Approval Seeking Behavior Drains Your Energy (and I am not a bottomless well)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I haven’t been blogging as much the last week or so because I simply haven’t had the oomph to do everything.  Job searching is the hot priority right now.  I did take a little time for me visiting some friends who were camping last weekend, sitting around a campfire getting all smoky and eating s’mores and sharing our mutual amazement at the stunning fall colors and moon.

I have just so much energy to spend and so do you.  I want it to go for something that makes a difference.  Why spend it on something that I know for certain that will never make a difference?

Seeking others’ approval sneaks up on you.  It starts with the nagging sense of never feeling quite rested, never quite on track.  Here is how I stop it:

  • I listen to what people I trust and I know care about me are telling me.  When people ask, “Denise, are you really okay?”, they are asking me if I’m getting off track somewhere.  I need to pay attention to other people.
  • I think about who I’m calling and emailing.  When I find myself spending a lot of time trying to communicate with people I’ve sought for approval, a red flag goes up.  I need to pay attention to warning signs.
  • Following from 1 and 2, my mind starts to fantasize that all that unhealthy stuff from the past could be different now, that people could really like me if I just [fill in the blank].  I really need to pay attention to what I’m telling myself.

Don’t waste any more time today on seeking another person’s approval that you’re never going to get anyway.  It’s the same feeling as when you stop beating your head against a brick wall; it feels so good!

Love, Denise

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Approval Seeking Behavior is Time Consuming (and I’m not getting any younger)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I and thousands of other Minnesotans are spending gobs of time and energy working to defeat the marriage amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.  I believe it’s important to make a distinction here: that investment is not about seeking approval but insisting on rights.  I’m willing to spend those gobs of time telling people why marriage rights are important to me and to our neighbors.  I’m willing to spend that time building bridges of understanding between gender-variant people and the larger community.  I’m not willing to spend time trying to get other folk’s approval.

  • Constantly seeking approval from others takes me down a path where I stop caring about myself.  I stop caring about my own physical, mental and spiritual health because there is no time left for me.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others is not a good investment of time.  The payoff is notoriously poor.  I’ve spent an entire lifetime working to get somebody else to approve of me.  And I have zero to show for all that time.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others misses the grand opportunities of life.  I don’t dare take the time away from other people who aren’t going to give me their approval no matter what to take advantage of positive career moves, traveling through this wonderful world, even the book I’ve always wanted to read.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others feeds on itself in unexpected, perverse ways of spending time.  Addiction robs even more time as it sucks the life out of life itself.

These are all reasons why living a life of constantly seeking approval needs to stop.  I’ve seen dogs who could catch their own tail, not often but I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve never seen a dog who could hold on to it.
Love, Denise

Am I Better Off Then I Was a Year Ago? – go ahead, ask me

I confess to being a semi-semi-pro-political junkie. I particularly enjoy Nate Silver’s 538 blog on the New York Times website. The question du jour is – am I better off than when I was a year ago? I haven’t been asked, but I’m going to answer anyway.

If we are talking financially, I have to say no. Willing to work, a skill set in demand and supportive references have not always paid off for this trans-woman (although I am fairly far along in a job recruitment process at this moment). $4.00 per gallon gasoline is not helping. But that’s not the only way to answer the question.

If the question is about –

  • am I healthier, the answer is yes. Sober living rejuvenates my body, my mind, my spirit.
  • am I happier, the answer is yes. Transitioning into a sane lifestyle beckons anybody into happiness.
  • am I more social, the answer is yes. Only a few friends have dropped off my radar since transitioning to be replaced by far more people I count on as friends.
  • am I more spiritual, the answer is resoundingly yes. My Higher Power God speaks with me and I speak with God in an intimate duet of spirituality, confirming for me that I am indeed a woman made in the image of God.
  • am I more sure of myself, the answer is yes. I no longer stare at the person in the mirror as a stranger; I have integrity. I am one person. And others remark on it without prompting.
  • am I more hopeful, the answer is yes. I can persevere through the storm because I already have that experience and am successful. I know the storm will break.
  • am I more ready, the answer is yes. I do a much better job of focusing on the things that I can change and letting go of those things that I cannot control.

I am not about to say that I am at the end. I cannot say that some days aren’t discouraging, disheartening. But I can say that I am better than I was a year ago. I can say that I am better off than at any previous point in my life. And THAT is the truth.

Love, Denise

You Simply Can’t Be Liked by Everybody (but You Can be Liked by Some)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I had a phone call from my sponsor this morning for the sole purpose of letting me know the positive effect I have on some other people.  He likes me; I think the world of him.  It hasn’t always been this way  in my life.

The cascading effect of alcohol on depression is not an abstract.  I spent incredible blocks of time in my previous life obsessing about my lack of friends on Facebook.  I was on an incendiary self-destructive track which only halted when I stopped using…and I stopped obsessing about being liked.  I think the reality was that I wasn’t liked particularly.  Whatever witty and brilliant pearl of wisdom I dropped online was in fact ignored, but I couldn’t find the reason and I’m not sure I really wanted to.

Keeping things simple, I’ve found a causal effect between living authentically, responsibly and in sanity and being liked by enough other people to make life interesting and meaningful.  Luminita Saviuc is right.  Everybody is not going to like me, whether for good reason or who knows why.  But the last couple of years has proved this hypothesis for me.  Not only far more friends I have but far more honest friends who tell me their truth, who genuinely listen carefully even when I try to hog the spotlight, who ask me questions that make me think, who call and message me without agenda other than to find out how I am.

