As the burning and shaking in my standing leg is about to cause me to crumble to the ground, I suddenly hear my teacher’s voice coming through the haze of sweaty faces and sitar music… “Remember your Center during this moment of struggle.”
My Center? My Center during this struggling moment is the last thing I can remember! I’ve been holding my breath, blowing soggy strands of hair off my eyes, and internally cursing the teacher for not releasing us from this torture! But strangely, after hearing her reminder, I begin to engage my core, which in turn, gets me to breathe a little deeper, which then allows me to stand in the pose a few seconds longer.
Same Saturday, I’m back at home a few hours later, where Kiki and Conor are setting up for their weekly Madden Wii game. Suddenly I hear loud shouts and cries coming from Kiki, who’s begging Conor to let him play first, even though it’s Conor’s turn, and he’s in no mood to negotiate. So Kiki runs upstairs to find me, and pleads for me to intervene and change their rules.
I’m so tempted to just give in and agree, as it will allow me a few free moments to peacefully compile my holiday shopping lists, and I know that reinforcing what’s fair will mean a long saga that can easily be avoided if I talk with Conor (who will probably agree to wait).
But then my teacher’s words come back to me… Remember our Center during times of struggle.
Just as it would have been easier for me to let go of my yoga pose as soon as it felt difficult, it definitely would be easier to let Kiki avoid this moment when he doesn’t get his way.
But what will that teach him about the importance and value of struggle? So I don’t ask Conor. Instead I try to validate and empathize with Kiki (which is quite challenging in the face of a slamming door and loud laments about how we are “the meanest family in the world!”). And it was a long process; probably a good 45 minutes of anger, frustration and tears. Yet the longer it went on, the clearer it became to me that however messy and difficult, this struggle was worth it.
During those 45 minutes, I realized that the bigger lesson for Kiki to learn, is that not getting what you want all the time is part of life (and an important reminder during this consumption-focused time of year) as well as waiting your turn, following the rules, and working through your feelings in a safe way. Those were all the lessons that would have been lost if I had given in and taken the easier path. Not to mention the message I would be sending to both Conor and Kiki that yelling the loudest is the way to get what you want, whether it’s fair or not.
It also helped remind me how important it is for our children to experience safe and appropriate struggle, no matter how difficult it is for us to watch or how tempted we are to save them.
Whether it’s an infant who can’t quite reach an object, an 11 year-old who experiences a buzzer beater loss in his basketball playoffs, or a teenager who has to navigate the social and academic pressures of high school, it is in these moments that children can experience both the emotional growth, and pride in accomplishment that come from overcoming adversity.It is also another opportunity to practice how to keep our bearings, or our Center, during the biggest challenges we face.
And inevitably, just like my half moon pose and everything else in life, Kiki’s feelings (and Conor’s Madden game) didn’t last forever. He eventually stopped yelling, eventually asked me for a hug, and eventually got his turn to play. And I have to hope that both of us gained a little more clarity about our Center that Saturday, and how we can work towards finding it, even in the most difficult moments of struggle.
So here’s a toast and wish for this holiday season to be filled with a little more clarity and centeredness and a little less struggle and adversity.
The holidays can sometimes seem overwhelming. However they are also the perfect time to give yourself permission to create bliss in your home. When our home isn’t as beautiful and functional as we want it to be, there’s a negative reaction inside of us at a gut level. That feeling! This holiday season, give yourself permission to gift yourself a space that nurtures and supports you and your family and above all, makes you happy! At my very core, I believe through design we can all have a better life. However, it’s not a matter of putting more ‘stuff’ in our homes. It is really a matter of creating heart in the home through design and infusing the spaces in your home with you… with who you are as a mom, a wife, a sister…with what’s in your heart.
Here are a few ideas to help you create a nurturing, heartfelt home this holiday season.
