If there’s an adjective that can accurately describe me at any day of the year, it’s “dissatisfied.” I am not just talking about this year (2014), but all the years of my life. Yes, I find myself difficult to please. No, this is not to say that I am very dissatisfied with people, and no I am not judging you all my readers right now. Geesh. But I am often disappointed with myself. I am a perfectionist and I am my worst critic. As you can see, this habit has it’s pros and cons. It helps me in my work as a writer, but it also makes life a bit more miserable than it should be. If you’re like me even just a bit, I feel yah…
Moving on though, with 33 years behind me, I have also come to seasons of learning to be more gentle with myself. I try to celebrate myself now more often, my victories, my successes, but this is often very difficult because I am hardly able to meet most of my ideals, goals, and plans. Hurray to disappointments right? But I’ve learned to become more accountable for my own misery as well as learned to device ways to become more productive (rather than wallow in regret and disappointment). Perfectionist or not, we all need this. We all need the skill and ability to move on from mistakes and disappointments, if only to seize our next chance at success. Do I hear an “Amen”?
And with this new year coming up…. we all need something ultimately refreshing. We need to see HOPE. We need a sense of having the opportunity to start anew. However, with all the glitches and failures of 2014, how do we move forward with MORE hope than FEAR of repeating the wrongs of the past year? Believe me, success has nothing to do with pounding your fist and banging your head against the wall until you get this right. It has nothing to do with how strict and intense you dive into your new year’s resolutions and goals. No, no, no. If you want to start anew, you need a new formula to success. “Goal setting” and “new habits formation” are good, but beyond our intelligent plans and formulas, what perfectionists like us need (if you are one) is a NEW way of seeing. We need a new way of treating ourselves. We need to love and celebrate ourselves a bit more. And yes, yes, I’d like to share my little secrets with you. Here’s how I survived 33 years of being my own bitchy boss.
Probably, you’ve noticed by now, the key word: CELEBRATE. As the year closes… (it’s December 31st on my side of the world, hello), here are 4 things I choose to celebrate.
#1 CELEBRATE blessings in disguise.
Pleeease read carefully. I’ve encountered people use this phrase wrongly so many times!!! Arrrgh, the editor in me cringes and wants to make a tantrum. Ahahaha. Just kidding! Sorry for sounding arrogant right there. A blessing in disguise is NOT SIMPLY an unexpected blessing; neither is it SIMPLY a bad incident that was followed by a blessing. For example, you were sad and then suddenly someone sends you chocolates on your birthday, or you lose in a contest somewhere but afterwards someone gives you a free vacation to Europe. A blessing in disguise is something you really consider a misfortune (or undesirable) but after a while (it could be a day or even a year), something shifted and it turned out that if that undesirable thing had not happened, something far greater would not have become possible, therefore cancelling whatever negative effect the bad event had caused. Yay!
For example, you got fired by your boss so you looked for a job. After a few months, your old company got sued and you were saved from the negative consequences of that misfortune. Or something simpler than that. Have you ever experienced something like that?
About this time last year, my Macbook laptop crashed on me. I mean, it would make this loud humming sound when doing certain tasks (even not so tough ones) and it would just freeze or take forever to recover. That’s such a downer since I wasn’t able to save enough money yet to get a new laptop. But it’s really well overdue for replacement. The battery is no longer working so I would stay plugged in to a power source all the time. Hello inconvenience! Also, it’s kinda heavy for a girl who takes the train and walks to meeting venues a lot. But because it was December, someone bought me a MacBook Air. Oh yes, who doesn’t want an upgrade? It turned out that losing my old laptop became a blessing. After that also, I learned to save money every month to be able to buy a new one when this new one eventually gets overworked. Do you have bad stuff happening? Maybe they are “blessings in disguise” in the making… Keep your hopes up!
#2 CELEBRATE things you did right this nth time around.
Tell you what, I came across jamesclear.com and this blog has a lot of productivity tips that I’m learning so much from. One of them is to not overreact when you miss a routine or habit you’ve been trying to form. This is one thing I’ve learned to do right this year! Instead of feeling bad when I missed my workout, I would remind myself that I was at least able to move from 0/week to 1x/week or 2x/week, then I would resume and keep that consistency or increase it until I reached my goal of say, 5x/week. 🙂 I used to give up on myself altogether or get really disgruntled that I spend too much energy feeling bad. This energy spent distracts me from just focusing on getting back up and trying again.