I need to be liked by some people.  Their affirmation fertilizes my soul.  Every now and then I need to spot a friendly smile.  But I don’t need anymore to be liked by every last person in this world.  I do expect to be treated with respect as the woman I am.  But we don’t have to be friends.

I just can’t see any way around this.  Worrying about the people who don’t like me gets generally in the way of life at best and is self-destructive at worst.  It feels so good to stop beating my head against a brick wall.

Love, Denise

I Never Meant to Do You Trouble

It’s a simple fact of recovery – I take personal responsibility for my interactions with other people. Acceptance of responsibility is a big step for addicted people who have always passed the buck to anybody or everything other than where that responsibility belongs.

Every now and then I meet a person in transition who manages to hold a marriage/relationship together in the process. These are extraordinary people with a certain undefinable depth of love in their lives and responsibility to each other. I wish I and other people like me were able to express and to experience that level of responsibility.

I was mentioning to a friend a few days ago what it felt like in terms of personal responsibility to have lived in multiple marriages, what that means in the context of alcoholism and gender identity, what it is like to start telling the truth. My friend responded to me, asking me if I really meant to do somebody else harm. I gave an honest answer after some thought – no.

Transitioning people (and I imagine gay and lesbian people as well) don’t intend to cause another person pain. I think a great deal of the angst of transition is the realization that I in fact did cause somebody else pain. Encountering another’s pain when recovery leads me to personal responsibility and to living outside of my own little world is discouraging.

I want to leave other transitioning and recovering people around me with the word of honest hope. Recognize your personal responsibility, but don’t let that grow in such a way that it leads you back into depression or into addictive behavior. The key to a brighter and happier future is to recognize how the problem happened in the first place and to speak truth to yourself about it. The best insurance against repeating the past is to recognize that you and I are created to be essentially good people.

Grace happens:)

Love, Denise

The Arc of Forgiveness

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12

Last night I had an opportunity to share in a small group how spirituality and recovery have intersected for me, the opportunities for healing in those successful moments and the obstacles created when they have not intersected. I have done this exercise some in writing, but this time was the first I have actually verbalized what this means.

As an alcoholic I was unable to forgive anybody for anything. I was unable to forgive the world around me for its seeming lack of care. I was unable to forgive family not for the lack of understanding but their unwillingness to make the effort. I was unable to forgive the church composed of people who still carried their own spiritual and sometimes mental dis-ease. I was unable to forgive God for being silent. I was unable to forgive myself for the consistently poor and insane choices I made, for lack of courage in facing the reality of who I really am.

All told, that is one heck of a lot of baggage to carry around, yes?

I still struggle at times with forgiveness, usually when another person fails to make that effort to stick with me, to at least try to understand. I’ve started to learn to forgive myself for a disease beyond my personal control and for my unwillingness to continue to live in painful inauthenticity. Sometimes I still wish I’d had the foresight and the courage to not lose all those years.

But forgiveness is an arc stretching from the beginning of creation into a future that I can only anticipate. Forgiveness is a day-to-day affair just as is recovery. Forgiveness is a spiritual exercise and discipline which requires effort and attention on my part and an acceptance that it does not require that same effort on the part of the divine. That particular battle is already fought and the verdict for grace is in. It would be easier to understand maybe if there was a to do list to check off to achieve forgiveness and to express forgiveness. But would it be real?

And so today, when a hurtful thought occurs to me, some perceived injustice, some pill of bitterness which makes my spirit grimace, I will remind myself that I can and will make amends where I can, within and without, and where I can’t, I will depend on that which I cannot always do for myself…forgiveness.

Love, Denise

Reflections on a Milestone

Accomplishing a goal that seems impossible throughout almost all of life is a strange sensation. On the surface what happened yesterday is straightforward: a Minnesota District Court judge granted my request for legal name change. Yet he did more. He accepted my petition for gender ID change and copied it into the court decree verbatim. That part was totally unexpected. I know other transsexual people in Minnesota with vastly differing experiences.

First of all, not one single part of this accomplishment could’ve happened without sobriety. Sobriety equals hope. Sobriety is site of a new horizon of possibility. Without sobriety I could never have seen this eventuality.

And next, I have accomplished much myself, but not without the groundwork, intervention and support of people around me. I am truly not an island. Some of these people have moved on further than myself in transition. Yet they are not all transgendered people. There are not enough transgendered people to carry the day, not statistically. I could not do this without the support of people who may not understand gender identity but do understand justice.

I’m not sure how I thought I was going to feel the day after. Words like elation, sobering, relief and emotional come to mind. What I was not prepared for was the feeling of awe. For me to realize that such a milestone is reachable requires a leap in my imagination greater than anything I’ve ever experienced.

I’m also acutely aware of what I have left behind. I’ve left more than a false identity. I’ve left a comforting world for change. I’ve left security both social and financial for uncertainty. I’ve brought along with me people in my transition who did not want to transition themselves but have engaged in my transition, out of loyalty and love. “Milestone” implies there is journey yet to happen. I’m not under any illusions of the end of problems.

God acknowledged what divine knowledge knew from the beginning during my naming ceremony at the Transgender Day of Remembrance service last year. I am created to be exactly who I am, a trans-woman created in the image of God. What first God acknowledged now society is just beginning to agree. I know of no other milestone like this.

Love, Denise

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