Archives for posts with tag: perfectionism

My daughter was a precocious baby. She was able to hold her own head up from the moment she was born. My mother will tell you that she first rolled over at 1 or 2 weeks of age.  She sat up, crawled, walked, and ran with ease.

I don’t remember learning to sit up for the first time. I do remember relearning to sit up. It was March of 2013 and I had just had a major reconstructive surgery that involved moving a big flap of my abdominal tissue up to make a new breast.  I still have the hip to hip wide scar to prove it. The day after surgery, I was in the hospital feeling not horrible but certainly not peppy.

As many of my friends know, one does not get discharged from the hospital without being able to get up and around and using the bathroom. Also, as many of you know, the hospital is no place to rest. One of the things I learned throughout the course of the nine surgeries I had in two years is that I am a fast healer. One of my nurses, noticing this, suggested that I try sitting up. I was resting comfortably but wanting to go home so I said that I would give it a try. He needed to help me, however. I had just had major surgery and lost an abdominal muscle in the process, after all.

The nurse expertly put his arm behind my back and slowly helped me raise to a sitting position. My first surprise was how little strength I had in my core. Wow, I had been spending my life taking a lot of muscles for granted! The second surprise was the incredible wave of nausea. Sometimes sitting up makes you want to hurl. If memory serves, I informed my nurse of this and asked to rest briefly, which I did.

I didn’t want to get up but at the same time, I wanted to heal and change, even the kind of change that highlighted my weakness and was punctuated by nausea, was needed. I got up. I took my steps outside of the hospital room, along with my husband and using my rolling I.V. stand for support. I completed my mandatory loop around the hospital halls. Within short time, I had also made the mandatory bathroom stop. Noting the difficulty in getting on and off the toilet given the state of my abdominal muscles, I later opted to walk out of the hospital instead of getting in and out of a wheelchair. At that point, sitting was harder than standing or lying down.

Last week, I learned to sit up for the third time. I learned to sit up for meditation. I have a confession to make. I have a hard time with sitting meditation. I was measurably relieved when I looked at the schedule for the Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction (MBSR) program that I’ve been doing. It started with a body scan! Body scans are done lying down. Body scans were a wonderful way to stay in bed in the morning for an extra 30 minutes without any guilt because I am doing my mindfulness meditation.

I started the new MBSR lesson on the day after Christmas. This was also the lesson during which sitting meditation is introduced and to be practiced for 30 minutes, six times per week. I had fully intended to stay in bed for this, to keep lying down for my meditation. I didn’t want to get out of bed. My bed is beyond warm and comfy.

On the first day, I turned on the audio for the sitting meditation. The gentle voice on the recording said something like, “You may wish to sit up for this meditation, in an erect and dignified posture.”

Something unexpected happened. Upon hearing this invitation, I sat up in bed and completed the meditation as it was intended to be done. There is something quite freeing about the lack of “should’s” and commands in this program. The meditation scripts are so encouraging. I found myself open to the moment and in that moment I literally rose to the occasion.

I have known myself for 50 years. One of the things that I have learned is that at times I have trouble getting started or making a change. Over time, I have found that if I allow myself the possibility that making any change in the intended direction even if it is not “perfect” is a good move. These moves help me get unstuck from my own perfectionism and toward acceptance of where I am at a particular moment.

It really is easier to move forward  from the reality of my imperfection than a false world of perfection.

During the summer between the 7th and 8th grade, I remember spending a substantial amount of time in the front yard trying to teach myself how to do a cartwheel. My palms hit the grass time and time again but I was having trouble making myself turnover. I was an athletic teen but gymnastics was not my thing. Gymnastics was like making your body into an amusement park ride, going topsy turvy. That was just not my thing. It made me afraid. I avoided amusement park rides.

I was bound and determined that summer to learn how to do a 360 degree revolution with my body ON PURPOSE during MY free time. Why would I do this?

I did it out of fear of failure. My older brother, John had told me that I would be tested on my ability to do a cartwheel in 8th grade P.E. I was a major achiever. I had straight A’s. I took all of the advanced courses. There was no way that I was going to fail something as simple as a cartwheel!

I don’t know how long it took me but eventually, I was able to get my legs above my head and back down on the ground. It was not a proper cartwheel because I landed on both feet instead of one at a time. And no, it did not look like a round-off, a variation of the cartwheel that ends in a two footed landing. It looked like a slightly defective cartwheel. I was never able to achieve the one-at-a-time footed landing but I figured that I’d perfected a C- cartwheel and had not completely failed.

