Victim Thinking & Behavio

Getting Everything You Want and Being Pissed About It

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My parking garage empties out into an alley behind my apartment building. I live in downtown Santa Monica, so it's a pretty tight fit between a bunch of apartment complexes and both big and small stores. The alley is used by those of us who live in the buildings for parking, for deliveries to the stores (West Elm and Pottery Barn in particular), and for utility access. There's also been construction directly across the alley on a new building for the entire year that I've lived here. 

The gym classes that I attend are in the mornings at 9:30. The gym is just under 2 miles from my house, so usually if I leave around 9:15 that gets me to the gym at about 9:25. Recently, the addition of a boxing class to my 9:30am gym schedule means that I also need to factor in some extra time to wrap my wrists before class, so I've been leaving around 9:05. This is going somewhere, I promise. 

For the last few weeks, each time I leave my house in the morning the alley is a total, and this is a technical term, clusterfuck. Without fail I wind up behind a garbage truck collecting trash, or West Elm and Pottery Barn would stagger their delivery trucks on either side of the alley making it nearly impossible to sneak through, or, as it's been the last few days, they're ripping up all of the concrete to do something with the utilities. Between this alley mess and general traffic, I kept rolling into class right as it starts or late, feeling rude and rushed. I was pissed that even though I was trying to give myself enough time, it was never enough time to actually get there on time. And, to make me even angrier, it kept happening day after day. 

Awareness was the first step, and after literally sitting in my alley for 20 minutes one morning trying to get to the gym, I knew I needed to change my approach. I hated feeling rushed, rude, and like a spaz, so I decided that I'd leave the house the next morning before 9am. So, one fateful Thursday morning before boxing class, I headed to the elevator and made it to my car 3 floors underground by 8:55am. 

Getting out of the parking garage was a cinch. I checked the mirrors to enter the alley, and, to my surprise, it was completely empty. There wasn't a utility crew, delivery truck, construction dumpster, or garbage truck in sight. I cruised through the alley, and upon entering the street, I made a difficult turn without any traffic. I caught the light right by my house, then every light down Fourth Street, which was also mysteriously empty. Even where Fourth Street crosses Los Angeles's infamous "The Ten" freeway, there wasn't a car or red light to be found. I pulled up to the gym at 9:08am. 

I was pissed. Thoughts raced through my head, "Are you freaking serious? The ONE DAY I give myself so much time to get here, and there's not a single hold up!? Of course that would happen..." 

What? This makes no sense. I caught myself in the moment. Hold up, gurrrl. I literally got exactly what I wanted. I set out to get to the gym without being late or held up, and that's exactly what happened. This was victim thinking at work. Instead of being grateful to myself for identifying a problem, committing to a solution, and then getting blessed by the Los Angeles traffic gods to get to my class on time, I decided to throw a pity party because things went too well. NONSENSE. I was looking for reasons to feel victimized and on the whim of the nefarious world, and I was determined to find them --- SO I FOUND THEM EVEN WHEN I GOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED. 

It was never about the thing I wanted. It was my mindset and thought patterns falling back into a negative, victimy, and lazy groove. It was about feeling like shit no matter the outcome, and rationalizing my shitty reaction. It was a choice to be empty and pissed off rather than fulfilled and happy for the outcome - whatever it may be. 

I quickly changed my tone. Felt gratitude for myself, felt gratitude to the LA traffic gods, felt gratitude for getting to the gym safely and quickly, felt excitement at the added opportunity to chat extra with my coach and fellow boxers, and my day turned around. Interesting side note, if not for this whole little episode, my coach wouldn't have told me that he was interested in becoming Totem's first Ambassador. 

Shifted mindset = more open to opportunity. Better mindset and thought process = ability to see the awesomeness standing right in front of you. 

What I've learned over and over again is that if you're doing something on the micro, you're definitely doing it on the macro too. What I mean is, how you think about the day to day stuff you encounter shapes the big picture life stuff you're trying to build and create. So if you're getting pissy about traffic, you're definitely getting pissy about your love life, career, businesses, friendships, diet...whatever. 

It's important to learn how to observe and track your own feelings, behaviors, and emotional responses in real time, so that you can figure out when you're operating against your own best interest. The easiest, most in your face way to do this is to watch how you handle simple day to day tasks, bumps in the road, and mild annoyances. It's hard to zoom out and see how your thought processes and reactions might be sabotaging your big picture goals, but you have nearly constantly opportunity to see what you're doing in the minutia of your life. 

