self-compassion-and-starting-a-personal-growth-journey

Self-Compassion and Starting a Personal Growth Journey

A journey begins with a single step, so the first step is making small, manageable life changes. But all journeys have obstacles, especially at the beginning. This is why self-compassion and a personal growth journey work so well together. Self-compassion will help you manage those obstacles and keep you moving forward.

If you made New Year’s Resolutions it’s around this time you might start to feel the pinch and frustration of those resolutions. I wanted to provide some tips and encouragement to help keep you moving along.

At the Start of Your Journey

It’s important to view yourself at the start of every personal growth journey as inexperienced. This may be your second time wanting to get a better job, or dealing with toxic coworkers in a healthy way or even starting that hobby you’ve been too afraid to try. Regardless of what your goal is, it is important to remember that you are brand new to it, regardless of previous experience.

Remember, like your illness, these sorts of journeys vary from person-to-person. If it was easy for you to make these sorts of changes you would just do it without thinking. So while the same goal for someone else can happen for them without thinking, that goal may feel insurmountable to you; likewise, the same person may feel your mundane, no-big-deal task is too much to handle.

By viewing it as though it’s your first time down this road you won’t bring previous baggage with you. Previously, you applied to get that better job before but found that the market stymied your efforts. Instead of letting that discouragement inform your decision whether or not to apply to the job, leave that experience at the door and view yourself as taking this journey for the first time.

If you’ve ever done something competitive: sports or academics, try to remember how it was for you at the very beginning. Hard, right? I remember when I started running many years back how I could barely sustain a run for more than a minute. It was frustrating. But it took practice to build up and improve.

Every journey is always felt harder at the beginning.

Once you get past the hurdles and look back you may find yourself wondering why you thought it was hard. When I look back at where I was years ago, even as recently as last year when I restarted running, I am surprised at how far I’ve come along. Running a minute is no big deal for me now.

Doubt as an Obstacle

I think doubt tends to be our biggest obstacle at the start of the journey. Have you ever hiked a mountain, gotten to the base of the mountain had one of the two experiences: looking up and seeing how high the mountain is and how far you have to go; or not even seeing the mountain because you are far enough away from it that you can’t see your end goal?

Personal growth journeys function in the same way. Either you see how steep and how far away your goal is, or you are so far away that you can’t even begin to see the end of your journey.

It’s at these points that doubt can settle in and everything feels extremely overwhelming. Can I even make these changes? Will I even accomplish my goals? What happens if I fail? Why do I even think I can do this?

Doubt can stop any forward momentum. But what if you use self-compassion and turn that doubt into a motivator instead?

Doubt as a Motivator

I found that using doubt as a motivator helped me so much. When I started this journey to wellness over a year and a half ago, I thought to myself that this was going to be like every other writing-based endeavor I do. I will write my thoughts for a few months, get everything out and then go back to my life.

I found around November 2017 that my interest and motivation lagging in my blog. I only made three posts in total, which was a drastic drop from my normal three posts per week schedule. I started doubting my abilities after only blogging for a month and a half and resigned myself to another personal failure.

Mid-November 2017, I interacted with a person I’ve had a conflict with in the past. After this interaction, I had a lot of complicated feelings that left me frustrated, but in the more positive moments, I actually listened to what was said and more importantly what wasn’t said.

I saw that this person had a lot of self-doubts which drove our complicated interactions. These self-doubts were also preventing them from following their own dreams, dreams that overlapped my own. Unfortunately, their self-doubt and self-sabotage prevented them from pursuing their dreams beyond a certain point.

I saw this as a motivation to move forward.

I recognized the same obstacles in front of myself and was allowing them to block me too. December 2017 rolled around and I felt renewed because I didn’t let the doubt discourage me anymore. I wanted to use it to motivate me to continue forward and succeed.

I doubted I could maintain the blog and so I used that doubt to challenge myself to continue.

Doubt, when put into proper perspective, can be a great motivator.

Self-Compassion and Personal Growth

By using self-compassion, you’ll find success in your personal growth journey.

When those moments of doubt or any negative thoughts and emotions creep into your life: why am I struggling? Why is it so hard this time? I failed last time, I am going to fail this time… remember that this is a fresh journey for yourself.

