Not__________Enough

Not pretty enough. Not skinny enough. Not smart enough. Not fast enough. Not talented enough. Not good enough.

Little Lauren

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I’m not enough. These are the mantras I’ve told myself about myself for years. Self-doubt and a crisis of confidence have haunted my life. I am not sure why, but from an early age I felt a little less than. Part of it was the alopecia and not knowing how to deal with it. I mean, my mom brushed and put barrettes in my hair to hide my bald spots until I turned twelve. Part of that hiding made me hide who I truly was, probably even from myself.

I think for a lot of my life I have been scared to tell people what I really think or who I am. I am sure this has impacted my friendships and relationships. I’ve been scared to assert myself (my husband would disagree with this, and probably my children too because I’m comfortable around them). I told myself to just be kind and people would like me. But sometimes being kind means getting stepped on and not being true to yourself. There is a middle ground for sure.

I told myself a lot of negative messages about myself, while assigning perfection to other people who probably tell themselves a lot of these same messages too.

Not skinny enough. I always had an athletic build in high school–I played tennis and it was pretty much my life. After high school, I packed on the pounds. Freshman 15? More like Freshman 45! I have always struggled with my weight and let it define me. And why? Weight has nothing to do with my talents or my personality, but people do look at weight and judge a person. I have done it myself–looked at an obese person and wondered how they got there. And I’m not skinny, so that ain’t fair at all!

Not smart enough. As a kid, I went to one of the most prestigious schools in Montgomery, Alabama. I felt like a complete idiot. Everyone there seemed smarter than me. I struggled, especially in math, and was so embarrassed by this that I often hid my grades from my parents. I also had two older sisters at the school who seemed to do fine. Of course, one of my sisters studied her butt off, and I never did that–I sort of had this fly by the seat of the pants attitude about life. And it ended up working for me…until it didn’t.

Not talented enough. I have always loved to write. As a kid, I wrote these long stories mostly about people growing up in the Civil War Days. I had a huge obsession with Abraham Lincoln and triplets. I wrote most of my childhood, but I never felt talented enough to turn the writing into anything. I let other people’s ideas of what I should do influence me. I felt like my writing talent was not enough to make anything substantial. I told myself this even when I published a book, and after that book went out of print.

Not fast enough. A few years back, my sisters decided we would all run a half-marathon together. I said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I do not run.” Well, sibling pressure is real, y’all. I ended up training for 20 weeks, hurting my foot, you name it, but competed and finished the Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. But I’ve never been fast. I trained all that time and still had trouble with pacing, keeping up with my sisters, and increasing my time. I told myself I wasn’t fast enough to be a real runner.

Not pretty enough. I have never looked at myself and thought I was pretty. As a child, I struggled a lot with self-image. I had alopecia, and kids made fun of and bullied me. I struggled a lot to look in the mirror and think the person looking back at me might be beautiful. Everyone always told me I had a beautiful smile. But I just couldn’t see what people saw in me. And when I lost all my hair nine years ago, I struggled again. I had a hard time confronting the emotions that came with that loss, and thinking that grieving the loss of my hair might make me self-centered or something like that. I rolled with the punches. I told people about alopecia. I feigned feeling confident. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

So how do you go about changing the not enough into a great big ENOUGH? Start changing the mental dialogue. It takes practice, and sometimes I fall into the same pattern of telling myself I’m not enough.

When I look in the mirror now, I try to think about how easy it is not to have to deal with hair. I can go bald, and I don’t use that much shampoo. When I run, I think about how strong my body is getting. I think that speed doesn’t matter as long as I’m continuing to run the race. When I write, I can acknowledge my talent. I had to stop thinking about what other people might be thinking of me, and start thinking about what I should and could tell myself.

SMART ENOUGH. PRETTY ENOUGH. FAST ENOUGH.

TALENTED ENOUGH.

Still not really skinny enough, but hey I’m working on it.

GOOD ENOUGH

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Parenting and Expectations

DSC_0172

Kids. Guilt. Expectations. They go together like three peas in a pod. I probably read every article I come across about parenting. Some serve to judge. Some serve not to judge. Some ask people not to judge while they are then judging other people. Judgment is just human nature. Taking all the information in, processing it, and then finding what works for me as a parent is what I normally attempt to do. It isn’t a fine science.

A few years ago, I found I felt angry a lot. I took it out on my husband and my kids. I yelled and I snapped. I snipped at people. And it only made me feel worse. It took me a while, but I found a way to control that anger, especially when I realized it made my kids act like me. They took on all my anxiety and anger, and they began to express it. They expressed it in their play and in the way they interacted with other people. And that was not something I wanted, because I knew it was one of my major flaws. It prohibited me from appropriately relating to other people. It caused a cease of communication, when all I really wanted was to communicate.

I still have a temper. Sometimes I get so mad I could hit something. Instead, I write. Or do yoga. Or I go for a walk. Or I take a hot bath. I try to push a pause button until I feel better.

I thought taking the anger away was enough. I wanted my children to avoid feeling like they had to please me and their father above themselves. You see, for a long time I felt that way. My parents had HUGE expectations of me, and everything I had striven for in my early adulthood I did for them instead of for myself. I couldn’t figure out why it was so important for me to make them happy. And that feeling made me unhappy. Trying to please others above yourself always makes one feel unhappy, because you never know if you’re succeeding at it and because you’ve placed your happiness in the hands of another person who you have no control over. I felt like I had to be a superhero to avoid my dad’s criticism or to mold myself into their idea of success. And I don’t want that for my children. I love my parents, and I don’t blame them at all. They’re good parents, and they’re there for me, and everyone should be as lucky as I am to have been born of such wonderful, loving people. I know my parents are proud of me. I know it’s my own life to live, and I know that they didn’t mean to heap their expectations on to me. Parents should expect a lot from their children, but children should also expect more from themselves. They should be taught that success is driven by achieving their expectations of themselves, not by reacting to others expectations of them.

I read this great article yesterday (from April 2014) titled What to Say Instead of Praising. Praising brings conditionality into a relationship. In fact, saying “Good job,” implies that you expect them to be good. Instead of “Good job,” say “You did it!” and match your child’s excitement. This is one of the hints from the article. This also allows your child to realize the value of what they did, without feeling like they have to do a good job to please you. Instead, they learn that working hard reaps benefits for themselves. It in fact, leads them to succeed without having the burden of having to please their parents.

I think I say, “Good job,” more than any other phrase to my kids. And this morning, I changed that. I sent Hailey to the car while I went to the bathroom. I said, “Hey, if you try to buckle up while I’m in the bathroom it’ll be a big help to me.” She beamed at me.

When I came back from the bathroom, she was in the car completely buckled with a huge grin on her face, “Look Mom!” And I had to bite my tongue. My first instinct was to say, “Good job!” but I didn’t. Instead I said, “Look. You did it!” and I grinned back at her and gave her a love pat.

Like consciously stopping my anger, this is something I’ll have to work on as well. But I think like the article stated it will increase my children’s self-esteem. It will show them they have the power within to succeed in the ways they want to succeed. Instead of trying to understand and live up to my expectations as adults, they’ll live up to their own expectations and create happiness from within. At least this is what I hope for them.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

PS: The Devil Within is only available for the next three weeks. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

Expect Less, Live More

When I went to Midwest Writer’s way back in July (it now feels like eons ago), someone said to make a name for yourself you have to blog. She/he (all the faces blurred together-sorry for vagueness) said readers like to hear from authors consistently, so set up a blog schedule and stick to it. Well, obviously I’ve fallen short in that category. I intend to blog three times each week, but sometimes things happen (like lice, or vacation, sick kids, sick me, anxiety-ridden can only sit on the couch and watch seventeen episodes in a row of How I Met Your Mother type days). But it got me thinking about expectations.

A few years back, I felt unhappy. And during that time, I found my love for writing again. I started writing for catharsis, to heal old wounds, and new. I wrote to rid myself of feelings I deemed wrong or inappropriate. I wrote to find solace from within myself. I wrote so I could function every day and not curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a corner even though some days I wanted to. Back then, I held myself and everyone around me up to sky-high expectations. And it was a nightmare.

Unrealistic expectations of others only serves to further unhappiness in yourself. When one has expectations of other people that those people don’t meet, then one is stuck in a state of disappointment. How can you be happy when you’re constantly disappointed with others? Expectations become a little like mind-reading. Come on, we all say we’re not mind-readers, but the truth is many of us expect others to read our minds. Many of us expect others to fill the void within us. Many of us expect to achieve happiness from other people, instead of searching for it where it really exists: inside ourselves.

When I really thought about this—letting go of expectations—I thought it was ridiculous. I mean come on. My whole life, I’d been trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, to my bosses’ expectations, to my teachers’ expectations, and to my own unrealistic expectations of achieving perfection. I wanted my marriage and life to seem perfect, and in the end I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. When I realized this, I sank further into the dark pit of oblivion called depression. And I had to pull myself out, one layer at a time. I had to realize by letting go of expectations that I had what it took to make myself happy and to spread that joy around.

You see, having expectations for yourself is okay, as long as you don’t set the bar too high. I have goals and expectations for myself on a daily basis, but I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I know failure is an opportunity to learn.

It took me a while to learn that pegging your expectations on others, well, that doesn’t work. It destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys happiness. Now when I reach out to a friend, I do it because I want to. Sure, in a perfect world, it’d be nice for my friends to always reciprocate. But I know when they don’t, it’s because they got busy. I’m not catastrophizing about all the reasons they don’t like me. I’m done obsessing about where they disappeared to when they didn’t call. Because all these things—they’re crazy-making, not happy-making! If you really want to know whether someone is your friend or not, then be there for them, and see if they give back from the deepness of their hearts. Talk to them. Put the phone down and meet them for lunch. Tell them how you feel. Stop guessing and expecting other people to read your mind!

The only person in this life who can make you happy is you. Let go of your expectations for others. Give because you want to give, not because you want someone to give back. I promise, if you do this you’ll see the world differently and it might even make you happy. Hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Have you found happiness? Have you found ways to let go of your expectations? If you’re a writer, do you write for happiness?


Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Newsletter Signup: http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts