Sunday, January 22, 2012

I am enough

(SMLC 03 - Mission statement)

I had an interaction this week that pushed all my buttons, and not the buttons of the sugary kind that put a smile on your face, make you laugh and glow from the inside out. These are the opposite kind, the 'lift going down' buttons that leave you miserable, drowning in feelings of self doubt, shame, and the thought that I'm just not good enough.

This interaction had me quite upset for days afterwards. I felt ugly, small and inferior. It affected my mood and therefore my interactions with others. And the worst thing is that this is not the first time it has happened, it's been going on for years it will keep happening until I can do something about it. Avoiding such interactions is only a temporary fix, this is not a person I can avoid forever. Besides, I'm not the kind of person to just ignore a problem and hope it goes away.

I vowed this year that these interactions would be different, yet the first time we meet in the New Year it was worse than ever. I am struck by how much this person affects me, yet I know there are many levels to the feelings that arise in me when we meet.

The truth is, these interactions bring to the surface feelings I have battled much of my adult life: I'm not pretty enough, thin enough, successful enough, creative enough, smart enough, funny enough, stylish enough. I'm not loveable enough. Ultimately - I'm not enough.

After a couple of days of wallowing the psychologist in me appeared and asked "Karina, where's the evidence for this?"

The truth? There is none. My good friend Phillip reminded me it is impossible to measure ourselves against others. It's only we who make those judgements, assessments which have no baseline, no bell-curve. We are not comparable. We all individuals, beautiful and talented in our own way.

So the task of creating a mission statement could not have come at a better time. Here is what I will do:

When I feel small, I will stand tall.
When I feel ugly, I will smile.
When I feel unloveable, I will give love.
When I feel unsuccessful, I will remember that success is not material, it is personal and spiritual.

I will strive to help and inspire.
I will continue to grow and learn.
I will be curious and playful.
I will explore who I am and not be afraid to express my true self.

I will be me.

I am enough.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Self-reliance

Last week while I was at the gym trying to distract myself from being bored by the cross-trainer I listened to a podcast about loneliness, with an interview with Emily White who has written a book about her personal experience. It was a very revealing interview and one particular topic got me thinking. Through her research, White found that loneliness begets loneliness; that it's an ever spiralling situation where being sufficed with one's own company doesn't encourage a lonely person to get out and meet new people.

Lately I've been contemplating the benefits and not-so good aspects of self-reliance, and I believe that a similar paradigm to the loneliness spiral exists here to. Over the course of our lives, starting when we're very young we begin to learn that we are able to do things - open a door, tie our shoelaces, read a book, swim 50 metres, make a sandwich. This mastery is very important in us becoming self-reliant adults that can go off into the world and not starve or freeze to death.

Yet I think some of us can take this too far, and become so self-reliant we forget how to ask for help, or feel like it's a weakness when we need to. I'm like this - I hate asking for help and will go to great lengths to manage my world myself. It's crazy really, as a person my life's mission is to help others, yet I am unable to accept help myself. And it's self perpetuating. You are in a situation finding things difficult, but rather than ask for assistance you struggle through, and in turn learn that you can do it. Great! Fantastic!! Another situation mastered. So next time you find yourself in a similar or worse situation, you've previously learned you can do it so you jump on the merry-go-round again.

Yet this mastery and self-reliance is not all good. Just last week I experienced the worst sunburn I've had since I can remember. It got worse and worse for days, I should have seen a doctor early on but I didn't. I drove 400 kilometres home with wet fabric draped on my legs pouring water over them like some breached dolphin. Finally I went to the doctor, hardly able to walk. After two hours in the waiting room I felt like bursting into tears.

And then I thought - why didn't I ask a friend for help? Why didn't I ask someone to come and drop me off at the emergency room? Why could I not ask for help?

This is something I need to work on this year. I need to remember that like me, others like to be given the opportunity to help when a friend is in need. It's not a weakness, it's not putting people out, it's being a normal human being.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The authentic self

(SMLC 02 - Values)

I was pretty excited when I read that this week's challenge was all about values. I'm into values, big time. To me they are like a guiding gut feel, I know I'm on the right path when I am living true to my core values, and when I don't I experience some very painful cognitive dissonance.