Some things to help you with self-compassion:

  • Remembering the freshness of the journey, refocusing your thoughts that this is your first time through this journey and therefore wiping previous experiences away so they don’t color your memory, is an act of self-compassion.
  • Actively say to yourself that you are new to this, therefore must take it easy on yourself. If you accept that you are new to this personal growth journey, you will treat yourself as though you aren’t expected to be perfect.
  • Don’t expect to be perfect on this journey. When you are looking to only succeed and don’t embrace the possibility of failure, i.e. don’t get the first job you apply to, you will focus solely on that failure. Rather, look at the mini-failures as learning opportunities so you can know what to change for next time.
  • Turn perceived obstacles into motivators. I focused on doubt with this post, but there may be another personal obstacle that gets in your way: fear, self-sabotage, or comparison to others. Instead of focusing these on negative points that can help stop your efforts, focus on them as ways to push you forward. Afraid of failure? Push through that to prove to yourself that you won’t fail. Afraid of success? Break it down to small tasks so each small success will prepare you for a larger one.
  • Be gentle and acknowledge that you deserve to achieve this goal. If you want to be a less angry person, or able to ignore toxic people around you in the workplace, remind yourself that you deserve to achieve your goal. Anger can prevent you from growing and receiving new opportunities; toxic people can prevent you from feeling like you are able to go out for better opportunities. There is no reason why you cannot allow yourself to have positive things happen in your life, especially if its a goal you’ve created for yourself.

With a chronic illness, as I’ve said before, these sorts of journeys have a little extra challenge. On Wednesday, I will be discussing how to manage self-compassion while coping with a chronic illness.

Have a personal growth goal for your life? Why not start now with your goals, it doesn’t have to be January 1st. Join my newsletter for weekly posts about how to slowly achieve your long-term personal goals.


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Featured photo credit: Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash


chronic-illness-and-self-care

…Before Loving Anyone Else

On Monday, I discussed the importance of self-soothing as a means of disease management. Chronic illness and self-care go hand-in-hand, but sometimes we are asked to care for others when needing to care for ourselves.

As a mother, I have to put my needs aside for Jai, but sometimes that’s impossible to do. If I don’t take care of my own needs, I won’t be able to take care of Jai’s. Which is why granting ourselves permission to be selfish is a good thing.

Self-Care Goes Beyond Self

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, caring for ourselves first is the best way to care for others. If I am emotionally incapable of taking care of Jai’s needs because I am so worn out from dealing with other issues, I won’t be able to provide the care that he needs. Rather, if I acknowledge that I need to take a few moments for myself, even if Jai is running around and super active, then I should do so.

If you want to be an effective partner, parent, or friend – take care of yourself first before taking care of others. It’s hard to accept or even want to do because being “selfish” gets a bad reputation. When we say “I must put myself first,” we are being selfish, but selfishness can be a good thing. Especially when we are dealing with others.

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2018: A Reflection

Reflecting on 2018, it was another decent year for me. It had relatively few downs and quite a few ups. I learned even more about myself, some of the stuff I already figured and other things that surprised me.

In what is becoming a tradition for the blog, I’ve decided to reflect upon the bigger lessons and victories I learned throughout the year and some personal goals I have for 2019.

The Down Points

  • I did a lot of emotional heavy lifting this year. I realized I had several friendships that left a negative impact on me. I documented what I learned about this in my two posts about toxic friends (Part 1 & Part 2) and what I learned about my role in these relationships.
  • My limitations were made obvious at several points throughout the year. This ranged from temporal limitations, i.e. not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything I wanted; to fatigue still being a major roadblock on a day-to-day basis.
  • I did have a few mild flare-ups this year, but nothing major or of huge concern. I found a spot in my vision that was more of an annoyance than anything else, though it went away rather quickly as soon as I de-stressed. A few moments of numbness, and my L’Hermittes Sign making an appearance when I was particularly stressed and sleep-deprived. I did experience a new symptom: MS Hug and that wasn’t very loving at all.
  • I wasn’t as strict with maintaining a healthy diet throughout the entire year and have gone back to some very bad eating habits for the holidays. My mindset shifted half-way through the year of how I viewed myself (more on that below), but my eating habits haven’t followed.

