Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bewaring of Comparing

My thoughts continued to flow regarding yesterday's post on confidence. In my experience one of the top five killers of confidence is comparing.

It's sometimes hard to resist comparing ourselves to others. We take in the appearance, the accomplishments, the gifts and skills of others we admire and then compare ourselves to see how we measure up. Many of those to whom we compare ourselves seem to be more attractive, smarter, more talented and more gifted, which then may cause us to try to be more like them.

I've learned from personal experience trying is my death. As soon as I try to be like someone else or to match some picture I have in my head of what I should be like, I lose myself. What I mean by that is I lose my own attractiveness, my own talents, gifts, and along with all of that, my confidence and my authenticity.

Those of you who have also dared to compare yourself probably agree with me that we are not at our best when we are putting ourselves in a position that jeopardizes our natural and authentic being. It isn't fun and it doesn't make sense.

The alternative to comparing is owning. Owning your own strengths, gifts and talents. Embracing all that is true about you without trying to hold yourself up to someone else. There's no work involved....just being.

Now that I am tuned in to not comparing, I'm naturally happier. I'm better able to live my life with joy and to serve in the ways that best suit me. I can now simply be my best....without looking over my shoulder to see how I compare.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Confidence...Our Elusive Companion

I was reminded yesterday as I observed approximately 50 children auditioning for Seussical, a musical based on the stories of Dr. Seuss, how elusive confidence can be.

This audition was a call back. These were the kids that made it through the first round of auditions earlier in the week and were now being considered for one of the five lead parts. My role was to assist the director in taking notes on how these kids showed up...their voice quality, their acting skills and their ability to move about the stage freely and without embarrassment. They appeared to range in age from six to sixteen. Some have been on stage before and for others, it was their first acting experience.

I noticed confidence was inconsistently apparent. Those with experience, who have previously received praise for past performances, stepped up and performed confidently. Some of the younger kids that may not have had experience, but have also not reached that point in their development of being afraid of being judged, also very innocently jumped in with both feet and did their best with obvious confidence.

For others that may have auditioned in the past and did not win a major part, fear and lack of confidence seemed to interfere with them authentically showing up, full out.

So, how can we get ( or hold on to) confidence in life in general, or in specific challenges like auditions, job interviews, or sports events?

One factor that can aid in our holding on to confidence is the knowing that what we do is not a reflection of who we are. The children that could not consistently hit the high notes are no less valuable in this world than those that could.

Another major factor is the believing in what is possible. If we are personally believing we do not have what it takes to be successful, then chances are high, we won't be. If we are overwhelmed with fear, then our confidence can diminish to almost nothing. Our natural abilities can be thwarted by our own thoughts of not being good enough. Frankly, some of the kids simply did not have voices strong enough to carry a lead, yet their desire to perform, their willingness to play and the apparent joy of being on stage made them a standout and a joy to watch.

So how do we build and sustain our confidence? To me, it makes sense to simply show up fully, sincerely and full out, without a fear of being wrong. All we can do is our best in any given moment, nothing more. Sometimes it is enough to get the role, the job, or to win the race.... sometimes it's not.

If we show up fully and enjoy our process then the experience will strengthen us rather than tear us down. We will learn and grow from each experience rather than be diminished by it. Our confidence and trust in ourselves will not be attached to our outward successes, but by our ability to be who we are without fear.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

Last evening my husband and I joined a group of Reader's Theater enthusiasts to read the play, It's a Wonderful Life. It was presented as it would have been done on a radio show, complete with commercials for Lux soap.

This story, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, has always been one of my favorite Christmas movies. It seems to have all of the ingredients to give you that "good feeling" we love to experience at Christmas, or actually anytime. Somehow actually participating in the story as a reader, made those good feelings, even more present. First of all the title is a winner in my book. Who doesn't want a wonderful life? Other gifts the story holds are the power of love, family, generosity, kindness, believing, community and service, to name a few.

In watching, listening, or reading this story we are reminded of what is truly important in life. The character of George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart is the epitome of all of the qualities noted above. When Uncle Billy loses $8,000 from the Bailey family savings and loan business, George loses hope for the future and all sense of his life being worthwhile. His feelings of overwhelm and fear cause him to contemplate jumping from a bridge. When this act is interfered with by his guardian angel, Clarence (my favorite character), he is given the opportunity to view what life would be like had he never been born. What he learned was had he not been born, the community of Beford Falls and it's residents would not have the life style they now enjoyed. There were several specific examples of how other's lives were positively affected, and even saved, because of him.

What is so uplifting about this story is it reminds us all that any problems we are facing will some how eventually come to an end. No matter what situation, thoughts or feelings we have at any given moment that leave us in despair and believing our life is not worthwhile, we are forgetting the stream of situations, conversations, relationships and events where we affected someone else in a very positive way and that each life is meaningful.

