Posts Tagged With: comparisons

Day 212: Confidence

Yesterday, I had my second annual review at work.

Last year, my first review helped me, big time. My anxiety about being at work went waaaay down. I let go of self-doubt, self-criticism, and all sorts of cognitive distortions, like Comparisons, Mind Reading, and Negative Filter :

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).

This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation. For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

It’s interesting that the example of negative filtering, above, is a work review. And here’s the deal: my first review had no negative comments. Not one.

So I really let in all that positive feedback and compliments last year. And it made a huge difference.

Essentially, that first review was a healthy, mega-dose of Reality Testing:

Reality testing. Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.

It was an antidote for my negative self-talk, fears, projections, and other unhelpful thoughts I was having about work.

This year’s review focused more on Ways I Could Improve. And there was a thing, or two, about that review which I could — if I chose — use as a negative filter. I could maximize the “negative” and minimize the huge number of positives that were there.

But I’m not. Instead, I am letting in all the amazing, positive comments I got, from people I respect, a lot.

And, again, it’s making a big difference.

I feel more alive, secure, and eager to go into work this morning. I feel confident that — no matter what challenges arise, no matter what mistakes I inevitably make — I will do a good enough job.

My passion and love for my work is unhindered, this morning, by any dread, guilt, or anxiety.

And nothing has changed, people, about my work situation.

The only thing that has changed is this: Today I know some beautiful details about how my work is appreciated.

Before I came to this job, I worked at a place where I also loved what I did. However, I received only a couple of formal reviews during the twelve years I was there. I still got positive feedback and encouragement from wonderful people, but I didn’t get that bracing mega-dose of appreciation…. until I left.

And those Goodbye Appreciations were, again, an incredible remedy for what ailed me.

Here is the point I want to make this morning:

Confidence helps.

While we may have fears of feeling too good (discussed here, here, and here), and while we might love and admire the quality of humility in others and in ourselves …

Confidence helps.

I know it helps me, in so many ways.

It helps me do a better job.

It helps reduce my anxiety.

It helps me express myself, more strongly.

It helps me feel more comfortable, exactly where I am.

And instead of feeling like I have to be a Kingpin to succeed, I feel more connected to my team:


(Seen yesterday, as I walked away from a Good Day’s Work.)


Thanks to my teams at work, to people whose work includes dressing up like giant objects like teeth or bowling pins, to yearly reviews, and to you.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 163: Alone in the presence of others

When I orient a new person to my therapy groups, I do a 30-second speech about The Group Experience, which goes something like this:

One of the most healing things about working with a group is realizing that you are not alone in having certain thoughts and feelings. There will also be times when you’ll realize you’re the only one who has had your unique experience. When that happens, know that you are not alone with that, either.

Because I’ve been experiencing disappointment — in myself and in others — I’ve been feeling alone and isolated lately, even while surrounded by other people.

My thoughts have turned negative. Challenges and obstacles seem overwhelming.

I’m thinking:

Why bother? This is too hard. I’d like to think that what I’m doing and what I have to offer matters, but — ultimately — it doesn’t. People let me down. I let other people down. I’m tired of trying, with so few results. Other people seem to have it easier. Other people don’t really care. Even if they did care, they can’t help me in any real way.

I’m alone in this. And it feels like it’s too much for me.

When other people express thoughts like those to me, there are lots of ways I respond back.

Sometimes, I just listen.

Sometimes, I point out “cognitive distortions” in that kind of thinking (such as fortune telling, mind reading, comparisons, all-or-nothing thinking, etc.).

Sometimes, I reflect back how it makes sense that the person is feeling depleted, less hopeful, discouraged, and disappointed — because of stressful external realities as well as the person’s internal memories, assumptions, and experiences. (And I do have several stressful things I’m dealing with right now, including creating and presenting a new workshop this weekend at a conference for “experts”, which intimidates me.)

Sometimes, I just try to make it safe enough for the person to have all their feelings when they are in a difficult, darker place.

I guess that’s the best we can do, sometimes, for ourselves and others. And to know that even when we feel most alone, we are in the presence of others.

