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 🙂
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!).
I am human through and through! I have had time to reflect on my “family altercation” last week and realized that all of it could have been avoided had I not stepped in. It seemed to me that getting involved was the right thing to do, to speak for someone who wasn’t speaking for herself. A classic co-dependent move on my part. Although a decision had been made that was ridiculous in my mind, the best action for me to have taken was no action. The decision didn’t involve a life or death situation, just an uncomfortable one that truly didn’t involve me.
So now my mind has moved to wondering how I could have avoided this? Sometimes I can see situations with such intense clarity I sense I am gifted with invaluable insight. At other times I bumble so horribly I wonder how it is I do anything well at all! Such is the life of a human. We are not robots who are programmed to always make the right decision. We are capable of change and making wise choices but we also always carry with us the capacity to blow it. Remember the neural pathways? The unhealthy routes don’t go away, they just get weeds growing through the pavement. They are still accessible. When I’m tired, hungry, in pain, sick, over-extended or ungrounded, I am far more likely to forgo the wise for the unhealthy.
This could easily be a situation where I turn on myself and beat myself up for blowing it. But I won’t. It’s not worth it. Beating myself up never gave me the energy or motivation to change. I’m also not so sure I wish this hadn’t happened. I kind of like my humanity. It keeps me grounded to myself and others. We are all bumbling our way through life. If I ever got to a place where I believed I had arrived, I would lose my compassion for others. I would expect everyone to get where I have gotten. I don’t ever want to be in that space…ever! So, I am embracing my humanity…celebrating it! I love being me, flaws and all 🙂
Do you ever have those days when you are certain you have done something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it? It’s a feeling of…”wrongness”. I woke up in the middle of the night with that feeling and I just can’t shake it. I’m a recovering co-dependent people-pleaser. When I step into realms and bring honesty and transparency sometimes I feel all icky inside. I tell my clients this is normal. When our strongest neural pathway is to please and we step out of pleasing, it’s going to feel bad…it does.
What do I do when I feel this ickiness inside? The wrongness? The bad? I usually try to figure out if I actually did something wrong. This task can get tricky because my view or filter may be skewed toward people-pleasing. From that perspective, nearly everything I did was wrong. I can ask trusted, wise people in my life what they think. I can look at people-pleasing behaviors and see if my words or actions were about 90 degrees away from people-pleasing (I think of 180 degrees, the total opposite on the spectrum of people-pleasing, as narcissistic/self-pleasing to an extreme). I sometimes process during a walk outside. And, as a God-believing person, I pray and seek God’s guidance.
I think the icky feeling is a good sign that I have taken big steps away from people-pleasing. It’s rarely comfortable when we are changing. Seeking comfort will keep me stuck.