Category Archives: Personality traits

You. On a plate.

So, I’m watching Masterchef right now (You know, the  show where Chef Ramsay gets to yell at people, but with less bleeped-out profanity.  Oh, and Graham gets to look cute and nice with his perfectly-sculpted poofy hair-do, and Joe gets to be harsh, angry, and critical, in as nice a way as possible).

See?

The contestants were given the opportunity to pick their own Mystery Box Challenge ingredients to produce what the judges termed “you on a plate.”  After the contestants got the ingredients for their best dish, the judges pulled the rug out from under them and told them to pass the ingredients for their best dish to the person in front of them, then cook something incredible.  You can imagine the immediate looks of shock and horror.

Being the “I see metaphors” type, my brain immediately engaged in how this particular episode relates to the basic premise of this blog (In case you hadn’t caught on, I believe you have a choice in life).

How many times do we feel like we get to serve up the best of ourselves to the rest of the world?  I mean, really?  How frequently do you feel like you are in your element and winning this game we call life?  I would venture to guess, not that often.  To use cooking metaphors, this is probably because you are trying to use all of the wrong ingredients.  Maybe you thought were an introvert, but you’re really an extrovert.  Maybe your parents guided you (with good intentions) into a profession that doesn’t really feel right.  Maybe you just got caught up in a whirlwind of bad choices and now you’re stuck with the consequences.

Like this:

A plateful of good intentions gone wrong.

(Excuse me while I go retch in the loo)

Anyway, the point is that the best you is somewhere in there, waiting to come out and live in the real world.  Like I mentioned yesterday, all the ingredients you need to be the best you are already there inside you.  That’s right, you, on a plate.  That’s right, the best you can be served up on the plate of life.  You just have to clean out that pantry, chuck out the bad stuff, and get busy making greatness.

Looks gooooooooddd, doesn’t it?

But, let’s be real: changing your life takes time (i.e. lots of counseling.  And tissues.  Don’t forget the tissues), courage, intentionality, and perseverance.  But, it can be done.  No amount of whining, angry eyebrows, or feet shuffling will ever convince me otherwise.

You just have to decide

It’s up to you…

A life coach told me soon after meeting me that I was “visionary.” I just can’t help but see the “big picture” pretty much everywhere I look. I can see the good and the bad all at the same time. This can be frustrating if I see something (or someone) headed in the wrong direction. This can be useful if I am planning something. I can choose to use my personality trait for good, or for evil. In the words of Mr. Monk, “It’s a gift, and a curse.”

Personality traits are like that, a gift AND a curse. You and I were pretty much born the way we are, we didn’t have a say in the matter. We are like lumps of newly formed clay, ready to be shaped by family, time, and circumstances. Very occasionally that shaping forms a near-perfect human that can manage life well. But mostly, we turn out slightly misshapen, with an oddly placed handle here, or a slightly twisted rim there. Then we become adults. All of that molding and shaping that had been going on by the people in charge of us comes to a screeching halt, and, well, we are what we are.

Do you feel like this inside?

Then, we go through the fires that hardens the clay and solidifies the shape we were when we stepped into adulthood. Because life is like that. Trial by fire. Will we survive, or won’t we? Sure, we have to accept ourselves for who we are, and so should our loved ones. But, I truly think that this only goes so far. It’s hard to be around someone with an anger problem. It’s hard to keep throwing paddles and a boat out to someone who is stubbornly (yes, I say “stubbornly” because you and I can choose to be despondent, or not) stuck in a pond of despondency and despair.

We start to feel the the moments that the oddly placed handle gets in the way, causing all sorts of problems. We feel embarrassment when the slightly twisted rim keeps spilling the liquid inside at all the wrong times. Sometimes whole pieces fall off, or we are dashed to the tile floor and break. In many cases, people throw up their hands after several failures and say, “I’m never going to change!” We are what we are, right? Why bother trying? Well, yes, and no.

