Promises, Promises

by Jenn (eating bender) on April 13, 2012


Recently I took an assessment called StrengthsFinder 2.0. It’s a fantastic tool that I would recommend for anyone looking to confirm their most apparent and valuable attributes. None of the 29 themes that the test identifies are better or worse than the others. They are simply me (or you). And a very accurate portrayal of me, I might add.

The exciting part about having this information are the ideas and action steps that follow as a result. You will learn more about who you are, why it matters and how you can use that information to your advantage in both your work and personal life.

Here are five important things I learned about myself:

  1. I am futuristic. I find a lot of inspiration in the future and what could be. I think in terms of possibilities, which at times can make it easier to recover from setbacks and struggles.
  2. I am a maximizer. I place a high value on excellence – the idea that anything I do should be not just good, but great. As a result, I am more likely to capitalize on my strengths than focus on improving weaknesses.
  3. I hold strong to my beliefs. I have a set of unwavering core values that defines who I am and how I approach life. I tend to make binding commitments, such as those I have to family, close friends and specific causes.
  4. I am responsible. I take great care to ensure that if I make a promise, I see it through. Should something go wrong, I will do what it takes to make it right. Honesty and loyalty are very important to me.
  5. I cherish positivity. I am positive by default. My glass is always half full, and I strive to maintain my optimism, both for myself and for others. I see it as my job to encourage others to carry on when the going gets tough.

I agree with the test’s assessment of me. All of the above is true. I am always daydreaming about the future, utilizing my strengths and avoiding weaknesses. I stick to my values, so much so that it is sometimes to a fault and leads me to judge other people’s decisions unfairly (I’m working on that).

I am also the biggest optimist you’ll ever meet. This is extremely helpful in stressful situations where I am the one under duress. I am able to convince myself that everything is going to turn out OK pretty easily, which is why I think, for the most part, it usually does. Positive attitude leads to positive things in life, in my opinion.

My instinctual reaction when other people are stressed is to lay the positivity on them, as well. This doesn’t work out well when people are not inherently optimistic – they tend to see me as just some sunshine- and rainbow-loving annoyance. But with those people who are simply looking for reassurance, my positive nature works out well.

Then there’s responsibility. Oh, it’s true that honesty and loyalty are important to me. It’s true that if I make a promise to someone, whether in work or in my personal life, I will do what it takes to see that promise through. I will work late nights, skip workouts, spare every minute I can to make everyone happy.

Everyone, that is, except myself. And here is where the problem comes in.

Because the reality is that sometimes, my responsibility to others makes me irresponsible to me – and my responsibility to others makes me break my own promises. What a hypocrite I am.

True, I feel genuine happiness when I am able to help someone else work through a problem or deliver on something that improves their life, whether it’s a freelance article, social media strategy or a long, detailed email about the greatest restaurants and sights to check out on an upcoming vacation. Whatever the request is, I won’t be fully satisfied until I achieve it for them.

But what might satisfy me in the interpersonal realm can often leave me personally drained.

My tendency to over commit to others makes me under commit to improving myself.

There is one area of my life in particular where this has become a big issue lately: writing. I made a promise to myself a little more than two months ago that I would write 1,000-2,000 words per day. On this track, my manuscript would be completed by my birthday on May 9. It should have been an easy promise, one that I could accomplish even if the words I wrote turned out to be complete nonsense. At least I would have written them.

Now here I am, less than a month away from my birthday and failing myself miserably.

At the end of the day, I know that my inability to sit down and write is my problem. But shouldn’t my self-proclaimed strength be kicking in at this point, telling me to go into emergency mode? “Should something go wrong, I will do what it takes to make it right.” That’s what the StrengthsFinder book says. That’s what I believe to be true about myself when it comes to others. So why can’t I pass along the love and “at all costs” mentality to myself?

I’m afraid I don’t know the answer.

So this is where I’m at. There is no “happy ending” or resolution for me right now.

In fact, the whole reason for writing this post was to both vent my frustration (and where better to do so than in a public forum…?) and to ask for your advice.

Some of you may be as bad at keeping promises to yourself as I am. I hear you. But I know there must be others out there who have found a way to balance the inclination to give ourselves away with the necessity of being just a little bit selfish (in a good way) once in a while.

Tell me:

How do you ensure that you keep promises you’ve made to yourself?

I need all the help I can get.


1 emily (a nutritionist eats) April 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I definitely am going to take that test – I love tests like that.
I typically make lists and even if I have to add something everyday, I’m still thinking about it.
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2 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

You will have to let me know what you think when you do! I’m a list girl, too. I have lists for my lists…and because I am a bit of what I like to call “disorganized chaos,” I sometimes lose them. And my mind. 😉

3 Michelle April 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I just took that test today for a leadership training I’m attending next week. It was definitely interesting to read about my top 5 & how accurately they describe me.