I went on to 8th grade. Ms. Boone was our teacher. It was unusual for a teacher to go by “Ms.” back then in the 70’s.  She was also the only African American teacher I would ever have in my suburban school district. Ms. Boone had played professional basketball in Italy. Ms. Boone was cool.

She had us do a disco dancing unit instead of tried and true square dancing. I learned the Hustle.

We did a softball unit. I demonstrated my slide into home. I loved doing that. I was one of the only girls who slid and the catcher, almost always a boy, looked so surprised as I plowed right into his shins, forcing him to drop the ball.

Then it happened. She had us do a gymnastics unit with a balance beam, uneven bars, a vault, and everything. Boy, I was terrible. But I tried and I even practiced what I could at home.

I have no memory of how I was graded on that unit. But what I do remember is that I was never asked to do a cartwheel. A headstand, yes.  A handstand, yes. Forward and backward rolls, yes. Cartwheels, not a one.

As I said, I was a high achiever. By the end of the 8th grade, I had received awards for science, music, writing, and yes, even P.E. I had achieved my end goals, excellent grades, evidence of my competence, and the approval of adults.

Yesterday, I was stopped at a traffic light by a city park. I saw a girl who looked 5 or 6 years old do a cartwheel in the grass with a two footed landing. It took a few seconds. But even in those few seconds, I could see the pleasant look on her face, the buoyancy of her movement, and the way she moved on from her cartwheel to another activity without a plan in place.

She was turning her body 360 degrees ON PURPOSE and for fun.

Just because she could.

 

 

“Get out of my kitchen!”

That is the characterization of many of us home cooks who make meals for a crowd.

It is also the way my mother is characterized by one of my in-law’s. My response? “My mother doesn’t say it LIKE THAT! It takes a lot of concentration to cook for a crowd.”

The person to whom I am speaking has never cooked for a crowd though she claims membership in the “I cooked for a crowd group.”

She has not earned that membership, I’m afraid. Yes, I know this sounds presumptuous. Just know that I know this not to be the case.

In contrast, my sister-in-law, who hosts Easter each year, has earned that membership. She never tries to get people out of her kitchen. She is laid back. She is able to cook while talking to a house full of people. I think that despite the chaos, she is not really impacted by it the way the rest of us are. Not to say that she never gets uptight or angry about anything. But those things are not things in her kitchen.

I don’t like people in my kitchen when I am trying to make a meal for a crowd. Actually, that is not entirely true. If you know how to help without being instructed or getting in the way, that’s cool with me. I have a small kitchen and a little brain when it is focused on dinner making. My mom, my brother, James and my friend, Nancy know how to slip in and so things, as if I had psychically willed them to do it. Also, if you are wanting to keep me company and don’t ask a lot of questions that require deep thinking, you are also welcome in my kitchen. Sometimes, it gets lonely in there.

Other people, they get in my way. They don’t offer to help. They are just vagrants in my kitchen. This is typically the role of some of my brothers. I tell them, “Out of my kitchen!” They scoot. They are used to our mother. Others ask to help out of politeness rather than skill. Or they have skill but are too polite to just start doing stuff.

I often think to myself, “I should do a better job at asking for and accepting help.”

“I should.”

“I really should.”

“Should” does not lead to a switch that we can turn off and on. “Oh, I should do that? Ah, here I go, I am doing it!”

Some very kind friends asked to help me cook for an upcoming dinner party. I did not say, “Get out of my kitchen!” I actually didn’t even think it. But I did think, “What is wrong with me that I can’t accept their help easily?”

I usually think, “It’s because my kitchen in small.” “It’s because I would rather do my prep ahead of time so I can visit.” These things are true, especially the latter point. I thought about it more. Really hard.

When I am driving in a car, I have a very hard time carrying on a conversation with the person who is in the passenger seat even if I like him/her very much and would like to socialize. I also don’t put the radio on when I’m driving, even when there is no one else in the car. I find both scenarios distracting. I don’t feel guilty about either situation. I accept myself for more own strengths and limitations.

I also take a lot of photos. That is, I take a lot of photos when I am alone. If I am in a social situation, I have an incredibly hard time remembering to take photos because I am distracted by visiting with people. I don’t feel guilty about this situation even when I had planned to take photos of the event. I wish I were better at doing both things but I don’t feel as thought I “should” be better or that I am letting people down.

