I’ve mentioned in the past that my internal processing tends to kick into high gear during the autumn months. I’m pretty introspective all year long, but for some reason, this fall season is when I do my deepest mental and emotional work. So it isn’t at all surprising that a lot of my learning this October has been of the deeper, soul-searching variety.
I have an ongoing internal debate about whether I should post these deeper lessons on the internet for all to read; how much is healthy and beneficial to share, and at what point am I getting too personal? I haven’t always gotten it right, sometimes opening up to the point of discomfort and other times holding so much back that my writing no longer feels authentic. My ultimate goal is not brazen transparency, but tasteful and relevant reflection that allows you to see the real me and hopefully be prompted to take a deeper look at your own insides, too. Sometimes that requires that I step outside my comfort zone, and if that ultimately leads to some benefit for me or for you, I would consider that a sacrifice well worth making.
Of course, part of who I am at my core is a person who loves trivia and random discoveries, so a What I Learned post from me wouldn’t be complete without a few of those sprinkled in!
1. My need to understand things is a way of trying to control them.
I came across an essay on this recently and can’t stop thinking about it. I have an insatiable need to understand things around me, whether that’s people or situations or even my own thoughts. I had assumed this stemmed from benign curiosity, but I am realizing that it is actually a manifestation of my own hunger for control. Since discovering this about myself, I’ve been experimenting with what it would be like to take action (engage with my thoughts, move forward in a situation, etc.) before having the whole picture. This is incredibly frightening, and yet there is something freeing in occasionally relinquishing control by intentionally not having all the answers. It’s also been interesting to think about how this applies at a more global level: how mankind attempts to control the world through understanding (and how this understanding gives us a false sense of security).
2. Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airlines have a connection (other than just their name).
I’d always assumed the shared name was a coincidence. In this episode of the Tim Ferriss show, I discovered that Richard Branson is the founder of both companies. Virgin Records launched in 1972 and Virgin Atlantic formed twelve years later.
3. Being around water has been scientifically proven to make us happier.
If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that being near a body of water has a calming effect. This article cites studies that verify this phenomenon, including one study that found people who live near the coasts are generally happier and healthier. It was interesting to read about why this is the case.
4. Insecurity is a form of self-preoccupation.
I’ve written about my decades-long battle with insecurity, and it continues to be a struggle. I described it to a friend recently as the feeling that l’m living my life as a walking apology, constantly second guessing myself or feeling like I can never measure up to those around me. My friend admitted that her struggle was the opposite of mine, that she tended to err on the side of pride. As I reflected on that, I began to realize that insecurity and pride aren’t all that different. Like pride, insecurity leads me to spend a lot more time thinking about myself than I should. A favorite quote of mine, which aligns with this principle, comes from Rick Warren: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Likewise, the solution to my insecurity isn’t to try feeling better about myself, but simply to spend less time thinking about myself at all.
5. Focusing on fixing my mental hangups (specifically my eating disorder) can backfire by giving them more power.
Just as the cure for insecurity isn’t to hyperfocus on becoming more confident, sometimes the solution to the hurts, habits, and hangups that are holding us back is not to ruminate on them, but to direct our attention elsewhere. A few weeks ago I was talking with my counselor about how we haven’t spent much time addressing my eating disorder (one of my primary reasons for returning to therapy), yet the disorder seems to be loosening its viselike grip of its own accord. For years I’ve been trying to effort my way through recovery, which only bolstered its status in my life and my identity. I know that I’ll likely need to take a more proactive approach to recovery at some point, but right now, the best solution seems to be building up other areas of my life, thereby edging the disorder out of its place of prominence.
6. Popular baby names in South Africa are very different from popular names in the United States.
I always enjoy learning about baby names, and have been surprised by similarities among other countries’ Top 10 lists. However, South Africa’s names are nothing like those we hear here (see the Top 10 lists below for proof)! I love seeing how many children were given the names Blessing, Precious, and Gift. These names wouldn’t wear well in America, but I would definitely consider a less conventional name like these as a middle. (I don’t think I’d ever get Luke on board, though.)
7. Makeup has gotten very high-tech!
We had family photos taken this month, and my photo-ready strategy involved an appointment with a makeover artist at Sephora. This was a first for me, and I was shocked by how long the session took (nearly 90 minutes for my requested natural look!) and how many gadgets were involved. The artist used a special device to measure the moisture level in my skin (good news: my latest skin care routine is working!) and another to take pictures of my skin tone and determine the perfect shade of foundation. This seemed like a lot of effort for something as seemingly simple as makeup, but I have to admit that it was pretty cool—and also that I was very pleased with the outcome! 😉
8. Talking things out is usually better than keeping it in (but it can be really scary).
I’ve been involved in a few interpersonal conflicts this month that have been hard or hurtful. In the past I might have kept my pain to myself, which would lead it to fester beneath the surface and ultimately boil over into a bigger problem than it needed to be. This time, though, I decided to address the problems head on. Giving voice to my grievances felt uncomfortably vulnerable, but it also opened the door for constructive conversation and ultimately deeper, stronger relationships. It turns out that Brené Brown was really onto something with all that vulnerability stuff.