Celebrate something new that you overcame this year, or something you started to do right after doing it wrong for quite some time!
#3 CELEBRATE the difficult things that have failed to crush you even thought they are still there!
This is important. Some of us want to quit running just because we don’t see the finish line yet. For example, my parents have been fighting a lot this year. I live with my parents. I work from home. Fighting parents is not good for home based work. Why? Environment. It sets the tone for a lot of things we do. I really should move. Well, I can but then it’s not practical. My Dad wants to retire. I’m starting a company. I really can’t afford renting a new place it right now. Maybe I can sleep at the office when we finally get to have one. Haha. But you get the point. I’m still alive. I wrestle everyday. Before going out of my room, I make sure I more filled with positive vibes, enough to counter any negativity out there. That’s just how it works for this season. And I choose to celebrate the fact that I’m still alive and kicking despite. Things may not be perfect, but we continue to thrive! That’s worth celebrating!
What are the things that oppress you but are not crushing you? Don’t give up just because things aren’t changing so fast around you, celebrate the fact that you have the strength to keep on. You may not see the light yet, but it sure will appear soon if you don’t quit! As long as they still don’t suspect that you’re a real cat, remain standing! You got this. (See image below.)
#4 CELEBRATE the times when you’ve been rescued!
No words could express how stressed I was trying to figure out how to prepare gifts for “everyone” this Christmas. Mind you, “everyone” on my list does not include “everyone.” I’ve practically cut my list short like a business streamlining due to recession. Chop, chop, chop. After shopping for my nephew and niece (Thank God there’s only two of them!), I literally took out a few more from my list. No more moolah! So as it turns out, I just baked cookies for most of them but since most of “them” included people on my parents’ list, my parents requested me to add their names on the gift tag. I know, I know, this may not be acceptable on other parts of the world, but “business in recession economy” remember? Besides, things should light up next year. Going back, I ended up not paying for the expenses. LOOOOOOOOL. In short, I took care of the baking, they took care of the ingredients. OMG. I know, chocolate chip cookies, right? I’m sorry, but that’s all we can afford this year. As for me, I’ve been rescued of $100 worth of gifts. I know, just $100. That’s how bad it was this year. Don’t worry, friends, we’ll make it up to you next year. Eh?
So there, celebrate times when you’ve been rescued. God loves you. He makes a way when there seems to be no way. You don’t always have to pretend to be the strong, “I have everything under control” super girl or superman that people think you are. God sees your struggles and he’s ready to catch you when you fall. Sigh.
So after the celebration, don’t forget some tough girl or macho guy decisions you have to make at the beginning of this year. But this list has a lot to do with the above “things to celebrate” list, because this list has a lot to do with ACKNOWLEDGING the fact that there is what we call GRACE and it works miracles in our lives if we know how to use it. You see, I leave the strategic goal setting to management and success coaches out there. This is a list of things that will add the missing touch to all your goal setting. It’s a list of things you do to open your life up to miracles and breakthroughs.
#1 IDENTIFY areas for surrender.
Okay, don’t overdo this one. List one or two or three. Don’t list 10 or you’ll get overwhelmed and get swept right into the cycle of self-beating. But we all have at least one area that we need to LET GO! What is that one thing you cannot change and only a miracle can change? Tell you what, the world teaches us to NEVER GIVE UP. Well, there are SOME things we CAN NEVER change but it does not mean these things CANNOT change. What??? For example, the weather, can you change the weather? Okay, maybe you can but some of us can’t. Next, addiction. Can you change substance dependence? No, you can’t. You need help to get free from it. Yes, that’s it, for some things in life, WE NEED HELP. We need to surrender the things we cannot change to someone who can change them. For me, the ultimate miracle worker is God. I’ve surrendered my parents’ relationship to Him. I try my best to be cheerful at home. But the rest is for God to change. I can’t change people, I can only LOVE them and help them be better. But change them? Cannot lah.
#2 IDENTIFY risks to make.
