The Introspective Salon
Hi everyone, it's Trisha and today I’m going to be taking you on a tour of my Cabinet of Excuses.
Now, this is a metaphorical cabinet as no real cabinet would be big enough to hold all these ways that I convince myself I can’t or shouldn’t do things. This cabinet is sort of like Mary Poppins' bag. You can just keep pulling things out of it. The size of things that can fit in my cabinet is limitless.
I’ve always had a cabinet of excuses. It’s one of those things that you come out of the womb gripping, I suppose, but I really started getting use out of it in High School. When I was fifteen and my biggest worry was looking like a dork in gym class, the cabinet of excuses was on the lighter side. It was hard to have too many excuses in High School because that’s one of those things that you pretty much have to do, but I still had them. Like, I’m ditching gym class because I look like a total dork playing badminton. Or, I’m not going in during lunch hour to make up for my failing grade because it’s a failing grade in gym simply due to me ditching all the time and you know what, I’m a good student in all my other more important classes, so who cares?
Those excuses are at the far back of my cabinet, now. Gym class is in the distant past. Do you know what’s in the present, though? The simple and honest "I don't want to" excuse.
Which is the perfect excuse for not working out. For not going to a gym. There's also the "I don't like getting sweaty," or the "I don't have good exercise clothes" excuse. To be fair to myself, I have gotten into a great habit of stretching every morning, so I'm moving my body, at least.
Oh, is that another excuse?
Yea. “But I already do this thing so why should I do this other thing, too?” is another pretty typical excuse found in my cabinet. Like, I drink lots of water every day so why should I cut back on caffeine?
Let's see what other excuses I can find in this cabinet.
Oh, okay, there's the "I don't have time" excuse.
While this is actually true sometimes, most of the time it isn't true. Most often it isn't a matter of not having time, but a matter of poor time management or anxiety around time. This is a great excuse for anyone. You can convince not only yourself, but others, that you're too busy! There's no time in your day!
For me, this is the biggest, fattest, lying excuse in my cabinet. I loathe this excuse, whether I'm giving it or hearing it, so let's move on.
The next excuse in my cabinet is an honest excuse. It's the, "I'm no good at this thing and I'll be embarrassed if I fail" excuse.
This excuse must be relayed in a catchy sing-song cadence so that it can stick in my brain and plague everything I want to do, or may want to do, or even things I've already done. This may be the most honest excuse, but it's the hardest one to overcome.
If I simply don't want to do something, sometimes it's enough to tell myself "just do it" or "do it now so I don't have to do it later." If I feel like I don't have enough time, then I can work on rearranging my schedule or reprioritizing my tasks for the week. If I feel like I actually can't do something and that I'm worried about failure, well, that's pretty hard to combat.
There are many other excuses in my cabinet. I can't even close the doors and I come up with new excuses all the time. The key to working through them is to recognize an excuse as different from a pretty reasonable reason. For example, I've been watching some "Hoarders" lately and because my brain is so trained to make excuses for my behavior I came up with this excuse: “Watching "Hoarders" helps my anxiety because I like seeing the process of cleaning up so much junk. It’s cathartic. It’s like a metaphor for cleaning up emotional baggage.” I realized upon drafting this blog post, though, that that is a perfectly reasonable reason. I'm not bingeing episodes or zoning out and losing touch with my own reality, I'm simply enjoying a few episodes from time to time. If I was actually using "Hoarders" to procrastinate dealing with my anxiety (as I do with Youtube videos all the time), then that would be a pretty far-fetched excuse.
Recognizing these three major excuses has been beneficial in helping me watch out for my own bullshit and keep it in check.
I can't think of a way to end this blog post, but, you know, I don't want to. I worked hard enough, anyway.
I was having coffee with a professor from my undergrad and she said something that really surprised me. She said she remembered that I had cool clothes!
When I was getting my undergraduate degree, I experimented with my style a lot. I had gone from the more extreme days of my pseudo-goth-style in Junior High School -
to my I'm-doing-everything-I-can-to-not -be-immodest-(but also I kind of want to look sexy)-style in High School -
to the I-don't-know-who-I-am-style in college. That's why it surprised me so much that my professor remembered my clothes as anything other than how uncomfortable I thought they made me appear. Unfortunately, I can't find any photos that accurately represent this hodge-podge fashion moment, but it was something like lots of shorts and tights and colored cardigans and chunky necklaces and red lipstick and skater dresses with leggings. Perhaps I wanted to look something like Jane Lane -
but I got confused somewhere along the way.
After college, I got a job as a preschool teacher and I no longer wanted to fuss with my wardrobe. I needed clothes that required minimal maintenance and that were comfortable enough for a wide range of motion. I leaned heavily on jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. After a year of working in that stressful environment, I got a job as a paraprofessional at a charter school with a business casual dress code. I rarely felt comfortable in my clothes at that job. I had one awesome legitimate suit that I’d wear on days when I was substituting for the teacher I worked with - and I felt pretty badass in that - but otherwise, I felt like clothes were a total nuisance.
