People Pleasing? No please.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we care, at least to some extent, that we care about what other people think of us. We want to be liked. We want people to think well of us. Likewise, most of us want to do well for and please other people. We want to touch lives. We want to make a difference. And, in my opinion, this is part of being human. As such, I think it is natural that we feel driven to please those that we care about and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

I mean, really think about what a motivating force this truly is. Think about the beautiful work that has been done in this world because of our natural tendency to give a care about other people. It is a good thing, is it not?

…I really think it is. But I also think that this can be too much of a good thing, especially when we become imbalanced and inadvertently cause harm to ourselves or others because of our desire to please everyone at once.

This tendency that I am referring to is most often referred to as “people pleasing”. And if you are a “people pleaser” you know what I mean. You know the moral dilemma you are faced with each and every time you must choose to say “yes” or “no” to someone you care about, including yourself. You know how hard it is to accept the idea that you simply cannot please everyone all the time. Or, perhaps even worse, that not everyone is going to receive you in the way that you want to be received. If you are a “people pleaser”, you are most likely kind, polite, reliable, and a peace-keeper. And, chances are, you are also familiar with feeling stressed, overextended, taken advantage of, highly-sensitive, resentful, lost, and sometimes, inauthentic.

If you are a pleaser-of-the-people in this way, you probably put other people first, even at the detriment of your own well-being. And while that can be admirable and virtuous at times, it is also important that you are able to establish and maintain boundaries for your own well-being.

In fact, not only is this important, but it is also natural and healthy. Yet, if you are “people pleaser”, this is much easier said than done.

So, how do you go about re-establishing new patterns within relationships? Consider the following five steps:

  1. Address your fears.

Quite often, the desire to please others stems from a deep-rooted fear or wound that deserves attention. Examine this underlying issue, and you will likely find healing.

  1. Reflect on your values.

Clarify what is important to you. These priorities will likely become a guiding force that is much stronger than your fears. As such, they will help you determine what is most right for you.

  1. Create boundaries.

Remember that boundaries must exist and be respected in every healthy relationship. Know and communicate your limits, and do not be afraid to draw lines.

  1. Find a way to say “no.”

You cannot say “yes” to everything all the time. So find a way that is comfortable for you to decline or say “no” to the things that you are aligned with so that you may say “yes” to the things you are. Remember that saying “no” is a skill that becomes easier with practice.

  1. Stop apologizing for yourself.

…Especially when it isn’t necessary. You do not owe anyone an apology, nor an explanation, for being true to yourself.

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Horriblizing

 

Some years ago, I wrote a column about a concept I like to refer to as “horrible-izing”. If you do not recall this column, or you are not familiar with the idea of horrible-izing, it can be defined as one’s tendency to focus on the worst of things.www.teststarter.com

For example, a person may be engaging in the act of horrible-izing if they overemphasize the negative side of life. Likewise, those that horrible-ize are those that tend to perseverate, ruminate, and cannot help themselves but to worry about worst possible outcomes, the dreaded “what ifs”, and may even view undesirable situations as the “end of the world”.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we horrible-ize from time to time, particularly when we are feeling anxious about an upcoming situation or have encountered troublesome circumstances. When this happens, we fall into the trap of thinking about how badly things might go, how awful it would be for us if these events actually did occur, and we forget to take it one step further and consider what we might actually do should these things really take place. We might even get so wrapped up in this catastrophic thinking that we convince ourselves that our life might even be forever altered in some devastating way.

With this definition in mind, take a moment to think about something in your life that is upsetting or unsettling to you. Perhaps you are facing a transition in a relationship and you are unsure of how to move forward. Perhaps you have committed to something that you are now rethinking. Perhaps you have recently encountered a situation in life that you are unsure of how to handle. Or, perhaps, you tend to experience smaller triggers on a more regular basis and you have become accustomed to feeling reactive, tightly wound, or shaken

Or, maybe, something entirely different has come to mind

Regardless of what came to mind, reflect on how you think about those things, and take a moment to horrible-ize. Think about the worst of the worst, and sit with those thoughts.

As you reflect on your thoughts, I am willing to bet that you stopped short at the worst case scenario, going no further to imagine how you would actually deal with these circumstances or what other alternatives may actually take place. And if that is the case, I would like to challenge you to change your thinking. Rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen, take one step beyond these thoughts and ask yourself, “And then what?” How you might live through and overcome such obstacles? If you tend to horrible-ize, make this your new habit. Rather than obsessing about the possibility of something bad happening, ask yourself how probable it is that your worries come true, and consider how life would actually look should these things happen. How might you live through such terrible circumstances? What would life be like then? And, would it really be so bad? And finally, which of these thought processes would you rather invest your energies in to, remembering that your thoughts and your perspective on life will always be your choice.