There's a saying that goes around that says, "How you do one thing is how you do all things." Although I think there's some limitations to this, context matters, it is just an aphorism after all, I think it holds some merit when it comes to your emotional responses to situations. Without realizing it, you might be sabotaging long term efforts for short term self-righteousness or victimhood, which might feel like a victory in the moment but will leave you feeling empty, hopeless, and apathetic long term. All of which then validates your short sighted reactions and continues the cycle of pity parties and being miserable no matter what outcome you might create for yourself. 

Fixing this underlying thought process is critical to happiness, fulfillment, and a joyful life. You can get everything you want and the lights might all be in your favor, but if you have a shitty mindset you'll still be pissed and empty once you have it. On the contrary, if you shift your mindset to find ways to support and love yourself and the opportunities in the world, not only will things you want come more easily, but once you have them you'll feel amazing about it. Content, even. It's a choice - choose to be empower yourself or choose to blame, project, be angry, and victimize yourself. 

This is all a long way of saying: Keeping an eye on day to day reactions, behaviors, and emotional knee jerks can often paint a clearer picture of the same reactions, behaviors, and knee jerks that are actually guiding your big picture goals. Then, once you identify what you're doing that's holding you back, you can adjust accordingly. Finally, once you realize that starting with gratitude is the key, you'll always be happy for what you create for yourself. If you start with a victim mindset, the thing you're chasing or building will never bring you what you think it will. 

6 Ways Fear Shows Up in Your Life & Stops You From Being Awesome

 Photo by  Niklas Hamann  on  Unsplash

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

Fear plays a huge role in how willing or unwilling we are to step outside of our current life and start creating a life that we're excited about. As we covered in the first blog post in my keto series, before you can address a problem you have to gain clarity around what exactly is going on. Fear shows up in our lives for a lot of good reasons, but it's this very fear that's trying to protect us that is holding us back from living large and in charge. You can tell if fear is running the show in your life if you feel hopeless, helpless, mildly depressed, empty, unfulfilled, chronically anxious, and like you're meant for something more but you just can't figure out what.

In order to feel alive, excited, and joyous about life you have to first be brave enough to look inside to see where your fear is and how it's showing up in your life. We've often grown so accustomed to this fear that we don't even realize it's there anymore. Fear can make us feel all of those above crummy emotions, but behaviorally it shows up as excuses, settling for less than you really want, being a victim, and playing small in your life.

Identifying where and how fear is showing up in your life will give you a clearer picture into why you might not begin working towards something, why you keep losing progress on something you care about, or why you just feel frozen and stuck in your life at large. Identifying and addressing the fear helps you solve the problem or challenge directly instead of stabbing wildly in the dark to try to do things that will help make you feel better. If you know there's a leak in your house and you're pretty sure it's coming from the kitchen sink, but you're too afraid to look under the kitchen sink to figure out where the leak is and how your pipes broke, then you're going to have a soggy and moldy kitchen in no time. And, if you decide that it's easier and less scary to first check the bathroom sink for leaks (because deep down you know it's the kitchen, but you don't want to deal with that real problem) then your kitchen sink problem will only grow worse.

It's important to call this feeling what it is: fear. It often gets called other emotions or people are ashamed to admit that they feel afraid to act so they shame and guilt themselves about being afraid until they just wear themselves out and give up. Here are six ways (there are many more) that I see fear showing up in my own life and my clients'. One thing I'd like to note, is that all of the below behaviors are how victims choose to behave.

Judgement

Judgement is poison. Judging the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of other people AND of yourself is the first step to never doing anything great. When you look outside of yourself and judge what other people are doing, you're having a huge fear-based reaction about your own behavior. Whatever they're doing (we're talking about benign behavior and opinions here not things that are objectively morally or ethically abhorrent) that causes you feel conjure up some judgement is a huge indicator that you feel fear about something you're doing or not doing yourself. When I was a super chub, I was the most judgmental and shitty (in my head) about the appearance, behavior, and choices of other chubs. When I projected this fear outward, it made me feel mildly "better" in the short term, but ultimately turned my mind to a festering pool of self-pity and self-hatred. You can also guess how I judged myself and my attempts to not be a super chub. Your judgement, inward and outward, is a mirror reflecting what you think and feel about yourself and what you're too afraid to face. Where are you judging yourself or others, what fear is prompting the judgement?