The Positive Points

  • In reflecting on the negative impact of toxic friendships, it hurt to lose what I deemed to be decent friends, but I found that by no longer allowing the negativity I had less stress overall. It was particularly freeing to start recognizing that I could choose to be with those who treat me well, rather than settling to be around those who didn’t.
  • 2018 was a less stressful year for me overall. That isn’t to say there wasn’t stress in my life or stressful periods (many of my own making), but I found that I handled stress so much better this year than I have in the past which has led me to feel more content with myself.
  • I officially spent the entire year in a healthy weight range which was a first in a long time. In fact, I don’t remember when was the last time I spent such a long period of time in a healthy BMI. Besides feeling good emotionally, I feel fantastic physically with more energy to keep up with Jai.
  • Ash and I were talking a while back and he made a great point about who I am now physically speaking. I am a runner and an athlete, something I never thought I would even consider myself, especially growing up with asthma. I completed 2 half marathons this year, PR’d in several of my races and have a full year of running planned in 2019. That said, my eating habits haven’t necessarily matched the runner’s lifestyle, but I have a plan on handling that this coming year
  • On paper, I always viewed my MS as an opportunity to refocus my priorities and to a certain extent I did. But this year I really committed to turning my diagnosis into something positive thing. I finally made the “someday” changes I’ve wanted to make for a decade or so.

MS Mommy Blog

The blog still is such a positive influence in my life and I’ve learned a few things about myself because of it. Without the ability to truly reflect on my relationships and MS, I probably would still be stuck in an emotional rut. But because I decided that I needed to write about my MS story and how I was coping with some heavy emotional concerns, I did a deeper self-reflection that I think made a lasting impact on my overall attitude.

I found that while it was nice to share some of my parenting thoughts and experiences, the blog really needs to refocus itself on healthy living and living with a Chronic Illness. I wanted that to be the main focus of the blog when I started it, but I got off track in 2018. I have begun the process revamping the blog with that in mind, and all will be revealed in the new year.

What I’ve Learned in 2018

To truly let things go, not just say that I am letting it go.

When I let things go, it makes for less stress in the long-term. I also recognized there is a lot of negativity in the world and my contributing to it by being negative back or dwelling too much on the negative wasn’t helping anyone, nor providing a positive example for Jai.

I have learned that the best way to be stress-free is to plan ahead in many aspects of my life. Not regimented with no flexibility, but being more prepared, writing things down either in a list or as a plan, and therefore minimizing stress. When I have a list or plan of action for the day, I find I am more efficient which makes me happy because I dislike feeling unproductive.

It sounds cliche, but I finally understand – or rediscovered – what they mean when “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” It takes a lot of work, but I am finally seeing the personal reward for the running, blogging, and self-reflection. I’m finding it’s feeding into itself and I want to keep doing more.

Making 2019 My Year

For 2019, this is where I want to be:

  • Accept that I am an athlete now and that I should really commit to an athlete’s lifestyle. This includes eating habits, training, and making decisions that will help me reach my personal running goals.
  • Additionally, I want to continue to be meeting and exceeding my personal records in running. I don’t think I will ever place in any races, but I will push myself to get times I never thought I would imagine for myself. Several years ago I couldn’t imagine sustaining a 10-minute mile. I ran that for Thanksgiving. How fast will I be this time next year?
  • Continuing to embrace a calm, positive, and stress-free living. Learning to not feel guilty when I decide that this mindset is more important to my overall health than giving into previous behaviors.
  • Having a more “ant” attitude in life. Remember Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper? I have become more ant-like as a means of managing my life, blog, and parenting, which is to say that I plan & prep ahead of time in order to make more time for Jai throughout the day. I will be more focused on getting ahead as a form of disease-management.
  • Becoming the person I saw myself being when I reflected on my life-goals at 15. I will be elaborating more on what this means over the upcoming weeks, but I want to be what 15-year-old me wanted me to be at 35.

2019 As a Teaching Opportunity

Last year I gave 2018 the motto keep letting it go, no distractions, and push forward.” I found that I stuck by this motto pretty closely and it helped keep me moving forward emotionally, mentally, and physically. I want to keep this motto in the back of my mind and add a new one:

“I am the only person who can make the changes that matter in my life. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, if I work hard enough, I will see a positive outcome in all the work I do.”

I am going to embrace all that 2019 has to offer, for good and for bad and see where the coming year takes me.


Want to join me in a successful 2019?

