Rethinking Self-deprecating Humor

A couple of years ago, I was out with a dear friend having some coffee.  After becoming fully caffeinated and feeling at my comedic best, I began to regale my friend with all the things that were wrong with me using self-deprecating humor.  I started by berating my body, and I was on fire, never funnier! However, I wasn’t getting the response I wanted from my friend.  She wasn’t laughing?!  After a couple of more failed attempts I stopped cold.  This wasn’t working on her.  Instead of paying attention to my problematic content, I thought to myself, “Am I not funny any more?”

She saw the confused look on my face and explained that she had noticed whenever she was out with friends, the conversation almost always steered towards self-deprecating conversations.  She said she didn’t agree with what I was saying in the first place, and if she had laughed she would have felt complicit in those false beliefs.  As I sat there stunned, she then went on to say she had made the decision awhile ago, to stop saying horrible things about herself.  Truth is, it had never once helped her.

I sat there stunned.  Instead of humoring me, she was respecting me more than I respected myself.

Well, this conversation came back to me last week, when I listened to someone else give me an almost pre-written script about all the things that she HATED about her body.  It was funny, well-timed and clearly told many, many times.  I did my best to be a good audience but finally had to stop her.  I wondered out loud, “Why are we still talking about ourselves so negatively?  What is the point?  Does this help us in anyway?  Would you EVER talk about someone else like this?”  Thankfully, she allowed me my little rant, and as we talked it out, it occurred to us that negative self talk does not just go away, unless we work at.

I recently turned 40 and while there are many areas of my life that have gotten easier, bad habits do not just disappear on their own.  Alas.  So, if you have gotten in this habit as well, start paying attention to it.  I personally LOVE getting a laugh out of anyone that will listen, but if I throw in some self-deprecating humor there will always be a part of me that will be suspicious of that laugh.  Did they laugh because that was funny or did they laugh because they agree…you follow?  It’s doesn’t serve me.

If you have little ones around you, mentor staff, or have folks that look up to you, you better believe they are learning and absorbing all your insecurities as truth and applying it to their own existence.  I dare you to start being your own champion instead of your biggest critic.  Start flipping the script, notice what you say to others about your body, about your habits, about who you are.  If a friend said those things to you would you keep them around?  I should hope not.

*Side note:  If you do have folks in your life that constantly bring you down instead of lifting you up, this can be extra hard because you are being devalued by them AND yourself.  You deserve better and it’s time to take inventory on the folks you have surrounded yourself with.

This is a process, and while I wish I could say you turn a magical age and stop being your own worst enemy, that isn’t reality.  But the silver lining is (and you know I live for a silver lining) you can start turning this habit around almost immediately.  Friends may wonder why you are not joining them in being cruel to yourself, and I encourage you to share with them why not.

Do not give those hurtful thoughts or words any more air time.  They’ve been hogging the mic long enough.

Take care of YOU.

 

 

How’s that working out for ya?

First of all, Happy New Year everyone!  We made it another year!  Ok let’s dive right in!

Years ago, I was talking to my dear friend Paul about how I approached parties especially when there was someone I was interested in at the party.  I told him I would make my way around the party and talk to everyone BUT the one person I wanted to get to know.  My friend looked at me, paused and said, “How’s that working out for ya?”  We laughed until we cried, because he was sooo right, it was NOT working out for me.  I’ll never forget that statement because it forced me to acknowledge the silliness of my approach.  It has since allowed me to look at the silliness of many of my approaches.

I want you to think about some of the excuses you rationalize in your head about why you don’t do certain things that would be good for you.  I’ll start.  Typically after the holidays, I  start to see all my “hard work” of eating anything I want in large quantities,  “pay off.”  Suddenly clothes feel tighter, and even if I look exactly the same to everyone else I feel sluggish and blah.  Add the additional pressure I’ve put on myself to be good at self care (hahaha) and suddenly I’m spiraling even more.  The amount of time and energy I spend on thinking about what I should be eating or how I should be exercising and then beating myself up for not doing any of it,  is considerably more time and energy than it would take to simply put on my clothes and walk across the street to the gym. (Yep, my gym is across the street.)

So today I ask myself, “How’s that working out for you?”  Now, just like when Paul said that to me many years ago, it was not with malicious intent.  He was simply encouraging me (through humor) to explore my rationale.  So this is not meant to be a statement of shaming.  I want to be very clear on that.  We do not need to make any more room for shame in our lives.  Our thoughts are already very good at hitting us where it hurts.  This is meant to simply be a phrase to help you see if there’s another possible solution to your current “plan.”  All those years ago, I didn’t see the solution that was right in front of my face: Get out of my comfort zone and actually talk to who I want to.  Risk it.

Also, there is real power in sharing with others what you want to be doing or becoming.  Prior to voicing my party pattern, I was stuck feeling frustration and shame that I wasn’t meeting who I wanted to meet.  It took speaking my pattern out loud and having someone who I knew had my best interest in mind, to start to see things clearer.

We are so good at justifying things in our heads.  It’s a human trait.  We learn this from a very early age, so it’s ok if this feels hard at first.  The good news is we can outsmart our justifications. So as we fly into this new year, I encourage you to look at who you want to become and when an imagined road block appears ask if it is worth not going after the life you want (and if it’s helpful ask, “how’s that working out for ya?”) Fear doesn’t know the difference between real danger and getting outside of your comfort zone “danger.”  So you have to explain this to yourself when you are getting all worked up.

I leave you with a brilliant quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic (which I recommend to everyone forever):

“Fear, I recognize and respect that you are a part of this family and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still your suggestions will NEVER be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice but you are not allowed to have a VOTE.  You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest the detour; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature.  Dude, you’re not even allowed to tough the radio.  But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

Take care of YOU.

What if your thoughts were your biggest cheerleader?

I wonder how much of our thoughts are spent ruminating about stuff that doesn’t help us or move us towards our goals.  In my case, I would say a vast majority of my thoughts have gotten in my way.  In fact I would argue that allowing my unhelpful or unnecessary thoughts to take hold is some of the most self-sabotaging behavior there is.

It takes hold in many forms.  Sometimes I spend way too long thinking about something I could have said to someone after feeling attacked.  Or I spend time anticipating an argument that usually, NEVER happens.  Where my thoughts are the most sneaky is  when I am worried about loved ones.  Because their crises are often quite real I can convince myself that this is absolutely the only thing I should be thinking about.  I have even gone so far as feeling guilty for trying to better my life when everyone around me appears to be in a crisis.  Do you relate to this?  This is particularly tricky if you are working in the social justice field.  When you are seeing others struggling to a degree that you can almost feel your heart breaking, the guilt is real when you focus on you.  The good news is you can have both.  You can have an open heart, and move in the direction of your goals.  You don’t have to pick one, in fact please don’t.

So what do we do?  Start paying attention to what comes up in your thoughts and be picky about what is allowed to stay.  My therapist is actively attempting to get me to see this.  Why does this matter??  In my case, my thoughts have been distracting me from exploring new aspects of my life, for years.  When drama arises around me, I’m distracted from my goals because of how much time I give to the drama.  Whether it be in person or in my head, when I feel slighted, misunderstood, burdened and can’t stop talking or thinking about it, I’m self-sabotaging myself.  If you are not much of a talker and instead let this stuff ruminate in your head only, this is even sneakier because only you are privy to what goes in that noggin of yours.

What do you do when your mind will not get off the hamster wheel of worry or drama or obsessing over things?  Sonia Choquette, author of “Trust Your Vibes” suggests getting back into the present by literally naming everything you see around you.  For example, if I’m walking down the street and my brain is going a million miles an hour because of the latest work drama I say to myself, “Ok, get back to the present.  There’s a branch in the road, there’s some gum on that sign, there’s a woman with a fabulous coat, there’s a person who hasn’t looked up from their phone while walking….”  It’s like playing I-spy with yourself to get you back to the here and now.  Great news, it works.  You are redirecting/distracting your inner toddler.

Sometimes the best way to discover you are on the hamster wheel in your mind, is the way your body feels.  Is it tightening up?  Have you forgotten to breathe?  Are you clenching your teeth?  Then ask yourself, what was I just thinking about? Does this serve me?  Nope.  Then move yourself back into the present.

Now sometimes you truly do need to work through stuff.  I’m all about that.  But pay attention to the difference between working through things and distracting yourself.  I can’t tell you what is the difference for you.  But for me, if something has been resolved and I am still ruminating about it perhaps its time for some redirection.  And sometime this may require the help of a professional (therapist not hit man) to get you back on track.

Lastly, I want you to explore this idea: what if your thoughts were your biggest cheerleader?  Can you imagine this?  Simply asking yourself if your thoughts are being supportive/kind can sometimes be enough to bring your awareness back and prevent you from circling the black hole of self-doubt and loathing.  If as you read this you find yourself completely resistant to this idea, I encourage you to explore WHY.  Does it make you feel fake?  Does it make you feel like it’s sugar coating your REAL problems?  I get it.  I’m here to say I highly doubt that paying better attention to your thoughts will mean that from now on you will remain oblivious to the areas of your life that could use some improvement.  In fact, looking at your thoughts may help you appreciate how far you’ve come despite have a constant naysayer in your head.  And if this means that you will spend a fraction of time less being negative towards yourself, why not try it?

*Rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care for deeply, don’t say it yourself.

I’m excited for our journey towards inner kindness.

Take care of YOU.

 

Check-in on each other, nap, do your best, repeat.

Last week, I binged on all sorts of crappy food.  I thought I was alone until I heard from my fellow women all over the country, that were doing the same thing.  Between the hearing, the Cosby case, patients’ traumas, and life it was just a hard week.  I have no intention of discussing these traumas, but I do want to acknowledge that if last week made you feel like you got hit by a baseball bat, you were not alone.

We all cope differently.  I personally don’t believe there is much point in berating yourself for how you might have coped last week.  I started to go there this weekend, when my clothes felt snug and I had to throw away countless wrappers from my emotional eating session.  But then I reminded myself that I had many triumphs last week, and eating well just wasn’t one of them.  Also as a reminder (to me and you), just because I got off track last week does not mean I will never eat a piece of fruit again or a green leafy vegetable again.  It was temporary.

On Thursday I realized I needed to do some baking, something about the fall weather brings that up for me.  I yearned to follow a recipe and just not think.  So when the weekend arrived I headed off to the grocery store for all the ingredients I needed.  On my way there, I realized I didn’t have a big enough bag for all the other groceries our apartment needed.  As I started thinking about everything else I needed to pick up I could feel my joy for my upcoming baking adventure fading QUICKLY.  I made the WILD decision that I would only buy what I needed for my pie, so that I could sustain my joy.  Guess what?  It worked!  I left the grocery store in record time and got to the important business of starting my self-care project of baking a pie.

……………

Check in on each other as we deal with all this triggering news right now.  Don’t forget naps are a thing we get to do too.  Rest is necessary always, and a powerful tool in recovery.

May this proverb carry you in the coming weeks:

“They tried to bury us, they didn’t realize we were seeds.” -Mexican proverb

Take care of YOU.

 

 

Self-care without self-love is just going through the motions.

Hey friends, it’s good to be back after a little hiatus from writing.  I want to plunge right in and talk about some stuff that came up for me this weekend.  I seem to often get clarity about things when I leave my familiar surroundings.  (I recommend this, by the way.  Your brain starts thinking differently in new settings, it doesn’t get hijacked by your errands or things you should do around the house.  Instead you are forced to look at the stuff you may prefer to avoid.  Although initially a little scary, pretty powerful in the long run.)  Anyway, this weekend it hit me why self-care is so damn hard!  We often don’t actually believe we deserve it.  Yup I said it.  I can give you all the tricks and tips for squeezing a little “me” time into your life, but you aren’t going to make it a priority if you don’t actually believe that you deserve this.  You may not even know you think this.  I sure didn’t realize it myself.  But if you aren’t practicing self-love and self-forgiveness, I promise you’re going to have a hard time prioritizing yourself at all.  It’s just not going to happen.