The Way We Do Anything Is the Way We Do Everything

 

 

While in session with a client last week, I repeated the following quote:

“The way we do anything, or one thing, is the way we do everything.”

Upon my saying this, both my client and I had to take a moment to reflect on the meaning of this statement.  At first, I silently chided myself, thinking, “Where did you even hear that?  That makes no sense.”  Yet, after letting these words sink in for another moment, and applying them to myself, I realized that is, in fact, true, and whoever it is I heard this from knew what they were talking about.

In many ways, the many aspects of our lives may not seem to echo one another.  But this is likely because many of the aspects of our lives, on the surface, are more easily contrastable then comparable.  Yet, if we are to dive deeper and look at the themes that play out within and throughout our lives, we will see that this statement is true…

The way we do anything, is quite actually, the way we do everything.

Think about this for a moment, and apply this statement to your own life, and you will see for yourself.

…To really see the truth of this statement in your own life and personality, consider the following questions:

Do you relate to the cliché, “when it rains, it pours”?  And on the contrary, do you feel like when one area of your life is going well, relatively speaking, so are the others?  Do you find that you keep running into the same problems in life?  Perhaps you procrastinate or tend to take on too much at one time.  Do you tend to fret over things that are not within your control?  Are you often on the defensive or do you struggle to say no, speak up, or advocate on behalf of what is important to you?  Perhaps you are more likely to “cut and run” or simply bow out when you have had enough of something? Or, maybe, none of these statements resonate with you, and you are able to identify other themes in your life that seem to be uniquely yours.

Yet, whatever these themes are, the truth of the matter remains that the habits we practice in one area of life eventually carry over into other areas.

And this can work for or against us.  For, if we struggle in one area, we are likely to struggle in another.   Or, in contrast, our strengths will transcend these same boundaries, and we benefit.

…So, as you read this, perhaps take a peek and examine yourself in your life right now and reflect.  As you do so, inquire.  How are your relationships?  Your passions and purpose?  How’s your career and your finances?  Your self-care and personal interests and goals?  Where do you do well, and where do your frustrations lie?

Most likely, you will see themes.  Which is where the magic lies.  Because once you become aware that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything”, you will have the insight and empowerment to change everything at once.

Breaking the Cycle

 

Albert Einstein, the genius that he was, has been credited for once saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

…While most of are not actually insane, many of us can relate to this quote, because there is truth behind it. For if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that, from time to time, we fall in to patterns that do not work for us. And as frustrating and discouraging as this can be, it is for good reason, because every dysfunction has its function, and because sometimes meaningful change requires the repeated learning and practice of difficult lessons.

So, if you are like the rest of us, and you are noticing negative patterns in your life, consider the following questions to help initiate positive change:

What are my patterns?

As they say in the 12-Step Program, thefirst step is to recognize that you have a problem. Or, in this case, a pattern. What, cycles, and trends seem to continuously play out in your life? What is going on in your life when you find yourself lamenting, “I always…” or “I never…”. When you hear these words echoing in your own ears, listen, reflect, and prepare to break a cycle.

How can I be accountable to myself?

After identifying that there is a pattern in your life that you would like to break, you must take accountability. Even if you struggle to own the problem, own the fact that this is your life, and empower yourself to make a change. Problems are not solved by blaming other and making excuses. They are solved by taking responsibility for the change that we would like to see, even if we are not responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in.

What am I feeling?

Once you are able to identify your emotions and see them as signs and guideposts of what is going on within you and around you, you will be able to get off the emotional roller coaster that you have found yourself on and instead take a better look at what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and what you want to do about it.

What lesson is to be learned?

No matter the situation, there is something to be learned. Find the value in the hardship.

What can I do differently?

If you want to make a positive change in your life, know that you need to make positive choices, and sometimes this means doing things differently than you normally do. So, think about how you typically react to a situation, and instead, choose to respond. This can be uncomfortable, but when practiced with intention and mindfulness, it can be powerfully transformative.

