Having social anxiety can keep us feeling isolated and left out. Although you may feel lonely, sometimes it is easier to just stay at home than push through the crushing social anxiety that makes the whole endeavor feel draining and uncomfortable anyway.
Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to turn down social opportunities for the comforts of our own company, eventually the invitations become fewer and further between.
This can make you feel inadequate, or unwanted.
Now you’re not only spending most of your time alone, but feeling like you have no other choice.
You may have people that you used to enjoy spending time with, or people you used to feel comfortable with. But with every day that you spend away from them it starts feeling more and more uncomfortable to try and be around them. You have memories of really enjoying laughing and talking, but when they text you now, you feel paralyzed. It’s not that you feel that you wouldn’t like them, it’s just that you feel somehow like you couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations that they have of you being funny and entertaining. The pressure you feel to say or do the right thing and respond in just the right way makes your heart race and your palms sweat just thinking about answering them. Not to mention that you feel so rude for having not talked to them sooner that contacting them or responding to them now feels completely out of the question.
So you don’t. You think about them but you don’t call or text. They contact you and it’s so uncomfortable for you that you avoid the whole situation for days and then feel like an asshole and beat yourself up instead of sleeping.
Unfortunately all this does is reinforce your experience of yourself as unlikable, and when your friends inevitably stop reaching out as often, you see this as validation of what you always knew would eventually happen; they realized they didn’t really like you anyway.
Eventually you wind up in a place where you’ve decided you’re better off just spending your time alone. It’s easier, and there’s much less of a chance of getting rejected and ultimately disappointed. But the truth is that social interaction is really difficult for a lot of people. Many people struggle with wondering if they are good enough or likable enough. It’s okay to not always feel social or up for being around a lot of people. But it’s important to feel like you can spend time with people you like and care about if and when you want to.
It’s true that social anxiety can be debilitating, and it can impact every aspect of our lives. However, there are several things that can help us to feel more comfortable and confident in our interactions with other people, and our ability to maintain relationships with people we care about. When we use these top ten skills it is entirely possible to build up to the level and amount of social interaction that feels good to y
Keep reading for the top ten skills to overcome your social anxiety today.
SOCIAL ANXIETY IS MAKING YOUR LIFE HARDER
The biggest downside of not dealing with your social anxiety is that it affects every single aspect of your life. While having friendships and relationships that matter to you is incredibly important, you may feel more impacted by how your social anxiety keeps you from reaching your professional goals. At the very least you will find yourself agonizing over things that you feel should really not be that big of a deal. Living this way is exhausting, with every minor interaction feeling draining and overwhelmi
FEEL CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Although you struggle with social anxiety, it is possible for you to feel comfortable and confident in social situations of all kinds. When we use these top 10 skills to deal with your social anxiety you can learn to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes along with going to the grocery store, asking for a raise, and going out with friends. You have an opportunity to start making changes that will make it possible for you to have a completely different experience in all social settings.
TOP TEN SKILLS TO ACHIEVE FREEDOM FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of social interactions in your day to day life. The key to feeling more comfortable and confident in social interactions is to give yourself small, manageable steps to take towards the changes you want to make and learn to give yourself permission for things to not go perfectly (because if we’re going to be honest, when do things ever go perfectly?). Take a look at these 10 skills to see how you can feel more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
Check out these 10 skills to see how you can start feeling more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
#10 Break it Down into Small, Manageable Steps
A lot of the time when we are saying that we want to be more comfortable in social settings, what we mean is that we want to be able to call up a friend and go to lunch without a twinge of discomfort. The thing is, that for a lot of people this might as well be asking yourself to run a marathon. It’s not that it isn’t possible for you in the future, but it isn’t super realistic for right now. Right now a good goal might be to text someone you haven’t spoken to in a while but think about regularly. There doesn’t even have to be a goal in the interaction beyond reaching out, so just sending a text saying something like, “Hey, hope you’re doing okay!” is good enough.
When we hold ourselves to standards that are unrealistic and expect that we are going to be able to do more than is reasonable when we aren’t ready, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We always want to be working just barely outside of our comfort zones, and this is how we expand what is possible for us.
#9 Give Yourself Permission to Bail
This is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to send that text but when push came to shove it just didn’t feel possible. Give yourself permission to make the decision to not send the text. If you don’t give yourself permission not to do it, one of two things is going to happen. Either 1, you’re going to spend the next week and a half beating yourself up for being a failure and feeling like there’s no hope for you (which is patently false and unhelpful) or 2, you’re going to send the text, but the experience is going to be so uncomfortable and unpleasant for you that you immediately think something like, “I am never going to put myself through something this horrible ever again.” I think you can see why that doesn’t progress our goals.
It’s important to make the experience as positive as possible so that you can continue to push your boundaries.
#8 Redefine Success
So maybe you decided that you were going to send that text. You sit down, stare at the name of the person you want to talk to in your phone, start typing out the message. . .and then put your phone down and walk away. Many people might determine that this was a failure because the text wasn’t sent, but I don’t agree. Today, you came much closer to reaching out to someone than you have in the recent past. You actually made action steps towards making social contact. This is something to celebrate! Eventually, we want you to be able to send that text and even to do more, but right now, you did something that was uncomfortable for you.
It’s really easy to decide that since the outcome of the effort wasn’t what you had envisioned it would be the effort was wasted. But since for the most part you have no control over outcomes, only what you do (and don’t do), we need to celebrate your actions instead of outcomes.
#7 Ask for Support From Safe People
This requires that you identify who safe people are to you and what makes them safe. Sometimes just identifying a safe person is the difficult part. But if you do have one person who makes you feel comfortable or at ease, and you know that they support you and understand your social anxiety, that’s a great person to ask for help.
Help can be defined differently for each person, and this is something that can be explored more in therapy. But maybe for you help might look like them sitting with you while you type up the text. Maybe they can be someone you are accountable to when you tell yourself you are going to go through with something. Maybe you just need someone to talk to about how and why these things are so difficult for you. Regardless, having some emotional support can go a long way.
#6 Breathing Exercises
I know it sounds trite, but if you give yourself permission to do some deep breathing before (or during or after) you do something that is difficult for you, you may be surprised how much of a difference it makes. This is especially true if you are prone to panicking (or even panic attacks). Part of what is happening when you are panicking is your breathing becomes fast and shallow and it kicks in the part of your brain that makes you feel incredibly unsafe. As we said above, it is very important that every time you decide to push your boundaries you feel as safe as possible. It will also make you more successful more often, and it will help you think clearly so that if you decide that you want to bail, it can feel like a grounded decision instead of giving up.
#5 Find a Coping Strategy
This is similar to doing breathing exercises. If you are able to find something that you can do that you can get lost in that helps you feel calm and safe, see if you can incorporate it into the task you decided you are trying to do. For instance, if we are staying with texting someone you haven’t seen in a while, you may want to make yourself a mug of tea to smell and sip while you are typing it out. Maybe there is a specific song that usually makes you feel calmer and more like yourself. Maybe you feel better after exercise, so doing push-ups every so often through the endeavor would help you stay calm.
Whatever it is that you decide to do, the idea is that it is something you can do when your anxiety or stress is just BARELY starting to increase. You want to catch it before it gets out of hand if at all possible.
#4 Exit Planning
I’ve noticed a theme in the work I have done with clients who have social anxiety. Oftentimes the client will indicate that they feel like once they’ve made the decision to call someone, or go somewhere, or interact somehow they feel completely trapped and like they have to participate fully and can’t change their minds. In my opinion, this is a really big problem. It makes the stakes too high and makes it so that making the decision to try is tantamount to trapping yourself in a bad situation.
So if you decide you are going to participate, maybe it’s best to take your own car. It’s probably best to set expectations that you may have to leave early. It might be helpful to make sure that you give yourself explicit permission to step outside, even if it is the middle of a movie, or a dinner. It is better to leave at an inconvenient time (and know ahead of time that you get to and you know exactly how you are going to do it) than to not try to go at all because you don’t want to feel trapped.
#3 Bring a Comfort Person
. . .or pet. . .or object. This would obviously depend on where you are going and for what purpose, but if you get really stressed at the grocery store, see if there is someone who can come with you to help keep you grounded. If you get nervous about going to the park or a local restaurant, see if you can find one that is pet friendly. If you are going to a social gathering or a work get together, maybe there is an object that helps you feel grounded. Some people get a lot of use out of worry stones, other people find that bringing something that smells like home (like lotion) might be more helpful. Whatever it is for you, the idea is to prime yourself to feel safe and calm by bringing someone or something that helps you feel safe and calm into the space where you are uncomfortable.
#2 Take Time to Re-Charge
As you start to develop more comfort with social interactions, you may find that you enjoy challenging yourself. I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE burn themselves out because they were starting to feel more comfortable and didn’t allow themselves time to rest and recuperate. Although pushing ourselves is necessary if we are ever going to create real change, it is just as important to give yourself time to rest and re-build your strength so to speak.
#1 Celebrate Small Victories
This is the most important skill in your arsenal. You are going to have lots of small victories and plenty of disappointments on your road to feeling more comfortable in social interactions. It has been in your life for a long time and it is going to take some time for you to be able to work through it. No matter what it is that you have decided you are going to try to do, if you take any steps towards that goal it is closer than you were before. Furthermore, just considering making the changes is literally changing your brain to make these experiences more and more possible for you. Celebrate every victory, because every tiny step you take brings you closer to your goal.
Learning to feel safe and comfortable in social settings can feel freeing and exhilarating. You absolutely can learn what it feels like to accept an invitation without thinking, or to meet new people without second guessing every single thing that comes out of your mouth. I can help you to determine what your goals are, and what a small step towards your ideal outcome might be. Together we can help you get free of your social anxiety.
Click “Get Started” to schedule your free consultation today.
Coming out to your family is incredibly scary, and it can be devastating when they don’t handle it well. You always knew that your relationships were going to have to change, but nothing could have prepared you for the onslaught you have been wading through.
Things with your family have been so painful that there’s a part of you that doesn’t know if it’s worth it to even keep trying, and that part of you feels like it is growing every day. But then there are moments when you feel profoundly lonely without the support system you knew when you were younger, flawed as it was. As liberating as it is to not hide your true self anymore, it’s still a huge life change to be embracing this part of your identity, and not having your family to turn to is really taking its toll.
Perhaps you came from a very conservative household. Your parents were always very vocal about how disgusted they were by homosexuality. So when you started developing an interest in sex and dating, it didn’t even immediately occur to you that you might be gay. Now looking back you feel like it was obvious at a very young age, but you can only assume that you were in denial. You dated some girls in high school, but when you met your first crush it was painfully obvious that you had not felt this before. Suddenly being at home with your family felt like a lie without saying anything, and your family’s offhand statements about how immoral homosexuality is made you burn with shame. But when you were with him you came alive in a way that you had never known existed.
Exploring your sexuality felt exciting and invigorating.
There was no way you could go back now that you knew this was possible. This is who you are. But everything was tainted by hiding from your family. How could you feel close to them when they don’t even know this huge part of who you are?
You have always known how strongly your family felt about LGBTQ people, but there was a small part of you that hoped, and maybe even expected, that they would be able to love you no matter what.
The realization that their ideals would keep them from loving and supporting you was an incredibly painful one.
You have done everything that you know how to do to smooth things over. You have tried to spend time with your family and just not talk about your romantic exploits; but that felt dishonest and uncomfortable. You have tried telling your family that they could see you only if they went around your romantic partners and their families; but that ended up just alienating you further from your family.
When it comes down to it what you want is to know that they love and support you no matter what. Although you’d prefer that they support your relationships, more than that you just want to know that this new revelation hasn’t changed the way they feel about you. You have tried to engage them in conversations explaining as much, but it always seems to end in them questioning you and making you feel like you have to defend yourself. You’re tired of being on the defensive.
