I F*CKING HATE THE WORD FINE

The dictionary defines fine as being, “in a satisfactory or pleasing manner.” But when was the last time you used the word fine and it actually reflected that definition?

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WNABWBF 💕

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The last time I used the word fine was when my boss commented that I seemed off and not very chatty. I started off with some complete bullshit, veered into honesty, then closed with something about not sleeping enough and closed my rambling with, “…but I’ll be fine!” He said something along the lines of “uhhhh allright, just thought I’d ask,” and scampered off to resume working.

I was not fine, but I realized partway through my explanation that he asked but maybe wasn’t ready for a real answer. Besides, it’s not like I was going to say, “I’m unhappy about the amount of unpaid work I’m doing and I’m anxious about not knowing what I’m doing next or where I’m going, so yeah I’m a little on edge!!!!”

I think if you use the word fine to describe how you are feeling in the present moment, it often carries subtext: you are not fine, you don’t know how you’re doing so you use fine as a default, or you don’t want to get into it.

How’s your job?

Oh fine.

How’s your wife?

She’s fine.

How was your date?

Fine!

The dictionary defines fine as being, “in a satisfactory or pleasing manner.” But when was the last time you used the word fine and it actually reflected that definition?

I think we use this word so much for a few reasons.

  1. We often have no idea how we are actually feeling, and don’t have the vocabulary to voice these feelings.
  2. We don’t want to speak our truth for fear of making things awkward, being misunderstood, being invalidated, overloading someone and a million other reasons.

emotionally illiterate

While being able to correctly identify the emotion you are feeling seems easy, in theory, in practice most of us are pretty terrible at it. My quick and dirty all-encompassing definition of emotional literacy is being able to understand, communicate, manage and accept our emotions. This goes beyond a four letter word and gets into the fact that we often don’t even have the language to express ourselves.

I only caught wind of this skillset when I listened to Brené Brown’s podcast episode with Dr. Marc Brackett where they discuss ‘permission to feel.’

We are not taught the value of emotional literacy so it’s no wonder we are f*cked and using the word fine so much. Between hurtling through modern life so fast we barely stop to check in with ourselves and being taught to suppress our true feelings, it’s a pretty bad recipe for being able to read our internal cues. This stuff isn’t my wheelhouse, and I won’t pretend I can teach you how to master emotional literacy myself…especially since I’m learning alongside you. HOWEVER, you can start by watching this slightly dated but still highly relevant TEDx talk where Dr. Brackett explains this subject super well, and why it’s important.

standing with your emotional dick in your hand

“How are you?” is a funny little verbal exchange that means nothing, but is used as a way to be cordial. If you answer honestly with a heartfelt, personal response, you risk the other person looking at you wide-eyed like, “Um, TMI.” If you give a one-word reply, then you’re kind of contributing to the problem.

8 Ways to Respond to the Worst Small Talk Questions, theeverygirl.com

So let’s say you ask your coworker how they are doing in passing, and instead of saying fine, they hit you with a big old truth bomb that their dog died and their mom has cancer and they are super depressed. Unfortunately, their honesty is extremely poorly timed: You have a meeting you have to make it to in five minutes so you say sorry and run away, which works well because you have no idea what to say to comfort them. Meanwhile, that person is standing there with their emotional dick in their hand wondering why they even bothered opening up at all.

What I just described happens in life ALL THE TIME. I look back and think of all the times I was so wrapped up in my own shit that when someone hit me with how they were really feeling and I immediately thought, “I don’t have time to unpack this,” or “oh god what do I say so I don’t sound like an insensitive asshole.” I’m learning that it isn’t about the amount of time you spend comforting someone or the exactitude of your language. Sometimes we all just wanna say shit out loud and be validated.

However, if something is over your head you can also just say so! You’re not a therapist, and maybe they do need professional help. Why not ask?

We often miss these opportunities for connection because both parties are so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing in that moment. I get it, both people end up a little vulnerable and the situation I described sounds pretty terrible. But if you genuinely trust the person you have the urge to share with, I think you’re safe to avoid using the word fine if you’re far from it.

