Saturday, September 28, 2013

Be a Yellow Rubber Duck

I would love to take credit for the idea of being a Yellow Rubber Duck because it is fantastic; however, this was a post that came through my personal facebook feed and was attributed to "Adidas (Auckland Marathon)."

It goes like this:

Runner, from now on you are a yellow rubber duck.

You cannot be crushed.  You cannot be broken.

You bounce back.

You will always rise to the surface.

Repeat after me: 'I am a yellow rubber duck.'

When it hurts: 'I am a yellow rubber duck.'
At 17km: 'I am a yellow rubber duck.'
When your blisters burst: 'I am a yellow rubber duck.'
When you hit the wall: 'I am a yellow rubber duck.'
When you complete the marathon: 'I am a very happy yellow rubber duck.'

I imagine many of you may get where this is headed.  You don't have to be a runner to be a Yellow Rubber Duck.  Of course people do get crushed or at least smashed a bit.  We may get broken or cracked.  And we may not always be able to bounce back.  Oftentimes these things happen because we have lost sight of who we are.  The Yellow Rubber Duck?  The Yellow Rubber Duck doesn't know any of that.  It can be stepped on and it will return to its natural Yellow Rubber Duck state.  It can be forced under water and it will simply explode back to the surface.  Why?  Because it is a Yellow Rubber Duck and it is made that way.  It cannot be anything other than that.  It is what it is.  It will never be Gumby or GI Joe or Barbie for that matter. doesn't have to be.  Bath time wouldn't be the same without the Yellow Rubber Duck.  We need it to be exactly what it is.    

Same with you.  You are who you are and the world needs you.  You can try to be someone other than who you are, but that will weaken you and make it easier for you to be crushed or broken.  When you are not who you authentically are, it is easier to get lost under water and you may not be able to find your way back to the surface.  When you know who you are and you unapologetically express your authentic self - you will be as tough as the Yellow Rubber Duck.  And you'll be content.

When it hurts, you will be able to determine the source of your pain and whether or not the pain is warranted (i.e., is someone else trying to make you feel badly for being you?).  When you hit a wall you will be able to look inward and wonder any number of things: Who constructed this wall?  Me?  Someone else?  Can I go around, under, over, through it?  Can I simply push it over?  You'll know what to do based on who you truly are and what you are truly capable of.

You will be strong, content, and certain.  Getting there, however, requires that you know who you truly are.  It is not easy to figure that out sometimes, and you certainly don't have to figure it all out now.  One of the best things about pursuing authenticity is that if you are open to the process you will continuously learn new things about yourself.  Some of those things may not be so great, but they will be worth knowing because then you can decide what to do about those not so great things: accept them, change them, figure out how they make you even more uniquely you...the list is endless.  And, when you learn things about yourself that you think are kinda great you can nurture and protect those parts of you.  And you can look for people who like those things about you too.

Next time you hesitate when expressing an opinion, thought, idea that is authentically you, picture yourself as a Yellow Rubber Duck.  Some of those who are listening to you may step on you.  But, you can bounce back if your allow yourself to.  And you may find that someone else speaks up either in your defense or sometime later tells you that they agree with you - they will help you bounce back if you let them.

So be you.  Be a Yellow Rubber Duck.  Bounce back and rise to the surface.  The world is not the same without the authentic version of you.  Just like bath time is not the same without an authentic Yellow Rubber Duck.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Kind of Body Do You Have?

Various forms of this particular meme have made the rounds on social media.  I think it is fantastic.  With so many companies/people trying to tell us what we need to do in order to GET a bikini body (or just a plain swimsuit body) this is a breath of fresh air!

Another post that came across my feed referred to not having a runner's body, but having the right mindset/heart for being a runner and that this was good enough. about this: If you have a body and you run then you have a runner's body?  What's wrong with that?  Why do we think we have to apologize for not looking the "right" way in order to be allowed to do certain things or wear certain clothes, or think certain thoughts?  Why can't we just say "I'm a runner."  "I'm going to wear a bikini.""I AM WHATEVER I DO, NO MATTER WHAT MY BODY LOOKS LIKE!"  Yes I was yelling on purpose.

