The Power in Self Encouragement

The Power in Self Encouragement

I know we all need encouragment. We all go through ups and downs and struggles. I have had my fair share of stages in my life where I felt like I constantly needed support. I needed those around me to understand what I was thinking and feeling. We all want to be listened to and understood. But what happens during that phase in life where we feel like we have no one? What do we do when we really need to connect with someone and we really just need to be motivated, listened to, loved on, encouraged, reminded of how great we are, how much we have accomplished, how much we have over come and if we just keep pushing we will see our dreams realized? Basically, what happens when we need a pep talk and we feel like there’s no one to connect with to give it to us?

I personally have had to really dwell and dive deep on that question so many times. Because naturally I am an encouraging person I find it difficult when I don’t have people that naturually encourage me. Mostly because in my mind I compare how I would handle reaching out to someonoe to how people reach out to me. That right there is a recipe for disaster because not everyone thinks like I do! So I had to learn to start coming to terms with the fact that sometimes I’m going to feel like I’m alone. Sometimes I am going to feel like there is no one around me that is there for me. There will be times where I will feel like there is not a single person that can relate to me and I will literally feel like I am on a deserted island trying to survive. So I started asking myself “So how are you going to get off the island?”

I, first, had to start examining the situations in my life that brought me to mental and emotional places of discomfort or made me feel alone in life. One of those is the life of a military spouse. I remember having a converstaion in the car with my husband not too long ago. We were talking about the difference between life after having the girls versus life after having my son. We began to discuss the things that I struggled with and through. And he said something that shed light on the perspective that most people have if they are not one, connected to the military in any way and two, they don’t know what it’s like to consistently be the one left behind. I’m not coming down on my husband. He is really supportive and tries to be as understanding as he can. However, he really does not get it from my perspective because he does not live it. Just like I can’t fully grasp what it must be like for him to have to leave us all of the time. But what he said or referenced was the notion that even if I stayed home after the baby instead of going back to work I would not have been alone because I had a great support system.

That doesn’t sound like much but you can have a great support system as a military spouse. You can have people around you to talk to you and help you in many different ways, but if you don’t have direct relationships with other spouses going through your experience you can and will feel like you have no one. The people that I was closely connected to were a fantastic bunch. They were more than I could have ever hoped for but I still found myself feeling completely alone, isolated and not understood because the emotional turmoil you experience when your spouse deploys is not one you can explain. It’s felt and only someone who has felt it gets it.

So how does this play into learning to encourage ourselves? Well it’s no different than some of us who have to motivate and push ourselves to get out of bed every day, or go after our dreams. It takes determination. It takes drive. It takes courage to stop placing your emotional and mental state on someone else to pull you out. The people in our lives are not responsbile for our happines or ensuring that we maintain our mental well being. We are. Just like as a military spouse we can have a great support system but still feel alone-as a person we can have great friends, we can have a great support system and still feel like there is no one that truly gets us or gets where we are in the moment.

This is why it’s important to learn how to encourage ourselves in times like this. We have to make the decision to remind ourslves that it’s ok to be sad, frustrated, confused, hurt, and alone. Yes alone. Sometimes we need to be alone. There’s so much growth that can come from being alone. It teaches us to rely less on people and more on God. It teaches us to listen to more of what He is saying and less of what we think we need to hear. It teaches us that our strength lies in God and that through Him we can get up and push through this next week, this next day, or this next hour. In the periods of time that I felt alone I learned how to tell myself repeatedly that I could do it. That I could make it another day. I learned to push myself past my feelings, even in moments when I thought I was drowining.

Through these experiences I learned to stand alone and not consistently need the words or encouragment of someone else to get me through that moment. The more I practice it the better I become. The better I become the stronger I feel. The stronger I feel the more confident I become. The more confident I become the clearer I can hear those encouraging words that I need to hear in my head and in my heart from God. I learn to start blocking the negativity out and start reaching for my inner strength that allows me to say things to myself like “You’re great. You’re smart. You’re loved, You can do this. You can handle this. You can make it one more day. You won’t always feel like this.”

I believe it’s so important for everyone to not only learn how to do this but consistently put it into practice.

A few things that have helped me to be more consistent in this area are:

  1. Reading the Bible, devotionals or motivational books daily.
  2. Writing in a journal.
  3. Writing small notes to myself.
  4. Listening to encouraging music.
  5. Listening or watching motivational speakers or sermons.

Support systems are great. Having people in our lives that are positive and encouraging can help us become better, more well rounded individuals. We need people in our lives for several reasons but that does not negate from the fact that sometimes people will fail us, intentionally or unintentionally. We cannot always expect or rely on those in our lives to pull us out of our dark places. That’s what God is for. And that’s why He wants to build a relationship with us so that when we need to stand alone (with His support), we can.

