Documenting my life

Month: March 2022

The power of consistency and envy

The story

The setup

During the first lockdown, around May of 2020, I had signed up for the Couch to 5K program. A friend had done the same, she’d started one month before me, so she was slightly ahead of me and would give me tips. I would ask her about her progress as it was inspiring and motivating.

The progress

She kept running. She injured herself around October 2020, but didn’t use that as an excuse and started running again as soon as she was feeling better.

I went on holiday in August and took a break, then I moved and fell out of my routine. When I thought of restarting, I felt lazy and I new it would be uncomfortable to begin with, so I basically stopped running. I had never got to 5K.

The last time I heard from her, around January 2021, she was running 7/10K, if I remember correctly. At the time it was a very big achievement and something to celebrate, I was so happy for her!

I did feel a bit envious and wondered if I could have done the same or how long would it take me to get to that point, now, but I let the thought go and moved on.

The surprise

We didn’t keep in touch, it had been a year. I stumble upon an online video that describes her experience in running an ultra-marathon trail in September 2021. Almost 60 km!! Running.l I was so amazed and impressed – I texted her, hoping it wasn’t too weird, after one year. I just had to congratulate myself

The takeaways

This was a great reminder about the power of consistency. We started at the same time, I have finally restarted running (thanks to the couch to 5K program) and can just about run 20 mins at the moment of writing this. My friend ran 60K.

Envy, the good kind

Brené Brown talks about envy in her book Atlas of the Heart. In this article, I review the book and share my thoughts. One of the points that stood out was the difference between good and negative envy.

Good envy will show you what is possible and will inspire you to act. Seeing that another person has something you want will help you understand your wants and dreams better. By feeling envious, you can dig deeper to figure out why you feel that way and what exactly is the cause. Ask yourself: what do you envy? What about it is something you wish you had?

What do I envy?

In my case, I don’t think I will ever run an ultra marathon.

What I admire and strive to achieve is the level of consistency and constant showing up, even when things don’t go as planned. Being able to put in the effort day in and day out, when it’s raining or snowing or too hot to even walk comfortably outside. Be willing to feel uncomfortable, especially after having to take a break from running.

Crucial caveat

Of course, we have to compromise some things in our lives and I am happy with my personal achievements and progress.

I am proud of showing up consistently and striving to feel uncomfortable in order to grow in other areas of my life. I am definitely focused on improving myself and setting goals for myself and I thrive off of big and small steps towards them.

While my friend was training and running, I spent countless hours doing and learning about improv, I launched this blog and kept up with one or two weekly posts for three months and made significant improvements in other areas, which make me really excited and proud. And sometimes we just need to rest and focus on recharging and that’s ok (and should be encouraged morel).

Final thougths

Seeing this friend achieve such a huge accomplishment was an extraordinary example of the power of consistency. It was a great reminder of the importance of health and fitness, as well as the enjoyment exercise can bring.

It reminded me of this image by James Clear [full article here]. He writes: “Improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more”

How to stop being a people pleaser?

Who is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who often doesn’t want to create discomfort and will end up putting others’ needs before their own

Common traits of people pleasers include:

  1. Agree to do things (e.g. attend events, parties) even if they don’t want to
  2. Help others even if they are busy
  3. Don’t disagree with someone else
  4. Don’t want to bother people or create a fuss
  5. Feel responsible for other people’s emotions
  6. Are anxious if someone is mad at them
  7. Say sorry and apologise for smaller inconveniences

People-pleasers usually appear kind and generous, but by putting others before themselves they can encounter issues.

Cons of being a people-pleaser

  • They feel too much responsibility, even if something is not actually entirely in their control
  • They will feel stress and overwhelmed, from saying yes to too much. This can lead to burnout
  • No progress on their own goals. By prioritizing others, they will put their tasks that benefit themselves only on the backburner

These are two questions (and answers) often asked about people-pleasers:

Do people pleasers have low self-esteem?

Since they tend to please others and put them before themselves, this could in some cases be linked to low self-esteem. This is connected to the concept of internal versus external validation. If a people pleaser feels their value depends uniquely on others liking them, it might be helpful to work on improving their self-esteem.

Are people-pleasers annoying?

Since they try to not cause discomfort, they can appear indecisive and therefore unsure. They might not take a stance even when requested. This can be frustrating and annoying if it’s a recurrent thing.

How to stop being a people pleaser?

Start saying no to small things

  • Practice makes perfect. Here are some common examples: declining to get a coffee/meal with someone, asking for the correct order if it gets messed up, not signing up to the store fidelity program, telling the hairdresser if you would like something different, asking for the correct change.

