If you are like most of us, you have unhealthy relational skills. You learned them when you were little. You learned by observing others and maybe got some instruction from your parents and care givers; however, most of what you learned or figured out isn’t healthy. Think about the time your friend or spouse wouldn’t give you something you wanted. You were hurt by them, you shut down and stopped talking to them. This is the adult version of, “Fine! You can’t come to my Birthday party.” It may look different and sound different, but it’s still a five year old’s response to being disappointed or hurt by a friend.
Some things we learned are ultra damaging to ourselves and others. We may have learned to make everyone around us happy. We may have learned it’s our fault when they aren’t. As an adult you are now in relationships where you believe you can’t stand up for yourself or draw healthy boundaries because those actions will be mean to the other person. This belief is not accurate nor is it conducive to healthy relationships.
Take a look at how you function in relationships. If you’re honest, chances are you will see yourself taking some young and unhealthy actions. Get involved in a relationship skills class, read books on the subject or get help from a counselor. Life is too short to stumble along using immature skills in the most important part of life, relationships!
My favorite authors on healthy relationship skills are Drs John Townsend and Henry Cloud. They have a multitude of books, videos and workshops to help you grow up 🙂
Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?
We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.
When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.
Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. 🙂
In Fluidity I suggested being open to change. This week I’m continuing on this thread specifically geared toward the holidays. We have the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa on three consecutive days beginning December 24. What do you want your celebration to look like? As long as it is healthy, legal and wise you can do whatever you want. Obviously you can choose unhealthy, unwise and illegal options but I never recommend doing so because the ramifications for you will not likely be good in the long run. Choosing healthy options might not feel good in the short run but over time you will reap the benefits of making choices that fulfill my three qualifiers: healthy, legal and wise.
If you have always spent your holiday with people you don’t enjoy being around, why do you keep doing that to yourself? Is it for them but inside you are resentful? If so, this action is not wise or healthy for you or them. You are living a lie of sorts. “I’ll pretend to like these people so they feel better.” If you resonate with that statement, you are choosing a co-dependent and toxic action. None of us want people to be in relationship with us out of obligation. We want to be around people who genuinely like us. They might not like us all the time and we might not like them all the time; that’s just the reality of being messy but, at the the end of the day, we count them as those we want to be with.
What about the way you celebrate? Maybe you want to do something different this year. Maybe you sit alone lamenting how lonely your life is. Walk into a homeless shelter and hang out with others. You might even decide you want to start spending more time there to help out. Usually when we see that we have something to offer others we feel better about ourselves. This isn’t out of obligation. This is a two-way street. You help others and in return, without them even realizing it, they help you. You see it in movies all the time. And this time, the movies have it right. When we contribute our time, we benefit. Our heart grows, our purpose becomes clear and our loneliness dissipates.
You have choices regarding how and with whom you celebrate the holidays. Take your life back and exercise your choice! Remember, keep the choices healthy, legal and wise 🙂
Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Enjoy Kwanzaa!
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!).