Why Do We Downplay Our Accomplishments?

Last year, I wrote a series of posts about challenging my instincts toward minimize the good things I do in life.

Back in 2021, I wrote a few posts about challenging my instincts. I’m interested in instincts because for a long time, I overestimated their power. I thought instincts were something that could never change. I thought they were something we’d have to live with, and I would have to learn how to fight them. The reason I wanted to challenge my instincts then, and I still do now, is because I don’t like all my instincts. One of the most challenging in particular is my ability to downplay accomplishments. And I’m not alone. Why do we downplay our accomplishments, and what is behind that? That’s what I want to investigate today.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…

This is a post about trying and failing. And trying again, and failing again. Trying and failing so often, in fact, that I’ve forgotten how many times attempts I’ve made. In some ways, this is a post about meditation (and I’ve written a few of those posts before). But it’s also a post about being resilient, and staying open minded. Most importantly, it’s about the valuable lesson I learned when it comes to mental health. If at first you don’t succeed…well, it might not always work. But sometimes trying again can be just what you need.

The inspiration for this post was reflecting on my relationship with meditation. The way I view meditation has ebbed and flowed over the years. When I first heard about it, I was hoping and praying I’d found a way to solve my anxiety. I read up on the benefits of meditation, the value and importance of the practice. I listened to people talk about mindfulness and give advice, and I learned what I could.

I did my best to learn what I could about meditation and the first time I decided to give it a real try, I failed. Spectacularly, I might add. It put me more on edge, and made me even angrier at myself. It was having the opposite effect, and this first attempt didn’t last long. I left meditation alone for a while after that. I tried other things to manage my depression and anxiety, doing my best to grow my mental health toolboox.

But at least once (sometimes twice) a year, I would try and come back to meditation. And it was a struggle for me every. Single. Time. In fact, it wasn’t until last year – after nine years of experiencing depression and anxiety – that meditation became part of my daily practice. And even that process is still ongoing, more than a year later.

There will be other posts where I reflect on the specifics around my journey with meditation. Today, though, I want to focus on my mindset. When I first learned about meditation, I was excited. I thought it would be an important part of my mental health toolkit.

As it turns out I was right, but not for the reasons I thought. The main reason I wanted to improve at meditation was that I thought it would help me “get rid” of my mental illness. If I could conquer mindfulness, I could stop my depression. And this problematic assumption didn’t solve a thing.

I wouldn’t say that it was my resiliency that led me back to meditation time and again. I felt resilient, but that wasn’t the main motivation in coming back to it. What pulled me back in was the idea that I’d had the wrong mindset about meditation in previous attempts. And that’s the lesson I’ve learned time and again in a decade of living with anxiety and depression.

There’s a famous saying: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” that I’d like to add to. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – and if trying over and over isn’t working, that’s okay. But that what might not work for you today could be something that works for you in the future. We’re always changing and always evolving, and our mental health can be the same way. Sometimes, trying again is exactly what you need. Here’s hoping that second (or third, or fourth) try works in your favor.

Now I want to hear from you! What is something that took you awhile to learn, or took some time before you found success? Have you ever succeeded at something after failing in the past? I want to know! Let me know in the comments below.

"Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another, but by all means, try something." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

A Reminder About Timelines

What does it mean to have a timeline? Understanding and working with timelines feels like a key part of being part of today’s world. Whether at work or school, in our professional or personal lives, we have created a world that’s always on a timeline. Some plans might be short-term, while others can stretch on for years. Like many parts of our lives, there are pros and cons to these timelines. They can free us up or make us feel constrained; they can bring stress or relief. But today, I wanted to remind myself (and you, whenever you read this) of one very important thing: you are on your own timeline, and that timeline isn’t permanent.

The inspiration for this post happened around a month ago, when I wrote something about my excitement for the coming of spring, and the start of another month. To me, each month feels like a new opportunity, a chance to start fresh and improve where I can. That’s what made me think of timelines; I was reflecting on what mine are, how I create them and how they’re enforced. There were two key thoughts this reflection led to.

Even though every month is a new chance for me to start fresh, not everyone sees things that way. We all deserve a chance to slow down, take a deep breathe and reset. Some people do that on a daily basis; others on a yearly one. Doing this on a monthly basis works best for me, but I can see why someone else might find that challenging. This is a good reminder that even though we’re all human, we experience the world in different ways.

As I step into April, a few thoughts about timelines crossed my mind. The first key thought was my realization that not all my timelines are up to me. A lot of the timelines (and deadlines) I have are either a) asked of me, or b) created with my input. Either way, there are situations where I don’t have complete control, and that can be frustrating. I’d like to change my attitude on that, and it starts with recognizing what my own expectations are.

The other conclusion I came to – and this was the big thing for me – was the reminder that it’s okay to adjust your timeline. When I was younger, I saw most things in black and white. But with every passing year, I’m learning that most things aren’t that way. There are shades of nuance everywhere and not only is that okay, it makes sense. Human beings are complicated – why wouldn’t our problems be? So I try to adjust my attitude. Changing course doesn’t always signal failure, and making adjustments doesn’t mean you did something wrong. I know I’m way too harsh on myself when I have to adjust something. That’s because for a long time, I thought it was wrong to do so.

