What are You Letting Determine Your Worth?

Back in the day I loved to walk around bookstores. A bookstore was my happy place. I loved flipping through books, feeling the pages in between my fingers, discovering new authors and paperbacks filled with wisdom. Oh it was like a little slice of heaven here on earth! But those days are gone, so now I scroll through Amazon. I scroll and scroll and excitedly click on the books that say “Look Inside.”

Several months ago, I was on a tangent of scrolling because I kept clicking on the books in the “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section, and I came upon a book by Geneen Roth. Geneen Roth is a psychologist and author who specializes in writing on women, food, and body image issues. (Her books are excellent if you are interested in those topics.) Anyway, I stumbled upon a book of hers I’d never heard of called When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I thought that was a funny little title so, of course, I clicked on it, and lucky for me, it had a “Look Inside” button- score!

I scrolled through the book and began reading the introduction where Roth relayed a story from one of her workshops. She wrote that a woman at a recent workshop gave this honest admission:

“If I woke up tomorrow and this whole issue with food was gone, I wouldn’t know how to measure myself. Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good. Feeling fat is how I know I’m bad. If I didn’t have this system of fat and thin, I would feel terribly lost.”

I wouldn’t know how to measure myself.

Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good.

If I didn’t have this system…I would feel lost.

How do you measure yourself? What is your system? What is the thing you hang your worth on that determines if you are good, good enough each day, each hour? What is your prerequisite for feeling worthy?

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Maybe it is food and weight- I’m good when I’m thin, when I don’t eat that but do eat this. Maybe it is how much you do- I’m good when I get a lot done. Maybe it is exercise- I’m good when I workout X number of minutes each day. Maybe it is when your house is clean and all the laundry is put away and everything is in order for the next day- I’m good when I’ve got it all together. Maybe it’s when you’re doing well at your job- I’m good when my numbers are the highest in the office. Maybe it’s when your children are doing well- I’m good when Johnny is doing well in school and Sally makes the cheerleading squad and Sarah is the first to learn to read of her friends.

So many of us hang our worth on something. We let our to do lists or our relationships or our successes and mistakes determine our worth and how we feel about ourselves. It is so natural that we don’t even realize we are doing it half the time.

And maybe you’re wondering, what’s the danger in feeling better about yourself when you’re eating right or doing well at work or hitting homeruns in the parenting department?

Those things by themselves are great; they’re fabulous. Thumbs up to you if you’re doing those things. But when we allow the externals in our lives to determine how we feel about ourselves, then we are allowing those things to determine how we FEEL in general, how we interact with people, and what we do. It’s not a coincidence that you find everything annoying after you put on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly two weeks ago but now feel too tight.

When we hang our worth on external things, we easily fall into a spiral of feeling less than and not good enough. We allow these things- the scale, the bank account, the invitation to the party, your child’s performance- to put a stamp of “Enough” “Never Enough” on our lives, and we are left feeling anxious, frustrated, and defeated. We end up on an emotional roller coaster because how we feel about ourselves and our lives changes with every number on the scale, interaction with a colleague, and check on our to do list.

If we want off this roller coaster, WE MUST STOP OUTSOURCING OUR WORTH. Meaning, our worth is not determined by what we do, what we’ve done, what we look like, what type of house we live, where we went to school, how much money is in the bank, or how much debt is on the credit card.

Our worth is separate from all of that. Our worth does not hang on anything. It stands alone. It is internal, not external

The thought isn’t Being thin is how I know I’m good. The thought isn’t I’m good when _____.

The thought is… I’m good. I’m enough. I’m loved.

There are no disclaimers or qualifiers to our worth. Our worth is unshakable, unchangeable. It is the same today as it was the day we were born before life had a chance to tell us otherwise. It is the same at the end of a chaotic day where we binged on chocolate, got nothing done, and snapped at a loved as it is at the end of the day where we crossed every T and dotted every i.

The truth is our worth is unaffected by our actions, our failures because our worth is a grace-infused worth breathed into us in the beginning.   We must protect and shelter our worth from those external factors the world likes to tell us will make us better, more likable, more lovable.

What are you hanging your worth on? What is the thing, or things, in your life that you give the power to determine how you feel about yourself? There is true freedom that comes with separating our worth and how we feel about ourselves from what we do and what others think. Give yourself permission today to let go and let your worth stand in the undeniable, irrefutable, beautiful truth that you are enough, you are lovable, and you are loved.