 

Let It Be

In writing this column over the years, I have often used the term “let it go”.  But what does that even mean?  According to a number of sources, the term “letting go” refers to the literal and figurative act of “refraining or resisting the ‘doing’ of something”; or, “to relinquish an emotional grip” that we might have on something or someone.  Personally, I prefer the latter definition, as most often when we use the term “letting go” it is an emotional process more so than an actual action.

Throughout our lives, as most of us well know, we are forced to learn to let things go all the time.  Whether is it by choice or coercion, we must learn to release the emotional grip we have on relationships, occupations, patterns of behavior, status symbols, etcetera.  And whether we like it or not, this is good for us.  Because, it lends itself to personal growth, and, eventually, it also will lead to peace.

…Or will it?  It seems to me that letting go does not actually bring us peace until we also learn to let those very same things be.  And “letting be” cannot happen without letting go, for the two are not quite the same.  As defined above, letting go involves releasing the emotional grip we have on whoever or whatever it is that we have become attached to, thus setting it free.  Whereas letting it be is to learn to accept what is and sit with how things are once we have let something go.

To “let it be” is to leave things alone, whether we want to or not.  It is to resist the temptation to engage with, meddle, or interrupt whatever is going on within us and around us.  It is to sit with the emotions that arise, no matter how unpleasant, so that these feelings may be processed and healed.  To let be is to ride the waves of our innermost experiences just as they are, whether we are content with them or not.  It is tending to these emotional experiences without suppressing, repressing, numbing, or turning to something else as a distraction.  It is to take a very honest and raw look at what is left after our letting go, and to be still.  It is sitting with one’s self, and all that we feel and experience and giving them time.

After letting go, to let it be is to find a way to accept “all that is” in that moment.  To have faith. And, eventually, to move inward, onward, and forward.

Vulnerability as Strength

Vulnerability is no easy emotion to experience.  In fact, most of us would have to agree that we tend to avoid it all costs.  And, of course, most of us would be able to recall numerous occasions that we  gracefully sashayed our way through a moment of vulnerability or two; however, all in all, most of us tend to avoid these situations when we see them coming.  And this makes sense, because after all, this is an act of self-preservation, is it not?

Most of us have spent a great deal of our lives proving to ourselves and others that we value, strength, and character. We have worked hard to get where we are by aligning our strengths and confidences to overcome hardships and obstacles and trudge through the sloughs of wilderness that seem to be inherent to our human experience. As such, we have learned to maximize and rely on these virtues to thrive and survive, while taking care not to expose other parts of ourselves so that we may avoid our weaknesses and remain  strong, sure-footed, and unequivocal.  So, naturally, putting ourselves in a position to be vulnerable may feel foreign, counter-intuitive, and uncomfortable.

Yet, as we move through life, many of us come to discover that strength and vulnerability are not exactly opposites. On the contrary, vulnerability requires a great amount of courage, for being vulnerable is to be authentic despite our greatest fears.  For vulnerability requires that we accept and embrace the parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore, change, or deny. In fact, by its very definition, vulnerability even takes this one step further and requires that we do so in the presence of others, forcing us to acknowledge these parts of ourselves, talk about them as they are, and claim them as our own. The very nature of vulnerability requires that we feel raw, unsure, and exposed, both with ourselves and others.

So, how do we evolve in the name of vulnerability, and allow ourselves to transform? Consider the following exercises:

Practice Self-Awareness: Begin this practice by simply being mindful of your feelings of vulnerability when they arise. Take note of what has triggered these feelings, ask yourself why they have arisen, and perhaps reflect on what you struggle to accept about these traits and why you would rather camouflage them.

Reveal Something: Revealing parts of ourselves can feel risky and vulnerable.  However, in doing so, we unveil glimpses of our truest selves by sharing who we really are.  By simply doing this, we encourage others to connect with us on a more intimate and fulfilling level.

State How You Feel. At That Moment: When you feel that you have lost your footing, find your voice and give a name to what you are experiencing. Not only is this transparency authentic and true, but it gives others permission to do the same.

Admit When You Are Wrong: Be accountable. Accept your mistakes. Forgive yourself. Then, move on. You may be surprised to learn that most others will follow your lead.

Own (and redefine) Your Weaknesses: Despite the fact that no one of us is perfect, admitting our “weaknesses” to others can take great strength.  Yet, in doing so, we allow ourselves to be better supported by those that complement who we are and encourage our growth. .

