Authenticity Advice from A Vulcan

Long before Brene Brown came on the scene, Dr. Spock (okay, Leonard Nimoy) was on making the case for connection with others starting by letting go of who we want to be and embracing who we are.

spock advice 1

spock advice 2

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Too Skinny? Not to Fear!

February 22, 2013

Too Skinny?

Too Skinny?

It’s easy in our image saturated (and largely photoshopped) culture to think that there is just one, biologically fixed, skinny ideal body type.  But how true this is not!  This advertisement is a fun reminder of just how culturally bound (and ridiculous) beauty ideals really are.  Forget about the favorite body of the moment.  The trend will pass.  Learn to love the body that you have and all it can do for you.  Don’t forget, everything is temporary including you.  Enjoy it while you can.

Happy Friday!

Transitioning Into You

February 20, 2013

Annika Penelope Gives Us A Peak Behind the Curtain

This blog post by Annika Penelope – read it!  She is wonderful at communicating the cultural pressures that we ALL need to get over before we can be happy with who we are. Yes, it’s about her transition.  Trust me – this post is also about something much more universal. It is about the cultural pressures we all face to be someone different than who we really are.  You will be glad you read her writing regardless of your own relationship with your gender.

Eating Disorders and Transitioning Genders:  What We ALL Can Learn From These Experiences

Of course recovering from an eating disorder and transitioning between genders are two completely different experiences.  Completely.  So don’t get me wrong when I talk about the things that I have learned from working with people on these two unrelated topics.

It is precisely because they are such different experiences that I find any similarities in these paths to be remarkable.  We live in a culture that thrives on making us feel bad about ourselves.  We are bombarded with advertisements, airbrushed images, reality TV shows, and so much more, all sending messages that beauty equals happiness, and anything less than a continual quest for physical improvement is akin to sin.  This cultural pressure to focus on our appearances – specifically to focus on continually “improving” our appearance – takes a toll on our self-esteem.

Recovering from an eating disorder and successfully transitioning share this one thing in common:

Success requires finding and then tossing out the pressure our culture can put on us to be someone who we are not, in order to finally love who we are.

The Culture Of Authenticity

The first step in escaping the death grip of our cultural pressures is to recognize that there is no right way to be a male or female.  Each one of us finds a new way to be the gender that we are.  Some gals love flamingos and pink.  Some gals are pilots.  I know one gal who is a pilot AND loves flamingos and pink.  Is she less of a female than me for working in a largely male dominant profession?  Is she more of a female than me because she likes pink flamingos?  Of course not.  As Annika says in her post, “You deserve to live an authentic life.”

  • Living authentically means recognizing that our cultural does a poor job of telling us how to live authentically.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that how someone else chooses to dress or what they choose to do has nothing to do with what is right for you.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that there is no one point that we are all moving towards.
  • Living authentically means recognizing that you choose what is right for you and your body.  Even if it is scary to let go of pressures to be something else.  Especially if it is scary to let go of pressures to be something else.
  • Living authentically means letting go of the idea of life as a destination, and begin to enjoy the journey of becoming.

A Perfectly Normal Survey

February 12, 2013

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A Perfectly Normal Survey Request

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/perfectlynormal

I need your help!  I’m trying to get 1,000 people to complete this TOTALLY ANONYMOUS survey. This survey is part of a larger project I am doing that evaluates some reasons why so many of us are trying hard to create the life we want, yet we still don’t feel great about ourselves or parts of our lives. My hope is this survey and project will lead to new ways for us to talk about how to feel better.

I’d like to get a lot of diversity in my sample (geography, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification), which is hard from my little burg in North Carolina.  I am hoping you might be willing to participate and, if it’s not too terrible of an experience, help get the word out by passing the link on to others.
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. Please only complete the survey one time.

Thank you so much if you have the time to participate!!  If I could I would repay your kindness by giving you that glitter pony you always wanted.  Sadly, logistically it just won’t work.  But please know I am very grateful.

Here, is that link one more time.  :)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/perfectlynormal

dew on a delicate mushroom

Why I Don’t Like Optimism

I am not an optimist.  In fact I am very wary of optimism.  To me, optimism means that one only registers facts that work in their favor and dismisses facts that are perceived as negative or unwanted.  Imagine if Google maps had two street views:  one showing Truth Traffic and the other showing Optimistic Traffic.  The optimistic view might look great on your screen – clear streets all through Chicago during rush hour!  You’ll only need twenty minutes to get from here to there!  Exciting to think about how easy your commute will be.  But that false information will only make you more frustrated when you actually get downtown and are stuck in the real time hour and a half commute through the gridlock.  Staying balanced and finding well-being requires that we be fully aware of the reality that is going on around us (the good, the bad, and the ugly) rather than selecting only what we want to see as true.  I prefer to use truth as my guide, even when the truth is painful.

