What Did I Get Out of This?

So earlier this week I wrote about how being sad can be a good thing, and how I realized that in the face of massive disappoint I realized I had to put my big girl panties on and focus on the future. And I meant it. Sort of. I had pulled my big girl panties on, but I was still lounging in sweatpants.

No seriously. I went to class in dryfit on the grounds that I WAS doing a presentation in the evening on women and running. It was logically sound, albeit a little weak.

No seriously. I went to class in dryfit on the grounds that I WAS doing a presentation in the evening on women and running. It was logically sound, albeit a little weak.

Baby steps guys.

Today I really believed myself. Today I honestly accepted that this is a good thing. Not the thing I wanted, but a good thing.

I also rolled my eyes at how cheesy I was being.

What really hit me though was how my thinking had shifted from “this is what sucks” to “this is what I got out of this.”

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them”

― Denis Waitley

I realized how excited I was for this next year.

I thought about how my life would change, and how that was totally awesome.

What did I get?

  • I got time to think about what I want to do for the next seven years
  • I got the opportunity to fulfill my dream of a marathon before 25 without trying to balance it with school
  • I got the time to learn new skills that will make me a better candidate, researcher, and psychologist
  • I got the opportunity to start on a new project that is right in line with what I would like to do for the rest of my life.
  • I have a chance to volunteer – to give back to the community I have been a part of for the last 4 years
  • I have a chance to do a trial run of my big kid life
  • I can sleep once and a while (possibly the most exciting thing other than the marathon, but my priorities are a little scrambled right now)
  • I realized a lot about who I am – I realized how to answer all the questions I stumbled on in one of my grad school interviews, because in the face of disappointment, I was reminded why I was willing to face that disappointment in the first place and who I am when I do face disappointment
  • I now have a chance to explore what might interest me in terms of research. I can dabble in neuro, do a spell with eating disorders, and jump back to depression and anxiety – I can really explore outside a textbook what is cool and what I want to invest in

I went on and on in my head, but I highly doubt you decided to read this so you could hear how happy I was with myself. How I had figured out to apply my capitalistic values to disappointment, so that even though I was frustrated, my frustration paid dividends.

Enjoy the small stuff like a nap in the sunshine.

Enjoy the small stuff like a nap in the sunshine.

What I wanted to talk about, was that when the tears don’t work, the bright side can be a little handy. And how it’s easy to be disappointed, to feel sad about what you didn’t get, but it’s also easy to think about it in the reverse. Little things can make you happy, and we can’t have it all but we can get things out of anything if you work hard enough at it. Just might take some brain workouts – some testing of cognitions, balancing of thoughts with realities, and learning to reframe your world.

this sucks

source. (Actually a fantastic blog)

In psychology we talk about mental contrasting, the idea of contrasting what you want or who you want to be with what you have or who you are. This has been applied to a variety of areas, recently I’ve been reading about how handy it is in dieting (term paper bashing fixing the diet industry) – a study showed that when you just think about what you want, when you imagine the dieting outcome, you don’t get anywhere. What you need to do is look at where you want to end up and then compare it to where you are. The theory is that this will spur action, because it highlights the discrepancy and need for action.

And it’s the same thing here – realizing what I wanted and that I didn’t have it sucked, but comparing where I was to where I wanted to be, showed me how to get there. And then there was the realization that beyond the changes I would work on in the future, there was a hidden opportunity. All these dreams I ignored, I could have those too. I realized I had to slow down and smell the roses. I was focused on the me I wanted to be 10 years from now and sort of ignored the me I wanted to be now. Add it to the list of bonuses from this sucky moment.

We live in a culture that doesn’t particularly like to tolerate failure, we don’t like to be frustrated, disappointed, sad, or feel anything that doesn’t feel like a million bucks. But I realized today, failure isn’t the falling down… jokes, I’m not going to be that cheesy twice in one post. No today I realized that failure isn’t really a thing… it’s… oh goodness, almost went to the cheesy window analogy.
This is tough.
Being positive about crappy situations, is criticized and mocked, because while totally true, we as society hate failure so much that to call it anything but sucky just isn’t acceptable. You’re being naive, overly optimistic, blindly faithful. Which is what actually sucks.
I truly believe that failures don’t have to be failures, they can be good things, they can be a chance to change what you’re not happy about.