One of my areas of professional focus is on eating disorders and body image concerns.  The straight jacket in which many of us (men and women) live is seriously tight.  We are bombarded by a slew of messages reminding us that unless we look the exact right way, then we should not do certain things or wear certain clothes.  Or what?  The fashion police will issue a citation?  Make an arrest?  Well, a lot of people have deputized themselves as officers of fashion and/or of behavioral law and order.  They go out of their way to point out what we're doing wrong despite the fact that what we're doing has NOTHING to do with them whatsoever.  They don't like it so you shouldn't like it.  And if you do, you should feel like crap about it.
What is wrong with people?!
Why on earth can't we leave each other alone unless we are offering care and support?  Of course some deputies believe that is exactly what they're doing.  "I'm saving them a lot of embarrassment. So...what I'm doing is a good thing."  Bullshit!  Butt out and mind your own business!  My apologies for the rant, but this is one of the things that really gets my blood boiling.  
What we can do to combat this is to not let others dictate what we do and how we feel.  We get to decide.  I'm suggesting that it is necessarily easy to brush off the comments of others.  It can be really difficult, especially if those comments come from those who are important to us.  But we still get to decide whether or not such comments stop us from doing what we had intended on doing all along.

I would like to challenge you all to do what my students (I'm also a college professor) have been recently challenged to do.  As part of my course on eating disorders, they have been challenged to think of things they do not do because of how they perceive their bodies - and then do it anyway!!  This is not easy especially with all of the self appointment pseudo law enforcement officials out there.  I haven't met with them again to know how it went, but I challenge you to do the same.  Consider what you have not done or are not doing because according to others you don't look exactly right.  Is this something you WANT to do?  Then, in my opinion, I think this is precisely what you ought to do.  You're allowed to wear a bathing suit, or to wear fitted/tight clothing if you what to even if your body is shaped in a way that makes you or others say "You know.  You really shouldn't wear that."  Again...BS!

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We're all allowed to pursue this.  Feel free to look away if you don't like the look of my post child bearing 42-year-old bathing suit clad body.  I'm going swimming!!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Playing Hide and Seek With Your Inner Child

Yeah, I know.  The term "inner child" is really overused and so overplayed.  However, I guess what I'm really talking about is being childlike which is not to be confused with being childish.  The biggest difference between the two is is that being childlike invokes the more positive qualities that children have: innocence, playfulness, joy, unconcerned with the opinions of others.  Being childish on the other hand usually refers to the not so great qualities that kids have: tantrums, disagreeableness, overall lack of maturity.  What tends to happen to us as we get socialized and "grow up" is that we not only become more mature
and (hopefully) don't have tantrums anymore but we also leave behind what is so great about being a child.  We leave these things behind as if being an adult and being playful are mutually exclusive.  Where's the fun in that?!

There's a really great commercial out right now for a well-known bottled water company that shows adults looking at their reflection on a store window - their reflections, however, are of themselves as babies.  So the adults start dancing or moving around in silly ways.  The baby reflections move in kind.  What is also shown is how much fun the adults seem to be having.

Where is your inner child - the childlike quality in you?  Can you find her?  If you can't and you want to...just yell "Ready or not, here I come!" and starting running after her.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken"

Oscar Wilde has some pretty awesome quotes attributed to him.  My absolute favorite is the title of this blog.  The quote to the left I think reflects the spirit of being yourself as well.  When we really love someone, we get to know who they really are in a way that no one else will likely ever know.  We see and experience their uniqueness - the fact that they are who they are - unlike any other.  There is no one like you - there never will be again.  That's a pretty cool thing.

It seems to me, however, that a lot of people work really hard to be like someone else.  We try to look like them, act like them, think like them, etc.  Part of that desire certainly comes from the pressures around us - most commercials are well crafted to remind us that we are not good enough but that they can sell us the thing that will get us there.  Yeah right.  Sometimes we hear from family and friends that we need to change.  That sucks too.  Sometimes those we are aspiring to be like are really good people about whom others might even say "Who wouldn't want to be like him/her?"  The problem is that it is not possible.  So we are automatically setting ourselves up to fail.  Not good.  We can certainly aspire to be kind, caring, funny, audacious, irreverent, shocking, whatever - like someone else.  But each of us will have our own unique flavors of those things.  We will do these things like no one has ever done before, or will ever do again.

