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Blog #11: Is That Working for You?

Updated: 6 days ago

One of the best tricks that you will ever learn--and nobody will ever teach you--is how to figure out what you're doing RIGHT! You may know every detail of what you've done wrong, but not what you're already doing right. If this is a new way to look at yourself, you may want to try another approach. This type of self reflection can open many doors that you thought were closed forever. So, stop standing in your own way with deficit thinking. Instead, use these insights to become the person that you want to be.....


The first way to start figuring out what you're doing right is to use a little bit of self-reflection. So, how do you do this? The dictionary defines self-reflection as: "the activity of thinking about your own feelings and behavior, and the reasons that may lie behind them" (Cambridge English Dictionary, n.d.) This is when you take the time and energy to dig deep into your thoughts, motivations, and emotions. In other words, you're trying to figure out for yourself exactly why you do the things you do. (, 2023). It's a process of self-awareness where you think about yourself on a physical, emotional, or mental level (Habash, 2022). Don't worry--it's a lot easier than it sounds!

When you're practicing self-reflection, either by yourself or with someone else, you're looking for patterns in your daily life. These patterns can be about how you relate to others or how you feel about certain people, places, or things. It can be finding what triggers certain feelings in your life. It's also figuring out for yourself what works for you and what doesn't. The resources below can give you many ideas about how to develop such self-awareness, but they all boil down to four basic components: a) looking at a problem or situation, b) thinking about it, c) describing to yourself what you've learned, and d) planning what to do differently or in the same way (, n.d.).

Here's a few examples to illustrate the process for you. How many times have you been passed over for a promotion for work? Why do you keep getting stuck in the same relationships over and over? What makes you feel really happy? What makes you feel really frustrated or angry? When were the times that you felt really proud of yourself? What were the situations that you needed just a little more help to be successful? What is a goal that you've been secretly wanting to do for years, but you don't know how to do it? So, let's get curious and see why you do what you do and how that can make your life better.


There are lots of benefits of self-reflection that you may never have thought about. First, let's get practical. You don't need any training to do it, just some guidance from any of the resources listed below. It doesn't cost a thing and can be done anytime or anywhere. You can do it by yourself or with someone else. It is a valuable skill that is flexible to use at any stage of your life. Once you become comfortable with self-reflection, you'll find it is one of the most powerful tools to solve problems both about and not related to your disability.

Second, you won't believe the benefits you can get from such a simple practice as self-reflection (Nagelsen, 2021); Ruiz, 2022). Cultivating such self awareness can: a) get you "unstuck" when you've at a dead end or are digging yourself into a big hole; b) allow you to gain perspective so you don't repeat the same thing or mistake over and over; c) help you to get back on track at work, at home, or at school if you feel you're losing your way; d) clarifies the results and consequences of your responses or reactions, so you can become a more effective employee, student, family member or friend; and e) encourages overall greater learning and understanding of complex issues, emotions, and situations (, 2023).

But, I think the most significant benefit of self-reflection is that it can keep you from always over-reacting in your everyday life. I don't know about you, but some of the worst decisions that I've ever made were impulsive reactions to a problem. For instance, someone says something to me that just triggers my impatience, anger or frustration. Then, I say something that I wish I hadn't said or do something that I will regret later. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?" Are you are a reactor? Do you find yourself acting impulsively too often? If so, self-reflection can keep you from going down the wrong road, saying destructive things, or making the wrong decision again and again.


As you can see from above, the main benefit of using self-reflection is that it helps you to figure out for yourself what works and what doesn't. However, once you start self-reflecting, you might find a disturbing trend that I've seen with many folks with LD or dyslexia. They often are their own worst enemies! For instance, how many times have you thought: "If only I made more money....or lived in a different place...or went back to school full time....or wasn't in this relationship...., I'd be happy." We all do that from time to time, as it's easy to blame someone or something for the things in life that drive us crazy. But, there's another factor that creeps into the thoughts of folks with non-apparent disabilities like LD and dyslexia. It's called "deficit thinking"--and you may have been living with it for years and not even know it.....

