167 – Self Advocacy

Today I want to talk about the idea of self advocacy. One area that I really struggle with, and I’ve talked a bit about it on this podcast, is the fact that I’m a recovering people pleaser. Too often I’ll put my own needs aside and try to do what I think other people want me to do. Usually it’s not a conscious thing, but a built in habit from years and years of either wanting people to like me, or to avoid conflict.

The thing about people pleasing is that it’s lying. When I do something so that someone else will like me, I’m lying. When I do something for someone that I really don’t want to do, I’m lying when I say that I want to do it. When someone asks my opinion and I try to figure out the “right” thing to say, then I’m lying about what I really think.

Most of us who are people pleasers feel like if people knew who we really were, they wouldn’t like us. We feel like our needs aren’t as important as the needs of others, or that we have to put their needs above ours in order for us to be liked. In some cases we do or say things we don’t really believe or want to do because we want to avoid conflict with the other person. That if we just say or do things right, then we’ll somehow keep the peace.

The problem is that it doesn’t work, and in the end it backfires on us.

We often feel resentment towards this other person. If I lie to someone by telling them what I think they want to hear and not what I think, then they really can’t know who I am. They only see this image I’m trying to put out there, and so I’ll resent them for not letting me be myself, even though I was the one making that choice.

When we put our needs and wants on the back burner for this person, and they don’t react in how we want them so, we’re upset that they aren’t pleased by what we did. And the thing is, what we’re doing is trying to manipulate them. We’re trying to control how they feel, and most people don’t like that feeling at all. And to top it off, we’ve just put our happiness in the hands of other people.

So how do we change this behavior? How do we stop doing things or saying things that we really don’t want to? I mean it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? We should just stop saying and doing those things, right?

In reality, it’s not that easy. For me, this is a pattern that is so ingrained that I often don’t notice that I’m doing it. It won’t be until I’m part way into an argument or some time after a situation I’ll see that I was trying to please the other person. I often have a bit of anxiety when I want to step up and say what I really think or feel because I’m afraid it will upset the other person.

This is where the idea of self advocacy comes in. Self advocacy is the idea that you have the right to stand up and advocate for yourself. That your feelings, your thoughts, your opinions do matter, and that you have the right to advocate for yourself, regardless of how others feel about what you think. Often, we cast the other person as some kind of bully that doesn’t like what we have to say or think. Often, this isn’t the case and we’re the ones that are self censoring, and then blaming them for our behavior. And when I think of it this way, it’s kind of crazy.

Now there are going to be people that dislike what we have to say or think. And that’s okay. One of the most important things that I hope you can take from today’s episode is that you don’t have to please anyone else. Ever. Let me say that again. You don’t have to please anyone else. It is not your job.

Let that sink in for a moment. I know that sounds really selfish, but it truly isn’t. To me, trying to manipulate others is selfish. Trying to control the feelings of others is selfish. To be honest and truthful and let them decide how they want to feel is really an unselfish thing. Think about that. By being your true self, you are giving them the choice to decide how they want to feel an how they want to act. They may not like you, and that’s okay. That’s their choice. Let them have that choice. And if they decide they don’t like you, then they’re not someone for you. They’re not your people.

For recovering people pleasers, this is not easy. It may feel extremely anxiety producing. I know that it is for me. I sometimes feel like I’m disappointing others or that I’m letting them down somehow. But the thing is, when you do this, it lets the others know who you truly are. It frees you from feeling like you need to be in charge of other people’s happiness. It frees others from feeling like you are trying to manipulate them. It allows you to be a stronger person because you’ll know who you are, and so will other people.

Learning self advocacy is really just an expression of self love, and that’s something that benefits us all.

166 – Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome has killed more great works, more companies, more careers and possibilities than almost anything I know. When we begin something that we want to be skilled at, we understandably feel like we don’t deserve to call ourselves by the title that would accompany our work. Musician, actor, sculpture, entrepreneur, programmer, writer… We add qualifiers like “I’m working on becoming an actor.” Or “I work as an accountant, but my side hustle is composing.”

Do I have to make money at it before I can call myself what I am? Do I have to wait until the title is bestowed upon me? Who makes that decision?

Now, there are some things that have to be credentialed before you are official. Just because I want to become a doctor, does not mean that I can just throw a stethoscope around my neck and start seeing patients. But for most other things, you are the only one that needs to decide.

Why do we do this? Why are we afraid to take on the title of what it is we’re doing? If I am making music, am I not a musician? If I get up each morning and type even 100 words on my book, doesn’t that make me a writer? I think it comes down to the worrying about the opinions of others. We feel like we’re an imposter because we think there are some criteria set or that we have to reach a certain level of proficiency before we can assume the title.

But who has set this level? In most cases, we ourselves are the ones that have set some imaginary level. We have decided what we think makes someone a writer, a musician, an athlete. The good thing about that is that we are the ones that can change it. We are the ones that can decide what that level is and make it be more generous.

I say that we do it Bob Ross style. If you are painting, you’re a painter. If you’re out there in your running shoes putting the miles in, you’re an athlete. Every time you pick up that guitar, you’re a musician. If you are actively doing whatever that goal is, that’s all that matters. Even if you only get down a few words each day and they are terrible. Even if you struggle to play the only two guitar chords you know. Only got a mile into your run before you had to walk? That’s okay, you are a still a runner.

When we’re working on something we love and are pushing ourselves to stretch and create and become better that we before sometimes all we can do is just keep moving forward as best we can. When we’re starting out we need to remember that the quality or the quantity of our work isn’t where we want it to be, but that we’re doing it is important. And if we keep on doing it, we will get better. I think the saying “fake it till you make it” is descriptive of how we need to handle imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is just worrying about the opinions of others, and that is something, as the Stoics remind us, we have no control over. What you do have control over is if you’re going to keep going. So pick up those brushes, lace up those shoes, and keep pounding away that those keyboards, and don’t worry so much about what others might think.

165 – How to be Angry

One thing that I find vexes us in modern society is how to be angry. Anger is not a bad thing in and of itself. It simply is an emotion. When we get angry it is because something has bothered us. We’re not taught how to manage our anger very well. Things get pushed below the surface where they stew and remain unresolved. We are often afraid of dealing with someone that is angry because we as a culture, at least here in the U.S., avoid talking about it and dealing with it healthily. It is used to bully people, intimidate others, and to shut down discourse. We see this in our current political scene, where many of our leaders lash out at anyone they feel have wronged them or disagree with them.

Of course there will be anger where the love is strong, spilled like gasoline
It’s crude but it’s a power we can draw upon, if it fuels the right machine

— David Wilcox, Covert War

I’ve been meditating on lately is how to manage anger better. My role models for anger growing up were either explosive rage, or passive acceptance. Neither of these is useful or helpful in dealing with the things that upset me. In working with my therapist, and talking with my partner, I’m working on how to be angry in a productive way, and trust that I can be angry, and talk or even shout about the things I need to get out. I’m not trying to suppress anger or pretend that I’m not upset or push it to the side. Basically, I can be angry without being an asshole.

In the January edition of the Atlantic magazine, Charles Duhigg, one of my favorite authors about habits, writes about a study about anger in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1977. The researcher, James Averill, was curious to understand if the existing attitudes about anger, that it is to be avoided and suppressed, really held up in a place where the quality of life seemed to be rated very high, and crime rates very low. He sent out an in depth and almost invasive survey and the result surprised him. Most people reported being angry several times a day to several times a week. And here’s the thing – most of these angry episodes were typically short and restrained conversations, rarely becoming blowout fights. And contrary to Averill’s hypothesis, they didn’t make bad situations worse. Instead, they tended to make bad situations much better. They resolved, rather than exacerbated, tensions. When an angry teenager got upset about his curfew, his parents agreed to modifications — as long as the teen promised to improve his grades.

