8 How-to’s to Be a Better You

As a parent and as a mental health professional I spend a lot of my time helping others. Honestly, “a lot” is probably a gross understatement. Don’t get me wrong, its why I went into the profession. I wanted, and still want, to help people, save the world, solve world hunger, create a legacy. In reality, after almost eighteen years, I’m tired. (HOLY CRAP.. Its almost been 18 years of #adultin.) When I say I’m tired, what I mean is, my soul is tired, I’m still tired from pregnancy and its never stopped. Nevermind, my little is five years old. I’m sure so many of you mommas can relate to this. So instead of making a New Years resolution this year to be kinder, or cut back from work, or loose weight, I challenged myself to become more of me. I must say after almost three months in I am pretty happy with the progress. I don’t want the mantra of “become more of me”, or “you” as it turns out,  to sound so cutesy, or cliché or shabby chic picture worthy (even though I do love these inspo photos), it has been nitty gritty hard work. So in the off chance that I can help another momma in need be a better version of herself I offer up what is working for me.

1. No.
Yep, the word “No” is a full sentence. I take no credit for this pearl of wisdom. I actually read this as a quote from Mary Kate Olsen (yes.. that Mary Kate of Full House fame) This seems like such a no-brainer but is it really? For so long I had a hard time just saying “No”.  My answer of “No” was often, if not always, followed by an explanation for my “no”. As if I owed the receiver an explanation and understanding of why I could not accommodate their needs.  Example: “I’m sorry we are not able to attend Jimmy’s birthday.”  Before embracing no as a full sentence I would have provided the reasoning for why we couldn’t attend Jimmy’s party. Which also meant if I didn’t want to come to Jimmy’s party but I didn’t have a good reason not to go, I begrudenly went, against my own pangs of exhaustion. Which leads me into number two.

 


2. Setting boundaries is healthy.

Again, I repeat. Learn the word, “no”. Time is the only thing that we can never get back nor create more of, it truly is the most precious commodity. Don’t commit to more than you can do and don’t commit to more than what you want to do. The only person that suffers is you.


 


 

3. Vacation.
Okay, I know what you are saying. “With what money?”, “With what time”. I know times are financially trying and getting your workaholic partner to take off seems improbable. Oh,whats that you say?  You are the workaholic partner, so taking time off is not only improbable but feels impossible. I get it. I do. No, really I do. However, it doesn’t matter. When you die your job will replace you. Heck, if you die your spouse might even replace you. Probably not what you want to hear but it’s the truth. Do you know who can’t replace you? Your children. Your parents. Your siblings. You are here to create memories and instill moments so deeply etched in their souls that even after death they will have these collected moments to recall some happy. So its your job to go out and create that happy. By the way by vacation I don’t mean break the family budget and go to Bora Bora. I mean take a couple of days every few months that you step away from normal home and work life to indulge in making memories. No work phones (or dramatically reduce the times you have to tend to work matters for those of us who cannot disconnect entirely). Just be, whatever that means for you and your family. Take pleasure in doing whatever activity your partner enjoys, be it scuba diving or visiting swap meets. Ask the kids what they really have been itching to do and let them take a whack at it. Its such a great growth moment when you can experience the people you love doing what they love. These are the moments that create memories. (As a side, if you are one of the thousands of families that believe you cannot afford a family vacation and you’ve scoured every discount travel site online to no avail, please do not rule out contacting a travel agent. Many travel agents can still get you deep discounts if not online advertised pricing with the option of payment plans, making a family trip a real possibility.)


 

4. Try something new.
Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a cooking class. Try Tai-chai. Plant a garden. The importance in this activity is that you get to ground yourself in trying something new. It will require you learning a new skill set and developing cognitively. Challenging our minds is just as important as working out our bodies. Engage your partner or your children in these activities, but don’t get discouraged if they fail to engage. Remember ultimately this is your activity for yourself but embrace the curiosity of others want to partake with you. It is just as interesting for your kids to see you accomplish something new as it is for you to watch them do something they enjoy.


 

5. Get comfortable with Gray.
Not everything in life is black and white. Sometimes it seems like maybe things would be simpler if they were, but that’s not reality. Therefore, we have to reframe our thinking to accommodate the situation. Many people will dislike the gray area of ambiguity between where they want to be and where they are. As an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) learning to reside in the gray matter of life was extremely difficult to me. The unpredictability was almost suffocating at times. This is not uncommon for ACOA’s or others who have suffered trauma in childhood. Unfortunately, no one can go this journey for you so you must traverse the distance or settle with not trying at all. The upside is that you have the opportunity of this distance. Imagine how sad it would be if someone knocked on your door today and said, “your numbers up. No more personal growth for you”, that would be pretty miserable living out the rest of your days knowing that you were at the highest intellectual and physical level you could ever achieve. Lucky for you, that’s not the case. Be okay with the gray. The gray areas of life are growth opportunities. It is where we test our skills and strength, it challenges us, and while some life experiences feel like they take us to the brink of life, we have this amazing opportunity to come out mentally and physically stronger.


