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There’s A Thin Line Between Making New Year’s Resolutions & Feeling Like A Failure

11 Jan

“2011:  another 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 52,600 minutes, 3,153,600 seconds of struggle, growth, progress, and experience” – TumblrSays on Twitter

I saw this tweet the last week of 2010 and my first thought was, Great.  Another 3,153,600 seconds of struggle.  Can’t wait! But that was shortly followed by relief.  Because it described something so real:  a year of ups and downs, goods and bads, struggle and progress.  A year of a whole-wide range of experiences.

This sounded so much better than trying to make 2011 THE BEST YEAR OF ALL-TIME!!!  I’ve seen a lot of talking/tweeting/Facebooking about making this year THE GREATEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE!  And full disclosure:  I may have once written a post that mentioned having a big year.  But I’m over it.  Now the mere thought of trying to have a big amazing year just makes me want to take a nap.  Until December.  Why does this year have to be FABULOUS and BIG and THE BEST?  Why can’t it just be regular and real and experience-filled?

For many years, I read and did the goal-setting exercises in the book Your Best Year Yet! where you wind up with a plan for your year (to make it the best one yet!) that includes your top ten goals.  In the past, I enjoyed a lot of things about this process.  But I had no desire whatsoever to do it this year, or to make any kind of BIG resolutions.

Last year, as I always do, I typed up my ten Best Year Yet! goals in pretty fonts and cheerful colors, and posted them on my bulletin board.  In September, I looked at them, and realized that I had only achieved one sub-point each on three goals thus far.  Goals that had A LOT of sub-points, so one on each was not statistically significant.  Since I was not on track with my goal-achieving for the first 3/4 of 2010, that meant that I’d have to make it my best October-December yet!  Instead I ripped my bright and cheery goals off my bulletin board and stuffed them in a file folder.  In the back of my file cabinet where the sun don’t shine.

I will come clean and say that I sat down a few weeks ago with my notebook and wrote out a few goals.  In black pen.  No pretty fonts or bright colors.  These goals are very small.  They are micro-goals.  Things I can do every week.  I am thinking of them as non-oppressive goals.  Doing them won’t make me have the BIGGEST, BEST, MOST AMAZING YEAR EVER!!!  But not doing them won’t make me feel like an abject failure.  And hopefully they will do what goals at their best do – give me direction and focus and spark enthusiasm.  As someone who loves a hearty To Do list, they will give me something to write down on my list and check off, week after week.  When I read them over, I felt excited and enthusiastic and not oppressed, which is a good sign that I am on the right track.

This post is not meant to be a criticism of that book.  The problem I have is with a society that constantly bombards us with messages that we and our years and our lives have to be BIG, BETTER, THE BEST, which leads to feelings that anything less, anything regular and simple and ordinary, doesn’t matter, doesn’t measure up, doesn’t even count.

Looking back at 2010, I had a year of…experiences.  Some joyful, some painful, and a lot of in-between.  In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes, “Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”  2011 doesn’t need to be my BEST YEAR OF ALL-TIME FOREVER AND EVER!  I just want it to be a year of experiences.  I hope to have more good days than bad.  I hope to experience more moments of contentment and peace than of depression and anxiety.  I hope to be able to spend time doing things I love, feeling engaged, excited, and enthusiastic.  I hope for curiosity, learning, healing, and growth.  I hope for connectedness and community.  And I hope to let go of chasing down brightly colored extraordinary moments, so that I can be blissful surprised by bursts of joy in the most ordinary of moments.

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Fight The Ball!

23 Nov

A few weeks ago, I was faced with the challenge of believing in myself even when I didn’t think I could anymore, when I was putting myself out there in what felt like every direction, and getting nothing back but rejection and radio silence.  I wanted to keep going, past the point where, historically, I would give up.  Past the point where, traditionally, I would curl up in a ball, on my bed or on the floor, whichever was closer at the time.  And cry.  And stop.  Trying.  Stop.  Doing.  What I hoped to do or longed to do or needed to do, because the rejection just hurt too much.