Deficit thinking is a model that is being explored in educational circles as a way to understand the negative expectations and biases surrounding minority and low-income students (Heinbach, Mitola, & Rinto, 2021; Reed, 2020; UNLV, 2021; Wakefield, 2021). Reed (2020) sums it up nicely by saying that "deficit thinking blames students for their shortcomings". Waketech (2021) concludes that: "Deficit thinking can lead educators to assuming disadvantaged or marginalized students [also read 'students with disabilities'] will do poorly in their classes".

This is an interesting theory, but how does it specifically apply to folks with LD or dyslexia? These scholars are clear that deficit thinking leads to blaming yourself for something that you have no control over. And, what don't you have control over? Your LD or dyslexia. You also won't have any control over how others judge you in everyday situations. For instance, adults with LD or dyslexia have told me over and over that someone would see them as "normal" and then judge them as "stupid" or "lazy" because they didn't do something correctly or didn't meet others' expectations. How many times at work or school or home, has someone judged you immediately because you couldn't read as fast or organize your desk or tell others quickly what you're thinking? How many times have you felt like an idiot or been embarrassed because you couldn't get a joke or play a game as well as your brothers or sisters? All of that is deficit thinking and it quickly becomes a poison that shapes you, because other's negative judgements and expectations become the script for your everyday life.

So, what's the opposite of deficit thinking? One of my favorite quotes says, "It's not a deficit. And you don't need to fix it"? (UNLV, 2021). What if after all of these years, you don't need to fix your LD? What if your dyslexia isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy that means you will always fail or struggle to be like everyone else? What if your invisible disability isn't a "deficit" but just part of who you are--like the color of your hair or your eyes or that you love pizza but hate anchovies? If you stop using deficit thinking as the lens to view your life, you can finally see yourself as you really are: an adult with lots of great attributes as well as hurdles in your life. Instead of constantly trying to make amends for what you don't do well or trying to be "normal", you can focus on what you're already doing right. The Scenarios and the Tips below will get you started.


A) SITUATIONS AT SCHOOL: Everyone in Bob's family has always been involved in their family law practice. Bob has hung around the office since childhood, where he dreamed of having his own office within the firm. To achieve that goal, his parents sent him to a prestigious, private college to prepare him for law school. But Bob struggled with reading and writing due to his LD. He constantly needed both private and in-school tutoring to pass his classes. Bob's listening skills and his ability to think out-side of the box will make him a wonderful lawyer. However, how can he pass his classes first so he can get into law school?

As Bob pondered his dilemma, he recalled talking to an excellent counselor in the College Disability Office. She had arranged tutoring and extra time for tests for him before--could she help again? When Bob went to see her, she suggested auditing a few critical classes first to understand key vocabulary and important concepts. She also arranged for a summer internship with the College law office, where Bob could get more advice and find a mentor to help him be successful in law school. Bob walked out feeling he finally had a chance to achieve his dream.

B) FAMILY/WORK RELATIONSHIPS: Carol's mother-in-law drives her crazy. Carol loves her husband Jabari dearly, and is very fond of his brothers and sisters. However, she has never really connected with his mother, Imani, who is constantly telling Jabari that he married the wrong woman. The rest of the family puts up with Imani's nastiness and criticism by ignoring her and not getting involved in her dramatics. They tell Carol to do the same thing, but Carol just can't seem to do that. She has come to really dread family get-togethers.

Carol was recently surprised to find that a newly hired co-worker at her school is just like Imani. She makes negative snap judgements and has said some nasty and critical comments about Carol's teaching ability to others in the break room. (Carol reads very slowly with poor memory and fluency skills, due to her learning disability.) Carol's first reaction was to respond just as she has with Imari; with anger, hurt feelings, and resentment. Then, she decided to try what her in-laws suggested--just ignore her! Carol also decided to take care of herself by figuring out what triggered her anger and resentment. She then set a clear boundary to protect herself by: a) ignoring the triggers, b) changing the subject, c) not feeding the drama, or d) leaving the room entirely. After doing this, Carol felt so much better and was even able to be polite to her co-worker. Would the same things work with her mother-in-law?

