas in your life that ignite your playful spirit or help you relax and nurture those areas as much as possible. Some of the things that I do are to go somewhere new, hangout with people who I love and feel good with, play and be with my dog, write and tap into my creative side, listen and sing (not well…i.e. horribly) to music, take a nap, and laugh as much as possible. Probably most importantly is to notice when I’m being hard on myself and what my critical voice is representing…what am I either in fear about or ashamed about being judged or seen?

At the end of the day it really is about living and enjoying this beautiful gift called life. Do I have to make money to pay my bills and do the things I want to do in life? Absolutely…after all, it’s a part of doing this human thing. AND…do I want to find some balance so that my entire focus isn’t about my life supporting my business but instead can be about my business supporting my chosen life? I would say an emphatic yes to that question. I certainly hope I can remember that and keep giving myself a break. I also wish that same lighten-up and give yourself a break for all of you. Until next time friends…many blessings.

p.s. I watched this beautiful video done by Prince Ea (linked below) earlier this week that’s a great reminder about getting to the end of life and regretting that you never truly lived. Can we do that if we don’t give ourselves a break? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jfdjiUeDnk

Karen Solt is an Advanced Holistic Coach who is dedicated toward helping others discover the areas of their lives that are creating imbalance, discomfort, confusion, and relational problems. She holds a Masters in Psychology (Counseling) and is passionate about human healing. She works individually with clients and also presents workshops and classes to others seeking inner growth, better relationships, addiction help, and ways to uncover hidden sabotage patterns. A retired Navy veteran, Karen has had various life experiences that have created her unique style of coaching of all walks of life. She can be contacted at solt.karen@gmail.com.

External Validation and Finding your Beacon

Beacon

I have to admit…I’m feeling a little hurt this morning. That’s hard for me to write as there is a part of me that doesn’t like to express when I’m in pain. You see…here’s my current truth…when I started this blogging thing and expressing my ideas, I had an expectation that some of my friends would get more out of it and validate me. Yikes! This goes back to my last blog about expectations and when I have unmet expectations it almost always sends me spiraling into resentment.

One of my mentors, John McMullin, teaches me that I have to learn how to re-parent myself, by validating and inspiring myself from within. To me, this means that looking for external validation is not what I should be seeking in this moment. Cool (and crap)! That means that I already have the insight, compassion, love, and validation within me to help me through this hurtful moment. Maybe what I need in this moment is absolutely no external validation so that I can learn that necessary skill of re-parenting myself. I like that.

The first thing that I do when I feel hurt is notice my reactive feelings (typically anger and resentment for me). Then I ask myself, “What is really going on here? Why am I feeling anger and what is this resentment really about?” I have been doing this long enough to know that the story I’m telling myself is a deflection from the underlying deeper story. Brene’ Brown is one of my favorite authors and teachers and her stuff on vulnerability has helped me to learn to uncover my true stories when I feel like this. So I look for my truth and here it is…my truth in this moment is that writing is very personal for me…it places me in a vulnerable spot and that I have a fear of criticism and especially rejection. I struggle tapping into my creative self and not being externally validated, which I believe happens to a lot of us (again, Brene’ Brown teaches about creativity wounds).

So, when I write I get vulnerable, I look for validation as I’m out here floating in the water looking for a beacon that will tell me that I’m navigating correctly; I get a weak beacon but the signal is too weak to give me complete comfort. A part of me feels very alone and another part of me knows I just need to keep going in the direction of the weak signal. Turning around to what is familiar would be easy, yet would take me back to the place I’ve been living for far too long. I get to parent myself and tell myself that everything that I am feeling in this moment is valid and that I am proud of walking through this scary venture.

Thank God I can feel my feelings today so that I can look deeper and find my truth. That’s what I would hope for anyone reading this blog. Ask yourself what the real story is underneath the one that you’re telling yourself. Look deeper. It’s in there and is waiting for you to find it. It might appear that getting external validation is the right way but finding your own beacon is so much more important. I hope to remain on course with my weak beacon as I know it’s guiding me where I’m meant to go. And I hope all of you are finding the beacon that is out there calling you to your next venture. It’s absolutely scary as hell and it’s absolutely necessary. Until next time friends…many blessings.

Expectations…the Subtle Setup

I’ll let you in on a little secret: If I have resentment toward someone or I am feeling depressed about some past thing or event, I have an unmet expectation. The subtle setup of an expectation can hit me like a left jab before I even knew it was there.

What is an expectation anyway? For me, an expectation places an attachment to an outcome about a situation, person, society, etc. A confession: There is a part of me that has an expectation that this blog will be received well by readers and another part that is afraid that it won’t. Are expectations a bad thing? Great question! I would guess that’s in the eye of the beholder…an expectation “expects” something to either go it’s way or not go it’s way. Expectations push a person away from curiosity and acceptance and take that person from living in the moment to looking toward the future for something great or something terrible to happen. If someone has “let me down” in the past, many times I will expect him or her to do so again, which creates a negative situation before it’s even happened. I can also generate this same scenario for myself…if I’m a bad test-taker, I expect to always struggle during testing, which creates horrible anxiety for days and hours before the test (that I usually do well on).

