Tag Archives: self-esteem

Who Will You See if I Come Out From Hiding?

What if they don’t like me?

What if I’m different?

What if I’m not good enough?

If my daughter came to me and said these things I would tell her, “If they don’t like you the way that you are, then they are the ones missing out.”

Not long ago I brought my daughter and her friends to the mall. It was her friend’s birthday and the girls had earned money by deep cleaning my house. They spent hours working hard so that they would have money to spend. They planned to use it to buy the birthday girl something special.

They ran off on their own in hunt for the perfect gift.

When we reconnected they were all wearing matching sweatshirts they had bought. My daughter had used the money she’d earned and some of her own to pay for part of her friend’s sweatshirt as well as her own. She’s a saver. Her goal is to save double what she needs to buy a new phone so she still has money in her savings account – so when she chooses to spend her money it’s a big deal.

She didn’t actually like the sweatshirt though. It was a cropped top and she hated it. After that day she asked to return it but because she had worn it already that wasn’t possible. Since then she has refused to wear it and the hated top remains buried in one of her dresser drawers like a forgotten toy at the bottom of the toy box.

She never liked that sweatshirt. She didn’t want to buy it in the first place. Why did she?

When I talked to her about this she told me she wanted her friends to like her. They liked it and she was afraid if she didn’t go along with it they wouldn’t like her. She didn’t want them to think she was being difficult (apparently they had a hard time choosing something they all liked).

Ridiculous, right? These are good friends who like her for a lot of reasons. If she didn’t want to buy the sweatshirt would they really stop being her friends? Not these kids.

And if one of them did decide not to be her friend because she didn’t buy a sweatshirt? Well then she certainly wouldn’t be someone my daughter should be friends with anyway.

We tell our children that true friends will like you for who you are. I know when I say this that I honestly believe this is true. Her friends would be her friends if she didn’t buy the sweatshirt.

But what about me? Do I believe people will like me if they get to know who I really am? If they see behind my public curtain, if they discover that the wizard is really just a bookworm who also happens to like paddleboarding, what will they think?

When I first started writing for this blog I stumbled in the beginning. Until I found the word of the day I struggled with what I should write. I claimed it gave me inspiration, which in a way was true. But in reality what it gave me was an excuse to write. Why did I need to justify my writing?

I was afraid.

Who am I to put my thoughts and ideas out into the world?

Why should anyone read what I have to say?

Why would they want to?

What if they don’t like me?

What if I’m different?

What if I’m not good enough?

If my daughter came to me with this problem I would tell her, “If they don’t like you the way that you are, then they are the ones missing out.” Advice is easier to give than it is to take. But I’m learning.

Please Stop Yelling!!!

I have two girls who are just over a year apart in age, but almost complete opposites in so many ways.

My youngest is tall (taller than me even though she’s only 12) and thin. She loves to watch television and do crafts. Although she likes having friends over, she sometimes will choose to go off on her own for a while to get a break from people. She’s the classic introvert in that way, although not overly shy. She’s a STEM girl – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – although she also adores Pinterest and will happily spend hours meticulously recreating the crafts found there.

My oldest daughter has been shorter than her sister for the past 5-6 years and the gap has been increasing dramatically the past year. Although not “fat”, she has been self-conscious of her weight for as many years. As an extrovert she never tires of being with friends and is often the hostess, entertaining even Emma’s friends when they’re over. She gravitates toward leadership and has even received an award at school for her initiative there. She would much rather listen to music while chatting with her friends than do any kind of art project.

How could you possibly compare two individuals who are so different? Why would you want to?

And yet the constantly compare themselves to each other. This creates so much friction and animosity it’s sometimes difficult to tolerate.

Around the time the girls were 9 and 10 I finally read the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. In this book they talk about all the ways we create animosity between our kids without meaning to, and I realized my contribution to what was going on.

I know when they were little I would create mini competitions to get them to do what they needed to do – “Let’s see who can get ready for bed fastest!” I can’t tell you how beautifully this worked, but after reading this book I can see how I probably should have tried something different.