Why I Like Positive Emotions

I start a post about positive emotions with this message to be clear in my intent with my next statement.  We need positive emotions in our lives to find well-being.  And if we don’t have enough events in our days that are making us feel positive emotions, we need to create them.   Now I’m not saying to ignore the negative emotions.  A person who ignores their negative emotions is like a ship without a rudder.  But we need to be sure we are open to experiencing a wide range of emotions throughout our days.  Barbara Fredrickson used cutting edge statistical techniques to determine that a person is much more likely to lead a flourishing, satisfactory life if they experience positive emotions in about a 3:1 ratio with negative emotions.

Positive emotions are amazing.  They literally change us at a biological level.  We are quicker to return to baseline blood pressure, our visual attention shifts, and we are even less likely to catch a cold.  Dr. Fredrickson also explains that during a positive emotion we experience:

  1. “A widening of awareness”
  2. We are better able to “see past difference and to see towards oneness”
  3. We “see larger forms of interconnection”

How To Increase Your Positive Emotions

So if you aren’t meeting that ratio you need to do something about it.  So here is the trick.  These positive emotions can’t be:

  1. At the expense of ignore the truth if we don’t like it
  2. At the expense of comparing ourselves to others and feeling superior
  3. Faked

These positive emotions can be:

  1. Small
  2. Quiet
  3. Found even in the middle of a terrible day (in fact, that’s probably when it is most important to create some)

There are lots of ways to increase positive emotions.  For now, I am going to focus on the smallest of things we can do to help ourselves.  To increase positive emotions we only need to put our attention on something that evokes positive feelings.  This might mean looking at pictures of baby otters online, watching silly videos on Youtube, or practicing gratitude.  Practicing gratitude is an especially powerful way to bring more positive emotions to your life.  There are lots of different gratitude exercises.  Here is just one:  try naming five things you are grateful about right now.  Think small – did you have enough money to have toothpaste?  A bed with clean sheets?  Legs still strong enough to carry you?  Funny how the smallest things loop around to being the most important.  Challenge yourself.  What is one thing you can do today to introduce the SMALLEST of positive emotions into your day?

To this end, I’ve decided I am going to begin sharing small things I find online that have introduced a positive emotion into my day.  And I’d love if you share things with me that you’ve found to do the trick.  But please don’t forget that we need BOTH positive and negative emotions to find our path.  NO emotions are bad emotions.  We need them all so invite them all in, don’t get stuck in any one emotion, and keep moving forward.

First Positive Emotion Post Coming Up!  Just as soon as I figure out what to name it without sounding too optimistic.

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Transgender at 11: Listening to Jazz | Video – ABC News.

Jazz is an incredible kid.  I am so grateful to her family for allowing us to follow her story.

The transgender rights movement is in such a tricky place.  I am both happy and a bit worried about the coverage Jazz is receiving.  I’d hate for Jazz’s bravery to accidentally be interpreted as supporting the idea that being transgendered is earned by how much you “pass.” We must remember that Jazz is one of many brave faces.  She happens to have a lot of traditionally “girl” interests like dresses and sparkles and covering her room in pink.  That’s great!  But that’s just one way to be.  There is no “right” way to be transgendered.  At the end of the day, there is only the question of being yourself or being someone else.

This recent article by Riki Wilchins in The Advocate is a nice companion to Jazz’s story.

Just a side note for Barbara Walters – so you note a lot of transgender kids like mermaids?  Perhaps because a lot of KIDS like mermaids.  I’d prefer if you stuck with the reporting and dropped some of the psychoanalysis.  Lots of transgender kids also like pizza, and dogs, and soccer, and video games, and drawing, and laughing, and texting….  I don’t think we need to infer anything from any one preference.   But overall I enjoyed watching this interview.  Thanks for helping get the story out, Barbara!

norah-vincent

It took tremendous bravery for Norah/Ned Vincent to do what she did.  You can read about her 18 month experience of living as a man here.  I hope we can all learn from it.  And I would add that reality is even more complicated and beautiful.  Gender is so much more than woman and man.  No one experiences the same exact gender, and gender can change/shift/grow over time.  I hope for you that you open to your own experience of your gender and see the beauty in it while we all take this short ride around the earth a few times.

Hitting the notes on cue?  A work in progress.

Living life without fear of judgement?  Nailed it.