Using the word fine = no vulnerability = no growth.

If you are the person someone is choosing to share their true feelings with, all I can tell you is to be as present as you can for them in that moment. Saying exactly the right thing doesn’t always matter, but making eye contact and making an effort to validate them is a good place to start. For example, if someone starts opening up then gets scared and back peddles with “…but it’ll all be fine!” and forces a smile. At the very least, tell them you understand how they’re feeling, and remind them they aren’t alone.

Also, this is sort of a sidebar, but if you know you can’t hold space for someone there are thousands of things you can ask that are still courteous and and interesting instead of ‘how are you?’ LET’S MAKE LIFE MORE GENUINE AND INTERESTING, FRIENDS.

All I ask

To start, I challenge you to banish this word from your vocab and upgrade for some words that really reflect what’s going on inside you. Get out of autopilot, and the next time someone asks you how you are – stop to actually get present and consider their question.

If you are in a place where you are really disconnected from your own emotions, consider looking a bit more about emotional literacy! Therapy really helped me learn this skill, but I had to practice it a ton before I started to have a hot clue about what I was feeling. Sometimes naming your emotions, even if it’s just on paper in a journal or jotted down in a note on your phone, is incredibly validating. The final step of being able to acknowledge your feelings – good or bad – without judging them is the tough bit. That’s some yoda shit that takes practice. Be patient.

Finally, next time you suspect that you are on the receiving end of a dis-genuine use of the word fine, feel free to tell that person that even if they aren’t fine, that’s ok too. Hugs help…just make sure to ask for consent first (yes, even for hugs, think of it as a sign of respect!). 🙂

Fine doesn’t do us any favours. My hope is that we’re all going to be better than fine if we stop using fine so much.

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THE ONE BELIEF THAT HELD BACK MY GROWTH FOR YEARS

No matter how bad I wanted to break the cycle my life was a mirror reflecting my beliefs back at me. Here’s how I changed, and you can too.

The year was 2016. It was Canada Day, and after getting blackout drunk by 4:00pm at ye old block party I decided to bring everyone back to my parents house without asking them. I showed up, shitfaced, with all my friends, and my parents were very good sports about it. My mom was teasing me about being a little bit drunk, so naturally I absolutely teed off on her. I was so combative my friend pulled me into the next room because it was like watching a train crash in slow motion. She got me to calm down, but the damage was done.

The next day I was stuck in the car for three hours with my mom and dad while we drove somewhere, and the air was thick with regret (on my part). This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and she said:

“I wonder sometimes if you are still a good person.”

I looked down into my hands, head throbbing. All I could think was ‘oh don’t worry, I KNOW I’m not a good person, so we’re all covered there.’

I believed I was a bad person.

I don’t know exactly when I started believing ‘I am terrible’, but it lodged itself in my psyche and grew into an overarching self-hatred that I’ve written about before.

Believing the above prevented me for years from becoming the person I always wanted to be, kept me depressed, gave me an excuse to act like a self-centered dickhead and allowed me to turn my back on my values time after time.

Sometimes it was the wind in my sails pushing me to work more and more to prove to my bosses, peers and myself I was competent. Sometimes it was the casual sex that was a bid to be loved and cared for masquerading as purely physical rigour. Sometimes it was the fits of depression that made me feel like I wasn’t fit to be a part of the human race. Sometimes it was the binge eating and battering my body at the gym. Sometimes it was the job titles or achievements I chased to feel worthy and prove I was something more. Sometimes it was the alcohol I dumped down my throat so I could act like I wasn’t weighted down by this belief for a while. Sometimes it was someone saying something nice to me and smiling but wanting to vomit on the inside.

It was the echo of “you are not enough, and nothing you ever do will wipe your slate clean.” Always.

No matter how bad I wanted to break the cycle my life was a mirror reflecting my beliefs back at me.

Let’s talk about moving forward, onward and upward out of this mental shithole.

so is it that you stop acting like an ass, then become a better person, or does the belief that you are good come first?

There’s no wrong way, I reckon. If it’s the chicken, the egg, or you say fuck it and lobby the industry, the answer will out in the end…right?