Anger is one of the densest forms of communication. It conveys more information, more quickly, than almost any other type of emotion. And it does an excellent job of forcing us to listen to and confront problems we might otherwise avoid.

—James Averill

If we could, when dealing with someone who is angry, at least count on a general way of how that person might act, we could confront them and work on resolving issues rather than ignoring the problem until it manifests itself in violence. If we knew that we could get angry about something, and that the target of that anger would be willing to listen to us and work towards a resolution, we could be angry in beneficial ways that help bring up and work on difficult topics.

And as societies around the world become less able to deal with their anger about everyday life, the world as a whole becomes a more violent place. When politicians stir up anger in their voters against some distant group that is easy to demonize, there is no easy outlet for the perceived wrongs. I think this idea of not being angry is really not healthy.

How can you learn to be angry in a fruitful way? Rather than making anger something to be feared, what if we could, as a society, teach people how to be angry in ways that direct us towards resolution, rather than division? Are there ways in your own life that you could turn anger into a positive force?

Resources:
Chales Duhigg – Atlantic Magazine

164 – Thinking in Bets

How often do we approach decisions in a black and white manner? We wonder if we are making the “right” choice, which often leads us to think there is only one choice. What if instead of there being a “right” choice or a “wrong” choice, we looked at choices based on their likelihood to achieve the outcome we want? In today’s episode we’ll discuss the book Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. In this book, she teaches us how to approach decisions like a poker player by understanding probability, dealing with less than full information, and how sometimes we just get lucky.

163 – Self Ownership

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the things the Stoics teach us is that we shouldn’t worry about the opinions of others. This advice is very sound and seems pretty easy when it’s people that we don’t really know or care that much about. When it comes to the opinions of people closest to you, this is not always an easy thing. For example, if your parents disapprove of your choices, or you and your partner disagree on something, it’s not always easy to stand by what you feel is right, and let go of their opinions. Self ownership is the idea that you are 100% responsible for your opinions, emotions, and actions. It means that you recognize that no else “makes” you feel, think, or do anything. It meas that you give yourself the space to have your own thoughts and opinions, and that you allow others the same. That you and those you love can disagree and hold different views.

Are there people in your life that care about that always seem to be on the opposing side or disapprove of your choices? What are ways that you can set appropriate boundaries and hold true to yourself?

162 – Don’t Kill the Message

Often, we dismiss an idea because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We may dismiss the idea out of hand because it conflicts with our preexisting beliefs. We may not like the idea because it could mean that we supported an opposing view, and we are often loath to admit that we were wrong. We can be blind to seeing the merits or truth of something based on our own feelings or prejudices. Feelings are shortcuts to making decisions, and while they are very useful, we need to be deliberative and analytical thinking to make better decisions.

What are some areas of your life where you dismiss an idea because it made you uncomfortable? How you can set aside your prejudice and look at it objectively?

161 – Better Than You?

We want to feel like we are “doing things right”. Often this means we compare ourselves with others, making sure that we appear or at least feel like we are “better” than they are. But what does that mean? Why are we better? Who is the judge of what is better? Can we just look at someone else and see that they are the same just that they’ve made different choices?

Anthony De Mello in the book Awareness, said:

“Someone once had a terribly beautiful thing to say about Jesus. This
person wasn’t even Christian. He said, “The lovely thing about Jesus
was that he was so at home with sinners, because he understood that he
wasn’t one bit better than they were.” We differ from others—from
criminals, for example—only in what we do or don’t do, not in what we
are. The only difference between Jesus and those others was that he
was awake and they weren’t.”

– Anthony De Mello

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk a bit about comparison, how it keeps us from compassion, and a simple strategy to move past it.

You can read more about these ideas in the fantastic book, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, by Anthony De Mello.

160 – I, Me, and Enlightenment

What if you could look at the world and yourself more objectively? What if you could see things without so much judgment or emotion attached? In today’s episode, we talk about a basic concept about the self from Anthony De Mello that can help us act in a more objective and less reactive manner.

