Self-esteem Challenge: Day 3

This blog challenge was developed by If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 3:
A part of your personality that you like.
What is one fear or goal that you would like to conquer?

I like that I am kind. I think it’s important to be kind. I don’t like the word “nice” but, I’m trying to get over it. I always used to think of “nice” as something you say about someone you don’t really know or has no personality to define themselves with. People always described me as “nice”. I was starting to look at it as a negative. Kind of like when you get called “cute” instead of “beautiful”. Puppies and kitties are “cute”, flowers are “nice”. I want to be beautiful and generous. Anyway, now I’m trying to look at “nice” as a broad term that could mean kind and generous too.

Fear or goal huh? A goal would be too obvious…the Ph.D. I think overcoming my fear of making mistakes would help me a lot. I have tried in terms of drawing. I started with zentangles, you can read about it here. It helped a lot. Now I am able to draw again where as before I was too stressed about the outcome to actually start. I’d like to work on this fear in regards to work. In research there will always be a lot that I don’t know how to do. Being afraid of doing it wrong is really holding me back. It causes me to procrastinate and think that I don’t deserve to be where I am. Making mistakes is part of learning. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you are doomed. It means you are making progress and that’s better than not doing anything. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

creativity and mistakes

F.E.A.R. Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise. Your choice.

F.E.A.R. Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise. Your choice.

Pass the Kleenex

sorry bunny

TW: Suicide

I had an interesting birthday. Thanks to my family, I’d say overall, it was a good day. There were a few hiccups though. I had an appointment to get the lesion in my mouth checked out by an oral pathologist. Birthday biopsy! Hooray!! The appointment wasn’t until 2pm, so I spent most of the morning anxious about the appointment. I was worried about the exposed bone in my mouth being something scary. I was paranoid because of my friend’s recent cancer diagnosis. It turned out to be no big deal. I had burnt my mouth so badly on a nacho that bone had been exposed. Exposed bone goes necrotic (dies) and the body pushes the dead bone layer out. This is exactly what happened. So now I have a dent in my gums where the missing bone was. Bone remodels so it will heal on it’s own. The doc didn’t have to take a biopsy in the end because he was so familiar with this type of lesion. Phew! I’m so glad that turned out to be nothing.

The next hiccup was a really bad one. We found out a friend of my husband’s killed himself the night before. My husband is in a real state of shock. He found out through Facebook. Got to love that Facebook…..I had never met this man, but I felt like I knew him because of all the stories my husband has told me about the time they spent working in Africa together. He was in a really sad situation. Of course, I only know his side of the story, but I can imagine the immense amount of pain he must have been in. Suicide always evokes so many different reactions. I feel awful for his family and friends and the grief they must be going through. It’s not about them though, it’s about him. I am saddened that he is gone, but I am glad he is no longer in pain.

I’m surprised how much this is making me think. I think I understand suicide. It’s about the individual having a desire to end their pain that is greater than their desire to live. I hope his family and friends understand that. It’s not about hurting them or being selfish. It’s about the pain. I stay frozen in a state of depression. I don’t know what changes to to make to get better. I’m also afraid to make changes in case I make things worse. I already have several failed strategies in my back pocket. This man put an end to his pain instead of sitting there and letting it take over like I do. I’m not saying he made the right decision. He lost his life in the process, which is never something I would recommend, but he did something, probably the only thing he could think of that would successfully end his pain. It makes me wonder what threw him off balance. What was the final straw that made him want the pain to end more than he wanted to live.

My pain makes me implode. I stand there frozen between wanting to live a happy life and wanting the pain to end and I do nothing. I stop functioning. Countless times I have stood on the platform watching the metro pull in and wondered how many people think about jumping. Just three more steps, that’s all it would take, and it would all be over. Thankfully, I’ve never witnessed this happen. I hope I never will.

I’m sorry. This is an incomplete thought. I don’t mean to upset anyone. My husband’s friend passing has really shaken me. I find it easier to sort myself out in writing than by talking. I’m wondering about this line of thought, is this my illness talking? Would this thinking about suicide be just another symptom of depression? Just like a stuffy nose is a symptom of a cold? If that is the case, then shouldn’t we be talking more matter-of-fact-ly about it? Someone with a stuffy nose doesn’t pretend they don’t have a stuffy nose. They ask you to pass the kleenex and they blow their nose. No one is shocked by nose blowing and the individual isn’t treated any differently. Treating the symptoms of depression isn’t as simple as blowing your nose, but shouldn’t it as easy to talk about it and ask for help as it is to say you have a stuffy nose and ask for a kleenex? I look forward to a day when this is the case.

I have an illness, I experience the associated symptoms and talking about it helps. I don’t want to feel ashamed and guilty anymore. Maybe if it were easier to do so, my husband’s friend would have felt he had more options.

Why Can’t I?