The truth is, we can’t change our genetic inheritance, but we do have a choice in how we use those traits: we can choose to stay the way we were shaped, or we can choose to, effectively, start over by smashing up the broken vessel and getting some fresh clay. You already have the ingredients you need: personality traits, learning experiences, belief systems, relationships, and etc. You can decide which ingredients you are going to use, and which you are going to throw out. You can decide how those personality traits will manifest in the real world. In other words, you decide who you are and how you behave. You get to choose the colors and the shape. That’s right. Shall I say it again?

YOU GET TO DECIDE.

Frankly, It really doesn’t matter what came before. All of those childhood experiences that brought to where you are don’t matter much. What matters is what you decide today. Do you struggle with fear (like me)? You can decide today to make a step toward freedom from that fear. Do you struggle with an addiction that rules your life? You can decide today to get yourself to the appropriate help according to your needs. It’s your choice. It’s up to you. You could change from the above to this:

Isn’t this beautiful?

Or not. It’s up to you to decide.

Nosce te ipsum: Know Yourself

*Author’s note: Before I get started here, I would just like to say, I love it when you come to visit.  Yes, I mean you.  I would love to sit down and have a chat with you.  I would love to hear what you have to say on whatever I write about.  So, if you come by, why not leave me your calling card, or a nice little note that let’s me know you were here?  Frankly, it encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.  In other words comments are welcome and encouraged here.  I generally leave a little question at the end as a prompt to get a discussion going.  You can answer it, or not, as you prefer.

I had a powerful experience on Saturday that got my juices flowing and the wheels spinning for my little bloggity once again.  The sucky experience that I am having is still sucky and I am still experiencing it.  But, I feel the need to talk about something that I feel is very foundational to overcoming emotional difficulties: knowing yourself.

In “The Matrix” Neo  goes to visit the Oracle to find out if he is “The One” (i.e. the savior of their world).  She points to her little sign in her kitchen (which says Temet Nosce, by the way.  This is just a variation of the phrase) above the doorway and explains to him rather bluntly that if  you are something, you just know it.  You don’t need to be convinced by your friends, you don’t need constant reassurance, you just know it.  I know that I am a good mother.  I know that I am an artist.  I know that I am gifted in counseling others.  I know that I am a Christian.  I don’t need other’s to affirm this, I just know.

I truly feel that I am meant to do this blog, and to write books.  But, one thing I have had a hard time convincing myself of is that I AM a writer.  As in, “this is my identity.”  As in, “Hi.  I’m Stephanie.  I’m a writer”  (Not that I would actually introduce myself that way.  But, I think  you get my point).  I feel a little surprised when people praise my work here on this blog.  Sometimes, I almost don’t believe them.  Silly, I know.

This is mostly because I find writing to be a difficult, sometimes agonizing, experience.    I’m not goo-goo eyed over writing like some authors.  It takes me twice as long as normal people to write anything of worth or significance.  I find it excruciating to get started most of the time.  I find it difficult to maintain my focus once I get going.  I feel guilt for spending 2.5 hours writing 600 words.  I have to manage my ADHD and other learning difficulties to finish my task.  In other words, I just don’t LOVE writing like I love doing other things.  I have asked myself more than once, “How can I BE a writer if I don’t LOVE it?”

This question has stopped me from moving forward in doing the things that I am meant to do.  I just couldn’t see myself doing the things I am meant to do because I couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t?) believe in my identity as an writer.

But Saturday changed all of that.  I met with about 4 other people.  2 of whom I have known a really long time, 1 I knew fairly well, and 1 I sort of knew a little.  We met together to encourage each other.  To help each other overcome the log jams stopping us from flowing in our gifts.  I spoke for a while about where I was on a few things, including the I’m-supposed-to write-books-but-can’t-get-started-because-I-don’t-believe-I-am-an-author problem.  The leader of our group (Rob Stoppard.  A great guy, you should check him out) said to me people get stopped up in doing what they are meant to do because they believe lies about themselves.    Lies like “I don’t love writing so how can I be a writer”, or “I am never going to change”, or “I can’t change”, or “I will always be (fill in the blank)“, or whatever you say about yourself.