In taking the lessons George learned, I am reminded that to have a wonderful life, I need to stay in integrity with myself, appreciating all of the experiences I have, all of the people that touch my life and the opportunity I have to touch others.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Unexpected Encounter

Earlier today I was out running errands, crossing things off my Christmas list. As I was walking down Main St. I came upon two rugged looking men. They looked like they could be loggers or maybe they're the guys that run those huge backhoes at construction sites. Needless to say, if one went by appearances, I typically would not be called to engage with them, perhaps believing we wouldn't have anything in common. Today, I couldn't help myself.

As we passed the Quilt shop, I heard guy #1 ask his friend if he needed any quilting supplies. Without cracking a smile guy #2, said no, I'm good (this was my cue to get involved). Since I was right on their heels, I chirped in with "Are you sure....they have a lovely variety of fabrics and notions"? Still, without even a chuckle, guy #1 said, "Ah, know you promised to make me a new Christmas tree skirt". Guy #2, still deadpan, replied, "Maybe next year". As we continued down the block it was my turn to speak asking him if he sold his quilts, or just saved them for himself. He responded with a big grin.

Eventually we came to the end of the block where our paths were taking us in opposite directions. The last thing I heard guy #2 say was, " Look, you two are wrong about me, I really prefer to knit and crochet!" We then parted ways all laughing out loud, exchanging wishes for a Merry Christmas.

What struck me about this little encounter, was if I had stayed in judgment believing that we wouldn't have anything to talk about, and minding my own business, we three would have missed our little repartee. Instead, I got to enjoy a little fun with these two rugged strangers.

It is the unexpected encounters such as this one that carry much delight for me which actually shifted my mood from slightly blah to joy. I wonder what it did for them.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Your Wish List

This is the time of year where many of us are making our wish lists for gifts we would love to receive. Some of the popular current items may be an Ipod and accessories, a new computer, a flat screen t.v., a puppy, electronic games, clothes, perfume, gift certificates for our favorite restaurants, a digital camera, and of course, jewelry.

Now if you can imagine how long your joy would last with these items, please keep in mind that they will wear out, break, be used up or will soon be out-dated. When that happens, we will then be updating our wish lists with new things to take the place of the old stuff. Although, I know these items can bring some enjoyment, I cannot help but think what it would be like if everyone had a different wish list that would be filled with items that wouldn't wear out or could ever be depleted.

Some of the things on my wish list are to have the feelings of peace, love, joy and gratitude even more of the time than I do now. I would wish for ease and enjoyment in all that I do....even the stuff I never enjoyed before. I would want to have meaningful relationships with others where unconditional love and understanding would always be present. I would wish for opportunities to serve others in a way that consistently brought joy to me at the same time. I'd wish for fun, no matter what I was doing. I would wish for insights into finding answers to questions that have always been difficult to understand. I would wish for abundance, so I could share it more freely and generously with others. I'd wish for opportunities to learn and explore new ways of thinking and doing things.

And the one big wish which would cover all of the other things on my list would be to remember that these things, or the potential to be experiencing them, are already within me. I don't have to wait for someone to hand me a package, nicely wrapped with a special item inside. I don't need to open a gift, I just need to be open.

It is our being opened that allows the beauty of these gifts to be present and felt. If we are distracted by all that is wrong or missing in our lives, then naturally we will be feeling the effects of lack with notable discomfort. If we focus on being grateful, we cannot help but feel the abundance of life available and ready to be received.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

I saw Mommy kissing Santa kidding....I really did. It didn't happen when I was a child peering over the banister late at night, it happened earlier today.

You see, my Mom, Esther Watkins, is a resident at Country Terrace, a lovely assisted living facility here in Wellsboro. We moved her here from Wilkes-Barre about a year and a half ago when she could no longer take care of her six room house. It's been a good move for her and although she turned 90 last January, she has not lost her youthful spirit or her sense of humor.

Actually, my Mom is a real crack up. She still enjoys having all of her marbles and plays with them wisely. She does cross word puzzles regularly, reads a book or two a week, can participate actively in Jeopardy, she's the champ at Wii bowling, and can hold her own in a battle of wits and humor with the best of em. There have only been a few times when she needed to use her call bell to call the staff. One of those times was because she needed help opening a bottle of wine when she had a guest for a night cap.

The event where the aforementioned kissing took place was the annual Christmas Party hosted by the staff of Country Terrace for all of the residents and their families. It was a fun party for all and just as we were preparing to leave, Santa, who had made his rounds earlier saying hello to everyone, sat down to listen to what the children wanted for Christmas. Once the children were heard, some of the residents sat on Santa's lap too.

After several women posed for a picture on Santa's lap, my Mom took her turn. Once she got positioned comfortably and safely, which is important for an almost 91 year old, my Mom took Santa by surprise by giving him a kiss. Since the photographer was not quite ready, she did it again...longer this time. This unexpected act, (I imagine especially for Santa), brought the house down. It was a great example of how the unexpected can rapidly spread pure delight to anyone in the vicinity.

So now whenever I hear the song, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, I will remember being a witness to the giving of a very special gift....only this was a gift given to Santa!