Story of my life.  Taken from this fine site.

Story of my life.
Taken from this fine site.

So I ended up cheesy. And not in a delicious creamy pasta sort of way. But in the end I also ended up in a blazer and skinny jeans, ready to talk about my successes rather than failures, what I did for the last year, and share with the world (or you know the honours programs and random people looking for snacks) that sometimes what you didn’t expect is even cooler than what you expected.

So I challenge you dear readers, to take the thing that sucks, and think about what rocks. Maybe not the bright side of the bad situation, but maybe just something unrelated that balances the books. It can’t be all bad, I challenge you to think about the small goods.

“Everything that is past is either a learning experience to grow on, a beautiful memory to reflect on, or a motivating factor to act upon.”

― Denis Waitley

Identity and Worth

So two weeks ago I wrote about telling your story, and part of that story I realized was in telling who you are and what you’ve done, but that’s only part of the story – the other part is why it mattered, why you matter. And then I realized that for all my courses in psychology and the sheer number of times I have heard the words “self-efficacy,” “self-esteem,” and “identity” you would think that the distinction would have sunk in. For me it was always who I am was what I did which was why I mattered. That’s not always the case.

For example:

These are the pieces of what I've done, and they're part of the definition, but it's not the entire book.

These are the pieces of what I’ve done, and they’re part of the definition, but it’s not the entire book.

Who am I? I am a runner, a foodie-in-training, a psychology student (soon to be someone with a psychology degree – eep!), a blogger, a coffee addict. But all of those things don’t make me worth something necessarily; or at least they can’t be all I am worthy for. Worth lies not in the activities we engage in on a daily basis, or the size of our jeans, the amount of money in our bank accounts, the things we own, or the degrees on our walls*. Worth is in our relationships and our impact on others – worth lies in my ability to sooth a friend in distress, to make someone laugh, to be happy, and to have potential to do something that matters to me or to the world.

coffee rule the worldSo I took about 10 steps back to get a better view of the big picture. I didn’t run this week owing to an injury, and I felt like I had lost a part of me. I simply wasn’t whole if I didn’t have my sneakers and spandex. But did I still matter even if I wasn’t a runner? Seems a little ridiculous to ask. Are people who aren’t studying psychology or attending university still worth something? Again, silly question, no? What about people who see food as simply nourishment or something that needs to be attended to at least thrice daily – do they not matter because they don’t appreciate food? Of course they still matter, what’s with all this crazy talk. And while coffee drinkers will one day rule the world, it hardly makes me a special person. So in about five minutes, I took all the things I do and love about myself, and made them completely separate from worthiness. But I still believe I matter, people should care about me and love me, even if I make mistakes. So even the things I do WRONG should bear no impact on my worth.

What you look like bears no weight on your worth.

We’re in that time of year where everyone becomes convinced that this is the year they’re going to lose the weight, they’re going to get fit, and apparently this will make them more worthy of love, money, and success. Nevermind that only 8% of people succeed with their New Years Resolutions, but I’ve ranted on that one enough. But what shocks me, and makes sense on at least some level to my socially conditioned self is this equation here:

Me – 5lb = worth something

Like if you weigh five pounds too much or you wear a size six instead of a four, you instantly become no longer desirable or worthy of someone’s attention and affection. And this logic certainly makes more sense to certain populations than others, but the big message in our society is that what you look like matters more than who you are or your abilities/skill. Like being attractive is the key to life.

But put that in perspective – when you tell your story – what matters? What made your life worth living? Will the title of the book or a chapter or the concluding sentence be “I was a size 4 my whole life.” Is that really important for people knowing who you are? Most people who know me don’t even know my size. And when I gained weight this year no one even noticed, but to me I had a flashing neon sign over my head alerting people. Just saying it I feel a little silly. And then I realized, that I feel silly because it really doesn’t matter.

