Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And More Trust

There's a saying, "Love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to." But I don't think that this just applies to love. I think that's kind of the relationship you have with a therapist as well. It's scary. It's so freaking scary when you realize how much that person could break you, when you've had therapists break you before.

It's like you have a rock in your arm, and you're told, okay, to get this rock out, you need to cut your arm open. So you cut your arm open. And you're hoping that person knows how to get the rock out and stitch you back together, but you can't be positive, so there's always that potential that you're gonna come out worse.

But I think I can trust this person immensely. So here goes...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Potential

This has the potential to go extremely well. I can feel it. It's scary though, because by nature of what I'm doing, it also has the potential to shatter me into a million pieces. But I'm hopeful this time. I've done the proper research and I'm ready. I am so ready.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trust

I'm trust-falling off a 100-foot cliff at this point. And I'm scared. I believe you can catch me. You've shown me that you can catch me, you've given me the opportunities to jump. I'm pretty sure I trust you, but I'm scared. It's a long way to fall.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Developer Strength

I've mentioned before that I got to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment for free through a program at work, and I wrote a post about being a maximizer. I'd like to explore something else I learned about myself from the test, relating to my developer strength.

"Developer" was my 5th strength (out of 34), which surprised me a lot. A developer is someone who skilled at helping other people to develop their talents, someone who is good at training and teaching and mentoring. It's interesting because I really never saw myself that way until I took this test. I mean, I know that I have some of that quality, I enjoyed mentoring new students in high school, and my boss has told me that I'm good at training people at work, but I never would have imagined it being one of my top five strengths.

When I was in high school, I LOVED volunteering on orientation night for new students. One year I got to talk to students about a club that I was in, and senior year I actually gave tours of the school to incoming students and their families. I loved that. I felt so in my element. I also volunteered to have a middle-school student shadow me around the school, which was less exciting than I had imagined because my students wasn't really interested in being there (I think all the students were at our high school on a required field trip or something), but still, I always loved volunteering for stuff like that because I loved my high school and loved being able to help new students to have a better experience.

I had always imagined that I would continue with that sort of thing in college, giving tours of the school and having prospective students stay with me, but I never did. I completely lost that interest, and it hurt me to see everyone else doing that stuff knowing that I used to be like that but now I wasn't. I knew logically that it was because I didn't like the school itself, that I probably would still be interested in giving tours if I loved my school, but I really felt like and interest that I had lost. I recently got an email from my grad school (different school) asking if I wanted to be part of an alumni network where I could be a mentor to current students. In theory, it sounded fun. A part of me really wanted to sign up. But I didn't, because it was a business school and it's all about climbing the corporate ladder as high as you can. Most people who go to that school want career mentoring on how to be aggressive and get the best jobs they can and all the stuff that I'm not really interested in.

Seeing the developer strength show up in my top five made me realize that that interest is still in me. It's just gone dormant for a while because I haven't been in places that I wanted to promote, and I haven't been with people who have the kinds of goals that I'd like to help them develop. But I have that quality, and I want to use it more with the people I know. I already used it when I was writing the self-knowledge section of the validation book, where I coach people on how to achieve goals, learn how they work best, and make decisions that are right for them.

At my first performance review at work, my boss complimented me on being so supportive and welcoming to all the new people. I never stopped and thought about that, but when we suddenly had a bunch of new people join, it was really important to me that they felt welcome and understood what to do. I didn't have the best experience when I first started my job, I was in a less warm and friendly department, and so I wanted to make sure that no one else had that kind of experience, that I could make their experiences go as smoothly as possible. It felt like making my culture the kind of culture that I want to be a part of. I want to focus on that more, not just at work, but any time I'm in a situation where I can make it easier for newcomers to enter a group.

I also want to focus more on encouraging people to achieve their goals. One of the qualities of being a maximizer is that you not only focus on developing your own strengths, but you focus on developing other people's strengths. When you combine being a maximizer with being a developer, I could really help other people to develop their strengths! I've always known that I'm not one of those people who would say "Put away your video games and finish your homework," I would say, "Wow, you're great at that video game! Have you ever thought about designing your own video games?" I want to do that more in my interactions with people. I've already helped a friend get out of a bad job situation with a blog post I wrote, so I want to try to do more things like that. I'm getting my query letter together for my validation book, and once that's published, my self-knowledge section will help a lot more people to achieve their goals and develop their strengths.

Finally, one piece of advice that the Strengths Finder results gave me as a developer was to know when to quit, that I have a tendency to keep trying to develop someone to be good in a particular role, and I don't always know when it's time to say that that person just isn't best suited for that job and would be better off moving somewhere else. Now, I didn't think this applied to me very much. I'm normally the first person to say that it's okay if someone is not good at something, and to advise them that they might be happier doing something else. (Although I've never been in the position where it was my choice whether or not an employee could keep their job, so I don't know how difficult it would be for me to let someone go if they really couldn't do the job). But when my mom and I were looking at the results together, she pointed out to me that I *did* do this with some of my friends. Not with my current close friends, but with past people who were not treating me the way that I wanted to be treated. A few years ago, I wrote this post about the essential qualities that I look for in a friend or dating partner: http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2014/10/relationship-and-close-friendship.html

I have held onto *a lot* of friends who did not treat me with validation and consent-consciousness, either because we had been friends for a long time, or because they treated me better than other people did, so I felt like I had no other choice. But I always held on thinking that there was hope, that I could get them to be validating and consent-conscious if I worked with them enough.  I mean, no one is 100% invalidating - even for the most invalidating people I know, I can think of individual times when they *did* validate someone's feelings or respect someone's choice not to do something, and I would focus on those things. I would tell myself, okay, I have seen this person be validating and consent-conscious, so I know they have those qualities in them somewhere, I just need to bring them out. I gave these people a lot of praise. I praised them for every single time I witnessed them being validating. But it wasn't just normal praise - it was positive reinforcement. It's like when you praise a child for brushing their teeth, not because it's a huge accomplishment, but because you want them to learn that brushing your teeth is a good thing so that they will continue to do it every day. I gave people over-the-top praise for every time that they were validating in the hopes that they would learn that that was important to me and start treating me with validation all the time. But it didn't work. And like the test said, maybe that was my developer quality coming out, maybe that was my tendency to try to train people and not step back and say that maybe they are just never going to be that way. Going forward, I want to make sure that I don't do this anymore, and that instead of praising people and hoping they will get the hint, I need to talk to people directly about what I am okay and not okay with.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How I Find the Time

There's one question that I've been asked a lot throughout my life.

It came up in high school, when I would tell people that I was on my 9th or 10th journal.

It came up in college, when I was working on my first novel.

It's come up in the past three years, when I was working on the validation book, and also now that I've finished it.

It's come up when I've mentioned how many blog posts I've written, or that I wrote a 100-page blog post about college.

It comes up every time someone looks at what I've done with my coloring calendar.

The question is always, "How do you find the time?"

I want you - the person asking - to consider this question for a moment. Consider why you are asking me how I find the time for something that I do, but not asking other people how they find the time to do the things that they do. Consider how you would feel about asking someone the following questions:

"How do you find the time to study and get good grades?"
"How do you find the time to play on your high school sports team?"
"How do you find the time to work at your job every day?"
"How do you find the time to clean your house?"
"How do you find the time to cook meals every day?"
"How do you find the time to exercise?"
"How do you find the time to take care of children?"

If you think these questions sound weird, then why are you asking me how I find the time to do what I do?

