Tag Archives: Gretchen Rubin

The Confidence Quotient

While I’m not exactly sure why I stopped writing, I am certainly worse for it – and I do not mean my Klout score.

I’d like to claim that line from the movie Contagion where the dad-from-Six Feet Under called blogs “graffiti with punctuation” chastened me or that sitting ten feet from the bureau chief of Chicago’s NYT editorial team has intimidated me.

The truth, however, is that I’m just in a confidence crisis.  My slightly-neurotic analysis has yielded something like this:

When I was smart, I just wanted to be pretty.
When I was pretty, I just wanted to be loved.
I know now that I am neither smart nor pretty, but am miraculously and unquestionably loved.

My simple mind isn’t processing this well.

Further, what’s love got to do with it?

I’m talking about SELF-confidence.  Belief in oneself apparently has nothing to do with how other people view you.  But lack of it sure makes you vulnerable to the worst opinions others may or may not have.  (You would not believe how far I can take this.)

Shouldn’t truly having self-confidence make you a bit impervious to outside forces?  Is it not your own invisibility cloak when the ghost of crappy economy haunts you?  Or the shield against the morally bankrupt thugs who would rob you of your vehicle to success and kick you as they drive away?

I am reminded again of that haunting statement by an interviewer that his dream candidates are single women because they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.  It made me furious then, but merely more self-conscious now.

Writing, like any art, is about sharing your impression of the life that surrounds you.  And since we are all the hero of our own drama, everyone’s impression is unique to their storyline.

What has risen up as a monumental roadblock is the nagging disbelief that my storyline matters.

I think self-confidence is the elephant in every woman’s mental room of her own.
And my elephant has taken to sitting on top of me and crushing the life out.

This isn’t to say that men don’t suffer from a crisis in confidence.  I’m sure they do.  But overwhelmingly, I have noticed that women (including me) get derailed by circumstances beyond their control and then struggle to compartmentalize a sucky situation so they can get back to being awesome.

I had a fantastic conversation this week with someone who wanted ME as a mentor.  [If that doesn’t boost confidence, what on earth will?]  Listening to her story and her self-doubt felt very raw.  In the beginning of the conversation, my nag was reciting “blind leading the blind” over and over… but when I stopped thinking about poor me and what an unimpressive loser I’ve turned out to be, I felt my indignation rise on her behalf.

She didn’t embezzle a million dollars, or have an affair with a married supervisor, or punch a client in the face.  [For the record, neither have I – I was just trying to think of things that would, in fact, warrant feeling a little self-loathing.]  Yet she was behaving as if she deserved to be sitting in ashes wearing burlap.

I was a relative stranger and a brand new connection but even I could see that she had something sparkly inside.  And I told her so.

I’ve been inspired by this woman to seek out connections with people who won’t pump me up, who don’t have anything to gain by injecting my ego with steroids.  I’m on a mission to read and subscribe to confidence and positivity bloggers.  I have pulled out my child psych books to learn what I can about building confidence and what plays a role in one’s “confidence quotient.”

So much is determined by it.

Sometimes the mirror your friends and loved ones hold up to you is like a funhouse mirror.  Their investment in your happiness and obvious love throws waves into the truthiness of their feedback.  In my experience, at least, it is rare that someone close can give you raw truth.  Most people shroud feedback in fluffy nonsense rendering any kernel of actionable insight unrecognizable.

I had a high school ‘phriend’ who, while she wouldn’t be seen with me in public thereby reinforcing my leperous sense of self, would write me ridiculous notes about why I shouldn’t think poorly of myself.  These little gems had very little to do with weighty issues but still gave some perspective to the tragic sensibilities of a teenager – things like “You have all your teeth.” and “You do not smell bad.”

While funny in a Dax Shepherd sort of way, this has given me an idea.  I’m thinking about a little project over the next few weeks.   I’m going to emphasize positive things in my life that I can claim credit for as a way of focusing on good and praising my accomplishments as a valuable human, no matter how small.

If Gretchen Rubin can have a Happiness Project, I get to have a confidence one.

I’ll call it The Confidence Quotient – Small Wins or #CQsmallwins.

Who wants to play?

Happy is as Happy does.

Last February, I posted a note on the Fitness Mate blog about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.   

At the time, I was still struggling with my “Schugar” v. “Mama” drama.  I wasn’t convinced I’d made a good move to my hometown.  There were a 100 challenges in the finance department.  So setting up a project for myself was exactly the right medicine.

In January of this year, I wrote about the business of getting on with BEING happy instead of looking so damn hard for it.  So obviously this is a theme I like.  I hope I’m not getting into the broken record realm of blog posts.

I don’t buy into the whole “this is my lot in life” mentality.  I don’t think there is a master plan into which you fit.  I don’t think your struggles are your destiny and that there is some great reward for the poor suckers who suffer through.  The Beatitudes are a bum rap to keep the oppressed from changing their station.  It’s a lot like the promise of 7,000 virgins for Jihad martyrs.  And I call ‘Bullshit’.

Everyone deals with a bag of shit at some time in her life.

Some of us experience it early and some of us experience it often.  Dr. Phil has made a fairly successful career pointing out the obvious to people who don’t learn from their mistakes and who wonder why they continually experience the same shit.

The real insight is that only one person in this world is responsible for your happiness.  YOU.

You either make it or you don’t.

You either live it or you don’t.

You either spread it or you don’t.

Nothing anyone can do or say can interfere with your happiness unless you allow it.  That’s the wicked great thing about the incredible complexity of the human mind and spirit.

I’ve lost friends who couldn’t celebrate my happiness with me but chose to spend their time and focus on mourning their perceived missing pieces.  The revelations came harshly but once you’ve seen selfishness  you can’t unsee it.  As with most hindsight, I was able to recognize the signs of pathological Takers only after I’d said goodbye to them.

I’ve heard people complain about having to plan their own happiness, be it weekend activities, trips, dinner parties, birthdays.  Their thinking is why doesn’t someone ELSE do this for me?  My question back is ‘why would you ever put someone else in the driver’s seat of your happiness?

I often repeat a favorite Einstein maxim “There are two ways of living:  as if nothing were a miracle or as if everything is one” and once was rewarded for the statement by being called the anti-Christ.  This was a pretty clear indicator of an unhappy person.

I find that statement a renewed inspiration every time I hear, read or repeat it.  It is so hopeful and grateful a sentiment.

If you’re mourning the loss of Oprah this week, you’ve probably attempted some kind of gratitude exercise during your devotion to the big O.  But isn’t there some irony involved in being taught/reminded to be grateful by a woman who has more money than our Treasury department?   Of course Oprah is grateful, she could buy the Louisiana Purchase and still have change for a West Wing full of Jimmy Choos. 

No, the idea of looking at life as full of miracles is much humbler.  Much simpler. 

Looking at life as full of miracles requires you to part with your baggage. 

Unhappy people are carrying around the belief that they were somehow short-changed.  That their suffering is somehow more significant or mournful than that of others.  The most unhappy people seek out that suffering so that they can justify their own pity party and invite others to join them.

I love love love the question “Who would you be without your story?” as posed by the clever Byron Katie in her books.

I think many of us get so used to the backstory we’ve been told or have been telling ourselves that we forget to rewrite it when it loses shape, no longer fits, or hurts.  As adults we may not grow in physical shape but our personality, spirit, and mind certainly do.  Are you still wearing the story from your youth?  Your 30s?  Your darkest moments?  I hate to tell you, but that is SO five minutes ago.

The most obnoxious sap of happiness are people who project their pain onto you.  You know who I’m talking about.  YOU are the cause of their loneliness, their tears, their absolute desolation.  You have my permission to politely tell them to Fuck Off.

If someone’s happiness is tied to you (and they aren’t a minor) then they have some serious emotional and psychological issues that need to be addressed.  This is not your issue.  It is theirs.

No one has the right to use emotional blackmail to suck you into a vortex of their misery.  No one has the right to antagonize, patronize, or use passive aggression to manipulate you into enabling their story.

Not even your family.

DNA is not a life-sentence.  Happiness means that it is not by obligation that we socialize, but by choice. 