My number one value is was easy to come up with: authenticity. I then came up with this hefty list of the values I hold close:

Adventure
Creativity
Curiosity
Empathy
Fairness
Freedom
Gratitude
Helpfulness
Honesty
Hope
Joy
Kindness
Learning
Love
Optimism
Resilience
Selflessness

Now the hard part of the exercise - I could only list five values, and they had to be ranked. Ouch.

Authenticity
To me, the most beautiful people I know are those that are truly authentic. No pretending to be what they are not and covering up what they are. Young children are great examples of authentic selves - they are not afraid to ask silly questions in order to learn, or twirl around in the middle of street when they hear some music. Yet at some point in our early lives it starts to get beaten out of us, with some people to the point where they don't even know who their authentic self is. I know only a handful of people who I would say are truly authentic, and they are so lovely to be around because of it. I really strive to live an honest life and make choices based on my own values and dreams, rather than what others or society say is the right way. I'd like to one day work with people to help them connect with their authentic self and have the courage and strength to live by it.

Selflessness
There is nothing more rewarding than being kind and helping to others. It is the cheapest happy drug around. Eight years ago an experience with a child changed the course of my life and set me on a new career path as a psychologist and art therapist which I now intend to pursue. I'm going to be sneaky and add two further values here that align and are equally important to me: empathykindness and helpfulness.

Curiosity

To be born curious about the world is a gift. Curiosity has led me on so many adventures, and enabled me to meet people who've changed my life. And not to forget learn so much along the way.

Freedom
We live in a great era. I am very thankful to be living at a time where I have the freedom the life I choose to live, and to be independent. Contraception, affordable air travel, feminism to name a few advances have enabled me this.

Creativity
The best Christmas gift I got when I was a kid was a Crayola Caddy. I was crazily excited when I opened my santa sack on Christmas sack to find this huge creation station. I loved it for years (my favourite crayon was Cornflour blue) and it was a hint of what was to come of a career. I also remember when Dad bought home the Apple IIe from work one weekend. Before this I'd only known computers to be things that you types a weird language into that my brother spoke, or play games on. That weekend, I created my first animation using Hypercard - using a mouse to draw. Revolutionary! It was love at first sight. Creativity has driven much of my life. In recent years I havent had the luxury of time to get involved in enough creative pursuits in my down time, but this year creativity is what it's all about.

So there they are - my five top values. The guiding lights that will help me make the changes I need to in 2012 and move towards an even more authentic life for myself.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stuff that works

As a user experience designer* my work is all about making people's lives easier. Experiences well designed allow us not to have to think so hard about how to do certain things, which leaves us space and time to think and do other things. It's all good.

Outside of my work I'm also interested in a streamlined (aka easy) life. What I mean is that the spaces I live and work in, and the things that surround me help me get done what I need to do, rather than hinder it. Clutter is my enemy, not only does it block my physical space, but also my mental processes resulting in me wading through distractions to get to the end goal. In my home I believed I'm always paring back - "Do I need this?", if not it goes to the charity shop or gets sold on Ebay. When my sister and I shared a house she joked that one day she's come home and all that would be left is a chair.

Recently, my friend Kate did a big clean out and she has really inspired me to dig deeper and take a closer look at what is hidden in the back of my cupboards. My motto for this task is 'stuff that works'. I don't mean I'm going to throw out broken items lying around (although I will if I find any), but anything that doesn't work for me is going to go. For example, I have a shiny red plastic container that I thought would be great for biscuits. Unfortunately it doesn't seal properly, and as I live in a humid climate the biscuits go soggy. So it's pretty useless really yet because it's a nice red I still have it. Or my handbags, of which I have about ten. I use three of them constantly, two others are my evening bags, but the rest are gathering dust and taking up valuable closet space.

Well not anymore. Starting tonight stuff that doesn't work is going out. I'm also looking forward to applying this motto to my clothes. How many items do you have that are a bit too short, or shoes that are uncomfortable no matter how many times you wear them? They cost a fortune and you can't bear to part with them. Well now is the time. If I end up with only two pairs of shoes (which I doubt), so be it.

Which brings me to my second part of the motto: when shopping from now on I'm going to really think 'does this work for me?' before I spend my hard earned cash on it. It sounds harsh, but it all goes towards making my daily life just that little bit easier.

PS: I will still keep things that make my environment beautiful. I recently bought a candle from Garlands in Surry Hills. I light it every evening - the scent is delicious.

* For a great introductory book on user experience take a look at Steve Krug's Don't make me think!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Meat the old me

When I get really busy the first thing that drops are pockets of time for myself. With the amount of time I committed the last few years to study and work projects, my normal exercise routine went entirely out the window, as did my ‘healthy’ eating (I know – excuses, excuses). Late nights had me rummaging through the pantry at 9pm for an energy hit, and of course I usually reached for the my friend the chocolate. Oh chocolate, you were so good to me, but the result: I either need to buy a new wardrobe or to dig deep under my additional layers and carve out my old self.

Therefore, one of the aspects of my life I’m putting effort into with my new found free time is my health. I had a couple of scares last year, both personally and with close friends that definitely put the wind up me. So on Christmas Eve I went along to see a lovely naturopath to get an assessment of my lifestyle.

As it turns out my usual diet is not so healthy after all. I’ve be predominately vegetarian for years and tended to get my energy from lusty carbs which meant constant craving. To readjust my system the naturopath has set me on new way of eating for a month – including meat every day. Though the regime seems a bit limiting at first, being known as the girl who could make a meal out of the supplies from YHA free shelves, I am sure I can tackle this. And so, my dinner tonight…


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simplify (and expand) my life challenge

(SMLC 01- 2011 reflections)


In moments of total craziness of last year's study and work commitments I would dream of having time, time to sit and think, to write, to create, to read. At times I thought 2011 and all it's stresses would never come to a close. But as sure a time goes, it did, and here I am fresh from a short Christmas and New Year break ready to take on 2012 and all the free time it provides. While last year was a year of my brain, 2012 is the year of my soul. I plan to both rest and nourish myself, and explore all the new possibilities I discover along the way.

To get the year kicked off I decided to do the 52 weeks to simplify your life challenge. It's going to be a challenge for sure, but fun one. Here goes with week 1....

What energised you?

2011 was as crazy as my cat; a stressful year moving home, finishing my psych degree, taking on a year long leadership program and leading a huge project at work. There were some hefty challenges along the way and at times I felt completely overwhelmed by what I had taken on. Yet these challenges turned out to be motivations in themselves. Sure, I had to put in the long hours, but ultimately it was my choice to do it. Part of the motivation with my degree was because I was so close to ending something that had taken me so long, but also generally because I was not alone in any of these activities. I worked with the most amazing people that always got me pumping when I thought I had run out of steam.

What made you feel happy?


I became a homeowner, buying my very own apartment last year. I still relish the feeling of putting my key in the door and coming home to a calm space that's my own. I always felt a bit like I was camping when I rented, never really settled; and yearned for ‘a room of one’s own’. And I love it. Yet now, having some roots (well carpet and paint), I strangely feel ready to fly. To add to the domestic scene I adopted a cat, Sasha. Although I was apprehensive about the responsibility of having a pet, she is a great little personality and provides endless amusement and comfort to me.

What made you feel at peace?

Finishing my degree, getting the results and feeling the first taste of the freedom of time that was to come was an amazing feeling. For eight years I have had assignments and study hanging over my head. Studying and working full time was a total brain drain. I am only just beginning to feel proud of what I have achieved (though it's definitely not sunk in yet) and ready to take on some new, perhaps more creative challenges.

What positive people lifted you up?

My family supported me so much through the study with numerous cups of tea and dealing with my stressing. Friends were also there to drag me out of my cave. But it was two new friends whom I met through work that really brought a smile to my face on dark days. They both understood what I was tackling and, dealing with their own challenges, we helped each other reach Christmas with smiles on our faces.

What filled your “tank”?

With such a hectic timetable, quiet times really rejuvenated me. It might be a late evening perusing a bookstore, lots of tea, a glass of wine with a friend and cooking new things. And there were the occasional nights letting my hair down…

What is something that made you feel excited to dive right in?

I did a therapeutic writing course in October that was absolutely amazing. Through the writing and drawing tasks I learned a lot about myself that I had never recognised, or had forgotten. I had so missed writing for pleasure and rediscovered how rewarding the process can be.

What did you learn (positive things)?

I learned a lot about myself this year. Some of these things include I have capacity to achieve where I doubted myself, that I have the capacity to inspire others while being inspired by those around me. Very importantly I learned its important I nurture myself in addition to others. 

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for my health, for the opportunities I have had in life and for the people who continue to inspire me. I am so excited about what 2012 might bring. 
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