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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The demons in our head....

Competition is something that is instilled in us from a very young age
in this society.  The need to win, to do better, to outdo yourself is
something that is continually reinforced over and over again in
different segments of society.  It manifests itself on the playground,
it manifests itself in sports, in our social circle, in school, and
eventually it integrates itself in different aspects of our lives.

Competition is not necessarily a negative notion.  It has positives to
the extent that it pushes us to do better and never settle for less.
That drive is needed and if used positively can help us accomplish
goals.  However, the moment we begin to feel that sense of
incompleteness within ourselves when we are not “DOING SOMETHING” that
automatically gives us a pat on our back, then that’s when we know, it
has been taken to the extreme.  There is a need to compete with
ourselves because on some level nothing is ever good enough unless we
reach those heights of perfectionism.  And then we question – where
does it begin? Of course we know it stems from somewhere – our child

hood experiences of course and some of them stick with us for life.
So at what point does the competition stops?  For some, it never does
because it is a matter of survival.  For others, when they see it
being replayed in their children and they know they have to stop it to
discontinue the cycle.  And then yet, for others it is because they
are tired of having to live up to an expected or certain ideal and
want to learn to be just love themselves for who they are and just as
they are.

Think of the term “good job”.  I believe that it is something we use
too often and very loosely – especially with children these days.
Yes, it is important to nurture them and give them encouragement, but
there is a fine line when we begin to tell them good job for
everything they do.   It makes sense if you are teaching children
milestones tasks and want to discourage them from giving up at such an
early age.  However, if we keep giving them a “pat on the back” for
activities of daily living, or things that are supposed to be part of
one’s human values, it loses its meaning.   At a certain point when
does it become something that they own and they know it is part of
them rather than something that needs to be rewarded.  Eventually, the
“good job” becomes a conditioned action on the part of the child –that
unless they don’t hear the word “good job” they won’t “do.”
And that continues to go into adulthood – we want to hear the praises,
the accolades the pats on the backs because it gives us a sense of
accomplishment, because it makes us feel better about ourselves,
because it shows to the world that we are doing something – but at
what point have we gone too far and at what point does it become a
situation that we are depleted from the inside and are craving that
attention.  It is something we need to do an internal check-in with
ourselves if we begin to feel that way.

When I began to see certain patterns play out in my son, and I had to
stop myself and say – “I don’t want him to grow up competing with
himself.”  I want him to be able to grow up in a society and let him
be “him.” I want him to love life and live it, not drive himself to
perfectionism and always want to have more, be more, etc.   Once, he
said to me, “Mommy, I’m me and you are you – we are different, we are
not the same.”  Profound words from such a young boy, but that stays
with me every time I feel the need to push him to excel – I have to
consciously check myself to determine if the need is coming from
somewhere else – it may not necessarily be about him, it could be
about me – and so learning to be mindful about my words, my thoughts
and my actions with him.   And while I do that, my son is watching and
I hope eventually he begins to become more mindful as he ventures into
society and the pressures of childhood.  I use motherhood as an
example, however look at various aspects of your lives and see how
this manifests.

Being mindful of just being in the moment, being aware of our
emotions, verbalizing our feelings rather than acting out our feelings
– all this is part of mindfulness.  By simply being aware, we are able
to begin conquering these demons in our head through the art of
practice.  As they say, practice makes perfect –but in this instance
we are not looking for perfection but just for the need to be okay
with “who we are.”

A Journal when practicing mindfulness is extremely helpful in doing an
internal checklist.   Something as simple as active listening when you
know that your mind tends to wander or you may not be paying attention
when someone is talking is an exercise in mindfulness.   Here are some
tips:
-    Keep a small notebook with you at all times.  You never know when
you are going to need it.
-    Make a list of your triggers when you begin to feel that sense of
“emptiness.”  Is it when you are not getting enough attention, is it
that you are feeling restless, is it that you are anxious about
something.  It is important to write down your triggers.
-    Next list your behaviors when you are triggered – do you over
compensate, do you beat yourself up, do you push yourself to
exhaustion, are you silent, are you yelling, are you over indulging
yourself in food, drinks, sex? Or do you start a new project because
you need some more excitement.  Notice your breathing during these
times too – is it rapid or is it too shallow?
-    When you write it down –you are consciously making yourself aware of
a situation.  Being aware about it –regardless of how uneasy it makes
you feel – is extremely important, because you have recognized it.
Once you recognize it, sit with the feeling, don’t push it away, allow
yourself to feel what you are feeling and remember to breathe. When
you do that, it gives you permission to accept yourself “good or bad”.
-    Sometimes words don’t come out so I always encourage you to
doodle/draw/ what you are feeling.  It can do wonders for that moment.
-    Make a habit of writing feelings words for that day – you can make a
habit of keeping a daily log and make a point to list 3 feelings words
during 3 parts of the day – Morning, Mid –Day and Evening before going
to bed.   If you want to expand on writing about those feelings, do so
but this is for someone who is on the go and time is of the essence.
-    Be patient with yourself.
-    Think of ways that you can fill your emptiness – and this time it
doesn’t have to be by doing something –it is more for you.

And in the end when we begin to become kinder to ourselves through
this process with non-judgment, we extend our kindness outward to
others and it spreads.  What a wonderful feeling that is when it does
happen.

Happy Journaling!

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