C) MONEY MATTERS: Mateo is the first person in his family to graduate from college--a fact which makes him proud whenever he thinks of it. That's the good news; the bad news is that he has over $40,000 in student loans to repay. Despite his successful job as a Veterinary Technician, he still lives at home and can barely pay his bills. He clearly has dug himself into a big hole and can't figure a way out.

As Mateo worried about what to do next, he remembered advice from his Aunt Gloria who also had dyslexia. Given his poor reading, writing, and spelling skills, Mateo told her he would never become a Veterinarian or go to college. She told him to stop being silly and do what she did. First, be prepared to work twice as hard everyday. Second, plan, plan, plan with clear, concrete steps towards his goal. Well, that worked in college--why wouldn't it work again to get out of debt?

Mateo looked online for advice about how to pay off his student loans and developed a plan (i.e., signing up for automatic debit at his bank; always paying more than the minimum payment; and using his small tax refund to pay ahead). He also made a new budget and got a second job right away to chip away at the debt one paycheck at a time. He made the biggest payments he could, at least doubling the minimum every month. Mateo stuck to his budget and was able to pay off his loan completely in 2 1/2 years. Aunt Gloria's advice worked again!

Tips and Tricks


Feedback is a powerful tool to use as part of the self-reflection process. As Podcast #8 explains, feedback can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. You may want to hear it or not, but it definitely gives you lots of worthwhile information for self-reflection and re-framing (Metasolutions, 2021). For instance, it's your reaction that makes a difference--just look at Carol and Scenario B above.

As the scenario explains, Carol is frequently irritated and upset by her mother-in-law's personal, critical comments. She clearly would love to have a warm relationship with someone who is so important to Jabari and his family. But, it seems that's not going to happen. However, when she encountered the same situation again with her co-worker, she remembered her family's advice. This feedback proved to be just what she needed at work. It could also go a long way to healing the resentment and anger that Carol felt for her mother-in-law. Listening to her family's comments became a key to helping her move forward both at home and at school. This may work for you as well. Sometimes, just talking to someone else that you trust will give you insights that you would never think of by yourself. Try it in your own life and see if it happens for you.


Here's another, simple way to figure out what you're already doing right. Did you ever do any selling? Perhaps, you sat at a card table in front of the local grocery store and sold candy or cupcakes for the school basketball team. Maybe, you worked at the mall selling jeans. But, no matter what you sold, you were doing it for someone else's profit. Now, let's do the same thing for you!

Sometimes to truly understand what you've been doing right, you need to stand back and look at the big picture. You need to think about what you already have--and how to package that into just exactly what someone else wants. For instance, most people, either with or without disabilities, work hard to sell themselves when they are interviewing for a job. Or, they try to craft the perfect resume to get someone to pay attention to all they have to offer. They know they only have a few minutes to convince an employer that they are a valuable commodity for this job or situation. So, how does this apply to you?

Let's say, you're not looking for a job right now, but you want to make a change in your life. Maybe, you're like Bob in Scenario A. He really, really wants to be part of the family law firm someday. Yet, he has problems passing his college classes so he can move on to law school. As his disability counselor explained to him, he needs to work with a mentor to network, get internships, and learn how to sell himself. He also needs to re-write his self-image from a struggling student to a future lawyer who would be an asset to any firm with his motivation, fine listening skills and creative problem-solving abilities. As the resources given below underscore, he needs to "sell" himself (ADD MORE HERE, Parker, 2022).

Bob can put himself on a new positive track by "selling" himself. As the website suggests, he can be more confident and persistent. He can try not to not be boring. He can also offer a solution to fill the "buyer's" need and work on non-verbal communication (Parker, 2022). Can this work for you too? Try it by picking a goal for yourself and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is really interesting about you?

  • What do you want people to focus on first when they meet you?