Thanks for being present today.

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Day 50: Sleep — Needs, History, Distortions, and a Wish

I’ve been struggling to get enough sleep lately.  I seem to be a person who can function pretty well without enough sleep.

(Sometimes I think the world is divided into two types of people: (1)  People who can function “well enough” without taking care of their sleeping needs and (2)  People who can function well enough without taking care of their eating needs.)

(Sometimes I think the world is divided into two types of people: (1) People who think that the world is divided into two types of people and (2) People who don’t.)

So even though I am used to functioning without enough sleep (by the way, I CANNOT function without enough food), I still feel pretty lousy when I get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. And getting 6 hours or more has been a problem for me lately.

I know a lot of people who struggle with sleep issues.  It seems to me that this might be an epidemic —  although I’m not an expert about sleep, by any means.

Speaking of being an “expert”,  I plan on writing a future post about Experts — and the punchline for that post will probably be something like this: We Are All Experts, But Only of Our Own Experience.

So while I’m not a Sleep Expert, I am trying to access, right now, my expertise about Sleep and Me.

And expertise starts with looking at data and history.

So that means  that, in order to improve my sleep, I might start by looking at my history of sleep issues.

But I’m resisting doing that right now.

That resistance probably has to do with my preference — or tendency —  to focus on the present moment rather than focusing on the past.

That preference — for the present over the past —  might have to do with several things, including my perception that I don’t have a good memory.

Pardon me while I indulge in a rather long digression about that thought: I Don’t Have A Good Memory.  However, you might find this digression useful — since it will reference several Cognitive Distortions, all listed and defined here.

Digression about the thought that  I Don’t Have a Good Memory.

This thought is probably  an unhelpful piece of self-judgment, which seems to involve several cognitive distortions, including Labelling. Because what does “not having a great memory” mean?  Does that mean I think that my memory is not as good as most other people’s? If so,  that thought involves the cognitive distortions of Comparisons AND Mind Reading.   Also, now that I think about it, I do have some data — from cognitive tests I’ve taken — that indicate that I have a Very Good Memory, although I seem to have trouble holding on to that data. (More proof that I have a bad memory?) (Kidding!) . Also, maybe I’m comparing my memory now to how my memory used to be when I was younger, another form of the distortion of Comparisons.

Shorter digression about the thought (expressed 4 paragraphs before)  that I Tend to Focus on The Present Moment Rather Than On The Past.

It’s not all or nothing. (Wouldn’t you know it? This is related to yet another Cognitive Distortion.) That is, I don’t have to look at the past OR the present. I can  look at both the past AND the present when I’m working  on growth and healing (in myself and others). 

Hmmm. I got pretty caught up in those digressions, where I noticed and challenged some cognitive distortions. Is it possible I can find my way back to The Topic of  Sleep, and finish this post before I leave for work?

I think I can. Here are some things I know, this morning:

Most nights, I am not getting enough sleep.

I have had some resistance to looking at this issue.

I deserve to get enough sleep.

I would like to get enough sleep.

I can access my own experience and expertise about this issue.

I can also seek help — from people who have expertise about sleep — to work on this issue.

Wow.  As often happens when I write a post, the post goes places I don’t expect.

However, where the post is ending up, this morning,  relates to a wish I made as I was writing it.

I wish that I could get more sleep.

I think I’ve taken some steps — and identified others — in this post, which may help me move towards that wish.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 31: The Effect of Attention

So I chose — soon after I woke up this morning — the topic I wanted to attempt today.  Soon after I made that decision, I wrote out the title “The Effect of Attention” and  I thought — Whoa!  That’s a huge topic. So I may just skirt the surface of this interesting topic today. We’ll see.

The inspiration to write about The Effect of Attention came from some aspects of the groups I’ve started at the hospital where I work. I wrote about these groups  in this blog, on Day 13, as follows:

Here’s how these groups are different. People, once they are oriented  to the structure and guidelines of the group, can attend when and how often they choose.  If you were attending these groups, you would never know for sure who was going to be there when you showed up — you might know some people but other ones would probably be new.  And, you’d have control over when and how often you attend. You could come once a week, once a month, whenever you wanted. You could book  a space way ahead, decide to come spontaneously (if space was available), and cancel if you couldn’t make it.

