Comparison: The Thief of Joy

Let's get this out of the way first; we all compare ourselves to other people. It's part of human nature.

Sometimes we compare so that we can feel better about ourselves and our situations and sometimes we compare so that we feel worse about ourselves.

We all do it, there is nothing wrong with you that you compare yourself, you're not a bad person.

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about why comparing can be faulty and ends up making ourselves feel crappy either way.

First, we usually compare things that others make public. You see that your neighbour is always well-dressed, impeccably groomed, with fancy coffee in hand at all time. You look down at our tattered active wear (that is actually your "I can't be bothered to put on real pants today" wear) and feel less than.

What you don't see is the anxiety and perfectionism that is driving that glossy sheen. Or maybe your neighbour is actually super happy and her appearance just matches that happiness. You don't know. All you can see is the outside.

Comparing your inner mess to someone's pristine exterior is setting you up to lose.

Another problem with comparison is that you may make the incorrect assumption that what someone else is doing is right, so you must be wrong. However, unfortunately, people are making unhealthy choices all the time so you may be using a dysfunctional benchmark.

Just because your fancy neighbour thinks that it's important to only eat food that is the colour green, doesn't mean she's necessarily right. 

Finally, comparisons often don't take into consideration your own priorities, experiences, goals and values.

You may feel bad that you don't throw your kids the most epic Pinterest-influenced kid parties, but do you truly care? Is that what is important to you or do you feel pressure because your glossy neighbour is also an amazing party thrower?

When you do find yourself comparing yourself, take a deep breath and become aware of the comparison and how you feel about it? 

Is It Normal to Hate My Partner After Having a Baby?

I'm going to let you in on a secret, something that most people don't talk about.

It is totally normal to look at your partner, while snuggling your newborn, and wondering how you ever ended up in this mess.

There are countless studies to support the finding that relationship satisfaction to take a steep nosedive after having a child. While you may expect that this is an experience that will bring to the two of you closer together, it can feel like the exact opposite.

This can be incredibly distressing especially since it's not something you planned for. You called the midwife before the pee dried on the pregnancy test, picked out the UppaBaby when you weren't even showing,  registered for the latest ergonomically correct baby carrier.

You did not plan for the seething rage that you felt as your partner snored softly as you got up for the billionth time in the middle of the night.

So consider this your post-baby gift: you are not a terrible person for feeling less than warm and fuzzy towards your partner.

Everything has changed.  

You are exhausted. Your partner is exhausted. Neither of you is at your best.

You are also both adjusting to a new role transition (even if it's not your first child, you are now adjusting to parenting an additional person!). You may both have had totally different expectations about how this whole baby thing would work. 

This is not exactly a recipe for romance.

Do what do you do when you're feeling less than amorous towards your honey? First of all, cut yourself some slack and know that it's normal. Also, cut your partner some slack because they are trying to figure all of this out as well.

Next, talk to each other about these less than ideal feelings. It can definitely be uncomfortable and awkward, but this prevents the resentment to grow in darkness. Acknowledge what is bothering you and what you need from your partner.

Be open to listening to your partner and their experience as well, even if you are feeling defensive about what they have to say.

Know that you are not alone in this experience. Also know that there will be moments where you will be so blissed out with your new family and fall in love all over with your partner.

And then the seething rage will return.

Welcome to the rollercoaster of parenting with your partner. 

 

The Lost Art of Doing Nothing

Society is obsessed with being busy; working too much, having too many social obligations, taking your kids to activities every night.

If you ever truly want to freak someone out, tell them you're doing nothing when they ask about your weekend plans ;)

Why do we feel the need to schedule ourselves within an inch of our life?

  1. Our self-worth is tied to achieving and productivity. We feel like we need to check off items from our to-do list in order to feel that we've been "useful."
  2. Everyone else is doing it, so we feel like it's the right thing to do. As human beings, we have a tendency to follow the crowd even if the crowd is heading in the totally wrong direction!
  3. We use busyness to distract ourselves from unpleasant feelings or thoughts. We feel that we can out-run our anxieties, discontent and overwhelm. 
  4. We have been taught that doing nothing=being lazy=being a bad person. 
  5. It can be really uncomfortable when you try to initially do nothing.

There are lots of understandable reasons why we get caught in the cycle of busyness, but it comes with price. Our physical health can suffer if we are eating meals on the go, not sleeping enough and fuelling the frantic pace with nothing but caffeine and sheer will.

Our emotional health can suffer too. If we are on the go all the time, there can be feelings of overwhelm, feeling like we are always running behind, always planning the next thing. 

Our relationships can suffer. When was the last time that you hung out with your partner and enjoyed each other's company? Do you mostly see your kids when you're chauffeuring them to the next activity? We may not have time to spend time with the truly important people in our lives because we are too busy.

So, here's a challenge for you! Once you finish reading this post, put down the phone or close your laptop, and just sit! You can focus on your breath and check in with how you are feeling. Are there any kinks or discomfort in your body? Just sit (or stand if you just realized that you have been sitting for way too long!).

You may find this really uncomfortable. You may only be able to handle a minute or two. That's totally okay! Try to do this a few times a day (you may want to set a do-nothing alarm as a reminder). 

Commit to doing nothing and before you know it, you'll eventually be lounging on your sofa, looking out the window and feeling nothing but awesome!

How to Change Your Partner in 5 Easy Steps

how to change your partner

Sorry, this title is total click bait! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but trying to get another grown human being to change is kind of like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube; messy, frustrating and pretty much impossible.

Think about how challenging it is to change your own behaviours, when you have total control.

Now think about how challenging it is to change someone else's behaviours, when you have zero control.

Told ya; like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube.

So what can you do when your partner is doing things that are frustrating you, letting you down or just plain making you mad?

  1. If you don't understand their behaviour ask about it in a non-judgemental, curious manner. This empathic approach will be more likely to set the stage for real connection rather than your partner feeling defensive.
  2. Change your own behaviour. If you want your partner to do more around the house, but then criticize them for not doing it "your way" it is unlikely that they will want to try again. Our own behaviours can help shape the behaviours of others.
  3. Accept that you are two different people, with different goals, priorities and ways of thinking about things. The goal of a relationship is not to become the exact same, but rather supporting each other in growing as individuals.
  4. Accept your partner for you they are, flaws and all. Focus on the positive traits that drew you to them in the first place rather than the things that bother you.
  5.  If your partner's behaviour is truly a deal breaker for you, you need to let them know.....but also be ready to end the relationship if a change does not occur. 

Relationships can be loaded with unrealistic expectations about who are partner should be. These expectations can cause a lot of distress for you and your partner.

There is a reason that you picked your partner. What were those rather than what you want to change?

Will a Granite Countertop Change My Life?

how to ease anxiety

Have you ever known a couple that seems on the brink of divorce and then they announce that they are buying a new house?

Have you decided that once you renovate your kitchen, you will feel less overwhelmed in your life because you'll finally have enough storage space?

Or maybe booked a vacation so that you have something to look forward to and  keep you from having a meltdown right now?

Sometimes, changing external circumstances feels like a good approach to changing how you feel. If you are stressed and worried, it feels like a problem that needs to be solved and you start going through a mental checklist of things that can be changed or altered.

This strategy may even work. You look around at your gleaming new granite counter tops, big pot drawers and even maybe one of those fancy taps by the stove specifically for filling pots! It feels so fresh, clean and organized. The solution to all of your problems!

Until two weeks later, when the new kitchen shine has been thoroughly scrubbed off, the cupboards feel disorganized already, the counters are sticky and you still feel overwhelmed.

Maybe it's time to renovate the master bath?!?!

Stop.

While there is nothing wrong with changing your external environment, you need to assess what your expectations are of the changes and whether these are realistic.

A new kitchen may make cooking easier, but it won't address feelings of anxiety, low self-worth or distance in your relationship.

A vacation may give you a break from the daily routine, but won't address the fact that you hate your job and still don't know what you want to do with your life.

A new house may feel like a fresh start, but won't fix the disconnect that you feel in your marriage.

Sometimes, the things that need to be changed are internal; the way you think about things, interpret things or the way you behave. Sometimes there are things that need to be accepted rather than fought with.

While there is nothing wrong with changing our external circumstances, that is no substitute for addressing our internal world. 

 

 

Am I just a worrier or is it something more?

i-worry-all-the-time

"I've always been a worrier."

"I'm a bit of a control freak."

"I have a Type A personality."

"People describe me as being uptight."

These are descriptions I hear on a daily basis from my clients. Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I heard these things, I'd be writing this blog post from a beach front villa in the Caribbean.

You may have accepted the idea that being in a constant state of worry is just part of your personality, something that can't be changed.

But what if it could be changed? What if it's not a part of you are as a person, but the constant hum of anxiety?

Mind.blown.

So how do you know if you're just a worrier or if it's anxiety?

Regardless of how we label it, being worried most of the time is not a great way to be living your life. If you're waking up most morning, already feeling tense and anxious, that is also not a good thing.

If you're finding yourself in a constant state of overwhelm, with to-do lists racing through your head, thinking 10 steps ahead at all times, planning for worst case scenario, juggling everyone's schedule in your head, feeling like you're barely keeping it together but slapping on a smile anyways, that is not good (phew, I'm getting anxious about your anxiety!). 

If you have simply accepted that you may get a chance to relax in about 20 years, that is also not good.

It can be challenging to think of NOT worrying all the time. You may be afraid that things won't get done if you stop worrying. You'll miss something and something terrible will happen. It may even be too difficult to wrap your head around the idea of feeling calm occasionally.

However, being constantly revved up is exhausting. It takes a toll on you emotionally and physically. It can lead to that moment, where it finally feels that you've hit the wall and can no longer keep going the way you have been.

So what to do about the constant worrying?

First, identify that this is a problem. Again, being worried all the time is not a personality trait. 

Start becoming more curious and compassionate about your worries. Where did these worries come from? How are they impacting your behaviour? Don't label your worries as "stupid" or "ridiculous." They are coming from somewhere.

It can be challenging to do this on your own as sometimes these worries have been around for so long, it's hard to know where the heck they even came from.  Therapy can be helpful in identifying the root cause of these patterns and replace them with less distressing ways of viewing issues.

Finally, know that life does not have to feel this stressful and overwhelming all the time. 

The Anxious Baby Bird

A few weeks ago, a mama bird set up shop on one of the lights in my backyard. My family watched as she built a nest, laid eggs, and then waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

And finally, four baby birds arrived on the scene.

We watched as both the mama and the papa spent all day flying back and forth, feeding their babies (and discovering fun facts like baby birds poop out "fecal sacks").

One afternoon, I witnessed the first baby bird take its first tentative flight out of the nest. I'm not gonna lie, I gasped as I watched it plummet to the ground.

But it got up, tried to fly some more, fell again and finally flew away.

(I also learned that I would be a terrible helicopter bird parent.)

The next day, two more of the birds flew the coop.

And then there was one left. We watched it stretch out its wings...and then get right back into the nest. It groomed itself excessively. It was probably the cleanest baby robin in town. 

The next morning, it stood at the edge of the nest. We waited.

It kept standing at the edge of the nest.

We waited some more. 

We finally had to go to work. By the time I got back, the baby bird was gone. It had summoned the courage to take the leap.

That final bird reminded me of how anxiety can run our life. We watch others do what we really want to do, but hold back due to fear. We let perfectionism run the show and we groom and prepare, and get ready and fluff our feathers and procrastinate some more.

We stand at the edge and will ourselves to take the leap. Sometimes we decide that it's just easier to get back in the nest and stay in our comfort zone.

And sometimes we leap.

Sometimes we apply for that amazing job that we don't feel qualified for.

We sign up for the adult ballet class even though we haven't danced in years.

We have the uncomfortable conversation with our partner that we've been avoiding.

What do you need to do but are scared to take the leap?

 

Tell Your Inner Critic to Shush

How to be less self critical

“You should be more successful”

“You should be a better parent”

“You shouldn’t have bothered to try”

“You are failing like you always do”

"You are not smart/pretty/thin/stylish/organized/calm/fabulous enough"

If these are some of the thoughts that run through your head on a regular basis, I have some bad news to share with you;

You have an inner critic.

An inner critic who is kind of a jerk, has taken up residence in your head and does not pay rent.

In addition to being a lousy tenant, your inner critic can have a huge impact on your life. It may lead to:

  • fear of trying new things
  • feeling easily frustrated when things aren't working
  • believing that making mistakes = failures
  • fear of being “found out” as an impostor
  • inability to enjoy the present moment because you're stuck in your head with your critic
  • feeling like you have a “fatal flaw” 
  • trying to “prove yourself” - overextending self, saying yes to things you don’t want to do

One of the most frustrating things about the inner critic is that you feel that you will never measure up to the arbitrary rules that the inner critic creates (I'm pretty sure that the inner critic spends way too much time on Pinterest) creating a sense of constant failure.

So how do you shush the inner critic?

  1. become aware of your inner critic. We cannot change what we do not notice. It may suck to listen to the non-stop negative chatter, but it's gotta be done!
  2. notice what happens when you have the critical thoughts; how do you react? how do you feel? do you try to argue with the critic or accept the criticism as fact?
  3. understand that the inner critic is NOT YOU. It is a voice that has been developed over the years based on thousands of messages from various sources (eg. your family of origin, teachers, friends, romantic partners, society)
  4. begin to make room for a more compassionate voice, your inner cheerleader
  5. when the inner critic starts to chatter, tell it to shush, and replace it with kinder thoughts (this is going to be super hard to to at first!)

Here are some examples of kinder thought:

  • “It was my first time trying, of course I didn’t know how to do it.”
  • “It is understandable that I’m nervous before my first day at a new job.”
  • “I’m okay with the fact that I’m a terrible cook.”

It will likely feel weird at first to be so nice to yourself! It will also take a lot of practice and slipping back into inner critic mode will happen.

Be patient with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

Tell the inner critic that its getting a new roommate.

 

Don't Be A Footnote in Your Own Story

We all have our own story, however it can often feel that we are rarely the main character in ours. It may feel that you are often a minor character that's helping everyone else live out their story. 

Worse, you may even feel like a footnote; you're there but not in any significant way. 

This can be a terrible feeling. In this video, I discuss how to step into your own story and finally take centre stage.