I am a damned good home cook. But I am not an executive chef. Perhaps in time, I could train my brain to work that way, but right now and for the last few decades, it has not been that way. Most days of the year, I get no help at all. I do everything myself. I love to socialize with people. I love to cook. Both activities require a great deal of concentration on my part. I mean, yes, there are times in cooking when I am just standing around and welcome time to chat with people. But then there are the other times. And what is particularly difficult is giving other people directions when I am in the thick of things.

It is not that I am a control freak or not open to help.

I am just not that skilled. Sometimes I even write a list of things that people can do to help so that people don’t get mad at me when I can’t think of something they can do to help, when asked. This list, by the way, usually ends up being more work for me but helps assuage other people’s feelings.

As I said, I am a damned good home cook. Why should I feel less than because I have a hard time accepting help due to my difficulties with multi-tasking? Why should I feel that by taking on a lot of responsibility, I am somehow lacking in politeness or depriving others of their right to help?

Today, I am reminding myself of something. I am who I am, pluses and minuses. I may change over time but today, I know what I am able to do.

In the meantime, stay out of my kitchen unless I say, “Hey, keep me company” or “It’s time to eat. Can you help carry things out to the table?”

It’s not about you. It’s about me, doing the best I have with what I’ve got. Unless of course, you bring a bag of groceries to my house and expect to make something in my kitchen, from scratch. If you do that, you will get if not an “evil” eye, an “irritated” eye. Seriously? People, don’t do that. And if you need the oven or microwave to heat something up, it is very considerate to ask about this well ahead of time. It is even more considerate to make something that does not require use of my kitchen because people, two weeks before the event, I have already mapped out the real estate on my stove, oven, roasting oven, crock pot, microwave, and grill.

And guess what? Despite my potentially shooing you from my kitchen, we will all get a good meal out of it. It will be a win win win win win win win win win win win…

As you know, I arrived in North Carolina last Wednesday for some much appreciated vacation as well as to attend the first ever reunion of all classes from my clinical psychology Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is the first time I’ve traveled to NC on my own since my dissertation defense in 1997, which was a very short trip since I was still a psychology intern and needed to get back to work.

A five night trip with near total freedom in deciding my itinerary. A trip to a place I love. You know how James Taylor sings, “In my mind I’m going to Carolina”? He’s singing about Chapel Hill. His father was on faculty with the medical school. Chapel Hill is beautiful and song worthy. It is a relatively small city, dominated by a university, which is the oldest public institution of higher learning in the United States.

The first thing I noticed as I was driving from the airport to my friends’ house in Raleigh, was the countryside. The beautiful trees along the highway in their early stages of autumn color change. I noticed a glorious blue sky.

And then I saw them, the telltale V shape birds that pitch and rock when they glide. The turkey vultures were flying over the tree canopy. They are really interesting birds. They don’t live an elegant life. They are not smooth fliers and they scavenge for food instead of heroically gliding and catching fish that glint silver in the sun over the water.. I am not an ecologist but my guess is that despite their bad reputation, they are good for the ecosystem. In any event, with the exception of that apple tree attack in the Wizard of Oz, we don’t fear trees because they grow on decaying matter, some of it from animals, do we?

So one of my goals for this trip was to be mindful of places, people, and experiences. When I do this, I can find myself driving on one of the countless highways in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and waxing romantically about an ugly bird that eats dead animals. This is the power of mindfulness. I say this half-jokingly but it is true. Mindfulness can transform something ugly into something else.

Throughout my mindful trip, I noticed that mindfulness is on the mind of a good number of my North Carolina friends. Doris Ann Price, a lively, artsy, bright and fun woman was the first person I met with on my first full day in NC. Doris Ann and I met in 3-D for the first time last Thursday. She was diagnosed with breast cancer some time ago and made the awful transition to metastatic cancer several years ago. Doris Ann is famous in social media for wearing a button that says, “Cancer Sucks”, a pair of artsy/intellectual glass, her smart black and red wardrobe, and her bright red “Lady Danger” lipstick. (I learned that this is her nickname, something that a friend told M.A.C. Cosmetics about, which resulted in Doris Ann receiving a lifetime supply of their “Lady Danger” lipstick.)