(Hey! There’s another first! That is, I just quoted myself for the first time, here in the Blog of Living Non-Judgmentally.)

Anyway, so once people are signed up for these groups, they can attend as they please.  And that means that at any particular group meeting, there may be lots of people and there may be very few people, or somewhere in the middle.  And I’m just getting these groups going, so — inevitably — for some sessions, nobody may show up. Or ONE person may show up.  And people may argue that one person is NOT a group, but, in order to keep the benefits of flexible scheduling, I need to allow for that possibility.

So this is the way I have dealt with all this. I make  it clear to interested group participants — before they get into the group —  how the attendance will vary. I assure them that the group is designed to work, no matter how many people show.  And if one person shows up, that person will get a personal training session.  (Sometimes I feel like I’m doing an infomercial when I’m talking about the groups. “No matter who shows up, satisfaction guaranteed!  Wait, there’s still more!  Act now and you might get THIS VALUABLE BONUS  — 90-minutes of PERSONAL TRAINING with fabulous group therapists!”)

Anyway, this group model has been working well enough.  However, I recognize that the number of people that show up to a session has an effect on the group members. For example, if very few people show up for a group, thoughts like these may very well occur to people:

Geesh!  What the hell is going on here?  Does the number of people here mean that something I said in a previous session made everybody stay away?  OR does this mean that our group leader SUCKS?  Eeeek!

And what if  lots of people show up?  If the number of group members seems like TOO MANY for a group (according to somebody’s personal judgment), these thoughts might occur:

Geesh!    What the hell is going on here? Does that mean I won’t get a chance to talk?  And with all these people, chances are greater that somebody is NOT going to like me (or I won’t like them)!! Eeeek!

(For those of you who are reading this blog regularly, if you noticed the distortion of mind-reading above, you get Bonus Points!  However, as people often point out to me, sometimes our guesses about what other people are thinking might have validity.  The antidote to mind-reading is reality testing, something I like to do, a lot.)

So, now, at this point in this post,  I would like to circle back  to the title of this blog: The Effects of Attention.

If  somebody shows up for the group by themselves, they are going to get a hell of a lot more attention than if there are 12 other people in the room.

And I think we all have different levels of comfort with the amount of attention we receive. I’ve noticed that some of us are more self-conscious than others, and would do ANYTHING to avoid a lot of attention.    And I’ve noticed — on the other end of that scale — that some of us LOVE attention. The more, the better.

I think I go up and down on that Attention Reaction Scale, depending upon a lot of things, including (1) my comfort with myself, (2) how deserving I feel of the attention, and many other factors. (See, I KNEW this was a big topic!)

And I’ll share with you a memory I had about this issue of attention, when I decided to write about this topic today.  This memory came up because only one person did show up for a group yesterday, and I’m not sure how many will show tonight. (It looks like two people, so far, but because people can schedule until the last minute, so it may be more. Or even much more.)

Anyway, here’s the memory.  About three years ago, I signed up for a 6-week yoga class that was offered for the staff at the mental health clinic where I was working. Now, I’ve never done yoga.  And I have these judgments about myself, regarding my extreme lack of natural ability to engage successfully in Physical Exercise Classes of any kind. (These judgments might be related to my experience growing up. Because of my heart issues then, I did not take gym the entire time I was in school. And, as far as I heard from everybody else in my school, people thought I had Won The Luck Lottery, getting out of gym that way. But this had an effect, I’m sure. )

So the first time I went to the Yoga Class, I definitely had moments where I felt completely incompetent and self-conscious,  because I just could not follow the Yoga Teacher’s instructions. And I compared myself to everybody else in that class, who all seemed to be doing it perfectly, as if I had missed a previously scheduled Dress Rehearsal on how to do the class. Yes, I remember feeling pretty awful at some points during that first class.  And I didn’t want to go back.