You can read more about this idea in the fantastic book, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, by Anthony De Mello.

159 – It’s About Time

159 - It's About Time

Live YOUR life!

Time is the most important, the most in-demand resource that we have in life. Are you spending yours wisely or do you let it go to waste?

How much time?

The most finite resource that each of us has is our time. We can always make more money, but making more time is not something that any of us can do. While we can’t ever know exactly how much time we have, each of us can learn to spend our time more wisely.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

— Seneca

Time Wasters

Are you just wasting time? How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend on watching T.V. or Netflix on a given night? What are the time-suckers in your life? I mean how many likes do you need to give on Facebook? I find that I’ve had to limit my time on Facebook since it such an easy rabbit hole to fall in to.

I remember that I saw a talk once given by movie critic Micheal Medvid, when I was in college. While I don’t see eye to eye with him on a lot of things, he said something that really stuck with me. He said talked about how at the time the average American watched an average of 28 hours of TV a week. And this was before Facebook was even dreamed of. He talked about the fact that it’s not that there is enough quality media to watch. There’s plenty of good material. It’s that we lose a lot of our lives if we’re immersed in that much TV. We miss family connections. We miss out on living our own lives when we live by proxy of watching someone else’s life, real or fictional.

Indecision

One area that I’m currently struggling with is deciding where I want to put my time outside of work. I have so many things that I’m interested in doing and things I want to work on that I struggle with paring things down so that I can give enough time to the things I really want to do. I have plenty of good options, things that are very interesting to me. But I’m struggling to choose one, and because of that indecision, I’m not really moving forward with any of my plans. I’m working through the choices and deciding where I want to go. I’ve set a deadline for the end of the year, so that I can focus my energy on a few things, rather than being spread too thin.

“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay, yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tightfisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

— Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life,” 3.1-2

Priorities

One of the things that we really need is to have our priorities lined up. This is going to be different for everyone. For some, family is their top priority. For others, it may be their work. Others it may be service to a cause. There is no perfect list of priorities. Each person needs to decide for themselves what is most important for them, and stay focused on it. If you don’t have a clear vision of where you want to go, then you’ll end up exactly where aim. Nowhere.

And the thing is, it’s going to vary for each person. Everyone has differing things that are of more or less important than others. And we need to understand that what we find important, is not going to be the same for others. And that’s okay. If everyone had the exact same priorities, we’d have a very much less interesting world to live in. Understanding what priorities are yours can help guide you in focusing on the things that are most rewarding.

Core Values

One of the areas that can help you choose what your priorities are is by understanding your core values. We talked about this a few episodes ago, and these are the things that can help you stick to the priorities that are more rewarding for you.

Changes

As you move through the different stages of life you’ll find that the things that were important to you in your teen years will be far different than those in your twenties. Those things that seemed so important in your twenties will change dramatically in your thirties. Every stage of life is a place of learning new things. You’ll have different responsibilities and different things competing for your time. You’ll find that some things you thought were so important when you were in college seem ridiculous when you’ve you look back on them 10 years later. As we learn and grow as people, we’re always going to be changing.

Intentional

So you need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Every choice you make then becomes a simple question: “Does this get me closer to the vision of my life? Does this move me forward on my goals?” And the thing is, you can and should choose at the time to do things that don’t move you forward. A life too focused means that you may miss out on some fun and interesting things. But what it really comes down to is being clear and deliberate about the things that you choose to spend your time on. It comes to making sure that you really think about each “yes” and “no”.

With the new year just around the corner, this is a good time for us to look at what we’re spending our time on in life. We can take time to be sure that the things we’re spending our time on are moving us forward towards the goals that we have in our lives. By taking the time to evaluate if the goals that we have line up with our priorities and our core values, we can be better at choosing those activities that enhance our lives. We can be sure

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142 – Reject the Injury

Why do we feel a sense of injury when disagrees with us? Why do we feel hurt when someone tells us we are wrong? In this week’s episode, we’re going to talk why were worry so much about what others think of us and how to learn to deal with our ego.

