Most, if not all of my clients, have heard me discuss the difference between “being” and “doing”. We are human beings, not human doings, after all. In conversation, the question usually comes in “What do you do?” more often than “Who are you?”. This doing is often what we use to define and present ourselves to the world: writer, singer, lawyer, counselor, mother, employee, etc. While nothing is wrong with these labels, using them as our only way to define ourselves can be. For example, what happens when your primary function of doing is no longer needed? Or if you become unable to do because of mental or physical health issues? Or perhaps what you do stops feeding your spirit?
Without a definition to tell ourselves and others what we do, we may lose our sense of value and self-esteem in who we are. Without identity we often feel lost, searching for our place in the world. While the labels for our actions can shift and change with time, our sense of self and value stay with us. The question becomes how can we be who we are outside of what we do?
I often see how living outside of one’s authenticity can create negative experiences and unwanted emotional states. Perhaps when a job or relationship is no longer a good fit, we try to mold ourselves into someone else but only find we are more and more miserable. To spend some time working to listen to our needs, boundaries, and values can help us live more authentically. It isn’t always easy to just be but we owe it to ourselves to know who we are in order to live our best lives.
So, take a few minutes to get to know yourself a bit more deeply. Think on what makes you, you. What is important to you? Are you living according to those priorities? Are your actions in line with your authentic self? How will you introduce yourself or ask about others differently with this in mind? Please share in the comments section. I would love to know more about you as you are.
Sandhill offices are named with words above each door. Some included are laugh, play, be, courage, believe, and gratitude. I feel inspired by these words, taking moments here and there to contemplate how they each fit into my life.
When I first began my journey as an Independent Contractor with Sandhill, the main office I used was “Gratitude”. It was a perfect match for what I felt in joining the practice and starting a new life in the St. Louis area. Gratitude is something I practice for my own health and well-being and encourage its use to friends, family, and clients. I believe it is an honor to be a safe and comfortable place for people to share their intimate thoughts and feelings. I am grateful to those who have placed such trust in me. I treasure the opportunity to be a part of their journey.
Gratitude is a powerful tool; however, it is sometimes used in unhealthy ways. Does this sound familiar? “You should be grateful!” or “I have it better than most people, I need to be grateful and get over this.” These statements may be intended in a helpful way but the benefit isn’t there.
When we experience difficulties, our brain is processing and thinking about those struggles. Sometimes these thoughts are toward problem solving, sometimes they are related to disbelief, confusion, frustration and many others. We can often start to think hurtful things about ourselves. Those hurtful thoughts don’t usually lead to problem solving but just more hurtful thoughts.
Instead of an OR approach, I recommend an AND approach. For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I can feel upset OR I can feel grateful,” try saying, “I can feel upset AND grateful.” Feeling pain and struggling doesn’t mean you lack gratitude, it just means you are feeling pain and struggling too. Sometimes our brains get stuck in our struggle, our dislike of ourselves, and a belief that the world is out to get us. When we hurt, it is so difficult to turn things around. Perhaps adopting the “AND” approach can be a small step toward your healing.
I saw an article recently that talked about how important it is to go to kids' events (sports games, concerts, recitals, etc). It pointed out how much this means to kids and how the child looks for the parents to be there. I agree it is important to go to your children's events but we don't need to go to all of their events. For one thing, if you have more than one child, eventually things will overlap. For another, many parents work hours that make attending events regularly impossible.
Growing up, my stepdad always worked second or third shift. He usually had Saturday and Sunday off. This meant that any event on a weeknight, he had to miss. I would, of course, know that he was not going to attend because I knew he had to work. I was never disappointed by this as I knew he was doing what needed to be done. My mom attended events but for things like sports, she was clueless. I looked forward to the weekend and talking to my dad and filling him in on how the game went. He showed interest in what I had done and that is what mattered to me.
I also know families where both parents work shifts that make them miss events. But again, asking about the event later and showing interest shows that the parents care.
I write this blog because I want parents to know that it is okay to not attend all events. Life is hectic! You can connect with your kids in other ways.
Beep, beep, beep (imagine your alarm clock).
I don't like even thinking about it. I am not a morning person (and I'm not a night owl-I really like to sleep). Recently I had to wake up extra early to take my oldest to school. She was very much awake and very chatty. I wanted to ask her to be quiet since I wasn't in the mood to talk. I didn't though. I took this rare opportunity to chat with her.
Usually, when she comes home from school I'm lucky to have a one minute conversation with her (I mostly receive grunts). In car rides, she often puts in ear buds. I miss the chatter from when she was little. So, I ignored my impulse to tell her it was too early for so much talking.
And you know what, I enjoyed it. We laughed and connected. It was a short ride but enjoyable. I made sure to tell her that.
I hope we have more opportunities.
As 2018 came to an end, I reflected on a tradition that we started last January. We made Sunday nights a Family Movie night. Almost every Sunday, we sat down as a family and watched a movie. If there was an event on Sunday we had to attend (such as an orchestra concert), we would watch one on Friday or Saturday night. If everyone was really tired, it was only half a movie one week and then finish it the next. A few times, we only watched a short cartoon (such as Garfield's Halloween). For the most part we watched Disney animated movies. We did throw in all three Back to the Future movies, though, for good measure. This year we think we are going to focus on more live action Disney movies (we love Disney). It has now become a weekly ritual we all value.
