Break the Cycle: How to Stop Hurting Others When You Were Mistreated
“What’s broken can be mended. What hurts can be healed. And no matter how dark it gets, the sun is going to rise again.” ~Unknown
I grew up with difficult and hurtful parents who spoke critically, with the intent to demean.
Each word of sarcasm, each thinly veiled joke or put-down undercut my self-esteem. Each knocked me down a rung in life and kept me from my potential.
Rampant comparisons to other Indian kids succeeding academically, attacks of my mediocre performance at school, and harsh language were my mother’s weapons of choice.
When someone attacks your self-esteem repeatedly, you feel beat down. It feels like you were meant to fly, but your own family is making you drown.
Then, your natural tendency might be to do to others what someone has done to you.
My tendencies were to judge and compare others in my mind, to taunt and verbally attack them. It was fitting then, I guess, that my career path led me to becoming a lawyer, now an ex-lawyer.
As I got into the habits of sabotaging and hurting others, I never thought much about it. I just assumed that because my parents had talked to me harshly and treated me badly, I had the license to do the same to others.
Others could handle the pain because I had. Others could endure a verbal lashing because I had. Others could handle emotional abuse because I had.
You, too, might have grown up in a household that wounded you deeply. You might have never been able to leave the shadow of the pain and suffering you experienced. And you might have learned to treat people as others once treated you.
I’ve come to believe that just because others hurt us, that doesn’t mean we have to continue the cycle of abuse.
You don’t have to fall into your natural, default behaviors. You can change. You can choose different actions and make different decisions. You can break the cycle of negativity, criticism, and abuse.
Here are six steps to heal the pain you felt and end the cycle of hurt.
1. Work on forgiving those who hurt you.
This may be much more easily said than done, but forgiveness is the key to healing. If you can’t forgive today, at least set the intention to forgive. It doesn’t matter how tragic or traumatic your past was; you must forgive for yourself. You’ll feel like a heavy weight has been lifted from your shoulders. You will be able to breathe much more easily.
It helps to put your abuser’s behavior in perspective so you can see their actions in a different light.
Try to understand what influenced their behaviors and characteristics. For example, with my parents, they were likely raised in a similar way. Also, culturally, parents in Asia tend to be direct and hold you to high standards because they want you to succeed in life. Their intentions may have been ultimately good, but the way they went about parenting was misguided.
Look at them through a lens of gratefulness. What could you appreciate about them, in spite of the pain they caused? Is there anything you can appreciate about the pain? I owe my sense of compassion, which is the foundation of my work, to my parents. Because of how I was hurt growing up, I now do work that reduces suffering and helps people find peace.
Look at them through a perspective of love. If you saw them through a loving prism, how would you explain their actions and behavior?
2. Work on your own healing.
Instead of burning in anger and hatred, focus on what you need for your emotional and mental health.
Assess the damage they’ve caused, look at the impact their behavior has had on your life, and determine what you must heal.
Visit a counselor if necessary. Find coping mechanisms. Write about your hurt. Open yourself to a spiritual practice. Seek the tools that can help you heal your emotional wounds.
Cultivate love for yourself. Speak to yourself gently. Let go of your high demands and expectations of yourself. Notice if how you treat yourself is similar to how the people who hurt you in the past treated you.
3. Look for alternative role models.
Watch your behavior and notice what you do when others hurt or anger you. How do you react when others push your buttons?
If you don’t know how to respond or react differently from the people who raised you, look for alternative role models. Seek people with positive and emotionally healthy ways of responding to personal situations.
Study them. Take notes. Notice how they handle trying circumstances. Model their behavior in your own interpersonal relationships.
4. Learn positive and empowering behavior.
If you were taught destructive and dysfunctional ways of being and speaking, opt for alternative ways. Hold back on hurtful words, convey your needs with softer language, and respect other people’s boundaries. Practice listening intently instead of responding rashly to what others say to you.
Recently, someone told me that I couldn’t park my car in a particular part of a lot and had to park much further back and walk. The area I had parked in was for the vendors of the event I was attending.
My first reaction was to fight back, use the parking lot rules against them, ask for the manager, and make a big scene about how unjust it was for me to have to move my car a couple blocks away where there was clearly space right there.
Then I noticed the person was wearing a volunteer badge and had an overwhelmed expression on his face. I opted not to do what my defacto behavior was and instead chose understanding. I tried to see that he was doing the best he could and was just looking out for the vendors, who were critical to a successful event.