During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to family. This holiday season, surround yourself and your family with love, togetherness and gratitude. One way to infuse your rooms with these things is to bring in happy reminders of what is really important to you and your family. In addition to decorating your home with beautiful holiday decorations, think about infusing treasured memories of past holidays into your home this year. Set aside time after school or one evening as a family to each choose four or five pictures from past holidays that really speak to you and bring happy memories to mind. Choose frames that coordinate with your existing décor and create a photo ‘spot’ in each of your rooms, specific for each person, whether on a blank wall or a side table. For example, your daughter and son could each frame several pictures for their rooms that they’ve chosen, which are special reminders to them. In the living room, you could all choose one or two pictures to display as a collection. This is also a wonderful way for your children to have a hand in creating their own décor and to learn the importance of creating a special space for themselves. Trust me, it will make a difference each time you walk in the room and see the happy memories!
If your photo spots are on side or console tables, try pairing a plant, flowers or other organic component that corresponds with the memory, or that brings up other fun/pleasant memories from past holidays. You may try a small rosemary tree in your kids’ rooms or some other organic, holiday reminder. For instance, when I was younger, my mom and I made spiced orange pomanders during the holidays, using oranges or tangerines and spiking the rinds with cloves in decorative patterns. Not only did they make pretty centerpieces, the scent of orange and clove throughout the house during the holidays was amazing! So for me, using these near my photo spots or simply as a centerpiece just layers the holiday memories together and incorporates a wonderful scent that brings back even more happy memories.
The holidays are also about gratitude and using a gratitude journal is one way many of us stay connected to those things that truly matter to us. Why not begin a new tradition this year and create a family gratitude journal? You can even give it a place of honor on one of the tables or bookshelves in your home, specially decorated for the holiday season. Each evening or every few days, set aside 10 or 15 minutes to spend time as a family and pass the journal around to add one or two things for which you’re each grateful. Writing our gratitude helps center us in the present moment, shutting out the chaos of homework, the To Do list, carpool and soccer. Sharing our gratitude only multiplies it and serves to bring other good things to us, so pass it around and read them to each other! You will create a fun, new family tradition and you’ll have the journal to look back on each year to come.
I know we’ve all heard this phrase at the holiday season: carve out space and time for yourself. Selfcare is important, particularly for moms who focus on nurturing everyone but themselves. To give ourselves adequate self-care in our homes, we need to have a space that we can call our own at least some part of the day. Give yourself permission to take a room, a corner in the living room or a spot on the patio or in the bath, and take a few minutes here to allow yourself space to breathe and be you.
Connect with your surroundings. Congratulate yourself for accomplishing all that you have. Light a candle or use a reed diffuser with a scent that reminds you of something happy and enjoy spending some time with yourself.
Remembering that the holidays are truly about family, giving and gratitude helps center us during this typically crazy time of year. Creating reminders in our home throughout the season is one way to help bring togetherness, comfort and bliss to our families, to carry with us into the new year.
by Liana Wong
In May 2007, our son Max was diagnosed with a rare diagnosis of B-cell Lymphoma. We started to raise money immediately for cancer research, specifically directing monies to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to underwrite a cell therapy lab.
In less than six months, we raised more than $200,000. We quickly learned the reality that pediatric cancer research is under funded and needed our support.
What obstacles did you face when you started the foundation?
We needed to educate ourselves on the cause and have a plan. It is common to want to do a lot in a short period of time.
We were fortunate to have success early on, but needed to maintain focus and not stray from our mission. Ideas are constantly flowing and we need to always do what is best for The Max Cure Foundation and our mission.
What were your initial thoughts when your son was diagnosed with cancer?
It was the worst day of my life. I felt like my soul was ripped from my body and smashed to the ground.
How did you handle communicating the diagnosis with your other children?
At the time, we only had Alexander who was 2 years old. We were honest from day one about Max’s cancer to Alexander and to Max. We called it a “boo boo that was very dangerous”.
I felt blessed that God gave us the opportunity to find the cancer and to get Max immediate treatment. The diagnosis was stage 4 but there was hope for a cure with Max. I was not going to let any negativity into our lives to change our focus and mission at hand.
What top advice would you give to others in a similar situation with their family?
Take it day by day and keep the stress and negativity to a minimum. Part of the healing process is a nurturing home. It is easy to lose control. The last thing you want is a child to feel that the cancer is his/her fault.
What top advice would you give on how to keep the marriage solid throughout it all?
Good question. I am not sure that I have the answer for that one. LOL Our marriage definitely had its challenges. We still have our challenges but when you have a child that is fighting for their life, it is important to be selfless and remain a team no matter how difficult the situation. It is not about you, it is about the child.
I try to be there for my children and participate as much as I can in their lives. I am far from perfect and I am definitely working on the “balance” part. It is not easy running a foundation, which could easily employ twenty or more people if we could afford it. We have so much going on all the time and I find myself wearing many hats, which is tough to do. I am grateful for the small team we do have because they keep me in check and look forward to the future.
Pediatric Cancer Facts:
- 13,500 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year
- 3,300 children die each year in the United States from cancer within five years of diagnosis
- Cancer kills more children than any other disease
- Those children that survive five years have a ten times greater mortality rate
- Research to find cures for pediatric cancers is the most under funded of all cancers and relies heavily on foundations such as The Max Cure Foundation for support.
I open the door.
In comes the treasured guest.
In her hands are her gifts
the gift of time and far-seeing moments,
the gift of nourishment and wisdom,
the gift of caring and knowledge,
the gift of change and self.
She must have searched her soul for gifts as precious as these.
The holiday season is again upon us. When you ask your kids about the holidays they may automatically think of receiving gifts. So how do we teach the spirit of giving? For many of us parents, we start to think of how we can provide the gifts that meet our child’s expectations this year. We might even exceed our budgets to meet these expectations, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed.
If you feel some of these pressures and feel yourself drifting from the spirit of giving, we have a few suggestions for this season and throughout the year.
First, in honesty, it is developmentally appropriate for children and adolescents to be egocentric in their thinking. At the same time, at any age, children can give generously and genuinely. So, of course our children will tell us what they want for the holidays and asking for it is understandable. We all have needs and wants and having the ability to verbalize them is very important. The balancing act for your family is identifying what is reasonable to expect when it comes to material items. As parents, we have the ability to set the tone and limits of expectations this year. Just know that what your family decides may differ from other families and your children are very likely to make comparisons. However, knowing what feels right for your family is most important.
So what about giving? Can you think of a time that you gave something to someone and you could see how much it meant to that person? Those are great stories to share with your children. Also, reminding your children of a time when they made something just for you and how much that meant/means to you will help personalize the meaning of giving. A beautiful story to share with your children of any age is “The Gift of the Magi” by Henry O (pen name for William Sydney Porter), which was written back in 1906. This timeless classic talks about the act of giving through unselfish love. There is also, “The Giving Tree”, by Shel Silverstein, which brings up great points of conversation around giving and receiving. These are great ways to start conversations in your family.
Look at your own family and see if this is the case. Pay attention and observe how your children take care of their toys. Be mindful of how easily your children ask for things and expect to receive them. Do you find yourself giving in when your child throws a tantrum at the store just to spare yourself the embarrassment?There are many debates out there as to how today’s parents focus on how much they will spend on getting their kids the latest gadgets and/or toys even if it means increasing your debt or spending beyond your means. Many people complain that we are bringing up a generation of “Gimmies” or children with a strong sense of entitlement focused on getting instant gratification.
Transitions in Motherhood invites you to create new traditions about giving in your family this holiday season. You can focus on giving within your family and within your community. Here are a few ideas that you can implement that will help your children understand the concept of giving and giving back.
Within your family
1. At dinner, acknowledge an act of kindness that someone in the family shared that you identify as a gift to your family (opening the door, bringing in the groceries, etc.).
2. Create a little tree that you can place in your home where you can write down acts of kindness/giving and hang the writings on the tree to acknowledge these gifts.
3. Engage your family in recycling cans and bottles to purchase a family gift instead of buying individual gifts.
4. Completing a family project that benefits your family or home. Like the phrase “charity starts at home”. Such as cleaning your yard together, washing the family car, cleaning the garage, etc.
5. Share with your family the things you are grateful for (non-material).
Within your community
1. Ask your children if they see a need in the community that they can help with. The more the act is self-driven the better.
2. Have your children go through their toys and clothes and see what they are no longer using and have them donate some things to their nearest shelter. Reading a little bit about the local charity and what they do before you make your donation can help bring further understanding. Even writing a short note to go with the donation can help personalize the experience.