I try to be very conscious of how I phrase things with the girls, attempting to reinforce the idea that they are unique individuals with very different personalities, strengths and interests. Sometimes I can see this helping. There are little glimpses of collaboration when my oldest helps my youngest with a school project or my youngest invites her sister into her room to listen to music.

But even in these moments the bitterness still bubbles underneath the surface, just waiting to return.

Unfortunately their dad doesn’t understand how comparing them to each other or creating competitions feeds into this hostility they feel toward each other. Add to this their now 2 year old sister who they see as the “full time child” in that household and tension between them sizzles like bacon frying in a pan – just waiting for you to come close enough to splatter hot grease all over you.

So, I’m adding this book onto my reading list again – perhaps after the 10 books I already have stacked around me. I want to make sure I’m at least doing the best I can. I can’t change anything at his house but I know I can respond better to their bickering when they are with me. I just need to remember how.

I sometimes miss the days when their problems were easier to solve. Back then a hug or kiss could heal most anything.

Do You See the Glass as Half Full?

I place before you a glass. Slowly I pour water into it, stopping halfway to the top. I ask you, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”

Traditionally this analogy is used to compare optimism and pessimism. An optimist would see the glass as half full and a pessimist would interpret it as half empty. The position of the water in the glass doesn’t change but an optimist views only what is there while a pessimist sees only what is missing. We’re led to believe it is better to be an optimist, to see the glass half full.

You respond, “I’m a glass half full kind of person,” a degree of pride in your voice.

What if I told you it was even more important to be able to see that the glass is both half full and half empty at the same time?

Knowing that these two perspectives exist simultaneously gives you the power to choose how you view any situation. Rather than passing judgement, claiming it is better to focus on the positive, acknowledge that there are multiple points of view and that each are equally valid. There will be times when it is beneficial to decide the glass is half full, or half empty, or times when we truly need to appreciate that it is both.

Make the best of a situation:
Because my ex determines the schedule with the kids and decides who drops off on any particular day he has recently decided that I need to pick the girls up at the after school program and drive them to his house on the first night they are with him. Until this school year he would just pick them up but not anymore. I can choose to be angry that he continues to control such decisions, or I can enjoy the half an hour I get with the kids before they go to his house. When I choose to appreciate the extra time with my girls, I am deciding that the glass is half full.

Improve something that isn’t working well:
We write here on WordPress, hoping to reach an audience, build a following.  If we don’t get the results we hope for we have a choice.  We can “look on the bright side” and decide that it is better to reach 10 people than no one at all.  Or we can examine what is missing,try to understand what we could do better. In doing so we decide the glass is half empty but we start to find ways to fill the glass to the brim.

Know that people have different needs at different times:
I’m camping this weekend and I fervently hope it doesn’t rain.  But if you have a large garden in need of water then a storm would save you from going out with your hose and so you may be hoping for a shower to pass over. In this case we respond to the same situation differently. The glass is both half empty and half full at the same time.

Understand the point of view of someone else:
Driving across a long bridge with my niece one day she looked out her side of the car at dark clouds and crashing waves.   “It’s about to rain,” she observed.  Looking out the window on my side of the car the sky was blue and the water was calm, barely a cloud in sight.  “It’s beautiful out,” I countered.   This became a running joke between us that my kids fail to find funny, but shows that people can see two different things even standing in virtually the same place. Again, the glass is both half full and half empty but this time it is because we are looking in different directions.

So I ask you again, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”

Shhhh…Don’t Speak

The four of us sat in the counselor’s office, tension sizzling like electricity over a wire. It was the counselor’s idea to have their dad join us for this session. I had agreed because I had hoped it would help the girls cope with the divorce, which had been final for almost a year.

But I was terrified. The counselor was inexperienced, a referral from my company’s Employee Assistance Program. I didn’t have the resources at the time to find someone better. We needed help and this is what I could get. I hadn’t wanted my ex to come, I filled with panic at the idea, but I would try anything to help my girls.

