West Kildonan community correspondent
Hadass Eviatar is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. Check out her blog at: http://hadasseviatar.com/blog/
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A couple of weeks ago, the springlike temperatures we have been enjoying plummeted back to about -12 C, and a nasty wind sprang up. I looked out my kitchen window at the swaying trees, listened to the howl, and debated whether to run outside or go and run on my basement treadmill, as I had when it was -35 C. I even asked my social media friends what they recommended. Amusingly, locals told me to go out and run outside, while people from warm climates voted for the basement. It’s all in the perception, right?
Eventually, I pulled up my big-kid panties, put on my warm coat and scarf and went outside. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had thought it would be, especially since I had thought nothing of running in -20 C during the actual winter. By the time I got home, I was carrying both the coat and the scarf, and I couldn’t help laughing at my little whine-fest earlier in the morning.
My friend Jeanie, who is also a life coach, pointed out to me that there was a lesson to be learned here. How many times do we look at something, decide it’s too scary, and then don’t even try? Or maybe, like me, we decide to be brave and do it anyway, and it turns out to be nowhere near as bad as we thought. I’m sure that has happened to you many times, as it has to me.
I find this is particularly true when heading to the dentist or preparing to undergo a medical procedure, or any other situation where discomfort is likely or even just possible. The anticipation is almost always the worst part. Why do our brains insist on imagining the worst when it’s not likely to happen, and usually doesn’t? I suppose this tendency was helpful when we needed to look out for sabre-tooth tigers, but now — not so much. It’s important to remember that our brains like to do this, so we can push past the fear when it’s really not justified.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I like to listen to audiobooks while running, and then share what I learned with you. I’m currently listening to a couple of books by Denise Duffield-Thomas — she’s an Australian wife, mother and entrepreneur, and her brand is Lucky B (yes, the B stands for what you think it does — she’s Australian, after all).
Denise and her husband, Mark, recently enjoyed a six-month all-expenses-paid around-the-world vacation, staying in luxury hotels and writing reviews of their amenities for a honeymoon company. She wrote a book explaining how they won this competition — what, after all, is luck?
Denise quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Denise and Mark were extremely prepared and worked very hard — not only in their actions, but also on their mindset and belief. As Ray Higdon says: “Why not you?”
However, most of us assume good things will not happen to us, and that we will not be lucky. Why is this?
It’s been a long pandemic, and I believe that between March 2020 and the beginning of November 2021, when my synagogue began cautious in-person services again on Saturday mornings, I had worn my high heels maybe once or twice. Not a lot of occasions to get dressed up, alas.
If you’ve never seen me in person, I’m short. So it’s not surprising that high-heeled shoes have been part of my outfit for many years, although thankfully never on a daily basis. I thought they were fun and pretty, made my legs look sexier, made me look taller and more imposing, etc. I wore them on any occasion that called for a nice dress. My feet hurt afterwards but, after all, we must “suffer to be beautiful”, right? That’s just how it is.
Like all of us, I’ve been on a journey for the past couple of years, and have been giving a lot of thought to the weighty questions of who I am and what I want to achieve in this world. With my 60th birthday fast approaching, the truth is I probably have less time ahead of me than behind me.
With this in mind, I have been choosing to abandon behaviours and choices that don’t bring me joy, to quote the great Marie Kondo.
Are you the kind of person who goes from “it’s getting late and the person hasn’t called” to looking up hospitals online, in the blink of an eye?
Do you think you might not have done well on an exam, and conclude that you will never get a job and will end up living under a bridge?
Do you assume that every medical test is going to show life-threatening results?
This kind of thinking is called catastrophizing, and it is often associated with anxiety or depression, and sometimes with chronic pain as well. It can be quite debilitating, as the person can be paralyzed with fear over something many people would consider a minor inconvenience. However, it’s important to realize anyone can join this dance, especially in times of stress.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve seen me mention Ray Higdon. He’s a remarkable man, who overcame a background of abuse and addiction to rise to become one of the best generic trainers in the network marketing sphere.
The reason? Personal development. The following reflects a recent training session with him.