This lack of motivation and inspiration is starting to seep into all parts of my life, not just work and being healthy. I’ve been having trouble drawing and blogging the past week. These are usually my outlets. I am already feeling quite low, so not being about to do what I normally enjoy is just going to make it worse. I’m trying to make myself do the things I supposedly enjoy anyway in hopes of it helping.2014-05-30 12.51.47

Have you ever tried Art Journaling? I think it’s a beautiful form or expression. It combines mixed media art and writing your thoughts down. I find it quite intimidating as most of the pieces I have seen are quite beautiful. So I decided to start small and I bought a book, “Art, Doodle, Love” by Dawn DeVries Sokol. It provides pre-made backgrounds and writing prompts to help you get started with art journaling. I have really been enjoying it. Art journaling doesn’t seem quite so scary now.

I’m relying on this book to give me some inspiration for a post. One of the pages from the book is called “Why Can’t I?” It asks you what holds you back from fulfilling your dreams. You’re supposed to answer the question with doodles and photos, washi tape, whatever you feel like. I thought this was good to think about.

In order to make changes in life, you have to disrupt your routine. It’s different for all of us, but a routine is normally good for me, it keeps me functional as opposed to freaking out or being unable to get out of bed. Changing a routine and remaining functional requires a lot of effort. It’s not that I don’t want to put in the effort, it’s just that I feel like I already have enough on my plate. This can be overwhelming. Feeling overwhelmed is your body’s way of telling you to dial it down. This creates an internal conflict. You want to make improvements, but you’re completely overwhelmed.

When I thought about it, besides being overwhelmed, I realized everything that holds me back is self-imposed. Things like waiting for the right time, assuming I know what the outcome will be, negative self-talk, comfortable habits, thinking that I have to be the best, fear of failure….the underlying reason for all this is the belief that I am not good enough.

It's not who you think you are that holds you back, it's who you think you are not.

I hate those infomercials that say you can be anything you want as long as you think positive and visualize success. It’s not that simple. Sure, that’s part of it. Research has shown that success has more to do with attitude and motivation than raw talent. Everyone doubts themselves once and a while, but for people like me and many others that have depression, not only do we have to think positive which is unnatural, but we have to find the motivation (which is lacking) AND we have to overcome core beliefs that we are not good enough and don’t deserve success. I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just pointing out that it’s exhausting. Fighting against beliefs that make you who you are is hard work.

So ignore everyone else when they say you aren’t trying hard enough. If they haven’t been there, there’s no way they can understand how difficult it can get.  Be honest with yourself, are you genuinely trying? Yes? Good! It’s ok to collapse from mental exhaustion once and while. Just don’t forget to pick yourself back up again.

artdoodlelove Why can't I 1 artdoodlelove Why can't I 2


Overcoming the Perfectionist Attitude

Hi. I’m the Somber Scribbler and I’m a perfectionist.

Perfectionism is not only annoying, it’s often the cause of low self-esteem and anxiety. Perfectionists have unrealistically high expectations of themselves, others, or life in general. They are often highly focused on details, particularly the negatives and they tend to discount the positives. Are you a perfectionist? Here are some of the signs….

  • You are motivated by fear of failure or sense of duty. I should, I must, I have to…
  • You are critical of every effort. Your accomplishments never satisfy you, you have to be number one.
  • You have to earn your self-esteem. You must be accomplished or you wont be loved or accepted by others.
  • You are terrified by failure. If you don’t reach your goal, you think you are a failure as a human being.
  • You must always be in strong control of your emotions, otherwise you might be seen as weak.
  • You tend to think in two categories (black and white, success and failure) rather than on a continuum.
  • You make conclusions that go beyond a situation. If it happened once, it will always happen.

Sound like you? It sure sounds like me. There are tips all over the place about how to get over it. For example, make more realistic goals, stop focusing on the little negatives, don’t discount the positive stuff and find more pleasure in life. It’s good advice, but how do you do that? It’s hard to just turn off that black and white thinking when you’ve been doing it your whole life.

I want to share some painfully obvious things that I have realized lately. Reminding myself of these things has helped me to be more successful in following the anti-perfectionist tips.

Existence = Worth
Society measures our worth by outer achievements, so that’s how I measure my own worth. How much education do I have? How many friends do I have? How much money do I have? How thin am I? Sounds about right, right? Wrong! Your worth is a given just because you exist. People give pets and plants worth just for being there. Why shouldn’t we give ourselves the same treatment?

Mistakes Are ok as Long as You Are Still in Control
You are human, you make mistakes. You probably make several a day (I do!) and that’s ok. They are not worth dwelling on. It just gives you more anxiety. There is no learning without mistakes. I know you’ve heard that before and it’s not that comforting, but what about this? Think about how many mistakes you can make before you lose control of the situation. There’s a lot of room for error there. Feel better? I do.

Would you Demand the Same From Your Best Friend?
I applied to optometry school out of high school. I didn’t get in. I hated myself. Would I hate my friend if she didn’t get in? No. Would I feel bad for her? Yes. It’s ok to be disappointed because of set backs, but don’t let it turn into something as extreme as self-loathing.

