Self-sabotaging the Perfect Life and 2 Questions to Ask Yourself.

Growing up in the 80’s, I used to watch a ton of television sitcoms such as Family Ties, the Cosby Show and my favorite the Brady Bunch. My mom would often lecture me that the lessons on TV weren’t real and their silly antics were incomprehensible. When I admired characters like Alex Keaton (Michael J Fox) and Greg Brady (Barry Williams), Mom in contrast would despise them and make snarky remarks on how terrible their acting skills were, often citing how implausible everything was about those shows.

In the real world, my life was far from being perfect. Growing up in a home rife with family violence, any moments of joy was short-lived and followed up with beatings by my dad, shaming from my older siblings, bullying at school or disppapproval from my mom. Thus, perhaps watching the feel-good 30 minute sitcoms with the happy endings was my form of escape from the painful reminder that my days would often end in tears, pain and loneliness. The paradox was that I wanted my parents to see me as the creative, sensitive and intelligent little boy, but I also wanted to be invisible from the hurt, abuse and neglect.

I’m the youngest of three kids and was often referred to as the outspoken child. I cursed at home and voiced my displeasure about the family dynamics when I got older. I grew up trying hard on my own to fight the family system. I knew something wasn’t right (maybe I learned this from watching too much TV!) but I was too young to articulate and process what was really going on.

Fast forward about four decades later, and I still try to comprehend what went on in my childhood. As I sit on the comfy couch in my counsellor’s office on a regular basis, spilling my heart out, I’m beginning to unravel and accept that my life was never meant to be perfect. No one’s life is. I’ve been sitting on this idea for decades that Life is meant to be the perfect road without strife or misery. Maybe I felt I had enough of that growing up and at some point, perfection in Life would replace my unhappiness. The problem with wanting the fantasy of a perfect life is that I failed to see all the goodness that I already have. It’s a lack mentality which so often plagues the thought process of trauma survivors. Thus, I’m always chasing perfection. But I’ve learned that perfection doesn’t exist if I continue to search for it.

It sounds defeated, but ironically, it isn’t.

By slowing down the pursuit of perfection, I’ve learned to become more mindful. Mindfulness helps me appreciate the present and lessens the anxiety of the what if’s and uncertainties life brings. Mindfulness mutes the noisy thoughts that I’m not good enough to be in a relationship, I’m undeserving of feeling happy and this is all going to fail. In short, in helps neutralize self-sabotaging behaviors such as creating drama and chaos that I’m all too familiar with in my belief system growing up. Paradoxically, by ceasing to pursue the perfect life, and by becoming more mindful to what I already have, I inadvertently discover perfection!

These days, I challenge those old belief systems by asking myself two game-changing questions:

What will I lose if there is no chaos?

What will I lose if I heal?

In meditation, I found those answers.

Although my identity in my past revolved around chaos which in turn suggests that I would lose my identity (sense of self), the wiser version of myself sees that I would lose my depression, my anxiety, my insecurities, my fears of loss and lack and that I would lose my old patterns that got me in this feedback loop in the first place. I would lose the false beliefs that I needed chaos to feel comfortable and safe in my relationships.

This evening, I sit with a grin on my face. In fact, I’m a little smug. Every time, I discover something profound as this inside of me, I feel even more connected to myself. Call it self-love or self-care and it fascinates me to unravel the tangled threads in my brain. It’s never too late to learn how to love myself better.

Author Jason Lee

Loving an Emotionally Unavailable Mother

I never knew what a happy, healthy family model looked like. When I started my own family, I led based only on what I learned growing up that happiness at home is earned through hard work, and being accomplished through the day. I remember growing up, there was a small wooden wall decor in our kitchen that read, “One should be rewarded by his deeds, not his needs.”

Continue reading “Loving an Emotionally Unavailable Mother”

Me and My Shadow (Shadow Work)

The healing journey can sometimes feel ever so daunting. The dance of taking two steps forward, one step back, or ten steps forward, eleven steps back can feel like you’re spinning in circles with no end in sight. At the beginning of each session with my therapist, she proudly encourages me to look how far I’ve come along. And she’s right.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had no clue what mental health, healing and self-compassion meant. The words energy or blockage was all woo-woo lingo to me. Law of attraction and manifestations only existed in sci-fi movies. And shadow work had no place in my vocabulary. Yes, I’ve come a long ways.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the terms shadow work, which in lay person’s term is accepting all traits of oneself. There’s no good, nor bad parts to us, just One. When we are whole, we love and accept what many would see as negative traits. For most of us who experienced a form of childhood trauma, fear, insecurity and doubt, are undoubtedly going to exist in our lives. I’ve learned that the hard way of struggling to accept my past. But when we accept that these are parts of us, we liberate ourselves from feeling shame. For myself, accepting that I can be afraid, I can be insecure and I can have doubts hasn’t been easy. The world sees those traits as negative or bad. They can be, if we act on them. But we can own them by being responsible for those feelings. Whenever we get that twitch of discomfort (aka resistance), we can say to ourselves, I’m feeling fear again! Or yes, it’s seems silly, but I am feeling insecure.

What many of us are afraid of is judgement when we own these parts of us. The truth is, everyone feels a level of insecurity. Everyone feels a level of fear. For those who deny it, are in fact disowning their shadow.

