The Comparison Complex (1/27/2016)

Remember that time you dropped a few pounds, felt really good about yourself and then you got on Instagram to take a photo and saw a photo of one of your friends?

She had lost a little bit more than you and had on a great new outfit.

The 15 pounds you lost suddenly seemed…pitiful.

You were depressed, upset and angry that you hadn’t lost more.

“She can lose all that weight because she doesn’t have kids, so she has time to go to the gym,” you think to yourself.

“And that’s another thing – she doesn’t have children. She didn’t have stretch marks and I bet her stomach was still flat,” you think.

Before long, you’ve gone from celebrating your own success to being miserable because someone else’s success may have been a smidge better.

What your friend achieves has nothing to do with you.

It’s not going to take away from what you’ve done.

It’s not going to make you less than.

It’s not going to cause your success to be any less.

Just like what you do really doesn’t take away from someone else’s success and achievements.

For some warped, twisted reason, we seem to think if someone gets the car we want, the house we dream of, or has any type of success it’s an indicator of our failure.

We have created imaginary limitations that make us think if someone does something great, that means we have to fail.

Life shouldn’t be a competition, but somehow…that’s what it’s become.

It’s like we are in a race where only the first one across can break that finish line tape, when it really shouldn’t be that way.

I don’t even consider it a jealousy type thing. If anything, it’s more like some twisted comparison complex where we spend all day comparing ourselves to someone else and coming up short.

If it was just jealousy, it would be a heck of lot more benign.

When I am jealous, it’s because it’s something that I wish I had or could do or achieved that I hadn’t – but maybe one day would. Like I am jealous of women who know how to decorate and make the tiniest spaces look divine. I am jealous – but I am able to gush and tell them how envious I am sincerely.

When I fall into the comparison trap, I am coming up less than and trying to find a way to decrease the other person’s value in the meantime.

“She has a better job than me, and I don’t know why, she doesn’t have my education. I bet I know how she got it…”

“She’s always posting on Facebook how great her husband is…well, last I heard, he was cheating on her….”

These are some of the themes we play in our heads to justify why someone else has success or happiness. Whatever you call it – it’s just something that makes you feel like you are a total failure the size of Texas.

That’s what comparison does.

It’s like someone saying, “That’s comparing apples and oranges.”

Two totally different fruits. Some people like citrus; personally, I am not fan of either but you can dip an apple in caramel.

Does the apple worry about the orange? About the fact the orange can be easily peeled and cut into sections? Or that there are seedless varieties?

Of course not. Just as the orange does not care that the apple can be baked in a pie.

And I am not saying we are fruit, but instead of focusing on what someone else does or has, we need to focus on our own happiness.

Instead of feeling a twinge of happiness if we find an unflattering picture of them on Facebook and snickering, “I knew they PhotoShopped that photo of themselves in that bathing suit!” we can direct our attention towards the positive things in our lives.

Tearing ourselves down with a comparison complex only causes us to subsequently tear others down, just to make ourselves feel better. And it’s not working, either.

Instead, we feel worse and then guilty for being such jerks.

Next time we want to celebrate what we have accomplished, let’s just celebrate it – rejoice in what we did, how made it through something, met our goals, whatever we did.

But put the focus on that.

And let the comparison end there.

settle for more

Settle for More (April 1, 2015)

A friend and I were chatting one night, catching up on things and the conversation turned to our usual wistful, wishful discussion of how life was really going.

You know, the real conversation that occurs when we get beyond the superficial stuff.

And once we had the stuff about our hair, makeup, latest diet out of the way, we got down to the nitty gritty.

“How are you? Really?” we asked each other.

When you’ve been friends a while you know there are often things that go unsaid.

“I just thought,” she began, “I don’t know…that life would somehow be….”

Her voice trailed off.

I understood exactly what she meant.

Different. She thought by the time she hit 40, life would be different.

More settled, more secure.

More exciting, more fabulous.

I had thought so myself.

In fact, when I was younger, I thought by the time I hit my 40’s – which, when I was younger, I thought was some ancient age – I would have acquired all the success I could handle and would be sitting somewhere, content with life.

No, I wasn’t drinking, either. I was in my late teens when I had this delusion.

A professor once told me frustration is when our expectations and our realities are not jelling.

If that is the case, consider me frustrated.

Make that a lot of us.

When I graduated college, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.

I was going to do great things, set the world on fire.

I see that hope, inspiration, motivation in young people now when they graduate, thinking it will be them that change the world.

But life happens.

Not that life is bad.

It’s not – life has a wonderful, beautiful way of putting us where we need to be sometimes.

It’s just that somehow along the journey, we realize we get off track towards our hopes and dreams.