 

Show Notes:

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

― Marcus Aurelius

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

— Anonymous

One of the aspects of stoicism that has been most difficult for me has been learning to not let the opinions of others affect me. I don’t that I’m alone in this. I think most people, struggle with this aspect of life. So why is that? Why do we worry about what others think of us?

We are social animals so we naturally crave the approval and acceptance of other people. Working together is how our species not only survived but have been able to dominate this planet.

The media, especially fashion magazines make their living off selling others the latest hot trend of what will make others like and admire you.

Social media has capitalized on this need to feel the approval of others. We get that burst of pleasure when others like our post or leave a comment. We get a thrill when our tweet gets retweeted by a celebrity. And on the flipside, if we are mocked or become the butt of someone’s joke it can be crushing.

The society we grew up in or currently live in has a big impact as well. I grew up in a very religious community, where there were very rigid expectations of how I was supposed to behave and the things that I should want and do in my life. I was strongly judged by how well I lived up to the principles laid out by the church elders, and I remember so much of my early life feeling like I was simply a failure as a person because I could never live up to these unreachable standards. I was basically trained to seek the judgments of others.

Even with all that said, why does it hurt when someone insults us?

I think that it comes from a threat to our ego. So what is the ego, and why does it feel “bruised” when someone puts us down or doesn’t like us?

The ego is often described as our identity or self-concept. It is that part of us that see us as something separate from everything else around us. It is the thing that is ‘us’ and not the ‘other’.  And this sense of identity is a combination of our memories, our ideas about who we are, and ideas about who we want to become.  Part of how we develop a sense of self is how we are seen by others. If there is no one else around us, how would we know if we are selfish? If we are rude? If we are funny? If we are likable? All of these aspects of our ‘self’ are dependent on how others view us.

When we have a healthy ego, a healthy sense of self, we are able to look at what others say as simply their opinion. We can look at it as simply information, and we can decide what to do with it.  

When we have an unhealthy ego, when someone doesn’t like us, our sense of identity can feel threatened. When someone criticizes us, we feel like they are telling us that what we have done, or what we think is wrong, and therefore there is something wrong with us. Rather than being able to look at what others say as their opinion, and something to consider, we may fall apart. We may get angry and fight back. The first reaction is becoming a victim. The second is trying to control someone other than ourselves.

Marcus Aurelius was the most powerful man in the world when he was emperor of Rome. But even as emperor, had to remind himself that when someone said something disparaging that it was his own mind that gave meaning to what was said about him. He gives us some really good advice on how to deal with those that we feel are trying to injure us.

“When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?”

― Marcus Aurelius

What Marcus is telling is that usually, others are not trying to harm you. They are trying to do what they think is right. So the first thing we should do is be curious. Why are they doing or saying this? What kind of outcome were they hoping for? If you can be curious, If you can ask questions, if you can try to understand, you can have sympathy.

He goes on to say that they may have the same value system as you, and it’s very possible they may be right. If so, then that’s information you can use. If they aren’t, you can simply take what they said as information and do nothing with it.

You may find that they have a very different value system than you, so they may be very misguided in their criticism and therefore deserve your compassion.

Now I know this is not easy. I struggle with this a lot. Even today, my partner was frustrated with me about my lack of communication of my plans for the day. At first, I could feel myself getting defensive. But rather than fighting back, I took some time to ask myself, “What is she trying to accomplish? What can I learn from this?”

And what I learned was that she wanted me to let her know how my day was planned because part of that impacted her. Her frustration came because I’m not all that good about blocking out time for the things I need to get done, which bleeds into other activities, or pushes things back when others are waiting on me.

Taking time to frame difficult conversations as a time to learn is not easy. We don’t like those uncomfortable feelings, that feeling of being wrong, or that we messed up. But all that means is that there is something to learn, and we should always be willing to learn.