I feel like when you combine the mountain of research around self-fulfilling prophecies and the placebo effect, it’s pretty hard to deny that what we believe tends to come true. There’s probably a million iterations of this statement but that’s the plainest way I can put it. Our brains can generate some incredibly powerful shit based on whatever stories our subconscious is clinging to.

The diagram above (belief > potential > action > results) is called a reinforcing, or causal loop. They can be negative or positive, or both in order to maintain a balance, but in general these loops produce momentum.

For example, I managed to quit drinking, which was a massive initial push that kick started the belief that maybe I’m not so terrible after all. The positive action didn’t cure the belief, but it got me started.

If you think changing your self-talk is the way to change the belief, then daily affirmations might be part of your strategy. The most important thing, according to self-affirmation theory, is that your affirmations reflect your core personal values (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Make sure to use your personal strengths or strengths that matter to you when creating your affirmations.

RESEARCH ASIDE, IN MY CASE, I THINK BELIEVING I WAS A BAD PERSON WAS A TOTAL COP OUT FOR ME.

Thinking you’re terrible based on the past is like telling someone they can’t call themselves a vegan going forward if they’ve ever eaten meat.

There’s comfort in staying stuck in your self-deprecating ways. There’s a lack of uncomfortable accountability when you can blame most things on being a piece of shit. There’s a great excuse to throw away your potential and pour your money down your throat and up your nose when you don’t believe you deserve more. There’s a cycle to stay stuck in that gives you a sense of control even if you’re out of control. There’s always another person around the corner who will reinforce the belief that you don’t matter if you let them. Saying I sucked was an excuse. A nice bit of self-sabotage packaged in a convenient scapegoat.

I recently read The Four Agreements and there’s an underlying theme in the book that I think is really powerful: we are often (if not usually) the worst perpetrators of making everything way worse and halting our personal progress based on the stories we tell ourselves.

”Nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves, and it is the Judge, the Victim, and the belief system that make us do this. True, we find people who say their husband or wife, or mother or father, abused them, but you know that we abuse ourselves much more than that. The way we judge ourselves is the worst judge that ever existed. If we make a mistake in front of people, we try to deny the mistake and cover it up. But as soon as we are alone, the Judge becomes so strong, the guilt is so strong, and we feel so stupid, or so bad, or so unworthy.”

Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

So yeah, the truth is that the power is in your sweaty, probably ketchup/hommus/peanut butter covered hands. It’s time to put down the dip and get to work, whatever that looks like for you.

Take it from someone who is still figuring all this out — you deserve to believe better things about yourself and so do I.

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OK I KNOW I NEED TO LIGHTEN UP – BUT HOW?

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept it, and light a match.

I know the moment I truly started on my self-improvement journey. I Googled ‘How to stop hating yourself’ in 2016, which led me to a book called Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself  that changed my life. You probably know the rest if you’ve read the post.

Recently, after a difficult but loving conversation with a dear friend about how our relationship was feeling heavy, I Googled ‘how to lighten up’ and found nothing useful. Not one single article or listicle I could relate to.

What the shit!!! It had worked once when I needed a solution. But this time I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the same.

If you’ve ever read my Instagram captions or my blog – it’s not a stretch to say I’m a heavy person. I’m introspective and tend to get myself elbow deep into the piles of shit most people want to avoid at all costs. It’s the reason this blog exists after all…but it also means I can also come off as intense and a little dark at times.

We all have dominant traits that make us who we are, but when they get out of control they can mess things up in all areas of our lives. We all find ways to manage the internal see-saw. 