The story of my life will certainly include my accomplishments, maybe not all of them, because a lot of them I’ve discounted or diluted over the years. It will include what I loved to do; and who I loved and was loved by; it will include my personality and aspirations, and how I made some impact on the world, no matter how big or small. I somehow affected this world and tried to make it a positive contribution.

So what have I learned in the last few hours?

  1. Identity and worth are not the same thing.
  2. I need to brush up on intro psych.
  3. What you do is not who you are.
  4. What you do doesn’t directly translate to why you matter.
  5. Who you are doesn’t directly translate to why you matter.
  6. How you look isn’t why you matter.
  7. Your mistakes don’t make you not matter.
  8. How you feel about you matters.
  9. How you connect and matter to other people matters.
  10. Whether or not you left a positive mark on the world matters.
  11. How you feel about the mark you’re leaving on the world matters.
  12. You can always grab a bottle of white out or a giant eraser, and change your mark.

  13. I can explain why any issue in psychology is an issue, and I could probably convince the polar bears that global warming is a good thing for them, but I cannot for the life of me explain why I matter without serious thought. (No, I don’t hate myself. I just didn’t know how to articulate why I like love myself)
  14. Always test your smoothies before you leave your house. How your smoothie tastes doesn’t affect your worth, but it certainly affects your morning.

*For the record, I know that different people define their worth in different ways, it’s a big thing in psych, I’m just saying maybe we’re ignoring what should actually matter.

What Exactly is Disney Trying to Say?

So all of this started last Thursday in my first Psychology of Women course when the professor told us she would be posting it online, but our “assignment” for next week was to think about what our favourite fairy tale was and why. She clarified that if this was hard, think about what Disney movie was our favourite, since let’s face it, few of us know most fairy tales outside of their Disney productions and maybe if you watched the old MGM classics – Thumbelina.

Seems simple, no?
No.

I grew up on the old school Disney. You know Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alladin, Little Mermaid, Lion King, often either BEFORE they went into the vault, or at the very least the first time out. Back when they were on VHS tapes that you somehow ALWAYS forgot to rewind. To this day I still know most of the lyrics to most of the songs in those movies. I have avoided the new Disney and Pixar films such as Frozen (which I hear is fantastic) and Brave, sounds odd but the animation looks weird to me, and as far as I’m concerned they’ll never hold a candle to the classics.

I know this look so well. To all the servers who have ever had to deal with me - I am sorry.

I know this look so well. To all the servers who have ever had to deal with me – I am sorry.

The problem with the professor’s deceptively simple question, is that I can’t pick. Seriously. I am the WORST for making a decision. It took me 20 minutes to pick an outfit for my Build-a-Bear for Christmas and I ended up having to exchange it. Going to a restaurant I have everyone order before me and then usually just randomly pick an item last minute as the server looks at me expectantly. So asking me to pick between the movies that formed my childhood is essentially like in the Bible when Solomon decides to split the baby so each of the women can have half the baby (except that came to a solution, I still have no idea how to pick a movie or a meal).

Added to the pressure is the fact that as an afterthought she declared that “apparently your answer says something about your personality!” So no pressure. Prof might think I’m nuts or brilliant depending on my answer. Next thing you know I’m on Google trying to figure out which movie to pick to present myself in the most positive light.

Oh yeah. No pressure.

Oh yeah. No pressure.

Then I sat back and thought about it a little more rationally. I have always loved The Little Mermaid, I thought it was because of the music and the whole finding Prince Charming (Eric) situation (looking like crap and unable to speak to boot! Girl got game.), but then my psych major self jumps in and says, “Well maybe it’s because you’re looking to escape into a new world and being someone totally different from who you are? Maybe you like the idea of totally rebelling against your parents? Or picking people who are totally wrong for you and require you to hugely change who you are?Little Mermaid

So then I thought about how I have always loved the Lion King, but that’s not really a fairy tale. So I moved onto Pocahontas, again I really just loved the whole love and music thing going on, and again my psych major self came in and said “Hey! Maybe it’s because you’re confused about where you’re going in life and you feel like you’re making difficult decisions and trying to pick a life course!” Thanks self. I needed to think about that tonight. ‘Presh.Pocahontas