3. Have your children/family work together and clean a neighbor’s yard.
4. Bake cookies as a family and donate them to a local convalescent home.
5. Perform a dance or song at a convalescent home.
Happy Holidays from Transitions in Motherhood, supporting you every step of the way.
Cookies and chocolate and pie – oh my! Eggnog, champagne and wine – divine! The holiday season is officially here! There is excitement, stress, and for most of us, lots and lots of eating. Many of you are traveling, or have at least departed from any sense of normal. As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Lack of time to exercise probably doesn’t help either. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet as soon as we ring in the New Year (as we shovel another brownie in our mouths).
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse. Trips to the supermarket also turn into a tantalizing adventure of temptation as you find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them. All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities that make maintaining control a huge challenge. For the better part of the year, many of us make healthy eating a habit. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as we indulge in eating as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Despite all this, with a little good planning, it is possible to avoid being part of that swelling statistic and maybe even still fit into that little black dress you were hoping to wear to the holiday parties.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Just maintaining your weight during this time of year can go a long way.
Limit the liquid calories:
Soda, eggnog and cocktails can pack amazing quantities of calories, most of them devoid of nutrition. If you limit the holiday treat to foods, you will easily cut down on sugar and calories. Meanwhile, load up on water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks to keep well hydrated and feel fuller.
This is an obvious one, I know, but it is also obviously simple to blow off during holiday season. It comes down to being committed. You have to commit in your mind that exercise will be a priority. Plan it and put it in the schedule. You might not always be able to do your normal workout routine, but if you at least walk or do some strength moves at home daily, take stairs rather than elevators, dance to holiday music, play outside with the kids, it will help release stress, improve immunity, minimize and maybe even eliminate weight gain.
Tame your appetite before the party:
One of the worst things you can do is to starve yourself the day of a party to bank calories. Not eating can severely mess with your metabolism (as in, slow it down) and your hunger will likely send you straight to the buffet line to overindulge. Instead, eat a high protein snack like a handful of nuts, a few rolls of turkey, a spoonful of tuna or some low fat cheese. You should also drink a full glass of water before every meal to stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger and can cause snack attacks. At the party, load up on veggies and high protein dishes. Limit the carbs and greasy fare to a minimum.
Use healthy substitutes for holiday fare. Instead of whole milk products, use low fat or non-fat variations. For example, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make your favorite holiday dips and consider other healthy dips like salsa and hummus.
Limit holiday splurges:
Write all the holiday parties and gatherings in your calendar and then commit to limiting splurges to those special events. Your greatest source of extra calories is probably from the daily intake of cookies and other goodies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year. If we give ourselves license to go off program the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the results could take months to undo. It takes far more effort to lose a pound than it does to gain one. Unfortunately, it only takes one big meal to send the scale soaring for most of us. In between holiday splurges, fill in all the other days with regular healthy meals and careful planning.
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat almost double than he or she normally would eating alone. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it’s your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it — maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season – and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, enjoy a healthy glass of red wine, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet. Imagine starting the new year feeling your best and getting back on the path to a healthier you rather than having to begin the race again ten pounds behind the start line.
The holidays are usually about family, fun and food…lots and lots of food! Last I read, the average person gains about 7 pounds over the holidays (the “holidays” being defined as Thanksgiving to New Year’s). However, this does not need to be the case. Studies have shown that if you indulged on only those three days (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukah/ Kwanza, and New Years), you would not gain weight. The problem is, when people start eating on Thanksgiving and eat their way until New Years. Between the office parties, holiday parties, family gatherings and yummy holiday treats popping up at your favorite coffee shops, it’s a nonstop, all you can eat, time of year!
Here are some tips to help get you through the holidays, without derailing your healthy lifestyle habits, and causing you to make the dreaded New Year’s Resolution of “Lose 10 Pounds!” Now is that really a positive way to start the year?
Plan your day.
If you know you have a holiday party after work, and you know you are going to indulge, plan to eat a healthy breakfast and a light lunch. Eat something high in protein, such as an egg white omelette for breakfast, a salmon salad for lunch, and then enjoy half of your steak and a few bites of the chocolate soufflé at dinner. Top it off with one glass of wine versus a sugary cocktail drink. Again, plan what you are going to eat at the party, and stick to your plan.