For those who experienced trauma, we might have the belief system that subconsciously says I don’t matter. I had a lightbulb moment that I worked on with my therapist this past year. I have an addiction to the belief that I don’t matter. It sounds strange to have an addiction to a negative belief system, but it’s true. With my childhood experiences of not experiencing a consistent, loving and safe home and being bullied, it was inevitible that I would generate the belief that I don’t matter. As an adult, that belief is my default thought because it’s what I’ve always known about myself. Ironically, it feels familiar, comforting and safe. Thus, I’ve been addicted to the feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety, which is linked to that pesky belief that I don’t matter.

Whenever I feel a trigger, I work extra hard to remind myself that I’m addicted to the belief that I don’t matter. (Triggers are a positive sign to remind myself to turn inward and evaluate my shadow). This gives me some extra time to process what my shadow is telling me, and that I need to own that part of me (whether I’m feeling insecure, fearful, upset, hurt, etc).

We cannot get rid of our shadow. That’s not the goal. The objective is to accept all parts of ourselves, and integrate it as part of who we are. I’ve struggled in my life. I grew up in an abusive home growing up, I was bullied and shamed. I grew up and generated a lot of fear inside me, self-doubt, and insecurities. But, that’s OK! That’s the reality of my life and I must love all parts of myself, and realize none of it was ever my fault. Yet, I lead a fulfilling life today as a blogger, author and mental health speaker, and happily in a relationship with a lovely woman who is accepting, loyal and kind. When I struggle at times in the relationship with my insecurities (which does happen!), I need to reset myself and turn inwards to my shadow and ask myself, do I believe that I don’t matter?

My therapist asked me a very powerful and deep question the other day. She asked, What if your purpose was to go through everything you’ve gone through, in order to learn what you’ve learned (because you’ve learned A LOT!) and to share it with the World?

I sat there, floored and speechless. What if all of us who experienced trauma are supposed to learn and share our wisdom of self to the World?

She could very well be right.

Come meet me virtually during my upcoming free event at the Surrey Public Library:

Wednesday Sept 15, 2021 (6 – 7pm PST)

To learn more about Shadow Work, here’s a great video by a Shadow Work therapist, Tess Mcmechan:

Authors Among Us

It’s been four years since Living with the Dragon was published and I’m both delighted and honored to be invited to share my stories and inspirations behind my best-selling book. On Wednesday September 15, 2021 from 6 – 7pm (PST), I’ll take the time to also reflect back on my book and contrast it to where I’m at today, with some excerpts both from LwtD and my second book, Living with the Cat.

Registration is required via the Surrey Public library.

The event is free and will be online via MS Teams.

On Friendships and Getting Older

When I was a young boy growing up, I used to think my parents were old. They, along with their friends, my aunts and uncles were all old to me. I looked at them as people who were on a different playing field than me. They were serious and no fun. They laughed at things I didn’t think were funny at all. They’d sit together in the livingroom and talk about old people stuff, like what “so-and-so” was up to these days, World news or work. Dad would be always trading tips with his best friend Lewis about fixing cars and patch up work for our homes. Boring stuff to me. I had bigger fish to fry, and way more important things to think about like what my Saturday morning cartoon lineup was going to be and what I was going to build with my Lego set this week; a shopping mall? a school? a skyscraper? Oh, Life’s big decisions.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

Just yesterday, I went out with my good friend Melba. That’s not her real name, but I’m sort of guessing you figured that out already. I’ve known Melba for about 12 years now. We went for nice hike yesterday and ended the evening on a patio at a local pub, catching up on our lives and latest aspirations. She cooly reminded me how in a matter of weeks, she would be turning 40. I flinched, while sipping on my Pinot Grigio and retorted, How did that happen?

In the 12 years of knowing Melba, I’ve experienced many fun memories with her. She’s been my activity partner in those dozen years, and her quirky sense of humor’s always been a welcomed bonus to our friendship. We’ve taken long roadtrips together, exploring off the beaten path towns and visiting States along the West Coast. We’ve done so many activities together that I can’t help but reflect back on: snowboarding, hiking, backcountry camping, dining, and tennis. We’ve watched musicals and attended live hockey games together, cheering on our favorite teams and making silly bets which I would lose more often times than not. We played basketball together and were a part of a ball hockey league entering in tournaments for several years. Heck, we even tried sandboarding on the Oregon coast once. I’d get the text from Melba, Hey Jason, what are you up to tomorrow? Wanna try…

It was a friendship that I knew would last the test of time. One built on respect and admiration.

So when she told me she was turning 40 in a few weeks, not only did I flinch, but I also said to myself, that’s not old at all! I’m inching to half a century in a couple of years and likewise, I don’t think of myself as old, and the way I used to think of my parents. We sat on the patio last night chatting like we did a dozen years ago, and I’m watching her polish off her beef dip, fries and pint of beer, whilst still managing her slender frame. Ya, though time’s passed, things haven’t changed.

Time is inconsequential, and as I reflect on many of my other friendships over the years, most of them have remained strong. We pick up where we last left off, even if it’s been a long time of not seeing each other. I got together with an old high school buddy of mine last week as well, and likewise, I could still feel the nostaligia of our bond. I could still feel the two of us playing NHL hockey on his Sega Genesis gaming console in his bedroom when we were in high school. I could still remember and feel the warmth and inviting feelings of dropping by his house, always greeted by his sweet mother, who’d offer me cake every time I visited.

In this last thaw of the pandemic, I look forward with excitement in getting together again with my other friends. They’ve been an important part of me, prior to Covid and to be honest, I’ve missed them. And I look forward to catching up with them, reminiscing about our friendships together, and how so much time has passed, yet it feels like we were all just in our twenties and thirties again. We don’t feel old at all.

And in the words of Jon Bon Jovi, I’m not old, just older.

Listen to this on Spotify!

Jason Lee, Author