If you asked me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I may have answered perfect, or famous, which is incredibly ironic, I know. I simultaneously craved a spotlight while fearing what it might reveal—my inadequacies, my weaknesses, my flaws. I thought being perfect meant being beyond reproach—undeniably lovable and worthy of respect, something I didn’t always receive growing up. And I assumed that if I were perfect in all ways, I could finally relax and enjoy my life because I could trust that no one would judge or hurt me. I could navigate the world secure in the knowledge I was good enough, and everyone knew it, so I had nothing to prove. Though I spent years trying to overcome all my weaknesses—my anxiety, my insecurity, my controlling nature, my need to be liked—I’ve never arrived at a place of complete freedom from these struggles. I’ve made progress, sure, but I’m still flawed. I’m still craggy and cracked, like a mirror that’s been shattered and glued together many times over. I started thinking about this recently when listening to the sixth episode of Next Creator Up, the podcast I’ve been producing with Ehren Prudhel, the show’s host and my partner in many things. In this interview, Hollywood screenwriter and author Noah Knox Marshall talked a little about his non-dystopian sci-fi book series for kids and how strong characters have flaws. That’s what makes them real—their quirks, their struggles, their insecurities, and rough edges—because this is what it means to be human. When we see a flawed character in a movie or a book, we instinctively empathize with them and root for their happiness and success. We know they’re neurotic or needy or scornful or scared, but we care about them anyway and sit at the edge of our seats hoping they get the job, get the girl, or at least get the message they need to grow and thrive. We see ourselves in these characters, and we want for them the peace and happiness we may deny ourselves. The irony is we deny ourselves peace and happiness for the very same reason we want it for them—because we’re undeniably and permanently imperfect, and always have something new to work on, no matter how much we learn and grow. There was a time when I resisted this reality. I truly believed I could eventually reach a point when I did everything “right.” When I always said the right thing, did the right thing, and responded in the right way when other people triggered or challenged me. When I struggled to do these things, my shame was palpable, and I wanted to hide. But I’m done hiding now, because I realize flaws don’t just make strong characters—they also make strong people. We’re not weak for having challenges and shortcomings; we’re strong for facing them, owning them, working on them, and doing our best every day in spite of them. So [...]
“True love is born from understanding.” ~Buddha I believe one of our strongest desires in life is to feel understood. We want to know that people see our good intentions and not only get where we’re coming from but get us. We want to know they see us. They recognize the thoughts, feelings, and struggles that underlie our choices, and they not only empathize but maybe even relate. And maybe they’d do the same thing if they were in our shoes. Maybe, if they’d been where we’ve been, if they’d seen what we’ve seen, they’d stand right where we are now, in the same circumstances, with the same beliefs, making the same choices. Underneath all these maybes is the desire to feel validated. We’re social creatures, and we thrive when feel a sense of belonging. That requires a certain sense of safety, which hinges upon feeling valued and accepted. But those feelings don’t always come easily. There was a time when one of my relationships felt incredibly unsafe. I never felt understood or validated, and worse, I often got the sense the other person didn’t care to understand me. When you’re the one withholding the comfort of understanding, it can imbue you with a sense of power. And it also creates a sense of separation, which, for some, feels safer than closeness. This person often assumed the worst of me—that I was selfish and weak—and interpreted things I did through this lens. They would belittle my beliefs and opinions, as if they warranted neither consideration nor respect. And they would even make fun of me when I tried to share my thoughts and feelings, minimizing not only my perspective but also my personhood. Like I had no value. Like I wasn’t worth hearing out. Like I didn’t deserve respect. It hurts. It hurts to feel like someone doesn’t care to see where you’re coming from or hear what you have to say. It hurts to feel like someone is more committed to misunderstanding you than developing any sense of common ground. It hurts to feel invalidated. We often take that pain and churn into anger. Or at least that’s what I did. I fought. I screamed. I cried. I tried to force them to see my basic goodness and view the world from my vantage point. I tried to impose my will upon them—the will to be valued and heard—regardless of whether they were willing or capable of giving me those courtesies. And I caused myself a lot of pain, all the while justifying this madness with an indignant sense of righteousness. Because people should try to understand. People should treat each other with respect. People should be kind and loving and open. Because that would make the world feel safe. But here’s the thing I’ve learned: Should is always a trap. Things will never be exactly as we think they should be, and resisting this only causes us pain. But more importantly, there’s something [...]
