It can be difficult to watch people struggle, especially someone we love and care about. Our first response is likely to want to fix or save them.
However, consider the following:
- In our struggles are lessons. If we rescue others (or wait for rescue), they (we) can miss the lesson that is waiting for them (us). That lesson may keep them (us) from making the same mistake over again.
- When we practice taking responsibility for our lives, we learn that we are strong and resilient as we come out on the other side. We not only rob someone of that feeling of accomplishment when we rush to rescue, we keep them from building their self-confidence.
- We are not the Happiness Police. It is not our job to make sure everyone around us is happy.
Sometimes we need to be unhappy or angry or frustrated or …insert feeling here… Sometimes we need to let others be in and work through their stuff.
- Rescuing creates dependence. Are we afraid if this person becomes independent they won’t need us anymore? Do we get our self-worth from taking care of them? We need to address our motives when creating this dynamic in a relationship.
- Rescuing and trying to fix sends the message that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.
What CAN we do?
Let them know that they are not alone and the door is open if, and when, they need support. It’s up to them to walk through that door, it’s not our job to carry them through.
Allow them to practice asking for what they need rather than trying to figure it out for them. Be empathetic, listen and try not to “fix” their problem.
What if YOU are struggling?
Ask yourself, “What do I need to process these thoughts and emotions?” Then practice reaching out to someone who is “holding the door open” and make a request for support.
It’s amazing what happens when we are given the space to feel how we feel with no judgement.
I’m reminded of the story about a butterfly. (Take a moment to read Paulo Coehlo’s version of the story below)
If we want to fly, we must first be willing to struggle out of our cocoon.
What’s harder, sometimes, is we must allow others to do the same.
The Lesson of the Butterfly
December 10, 2007
By Paulo Coelho
A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.
The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.
The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.
Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)
When I decided to tackle my weight thing once and for all, I went back and did an “autopsy” to determine why things went sideways in the past.
The last time I got to a weight where I was happy and comfortable, I was following a low carb diet. Not South Beach, Atkins or even paleo but one that included lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy and lots of vegetables, some fruit and grains. I ate carbs like cookies, cake, crackers and bread very rarely.
After about 8 months, I reached my goal weight and kept it off for about a year and a half.
I seem to be good at losing weight but I stink at keeping it off.
Step one in the “autopsy:” Tell the truth.
I used the excuse that I had a bad case of shingles, was basically bedridden for 3 months and the inactivity caused my weight gain.
Not the truth.
My eating habits had started to fall off before I got sick.
I had begun allowing myself a taste of cake here, a spoonful of ice cream there. Then it turned into a cookie here and a candy bar there.
At first the scale didn’t move so I didn’t panic. But then it slowly began to inch up little by little and before long I had put on 6 pounds.
My workouts became intermittent.
I was pushing myself to succeed in my business and volunteering a lot of my time. I was stressed and tired and I began to use food, mainly sweets, to make myself feel better.
I now see that it wasn’t the shingles that caused me to gain weight. It was my lack of self-care that brought on the shingles. And that led to many bags of Doritos trying to take my mind off the pain.
But the main thing I realized was, I got cocky. I thought that I would never go back to being addicted to sugar and carbs.
I even remember saying the words, “I’ll never go back!”
Words that came back to haunt me.
I see now that I lost the fear of the weight coming back. I forgot about the tired, wrung out feeling when I eat too much crap. And didn’t even consider the possibility of not only getting sick but contracting a chronic condition like high blood pressure or a disease like cancer.
I got cocky and the weight came back.
I’ve lived most of my life worrying about what others think and I’ve done a lot of work to break through that. I don’t believe I should live in constant terror and worry about becoming obese.
What I do now believe is that there is nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep me on my toes and out of trouble.
This fear includes a healthy respect for things like alcohol and food. It is an awareness that I have to be careful not to let my guard down too much.
I need to set my own limits and be clear where the line is.
I’m back to cutting down on processed carbs and sweets and eating more whole foods. And I’m always paying attention to what makes me feel like I want to eat and drink a bit too much.
That’s working for me right now.
Do you struggle with keeping weight off once you lose it? What have you learned from your past experiences when it comes to losing weight? What do you think about having a “healthy” fear of food?
A few months ago, I decided it was time to take a hard look at my relationship with food. It was time to figure out how to eat without it turning into an internal emotional battle.
I stopped following my “food rules” and noticed the thoughts that ensued:
“What am I doing???”
