essay

do something, essay

Praise

From a young age, I have been involved in numerous choirs. I like to sing, but I haven’t had a lot of praise or criticism related to my ability to sing. I’ve some mildly positive comments, but that’s about it.

I am grateful for this. First, I’m not a great singer in the first place. But I’m also not a bad singer. So when I sing, I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it well or not. I’m just singing because I like to.

There are other aspects in my life where I have been much more sensitive to any praise or criticism that has come may way. I built my self-image around being good at academics or writing. The things I received the most praise about became part of who I am. And that wasn’t really a good thing.

Because no matter how good I am, there are always so many people who are better than me. I always have room for improvement. Sometimes, I’m not quite as good as I think I am–I have failed miserably at things that someone once praised me for.

I should never do things just to get praise. Who I am is different from what I do.

If I never received grades throughout school, I would probably be a different person. I would have a different, more resilient view of myself. I might be more willing to ask questions and admit what I don’t know. I would have learned more quickly to seek after learning for the sake of learning, not just to receive top marks.

Praise often does not lead to resiliency. It can lead to increased pressure and an inflated ego. Our self-worth needs to be based on who we are, not just what we can do in comparison to other people.

That doesn’t mean we stop praising people all together. But we need to be careful about the praise we hand out. Instead of saying, “You sing really well,” we can try, “I love to hear you sing.” Instead of saying, “You are really smart,” we might say, “I really am proud of how hard you have worked in school.” I am working on this with my children, but it’s hard, and I often shift back into the easier way of talking about things.

Sometimes we do things whether we are good at it or not–we do it because we enjoy it. In my experience, I find a lot more fulfillment and joy when I do things not because I’m good at them, but because I want to do something for its own sake. I learn to learn. I write to write. I like when I am focused on the work I am doing, instead of focused on myself and my reputation.

I am slowly trying to stop praising myself. I don’t have to be a good writer or a good singer or good at anything. I can just be me, and I can do those things and love them and that’s enough.

essay

Mistakes

I’m not very good at making mistakes. I hate making mistakes, which means I find myself falling into a pit of despair. Sometimes I become unable to function as I think that I’ve irrevocably fallen off my (completely imaginary) pedestal of perfection.

Here’s the truth: everyone makes mistakes on a daily basis. It’s part of life. We are all very far away from perfection and we all do horrible things.

But still, one small mistake can ruin my day. I fall into my abyss of guilt because I want to go back and change what happened (which is impossible). I feel deep discouragement because I think there is no way to fix it.

And sometimes we make mistakes that we can’t really fix. We might hurt someone’s feeling so badly that it changes our relationship forever. We might wreck our car. We might wreck part of our life.

We can’t change the past. Mistakes happen, and the consequences can last a very long time. That hurts.

But I’ve been learning how to avoid the pit of despair and move forward. Here are ways to deal with mistakes better:

1. Accept what happened.

Not too long ago, I learned about “radical acceptance.” This means accepting life how it is, totally and completely. It means we accept that things happened and we can’t change them. Acceptance can be very difficult. We might think life is unfair. We might want something different.

But reality is what it is–and it’s a lot easier to accept it (possible) than to fight against it (impossible). It can take practice and patience, but we can accept that we made mistakes and we can’t change what we did.

2. Fix what you can.

Instead of dwelling on what we did, we can take some time to think about what we can do to make right. When I yell at my children, I can’t take back that yelling. But I can apologize. I can start speaking kindly to them. I can give them hugs and cuddles. I can work harder to not yell as much in the future.

Fixing things doesn’t always make the mistake go away completely–there are often scars. But people can forgive–and we can forgive ourselves, knowing that we’re trying.

3. Laugh at yourself.

Often, many mistakes we make are small and unimportant. And they can be hilarious, if we have the right perspective. We may slip and fall, but we can also laugh at how silly it all was. We can laugh at botched recipes, bad haircuts, forgotten information, fumbled words, and awkward encounters. We can laugh when our mistakes don’t define us, when we realize everyone makes mistakes, and that we don’t have to be perfect (or even close to it).

4. Learn from mistakes.

If we do something wrong, we don’t have to keep doing it over and over again. We can learn. We can know that we can do better. We can change. That offers a lot of hope to keep at it and to keep climbing towards being a better version of ourselves.

5. Repent.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it so that we can be completely forgiven and change for the better. It means that even those scars can be healed and there is almost nothing we can do to completely ruin our lives. We can be saved from our mistakes, not matter how small or how big. There is always hope.

 

essay

Happier Without Technology

The internet is a wonder. When I want a movie streamed on a computer, I have 24 frames per second being sent to me over thousands of miles almost instantaneously–and not over wires, but straight through the air in waves of information. I don’t understand how that works.

I can look up about any question whenever I want it answered–like what the standard frame rate is for movies. Which started a rabbit hole about why we have that particular frame rate, and I’ve learned a bit about the history of recording video, CGI and video games, high frame rate, and augmented reality.