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out in a ball sometimes.  It can be very nurturing, and healing, and even exactly what I need, to take a time out, and allow myself to feel sad and disappointed and hurt and discouraged.  Just let it all out, and comfort myself and nurture myself and move through it.  But the problem is, I tend to get stuck in ball formation.  For a long, long time.  Like, one might say, at times, that I’ve spent years in various combinations and permutations of literal and metaphorical balls.  And while I’m there, I don’t believe in myself.  I believe the rejection.  And I stop trying, with whatever project or projects I was working on at the time, that I was so intensely passionate about and consumed by and determined to succeed with, pre-rejection.  I accept the apparent limitations of my life, painful as they may be, because that seems like the less painful alternative to pushing through the rejection.  Because doing that would require getting even more rejection.

And now for a word from my negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice:  I can’t do that.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  So don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here in the corner, curled up in my tight little ball.  Yeah, that’s cool, you can just step right over me.  Or step on me, whatever, I don’t care, nothing is ever going to work out anyway…

OK, now back to me.  As much as I appreciate her input, I’m pretty tired of listening to it.  Make that really tired.  So, a few weeks ago, when she started piping in with, “What’s the use?” this and “Why don’t you just give up?” that, and “Hey, doesn’t curling up in your favorite ball formation sound so good right now, I challenged myself to challenge that voice.  To reject the rejection that I was getting and keep going, anyway.  To believe in myself, past the point I had ever been able to believe in myself in the past.  To believe in myself when it didn’t feel like anyone else did (this wasn’t actually accurate as many people believe in me, but you know how that pesky, negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice just LOVES to distort the truth).  I made the choice to stay upright and moving forward, and to believe in myself even when I didn’t think I could.

And it was kind of touch and go there for a little while.  I was on uncharted ground and my legs were shaky.  They so wanted to give out and curl up.  But then, as I was wavering, my best friend started sending me emails and texts that said, “Fight the ball!”  And I started to catch that fighting spirit.  I started to feel feistier.  And then, when the rejections came in, instead of wanting to curl up into that ball I know and love and then on top of that, kicking myself when I was down, I found myself, in this other, feistier internal voice, defending myself against the rejections.  And I felt my belief in myself grow stronger and stronger, and not despite the rejections, but because of them.

And no, this was not the most fun way to strengthen my belief in myself.  I’d much prefer to grow my belief in myself while I receive glorious acceptance after acceptance.  But, that’s not how it happened for me, and I gotta work with what I’ve got/am getting in any given moment.

And then, some good things of the non-rejection variety happened!  (Imagine, that voice that said that that would never happen, LIED!)  While I want to enjoy them, I don’t want my self-esteem to get caught up in and tied to them either, because that, while temporarily better feeling, is just as much of a trap as tying your self-esteem to rejection.

So for now, I’ve made it past my historical wall and through my traditional limits.  I know that as I keep moving forward, I will encounter more walls, more limits, more seductive siren calls luring me to drop it all and curl up in a ball.  But now that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, when the time comes, I will be well-armed with my feisty don’t mess with me internal belief in myself, and ready to fight the ball with all I’ve got.

What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball, call it a day/week/year, and give up?  How do you keep going, or get yourself out of the ball and back in the game?  What works for you, and what doesn’t?  When is curling up in a ball actually helpful, and when is it not?

The Believe In Yourself Even When You Don’t Think You Can Challenge

10 Nov

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.” -Journey

Sometimes in my life, I feel like I am being tested.  Because I am getting the same lesson from so many different places, at so many different times, and in so many different ways, that it is just impossible for me to ignore it.  I have to pay attention to it.  I have to (sigh) learn my lesson.

Lately, I have been getting a lot of rejection.  On several different projects and ventures.  In my writing and in my business and in my life.  I am experiencing more rejection than I normally do.  A lot more.  And, on the bright side, this is because I am putting my writing, my business, and my life out there a lot more than I usually do.  Which is, usually, not a lot.  Because I don’t like rejection.  I actually have an extremely low tolerance for it.

But let me tell you, it does not feel good.  It feels really really really bad.  Especially because, even though I know on a logical, intellectual level that these rejections are not a rejection of me, as a person, that is not at all how it feels, on an emotional, rejected level.  And, I am at the point, or somewhat past the point actually, where, in the past, I would stop.  I would retreat.  I would curl up in a ball and tend to my emotional wounds, and maybe just…forget about that project or piece of writing or business venture or part of myself.  Maybe just…conveniently let it go.  Because it hurt too much to hold on and keep trying.  Because I couldn’t take anymore rejection.  So I might just go back to not trying that hard, not believing that much, in myself or what I could do, and smoosh myself into a smaller, more mediocre version of my life, and while I was there, smooshed in a ball, maybe I would chide myself for even hoping to believe for one second that more was possible.

