Magic Words

I once attended a wedding where the pastor ‘s homily revolved around four short phrases of three simple words that loved ones should say to each other every day.

The first phrase he told us to say to one another is, “I love you”. For many of us, it seems, this phrase comes with relative ease. We say it to everyone we love when we feel affectionate, as part of our farewells, and quite often, we say it as much for ourselves as we do for those that we love. The words “I love you” expose our truest selves to others and welcomes them into our hearts.

The words “I love you” are important, as they express some of the deepest emotions that we may ever know. Love is such a fundamental part of life, and it is the cornerstone of everything good and rewarding in this life. And by expressing love for someone, we allow it to flow freely while making it known that we have invested our hearts in them.

The second phrase he told us to say each day is, “I thank you”. Again, “thank you” is a relatively easy thing to say. And while we often say thank you as a formality, the “thank you’s” that matter most are those that are an intentional and meaningful expression of gratitude and appreciation. These heartfelt messages are important amongst loved ones because they remind us that we have not been taken for granted and that we are cherished by those closest to us.

The third phrase the pastor instructed us to say is “I am sorry.” As I have written in the past, “I’m sorry” can be a hard thing to say. It can be hard to admit fault, to give in, and to face the pain that we may have caused in others.  Yet even while a genuine apology can be difficult, it is important because it acknowledges the feelings of our loved ones, it offers humility, and shows that we are sensitive to the experience of others.

The final phrase to include each day is  “I forgive you”. Much like apologies, words of forgiveness can be difficult to say. Sometimes, it does not occur to us to even mutter these words as we assume that forgiveness has been implied by our actions. Yet then again, forgiveness in and of itself can be difficult because it may feel risky.  When we forgive, we may feel that we are “giving in”, negating our feelings, or even putting ourselves in a position to be hurt again. Yet forgiveness is such an important part of our relationships because it signifies love, trust, compassion, and forward movement.

Today, I encourage you to reflect on the four phases listed above. Consider who you might say them to, and think about who you may need to hear them from, whether that is your significant other, your child, your friend, or yourself. Take a moment to reflect on your feelings in these relationships, and the, go ahead and tell them how you feel.

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Regretfully Speaking…

 

I have often read that we, as live-ers of life, should have no regrets. That we should, in some sense of the word, forget about the finer details of our past and instead be grateful for the opportunities and the gifts that have been bestowed upon us through the process of living. That we should embrace all that we are, for better or for worse, because of what we have been through and the choices we have made.

And to a certain degree, I agree with this. I agree that it behooves us to spend too much time in our past, whether we are fretting over things that we have done, or worrying about that which we have left undone. It does us no good to berate ourselves for our mistakes or relive days gone by, wishing that we had done things differently. After all, what does this accomplish? Precious little, indeed.

Even so, I have to admit that I do have regrets. I have done things that I am not proud of and over-looked things that I should have been more mindful about. I have been reckless at times, selfish, and even hurtful. As I look back on the twenty-nine years of my life, I see with unmistakable clarity that I have consciously and unconsciously made poor choices. Choices that have been foolish, short-sighted, and negatively impactful. And, these things are uncomfortable to think about. They are difficult to speak of. And they are nothing short of humbling.

Yet, even as I think about the regrets that I do have, and I reflect on where I was at in my life when I made those choices, I cannot help but to ask, “Is it really so bad to admit that we have regrets? Is it so bad to look back on the decisions that we have made and wish that we had done things differently? Is it so bad to look behind ourselves every now and then and realize that we could have done better? ” I must say that I think not.

I say that I do not think it is so bad to have regrets because regrets really are a part of life. Regrets, in essence, are nothing short of lessons that we have learned as we journey through life. To feel regretful is not to say that we are bad. On the contrary, to feel regretful is to say that we now see things differently than we had before or to acknowledge that we are no longer where we once were. It is to recognize that something was to be learned, and that we have changed or evolved because of our experiences. It is to agree that hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty.

So, when you find yourself tempted to deny ever having regrets, rethink what that word really means to you. Remember that it is a rare soul that truly has no regrets, and that there is no shame in using the feeling of regret to propel us forward as we learn from our misgivings.

Stop. Just, stop.

I often come across To-Do Lists that enumerate the things that I must do in, or add to my already very-full life. And while these lists often shine light upon areas of life that are thirsting for attention, I find that incorporating more into my life is not what I need. Rather, what I need is less. The following is a list to things to start

Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is far too short to spend time with the people that drain your energy. Re-evaluate those that do not fulfill or replenish you in some way.

Stop running from your problems. Know that you cannot change what you do not confront, and know that this is not easy nor instantaneous. But the delayed gratification is indeed worth the effort and the wait.

Stop lying to yourself. Let’s be honest. We aren’t really fooling ourselves anyway, are we?

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. Know the difference between selflessness and self-neglect.

Stop trying to be someone you’re not. Be authentic, or the you that feels most like yourself. And know that this this good

Stop trying to hold onto the past. Let go of the past and instead change your relationship with it Change how it lives within you.

Stop being afraid of mistakes. Mistakes can be inconvenient. But they need be nothing more than that. So, dare, do, and adapt. And use old mistakes propel and guide you, not define you or bring you down.

Stop trying to buy happiness. Happiness does not have a price. Know that your worth is intrinsic, and do not attach a price tag to it.

Stop looking to others for happiness. We cannot offer nor experience what we already do not carry within us.

Stop being idle. Go and do. Go and be. This is called living

Stop waiting to be ready. More often than not, we will never feel quite “ready”. Know when to act, ready or not.

Stop being in relationships for the wrong reasons. Bad company is not a good substitute for loneliness. Choose wisely, and do not force the process. And remember that all relationships have something good to offer, even if it is a hard lesson learned.

Stop competing, and stop being jealous. There will always been someone “better” and you will always be “better” than someone else.

Stop complaining. You are not a victim, and no one is out to get you. The curveballs of life are meant to shift your direction, not derail you.

Stop holding grudges. Hatred is toxic. Especially to the self. Forgiveness is the anecdote. For both the self and others

Stop letting others bring you down. Take the high road so they have a place to step up to. Show them that there is a better way.

Stop explaining yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

Stop doing the same things over and over. Or you’ll keep getting the same things over and over. Distance yourself from old patterns and learn.

Stop overlooking small moments. They are bigger than you think.

 

Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for effective

 

Stop following the path of least resistance. Take the road less traveled by.

 

Stop saying it’s okay when it isn’t. It is okay to be not-okay sometimes. Rather, sometimes, this is exactly what you need to do in order to pick up the pieces and be okay again.

 

Stop blaming others. If you blame others for what goes wrong, who gets credit for what goes right? Own your life.

 

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. This is impossible and it leads to burn out . Narrow your focus and be good at what you do.

 

Stop worrying. Know when to let go and when to transform that energy into action, and watch the world change.

 

Stop focusing on what you don’t want. Invest in positive thinking, and you will attract wonderful l things.

 

Stop being ungrateful. There is always, always something to be grateful for. Always.

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.

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.