You’re tired of hiding your true self.
Living your life as openly gay has been an amazing, invigorating, and freeing experience. You are so much more of yourself now than you were when you were in denial. You like what you are learning about yourself, and you want nothing more than to share these new revelations about yourself with your family. There’s a part of you that continues to believe that when your family sees how happy you are and how comfortable you seem, they will learn to be happy for you. It’s just that this hasn’t proven to be the case so far. Sometimes you will say that it doesn’t really matter to you what your family says or how they feel, but there are still moments when you miss them and the relationships you had.
Eventually you are going to have to give up on trying to make them change their minds, because you can’t control them. You either end up with little to no relationship with your family, and a whole lot of resentment, or you avoid talking about anything that really matters to you in an effort to keep the peace. Navigating relationships with our families as we grow into adulthood is difficult in the best of times. Adding the complications inherent to coming out makes the whole ordeal a minefield. It’s OK to not be sure what you want or how you want to deal with it.
Coming out can be a harrowing experience. However, if we can learn ways to protect ourselves and engage with our families in ways that respect us and our choices it is possible to feel more in control of the whole experience, and less like you are denying your own existence. You can engage with your family in a way that feels honest, without having to choose between your family and who you are.
Keep reading 3 rules of thumb so that you can start accepting yourself and feel confident about how you are interacting with your family today.
DISOWNED BY YOUR FAMILY OR LIVING A LIE
When coming out takes a turn for the worse you can find yourself feeling like you don’t have a family. Even if you are invited to family functions the conversations are superficial and stilted. This can reinforce your feelings of shame and inadequacy.
ACCEPTING ALL OF YOURSELF
Although your coming out story didn’t go the way you wanted, you still have the potential to feel more empowered in your choices with your family. When you choose to engage with your family in a way that feels honest and respectful to yourself, it’s possible to feel more in control of your story. You have the opportunity to engage in a way that makes you proud of yourself so that you are more confident and empowered in your family interactions.
3 WAYS TO HANDLE DIFFICULT FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS TO FEEL MORE EMPOWERED
You may be feeling isolated and rejected by your family, but it doesn’t always have to feel like this. The key to feeling more empowered and confident in your family relationships is to engage in an honest way. It’s a lot easier to make these changes once you get clear about what you do and do not have control over. Take a look at these 3 tips for how to feel more empowered and confident while dealing with your family.
1) You don’t even spend time with your family anymore
You miss them in a way, but you decided a while back that it wasn’t worth it to you to feel like shit about yourself every time you left. They make it clear you aren’t welcome as you are or with your partner, so you took the hint and stayed away. It makes sense that you are feeling rejected and alienated.
DON’T HIDE FROM YOUR FAMILY
If you make it clear how you wish to be treated, and what is and is not acceptable in the way they interact with you, it becomes more of an option to spend time with your family, because you can leave when your boundaries have been crossed.
Part of what my clients and I do is explore what those boundaries need to be, and how they will be enforced if necessary. This way my clients have a clear plan of how to keep themselves physically and emotionally safe while engaging with their family.
2) When you are with your family you have to hide everything that matters to you
It doesn’t feel any better to be able to spend time with your family if the whole time you are pretending to be something you are not. It makes sense that you would still feel sad and resentful after spending time if you are effectively hiding in plain sight to make everyone else comfortable.
MAKE IT A POINT TO BE TRUE TO YOURSELF NO MATTER WHO YOU’RE WITH
Shame breeds in secrecy, and pretending you are something you are not, even if it’s only some of the time can make you feel like you have a shameful secret to hide. Your sexual identity is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t act like it. Instead, you can speak about things that matter to you and allow your family to be uncomfortable, because their comfort is not worth more than yours.
Together with my clients I help them identify ways that they can respond authentically in conversations with their family. If my clients have reservations or fears we explore where these are coming from, and how to interact in such a way that feels authentic and honest, while keeping themselves emotionally safe. This way you can walk into the family gatherings feeling confident about which topics you want to broach, and which still feel too raw to bring up around family.
3) You don’t know what to say when your family is hurtful, so you stay silent.
In order for you to feel safe and comfortable spending time with your family, they are going to have to know that they can’t be insulting or offensive when it comes to your sexual identity (or anything else for that matter). This is going to require you doing gentle confrontations with your family most (if not every) time they say something hurtful or offensive. Yes, I realize this is exhausting, but the result can be so worth it.
When you schedule a session with me we can explore what scares you about confronting your family about their offensive statements. Together, we can experiment with new ways to engage with your family and how to cope when things are hard. If you are able to confront the hurtful things your family says, you are affirming your belief in your value over and over again, and you will likely notice that you feel less shame.
Even if you try all of these skills it is possible that your relationship with your family will never heal completely.
I feel it is powerful to know that you handled the situation in a way that you feel proud of, so that you can let your family take full responsibility for the rest. It is not necessary to lose access to your family just because you don’t see eye to eye, but it is important for you to feel loved and respected when you are with them. No one but you can decide what you can and cannot put up with with respect to your family. You get to define your limits and boundaries, and you get to decide how hard you want to work to make the relationships work.
Too often I talk to clients who feel that they have to make a choice between a relationship that feels like a denial of who they are, and no relationship at all.
I think that most of the time this is a false dilemma. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some people and some families where no contact is the best option, but from what I have seen, making that decision can feel more empowering and authentic once we have exhausted all other options and can say with confidence that we have done everything we can.
Feeling confident and empowered in your interactions with your family after coming out can be life changing. You absolutely can feel proud of your interactions with your family and have a relationship with them that respects your autonomy and identity. I can help you sort through the mess of words said that cannot be taken back, and unstated resentments so you can have the relationships that are important to you, and still respect who you are.
Schedule your free consultation today to learn more.
The teen years are a time of huge transitions. Not quite adults yet, but definitely not kids anymore, teens are tasked with getting to know themselves and also learning how to have a new kind of relationship with the people they love.
Being a teenager is an exciting time of growth, but it’s also excruciating.
Suddenly your parents feel like an aggravation rather than a safe haven, friendships and romantic relationships start feeling more complicated, and the pressure from school starts to mount.
Trying to figure this out by yourself can leave you feeling stressed, and scared to make any decisions lest you make a mistake. With so much riding on you, something has got to give, and so far it’s been your sanity.
Whereas you used to be able to go to your parents for help and support, some things are just too weird to talk to them about. Other times you may come to them wanting support and end up getting irritated or worse yet, starting an argument. So you keep your stress to yourself or talk to your friends about it. It’s nice to have someone to to commiserate with, but since they’re going through the same thing you are, it doesn’t always help.
Maybe it looks something like this: you’ve always been really conscientious about making the “right” decisions. You want to make yourself proud, and that means not getting into drugs or alcohol, and certainly not being stupid about sex and dating. But lately you’ve been feeling so overwrought with school stuff and trying to make everyone around you happy, that you feel like you want to let loose.
And not only that, you don’t want to waste these teen years being too responsible, because goodness knows once you have a job and a family you’ll get enough of that.
So when you got invited to that party and you know there’s going to be alcohol there, for the first time you feel tempted to throw caution to the wind and show up. You’re the only one in your friend group who is as responsible as you are anyway, so surely having one or two drinks wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Normally you would talk to your parents about pros and cons but you know that they wouldn’t approve and you don’t want them making your decisions for you forever. The issue is that then the only voices you’re listening to are your friends, and they are hardly reliable for sound advice. You want to be able to be a teenager and experience being reckless and irresponsible, but you also want to stay safe, and protect your future.
Eventually you end up either feeling resentful that you’ve wasted your teen years being responsible and adult (everyone always said you were really mature for your age) or you end up making more and more reckless decisions that feel like they’re spiraling out of your control.
The truth is that experimentation is a normal part of being a teenager.
That means starting to make more of your own decisions and having a broader range of experiences so that you can practice boundary setting and self advocacy. When you go away to college, you aren’t going to have your parents as a buffer anymore, so it’s going to be important that you have a better understanding of your limits.
It’s okay to not know exactly who you are and exactly what your limits are. That’s what this time is for. It’s just important to make sure that while you experiment, you can do it safely.
Being a teenager is a stressful experience of growth and change. It can be helpful to know a little more about what is going on in your brain and the developmental tasks of this age so that you can feel free to grow and change, but still keep yourself safe and protect your future. When we keep in mind the purpose of these years, it can be easier to make decisions that satisfy our need for adventure while not losing sight of the things that are going to matter moving forward.
Keep reading to learn 2 things about the teen years that can help you live these years to the fullest.
TOO MUCH STRESS AND RESPONSIBILITY
Left to navigate the teens years on your own, it’s hard to drown out the noise of everyone else’s opinions so that you can figure out what matters to you. Even if you are somehow able to identify what matters to you and what doesn’t, then you have the problem of balancing it all and learning how to communicate with people without everything becoming an argument or a power struggle. Living like this is unnecessarily stressful and turbulent.
SAFE EXPERIMENTATION AND LEARNING TO BE YOURSELF
Although there is nothing that is going to make the teen years feel easy, if you learn more about what is supposed to be happening during these years, you will be better able to get to know yourself and feel comfortable with the decisions you’re making. When we choose to engage in the teen years in a full way and immerse ourselves in the developmental purpose of this time, we can get through it with more confidence and excitement about the future. You can learn about what is making the teen years so hard so that you can safely explore who you are and who you want to be moving forward.
2 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE TEEN YEARS SO YOU CAN EXPERIMENT AND GROW, AND STILL BE SAFE
The teen years may have you feeling stressed, lost and frustrated. The key to making the most of this time and getting everything you want out of it, is learning more about what’s happening in your brain, and what the point of these years is in the first place. It may surprise you how much more clear things become with just a bit more information about why things feel the way they do. Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.
Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.
1) Suddenly you feel an itch to be reckless
One of the hardest things about being a teenager is suddenly feeling like everything is boring and all you want to do is everything you know you shouldn’t do. It’s the weirdest thing the way it comes on. One day you feel content to focus on getting good grades and doing the responsible thing, and the next day it just doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. You just want to stretch your limits, experience more of life, and learn more about who you are and how you respond in different situations. Suddenly the fact that your parents would hate it, makes it seem like a much better idea.
It makes complete sense that you’re feeling this way when you know more about what is happening in your brain and why.
Teens are naturally reckless and adventure seeking
This serves a purpose that makes a lot of sense when you think about it for a moment. When kids are really little, they want to live with their parents forever. The idea of ever moving out and starting on their own feels terrifying, and well it should! Small children are dependent on their parents for everything, but as we get older, we become more and more capable of taking care of ourselves. Teens are on the precipice of moving out, finishing school, developing intimate relationships, and all in all making a life for themselves independently. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of courage and daring. How can you get to a place of independence, if you stay risk averse? Becoming an adult is full of risks and challenges, and it means your whole life is going to change.
You feel adventurous now because you need to embark on the huge adventure of creating a life for yourself.
Now that you know that this is a natural part of the teen experience (and why) it can be used to your advantage. If you try to quash this instinct it will end up spilling out of you later or actually stunting your growth and development.
When I work with teens I make sure to respect this instinct and urge that teens have, while engaging with the teen to ensure that they explore their limits and identify safe ways to experiment and adventure.
This instinct is a wonderful part of being a teen, and when we work with it as opposed to against it, it can help us create wonderful memories that we can look back on as adults (because we made it to adulthood safely).
2) Why are your parents suddenly so annoying?!