“I am going to lose control and end up weighing 300lbs!”
“Everyone is going to see that I’ve gained weight and judge me for it.”
“People will think I’m lazy and a loser.”
“Ok, I can do this for the holidays but as soon as they’re over I’m going on a strict diet.”
“I can NOT permit myself to eat any cookies, meatballs, crab dip (insert any food that is not a raw vegetable here).”
After the holidays were over, it turned into:
“OMG! I gained 10 lbs! I’m fat!”
“I look terrible and I need to lose weight!”
“My family loves me no matter what size I am. Who am I kidding, they’re probably as disgusted with me as I am!”
“I just want to hide out at home.”
“I can’t buy any new clothes until I lose weight.”
There they were. The thoughts that have come out of my longtime struggle with food, weight and body image. And I know exactly where these thoughts were created.
They came from people in my past who thought they were being cute by calling me pleasingly plump when I was in that awkward stage right before puberty hit. And the words of the boys on the school bus who knew exactly the right buttons to push by calling me fat and ugly.
As with the many attempts before, I knew if I put myself on a diet, eating or fitness plan it was doomed to fail because I was not doing it for the right reason. I would be losing weight because I was afraid of what others thought, not because it was something I wanted.
Then I thought, “What if these thoughts aren’t true? What if I wasn’t a loser or lazy? What if I’m just me, not what I look like?”
So I asked myself the question, “Who do I know myself to be?” (A question I often ask my clients)
I know myself to be: kind, funny, smart, generous, loving, strong…
Does the size or shape of my body change any of that?
No! Hell NO!
If someone judges me or doesn’t like me for the size or shape of my body, it hurts. But quite honestly, they are not someone I would choose to be friends with anyway.
By replacing negative thoughts of my body with positive ones about the whole me, it not only made it easier to walk into a room full of people, I felt gratitude for the body that has brought me through 54 years and carried and birthed two healthy children.
I would love to say that the angels sang and my eating habits were suddenly transformed.
That didn’t happen. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I inherited my dad’s muscular build and not my mom’s thin beautiful legs. And, I’m likely addicted to carbs.
I have also learned to listen to the shouting in my head rather than pushing it down and hoping it goes away. Now I ask myself, “What am I really looking for these cookies or this bag of peanut M & M’s to do for me?”
I have learned I like the way I feel when I eat healthy, whole foods rather than processed, sugar laden food.
It would be easy but miserable to go back to my automatic routine of forcing myself through a diet, losing weight, keeping it off for a while, rebelling against the diet and then regaining the weight.
Right now, I’m in an unknown space and it’s really uncomfortable. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I do know I am committed to breaking up this pattern of self-abuse.
Are you struggling with the same thing? What are you doing to break through your old patterns? Let me know I’m not alone.
I’ll keep you posted…
Have you ever thought about your relationship to money? I say relationship because we all have a story about money.
I grew up thinking we were poor. There never seemed to be enough money for what I wanted.
Now mind you, I never went without food, decent clothing, anything really. But as a kid, I wanted certain things, as all kids do.
There never seemed to be enough when I wanted things like candy or a toy. I didn’t get an allowance so I would ask my parents for money when I wanted something. The answer was sometimes yes, but most of the time, no. Sounds normal, right?
But as a kid, I made up the story that I couldn’t have those things because we were poor. And my mind took it one step further down the victim trail to, “I can’t have what I want but my brothers always get what they want.”
What my mind failed to realize is that my brothers are 5 and 6 years older than me. They worked on a local farm or at the 5 & 10 store and earned their own money so they could buy what they wanted.
But my mind was determined to hold onto this scarcity mentality.
Fast forward to adulthood. I perpetuated this story by putting all of my families needs above my own. The kids needed new school clothes, ok. My husband wanted to go on his annual fishing trip, of course.
But when I even had the thought of spending any money on myself, my mind immediately went to, “No! You can’t have what you want! Remember, there isn’t enough for you!”
So I became resentful.
When I had enough of my resentment, I would just go and buy what I wanted. Then, guilt set in.
I felt so much guilt from spending anything on myself, I would sometimes not tell my husband what I bought. I thought he certainly wouldn’t understand spending $40 on a tube of face cream.
That left me feeling dishonest and like I was stealing from my family.
I knew I needed to break this pattern of behavior before I could really welcome any amount of abundance into my life.
My best friend, a former financial broker, suggested that in order to break through this, I simply needed some mad money. A certain amount of money each week, I could call my own.
