What is your attachment style?

Ever wonder why you are the way you are? ME TOO. ALL THE TIME. And now thanks to covid, I have even more time to ruminate on my personality. 

Also thanks to covid, I now have a fresh supply of anxiety. Knowing more about psychology helps me manage my anxiety. 

Now I can be like, “that’s just my story pattern. I don’t actually need to fret.”

What is a story pattern? Thanks for asking! (I knew you would :))

To understand that, first we need to talk about attachment styles. Everyone falls into one of these three categories:

  • Secure Attachment
  • Anxious Attachment
  • Avoidant Attachment

If your parents were predictable with their love, encouraging, and validated your emotions, you’re one of the lucky ones who has a secure attachment style! You most likely believe the world is a safe place and you’re not afraid to take risks in love or life, since you came equipped with a secure foundation.

If your parents were unpredictable, hot and cold with their emotions, you may have an anxious attachment style. Since you never knew how the people you loved were going to react, you may be a little anxious. In relationships, it shows up as neediness. The anxious partner frequently looks for reassurance, since they learned early on that feelings can change rapidly. When reassurance isn’t given, anxious attachers can get demanding/angry in their desperation to know their partner won’t unexpectedly leave them.

If you ever got the vibe growing up that it’s not okay to talk about emotions and that emotions are a weakness, you may be an avoidant attacher. Avoiders may have trouble giving comfort to others or understand why they are ‘so emotional’. They have trouble being vulnerable and try to stuff their emotions down. Their challenge is to see that emotions are a normal part of life and not something to be ashamed of.

Ok, now I’m going to take things up a notch. If you ever wonder why you fight with anyone, it’s probably because they are pushing the button on your “story pattern”

In life, we may have had some struggles or traumas. Maybe your parents divorced, maybe they always blamed you for things, maybe you were bullied at school. These struggles can form ‘patterns’.

For example, if your parents weren’t attentive, you can repeat the story of “lonely child” if your friends don’t want to hang out (it repeats, hence it is a pattern).

Realizing that the enemy is the pattern, not your friends, is the tricky part. Naming your pattern and recognizing when it pops up is the key!

Once you recognize your pattern, you can swoop in with some loving self-compassion. “It was so hard when I was lonely as a child. Just because my friends are busy this weekend doesn’t mean they are abandoning me.”

Trust Yourself

My previous boss said I let everything knock me over. She was right. I had so little faith in myself and my abilities that any hiccup sent me flying off my mountain. She said I had all the skills, all the knowledge, and I was really good at my job- I only needed to trust in myself.

When you are compassionate with yourself, you will also begin to trust yourself more, because you know you can handle whatever comes your way. Bad things will always happen, but being able to soothe yourself in these situations will keep you pushing forward and trying new things. You know you’ll catch yourself when you fall.

For a long time, I didn’t draw. If I created anything less than perfect, it would damage my ego and identity as an artist, therefore it was easier to not create. Sounds silly, I know. Many of us do something similar in order to avoid ‘failure’ and damage to our identity. Perhaps you procrastinate, because if you never accomplish anything then no one can blame you for doing a bad job. Our fear of failure, of not living up to expectations, of not being perfect all prevent us from doing something truly great.

How it would feel to turn something in on time, knowing you did your best? Anything less than your best is still a way of hiding and protecting yourself; let self compassion can be your new armor. If anyone is displeased with your best effort, you can use self compassion to comfort yourself. “This is really hard. It hurts to hear criticism, but I know I did my best so I’m proud of myself.”

Benefits of Self Compassion

I am usually quite hard on myself. I half-jokingly refer to myself as a “nervous pervous” for no reason other than it rhymes and it’s a cute way to say I am heckin’ anxious. 

Last year, I thought I was doing better. I was being nicer to myself. Then a giant sledgehammer called COVID goofed up my hard-earned equilibrium. Though I didn’t know it last year, I realize now that what I was starting to do is called self compassion.

During this time of stress and loneliness, self compassion is vital.

Whenever I am worried about something like “omg, is society collapsing?” I comfort myself by saying, “It is normal to worry about your health and safety during this stressful time. Even if this time is tumultuous and the future is uncertain, mankind has lived for thousands of years. We will make it through, even if we can’t determine what the future holds.”