So.  Here I am.  At that point, or slightly past it, where things are not feeling so good.  Where people are rejecting me (oops, I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) on what feels like a daily basis.  Or even worse, I am putting things out into a void, pouring my heart and soul into ideas and projects and just getting…the radio silence version of rejection.

However.  I am trying to break out of old patterns and limitations.  I am achy from being smooshed in a too small, disbelieving life.  My conditioning wants me to believe the rejection.  It is so convincing, and so seductive.  I can start to hear the (brash) internal voice piping in with, “See, what’s the point?  Why would you even think that this was possible?  You should just go back to that old way you know so well… don’t you like it in that cozy little ball?  It hurts so much less there!  Come on, do it do it do it!  Give up!”

And it occurred to me one day, when I felt the rejection sweeping in at me from so many different angles I felt like I was being pulverized by it, that I am being forced to raise my game.  I am being forced to have so much more internal strength than I’ve ever had before.  I am being forced to believe in myself when I do not think I can, when I don’t feel like I have it in me anymore, when all I want to do is make it not hurt and it seems like the only way to do that is to believe the rejection and give up.  And am being forced to cultivate a belief in myself that is so strong and fiery and fierce that it can persevere even in the face of this.

That I have a choice to go back to how I’ve always been, and put those ideas and projects and parts of myself in the back of a dark drawer and “forget” about them for a few years.  But I am achy from being smooshed, and I just can’t go back to that curled up ball again.  So I have to pick what’s behind Curtain #2, which is stoking the fire of my self-belief like you cannot believe!

Like most people, I get caught up in letting my self-image be determined by what others think of me.  So when I (I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) get rejected, that is what I believe.  But now I am being forced to doubt that, to say and feel and mean that I do not accept that as my internal reality.  That, no matter what is going on around me and no matter how many rejections or radio silences I get and no matter how bad it feels, I am going to make the radical decision to believe in myself anyway. I am going to stretch out and feel the full length of all my limbs, reaching for new possibilities, and refusing to accept the old limitations anymore.

What happens when your self-belief gets challenged?  How much rejection can you take, and when is your breaking point to revert to old patterns?  How you can break free from your former limitations and believe in yourself no matter what?  What strategies do you have for persevering even in the face of extreme rejection and disappointment?  Do you accept the rejection, or do you accept The Believe In Yourself Even When Don’t Think You Can Challenge? And post a comment if you’d simply like to pledge your belief in yourself, no matter what! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on overcoming rejection and believing in yourself, please share your Journey 😉

4 Minutes To Save The World

11 May

“The time is waiting/We only got 4 minutes to save the world/No hesitating”

4 Minutes, Madonna f. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland

I was listening to AT40 with Ryan Seacrest this morning while I was getting ready to go out for Mother’s Day brunch, and he was doing a phone interview with Madonna about her new album “Hard Candy,” among other things.  When I was brushing my teeth, Madonna started talking about what it was like to collaborate with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and/or Pharrell on songs like “Four Minutes (To Save The World)”.  Specifically, that the first thought that came into her head when she had an idea for a lyric or a melody was:  “I don’t wanna say it, I don’t wanna share it, ’cause they might think it’s stupid.”

I ran out of the bathroom with my toothbrush clamped between my right bicuspids to write this down on a post-it.  I’ve had this thought many times.  But, dude, she’s Madonna.  I love when famous people cop to having fear and insecurity.  Because it’s like:  it’s not easy.  Success is often propped up as this perfect, gleaming finished product and you don’t see all the hard work underneath it, which makes it look like some people are meant for success and others aren’t.  You either got it or you don’t, Baby.  But underneath all the shiny success is a big ol’ mess, made up of fear, insecurity, vulnerability, self-doubt, others-doubt, and most likely underneath every really big success story, is a really big mound of failure that was necessary to endure to get there.  The mistakes that had to happen to get it, finally, right.

How many times have you almost said something, almost wrote something, almost did something, but in a flash, worried what others would think of you?  Worried that they might think it/you were stupid, or worse, that it/you might actually be stupid.  And as a result, didn’t say/write/do anything at all…

If Madonna can feel vulnerable and be afraid that people will think her creative ideas are stupid, and still accomplish all she has, it shows that it’s possible to move through your fear and say it anyway.  Write it anyway.  Do it anyway.

