Grit

 

I don’t like to fail. I mean, nobody likes to fail, but as someone who struggles with depression and negative self-talk, failing at something really effects me. Some people find failure inspiring, encouraging, something that makes them want to work harder. When I fail at something I often feel the exact opposites, uninspired, discouraged and like I should just give up. This is related to grit.

In her book, Angela Duckworth defines grit as “Perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. I was challenged to read the book a few months back by my manager at work. I’m an avid reader who loves leadership and books of self-discovery, but honestly it took me a couple months to get through it. In one of the first chapters there is a Grit Scale for the reader to complete. Upon taking the scale, I had the anticipation that I was going to do really well and score a very high mark, when in reality I achieved a 3.9. Now don’t get me wrong, a 3.9 is still a really good mark, and is still “higher than 60% of Americans” however it was lower than I expected. This score caused me to believe I wasn’t gritty, and made it difficult for me to really connect with the contents of the book.

Once I finally finished the book, I put it down and didn’t open it for another few months. I completely stopped thinking about my gritty-ness, and moved on. It wasn’t until I was telling a co-worker about how horrible my first day of work was that I realized I might be grittier than I thought.

My first day of work I walked into my office and it was a total mess. I had to spend an hour cleaning before I could even sit down at my desk and start. By then I was already flustered and thrown off. It was my first administration job and I very quickly became confused. My manager didn’t know anything about how to complete my daily tasks and my Club Administration Specialist helped me the most she could over the phone from a different location. I locked my office door and started to cry. I was so overwhelmed, and felt like a total failure. I knew it was only my first day, but I felt like I was starting behind the starting line. No one checked on me for hours and I started to feel not only like a failure but also lonely, like my new co-workers didn’t care or even know I existed. I somehow stretched a 5 hour day into a 10 hour day, then missed the bus and walked home.

After telling my story, I felt an sense of resilience. I had overcome an awful first day on the job and did not quit. I stayed and made it better. I stayed and 1.5 years later I even found myself moving up through the company. It was my own personal grit that kept me there.

Now it’s months later since I originally read the book, “Grit”, and I finally feel the connection. I feel like I can finally relate to all the personal stories and experiences in the book, and this realization didn’t come from some scale, but the retelling of my own gritty story.

Since I’ve discovered my grittiness, I’ve realized it is what keeps me working harder and harder each day to do whatever I can to make my associates feel cared for, and to make our location the best it can be.

I can truly say, “Grit” by Angela Duckworth has inspired me. It wasn’t one line that hit me in the face with inspiration, but rather seeped into my brain waiting for a perfect moment to strike.

10/10 would recommend.

Guilt.

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. – Steve Jobs

I was recently asked if I knew the difference between ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’. I was immediately offended, and answered with “obviously”, then when I was asked to define both I was stumped. I had been using the words interchangeably, I didn’t realize there was a difference between them. I was encouraged to look into the definitions, to fully understand the difference. Here are my findings;

Dictionary.com defines guilt as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, while defining shame as a painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable. The way I see it, is guilt is a reaction, whereas shame is an emotion. Which means that what I have been classifying as “Bad Guilt” this whole time was actually shame.

In the past, I’ve spoke about how I like guilt, how it saved my life. I used to call this guilt, “Good Guilt”, however now I realize it was just regular, normal guilt. I’ll explain.. When I was at my lowest of lows, I was fantasizing about death, and mapping out the perfect plan. I was counting down the days, but at the same time I was starting to feel extremely guilty about the pain I was about to put onto my family and friends. I knew that once I went through with it, they would be left with aftermath, and “what if’s”. This guilt kept me up at night, made me second guess my decision, and ultimately forced me to not do it.

What followed this guilt was a whole lot of shame. So much shame that I couldn’t speak about my decision of what not to do, for almost a year, and even then not openly. I had this secret that I kept thinking back to and was causing me “Bad Guilt”, or what I now know as shame. I was ashamed of what I had planned to do, and how it would have hurt the people around me.