I could go into a rabbit hole about the origin of the phrase rabbit hole, which I’m pretty sure is related to Alice in Wonderland, but I will resist. Her rabbit hole was a dream, actually–a fall straight into absurdity.

And that’s what the internet feels like. It feels absurd. It feels like disappearing cats that pop up in unexpected places. It feels like mixed up life that doesn’t sound quite right anymore.

I am pretty sure I would be happier without the internet. And without smart phones. And without computers, even.

The thing is, I don’t have to use them. I don’t have to turn on my computer or check my smart phone. I don’t have to have a Facebook account and I don’t have to follow people on Instagram. But I do.

What stops me from cutting the cord, from waking up from this dream of absurdity and actually living my life instead of falling into the rabbit hole?

Quite a few things: connecting with people, searching answers for simple questions, creating and sharing posts and videos, watching television shows, reading news, taking classes, shopping, listening to music, etc.

There are so many good things that technology can do.

I have invested in blocking software–blocking websites in the morning and limiting distracting websites to certain time limits and numbers of launches.

But on days when I feel tired and cranky, I still find myself wasting time, going around the limits I’ve made for myself and falling down the rabbit hole.

I don’t have an answer of how I can balance this in my life. It’s hard. Having too many options is hard.

Here is what I do right now:

  • I only check social media once a day.
  • I have a fifteen minute time limit on YouTube.
  • All websites are blocked until 11:00.
  • 10 or 20 minute limit on websites I commonly get distracted on.
  • I don’t have access to a web browser or a search engine on my phone.

But I feel like I’m falling down a slippery slope, one that I can’t seem to master. Good days, when I’m feeling happy and motivated, I do fine. But the days where I just don’t want to follow my rules. And I don’t.

I’ll keep working on it. I want some sort of conclusion, but I don’t have one.

essay

Judging Others

We all judge other people. We do it daily. It’s super easy to say that someone hasn’t done the right thing. But it’s a lot harder to actually live and make those decisions and try to do your best.

The fact is, we all struggle, we all fail, and we all succumb to weakness.

So how do we stop judging other people?

Well, first, sometimes we can just keep our mouths shut. That’s always helpful.

Second, we can remember that we don’t need to condemn individuals and their actions–that’s not our job. We are usually not in a position where we need to determine if someone else’s actions were right or wrong. It’s not helpful to our friends and family; they need our love more than they need our advice about what to do or our opinion about what they have already done. And when we judge strangers, we pretty much are guaranteed that we are getting it wrong anyway.

That’s not to say that we have to be completely tolerant and say that morals are relative and everyone can make their own decisions and there is no right or wrong. There still can be right and wrong, good and evil–but we don’t need to go around applying those standards to individual actions we see or hear about and then condemning people and calling a person right or wrong, good or evil.

We can determine if something is right or wrong for ourselves. We don’t usually need to do that for anyone else. They are responsible for their own actions, and they are not accountable to us for them.

Of course, there are times when judgment is helpful–usually when someone else’s actions directly affects our lives. Sometimes we may have to separate ourselves from people in some way because they have a negative impact on our own life. But that doesn’t mean that we have to harshly judge them in the process. We can still hope for the best and give people space to choose right and wrong.

I make thousands of mistakes; I hope people will give me the benefit of the doubt and know I’m still trying to do the right thing. I want to do the same for others. I want to judge less and love and support a lot more.

We’re in this together and we’re usually trying to head in the same direction. It’s better to keep hiking and to help people up than to point and laugh when they fall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

essay

A Problem With Personality Tests

When I first heard about the the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, I was extremely confused about the random combination of letters. ISTJ? ESFP? I had no idea what people were talking about.

I did some Google searches, read some articles, and took some tests. I still can’t keep all the letters straight, and the results never resonated with me. I felt that I couldn’t be categorized, that I was a more complex individual than what the personality test was telling me.

And over the years, I’ve changed a lot. My personality is different now as a stay-at-home parent than it was when I was in college or working full-time. I’ve not only adapted to different situations, but I’ve grown and become a better person.

When I was younger, I would have said I was an introvert. I liked books and people scared me. But I worked on overcoming my fears. I set goals so that I was more comfortable talking with other people — not so I could change my personality type, but because I wanted to be in a position to look outside myself, make friends, and help others more.

I love being with people now, but not because I want to be the center of attention. Instead, I want to listen and talk and connect with others. I want to learn how to stop thinking about myself, stop selfishly pursuing what I want, and try to instead help others and make the world a better place.

Personality tests are focused very much on you and what you want. Personality tests don’t care about serving other people and improving relationships.

I could spend a lot of time thinking about what I want out of life. I could spend a lot of time categorizing myself and refusing to change who I am. But that’s not who I want to be. I want to be constantly improving, and I want to be improving and changing in a way that allows me to help and serve others.

I don’t need to analyze how I think and make decisions. I don’t need to determine if I’m more emotional or rational. I don’t need to spend hours determining exactly how I function and exactly what I want out of life. I want to take myself out of the equation entirely and think about myself a whole lot less.

Because my life isn’t about me. It’s about my family, my friends, my community, and all the people I can help.

IMG_0351.jpg