Be – Do – Have

Raise your hand if you typically introduce yourself as what you do or your role in your family? Hi! I’m so-and-so, and I do such-and-such. I work in a corporate office. I teach 1st grade. I’m a stay-at-home mom. (And I have to say that I am so grateful that I got to stay at home with my child until she started preschool. There is no amount of money that could have been more rewarding and fulfilling. I’ll also say that if you are/have been a working mom and like it, I have no stones to throw.) But, are you really what you do? Your job or career is an important part of you and certainly adds value and meaning to your life. It is not who you are.

For some reason, we (I) feel that what we have and what we do make us more important (or if you’re embarrassed to tell what you do, less important). If we have the beautiful house, fancy car, nice clothes, the attractive spouse, the perfectly-behaved-and-performing children, the elite job, that somehow that makes us more valuable in the world. When we think this way, we are really thinking backwards. It goes something like this: If I have the aforementioned things/people/job, then I can do ___________ (what my family needs, what my boss wants, etc.) and then I will be __________ (important, valued, generous, caring, kind, happy, determined, etc.).

I struggled with this for years. I knew what kind of person I wanted to be, but kept getting caught in the cycle of have-do-be, essentially hiding who I really was. I have found the opposite works more efficiently and effectively. What positive characteristics do you know are hiding beneath the surface because you keep thinking you must live up to an expectation? Has someone told you that you “always” are a certain way? Do you believe their predictions, telling yourself that you cannot change unless you have money/education/career, cannot do what they said you couldn’t, and then be what they said you would never be? It’s time to name those characteristics that you know are at your core, and be those characteristics. Then you can do the things that need to be done, in order to  have the things you need (and maybe some things you want).

This is how I phrase it: “Hi. My name is Vicky. I am the possibility of fun, freedom, and generosity. I work as a counselor.” When I am being those characteristics, it creates an opening for others to feel fun, free, and generous, allowing me to do what needs to be done, and have the things I want out of life (satisfaction of great career, etc.). I’m not claiming to be perfect at this just yet, (See a previous post about perfection.) but when I seriously make the effort, good things happen. It’s a process to make progress, not perfection.

A Simple “Thank you” Will Do

Why is it so hard to accept a compliment? Are they undeserved? If the complimenter knew where we got the dress, the shoes, the coat, would they think we were less? Maybe that we’ve kept that novelty tie around too long? Or will they think we spent excessive funds and judge our budgeting choices? What about the “your hair looks nice today” compliment? Does that mean it didn’t look good yesterday, or any preceding day? Why do we have to explain our choices or wonder if there are alternative motives to what others say about us?

My theory is this: don’t make it mean something. Period. (I’m not claiming that I am a pro at this. I’m writing it to make myself accountable.) Whether it’s a negative comment or a sweet compliment, the words are about the speaker, not the one to whom they are spoken. When you give compliments, or even when you have less-than-kind statements to make about or to others, why do you make them? Generally, they are spoken because the speaker feels a certain way around the target of their words. Obviously, there are other motives for making sexual-harassment-like comments toward others, but I will refrain from that topic here. General compliments towards others are made because the speaker feels pleasant around that person. And the speaker feels even better when the compliment is accepted and appreciated. When they are dismissed with the “oh, I’ve had this old dress forever” or “I got these shoes at Goodwill,” it could be translated as “I don’t deserve your compliment, so don’t say anything nice to me again.” The complimenter walks away feeling like their words mean nothing. Completely defeated. If the words are negative, the speaker gains some undeserved emotional power over the receiver if allowed to mean something and define who we are.

I once had a related conversation with a sweet high school girl. She was in tears because other girls were calling her a whore due to her ending of a relationship, making her “available” to be asked out by the boys they hoped would ask them. In reality, she was a good student (academically and behaviorally), athletic, attractive, and popular, and they realized their chances were now slimmer than when she had a full-time boyfriend. She quickly realized their name-calling had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with how they felt less around her, and she moved beyond their hurtful words. (FYI – People who are hurting or feeling “less than” are generally the ones who lash out physically or verbally.)

So … I’m challenging myself to just accept compliments with a simple “Thank you.” Or even a “Thank you. You made my day.” As a complimentee, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling, and so does the complimenter. Even if someone makes a demeaning comment towards me, I might just say “Thank you,” and try to remember that most people speak from their own feelings that have nothing at all to do with me. How about it? Want to take the challenge with me?

P.S. I am quite aware that “complimenter” and “complimentee” are not officially endorsed by a dictionary. I’m taking some liberty to get my point across, and I’m perfectly fine with someone having a problem with it. How’s that for practicing my own challenge!?

A time to help, and a time to be helped.

“There is a season, turn, turn, turn…”

“No! Me do it.” Recognize those words? You must have heard them before from a toddler, recently finding his or her voice and discovering independence. We get aggravated with them because the additional time it takes for them to complete the task will most likely take  significantly longer than if we did it for them, yet we secretly cheer at the thought of one less task on our agendas. We feel the sweet smell of success when our children can do things for themselves. For me, that independence took on a life of its own in adulthood. Why is it so difficult to ask for help? Is it the fear of looking weak? Like someone will think we can’t “handle” things? We’re somehow wasting their valuable time?