It’s Not What it Looks Like

It’s Not What it Looks Like

Have you ever heard of something or seen something and before you actually saw it you had in your mind what you thought it would look like? Then when you finally see it or learn more it looks nothing like what you visualized? I’ve had this experience a few times in life as I’m sure many of you have.

Whether it be a cake you ordered looking nothing like what you ordered but tasting great or looking just like what you ordered but not tasting so good. Maybe it’s a person you met and their voice doesn’t match what they look like. I know I’m not the only one who’s met someone and they’re all of 15 but has a voice like Barry White Lol! Maybe you’ve met someone and learn that they are 56 but look like they’re 35! You ordered something online and on the computer screen that color looked really great but when you get the package and open it, it’s not quite the color it appeared to be. Oh this one really gets me- the commercials on tv with the food that looks amazing! You go to the restaurant and order the exact same thing you saw and when they bring it out you’re like what is this?!

Either way at some point we’ve all experienced seeing something or receiving something and it not quite looking like what we thought. That’s what depression looks like. You might see someone looking great, working out, making good life choices, being a great parent or spouse, volunteering in the community, helping at church, going to work and being productive. Doing everyday life things and you’ll have no idea that they cried all the way to work. They were late picking up their kids because they couldn’t get out of bed. They canceled plans because something came up but that something was they couldn’t take another moment of having to smile around people and pretend to be ok when they physically just can’t move.

Depression doesn’t look like someone crying all the time or being sad everyday. It doesn’t look like someone who is always angry or confused. It does not look like someone who’s life is falling apart. As a matter of fact it can look like someone who has all their ducks in a row. I know because I’ve suffered from depression on more than one occasion. And there are still some days I have to fight against it. People around us often don’t know it because we work really hard to hide it. We go to great extremes to be the best version of ourselves so that no one will pick up on it. But it’s there. And when we get home behind closed doors it comes out in full force. Because being alone is our safe place.

Those who suffer from depression don’t want to burden others which is why we try to hide it. We don’t want someone feeling like they always have to cheer us up or watch us like a hawk. A part of us feel shame because we don’t even know exactly why we are depressed. We look at our lives and say “Man, I’ve got it good. What’s the problem?” I can’t tell you how many times I said this to myself during my husband’s deployment. I had been through a few deployments before in my previous marriage but this one was different. There were a lot of surrounding circumstances that I’d experienced in previous deployments that were similar to this one like just getting married, having a baby. But this time I just couldn’t seem to shake this downward spiral I was on. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to talk to people but I needed people. My kids kept me moving forward but even that was exhausting. Parenting is already a lot of work but parenting three kids including an infant, working full time, newly married, husband deployed and a list of other things it was just more than I could mentally and emotionally handle.

We don’t want people feeling sorry for us so we aim to put up a strong front. And truthfully we are strong. It takes a lot to get up everyday and take care of your family, work, be there for friends, be productive etc. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that we feel like we’re dying or drowning. It doesn’t change the reality that we want to lock ourselves away, sit in the dark and silence and not have to face another moment of feeling like this. There are moments when the things we are feeling can be all consuming. It’s almost like not being able to breathe. Our thoughts can feel like mush. We can’t remember simple things including how we got home from work. It’s like being on auto pilot. We’re just going through the motions, trying to make it through another day. And while we really do want to be left alone at the same time we don’t. We want people to show us that they care about us and that they want to help.

If you know someone who is suffering from depression some things you can do to help are:

  1. Listen. We want to be heard and understood. Not fixed. We are trying every day to do our best. Solutions like “Just shake it off” do not help and under devalue what we are feeling or going through.
  2. Keep us busy. Invite us to do things or offer to come over and sit with us to watch movies or something fun. We may say no but strongly encourage us to do something fun.
  3. Highlight the postive. Say positive things to us to encourage us. At times we can struggle with seeing the good in things and having someone give us a gentle reminder can go a long way.

Also here’s a link that can help you understand a little more what someone who is dealing with depression feels like

If you know or feel like you are depressed some key things to remember are:

  1. You are not alone. There is someone who has been where you are and made it to a better place. Check out this article that discusses a survey on how people with depression really feel but won’t say out loud sometimes Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about how you are feeling. 
  2. Try to do things you really like. Find or remember your hobbies and aim to do those things. They will take the focus off of how you feel, even if for a short time frame.
  3. You will not feel like this forever. It feels like it will last forever and that you will never feel normal again. It’s not true. You will. Keep putting in the work. Keep trying. Better days are ahead and YOU CAN LIVE FREE OF DEPRESSION. I know because I do.