Maybe Snow White then? Great. Now I appear to be a thoroughly domesticated housewife with questionable morals who also enjoys talking to the animals. Which is sort of true on the first and last. I am a total suburban housewife – when I get stressed I bake, and I have actually refused an offering for a social gathering on account of “I have to clean the house today! It’s a mess!” (It was one time.) So I’m not sure that’s what I want to put out there for my prof.Snow White clean

I like books, don’t always listen to the rules, and go for personality over appearances – so maybe I’ll say Beauty and the Beast? But hell no. I am not up for that kind of man changing project; my father is quirky, but not full on crazy; and while I enjoy breaking the rules from time to time breaking and entering isn’t really my thing no matter how cold and wet I am. So scratch that.Beauty and the Beast

See. It’s complicated.

Or I make it complicated. It’s my specialty.

So I abandoned that mission for the night, but then I thought about it more the next morning and realized (not for the first time) that hey wait a second – THERE ARE NO ACTUAL MOTHERS! Every main character in the movie is either an orphan or has a single father (except The Lion King, where the mother survives and the father dies (owing to it’s ties to Hamlet) and Peter Pan, but the parents are so negligent, leaving the kids in the care of a DOG that they really don’t count). And then I asked myself just what is it that Disney is trying to tell me about the key to happiness and success?

So I thought, I should look into Walt Disney’s life, see what he’s got against mothers. Run a good ol’ fashioned psychoanalysis on the man that made my childhood. I then realized that the bulk of the movies, particularly my favourites, the ones largely regarded as the classics, are based on other authors’ works including The Little Mermaid by Hans Christen Anderson, Snow White is based on a German Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm, and Cinderella is based on a French fairy tale by Charles Perrault; even Pocahontas was at least loosely based on a real person (albeit the details in the movie versus her life (which is more legend than fact to begin with) were so radically different that it’s hard to say that the movie was based on any actual person). So clearly Walt wasn’t the one with a mother vendetta, it was apparently a bit of a thing back then.

I still was no closer at this point to figuring out who my favourite character was, but I realized Disney had taught me some questionable lessons over the years:

  1. The key to success and fame is to ditch at least your mother. Bonus points if your father is either totally absent or excessively controlling – Prince Charming loves daddy issues and hates your family.
  2. If your parents tell you not to do something, do it anyways, it’s the key to your success, might get you into worse trouble than you expected, but someone will come bail your ass out and it’ll be even better in the end!
  3. Women shouldn’t work, just be pretty and you’ll be fine. Pretty means thin with great hair by the way.
  4. Your life is set when you’ve found a man. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be happy forever! No fights, no money troubles, no divorces! Just happiness all the time!

    link to the full video here. Because Jenna Marbles gets me.

    Link to the full video here. Because Jenna Marbles gets me.

  5. Fall in love with the wrong guy, he’ll eventually turn out to be the right guy.
  6. If you don’t want to pick guys, pass out, Prince Charming will come find you, kiss you awake and you’ll love him for not wasting precious time on consent.kiss
  7. Education? What education? It’s for the birds. No literally, if you can find some woodland creatures or mythical creatures to teach you things you’re good.

  8. Friends are over-rated. Keep them non-human and you’re good. Seriously, none of the Disney Princesses have any human friends, I’m not sure if they’re trying to say you should be a loner, like the fairy tale version of the Crazy Cat Lady, or if they are hinting that your friends will interfere with the precious man hunt. Either way, I’m not sure promoting only non-human friends + boyfriends is entirely appropriate.

  9. Running away is a perfectly acceptable solution to life’s issues. If you can avoid growing up that’s probably your best option.

    Also, running away is a metaphor. When possible, fly away.

    Also, running away is a metaphor. When possible, fly away.

  10. When something REALLY disappointing happens, collapse in a heap crying dramatically.

    Every time.

    Every time.

So do I know my favourite Disney movie? No. I’m still just as confused about that one. Story of my life. I did kind of enjoy the trip down memory lane, reflecting on why my childhood was so awesome, even if it was filled with a few questionable lessons.

But tell me – what lessons have you learned from Disney? Were they good/bad? Am I the only one who finds it physically impossible to pick just one?