If you are like most of us, you have unhealthy relational skills. You learned them when you were little. You learned by observing others and maybe got some instruction from your parents and care givers; however, most of what you learned or figured out isn’t healthy. Think about the time your friend or spouse wouldn’t give you something you wanted. You were hurt by them, you shut down and stopped talking to them. This is the adult version of, “Fine! You can’t come to my Birthday party.” It may look different and sound different, but it’s still a five year old’s response to being disappointed or hurt by a friend.
Some things we learned are ultra damaging to ourselves and others. We may have learned to make everyone around us happy. We may have learned it’s our fault when they aren’t. As an adult you are now in relationships where you believe you can’t stand up for yourself or draw healthy boundaries because those actions will be mean to the other person. This belief is not accurate nor is it conducive to healthy relationships.
Take a look at how you function in relationships. If you’re honest, chances are you will see yourself taking some young and unhealthy actions. Get involved in a relationship skills class, read books on the subject or get help from a counselor. Life is too short to stumble along using immature skills in the most important part of life, relationships!
My favorite authors on healthy relationship skills are Drs John Townsend and Henry Cloud. They have a multitude of books, videos and workshops to help you grow up 🙂
Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?
We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.
When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.
Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. 🙂
Change can be beneficial. Really. Just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean it has to stay that way. This is true especially around the holidays. Think about the areas in your life where you have stress. Is it possible to change something up that will result in less stress? Usually our first answer is, “No!” But stop and ponder the idea for a bit. What would happen if you did things differently? The obvious answer is things wouldn’t be the same but is “same” always good/best/helpful/beneficial?
A stagnant body of water with no fluidity, no change, no movement of water coming in and moving out is a breeding ground for all manner of parasites and bacteria. When I looked this up the first bit of information said it’s a breeding ground for dengue and malaria. I do not want my life to be like a breeding ground for nasty parasites and bacteria. I want to be open to changing. Whether that is related to how I prepare for and celebrate the holidays or how I function in relationships, take care of myself, approach my work or faith.
How about you? What areas in your life need some fresh, clean water running in and clearing out the old stagnant parasite breeding ground? Let this holiday season and your entire life embrace and thrive with change 🙂
Self-love is critical if we want to enjoy this life and relationships. Some wonder if self-love is selfish, “Is it really ok to put myself first? Won’t people who need me get mad about that and tell me I’m being self-centered?” Yes and yes. In order for us to be able to authentically love others and truly be there for and with them, we must have that love for ourselves. We can’t give what we do not have. Not everyone will appreciate your self-love. Some will challenge you if you say no to them so you can take care of yourself, especially if people are used to you saying yes all the time. When we say yes to someone or something, we are saying no to someone or something else. If the no has been for yourself, then the switch to yes for yourself is going to feel strange and wrong. The people you were always saying yes to will tell you that you are wrong. That dynamic will mess with you and your journey toward self-love.
How do you navigate this journey toward self-love? Start by being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in your body. Just notice yourself. Notice what you like and what you don’t like. When you are eating ask yourself if you like what you are eating. Does it taste good to you? Does it feel good in your mouth, going down and settling in? When you bathe, do you like the method; shower or bath, warm or cold? Ask yourself these questions with everything you do in your life. If you run into hurdles and can’t answer or the answering becomes emotionally painful for you, you may need the help of a professional therapist. Ask if he/she will guide you toward self-love, awareness, mindfulness and boundaries.
Once you are aware of what you like and don’t like, it’s time to start voicing it. “I started listening to myself and have discovered I don’t like this. I’m not going to do it (eat it…) anymore.” There are some limits here. If you have a baby and don’t like getting up in the middle of the night to feed or change him or her, sorry! Some things we must do. If you don’t like your job, I don’t suggest quitting until you find another job you like better if you don’t have any reserves to tide you over until you find a job you like. If you don’t like driving the speed limit, again, sorry! Some things are have-to’s because of morals, laws and positions we have put ourselves in. Beyond those areas, there are a lot of other areas where you have the choice, so exercise your choice in those areas. This self-love action will fill you up to deal with the areas you can’t change because it’s not legal, healthy or wise to change them.
If you have always bailed out your alcoholic brother, it is not wise for you to continue; although your brother will tell you that you are selfish not to help him. He is not a helpless baby. He is an adult who is making unwise choices because of his addiction. It is up to him to decide to deal with it. Not you. You can say no. “I love you. It is not my job to take care of you. You are an adult and it is up to you to go get help. I will help you find an AA meeting, but it’s up to you to make sure you get there and keep going.” (You could go if you want to. Also, you don’t have to help him find the AA meeting. That’s your decision.)
This is just the beginning of your journey toward self-love. Get started on it…it will be the best decision you ever made for yourself (and ultimately everyone around you!).
This post is inspired by Valentine’s Day but can apply to anyone in any situation so don’t skip past this if you are not in a romantic relationship 🙂 So often we are left disappointed by others. We hope they will notice what we like or want and when they don’t fulfill our expectation we are hurt or angry. We wonder why they don’t know us well enough to know what we want. The truth is, unless you specifically state what you want, the other person must guess. It’s up to you to speak your expectations clearly and be sure the hearer understands you.