Do something active before a big holiday meal.
Take a morning walk with your family, schedule some time at the gym, or sign up for a holiday race. Many towns have a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k. It is a fun event to get you into the holiday mood. Plus, it gives you something to train for, so that you establish a fitness routine as you enter the holiday season. Check out www.active.com for a race near you.
Have a healthy snack like vegetable soup before the meal.
The worst thing you can do is go into a meal starving. You’ll be more likely to ignore your internal cues, and overeat. There’s nothing worse than enjoying a meal, but then walking away from the table feeling sick, regretting the last few bites you ate. By eating something light before the meal, you curb your appetite without extra calories, and prevent yourself from eating too much.
Wear your tightest pants to the meal!
I know this may sound strange and frankly uncomfortable, but you’ll end up feeling fuller faster. This will allow you to indulge in your favorite foods, without going over board. Furthermore, it will keep you reminded of your goal and commitment to yourself to get to or maintain a healthy weight.
Before you indulge, ask yourself, “Do I really want this? Is it really worth it?”
My personal example of this is the rolls on the buffet table at our Thanksgiving dinner. They are nothing special – just plain, white rolls. Not even the good ones they serve at restaurants that are hot and crispy on the outside. Every year I walk by the rolls and I think, “Sorry, you’re so not worth it. I can have you anytime I want. I’d rather have my mom’s famous sweet potato casserole and Aunt Mary’s delicious stuffing, since I only get those once a year.” The holidays are the perfect time to be picky and turn up your Holiday Eating Survival Guide nose at foods that just really don’t excite you. Do not feel compelled to eat something just because it’s there. If your Aunt Mildred insists you try her green bean casserole, take a small bite, tell her it was delicious, but unfortunately you are full.
Don’t keep leftovers in the house.
If you are a guest in someone’s home, decline the doggy bag. If you are the hostess, either send the leftovers home with your guests, donate them to a homeless shelter, or toss them in the trash! As painful as that sounds, you will feel a lot better about them being in the trash than on your waist line. Take notes and remember how much was left, then vow to cook a little less next year.
Plan meals for the days after the holiday and have healthy snacks on hand.
Don’t wake up the day after Thanksgiving with nothing but pumpkin pie for breakfast. Get right back on track with your usual healthy eating plan.
Indulge ONE day. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the month long spirit, but try to keep it to a minimum. Be selective with your food choices. Don’t get stuck in the holiday trap of eating just for the sake of eating because “you are in the holiday spirit” and someone has painted a snowman on it or put it in a Hanukah tin.
Remember what the holidays are really about.
They are about having family and friends around and enjoying being together. Start nonfood related holiday traditions, like volunteering at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, or going caroling on Christmas Eve. Give movie tickets or Lotto Scratchers as holiday gifts instead of boxes of chocolate or tins of cookies.
If you choose to stay mindful and be aware of what you are putting in your mouth, plan ahead, enjoy when it’s appropriate and really focus on nonfood related holiday cheer, you can get through the holidays without the gift of extra weight!
by Stefanie Ryan
(Photos courtesy of Grace Photography)
I am married and have 2 kids. I work a job and am involved in lots of activities around my kids and community. I am a leader for one of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and my other daughter is actively involved in her troop. I am on the Children’s Hospital of Orange County’s (CHOC) Parent Advisory Committee and I volunteer there. I am also on the board of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
Tell us about your special needs daughter.
My daughter has Spina Bifida. She goes to school with a one-on-one aid that I trust now after quite a long time. She also attends a good after school program that is available until 6:00 pm, which is important to me. If I need to work until that time, I know she’s in a good place.
I started a chapter for Spina Bifida and had a walk two weeks ago. I set up volunteers for it. I also work for New York Life Insurance where I am able to run my own business and work 1 or 20 hours. That flexible schedule allows for other activities and I am able to work and fit in what’s important.
So what is Spina Bifida and what does that mean for you and your family?
Spina Bifida develops in the first month of pregnancy. It is the number one defect at birth and because of it, my daughter is in a wheelchair.