In a world with billions of people, in a culture that promotes being special and making a big mark, it’s easy to feel like you don’t matter. Maybe you’ve felt it all your life—like you have no purpose, no value, and nothing to contribute to anyone around you. Maybe you feel it off and on, when you’re struggling to find love or direction and think you need to somehow prove your worth. Or maybe you know that your life has value, but every now and then, when your head hits your pillow, you wonder if in the end, it will matter that you lived at all. I know what it’s like to question your worth. I grew up feeling inferior and unsure of myself, and felt lost and insignificant for many years after that. As an insecure introvert with high anxiety and low self-esteem, I simultaneously wanted to belong and hoped to find a way to stand out. So I could feel important. Valuable. Worth knowing, worth loving, worth remembering when I’m gone. I’m also naturally a deep thinker, which means I’ve often questioned my place in the world and the meaning of life itself. If you can relate to any of what I’ve wrote, I hope you’ll find some comfort in knowing… 1. You are not alone. We all struggle with the question of why we’re here, if we have a purpose, and if our lives will really matter in the grand scheme of things. Google “existential crisis” and you’ll find over 4.5 million results. Search for “I don’t matter” and that number shoots up to more than 100 mil. On days when you feel insignificant it might seem irrelevant that others do too. And it is, if you only know, intellectually, that you’re not alone instead of truly feeling it. I know from personal experience the soul-crushing sense of separation you feel when you stuff your insecurities down and pretend you’re fine when you’re not. So, open up. Tell someone what you’re feeling. Write in a blog post. And wait to hear “me too.” When you feel the comfort of belonging, remember that you provided that to someone else. And, that, my friend, is you mattering. 2. Just because you think you don’t matter, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Thoughts aren’t facts. They’re fleeting, constantly changing, and influenced by our mood, beliefs, and early programming. On days when I’m at my lowest, it’s often because I’m responding to an accumulation of physical and emotional challenges, sometimes without conscious awareness. I’m exhausted from insufficient sleep, weakened from dehydration or poor food choices, and/or emotionally triggered by events that hit me right in my core childhood wounds. For example, maybe someone fails to respond to my email—for over a week—and this reinforces the belief I formed when mistreated as a kid: that there’s something wrong with me, and I’m not good enough and unlovable. Add all those things up, and I’m primed to glom on to every negative thought that floats through my brain [...]
“If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.” ~Oswald Chambers If I were to look back at my life thus far, as I often do, I’d notice a pattern of events and feelings resembling the activity on an EKG monitor. For every peak, there’s been a valley. For every leap forward, there’s been a stumble backward—sometimes just an inch, and other times, what seemed like miles. Recognizing and embracing this has brought me a tremendous amount of peace, because I once believed that progress required a steady, consistent ascent toward perfection. If I struggled with something I’d struggled with before, I felt I’d somehow failed. If I experienced a personal or professional setback, I thought I’d done something wrong. Growing, to me, meant always doing and feeling better than I did the day before. But I’ve realized that’s not growth; and when I believed it was, growth wasn’t what I was seeking. I was seeking permanently better. I wanted persistent happiness—a reprieve from difficult, overwhelming feelings, and a sense that every day of my life, I was one inch closer to the ideal. I’d say that life’s about the journey, but in the back of my head I believed it would have no purpose if not for the destination, which made it hard to truly pull my focus from it. In this mindset, ever fixated on getting there, and deeply upset by any seeming break in momentum, I constantly felt angry with myself. But I wasn’t supposed to be feeling angry—I’d been cultivating peace for years. I wasn’t supposed to feel uncertain of what I wanted professionally—I’d been working on my career for years. I wasn’t supposed to doubt myself—I’d been building my confidence for years. All this emphasis on where I should be made it difficult to ever experience those elusive positive feelings I wanted to feel. Then one day, I considered that maybe this mindset was paralyzing me. I wondered if maybe I was actually hindering my growth by expecting growth to be linear. It’s often in our struggles that we stretch and come to better understand ourselves. They’re part of the growth process—not a departure from it. We grow when we do our best to learn from and move beyond our challenges instead of obsessing over them and making ourselves feel stuck. This may sound simple, but for a long time, it was hard for me to wrap my head around this idea, mainly because of all the messy emotions that came up when I thought I messed up. Isn’t growth supposed to feel good? That’s the thing, though: Just like a muscle needs to tear to grow stronger, sometimes we need to wade into our own darkness to find a brighter light. We don’t need to worry that every setback indicates something’s wrong. So long as we’re making progress on the whole, we can trust we’re doing just fine. We [...]