I love helping others. It’s why I became a counselor. Helping is just part of my nature. And it was a significant part of my nurturing as a youth. (Did you catch that nature vs. nurture reference?) My parents and the other adults around whom I was raised modeled giving of themselves every single day. Sometimes I even give of myself too much and get myself into trouble because I find it difficult to stop. I spread myself thin and find myself drained, physically and emotionally. But the chatter in my head tells me, “Don’t stop, there is more to do. If you need help, those you are helping will somehow think you aren’t good enough to help them.” (Don’t dismiss me. Just admit it happens to you, too!)

About three years ago, I found myself feeling exhausted and stressed out with tasks to do, decisions to be made, and a medical issue that left me physically and emotionally empty. It took me awhile, but I finally connected with four beautiful ladies from high school in a private message group on Facebook. I was afraid of being judged. Of believing that my issues did not warrant the kind of concern I was giving them. “What if they think I’m being silly or a big baby?” I can truly say that making myself vulnerable and asking for their prayers and words of encouragement have changed my life. They did not judge me. They did not scold me. They promised their prayers and offered words of love and lifted me. And they shared their own struggles so I, in turn, could pray for and encourage them. I would have missed out on a huge blessing had I given in to my fears and not asked for their help. And my asking keeps on giving.

You say, “But I can’t do that. I can conquer my hurdles on my own. I don’t need help. Asking would make me appear weak.” So, let’s say you had a friend who got themselves into a bind, and had they asked you for help, you could have prevented or at least lessened their difficulties. Wouldn’t you feel disappointed that they were afraid to ask? You feel satisfaction when you help someone who really needs it, right? Maybe others do, too!

I am challenging myself to remember how I get a blessing when I help others, and others receive a blessing when they have an opportunity to help me. Try it. I double dare you.

Humble or Hiding?

Growing up as a preacher’s kid has some unique challenges. Yes, there are plenty of benefits, but there are definitely challenges. (I’ll get to a list of them in another post.) One challenge was the message I took away regarding humility. I’m not here to dispute the importance of humility. I have no special place in my heart for the arrogant, although I believe that, excluding an official diagnosis of narcissism, many people who exhibit arrogant behavior do so to disguise feelings of inferiority. I do see humility as a virtue. However, hiding my talents because I’m afraid I will appear prideful is no better.

The problem with humility is when it becomes the practice of belittling myself and my abilities. I completely understand the “pride comes before a fall” proverb (Proverbs 16:18), but the problem with pride comes in the way it is presented; the attitude of “I’m better than you,” if you will. Putting myself down or keeping my abilities to myself helps no one. My mother is a very beautiful, very talented, very smart woman, but she continually talked about humility to me as a young lady. I know her purpose was to keep me from being consumed by the “I’m all that, and a bag of chips” attitude. Unfortunately, hearing her say negative things about herself all my life made me believe that I must be no better. I heard, “I wasn’t as smart as your dad,” or “I wasn’t a great student.” Anytime someone gave her a compliment, particularly on her talented art work, she either disputed their words or deferred the honor to someone else. That was the message I took about humility. That is the humility I believed I was supposed to model.

After I finished my baccalaureate degree (29 years after I first started it, but who’s counting?), I was trying to find a position in the field of human service. I interviewed more times than I can count and got as many no-call-back or the we-hired-someone-with-more-experience letters, all while beginning graduate school and hoping that getting in the field would help with the internship hours I would need. (How do you get two years of experience when no one will give you a chance?) Discouragement was getting to me when a friend asked where my diploma was located. When my answer included trying to describe the faux-leather-look folder it came in, buried under a pile of paperwork, he shook his head and recommended I frame and display it. Within two weeks, I picked out a frame and mat at the local craft store and displayed it on the wall. That single act of accepting and acknowledging an accomplishment has been a catalyst for finding the courage to do more. To be more. I did a lot of work to get where I am. I’m pretty proud of that effort. I didn’t do it alone. I had God and many encouraging people who helped. Some of those people told me they had no doubt that I could accomplish what I did. How is it I didn’t know?

One of the first activities I have clients do in my groups is to begin an accomplishment list. They look up with unbelief, waiting for me to explain. They’re in jail. They’ve been repeatedly reminded of the negative choices they have made in life. What on earth could they list? Graduated high school? Completed a GED certification? Many look lost, saying they have nothing to list. I try to prompt with suggesting grade school honor roll or any sports acknowledgements. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to be something that reminds that you have something to offer the world. Because everyone does. There’s a purpose for everyone. Hiding it in the name of humility doesn’t help you or anyone else. Besides, if you hide it, you could just lose it. And yours is needed as much as mine.

BS, 2 MS, 2 Licenses, Alpha Chi Honor Society

BS, 2 MS, 2 Licenses, Alpha Chi Honor Society