When she’s with me, I call it the rubber band effect. The rubber band doesn’t stretch too far because she doesn’t like to be too far from me. When we’re at home, she has chores, does what she can at home, puts away silverware and puts towels away in the laundry room. The other day I asked her why she didn’t take the plate off the table. She replied that she didn’t want to pick up the plate because it’s made of glass and she didn’t want to break it. She’s very funny.
She has a medical procedure that has to happen every 3-4 hours every day and procedures every other night as well. It makes it hard to plan family outings, because we need to be conscious of her medical schedule. We have to plan things out and not let it hinder what we’re going to do. I’ve worked with her medical doctor to ensure that she can be involved in an activity without being hindered by her medical procedure. Sometimes they’ll tell me about new medications or procedures and they say a certain product can allow her to go all day. So now she can go on school field trips.
She is very knowledgeable of the world and how to make her life easier. A while ago we went through and made things easier for her in the kitchen. Everything has handles so she can do the day-to-day things. We really wanted to keep it functional but pretty too.
Once the kids are in bed, 9-11pm is my time since my husband works the night shift. I like to read and make jewelry. My oldest daughter and I make jewelry together. It’s one of those things that allows us to spend time together.
People often ask me how I handle it all. It is a lot of work, but when I have a bad day I think about my friend that has children that don’t speak or others that have more physical disabilities. I put myself in their shoes and think my life is not that bad. It’s pretty good. Everything’s a gift.
If we lighten up a little bit and don’t have to be a perfect mom or wife all the time, I think we’d all be a little bit happier. We don’t have to be Mrs. Cleaver!
Each person needs to take 10-15 minutes to breathe. To do things that make you happy and what satisfies you at the end of the day, such as getting a massage or doing yoga everyday. We’re unique and we have our own thing that will let us relax and not have our mind in overdrive. I like to have my time at night so I can sleep better after I’ve relaxed, instead of running around the house right before going to bed. When I do that, it takes me so much longer to fall asleep. That’s why I read and calm things down before I go to bed.
What advice would you give moms who are struggling to find balance between their work and home life?
My daughter has allowed me to focus on how precious everyday is and to not let the small things get to me. Sometimes people drive around and get so angry. If someone cuts me off I just think to myself, “I hope they get to the hospital a little bit faster.”
Look at things through someone else’s eyes and maybe your situation isn’t as crazy and hectic. Life can really be simple if you let it be.
(Photos courtesy of Grace Photography)
Do you dread attending social events and meeting new people? Do you want to build your social self-confidence?
With the holidays approaching and the endless opportunities of events, this is a great time to practice your social skills. Allowing yourself to interact with others is the best way to build your social confidence. The greatest challenge is putting yourself into social settings. Just like everything else, it takes practice. Some of the top keynote speakers once felt high levels of anxiety when meeting new people in social environments. Now, after much practice, they can stand before a packed room and command their attention. I am not saying you are going to be the next Anthony Robbins, but with building your self-confidence, you can start to really enjoy social interactions and empower yourself to feel great about your abilities to make new friends.
The best tool to start building your self-confidence is to make a list of your best qualities. Write down 10 traits of your personality that you would like to have in a friend. Traits like; fun, considerate, trustworthy, a good listener, humorous, loyal, respectful, honest, a kind heart, enjoys laughing, etc. Once your list is complete, read them often. Affirming your best qualities daily and just before a social situation is an amazing tool to build your self-confidence. Read each trait by saying to yourself, “I am …” (fill in the blank). Then go to the next trait and again say to yourself, “I am …” until you have completed all 10 traits. Believe in your qualities and others will too.
Now that you have affirmed your amazing qualities to be absolutely true, let’s take a look into why you may still have doubts in yourself. Then, figure out ways to overcome these hurdles. Three biggest negative attributes to social confidence are; shyness, fear of rejection, and feeling inferior. Once you recognize which one is your greatest contributor, then you can begin to work on being more comfortable around people in public.