One of the first things I think of when I consider the difficulties of being a teenager is the way your relationship with your parents is changing. This is hard for so many reasons. Your parents used to be the best place to go when you needed to sooth disappointment or heartache. One day going to your parents for support or just hanging out with them the way you used to doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. In fact, most interactions you have with your parents lately have been ending in arguments and frustration. You at once lose access to the calm and safety they used to afford you, and gain these irritating overlords who seem hellbent on making things more frustrating than they need to be.
It makes sense that your relationship with your parents is becoming more challenging when you consider the challenge of developing an identity that feels one hundred percent your own.
Your developmental task is to figure out who you are.
In broad terms, the task of the teenager is to learn who they are separate from their parents. Whereas a small child might ask their parents what is best and follow that lead, an adult may ask the opinion of others, but ultimately makes his own decision. In order to create this boundary, a teen needs to take on the task of mentally separating himself from his parents so that he can gain a clearer understanding of who he is as an individual.
Cue arguments about how your parents need to stop telling you what to do. This explains a bit of why you have a strong inclination to do the exact opposite of what your parents might want you to do.
Therapy is a great place to spend some time really exploring your own mind and your own beliefs, apart from the influence of your parents.
The more exploration you do in therapy, the less impulsive you will be, and the more able you will be to interact civilly with your parents.
The idea is to give you opportunities to learn more about who you are without having to act it out as much, and giving you skills to develop this new relationship with your parents.
Learning more about the tasks of being a teenager can help you to have a full and exciting teenage experience. You can absolutely get to know yourself as an individual through experimentation, and maintain the progress you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set out for yourself.
Therapy can give you a safe space to explore your values, your limits, and ways to re-create relationships as an adult.
Schedule a free consultation by emailing me today at email@example.com
The holidays are supposed to be a time for togetherness and making family memories.
But what happens when your family isn’t complete?
While everyone around you seems to be celebrating, here you are getting hit with yet another wave of grief that just makes you want to hide until it’s over.
No matter when the loss was, there’s something about the holidays that makes it feel like it just happened. The whole first year, if your loss was recent, is a litany of “firsts” without your loved one, and the holidays are just never going to be the same because not all of the important people are there.
It is easy to let the grief completely consume us and take over the experience.
It would be easy to just hide until it’s over.
Not decorate and pretend the holidays aren’t happening. But what about the rest of your family? All this does is makes you feel more isolated and like there’s nothing left to look forward to.
You might notice that it’s easy to get stuck in some pretty unhealthy patterns when it comes to stuff like this. Although you tell yourself that you’re only going to hide from the holiday season this one year, it quickly becomes a painful habit of not being able to face this time of year, not celebrating with family and friends, and dreading the weather change.
Perhaps it was your father who died. It was unexpected and fast. You didn’t know you needed to be preparing yourself and now that it’s happened you have no idea how to pick up the pieces of your shattered heart so that you can move on. There are questions you didn’t expect. Who are you without your father? Who are you going to call when you feel frustrated and alone? Who is going to play with your kids the way he did? Your chest feels like it’s collapsing every time you think about it, so the idea of sitting through a holiday dinner pretending that everything is fine just makes you want to throw up.
At the time it might have felt like celebrating holidays had to be either the way it always used to be or not happen at all.
You might have felt as though celebrating would be disrespectful to his memory.
How can you sit here sipping eggnog and smiling blandly while someone else sits in his place at the table?
The problem is that by avoiding the holidays altogether all you are doing is keeping yourself from the only people in the whole world who understand some of what you’ve lost; the other people who also lost him.
Eventually you get to a place where the mere idea of holidays makes your chest tighten and has you running in the other direction. If this were just one year, maybe it would make more sense to shelter yourself in this way, but the unfortunate truth is that when we avoid events like these because we don’t want to feel everything that comes up, it only gets harder to face it the next time. By not giving yourself the opportunity to process your feelings and move through the experience, painful as it is, you are teaching yourself that you are not capable of getting through this, and it will cause more avoidance later.
The holidays are hard for a lot of people, and grief is one of the major reasons this time of year is so fraught.
It’s okay to need to go slowly, to need to take breaks, and to not push yourself too hard.
Facing the holidays after losing a loved one is an incredibly painful experience; there’s no denying that. However, if we can learn how to move through the holiday season in a thoughtful and careful way, we can allow ourselves to experience some of the holiday spirit. When we learn how to incorporate our lost loved ones into our holiday rituals it is entirely possible to feel like we are honoring their memory and still loving and appreciating the people who are left behind.
Keep reading to learn how to get through the holiday season with a bit of holiday spirit.
Lost in grief
Grief is debilitating. You have already lost so much, and now grief has taken the brightness out of the holiday season and left you feeling decidedly un-celebratory.
You find yourself staring at the lights you usually love and feeling empty and hollow instead.
Living this way is empty and depressing, and you can’t imagine having to continue on like this.
Find small joys and honor your loved one’s memory
Although the grief threatens, at times, to overwhelm you, you can re-define what the holidays mean to you, so that you can celebrate with the people you love and still remember the people you’ve lost.
When we choose to create new rituals to honor the loved ones we have lost, there is the possibility of getting to have the holidays with the rest of your family and stay connected with less guilt and without the gaping hole of the missing person.
You can create new rituals to incorporate into your holiday so that you can grief together with the people who love you and understand what you’ve lost, so you can continue to make new memories, without just forgetting the person who died.
How to create new rituals to build into your holidays
You might be being crushed by the weight of having to celebrate the holidays without your loved one. One way to honor your loved one’s memory and allow yourself an opportunity to experience the holidays with the people who love you is to create new rituals to honor your loved one. Making these new rituals may seem difficult at the outset, but all you are really doing is creating an outlet so that you can be honest about what’s going on inside your heart. When you follow these steps, you will be able to find ways to honor the person who died and still feel connected to your family this holiday season.
Take a look at these steps to see how you can celebrate the holidays in a way that feels authentic and respectful of the person who isn’t there this year.
Create new rituals to honor the person you lost
One of the main reasons the holiday season feels so overwhelming right now is that you don’t know how to do the same rituals you’ve been doing year after year without a cherished family member. It makes complete sense that you are feeling guilty for even thinking about celebrating when they can’t be here. Creating new rituals that incorporate your memories of the person who died can help you feel less like you are just moving on as though they never mattered.
1) Consider the Importance of the Person You Lost
When you think about the holidays, what role does this person play in the festivities? Were they the cook? Did they make jokes that lightened everyone’s mood? Maybe they were a pain in everyone’s butt and made everyone decorate the tree or put up lights ‘just so’. Whatever it is that this person would contribute to the experience of the holiday, consider what this meant to you and the rest of your family.
Spend some time thinking about what might be different without them there.
This is very painful, but a necessary part of the process.
In session we can explore this in a contained, safe way. If I notice that you are becoming lost in your pain or having a hard time staying on task, I can very gently guide and support you so that you can come back to yourself. This exploration is harrowing but there are light moments in remembering as well. You might find yourself smiling when you remember how difficult or quirky your loved one was. I can help you notice and spend a bit more time on those memories.
When you explore what your loved one used to bring to the table, you will be protecting yourself from nasty surprises, and also starting the process of identifying where the holes in your holiday experience might be.
2) Consider What Was Important to Your Loved One About the Holidays
When we are working through grief, it is not about distancing ourselves from the person we lost, it is really about internalizing parts of who they were so we can take the best parts of them with us into the rest of our lives. Thinking back on the many holidays you got to spend with your loved one, you will likely be able to identify what the holiday meant to them. They might have said it openly at one point (or many times) or they might have just acted in a way that made it clear what they valued. Maybe the best part of Christmas to your father was sitting in front of the tree with only a fire for light sipping on good whiskey. Maybe the most special part of the holiday for your mom was watching the young children rip into their presents early in the morning.
With my clients, I help them sort through the jumble of memories they have been bombarded with lately so that we can pull out the parts of the holiday that really reflect the values and preferences of the person who died. We do this slowly and gently, so that my clients get to reminisce about their loved one and feel the multitude of confusing emotions that come with the memories.
After you do this you can start to identify what your loved one would have wanted you to do this holiday season.
When you ask yourself the question of what they would have wanted you to do, this process will help you develop an answer to that question.
3) Identify New Rituals You Can Use to Incorporate Your Loved One’s Memory
Now that you know what you would miss the most about not having your loved one with you this holiday season, and you have done some considering about what was really important to them about the holidays and how they would have wanted you to carry on, you have a really good basis to start building new rituals into your holiday. Maybe it is waking everyone up super early instead of your mom. Maybe instead of sitting quietly and looking at the newly decorated tree with your dad, everyone could share a memory they have of your him.
When you schedule with me, I will help you to process the mess of grief and guilt and emptiness you feel.
We will find the small moments of joy.
Joy in reminiscing, joy in sharing these new experiences with the rest of your family, and joy in making new memories.
Developing new ways to honor your loved one through the holidays can help you feel connected to the person you lost, the memories that matter, and the people who are still here. You can celebrate the holidays again, and I can help you get there in a way that feels respectful of your grief.
Schedule a free consultation now.
Setting boundaries can be really scary. For one thing, you may not be able to trust yourself to set the boundary in a way that feels good to you. Even more than that just the idea of hurting their feelings is enough to make you cringe away from the very idea.
It’s just that when we don’t set boundaries regularly, things build up.
You may think you are preserving the relationship by not saying anything (you’re strong enough to deal with it, right?), but what actually ends up happening is that when you finally get fed up and set the boundary it comes out of you in. . .let’s just say not the most ideal way.
I see this cycle play itself out for so many clients. The client wants to be kind and forgiving not make waves. So they don’t set any boundaries. At first it feels fine. Little by little things start to feel more aggravating. Eventually a small thing feels like a big problem and the client gets snappy, or loud, or mean when they set the boundary. The person the client set the boundary with feels like the client lost their shit for no reason.
Nothing the client said was heard.
They end up feeling not only like boundary setting doesn’t work because no one listens, but they also end up feeling ashamed of the way they handled the situation. Unfortunately, this causes the client to swing all the way back to being passive and not setting any boundaries out of guilt. And the cycle continues; no boundaries with building aggravation swings to aggressive boundary setting, which leads to shame and guilt about boundaries.
Here’s one way it can play out. Imagine for a moment having a mom that you love very much but she drives you up the wall regularly (far fetched, I know). You appreciate her and like to talk to her regularly, but it seems every time you talk with her she seems to feel like she needs to tell you something else that she thinks you need to take care of or do differently. It makes you feel like you can’t relax around her, and often you end up cutting your time with her short.
Honestly there’s a part of you that feels really good about the fact that you don’t lose your temper with her, but you are starting to realize that the time you spend together doesn’t feel good and your relationship has been feeling more superficial and forced. One day when she makes another one of her comments you just can’t stand it anymore, and you end up snapping at her and telling her to get off your ass! But now her feelings are hurt, and you feel like a jerk.
So you feel like an asshole, your mom’s feelings are hurt, and you certainly don’t feel closer to her or like you protected the relationship.
All you ended up doing by not setting the boundary in the first place is ensured that the way you set the boundary was not the way you would have wanted to communicate with your mom.
If you can’t set boundaries and feel like things go to hell when you try, you end up avoiding the people you care about.
Look, boundaries are hard.
Finding the balance of making sure you communicate what you need in a way that is kind and neutral is hard. It’s really normal to feel overwhelmed by boundary setting. A lot of people end up just trying to suck it up (until they blow up) or avoiding the whole deal in the first place.
Difficulty with boundary setting can make you feel touchy and maybe even make you feel crazy sometimes for blowing up. If you can learn, step by step, how to set a boundary that is not dependent on how the other person responds, you can start to trust yourself to handle these situations more smoothly. When we follow these simple steps for how to effectively set a boundary, we can start to feel more in control of our communication, and we can feel heard in our relationships.
Keep reading to learn how to feel comfortable and more confident setting boundaries today.