Even if this person was wrong and even if it was unfair, I could still make his day a little less stressful and more pleasant. I could avoid arguing, making a scene, or verbally attacking someone who was trying their best to serve others.
5. Focus on your reactions instead of the behavior of others.
You can’t control others’ reactions, but you can learn to notice, change, and improve your own.
Look for triggers and other behavior that provokes you. Notice your immediate reaction when people treat you badly, disrespect you, or lash out against you.
Instead of immediately engaging with this behavior, withdraw, reflect, analyze, and take a thoughtful next step.
This is what I had to do when I was talking to a woman I had recently met, who was not a fan of the type of writing I do.
I found her remarks dismissive and non-supportive, and felt like lashing out. I wanted to attack her in some way or put down some part of her life that she valued, but after several days and after much calming down, I focused on my reaction. I let the anger simmer, re-evaluated her simple preference for fiction writing, and came to the conclusion that different people have different reading preferences.
I was still hurt and told her so without demeaning or attacking her in return. I was able to communicate that I was hurt, which she apologized for, without hurting her. A win!
6. Spread your light.
Remind yourself that even if you grew up with challenging people and the darkness of human behavior, you get to choose how you treat others and show up in the world.
You can operate by the default of hurting others—or, worse, seek revenge—and mimic the harmful and negative habits you witnessed growing up, or you can actively take different steps and make different choices.
You can bring yourself out of the darkness of bad behavior, cruelty, abuse, and negligent child rearing. You can go out in the world choosing love and spreading your light of compassion and understanding.
You can be the conduit who transforms pain into healing, not only for yourself but for everyone around you. You can show others who are hurting that forgiveness, understanding, love, and compassion are possible even after you’ve been hurt. And in doing so, you can help make the world a less hurtful place.
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose. He blogs at www.vishnusvirtues.com For Vishnu's latest book, 10 Sacred Laws of Healing a Broken Heart, visit his Amazon page here.
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Stop Pretending and Start Living
“If you want to be happy, don’t do something you don’t like. Don’t say something you don’t mean. Pretending and lying to yourself will only breed unhappiness.” ~Michael Lee
Do you like your job? Do you love your partner? Are you happy? You may answer yes to these questions, but is that what you believe deep down?
Most of us go through life pretending rather than living. We find it easier to tell ourselves that we feel good about something or someone than to admit we don’t. After all, contentment doesn’t require action. By convincing ourselves we’re happy when we’re not, we avoid the difficult decisions that would be necessary to change our current situation.
If we pretend everything is fine, there’s no need to quit that job we hate. We don’t have to contend with all the risks, fears, and potential disapproval we might face from friends, loved ones, and colleagues if we leave it behind.
We don’t have to tell our partner that we aren’t in love with him or her anymore or that we aren’t happy in our relationship.
We don’t have to swallow our pride and ask for help when we need it because, hey, everything is just fine!
We can simply smile and keep pretending.
We try very hard to pretend everything is fine in our lives while knowing deep down that this couldn’t be further from the truth. We spend so much time trying to conform to society and the expectation of those around us that we lose the ability to listen to our hearts.
Is it really necessary to ask ourselves if we like our job or still love our spouse or partner? Do we really have to ask ourselves whether we’re happy? The truth is, something inside of us already knows the answer. More often than not, the answer lies in the fact that we have to ask the question in the first place. When we’re genuinely happy, we know. And when we aren’t, we know that, too.
It doesn’t take much courage to go through life pretending everything is all right. Exposing our true selves, fully embracing our deepest desires, and facing our fears, however, requires a tremendous amount.
In all honesty, I spent many years of my life pretending. I told myself that I was happy with my job, despite knowing from the very first day that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I pretended to agree with everyone around me to avoid the risk of rejection and disapproval.
In a way, I’ve even pretended to be shy. I’m a natural introvert, certainly. But at the same time, being shy was very convenient for me. At many times, it was a means to stay quiet, avoid risks, and maintain the illusion that I was better than I really was.
After spending so much time hiding my true self, I finally reached a point where I’d had enough of it. Enough of being fake, enough of superficial relationships, enough of trying to be liked and seeking the approval of others. Enough!
It was then that I made up my mind: I would stop pretending.
I didn’t want to have fake relationships where people liked me for something I’m not because I was too scared to show them the real me.