Let’s get one thing straight about shyness; everyone has had the feeling of awkwardness in a social environment. You are not alone. The key is to stand up straight, smile, look them in the eyes, and introduce yourself and whomever you are with. People generally like to talk about themselves, so try to focus on them. Also, don’t label yourself or others. Labeling someone or yourself before a conversation can give a negative mindset and destroy your chances of having a successful meet and greet.
According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci shyness has three components:
- Excessive Self-Consciousness – you are overly aware of yourself, particularly in social situations.
- Excessive Negative Self-Evaluation – you tend to see yourself negatively.
- Excessive Negative Self- Preoccupation – you tend to pay too much attention to all the things you are doing wrong when you are around other people.
Recognizing the above components and stopping the destructive thoughts while you are in the situation, is a powerful tool to eliminate them. Once you have an understanding of why you are shy; turn your shyness into personal empowerment.
Rejection is not easy, but never allowing yourself to have new experiences is a far greater problem. Fear is an inner demon that will take away so many great opportunities. Ask yourself, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Try not to exaggerate your imagination, and realize, the only opinion that truly matters is your own (keep your list of 10 amazing qualities close by to help remind you).
The best way to overcome the fear of rejection is to find a group of people who have similar interests as you- photography, or a sport, a book club, whatever. Then, at each meeting make it a goal to introduce yourself to one person. Find out their name and one fact about them. At each meeting remember their name and say hello. You will become more confident on your greetings and the other person will be impressed you remembered their name each week. Eventually, you will know the entire class.
Another great mind game when you are out is approaching other people. Tell yourself that it’s just practice and it doesn’t count. This way it’s nothing ventured, nothing gained and you can chalk it up to a positive meet and greet no matter the outcome.
There are also great organizations like Toastmasters which meet weekly in an embracing setting to help people get over the fear of speaking in public. It is a wonderful environment where everyone is there to build their social confidence and the fear of rejection is nonexistent there.
Feeling inferior is a mindset you alone have created and through your thinking, you can overcome it. Everyone has insecurities. Allowing your insecurities to keep you from experiencing new people and events is a tragedy. Especially since most of your insecurities about yourself are so minor to others.
To help explain, I am going to share a personal story and one of my biggest regrets in life. When I was around 20 I met my future husband. I was on the dance floor having the time of my life with my roommates. We were dancing and being silly. The cabbage patch, driving the bus, the moonwalk, you name it we were doing it and having a blast. When we left to get a drink, his best friend introduced me to him. Later that week when we were out to dinner, he told me that his best friend described me as “the beautiful girl on the dance floor who couldn’t dance.”
It devastated me and I was so embarrassed that I did not dance with my girl friends again. Even today at the age of 40 I still have feelings of self-conscious dancing in public. The crazy thing is that his best friend struggled with the fear of dancing before he ever made that comment. It was his complex and for some reason it made him feel better to point out my imperfections. I feel cheated by the time lost on the dance floor and I regret allowing that comment to take away so much fun missed in my life.
So this holiday season get out and practice your new self-esteem. Take baby steps toward building your confidence. Never allow anyone’s negative comment to hold you back, and when you’re feeling a little less confident, look toward the dance floor. You might just get a glimpse of my impersonation of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk across the entire floor.
We all know the typical stories of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Most of us dread the winter months because of that mental connection and the old thought patterns of spending more or spending beyond our means in order to make people “happy.”
This season, I challenge everyone to look beyond the holiday wish lists and create other gift-giving alternatives that would make a difference in other peoples’ lives while making lasting memories as a family. All the shiny electronics and the sugar-filled goodies are still wonderful things to give and receive, but it’s time to take this season up a notch by doing something different for the community and / or your family as a unit.
Make the holidays a time that fulfills your heart and nourishes your soul, instead of feeling spent, broke and exhausted. Take the time to shift the to-do lists, the holiday plans, the decorating and the budget in order to make room for what is really important to you and your family. Write down 3-5 things you want to do to have your “Mom me-time” and the family quality time this holiday. Shift your focus around those things and celebrate in gratitude. After all, teaching our children what the holidays are truly about is one of the most important gifts we can give them.
Living a life of balance means living with purpose and choosing to do things that truly fulfills your core values.
The team at NAFBM wishes you a holiday season of family togetherness, heart-filled gratitude and selfless giving.