I think I did go back several times and — again — I felt like I had missed the Dress Rehearsal for that class. When I tried to do the Dog Pose,  everybody else looked like Pure-bred Golden Retrievers and I looked like a mangy mongrel.  Actually, I don’t think I even looked like a dog, or any other living, breathing animal.  I think I looked like an illustration of How Not to Do Yoga.  (Well, what can I say? This happened  three years before The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)

And I’m now approaching the end (and the point) of this story.  I went to the last session of that 6-week yoga class, feeling kind of dejected and fearing the amount of shame I might feel that night. And I was the only one who showed up. And I had lots of thoughts, like, “Geesh! What does this mean?  Does this mean other people don’t like this teacher? I don’t think so, but how is this going to effect the teacher?  Is she going to take it personally? And how is that going to affect her tonight?”  But while these thoughts were coming up, I also knew that a lot of the staff where I worked were dealing with lots of deadlines.  And who knows what else might have been keeping people away?  (Now that I think of it, I see this all the time:  some people tend to avoid the last meeting of anything).

So, anyway, I remember consciously trying to let go of the anxiety I was feeling about being there, just me, with ALL of the Yoga Teacher’s Attention. And here’s the punchline:  It was a wonderful experience.  I got a lot out of it.  I remember feeling safe enough with her that I got in touch with some old shame about my physical capabilities. And I cried. And I did the dog pose. And I looked enough like an actual mammal, if not a dog. And I felt fine and accepting of exactly where I was, Yoga-wise.

Wow, this was a long post, wasn’t it?  I should warn you, dear reader:  Thursday’s posts are probably likely to be longer, because I can go in to work a little bit later.  I can go in later,  because I stay late, running a group.

Gee!  I wonder how many people will show up tonight?

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Day 23: 8 Degrees of Safety.

I went back to work today, Wednesday, after being sick for four days,  and it was really, really cold outside.  It was 8 degrees, Fahrenheit, when I left the house.

I bundled up, really well, for protection. And everything went okay.  Nothing went awry. My trusty car started up, right away, even though it had sat idle since Saturday. And although I had to wait outside for a shuttle bus for a little while (my parking lot is a 20-minute walk from the hospital where I work), my bundling had done the trick. I wasn’t in too much pain during the wait. I could still really feel the cold through all the layers I’d piled on, which felt very freaky, but I was fine.

So I made it to work, no harm done.  However, I’ve noticed that whenever it’s extreme weather outside, that affects my sense of safety, even when I’m indoors.  I’m more aware of our human physical fragility, I guess. Knowing that the outside environment is considerably more hostile than usual has an effect on me.  I feel more anxious, careful, subdued, vigilant, serious.  Getting in touch with other aspects of my nature — my humor, openness, and sociability — takes more effort.  And I pretty much kept to myself, avoiding any contact with strangers, the whole day I was away from home.

I think that’s a reflection of a general “truth” for me.   The safer I feel in my environment  — the more I’m able to trust that pain is not imminent — the more I can interact freely with others, and the more in touch I can be with the “higher” parts of my nature.

This is tricky to write about, since the word “higher” implies judgment, doesn’t it?  At this moment, I’m not sure what to call those other parts of my nature — the humor, the openness, the sociability.  For some reason, I want to call those parts “vulnerable” right now.

Are they more vulnerable, though?  I feel like those parts show strength.  However, to show humor, openness, and sociability implies a trust of The Other Person, I suppose — that whomever we interact with will be accepting enough of the interpersonal effort.

So maybe showing those sociable parts implies a certain level of bravery. Whenever we interact with somebody, we risk rejection, I guess.

Hmmm. This is like an equation that I’m having trouble figuring out right now. It’s frustrating, and I’m comparing how I am right now — not feeling 100% myself, still recovering from being sick — to how I might be able to think and write when I’m feeling better. (Comparisons are another Cognitive Distortion, by the way, and I look forward to ranting and raving about THAT in a future blog post.)

Anyway, I’m going to end it here, dear reader, trusting that this post is good enough to publish today. I also hope that if you have thoughts and questions about this post, that you will feel safe enough — no matter what the weather is outside as you’re reading this — to express them, if you choose.

Thanks for reading, as always.

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