When you have a moment, if you so choose, contemplate in what ways you are trying to be like someone else and think about whether you're asking something of yourself that is impossible (I was a teenager in the "I wanna be like Mike" era...not gonna happen).  Or when you end up slightly or a lot different than expected perhaps you are just that blade of grass that isn't bending in the same direction as all the others and you are bending exactly as you are supposed to.  You are being exactly who you are supposed to be.

So, sing your song, dance your dance.  Be you!!

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

No More Guilty Pleasures

Do you have any guilty pleasures?  You probably do.  Most people probably do.  Favorite shows you like to watch that you watch alone because you don't want anyone else to know?  Music on you mp3 player that you have stored on a secret play list?  Love to read a particular book genre that you aren't supposed to like because you're a man, a woman, or the wrong age?

So why do we feel guilty about these particular pleasures?  Why should we hide the things that we like?  If they provide us with a source of entertainment, or pleasure why on earth do we feel like we cannot possible let anyone else know that we like these things?  Well, because other people have a way of tormenting or ridiculing us for things they think aren't quite "right."  They may do so in a "joking" way - meaning that they hurl an insult at you while laughing or follow it up with "just kidding!"  But does any of that really negate the original comment?  Do we feel any less picked on?  No.  Not really.

What if there were no more guilty pleasures?  What do you think would happen if you unapologetically declared what you like - without shame or guilt?  You don't have to go out of your way to make an announcement about your hidden pleasures; but, what if the next time someone says "I can't believe anyone would actually listen to/watch/read/spend money on/etc. that!" you responded with "Well I do."  Imagine the worst case scenario.  Would that person laugh at you, ridicule you, bring more people into the conversation for the purpose of humiliating you even more?  Any of that would be pretty awful without a doubt.  But ask yourself: Is this person someone who really cares about me?  Are they a friend?  Family member?  Someone else who says they care about you?  If so and they respond to you like that are they worth your time?  I'm not suggesting you cut them out of your life completely but perhaps intentionally limit the amount of time you spend with them - and put them on the "I can't really trust them with who I am list."

There are others out there (hopefully they are in your life now) who might respond to your self declaration with "No.  Really?"  Then realize that you're serious and say something like "Oh.  That's cool," or respond with their own guilty pleasure confession.  In other words, these are the people who respect you for who you are - non-mainstream preferences and all.  These are the people who are solid enough with themselves that they can accept you for exactly who you are without feeling threatened in any way.

So the next time you think of something you like as being a guilty pleasure I challenge you to think of it as simply a pleasure.  Period.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

BTW - I love the Harry Potter movies.  I have ABBA on my playlist.  And my idea of a vacation is a hotel with room service and really good cable tv.   Oh.  And if I can buy something in pink...that's what I'm buying.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Play YOUR Game

I'm also a sport psychologist and one of the things I see sometimes in my work are athletes who are not playing their game.  They're playing someone else's game.  Playing at someone else's pace, on the defensive when they're better at being offensive, etc.  Whether they are trying to play like someone else or they are pushed outside of their game in the course of a competition they are not playing their game.  The game of life is no different.

On a daily basis we are bombarded by commercials, images, and indeed messages from friends and family telling us how we should be and what we ought to be doing.  Some messages are intended to get you to spend money other messages are intended to keep the sender of the message comfortable.  A not quite so serious, but humorous example of this is some version of - parent to child - "Put on your jacket - I'm cold!"  The idea of course is that the parent's experience trumps the child's (And no.  I'm not talking about a child going out in freezing temperatures without a jacket).  Regardless of the intent, these messages ignore one of, if not the most important elements: YOU!

If I tell you that you need my product in order to improve your looks, your intellect, your ability to get a date I have to rely on my ability to get you to believe that you are lacking in those areas and offer you a solution to your problem.  I have no idea who you are or if you even need what I have to sell, but I'm bound and determined to capitalize on your insecurities so you buy my message and eventually my product (there's a reason the diet/beauty industry is a $60 BILLION a year industry).  Likewise, the people in our lives do the same thing.  They're not usually trying to get our money, but they are trying to get you to believe that you must look, act, think, and feel certain ways or you are not acceptable.  They will "help" you fit in/belong.  If you don't follow through, you won't be allowed into the "club."  You won't be loved.  You will be rejected.