Come to think of it, most of my life, clothes have been a total nuisance. My mom used to have to plead with me to try clothes on in the stores. I used to cry on those school clothes shopping days and many of the clothes I got would go to waste because I'd later discover that they made me look fat. Even when I was playing around with fashion, clothes were still a nuisance because I was either stressing over looking good or stressing over how uncomfortable I felt.
Now, I will try clothes on and I don’t absolutely dread shopping and I know my style well enough to purchase clothes that make me look and feel good: jeans, unassuming tops, and black boots. I have about seven outfits on rotation for work and only a few outfits to choose from for non-work days, which makes choosing my clothes one-hundred-million times easier. On occasion, I do look forward to gussying up for a date with my husband or going to a concert or meeting up with my family for holidays, but the majority of the time I just want to wear what I always wear. Jeans. T-shirts. Hoodies. Well, I don’t really wear hoodies too much anymore. I’ve advanced to neutral-colored cardigans. So adult.
What I’ve discovered about this style is that I feel comfortable, and when I feel comfortable, I feel badass. When I’m wearing my jeans and my ratty old pirate boots and a plain top I feel like I don’t just walk around, I strut. On the occasion when I have a sexy and cool outfit for date nights or concerts I go back to that joy I got from crafting my pseudo-goth wardrobe in Junior High School, but I don’t need to have a unique outfit every day.
Whether I like it or not, the clothes I wear affect how I feel and how I present myself. It feels a little bit trivial to be concerned about personal style, but we have to wear clothes if we’re going to go do stuff in the world so for those of us who have the luxury of personal style, we might as well feel good about what we wear.
Something else that's helped me become more comfortable is that I've learned to love a good quality clothing item over a fashionable one. I've become much more interested in shopping ethically and purchasing fewer, higher quality items. If this is an issue that interests you, too, I encourage you to do research about capsule wardrobes and how to shop sustainable fashion. I'll link resources that have been the most helpful for me in navigating this new way to shop:
Justine Leconte, fashion designer and content creator:
Justine Leconte on escaping the fast fashion trap:
Justine Leconte's TED Talk:
Adam Ruins Everything: Why Fast Fashion Fails Us:
Go forth, will you, to shop smart and kind.
The idea behind the law of attraction (LoA) is that where you put your focus and energy is what you will get out of life.
Hmm, phrased like that I actually really believe in it. That doesn’t quite sum it up.
It’s the idea that if you have positive thoughts, you will have positive experiences. Meanwhile, the reverse is also true. If you have negative thoughts, you will have negative experiences.
That still doesn’t quite capture what I’m trying to reveal about the LoA.
Okay, let’s see, what I’m trying to get at here is that I believe the law of attraction has value, but I also believe that it’s not a guarantee to success. I believe that it’s a passive approach and it’s a way to avoid making any real, tangible progress on a goal or dream. What really rubs me the wrong way about the LoA, though, is the idea that you can “manifest” your dreams. Dreams are pretty nebulous and there’s no way of knowing exactly what’s going to put you on the right path to achievement, but you’ll never get on that path if all you do is sit around and visualize the path rather than go out and pave it.
I’ve had tremendous success with some aspects of the LoA. I count my blessings every morning in a gratitude practice. I have worked on fostering positive thoughts. I have set intentions to manifest things in my life, but I’ve also taken action. For example, the biggest area of lack in my life is in the social arena, and I’ve made efforts at improving that, but if all I did was sit around and visualize myself hanging out with friends, then I wouldn’t have made any progress. I had to make a plan. I had to text friends and choose a date to get together. I’ve done that even when I’ve felt as though they’ve never made an equal effort with me. I have a friend who almost never invites me to hang out, but every time we do hang out we have a great time and we always say “let’s do that again.” She rarely makes the next move and that used to really put me off, but, I’ve reframed my thoughts and decided that in that friendship I’m the leader and I make the decisions. It’s up to me. That feels much more empowering than telling myself “she never tries.” (To be clear, if she seemed like she had a miserable time with me, then I’d give up, but since we always have fun, I think it’s worthwhile to continue to extend the effort).
In this regard, I manifested my goal of improving my friendships by reframing my thoughts and thinking more positively about them, but, more importantly, I took action. Friendships haven’t simply appeared in front of me from the dust. That’s where I get hung up on the LoA. I’ve never read or heard anything about it that talks about the necessary action. I can’t just say to myself every day, “I am worthy of friendships” and expect to make friends. I do believe, however, that repeating a mantra like that will change how willing I am to make the effort, it’s just that the LoA is not a solo gig. The LoA is helpful as a part of a goal-setting process, but it’s not a means to an end.