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The part of me that hates myself screams “who the do you think you are trying to write a book? Trying to become boxing instructor? Who gives a shit. And moreover, what do you know about any of this?” The part of me that hates myself believes that my urges to numb out every emotion with a grocery list of unhelpful techniques will never change for good. The part of me that hates myself tells me that I am a burden to my friends and family. That I have too many thoughts and feelings. The part of me that hates myself uses shame and fear to motivate me. The part of me that hates myself uses “why even bother” as an excuse to avoid vulnerability. This isn’t about proving other people wrong. It’s never been about proving other people wrong. Besides, I learned a long time ago people’s conclusions about you are less about you, and more about them. I’m trying to prove that part of myself wrong. I am, in fact, becoming the person I also hoped, dreamed and fought to be. Sometimes that part of me just needs a little proof and a lot of love. Sometimes I need to force that part of me to stop yelling and start listening. This isn’t some Bell Let’s Talk shit that exists only one day a year. As much as I can write this caption, I can’t write a clean beginning middle and end to this. This is just what goes on in my head and my work is fighting back against it. Sometimes I have the strength to win that fight, and sometimes I don’t have it in me. And that’s when I reach out for help. 💭🤝 #wholeheartedliving

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I used alcohol to manage as an adult. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wasn’t an alcoholic before I stopped drinking almost 8 months ago. However, I showed signs of being a problem or grey area drinker. I would deal with negative feelings by drinking or eating them down so I could continue being the life of the party. I was still bitter and aggressive but at least after booze it was in a softened, silly half-cut kind of way. With alcohol, I could take myself from being in a mood where I wanted to cry from stress, to slurring sassy comments and texting people I shouldn’t be texting to generate some fun in the moment.

Alcohol was the easy lever I could pull anytime I needed to lighten up. 

When I first got sober, I lightened up immediately. I felt like I had found the ultimate life hack. All of the ease with none of booze-adjacent struggles. I was saving money! I was making better decisions! I didn’t have the booze blues anymore!!!

Then, inevitably, I dug into the work of recovery and shit got REAL. Sobriety and recovery are not the same, which is a fun fact that hit me like a brick to the face about three months in.

Believe me, I know I was a bummer to be around. I was groping around in the dark in an attempt to figure out how everyone else dealt with bad days on top of having, what felt like, a complete shit show of an existential crisis. I was doing my best, but I truly felt like I couldn’t lighten up.

So I tried all the normal stuff: yoga, meditation, therapy (the counsellor I had when I was in early recovery wasn’t a good fit for me unfortunately), journaling, and mostly texting and talking to my friends when I was feeling shitty. Which was a lot. I also revisited eating and Netflix as coping mechanisms.

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing, reflecting and questioning lately. I guess when I think about it, the other three all feed into my writing. I’ve changed a lot and done a lot since finishing my degree and getting an “adult” job. My opinions are different, my hair is different, my mindset is different. I am older. I am more educated on the ways of the world. I now need special cream for my face (goddam eczema). But there is one thing that steadfastly has not changed, and I hope never will: I love writing. It is a warm blanket after being out in the cold for too long. It is a way of making sense of the world. It is a way of bearing witness. It is a messy mud puddle that you can’t wait to jump in. It is an unruly teenager that sneaks out in the middle of the night but makes you proud at the end of the day. It is trying to herd a bunch of hyenas on acid. Here’s a pic of my writing happy place with a new backdrop. I definitely wrote this while feeling a writer’s running high. Let’s be realistic: It’s not always sunshine and rainbows and sometimes I gotta rip the words right out of me, but it’s meant to be. It’s still love even when it’s hard. #instarealtalk #truth #vulnerabilityisstrength #mentalhealth #bravingthewilderness #writersofinstagram #selfcare #selfacceptance #calledtocreate #winnipeg #everydaygratitude #liveoutloud #parentsupport #findyourself #shameless #gratitude #desksetup #deskdecor

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Nothing seemed to help. I felt like a black cloud all the time, which was one of my biggest fears about giving up alcohol: I wouldn’t be fun anymore. And as it turned out, it sort of came true, but it taught me something really important.

I got into the toxic habit of treating a lot of close people in my life like my personal therapists. It’s healthy to ask for support and to talk things out, but there’s limits and boundaries to how much your loved ones can really help. Besides, now that I have a good therapist I’m trying to see regularly I can safely say that those are much more productive conversations and it means I don’t have to put the people in my life through unpaid emotional labour. Which isn’t cool.

Fortunately, my friends and family were willing to talk to me about what they were feeling instead of just running in the other direction.

So after my failed Google search, I started thinking about a new way forward in my recovery.

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up.

