Getting out of my own way.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My youngest DD is 20 - she's intelligent, charming, funny, anxiety riddled, extremely introverted and, quite frankly, has been through a lot. Shy, anxious kids do best with stability and, when it mattered most, we weren't able to offer her that.
A job change required moving across country right after her 8th grade year. Starting high school in a new area was overwhelming to her and she internalized her fear and anxiety to such an extent that she began having mini panic attacks. Fortunately, she and I are very, very close and she has always felt confident in using me as her counsellor - talking her off the ledge of her anxiety, helping her work through coping strategies that made the transition doable if hardly bearable. She settled in, made some great friends and then, the company announced closure of the Calgary office necessitating a return to Ontario.
Needless to say - starting a new high school for grade 11 was too much. Mom's counselling gave way to formal counselling and medication to keep her from falling into the abyss. Because she suffered from anxiety as a very young child, she's always understood the need to manage it and accepts its "normalcy" in her own life. As a result, she's stayed cleared of alcohol and drugs knowing that, while many anxious teens turn to them for help, they only make things much, much worse.
She has no memory of her work or life in those last two years of high school - she simply showed up everyday and worked by rote. She tried university after grade 12 - we yanked her when it became evident that she was not ready. After 2 years working fulltime in retail, she was ready to return and did this past September. When U of T accepted her into a challenging and sought after program, she assumed they had made a mistake, completely unaware of her Ontario Scholar status on graduation from high school.
Initially, the phone calls came several times a day. Her panic attacks increased - one memorable day she had 5 as the result of prof after prof telling them that they couldn't expect the same success they had all achieved in high school since everyone in the class was an A student. She became doubly certain that the admissions officer had issued the offer in error.
I, once agan, became her major confider. And over and over again I suggested to her that she give herself permission to succeed and that she get out of her own way.
How many of us get in our own way? How many of us throw up barriers to achieving our goals? Some of them are mental - like my DD's - negative and repetitive self talk, self defeating audio reels that never stop telling us we can't succeed. Anxiety percolating under our skin as we try something new, afraid to look foolish, afriad to succeed. Some are physical - like keeping the extra Hallowe'en candy because it would be wasteful to throw it out then eating it piece by tasteless, guilt ridden piece until we've thrown the diet out the window and returned to our poor eating habits. Some are social - those saboteurs in our life that we simply can't confront, can't walk away from, can't stand up to - those loving folks we let block our path.
Why don't we allow ourselves to achieve our goals? Why do we get into our own way?
I got into my own way for years - never daring to dream that I could be thin, healthy, fit. I used a huge variety of excuses - my hypothyroidism, arthritis and asthma chief among them, to keep my butt firmly glued to the couch. I kept ginormous bags of potato chips (3 for $5 - such a good deal!) in my pantry making it impossible to choose anything healthy when the munchies hit. I have always known that I cannot control myself around a salty bag of chips - yet - I got into my own way by buying them over and over again! And soda, and chocolate, and processed foods and...
Sometimes we get into our own way by refusing ourselves permission to change. I masked envy and jealousy with mild disdain for a long time. I looked older when I was 40 than I do now at 50 andwould lambast criticism with a feminist tirade that kept getting in my way. My DDs all remember the old me and tease me mercilessly about my formerly strongly held convictions. I am open now about having been wrong. I tell them it's okay to be wrong. That you have a choice and a right to be whom you wish to be - that you can change your mind and become different. You just have to get out of your own way.
DD is now doing beautifully at school. The calls are less frequent and she usually knows the answer before she calls. Last night, she was fussing because she has a paper due on Friday yet she wanted to make her friend a birthday card for today. Conflicted, she was sitting in her room doing nothing. I asked her why she couldn't do both? 30 minutes of essay prep, 30 mins of card creation - giving herself permission to succeed at both and make her own self happy in the process. She thought for a minute and said, "yes, sometimes I just have to get out of my own way."