I’m my own worst critic. A lot of us are. I don’t like this about myself. A lot of us don’t. But I finally have a strategy to make it stop happening.

Of course we’re our own worst critics: we know better than anyone else our abilities, capacities, our “should”s — we know our potential, so we know when we fall short. We know our dreams, our honest-to-goodness, non-filtered-for-“reality” dreams. We know the lessons we should have learned, the mistakes we keep making.

We have all the data to give ourselves the most accurate grade possible, and the way we were taught to grade as kids is to start at 100 and work our way backwards. I’m not as happy as I should be despite my privileges. Minus 1. Why did I engage in that harmful relationship that was so much like the other harmful relationships I was in? Minus 5, one for each. Minus 2 more for not learning the lesson. Minus 10 for pointing out a “flaw” in someone else you know you embody. And so on.

From “I would never treat anybody this way.”

This is something I have heard myself say dozens of times. I know that I have an unhealthy standard I set for myself, and that with other people I lead with compassion and understanding, while I never give myself the benefit of the doubt. This understanding is as far as I’ve gotten, or at least it wasAnd for good reason: I can’t give myself the benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt.

I know. I know better. I know what I should be doing. How I should be feeling. I know.

It’s easy for me to treat other people with compassion when they experience a shortcoming I would berate myself for, because I don’t know if they know what I know. I don’t know if they know we create our own obstacles to happiness. But I do. I know that. So I should be better.

What’s worse: I know I shouldn’t should. Oops. There I go again. But I know better. That’s why. I know what I know, and I know better. That’s at the crux of all of this.

To “I would never treat any body this way.”

I’ve been working with a business coach, her name is Paula, at the suggestion of a friend. I am doing a lot of stuff, but I have been doing it in an emotionally, physically, financially (and plenty of other-ially) unsustainable way. Paula is just plain delightful, but also sharp as a tack.

We were chatting about the issue of how I struggle with the hate campaigns that get pointed in my direction. It just feels wrong, and makes me physically ill, which makes it hard for me to do anything. Then I get frustrated with myself for feeling that way, because intellectually I know that I shouldn’t allow others’ misconceptions of me and my work to affect my well-being. It’s silly. So then I’m frustrated two-fold. Inception of frustration. Not ideal.

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would come from it. I’ve thought about this a lot. Then she pointed out something I already knew.

“Your intellect has matured to this point, but your limbic system hasn’t.”

Right. That’s true. That’s the annoying part. It’s that I know I shouldn’t be experiencing this body discomfort, this genuine ill. It makes me sick. It hurts in my chest. That’s what annoys me. That’s the double-whammy.

Then she said basically the same thing, again, but this time I heard it differently.

These are separate. My intellect — my mind, the higher logic, my me — is not my body — my limbic brain, my reflexes, my physical response system. The first one is the one that writes on this site, that gives advice to others, and that sometimes (oftentimes) berates the second one.

Applying Sanford’s Theory of Challenge & Support to Myself

In grad school, one of the most important things I learned was that we need to meet someone where they are, and help them grow incrementally toward who they want to be.

The theory being that if you challenge someone too much, they’ll become overwhelmed; and if you support them too much, they’ll stagnate; the appropriate combination for growth is challenge mitigated by support.

The idea being that you don’t go from 1 to 100. You go from 1 to 2. 2 to 3. 3 to 4. And so forth.

Previously, I had been treating my limbic self (my body’s reflexive responses to these external stimuli) as being on the same level as my intellectual self (the higher reasoning self that has spent way too much time thinking about these things).

I was holding myself to a high standard, which would be fine if I just had one self and it was at a high level. But that’s not what’s happening. There are two selfs here: one part of me needs challenge to thrive (the intellectual part), as well as a second part of me that needs support (the limbic part).

Moving Forward: Supporting instead of Challenging

It’s time that I stop holding my body to a standard that I would never hold anybody else to. It’s time I start realizing that knowing something intellectually isn’t the same as experiencing it, and that’s okay. To know that the way for my body to catch up with my mind is by meeting it where it’s at, the same way I’d meet anybody where they’re at.

Right now, my body isn’t okay with a lot of things my mind understands and can rationalize with ease. My body craves things my mind doesn’t (like cheese and sunburn). It reacts to things in immature ways (like how I sometimes almost vomit with sadness when I read the horrible things people say about me on the internet — people who don’t, and likely never will, know me).

Pretending it doesn’t, or yelling that it shouldn’t, won’t change that. Maybe someday — hopefully someday — it’ll catch up, but that’s not going to happen if I keep trying to make it go from a 1 to 100. I need to focus on getting it to 2 first, or I’m not going to get anywhere. And to do that, I need to treat it how I would treat any other body: with compassion, understanding, and support.

And that’s something my mind can totally (finally) get behind.

I was reading a blog post someone wrote about me (I know. Let’s move on.) and they described me as “incredibly ambitious.” This was meant to be a compliment. Cool. Nice of you. But I don’t see it that way. I get upset when people describe me or think of me as ambitious. In general, I discourage ambition.

In many ways, ambition is the opposite of who I am, want to be, and what I want for others.Keep Reading

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve generally had the perspective of Mr. Twain. But that’s because resolutions are so commonly things that won’t actually improve someone’s life, or (and especially) the lives of others in their life. But what if we all had the same New Year’s resolutions, and were able to hold one another mutually accountable, and they improved our lives and the lives of those in our lives?