Remember that looks can be deceiving but depression is very real. I know at times we feel like certain issues can be talked about repeatedly but they are being talked about repeatedly for a reason. People are suffering in silence and sometimes all they need is for someone to give them a hug, check on them, tell them that they are loved and show that they truly care. It goes a long way in helping someone recover and move forward.

The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

Family is so important. Being a military brat has taught me that family is not always the people you grew up with or have a blood connection with. A lot of the people in my life now that I call family I’m not even related to but I have either known them most of my life via the military or they’ve come into my life during a crutial period and we developed a strong familial bond. Growing up military and marrying into the military I have a slew of aunts and uncles scattered all over the world; people I haven’t seen since I was a child but I still call them aunt or uncle. My kids have the same connections with people that they’ve known all of their lives that they call aunt or uncle with cousins attached.

I think because of the experiences I’ve had with having so many people in our lives not be actual relatives but become “actual” relatives it opened my mind up and allowed me to be more open to certain situations in my life. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs you’ll know that I am divorced and remarried. One of the toughest situations in divorce is when your spouse moves on and brings another person into your children’s lives. It is not an easy process and there are a lot of mixed emotions. Sometimes it depends on the circumstances of the situation and other times it could be personalities that clash but my situation didn’t start off on the right foot. I had no desire to meet or get to know the person that my ex had brought into my children’s lives. This was part immaturity on my part and there was still alot of pain that I was trying to work myself through. Many times my ex husband brought forward the recommendation of us meeting and building some type of report under the premise of if something happened to him he wanted to insure that the children stayed in touch. I would always respond that won’t be a problem. I would never keep the girls away from their brother. I think it was easier for my ex and his wife to want to open the lines of communication because they were both products of divorce and I was not. I did not understand why it was even necessary for me to talk to his wife as long as I could communicate with him. As long as she was kind to my children, communicating with her wasn’t necessary for me.

Over time, as God began to work on me, I started to see things differently. I started to grow and learn more about myself. I started moving forward and I stopped operating out of a place of pain and anger. Most importantly, I stopped thinking about what wasn’t necessary for me but more so what was necessary for my kids. I still had a great relationship with my in laws and would still go and visit. This meant that there would be times where I would have to share space or be in the same area as my ex and his wife. Initially this was uncomfortable but over time the more I saw them and spoke to her the easier it became to continue to speak to her. We would see each other during drop offs for summer or the holidays and these moments also further increased my openness to learning more about the person that was aiding in raising our daughters.

By the time I met my husband I had gotten into a much better head space. I was able to directly communicate with the girls stepmom and even sometimes preferred communicating with her over my ex! (Who would’ve thunk it?!). But getting married again further opened me up to the importance of building relationship with the girls stepmom. I further saw the value in it because once again I removed myself and my feelings from the situation and focused more on what was best for the children. Not only that I further understood my ex husbands position when he wanted me and his wife to get along. I wanted him and my husband to get along as well.  I also found myself thinking how blessed are my children that they have two sets of parents? It doesn’t seem like a blessing initially because they are going back and forth between two homes, with separate sets of rules and expectations but really it is. They have two rooms full of stuff, they often recieve lots of gifts at Christmas not just because of us parents but the grandparents they’ve inherited and other family members that send them gifts.  They get to go to places like disney and other theme parks in Florida sometimes twice a year because they get two separate family vacations. But the most important thing is the amount of love they recieve from all parties involved; people who want the best for them and want to see them succeed in life.

Too often I have seen relationships fall apart and the parents can’t seem to get on the same page especially when there’s a step parent involved. While we may not always agree with the other parent or the step parent, they aren’t the enemy. (It took me a long time to come to this realization). The girls didn’t always have the strongest relationship with their dad but over time it enhanced and grew to something beautiful. I have always encouraged that relationship and I think his wife did the same. No matter what we may feel about the other parent what is most important is that we push our kids to connect with that parent, to love that parent, to respect that parent. It is immature and selfish for us to stand in the way of that relationshiop with both the biological parent and the step parent. The best advice I can give someone who is in this type of situation is stop making it about you. It’s not. It’s not about your feelings or how much you’ve been hurt or what they have put you through. Your feelings have nothing to do with the kids and they are something you need to personally work through on your own or in therapy. I am aware that there may be extenuating circumstances that make these types of situations difficult or even impossible but for situations that aren’t parents need to learn to step outside the box of what people normally do or your friends saying “I wouldn’t want anything to do with her/him!” Believe me I get it. I stated numerous times that I would never have a relationship with or even speak to my kids step mom. Let’s just say God made me eat those words!