I wish as much happiness as you can find for yourself this weekend. 

If you don’t have a plan for finding some happy, make one.

If your happiness will be magnified by the presence of others, invite them along.

If you aren’t sure what to do next, do happy.

Bad Mouth

There’s a movie line from Steel Magnolia’s that says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone, come sit next to me.”

It usually gets a laugh whether delivered on screen or in-person.

But “gossip” has really gotten on my last nerve.

A reader of this blog said to me, “I don’t know how you can write all that personal stuff.”  Here’s the thing – it isn’t a secret.  What’s more?  I don’t want things that I consider fundamental to my growth as a person or uniqueness as a personality to be kept secret.

I would rather be known.

Part of my vows to my husband included that very sentiment. 

I have simply been accepted for most of my life.  With my hub, I have been cherished and celebrated.  He clearly gets what is exclusively mine.  He loves me, not in spite of who I am or what I do, but because of it. 

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I recently read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  She chronicled her life over the course of a year with the aim to improve small things in order to make a big change.  I like this concept.  It’s very “Think globally, act locally.” 

Immediately after finishing the book, I set out on my own happiness project.  The initiation was around the same time as our move to St. Louis.  I wasn’t working, we didn’t have a social life, we were living in someone else’s home.  We needed a fresh dose of happy.

Among my initiatives were ‘make new friends,’ ‘schedule fun,’ ‘spend time alone without guilt,’ and ‘accept others.’  I had also included ‘stop gossiping.’

I never thought I had a problem with gossiping.  For years, the only person I ever spoke ill of was myself!  I used my shock and awe stories to determine who was worth keeping around and who wasn’t.  If they could handle the truth, so to speak, they stayed.  I probably burned more than a few great friendships through premature revelation.  The truth is sometimes hard to share.  It sometimes requires delicate framing, or softening.  I had none of that discretion.  My disclosures were filterless fireballs that singed everyone in their path.

Then there was a long time I didn’t share anything with anyone.  No one needed to know me because I realized (with horror) how much of a work in progress I still was.  You don’t get the full impression of a magnum opus at the halfway point so why bother showing a few brush strokes on a canvas? 

But then I grew up again…

And realized is that no one is complete.  No one is 100% healed or completely normal or fully actualized or perfect.  Ever. 

Here’s another secret – everyone knows that you’re not. 

So why do we bother walking around pretending that we’re so evolved and full of wisdom and experience.  We’re full of OUR wisdom and OUR experience.  It is no more and no less valuable than anyone else’s. 

In finding a partner, a friend, a mate, I think the goal is to find someone whose brand of crazy matches your own.

My partner loves to debate.  We watch news shows and political commentary and read foreign press just to avoid the abject partisanship in U.S. coverage.  The problem we’ve found is that not many people like that kind of discussion, intellectual or not.  Most of my family avoids topics like politics and religion because with those topics comes confrontation.  I respect that.  Not everyone likes to acknowledge or discuss differences.  But, I think it’s a mistake.  Our differences aren’t shameful.  Our differences should be expected.

I love the Mark Twain quote that opines people who don’t read good books have no advantage over those who can’t.  I would say the same is true for good discussion.

It drives me crazy when the only topics of conversation are other people not in the room.  Gossip isn’t just talking bad about people, it’s talking about people without them present to represent themselves.  Gossip is one step above grunting on the scale of communication evolution.  We, with all of our differences, customized set of experiences, and personalized knowledge put a slant on everything we say and think.  It’s ok.  Everyone does it. 

Not acknowledging that is the critical error.

I’ve been in conversations where gossip was alive and kicking.  I’ve expressed my disinterest in joining the gossip.  And then found myself unable to stop the blurt of information coming out when the questions didn’t stop.

So here’s another tack – There is an art to conversation.  It requires curiousity, genuineness, and openness. When you feel yourself unable to think of something interesting to say, or you feel tempted to trot out someone elses’ life for display to shield your own from scrutiny, ask a question.  The best conversationalists are people who know how to engage others.  Learn about them, their thoughts, their experiences, their lives, their opinions. 

That’s it.  Just ask a question.

Maybe they’ll ask you one back.