Some of us may be able to more easily see through marketers and laugh at their transparent attempts to get us to spend money on useless products - or products whose less expensive counterparts are just as good.  We tend to be less adept, however, at ignoring friends and family when they give us messages that we are doing something wrong.  "You're not supposed to believe that."  "Our family doesn't act that way." "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." "Don't eat that.  You don't want to get fat do you?"  "What's wrong with you?"  And on, and on.  Most of the people in our lives don't realize the impact that their messages have.  Some communicate directly, others with body language or other non-verbals (including the "silent treatment").  Regardless of the manner in which these things are communicated, we get very good and figuring out what they want and how we're supposed to act.  Because we also realize very quickly we may lose the relationship if we don't conform.  If we don't play their game.

Play your game.  Do so with respect for those around you; but, whenever possible try to resist the messages that you're not okay just as you are.  If you think or do or feel something that ultimately is not true to who you are, you'll figure that out because it won't feel right but not because someone else told you so.

Playing your game is liberating.  It allows you to feel a type of confidence that you cannot otherwise feel when you're pretending to be someone you are not.

Play your game.  Your game rocks!

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Monday, September 9, 2013

How Much of You is Really On Social Media?

This post isn't about misleading comments or images designed to make yourself look "better" than you are (Better is in quotes because there is no need!  You're just fine as you are!).  This post is about what you don't say for fear of backlash - either on-line or in real life.

I hesitated before I hit "post" on a facebook post today.  Why?  Why on earth can't I simply, easily post what matters to me?  Well, because I knew it might "offend" some of my extended family members.  The post itself did not include profanity or in any way denigrate any person or group.  I just knew that I was taking a clear stand on something that was in opposition to that which many of my family members believe.

My stand was not "in your face" - unless of course you think that posting an opinion is "in your face."  I thought about referencing "family members" in general in my post but thought better of it.  There was no need.  This was not about them.  This was about me, my beliefs and how they fit into my life and that of my immediate family members (husband and children).  None-the-less I hesitated.

I'm glad I hit post.  I'm glad I posted what I wanted to despite whatever reactions I may get (including being blocked or hidden).  I believe in what I posted.  The content reflect that which is important to me.  It reflected me.  And I'm glad.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why me? Why this blog?

The idea of "identity" is something that has intrigued me for as far back as I can remember.  Of course I didn't know "identity" is what I was thinking about when I was a child.  As I got older, learned more in school, about the world around me, about myself I immersed myself into the idea that who I am matters.  And more importantly, who I wanted to be, whatever that happened to be, really mattered.

I was fortunate to have a mentor during my undergraduate years who taught me by example and through complete acceptance, that I could be whoever I wanted to be and would not be rejected or judged (more on that another time...I fully tested this!).  He was an existentialist fully aware of what it means to be a human being.  I always had the sense that he wasn't pretending or looking for a reaction from others when he'd say something shocking.  He was just being Larry.  This was poignantly confirmed when he was dying from cancer.  His wife told me that even when he was in a great deal of pain and knew that the end of his life was near he reached out to her with words of comfort: "It's okay.  This is all part of the human condition."

I was pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions growing up.  By friends, peers who weren't friends, family, co-workers, employers.  You name it.  We all experience this.  I figured out quickly what others expected of me and goose-stepped my way in line.  Figuring out when others changed direction so I wouldn't be out of step.  That worked for awhile I suppose but guess what?  I wasn't very happy.

Somewhere along the way I desired happiness.  Somewhere along the way I realized one of the most important things I could do for myself was to be me.  Period.  Happiness followed.

Am I happy all the time?  Of course not.  Life has a way of reminding us that we don't always get a say in things.  However, I get to decide how I'm going to deal with what life hurls at me.  I get to decided.  Period.

So, there's more to my journey.  More to my quest for authenticity and being Self Strong and that's what this blog is about.  My journey and the journey of those who intersect with my life.

Here's to you and being Self Strong!

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