Procrastination

Procrastination steps in when you are: "Too busy!," "don't have enough energy / time," "starting Monday," or when you let other less important things take precedence over your long term wants, needs, and goals. This could look as passive as lounging on the couch watching TV instead of, say, prepping healthy meals, or it could look as active as committing yourself to a bunch of nonsense at work, in your community, or with your family / friends. Obviously either of these things is isn't necessarily inherently bad, but sometimes people let this doing things for the sake of doing things or numbing out on the couch stop them from facing the real fears and making progress towards things that are important to them. This is the "checking the bathroom sink when you know it's the kitchen sink that's leaking." Can you spot any areas in your life where you're just kinda shooting the shit until you "feel inspired" to do something about real challenges? What about commitments that don't bring you a ton of joy, but you just hold onto for fear of replacing them?

Bad Timing

Bad timing is similar to procrastination, but I feel like this one requires a little bit more self-awareness to at least admit to. Procrastinators might not even realize that they're procrastinating. They might just be running on autopilot. People who claim bad timing know that they need to take action on something but are just being a victim of circumstances. Too young. Too old. Too cold. Too hot. Too fat. Too skinny. Too many things going on. Wrong season. Wrong time of day. The timing or situation will never "feel right" so just start now. What have you been putting off for a reason that seems like a totally logical, analytical, and practical reason because the timing / situation just isn't there?

Perfection

People who are terrified to put themselves out in the world are usually perfectionists. Dr. Brené Brown talks about this a lot in her book, Daring Greatly (HIGHLY recommend).There is nothing wrong with taking the time to make the work you're doing or the action you're taking as best as you can make it, but done is always better than perfect. The thing that you're creating will never be perfect, that's ok. Nothing is. Using perfection, or being a control freak, is a quick way to stay stuck right where you are. My girl Twyla Tharp lays the smackdown on perfectionist thinking, "Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind! Toughen up. Leon Battista Alberti, a fifteenth-century architectural theorist, said, 'Errors accumulate in the sketch and compound in the model.' But better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds." Where are you letting perfection stop you? Where are you worried that someone will see the real, imperfect you?
 

Numbing Feelings

When you're terrified to take action on anything in your life, you'll always live with a hopeless, helpless discomfort. Always. It's just always there. It sucks.  By failing to look inside at what fears are really consuming you, you're leaving yourself to suffer through this baseline, normalized discomfort. So, you'll reach for whatever is handy to make that feeling of uncomfortable inadequacy go away. Booze, drugs, sugar, mindless social media, mindless TV watching, sex, being overcommitted to the point of not taking care of yourself, smoking, drama, or any other addictive behavior that makes you feel less intensely. This is another thing Dr. Brené Brown talks about in Daring Greatly. One thing that she points out that always sticks with me is that you can't selectively numb feelings. Once you numb the bad, you numb the good. For me, cleaning up my diet in a huge way made me realize where I was neglecting my feelings and trying to shove them away from me. What behaviors do you do to not feel anything?

You Get Sick A Lot

I'm not saying this as some woo-woo "negative feelings attract sickness into your life!!!!!" sorta thing. You can choose to look at it that way if that works for you. I'm talking on a physiological level. When fear is showing up in your life, especially chronic fear that just kinda hangs around as background noise, your body is pumping out all kinds of quick fix chemicals to help you fight that fear in the moment - not for weeks / months / years at a time. When you're in this state, your body is in defensive mode, so it's not too worried about things like tending to keeping longterm systems, like your immune system or going to sleep, online. It's on high alert because according your old ass brain a saber toothed cat is about to bite your entire skull and fascinate anthropology nerds for millennia.  Another thing to keep in mind related to this is that if you're constantly in fight or flight mode, you'll feel like garbage, so you'll be less likely to eat right, go to the gym, do yoga, meditate, and just generally take care of yourself. So if you keep getting sick for apparently no reason, is there some fear in the background that is keep your immune system suppressed or keeping you from maintaining more hygienic habits?

Do you see yourself in any of these fear based behaviors? What action can you take right now to help make the fear go away?

 

Surviving Winter When You Live in a Frozen Tundra Wasteland

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Choose to Label Yourself as Depressed. For the most part, feedback was good, but there were a few snarky emails that snuck through.

The 4th question I ask myself whenever I think depression might be creeping in is, "When was the last time I went out in nature?" Nature has a ton of benefits for mood improvement and stress reduction, which I won't get into here. Some folks had some feelings about this question. I got a few emails along the lines of, "Getting out into nature in February is easy for you to say. You live in Southern California. What about the rest of us trapped inside this awful winter?"