I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept the darkness and all that comes with it, and light a match.

I couldn’t find lightness in numbing because it obliterates everything — both good and bad. Denying negative or heavy emotions also isn’t realistic because it denies a part of you that exists for a very good reason. So now, I’m trying to stop grappling around for a lever or light switch and meet my internal struggles with unconditional acceptance instead of intolerance. I want to be empowered to make my own light.

Part of the journey has been figuring out the people, activities, and places that create light in my life. Especially my newly sober life.

So far, I’ve figured out that reliving ridiculous moments is a great way to light that match. My go-to memory involves a public park bathroom in New Orleans with a broken lock and yeast infection medication. Nothing reminds me how absurd life is quite like that moment.

Also on the list of things that seem to light a metaphorical match in the darkness: Being outside. Riding a good spin class. Looking at old vacation pictures. Writing. Laughing.

I’m looking to add to the list, but I’m still figuring it out. If all else fails, I just lay on the floor and listen to Magic by Coldplay. Can’t lose with Coldplay.


I recognize that seeking professional help isn’t always accessible or financially feasible. Here’s an article about different types of therapy options for different price points.

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ON REALIZING THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY: FORWARD

I’ve finally figured out how to describe what it feels like to go from who you were before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of…grieving?

I couldn’t find a photo I liked for the header so please enjoy this photo of me from Grade 7 when I still had a unibrow but didn’t really know *how* to pluck it and only wore black t-shirts because I always had sweat stains. Simpler times.

I’ve always had a habit of talking about who I used to be. Especially when I would go on  dates, which, as my counsellor has pointed out to me, isn’t really relevant to who I am now.

It’s no secret. I have a lot of regrets and pain in my past which is why it’s such a *subject* for me. I mean, I’m writing a book about some of the stories FFS.

I’ve spent WAY too long ruminating it and letting things that happened years ago dictate how I would feel about myself on a day to day basis. I’ve allowed regret to make me feel like a Bad Person. I don’t know when, but at a certain point I have accepted and fundamentally acknowledged that my past is a part of me, but it isn’t *me* anymore.

So I asked myself the other day, at what point does the past intersect with the present?

When does the ‘before’ become the ‘who I am now’?

And how do you know when you’re internally shifting from one to the other? How do you know when it’s over?

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I only have a handful of photos from when I was a teenager because I didn’t have Facebook until I graduated high school. I almost completely erased them all or lost them over the years. This one is from 2008. In most of the pictures of myself from this time I am drunk, and if I recall correctly, this photo is no exception. I couldn’t bear for many years to look back and reflect on this time I spent struggling, feeling misunderstood and trying to fit in. It would always bring back a flood of memories about eating disorder recovery, depression, therapy, pain, binge eating, drinking till I blacked out, heartbreak and academics. Even typing this I still remember sitting in a bathroom stall scratching the skin off my knuckles till they bled. I remember shutting my parents out. I remember having my first panic attack. I remember believing that I was only in university classes in high school because I knew how to work hard, not because I was smart. But I also remember wearing a hoodie with a tall collar to cover up hickies, winning an award for having the highest grades, setting the carpet on fire in the drama room, making out with boys in forests and under bridges, fighting with my one of my best friend’s and making up in a food court (thank god @jocelynhummelt ), getting an underage drinking ticket, writing a 30-page screenplay, giving people who tried to cheat off me the wrong answers and being an unpaid production assistant on sets 😂 I haven’t always been able to look at photos like this one and remember both sides of the same period of my life. The parts that make me laugh and the parts that hurt my heart. I know it’s the magic of hindsight, but also I’ve learned that you can’t have one without the other. I still have both sides in me and that’s ok. I was messy, deep, loud, raunchy, creative, all over the map and over the top then, and I still am now. I wouldn’t change any of it.✨☺️✌️#10yearchallenge #throwbackthursday #tbt #teenagerposts

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Grief is associated with death. Which totally makes sense. But I think it also can be a way to describe the natural response loss or perceived loss, not just of someone or something you loved, but of anything. I’ll give credit where credit is due – I started thinking about grief differently when I read chapter seven of Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

I think this is the best way I’ve found so far to describe the internal shift between the before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of grieving.

Now, I won’t say that what I’ve felt is anything like losing a loved one who was close to me. I wouldn’t ever make that comparison. But I do find it interesting that the emotional process of moving through grief has been similar.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief and loss below is a briefing:

  1. Denial and isolation;
  2. Anger;
  3. Bargaining;
  4. Depression;
  5. Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

I think it clicked when Brené explained in Rising Strong that change that is perceived as loss can spark grief.

I guess 2019 has been sort of a weird grieving process for me. A confusing, emotional, slow, weird sobering process letting my past go. A movement between the ‘before’ to the ‘who I am now.’ I’ve written about on my blog while I was in the early stages of it, but I’ve always struggled on how to express what this whole thing has felt like now that I can get my head around it.

It’s a confusing process to release your past self and way of life. It’s that moment where you deeply realize everything is different and there’s absolutely no way to go backward. It’s only forward from here on out.

For some people this might feel more like one chapter ending and another beginning, or a subtle slow shift until one day you realize you deal with things so differently you barely recognize yourself.

But once I read Rising Strong, I realized it’s felt a lot like grief. Which is kind of upsetting in itself, because who am I to compare losing someone to leaving behind a part of myself? But it’s a loss. I held onto it so goddam tight. But now that I’ve forgiven myself and come to terms with almost every part of it, it’s feeling like getting out of bed in the morning and not knowing what to do with yourself. It’s having nostalgia about the past, while knowing you can never go back. 

It’s saying goodbye to the story I’ve always believed to be true about myself.

I can say “I’m different,” all I want, but it really appears in the smallest of moments.

Walking home through downtown late at night totally sober and passing groups of people on the street searching for where to go next. Hearing slurred voices cheering and yelling and conversing while I’m on my balcony. Feeling the twinge of desire to participate but knowing that’s not my path anymore. Finding my way in this new way of life. Smiling to myself and sleeping soundly. 

Being so fully present that I can’t ignore things anymore. Learning how to tell people when I’m hurt and tackling conflict head on. Accepting that my “cut and run” mentality has kept me emotionally protected but not connected for far too long, and knowing it isn’t brave. Coming face to face with my people pleasing tendencies. Looking around and realizing the people I love most are imperfect and worthy of love, and so am I.

Having those dates where you return home and walk in the door and either a) smile to yourself as you hang your keys up and brush your teeth because it felt GREAT b) come home and yell WHAT THE FUCK MAN to yourself in your apartment and go straight for the carbs because you are seriously questioning your own judgement or c) come home, let out a big sigh and text your friends asking “why do I do this shit again?” Trying very hard to not overthink shit, but also not ignoring the obvious. Yenno?

Laughing. Laughing so much. For me, laughing at when shit goes wrong and knowing it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean I’m a Bad Person. It just means shit happens. Being able (for the first time in my life maybe) to not take everything so seriously!!!!!

Sitting with the moments where it occurs to me I’m not living my values and feeling the bodily sensations come over me. Feeling the shame story cloud my brain. Sensing the alarm bells go off in my head to drown the feelings – peanut butter, Netflix, anything – because they are seriously uncomfortable. Resisting the screaming urge to turn away from myself in that moment. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. Finding the courage to get curious. Exploring ways forward that are within my integrity.

Realizing my tendency to worry endlessly. Realizing my tendency to overload myself even though time and time again it sucks the life out of me. Realizing my codependent tendencies. Owning my tendencies and accepting it all. In some cases, admitting that if I can’t find a solution on my own, maybe a therapist can help. 

Being truly, truly happy in a way that I don’t think I could really feel before.

Catching myself hustling for the approval of people who will never understand me, love me or respect me. Finding out that connection really has to begin with how you feel about yourself. Knowing, deeply, that you cannot plant a flower in concrete and expect it to grow. 

Letting go of the sense of certainty about my future I clung to so tightly. Deciding to uproot myself for a while (fall 2019) because it feels right. No clue what I’ll come home to or how I’ll feel on the other end of the extended trip I’m planning. Dealing with the fear related to that.

