It’s Not a Pity Party If You Criticize Yourself

woman looking in mirror criticallySelf-pity has a bad rap.

When people confess to me in therapy, “I had a pity party last week,” they’re usually embarrassed about it.

They look as if they’re admitting they made a mean face at a baby or threw a plastic cup on the freeway shoulder.

Their faces say, “I know I shouldn’t do that, but I did it anyway.”

Well, I tell them — and I’m here to tell you — there’s nothing wrong with self-pity.

If you’re going to pity yourself, though, for Heavens’ sake, pity yourself!

Calling yourself a pathetic loser doesn’t sound like pity to me.

Here’s a helpful definition that I swooped up from Dictionary.com:

“Sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.”

Self-pity means doing all that for yourself.

“But I got myself into this!,” you might protest.

That’s irrelevant.

See the above definition? It doesn’t say, “unless the person got themselves into this pickle in the first place, in which case the sympathetic or kindly sorrow can be dispensed with.”

For more on this, check out my blog post this week over at my country house, PsychologyToday.com:

Self-Pity Doesn’t Look Like This

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just Freaking ASK

asking for somethingI’ve written before about how it never hurts to ask for what you want, but…

Since Elizabeth Gilbert is a far better writer than I am, I thought I’d share with you a short article of hers that inspired me this week.

It was a timely read for me, because just the other day someone suggested I expand my work into an intriguing new arena.

My response was hesitant — not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I couldn’t imagine who would hire me.

Gilbert’s simple article inspired me to “just freaking ask” for the opportunity when the time comes.

I hope her words inspire you, too. The article is here:

How to Be Happier – Elizabeth Gilbert

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 Ways to Treat Yourself Right

woman getting facialHave you ever thought of volunteering in order to feel happier?

I’ve definitely heard this idea from clients who are feeling stuck and miserable.

“I tried volunteering, but it didn’t make me feel better,” they tell me after the fact.

This doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t give water from a dry well.

We all need to fill the well somehow if we want to be generous and kind to others.

Recently I came across an article with some ideas on just how to do that.

Click on the link below to read it:

To Thine Own Self Be Kind: Eight Random Acts of Self-Kindness

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forgiveness Tips If You’ve Been Wronged

sad eggIf you’re nursing a grievance, you’re not alone.

Without a heartfelt apology (which isn’t always available), or even with that apology, sometimes it can take a long time to feel better.

Being wronged is like being injured physically. Healing takes time.

No one expects a broken bone to heal overnight, nor should we expect ourselves to be okay with what happened immediately… or ever.

Assuming you want to reach forgiveness, though, remember that hurt feelings can build on other hurt feelings from the past.

There may be a backlog of emotional “ouch!”es to work through.

The best anyone can do is to create room for forgiveness.

Read these tips on how to do that from my guest post over on WellDoing.org:

Don’t Rush Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Notes from a Book Tour

Dog in bookstore

Every bookstore needs a dog. This one resides at 32 Books in North Vancouver, BC

I was sharing a meal with a friend recently and she asked me how the book tour’s going for my newly-released book, Constructive Wallowing.

I told her about the travel, the bookstore signings and the radio and TV interviews, and she responded with an interesting question.

“Why haven’t I read about any of this on your blog?”

I was temporarily speechless. But then the cat came back with my tongue.

“People don’t want to read about me and my book. They want to read self-help.”

My friend disagreed.

She asserted that you, Gentle Reader, would be not only tolerant of, but actively interested in, reading about my activities.

As outrageously improbable as that seemed when she said it, my friend is not a kook.

So although I’m uncomfortable writing an entire post exclusively about ME and MY BOOK, I’m performing a daring experiment this week by doing just that.

Gulp. Here goes…

Book Expo America, the biggest publishing trade show in the U.S. - New York City

At Book Expo America, I signed books for the first time. Wanted to write, “Thanks for asking me to sign this – you just made my day!”

This year, my first book came out!

A bit of history: I started writing Constructive Wallowing in October 2010.

(I figured the word “wallow” needed to be reclaimed so people would stop beating themselves over the head with it.)

Anyway, I worked on about six drafts of the manuscript until January 2012, found wonderful literary agent Janet Rosen in February 2012, she sold it to the awesome publisher Viva Editions in November 2012, and after a great deal of collaboration and planning it was released a couple of months ago.

Since then I’ve been doing oodles of radio interviews about the book, most of them by phone.

I’ve also visited New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area to speak and sign copies at bookstores.

Sushi: The official food of Tina's book tour. This is Sono Sushi in Mountain View, CA

Sushi: The official food of Tina’s book tour. This is Sono Sushi in Mountain View, CA

At some point early on, I agreed to be interviewed on TV.

It must have been the day I tried crack.

Kidding! I do crack every day.

Not.

Anyway,

You saw the first interview in my post, Good Enough is Sometimes Best. The second is below.

Going into the tour, I dreaded being on TV (wouldn’t you?), but it turns out I probably enjoyed those interviews the most.

Why? Because it’s easy to remain on point for the scant 5-minutes-or-less available.

An hour-long radio interview, on the other hand, can be mentally taxing. At least for me.

Toward the end of a long interview, my ability to concentrate starts to unravel. This is not a fun development, especially when the show is live.

During the first week of my New York/Minneapolis trip, I got really sick and had to do an important radio interview while lying in bed.

cute cat on bed

This is Huddy, who lives in the AirB&B home where I stayed during the Bay Area leg of the tour.

My worst fear came true in that interview: I forgot what I was talking about right in the middle of a sentence.