Why bother? No one listens anyway.
The worst thing about not setting any boundaries is that your only options are to avoid people you care about or lose your temper when you can’t stand it anymore. This means you either lose intimacy in important relationships or end up feeling like a lose cannon.
At the very least you end up feeling like what you need doesn’t matter and you have to “suck it up”.
Living like this is not fulfilling at best and frustrating at worst.
Be in control of the way you communicate in relationships.
Although you struggle with the guilt that comes with knowing that you are going to hurt the feelings of someone you care about if you set a boundary, you have the potential to feel calm and in control of the way that you are communicating.
You can communicate your boundaries in a way that enhances and protects your relationships.
When we choose to set boundaries in a way that empowers us to communicate what we need with no strings attached, with recognition that we don’t get to affect the way that what you say is received or responded to, you can finally feel ready to take on your relationships in a more honest and authentic way.
This is an opportunity for you to communicate kindly and effectively so that you can feel empowered and authentic in your relationships, regardless of how capable the people in your life are at respecting your boundaries.
How to Set Boundaries Kindly and Effectively
Yes, you might be feeling frustrated with setting boundaries and communicating your needs in relationships, but the key to feeling empowered and authentic in your relationships is to set kind and consistent boundaries. It is scary to think about communicating things that are possibly upsetting to people you care about, but it feels a lot better when you can trust yourself to communicate in a way that you can feel good about. When you follow this simple, step by step path, you will start to notice that you can be more authentic and kind in your relationships.
Take a look at these steps to see how you can feel more authentic and comfortable communicating in your relationships.
Authentic, Consistent Communication
One of the main reasons you struggle to communicate your needs to the people who are important to you is fear of hurting their feelings or upsetting them. It makes complete sense that you feel guilty for making things worse or hurting the relationship when every time you try to set a boundary it ends up in flames. But it doesn’t have to stay this way when you start implementing authentic, consistent communication.
1) Identify the common thread
When you are regularly getting upset in one of your relationships, the first step is to try to understand what it is that is happening, or what you feel is getting communicated. It’s really easy to just act as though these are stand alone experiences that you can get over. When you start to pay attention, though, you’re probably going to notice that there is a theme. Maybe you get upset when you are given unsolicited advice. Maybe what really gets to you is when people flake out on plans. Maybe the really hard thing is when you feel like your feelings are dismissed.
Whatever it is, it is very likely that it happens often in the same relationship.
In sessions we will examine the instances when you feel that your boundaries were crossed or your needs weren’t met by the people in your life. We will explore other times when you have felt similarly and then find the common thread together. What we are looking for is what actually upset you and why you don’t like what happened. It’s not usually enough to just know that you didn’t like that the person was late to meet for coffee, but it is more helpful to be able to say, “I don’t feel like you respect my time.”
When you are able to identify the common thread in the instances of being angry or upset with a specific person, it will enable you to communicate more fully and precisely what it is that isn’t working and what you need next time.
2) Communicate honestly, and kindly
The two issues that I see most often that are impeding communication are either not communicating honestly or fully (“Of course I don’t mind!”) or communicating aggressively because we have waited until we are full on pissed before we said anything. Ideally we want to communicate what we don’t like and why, what we need to be different next time, and how we will react if this trespass happens again. We want to do that as neutrally and kindly as humanly possible, so that regardless of how the other person reacts, you can feel good about what you said and how you said it.
I recognize that this is very difficult. This is why in session I support my clients not only in identifying what they want to say, but also practicing how to phrase it.
We identify potential ways to respond if the communication isn’t received well, and we walk through step by step identifying how to respond in different scenarios.
This is a really important part of the process. If you can identify and feel good about how you are going to respond if your boundary is received really poorly, you are empowered to engage in the relationship only in a way that feels good to you. This is a big deal! You get to feel good about your boundary, what you said, and how you said it, regardless of the way that the other person responds to you.
3) Be consistent
This is where things fall apart for most of us. We wait until we feel like it’s a big deal before we say anything. We let it slide. We say we’re not going to put up with it anymore but then we do. In a lot of ways it is easier to just not deal with it until it feels like a big deal. The issue with this is that you will notice yourself either avoiding your relationships, or blowing up every so often when you want to set a boundary. This is why you end up feeling like no one respects your boundaries. Because you aren’t enforcing your boundaries, and that is the bulk of the work.
When you schedule a session with me I will talk with you about what boundaries you might be overlooking and how that might be impacting your relationships. We will explore what happens when you decide to let things slide, and together we will determine which boundaries you feel you need to start enforcing, and which you feel can be put on the back burner for a while.
You don’t have to take on every issue in every relationship, but when you make the decision to take it on, it’s good to stay consistent.
Make sure that you know exactly how you will respond when your boundary isn’t respected and then you and I will hold you accountable (gently and kindly of course) for staying consistent in the way you handle it.
Adding this boundary setting technique to your life will help you feel more in control in your relationships. You will notice that you don’t feel as though you have to censor yourself quite so much because you trust what comes out of your mouth. You will start to notice that you get to be more authentic in your relationships because you are comfortable with what will happen if someone doesn’t like what you have to say.
Being able to set boundaries in a kind and consistent way can be invigorating.
You absolutely can feel authentic in your relationships and still take care of yourself.
Therapy can help you to sort through what is and isn’t working in your relationships, and identify exactly how you would like to handle it from now on so that you can feel empowered and confident moving forward.
Schedule a free consultation now.
Like it isn’t hard enough to do the things you need to do and juggle all of your responsibilities, doing all of those things while feeling like an incompetent fraud definitely doesn’t make it easier.
Impostor Syndrome can get in the way of success at work, cause issues in your relationships, and cause you to miss out on opportunities.
When we live our lives trying desperately to hide that we don’t feel good enough, or that we don’t feel we deserve the trust that has been put in us it makes everything harder and makes us feel more isolated. We start to feel like we need to fake our way through and just hope that no one catches on.
When you feel like you have to hide from the people around you it gets really hard to build close relationships and communicate openly and effectively with the people who love you. You end up feeling like you can’t share anything about yourself, especially not anything that might make you feel vulnerable; you know, like feelings. And I don’t know if you’ve had this experience but it’s really hard to build relationships and get our needs met when we don’t talk about feelings. They’re kind of a big deal.
Living with imposter syndrome is like always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
We start to feel like there is impending doom that we are barely missing. When things go well we say, “Phew! That was lucky!” and when things go to shit we say, “I hope this isn’t when everyone finds out what a fraud I am,” and we feel shame.
Maybe for you it’s the easiest to see at work.
You’re the person everyone comes to when they have questions, and you’re regularly lauded as being one of the best at what you do. You always turn in your projects on time, and they are always of exceptional quality. At least that’s what everyone else says about them.
You would think that being celebrated so often would help you feel more confident.
It seems reasonable that you could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you are appreciated and valued by the people who work with you.
In the moment when you are getting the positive feedback it feels like a huge relief, like you got away with it.
But the pressure immediately starts mounting again.
What if you can’t pull it off next time? What if you can’t keep this up? Surely someone is going to find out that you aren’t as good as everyone seems to believe you are.
This just turns into a cycle where you hold yourself to higher and higher standards to meet what you perceive as the expectations of the people around you. It leads you to be extra critical of yourself and sometimes you find yourself taking it out on other people, too. The shot of adrenaline and level of fear that you feel every time you think about a deadline is dizzying.
You get to a point where you either throw yourself into the projects at the expense of everything else in your life in an effort to make sure it’s “good enough” or you procrastinate the hell out of it.
This is stressful not just for you, but it takes you away from your family and all of your other priorities. But you try not to think about that too hard because it just turns into something else to beat yourself up about.
The truth is that it’s not just you who feels like they always have to hide so as not to be found out as a fraud. This is actually a fairly common experience. We forget that often even the people we really look up to question themselves and don’t trust in their own capabilities.
Being able to accept compliments and feel like it really applies to you is not a function of your actual capabilities.
It’s okay to have a hard time accepting compliments, and it is okay to have a hard time trusting the way that the people around you see you. But the experience of Imposter Syndrome doesn’t have to take you away from everything else that is important to you.
Living with Imposter Syndrome is incredibly challenging, and can make even the smallest project you take on feel out of your depth. Luckily there are skills you can use to limit the influence Imposter Syndrome has over you so you can feel excited to take on new challenges instead of worrying so much. When you implement these skills you will feel calmer, more confident, and more connected to the people around you.
Keep reading to learn the top ten skills you can use to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check.
When “fake it to make it” doesn’t work anymore
The worst part of living with unchecked Imposter Syndrome is that you can never relax. You are never going to feel like you’ve fully proven yourself and doing well actually makes you feel more pressure.
You’re in a double bind; you feel shame if you mess up, but you feel shame if you do well, also, because the positive attention feels undeserved.
At the very least you find yourself dreading projects and avoiding putting yourself in a position where you might be critiqued.
Living this way is just not sustainable. How are you supposed to find and invest in projects that are engaging and fulfilling to you if you are limited by avoiding putting yourself in a position to be seen by the people around you? But agonizing over the small details of your presentations long after your family has gone to bed doesn’t feel like a good option either.
Remain calm, confident, and collected
Although Imposter Syndrome has a hold on you now, you have the potential to feel confident about your abilities, and capable of engaging in each challenge as it presents itself without holding yourself to extreme standards.
When you use these top 10 skills, there is a possibility for you to feel calmer in the face of deadlines and presentations, more confident in your skills and abilities, and more capable to making empowered decisions about how much time you want to invest in projects and how much should be invested in other things.
You can absolutely experience compliments as sincere, feel calm and confident before deadlines, and trust in your own abilities.
Top Ten Skills to Feel Calm and Confident
So you may be feeling like you have to fake your way through and just hope that you don’t get found out right now, but you don’t have to feel that way forever.
The key to be able to feel calmer and more confident is to use these clear steps to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check
These changes are small and manageable, and not nearly as hard to implement as it may seem in the beginning.
Check out these 10 skills to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check, leaving you calm and confident.
10) Be nicer in the way you speak to yourself
You would be surprised how often you are telling yourself what a lazy piece of shit you are. If you really paid attention, it is probably happening close to constantly. We can talk more in future blogs about why we do that, but all we need to know for our purposes today is how important it is to practice noticing so that you can start to speak to yourself more kindly.
Although you may not be consciously listening to the litany of insults you inflict on yourself on a daily basis, they are absolutely affecting the way you experience yourself and your capabilities. If you can start to interrupt some of this negative talk, you can begin to chip away at your Imposter Syndrome.
9) Stop comparing your experience of yourself to the way you see everyone else.
It is so easy to look at the people around us and feel like they have it all together. They look calm and confident and capable, and everything seems like it comes easily to them. I can tell you with complete confidence that the people you are comparing yourself to have challenges and question themselves just like you do. They’re just not telling you about it.
When you notice yourself comparing yourself to someone else, take a quick moment to question the validity of your comparison. You don’t have to stop immediately (that takes some time and effort) but just gently wondering if your perception might be distorted will start to do the trick.
8) Allow yourself to question if everyone is really expecting the level of performance from you that you expect from yourself.
When you notice yourself putting the pressure on yourself to do the same level of performance as last time or to blow everyone out of the water again with whatever project it is that you are currently working on, take a moment to question who it is that expects that level of performance from you every time. My guess is that when you really sit down to think about it, you’ll realize it’s only you who expects you to be so good. Everyone else gets that you’re human.
This is an important step in order to start recognizing that your Imposter Syndrome is internally created and internally driven. You can’t lie to yourself anymore and say that everyone in your life just needs you to be perfect, because this is way more about how you perceive yourself than it is about how anyone else sees you.