Now we are in a place where we can share holidays together and other family events. It’s not weird or uncomfortable for all four of us to be in the same space and hold conversations, have dinner, talk about the kids or other experiences. It took work. A lot of hard work for all parties involved. And it’s still not always easy. Often times when people over hear me talking to my ex on the phone or hear about us all doing something together they stare at me like it’s the craziest thing that they’ve ever heard. But what I think is crazy is that more divorced or broken couples don’t aim to make these kinds of situations their goal for their kids. You don’t have to be best friends. You don’t have to talk everyday. But establishing that relationship helps make it to where your kids don’t feel like they have to choose between parents. It makes it so that for some holidays or some birthday parties your kids can have all of their parents and siblings together in one room (which makes my kids really happy and that’s the point). I am grateful that my children have a stepmom that is caring and wants to be there for them. I am grateful that she is active in their lives just as I am sure that my ex is happy that my kids have a step father around to play an active role in our girls lives, to protect and care for them. Family isn’t always the people you choose but they can be the best people for the life God has blessed you with.

It’s Your Unique Journey

It’s Your Unique Journey

Have you ever watched something happen for someone else and wondered “How?” I know I am not the only one who has had experiences where I really needed something to happen. I’ve prayed about it and done all of this leg work behind it and just knew that all of my efforts were going to pay off only to turn around and see that exact thing come to fruition for someeone else. While I expressed joy and excitement for them I would also think “Wow, how did that happen so fast? What did they do differently from me? I wonder if they have any ideas that could help me?”

Truthfully, most of the time the situations where we see things happening for others and not for us has more to do with our journery and not someone else’s. We can talk to that person and say “Hey what did you do to get your home sold so fast?” or “What did you do to get 1,000 followers?” or “How did you find your husband and know that he was the one?” but the steps that they took and the decisions that they made can be shared with us- doesn’t mean that it would work for us. While it’s awesome to share and acquire knowledge, when applying what we’ve learned sometimes that exact blue print that the other person shared may not yield the exact same results that they achieved.

I’ve learned that often times people may not share everything that they had to go through behind the scenes to reach that level of success or to meet that particular goal. Because a lot of the times it’s hard. There are a lot of things they had to struggle through and overcome to get there. There may have been a lot of preparation and work, blood, sweat, tears, doubts, frustrations that they had to endure to reach those results. A great reminder is a message I’ve heard in church where the Pastor says “Don’t be jealous of what others have. You didn’t have to walk through what they walked through to get what they have.” I’ve found this to be so true.

When I started dating my husband, many people would ask me questions about our dating process. They would ask how I knew he was the one. When we got engaged people really started asking more questions about pretty much how I got this man to propose and eventually marry me! I would even find myself encouraging other single friends about how to trust God and how to find contentment in their lives because that’s how it all happened for me. Those were some of the steps I took to prepare myself for my future husband. But exactly how I did what I did may not work for the next person. I could try to explain things step by step but that doesn’t mean it would happen for them exactly as it happened for me by following those steps. Not only that, the hell that I had to walk through to get to where I was at was not something anyone would choose to walk through even knowing the end result. Don’t get me wrong I would choose my husband a million times over again in this life and the next and the next but I know he was meant for me.

What I didn’t know was that I was going to choose to get married at an early age without knowing the importance of seeking God first and secondly, ensuring that the person I was marrying had the same goals in life as I did. I didn’t know that over the course of that marriage I was going to lose my mother, my father, my mother in law, myself. I was going to endure some very tough situations regarding infidelity, physical assault, consistent arguments, anger, unbearable pain, birthing a child without the father being present, long deployments or other separations, raising two kids mostly alone, divorcing with no job and struggling to survive depression. If I had said to the people asking all of these questions about my love life hey this is how you get there… “First you have to go through all of the things that I listed and then tack on several years of being alone yearning, desiring so deeply for God to send you someone to love and to love you that you’ll make really poor decisions in the dating department; decisions that you hope your daughters never make. Then after walking through all of that you’ll eventually get to the good part.” well that wouldn’t be as appealing.

It’s not about how someone does something. It’s more about their personal journey. We all have dreams and goals that we are trying to achieve. For some it’s having a family for others it’s having a career or traveling the country. We may encounter people along the way who motivate and inspire us. We may learn from people about their different experiences or what it took for them to reach their level of success. We can hear about or read about how someone achieved their success or met their goal  and we may be able to take certain parts of their journey and apply it to ours. But every step they took will not benefit us because we have to take our own path. Our journey is unique to us. We can overcome different circumstances and obstacles via encouragement from others’ words or examples, but applying what we’ve learned and how we learned it is unique to us. 

I have a home that we have been trying to sell and it hasn’t sold. Yet. But I have prayed and believed with so many people on the selling of their home. When we put our home up for sell I was confident that it wouldn’t take long. We had sowed seed and fasted so this home was as good as sold, right? Then the strangest things started to happen. At least three people that I was in relationship with put their home on the market to sell and literally within a day or even a week’s time frame their homes sold. Meanwhile my home is still just sitting there months later. I can’t tell you how many times I rejoiced with them and then had thoughts of “Ok what did we do wrong? What are we missing? How in the world did that happen? Maybe we didn’t put enough work into it?” I mean the thoughts would just start pouring in. But one day I stopped my word spiral and as I prayed God reminded me that I was not on the same path as them. He was doing something different for me and in me and that I just needed to trust the journey that I was uniquely on. He reminded me not to worry about how it happened for them and when it was going to happen for us, but that IT WOULD HAPPEN. 

So sometimes instead of focusing on the plan; instead of thinking of what steps we can take or trying to mimic the exact process of others, we need to learn how to remind ourselves that we are on our own separate journey. As we walk our path we can and will pick up different things that may fit into our puzzle but we should not get discouraged by the fact that everything we picked up to use didn’t work exactly how we thought it would work. God tailors certain things specific to each person because He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need. He knows what set of skills we need to acquire to move forward into the next phase of life. Embrace your unique journey. Ask God for the wisdom and knowledge you need and as He leads you continue to walk your path in confidence knowing whatever it is that you desire IT WILL HAPPEN.

The Lessons of Pain

The Lessons of Pain

There are so many things I’ve learned in life either via others or through the mistakes I’ve made. Nothing has taught me more lessons than pain. If it wasn’t for the whippings I got as a kid, I wouldn’t have learned to stop doing things I had no business doing. The pain from getting in trouble taught me what boundaries not to cross. If it wasn’t for mistakes I made in relationships early on such as dating the wrong person or allowing people to treat me a certain way, I wouldn’t have learned what I needed out of the people I choose to be in relationship with. The pain from those encounters taught me what I wanted out of relationships but most importantly what I deserved. Pain is good at opening your eyes to the areas of life you need to grow in.

Pain is a great motivator. When we find ourselves in situations where we are dealing with a lot of emotional or even physical pain we use that pain to become more determined not to get into this type of situation again. For example, I’ve had moments where I’ve said some not so nice things about someone. Whatever I said got back to that person and while I was sorry that their feelings were hurt it wasn’t until I experienced the pain of this exact thing happening to me where I learned that I needed to change. The pain from that experience motivated me to be a better person. It taught me that if you don’t want it to happen to you then don’t do it someone else. My parents would always tell us growing up to treat people the way you want to be treated. Learning the true meaning behind this saying has taught me how necessary it is to genuinely treat people the way you want to be treated.

Pain is a great boundary setter. Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships where we put a great amount of trust in someone. We convince ourselves that this person would never hurt us, lie to us, manipulate us, or mistreat us in anyway. While that person may have the goal to never do those things, people are human. They make mistakes and we often make bad decisions out of self preservation. When this person that we trust immensely does something to hurt us, whether intentional or not, it opens our eyes to how one, we’ve maybe set up an unrealistic expectation, and two, we need to set some boundaries for ourselves. It’s good to have people that you can trust and confide it. It’s good to have people who you can lean on and trust during difficult times. Relationships are meant for those reasons. That does not mean we should not have boundaries established, not to prevent us from being hurt-I believe that’s inevitable, but so that we can teach people how to treat us. It’s good for us to let those around us know what our expectations are in relationships so that can eliminate the possibility of unnecessary pain from unknown expectations.

Pain is a great reminder. Have you ever had a situation where something bad happened? You made a bad decision? Someone you knew you shouldn’t have trusted did something awful to you? You tried something one time and it didn’t go well but you tried it again anyway? We initially tell ourselves when something we don’t like happens that we’ve learned a lesson and will never do that again, but we don’t always stick to that. For instance, I am a giving person. I love helping people. If I have the means to help financially or in any other way I will do my best to make it happen. I have siblings and other relatives who would often find themselves in financial ruts and would call to borrow money. I would help them out every time that I could. When I was married to my ex we both helped out people in our family a lot. Sometimes they would pay us back and other times not so much. We’ve lost thousands of dollars helping people. You would think that alone would be the lesson to us to not loan to those same people or loan at all. Well, not initially. At least not for me.

The biggest lesson I learned from this was when I became a single mother. My finances were often really tight. I stayed on a strict budget for many years. I had a family member who was known for being shady and untruthful but, me being me, I always give the benefit of the doubt. This person asked to borrow some money and I allowed them to borrow it with the stipulation that I would have it back by a certain time because I needed it for a bill. Well that time came and passed. Reaching out to this person resolved nothing. I got no response and here I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay this bill. It was the pain from this lesson that taught me not to ever put myself in this type of situation again. And I haven’t. Every time I think of letting someone borrow money the pain of this situation kind of dings me. If I can’t afford to lose it then no one can borrow it- meaning if I’ll miss it if the person doesn’t repay me then that would be a no to them borrowing anything from me. Being remarried with a different mindset we aim now to bless. We’ll pay a bill for someone, treat someone to dinner or do whatever God leads us to do with no expectation from the other person.