I didn’t want to play it safe during a date for fear of failing to give the correct answer or saying the wrong thing and ruining everything. We all want to be loved, but if we’re on a date with someone who is hyper-analyzing every little thing we do, waiting for an opportunity to reject us, how could they possibly be the right match?
Even if that strategy works, aren’t we running the risk of ending up in a lackluster relationship with the wrong person by pretending to be someone we aren’t?
It’s easier to pretend than to be truly honest with ourselves, but what’s the point? It comes with a steep price.
If I pretend my current job is satisfying, what are the chances that I will make the necessary changes to create a fulfilling career that will bring meaning to my life?
If I pretend to be happy in a relationship when my true feelings clearly say something else, how can I improve my relationship?
If I’m constantly trying to be someone I am not, how can I create meaningful relationships with people who would have loved me if only I had given them a chance to know who I really am?
I wanted my relationships with others to be meaningful, profound, and emotionally rewarding. I didn’t want to constantly analyze every word that crosses my mind, and handpick only those that will earn me the approval of the person I’m speaking to.
I wanted to be able to say that I hated something even when everyone around me loved it. As a French person living in Japan, I wanted to be able to admit that I have no interest in French literature even when everybody expected me to. I wanted to be able to say that I know nothing about wine and can’t eat cheese.
I wanted to freely admit that I couldn’t remember much about the movie my friends are discussing. When asked about my hobbies, I wanted to say with excitement that I love learning rather than murmuring “I like watching movies and listening to music” or something like that.
These days, I’m being honest, showing the real me, and saying what’s true for me.
When working on a new project that required me to navigate between spreadsheets most of the time, I told the client that I wasn’t good at using Excel due to my lack of experience with it. In the past, I would have hidden that fact, felt bad about it for days or even weeks, and blamed myself for “not being good enough.”
During parties, I have no qualms admitting that I hate my job and can’t wait to quit. In the past, I would have pretended I liked it just to fit in with everyone else.
I’ve openly shared my passion with people I’ve just met, discussed the business I’m currently working on, and even talked about how I envision my future. In the past, I would have remained quiet.
And yes, I have unapologetically stated the fact that I don’t like cheese!
I’ve been saying these things for a while, so it isn’t exactly a new accomplishment for me. What is new, however, is how I feel about saying and doing these things.
I once felt guilt and shame over it, but those feelings have dissipated. At some point, I stopped feeling bad for not liking cheese. I stopped apologizing for not enjoying my job, and I stopped blaming myself for not knowing how to use Excel. That was even more freeing than speaking my mind and staying true to myself!
In short, I went from qualifying and explaining my honest statements to saying the truth as is, without all the unnecessary comments that I would usually add to it. I stopped apologizing for being me and stopped feeling bad about myself because of things that cannot be changed.
Pretending is costly, although it is not money we give away, but rather peace of mind and happiness.
Fortunately, we always have a choice. We can keep pretending everything is okay, refuse to take any risks, and settle for an okay relationship, a mediocre job, and a run-of-the-mill life. Or we can make a decision to accept ourselves as we truly are, embrace our fear and discomfort, and give ourselves a chance to create a meaningful relationship both with ourselves and others.
It might be time for you to stop pretending and start being truly honest with yourself. Otherwise, you could miss a chance to find a career that leaves you excited to wake up every morning and meet people who love you for who you are, not for who you pretend to be.
Thibaut Meurisse is the founder of http://whatispersonaldevelopment.org. Passionate about personal development, he dedicates his life to finding the best possible ways to durably transform both his life and the lives of others. Download his free e-book “The 5 Commandments of Personal Development” on his website to discover the 5 principles you shall master in order to live a full life.
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How to Maintain a Sense of Peace No Matter What Life Throws At You
“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.” ~Unknown
Do you ever feel like your life is a rollercoaster?
One second, you’re on top of the world. The next, you’re down in the dumps.
For me, this feeling of going up and down began back in high school.
Before then, everything in life seemed like a test run. Sure, there were exams, extracurricular activities, and the usual social pressures. But now that university was only a few years away, things suddenly turned serious.
“These are the most important years of your life,” people would say. “Make the best use of them.”
And so, every single thing, no matter how big or small, seemed to have an amplified effect. If I didn’t do something right, my life was over. But if I did achieve a step in the right direction, my life was set.
When I applied for a leadership position that I thought was a good fit, I convinced myself that I absolutely had to get it. I read the leadership responsibilities diligently, practiced the same speech over and over, and thought about what I would do when I got the position.