I have so much to say.  And I’m tired of keeping it to myself. 

We all have so much to say, so much to contribute, and I’m guessing that every day there’s a million ways, big and small, that we hold ourselves back.  Bite our tongues.  Keep it inside.

So let it out.  The time is waiting.  Say it.  Write it.  Do it.  Someone might think it’s stupid.  A lot of people might think it’s stupid.  But then again, if enough people share what they really think, and who they really are, no hesitating, we just might save the world.

Dancing (Awkwardly) With the Stars: A Brand-New Beginner Takes the Stage

24 Sep

Hey there! Well, I’ve been away from blogging for a few months but I’m back, and yes, it is my other favorite dance-reality show that has brought me back: Dancing With the Stars, which premiered tonight as part of ABC Premiere Week.

One of my initial thoughts about this season (after: I can’t believe Beverly Hills 90201 was half my lifetime ago! It seems like just yesterday I was at my BFF Kate’s house eating Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and pondering the age-old question – “Who’s cuter – Dylan or Brandon?”) popped into my head while Josie Maran was receiving a scathing critique from the judges. She was smiling in that multi-purpose way, when a smile is used to cover up other, un-happy emotions, and I swear I thought I saw her gulp down some tears. The judges told her, among other things, that she was “out of her element.” Curious, I looked up her element in her bio, and it turns out that it is: supermodel/actress/entrepreneur/activist and new mom. Hmmm. Seems like quite a big element to me. And these are the things that she is good – probably even exceptional – at.

This leads me to one of the reasons that I like (love) this show – it takes people who have achieved some level of success in a various area(s), rips them out of their element, and then plunks them smack-down into a new element, where Olympic athletes and Indianapolis 500 champions and supermodel/actress/entrepreneur/activist/new moms must be, once again, brand-new beginners.

While Josie was gracefully taking her critique, even though she had been less than graceful on the dance floor, I wondered, “Why would she put herself through this? She has already proven herself in a ton of highly competitive and/or challenging realms, why would she subject herself to being such an awkward beginner? Like, in front of people???”

Well, some things are worth busting out of your comfort zone for, and in her pre-dance video package, Josie stated that she went on this show to fulfill her lifelong dream of “being a rockstar without the singing.” I admire her for following her passion even when it took her away from proven success and back to the beginning, and for attempting something so new, so imperfectly in a very public arena.

This awkward, imperfect, new beginner phase is one that most of us would rather skip. However, trying to avoid it is what can keep us trapped in the familiar ruts of things that we are already good at, but that may no longer challenge, serve, and/or inspire us, when our potential is really so much greater.

For instance, I love to write. And there are certain forms that I feel comfortable and confident writing, such as plays, and blogging. I know how to do it, and I have gotten positive feedback to reinforce this. There are other forms that I am totally unfamiliar with, but would like to explore. However, to do this, I have to be willing to be…bad. I have to be willing to take critique, and it might be harsh. I have to be willing to fail. I have to be willing to not know. This is, unfortunately, the only way to learn something new, and to (gulp!) grow.  Reminiscent of that other fine ABC program of years past, Growing Pains…

I am not a person who likes not knowing, who enjoys being awkward and imperfect and mistake-ridden. But tonight on Dancing With the Stars Josie Maran reminded me that if I want to “be a rockstar without singing,” I have to be willing to streeeettttttttttch and 5-6-7-8 Dance! outside of my comfort zone by being a teetering, awkward, messy, imperfect, uncomfortable beginner. Ick.

While me trying something new doesn’t involve Cha-Cha-Cha-ing in front of millions, it is never fun to fail in front of small groups either, or even in front of a crowd of one.  However, Josie Maran’s awkward, botched Foxtrot gave me a little kick of inspiration to step out into a new element myself.  And maybe if Josie keeps it up, she will be able to add dancer to the end of her already impressive title and be a supermodel/actress/entrepreneur/activist/new mom/dancer.  And if I keep it up, who knows what I can become.  As Thomas Edison, one who was on intimate terms with failure (he had over 10,000 of them), said, “If we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

This month, give it a whirl and astound yourself!