Those things we thought we’d achieve, do, accomplish – the great American novel, the rock n’ roll album, the wild, crazy dreams – never get fulfilled.

And we settle for things that are far less than those dreams.

We settle for jobs that pay the bills instead of feed our souls.

We settle for situations that really don’t make us happy.

We settle for lives of quiet desperation, fueled by unfulfilled dreams that leave us yearning for things we think are so out of reach.

The great secret, I told my friend, was that really no one’s life has gone the way they wanted – for the most part, anyway. There may be a few that did but more than likely, they all had something that wasn’t perfect, some area of their life that didn’t turn out quite how they wanted.

“And that doesn’t mean life is bad,” I reminded her. “It just means that sometimes, we get sidetracked from our dreams. We stop focusing on what we want, and we just…”

“Settle,” we said in unison.

Someone posed the question in a group over the weekend: “What would you like to change about your life?”

I thought long and hard before I responded.

Other than having some issues with forgiveness or my inability thereof, I wouldn’t change anything.

Sure, there were mistakes. I learned from them.

Yes, there were opportunities I didn’t take that would have been really, really incredible – and would have maybe given something more substantial towards retirement than the $1.75 I have lingering somewhere.

And sure, a lot the experiences and circumstances brought heart ache, disappointment, and made me feel devastated. They didn’t all get me closer to my dreams, or even put that much money in my bank account.

But they all made me me.

Just like the detours and experiences in my friend’s life had made her beautifully her.

We had grown up and thought we deserved the mediocre jobs and the fake relationships.

We thought we deserved to be talked to harshly and treated poorly and even worse, thought it was okay.

“So how do we change this?” she asked. We both were out of wine and the conversation had gotten far more serious than Malbec can handle.

“We settle again,” I said, hearing her sigh. “But this time, we settle for more.”

We start acting like we do deserve better and go after it with the same optimism and foolish belief we can do anything we set our minds to. We take the life we have, and we make it the very best it can be.

Because just because life doesn’t turn into the fairy tale we thought it would be, doesn’t mean it is still not something amazing.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16248/

queue here

Meltdown in the checkout lane (3/4/2015)

I sometimes think people have lost all sense of boundaries and personal decorum.

I’m not talking about selfies and technology driven issues, either.

I’m talking about when folks are in stores. Rudeness has become the standard on aisle four and in the deli.

I am not even talking about how people like to stop and hold conferences in the aisles at the store.

Or how they will bump into you with their buggy as they pass, with half an aisle to spare.

I am talking about when I am trying to unload my buggy and the person behind me feels like it will somehow speed up the process by tossing their stuff up there before I am finished.

Or they get really, really close to me. As in hover so close to me that I have to say, “Excuse me,” when I bump them to get my wallet out of my purse.

It makes me feel claustrophobic and nervous.

As an introvert, I feel very uncomfortable with a stranger having such close proximity to me.

As a human being, I also feel like it is the height of rudeness.

But people -most people, anyway-seem to have lost all sense of personal boundaries and proper public behavior.

Sadly, I was less shocked by seeing a girl walk in wearing a bikini once than I was by the man behind me that just saddled on up beside me to buy his pack of Marlboros while I was still handing my coupons to the cashier.

I shot the guy a sideways glance as if to say, “Back up, buddy,” but he didn’t seem to notice.

Another time, as I was in line, a man just appeared from nowhere and proceeded to cut in front of me in line. I actually called him out on it.

“You go ahead,” I said. “Whatever you are doing is evidently so much more important than what I have to do.”

It was urgent, after all, he had to load his card so he could save 10 cents on gas.

I get so frustrated and upset, I have gotten to the point I hate shopping of any kind.

Cole tries to be my buffer, but he is just a child.

In Aldi once, a man started placing his items up on the checkout belt while I was unloading.

The look on my face must have been horrific – I wanted to say something snarky and rude but my raisin’ wouldn’t allow it.

Evidently, my generation was the last to believe in having any kind of decorum.

Cole turned around until he made eye contact with the man’s wife, who tried to stop the man.

“I think that lady is still putting her stuff up there, honey,” she said.

He tossed a box of rice on the belt.

Cole grabbed it and handed it to the wife who finally made her husband realize he was tossing his items up there with mine.

When Cole turned back to me, he said my face was as red a pepper.

“I got this, Mama,” he said. “I won’t let them make you have a meltdown.”

Why can’t people take two seconds and realize they are not the only ones in the world and see how rude they are being.

If they aren’t all up on my backside, they are cutting in front of me. Cole wanted a sub sandwich at the deli one day. I had stood in line behind two people for about 15 minutes, when some rude lady approached and cut in front of me as the folks ahead of me moved away with their order.