My youngest daughter sat on my lap, as she will still sometimes do even today although she is now taller than I am. My oldest daughter stood alone by the window, not wanting to take sides.

Fifteen minutes into the hour long session she asked, “What do the girls do at home that needs to be addressed?” Her goal was to get us talking about what was going on at each house. I knew that was her plan, and perhaps I should have been prepared.

Their dad proceeded with a litany of complaints, every misdeed, every slight carefully documented and categorized in his meticulous mind. Forgiveness is not one of his strengths and he has a memory for detail. He was ready and held back nothing.

When he was finished they turned to me. I didn’t know what to say. The girls of course had their issues at my house but I couldn’t come up with one of them. We are fundamentally opposite on this point. When something bothers me with the girls I deal with it, then I forget about it. It’s done. My mind was completely blank.

He was convinced I was trying to make him look bad, as if my failure to come up with a similar list was solely to show that they only misbehaved at his house. That wasn’t the case. No child, no person is perfect all of the time. But I choose to focus on what they do well instead of where they come up short.

A heated argument ensued. This is something that never happened while we were married. The last several years of my marriage I never disagreed with him. I had disconnected and to me there was almost nothing worth fighting with him. It was only once I decided I was done with the marriage that I would contradict him at all.

My oldest daughter walked slowly across the room and placed her hand over my mouth. “If you stop talking you won’t fight anymore,” she told me.

It was in that moment that I realized what I’d been teaching them by staying quiet all those years. It was then I discovered that I had sent them the message that my opinion didn’t matter, that it was more important to keep the peace than to be heard.

I will never know what might have happened if I hadn’t somehow found the courage to tell him I was done. There are an infinite number of possible outcomes to any situation. Had we stayed together, in theory it’s possible we could have somehow learned to work with our differences. But it’s unlikely it would have turned out that way. Instead I was becoming more emotionally damaged each year and I felt helpless to change anything.

I have come a long way, but I am far from perfect. I still have some old wounds that have scabbed over but reopen from time to time. There are some scars that I will probably always live with. I am not saying this to be dramatic – there are people who have survived much worse. But our past shapes us. Even when we work to undo some of the damage that’s been done there are shadows that still linger years later, sometimes forever.

But with each decision I make I now pay attention to the message it sends to my girls. Is this a choice I would want for them? If they were in my situation (whatever it is) what would I want them to do? I want them to see me as a role model. I want to be proud of the example I am setting for them.

This was my motivation for changing, what continues to push me to become better even when it would be easier to not try so hard. It is challenging, but it is worth it.

Who Is to Blame?

“It’s not my fault you got a divorce!”

This statement by my 13 year old daughter last night struck me pretty hard. More than six years after our divorce – half her life – we are all still dealing with the consequences.

They all blame me for the divorce – my ex, his wife, both my kids. I was the one who wanted a divorce and so it is my fault. It will always be my fault. Even if he’s happier now (I don’t know that he is), I am still to blame.

Repeatedly since he received the divorce papers their dad has retaliated by telling them his view of what happened, blaming me. Maybe retaliated is too strong a word…no, I do believe that every time he talks to them about it his intention is to hurt me. What he does is hurt them and I am helpless to stop it.

They were 6 and 7 when this started, too young to understand the complexities of adult relationships. Even now that they’re 12 and 13 I don’t want to tell them. I don’t want to say bad things to them about their dad. I don’t want them to know the person either of us was back then. I just want us to all be happy now.

The girls remember happier days, times when we were all together in one house. They don’t know how over time his insults masked as “jokes” ate away at my self-esteem. They never heard his criticism if the house wasn’t clean when he returned from being away – even when the things not put away were his belongings that he didn’t pick up when he left. They don’t know how he blocked every attempt I made at doing something I was passionate about. They don’t understand that I wasn’t even allowed to read when he was home, because reading isn’t something he enjoys. They don’t know what it was like to have to ask permission to do the things I wanted to do, like a teenager who is afraid of being grounded.

I don’t know how our relationship got to that point. How did I become someone who was so intimidated that I completely stopped trying? I know I share the blame in the failure of our marriage but at this point does it matter who was at fault? This is where we ended up.