The reason I get asked this question so much is because my culture had always just expected me to put all of these other things first. From the moment I started preschool, I was being pressured to be good at academics, sports, and socializing. Arts were "extra." Art skills were never forced or expected like the other stuff. Sure, we did artwork at school, but it was always treated as extra, as less important, as something that it was totally okay to not be good at. I was never forced to do art like I was forced to do schoolwork. I was never "expected" to be good at art the way that I was expected to get good grades. The only time I've ever been criticized for my art not being good enough was when I was in a special niche group where everyone else valued that type of art, like in drama club and in college creative writing classes.

When it came to the other stuff - school, sports, and socializing - I was being criticized for those things everywhere.  Everyone picked on me for not talking to anyone. Everyone, no matter what group I was a part of. And everyone picked on me for not being athletic. When I went to summer day camp where we did a variety of activities, I was picked on for not being a fast runner, but not for not being good at arts and crafts, even though the camp itself didn't put more emphasis on sports than on arts and crafts. 

When you're an adult, it's the same way - you're just expected to do certain things like have a job and clean your house and cook meals and go to the gym and go to social obligations and raise a family. Those are things you're just "supposed" to do, and everything else is extra.

The reason I have time is because I have never valued any of the things that I was expected to do. The reason I have time is that my art IS my priority, it is an essential part of my life, it is not some kind of extra bonus thing that comes after I've made time for everything else. 

Have you ever read this professor's analogy with the jar of golf balls:


The reason that I have time is that all of my art pieces are golf balls. All of my art pieces are the first things that go into my jar. If it seems incredulous to you that I could have time to write a book, it's because you are subscribing to the idea that I am supposed to put a bunch of other things into my jar before writing a book, and you're wondering how I have room. I have room because I never put anything else into that jar before my book.

This is my basic priority list:
1. Relationships.
2. Central Passion.
3. Other Fun.
4. Everything Else.

My "central passion" is whatever I am most passionate about, which at the moment for me is writing, and specifically writing my current book. That means the only thing in my life that is more important to me than writing my book is maintaining my relationships with my family and friends. (And the first priority only involves maintaining relationships I already have, not forming new ones). That's it. There is nothing else that comes before it. Other writing and art projects - such as blog posts and the coloring calendar - are at the top of category 3. There are some fun things that come before them, but they are pretty close to the top of my list. There are not a lot of things that come before any of my art projects.

So, you wanna know how I find the time?

1. I didn't have any school-related goals. I did just enough to get by, I chose to do what I wanted to do instead of studying more, and I spent a lot of my in-school hours mentally writing and mapping out personal projects.

2. I don't have serious career goals. I chose a job that would not be mentally stimulating so that I would have plenty of time and energy to do whatever I want outside of work. I never think about work outside of work. I only work the minimum 40 hours a week that are required. I never come in early or stay late no matter what. When my company went through this nightmare transition where they were basically begging people to do overtime, I didn't do it. I was probably the only person on my whole floor who was offered OT and didn't do it. I don't care how bad that makes me look. I never work more hours than I'm required. I don't aspire towards any higher position where I'll be expected to work longer hours or to take work more seriously than I do now.

3. I never cook or clean. I do laundry maybe once every two or three weeks, depending on if there's something I want to wear that's dirty. I do dishes maybe every three or four weeks, basically until I run out of dishes to eat off of (and I usually push it beyond that). I hardly ever do anything else. Besides laundry and dishes, I clean maybe once every two to three months. I probably cook my own food about once a month, sometimes once every two months.

4. I don't have fitness goals. I go walking and jump at the trampoline park regularly because I enjoy it, and because certain forms of exercise stimulate my mind and help me to write. But I always treat exercise as a fun activity and never as an obligation, never as something that I need to do before I do other things that I want to do. 