Though I don’t always remember to do this, it does prevent me from having a straight up panic attack on a day to day basis.

As I mentioned in my Cats + Mental Health series, treat yourself like you would a kitten, because no one can be mean to a kitten. And you shouldn’t be mean to yourself either!

In Western culture, we like to punish ourselves in order to ‘motivate’ ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you read Kristen Neff’s book, you can see all the studies she did that prove that people who are self compassionate are actually MORE effective at accomplishing their goals, because they aren’t afraid to fail. They aren’t going to punish themselves if and when they fail, so they don’t need to be afraid. They realize everyone fails sometimes, and failure is not connected to self worth. What better reason do you need to be nice to yourself?

After years of ‘punishing’ and ‘motivating’ yourself, it can be hard to believe that you are allowed to be nice to yourself. It can feel selfish. But again, would you say such mean things to your best friend? To a child? To a kitten? I hope not! 

Even if you believe it’s selfish, hear me out: whether you punish yourself or are nice to yourself, the end result is the same. Your actions will be the same. So would you rather feel anxious or compassionate?

If it’s too hard to ‘talk to yourself’ at first, imagine your best friend saying kind words to you when you need them. Your friend believes you are worthy of kindness, and it’s true.

And if you are more motivated by being compassionate to others, here’s another twist: if you are nice to yourself, you will be nicer to others.

I used to be critical of myself, therefore I was critical of others. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, or why it was happening. I tried so hard not to ‘slip up’. Any failure of mine reflected directly on my self worth, so failure had to be avoided at all costs. Whenever I saw someone else ‘slipping up’, I would be quick to judge, because I judged myself so harshly. “How dare they get away with failing! I try so hard not to fail lest someone point out my shortcomings, so no one else is allowed to mess up without being berated!” was essentially my thought process. I would be so angry that no one came down on them as hard as I came down on myself. When you accept yourself and are kind to yourself, you will do the same to others.

Next time you ‘fail’, remember that all humans make mistakes, and you’re okay. Imagine a family member or friend saying exactly what you need to hear in that moment. Be gentle with yourself, you are worthy.

Find Novelty During Quarantine

Wow, has it been 6 months already?? How are we all doing?

The only thing keeping me going right now is novelty- in order to not go crazy during quarantine, I have to keep finding new things to do, eat, watch, etc. No matter how trivially new, it still counts! For example, this week I tried a new brand of sparkling water. It was really exciting.

Does anyone else have stages of quarantine resemble mine?

March: OMG!! What is happening? The world is ending!!

April: I thought last month was boring?? This month is REALLY boring. Time to do some crafts that I’ve put off.

May: Wow, still going! Maybe I’ll start hiking all the state parks I’ve never been to.

June: Yay, it’s summer! Now I can do socially distant picnics outside, and the virus will dissipate!

July: Okay, so I’ve been everywhere within 2 hours of the Twin Cities. I’ve done so many socially distant picnics that I’ve run out of kebab recipes. Time to catch up on some reading!

August: Oh no. Winter is coming. I’ve exhausted everything I’ve wanted to do. Time to get a Hulu subscription.

September: ???

We’re all in the same boat, so I don’t have much insight to give, but hopefully I can offer some inspiration.

What to do when you’ve exhausted all quarantine activities:

  1. Play nostalgic video games (Phoenix Wright)
  2. Watch lots of anime (Sergeant Frog, One Punch Man)
  3. Watch nostalgic movies (Twilight, Harry Potter)
  4. Read nostalgic books (Twilight, Harry Potter)
  5. Read new books (Midnight Sun)
  6. Learn all those new skills you’ve been putting off (Graphic Design)
  7. Bake recipes from the Great British Baking Show
  8. Pick an international cookbook and make international dishes
  9. Buy yourself different brands of fancy chocolate truffles
  10. Buy 10 different kinds of tea to try

Every month I hit a metaphorical wall, and every month I manage to pass through it. It takes some creativity, grit, and making even the smallest things interesting. Even if it is as simple as buying a different flavor of La Croix., treat yourself to something new. Check out as many DVDs as you can from the library. And go down the YouTube rabbit hole and learn new things!