Other random Dancing thoughts, in no particular order:

1) It’s so great to see Mel B. on the scene – I wanted to BE Scary Spice in 1997. Click herefor a reminder of why the Spice Girls were the coolest evah, circa 1996 (“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want…”) or here for a heart-felt ballad (“Set your spirit free, it’s the only way to be…”).

2) Jane Seymour is the oldest woman to ever be on Dancing With the Stars at 56 and she rocks!!!  I saw an interview with her on Access Hollywood (Yes, I watch this.  Rarely, but I do) where she said she had thought about getting plastic surgery prior to going on Dancing but then she decided to be honest about what a 56-year-old woman looks like.  Hooooorayyyyyyyy!  She looks gorgeous and is a fantastic dancer and she rocks like, SO MUCH!

3a) What’s a Cheetah Girl, and

3b) Did you notice Sabrina Bryan used some form of the word “Cheetah” as an adjective, and a verb, and maybe even an adverb? Kinda like the idea behind “Smurfalicious.”

AND, as a sidenote, The Bachelor premiered tonight, and ABC is touting this season’s Bachelor, Brad Womack, as “the sexiest/best looking Bachelor yet/ever (depending on the promo).” So much to absorb in one night…

Enjoy Premiere Week!

xoxo,

Jen

I’d love to hear from you! What did you think of tonight’s Dancing? Do you have something new you want to branch out and try but you’re afraid of being an awkward beginner? And who’s cuter – Dylan or Brandon?

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam. All rights reserved.

The Glorious Success of Failure

4 May

Yesterday I saw a panel at The Tribeca Film Festival all about Superheroes. Zak Penn, a notably successful screenwriter, whose credits, notably, include the X-Men 2 & 3 movies, was one of the panelists, and during the Q&A at the end, a woman asked the panel if there were plans to feature a strong female superhero anytime soon. Zak responded by saying something to effect of: “Well, hey, I made Elektra, and that sucked!”

This, caught my attention.

He then went on to detail the mistakes he had made with that movie, and how he could have made it differently, and perhaps, better.

This set off a sequence of flashbacks in my mind, and I recalled how at several times throughout the panel, Penn had tossed off casual references to “failures” he had been a part of, to standing up for things he felt strongly about against the studios and then “being fired,” to a “big mistake” he had made on X-Men, and then, in my mind, this little failure montage culminated with his Elektra comment.

I could not believe he was copping to so many mistakes and failures! And he is a successful screenwriter! It was so refreshing!

Our society presents success as a finished product and props it up on display for the rest of us to Oooohhhhh and Ahhhhhhhhh over. I know deep down that every new venture takes trial and error, but I don’t often spend much time actually contemplating this truth, or how it could relate to me, and my life. The conditioning that success is born of success is that strong. But. This isn’t true. Success is actually born of failure. And sometimes. Of lots and lots of failure.

How this relates to me personally is fairly obvious – I hate rejection. I can sometimes be afraid to even try something new unless I have a pre-guarantee that it will be a smashing, well-received, success.

However. Failure can be, and often is, the catalyst for an ever greater success. A few years ago, when I decided that I absolutely must be a writing teacher and that this was my passion, I applied to several MFA Graduate School Programs. Many of you already know how this story ends. I got rejected from all of them, and was devastated that my dream of teaching writing would never come to be. Until. I decided to start my own company and teach the writing workshops that I wanted to teach, exactly the way I wanted to teach them. I believe that my success, and my feeling of pride in what I do, is so much greater because I was able to create it for myself, according to my own terms, and in line with my own passions, even after others had told me, quite definitively: “No!”

I was struck by how powerful it was for a successful writer to be publicly cataloging his mistakes and failures, and reminding me that every project I undertake does not have to have a pre-guarantee of fabulous and absolute success. Every project does not even have to succeed, as long as I can learn from my failures and use them as catalysts for even greater future successes. Reminding me how powerful it is to step out, with your enthusiasm and your passion behind you and within you, get really messy, and maybe just…fail. But do so gloriously, courageously, and even…successfully. To take a chance, because there is no way to succeed without lots of big, glorious, juicy, and sometimes even humiliatingly sucky failures under your belt, and there is not one Success Story out there who doesn’t have their share of disastrous mistakes paving their path to success.

Have a great weekend! Live large, and take a chance on failure!

And if you want to share one of YOUR glorious successful failure stories, you can do so right here! I’d love to hear from you!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam.  All rights reserved.