Celebrate Your Imperfections: Allow yourself to be human.  Know that sometimes it is more than enough to be “good enough”. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. Reconsider your perceived “weaknesses” as instead being your gifts.

And finally, fully accept all that you are, for that is heart of vulnerability, And even more so, that is authenticity.

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

“Practice and all is coming.” –K. Pattabhi Jois

In the yogic world, we refer to the act of “doing yoga” as a practice. And it is called a practice for good reason.

For in practice, we recognize that we will never reach perfection. We may become masterful at what we will do, but because we are continuously deepening our practice, we will never master it entirely. Likewise, there will always be something about our practice that is a challenge. For example, while we may have great physical strength, we may struggle with flexibility. Or we may be strong in our poses, but struggle to quiet our minds.

We also call it a practice because in practice, we are not in competition with anyone, including ourselves. There is no final score or an outcome to strive for or attach to. There are no winners, no losers, none that are “better” or “worse” at yoga than others. . Sure, there may be some that more advanced practitioners than others, but this is only because they have been doing the practice longer than those that have just begun. So in practice, we do not focus on being best. Rather, we focus on doing our best, every time we come to our mat.

When practicing yoga, we must also bear in mind that each and every practice will be different for every single person. Some days we will feel strong and execute the poses with strength and grace, while other days we may feel weak, or out of balance. There will be times that our minds are in synch with our movements and the practice is meditative and mentally quiet. And, on the contrary, casino spiele there will be times that the mental practice of the yoga we are doing is a chaotic struggle. Some days, when we practice, we will fall into the poses with fluid flexibility, while others we are stiff, and sore, and in pain. No practice, mentally or physically, will ever be the same.

And perhaps this is the most important reason we refer to “doing” yoga as a practice. We called it a practice because it is about the process that we are engaged in while we are on our mats. It is about what we are doing in that very moment, how we are doing it, and the intention we have brought into our practice. It is about being mindful, doing our best, and letting certain things come and other things go.

And so it is with life, is it not? Life, more than anything, is a practice. For much like yoga, we never exactly master life. We will excel in some areas of life, but we will never reach perfection. Likewise, for any given reason and in any give way, there will be days that feel good, and days that feel bad. There will be times when our best comes naturally to us, and times that we really struggle. Like yoga, life is not a competition and there is no end goal to attach to. Rather, in life, just as in yoga, it is about the life that we are living from moment to moment, how we are living, and the intention and purpose we manifest in the process of living this beautiful thing called life.

Cleansing

The following reflections were sent to me by one of my best friends.  And as I read it, I could not help but to look at my surroundings, both literally and figuratively.  And as I did, I saw a clean and tidy home with a few messy signs of life scattered about.  Yet, as I looked deeper, inside and out, I could not help but to see the cobwebs and the dirty corners.  So as you read on, I hope you are moved, as I was, to begin to clear the way…

“We must ask ourselves “Are we  to reflect the world, or is the world to reflect us?”

The answer is, “both”.

So with this in mind, ask yourself, “Do my cupboards reveal the state of the world?”  If they are disorderly, they do.  And, of course, orderliness is not everything.  Yet it is something.  And this is a place for us to start if we wish to surpass the world order as it is today.

 While the state of our cupboards and the physical realm in which we dwell is not all that we amount to,  this part of our lives is deserving of attention, and there is certainly no fault in making the physical more compatible with our higher aspirations.  Because, really, this is a simple place to begin.   Start here, in your own space, and finish, today.

If you open your cupboards and see a mess, then you are long overdue.  If, when you move about your house, your belongings are scattered about, causing you to stumble, fall, or exist around them, move these things now.  Clear your way now and create a smooth path.

(By now, you likely see the metaphor that has been laid before you.  And hopefully, you also see that there is more to this than the obvious)

 Even so, continue to clear and cleanse.  Wash the windows of your mind, so that you may see.   Ascend from any stuck-ness of the past.  Drop that which you carry, and remove any obstacles in your way, especially those that you impose upon yourself.

You may not realize it right away, but this congestion does affect you.  You clear your throat, so why would you not clear your life on deeper levels?   To do this, start where you are, and start now.  There is no other time or place to begin.

If you hope to continue to move forward, you must travel light.  Carry only love and light, and give it away freely as you shed the extra baggage, and you will never be weighted down.

Many ask as they move through this process, “Which comes first, clarity, or a clear path?” To answer this clear your path first, and you will know.  Some may manage well, even amidst disorder, but why have it this way?  Instead, let go.