The result? I didn’t get it. My life, as I knew it, was over.
Fast-forward a few years to university: I had decided by this time that I wanted to go to business school. My friends and I would talk about the application process and how to improve our chances of acceptance. With bated breath, I finalized my application and submitted it.
The result? I was accepted. Since the school had strong internship and job prospects, my life was set.
While I had fun, school was also incredibly stressful. Classmates and I would beam with excitement when we were invited to interviews, only to be disheartened a few days later when an offer didn’t come.
Later, I received an offer to work in a role that seemed perfect for what I was looking for. I was elated.
As you can probably guess by now, that feeling didn’t last.
It began to feel like no matter what I did or how much effort I put in, life was never a smooth path. Seemingly promising opportunities would lead me to obstacles in the way. Even when I did get something I wanted, it would lead to another stressful problem that needed solving. And so on it went.
After dealing with these emotions and thoughts for years, I felt exhausted. It felt as if there was no end to the tunnel. No point in time when I could just put down everything, sit, and enjoy the scenery for a while.
Eventually, I figured that it wasn’t simply the swirl of events surrounding me that caused my ups and downs. It was my perspective. I consistently attached myself to specific outcomes, as if my life depended on them, and felt devastated when things didn’t work out.
Sure, some of the things I experienced could easily make anyone feel the same way. Had I taken a different view, however, I wouldn’t have constantly psyched myself up and created these unhealthy emotions.
When I look back at what I thought were huge victories and setbacks at the time, they seem insignificant now. My life wasn’t over, as I believed it to be, nor was it set in stone. And truthfully, I wouldn’t want either.
I learned that no matter what happens, life goes on. Celebrations and challenges are a part of everyone’s life, not the be-all and end-all. With practice, I’ve started incorporating a sense of peace into my life by using some practices that anyone can apply.
4 Practices to Help You Maintain Peace and Perspective
1. Expect twists and turns.
Recently, I went on a long-awaited vacation. Soon after landing, I stepped off the plane relieved and excited to begin my holiday.
Unfortunately, my new luggage case arrived less than intact.
“Why me?” I thought. This was the first time in years that I had used the airport check-in, and my luggage was the only one that was damaged.
I realized then that I had two choices: I could let this ruin my vacation, or I could enjoy my holiday regardless.
I admit, I did grumble about it initially. But later I took the contents out and put the case out of view so that I wouldn’t spend my holiday thinking about it.
Unexpected events happen to everyone. It’s important to acknowledge them as a part of life and plan for them when possible. Even though I felt upset about possibly tossing out my new favorite luggage, I reminded myself how fortunate I was that I got to use it in the first place.
Thankfully, the airline ended up offering to get my luggage case repaired.
I realize some twists and turns are more emotionally trying than damaged luggage, and far more difficult to accept. But if we learn to expect the unexpected, we’ll spend less time resisting life’s inevitable curveballs and more time proactively dealing with them.
2. Look at the big picture.
Painful events and experiences happen to everyone. Sometimes, they’re so painful that it feels like nothing will ever take away the feeling of sorrow or hurt. But everything heals in time, and sometimes good can come from even the most traumatic situations.
A few years ago, a relative of mine lost her husband to cancer. It was devastating for everyone, especially for her family. At the time, it felt almost unimaginable that someone so close and well loved could leave so soon.
While he is still missed and thought of every day, good things have happened since then:
- A marriage and the addition of a new family member
- A stronger bond between the family
- The realization that it’s crucial to laugh and enjoy life while we can
So no matter how terrible something feels at the time, know that you have the strength to get through it. There will be many moments in the future, both blissful and difficult. And if you can survive one painful experience, you can survive the next one.
It also helps to remember that some of life’s greatest challenges end up being our greatest teachers. You may not be able to control what happens, but you can decide what lessons you choose to learn from them.
3. Practice self-care.
When was the last time you did something nice for yourself?
Most of us spend our time running errands or doing work for other people, but rarely do we pause and enjoy a moment simply for the sake of it.
By constantly putting ourselves in stressful situations, we end up damaging our health in the long run.
Make time for yourself. Sit and listen to your favorite music, pursue your hobby, or meditate. Some of my favorite ways to de-stress include taking a walk outside and curling up with a good book.
When you take care of yourself, you feel more centered, more peaceful, and better able to handle whatever life throws at you.
We all need time for ourselves to relax and reflect on our day. Besides, I’ve found that taking breaks helps me to approach tasks with greater clarity and calmness than working all the time.