The only way to combat this is to change your habit of lying to yourself, and start telling yourself the truth.  I think if you look deep in your heart you can find your gifts, your talents, and your identity.  It’s like a treasure box just waiting to be opened, and you hold the key to open that treasure box.  And, if you open it you have to decide what you believe about what’s inside.  You have to decide that the treasure is who you are, or not.  But sometimes, even we do this, we get lost on our way back.  Parts of the treasure get lost and never make it home.  Like me and this writing thing.

The group had me do an exercise that has forever changed my life.  They first asked me to look in the mirror and say out loud to myself, “I am a writer.”  I felt more than a little shy about doing this.  So, they offered themselves up to act as a sort of mirror.  I had to look people in the eye and say out loud, “I am a writer.”  They took it one step further and had me say, “I am a famous writer.”  And although it was a little difficult to look people in the eye and say these truths out  loud, I did just that several times.  I stated a few other things I have had a hard time believing lately as well.  As soon as I said these things, it’s like a spotlight was suddenly focused on my poor, lost treasures.  I could find them, and bring them home.  I could take them within my psyche and revel in the simple pleasure of knowing myself.  It was like being born again.

And now, I feel free to do what I am mean to do.  I believe that I am a writer.  That even I can be a famous writer.

And you are free to discover things about yourself you never knew.  You can go on a quest to find your treasure, to change your life into something better, to become who you are meant to be.

It’s your turn now…

Tell me something you know about yourself…

Don’t poke that dragon with a stick. It’ll eat you. Or will it?

Didn’t your mother teach you NOT to poke a sleeping dragon?  That you should let sleeping dragons lie?

He looks too cute to be dangerous. Right?

Or was that dogs?

He’s definitely too cute to be dangerous.

Like all reptiles, dragons are great at sleeping.  You know, being cold-blooded and all.  Sleeping is an excellent way to conserve energy.  So, as you can imagine, something as big as a dragon needs lots of sleep.  Except when they don’t.  I mean, a dragon’s got to eat sometimes, right?

In case you’re not catching on to my little metaphor, the sleeping dragons (or dogs) that I am referring to is our emotional troubles.  Stuff from the past is like a sleeping dragon.  Some of us have lots and lots of dragons sleeping together in the dog-pile technique.  Others have one or two.  Either way, I personally, and sincerely believe that sleeping dragons are dangerous.  They can wake up at and wreak havoc on our emotional state, on our relationships, and our life anytime they want to.

Dragons are smart creatures.  They like to sleep in dark corners, letting us know they’re there, but never really fully engaging us.  They’re happy there in their comfy little corner.  Because of the shadows, we can’t really see what they’re doing.  But, believe you me, they are causing trouble.

Un-dealt with emotional problems come out various forms, and we often don’t even realize it.  Mostly because our reactions are normal…to us.  THEY run your life.  THEY decide how and when you behave and interact with your environment.  Like when my husband innocently says something that sets off an angry reaction in me.  Or, when a sudden, overwhelming fear of enclosed spaces keeps me from having fun.  Or, when I sling into a deep depression for no apparent reason.  Or, when I have (yet another) bout of anxiety at the prospect of meeting new people.  All of these reactions come from somewhere.   I learned them growing up.  All of these reactions can cause me problems as an adult.  They stunt my growth.  They keep me from fully engaging in life.  They harm my relationships.  And most importantly, they keep me back from being who I was meant to be.

If you decide to take control of the situation, you WILL have to face your dragons head on.  Sure, once you poke them and wake them up they are going to growl and stomp and threaten to eat you.  They might even throw a flame or two your way.

Remember this guy?

But, here’s the thing:  YOU are in control of the dragons.  YOU are the master of THEIR fate.  It’s not the other way around.  Because as Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You hold the secret weapons that defeat the dragons.  You know their vulnerabilities.  You know where that soft spot is and can drive in your sword (or lance if you prefer).  If you do, you will truly be at peace.  You will never have to worry about what that dragon will do next.  You can get on with your life and live it to the fullest.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, I say, don’t let the sleeping dragons lie there forever.  Take up your sword, your spear, your counseling sessions and deliberately, and methodically, deal that dragon it’s death blow.

You’ll then be free from it’s grip.  Forever.

I promise.

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Your turn, which weapon do you prefer?

My opinion on opinions. Or something like that.