Before you go, please sign-up for the new MS Mommy Blog newsletter. It will be sent out once a week on Fridays in lieu of my normal Friday posts (no spam or excess emails, I promise!). In the newsletter, you’ll find the 2019 Wellness Challenge, tips, articles, and freebies exclusively for newsletter subscribers.

This challenge will be specifically geared towards people with a chronic illness (not just MS), though people who do not have a chronic illness are welcome and encouraged to join us this year.

This challenge is based on making gentle and gradual changes both superficially and on a deeper level. No judgments will be made and this challenge will be tailored to you and your needs. At MS Mommy Blog, we’re about being supportive and loving to ourselves and others.


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Self-Generosity

This post was originally published in December 2017.


At this time of year, life can get overwhelming. There are social, familial, and professional obligations that all demand our full attention. While these demands don’t go away, they do seem more urgent at the end of the calendar year.

It is easy to get caught up in these demands and struggle to prioritize them (and sometimes they don’t allow for reasonable prioritization). It leaves a person feeling frazzled, burnt out, and hating the holiday season.

That isn’t the case for everyone, but I am sure we’ve all had moments in life where we would like to skip straight to January 2nd and move on with our lives.

We’ve run into others who feel this way: try going into a mall around this time of year. I’ll just leave it at that.

Piling on top of the usual life demands are calls for generosity from various organizations at the end of the year. Commercials are filled with pathos-based appeals to get the viewer to donate to various causes. Religious leaders ask their people to open up their wallets and give money, toys, or time to those who are less fortunate. Stories of tragic events lead to calls for donations of food, items, and blood. Passive social pressures increase: social media pages are flooded with posts from others announcing their generosity.

It gets extremely overwhelming.

The issue is, that when we think about the term “generosity” we think about it as giving to others. But look at the definition of the word:

Generosity
nounplural generosities.

1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.

3. a generous act:
   We thanked him for his many generosities.

4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.

Dictionary.com

Nowhere in the definition does it specifically define generosity as an act we give to others. It is an act of giving and love, but with no defined recipient.

When we get caught up in the minutiae we completely forget about the importance of taking care of ourselves. We are told that we should be generous with our time and care for others, but it’s extremely hard to care about another person if we don’t take care of ourselves.

If we care for our own needs first we can be more effective for others. And when everything becomes too overwhelming, we might be able to see through it with less stress and frustration.

The Importance of Self-Care

I saw this quote posted on a friend’s Facebook wall and it was the foundation for this post. I kept the original formatting:

self care isn’t always lush bath bombs and $20 face masks. sometimes, it’s going to bed at 8pm or letting go of a bad friend. it’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your impossible standards & understanding u are worth it. self care isn’t always luxury, but a mean for survival

Cheerful Nihilism

Self-care quotes, personal revelations about self-care, articles expounding self-care all make the rounds on a fairly frequent basis. Some of them connect with us and others we either ignore or go, “yeah, if only it was that easy.”

All the wisdom in the world about self-care/self-generosity does not mean anything if it doesn’t connect with you. And let’s be blunt about the quotes/revelations/articles: they aren’t saying anything new. It’s all steeped in common sense.

We just need them to remind us every so often.

I am not an expert that can espouse pearls of wisdom of how to better take care of yourself, but I do recommend that you be more generous to yourself. Allow yourself to be more selfish.

But this isn’t the same when we think about being selfish. This is a loving selfishness.

Recognize that you need to take care of yourself before you can care for others. The Mayo Clinic recommends that caregivers take care of themselves first before they take care of others. They acknowledge that a person must be selfish if they are going to be an effective long-term caregiver.

Everyone is a caregiver. For some, it’s for another person; for everyone, it’s themselves. We all must care for ourselves.

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MS Mommy Blog

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


In my final post focusing on things I am grateful for, I wanted to spend some time talking about the blog itself.

I started the blog back in September 2017 without any real plan or fully formed goal in mind. I just wanted to have a space to discuss my healthy living plans and how it worked out for me, but with no real long-term intentions. While I still consider this blog in its early stages, it’s refocused into something more: space where I can talk about my MS, my healthy living goals, and an honest discussion of my self-improvement journey.

As I enter my second year of blogging, I’ve come up with more concrete goals and plans to re-focus the blog into something more meaningful and deeper purpose.

This blog has helped me to maintain my sense of self and reconnect with a childhood dream and for that, I am grateful for the blog’s existence.