Oh yes, baby. It’s time to take some risks. For me, it’s actually launching our business. We’ve been brainstorming and planning for more than 1 YEAR! Would you believe? It’s time to step out into the Red Sea. So please pray for us. Thank you!
What’s your chicken line. Oh come on. Don’t tell me you’ve been standing there for a decade waiting for the chicken to cross the line without lifting it’s feet. :)) Now, do the world a favor and turn that chicken into a risk taker. The rest of the world will thank you for it, believe me.
#3 KEEP at it!
We should not let go of the things we earned for ourselves last year. Let’s build on them instead. So if you were able to start a blog and gained a few following last year, continue to celebrate it by posting quality entries faithfully. Makes sense? Sometimes we plan too many new things that we forget to build on the ones we’ve started. Wink wink.
For me, it’s my commitment to read in the morning. I sometimes still miss it but heck have I become so much more consistent last year more than ever. So I celebrate it by being thankful for where I am (especially each time I fail again – just to keep me from that old habit of putting down myself). So yeah, don’t get sidetracked by distractions and discouragement!
#4 IDENTIFY things to keep an eye on and to persevere at.
When I say “keep an eye,” I mean to say things that are in the danger of sliding back the old, unacceptable way. For example, you overcame cigarette addiction last year and you want to keep that freedom this year. Staying free is just as important as breaking free. So don’t throw the towel on this and just “let it go.” Don’t just build momentum on new things, let’s keep the momentum we’ve started.
Personally, I need to avoid entering into a chain of negative thoughts. I’ve caught myself a number of times starting this early in the morning when I wake up. I gain awareness and boom, a negative thought with a series of other thoughts tied up to it. What I did? Boom again. Haha. I shut them out and gave them no entry. I declared a Bible verse and went on to focus on truths rather than bad thoughts.
So there, what a long post! I hope there’s something here that you find helpful, and I hope trying these out will also bring some freedom to your life the way they brought freedom to mine. And by all means, also share you secret ingredients to getting geared up for the new year. Would love to hear them!
(I know that “6” is not a “nice” number but let’s just stick to it.)
When we were born, we were full of hunger and excitement to breathe in and partake of an unlimited adventure upon popping out of a safe, comfortable, but dark world inside mom’s womb. All of a sudden out of water and darkness in our mommy’s tummy, we burst out into a world of sun, colors, shapes, textures, faces—shocked, smiling, or amazed, and 1001 flavors of ice cream. We come out believing that as long as our stomachs are well fed, we can do anything. We were superheroes in our play places, conquering giant pillows and traversing mountains of toys.
Then came fear, because our parents had to protect us from bugs. Then came pressure, because our teachers had to protect our future. Then came rejection, because people had to protect themselves from us. We grow out of childhood innocence into a complicated, self-automated protective default we sometimes called wisdom, or so we think it is.
Growing up is not all that bad though. But despite the good things we learn, we also learn some bad things, things we find ourselves trying to unlearn the rest of our lives. Then again, it doesn’t have to take that long.
Today is my birthday and I want to say “Thank you God for freedom from lies.” Here are the ones I’ve said goodbye to. And believe I will uproot more lies as I go further in my walk. To 33 years and beyond!
1. The vampire is out to get me.
I don’t remember who first introduced me to the “vampires.” Sesame Street’s Count Dracula does not seem harmful but for some reason I grew up dreading nightmares and encountering vampires in my dreams. (They were not yet the romantic protagonists we have now. They were villains during my time and I believe they still are.) I used to pray each and every night before I go to bed specifically asking God to not let any bad dream come in, especially vampire thoughts. I would sleep with lights switched on and made sure my palms were facing downward because of the scary TV episode I watched where something really bad happened to the hands of the characters and their palms were faced upward when that happened. Every prayer worked even though most of them were neurotic prayers.
I prayed neurotic prayers for a long time. But then, a shift came when I asked God to take away the spirit of fear in my life. Soon, I could stay brave in the middle of a bad dream. I can walk alone in the dark. I sleep with the lights switched off now.
2. I am ugly especially if I put headband on.
When I was around 7 years old, I tried a headband on in front of the mirror and thought it made me look worse instead of better, not like the way it made other girls pretty. Then, I realized whatever I did with my hair, I still look ugly. Then, I realized it’s because I’m ugly and there isn’t much that can be done!!!