Crying so fucking much. Because there have been many times where I can’t keep it together during these confusing times where my past tendencies push up against who I want to be now. Releasing because my body can’t keep things packed down anymore after years of doing that.

Forgiving myself for what I cannot change and allowing it to make me better. Because as I’ve figured out the hard way, there are no other options or shortcuts past this part.

“…When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.”

The Book of Forgiving

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As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album drinking a non-alcoholic beer thinking about every summer before this one. I’ve never felt this different. Maybe it’s because for the first time ever, summer doesn’t really represent what it once did for me. It doesn’t hold the same kind of reckless promise, but I’m realizing that’s for the best. Summer doesn’t mean I start worrying about wearing shorts or preoccupying myself with the grand question if this is the summer I will *finally* grow a thigh gap. The answer is no. It will always be no, and that’s a-fucking-ok with me. Hotter weather just means I continue to wear what’s comfortable and makes me feel like…me. The idea of an open afternoon conjures bigger plans then sitting outside getting sunburnt while drinking pitcher of sangria followed by a nap to sleep it off (only to wake up in the evening hungover). It might mean I get up early to go for a hike or read a chapter of a book on some good grass somewhere. It definitely means no hangovers. Summer doesn’t mean I feel heightened expectations or weird irresponsible urges to have a fling. Be impulsive because of the heat and beer. Avoid tough conversations because they aren’t “good vibes only.” Summer just means I’m gonna keep doing me, loving the absolutely shit out of the people in my life and being honest with myself and others about what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t need to go wild to feel alive anymore. The start of this summer feels wayyyy different than every single previous one, and I’m just gonna tip my head back, feel the sun on my face and take it all in 🌞 P.s. The day after a breakup I was trying to distract myself so I ended up spending like $200 on decor in Marshall’s and bought this stone squirrel. Her name is Spinelli 🐿 #sobercurious #summer #livingoutloud #wholehearted

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It’s quite simple: I was always worthy of love and belonging but I never believed it, so I never acted in ways that aligned with those beliefs. Even now I struggle to believe it half the time but half the time is better than no time. I am still in it, this process. Progress over perfection and what not.

I suppose I am grieving the part of my life where I did not love myself. Where everything was a sign I was a Bad Person. Where there was very little questioning and a whole lot of self-destruction. Where I only directed criticism at myself and not kindness. Where I so badly and deeply wanted connection but was too scared to show up authentically in order to really let it happen.

It’s weird…because I thought at many points in my life I did this work already.

I thought I had done it. But I know better now. Even as I write this I’m still not done, but I know there’s a difference between this process and maturing.

Maybe there were some token moments of accepting that I couldn’t change the past, but they weren’t coupled with a healthy dose of compassion and forgiveness. There was an attempt to own my story and who it has made me into, but no execution. I wasn’t ready to accept my story.

I know it’s different now because there’s only one way forward.

Which is what my favourite movie scene is all about and I will endlessly repeat this quote because it’s too perfect:

I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?

Silver Linings Playbook

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ON CELEBRATING THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE

I believe people make decisions about other people based on this super rough formula I totally made up:

It’s whatever information they have in front of them, plus the trust factor (what you are willing to share with them and the likelihood they will get more information in the future) and physical proximity, plus shared tendencies and hobbies, multiplied by their individual life experience (shared life experience can make you much more likely to get along), divided by differentiating characteristics and values. What makes people different? If you are someone who puts themselves out in the world, has a vocal opinion, acts differently than the majority of society (for example, if you don’t drink),  dresses differently, has taken an unconventional life path, experienced a specific type of trauma etc. etc. You’re going to be different and therefore less likely to be able to connect with just anyone.

Obviously this is not very scientific, but the reality is that we are constantly processing some variation of this formula when we come across new people.

My name is Raegan and I am in rehab from being an over the top people pleaser. I come by it honestly — I get it from my mother (she works in sales and it made her exceptionally good at her job).

It’s a characteristic that I’m working very hard to overcome and I know I’m not the only one who a) deals with this and b) finds it hard to swallow, especially when I look at the ways it’s done more harm than good over the years.