4. Practice patience.
Sometimes it feels like life is a constantly unraveling story. The only problem is, we want to jump straight to the end and see what happens.
For instance, sometimes I think to myself: In five years, will I still be in the same place that I’m in right now? If I choose to spend time working on this endeavor, will it eventually give me the results I want? Will the person I just messaged reply back?
We feel anxious when something in our life is unresolved—an “open loop,” they call it. It makes our heart rate go up and creates tension within ourselves, both of which are unhealthy.
It’s been difficult, but I’ve been trying to be more patient. To do this, I direct my thoughts and attention to things that are productive, such as focusing on the actions rather than the result.
When I’m patient, it becomes easier to deal with both celebrations and setbacks. Knowing that sometimes only time can resolve a situation gives me the ability to let go and be present. And it’s always easier to be peaceful when you’re living in the moment.
Feel At Peace With a Change in Mindset
We all experience disappointments and serendipitous moments. But if you’re exhausted from constantly reacting to the ups and downs in your life, it’s time to step back and reflect on how you respond to things.
Inner peace comes from appreciating life, with all its quirks and bumps. It’s about doing what you can, knowing that sometimes the path you choose will take unexpected turns.
The process of growing and learning can be challenging. It can be downright scary. But if you manage to weather the storms that come your way, you’ll come out stronger than before.
Melissa Chu helps people live better and build good habits at Jumpstart Your Dream Life. Reach your goals by downloading the guide How To Get Anything You Want.
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3 Steps to Rocket Your Creative Dreams into the Stratosphere
“Do your art every day, no matter how crappy your day is.” ~Ksenia Anske
I was definitely the weird kid. The boy who played with invisible friends out there on the playground during recess. I had what you might call “a rich inner life.”
I guess that’s expected when you’re in grade school. All cool. But as I got older the world began to get unkind. Like the day I realized the stories in my head weren’t really real. Or when that jock guy called me an “art fag” in front of everybody. Or when all the girls said I was weird.
By junior high I did my best to hide my creative heart. It was far too vulnerable. So guess what. I was never really seen. Not in the hallways or the classrooms or the cafeteria. Not at home. Not anywhere. It was just too f’ing scary.
During my college years I finally began to crawl out of my shell. It was always a struggle. I often dealt with it through poetry or lyrics to songs I was writing.
by Electron Love Theory
I go uptown, ‘cause there’s a fire in my head
I do downtown, ‘cause there’s no one in my bed
I go around town to try to find a friend
I go inbound because I must defend myself
Eventually I connected with plenty of other creative types—secret poets, guitar gods, heavenly painters, misfit photographers. I learned to embrace my weirdness. My creative flow. The strange and beautiful words, images, and music that poured from my soul. Over time I became less afraid. I practiced my crafts and began to shine my heart in the world.
It took years and years of bloody battles (which still occasionally surface) before I could fully be who I knew I was. An artist. A musician. A writer. A filmmaker. A healer. A teacher.
Since then I’ve won a major award for my music. I made a film about a wise and magical barista that got picked up for international distribution. Had nearly a million spins of my music on Pandora. Shot a zillion photos. Taught college students to rock. Practiced NLP. And wrote a book about how to get your creative dreams off the ground.
Even with this considerable success my fragile heart has been battered with plenty of pain, loss, and disappointment along the way. I’ve bloodied my head from banging against a whole lot of walls (both real and imagined). Many times I’ve sweated oceans of effort without money or recognition as compensation. And that’s okay.
I want to share what I’ve learned with you. Because through my own self-expression I’ve learned more and more about who I am. I’ve freed worlds of pain. I’ve healed shadow parts. These are the real successes.
I know, without a doubt, that your creativity is a beacon of truth and healing. It needs to be known. It takes courage, but it’s worth it.
Ready for the first few steps? Hell yeah!
Step 1: Declare Your Dream
It’s easy to spend half the day in your head. It’s kind of the default. Unless you’re really engaged in something, we tend to think. And that thinking tends to be in circles. You know what I’m talking about.
When you’re contemplating your dream—whether it’s taking a watercolor class, building a sculpture out of gumdrops, or busting out a short film script about a vampire who loves disco dancing—it has a much better chance of making it to reality if you announce it loud and clear to your people.
If your people are solid, they will get behind you. They will support you. They will want you to succeed. But the fact is that not everybody in the world is in the space to give you what you need. They may be lost in their own nonsense, negativity, or self-doubt. So choose your people carefully.