Personally, I think the deli person should have known the lady was not next – I was – because I had been standing there so long.

Maybe I was wearing my cloak of invisibility that day. Or putting on a good imitation of a statue.

“Sometimes, I swear, I hate people,” I mumbled getting in the car.

Lamar didn’t say anything, because he knows I can turn on him like a feral cat if he says the wrong thing.

“You need to be my buffer,” I told him.

“You’re what?”

“My human buffer. You need to go in stores with me from now on – none of this sitting out here, napping. You need to go in there and make sure no one gets all up on me in the checkout and maybe help me run interference so people won’t cut in front of me.”

Lamar didn’t say a word -again, I can go feral cat.

“Maybe you need to speak up,” was Mama’s suggestion.

But in a world of road rage, it can be scary.

Even scarier, I am the type that takes and takes and takes and when I reach my limit, I am the scary one. I don’t want to do that. I would probably be escorted by police officers out of the store. Maybe wearing handcuffs.

After visiting Mama the other day, we stopped in Barnes & Noble.

As we went to checkout, I noticed the sign that said: “Please wait here until called by the next cashier.” What a lovely idea, I thought. A queue to give boundaries and parameters.

Some banks have the queue and even the ones that don’t, people have some cognizance it is not acceptable to get all up on someone while they are taking care of business.

Banks and bookstores apparently have a higher level of decorum, keeping the sales transaction sacred, away from rude, overzealous people.

Why can’t all the other stores have those signs or the little metal rails to get through?

But they don’t.

The rest of the world has just lost any and all civilization it once had.

And it all started at the grocery store.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16149/

positive reinforcement

In praise of…well, praise (2/25/2015)

I have often marveled how teachers could do it. Not just the keeping a classroom of children occupied or trying to keep track of how many kids have gone to the restroom, either. I have always been in awe of those good teachers who really inspire their students to learn.

Homeschooling has made me realize there’s even more to teaching than I originally imagined.

Cole’s program is fairly straight forward and he’s able to work fairly independently, asking me questions on my lunch break or when I am done with my work for the day.

Lamar questioned if he was actually learning. I assured him he was.

Until Cole came to me one evening.

“I don’t feel like I am getting the full learning package,” he announced.

“How so?” I asked, concerned.

“I don’t know if this home schooling thing is giving me the whole experience.”

“What do you feel like is missing?”

See, Mama, that master’s in psychology is paying off.

“I don’t know exactly,” was his answer. “Can I have some time to think about it and get back to you?”

I told him I would wait for his response, which came after he watched a new episode of “Adventure Time.”

“I miss the social aspects of school,” he began. “I miss my friends.”

I understood. Even though he is the progeny of two introverts, he is quite outgoing and social.

“And, I miss knowing I am doing good,” he added.

“What do you mean?”

If he meant behavior, I honestly couldn’t ask for a better child. I know he was sometimes reprimanded for talking in class, but he gets that honestly.

“I mean, I miss the stickers and the rewards I would get. And Ms. Robin and Ms. Bowen always told me when I did really well on something. They would…what’s the word?”

“Praise?” I offered.

“Yeah, praise. It made me feel really good. It made my spark happy.”

His spark being his tenderhearted spirit.

“I don’t praise you enough?”

“Mama, you do praise me, but, it’s stuff about I did a good job on a drawing or made you something – I feel like you are saying those things to make me feel better. I want to know I did a good job on something because I did; not because I did it and you’re my mom. I learn better when I know what I did right.”

And isn’t that what we all do?

I mean, honestly, has anyone telling you what you messed up made you do better at it? I have been criticized ad nauseam before; it makes me shut down and paralyzes me to the point I can’t even focus because I am so dingdang scared I will make another mistake again. I even wonder if my breathing patterns are correct.

But tell me: “Hey, this was excellent; I love the way you did this,” and I will know what to do again.

If I were to take a guess, it is probably why the most effective theories in psychology used some sort of reward system, where the desired behavior was rewarded, reinforcing what the individual was trying to repeat.

When mistakes – or the undesired behavior – was punished in some way, it didn’t make the subject perform the desired behavior. It just created more of the same.

Why? Because it’s hard for something good to come from an environment of negativity. It can be done, it’s just not conducive.

Criticism doesn’t have to be bad, but the manner and tone in which it’s delivered can affect its message.

If all someone hears is what they are doing wrong, eventually they wonder why they even try.

If the criticism is presented as ‘hey, this will make what you did better,” it makes the medicine easier to take.

I thought of how Cole responded to my praise in the past.

When I commented: “Wow! Look how neat your penmanship is!” on how his handwriting had improved, it made him beam from ear to ear; from then on, he made a conscientious effort to have neat handwriting.