I’m not here to hate on deadlines or condemn people who make plans. I like both of these things, and they play an important role in our lives. What I’m also saying, however, is that it’s okay to adjust. It doesn’t mean we always can, but we shouldn’t forget we have that option. As you go into this month, I hope you can remember that – no matter what your timeline is or where you are on it.

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." - Leo Tolstoy

Another Chance to Start Fresh

After my (in my opinion) grumpy post about how challenging the month of February is, I’d like to try a different approach today. I’m glad I’ve admitted that the winter is a difficult season for me; doing so has helped shift the way I manage my mental health this time of year. While it hasn’t solved my problems, I’m glad that I’m more aware of what I’m up against.

Make no mistake, I still have my bad days – and during the winter, it feels like they happen constantly. But this awareness helps me appreciate the good days, the good moments where I don’t feel anxious or depressed. Moments where I feel like myself. And it’s those moments I want to build on, ones I want to experience more and have around more often.

At the start of a new month, I often think about my goals and things I want to do. Sometimes, these goals feel like the same old, same old: I want to read more, write more, meditate more, journal more. I want to have fun experiences and do interesting things. I constantly think about what I want to do but it wasn’t until thinking about this post that I realized something. I think often about what I want to do but in this context, I rarely think about who I want to be.

I’ll admit, this type of thinking is challenging for me. My instincts are often to act; when I see a problem I want to find a solution and do it as quickly as possible. It’s not the worst trait in the world, but it can often put me in situations that are more complicated than they need to be. If I don’t actively work to slow myself down, I’ll rush into something. These things usually aren’t the end of the world (my anxiety would disagree), but it happens enough that once I recognized it, it wasn’t something I could ignore.

I want to reflect on who I want to be, how I want to be, this month. I want to think about who I am in this time of my life, and how I want to move through this specific time. That doesn’t have to mean anything has to change from what I’d normally do – in fact, it’s possible nothing will change. But I’m not looking to change my actions; I’m looking to change my attitude surrounding those actions. I want to get a better sense of who I am and why I do what I do, and it starts with reflection.

I’m trying to build on my mental health on a month-to-month basis. Every month brings new challenges, new highs and new lows. But it’s also a chance. A chance to get to know myself better. A chance to learn from myself, and those around me. And regardless of how it turns out, I’m going to be grateful. Because when next month rolls around, I’ll be able to start fresh and try again.

Building on momentum isn’t as easy as it sounds, believe me! How do you get yourself motivated for the month ahead? Let me know in the comments!

"Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting." - Bernard Meltzer

Trying to Get on an Upswing

I was reflecting on my last few posts about goals and goal-setting when a thought popped into my head. I feel like once or twice a year, I get fixated on goal-setting and self-improvement. It’s a mixture of reflection and idealism. I try to think up better strategies for my goals and ways to achieve them. At the same time, I know that there are many circumstances that get in my way, some of which are of my own making. But there’s another aspect of goal-setting that I only recently discovered and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Mental health, like many things in life, has its ups and downs. There are some weeks when I feel like everything is working in my favor; my schedule has a flow, and I know what I’m doing. Other weeks…not so much. There’s mix between order and chaos, busy and bored, with most of my time somewhere in between these extremes.

I’ve gained a pretty decent sense of when I’m in the midst of an up or down, but there are times where things feel tricky. One of these times (that I’ve been able to identify ) is when I feel like things could be on an upswing.

There are many reasons why a person could feel like they’re on an upswing. Maybe you’re doing well at work, or enjoying a newfound relationship with someone. You might think you’re entering a new phase of life and hoping to settle in to what’s to come.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with thinking I could be on an upswing. It’s happened before and I know it will happen again. Sometimes it’s because of what’s going on around me. Other times, it’s simply a feeling and that’s where I run into trouble.

When I’m on the verge of being in this upswing, I feel like anything I do that get’s in the way of success is a massive road block. I’m almost afraid to set a goal because of the possibility I won’t achieve it. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter how big or small the goal is; it’s the fear of not achieving it that gets in the way.

Setting and achieving goals doesn’t have to have as much weight as I give it. Every goal I make doesn’t have to make-or-break my mental health, my psyche or my wellness. If I reach my goals I should revel in the accomplishment but if I fall short, I don’t want to be so dejected that I give up. Getting on an upswing isn’t just about what I do; it’s about my frame of mind in doing it. The more I can change and improve this approach, the more possible and common these upswings can be.

Every Day Brings Something New

I’m writing this post on the heels of what I wrote earlier this week, about the challenges of setting goals. I don’t know how, but in the last few years I’ve become fascinated with the concept of goal-setting. It might be the aspirational aspect of it, of self-improvement and wanting to get better. It could be that I enjoy the boost of serotonin I get when I accomplish that goal (however big or small). But I think what outranks all of that is how my goals remind me of who I am and who I want to be.