What should you declare? Whatever it is, it needs to have these components.
What exactly you’re going to do
State your vision as clearly as possible. Make sure it’s under your control. It’s well within your control to write a movie script about a dancing vampire. It’s not in your control to sell it to Steven Speilberg. (Although it is in your control to try!)
Why you’re going to do it
There are always reasons why we do things. Check in to make sure you’re doing your thing for a reason that matters to you.
Maybe you’re writing about the vampire because music and dancing saved your life (and you identify as goth). Expressing that gratitude is a big deal. Even if it’s in the form of a cheesy youtube video.
When you’ll do it and when it’ll be done
Important! Without a deadline your goal will quickly fall down the to-do list. So make a deadline. Better yet, make several short-term, smaller deadlines. Like having the script outline done in a month. The first draft done a month after that. And the final draft done by your birthday. So you can go out dancing to celebrate (while wearing fangs).
How your people will know that it happened
It is not your person or gang’s problem to reach out to you to find out if you did what you said you were going to do. It is your responsibility. This is key.
You could announce your progress via email every Friday at 5:00. Or Sunday night. Or on the specific deadline dates. Just ask your pals to be receptive and to give you a thumbs up on your milestones. Or maybe they want to give you gold stars. Or buy you lattes.
Declare your dream. Become accountable. Not just to yourself, but to the people who love you and want you to succeed.
Step 2: Start Before You’re Ready
Is anyone really ready? Hell no. I’m certainly not.
Seven years ago I somehow landed a gig teaching college students to write songs. I don’t read music. I barely know theory. And although it’s true that I have tons of third party cred that I’m a pretty kick ass songwriter, I was freaked out and intimated by the job. But I put on my big boy pants, started sweating bullets, and walked in there that first day like I was king of the studio.
There were some pretty huge missteps but soon enough I got a clue. Since then one of my students has won a national songwriting award. Another sang backup on a hit song. After struggling for weeks, one guy who was previously frozen with fear had a major breakthrough. He turned to me and said, “I finally remember why I love music so much.”
We need to find the moxie to start before we’re ready. It’s good for us. And perhaps it’s even better for the people who we touch. The ones we empower with our creations. With our example of courage.
Be bold. Start now. Before you’re ready.
Step 3: Say “Yes, and ______.”
Ever get the feeling that life is a bit like improv comedy? I do. Maybe it’s because I took an improv comedy class. (I wasn’t ready for this either;)
One of the main tenets of improv comedy is to say “Yes, and ____.”
This simply means that you need to accept reality—whether you like it or not— and then add something of value to the story.
In an improv exercise the reality might be that we’re all waiting for the bus and it starts raining hundred dollar bills. Or the doctor comes in wearing a Homer Simpson costume. Or your lover suddenly grows six arms.
Whatever it is, you just kind of have to deal with it. Then take the story somewhere. It’s fun. It’s an interactive game. It forces you to think fast.
Life is improv. Sometimes it’s comedy. Sometimes it’s tragedy. But it’s always improv in one way or another.
Accept whatever the world hands you. Then figure out how to add something interesting, funny, powerful, or helpful to it. Your life will open up. Guaranteed.
“Hey, friend. You’re not gonna believe this but my iPhone takes pretty good pictures.”
“Cool! Wanna write lines of poetry on cardboard signs, ask strangers on the street to hold them up, and take photos of the whole thing?”
It’s that easy. Say “Yes, and ____.”
The Sweet and Tasty Wrap up
These are simple ideas. But if you step up and into them, they’ll also become delicious. Although it may take a while to get to the good part. Like a tootsie pop.
Yeah, it takes work, courage, and conviction. Of course it’s going to get challenging. I hope so, anyway. If you don’t feel like quitting once in awhile you probably haven’t picked a goal that’s worth doing.
But please, please, please step into your creative dream. Whatever it is for you. It’s worth the effort.
Expressing your truth frees your soul. Opens your heart. And heals your life. Whether it’s through story, images, performance or anything else, creativity is simply not a luxury item. It’s part of what makes us human. And part of what connects us to each other in joy, sorrow, pain and love.
What have you started before you were ready?
How has creativity healed you?
What are you going to say “Yes, and ____” to?
Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission—to inspire creative humans to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world. Click here to win the grand prize of four online creativity coaching sessions (value $1000) + hard copies and ebooks of Jeff’s book Not F*ing Around—The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground.