  • What exactly do you want them to know?

  • What do you bring to the table that nobody else does?

Answering any, or all, of these questions first helps you sell yourself so someone else will buy into your dream and want to help you achieve it. For instance, if you want a better job, a larger bank account, an outstanding education, a more fulfilling relationship, or just something different in your life, try becoming a better sales-person. Selling yourself can give you valuable clues and support to reveal what you're already doing right.


Moving in a new direction and learning to see yourself in a new light can be a risky proposition. I've noticed that, especially folks with LD or dyslexia, are used to seeing themselves negatively. They know what they have always done wrong--but what about doing something right? That concept is unfamiliar and daunting to think about. However, keeping a diary, an artifact file, or creating a personal portfolio can ease the process by giving you concrete PROOF that you're moving in the right direction. Tackling Tip #3 will give you new insights about yourself that you never dreamed of before

One of the oldest--and still most reliable ways to do this process is by writing these insights down. Journaling is often extremely helpful to keep you going in this new, productive direction (Permanente, 2020). Perhaps, the main advantage of journaling is that it is a daily, physical reminder that reminds you of your progress and goals. (Note: We've already talked about journaling in the first three Podcasts. For more information, please check those out.)

Perhaps, you may want to take a more dynamic approach by creating a personal portfolio. Making such an online record of your achievements is very satisfying, plus it gives you visible proof of who you are and what you've done. Most folks use personal portfolios as resumes to sell themselves for a particular job or career. You can take this one step further to document and highlight people, places, things or activities that you are proud of--or just make you smile.

A third variation of Tip #3 is to create an artifact file for yourself. This is a collection of pictures, documents, or other items that have special meaning for you. They will underline again what you've done right in your life. Examples in your file could be: a collar or toys from a treasured pet; a medal or trophy from a sport you love; pictures of children or relatives; your college diploma; pictures of your first home; notes from your favorite job; and so forth. Any, or all of these things, will bring back happy memories and help you see what you've done right (e.g., getting that mortgage for your first home, struggling to finish college, being responsible for pets or family members, etc). This would also be a great idea for Mateo. What would make him smile more than to go back and look at payment records for his school loan? Getting that final pay-off notice would be a special achievement!


Sometimes the necessary feedback to help you think in different ways about yourself is already right in front of you. It just involves using your observation skills. For instance, have you ever said something and then watched the expression on someone else's face? Did you ever do something and get a reaction you didn't expect? Observing how others in your everyday life respond to you can be a great way to get clues about what is working for you and what isn't. Tip #4 shows you the steps to use other people as a mirror.

Take a few minutes for a couple of days observing, thinking about, and then describing to yourself how various people react to you. For instance, do most people seek you out to talk to or do they ignore you? Are they listening to you and nodding their heads with good eye contact or are they distracted and thinking of something else? Do they include you in social gatherings? Do they laugh at your jokes? Are they interested in you and your goals and dreams? Do they treat you with kindness and respect? Any, or all, of these reactions will give you important clues about how you relate to others everyday--and of equal importance, how they relate to you. Remember, you're taking the back seat here not to respond, but to look instead for patterns and reaction consistency. Here's a good website to get you thinking in this mindframe....

Once you find a few patterns, such as "people really listen when I talk" or "I'm amazed how much my family depends on me", then go the next step. Validate these ideas by asking someone you really trust if they agree with you. For instance, you could start by saying, "Lately, I've been thinking about myself. I think I'm pretty dependable. What do you think?" or "I believe I'm a really loyal friend. Do you agree?" You could also describe yourself as "the first one to volunteer for anything" or "the one who solves problems that drive others crazy".

Other things to think about are: your kindness, your empathy towards others, your creativity, your patience, your deep concern for others, your ability to make people comfortable around you, or your strong sense of social justice. Any, or all, of these traits are definitely things you are doing RIGHT! They clearly are valuable characteristics that will make you a winner at home, at work, or at school. Now's the time to celebrate them and pat yourself on the back.....




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