Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 17 November 2020
Have you ever wondered if the crazy thoughts you have in your head are the same thoughts that other people have as well?
What I have noticed is that we are more alike than we are different. We all have similar struggles. They just manifest in different areas of our lives. For some people it shows up at work, for others it's their health, and for others it's their personal relationships.
I hope that by sharing some of the things I'm embarrassed to be struggling with you will feel braver to share your vulnerabilities with someone too.
It was in reading this quote again recently by Neil Gaiman (fantasy writer) that I felt brave enough to share with you.
The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself...That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right
Here we go...
For the last six months my sleep has not been good. It has been a big challenge for me because I have never had difficulty with sleep, even during some of the highest stress times of my life. What really frustrates me is that I help people with this all the time.
As I write this I have had 6 out of 11 "good nights". For me this means falling asleep in less than 30 minutes of lights out and waking up less than an hour before my alarm. And, I am currently taking 4 supplements to help me achieve this.
What I trick myself into thinking is true: I am actively doing everything "right" to try and resolve the issue and I'm still not "fixed".
What is actually true: I am not broken, therefore I do not need to be fixed. My body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing under the circumstances even if I don't like it. Improvement doesn't always go in a straight line. It's rarely a quick fix. Following a solid plan to resolve the root issues will take some time and there can be many ups and downs.
2. Not believing the good things people say about me
Recently I was doing some de-cluttering in my home office and I came across two reference letters I used for my application to naturopathic college back in...wait for it...1998.
One was from a university professor who was my advisor for my research project in my final year. When I read the letter I had a feeling of disbelief that he thought that highly of me. I didn't think he knew me well enough to write the things he wrote. I was wrong.
When I contacted him to say thank-you (which I highly recommend any of you do regardless of the amount of time that has passed) he not only remembered who I was but re-iterated some of his original words.
Sadly, this is not the first time I have had a feeling of disbelief when someone has said positive things about me.
What I trick myself into thinking is true: People say nice things just to be polite.
What is actually true: People often see qualities in us that are difficult for us to see because we are too busy being so hard on ourselves. We can put up a destructive defence in the presence of positive emotional expressions because of being hurt in the past. The brain does not care if we are happy. It's primary job is to keep us safe.
Side note: Taking time to compose a hand written thank-you to someone who has helped you in some way on your journey will bring you a disproportionate amount of happiness compared to the effort it will take. Small effort...large shot of happiness. Don't believe me? I dare you to try it.
3. Treating myself like a self-improvement project
I have always been a very driven person and have had very high expectations of myself.
In my monkey mind it seems to go something like this...I could be better. A better person, a better doctor, a better boss, a better sibling, a better daughter, a better partner. Even when "successful" I can fall into the trap of thinking I could have done better.
What I trick myself into thinking is true: If you are not trying to be better all the time you will become lazy and negative, and never be a positive influence in the world.
What is actually true: I will never be perfect, nor do I want to be. Perfect is boring...real f*#ing boring. It's the imperfections that I find interesting about other people so why wouldn't they be interesting in me too? Striving for perfection is just an attempt to cover up an old familiar wound of feeling not good enough. Self-acceptance coupled with an intrinsic motivation to just be (not become) the most authentic version of yourself along a continuum of time is where you can find the magic.
4. Motivating myself with the stick
You can either motivate yourself with the stick (negative reinforcement) or the carrot (positive reinforcement). I have always been the type of person that has been motivated primarily by the stick.
I never thought this type of motivation was negatively affecting anyone else until recently.
I had someone very brave in my life send me some feedback about how I handled a stressful day at work. In my mind I had checked in with her and everything was fine. Her experience was not the same. Looking back, the check in was brief and clinical so she did not feel heard or supported. When I read the email that night I was hit with the overwhelming feeling that I did not recognize, or provide, what she really needed in that moment and it felt awful.
Fortunately I was able to recognize how I contributed to the problem instead of just telling her why I thought I handled the situation correctly.
I realized that I have an extremely difficult time being nice to myself, complimenting myself, or telling myself I am doing a good job, especially during stressful times. As a result I don't give positive feedback to others nearly as often as I should. It's almost like my brain doesn't recognize situations where positive feedback is not only appropriate but necessary.
What I trick myself into thinking is true: The only way to learn is the hard way.
What is actually true: How you treat yourself is eventually how you will treat others. The armour that we have put on in order to protect ourselves eventually becomes too heavy and the spikes we didn't see on the outside start to injure those around us, especially those closest to us. What started out as a successful coping mechanism to avoid pain and protect others has flipped. It doesn't work anymore. It's starts doing the opposite of what you originally intended.
5. Letting people help me
If I was asked to list some of the qualities that I have, independent would be in the top ten. Likely in the top five. Ok fine...the top three. I remember when I moved into my house my neighbour remarked to my parents within a couple weeks that I seemed very independent.
Being independent is part of my identity and probably one of my best qualities. But when it is not balanced it can be a detriment more than a help. The flip side of the coin.
Because I am independent I struggle with letting people help me. I know this causes me unnecessary suffering because then people think I don't need them. I know how good it feels to be able help someone and yet I have a tendency to not let others feel good by helping me.
What I have tricked myself into thinking is true: Needing people to help you threatens your independence and if you do need help you should probably earn it first.
What is actually true: In order to be in balance you have to give and receive. The yin needs to be balanced with the yang. The male energy to be balanced with the female energy. To be more yin or feminine is to allow yourself to receive. To trust that you can be interdependent with others without having to earn it.
Now I would love to hear from you! What is something that you are embarrassed to be struggling with? Thank-you in advance for sharing 🙂 Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday.
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