I enjoyed interacting with Doris Ann on Facebook but I didn’t really know her. Contrary to somewhat popular opinion, extroversion is not a super power (nor is introversion an illness, for that matter.). I typically feel at least slightly awkward when meeting new people even when I am very much looking forward to it. Doris Ann and I hit it off right away and had a lovely time together filled with fun and meaningful conversation.

Doris Ann’s cancer has spread to her brain. This is something I knew about her. What I didn’t know it that her voice right now, is a few notches above a whisper because a tumor is pressing against her vocal cords. Her throat is also narrowed, making eating a lot process with very small bites.

Doris Ann was very genuine with me about the challenges that cancer has brought to her life. Despite this, she is a very lively woman who has found a way to keep joy in her life. She told me that she “moves forward” in life until she sees a stop sign. And then at that point, she stops, reflects, problem solves, and regroups. Doris Ann’s health is monitored quite closely by her oncologists and other healthcare providers. She is an upbeat person but certainly not a Pollyanna. Doris Ann is mindful of the seriousness of her health as well as the positives in her life. I admire her emotional strength very much. Plus she was fun and brought me very delicious gluten-free pastries as a gift!

A couple of days later, I found myself at my reunion. I immediately saw someone I knew, Don Baucom, a faculty member who had been the director of clinical training when I was a student. He was greeting people as they arrived. Don is a gracious and kind man with keen intellect and a wonderful sense of humor. He greeted me with a big hug and I felt a little less awkward about going to a party with people I had not seen for a very long time.

I loved graduate school but there was part of it that was like the longest adolescence a person can have that is actually healthy and not just living in your parents’ basement playing videogames, until age 30. The program was supportive but very rigorous and difficult. These were very smart and successful students. We had never had to work so hard to do well in school. So there was insecurity and competition on top of the competition that is part of any academic environment at a major university.

There were only two other people at the reunion from my class and very few from other classes whom I knew all that well. And only two of my professors were there. At one point, I thought, “maybe I’ll leave early.” Then I got my mind out of the past and into the present and proceeded to have a very good time reconnecting with and meeting people.

A couple of particularly lovely things happened. I heard a voice behind me say excitedly, “Elizabeth!” It was April Harris-Britt, who had worked in my dissertation lab, while she was an undergraduate student (I did not work on a professor’s project. I did an independent project, developing and evaluating a parent education program.) April was a wonderful student and I encouraged her to continue in psychology at the graduate level. She did and she entered the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program after I left. She now has a private practice in Durham, NC.

“I was so excited to see your name on the guest list,” she said as she held my hand. “When I think about why I became a psychologist, I always think of you.” I gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek, got a little teary and told her how awesome she was and is. Then we caught up on our lives. I saw a photo of her beautiful 4 year old grand-daughter.

This was a very moving encounter. I have found that since I started practicing mindfulness, I don’t feel as awkward showing affection that I genuinely feel. Now, I’m not going around kissing everyone’s cheek. Another part of my mindfulness is trusting that my own guesses as to whether someone would be comfortable with this, are pretty good. After all, knowing people pretty well is part of my job.

There was live bluegrass music at the reunion. They were very good. There was space for dancing but no one was out there dancing. I was sitting next to Sandra Zinn, a lively, brilliant, free spirited woman who graduated a couple of years after me. She said, “No one is dancing!” You know that I love to dance and I’m learning to get past my fears of being bad at partner dancing and just not care that I am bad at it. So I put out my hand and said, “Let’s go!” As I anticipated, Sandra accepted. We made up for lack of skill with enthusiasm, smiles, and giggling. About two minutes into the song, I started feeling self-conscious and told her, “I’m running out of moves.” She said, “It doesn’t matter as long as you keep moving.”

I have done a lot of things this month that would have been hard for me to do in the past. I have had 3 D encounters with three friends whom I met on the internet, one of whom is one of my very closest friends. (The third is the lovely, talented, and interesting Frieda Rosenburg, a retired UNC librarian. We had a marvelous time at the NC Botanical Garden and shopping at A Southern Season.) I have partner danced with two different people on two different occasions.

I am still not good at partner dancing. But it’s much more important to know how to live well than how to dance well. I still get nervous meeting new people or feel awkward in a crowd. But I am learning the difference between real stop signs and fabricated ones like the ones caused by social anxiety, perfectionism, and borrowing trouble from a future I can’t know until it gets here.

