Do you constantly feel like something is missing in your life? Do you feel a deep sense of emptiness, loneliness, sadness, or discontent even though your life looks wonderful from the outside? Do you long for something from the past or wish for something more in the future? This sense of incompleteness can be so painful and yet invisible or mystifying to other people who do not struggle with it. I have often struggled with this sense of emptiness in my life. This nagging feeling of something-is-missing is really confusing because I have all the trimmings of a privileged life. I used to think that this emptiness can be filled by accomplishments, friends, family, money, hobbies, career, or pets. But the more "stuff" I accumulated to fill this hole, the more empty and incomplete I felt. I came to realize that the hole cannot be paved over by anything from the outside.
Recently I listened to a podcast episode called Trust Your Body on one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Sugars. In the episode, the hosts, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed, and guests, Hilary Kinavey, M.S., L.P.C., and Dana Sturtevant, M.S., R.D., discussed the never-ending cycles of dieting that affect so many women. One of the women who wrote to the Sugars talked about how tired she feels about "being on the roller coaster" of weight loss and self-esteem. I can relate to her struggles as I have been on the roller coaster myself for most of my adolescent and adult life. The struggle with our bodies is so pervasive, oppressive, and multi-generational, as Cheryl Strayed asked, is it possible to ever be free of it? How can we dismantle the connection between morality, worthiness, and femininity with women's body image? The hosts discuss how women's appetite and desire are controlled by a male-dominated society. They talk about Naomi Wolf's book The Beauty Myth that links women's appetite for love, sex, money, food, care, etc. to women's rights and equality in the home, in bed, in the work place, and in the world. Women are hungry for so much more.
In the last blog post, I talked about awareness and understanding of self-sabotaging behaviors in romantic relationships. In this blog post, I will focus on some things that you can do to begin to heal and repair this pattern of self-sabotage. The first step, as I mentioned in the last blog post, is to identify why you might be engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors. Understanding the why can help you recognize that this coping strategy is no longer needed or helpful in the present and therefore, it might make it easier to let it go. Here are a few more practices to consider on your healing journey to create satisfying, nourishing and long-lasting relationships:
I recently read this amazing piece in The New Yorker by Pulitzer Price winning author Junot Díaz titled "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma." In this autobiographical article, Díaz described how his early experiences of sexual abuse followed him throughout his life and contributed to the destruction of many meaningful romantic relationships. He reflected on his self-sabotaging behaviors and recognized that deep down, he was afraid of facing his trauma, afraid that he was broken and unlovable, and afraid to hope for something better. I felt both deeply empathetic for his pain and validated by his experiences. The root of self-sabotaging behaviors in romantic relationships is often fear and insecurities as a result of past traumas, difficult family dynamics, and experiences of abandonment, enmeshment, or neglect. The topic of self-sabotage is so broad and complex that I am going to divide it up into several blog posts. In this blog post, I will focus on how to identify self-sabotaging behaviors in ourselves.
"Super ironic that I write and talk about intimacy all day long; it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and never had much luck achieving. After all, it’s hard to have love when you absolutely refuse to show yourself, when you’re locked behind a mask."
- Junot Díaz
Recently, I have been searching for a new therapist to work with. I believe that regular therapy is good for my mental health and important for my continued growth as a therapist and a person. As a client, I can empathetic with the process of searching for a therapist. I can relate to the vulnerability to reveal so much about myself to another person and the courage to make changes in my life. I am grateful to have a space where I can lay my burdens down for a bit and sort through my thoughts and feelings with a trusted professional who can provide validation, perspective, and wisdom. The process of finding a therapist who is a good match can be hard. Even with my background in psychology, previous experiences in therapy, and an idea of who I am looking for, it still takes me several trials and errors to find the right fit.
One of the struggles that I often see with my clients, my friends, and within myself is the balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves. The dilemma of whose-needs-come-first is one that I am intimately familiar with as an Asian American woman. Both as a woman and as an Asian American, I was taught from a young age to put the needs of others before my own as the highest virtue. It sometimes feels impossible to give to myself what I so readily give to others (e.g., time, attention, compassion, love, rest). The reasons why it is so hard to balance self-care and caring for others can include: there isn't enough time or energy to do both, I would be selfish if I focused on my needs, I don't really deserve to be cared for, and I feel loved only when I am needed. What I have learned over time is that always putting other people's needs before my own is not a sustainable way to live and it is the fastest way to reach burn out, resentment, and the ending of a relationship. In this blog post, I want to present a different way of thinking about this struggle. Instead of framing it as an impossible and unending dilemma, it might be helpful to see it as a stage of growth and development that is very normal and very human.
When I applied for my Ph.D. program in counseling psychology, I learned that one of the key qualities psychology programs were looking for in a prospective student was self-awareness. I had a vague idea of what that meant and why that would be an important quality in a psychologist. I thought self-awareness was the ability to spend lots of time thinking about myself, psychoanalyze myself, and worry about how I come across to the world. Well then, I prided myself in having plenty of it. It took seven more years of getting feedback on areas that I didn't know I needed to work on and being challenged about biases and beliefs I didn't know I held that I began to learn what self-awareness really means. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich provided a compelling summary of her research into what self-awareness is, the benefits of it, and how to improve it as a skill.
Happy new year every one! The beginning of a new year always holds such promise, hope, and significance for me. It marks the passage of time, which I tend to forget when I am busy going from day to day. The new year offers the opportunity to pause and reflect on what just happened in the past 365 days. And what a year it has been! I love the Seven Questions to End 2017 with Clarity and Start 2018 with Intention from my favorite podcast On Being with Krista Tippet. I love these questions because they are great prompts for journaling. Journaling can provide so many benefits, as outlined here and here, including improving our memory, improving our communication skills, healing our wounds, and boosting our self-confidence. In this blog post, I will take a moment to answer these seven questions for myself:
The recent tidal wave of individuals, mostly women, speaking up about their sexual harassment and sexual assault experiences is the culminations of years, decades, centuries of pent up fury and silence. The #MeToo movement is growing stronger and louder every day, led by courageous individuals in the public sphere and in my personal circles on social media. I have been wanting to write a blog post about this topic for awhile; it has taken me some time to digest the growing accounts of sexual violence and make sense of my own reactions. As I am writing this post I am still not sure I can clearly articulate my emotions related to all of this. As a woman of color and a survivor of countless sexual harassment experiences, my first reaction is of fierce pride for the individuals who have risked so much to speak up. My second reaction is of disgust at the perpetrators who have abused their power for so long with the assumption that their behaviors will be protected and rewarded. My third reaction is of anger at our society (a.k.a. all of us) for creating and maintaining a system that benefits perpetrators and perpetuates sexual violence. In this blog post, I want to address the question that I often hear asked about survivors of sexual violence: if this really happened, why didn't they speak up before?
I have been struggling with getting enough quality sleep lately. I used to be a really good sleeper. I could fall asleep just about anywhere. On my flights back to China to visit family, I used to be able to sleep a solid 10 hours out of the 14 hour flight. I used to be able to sleep from the moment my head hits the pillow to the time my alarm sounded in the morning. Then things began to change as I got older, busier, and more stressed. I know that I function best when I get 9 hours or more of sleep per night but sleep was the first thing to go in college and grad school. Now good quality sleep is as rare and elusive as sunshine in the Seattle winter. I recently listened to two podcasts on the importance of sleep, which help me reflect on my quality of sleep and think of ways I can make sleep a priority again.
I created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. I am constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is my way of chronicling my discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as a person and a professional. I invite you to come along on my journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. I also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, my readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.