Back In The Saddle Again

Oh my dear, beloved blog! It has been too long! Where has the time gone? Last time I posted, kids were just settling back in school and football season was starting. Now kids are getting ready for break, the football gods have decided who the best four teams in the nation are, and it is almost Christmas! It takes your breath away how quickly times passes!

So let me catch you up on what’s been going on. The Fall was FULL. Full with so many good things, but full nonetheless. I had the opportunity to speak in front of some amazing groups of men and women over the past few months. There is nothing I love more than seeing people eager to live as we were created- with purpose and for a purpose!   I held my first Daring Moms group and another Daring Way™ retreat for women. Both groups were filled with strong, courageous, amazing ladies. It is a true honor to do this work with women who desire change and freedom in their lives. On the personal side, we took my son to his first college football game and enjoyed some great time with family and friends. Yes, FULL indeed!

Although I have been MIA from the blog, I have thought of you often and written about a hundred posts in my mind over the past three months.  They were all really good- Ha! About three weeks ago, things finally settled down with my schedule, and I immediately thought that I wanted set aside some time to write. But an odd thing kept happening- I kept thinking of other things to do. I need to catch up on this. I need to read that. I need to contact so-and-so.

As my procrastination continued, I became more and more curious as to why I still had not put fingers to keyboard. Being the over-analyzer that I am, I did a little soul searching and realized I was dragging my feet because it felt a little vulnerable to post after so long. Vulnerable?   Yeah.

My thought process went a little something like this: It’s been three months since my last post, so this next post needs to be REALLY awesome. Ugh it’s easier not to write then I don’t have to worry about looking foolish. It looks bad that I haven’t posted in three months; that’s not being very dedicated or intentional. I said I was going to a do a read-a-long. Where’s the read-a-long, Mazi???

In short, my self-doubt and self-criticism began to shout a little. As I shared before, having people read my writing feels very exposing for me. I can speak in front of groups of people everyday and twice on Sunday and feel completely at ease. But there is something about having people read, rather than hear, my words that feels more vulnerable to me. It feels more out of my control. When I speak, I can sense if my words are resonating or if I need to re-state something. But when I write, I’m just… putting it out there. Putting it out there for people to read and criticize and judge.

Yeah starting to write again after a three-month break felt very vulnerable. I realized I was out of practice in facing that vulnerability and doing it anyway. My muscles were a little weaker so my self-doubt was chirping a little louder, and as a result, my procrastination skills were a little stronger.

Has this ever happened to you? You want to do something but you keep thinking of fifty other things to do instead. You are really excited about starting something yet you never follow through.  You've taken a break from something you enjoy but you're struggling to find the wherewithal to pick the activity back up.  Why do we put off doing what we say we want to do? Why do we procrastinate??

I think we avoid and procrastinate for a host of reasons. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know what to do. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision/doing it wrong. We feel vulnerable and don’t even realize it. The thing we want to do feels uncertain and exposing. We don’t know the outcome. We sub-consciously know we expect ourselves to be perfect so the thought of having to work that hard/try that hard feels daunting so we stop before we begin. We avoid doing what we want to do, what is good for us for all sorts of reasons.

And then the longer we avoid something, the bigger it seems in our mind to actually do make the decision or call the person or submit the proposal. Avoidance doesn’t make things smaller. It makes them seem bigger and even more insurmountable.   We stop practicing doing the hard and uncomfortable things so we forget we actually can do the hard and uncomfortable things.  It is difficult to get back into the routine of doing the things that are good for us and so we keep practicing avoidance.

Sometimes we have to stop thinking, stop planning, and just start doing.  In my case, I had to stop thinking about what would be the “right” topic for my next/first post, and I had to just start typing.   Action is so much more effective than intention. I’ve learned that in my life if I don’t keep practicing being vulnerable, then my doubts and insecurities are liable to take control of my life.  If I want to keep my insecurities at bay, then I have to regularly practice doing the thing that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So I’m back in the saddle again with blogging.   This blog continues to be an interesting teacher for me- it is something I enjoy and actually wish I could do more of, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone.  It feels good to put fingers to keys after so long.  It feels good to be uncertain and vulnerable.  Breaks are good, but we have to know when it’s time to saddle up and start riding again. Let’s saddle up together and start practicing doing the hard, uncomfortable things!   Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Practice action rather than avoidance!