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What to Do When Your Need to Please Is Ruining Your Life
“We are captives of our own identities, living in prisons of our own creation.” ~Theodore Bagwell
Have you ever thought you had to do what other people said or they wouldn’t love you?
Have you felt selfish for wanting to put your needs first, or guilty for setting limits with the people you care about?
Have you learned that even when you’ve complied with everyone’s wishes and whims they still weren’t happy, and you weren’t either?
Welcome to the deception of people-pleasing. Welcome to the story of my life.
There is no tragedy greater than being alive but not feeling it because you’re numb, aloof, and emotionless. For many years I lived that way, showing all the signs of being alive but never truly living. That’s because I felt a strong desire to give all of myself in order to pay back the world for everything I’d been given.
You see, I had the American Dream. I was granted many blessings, and by all accounts, I should have been happy. But I didn’t feel a thing—especially not happiness.
It took me a while to identify the missing piece that kept me from truly experiencing my life: I wasn’t living as the person I really wanted to be. I was living my life to please others, make them happy, and follow society’s rules.
I thought I was doing the right thing; I truly believed, “Eventually, all this selfless work will bring me the happiness I deserve on a silver platter.” But it never really worked out that way. It seemed the more I did, the less fulfilled I felt.
My early life experiences shaped me into a people-pleaser. Though I was grateful for everything I was given, I was also aware that I’d been born into difficult family circumstances. Pleasing others was my way of coping with it.
Like most young children, all I wanted was to gain my parents’ attention and approval. But praise was a scarce resource in my household, and both of my parents readily doled out criticism. I quickly become aware of how my actions affected them, so I acted in approval-seeking ways and suppressed my feelings in order to avoid punishment.
I didn’t want to be criticized or berated in front of others, so I became the child, teenager, and adult of my parents’ dreams. They still found fault at times—which crushed me—but I ultimately did everything I could to make it up to them.
This trap I had fallen into got deeper when my parents divorced. I tried to appease both of them by sticking myself in the middle of their marital battle and protecting my siblings from having to bear the brunt of their anger. I became my parents’ mediator, and this form of communication spiraled me into a deep depression that no one knew about but me.
I lost a lot of weight, my grades dropped in school, and I no longer found any pleasure in activities I once enjoyed. But with a brave face, I trudged along and dealt with it so that my siblings wouldn’t have to. I convinced myself that this was my way of fulfilling my duty as a daughter and avoiding criticism.
Growing up in these circumstances led me to believe I was responsible for how others felt. I learned to shape my personality, behaviors, and reactions according to what other people wanted or needed from me instead of being authentic to how I truly felt.
Because of my parents’ often extreme reactions to situations, I came to believe that I needed to change; but the truth is, their reactivity was their responsibility.
You see, we tend to call people who display this pattern of behavior people-pleasers, doormats, or approval-seekers. We describe them as being selfless. People-pleasers rarely say no, are super responsible, spend most their time doing for others, and are viewed as the nicest kinds of people.
On the surface, it can seem like being a people-pleaser is the right thing to do; but over time, this identity wears a person down, and all that pleasing turns into an unhealthy pattern of behavior that doesn’t actually end up pleasing anyone in the long run.
I used to identify myself as being a good, nice, and selfless person who was always accommodating others.
When I self-identified as having certain personality attributes, it dictated my actions and led me to believe I needed to act in certain ways to match society’s standard of how a good and nice person behaves.
Even when my actions weren’t aligned with how I truly wanted to live my life, I found myself complying anyway. I worked hard to avoid looking selfish, unaccommodating, or disagreeable, and I avoided confrontation at all costs.
I stopped this pattern when I came to realize that being a good person is a lot more complex than just accommodating the needs of others all of the time.
When I realized that constantly giving in wasn’t as loving as I thought it was, and that the way I was acting didn’t come from a loving place at all but from a place of guilt and inadequacy, that’s when I decided to go from people-pleasing to living life on my own terms.
That’s when I started to evolve from selfless to self-full. That’s when I deconstructed my identity as a people-pleaser and restructured my life. That’s when I decided that living my own life was more important than my parents’ approval of me.
If the need to please has been running your life, here are some ideas to support your shift from selfless to self-full.
1. Understand that other people are responsible for themselves.
Being a people-pleaser allowed me to overlook one important fact: other people are responsible for themselves and their own problems.