Personal development is the art of changing aspects of yourself that you don’t like; changing the stories that you have always assumed to be true about yourself and others. If your story has always been that you are flawed and unworthy of success and love, likely because of childhood trauma of some sort, you may think that that is an immutable part of who you are.
As a life coach, I am here to tell you that that is not necessarily true. It may not be easy to change, but it is not impossible.
For the past few weeks, my family of origin has been dealing with one of the primordial stresses of human life — the passing of an elder, peacefully, after a long life filled with meaning, joy and love. We will miss him beyond words.
Grief and loss are never easy to deal with, but it’s especially hard in the midst of a global pandemic and at a distance of nearly 10,000 kilometres. Thankfully we have Zoom and WhatsApp, but it’s not the same as being there. I will be travelling soon but that’s another source of stress, and I’ve been finding myself being short and snappy with my loved ones right here. It’s not a pretty picture.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because this difficult time is an opportunity for me to work on some long-buried issues that I have conveniently not had to deal with, being so far away from everyone else in my family.
I was recently introduced to an interesting little website called 7levelsdeep.com
It’s a great tool for figuring out why you do what you do - so often we do things because we are expected to, they are the next obvious step, or for no really good reason. It can be a useful exercise to stop and think about why we are doing something.
Here’s how it works - you put in something you want to do, and then the website asks why that is important to you. You put in your answer, and it asks the same question again. Seven times, in fact, forcing you to dig deeper and deeper each time. Of course, you can put in surface responses, but you won’t learn much from them.
I’ve done it three times so far with my current main intention, and it’s been quite fascinating to see how I pull different answers out of my mind each time. Some of them are quite evasive, but others go pretty darned deep. It’s certainly food for thought.
The fear of what others may think of us is primal. Back in the dawn of humanity, being kicked out of our tribe was a death sentence. So the opinions of others had to be very important to us.
Nowadays, though, we are not in danger of being eaten by sabre-toothed tigers if we don’t stay by our campfires. It’s OK to go out and find another campfire that suits us better. This may ruffle a few feathers, but does that matter?
The inimitable Brené Brown once described taking a tiny piece of paper, maybe one-inch-by-one-inch, and writing on it the names of all the people whose opinions on her life and choices really mattered to her. All the other critics could be safely ignored, because they had not earned the right to her attention.
When you are as much of a public figure as she is, or as many people inadvertently become online, it’s important to understand that opinions are like rear ends — everyone has one, and most of them stink. It is really not necessary to give any kind of attention to people who have not earned it, by demonstrating that they truly care about you and your well-being.
The human mind is wired toward negativity. That has been a very adaptive feature of our operating system during most of our evolution - after all, if you live somewhere where there might be sabre-tooth tigers or bears who want to eat you, it’s a good thing to be alert for warning signs of danger. The same might be true if you’re living in a war zone.
Most of us are privileged to live in places where we are not constantly in danger, but our nervous systems have not caught up. A gazelle being chased by a lioness is highly stressed for a short time, but if it gets away, it is soon peacefully grazing again.
Humans, on the other hand, have a nasty habit of replaying scary or upsetting things in our minds, bringing us into that zone again and again. As a result, what we think of as the everyday stress of modern life can keep us in a constant fight-or-flight mode, with our stress hormones always elevated. This is really bad for our health, both physical and mental.
What to do?
In the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, an enchanted rose is kept under a glass bell. You don’t glass bells around too much anymore, but in Victorian times they were used to display flowers or wax fruit in a dust-free manner. Something under a glass bell is visible, but it can’t be touched or damaged.
When I was a kid, I remember imagining myself in such a transparent bubble, safe from any harm or pain. What I didn’t realize at the time is that it’s not possible to numb the bad stuff without numbing the good stuff as well. If you don’t allow yourself to feel pain, you will also not feel joy.
I’m currently listening to Glennon Doyle’s latest book, Untamed. In it, she describes how she broke free of the life she had created according to the expectations she grew up with. She’d built a very successful career as a Christian writer, but then everything for which she had been celebrated was exposed as a sham after she fell in love with another writer, a woman, and had to rebuild her whole identity afresh, as herself.