Pain is great at revealing the truth. Especially about ourselves. In certain situations we experience we tend to want to put most of the blame, if not all of it on the other person. We convince ourselves that we didn’t do anything wrong, we didn’t deserve this, we are like 98% perfect so we definitely played no role in what happened. In some instances this may be slightly true, but I’ve learned in almost every situation there’s a small or significant role we played in to what happened. We can be so wrapped up in our pain that we don’t see how we are partially to blame. We don’t want to be held accountable for our actions. Going through my divorce was one of the most difficult experiences I have ever encountered in my life. Most people who have been through this experience will compare it to the loss of a loved one. You feel like someone has died that is how painful the experience is.

I wanted to and did put so much of the blame on my ex. I did not want to face the truth in how my actions played a role in and also lead to the destruction of our marriage. While he was unfaithful several times and did a slew of other painful things, I was not perfect. I talked too much! I created an uncomfortable home environment by not being in control of my emotions and expecting him to consistently read my mind. I was controlling and didn’t listen to his needs well enough. I broke the trust in our marriage by sharing things that he shared with me in confidence to my friends. I expected him to make me happy instead of doing what I needed to do for me to make myself happy. If it wasn’t for the deep, deep pain of going through this divorce, taking the time to stop and self reflect and then start applying what I was learning so that I could become better I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I wouldn’t be remarried to the awesome man I have in my life now. I wouldn’t be able to take the lessons I learned before and apply them to my marriage now.

So don’t run from the pain you experience in your life. Don’t let those moments where you feel like you don’t know what to do or the pain is so difficult that you don’t know how you’ll make it through take away from the lessons you could learn. We need pain. Pain alerts us that something isn’t right. Pain tells us that changes need to be made. Pain encourages us to learn, grow, and be better. Examine the areas of life where you are struggling. Look at the pain tied to those areas and use it to help motivate you, teach you to set boundaries, remind you of decisions you made previously and to tell you the truth about those around you or yourself. Don’t block out pain or shy away from it, allow pain to push you into greatness!

What Are You Saying to Yourself?

What Are You Saying to Yourself?

We all have thoughts wondering around in our head all throughout the day. Some of those thoughts might be a list of things we have to do at home, with the kids, with our significant others, at church. The list could be endless. Other thoughts could be positive and encouraging while some maybe not so much. As often as I try to stay on the positive side of things in my mind or in reference to others, those negative thoughts creep in more frequently than I would like.

Truthfully I’m much kinder to other people than I am to myself. I often give the benefit of the doubt to people when they respond to me a certain way or exhibit certain behaviors. If they’re rude or say something that hurts my feelings I usually go “Well maybe they are just having a bad day.” If they make a mistake I’m more likely to lift them up and remind them that mistakes happen but for a long period of time I didn’t do this for myself. I’ve gone through some rough patches in life where I really wasn’t too kind on myself. I realized when I was much older that the things I said in my head to myself had not been so kind for years-going back as far as my teenage years.

One particular stage I went through was very hard overall but especially mentally. Maybe one of the toughest stages of life that I have encountered in quite some time. While I was balancing a lot and dealing with a lot of things emotionally my mental thought process did not help me at all. As hard as I tried to encourage myself or be positive I still had thoughts of “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t do anything right.” “You just keep messing up!” “You’re not valuable.” “You’re not important.” “You aren’t helpful to those around you.” Some of these thoughts even carried into feelings of just wanting to be left alone. I didn’t want people to rely on me or ask me for anything because I struggled with being able to rise to the occassion. My thought life gradually got worse and worse. Have you ever noticed when you’re in a negative space that it will seem like there are people in your life that will confirm the negative thoughts you think about you? That’s how I felt! And it wasn’t always what people were saying, it was how they responded to me or how they didn’t respond that would send me into a mental tail spin of self condemnation.

I dug myself into this black hole. I couldn’t get over the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness I felt. I would just sit in those thoughts for hours. They would build up and spill over bit by bit every day. Things that I used to be able to overlook or move on from with little to no effort grew like weeds in my mind. I felt like I was constantly at war with myself. The positive attributes I knew I possessed; who I knew myself to be were constantly battling who I had convinced myself I now was. I had moments where I would be like “How did I get here?” “What is wrong with me?” “Why am I doing this to myself?” It was a vicious cycle that I wanted to be free from but didn’t know how to get out of it. Even if someone said something positive to me I couldn’t recieve it. I had one person who consistently told me how great I was. She wasn’t the only person who said kind things to me but she was most consistent. She would tell me how great I was or how much she appreciated me and it got to a point where she would say it and I’d think “She does not know how badly I messed up today! Otherwise she wouldn’t think I was so great!” How sad is that?!