It is really great to all hang out together. I look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
Vacation Destinations: Disney World, Branson, the Grand Canyon, Europe, the Bahamas, the Lake of the Ozarks, St. Louis
These are a small sample of places people go on vacations. My family has been to some of them and hope to go to more some day. Vacation is a priority for us. My husband and I value it and include saving for it in our monthly budget. To us, vacation offers us a chance to have quality family time and experience new things. On trips, we try to do activities that hit everyone's interests. We also split up at times and offer some one-on-one time with each kid. Of course, that is not always possible but for the most part we can accomplish it.
I imagine, at times, our travelling may seem excessive but I haven't regretted a trip yet. (Although catch me in a moment of meltdown by someone during the trip and I may answer differently, it's not roses and sunshine the whole trip;). The months leading up to vacations typically involve lots of planning. This is fun for me and another way to connect. I like to discuss with my family the different plans and options available.
I understand that I am lucky to be able to regularly vacation. I know many who are not able to do so. I also know many don't value vacations. I encourage everyone to try though. Even if it is just a long weekend together, the family time is invaluable. There are lots of ways to make it affordable (Groupon and Orbitz time websites) and making some small changes to spending can make a big difference. My kids do extra chores for us, other family members, and neighbors we know in order to have spending money for trips (even my six year old). We also ask for gift cards for the holidays to use on trips.
Some of my best memories of childhood are the trips I took with my family. We didn't usually have a ton of money but my family made it work. It was worth it!
It's A Wonderful Life
"I wish I'd never been born."
This is a quote from George Bailey in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." In saying that, his guardian angel decides to show him what life would be like for his friends, family, and others if George had never been born. I attempt to discuss this movie with many clients because of it's message. I'm shocked by how many young people have never seen this movie. Maybe this is because it is one of my mom's favorites so I've seen it a lot, but also because I know it has been parodied frequently.
I bring it up with clients because I want them to understand what an impact they can have on the world. I hear too often that no one would miss them if they were gone (and then they say maybe only their parents) and that they (the client) don't matter. I point out that just like a drop of rain in a river spreads out and effects more then we know, they too have an impact. We explored what impact they may have already made and what kind of impact they hope to make.
The movie usually airs during the holiday season. Check in out and discuss with your kids how they think things would be different if they had never been born. Help them connect how they matter and want they want to do in this world.
Image Source: Everett Collection
← USE ARROWS KEYS →
Image Source: Everett Collection
← USE ARROWS KEYS →
Image Source: Everett Collection
"Time to Clean up"
If you have kids, you've said this. If you are lucky, your kids start cleaning up right away. If your kids are like mine, most of the time this is not immediately done. Heck, half the time my kids don't even "hear" me. One of my closest friends recently told me about the toy jail she has at her house and how it has been helping with clean up.
Here's how it works: The kids are asked to clean up their toys. After some time, she asks the kids if they are done. If they say yes, she reminds them that anything still out will go into toy jail. Often this results in the kids taking another run around the house to pick up last minute toys they missed. Once done, my friend then checks the house. Anything left goes in toy jail. Any toys that end up in jail remain there until a chore (assigned by the parent) is completed. If a toy remains in toy jail for too long, it is donated (the length of time depends on what works for your family).
I loved this idea! It has really been helping her with less push for clean up.
Let me know if you try it out
The picture is an example of a PostSecret posted at www.postsecret.com. I have spent time every Sunday over the last twelve years going to that website.
It is an amazing experience! I also own numerous PostSecret books.
Frank Warren created PostSecret in 2005. Anyone can send in an anonymous homemade postcard with a secret on it. Frank then picks from the ones he receives and posts them on the website, puts them in his books, or displays them at exhibits he does all around the country.
The postcards encompass a wide range of feelings and secrets. Some will make you tear up and some will make you laugh. Throughout the years, I've read many that I could have written. Some I've even wondered if a friend or family member has written. That is what makes the experience so amazing. It shows us we are all connected. There is a stranger somewhere who has felt what we felt and dealt with something similar to us.
I encourage you to check out the site and maybe even send in a secret.
I recently saved the from a post on Facebook. I had been wanting to write about that very topic for some time. Too many times a week I hear clients dismiss their feelings because "someone else has it worse." The fact is, yes, that is often true but that does not lessen the feelings of pain, sadness, etc. that my client is experiencing.
We are allowed to feel whatever we are feeling regardless if someone else is suffering more. How we respond and react to those feelings is under our control but our feelings are never wrong.
Sometimes I am sad or mad and I can think of many examples of people who have it worse, but that doesn't mean my feelings are not valid. I am often happy and in a good mood but never think "well someone else has it better than me right now so I shouldn't be happy." So why do we do that with sadness and pain.
It can be powerful to respond to sadness by looking for why we are grateful. Not because we are wrong to feel sad or need to get over it, but because it can make us feel better. And yet, it is also okay to sit with the sadness for some time. As long as we are not hurting ourselves or others, we can survive uncomfortable feelings.
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!