What do you need to stop thinking about and just start doing? What saddle do you need to get back on? What are you avoiding that you actually want to do or that would be good for you?  Are practicing the behaviors in your life that you want to make permanent?

Thoughts for Thursday- Becoming Real

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REAL is never ugly.

Ah the wisdom of the Skin Horse and the precious, inquisitive nature of the Velveteen Rabbit… I doubt there is a more poignant exchange in all of literature.  Many of us grew up with the beautiful story of the Velveteen Rabbit and his journey of becoming real through the power of love.  It is a story written for children, but I don’t think we grasp the true meaning and depth of the story until adulthood.

The famous conversation between the Skin Horse and Velveteen Rabbit begins as the Rabbit is struggling to feel settled in his new home in the nursery.  The Rabbit worries he isn’t as expensive or impressive as the other toys with their mechanical parts.  He feels he doesn’t quite measure up and feels insecure and less than.  One day the Rabbit decides to ask the wisest of all the toys in the nursery, the Skin Horse, what it means to be REAL.

The Skin Horse gives the simplest, yet most complex of answers.

“Real isn’t how you are made… it’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time… then you become REAL.”

The Skin Horse goes onto say that becoming REAL does not happen overnight.  It is a process.  Becoming REAL isn’t for the faint of heart.  It isn’t meant for those who prefer to be perfect, who prefer a safe life on the shelf.  Becoming REAL happens to those who do not mind the ups and downs life and the uncertainty of love.  REAL happens to those who accept that being hurt may be painful, but it is better than being numb.

Yes, life might leave you tattered and bruised.  Yes, you might have scars that remind you of missteps and fallen dreams.  But, as the Skin Horse so wisely states, once you are REAL you do not care that you are not perfect.  Perfection and having it all together are no longer the goal.  You don’t mind if people see your mistakes and heartaches.  You don’t mind if people see your tears and fears.  Why?  Because you know you are REAL and “once you are REAL you can’t be ugly.”

You can stay on the shelf and avoid any decision in life that may leave stretch marks.  You can keep love and people at arms length for fear of being hurt.  Or you can practice vulnerability.  You can show up and be seen in your life.  Vulnerability opens the doorway to giving and receiving love.  When you believe you are loved and lovable, you don’t mind if you’re “loose in the joints and very shabby” because you know you are REAL … you know you are enough.

REAL is never ugly.  REAL is beautiful and approachable.  REAL is courageous and strong.  REAL is contagious and inspiring.   REAL is never ugly.

How has life and love helped you become REAL?  How has becoming REAL freed you from the yoke of perfection? 

Our Secret Codes of Perfectionism

Jack was conceived three years ago today.  Or at least this is the day I count as his conception date.  Before you signal the OVERSHARE alarm, let me explain.  Three years ago today, we did our embryo transfer. As I shared in an earlier post, we struggled to get pregnant for some time.  We went through the emotional roller coaster of infertility, doctors’ appointments, unanswered questions, and passing months.  Having both gone through the gamut of testing and months of fertility treatment options, our doctor told us he felt our next reasonable and realistic option was to do IVF.  This is exactly where we did not want to end up.  This was the route we were both hoping to avoid.  We struggled to know if this was the right course of action or if we should continue to wait.  Were we turning something into science that should have been natural?   Were we taking things into our own hands by doing IVF? Maybe we just weren't supposed to have children.  I wrestled with this decision like I have never wrestled before.

From the first shot you give yourself until the day you take a pregnancy test, an IVF cycle takes 40 days.  Forty days.   The spiritual significance of that length of time was not lost on me.  For 40 days, I prayed thy will, not mine and that our sense of peace, joy, and worth would not be based on the outcome.  For 40 days, I tried to surrender all the anxiety, angst, and planning that accompanies infertility.  Although there were certainly moments of nervousness and anticipation, I have to say that during that period I felt more at peace than I had felt in years.  I had finally let go of the nagging thought that not getting pregnant was somehow a failure or a sign that I was missing some mark, and I had accepted that getting pregnant was out of my control.  I didn’t necessarily feel confident we would be decorating a nursery any time soon, but I felt at peace.