Somewhere down the road I decided that other people’s problems were my problems. I believed it was my responsibility to make other people feel better. For as long as I can remember, I played the caretaker role in my life; but all it got me was a burdening sense of obligation and crippling anxiety.
It’s important for you to remember that you aren’t responsible for how others feel or act. If you try to please people because you’re scared of their reactions, that’s a sign that you need to start making a change.
You see, when you take on other people’s responsibilities, you’re allowing them to continue acting irresponsibly; you’re permitting and promoting their unhealthy patterns.
The next time you’re inclined to take on someone else’s stuff, ask yourself, Does taking on this person’s responsibilities really make me a good person? Is it actually kind to keep people from taking ownership of their own lives?
You’re likely to the find that the answer is no, and then you can explore how to be supportive without taking over completely.
2. Stop trying to keep the peace.
I often used to wonder why I was surrounded by selfish people; from my perspective, everyone else was the problem. But on my journey to self-fullness I realized that they weren’t the problem; I was.
By trying to keep the peace in my relationships, I was overlooking the ways in which other people were taking advantage of me. I ignored their twisted priorities because I thought I should play nice all the time.
It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the better, more loving choice is the more uncomfortable, anxiety provoking one. Truly loving behavior calls for limits, boundaries, and saying no every once in a while.
Some people will get upset with you or throw a tantrum like a two-year-old, but the cost of ignoring your boundaries is much greater than that. So stop thinking that keeping the peace is better for your relationships. The truth is it’s much better to be honest and upfront.
3. Know the consequences of seeking approval.
Living your life through fear of criticism and rejection doesn’t allow you to truly live at all. Constantly censoring yourself doesn’t allow you to see the freedom of choice that you really have. When you’re seeking approval all the time, you aren’t really growing.
My approval-seeking behavior stemmed from a belief that my mental health depended on my being liked; if people didn’t like me, I didn’t feel worthy. The consequence of this was that my value as a person was totally dependent on what other people thought of me. Any criticism made me feel terrible about myself, so I avoided it by acting in ways that would gain others’ approval.
I finally broke this pattern by placing more value on seeking approval from myself. By figuring out who I was and what I valued, I was able to create a stronger sense of self. When you know who you are and accept yourself, other people’s criticism doesn’t bother you too much at all.
4. Become self-full.
If you’re caught up in the people-pleasing cycle, you probably think it’s selfish to consider your needs first. Once you shift your idea of what it means to be a good person, like I did, you’ll see it isn’t selfish—but rather self-full–to put yourself first.
Much of my desire to change came from realizing that if I didn’t start valuing myself, my relationships would suffer. Although it might seem counterintuitive, prioritizing your needs and gaining a strong sense of self is actually better for other people, because it serves to strengthen the relationships you have with them.
It’s for this reason that placing your needs first is self-full rather than selfish. It’s about seeing your value and knowing your worth as a person. When you do this, others can start seeing your value also, and your relationships can start to transform.
The journey to self-fullness is all about trial and error. It’s about making mistakes, changing your behaviors, and asserting your own decisions.
I started to feel happy and truly alive when I started to get to know myself, learning when to say no and when to set limits in my relationships. It wasn’t easy. I had to get used to some criticism and disappointment; I had to grow a stronger backbone. However, I can say without hesitation that it was worth it. And I know it will be worth it for you, too.
Your life should be lived the way you want to live it. No one should have the power over you to dictate how you need to live your life. The more you get to know who you are, and the more boldly you begin to live life on your terms, the better you’ll feel about yourself.
I no longer make decisions out of fear or wind up washed over with resentment. Now I do things for people because I want to, not because I’ll feel guilty if I don’t. I no longer need other people to make me feel worthy; I give that sense of worthiness to myself by knowing and accepting who I am.
It will serve you greatly to let go of the idea that people need saving and it’s your responsibility to do it. Somewhere down the road, you internalized the message that you have to be responsible for how others feel. But the truth is, you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s feelings but your own.
You can’t live a healthy, happy life if you’re too busy managing your feelings and other people’s feelings at the same time. Remember, people can take care of themselves. That idea will leave room for you to take care of yourself, too.
Dr. Ilene S. Cohen is a marriage and family therapist, blogger, and adjunct professor in the Barry University Department of Counseling. Dr. Ilene is passionate about helping people achieve their goals while leading a fulfilling and meaningful life. To read more of Dr. Ilene’s articles visit doctorilene.com.
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The post What to Do When Your Need to Please Is Ruining Your Life appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
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