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher went around the room to complement each student with one adjective each. I was expecting she’d say I was pretty but she said it to some other girl instead. She said I was “intelligent.” I didn’t know what “intelligent” meant so I was disappointed.
“When I Was 9”
When I was in seventh grade, I was nominated to represent our class in our school’s beauty contest because all the pretty girls had represented their previous class already years before. I felt some hope that even though I’m just the nth choice, I still made it to the options list. But it was not what others thought that changed the way I see myself. You see, no matter what people say, I saw the same ugly face in the mirror. But this changed when God began to heal my self rejection problem. One day, it was as if I no longer saw the “ugly face” and saw something different… it’s the same face but this time the girl looks pretty. I realized it was my vision that had to change, not the face, but my belief.
3. I can’t sing beautifully. I sing out of tune and that’s how it will remain.
I grew up with people saying I can’t sing, that out of six cousins, I was one of the two who should recite poems instead. And so, during summer workshop, I joined a reading workshop instead of music or acting or those things I liked. I got so bored reading.
Then one time while I was in a worship-prayer gathering, I felt God burn a passionate desire in my heart to write songs. I thought myself, “I’M SCREWED.”
Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life” became very popular around that time. The book said something like (and I might be harshly paraphrasing this due to the extreme effect it had on me when I read it), “…forget about pursuing something that is in your “heart” only but you have no “hands” to do.” It said that it has to be both “hands” and “heart” and not just one of those two. “Hands” represented capability, talent, ability, skill… I hated that paragraph and I didn’t finish the book because of that chapter. I told God, “If this dream is from you, you better make it clear and make it work because I don’t know how it’s gonna happen and I’m gonna die of frustration if I burn with this desire without pursuing it.”
Now, I can sing. I have written a few songs. And if I were Rick Warren’s editor, I’d ask him to revise that part of the book. There is something more powerful than “skill” and it is “love.” Music, for me is an expression of my love for God and nothing can keep me from giving him the songs he deserves. Even lack of skill or talent can be overcome for the sake of love.
“Let’s Jump to Freedom”
Aside from these three, there are a handful of other things…
4. Like that belief that theater and communication arts is only for extroverts. I am an introvert and I took a scary risk when I joined a drama class in college. Until now, it is still my most enjoyed class throughout college, next to Great Books which talked about classics like Dante’s Inferno.
5. Then there’s the lie that I can’t get into Computer Science because I’m not techie or geeky. I realized later than ANYTHING, absolutely anything can be learned if you want to.
6. And there’s the lie that God cannot fill the void in my heart and match the intensity of emotion I feel — something that comes out as an obsession with thought of falling in love. Hah! He did. And looking back, it LOOKED really impossible that time but what can I say, miracles happen.
Right now, a big challenge that is in front of me is starting a ____. (It’s still a big secret.) Oh yes, let me tell you about the conventional beliefs we are trying to break right now by taking this leap of faith. But that will be for another blog post.
Today, I want to thank God for freedom. The freedom to be 33 and thankful.
There is a place that only two can tread
Where fear hovers, clings and stings
Where unknown voices hide behind the fog
Where treasures that you own
Await beyond thorn-flowered paths
There is a place that only two can tread
Where you hold tight, him whose fingers lock into your own
Where darkness covers your face but will not reach your spirit
Where your frantic heart, he pulls to an embrace
‘Til you are swept into the rhythm of his faithfulness
Until the darkness teaches you
To open eyes that only darkness can baptize
Until his hands become more real
Than things you touch and see
Until the flood of fear of the unknown
Is melted from within
There is a place that only two can tread
A death-conquered valley only two can pass
It takes him and you to prove what love can overcome
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted. – Psalm 27:4
I wrote this some few days ago when I was pondering on that sense of uncertainty that comes when God calls me to pursue Him in ways I have never pursued Him. The feeling is a mix of awe and fear, because one is pursuing a mysterious god, although a god also deserving of our full trust. In the end, I realized that even the courage to say “yes” to God would also come from God himself. The path he has called us to courageously take is full of unknown dangers and challenges. But this same path, when seen from a place of intimacy with God, becomes a path we are eager to take because it ultimately makes us closer to him.