I know how difficult divorce is on children. I really do feel for them but I could not be the person I need to be in that relationship. As I learned, this isn’t just a selfish desire to be happy. I need to be a role model for my girls and I wasn’t. I would never want them to stay in a relationship like the one I was in. I want them to know they deserve better.

But I don’t want to tell them what they were too young to see. I don’t want them to know how things were, how I let them be.

Could we have fixed it? Maybe. If I had been stronger could I have stood up to him and told him life should be different? Could I have made him understand? Could he have changed?

These are questions we will never have answered. I wasn’t that person, and I couldn’t become that person in that relationship.

Our divorce is difficult on the girls; it will probably always be this way. It’s hard for them to live at two different houses. It’s worse because their schedule with him changes all the time. It would be better if they were consistently at one house on school nights. I understand the challenges they face but our situation isn’t easy. Their dad is a pilot and isn’t here all the time. If they stayed with me on school nights they would almost never see him because he’s typically only home during the week. And he’s not here for them to stay with him every school night.

This is just how it is.

Our divorce has been the most defining moment in all our lives, even more than our marriage. I am a better person, able to live life according to my values. He has a new family with someone who shares his values which are drastically different from mine. We should all be happy. It’s time to stop struggling.

Can You Learn to Love Something You Hate?

I’m a business analyst, an Oracle Systems Analyst to be specific although my title is unimportant. I am the person people come to when the system isn’t working. I am a problem solver. I figure things out. Each issue that comes my way is a little puzzle I need to solve to get the answer.

I like puzzles. I enjoy taking bits of information and figuring out how they fit together, what they mean. It’s rewarding to look at something from different sides until suddenly I can see what wasn’t clear in the beginning.

Or that’s how I used to feel.

These days the questions I get require no thought. Instead I’m forced to defend the system.

Them: “Why can’t I turn this requisition into a purchase order? There’s something wrong with the system!”

Me: “Well, you already created purchase orders with these requisitions. This can only be done once.”

Them: “I can’t validate this invoice! I try and try but it never does anything. There’s something wrong with the system!”

Me: “The invoice is on hold because you don’t have enough money to pay it. The hold says insufficient funds.”

Them: “Why hasn’t this purchase order been approved? There’s something wrong with the system!”

Me: “The buyer needs to approve it.”

What happened to the puzzles I used to solve? It’s exhausting constantly defending the system. Yes, there are times when it doesn’t work properly. I would love to fix those issues, given the chance. Instead it’s an endless barrage of people who blame the system for what is almost always a user problem.

In the end, this is a minor complaint I have. There are many other reasons I’m unhappy with my current job. Overall there’s a general feeling of discontent among my peers. We’re all waiting for the next thing that they will do to make it just a little worse to work here.

Morale is low, and getting lower all the time.

So why do I stay? Well I suppose the short answer is because there are benefits to where I work:

1. I am not required to work more than 8 hours in a day – this is almost unheard of in IT.
2. I get over 4 weeks of vacation a year and can earn compensatory time if I choose to work more than 8 hours in a day – meaning I can take off as much time as I want in any given year.
3. I am well paid given the number of hours I typically work – I could certainly make more but I would also be working more.
4. I work from home one day a week – working in your PJs is awesome!
5. The company-paid retirement is more than double a typical employer contribution and I’m 100% vested – I do want to retire eventually so this is important.

All great points….although maybe not as important in the end as job satisfaction. I’m still deciding where the tipping point is. I’m also struggling with whether I’m using these “reasons” as excuses as fear is definitely present. My job right now is secure. I make plenty of money to continue with our current lifestyle with few concerns. I’m unhappy but I’m safe. My kids’ future is safe.

If I leave I don’t want to leave for another business analyst job. I want to make a real change, and that’s terrifying. I am the only income. My kids depend on me and although I do have savings there is little else to fall back on. But this is perhaps a topic for a different day.

I read a question the other day that has stuck with me, and it’s really the reason I’m writing this post.