…This lesson, of course, is not one of housekeeping.  Rather, it is a lesson of freeing one’s self from riff-raff, baggage, and any weight of the past and moving into the present.  For attachments to the past keep us in this time of never, and prevents us from being in the present, which is the time that it will always be.

So let go of these things and clear them away, so that you may move forward.  Know that what you have in your heart will always be enough now.”

Sorry, Not Sorry

Unless you are perfect (and let’s face it, who is!?) apologies are a necessary part of life. It is important to be able to admit our mistakes, and to know how and when to offer a heartfelt and meaningful apology. But, in my opinion, it is equally important to know when an apology isn’t necessary.

Here are seven times that you should absolutely stop being sorry for:

Your Feelings: Having feelings, whatever they are, is not something that we need to apologize for. What we do with those feelings may require an apology now and then, but having feelings in and of themselves is not right nor wrong, and it is absolutely okay to express them in an appropriate way. Don’t minimize yourself by apologizing for what you feel.

Your Appearance: You are who you are. What is there to apologize for? Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Needing Time Alone: Taking time for yourself is healthy and necessary. It is an act of self-care, not selfishness, and it does not require an apology.

Asking a Question: We invalidate ourselves when we apologize for posing a question. And this is silly. No one expects you to know everything. If you want or need to know something or you need clarification, just ask.

Other People’s Behavior: We cannot control the actions of others. Therefore, what people say and do is not our responsibility (unless, perhaps, they are our children – then this is parenting). As such, if someone behaves in a less than desirable way, it is for them to be sorry for, no one else.

Not Responding Immediately to a Text, Call, or Email: We are busy people with full lives, and our time is precious. Do not feel sorry for having a life. If you need time to get back to someone, for whatever reason that may be, take it. Perhaps explain these priorities, if necessary, but do not feel badly for having them.

Circumstances You Can’t Control: Again, much of what happens in life is not within our control. If it were, things would not go wrong nearly as often as they do! So, when these situations arise, acknowledge it, but do not take responsibility for something that was not your fault.

Letting go of the impulse to apologize can be difficult, as it can become habitual. However, it is important to know when it is okay to not be worry. For when we apologize excessively, we invalidate our own feelings, experiences, and sense of worth.

Good vs Bad

As many of you are aware, I am a yoga instructor at the yoga studio that I co-own in Spicer.  And for the last past nine months, I have been teaching a yoga class that is just for kids.  In this class, not only do we “do yoga”, but we also discuss some very relevant and important life issues that our little ones face on a day-to-day basis.

In our discussion, a common theme that the young ones bring up nearly every week is the negativity that they encounter, in some form, on an everyday basis.  More specifically, the kids want to talk about the disagreements they have had with their peers, bullying on the playground and in the hallways, perceived injustice in the classroom, troubles at home, and their own unsettling thoughts and feelings about themselves and others.

After allowing these sweet children time to verbalize and process their concerns amongst themselves, they are always encouraged to look for the value of the hardship, whether that is the lesson that was learned, the positive intention behind their actions despite the outcome, how they may have done well in an otherwise difficult situation, or something else entirely that can highlight the silver lining amongst the clouds.

In these weekly conversations, the children and I regularly discuss the power of both positive and negative energy and the impact that our thoughts, feelings, and actions have on ourselves and others, whether we realize it or not.    And so to bring to life the impact that our energies have on the world around us, we conducted a bit of a science experiment for an entire month.

In our experiment, we took an apple.  And we cut that apple into halves.  One half was labeled The Good Apple, the other half, The Bad Apple.

We then wrapped them the apple halves in plastic to preserve them somewhat, and we talk to talked to them for a month. To The Good Apple, we said only things that were kind, loving, supportive and encouraging.  To The Bad Apple, we talked trash, making insensitive and disparaging comments, and directin any and all negative energy that we could muster up toward that poor Bad Apple.

We did this every day, for four weeks.

And what do you think happened?    The Bad Apple, or the recipient of our negativity, rotted significantly faster than The Good Apple (If you are a skeptic, I would be delighted and honored to show you photos).

And what an enlightening lesson this was for the kids and I!  How powerful it was to see, right before our very eyes, the impact that the energy we bring forth, the thoughts that we think, and the words that we say, really do hold tremendous power in the way that they affect ourselves and others.

Let this be a lesson to us all:  Do good, or at the very least, do no harm.  Love, and be loved.  Take care, and be well.