7) Define “good enough”
Often people will tell me that they’ll quit being so hard on themselves once they are able to get to that magical place called “good enough”. I have never met anyone who has actually visited this mystical land. You know why? Because it’s a moving target.
If you sit down and actually try to define what “good enough” would be, you are going to start recognizing how impossible your standards for yourself are.
6) Schedule time for self care
I know. There are too many important things to do before you do that. I know. It feels like a waste of time, or you’ll do that after. But after what? I am willing to bet that you have said that to yourself before, and then something else came up.
It’s a trap! You have to take care of yourself now. This is when your life is. And I’ve said it before and you’ll hear me say it over and over again, your productivity will actually go up if you take care of yourself. I don’t like appealing to your inner perfectionist, but I’ll do whatever works!
5) Schedule time with friends and family.
This is not very different from scheduling time for self care, but I list it separately because it’s a different kind of important. Nurturing your relationships is not only good for you now and in the long run, but it will help you have fewer regrets when you get older. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.
Your kids are only this big for so long. Your friend’s lives are changing, too. They matter to you, and part of having a good work/life balance is making sure you get to be a part of the things that matter to you, regardless of anything else that may be going on.
4) Set your priorities
If you can sit down and really identify what is important to you, you can use your time more effectively and work towards giving yourself a pass when you don’t give it 100% in an area that doesn’t mean as much to you. You cannot give 100% in every aspect of your life. Something has to give and something will slip through the cracks. This is a really common problem I see, is people want to do exceptionally well in every aspect of their lives, and then the spread themselves so thin that they lose sight of what is really important to them and the things that really matter fall through.
That is not an encouraging experience. Take a moment. Write a list. Figure out what is most important to you, only one or two things. Then go after those things. It will feel more manageable and more possible right at the outset.
3) Talk more about your feelings
Especially to people you trust, who love you. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we’re trying to do it alone. Talking about your feelings with people you trust can not only help you feel less alone, it can be really good for the people in your life to see that you’re human, too. Remember what we said about comparing ourselves to what we see in other people? Think what you’re showing your kids. Do they know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, or are you teaching them that they are supposed to be stoic? Food for thought.
2) Practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises
I’m not going to bullshit you and say that moving through your Imposter Syndrome is always going to feel good. It’s not. The end result is worth it, but that doesn’t mean that not giving in to the compulsions to do more and do it better and make sure that you did it “well enough” is going to be comfortable. It’s going to be anxiety producing and you might even feel guilty for not “trying hard enough”.
Those mindfulness and relaxation skills are really going to come in handy to help you be strong enough to get through those moments without giving in to the temptation to just try harder.
1) Remember, you are not as good at fooling everyone as you’re giving yourself credit for.
I love this one. It’s probably my favorite, because it’s so obvious but none of us seems to think about it. If you feel like a fraud all the time, who is just masking his true ineptitude and shame, doesn’t that mean that everyone around you has been pulled into this sham? But there are people you love and respect who spend quite a bit of time with you, aren’t there? So even though they think you are awesome and smart and capable, you still think you’re just faking them out.
Something’s not adding up. Either the people you like and respect are easily made fools of, and they’re not as cool as you think, or you’re not as good at pretending as you think you are. Which one is true is for you to decide, but think on it.
Learning to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check can be liberating. You can absolutely learn to feel calm and confident. I can help you get there by implementing these skills, and taking it further by learning where the Imposter Syndrome is coming from and healing that.
Call me now at 888-242-9345 to schedule a free consult.
They told it to us all the time when we were kids; there is no such thing as perfect. But it didn’t stop you from trying, did it? Even though you know how unattainable it is, you just can’t stop yourself from striving for it in all aspects of your life.
But not only are you finding that perfection doesn’t exist, but you’re starting to notice that while you’re out chasing it, life is going by and you’re missing it.
The whole point of you trying to do everything so well is to live your best life but in your search for perfection, you’re missing out.
You find that when you are so honed in on the details of things going the way you feel they need to, big things are slipping through your fingers, and you just can’t seem to figure out the balance.
You actually start to find that you are so focused on being perfect that you end up feeling paralyzed by the thought of making decisions, even small ones. Suddenly you find that instead of helping propel you forward into the life that you want, your perfectionism is keeping you trapped and isolating you from the people you love.
That’s when you start to feel discouraged. Because you can’t move forward without agonizing over every detail of every decision and it’s too much. You want to stop and smell the roses, but instead you’re too focused on thinking about a small mistake you might have made the other day, or an interaction you wished you’d handled differently.
A lot of my clients experience this and I’ve seen it play out many times with slight variations, but some of the themes are typically the same. Often clients are saying that they want what is best for their family, and they want to make sure that they live up to their own potential. If this requires long nights, or extra thought put into projects and financial decisions, then so be it.
At the time they feel like the constant stress and anxiety is worth it because it keeps them “in line”. There’s a belief that the agonizing and the constant self criticism is somehow increasing productivity. They believe that life can only be managed by overseeing every minute detail, and that without their oversight and input, things would come crashing down.
But by the time the client is seeking help from me, they are becoming increasingly aware that they can’t sustain this pace and this level of oversight long term.
The idea that if we can just be good enough so that nothing will go wrong, or make such good decisions that things will just smoothly transition to our next goal is a lie. Because things will always go wrong. What you can control is how much time and energy you are going to waste before you deal with the inevitable obstacles in front of you as they present themselves.
Eventually my clients find themselves in a place where they feel like things are falling through the cracks no matter how tightly they try to hold on. They start to believe at once that they do have the power to make things “good enough” if they were just competent enough or took care of things “correctly” and also that they are failing and doomed to continue to fail because they don’t seem to be able to realize the potential everyone around them sees but they themselves cannot see in themselves.
Here’s the thing, if you hold yourself to the standard of perfection, you are doomed to fail.
Because you’re never going to be able to prevent obstacles always make the “right decision” (I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a “right” decision, but that is a debate for another time). The things you are worried about are real. They really do matter. You aren’t crazy, and you aren’t blowing things out of proportion. It’s just that the way you are interacting with yourself around it is not helping.
It’s good to have goals. It’s necessary to have standards. And the wisdom and resourcefulness that my clients show in the face of adversity is at times astonishing. I just don’t think the many sleepless nights and the time spent away from family supported them in getting there.
Perfectionism can be isolating and deeply discouraging. It can make you feel stuck because every decision feels monumental and the weight and responsibility is too much. When we see others overcome something similar, it can inspire us to make the changes we need to be kinder to ourselves and embrace life’s chaos from an empowered place. When we take similar steps it is entirely possible to overcome perfectionism.
Keep reading to see how many of my perfectionist clients start to be able to engage in more self compassion today.
Trapped in Your Own Mind
Before scheduling a session, oftentimes my clients are struggling with feeling like there is just not enough time to do everything, and certainly not to do it properly. There are so many things that need to be done, and my clients rarely feel that they can lean on the people in their lives to get it done for one reason or another. Small things have started to fall through the cracks and meanwhile the client’s self care is at an all time low.
My clients often describe to me long rumination sessions where they beat themselves up for mistakes that the people around them say don’t matter. Often they feel like everything is riding on their shoulders, and if even one thing were to slip through the cracks the whole farce is likely to go up in flames.
My clients often feel like impostors in their own lives.
That even though the people around them see them as nothing but capable and competent, they can’t seem to feel this way about themselves, and instead spend all of their time trying not to get found out.
Living this way makes it hard to connect to their friends and family, and often my clients will describe feeling lonely, even when we are able to identify lots of friends and family members waiting in the wings to step in and help.
Before scheduling a session, many of my clients describe that their romantic relationships just never seem to last. They find someone and in the beginning everything is great, but over time they find that their partners stop being responsive.
When it comes to friendships, although my client often has many friends, some of these friendships are exhausting. My clients often hold themselves responsible for taking care of their friends, and feel intense guilt when they are not able to be there in the way that their friends are asking for. But when my client needs something, they don’t feel comfortable asking, lest they be a burden. In this way, many of my clients notice that their friendships are not totally reciprocal.
My clients often have difficulty leaning on others, because it is very scary for them to depend on others. They learned when they were very young that if you are not in control, or if you are at the mercy of another person, you will not get your needs met. This belief permeates their social interactions.
Right before my clients often schedule, there is usually some life event that throws into perspective that the work and effort they have been putting forth has not been building into what they want for themselves. Sometimes it is a breakup, other times it is just a realization that they have lost an opportunity because they were so bogged down in details.
The realization that another opportunity was missed because they were busy being paralyzed by the decisions they face day to day was a game changer.
My clients describe that this makes them feel impotent, and incompetent.
Basically, it feeds their belief that they are an impostor or a fraud in their own lives.
My clients make the decision to schedule a session because they are tired of beating themselves up and not getting anything for it. They are tired of rehashing conversations from days ago and then not being able to focus on what is real now. More than anything, my clients just want to be able to live, unencumbered by these unrealistic expectations.
On the first session, it is really common for my clients to express some variation of, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t feel this way, my childhood was great.” They express a deep set experience of feeling not good enough, and terrified of making a bad decision or showing to the world how deeply flawed they are.
Together, in the first session, we will often explore important relationships from childhood and how these might have set the stage for relationships now. We explore unconscious beliefs and needs that might not have been met, even with parents who were caring and thoughtful, and sometimes with parents who were not.
By the time they leave the session they often feel as though they finally have a framework with which to understand the feelings they have been struggling with (but not able to articulate) for most of their lives.
They feel like there is a plan to move forward, because finally they are starting to understand that these behaviors and experiences they have been dealing with make sense given the environment they grew up in and their past experiences.
As we continue to work together, my clients often start to organize the challenges they want help with. Yes, they want to be able to move through their days more confidently and with less second guessing, but also they want to feel more capable at work, and not hold themselves so responsible when things go wrong. Instead, they want to be able to trust that they will be able to handle challenges increasingly more gracefully.
We identify and sort through all of the issues the client is experiencing and we identify actionable steps that we will follow with reasonable and manageable goals. This way the goals will start to become more accessible.
By the time my clients leave a session where we do planning, they start to feel like their next step forward is accessible, attainable, and real. We do a lot of work to make sure that whatever it is that we are trying to do that week, it feels tangible and close.
Building Confidence and Learning to Take Leaps of Faith
When my clients and I sit down to work together, we start the session very conversationally. We will check in, and see how their week has been since we last spoke. Sometimes there will be some communication issues to solve, other times there will be some new ways to think about a challenge that might be helpful.
Often we will trace current challenges back to early relationships so that we can understand what is underlying the feelings that can be so confusing.
Once we know where the feeling is coming from, we can identify ways to respond to it.
We will discuss things like how to use mindfulness to make an actual, real difference in the way each day feels. We will analyze problematic situations and practice identifying new and different ways to engage with them.
My clients typically attend therapy weekly. Slowly but surely they start to notice that they are able to forget that they are supposed to be berating themselves. They have more experiences of being able to respond authentically and this is naturally starting to create more intimacy in their relationships.
My clients and I outline ways to measure improvement. Often this includes the level of discomfort and procrastination involved in tasks. How many times did you proof read it before you sent it in? How long did you sit in your car hating that you had to do it before you got out? And equally as important, how long did you ruminate about how you could have or should have done differently before you caught yourself and were able to use mindfulness to move forward with your day?
My clients will often say that they will know that things are getting better because they will be able to do things better, more effectively, or more efficiently.
I challenge this because it is another expression of the perfectionism.
I will tell my clients that we will know that they are getting better because they are less focused on things happening a certain way (outcomes) and they feel more capable of taking leaps of faith and trusting that their future selves will be able to handle whatever happens.
