Strengths, Weaknesses, Passions, Careers, Underestimation, and Shame.

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• What are my top 5 strengths? What are my top 5 weaknesses? How do I limit myself?

I’m very good at making new friends. I’m talented at inventing creative solutions. I can make a design client out of anyone. I am compassionate and will think of things on multiple dimensions and how they affect different people. I am very calm and strong in high-stress chaotic situations.

I’m pretty bad at time management. I definitely take on way more than I can handle. I am forever wondering if people actually like me, or if they are just keeping me around the usefulness of my strengths. I tend to get obsessed over small details, falling down rabbit holes of research and studying things, rather than pausing and getting the necessities done. I can become completely involved in my projects and forget to take care of myself.

I tend to limit myself in leadership roles, because I believe there are better-qualified people, and find myself more comfortable working in the background.

• What am I passionate about? Does my current career allow me to feed that passion? How can I incorporate my passion into my daily life?

I’m definitely passionate about drawing and art. While I’m not a place where that can support myself solely through artwork, I run my business so that it is a patron of my artistic endeavors.

A lot of businesses give gigantic corporate sponsorships. M&T Bank Stadium, the Royal Farms Arena, for examples. They use the events that are hosted there as advertising for their business.

I do that on a much smaller scale with my design agency. My business is able to sponsor my artwork along with my Patreon supporters and helps me get the more expensive things that I need to make my art, as well as promote it.

Because I’m investing back into myself, my artwork has slowly become more and more profitable. While that is not the goal of creating art (I would make it whether I made money or not), I find that I am much freer at making art when I have less stress around paying bills.

Hopefully I’ll eventually be able to do it full time.

• Do you ever underestimate yourself? If so, name a time where you underestimated yourself and why you did it? How did the situation turn out?

I used to underestimate myself a lot. I did not have confidence in my abilities or myself, to the point where I felt like it became a core part of who I was. My whole elementary and high school experience felt like a continuous set of missed opportunities and shyness.

When I went to college, I realized I could reinvent myself, because nobody knew who I was. So I did. I focused on not letting things bother me, and letting stress and troubles roll off my back. And it worked. I was happier, freer. I developed an aloofness that gave me peace, allowed me to make friends easily, and helped me to let go of the baggage that I held on to from my youth.

However, though I was more relaxed, I still didn’t value myself highly. I attributed my new friendships and connections to that relaxed happiness and to my loyalty to people. The people I was around followed a flavour of religion that emphasized an extreme version of humility that essentially made you avoid any and all compliments or praise, and I subscribed to that.

It wasn’t until I began therapy that I even realized I had a chronic habit of underestimating my value all the time. Slowly working through that and realizing my own self-worth has led me to value myself much more.

• Is there anything in your life that you are ashamed of? What steps can you take to put that shame behind you?

Over apologizing is the main way that my shame manifested, and at some point, someone pointed out to me that over apologizing for things was the way mistreatment and abuse showed symptoms. There isn’t much I’m ashamed of anymore. I don’t find shame to be useful anymore. So every time I catch myself apologizing for things that aren’t my fault, or that I have no control over, or for things that have nothing to do with me, I recognize that as shame, and let it go.

Peaceful Purpose, Comparisons, and Monopoly

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• Do you feel like you know your purpose in life? If so, what is it? If not, is there anything holding you back from discovering your purpose?

I feel like I am ultimately here to bring peace. To make spaces for it, to magnify it, to grow it Peace is what I seek, what I thrive in, where I feel most at home.

However, I recognize that peace is not accessible for everyone, and I don’t think that this is right. I believe everyone should have the right to access peace, and that oppression needs to be removed in order for that to happen.

This sometimes means that systems and norms and traditions have to be disrupted and changed and abolished for that to happen.

• Are there areas of your life that you notice you compare yourself to others? Why do you feel you do this if so? How does the comparison make you feel?

I find it very hard to not compare myself to others, constantly, about everything.

Learning “mindfulness”, the art of being in the present moment, has helped, because most of the time I am not around people to compare myself to. But sometimes it still creeps in.

I think I use comparison to try to understand the world and what is happening to me. Sometimes life just doesn’t really make sense, so I try to compare myself to others just to get my bearings. I think this kind of comparison was built into my upbringing too. My parents, my teachers, everyone around me would constantly compare me to other people who were doing things better or worse than I was, and so now it feels habitual.

I don’t like the comparison at all. It makes me feel inadequate a lot of the time, and makes me second guess my actions rather than letting me be sure of myself.

I feel like my default is to be sure of myself, but the comparison gets in the way of that.

• How is your relationship with money? How were you taught about finances and budgeting? What would your life look like if your relationship with money were different?

I actually think my relationship with money is pretty good. I save a lot, and once I have a set of rules to follow about setting aside money for certain things, I do pretty good with.

I think the frustrating thing for me is that I do not always know the wisest decisions to make with money. For example, I was given the advice of buying property right as I got married, so I bought the house I currently live in. That turned out to be just a couple of months before the economic recession, and the house has been underwater ever since.

I have learned recently that it would have been better for me to let go of the house right away, but because I didn’t know that, I held onto it.

A lot of my knowledge of money came from my Mom, who is a shrewd business person. She thrives on finding good yard sale and thrift store deals, and prides herself in making a dollar stretch. We played Monopoly endlessly when I was kid, which taught me a lot about managing money and resources… but also was extremely traumatic to lose over and over.

We were very poor, though I did not know this until I got to high school. That comparison came into play, where I would see other kids wearing Nike and Adidas and FUBU, which made my homemade clothes my mom had stitched together feel insignificant and comical.

My Father’s approach to Monopoly was very different from my Mother’s. He freely gave to all of us on the board. He would give breaks on rent, and was generous with his resources. If someone needed something, he would just give it to them, or trade it for next to nothing. He almost never won because of it, but it showed me that there was another, kinder way to handle money as well. A way that could help everyone.

Though I still struggle with money just because I don’t have very much of it, I still manage what little I have well. The biggest thing I could learn is how to plan things better so that the money I do have will work better for me.