Learning there is a difference between guilt and shame, and that I don’t exactly need to be calling them good guilt and bad guilt anymore doesn’t really change anything. I just thought it was interesting, and it brought up some old memories. However, what I did learn is guilt is not an emotion, but something caused by yourself. Which made me realize I can be mindful of it. So if I notice I’m feeling guilty, I can validate the thought then squash it. Knowing it’s a reaction to something, I can push the guilt aside and figure out what the main issue really is. I don’t need to ever feel guilty again.

Elevators

Living with depression is a lot like being trapped in an elevator;

You step into an elevator, needing to get to the top floor of a building, however the person who just got off was originally going to the basement. So now even though you want to go to the penthouse, you see the ‘B’ illuminated, and you can feel that you’re going down. It doesn’t matter how many times you press up wanting to go to a higher floor, the elevator is going to the basement and you can’t stop it. You know the elevator will eventually reach it’s destination, and you’ll be on your way back up, making it to the top floor, but for now you’re stuck going down.

Depression is much the same. You can feel your mood slipping, and your energy levels are plummeting, you know you’re on your way down. You do everything you can think of to try and stop it, to try and turn it around and “lighten up”, but you’re stuck on that elevator going to the bottom floor. Sometimes you just need to feel down, so you can better appreciate the good days. You don’t realize how sweet a simple breath of air is until you’ve almost drowned.

Although I know that I have to feel down something, and that it’s completely normal. I don’t like feeling depressed. I don’t want to be depressed. What I do like is being able to validate my emotions and accept where I am in each moment in time.

I’ve spent way too long wishing I was different, waiting to  feel different, wishing that I could always be happy and never feel depressed. Wishing and waiting, wishing and waiting. I’d accept the now, and be okay with feeling down or not so great, but then get frustrated waiting for my mood to improve. I would wish to expedite the waiting, wanting to jump right from the bottom floor to the top floor. Thats unrealistic. Now, I’m starting to understand theres a process, and I’m working on accepting it. Maybe soon I’ll even like it, but right now acceptance is the goal. Today I’m feeling good. Not exactly great, but I am feeling better than last week and even better than yesterday. Each day doesn’t need to be extraordinary, it just needs to be good enough to be a smidgen better than yesterday.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re not going to get off the elevator and get some exercise on the stairs, at least enjoy the ride and sign along to the music.

 

2017

It’s January 1st, today is the day people everywhere reflect on the previous 365 days and make plans for the next. The past few years I’ve always started the new year by making a pros and cons list of the prior year. Reflecting on the previous year is a great way to be thankful for your positive experiences and to learn from the negative ones. This year
I’m not doing that. I’m not wasting the happiness I have today by trying to decode 2016’s cons and learn something from them. I will however focus on making 2017 better than 2016, one day at a time, starting with today.

I talk a lot about living in the present and not dwelling on the past, however that isn’t something I’ve done a very good job of lately. The past couple months have been very difficult for me. My past kept forcing itself to the forefront of my mind and even the reminders I have tattooed on my body couldn’t bring me back to the present. My mood seemed to be stuck at a dangerously low level, my thoughts turned dark and I started to experience intrusive thoughts of suicide. These  dark thoughts and shadows aren’t anything new to me, however it’s been a long time since I haven’t been able to do something to help myself out of the darkness. It scared me. I made some very poor decisions in my vulnerable state, grasping at the smallest pieces of temporary happiness to try and brighten my mood. Of course this only resulted in pulling me further down, and scaring me more.

Today, I’m grateful that it’s the beginning of a new week, and a new year.

Today, I got out of bed feeling rested, meditated for 6 minutes, got dressed, left the house, sang along to music while driving, and was finally able to organize my thoughts enough to write.

Today, I feel less scared.

As I previously said, I’m not going to waste today’s happiness on yesterday, but I’m going to focus this positive energy into making today great and tomorrow even better.