There are a few different types of therapy that I like to use. I think mindfulness is helpful for everyone, and has specific applicability here, because we want to move from “thinking” and endlessly analyzing into “being” and moving through each moment. I also like to use Gestalt therapy, which lets me bring the raw wounds from the past into the room now.
By bringing something into this moment, we can heal it.
Mindfulness is very heavily supported by the research as a way to help people overcome anxiety and depression. It actually teaches your brain how to focus on what is right in front of you, but the Gestalt helps us to deal with what is right in front of us.
My favorite way to get results for perfectionist clients is to teach them how to have self compassion. It’s honestly a beautiful experience to witness someone learning to treat themselves as worthy.
After several weeks of therapy, typically the client is able to recognize that they have more awareness of when they are getting stuck up in their heads, and they are starting to have scattered success with interrupting the negative thought cycle. They are able to engage in small tasks with less discomfort, and handle small mistakes more gracefully. My clients will often realize they start to feel more relaxed in their relationships and that they can communicate a bit more openly.
When it’s time to end therapy, my clients can tell because they are engaging with their lives more freely and comfortably. They can trust themselves to deal with challenges instead of needing things to go perfectly. By our final session, they feel excited to take on their lives.
Mindfulness and Self Compassion Will Help You Overcome Perfectionism
Perfectionism has been running your life, but you can absolutely make choices about where and how to use your energy.
Now that you’ve seen the relief other perfectionists are able to experience, you can follow in their footsteps.
You have the ability to engage in your life trusting not that things will go the way you want them to, but that you will be able to handle challenges as they come. You can feel confident and relaxed.
Letting go of control can be invigorating.
You can engage in your life from a place of poise and confidence.
I can help you to engage with your life in a way that can give you the emotional freedom to take risks.
Call me today to schedule your first session.
All that hard shit from forever ago should just stay there; forever ago. You already had to go through it once, why would you ever want to relive that?!
The problem is that you are reliving it. In your relationships, in your jobs, and at school.
Unfortunately, the shitty things that happen when we are younger don’t just disappear, they affect your everyday and the things you care about now.
When you try to pretend that all that past shit is behind you and it shouldn’t matter anymore, it’s a set up. This means you can’t acknowledge when you might be acting out some of those learned patterns. It means you can’t move forward, because the only explanation you’re left with if you can’t acknowledge that you are being impacted by your past is that you are “bad” or “lazy” or “mean”. And what can you even do about that if it were true?
If you can’t recognize the way that the past is affecting you now, then you’re left feeling like there is just some weird thing wrong with you that you can’t ever seem to put your finger on or do anything about. This is incredibly dis-empowering, discouraging, and frustrating.
This is what leads you to introduce yourself as broken, or beyond help.
So if you don’t give yourself permission to recognize and explore how you might be affected by the not so perfect stuff in your past, it will not only keep you just oblivious enough to not be able to change what isn’t working, but you might even notice yourself starting to give up. You’ve tried everything you know how to do to just be better, and nothing works.
Eventually you find yourself deciding there’s no point in continuing to try. It’s just too much energy that you don’t have.
Your parents weren’t really available. You get why, they were doing other things to take care of the family, you did need the roof over your heads. You’re not upset about it anymore, but you did decide that when you had kids you would be different. You’ve worked your ass off to be in a really good position in your work by the time you have kids. You are much more able to dictate your schedule and you make enough money to be comfortable.
You did everything right.
You were over the moon when you brought her home. She was just as beautiful as you thought she would be. You and your wife decided that you would be home by 6:00 every evening so that you could do family time. And for a while you were able to do it. But when you get home it feels like all hell is breaking loose. There’s screaming, and it’s messy and when you try to help it feels like you just make things worse. When you look at your daughter’s little red, angry face, you see all of your failures reflected back at you.
All you want is to be able to hold her and comfort her, but she feels awkward in your arms and you can’t get her to stop screaming.
Well, there’s a project at work that could really use your attention. At least at work you can be useful.
All you are at home is in the way.
Before you know it the beautiful little baby you were over the moon to take home is a child; with thoughts and feelings and opinions and. . .you don’t know how to interact with her. Your wife has been asking you to adjust your schedule so you can be home more, and you tell her (and yourself) that of course you would if you could, but work is just really busy right now.
Deep down you know that you are doing exactly the opposite of what you promised yourself.
Every so often you make a silent oath that you will start coming home earlier, that you will let someone else head the next project at work. But it feels so good to know what you are doing, and it feels so unsettling and aggravating to be told how to comfort your own daughter. Why can’t you just do better? What is it about this simple thing, showing up more for your family, that is just eluding you?
You have put the responsibility on yourself, decided that it should be an easy, simple thing for you to do, and haven’t allowed yourself to entertain the idea that there might be some unfinished business from the way you experienced your parents in your own childhood that might be affecting your current behavior and experiences.
This has kept you stuck, repeating the same patterns, re-living your past from the other end, and impotently beating yourself up for it.
What you’re trying to do is much more than simply doing a different thing. You are trying to fight years of conditioning and expectation setting. So much of this happens without us even knowing. It is normal to have a hard time making these changes, and if it were easy, then everyone would be able to do it.
It’s okay to struggle with making these changes that seem like they should be easy and simple. It makes sense to get frustrated when you find yourself just making the same mistakes over and over no matter how many times you tell yourself you’re going to do it differently.
Your past does still matter.
It is still affecting you, and that may not feel like a pretty realization. However, if you can learn how to recognize when you are being affected by old patterns and habits, then you can start to feel empowered to make changes in your life. When you know how to navigate this stuff from your past when it rears its ugly head, you can absolutely start to feel like you are in the driver’s seat in your life.
Keep reading to learn 3 ways to spot when your past is affecting your present and what to do about it.
You are stuck on a treadmill, repeating the same mistakes and patterns.
The worst part about not learning to identify when your past is creeping into your present, is you don’t get to interact with your patterns from an empowered position.
You end up just watching passively as the same patterns repeat against your will.
At the very least you will find yourself beating yourself up, constantly wondering what must be wrong with you that something so simple is so beyond your capacity to create change.
This will make you feel powerless and maybe even hopeless. You have worked your whole life to have a different experience, and you feel impotent to make it happen.
You can be empowered and excited about making changes in your life.
You have been frustrated with your inability to make the changes in your life that you can easily see would be helpful, but you have the potential to identify the barriers to making those changes, and begin to finally make some progress in building the life you want.
When you make the decision to recognize how you are being impacted by your past, you finally have the opportunity to feel more in control and capable.
You can recognize what has been keeping you stuck so that you can navigate these barriers differently and finally make the changes in you want to see in your life.
3 Ways to Know When Your Trauma is Acting on You So You Can Finally Be Free From Your Past
You may be feeling stuck and discouraged right now, but you don’t have to stay that way.
The key to being able to feeling capable of making changes in these patterns is to identify when you are being impacted by your past trauma so that you can interact with these pressures differently.
It’s not nearly as difficult to make changes when you give yourself permission to recognize exactly what the barriers have been for you thus far. Take a look at these 3 ways to identify that your past trauma is affecting you now so that you can have more power to make important changes in your life.
Take a look at these 3 ways to notice if your trauma is affecting you so that you can feel empowered and capable of making changes in your life.
1) You find yourself saying, “Here we go again!”
One of the reasons you are feeling powerless to make changes in your life, is that when you notice that you are having the same experience you have had over and over, you are acting as though this is something you have been “too lazy” to change.
This is an opportunity to identify what the typical pattern is (and where it came from), so you can enact a small change to interrupt it.
Instead of just deciding that this is how it is going to be for you from now on, or that you need to “just” change it, you can recognize that this is a form of re-experiencing trauma from your past, and that although it is difficult, you are going to make more progress identifying one small change to interrupt the pattern as it usually plays out rather than trying to change the whole thing at once.
With my clients, we will first explore the pattern, identify where it began and what caused it, and then what small, manageable changes can be made to start to change the way the pattern plays out.
When you do this you will notice that small changes on your part will teach you that you are capable of making change and you’ll feel empowered to do more.
2) You have a sense of impending doom.
An experience of impending doom, or that your life is crumbling around you and you are hanging on by a thread is such a common experience for people with trauma. It can cause you to feel frantic and like you have to act now, rather than taking time to consider what you want your next step to be.
It makes sense that if you are feeling like the world is falling out from under you, you wouldn’t feel like you have the time or emotional energy to understand how your past trauma might be creating this experience for you. You’re too busy dealing with it.
Practice noticing when the impending doom experience is strongest, and develop a small voice that can say, “This is trauma; it’s not telling me anything real.”
Instead of letting the doom dictate your decision making, I’m asking you to start teaching yourself what the doom feels like, and that it is not an accurate description of your life or environment.
Together with my clients, we practice identifying this feeling, and we explore how to engage with it differently.
If, when you feel the impending doom, you choose to recognize that this is a trauma response, suddenly you are not stuck enacting the trauma. All at once you start to have a choice about how to proceed, and that is likely a very different choice than what you would likely have done impulsively from an urge to just get through the experience.
3) Your response is disproportionate.
Trauma is tricky. It isn’t going to tell us outright that we are re-experiencing. If you don’t know what is happening, you might feel crazy, or ashamed of your reaction after you lose your temper.
If you don’t know that this is a response to your traumatic past, you may start thinking you are volatile or that you are crazy.
Learn the indicators that your response wasn’t proportionate, so that you can learn your triggers.
Instead of beating yourself up or letting yourself settle into shame, you can use this information to learn about what your triggers are.
When you schedule a session with me I will be able to help you learn what your triggers are so that we can start healing the wounds that are still impacting you.
If you are able to use these triggering and challenging experiences as opportunities for healing, you will notice that you are triggered less and less often, and that you will feel more and more capable of making changes.
Finally giving yourself the permission to recognize that your past is living on in your present can be a freeing and empowering experience. You absolutely can use this information to make small and important changes in your life that will allow you to watch yourself creating the life you have always wanted. I can help you identify what specific aspects of your past are still affecting you, so that you can heal and make the changes that are so important to you in your life.
Call 888-242-9345 today to schedule your first session.
Feelings can be overwhelming. When you are in a dark place it can feel like you are stuck there and you are never going to feel better. You try to push yourself through and make it go away as fast as possible so you can get to the good stuff, because no one wants to feel sad or angry.
The problem when you try to push past what you’re feeling is you don’t give yourself permission to have your actual experience. You start focusing so much on how you were told you ‘should’ feel, that you don’t get to have your authentic experience.
The big issue here is that it builds up, and you don’t get to lean on the important people in your life. This can cause a disconnect in your relationships, because you are trying desperately to not feel your feelings and no one around you knows why you aren’t interacting like you usually do.
Meanwhile, you are becoming increasingly aware that trying not to feel your feelings actually only makes the feelings more persistent and harder to deal with. It’s a vicious cycle.
So when you try not to let yourself feel your feelings, you end up distant from the people who love you and want to be able to support you, and overwhelmed by your inability to process your feelings. You end up isolating yourself and berating yourself about how weak and stupid you are, when really you are having a normal experience that doesn’t have to be as bad as it feels right now.
He was your first love and you really thought it would last forever. Sure, you were young, but that doesn’t mean the feelings weren’t real. So when he broke up with you out of nowhere, it felt like the world was caving in. No one seems to understand that it feels like your chest is crushing you. They don’t get that it felt like the whole future you had been preparing yourself for and excitedly working towards was just ripped away from you.
But you don’t want to worry anyone. Your mom has enough on her plate, and you don’t want your friends to get tired of talking to you because you’re such a downer.
So you push it down.
At the time, it felt like the only option you had. Just pretend you’re fine and eventually it will go away; it has to. You put on a brave face, and when your parents ask you how you’re doing you smile and say great as you walk out of the house.