Often I get objections to this. Like, “If I have to ask for what I want then it doesn’t feel as good when I get it.” Back to reality: if you don’t say it, you can’t expect to get it. I’m not sure where the idea that partners should be able to read our minds came from. It’s a common yet destructive belief.
What happens when you’re told directly and then the person reveals that’s not what they meant? I remember a line from The Breakup with Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn where she says he never gets her flowers. He tells her she told him that flowers were a waste of money and her response was, “Every girl wants flowers!” How was he supposed to know that? He listened to her request but she was not being honest. So who’s at fault here? She is. She did not speak what she really wanted but expected him to read her mind.
How are you doing in this category? Do you expect people to read your mind? Are you being honest about your wants and desires? If not, it’s up to you to speak honestly and directly. This doesn’t mean you will always get what you want but at least you will have made your expectations clear.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe. Following the horrific and numerous murders in Paris, a barrage of information and opinions are circulating. I see posts and blogs that cover beliefs spanning the spectrum from love to hate. Sometimes it’s hard to know what you believe. “Should I believe what this person is saying or that person?” You are being presented with one of the best gifts of humanity, the ability to choose for oneself.
When you don’t know what to believe it usually has something to do with not being fully defined. Yes, this is a boundary post! It’s your responsibility to know what you agree with and what you don’t. If you are unsure, do a bunch of research on various topics and ask yourself what you think and feel about each one. Go back to your foundational values. If you don’t know what they are, start thinking about what they could be. What is important to you?
It helps to think of things from a personal perspective. You can use that perspective as the filter through which information and thoughts pass. If this thing were happening to you, what would be important to you? Imagine being on your death bed and having the opportunity to reflect on your life, what beliefs would you imagine being truly important when all is said and done.
The world of seeking emotional health can be confusing. We are to have solid boundaries and also seek to understand others. We are to be aware of our emotions, feel them and not let them take us down emotional black holes. It’s important to feel authentically and seek contentment. Like the Bible, the healing world should be considered based on all the information available not just one isolated piece of information.
I was thinking about last week’s post on contentment. It is a challenge at times to both feel what you happen to be feeling and find contentment. I remember two years ago when my daughter, Anna and I were waiting in North Carolina for her lung transplant and last year when we walked through cancer and chemo. If someone had told me I just need to be content I might have smacked them! Not really, but I would have thought about it 🙂
Sometimes when we are hurting deeply, we aren’t going to move quickly to contentment. The shift from our misery to contentment is a slow one and no one can make us get there. The shift is part of our journey and it’s important to embrace the journey as much or sometimes even more than the destination.
Anytime I suggest a growth piece, please take everything I say into account. I try to cover all sides in a single post but sometimes that takes too many words! Remember that I encourage a whole picture approach. There are so many ‘ands’ in the emotional health world.
While we can generally focus on one new change at a time, keep in mind there’s a whole book full of them and each should be taken into account, not isolated from the pack.
You find yourself easily giving others your time, your love and your best but when the table is turned you find it very difficult to accept the same from others. You may think this is very noble of you but in fact it’s a sign of a destructive crack. To only give and not receive creates an imbalance in the relational system. We were designed to be on both sides of the equation and reality dictates that at times we will have needs. If you are not receiving, then you are perilously imbalanced. Your relationships are perilously imbalanced. You are likely not being honest with yourself and others.
What do you do if you are a non-receiver? Start by noticing it. Be aware of compliments you receive and your reaction to them. Notice when people try to offer help to you or show their love in a tangible way. What do you feel physically and emotionally? Next notice your thoughts connected to your emotions. Why do you respond the way you do? Did you grow up believing it was selfish to need or arrogant to receive a compliment? A lot of us did so you are not alone. There is likely an undercurrent of an inaccurate belief feeding this unhealthy behavior so do a little digging and find out what it is.
Next, challenge this inaccurate belief. Can you really give, give and give but never receive? No! At some point in your life your needs will come rearing their held-down heads and they just might be voracious. Better to deal with them early before they try to tank your life! Remind yourself that it is not selfish to receive from others. In fact, you are giving them an opportunity to do something for you, which is a gift in itself. We like to show our love and gratitude, if the receiver won’t receive, then the giver doesn’t get to share in the lovely exchange of giving and receiving. By not receiving you are robbing others of the joy of giving. That is where the selfishness lies. You are being selfish by not receiving from others and you are showing arrogance by communicating you are too good to need.
When someone gives you a compliment, practice saying “Thank you”. That’s it. No follow up with, “It was nothing” or “I don’t really deserve that”. Just a simple “Thank you” will do. When someone wants to show their love, let them by challenging the inaccurate belief with truth. Neither the “Thank you” nor the acceptance of being given to will be easy for you. That’s ok. Anything worth changing involves work and some discomfort. Work through it by reminding yourself of the truth.