4 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Very cool, Michelle! I think this was one of the most accurate tests I’ve taken, if only for the level of detail provided with each of the five themes.

5 Julie April 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Oh oh! I want to take that test! I love things like that haha true story that I filled out the eharmony personality profile just for the personality part not for the dating hahaha reasons why I’m single? I suck at keep promises to myself unless it’s something I know is super important to me or some I know I HAVE to get done! Btw you need to read 50 shades of grey put down all your books now and GET TO IT.
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6 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Your comment cracked me up! I love that you love these personality tests as much as I do. :) And thank you for the kick in the booty on 50 Shades of Grey. I’m ordering it on Amazon today thanks to your encouragement. And that’s a PROMISE!!

7 Kate April 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm

This really struck a chord with me, Jenn. In fact, I literally just finished writing about it. I have no problem committing to things that are important to me – my husband, friends, family, career – but when it comes to ME, I struggle. A lot. Especially right now. But I’m finding that writing about it helps, and I’m thinking it could help you too. Ironic, I know, since that’s part of the promise you’re trying to make to yourself. But rather than focus on what you’re “supposed” to be writing, just let it be stream-of-conscious. You might find that flows right into your goal. Don’t let your birthday “deadline” become something you dread. Just try to keep using it as inspiration and proof that you can commit to something that’s just for you! I have no doubt you can do this.
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8 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Thank you so much, Kate. I think this is amazing advice, and exactly what I needed to hear right now. I get so caught up in the pressure of writing what I’m “supposed” to that I end up writing nothing at all. And yet, I was able to write this post yesterday because I literally just matched words on “paper” with what I was thinking and feeling. Your support, motivation and faith in me truly means a lot. Please know that I am going to take your advice to heart and see where it leads me!

9 natalie (the sweets life) April 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

i love the strengthsfinder test–i think it’s really accurate and helpful!

10 Jenn (eating bender) April 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Awesome – I’m so glad you’ve taken it, too! It really is one of the best (if not the best) assessments I’ve ever done.

11 Susan April 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Me again! haha. Well, you know how much I love my StrengthsFinder and other assessments. I’m sure your MBTI preferences would shed some light on the promises issue, too…that’s the career counselor in me talking. I sometimes find it helpful to have an accountabilibuddy (a la South Park…haha) who I can ask to check with me every now and again to see how something is going. I guess it’s a way of using responsibility to others as something that works for you. :)

12 Jenn (eating bender) April 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I love that you found a way to speak to me with a South Park reference! You know me well. :) Seriously, though, the way you framed the “accountabilibuddy” is so smart. I never put it into the context of using my responsibility to others (via checking in) as something that helps me, but it completely makes sense. There’s a reason you’re a career counselor, Susan! Thank you. (And I may be calling upon you to keep me accountable!)

13 Melanee April 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

You so speak my language! And my birthday is ten days after yours, so I’ve been considering my own birthday goals too and what has contributed to my success or lack thereof.

So… Here’s my recent a-ha. I sat in my living room doing a little “session” with myself in the area of making healthy food choices. I use emotional acupressure tapping and stream of consciousness writing to balance my goal. As I did so, a single phrase kept coming up that surprised me. It was, “I trust myself.”

I am a person who fundamentally trusts myself. I am undeniably open to new ideas and opinions, and I gather those with joy, but ultimately, I trust my inner guidance system and feel that I make wise decisions.

I realized however, that when it comes to eating out with friends, I am not so sure I will eat only what is good for me. So, I decided to balance myself for trusting myself in these situations too. I didn’t need a fancy affirmation. I did my tapping, and my other brain/body exercises. I imagined myself in various situations, and I said, “I trust myself.” Very powerful for me.

Because I already have experience trusting myself, I blended the emotions of that strength with the area that is just waiting to be strong. Does that make sense? There are simple ways to balance your brain and body system that supercharge your goal, in addition to the traditional visualization and affirmation, but using one strength you already have and blending it with another area of your life is quite fun.

And remember, your ability to honor your personal commitments is a strength that is just waiting to materialize. It will happen for you, I know it. I know it because I’ve been exactly where you are when it comes to helping everyone at all costs and I can now see the other side. On the bright side, you love people from a genuine place. Be kind to yourself about that.

Much cheering and success to you!
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14 Jenn (eating bender) April 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

What a fantastic and thought-provoking comment, Melanee. Cheers to a fellow May birthday. I think your a-ha is incredible and inspiring. I am always interested in the psychological aspects of where motivation and trust in ourselves comes from. I’m going to try your exercise, and I really appreciate the kind words and faith that I will be able to see “the other side” if I keep believing. Being kind to myself is something I am constantly working on, so the reminder was well-timed and very necessary. Thank you, truly, for the support!

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