I got to a point where I knew something had to change. I couldn’t continue to operate like this. With several different steps and the support of those around me I started to turn the unworthy train I was riding on around. It takes work, real work to change your thoughts. It has to be something you are conscious of and that you practice on changing. It’s not an overnight fix or an easy, quick turn around. There are steps that have to be taken to see growth and change. Before I share some of the things that helped me get better I want to ask you to think of the things you say to yourself. Write them down and then write things that contradict those thoughts. We are all confident in certain areas of life but struggle through something else.

For instance, we may be confident at work but struggle as a wife/husband. We may feel like a great partner but struggle with parenting. We may feel like an awesome employee but a terrible friend. Sometimes because we are thriving in one area of life when we say negative things about where we are struggling we feel like we are ok saying those negative things to ourselves because it doesn’t apply to everything. Because it doesn’t apply to everything then the harsh way we treat ourselves about that one thing isn’t so bad is what we think. Or we convince ourselves that every one says negative things to themselves so it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve done and said both of these things. I felt like a great friend but an awful employee! A great wife but an awful mom. Because I felt like I was doing well in one area I convinced myself that it was ok to condemn myself in the area I didn’t feel great at.  But that negativity seeps over into every area of your life at some point. You’ll start speaking things that are not true to yourself even in the areas of life you initially felt you were prospering in which is why it’s important to learn to control your thoughts. 

Some of the steps I took to help me get into a better head space were:

  1. Seek therapy. What I like about therapy is that it’s a neutral party. They don’t know anything about you except for what you tell them and what they observe while you are with them. They don’t tell you what you should do about whatever issues you may be experiencing but they give you the tools to figure things out for yourself. They help you to think more clearly.
  2.  Pray & read the Bible. During this particular time frame I found it hard to pray for myself. It was difficult for me to find the words so I consistently asked God to help me. Whenever I had those overwhelming moments when I would doubt myself or tear myself  apart I’d catch myself and just say “God help me! Help me to see myself the way you see me.” Then I would look up scriptures to read about who God is and who God says I am. This opened my prayer life back up.
  3. Write things down. Journaling helps. Not everyone likes to journal. Writing isn’t for everyone. I like to journal and it really helps me process my feelings. I can often look back at what I wrote and recognize how irrational I am being in that moment. If you don’t like to journal get post it notes. Write nice things to yourself and leave them on your bathroom mirror or where you will see them most.
  4. Talk to friends and family about how you feel. When you have a great support system it really helps because often times people around us see us totally different than we see ourselves. Those that love you can be realistic with you but you’d be surprised at how much more positively they see you than you see yourself. 
  5. Go against the bad, negative, poor thoughts that you say to yourself. I am currently reading a book recommended to me by someone that I respect and admire. It’s called Me, Myself & Lies by Jennifer Rothschild.  One of the things she shares is an interview she had with someone and this person discussed how she went against the negative thoughts in her head. She has a three step approach that goes as follows: Refuse things that are inaccurate, unkind, or unedifying; replace them with what is good, pure and just; and then repeat that process for as long as it takes to bring your thoughts under control.

We all go through hard situations in life. Life is not always easy but somethng that can help us get through those tough moments is how we talk to ourselves. How we treat ourselves is important. I remind myself everyday that I am not perfect but I am doing my very best. I am amazing, I am loved, I am valuable, I have purpose and whatever negative thing somene else feels about me is not my problem. I really want to encourage you to get some positive affirmations about yourself and start speaking them to yourself. It will change how you handle life and how you respond to those around you. You can do it because you’re amazing!

Where’s Your Focus?

Where’s Your Focus?

Have you ever been in a situation where someone has come in and decided that there needed to be some changes made? Maybe it’s new management or people new to a church or place of business. From our perspective walking into something we can see how so many things need to change without knowing anything about the people, organization, or the insides. We don’t have the inside scoop but we’ve already determined how something can be better than what it is that we visibly see.

For example, I’ve worked places as a regular employee and as an assistant manager. At times, new managers would come in to replace the current manager and this could be for several reasons. The current manager could have gotten promoted or they quit or they got fired. Either way there’s a new person walking in and they’ve got a lot of great ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that but before making all of these changes they didn’t stop to take the time to learn the current environment. They didn’t take the time to sit back and observe how things were currently operating. They didn’t ask us, the people who are most familiar with that current area or business, any questions. They just started changing the things that they perceived could work better or look better.