The embryo transfer was scheduled for Sunday, July 25th.  Although I was praying daily and repeating all sorts of surrender mantras, I read the instructions for what I was supposed to do that day over and over.  I had two responsibilities: show up on time and drink 40 ounces of water before the appointment. That was my part that day. The morning of the transfer I carefully measured my 40 ounces.  I started drinking.

When we arrived at the doctor’s office, the nurse did an ultrasound to check my bladder and she casually said, “Oh you don’t have quite enough water in you.  You need to drink more water.”

I instantly felt my throat tighten and my eyes start to burn with tears, and as clearly as if someone was speaking into my ear, I heard…

You didn’t do it right.

I was stunned.  I was shocked.  I was so shocked that I wanted to ask my husband if he had heard it as well.  It was water…it was water!!  It wasn’t going to make any difference on whether or not I got pregnant.  All I had to do was drink another Solo cup of water.  Where was this thought coming from?  I thought I had given up all the self-blame and high expectations.  But there lurking in the shadows was that old thought that if only I could do it right then everything would be okay.

I just want to do it right.  This thought had been setting the tone of my inner dialogue for as long as I could remember.  It applied to most everything I did and every decision I made.  For you see, I just want to do it right was my secret code.  It was my secret code of perfectionism.  I knew it wasn’t possible to be perfect, but I wasn’t trying to be perfect… I was just trying to do it everything right.  Because if I did everything right, then everything would work out.  Right?  Right?!?

 

Isn’t that what our secret codes of perfectionism convince us to believe?

Everyone has a secret code.  Everyone has a secret code that masks his or her attempted perfectionism.  We readily say that perfection isn’t possible; rather, we just want to do our best or we just like things done a certain way or we really prefer to work hard.  But there is a difference between perfection and preference.  Perfection is rigid and unforgiving while preference is flexible.  When we get honest about our secret codes, then we can get honest about the root lie behind our attempted perfectionism.

Perfection is protection.

Or so we think.

Perfectionism is all about protection.  If I can be perfect, if I can do it right, if I can keep everyone happy, then I will be protected against failure, criticism, hurt, and rejection.  If I can always make the right decision, then maybe I will avoid pain and disappointment.  If I cross every T and dot every i, then what I am afraid of most won’t happen.  Everything will work out because I did it right.  This is the lie that perfectionism tries to convince us is true.  This is the lie that keeps us up at night wondering what more we could do or where we missed the mark.  This is the lie that pummels our spirit and fills us with blame when things don’t work out.  This is the lie that robs us of peace.

The problem with this lie is that it lures you down a never-ending dark alley of overthinking, overworking, overscheduling.  You start to think, whether consciously or subconsciously, that how you look, how charming you were on the date, how you completed a certain daily task can change your life.  You start to think that you can control your destiny with just enough hard work.  The reality is you can do everything right and still not get the guy, the family, the job, the promotion, the love.  You can try and forecast every worst-case scenario and there are still going to be things beyond your control.

 

After I finished drinking my water, our doctor and the embryologist came in to discuss the transfer and next steps.  I sat there trying to take everything in.  Trying to take in everything the doctors were saying, trying to understand the significance of hearing that old thought for the first time in a while.  Sitting there, I realized this wasn’t about being perfect and this wasn’t about science.  This was about something Greater.  I started to fight back tears again but this time for a different reason.

That day I came face to face with the damaging power of my secret code.  I also came face to face with the abundant peace that comes with surrender.   Surrender is the antidote to perfectionism.  Surrender is recognizing what you can control, what you can’t, and having the wisdom to know the difference.  It is recognizing where you end and where God begins.  Surrender means embracing the mystery of faith.  It is not defeat or giving up; instead, it is peace and freedom.

We break free from our secret codes of perfectionism by getting honest about what they are and getting honest about what we think they will protect us from.  We break free by daily, sometimes hourly, laying down our expectations and attempts to control the unknown.  We break free by learning to embrace the ambiguity and uncertainty of life rather than fearing it.   Fear not, friends, there is abundant peace ahead.

What are your secret codes of perfectionism?  How do you use attempted perfectionism as a form of protection?  What are you trying to protect yourself from?