When it comes to my mental wellness, one of the most important things I can do is remind myself that I’m a person. I’m a living, breathing, doing-things-and-living-life person. Life has a way of remembering for us but I appreciate the ability to remind myself, too. The reason this is so important to me is because in the doldrums of every-day life, it can be easy to forget.

Our uniqueness can be lost or forgotten not only by others, but also ourselves. There are many ways I could describe who I am and what I’m about but above all, I’m a person. Not only that, but I am unique. I’m unique in my personality, in my likes and dislikes, in what I’m passionate about and what I choose to do. And that matters.

This uniqueness also means that my goals are unique. The things I want to accomplish, the goals I want to set and meet are unique to who I am and what my life is like right now. My goals don’t have to be realistic for anyone else except who I am, in this moment. And just like other habits and techniques for my mental health, these goals can change.

I know I can sound like a broken record at times, but that’s for a good reason. For many people, mental health is a challenge we face every single day. We face a challenge of getting out of bed in the morning. We face a challenge of choosing to engage with the world, even when we don’t know if we’re up to it. We face a challenge of acknowledging when our mental health is in a bad place, and when we need help.

All day long, people face challenges that they can either engage with and ignore. For people experiencing mental illness, the luxury to ignore isn’t always possible. There’s a chance that I accomplish my goals for today. That I can do everything I set out to do despite the ways my mental health might challenge me. But in the same way, there’s an equal chance that those challenges will exist again tomorrow. That’s why I lean on who I am. I lean on the person I want to be, and the person I am now. Mental illness can depersonalize us, it can make us not feel real. But I am, you are, we are, and we’ll continue down this road together.

"Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else." - Judy Garland

The Challenges of Setting Goals

When it comes to living a mental healthy life, setting goals can be a good way to build a strong foundation. Whether your goals inspire massive change or a small shift, setting a goal is an opportunity. I’ll be honest – I don’t always take that opportunity. Achieving goals can be hard, but creating them can be difficult too. It’s hard to try and improve on something when you aren’t quite sure how to get there. So how can we get better at setting goals if the process can leave us so confused?

When I put forth an ambitious goal, there are immediately challenges that pop up before I can even begin. If I’m lucky, I know what I’m trying to do, but struggle in figuring out how to get there. More often, what happens is that not only are the steps toward achieving that goal vague, but so is the goal itself.

Balancing mental health can be challenging. Sometimes it can feel like we’re treading water, just trying to keep ourselves afloat. If your goal is to get from one day to the next (or sometimes from moment to moment) how can you improve outside of that? Regardless of how you tackle it, it’s hard work.

When all of this swirls around in my head, it usually leads to one thing: feeling overwhelmed. I lose train of my thoughts, or I have difficulty creating any original thoughts. My intrusive thoughts can take over, or I start to feel a pounding headache. I immediately feel the impact and know that I can’t move forward in that moment, which is very frustrating.There’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that I often think of in moments like this: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” And even when faith is an issue – faith in something else, or even faith in ourselves – that first step is vital. Improving our mental health doesn’t always happen by leaps and bounds. Most times, it happens one step at a time. Sometimes we know what the steps are along the way but other times, it’s a mystery.

But building a strong foundation means that a setback doesn’t always been a step back. Sometimes we’re just stuck on a particular step, trying to sort out what the next move is. I like to think of setting goals in the same way. I tend to get stuck on a lot of things (mental illness can do that to a person), but I’m tired of beating myself up over it. I don’t need to figure out what works for just anyone; I need to figure out what works best for me.

However you go about your goals this week, I hope you can keep these things in mind. You are unique and special in your own way, and that means your process might look different than someone else’s. In fact, it might look different than the way you’ve done it previously. That’s okay! Each of these moments is a chance to get to know yourself better, to learn and grow as a person. And I’ll try to take those moments as often as I can.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Learning and Growing in the New Year

Happy New Year! I’m sure you don’t need to read another post from me about how I feel about New Year’s resolutions; I can save that song and dance for another year. Instead, what I’d like to focus on today is how I’m hoping to approach the year: what I can bring to the table, how I’m hoping to grow, and trying to build on what I’ve learned about myself in 2022.

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The Drawbacks of Going on Autopilot

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the trouble with being in ‘autopilot’ mode when it comes to our mental health. At the time, my focus about being on autopilot came in terms of awareness and understanding. Rather than simply recognizing the what and where, I wanted to understand more about the why. In time, I’ve learned how to harness that focus to get things done even when I’m experiencing symptoms of mental illness. However, there are also drawbacks to this approach and today, I’d like to reflect on some of what I learned.

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Balancing Helplessness and Hopefulness

There are many symptoms of depression that are frustrating to deal with. Among them, hopelessness is one of the most difficult ones to manage. Hopelessness is a feeling that can sneak up on us. It can be disguised as so many other ways of feeling, and it can be hard to distinguish between other emotions. But to me, living with depression is a constant balance. On one end is the persistence of helplessness; on the other, the optimism of hopefulness. Life can be a constant back and forth between the two, which is what I want to talk about today.

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