Daily Challenges:

Meditate ; Write ; Eat a minimum of 2 meals ; Drink a minimum of 2 litres

Weekly Challenges:

1 Blogpost ; Exercise 4 times a week

Monthly Challenges:

Read 2 books ; Put 15% of each paycheque into savings

Yearly Challenges:

Travel to 3 countries ; Cross 5 things off my bucket list

I have more challenges and goals already set for myself and I’m sure the list will continue to grow, but these are the ones I’m choosing to share because these are all second-chance-goals. I’ve set these as goals before and have not completed them, that is why this year they’re challenges instead.

So thats thats. I’ve set my challenges and goals for 2017 without dwelling on the past year, I’m finishing one chapter and turning the page to the next. It might seem strange, but this year I’m embracing my inner Bob Ross..

“You need the dark in order to show the light”

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere, you only have to look to see it.”

and of course,

“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents”

Pencils vs. Crayons

I’ve always thought that true happiness was a mindset. That you couldn’t find happiness, or buy it, but if you truly believed you could be happy, then you would be. It wasn’t until I was in a business meeting last week that I realized I was wrong. Happiness isn’t a mindset, it’s the result of a mindset.

There are two different types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. A fixed mindset is the belief that people have set skills, talents, and intelligence. I see this as the black-and-white mindset, you’re either good at something or you’re not. Then theres a growth mindset, which is the belief in ones ability to develop or change. I see this as the more colourful mindset, like a 64 pack of crayons, you aren’t limited, you can choose to be whatever colour you want.

In the meeting I was attending, we were talking about how each mindset can have a different impact at work. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, you, or your associates, will feel just that, stuck. You’ll catch yourself saying things like, “We never hit our goals before, so we never will”, or “I’m just bad at that, I always will be”. You may be really good at something and very successful in your current role, but a fixed mindset creates a glass ceiling on your achievements. Focusing only on the end result, will discourage you from trying new things from the fear of failure. However if you have a growth mindset, you break that glass ceiling and you have room to thrive. You embrace the power of the words “yet” and “will”, and celebrate effort rather than achievement. Having this mindset encourages your associates to develop themselves and try new things.

Being the Mental Health advocate I am, I couldn’t help but think of how the two mindsets also affect your wellbeing. If you are someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, like me, you may find yourself in a fixed mindset from time to time. Dealing with these obstacles make it really easy to say things like “I won’t ever be happy”, or “I just can’t cheer up, I never will” and when you’re repeatedly saying these things, you start to believe them. I know for a fact, how difficult breaking out of the habit of negative self-talk can be, and it can definitely prove to be a very long task. Personally, I managed to chip away at the habit by meditating, however I think that if I had known about fixed vs. growth mindsets then, it would have been much easier. Knowing the signs of a fixed mindset would have helped me realize that the things I was thinking, or saying to myself, were do to my mindset, not the chemical imbalance in my brain.

I’m not saying you can’t be happy if you have a fixed mindset, but I strongly believe that the “glass ceiling” effect I spoke to earlier, also applies to your happiness. If you have a fixed mindset, you put a limit on your happiness. You may be really happy in one moment in time, but it may only be temporary. If you have a growth mindset, your happiness is never-ending.

I can now confidently say that I have a growth mindset, maybe I always have and I just got sidetracked along the way. I think that might be the case for everyone. That everyone has the ability to have a growth mindset, they just need to want it.

I still believe that you need to believe you can be happy before you can be, but now I realize believing in yourself is actually having a growth mindset, and happiness is the outcome.

Acceptance.

I’m painfully optimistic. I’ll always root for the underdog. I’m stubborn. I’ll always take chances. I’m headstrong. I’ll always see something broken as something whole.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree with either one of the traits above, or you like to fix things. I’ve always liked picking at things, finding out how to break them and then patching them back up. I’ve been known to “break everything I touch”, which sounds a little like Midas. I mean, I do tend to break quite a lot of things, but not everything. Unlike Midas I have the ability to return things back to it’s natural state, or at least try and for me, there is no better feeling than seeing something broken put back together. Now this doesn’t always go as planned and often times I’m just left with something broken, which infuriates me. I hate not being able to fix something, even more so when I was the one who broke it.