9. I have been on Facebook for ten years.
How did people measure time before social media?! I know the Time Hop photos and Anniversary Videos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but personally I enjoy the daily doses of nostalgia. And this month Facebook hit me with a big one: I’ve been in a committed relationship with the platform for a decade. The milestone seems particularly momentous because I remember Luke and I had just started chatting online (though we’d yet to meet in person) when I joined. It’s hard to believe I’ve known my husband for ten years.
10. Perfectionism gets in the way of sharing my testimony.
My relationship with Jesus is the most important thing about me, but I have a hard time talking about it. I was discussing this with my Bible study group recently and I realized that the reason I don’t share my faith more often is that I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing. Even if i get the words right, I’m afraid that once I fully out myself as a believer, my lifestyle will come under harsher scrutiny and I might make God “look bad.” Even typing those words makes me chuckle to myself, because God certainly doesn’t need my help securing His positive image. He does, however, tell us to boldly proclaim His name, and that’s something I want to do a lot more. And when I end up exposing myself as an imperfect Christian (which I inevitably will), it will be an even greater testimony to how desperately I am in need a savior and how I have been saved by Jesus’ unconditional and undeserved grace.
11. Cooking does not have to be so complicated.
I tend to overthink/overcomplicate everything in my life, and that extends to my cooking. Last week we had dinner with friends and they served a very basic meal of beef and peppers sautéed in olive oil and a dash of seasoning—that was it. Luke couldn’t stop talking about how delicious the meal was—his not-so-subtle way of hinting that, while he likes my involved cooking and multiple courses, simple can be just as good. And speaking of simplifying meals, I’ve discovered that . . .
12. Having a meal formula for Charleston makes planning a lot easier.
I heard this idea mentioned on a childhood nutrition podcast recently, and though it was already something I (mostly) did instinctively, it’s been very helpful to have an explicit plan to follow. Here’s how the formula works: at every meal, I make sure to incorporate at least one source of grains, one protein, a dietary fat, a fruit or vegetable, and a dairy source. Charleston might not eat all of his food (and I fill in gaps at snack times), but I feel good about his meals knowing that I’ve done my part to cover all the bases—and that, even if some goes uneaten, the next meal will be balanced, too. This formula can be very complicated or incredibly simple: a slice of pizza topped with veggies and meat, with Ranch as a dipping sauce, checks all the boxes; so does a bowl of oatmeal cooked in milk, with almond butter and raisins mixed in and a cup of Greek yogurt on the side. When possible or practical, we will offer Charleston the same meal we are eating, but Luke’s and my meals rarely meet all these criteria so I am sure to make up for whatever is missing when I make up Charleston’s plate.
13. Taking time to do things right the first time almost always pays off.
File this under: things I SHOULD have learned a long time ago, and am only beginning to realize now. As a self-proclaimed slow mover, it doesn’t seem fitting with my personality that I rush through things, and it’s true that I require a very long mental runway before jumping to action. Once I make up my mind to do something, though, I like to get it done immediately. Ultimately I wind up unhappy with my rushed handiwork (whether that’s an Instagram picture posted without much forethought, or a kitchen that’s haphazardly cleaned), and I spend twice as much time redoing my work (hello Perfectionism). Luke has provided an excellent model of how slow and steady really does win the race, and lately i’ve been doing my best to follow his lead. (This concept also applies to words spoken in the heat of the moment, which later requires lots of damage control, when pausing to think before speaking would be so much more effective.)
14. Latest #lifehack: carry a tote bag to the library.
We go to the library every week, and each visit we bring home an armful of picture books. For months I would try to wrangle our book collection under one arm while trying to maintain control of my always-active toddler with the other. As you can imagine, this led to all manner of mishaps. This month I got smart and began bringing a bag to carry our books. SO SIMPLE and yet somehow i had a mommy blindspot that kept me from recognizing this solution until now.
15. Texans have poor taste in Halloween candy.
This interactive map shows the top three most popular Halloween candies for each state. Apparently Texans love Starbursts above all else, followed by Reese’s Cups (now we’re talking) and Almond Joy (yuck!). I suppose Starbursts are better than some of the other states’ top picks (Hot Tamales, North Dakota? Are you sure about that one?), but they definitely wouldn’t make it into my top three.
And that’s a wrap! What’s one fun or fascinating thing you learned this month?