The issue with this is that you can’t keep up that facade forever. Trying to feel a thing you don’t feel just leaves you frustrated and fixated on the very thing you are trying to avoid.
Instead of making you feel better and more normal, you just feel worse even longer.
Feeling like you are broken because you can’t seem to move on can be deeply unsettling. It can cause you to hesitate before confiding in the people around you. It doesn’t feel better when your mom gives you that slightly concerned look or when your best friend starts reaching out less.
It just feels like you’re alone.
If you continue to sit in your feelings without giving them space to unravel and be expressed openly, they’re going to get stronger, and harder to manage. You will notice that you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people and you might even start getting irritable and angry about things that don’t usually upset you.
Eventually, you wind up in a place where you just tell yourself, “You need to get over your shit, everyone else is happy and you will be, too.” Fake it ‘til you make it, right? But inside you’re frustrated, confused, and so sad. The sadness you are trying to pretend doesn’t exist is making it harder for you to live in the moment and enjoy the good stuff that is happening.
This might just be the worst part of the whole thing. When you don’t give yourself permission to feel your sadness, you will spend so much time pushing it and fighting it down, that you don’t get to experience the other very real feelings of excitement or connection with those who care about you.
Everything positive gets drowned out, because you are fighting an internal struggle.
This is so common, and so unnecessary.
It’s normal to feel conflicting feelings about normal life changes and losses that tend to be swept under the rug by those around you. It’s not only okay for you to have these feelings, but it would be weird if you didn’t, so we need to start talking about it.
Society will tell you to ‘choose’ happiness. You hear all the time that if you feel angry or depressed, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough to be happy. But when we give ourselves permission to feel whatever is there in the moment we can feel closer to the people around us, and get through the emotional turmoil faster. If you learn to accept the sadness as a normal part of the process of living, you will be able to feel more connected to the people who love you, and you’ll be able to feel the good stuff, too.
Keep reading to learn how to give yourself permission to feel the hard shit, so you can feel better faster.
Feeling Frustrated and Invisible?
When you are ashamed of your feelings, it can be really easy to get stuck in trying to push away right now. You can’t really communicate your real experience because you’re too busy fighting it, so you feel like no one really sees you.
At the very least you notice that it takes a really long time to move through these negative feelings, which detracts from your experience of anything positive.
Living this way is exhausting, isolating, and frustrating.
Accepting Your Feelings Can Help You Move On Faster
Although you struggle with feeling invisible and frustrated because you are so busy telling yourself that you aren’t supposed to feel the way you do, you can absolutely learn to accept and process your feelings as they come.
If you are able to give yourself permission to accept your hard feelings, you will be so much more able to move through the feelings faster, and stay connected to the people who love you.
You can allow the pain to move through you instead of getting stuck in you, allowing you to experience the nuanced mix of positive and negative feelings.
You can feel the good stuff and move through the bad stuff more easily.
How to Move On So You Can Feel Better Faster
You really just want to be happy and enjoy life as it comes. But you always seem to get stuck in the hard stuff and it keeps you from being able to live the life you want to live. The key is actually to give yourself permission to feel whatever is there when it is there, so that you can move through it. Although you may believe that if you give in to these negative feelings you might never feel anything else again, you would be surprised what a relief it can be to feel it for a short time.
Then you can come into your moment to moment awareness so that you can feel the next thing.
When you start to follow a simple, step-by-step path, you will start to notice that the negative stuff has less of a hold on you, and you have access to more positive experiences than you realized.
Take a look at these steps to see how you can move through hard feelings faster and more easily.
The Solution is Mindfulness
One of the main reasons you struggle to get past hard feelings, is that you are fighting so hard to not feel it that you are actually making the feeling more intense and constantly re-triggering the thoughts that brought on the negative feelings in the first place. It makes sense that you would be feeling frustrated and stuck, but you don’t always have to feel this way if you can start using mindfulness.
1) Notice the Feeling
The first thing you need to do is notice whatever feeling it is that you are having that you don’t want to have. To be honest with you, this might be one of the hardest things I am asking you to do.
We spend so much of our lives trying to avoid feeling anything negative that we learn to immediately and unconsciously block it out and distract ourselves.
If this is what you are doing, it is going to take some time and practice noticing the feeling when it is there, instead of after you have been fighting with it for a while, making it stronger.
In sessions, I ask my clients to identify what it feels like in their bodies when they feel the negative emotion. We spend a lot of time in our brains trying to logic our way through the feelings, and unfortunately feelings just don’t work that way. It is really important to notice your body sensations that are associated with the anger or sadness.
You will be surprised how much information there is when you start to pay attention. You might notice that your stomach ties up in knots when you are anxious. That your hands make fists, and your shoulders get tense. This will make it much easier to notice your anxiety faster, and then you can do more to take care of yourself.
2) Notice the Resistance and Practice Giving Permission
Try to notice the part of you that is resisting the feeling.
You might notice that it is a script that cycles through your thoughts.
It might sound like someone else, or it might sound like a part of you. There might not be any words at all, but rather a visceral tension or resistance to the experience of the sadness or anger.
Together with my clients I will help them to explore the resistance. We learn how to identify it, where it’s coming from, and what it’s trying to protect them from. The resistance itself likely happens within a matter of seconds, without your conscious knowledge.
If you can learn to recognize the resistance, where it’s coming from and what it is trying to do, you will be able to start giving yourself permission to feel your feelings and interacting with the resistance in a gentle but firm way that gives you space to be exactly as you are in that moment.
The more you resist, the harder the feelings will fight back.
3) Identify What the Need Is and Ways to Meet It
Feelings are messages.
So all that time you’ve been spending trying to push it down or push it away, the feeling is getting stronger and louder because the underlying need you have has not been met. When you touch a hot stove it hurts because your body is trying to tell you that it is not good for you. When you are hungry your body tries to tell you that you need food to be healthy. When you feel angry it is because something is happening that you are not ok with.
When you schedule a session with me I will help you identify which feelings plague you the most, and what that is trying to tell you.
If we have this information we can start to identify what can be done to meet the need.
Now, this might not be something easy or that feels good, and that is something else we can work on in session; deciding how you want to move forward.
If you can know that when you feel angry or sad, it is driving you to meet a need, you get to be so much more empowered in your life and choices.
Being able to move through hard feelings more quickly and easily can give your life back to you. You can finally move through the hard stuff and get to feeling excitement, connection, and happiness again. With me, you can learn to give yourself permission to feel whatever is there in the moment so that you can make empowered decisions about how to support yourself in feeling better and getting your needs met.
Email me today for a free 30 minute consultation.
Relationships are hard. Trying to find the balance between being there for the people who matter to you and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself is like walking a tightrope.
Having to deal with relationships is a constant in your life. If you know how to tell when you need more boundaries and how to use that information to take a step closer to your loved ones, your relationships can be a source of comfort and connection, rather than a source of conflict and stress.
Unnecessary and fruitless arguments can leave you feeling exhausted and discouraged. Staying in contact with people you genuinely like and enjoy can start to feel like a chore if you don’t feel like you can say “no” when you need to, and through all of this it is all too easy to feel like giving up on the whole venture.
You may have even decided that avoiding everyone is the only answer, only to eventually give in and start talking to everyone all over again.
Going back and forth between holding no boundaries at all and then feeling like you need a complete break from everyone can give you some figurative whiplash.
You end up feeling like your relationships are always on again off again, and frustrated that no matter what part of the cycle you’re living out, you don’t ever seem to be actually happy with it.
Consider your relationship with your parents, for instance. I know for many people our relationships with our parents is a prime place for this dynamic to play itself out.
Imagine that you schedule dinner with your parents once a week. In the beginning everything is great! It’s nice to be able to catch up, and since you moved out you just haven’t been hanging out that much. They are super supportive and excited about everything you're doing in school.
It makes you wonder how you have ever thought that they didn't care or ask real questions about what is going on in your life. Weirdly enough, you really look forward to these weekly dinners.
But then you get busy. Finals are a couple weeks away, and the mountain of homework you need to do is only growing. Your parents stress how important it is for you to take breaks, but they don’t seem to understand everything you have to do. It's not that you aren't mentioning how busy things are getting. It just feels like they don't hear you, and if they do they don't care.
You drop a bunch of hints about how much there is to do and how little time you have, but they just don’t seem to get it, and they are still talking like you’re going to come over this week for dinner. You go, but you are terse the whole time; irritable.
You start snapping at them with the smallest provocation, and find yourself wondering if you ever really made any progress in dealing with your anger.
When you finally leave you shake the evening off and silently determine that you aren’t going to put yourself through that again. It's true that you used to take your anger out on others, but you've worked your ass off to learn how to chill out. Then one night with your parents and here you are again.
You don’t like the person you are when you’re around them, and they just don’t get the kind of pressure you’re under.
You end up avoiding them to try and avoid something that is true about yourself, rather than learning how to interact differently with your parents so that you can feel respected and appreciated, and still get to have your time with them.
Does this sound familiar? You start engaging with people you care about and it feels good, because the relationships are important. But when you need some flexibility you don’t feel like we can ask for it.
You end up doing what is expected of you and hating it the whole time.
You have such a bad experience that you decide that the relationship itself isn’t worth having to feel that again, and you shut out people you love. It doesn’t have to be that way. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have relationship with your parents in a way that feels good to you?
Look, boundary setting is hard. It’s hard to even really determine when a boundary is necessary. So we end up lonely half the time, and smothered the rest of the time.
When we are learning to set boundaries, it is really common to feel like you are swinging wildly from one extreme (getting walked on) to the other (maintaining strict and inflexible boundaries that keep you isolated).
So then, the very first part of the work is to determine where you are on that spectrum, and what to do about it.
It’s true that navigating relationships is really hard. However, if we can learn to tell when we are lacking boundaries we can start to feel comfortable and connected in our relationships.
When we learn when we need to set some more boundaries, and get some practice at using them effectively it is absolutely possible to enjoy our relationships. Keep reading for 3 surefire ways to figure out if it’s time for you to be setting more boundaries in relationships and a good next step.
Don’t let guilt and anxiety make your relationship decisions.
Like it or not, relationships are a huge part of your life. If you continue to allow your relationship choices to be directed by your guilt and anxiety, you will end up in relationships that don’t meet your needs. While you may feel like that’s ok now, your feelings will make themselves known. If you don’t communicate with intention, your feelings may come out in a way you don’t feel good about.
If you don’t end up losing your shit and feeling like an idiot, you will likely end up emotionally distancing yourself from people you care about. The ironic thing is that this ends up harming the very same relationships that you are trying so hard to preserve by meeting their needs. As counter intuitive as it may seem, setting boundaries saves relationships.
Living this way is just not sustainable. Your relationships feel like chores and responsibilities, and you are in a constant state of vacillating between beating yourself up for not being “there” for people in the way you think you should and avoiding them altogether.
You can get your needs met in your relationships know when you need better boundaries.
Although you feel compelled by guilt to put yourself aside and focus on the other people in your relationships, you can absolutely take care of yourself and only engage in your relationships when you really want to.
If you can set boundaries from an intentional place you can feel closer and more connected to the people you love. If you can get more comfortable and noticing the signs, you will notice that you can identify when to start setting some more boundaries and enjoy your relationships more.
3 Ways to Know that It’s Time to Set More Boundaries in Your Relationships
You are feeling lost in identifying when you need to set more boundaries in your relationships. The key is to learn to pay attention to the way that you feel about the relationship. When you think about learning to identify when you need to set more boundaries, it may seem completely out of reach.
What you are neglecting to consider is how much information can be gleaned from paying some attention to how you are feeling and acting in the relationship. Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.
Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.
1) You Notice That You’re Feeling Resentful
Your feelings serve a purpose. If you are noticing that you are starting to resent spending time with someone, or feeling bitter about the effort or energy you are expending on them, it is a sign that you don’t feel like your needs are getting met in that relationship.