(This a complicated subject that has taken me an inordinate amount of time to write about.  Please forgive any bumbling and incoherent ideas here.  I’m a work in progress.)

I’m a bit riled up about something I keep hearing/seeing on the Internet:

“What other people think of you is none of your business.”

My response to this is, “Oh?  Really?”  I don’t know who said this (Frankly, I don’t  care), but this seems to be in response to that thing that happens when we worry about what other people think of us.  You know, that thing where you start making other people’s opinions more of a priority than your opinion.  As I was researching this statement, I ran across a blog post where a person stated that worrying about another’s opinion is encroaching on someone else’s property.  That’s an interesting notion, but I am not sure I completely agree.  My problem with this kind of statement is that it general enough for people to take too far in the wrong direction.

Having an opinion is part of being human.  You know, “I opinionate (I know, not really a word.  Just go with it.), therefore I am.” Or, something like that.

Here are some facts about opinions:

  • Opinions are like the Force.  There’s a light side, and a dark side.
  • There’s no such thing as a neutral opinion.
  • Opinions frequently smash together like atoms out of control.
  • Opinions can be either helpful, or non-helpful.
  • Helpful opinions can inform and uplift another person.
  • Non-helpful opinions can tear down and disenfranchise another person.
  • Everybody’s got a million of ’em.
  • Some of us (ahem) are more opinionated than others.
  • Some of us (again, ahem) share our opinions more frequently than others.

Need I say more?

The notion that other people’s opinion are none of my business because it’s their intellectual property seems like an overreaction to idea that another’s opinion shouldn’t define who you are.  Yes, only should define who you are.  Yes other’s opinions are just their opinions.  People do use them to hurt, control, and destroy other people.  Those opinions should be ignored, and are none of your business.  But those opinions aren’t the ones I am talking about.

I find  other people’s opinions of me helpful.  Even the bad opinions.  I tend to view other’s opinions as an object I can hold in my hand.  I can look at, ponder it’s meaning, and put it down on the nearest horizontal surface.  It matters to me what other people think of me.   Here’s why: if I am doing something that is a problem in my interpersonal interactions, I need to know so I can work on it.  I need to wonder what other people think of me, because there is always room to grow.  This part of the human need for social order.  We have to define our place, and our contribution to the society we live in.  If we are not actively contributing, or worse causing disruption in, to the society we belong to, we are limiting our capacity  to be fully part of that society.  One has to be discerning and honest about themselves to consider another’s opinion of them.  One needs to be willing to face their own weaknesses and downfalls.  One has to be humble enough to admit to the need for change.

So, don’t swing too far in the wrong direction.  Consider other’s opinions without taking them in and letting them run like schoolchildren with scissors waving frantically in the air.  Make them behave themselves and reveal truth to you.  Talk to those opinions and form your own conclusions.  Make good, honest changes in yourself based on those truths.  Let other’s opinions help to define how you react to the world.

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If you are visiting here, why not leave me a little note to say, “Hi!”?  I’ll say, “Hi!” back!

The Conundrum of Comfort

My computer is about 5 years old.  I have the same screen, mouse, and keyboard. I am used to how the arrows keys seem to stick a little when I push them down.  I am used to the dirt that seems permanently stuck in between each key.  I am used to the fact that the trackball on my mouse no longer works.  I am used to the fact that my mouse pointer frequently “disappears” on my screen.  Not to mention the vertical lines that are randomly spaced on my screen.  I am used to it because this is normal.  And normal can be comforting, no matter how bad normal is for me.  Because it’s what I am used to.  It’s comfortable.  Sometimes I don’t even see the lines when I’m watching something on the computer.

See the lines? Perhaps I should be annoyed.

I really can’t do anything about my faulty equipment because of our faulty financial situation.  Replacing computer parts is expensive (especially because I have a Mac).  Even a new mouse cost $50, which is a huge sum in this house.  That’s equal to a tank of gas, or a few groceries.  So, I tell myself it’s not a big deal.  I do my best to ignore the faults.  I pretend they aren’t there.

My room is pretty crowded what with rather large primates and pachyderms hanging about, making themselves comfortable on my furniture.

Looks comfy. Doesn’t he?