I find the formula above freeing. It reminds me that there’s just no way, based on all these factors, that we are going to emotionally connect with a good chunk of the people we meet — it’s just a fact of life. It also reminds me to take off the tophat (this isn’t an audition, Raegan) so people can see the real me. Because the formula doesn’t work when you change to fit the mould of what you think the other person wants.

Some people don’t struggle with this. If you are one of those people please SHOW YOURSELF IN THE COMMENTS.

EASIER SAID THAN DONE

So how did I (collectively: we) get to this place where I (we) care so much? Based on research, it looks like fear, anxiety and pressure play a big role, which isn’t very surprising.

Pressure….

  1. To be likeable and nice.
  2. To appear as though you have a squad* or a lot of friends.
  3. To feel accepted (which is why being different can be so damn hard).

We’ve all heard the phrase “nobody likes a people pleaser.” So why are there so many of us?

Short answer: we are hardwired to belong, so don’t feel too bad.

“The need to belong, also often referred to as belongingness, refers to a human emotional need to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group.

The need to belong involves more than simply being acquainted with other people. It is instead centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group as well as providing the same attention to other members.” (Full article here)

If there’s something I’ve learned from reading ‘Braving the Wilderness,’ by Brené Brown, it’s that belonging begins with ourselves. It really starts and ends there.

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

You are not for everyone, and you will not belong everywhere but that’s a good thing. You deeply deserve to be appreciated for who you are, and celebrating the fact that you are not for everyone is an extension of that.

REJECTION SENSITIVITY

This is hard to admit, but I know the pain of what happens when your opinion of yourself is based on other people’s opinions of you. Essentially, it means your self-esteem is as fragile as a sandcastle and some mean kid can come and kick it over at any time. I spent all my teen years bending over backward to be liked. I gave everything to everyone and as a result I got dumped, treated like a doormat (you don’t exactly command respect when you are like this) and had one person flat out say they didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I definitely developed rejection sensitivity as a result.

Taking baby steps to get to know myself and show my true self to people, knowing full well that I could be rejected, is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my adult life. For me, part of working through my rejection sensitivity is celebrating the fact that I’m not for everyone in a healthy, glass half full kind of way that honours and shows love & gratitude to my true self. 

It doesn’t mean I suddenly don’t give a shit about how I make people feel. It means I can say no and not feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. It means not chasing people down who don’t want me. It means not going over the top when it comes to simple apologies. It means taking the power back and not letting other people dictate how I feel about myself. It means I’m no longer apologizing for who I am as a person.

There’s always room to grow and I know I’m not perfect, but if you don’t like the real me, you can pretty much kick rocks.

“Taking ownership of your own fears and anxieties is the first step toward improving your relationships. Rather than expecting others to heal you, start by healing yourself.

This requires you to take a good look at the anxiety that fuels your neediness and longing for approval. The more you can deal directly with that anxiety within yourself, rather than trying to work it out through relationships, the more you will begin to heal those old wounds.” (Full article here)

Every day I accept more and more that I am a serious, opinionated, life-loving, risk-taking, aggressive, acquired taste and I don’t need to change who I am to make people like me. I am healing. I am going where I am wanted.

If you feel you are not in a place where you “belong to yourself” yet, as Brené would say, that’s ok. Don’t blame yourself. It’s pretty damn human.

When you aren’t sure if you are people pleasing, ask yourself:

  1. Am I being genuine?
  2. Am I working for approval?
  3. Am I being agreeable to avoid conflict?
  4. Am I reacting genuinely, or am I objectively crafting responses?
  5. Am I caretaking, or am I responding truthfully?
SHARING YOURSELF IS SCARY

Here’s my question: does the way you are interacting with others honour your sense of self-worth? How committed are you to rebuilding, healing and sharing yourself authentically even when it’s scary? Even if you make a commitment to yourself, then stumble or break it, it just means that you are willing to fall, f*ck up, get back up, honour that commitment to yourself and KEEP TRUCKING. Struggling doesn’t make you any less strong.

Here’s one more Brené quote before I send you on your way:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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