It’s All About Perspective

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When I was growing up, my mother used to say to me, “You resemble your father’s side of the family. You have short legs and a long torso”. She was so confident in her opinion, and because no one else contradicted her, I came to accept her view. In my mind, I was a person with short legs and a long torso. Done deal. But about 15 years ago I had a reality-changing moment that upended my long-held belief.

I was working with a personal trainer who I really trusted because of her background as a dancer and her focus on strength, flexibility and balance. As we were working on some leg exercises, she said, “I need to adjust the equipment because you have long legs.” I looked at her in amazement, so much so that she stopped and asked me what I was thinking. I told her my mother’s version of my legs and she laughed.

She said, “Karol, I work with people of all shapes and sizes and I can tell you from experience, you don’t have short legs”. She then stood next to me in front of a mirror and with her hands, showed me the distance of my waist to my knees and my knees to my feet. By having me focus on the visual image in front of me, my trainer helped me shift my perspective and drop an old belief about my body.

Over the years clients have also come to me with ingrained beliefs about who they are. They have said “I’m not smart or strong or beautiful or deserving of love”. This perspective deeply affected their self-esteem and confidence. Of course sitting opposite them I saw such a different picture. With time, self-examination and support their view of themselves did eventually change. When that happened they shifted into an updated reality, one that made them feel happier with who they were.

How about you? Is there a perspective that needs changing in your life? If so, here are some questions to consider.

  • What messages were you given about your intelligence, looks or capabilities?
  • Who did you learn them from?
  • What phrases do you automatically say to yourself about any aspect of who you are?
  • Is what you believe really accurate?
  • When is the last time you got a reality-check about your perceptions?
  • Who could you turn to for a reality-check?

When you do get feedback, take a moment to write, text email yourself what you have heard so that you can refer to it anytime you need a boost.

“Why not use your mentality, wake up to reality” is from a Cole Porter’s song, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and I think it captures the shift in perspective I am talking about.

By the way, here is a recording of Frank Sinatra singing, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, who in my opinion is one of the finest interpreters of music and lyrics there has ever been. I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Short Cut or Short Changed?

My epiphany happened over the kitchen counter as I was staring down at the blouse I was ironing on a towel. I was running late and didn’t want to stop and take down the ironing board because I thought it would take too much time. But, as I looked at my still wrinkled top, I realized I would have to use the ironing board anyway and that this wouldn’t be the first time I had had this experience.

For a long time, whenever I was headed out and noticed I had a wrinkle in something I wanted to wear, I would put a towel down on the kitchen counter and iron there because I told myself it would take less time than setting up the ironing board. Where I got this idea, I’m not sure but I have to tell you, it never worked. Almost every single time, I would find myself struggling to get my blouse straight on the towel or keep the towel from bunching up. I would inevitably take down the ironing board and do it the way it should have been done in the first place.

There are times when bypassing the usual route provides us with opportunity to leap forward on the path we are traveling. I love those moments, those times when we say to ourselves, “Go for it!” There is enough self-confidence to skip over the usual analysis, take action and fill in the details as we go. How do we tell when to take a short cut?  In my experience, it’s when our internal response to the potential decision has more excitement, than fear. We believe in those moments that no matter what, we will be “all right”.

But what about the decisions that short change us when we move too fast? My ironing choice kept short changing me in the long run. The blouse needed more time and attention that I wanted to give it and ultimately I knew it. But I overrode that knowledge because I was invested in a false sense of speed. It is that that knowing, that sense of really knowing that something requires more time, more patience to really be what you want it to be that keeps us from short changing ourselves. And a way to recognize it is to look at our habitual patterns and the upcoming decisions we need to make.

Here are a couple of ways to explore whether you are ready for a short cut or causing yourself to be shortchanged.

Is there a long established pattern of behavior that hasn’t changed over the years? If so, this usually means there is a deeper exploration needed of why you may be short changing yourself in achieving or healing something you have long desired.

Do you feel that you have been holding back your creativity, expertise, or knowledge because of an outdated sense of self? If doing things the same old way feels like you are moving at a snail’s pace, it’s time to take a short cut by asking more directly for what you want.

Do you feel a sense of anxiety, nervousness or conflict when you imagine taking action in your career, relationship or health? These feelings indicate that premature action will short change the result you want and that a deeper examination is needed of why you feel the way you do.

Do you feel excitement, happiness, calmness or joy when you picture yourself in the future being who you want to be?  This means it’s time to speed up the process and start taking the short cuts you need by getting support from friends, colleagues and experts who can get you there.

My ironing epiphany let me know, that taking the time to achieve a wrinkle free look, required an attention to detail that ultimately let me look and feel more confident. Who knew that my kitchen counter had so much to offer?

If you have thoughts or comments you want to share on Short Cuts or Short Changed?, please feel leave them on my blog, (no email information will be shared) or post them on Facebook.

The Rush To Recover

We are at the beginning of recovery here in New York City from Hurricane Sandy and along with our neighbors in Long Island, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey and the Bronx, we have a long road ahead. Other parts of the country have and are still being affected due to this powerful and devastating storm. And it has been devastating, which takes time to absorb-often more time than we realize.

As a trained therapist I have seen the remarkable ability we have as human beings to pick ourselves up and forge ahead despite the odds. We throw ourselves into fixing our homes, helping our neighbors and finding ways to get back to work. These are all admirable qualities and make us who we are. However, in the rush to recover, to feel that things are back to normal, we sometimes bypass the necessary space to feel what we have gone through and continue to witness. From my psychological experience, I have seen that we sometimes fear that if we were to express or share with others what we feel now or have felt during a time of tragedy, that it’s a sign of weakness or will hold us back from doing what we need to. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It’s more than okay to say, I am afraid, or what I am witnessing makes me sad, or feel powerless. The acknowledgement of feelings does not trap you in your feelings. To admit to the very human reaction we all have when we experience something beyond our control, keeps us in reality. Being in reality allows for both deep feelings and the ability to take necessary action. Sometimes the actions happen first because we need to take them in a hurry and that makes sense. Yet when the immediacy of danger is over, we may feel other things and that is normal. We don’t have to pretend to feel upbeat if we don’t feel that way. We don’t have to be positive if that’s not our state of mind. And we certainly don’t have to be ashamed that we were or are scared for ourselves and others.

We need to emotionally step through this recent disaster knowing we have the capacity to be strong in body, mind and spirit. The more we give ourselves the permission to feel what we need to, to take take action as we need to, the more we will have our inner selves to rely on. So share your thoughts and feelings with people you trust and get the emotional support you need when you need it. When you do, the rush to recover will be more of a healthy stroll than a sprint.

Here are some ways to provide self-care:

Media Diet-Limit the amount of time you spend absorbing images and information that upset you. Watch for important news but give yourself a break from the constant barrage of information.

Move Your Body-Release stress through some form of movement if possible. Walk your dog, go to the gym, play with your kids out doors, stretch, or jog-anything that makes you feel a release.

Quiet Time-Take some personal time to write, meditate, pray, or do something personally creative that feeds your soul.

Connection-Stay connected to the friends, family and community that offer you the most support.