When I was at my lowest of lows I saw myself as this broken shell of a human. I was breaking down almost on the daily, and I had started cutting slits in my skin to let anything left inside me out. It felt like I was a ghost, lost between worlds, stuck in purgatory. It was obvious I needed to be fixed; My doctors were giving me medication, my therapist was giving me her time multiple times a week, everyone around me was trying to fix me. This went on for months and then I realized that I couldn’t wait for someone else to fix me, I needed to fix myself.

My way of fixing my mind, was accepting it. I had to accept the fact that I would have days when I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand, and that from time to time I’m going to have impulsive thoughts and think I see something thats not really there. Some things are going to make me anxious, some things are going to make me paranoid, and I’m going to need to take medication every day. I needed to accept that these things are okay. These things are “normal”. I couldn’t expect anyone to accept me when I didn’t agree, and now that I do, I don’t care what you think.

Wanting to fix things isn’t a bad trait, you do however need to know when to stop changing things and start accepting things. This is the case when it comes to people, no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone who doesn’t want to change, but you can accept them for who they are. Acceptance can be difficult, especially when you’re as stubborn as I am. You may always want to help, always want to do what you can to make someone’s life a little easier for them, save them from any pain. But some people don’t need saving, some people need to save themselves, and you have to accept that.

You’ll never be able to change someone into who you want them to be, but you can change the way you think and accept them for who they are. 

My Own Best Friend

While flicking through the “Quotes” category of Pinterest, I stumbled across this;

“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

I don’t think I ever would have named myself, which is kind of scary. You’re supposed to love yourself, right? But I not sure I know how to love myself, or what that even means, so I figured I should probably investigate.

My first thought was; Why should you love yourself? Love makes people happy. If you picture someone in love, they’re positive, they’re smiling, they’re happy. So if you love yourself, do you have a better chance at being happy? They say happiness comes from within, which makes sense seeing positive thinking evokes happiness. If that’s true, then being happy with who you are starts with thinking positive of yourself and ends with loving yourself.

My second thought was, How do you know if you love yourself? This question was a little more difficult for me. I’m not one to use the word “love” very much. There have been a few points in my life when I wasn’t sure if I was capable of feeling that emotion, and I’m still not 100% sure. So asking “How do you know if you love yourself?”, quickly turns externally for me, into “How do know if you love anything?” To further investigate I look to the top of my “Things you love” list, my friends and family. I think of my best friends and what I want for them; I want them to do things that make them happy, to do great things and be successful, to date the best of the best and feel loved, to never have to deal with negativity, and to know they have someone they can always depend on so they never feel alone. I thought about how I always want the absolute best for them.

Considering all that, do I love myself? No.

I’m not positive on how to change my answer, but I think I need to start treating myself, the same way I treat my friends. If my friend was feeling sad, or alone, I’d tell them its okay to feel down, and remind them of all the positive things they have in their life. If my friend was in a bad situation, or dating a horrible person, I’d tell them they deserve better, that they deserve happiness. So why do I tell myself the exact opposite? Why do I trap myself in the shadows but push everyone else out into the sunlight? Maybe it’s from depression, or history of self-harm, or maybe it’s just my personality, but it has got to stop. I need to become my own best friend.

Being my own best friend sounds a little sad, like I don’t have any friends, which is not the case. I have a lovely group of friends, but it doesn’t matter if I have 2 friends or 200 friends, when I’m feeling sad and down, I’m completely alone. I push myself into a dark place inside, but function completely normally on the outside, so no one knows I’m hurting. This is why I need to become my own best friend. If I’m hiding my happiness and burying it so deep it’s unreachable, how can I expect my friends to save me? You can’t rely on anyone to understand your feelings, other than yourself.

I need to rescue myself. I need to love myself.

I’ll always be my own worst critic, but starting today I’m my biggest supporter as well. I’m writing that statement here to hold myself accountable, so I don’t let myself down, or the two people that might actually read this. I’ve been told before how I can be quite contradictory, and this kind of proves that, but arguing makes relationships stronger and I’m here for me ’til death do us part.