I do the same with my emotions.  I get comfortable with my little faults.  I tell myself that a little selfishness is okay.  An outburst of anger towards my husband may be wrong, but’s it the way I am (right?).  My seemingly impossible-to-eradicate depression can’t be stopped or changed.  Somehow my personality quirks are comforting, even if they are wrong.  The chambers of my heart and mind can be pretty crowded too.

He’s a little hard to ignore.

When it comes to our little faults, we decide that there is nothing we can do about these things, so we get comfortable with them.  We invite them over for tea.  We snuggle up on the couch with our little faults and watch a good movie.  We share our favorite snacks.

But, being comfortable with the little faulty things in our lives just leads to us becoming like a fat cat…lazy. We never work at changing our thoughts and behaviors.  We let the dust collect on the rather large animals taking up space without ever questioning why they are there in the first place.

The opposite of this  is (you know I just had to say it) deciding that things are going to be different.  Making a choice for change.  Believing that living a half-life is not worth the comfort that familiarity brings.  We  have to kick that gorilla and elephant out and lock the doors of our minds and hearts.  We have to decide we want to live a different life.  We have to decide that life is worth living to it’s fullest.

So,  make that first step.  Take inventory of yourself.  Be honest.  Embrace change.

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So tell  me, have you ever seen an 800 lb. gorilla?

The Paradox of Personality

Yesterday, I found inspiration in home group during our discussion on peace and God’s rest.  Someone was talking about how much they disliked certain characteristics about themselves and how that interferes with feeling any sort of peace.  That’s when a certain little belief I have popped into my brain.  I like to call it the “Paradox of Personality”.  You are what you are, but you are also what you want to be.

Paradoxes. They make my brain hurt…

I think that most people agree that each one of us is born with a certain basic set of personality traits that we inherited from our parents.  The mix that we get is unique to us and creates our own way of relating to our world.  Then life happens.  Learning and experiences happen.  We learn to respond through our personality traits to the world.  And this is where my little paradox comes in.

I believe that personality traits have a good side and a bad side.  Sort of like The Force.  We can use them for good, or we can use them for evil.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you’re a person that does not give up easily.  Let’s say you’re dogged and determined.  We’ll call that quality “tenacious.”  According to the New American Oxford Dictionary tenacious means:

  • not readily letting go of, giving up, or separated from an object that one holds, a position, or a principle : a tenacious grip | he was the most tenacious politician in South Korea.
  • not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action : a tenacious local legend |you’re tenacious and you get at the truth.


This is a good thing, because that means that you don’t generally give up easily.  You stay with the problem longer (clearly you are genius of Einstein’s caliber.  Don’t believe me?  See the quote on the left from dear Albert).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the synonyms for “tenacious”:

  • persevering, persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable,resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable,unyielding, insistent; stubborn, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, stiff-necked; rock-ribbed; pertinacious.

Now, let’s divide these synonyms into groups.

Good side:

  • persevering
  • persistent
  • determined
  • dogged
  • strong-willed
  • tireless
  • indefatigable
  • resolute
  • patient
  • unflagging
  • staunch
  • steadfast
  • untiring
  • unwavering
  • unswerving
  • unshakable

Bad side:

  • unyielding
  • insistent
  • stubborn
  • intransigent
  • obstinate
  • obdurate
  • stiff-necked
  • rock-ribbed
  • pertinacious

Do you see the difference?  Tenacious can either mean you are persevering, or pertinacious.  Persevering stays with a problem longer, pertinacious is simply, and foolishly, sticking to their guns regardless of reason or wisdom.  A persevering person knows when to quit, a stubborn person does not.  People who persevere keeps relationships intact, stubborn people do not.  You get my drift?

See?  Good side, bad side.  You are what you are, but are you are also what you want to be.

So, you can either be this guy:

Nanny-nanny boo-boo!

Or this guy:

The I-just-stay-with-the-problem-longer guy.

Because,  you have a choice.  You can choose to use your personality for good, or you can choose too use your personality for evil.  You are not a slave to your own personality.  It’s up to you.  Which do you choose?

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So tell me, do you have a personality trait you would like to flip over and use for good?