Many of us head into the New Year with big goals and ambitions. We think about everything that seems to be lacking in our lives and imagine ourselves far happier and more fulfilled on the other side of massive change. There’s no denying that certain accomplishments can amp up our life satisfaction, but I’ve found that our daily habits are the biggest contributor to our happiness. You can have a job that excites you, the best body of your life, and the perfect partner for you, but none of it will fully satisfy you if you don’t also prioritize the daily habits that nurture your overall well-being. If you want to feel good about yourself and your life, you need to regularly do the things that make you feel peaceful, joyful, and alive. With this in mind, I recently asked twelve Tiny Buddha contributors (all involved in our upcoming Best You, Best Life Bundle Sale) to share one habit worth adopting in the New Year. Here’s what they had to say: 1. Start the day with positive intentions. “The moment I wake up, I do not move. I hold still for several minutes. I contemplate qualities I would like to offer for the day. Then I silently repeat the following affirmations: I offer this day peace. I offer this day joy. I offer this day enthusiasm. I offer this day kindness… (or whatever qualities I would like to offer on that day). And I keep going until I feel I am done. Some days are harder than others, especially if I wake up very early, still tired, with the prospect of a long day ahead. However, this simple, pithy practice sets the right tone. It fills me with gratitude and it firmly places me on the right track. From that point on, my day goes well, and everything aligns in the best and highest way possible, even if/as and when challenges arise.” ~Personal Growth Teacher Julie Hoyle (juliehoyle.org) 2. Practice mindfulness. “For someone seeking a change in their life—to stop doing something destructive, to start doing something healthier, to become more confident, to step into the version of themselves they know they really are—the single best habit to cultivate is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the skill of paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgment. This is the first step to change. It helps you recognize when you are doing the thing you want to change. It helps you understand when you are stuck. It helps you realize what you are really feeling and thinking. It gives you the starting point of your map. You can recognize what is really happening—’Oh look, I jumped to the worst-case scenario again. That made me feel afraid and uncomfortable. So that’s why I am looking for an excuse not to go to the party.’ From here you are able to step outside those emotions of fear and discomfort and look at the situation objectively. From here, you can create [...]
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” ~Christopher Reeve Have you ever decided to pursue something that excited you, that seemed really hard to do, and then had your will tested and almost crushed? I have, many times, most recently this year. As you may recall, I shared a blog post in January about the newly formed Tiny Buddha Productions, a film company I started with my fiancé, fellow screenwriter Ehren Prudhel. If you haven’t read that post yet, you may want to read that now. Go ahead—it’s here. I’ll wait. Welcome back! A lot has happened in the six months since we decided to make a short film about loneliness and connection. We’ve faced delays, and drama, and disappointment. We’ve questioned ourselves, our idea, and our potential. And we even considered scrapping the whole thing when it all seemed far harder, and success far less likely, than we once imagined it would be. But we’ve pushed forward, in spite of the fears and the discomfort. We’ve waded through the guck of insecurity and uncertainty. And here we are, about to start filming our first short film tomorrow. As I sit here with a goofy perma-grin on my face, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned over the past six months. If you’re pursuing a dream, and feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, self-doubting, and scared, perhaps some of my lessons will help. 1. There’s no shame in being green. I knew going into this there was a ton I didn’t know. Although I’d studied acting and writing in college, I didn’t study screenwriting, and I had no experience producing a film or working on a set. In addition to what I didn’t know, there was a lot I didn’t know I didn’t know—stuff about permits, and insurance, and securing locations. Every part of this has been a learning process for me, and that can feel incredibly vulnerable. It’s easy to feel insecure and embarrassed when you’re working with experienced people and you feel a little ignorant. But when I took my ego out of the equation and stopped worrying about what other people might think of me, I realized how fun it is to be at the beginning of a journey. It reminds me of when I was in college, and I felt excited about everything—being on campus in Boston, meeting new people, learning from them, getting to share my work, and imagining possibilities for the future. Would I feel more confident if I were an expert? Sure. But there’s nothing like the enthusiasm you feel when you’re just starting out. Some day I will be an expert, and I can only hope I’ll maintain this electric passion I feel right now. If you too are at the beginning, remember: This feeling won’t last forever, so soak up the best and don’t worry about the worst. No one loses respect [...]
“Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience, and two people who truly want to be together.” ~Unknown In the past, whenever I heard someone say that relationships take effort, I assumed it was a person who wasn’t in a happy one. When it’s right, it shouldn’t feel like work; it should be effortless—or so I thought, ironically, in a time when I had few relationships. What I didn’t realize then is that things change over time—we change over time—and that we need to choose each day to see the people we love with new eyes. I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years now, and although my feelings for him have only grown deeper, there are times when I let our familiarity create a wall between us. It’s not conflict, or mistrust, or disappointment—it’s the subtle knowing that he’s always there. If I’m not mindful, I can use that as an excuse to not be there with him. To be physically present, but not really—not aware and connected. When the newness is gone and you’re part of each other’s routine, especially if you live together, it’s easy to shift the dynamic from fun, excitement, and spontaneity to habit, necessity, and responsibility. But it’s not just a matter of taking each other for granted. Sometimes when we’ve gotten comfortable with each other, we forget to focus on everything we appreciate about each other, and fixate instead on the little things that we might find bothersome. It can be instinctive to hone in on the small things that aren’t working instead of realizing just how many big things are. Psychologists suggest that healthy relationships have a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. I suspect the ratio holds true for positive to neutral interactions, as well. In other words: We need to enjoy other more often than we simply share space. We need to make it a priority to be silly, playful, spontaneous, generous, thoughtful, and affectionate. Sometimes we may not fully see the people we love because we’re too caught up in our own worries. Other times, it might be because we’re too comfortable to fully appreciate what comfort means. Either way, we can make a little time to smile with the people we love. It might take effort to come into the moment, but once we let ourselves enjoy each other, it rarely feels like work. https://tinybuddha.com This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.
“Get out of your head and get into your heart. Think less, feel more.” ~Osho Have you ever felt attached to your thoughts—like you knew you were thinking yourself in circles, but a part of you wanted to keep getting dizzy? Now that I’m healthy and energized, three months after my surgery, I’m developing a consistent yoga practice again, and I’m feeling better mentally and physically as a result of doing that. But sometimes, when I get to the end of the day, particularly when I know I have a lot to do, I feel resistant to making that time for myself. It’s not even necessarily when I’m planning to work through the evening. Sometimes I’ll think, “I have a lot on my mind—I don’t feel like it tonight.” But that’s actually a compelling reason to go. Yoga always helps me calm my mind. So the other day, I stopped and asked myself: Am I resistant to clearing my head, and why? I realized that I wanted to keep thinking because I felt like I was creating solutions, like I was somehow making mental progress. If I took a break to clear my head, I thought, I might miss out on discovering something useful. In other words, I felt like sitting around analyzing, assessing, and plotting was somehow more productive than getting out and enriching my mind and body. What a misguided notion. While there’s something to be said for thinking things through, sometimes it’s far more useful to let everything go, create some space, and then see what ideas and feelings emerge in that new place of clarity and stillness. Taking a break in any fashion can feel like losing control—at least it can for me. But releasing control often feels far better than we imagine it will. Creating space feels good. Connecting with our bodies feels good. Stopping the cogs in our heads—yes, that feels good, too. And when we feel good, we increase our odds of doing good, through our work and hobbies. I know quite a few people with absolutely beautiful minds. One thing they all have in common is that they make time to nurture them. If we want to create and inspire, we need to create room to access inspiration. It doesn’t come from sheer mental will. It’s from enabling a flow between our heads and our hearts so that we don’t just know our answers, we feel them, with every ounce of our being. https://tinybuddha.com/quotes/tiny-wisdom-think-less-feel-more/ This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.
“Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.” ~Mark Twain A while back I wrote a blog post about giving people the benefit the doubt and suggested, as I often do, that people rarely intend to be hurtful. Someone wrote in the comments that I’ve obviously never encountered a sociopath. This got me thinking about the many times I’ve heard women refer to men they’ve dated as sociopaths and narcissists. It occurred to me that many of those men likely treated them horribly but may not have had mental disorders. There are sociopaths out there, but more often than not when people hurt us, it’s not because of psychiatric diagnoses. It’s because they’re hauling around pain from their pasts and crashing it into everyone they meet. When someone knowingly manipulates or uses others, or deliberately tries to control or intimidate them and they aren’t mentally ill, it’s rarely a happy, well-adjusted person who simply decided to be heartless and cruel. In understanding this, we can be compassionate, but that doesn’t mean we need to willingly accept mistreatment. The question then becomes: how do we know when to give someone the benefit of the doubt and when to withhold it? Last week a reader shared an insightful Maya Angelou quote that read, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” While I don’t believe any one action defines who someone is, I think there’s something to this. Actions speak louder than words. And repeated actions are what shape our character and reputation. If someone says they want to spend time together but repeatedly fails to show up, they are communicating that they aren’t willing to follow through on their promises. If someone says they’re trustworthy but repeatedly lies, they are communicating that their word can’t be trusted. If someone says they want to change but repeatedly fails to make an effort, they are communicating that they aren’t willing to do things differently. Acknowledging this isn’t forming judgments. It’s recognizing the facts so that we can make a wise choice based on how things are—not how we want them to be. We may recognize we’re being mistreated and choose to set and enforce a boundary. We all deserve second chances, and sometimes a third or fourth. But other times we need to open our eyes so that we know when enough is enough. It’s never our fault when someone else hurts us, but it’s within our power to stop allowing it. This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.