It makes sense that you would be feeling resentful if you are putting a bunch of time and energy into doing what someone else wants or expects of you if you don’t feel that you are getting what you need.
Identify The Perceived Expectation and the Outcome of Not Meeting It
When you notice that you are feeling resentful, it’s time to do something to protect your energy. This is a good time to take a step back. See if you can identify what you feel the expectation is and what you fear will happen if you don’t meet that expectation.
If you decide to try counseling, this is something we can do together. When you are able to identify what you fear will happen if you don’t do whatever it is you feel is expected of you, you can make an empowered decision about how to go forward.
2) You Find Yourself Being Passive Aggressive
If you notice that you are being passive aggressive, it is likely that you feel like you need to communicate something that has made you angry. If you don’t feel like you are allowed to communicate openly without creating a really big issue, then passive aggressiveness becomes the only way to get your needs met.
Communicate Openly and Explicitly, Why You Are Upset
I know it’s hard, but communicating explicitly almost always has better outcomes. If you are being passive aggressive it is completely possible for no one to actually understand why you are upset. At least if you are open about what you need and what upset you everyone is on the same page.
Together with my clients I identify the passive aggressive behavior, explore what might have triggered that response from you. We then practice communicating the anger in a way that the client feels good about so that there’s not a need for the passive aggressive behavior anymore.
3) You Notice Yourself Avoiding People You Care About
Avoidance is a really common way of dealing with relationship issues. Sometimes that means we are just avoiding a challenging conversation, but other times it might look like staying late at work so you don’t have to deal with your spouse when you get home.
It makes sense that if every time you have tried to bring up things that are bothering you you have been met with resistance and anger you would learn to avoid the whole deal.
Bring Up the Elephant in the Room
If you just flat out identify that you are feeling avoidant because you don’t trust that what you have to say will be well received, it is the beginning of a conversation instead of the end of a relationship.
There is, of course, no guarantee that what you say will be received well, and certainly it is a difficult thing to hear and uncomfortable to talk about, but talking is a step above not talking.
Your relationships are not going to get better by not talking.
When you schedule a session with me we will identify a good starting place to open the lines of communication. We will practice different ways to have these difficult conversations in session and identify how you would know if it is a good moment to bring it up or not.
I can help you to start to bridge the chasm between you and your loved ones.
You can increase the intimacy in your relationships and enjoy the people in your life again. You can absolutely feel relief from the expectations you have been holding yourself accountable for.
Together, you and I can identify the signals that it is time for you to set some more boundaries. Then we can take it step by step to identify how to set these boundaries in a way that feels good to you and respectful of the people in your life.
Call me today for a free 30 minute consultation.
Call or email me today to schedule an free 30 minute consultation to see if we can heal your relationships.
You can’t get a personal record every day. No matter how hard you try, you just aren’t going to be able to get your best results every time you lift. The same is true with the rest of our lives. You aren’t going to get full credit on every single assignment or get employee of the month every month. It isn’t feasible. There are ups and downs, and worse than that: plateaus. Maybe even months when the number on the bar just won’t change no matter what you do. Well listen up, my friends, because plateaus are where the learning happens.
Those inevitable plateaus and regressions are enough to make you stop trying. It’s hard to be putting everything you have into something and having nothing to show for it. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about getting stuck at the bottom of your squat if you add even 5 pounds (who knew 5 pounds would make such a big difference, anyway?) or losing your temper with your parents even though you know how they are (and you’ve worked so hard on managing your anger!). Here’s the sad truth: if you stop trying during one of the plateaus and decide not to grind through it, you won’t get another PR.
I get that it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. It feels like it doesn’t matter what you do, the gains you made just disappear, so what’s the point in working so hard? It starts to feel like a competition, and you’re losing. Like you are are incapable of making progress, and even though you’re unhappy with your anger problem, or your job, or your relationship, you start to feel stuck; trapped even. You think to yourself, “Maybe this is as good as it gets for me,” and you give up.
Knowing that you aren’t going to show up at your best and strongest for every deadlift, or every day at the office can be discouraging. It can cause you to miss opportunities, like going for that promotion, or asking that cute guy out on a date, or even just going through your life with some confidence. Instead, you question yourself, you give up on things that matter, and you languish in mediocrity. Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic, but you get the idea.
Despite your best efforts, the dishes still tend to pile up in the kitchen. It will get so bad at times that it turns into a monumental task to clean the kitchen, taking time away from more important things (like re-reading your favorite fantasy book, for instance). So you make a plan, and you follow it beautifully, perfectly even! Every morning after breakfast, you will do the dishes from the night before and that morning. Lo and behold, it even works! And you cheerfully do the dishes with gusto, reveling in your now usable kitchen.
Until the day the dreaded happens.
You didn’t mean to wake up late, but that book wasn’t going to read itself! It wasn’t your goal to stay up until the wee hours in the morning, but now that your alarm is sounding for the final time, you know when your feet hit the floor that this is it, the jig is up, and the dishes are not going to get done. It’s over, and you watch dispassionately as your kitchen becomes unmanageable once again.
This just feeds your belief that you are not capable of change, and that any energy you expend to make new patterns is wasted. This is about more than the dishes, because it’s your belief in your capacity to do hard things, and to build the life you want, that suffers.
Over time, experiencing the same build up and let down, succeeding for a short time (getting your PR) and then struggling to reach that same height again can lead you to stop trying. You just accept your lot, try moderately successfully to convince yourself you’re OK with the way things are, and you get stuck.
Do you want to know a secret? The soul crushing disappointment you feel when you roll, confidently, into the gym only to fail utterly at replicating a PR (or even get close to it) can easily put you off weightlifting for awhile, especially if that off day turns into an off week or even an injury from overexertion. It is normal of feel pressured to either give up or push yourself past the breaking point.
So no, you can’t PR every day, and this means you will have off days, hard months, and sometimes you’ll feel like giving up. But it is possible to take your ups and downs as a natural part of progress and with some self compassion, you can celebrate the highs, accept the lows, and continue moving forward. If you take a lesson from weight lifting, you can understand that although not every day will be your best, your effort absolutely matters, so on the good days and the bad you can feel secure in the fact that you’re moving forward.
Feeling Stuck, Unable to Create Lasting Change?
You can live like this. You’re making it work, after all. But if you keep going like this, time will keep passing by, with you right here, scared to take risks lest you fail, and losing confidence and missing opportunities.
At the very least you find yourself wondering what could have been, if only you could have kept trying when your results were less than perfect.
Perfectionism leaves us paralyzed and exhausted.
You Can Stay Motivated When Things Are Hard
Even though perfectionism is making you feel stuck, you can stay motivated when things get tough. When we are trying to muddle through on our own it can feel hopeless, but with help from a therapist it will feel so much more possible. Therapy will help you organize and sort through the mess of feelings and motivations that impact your ability to take steps towards the life you want, so you can start making choices, instead of being stuck or reacting reflexively.
When we choose to ask for support so that we understand some of what is impacting our decisions and behaviors, it gives us power. It’s the difference between going to the gym and doing a bunch of random exercises because that’s what happens to be in front of you, and engaging in a thoughtful way with your workout. The first way you will definitely be making an effort and expending energy, but the second way your energy is much more focused, and that’s when we see results.
You can absolutely stay motivated even when results aren’t immediately forthcoming. That’s when change starts to really happen, and it’s how you can get through the plateaus and regressions to the next PR.
3 Ways PR’s Teach Us to Stay Motivated
You feel trapped by your own expectations of yourself and the results you feel you should see in your life. Weird as it sounds, you need look no further than weight lifting to learn self compassion and start to recognize your ability to create real changes. The goal to stay motivated even when things aren’t going perfectly is achievable. You’re already expending the energy, now it’s just about keeping the energy focused and remembering what you’re working for. Take a look at these 3 parallels between weightlifting and perfectionism to learn how to trust your ability to make lasting change.
Take a look at these 3 parallels between weightlifting and perfectionism to learn how to trust your ability to make lasting change.
1) Feeling discouraged by lack of progress?
Perfectionism is so painful, because it tricks us into thinking that only BIG progress matters. It makes sense that you’re feeling discouraged about your ability to make changes, when the only things you are counting as “changes” are huge, monumental tasks.
Weightlifting teaches us to make small, attainable goals and celebrate when we achieve them.
So when you first learned how to squat, would you not count it as a “real squat” or “real progress” until you were able to squat 135 immaculately? I mean, I remember when I first learned to squat, and I have to say there were a bunch of small victories before I even put weight on my back. And I know that I celebrate every single pound that I add to my max. I mean, that’s why we have a term for it, right? Because it means that you’re more badass now than you were mere seconds ago.
If you have more manageable goals, you can start to build trust in your capacity to achieve something. Tasks stop feeling like looming, inevitable failure, and start to feel do-able. Any procrastinators in the room? I’m talking to you. If tasks are less daunting, you can spend less time dreading and putting off, and more time doing just one small bit at a time. And then a break. Because everybody likes an ice cream break.
2) Feel like progress comes all at once and then. . .nothing?
It can be really exciting when you make a plan! Changes start happening fast and it’s easy to stay motivated as long as you can see progress, right? But (quite unfortunately) change that is that fast and that satisfying is just not sustainable, and that’s when you start to have issues feeling like your effort makes any difference.
Weightlifting teaches us that if we keep going even when we don’t see results, we are still building towards something.
Remember the good old days when you first got into lifting? The first time you put the bar on your back it was wobbly and unwieldy. The second time was much better. In the first few months you were making PRs of 10 or 20 pounds a week, maybe even more! It was exciting and motivating. But there’s a catch. As you know, once you got close to your actual max, things started to slow down. Suddenly instead of adding 20 pounds per week to your PR, your progress slowed to a stop and there were weeks or even months when your numbers didn’t change. But you kept going and every so often, you still get the pleasure of adding weight to the bar. And that’s why you celebrate, because you worked your butt off through plateaus to get to this weight.
With my clients I help you gain perspective, so that you can see past the immediate future, and recognize how far you’ve actually come. It’s really hard to give yourself context when you feel like you’re running in place. If you can step back and see that realistically it makes sense for you to be right where you are, and you are doing everything necessary to move towards your goal, it’s so much easier to stay motivated.
3) Sometimes you think you might be making progress. . .but how can you even tell?
From day to day things basically feel the same. Maybe the other day you did a little bit better with your presentation than last time. But honestly, it’s hard to tell. It’s hard to remember how you did last time to be honest. This time you might have used humor a little more effectively, but you stumbled over your words a little more so. . .How are you supposed to be able to gauge your progress? It’s frustrating and discouraging.
Weightlifting gives us concrete and tangible ways to measure our progress.
Last week you benched 185 for 3 reps. This week you benched 190 pounds for 3 reps. Is it a big difference? Not really. Does it make you feel like a badass? Most definitely. Sometimes it’s really nice to just have some type of real measurement to refer back to and say, “I have made progress.”
In some ways, having a therapist is like having another set of eyes to help you gauge your progress, and identify what is and is not working for you. This makes it so much easier to make sure that your energy is being put to good use, instead of working your ass of for little to no results.
Releasing yourself from the responsibility to be perfect can help you feel more confident, more capable of making change, and more excited about your future. You absolutely can feel free from the unreasonable expectations you have been throttling yourself with. The work I do centers around helping you recognize where your energy is going and, more importantly, where you want it to go, and identifying helpful benchmarks. You won’t be hitting your big goals every week, but being challenged to celebrate the deliberate actions you’ve taken to build the life you want. You will finally begin to see the meaning in the work you do that will empower you to break through the paralysis at last
Email me today for a free 30 minute consultation.