She narrates this book herself and, as I walked the streets of my neighbourhood, listening to her describe how she learned to heal the numbness she had created in herself, I couldn’t help but cry for all of us who have numbed ourselves, to one extent or another. We think we are safe under our glass bells, but we are also not living. Is it worth it?
So this weekend was … interesting. I was tired, I was stressed, and I got into sugary things I shouldn’t have. I can definitely feel the result, there’s a reason why I’m not supposed to eat that stuff, and it’s not because I’m on a diet.
So now what?
In the past I would probably have spent a fair amount of time and energy beating myself up about this, and probably calling myself some unpleasant names as well. It’s amazing how mean we can be to ourselves, when we would never talk to someone we love like that.
I very nearly fell into that trap again but fortunately I have coaches and accountability partners nowadays, who help me pull myself back out.
You may know that I go live on Facebook several times a week, talking about various topics: mindset, nutrition, exercise, and so on. I have a lot of fun with these videos, and you can find them on my social media. Just search my name.
The other day, I was honoured to have a friend ask me to talk about setting boundaries with those who have none, and she particularly stipulated “without hurting their feelings.” After confirming with her that the person in question was not a child or a person with special needs, I told her the following.
Just as we cannot control other people, we also are not responsible for their feelings. Adults are responsible for their own feelings. They may need help dealing with them, so they may benefit from a referral to a life coach or a therapist. But you are never responsible for other people’s feelings. Check with yourself that you are not speaking to them with the intent to hurt. If you are being kind but firm, their anger, disappointment or tantrums are on them, not on you.
As to the boundaries themselves, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is only one reason that people feel entitled to violate our boundaries. That reason is that we have taught them that it is OK for them to do so, by tolerating their behaviour.
I was listening to an audiobook by Mel Robbins called Work it Out, in which she coaches women who are having issues in their workplace.
Mel was coaching a young woman who was the victim of two sexual assaults within six months so, as you might expect, she carries around a fair amount of trauma,and it affects all aspects of her life — at home and at work.
The distinction between guilt and shame came up in the context of the young woman saying she felt a lot of guilt about the sexual assault. Mel stopped her and pointed out that what she was really talking about was not guilt, but shame, and it seemed to me that this distinction is worth fleshing out here.
As defined by researcher Brené Brown, guilt is when you feel bad because you’ve done something wrong.
Do you believe that you can develop new talents and abilities, or that what you have is all you’ll ever have in that department?
In 2006, psychologist Carol Dweck took the world by storm with her concept of two kinds of mindset. In a 2012 interview, she described those two mindsets as follows:
“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
“In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
We are living in a time full of fear. Between the pandemic and its economic effects and the situation in some major cities in North America, it’s not surprising if you just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head.
Believe me, I know. That’s assuming you have the privilege of staying home — not everyone does. We are all grateful to the courageous souls who go out and keep our society functioning, our vulnerable ones taken care of, and the health-care system working.
You might be tempted to think that courage is the opposite of fear but I believe you would be wrong. Fearless people go out and do things and we often admire them. But truly courageous people are not immune to fear — they feel the fear and keep going anyway. I believe those people are the true heroes.
So what is the opposite of fear? How about love?
Do you ever have one of those wall-kicking days, when nothing seems to go right, people are mean to you, and it seems like your mission is destined to fail?
I know I do. That’s when my Sunshine File kicks into action. It cheers me up, reminds me that what I do brings value to the world, and that most people are actually kind and encouraging. It nourishes my soul and helps me get over those difficult moments. It helps me brush off the inevitable haters who are bound to show up if you are playing big enough.So what is the ‘Sunshine File’?
It’s a Google Doc on my computer, into which I cut and paste every time somebody says something nice about me or my work online. Every thank you, every expression of appreciation, every reminder that what I do is helpful to actual humans — not some faceless trolls online, but real people who are grateful and appreciative.
We are all programmed to lean toward the negative — to take every criticism, every bad review, as if it is the totality of our experience. It is a well-known phenomenon — even people who are highly successful have this bad habit of obsessing over the odd one-star review, rather than celebrating the many five-star reviews they receive. I’m sure you can think of situations where you have done something similar. I know I have.