Set up boundaries and make sure they are communicated and enforced

  • Notice when you repeatedly engage in a specific activity when you would rather not
  • Define an appropriate boundary
  • Communicate that boundary or make sure anyone involved is aware
  • Stick to that boundary and repeat if questioned, without it turning into an apology

For example, if the folks of the gym class you follow always go out after class, but you would rather not stay out late, you can either establish that you will go for one drink and leave after an hour or you can just skip the event afterward. “No” is an answer and a full sentence, so you don’t need to give an explanation, although it will depend based on how close you are to the group.

If they insist, just remind them you need to go and be firm about it.

Use policies so it’s not personal

If you are afraid of people taking it personally, you can always use policies. A policy is conventionally a rule that is applied in every circumstance. Therefore will be more easily accepted as a general boundary rather than a specific decision. For example, a policy might be “I am budgeting for a pottery course this Spring, therefore I am not going out to dinner more than twice a month and I have already gone out this month”. This clearly is not a no to the specific dinner you have just been invited to, but a general rule. You don’t need to give explanations, but it can be helpful to give a simple reason and clear goal.

Don’t give too many details

This will mean there is less opportunity for discussion, others won’t try to find loopholes and “excuses”. Be firm in your decision

Say thank you instead of sorry

People-pleasers tend to feel responsible for others’ emotions and will often say sorry even if the inconvenience was small or not their fault. Apologizing too often and when not warranted can be perceived as unsure and less trustworthy. Try saying thank you, instead. For example:

  • thank you for your patience instead of sorry for being late
  • thank you for catching that instead of sorry for the typo
  • thank you for your explanation instead of sorry for this stupid question

    Of course these examples hold if the inconvenience was small and it didn’t have any real impact

Block time for yourself and your goals – and stick to the plan

Make sure you prioritize tasks that are important to you, even if they don’t benefit others or if this means other activities get pushed back. Block some time in your calendar and follow through when the time comes.

Everyone makes mistakes

We don’t talk about our mistakes with others

We usually feel embarrassed or ashamed by mistakes, so we try to keep them to ourselves. It’s normal to want to present our best selves and we avoid sharing when we did something wrong if it is not necessary, needed or helpful.

As a side note, I am not saying you should not acknowledge and own up to your mistakes, that is something you should always do. I am saying that we rarely discuss our mistakes with folks who are not impacted by them or who would benefit from knowing about it, for example, to avoid future similar mistakes.

Another caveat is that I know and appreciate when we offer this information voluntarily even if not needed when we are looking for advice or to be comforted, or if we want to be vulnerable and connect with someone.

But, generally speaking, you will hear much more about others’ successes than their mistakes and failures. This means it will bias your perception of how often others make mistakes and you might think you are the only one who is not easily going from one accomplishment to the next without stumbling somewhere along the path.

Everyone makes mistakes

The truth is everyone makes mistakes. Even people who are older and more experienced. Folks who have done a task multiple times can still get distracted and forget about one of the steps. Even after years of practice, you can not see something which you should have picked up on.

It is remarkable to witness someone who you consider “better” than you (whatever that may mean in the specific context) making a mistake because you realise that truly, everyone makes mistakes

How do you react when you make a mistake

Something which is interesting to observe when someone else makes a mistake is how they react. For example:

  • Do they apologise
  • Do they own it and fix it
  • Are they blaming others or finding excuses
  • Do they think about how to prevent this mistake (or a similar one) in the future
  • Do they sound worried/embarassed/ashamed
  • if you are not impacted but a simple “witness”, do they apologise to you?

If you think they handled it well, compare their reaction to yours

This is really useful, because we are learning from the mistakes of others!

Think what you would have done in their shoes. How would you have behaved?

See if you notice a pattern in your reaction. Do you tend to find excuses or blame others or are you good at taking responsibility? Do you apologize and move on by fixing the error, or do you keep thinking back to it?

The last two questions in particular made me reflect a lot. I noticed I will apologize even if not needed, which is something I will work on. I know that if the mistake has some impact, I will often feel embarrassed, while at least from my perception, this does not seem to be the case for others, many times.

Learning from the mistakes of others also means implementing strategies to make sure you avoid the same mistakes they did. This is extremely important and a big reason why we should talk and discuss about our mistakes openly, but it is not the core of this post.

What you should do

  • Understand that everyone makes mistakes, don’t think it’s only you
  • Expect you will make mistakes. This will help you get more comfortable and at the same time help you acknowledge the potential pitfalls
  • Think about when it’s easier for you to make mistakes and accept that. The best way to move on is to make sure you learn from your mistakes and always adjustments to minimize the risk of similar mishaps in the future
  • Be kind to yourself, understand why you did a mistake without judging yourself too harshly or making broad statements about yourself rooted in shame

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