The interviewer was gracious about it, but of course that particular interview had one of the largest audiences — isn’t that always the way?

Though I’m back home in Portland now, the radio interviews continue; I usually have a couple each week.

My mind still starts to poop out around the 40-45 minute mark. I blame it on the mental fog of perimenopause.

That’s what I blame everything on these days. No matter what happens, it’s “Damn you, Perimenopause!”

Tina with books on table in front of store

At Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. The staff treated me so well, you’d have thought I was Hillary Clinton.

While on the road, I collected miscellaneous bookstore experiences.

You never know what you’re going to find when you go to speak at a venue you’ve never been to, or how many people will show up to a free event.

It was the week after Hillary Clinton was there to sign her new book that I was scheduled to speak about Constructive Wallowing at the UW Bookstore in Seattle.

When I arrived, I found a HUGE bookstore with a lovely big speaking area, complete with lectern and signing table.

I was told that Hillary Clinton had used the very same lectern and the very same signing table just last week. Cool!

San Francisco highlight: Chinatown, and the biggest sesame ball I've ever had. Yum!

San Francisco highlight: Chinatown, and the biggest sesame ball I’ve ever had. Yum!

I also learned that Clinton’s audience had numbered 1,200  — limited only by the size of the space, presumably.

I crossed my fingers for a fraction of that turnout as I waited for people to arrive…

I guess 1/600th counts as a fraction.

What has she got that I don’t have?

On the other hand, at one of my library talks, a good-sized room was filled to capacity.

Yes, my mother and 11 of her friends happened to be there. What are you implying?

It’s another reason to love TV: You can imagine whatever number of viewers you’re most comfortable with.

I had a genuinely good time chatting with Frank Mallincoat during this KPIX interview:

You can see at the end that we started talking again after the interview. We talked for so long that the studio cleared out and we were the only ones left.

The people (and sometimes animals) I met and the interesting conversations I had (mostly with the people) were the highlights of the tour for me.

This sign at the entrance to the North Vancouver City Library told me I was in the right place.

It was a special treat to finally come face to face with the creative and dynamic souls in my publisher’s office, and with Janet, my literary agent.

We’d been working together via phone and email for more than a year to bring Constructive Wallowing to market.

The handshakes and hugs when we met face-to-face were heart-felt. It truly takes a village to publish a book.

The long-distance travel may be over now, but the interviews and short-distance travel continue as I work to introduce the book to everyone with a pulse.

If you’d like to listen to some of the interviews and learn a little more about Constructive Wallowing, you can find them on the Press Room page on my website.

If you’re in the Portland area, please come see me at the Multnomah County Library this fall. I’ll be in multiple branches on multiple dates.

You never know; maybe Hillary Clinton will be there!

Photos courtesy of Tina Gilbertson Photography, Inc.

6 Tips for Better Boundaries

woman standing her groundToday’s post is essentially a letter to myself, in that it’s about something I struggle with personally: Boundaries.

Check it out. It’s like I wrote myself a boundaries to-do list, and you just happen to be reading along.

If you have trouble with boundaries sometimes and can relate, that’s awesome.

But basically I’m writing for myself this week.

Please leave a note in the comments if you have any words of inspiration or tips to share.

Here’s a link to the post:

Because I Said So | Psychology Today

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Early Experience Affects How We Deal With Feelings

adult not understanding kid's feelings“Why do we find it so hard to sit with our own emotions?” asked one of the audience members at a talk I gave last Tuesday about constructive wallowing.

I think there are two reasons:

1. We’re hard-wired to avoid pain. If a feeling is unpleasant, we automatically try not to pay attention to it and hope it goes away.

Example: You’re reading on the patio when a thought strays into your mind … something about a letter from the IRS and unpaid taxes.

Rather than continuing that line of thought, you get up and head to the kitchen in search of potato chips (or brownies, or beer, or …?).

2. Early training. We’re taught over and over again in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that it’s socially unacceptable to express negative feelings.

And if we can’t express them (goes our logic), why should we even bother to have them?

Someone else in the same audience last Tuesday offered a brilliant example from her own life of what this early training looks like.

How We Learn to Ignore Our Feelings

At a recent baby shower, a 3-month-old girl fell over, bumped her head, and started crying.

Instantly several people rushed over …

Not to comfort her.

Not to soothe her.

But to DISTRACT HER FROM HER PAIN.

They waved toys in front of her face. Her mother bounced and rocked her.

The adults put on big smiles to show her everything was fine.

This is a clear and striking example of how we learn not to just sit with our feelings, but rather to ignore them in favor of social acceptability.

Early Training Can Be Overcome

Is it any wonder that as adults, when something bad happens, we try to distract ourselves from our feelings?

It’s okay — necessary, even, if we want to feel whole —  to honor our “negative” emotions when they arise.

When bad things happen, go ahead and feel bad about what happened.

Try to put a word to what you feel, be it “angry,” “resentful,” “ashamed,” “scared,” “hurt,” or whatever.

Then feel that emotion fully and willingly.

Wallow in the emotion, not in what happened.

Instead of there-and-then, focus on the here-and-now: How do you feel in this moment?

Offer yourself compassion if you’re suffering.

Think of this kind of wallowing as like going to the gym, only this workout gets your emotional life into shape.

If you wallow in all your feelings, good or bad, then when good things happen you can finally enjoy them.

Have you ever felt so good that you found yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Well, embrace that other shoe. Learn to love it.

It takes two shoes, not just one, to walk life’s winding path.

Wallow well!