So in case it would help to hear someone else say you deserve love, compassion, kindness and care towards yourself, I am happy to be that person for you.  You deserve this.  I don’t care what your past looks like.  I don’t care if you feel like a horrible person most of the time.  I don’t care if you don’t think you deserve it, I’m hear to tell you, you do.  The problem is, it doesn’t really matter if I think this.  You need to believe you deserve this, and I can’t make that happen for you.  So if this resonates, allow me to offer this tip: fake it till you make it.  Pretend that you believe you deserve practicing kindness towards yourself.  Or treat yourself like you would a loved one, or a beloved friend.

Self-love like self-care can be demonstrated in so many different ways:

-Eat healthy foods, that fuel you rather than those that spike your blood sugar and then rapidly depress you

-Forgive yourself for past mistakes- don’t let the shame consume you anymore. Name them, own up, and forgive yourself.  Maya Angelou has a wonderful quote about this, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”

-Send love to your physical scars- put your hands on those scars, talk to them gently and lovingly.

-Attempt body positvity- don’t focus on what you don’t like about your body, highlight what you do like!

-Stretch! Get your body moving and oxygen and energy flowing throughout it, feel gratitude for it

-Write a letter to your “younger you.”  Be a big brother/sister to them, and write what you wish you could have told them

-Get a massage, acupuncture, Reiki- get the energy moving, and let your body feel pampered, appreciated

-Be aware of how substances make you feel after you partake.  Remember alcohol is a depressant so if you are struggling with feeling down that may not be the best go to.

-Create self-love rituals- ex: taking a bath by candlelight and bubbles

-Be in dialogue with yourself and pay attention to how you are talking to yourself without judgment, redirect where necessary

Everything takes practice folks.  Self-love and self-care are skills, which is great news!  We CAN get better at both.  See what you can implement into your life this next week.  And remind yourself you deserve it.

Take care of YOU.

 

A brief hiatus until September…

Dear friends,

You may have noticed that my blog posts have been more sporadic this summer.  As part of my self-care I have spent a lot of weekends away from the city.  This has been wonderful and has allowed me to recharge.  This has also meant that my weekend errands have been left for the week days.  So in an effort to not overwhelm myself, I am taking a brief hiatus from the blog until my summer gets less busy.

I will be back at it in September, as I have much more to write!  Enjoy the rest of your summer lovelies.

Take care of YOU.

Learning how to thoughtfully disconnect.

When I write these posts they are usually based on what I need to hear in the moment.  This past week I’ve been trying to listen to what I need, and finally I heard it on Monday after a nice little run-in with a migraine.  The message was finally clear, I needed a break from constantly interacting with the human race.

There used to be a time when you could go days without a soul knowing where you were.  For some I’m sure that sounds scary, but for the rest of us, we might feel a little nostalgic about that.  Imagine not having to answer texts, respond to comments or posts, or answer calls when someone ELSE was ready.  We were given and allowed time to respond to things.  If you wrote a letter, you’d have to wait for a response, and there was no guarantee how long that would take.  We learned the art of patience.

Well this week I’m starting to acknowledge that cell phones and everything associated with them: texting, social media, etc are taking it’s toll on me.  I might be doing fine or most likely recovering from life and get a text that suddenly becomes the focus of my day.  I could’ve literally been having a restorative moment, and in a flash it’s gone.  To be fair, that is something I also have to work on (and am working on).  The art of not letting things linger in my brain longer than is necessary is a hard one for me.  (Highly recommend the workbook Mind Over Mood by the way, and oldie but goody.)  But there’s also something to be said about protecting your peace and your time.

I hear parents talk about how much screen time they allow their kids.  But I do wonder, are we not parenting ourselves?  If we were to calculate how much screen time we occupy in a day, my guess is we’d be a tad embarrassed.  I know I would.

So what’s the solution?  In my case I want to consciously limit my accessibility when my body and mind are telling me it’s “recharge” time.  This means I have to pay better attention to how I feel, and then honor how I feel without judging it or wishing I had more capacity.  Because there are plenty of folks who do not get as drained from this as I do.  That’s great!  That’s them though.  One of my favorite quotes that I sometimes have to repeat to myself like a mantra is “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  This also means that I will have moments where I will need to redirect myself when I realize I haven’t been honoring my commitment to recovery and recuperation.  It’s a journey, people.

So while this may not be your need this week, I encourage you to notice and honor where you could allow your mind a little more peace this week.

Take care of YOU.