Jenn Bruer

Excerpt from Helping Effortlessly: a Book of Inspiration and Healing

This book details my personal physical, mental, and spiritual transformation after recovering from burnout.

 “If human emotions largely result from thinking, then one may appreciably control one’s feelings by controlling one’s thoughts —  or by changing the internalized sentences, or self-talk, with which one largely created the feeling in the first place.”  Albert Ellis

If language holds the power to deeply affect the experience of others, then language must also hold power over those who speak it. Our very own language defines our personal experience, not just the language that slips past our lips, but at times even more importantly, the language in our head. That language is the stories we tell ourselves repeatedly, until we begin to feel the wrath of them, and the thoughts that we have been having over and over, until we seemingly have no control over them.   

Vanessa Patrick, a professor of marketing at the University of Houston, discovered that people who merely replaced the words “I can’t” with “I don’t” fared better with behavioural changes. SayingI can’t”denotes a sense of limitation or constraint. Saying “I don’t,”on the other hand, asserts that you are in charge, and that is a powerful shift. 

Try it for yourself and feel the difference.

I can’t buy these shoes because I have no money. I don’t buy shoes until I have money.
I can’t eat sugar because I am on a diet.I don’t eat sugar. 

When you replace inner negative thoughts with encouragement you will be better able to overcome challenges. Small subtle changes always bring life changes. After all, you cannot keep doing what you are doing or you will get the same results. This subtle change allows you to feel less threatened and more inspired and interested in changing.

Chances are, if you feel a sense of disappointment, it’s because your thoughts and expectations about a certain situation have set you up and let you down.  

I have worked hard on this to find peace. I am a deep visionary who often lives in fantasy about how life will look, feel and be. To fulfil my fantasies of a certain situation, I often added expectation and pressure: for example, the many times I have fallen into Pinterest rabbit holes. In the past I would Pinterest “things to do for 14-year old’s birthday,”and envision myself as Martha Stewart. Without working up a sweat, I would easily transform my kitchen into something glorious. The cake would be homemade, there’d be balloons, birthday “cheer,” and everything would match the colour theme.

After years of throwing parties for children, the most important thing I learned was that they didn’t know or appreciate how much work, effort and money went into making those events happen. My efforts rarely, if ever, turned out like the vision. What made the party fun and successful was togetherness. My kids just wanted to be noticed on their birthday, and the vision was less about them than it was about me wanting to be a good mom. I was using those moments to confirm my place in their lives, to affirm my greatness, my love and my worth, especially as it pertained to my role as a mom.  

Another one of my fantasies or expectations as a young mother was to sit by the fire on Christmas Eve and read to my lovely children “T ’was the Night Before Christmas.” As I read to them, they would look up at me, all merry and bright, and we would be sipping eggnog. But that never happened even once. When I attempted to sit by the fire and read, they would fight, poke at me and say, “This book isn’t fun, can we read another book?” I felt mad and upset thinking they didn’t know really wanted this. Quickly I changed my vision, nice as it was. We have seen this in the movies repeatedly: a twinkly, gorgeous vision of Christmas Eve which, of course, isn’t real. 

The media and the movies paint pictures that almost brainwash us into thinking that our marriages must be filled with lust from beginning to end, or it must signal an issue. We’ve been led to believe our birthday parties must be filled with shiny, plastic matching things to celebrate in togetherness, and we must go into debt to really celebrate holidays as a family. These are all lies, but there are more lies in your internal dialogue and your expectations if you look closely enough.  

We all have expectations: what we want out of life and who we want to become. If you could reach a point where you were devoid of expectations, you would never be disappointed.  

Having lower expectations about upcoming experiences allows us to accept the imperfections each situation inevitably has. Having fewer expectations of others allows us to embrace each person’s imperfection. Having fewer expectations of ourselves allows us to embrace that we, too, are flawed.  

Once I became willing to accept people for who they truly are and accept myself for who Itruly am, once I became willing to accept the incoming experiences for what they truly were, I was handed a freedom like I have never known. 

Acceptance is an amazing state of mind. When things do not work out the way we planned, it is so freeing to remember that this is how life works, rather than remaining in a place of frustration. 

So if you want to avoid feeling disappointed, change your expectations. 

A shift always begins with questions. Asking questions allows me to think differently and begs the mind to search for answers. A question begs you to look for solutions and reminds you that you are always learning with every passing day. How can you get answers to anything without first asking questions? 

When you feel your peace of mind disturbed, ask these questions:

Why am I not at peace?

Can I look at this situation differently?  

Can I look at this person differently?

Consider saying “you” instead of “I” because it is easier to ask yourself deep questions in the second person, and it beckons the helper in you to help yourself. It also provides a sense of autonomy and separation from the answers in a less threatening way.

This is the first step on the staircase leading you to your personal power. If you allow this, you’ll be incredibly amazed at the shifts in perception that occur when you become willing to release expectation and see love and possibilities that reside in these shifts. When you focus on giving up the thoughts about how you imagined your life to be, you invite the most loving, truthful you to come forward.  

Picture for a moment the idea of a child being raised without praise, never being told she is doing a good job, only being told she can do better. A child who is only corrected, yelled at and told he isn’t good enough. It’s a chilling thought; it’s dark when you stop and picture it.  

When was the last time you practiced self-praise? That too can be a chilling thought.   

When we were in school learning to be various helpers, many of us were taught about “I messages,” which help our remarks sound less demanding and blaming towards those with whom we are communicating. Of course,I messages”have their place and do a pretty good job at helping identify feelings, but using them too much can fuel the ego and sometimes make us perseverate on our feelings and our entitlements.   

Instead, using the words “we” and “us” will strengthen our teams, our relationships and our sense of belonging. They remind us that our feelings aren’t the only important thing. Using those pronouns will remind us of our significant relationships and can increase our sense of belonging and purpose. They can remind us that we are needed as part of a system – small systems like families and large systems like organizations.  

“Our experiences, our stress, our food, even our thoughts eventually become our biology.” – Caroline Myss

Language has the power to oppress entire minority groups. Words that speak negatively about the colour of skin, disability, religion, sexuality – words that are often used in jokes – can have powerful and lasting effects. They can be hurtful though sometimes not intentionally. But we recognize this power of language as being oppressive.  

Why, then, do we deny this same degree of importance on our own slurs? “OMG, how could I be so stupid? This is going to take all day. I am never going to get this done! This is so hard, what if I don’t finish on time?” Anger, sadness or frustration ensue.   

Seemingly random, irrational over-reaction. We don’t realize how negative thoughts can impact our mood, become obstacles in our path, and often lead to procrastination. Think of how many times you have put off chores you dread because they are going to take so long. You build up the idea of tackling the laundry to be more than it is, turning persistent thoughts into obstacles.  

Our thoughts are closely connected with our emotions. What you think you can and cannot do is influenced more by you and your thoughts than the outside world.  

Published by Jenn Bruer

Jenn Bruer is an esteemed youth counsellor and retired foster parent with an exceptional eighteen-year record of service. Author of the influential book "Helping Effortlessly: A Book of Inspiration and Healing", Jenn's personal journey through burnout recovery since 2011 has ignited her passion for holistic well-being. As a revered Mindfulness and Burnout workshop provider, she empowers individuals with transformative tools. Jenn's role as board member with Mindfulness Everyday, a prominent Canadian charity, showcases her dedication to accessible well-being education. Her remarkable trajectory exemplifies a commitment to healing and positive change.

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