I’m the same way. I have cleaned once or twice (yes, it has happened, it just sadly hasn’t been witnessed by anyone other than my husband and child) and when Lamar bragged on me, I tried to do better.

Hence the second occurrence. It made me feel like I had done something right for a change.

When I tried to clean for the ex, all he noticed was the spots I missed, which is why I told him where to put the feather duster.

We all are pretty simple people, really. We want to know when we have done something right, so we can do it again. It makes others happy, and that in turn, makes us happy when we know we’ve done something good.

“If I praised you more – sincerely praised you – would that help?” I asked.

He nodded.

“As long as when I mess up you don’t go all ‘Scary Mama’ on me like you do to Daddy when he does something.”

I promised I wouldn’t.

In fact, I swore to myself, I’d find something to praise – instead of criticize – in everything and everyone I could.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16129/

introvert care sheet

Introverts of the world – unite! (1/28/15)

If you had asked me 25 years ago if I was an extravert or an introvert, I would have whole-heartedly responded with the former.

I was considered outgoing and it seemed like I was always at a church party or a big get together.

I loved some aspects of it, but if I was honest, I hated it.

I hated the fake small talk, I hated being in a crowded place, and I hated the feeling of panic and being emotionally drained when it was over.

I thought introverts were rude hermits who hated mankind. Surely they weren’t just everyday people who were kind of friendly and liked puppies and stuff.

I thought I just had an uncategorized panic disorder – I was self-diagnosing myself long before WebMD was born, having a minor in psychology will do that for you. But one night in the mall with Mama, being surrounded with hordes of people, made me nearly black out. I sat on a bench and watched people go by, laughing, talking and enjoying their visit to the greatest place on earth. My ears were reverberating, and my heart was pounding. All I could think of was how I wanted to get out of there.

I still am not sure if that was a panic attack or just me realizing I didn’t feel comfortable in crowds.

Slowly, I began to realize that even when I liked the people or the places I was going, I didn’t like the crowds.

Being in the crowds made me feel like I was inside a drum while someone beat a tempo on the outside. All I could think of was wanting to be home, free of small talk.

Even when I worked in cosmetics, I thought I was outgoing and extraverted. Maybe it was because I became friends with so many of my customers and treated them all as guests, or if it was just so much fun – hello, I was paid to sell makeup and just about every week, with new stuff being delivered constantly.

I was in sales for a number of years and surprisingly, did OK. I actually enjoyed working with clients one on one, helping them with their advertising, and enjoyed the freedom that went with the job. It was so personal and rewarding. I was fine until we had to do a remote; the crowds of people swarming the booth made me panic so horribly I thought I would flee.

The thought still remained that I just had panic attacks. It never occurred to me that I was an introvert.

Then, low and behold, one day I had to take an actual test that discovered your personality traits. This was a real psychological test, not one of those Facebook quizzes that makes pithy diagnoses based on your color preference and the last thing you ate. This was a real psychological test. My result came back: Introvert.

I was surprised but somehow relieved.

Introverts feel overwhelmed in large crowds, hate noisy places, despise small talk (I will sit and talk about the big things at length, but the ‘hey, how’s the weather, how’s it going…” No. Just no.), feels drained after being in a crowd, and hates to talk on the phone. I have a few people I will talk to on the phone, and then, it needs to be a real conversation. Just the phone calls to just gossip or talk nonsense, I can’t handle.

Apparently, there are a lot of us out there.

I found more and more information about introverts and the more I found, the more it resonated with me and the way I had felt pretty much my whole life.
Mama still disagrees and says I am extraverted. I tell her no, I am not. I can appreciate her reasoning, because again, I would have considered myself an extravert before.

But being an introvert does not mean I hate the rest of the world; I am kind of a hermit though. I prefer my cabin in the woods, and prefer small, as in tiny, groups of people, and my dogs. That doesn’t mean I won’t smile at another person in the grocery store. And I will smile even broader if they smile back. It just means that I don’t have to invite them and their closest friends over for dinner.

“I still don’t think you are an introvert,” Mama said. It doesn’t matter if she thinks it or not; I am. It’s a label that finally ‘fits.’

After throwing off my former extravert label, I found out a lot of others I knew were introverts as well – people I liked, admired and would have never guessed were introverts.

“Maybe we need to have some kind of support group, for introverts disguised as extraverts,” one suggested via email one night. “But introverts don’t like leaving our homes.”

I agreed; I liked my side of the mountain.

“A support group without the meeting,” I answered.

We haven’t done it, but we kind of need to. It’s hard being an introvert in an extraverted world, and we really need to stick together.

Well, as much as a bunch of introverts would anyway. introverts

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16016/