After these changes were made they expected that things would run more effectively. They anticipated that the changes that they made would result in better production, better numbers, increase in customer satisfaction, increase in employee performance and satisfaction. Things would now run more efficiently and as the new manager in training or manager they would be able to report to the district manager all of these amazing changes made that equaled these amazing results. But strangely, that wouldn’t be what happened. Things either got worse or didn’t change at all. Employees got frustrated or felt overlooked and quit. Employee morale went down and we were less productive. This new manager is wondering why none of the changes actually helped. What happened?

One of the most valuable tools I learned from a previous manager who came into a new store after the manager we had got promoted was don’t walk in and change anything immediately. She explained that every time she took over after another manager that she at least spent the first two weeks to a month simply observing. Watching the employees and how they interacted with each other. Watching the employees interact with the customers. Talking to the customers and watching the flow of the store. Watching the different shifts and how the transitions were between the morning shift and afternoon shift. Taking the time to meet with the assistant managers or employees that have been there a long time to get to know and understand them a little before having an all staff meeting. She would ask questions. Sometimes to everyone as a group. Other times she’d speak with individuals asking them different questions.

After observing and asking questions she would then start making gradual changes. Some of those changes would be non-negotiable. Other changes would be a group consensus meaning she would ask us all which change we thought would be most effective. She explained this process to me, when I’d started the journey to become an assistant manager, as part of my training. And how she explained it to me is something that has always stuck with me. She said “When walking into a new situation or when there has been a change in management your most valuable assets are the people that are currently there. Naturally, when coming into new environments we see things differently and want to make changes. But it’s not always the appearance of things that need the immediate change. It’s not always how things are set up that contribute to whether something is successful or not. It’s the people. They know more about this store, the system, the customers, and the environment than I do. They know why things are done a certain way because that’s what makes things more productive. So it would be a huge mistake on my part to come in and decide that everything they’re doing needs to change without actually learning anything about this store or the people who operate it. It’s also an insult to them and communicates that I don’t think they know what they’re doing which not only affects employee morale, but now also affects how they receive instruction from me. So anytime you step in as a new person or new employee or new manager always take time to observe and ask questions.”

My question is how often do we do this? How often do we watch someone doing something and think of ways we can do it better without having all the information? How often do we walk into to places and think how much better something would look or run not knowing anything about the business? How many times do we observe someone doing a particular job and create a list of things mentally we think they could do better, should do better or how we think certain things should operate without knowing a thing about what it takes to do that persons job? Do we give the benefit of the doubt? Do we show grace? Do we tap into the most important resource (the people) and ask questions?

Often times our focus in life can be on the wrong thing. We focus so much on what we perceive things to look like without taking the time to dig deeper and acquire more information. We fail, at times, to use our most important resources. I’m reminded of the story in the Bible where Jesus is there and one sister is flustered, running around trying to prepare things. She’s upset that her sister isn’t helping her and is instead sitting at Jesus’ feet. She even says to Jesus “Hey don’t you think my sister should be helping me?” and Jesus tells her she’s focused on the wrong thing. Her sister is where she should be. All the pomp and circumstance to prepare for Jesus and the other people seemed important but how many opportunities did she think she would get to just sit with Jesus and talk to Him? He’s right there! Be present in the moment. Pay attention to what’s most important. Ask the questions you need to ask. Take value in the people you have with you in that moment. Take advantage of what you can learn or what you need so you can be effective. So you can prosper.

Sometimes the reason things aren’t successful initially or at all is because we lost focus. We didn’t take advantage of the resources we had. We aimed to make changes in a situation without having all the facts. We sometimes don’t see the success of something the way we think we should because we are focused on the wrong thing. We’ve looked at a situation for a short time and have then deemed we have all of the answers when in all actuality we know little to nothing. We haven’t asked God for direction, wisdom, knowledge or even if this is what He wants us to do but then we want Him to bless it after the fact. We want Him to fix the things that are not going well but we didn’t seek Him before we made the change. We made the change in haste without seeking the change agent.

I know I’ve done this before- even recently. So when God reminded me of this I went 😳🤦🏾‍♀️. If you’ve got things not going quite right in life. If you’ve started a new business, a new job, made new friendships or relationships, had some transitions in the work place and you seem a little frustrated or irritated take a step back and reevaluate your initial point of focus. Stop and look at what changes or decisions you’ve made without asking questions or having the facts and readjust. Pray! Ask God to forgive you and then ask Him to make it plain what changes you need to make going forward. Then take it all as a lesson for the next time and remember to adjust your focus. Ask yourself what’s most important in that situation so that what you do next prospers.