Where expectations can really be challenging is when others or, even worse, I don’t meet them. They are a fantasy; a look into the future that has a version of how something should go or someone should act. In my opinion, this is how they are a subtle setup. If something or someone “exceeds” my expectations, I will be pleased, yet I will probably won’t even notice (as it won’t create resentment) and increase my expectations in the next similar situation. Where I can get really challenged is when I place the expectations that I have for myself and project them onto others (friends, family, co-workers, society, etc.). I am notorious for this…expecting that others will read my mind and do something a certain way because that is how I would have done it. It’s a little ridiculous but I constantly get caught in this trap.

Let’s talk about a few scenarios where I believe most of us can relate:

* In relationships (personal or business), an expectation might be interpreted as an obligation, which could create either compliance or defiance from the person the expectation is placed on. I expect something to happen…and many times I don’t even communicate that expectation…I simply expect it because that is what I would have done or would do. If that person meets my expectation, I internalize it as validation that this person values and respects me. Where this gets really tricky is, if that person does not meet my expectation, then that person must not value and respect me. If I believe compliance is value and respect, then I have to believe defiance is insignificance and disrespect. I will carry resentment that that person disrespected my values and me and determine that there must be something wrong with him or her (lazy, rude, disrespectful, not motivated, etc.). (Refer to my previous blog about judgment).

* Another expectation is special occasions…I mean who doesn’t “expect” a great birthday, holiday season, vacation, or wedding? There is a lot of buildup to these events and many times they totally meet our expectations and occasionally they don’t, which can lead to resentment and sometimes depression. An expectation creates some form of anxiety as it is fantasizing toward the future. An unmet expectation then creates some form of depression, looking toward the past with regret. Notice how you feel after a big event…and see if you can be grateful for how it occurred or if you notice resentment and depression because it wasn’t what you expected.

* Lastly, let’s discuss self-expectations. I believe creating expectations for how I live my life and how I treat others and myself is necessary (these are in line with my values). I believe that the way I treat myself is projected outward and is a great indication of how I probably treat others. I set some pretty high expectations on myself, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Where the challenge comes in is where I will create a lot of anxiety in meeting my own expectations, in an attempt to not disappoint myself. An example is when I was in my Bachelors and Masters programs and I was driven to excel and receive A’s for all of my classes (I did so with the exception of one math class, which was gratifying to the rebel in me). Why did I “need” to excel? Subconsciously, I believe I can be very critical of myself when I don’t meet that expectation I set. So I achieve…sometimes for gratification and sometimes to escape my own self-criticism about my perception of “failing.”

Sometimes things don’t go the way we intended. How we parent ourselves in those situations is key toward self-compassion and inner health. When I can begin to be compassionate with myself for the things I expected to go better, I will project that same empathy and compassion onto others who are struggling to meet either my expectations or, even worse, their own.

How do we go from expectations (attachment) toward anticipation (non-attachment)? First, become curious. Notice that an expectation is an attempt to control, which keeps life feeling predictable, yet can really get in the way of allowing life to flow. When you notice that you have an attachment about an outcome or resentment over something that did or didn’t happen the way that you wanted, search for your unconscious expectation. The more awareness that you can place on the expectations you created, the less you might do it (and try not to judge yourself for doing something that comes pretty naturally). One of my mentors, John McMullin from Journeys of Wisdom, teaches me to say, “Surprise me, God.” Personally, I really like this because it gets me out of my own way and opens me up to a higher power that has a much better handle on my life than I do.

In wrapping this up, my expectation is that something within this blog will make sense and will help create an opening for some self-reflection, self-compassion, and some dialogue between you and those you care about. I would invite all of you (and me) to stay curious and lighten up…as I’ve stated in my other blogs, this being human thing can be pretty challenging. If you find yourself in a place of darkness and confusion, reach out to family, friends or a coach. Sometimes we just can’t see what we just can’t see and others have an insight or reflection that will help. At least that’s my expectation when I reach out. Until next time friends…many blessings.

 

Karen Solt is an Advanced Holistic Coach who is dedicated toward helping others discover the areas of their lives that are creating imbalance, discomfort, confusion, and relational problems. She holds a Masters in Psychology (Counseling) and is passionate about human healing. She works individually with clients and also presents workshops and classes to others seeking inner growth, better relationships, addiction help, and ways to uncover hidden sabotage patterns. A retired Navy veteran, Karen has had various life experiences that have created her unique style of coaching of all walks of life. She can be contacted at solt.karen@gmail.com.