Childhood Dreams

When I was a little girl I watched the Wonderworks Anne of Green Gables over and over again. I wanted to be exactly like Anne Shirley, a writer when I was older. In my mind, I would be a fiction writer of some sort, the dream evolving into the direction of a fantasy author similar to Martin or Eddings. With that goal in mind, I focused my education so I could become a writer, I took a bunch of creative writing classes in High School, got my undergraduate in creative writing, and when I went to graduate school, chose literature so I could teach for a living and write in my spare time.

Life, as I have said many times in my posts, got in the way and caused me to get sidetracked. I felt worn down and defeated when it came to my writing because I felt I was never going to be good enough to get published. I had ideas, I felt like I had some talent, but I couldn’t compete with what was out there. The market evolved and changed from my childhood and the need for novelists diminished. Those in the field had to be good. I didn’t believe I would ever be good enough.

Graduate school didn’t help because it re-trained my creative writing and focused on the academic-bend. This made my writing and writing process clinical and focused on the technical aspects of writing. No longer could my writing be organic, but it had to be planned out. It did, however, help train me to write under the pressure of a deadline. I am grateful for that.

Best Laid Plans…

I just assumed that my dreams of becoming a published author were just that: dreams. I would end up teaching until I retired and then I would reconsider writing as a second career.

I defined “being a writer” on the fiction side of writing. To me, while I am a fan of non-fiction authors like David Sedaris, a writer was someone who published fiction novels. I wanted to be like Anne Shirley and get a novel published. Fiction writer. Next “great American novel.” That sort of thing.

My ego wasn’t lacking.

So any other writing I did outside of fiction didn’t count in my mind. I viewed my blog writing similar to my academic writing: very clinical with some points here and there to make it more interesting, but not really writing. It wasn’t until a conversation Ash had with me a few months ago that it clicked in my head:

Ash: You’re a writer.
Me: What? No. No, I am not.
Ash: Yes you are! What are you doing?
Me: Writing.
Ash: And…
Me:…
Me:…
Me: I suppose it does count.
Ash: Of course it counts.
Me: Huh. I guess I am a writer.

It wasn’t a loud “aha” moment, more of a slow realization. Ash was right, I was a writer. I have been writing several thousand words a week, writing even more than I did in graduate school. More than when I wrote on my own in my youth. I was writing for myself and what I wanted to write about and that made a huge difference.

I had realized my childhood dream of writing for a living even if it took a different route and form I originally anticipated. That doesn’t mean I can’t spend time working on my more creative pieces, I can foster that on the side. But I can officially say that I am a writer because of my blog.

A Creative Accountability Buddy

What MS//Mommy has done the most for me is keeping me accountable to my plans and goals. I post about what I want to do health-wise and I find that knowing it’s out there helps keep me honest and focused. When I slip up, I try to post about it, but I feel like I am less likely to slip up because I have put my intentions out there.

I like to think that my continued health journey success is in part due to my activeness on the blog.

I also find that the blog helps make my intentions more real, like writing down items for a shopping or to-do list. If I put it to “paper,” then I have said that this is important for me to be more mindful. After finishing up my two-part post about toxic relationships, I’ve made more of an effort to be okay with no longer allowing toxic people in my life.

My posts about coming to terms with my MS helped me move forward in a more constructive way. While I was in a much better place than when I first got my diagnoses,  speaking about it put any final fears or doubts I had to rest.

Beyond all of that, just the creative act of writing has been extremely cathartic for me. It has allowed me to have a sense of self and self-worth that I was worried I might lose once I became a mother. It is easy for a woman to be defined solely by her children, and I was worried I would get too wrapped up in Jai’s life.

I love my son, but I don’t want to be defined by him. I have nothing against other parents who allow that to happen, that is what works best for them.

I am able to say that while I am a mother I am a writer as well.

The Future

I am hoping that my blog will continue to grow and that it will take on a greater meaning for others and not just myself. I am also hoping it will help open up professional avenues I never imagined possible when I started out last year.

I feel like I’ve been less stressed in my life since starting my blog and for that, I am grateful to have in my life. Any stress I feel related to the blog is the good kind of stress that pushes me forward and keeps me motivated. I can’t wait to see where this takes me in the next five years or so.

Thank you for coming along this journey with me.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton