Bubbles

I feel like I live in a bubble.

Due to the current pandemic and being immune compromised, I’ve been in nearly total isolation for about 140 days and counting.

“I feel like I live in a bubble,” popped into my head, and it got me thinking about what kinds of bubbles we all live in, whether self-imposed or otherwise.

I have a family bubble, a friend bubble, a church bubble, a day job bubble, a musician bubble, a “me” bubble, and probably a few more I haven’t thought of just yet.

It’s so popular in our culture to talk about how we must keep each area (aka “bubble”) of our lives separate from the others, especially when it comes to work and our so called “personal lives.” However, is that truly beneficial and healthy?

I don’t believe it is. I believe firmly that I shouldn’t have to be one person at work, a different person with my family, a different person with my friends, and so on. Sure, there’s certain behavior that’s appropriate at home or with friends that maybe isn’t so much so at the office. Those kinds of things aren’t what I’m talking about here. I’m referring to having a completely different or almost completely different personality depending on which bubble I’m currently in.

What if the lessons I’ve learned from things I’ve experienced in my other bubbles would be beneficial to my work bubble or vice versa? Every experience I’ve had in my life whether good, bad, or neutral has shaped me into the person I am today. I can’t just leave that all at the door without becoming a very different person.

The Bubbles – It’s not a perfect diagram, but it illustrates my basic point.

Notice how each bubble in the diagram gets just a small piece of the authentic me and remain separate from the others. I’m never my complete, authentic self in any of the bubbles.

I’ve observed that this push to keep each bubble separate from all the others is turning us into fractured people who don’t know ourselves. As I see it, it’s causing a sort of mass identity crisis.

I know who society says I’m supposed to be. I know who my church says I’m supposed to be. I know who my family says I’m supposed to be. And I know who my friends say I’m supposed to be. But who am I really? If I strip away all of the external expectations, at the core of my being, my essence, who am I?

What do I value? What do I see as my purpose? What would I do if external expectations weren’t a factor? If I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, where would I choose to live? What would I choose as my career? What would my hobbies be? What kind of home would I live in? What would it look like? What “stuff” would I own? etc?

In searching for a new job this past year, I decided that I would go into any and all interviews as 100% me. I wasn’t going to become a different person the moment I walked through an office door. I decided that any company that didn’t want the complete ME wasn’t worth my time and effort. If they didn’t like that I’m a performing musician and music director, if they didn’t like that I’m creative, if they didn’t like that I think for myself and was looking for a company that would value me as a whole person, then this company wasn’t for me. Essentially, I put into practice much of what I’d been working on in therapy: coming out of my shell, being my authentic self, and advocating for myself. (See https://couragetofly.org/2020/07/12/courage-vs-confidence/ for more on that topic.)

Now I’m working for an awesome company that values me as a whole person. This company actually celebrates creativity and intentionally seeks out individuals with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. During the interview process, I was asked my life story. That was seriously the first question I was asked. When they asked that dreaded questions, “So tell me about yourself,” they weren’t looking for a list of work trophy’s and accolades. They didn’t want to hear about only my work bubble; they wanted to get to know the real me. I was asked questions about what gets me out of bed in the morning, what my passion is, etc. They dug DEEP. It was awesome!! It was the most rigorous and difficult interview process I’ve ever ben through, and you know what: I loved it!! I actually felt seen and heard and when I was offered the position my internal response was, “OMG….they actually want…authentic me!” I was SHOCKED and elated!! I’m still pretty shocked there’s actually at least one company in the world that feels the same way I do about this…

We’re meant to be whole beings. To be dramatically different depending on the bubble, is neither authentic nor healthy. If we do not feel safe to be authentically ourselves in any particular bubble, maybe we need to rethink our relationship(s) with the person/people/activities/etc in that bubble.

It’s time to pop the bubbles.

One “bubble” that encompasses all of me

What bubbles are you living in? What can you do today to pop the bubbles and live authentically?

Crushing Perfectionism

Every time I start something new (i.e. a new job, a new project, learning something new, etc) I will arrive at a point in time when I feel crushed by the weight of perfectionism. I grew up in a family that highly valued and demanded perfection. For example: If I got a “B” on a report card, I was questioned, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A’?” If I got an “A”, then it was, “Why wasn’t this an ‘A+’?” I would be immediately shamed for not achieving perfection.

It didn’t matter that I had tried my best and worked incredibly hard to understand the material and was still working hard to understand and learn it even better. If my best didn’t earn an “A+” at the end of the quarter or semester, then I was a failure. It was made crystal clear to me that failure was not an option and coming even just a tiny bit short of the extremely high standards was completely unacceptable and unforgivable. Grades are just one of many examples.

That pressure to achieve someone else’s standard of “perfection” left an indelible mark on me. The daily condemnation and shame that was hurled at me became my inner monologue at a very young age and is something I still battle. Working through it has been a formidable challenge.

We all have times when we get stuck in negative self talk. Perfectionism is a battle we all fight to one degree or another. There are many problems with perfectionism, not the least of which is SHAME.

The big problem with shame is that people try to use it as a motivator. It isn’t a motivator; it’s actually the opposite! Guilt can be a great motivator for change; shame; however, not so much. Guilt = “I did a bad thing.” Shame = “I am bad.”

Shame murders motivation and crushes creativity. So what to do when you notice you’re shaming yourself for a real or perceived failure…? Flip the script!

Instead of –> Try thinking:

“I give up!” –> “I’ll try something different and/or ask for help.”

“I failed!” –> “Mistakes help me learn.”

“I’ll never be smart.” –> “I grow my brain by learning new things.”

“I’m no good at this.” –> “What am I missing?”

“This is too hard.” –> “This may take me some time.”

“I can’t do this!” –> “With practice I will be great!”

“I can’t believe I’m in this mess!” –> “I can do something small everyday to improve my situation.”

Flip the script so you can move from being crushed by perfectionism to crushing perfectionism! You won’t always get it right; that’s completely normal and natural. Practice makes progress and progress is what we’re going for, not perfection. You’ve got this!