 

6. Do something each day that is filled with purpose.
Do at least one thing every day that builds your legacy. Maybe you want to one day open up a cupcake shop. At least once a day pull out your notebook and work on a business idea, research bakery design, start putting your recipes onto paper. It just takes baby steps each day to live your purpose. I promise there is no such thing as an overnight success. They do not exist. Anyone that every achieved anything has long before dreamed it. I constantly am working on or revising business plans however, being a good parent is paramount to me. Because my child is part of my legacy I write her emails fairly frequently to tell her something that I would want her to know in the event of my untimely demise. Sorry to sound macabre but the one thing I know I cannot control is life departure dates, as such, I try to plan accordingly. Because I am her mother I know there are some gems of wisdom that I want her to have, that only I know that they will pertain to her, that only she would want to hear from me and not recanted by a family member in my absence. For all of these reasons, I use email as a story telling to her. Sometimes its pictures I send, sometimes I include a sentence or two, other times not. Sometimes it’s a quote. Sometimes it is something funny that happened and I want to memorialize in time so life doesn’t get in the way of either of us remembering that moment, that day. Our children and our work are our greatest legacies.


 

7. Be cautious of the Kaleidoscope Effect.
The kaleidoscope effect is when we see the world through a distorted lens. We minimize our accomplishments or the accomplishments of our loved ones and yet maximize the negative experiences. Take life on life’s terms. Not every day will be puppy dogs and kitty cats. Some days will be outright disappointing. Somedays we will give 110% and still come out defeated. One of the hardest lessons in life is to give our all, do our best, and still take an “L”. In fact, this was me in marriage. No matter how hard I loved, or how much I loved, I had to come to terms that I was only one half of a whole. Take the bad days, the hard losses, the failures, then realize them for what they are, nothing more, nothing less. I actually do not put a lot of stock into failure. The word failure sounds so negative just rolling off my tongue. Instead, take the outcome and realize that you now know what not to do next time. Now you know what doesn’t work so you can try something different. Experiences, even people, may break your heart but you cannot allow it to break your soul. Having a bad experience make you bitter is the only way a person can truly be defeated. When the good days come relish in them. You earned it. It’s such a great feeling when hard work and passion meet to create favorable outcomes. Remember not to relish too long in any one high or dwell in any one low though. Life is a balance of pull and push, ebb and flow, ying and yang. Stay humble.


 

8. Be Kind.
No, not to others. Not that that’s not important, but especially to yourself. I don’t weigh what I would like too. I have two deep furrow lines in my forehead that keep me dreaming about botox. It’s a struggle to match my clothes on some days. Trust me, I’m far from physical perfection. However, each day I do one thing that shows gratitude to the body I am in. As an example, I would never walk up to another person and say “you look like poop today”, and thus I’ve decided I should not say it to myself either. Instead, once a day I find a quiet moment to point out something about my physical self I appreciate. (Today, I was grateful that I have use of my limbs, yesterday it was my unique cluster of moles on my stomach.)


 

Another example is that years past I would not have purchased an expensive item for myself without much (much, much) deliberation, but whatever the kids wanted they would get. Sure, you want those new sneakers for $190.00 or that new video game system, done and done. But when it came to myself I would not have even considered sneakers that high priced. I break my neck getting my daughter to doctor’s appointments, gymnastics, school activities, but when it comes to me I could never find the time. Schedule a massage? Nooooo, I couldn’t. That sounds indulgent. Get to the gym three times a week for an hour… who can fit that into their schedule? Well, goodbye old me. I liked you but I’m working on a better version of me. Now, I schedule the gym into my calendar as if its just as important as a work meeting. I mean, who’s going to afford the $190 sneakers for my kid or taxi her around to all of her events if I’m not healthy enough to be around to do it? I had to take a step back and realize that my well had run dry and its was no one’s responsibility to replenish it but me. Not my partners and not my kids. I am responsible for my own well-being. It is not selfish to engage in self-care. You must take care of yourself with the same love and the same tenacity as you do with all the other family members.  

 

- Written by Lisa Gantt
Co-host, The Couch with Kristin & Lisa


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