Yes. Yes I do live in Southern California, and I freaking love it. It is true, it is way easier to get outside when it's 70* and sunny vs. 15* and snowy. Feel you, sistah. 

As for the whole "being trapped" part, that is some victim ass nonsense.

I won't let this post turn into a rant about that, but I will say, if you don't like where you live, you can move. You are not a tree. You are not trapped -- except by your own small thinking.

Here's the meat of what I want to say in this post, if you choose to live somewhere where winter can be brutal -- I'm not saying that cold weather isn't brutal -- it is your responsibility to choose to adapt to the environment in which you live. That is literally what being a human is.

So instead of writing a pissy rant about that, I'm going to give you some practical tools to get through winter when cabin fever starts creeping up.

I also feel a need to say that, although I live in Southern California now, I grew up in the snow belt of Lake Erie in Northeastern Ohio. I went to college and lived for years after in Chicago -- while I was there the city saw its worst blizzard ever. I've also lived in Colorado where it will blizzard and be 70* in the same day basically. I've faced some pretty awful winters. I get it.

Here's how to not only survive winter, but to get outside and enjoy it.

1. Adjust Your Expectations

Your body naturally slows down in winter. If you think back to ancient times, our ancestors either moved to warmer climates during cold periods or hunkered down and relied on the fat on their bodies or food that they could store for a few months. We're still running on old hardware, so this natural decline in mood and energy is working to help keep you alive even if it's outdated at this point. Lower energy needs means that you need fewer calories, which is good because back then food was scarce come winter.

All that is to say that, when you naturally slow down, that means your body is doing exactly what it should be doing. Short days and long nights are meant for long stretches of sleep and relaxation. So if you find yourself thinking that you're lazy or whatever, you're probably not. This should be a quiet time of reflection and rest. That's ok.

Head to bed sooner. Make lots of herbal teas. Catch up on TV shows or movies. Cozy up with a book and your favorite blanket.

2. Buy some gear that you're psyched about and want to take outside

Take some time and money to pick out a winter coat, boots, and maybe snow pants that you think are cool as fuck. If you're going to live somewhere where there is a winter, you owe it to yourself to be comfortable when you go outside. Going outside is an intrinsic part of our human makeup, and even going outside in the cold will improve your mood -- so long as you're prepared for the trek

Now, end of March, is a great time to scope out the sales at REI or similar because they're trying to clear out the old winter gear to make room for spring and summer. One of my favorite websites for outdoor gear is Steep and Cheap.  Remember, although there might be some sticker shock upfront, you'll use these items for seasons to come. While you're at it, by some really warm and cozy socks. Warm dry feet make all the difference when it comes to getting outside when it's winter.

Which brings me to....

3. Wear your new gear to go do something active

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing." - Alfred Wainwright

Winter gets a lot of bad press for there being "nothing to do." False. Get your new gear and plan an adventure. Plan a day trip to go snowshoeing (you can often rent snowshoes from REI), go sledding, cross country skiing, skiing, ice fishing. Or, keep your adventures close to home, build a snow fort, play capture the flag in to the snow, snowball fight, build a snowman,  learn how to read animal prints in the snow. If there's no snow but it's cold, go for a walk in the woods - the woods in winter are a magical place - ice skating is another option.

Your body will thank you for going outside and for being active.

4. Buy a Blue Light and Use it Upon Waking

You can find a bunch of these on Amazon, but this is the one that I have and use when the sun doesn't come out. It's a few years old, so likely there are newer ones with more bells and whistles. Here's what it does, you just put this blue light in front of your face for about 20-30 minutes when you wake up in the morning. This mimics the light from the sun (without any damaging wavelengths) and triggers your body's circadian rhythms to get moving. This will make you feel more energized in the morning when you want the energy, and once the sun goes down you'll be ready for bed.

I would often keep this light in the bathroom and turn it on while I was getting dressed for work in the mornings. These days, I keep it by my computer.

5. Hit Up a Dry Sauna (Infrared if you can)

Much like cold exposure, heat exposure has so, so many health benefits. You can learn all about it by clicking this link. Health benefits aside, getting into a super warm sauna in the middle of the winter is a wonderful experience. Take a magazine in with you (books tend to get ruined once you start sweating), and just sit in there as long as you can. Then, hop out, grab some water, and pop back in for another round. After your session you'll feel immediately energized and have a much clearer head.
 

 

How do you survive winter? Tell me in the comments.