The fabricated stop signs are exhausting and when I make them, I miss out on a lot in my life. I don’t know how long my life will be or how many stop signs are coming up. In the meantime, I will live a life as mindful, meaningful, and as genuine as I can.

Doris Ann at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC.

Doris Ann at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC.

With Frieda Rosenberg at the NC Botanical Garden. Photo by Frieda Rosenberg, 2014.

With Frieda Rosenberg at the NC Botanical Garden. Photo by Frieda Rosenberg, 2014.

My dissertation adviser, Joe Lowman with alumna Sandra Zinn. This photo captures each of them perfectly! And do you blame me for asking Sandra to dance?

My dissertation adviser, Joe Lowman with alumna Sandra Zinn. This photo captures each of them perfectly! And do you blame me for asking Sandra to dance?

April and me. Did I mention that I am so very proud of April?

April and me. Did I mention that I am so very proud of April?

With my strong reaction to the “there’s nothing wrong with you” Facebook posts, I knew that I had some thinking to do. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my strong reactions per se, it’s just that when the intensity of my emotional reaction to things surprises me, it is often because I’ve hit a sore spot.

I have come a long way in accepting my imperfections. I am mostly okay with myself as an individual. I am aware that despite my faults and mistakes, I am a very good mother.

To be perfectly frank, I have complained a great deal in my life about my husband’s sensitivity to criticism. Although my complaints are not entirely unfounded, something else is also true. When my husband complains to me or criticizes me, it hits a very tender part of my heart. The part of my heart that wants to be a perfect wife. I’ve long thought that I am a good wife, maybe even a very good wife. But it is the role in my life in which I fall down the most frequently.

I am actually pretty good at taking critical feedback, in general. I had music teachers that poke and prodded and talked me through every note. I had writing teachers that had me change every single word. I’ve had patients and their family get quite mad at me. In my friendships, I would much rather be told that I am doing something that concerns or bothers another person than to just be left guessing. A former boss of mine actually told me that responding appropriately to specific negative feedback was one of my strengths as an employee. That was a truly horrible work situation, during which I experienced the onset of my first of two depressive episodes.

I haven’t gotten depressed in over a decade and I am a happy person. But part of me feels like my heart is about to be shot whenever my husband criticizes me. It doesn’t happen every time, or even the majority of the time, but it happens enough so that it is a problem. My perfectionism is gets in the way of solutions and communication, two things that build a healthy and close marriage. I put a lot of stress on myself to be the “better person” in a relationship, to function better, to need less, and to give more. That’s appropriate for a mother. It’s also appropriate for a psychologist. My parental and professional relationships are not supposed to be reciprocal. But my husband is my a partner and a peer. Being the “better person” is not an equal relationship, nor is being dependent.

This is a work in progress, people. I am a work in progress.

As a psychologist, I work with a lot of parents who disagree about how to best address their children’s problems or often, whether there is a problem to address at all. A good deal of the time, these perpetual conflicts are a result of the couple trying to solve a different problem than the one they think they are trying to address. The real problem might be feeling like a bad parent and trying to solve it by deflecting blame to the other parent.

But what does it really mean to be good or bad? Kids often tell me that “bad kids” are the ones who get corrected by the teacher or who hit or who learn differently. In other words, “goodness” is defined by actions and abilities. A lot of the kids I see think of themselves as “bad”, which is an extremely painful state of being. I say, “I’ve worked with thousands of children in my life and I’ve never met a bad one. All children are good. Sometimes even grown ups get confused about this. They think that there are good and bad people.” When I say these things to children, I am not just trying to ease their pain. I mean it from the very bottom of my heart to the very top of my brain.

We make good and bad choices. We have skills at which we are good and those at which we are bad. We perform good and bad actions. These statements are true for all of us on a daily basis. We do good things and we do things well. We do bad things and we do things poorly. Every day. Every person. Are all of these good’s and bad’s equivalent in terms of importance? Of course not.

People are beings, not actions, skills, or decisions. Actions, skills, and decisions are capacities, not entities. I believe that every living being is a miraculous creation. A miraculous creation is a good thing. Every person is a miraculous creation. Why is this so hard to accept?