The Right Perspective
Perfectionists tend to focus on mistakes that have minute consequences let alone any real long term effects. This mistake you made feels crappy right now, but will it matter next month? Next year? I know you want to kick me for saying that. It doesn’t make you feel better right now, but it does put things in perspective. I failed my driver’s test several times. I was devastated. Does it matter now? No. Does it affect my life in the long run? No. It wasn’t worth all the anxiety I had over it.

Stop and Smell the Roses
Perfectionists are often rigid and self-denying. You can’t keep giving 100% without recharging your batteries. Make time to do something you enjoy. I got to the point where I didn’t enjoy anything anymore. Everything stressed me out. I realized it was because I was focusing on the finish line and not on the process. My favourite pass-time was drawing and I stopped doing it because I wasn’t any good at it. I was so focused on what my artwork looked like in the end that I forgot it was the drawing part that I enjoyed. Focus on the process.

When I remind myself of these things I find it easier to follow the tips on how not to be a perfectionist. I’m still a perfectionist, but I’m working on it. Thinking in black and white and focusing on the negative is still automatic, but remembering these points helps me talk myself out of it and it has reduced my anxiety by leaps and bounds. I hope it can be of some use to you too.

The Ball of Shame

Happy St. Patty’s!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

My Dad’s side of the family is Irish. We’ve been in Canada for generations, but one of my great uncles still had an Irish accent. It was awesome. I live in Montreal and we have a rather large, close-knit Irish community. There are St. Patrick’s Day Galas, a pageant to select the Queen of the Parade, special Irish breakfasts, everything and everyone downtown turns green and the Irish pubs go nuts! People are all dressed up in crazy outfits and drinking green beer on the streets. It’s actually a lot of fun.

My cousin runs the pageant. She was queen once herself. It’s not a typical pageant. It’s more like a public speaking contest. Contestants have to introduce themselves and their Irish background. They prepare a speech on Irish history or literature and they have to answer a current events question on the spot. Whoever is elected queen gets a trip to Ireland, leads the parade and spends the year volunteering in the Irish community. It’s a pretty good program.

It has become a tradition for my family to watch the parade together and then retire to my aunt and uncle’s place for Irish coffee and food. Every year we gather on the same street corner to watch. Kids, adults, dogs, the lot of us, plus our friends. There is usually about 25 of us.

Yesterday was parade day…..and I didn’t go. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I enjoy the parade, especially the music. I even bought a green sweater to wear for the occasion! It’s also been a while since I’ve seen my extended family. I’m dying to see them. So what’s the problem? I don’t want them to see me. Do you ever feel that way? It’s kind of a weird state to be in. It’s not like I have anxiety about it or don’t have the energy for it, which is usually the case. Maybe ashamed is the right word? I’m ashamed of myself.

My family is going to want updates on what has been going on. I don’t know what to tell them. I’ve stagnated at work (or school, whatever you consider Ph.D. work to be). My own research is stuck in ethics, I’m having trouble getting volunteers for the other studies I am involved in and I have no publications to report. Then, there is the bad news about my husband’s job (see yesterday’s post). On top of that, I’m fat and ugly and my clothes don’t fit nicely anymore. I have been gaining weight (thus why my clothes look bad), my skin is a mess and I haven’t washed my hair. This is not how I want the people I care about to know me.

So you think maybe I should have put on my best clothes, gone and kept the conversation focused on them. Impossible. My cousins are the type of people who look you in the eye, ask how are you? and actually wait to hear the response. I can’t avoid talking about myself a bit. So I stayed home. I missed out on my family, the fun I could have had and the memories I could have made. This makes me sad.

I should just put real clothes on and go. That’s what I usually end up doing, forcing myself out the door everyday. For some reason, this time, I can’t and I can’t quite explain why. Just get over it I tell myself, they are your family, they will love you anyway. I know this is true, but it doesn’t seem to help. I want to be successful, confident, pretty, fit and charismatic. Don’t we all right? Sometimes I pretend that I am. I fool my friends and co-workers pretty well. Acting gets to be exhausting though. Family and very close friends are different. I feel guilty putting on a show for them. It’s not really me after all. I’m so afraid of being less than what they expect. I don’t want to disappoint them. Now you say, you are disappointing them by not going. I know that too, but it doesn’t compare to the disappointment they would have in interacting with me.

The Ball of Shame that holds me hostage

So now we have fear, sadness, guilt and shame cycling through my head. Are these feelings what is keeping me housebound? Is that it, or is there more to it? I don’t want that to be it. Seriously?! Feelings are stopping me from doing things? That makes me angry at myself. I think I’d feel better if there were some sort of physical barrier stopping me or someone holding me hostage.

Usually my posts are a little more upbeat. I try to talk about more positive experiences or at least experiences where I have learned something, but I’m afraid I just haven’t figured this one out yet. Have any insight? I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

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