Working Through Cycles of Personal Growth

We often think of growth as happening one direction. Growing things expand and get older, they don’t shrink or get younger. If something is not moving forward, then it’s not growing.

But maybe that’s not always the case, especially when we’re talking about personal growth journeys. Growth like this doesn’t happen all at once or in a steady direction. Sometimes, a thing that you thought you dealt with will come back and needs to be worked through again. You often have to keep going back over the same ground in order to make progress.

This isn’t failure to grow. But it might look like it depending on our perspective. If we’re the type of person who wants to get everything right the first time, then it can be discouraging when we find ourselves having to deal with something we thought we’d already worked through. We might even decided that since we failed once there’s no point in trying again. But that isn’t really a healthy or helpful perspective.

New “Thought Paths” Take Time

Last year, I wrote a post about changing thought patterns related to anxiety. In that post, I talked about my counselor’s analogy of our minds as a big open field. As we live and grow, our thoughts travel over this field and we start to wear-down paths as we think along the same lines over and over. When we identify “thought paths” that aren’t doing us any good we need to create new pathways in our mind by learning to think in a different way. To do that, you have to keep going over the new paths again and again. Read more

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When You’re Crushed Like Dust

Have you ever felt like your spirit is crushed and your heart broken? Like you’ve been pounded into dust or smashed to smithereens?

Those are the definitions for the Hebrew words shabar (H7665, broken) and dakka (H1793, crushed). I bring them up because I want to talk about this verse from Psalms:

Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. (Psalm 34:18, WEB)

When you’re ground down like dust and broken into pieces, God is there beside you. We often want Him to prevent or remove bad things but it seems that in most cases His preference is to walk with us through hardship rather than stop it from ever happening. We are promised deliverance, but in His timing, not ours.

Suffering and Deliverance

Let’s read some of the context for this verse (you can click here to read the whole Psalm).

The righteous cry, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19, WEB)

It’s clear from this psalm that righteousness doesn’t exempt us from bad situations. In fact, “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and they have to cry to Yahweh for deliverance. That holds true for believers throughout the ages.

I endured those persecutions. The Lord delivered me out of them all. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:11-12, WEB)

Here’s Paul, centuries after David, expressing the same truths. Those who follow God must expect to endure afflictions and persecutions, but they can also expect deliverance. Read more

Take Care of Yourself and Feel Everything

How much time do you spend taking care of yourself? I’m starting to realize self-care really is important. In fact, one might argue it’s vital if you want to keep functioning. Of course you don’t want to develop a self-centered attitude, but meeting your own needs isn’t selfish. In fact, it’s kind of a prerequisite for being unselfish because you can’t be there for other people if you’re worn so thin there’s nothing left to give.

I backed a Kickstarter last week called “Own Your Stigma – A Pin Series.” The creator lives with anxiety, depression, and ADHD and wanted to make a series of enamel pins for other people with an invisible illness. The Kickstarter is closed now, but they’ll be opening up for other pre-orders within a few days if you’re interested. I’m not quite sure which ones I’m going to order yet, but I’m strongly leaning toward this one after the week I’ve had:

Snarky Co. pins

I talk about my anxiety pretty openly now. But I have a much harder time talking about my depression. For some reason, admitting I struggle with that washes me in a sense of shame that I don’t really feel anymore in connection with anxiety. So it’s not all that easy for me to write that for the past six days I’ve been barely functioning because even though nothing happened that would explain me feeling depressed I just emotionally “crashed.”

I probably won’t be ordering this particular pin style, but this past week climbing out of bed or talking with people did feel like something I might deserve a ribbon for.

Snarky Co. pins

It’s amazing how “little things” that seem so easy when you’re not walking around in an apathetic fog or feeling like you could fall asleep any moment suddenly become well-nigh impossible Writing, cooking, eating, driving, interacting with people — they’ve all felt incredibly difficult. But there are some things I’ve just had to keep doing, like meeting certain work deadlines, eating food, and going to church. I know that if I miss those things I’ll feel worse and/or it will have long-term negative effects on things that are important to me when I do care. So I made myself get them done.