I spent a good part of my early life worrying about being “good enough”. The hardest times were when I was depressed. There were some things I learned getting myself out of those depressions, though. A very important lesson was that even having failed at happiness by becoming depressed was not the end of my life. I came back from the illness. I was more resilient than I had realized despite my imperfections. It was an important step in stepping away from the question, “Am I good?”

Stepping away from “Am I good?” is a really important part of self-acceptance. I don’t believe that self-acceptance is a absolute. It is a process toward an idea. I believe that I have traveled close enough to it to make a very large positive difference in my life.

I am discovering the freedom in self-acceptance, in stepping away from the question, “Am I good?” It allows me to more frequently see myself and others as whole people with beauty and mess. I am a messy imperfect but loving person. By accepting this, I am actually better able to make good decisions, engage in good actions, and learn good skills. I have a lot more time and peace as I learn not to berate myself. I don’t devote energy to fancy justifications for my actions.

Getting wrapped up in that question can cause so many problems. Even if you don’t believe that people are miraculous beings and inherently good, perhaps you might consider that classifying oneself and others as “good” or “bad” is really not helpful to anyone.

What does it mean to be good? It means that we are here. It means that we can move on to more useful questions, ones that bring love and compassion to our lives, instead of keeping us stuck.

 

In my job as a psychologist and a diagnostic specialist, I am asked to answer questions and make recommendations. Answering diagnostic questions can be really hard, especially in my areas of specialty. I sift through multiple data sources, try to find patterns of behavior, and predict how behaviors change across settings and over time. Meanwhile, I have to remember that diagnoses do not define children and that their functioning at school, home, and in the community vary as a function of many many other individuals and environmental factors.

Often however just asking the question is harder than answering it. Yesterday, I received the following email:

We have a 13 year old son who is struggling in school. His main challenge is executive functioning and spacing out in class. We are not interested in assessments or medications but do want to understand how to get at the root cause of the lack of motivation. Do you think this is something you can help us with?

This email was obviously written by a very loving parent. The parent has also done some reading, I suspect given the terminology used in this letter and the reference to medication. But it is hard for me to help when I am asked to help solve a problem without finding out what it is. Asking the question, “Is there something wrong with my child?” is sometimes even more frightening than asking, “Is there something wrong with me?” Parenting hits us in the tender places in our heart. For many of us the two questions are really the same question, “Am I a bad person who is passing off my inherent badness to my child?” Some of the variations of this question are less severe but it boils down to fear of coming up short in some very critical way.

Fear of asking the question, “What is wrong” can lead to all kinds of odd little dances. So often, people try to solve problems without knowing what they are. Some people even try to solve problems without admitting that there are even problems. This sounds silly but problems have real consequences with which we are left to cope. You can’t make a problem go away by not believing in it.

Parents often feel responsible for their children’s issues. And honestly, as parents we are responsible for a lot. But we aren’t responsible for every part of our child’s reality. It is particularly hard for people who appear to be successful and high functioning on the outside but fear being exposed for the horrible people they fear themselves to be. I have met many parents who think, deep down, that they are awful people. And you know what? They are never horrible people. And some of them are quite wonderful people who nonetheless feel fundamentally flawed.

The saddest part is that when people refuse the help I can give them because they fear themselves, it perpetuates bad decision-making and bad problem solving. Then they just feel like really bad people and are even less likely to seek help for themselves and their children.

I believe that I am a worthwhile person, a good wife, and a good mother. I believe I am good at my job. But like everyone else, I am deeply flawed. I am a kind person but I hurt people and sometimes I do it on purpose. I am a loving person but sometimes feel contempt for others. I am a generous person but at times act with keen selfishness. It has never been easy in my life to engage in constructive self-reflection. At times, I have sought professional help but with great difficulty. At other times, it was not so hard. It was pretty easy to be open to seeing a psychologist after my cancer diagnosis. After all, who am I to begrudge myself support for CANCER? But I have seen psychologists multiple times in my life for individual, parenting, and marital purposes. I am happy for all of the experiences. They were extremely valuable. I did it because I felt like I owed it to myself and my family to be a well-adjusted person. Because truthfully, unhappy people are hard to live with, especially when a very unhappy person resides in your own heart.

I will keep working on myself and I wish all of you the happiness that comes from seeing yourself, the good and the bad, working on things knowing that things can get better but not perfect, and being okay with that. Self-acceptance is an amazing power and I have been happy to have gotten more and more glimpses of it as I continue through life as a beautiful and flawed human being.

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George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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