Confidence Manifesto

Every time I go home to NJ, a piece of my childhood has surfaced and been carelessly placed in a conspicuous place for me to see. Ribbons from swim meets, sticker books, letters from ex-boyfriends, photos. When I went home this past Christmas there were two photos sitting on the kitchen counter.

It was January of 1996. I was 20 years old. I was a junior in college. These photos were taken at the Newark airport, back in the days when you could still walk your loved one to the gate. I was about to board a 6 hour flight to London. After that I flew to Shannon, Ireland, and then took a three hour bus ride to Cork, where I would live for the next six months. I did it completely alone and without hesitation, doubt, or fear.

Monica and Dad Ireland

Monica Mom Ireland

I kept staring at the woman in these photos. I would go back to them daily.

What happened to her?

I looked at these photos and I was jealous. Of myself.

Granted at 20 years old, I didn’t know that I probably should’ve been a little more cautious and the world in 1996 was very, very different from today. But, beyond those circumstances, where did this woman go? What made her think that she could go across the ocean by herself and travel? Where did she get that confidence?

It knocked the wind out of me. Confidence. And there it was, my #oneword2016.

2016 is 19 days old and I am doing well with my word. I like how it feels on my heart. I like how I feel when I say it to myself. I used to be confident, fearless almost. Confidence made me courageous. I am diving into my word this year and I hope that when 2016 ends, I feel differently than I do today. I deserve it.

This is my confidence manifesto. These are the promises that I made to myself when I chose my word. These are the promises that will guide me this year:

I will talk to and about myself with love.

I will speak and write my truth without defensiveness or explanation.

I will apologize only when necessary.

I will eat food that is fuel for my body.

I will also eat food that brings me pleasure and I will not feel bad about myself when I do.

I will move more.

I will exercise when I can and when I want to.

I will ask for what I need.

I will be kind to myself when I fail.

I will strive to not judge others, especially other women.

I will not believe social media messages that I am not enough.

I will make progress on my book, Dear boys.

I will make progress on my business, Sheldrake Consulting.

I will be kind to myself when I do not make enough progress.

I will love myself.

I know that many of these goals are not specific. Which, according to some research, dooms me to failure because they are too big and not measurable. But here’s the thing. When I set really specific goals, like, “I will write every day for 30 minutes” or, “I will exercise three days/week” I never meet those either. Because they are so specific, if I miss one time, I go into a tailspin and then give up. So this year, I am trying more broad goals that feel more achievable. I am going in with confidence and kindness.

What is your #oneword2016? I’d love to hear about it and why you chose it.

Happy New Year!

 

The post I didn’t mean to write, but needed to

I intended to post a picture of the cucumbers and beans that my son & husband harvested from our garden yesterday. Then, I was going to say something cute like, “lesson learned, never give up!” Then, the hypocrisy of that post stopped me and I wrote this one instead. I had nothing to do with the garden. But, I have everything to do with this. So here it is.

“It only takes one person to change your life: You.”

“Tips for a powerful brand”

“Realize your full talent potential!”

“I just posted a ______ mile run with Map My Run!”

“I worked out this morning!”

“I nailed a run. #beastmode”

“You can be anything you want, you just have to choose.”

“Believe you can do anything at least once a day.”

As someone who wrestles with anxiety and depression, these incessant messages feel like I am being pelted with… criticism. It feels like noise. Blah, blah, blah. Talking heads with really long skinny fingers pointing at me. “You are not enough. You should be doing more.” Noise, noise, noise. The messages make me jealous, more anxious, and paralyzed by the fear of doing something wrong, trapped by perfectionism.

I haven’t blogged in too long and I have yet to make significant progress on my journal article.

I feel ashamed that I have fallen off the exercise wagon and yet to get back on. I can’t remember the last time I went for a run. I did a few 5Ks in early spring. I even ran in the mornings for about two weeks. I went running on vacation?! Then, I got sick and I stopped. Although my cold is gone, I have not fully recovered.

I know that people who tweet and post encouraging messages don’t know that I feel this way. I also know that the intent of these messages is not to make anyone feel bad or to shame anyone into exercising, or writing, or updating their LinkedIn profile. If anything, these posts serve to encourage others. And they do. I have witnessed many friends get on the exercise bandwagon, update resumes, add skills to their profiles, etc., etc., etc. And sometimes, they encourage me, too. And other times, these overtly positive messages feel threatening.

The thing with depression too is that it makes me lose sight of what I have accomplished. This weekend, I did six loads of laundry; went shopping for home décor; then came home and fixed an old nightstand with a new knob and picture frames; put my son’s artwork into a new frame and hung it in the living room; and painted an entryway in our house with a spiritual saying, with a stone cross in the middle of it (take THAT Pinterest! I came up with that idea all on my own!). Not bad! And, I did it all by myself. Doing this alone is also a huge feat for me, as my anxiety can sometimes make being alone feel like loneliness.

But, I didn’t go running. I didn’t exercise once all weekend. I didn’t call my grandmother. I texted my sister on her birthday instead of calling her. I didn’t, I didn’t. I didn’t…..Noise. Noise. Noise.

It’s not that I don’t want to work out, or write thank you notes, or clean my house. It’s not that I can’t.

It’s that the cycle of inertia, shame, and more inertia fueled by that shame, is really, really hard to break. Hitting the reset button is necessary. I know that I need to. I know that I want to. It’s just that taking the first step to actually doing it feels momentous.

This is part of me that I never knew before; I have only recently learned that how I feel had a name. Truth is, I have always wrestled with these issues. Looking back on my late 20s and early 30s, I can now see patterns of behavior. Periods of incredible activity and productivity, followed or proceeded by valleys of exhaustion and inactivity. When in the valley of depression it feels as if everything is fuzzy, like someone is shouting at me but I am under water. I can see and hear them and I want to claw my way out and break the surface but, I end up treading water instead.

I even have dreams about my depression. In my dreams, I have been wronged, shamed, or thrown under the bus by someone, almost always in a public setting. I try to speak up for myself and I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I am shouting inside my head but, only I can hear it. The people around me are staring at me. This leads to more and more frustration and more shouting, but no results.

I also dream that I am running but nothing ever happens. My legs get shorter and my abdomen collapses like an accordion and I get physically smaller. Then, my legs start to sink into the pavement and I am no longer running, just staying in one place. Interesting that my dreams are about running. Huh.

I read once that the author J.K. Rowling struggles with depression and that the dementors in Harry Potter are her version of that struggle. This is the best image I can think of to represent depression and it’s after effects. I can feel its presence, its cold breath on my neck. There are times when I can swallow the doubts and fears, choke them back like gravel in my throat. And then, there are other times when I must embrace the darkness. Let its waves crash over me and run their course. Then, I will rise up again. Battered and bruised, but still here.

I am absolutely terrified to post this. I fear what you will think. But, I am choosing #optimism and doing it anyway.

I am learning that none of this makes me weak. This does not make me less-than. Some days are easier than others.By being vulnerable about my imperfections, my crosses, I can name them, address them, and even embrace them without shame because they make me who I am.