Can you learn to love something you hate?

This question has been bubbling in my mind for a few days. Some of the problems I have at work (not mentioned here) are beyond my control and ultimately could force me to leave. But, if I take those out of the picture, could I learn to like what I’m doing?

There was a time when I enjoyed the work. This isn’t what I always want to do, but could I make staying here better until I figure out what I really want to do?

So I started a list of all the things I hate about my job, all the little frustrations, the irritations. I wrote down anything that came to mind. What I discovered is that this list was almost exclusively “feelings.” I don’t feel valued. I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. I don’t feel challenged.

There were of course exceptions but largely it’s my attitude toward the job that is making me so unhappy.

This is something I can control, something I’m going to work on so that I can be happier while I work out what I really want to do with my life.

And in the end, as much as I’d like to be doing something else for work, I am grateful for this job. It allows me to spend time with my kids and pursue other interests. It provides enough money so that we can do most of the things we want to do. Perhaps best of all, my discontent with my current job is what ultimately led me to writing and what is prompting me to search for work I can feel passionate about.

Will I learn to love my job? Probably not entirely, but I can make the time I spend working better.

There’s Always Too Much to Do!

There’s always too much to do and never enough time. That’s true for most people, but especially true for me. I continue to add to my plate and as yet haven’t taken anything away. Perhaps because I’ve been sick for 10 days and am falling behind on most of my goals I’m feeling the pressure I’ve put on myself more than I usually do. It is my goal over this next week to evaluate my priorities and try to align my activities with what is most important.

Unfortunately this sounds easier than it is in practice. I eliminated most unimportant activities such as television years ago, so what remains are things I truly enjoy or that help move me toward a goal in some way.

So this morning I made a list.

Writing is obviously on my list and I have 3 projects involving writing at the moment, this blog being one of them (an abandoned blog has not even made my list but should perhaps be on there as well). Added to this is the novel – the Clay and Caleb saga that I am currently rewriting from the beginning. Finally to round this out I have an idea to rework my already published book (Thriving Not Surviving).

Even more important than writing is my time with my kids and being the best I can be for them. Following my dreams and achieving my goals is important to me as an example for them. They have been incredibly supportive (for a teenager and preteen) of my writing and fitness goals, but I want to be careful not to take too much of their time for those activities. It’s a difficult balance especially given the challenging parenting schedule we have…but I will find a way to make the most of it.

Also on my list are fitness (yoga, running, biking, meditation, healthy diet), the Meetup groups I run (plus now a related Facebook group I’m managing), the rental house I own (maintenance on a second home), work (oh, yeah…I have a job), reading (+/- 10 books I’ve taken out from the library and countless others I own), relationships (my friends miss me) and learning (overlaps with reading but is also independent).

Part of what I hope to do is find activities that overlap as many of these priorities as possible. This weekend was a good example of how I can do this and had I not felt so sick from this virus I’ve been fighting I’d be celebrating tonight.

Saturday the girls and I volunteered to sort food at a local food bank with a friend (kids, fitness, relationships – check!). The girls have volunteered a little but this was their first time doing something like this and they had a great experience. We spent 3 hours sorting through food and carrying heavy boxes so it ended up being quite the workout as well!

Sunday we went kayaking on a river, fed by a spring. It was beautiful and the weather was perfect. I posted it as a Meetup event and we brought 2 of the girls’ friends (kids, Meetup, fitness – check!). This turns out to be a great time of year to see wildlife on the river and we found 4 groups of manatees. It was a fantastic day!

This coming weekend we will be doing something similar. We are staying at a cabin at a nearby campground. It’s listed as a Meetup event and I plan to get plenty of exercise paddleboarding and biking. We are bringing 2 friends for the girls so hopefully they will be busy so I will have time to read and write. A friend is planning to visit on Saturday and I’m hoping she is also going to be willing to help me with the Meetup groups. So…kids, fitness, relationships, Meetup, reading, writing, learning – check!

Now that I’m starting to feel like I can manage this I better get back to work!