5. I don't enjoy the same quantity of socializing that other people do. I socialize less, and I don't socialize purely for the sake of it - I have to either have a close relationship with the people and really want to spend my time with them, or I have to love the activity that we're doing. One time, I was working on a writing piece, when my boyfriend said that we got invited to go swimming with some friends. I said yes I'd love to go because I love swimming. When we arrived at the friend's house where we were meeting, it looked like it was going to rain, and everyone had pretty much decided that we weren't going to swim anymore. They were all just hanging around the apartment talking and saying maybe we could go to Panera or something instead. I turned around and went home. I was only interested in going swimming, not in just hanging out at someone's apartment or going to Panera. I may have stayed if these were my close friends, but they were more my boyfriend's friends, and I was not interested in staying if we weren't going to swim. Most people wouldn't turn around and head home in that situation, but that is generally how I roll. I would much rather do something I love by myself than do something I don't love with other people.

Additionally, I don't do social obligations. Yes, I'll go to someone's wedding, graduation, birthday, etc if I have a relationship with them, but I will not go to stuff like that when it's an obligation through someone else, like when I went to anniversaries and birthdays and graduations for people I didn't know because I was my boyfriend's girlfriend so I was expected to be at those events. I had no fun, I did not want to spend my time that way, and I did not have a relationship with these people where it meant a lot to them for me to be there. I regret spending my time that way, and if I ever get a new relationship, I will make sure the other person understands all of this and is not assuming that I'm going to be their +1.

6. I will never enter into an intimate relationship with anyone who expects me to put my priorities in a different order.

So to answer your question, THAT is how I find the time.

On "Correcting" People about Who They Are

Scenario 1: Imagine that a friend told you that they felt like a failure - like every single thing they did turned out horribly wrong and they never made any choices that were smart or turned out well. To make your friend feel better about themself, you make an effort to point out all of the times that they do make good decisions. You give them compliments like, "That was a great idea!" "Very creative!" "I'm glad you thought of that!" "I'm glad you suggested doing this - it was really fun!" "Thanks for helping me - you're great at solving problems!"

Scenario 2: Now, imagine that you and a friend are listing traits that describe each of you, and your friend describes themself as hard-working. From then on, you make an effort to point out every time they do something that you think is not hardworking. You make comments like, "You didn't finish your homework yet? That's pretty lazy of you!" "You're just gonna leave your dishes in the sink and not wash them? You don't seem hard-working to me!"

I think most of us can agree that in Scenario 1, you are being nice to your friend, and in Scenario 2, you are being mean to your friend. The actions themselves are similar - your friend described themself in a particular way, and you point out all the times that they are not that way. The difference is that in Scenario 1, your friend felt bad about themself, so you tried to help them feel better about themself, while in Scenario 2, your friend felt good about themself, and your comments most likely made them feel bad about themself.

Assuming that you're not trying to be mean, assuming that you have the intention of making people feel better rather than worse, then whenever you "compliment" someone for not being the way they described themself, you are saying that the way they described themself was bad. (Like in Scenario 1, considering yourself to be a failure is bad, which is why it's good to convince someone that they are not a failure).

I've had people try to convince me that I'm not an introvert. I've had people point out the fact that I go to parties and host parties and like to have fun with friends and that I've performed onstage as a way of telling me that I don't seem like an introvert. When you say this to me, you may mean it as a compliment, but it's not. Because what you are communicating to me is that you think there is something wrong with being an introvert. Think about it: if you think it's a "nice" thing to tell me that I don't seem introverted to you, then you must think being introverted is bad, or at least not as good as being extroverted. Would you ever point out to someone all of the ways that they are not as outgoing as they claim to be? Would you think that was a nice thing to say or a mean thing to say? If you don't think it would be "nice" to point out how not-outgoing someone is, but you do think it's "nice" to point out how not-introverted someone is, then you are clearly saying that there is something wrong with being introverted, which makes what you're saying mean, not "nice" at all.

I've most commonly experienced this with being introverted, but it's happened with a lot of other traits as well - people have tried to convince me that I'm a responsible adult when I say that I'm not, or a positive person when I say I'm not. Unless someone makes it clear to you that they feel bad about something, you should not assume that it's something they feel bad about, you should not assume that they have any desire to be the opposite way, and don't think for a second that you're complimenting someone by putting down who they actually are.