Still, even though there are some things you just have to keep doing when you’re down, I don’t think it’s good to push yourself to do all things you’d be doing if you felt fine. It’s okay to crawl back in bed for a while when you feel like you can’t sit upright a moment longer. It’s okay to feel sad, guilty, confused, anxious, etc. even if it’s for no reason that you can identify. Which brings us to one pin I definitely want to get from this series:

Snarky Co. pins

The text on this pin reads “feel everything.” I’m becoming a firm believer in this. I certainly don’t mean you should let your emotions control you or that your feelings are always going to tell you something that’s good for you. But I do think it’s vital that we let ourselves feel what we’re feeling and learn to process those emotions in a healthy way. Bottling things up and refusing to address them doesn’t usually make them go away. It just lets them build up until you’re forced to deal with a whole messy jumble of emotions farther down the road.

So let’s all make the time to take care of ourselves and give ourselves permission to feel everything. And maybe we can all learn together how to process the tough things and help each other when we’re struggling.


If you like the pins I’ve talked about in this post, then make sure you check out Snarky Co. Here’s a link to their Instagram.

Featured image credit: Foundry Co via Pixabay

Mental Illness and Musicals

The theater where my sister and I hold season tickets is getting the touring Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen for its 2019/2020 season. Pretty exciting, right? Actually, I’m excited about the entire upcoming season. It’s packed full of musicals, and they’re all such good titles that I can’t say there’s one that I’m least exited to see.

I can, however, tell you that Dear Evan Hansen is one I’m most excited about. Two years ago, this musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. And it more than earned those accolades with brilliant scrip, music, characters, and acting all coming together to tell a story that contributes to an important conversation about mental illness. Read more

What If We Stopped Trying To Impress People?

I like to keep the people around me happy. I want harmony in all my relationships, and I hate conflict. Take all those (along with a few other personality traits and some insecurities) together, and you end up with someone who’s been a “people pleaser” for most of her life.

It’s normal for FJ personality types to act based on what will meet everyone’s needs and work to maintain harmonious relationships. That’s because they use Extroverted Feeling, or “Harmony,” as their decision-making process. But at some point in their personal growth journey, FJs need to realize that 1) you’re part of the “everyone” whose needs should be met, and 2) it’s impossible to please everyone.

Since writing my post “Are You Ready To Find Your Weirdness?” I’ve been thinking about what effect embracing authenticity will have on interpersonal relationships. One of the things I’ve realized is that instead of trying to adjust my presentation of myself to impress specific people, I need to focus more on bringing my best self to every conversation and interaction. If they’re impressed by that, cool, but if not it’s okay. Failing to please everyone isn’t really failure at all. It’s just something that happens.

We Can’t Please Everyone

It’s impossible to connect with everyone unless you’re adjusting yourself to please them. There’s far too much variety in human beings’ beliefs and preferences for your authentic self to resonate equally well with every person. In fact, if we’re being honest, I’m sure there are some types of people you don’t really want to resonate with. For example, you’d probably worry about yourself if a Klu Klux Klan member felt that you understood and agreed with them 100%. Read more

Are You Ready To Find Your Weirdness?

What makes you weird?

Last week, I listened to a JP Sears podcast titled “You’re Weirder Than You Can Think,” which is all about discovering and expressing your weirdness. Now, maybe you think your weirdness is a bad/scary thing that you need to hide from others. Or maybe you think you’re normal and not weird at all. Why on earth would you want to discover and express your weirdness?

JP defines “weirdness” as the things that make you uniquely you. In other words, “weirdness” is the traits of your authentic self. It’s your personality, your quirks, your passions, your defining features, the things you love to talk about, and so much more. What makes you “weird” is what makes you “you,” and figuring out what that is can be a great step in your personal growth journey. With that framework, he challenged everyone to do a 4-step exercise:

  1. Write down three things that make you weird.
  2. Thank each of these things for making you uniquely you.
  3. Find a way to express each of those weird traits in your life today.
  4. Check-in at the end of the day to assess how you did on completing Step 3.

And then you do that each day for seven days in a row.

Journeying Into My Weirdness

I’m sharing this post on the last day of my weirdness journey. I thought for sure I’d have no problem coming up with 21 examples of my weirdness, but it was actually more challenging than I’d anticipated.

It’s not that I don’t have unique traits or perspectives. Rather, I was getting hung-up on Step 3 before I wrote anything down for Step 1. I didn’t want to write something in the first step that would end up being hard, uncomfortable, or impossible to express that day.

Of course, avoiding an aspect of my weirdness because I find it uncomfortable probably misses the point of this whole exercise. Read more