If a genie gave me just one wish… I would wish for infinite hummus. Sorry. But if I was lucky enough to stumble upon another genie, my wish would be for everyone to make these New Year’s Resolutions (ya know, in case treating every day like Christmas isn’t your style). I believe in the power of individuals, and we can change the world one person at a time for the better. But it starts with changing our individual worlds. So, Mark Twain be damned, this year I resolve to:

  1. Realize that I’m incredibly fortunate. Even when things seem like they can’t get worse, and I think the whole world is against me, the simple fact that I’m able to be unhappy is a byproduct of the fortune of being given that opportunity to be unhappy.
  2. Be grateful for what I have. I don’t have much, but I have plenty. Flipping a switch and having lights come on, for example, is pretty freaking awesome. I want to remind myself to be more thankful for those things, every day.
  3. Want less, and learn to want to give more. Giving is happiness.
  4. Understand that it’s okay not to be happy all the time. And to affirm others in understanding this. Life has ups and downs and lefts and wrongs. It’s okay to not be happy — it just makes happy even better when I get it.
  5. Appreciate aloneness. To not freak out, to make the most of the peace, and to remember that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.
  6. Love more and judge less. “This goes for loving yourself, too, Mister!” I yell at myself, judgmentally, because I know that I’m far more likely to love and avoid judging another person. I can definitely do more loving of myself and others, and less judging of myself and others.
  7. Eat less food that makes me feel like garbage. Yeah, it tastes good in the moment, but I’d bet heroin feels pretty good, and you don’t see me eating that every weekend.
  8. Move my body more. Sitting is bad, and I do it too much. I don’t enjoy exercising, but I want to learn to enjoy it. When I nudge myself to do it, I almost always enjoy it. I’m going to do that more.
  9. Put myself in unknown situations. Comfort is good, but growth comes from challenge. I’m going to seek out unknown situations, read things I may not have otherwise read, talk to people I may have otherwise ignored.
  10. Treat individual human beings as individual human beings. Don’t allow myself to track my mud into their houses, or the mud that someone else who may have looked like/sounded like/smelled like them do the same.
  11. Not let my pride stand between me and something or someone. It doesn’t matter what the “principle” of the matter was, or all the other bullshit excuses I use. What matters is what I want to happen in the future, and whether I’m willing to circumvent pride to make it happen.
  12. Sweep before my own door first. To remember that I’m not helping any one — as a hard worker, friend, partner, etc. — if I’m not taking care of myself. I need to be my own friend first.

If you’re up for this challenge, let me know. Or share the list with a friend as a friendly challenge. We can be one another’s accountabilibuddies. Gosh, I love spelling that word.

Christmas Time is a few weeks, or days, or months, when a lot of us change the ways we approach our life and the people in it. There are a lot of positive things that are part of that shift; things that would likely make the rest of us our year a bit more merry if we were intentional about them all 12 months. The first item in the Code of Elves, after all, is “Treat every day like Christmas.” Here are some ways to treat every day like Christmas:

  1. Focus on what you can give to others to make them happier. And focus less on taking or giving to ourselves. Giving and making others happy will make you happy.
  2. Be extremely grateful when a restaurant or store is open. Be grateful they are allowing you to give them money for things you want. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
  3. Sleep in a bit. Snowflake pajamas or jazzy socks optional.
  4. Cook more, and put your heart into it. Microwave and order out less.
  5. Spend time with people you care about. Even if it takes a bit of work, or it’s cold, or you kinda hate them, or they smell, or they’re a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
  6. Drink wine. You know, for your heart.
  7. Play. With a kid. With yourself. Whichever. Just not both at the same time.
  8. Open a present every morning with the enthusiasm of a four-year-old kid unwrapping a present. Which present? How about the present? The gift of a new day! (Too corny? Really? C’mon. I thought that was prett — okay, whatever.)
  9. Find ways to laugh. Even if you think a joke is corny. Stop being so damned bitter all the time. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Jerk.
  10. Give more hugs. Or, if it’s more your style, do it on your twin bed. Either way, touch [with consent] more people.
  11. Touch more people (In the figurative sense). Give nice cards, say nice things, express your thanks, peace on earth, good will toward man, the whole kit and caboodle.
  12. Eat chocolate. You know, for your heart.
  13. Watch feel-good movies. Or feel-good videos on the internet, or have feel-good conversations. Feel-good = feel good. You are what your mind eats.
  14. Be conscious of the memories you’re making. And take some photos [with consent].

Have more ideas on how we can live more positively by treating every day like Christmas? Share them with me on Twitter!

I’m really excited, y’all. Ever since starting the podcast, I’ve been wanting to get one of my favorite people in the world slash friend, Ian Tennant, to record a conversation with me. You know back when I wrote that catalytic friends post? He’s who I was talking about.

Well, we finally made it happen. It will be the first of many, and I think it’ll be a treat for those of you who have been tuning into the Thought of the Week podcast. Remember, you can subscribe on iTunes and Soundcloud, and if you appreciated hearing from Ian let him know (maybe we can convince him to be a regular fixture).

Here’s the quote Ian mentions:

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
– Mark Twain

Intro track by Rustik Jamz. Check them out: @rustik-jamz

Also, let me know if the coffee shop background noise is too much — we wanted to have some ambience, but I don’t want it to be distracting.

I woke up this morning to my computer not working. It’s not been in great shape these past few months, and has occasionally tossed a surprise my way. It’s several years old, and I’ve put it through plenty of hell with all my traveling (and general clumsiness). I’d already been investigating new options, and weighing the pros and cons. I knew its time was drawing near.

I have a lot of work on my plate right now, and a lot of it’s time sensitive. And chief thing on my mind is the Nat’l Sex Ed Conference next week, for which I’m excited to be one of the keynotes. I have a few pressing collaborations, plenty of more people who I’ve promised e-love to, and some big personal projects that are underway. Objectively, it’s not an ideal time for my computer to bail on me. But subjectively, I’m excited for a few days without my computer, amidst a few of the days this year I most crushingly want to feel like I need it.Keep Reading