The other problem with the LoA is that having positive thoughts doesn’t guarantee a more positive experience in life. Positive thoughts won’t harm you and it’s definitely worth it to think more positively, but it’s not a weapon against the bad and harmful things in the world. Just because you’re grateful for everything you have in life doesn’t mean that they won’t all be senselessly ripped from you. It’s comforting to believe that, but that’s just not the way the world works. Pain is a part of life and it's better to accept that and learn how to cope than avoid it.
The LoA is great to form a generally better experience in life, but it’s not a means to stop suffering altogether.
“Write every day” is a piece of advice that writers hear a lot. I also assume a lot of writers get sick of this advice making them feel guilty for missing a day. It’s not very good advice, but I’m kind of going to defend it, just a little bit.
The thing is, I used to absolutely abhor that advice. It made me so mad, mostly because it made me feel terrible for not measuring up. Some days, I just don’t want to write. I have always taken that advice the wrong way, though. I thought it meant to write for at least an hour and to write something meaningful toward a bigger project. I thought it meant to sit down and get super serious about what you were working on every single day.
Then, I started journaling. I have never been good at keeping up with a journal because I always get so precious with it and I want to fill it with only the best of my writing so inevitably I always give up, but I changed my journaling mindset. I realized journaling is just for thoughts. It’s not for my most prized stories and poems. Those usually start off in a word document on my computer anyway. No, journaling is for quick notes and observations. When approached like this, writing is very easy to do every day.
I will add to that, that some writing is also better than no writing.
Now, I defend the advice "write every day" which plagues and torments writers. In fact, I would extend the advice to non-writers, too.
For as long as I can remember I have had a habit of watching television in the mornings and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to break that habit, but I would always come up with some excuse. I used to feel like it helped me to ease into and adjust to the day and that every time I tried to stop the habit I had an off day. I used to think that it didn’t matter whether I did it or not because it was only a half hour of my morning. I used to think it was just a thing that I did and oh well. That was until I started journaling.
Don’t get me wrong, on weekends or over breaks I’ll still delight in watching some television while I eat my breakfast, but I always journal after the show is over, even if it’s just a short paragraph. During working weeks, I journal while I drink my coffee and I don’t miss the noisy chatter of the television at all. I have grown to appreciate the silence of the mornings and the time to jot down my thoughts. Journaling has become the activity I need to ease into and adjust to the day.
Some days, all I write is the things that I’m grateful for or what great book I finished the night before, but the magic is in the habit, not the end result.
I’ve been journaling for four months now, and it has officially replaced my morning TV watching habit. It didn’t take four months to get here, but it did take at least two months. At first, I was really excited about my new habit, then I became disenchanted and wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I kept going until the thought of not journaling in the morning felt uncomfortable.
While being able to write every day has been fruitful, the best thing that has come out of journaling, for me, is the process of self-evaluation and discovery. I’ve been using the bullet journal method and have been finding a lot of different journaling prompts and activities to fill my pages. I’ve created a Mood Tracker,
a plan to overcome depressive episodes, a Gratitude Log,
challenges to work on anxiety and depression, a “Things I Am Good At” page, and a Life Balance wheel.
As you can see from the photos, I’m not that precious with this journal. I’m not trying to create art. Instead, I’m learning about myself in a way that has no-pressure of goodness or intrigue attached. It’d be easy to feel pressure because I see some pretty amazing bullet journals online and a lot of people do approach bullet journals as art, but I have approached this journal as a process and not a product. It’s a space just for me and that mindset has made all the difference.
The benefits of journaling have been such that I can't imagine suddenly not doing it. My writing has improved since I've begun writing nearly every day. I feel more confident in the craft and more invested in my own vision. Moreover, I'd say, I have felt quite a shift in my overall mood and my ability to cope with stress since I started journaling. As an example, the other night I started having some negative thoughts about myself. We’d just been to the in-laws where my husband was the center of everyone’s attention. I mean, it was his family. I just have a tendency to feel like no one ever thinks I have anything interesting to add to the conversation. My husband has a fascinating career so my stories pale in comparison and I feel like his family just assumes I’ve got nothing going on in my life except supporting him, so I started to withdraw and feel insignificant. Normally, I’d let those thoughts invade completely to the point of madness, but instead I told myself that just because others don’t always recognize the worth of my work doesn’t mean there isn't any. I told myself that I am significant and I do matter. And you know what, I actually believed it.
Journaling isn’t some magic cure. It’s not like creating a better habit around writing and my ability to think better about myself and overcome negative thoughts has been solely hinged upon whether or not I journal, but I do believe that it has been a big factor in my triumphs over these elements in my life because I've used the journal to be more curious about who I am and keep myself accountable to maintaining better habits overall. It has become a daily practice not only in writing, but in both accepting and challenging myself.