My mad money was mine to do with what I wanted. I could burn it, give it away, buy a bunch of little things or save it for something bigger.
This made so much sense to me and immediately lifted a weight off my shoulders. I know this sounds crazy but this “allowance,” so to speak, opened up possibilities for me to not only get what I wanted but to give up the destructive pattern of guilt and resentment.
By releasing the emotional tie it had on me, I no longer let money control my life.
Now I’m rewriting my money story from a perspective of abundance and having all of my needs met. Even if it’s candy!
What is your “money mindset?” What would you like your relationship to money to be? What is something you can do today to begin a shift toward your new “money mindset?”
How many times have you said, I’ll take care of myself after I make sure everyone else is taken care of? Sounds familiar, right?
Problem is, there usually isn’t anything left and we end up worn out and stressed out.
If you’ve done any flying, you know that the flight attendants tell those who are traveling with children, that in case of loss of pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. We are instructed to put on our oxygen mask first, then help the children (and others) with theirs.
They know that we will likely run out of oxygen before we can help too many if we don’t take care of ourselves first.
It is selfish NOT to put on our mask first. We aren’t any good to anyone if we are lying passed out on the floor.
This brings up a point I hear a lot from women. They feel “selfish” if they spend any time or money on themselves.
The word selfish means “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
I assert that it is selfish for us to NOT take care of ourselves.
But what does being selfish look like? We have to trust that we will not go off the rails, say the heck with everyone else and end up “lacking consideration for others.”
I am not saying that you should put ALL of your needs in front of others. I am saying that there needs to be a mix.
For example, I knew a woman who could not afford to hire a sitter so she could go for a run or out to lunch with friends. So she scheduled time for herself when her husband could watch the kids. She also found another woman who was in the same boat and they took turns watching each others kids so they could each have some time to themselves.
We need to take the stigma out of taking care of ourselves not only for us but for our daughters. If they see us harried and exhausted then they will likely follow in our footsteps or feel guilty if they decide to take care of themselves.
The message they are getting is that in order to be a good worker, mother or wife they must sacrifice themselves and their well being.
I don’t know about you but that scares me! I want my daughter to do and be better than me but the main thing is I want her to be happy, not exhausted!
If we all took a few minutes to be “selfish” each day, we could lower our stress and increase our health and well being.
Take a look at how you are feeling. Are you refreshed and engaged and looking forward to the day? Or are you exhausted and just getting by?
What needs aren’t being met? Do you need more sleep? To eat better food? More exercise? Time in nature or to read?
Commit right now to giving yourself something that you have not been allowing yourself and see how you show up afterward. I bet you are happier.
Imagine the impact that will have not only on you but on your relationships with our co-workers, families and friends. Don’t you deserve that?
Ready to take charge of your life? Join me for a retreat designed to help you learn how to live your best life! We will explore ways to shift our common belief that taking care of ourselves is selfish. We will uncover what is truly in the way of you making positive changes in your life.
Come and learn how to take good care of your greatest asset, you.
Enjoy this all-day retreat on August 23rd, 2015 at the beautiful and serene Chapin Mills Retreat Center. Located in Batavia, NY on 135-acres, this country retreat center will thrill your senses and ignite your imagination.
For more information and to register go to www.PeaceAndPear.com.
I hear people saying that in order to be happy, we just need to do positive affirmations and let go of negativity. I say the exact opposite.
In order to be happy, be sad. Let me explain.
The new movie Inside Out is geared towards children but I think it’s a movie everyone should see, adults included.
Without giving too much away, the movie focuses on a little girl named Reilly and how she deals with her emotions. There are characters that represent the emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear.
In the beginning of the movie, each time Sadness tries to take over, Joy is there to push her away.
I did this for years.
I tried everything to make sadness go away because I thought something was wrong with me if I wasn’t happy all the time. I tried pushing it down, denying it, resisting it. I tried talking myself out of it by doing positive affirmations.
You’ve heard the saying “What we resist, persists?” That is exactly what happened.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t just sad, I was depressed.
There were times when I felt like a deep dark hole was opening up and swallowing me. All I wanted to do was check out of life and sleep.
Then, after a while, I would begin to feel better and come out of it. (Those who have that hole swallow them up and don’t come out, need to seek professional help)
When we resist feeling any emotion, it causes a reaction.
Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, compiled data that showed we cannot numb one emotion without numbing all of our emotions.
Basically, by not allowing ourselves to feel and process our sadness, we are not able to experience true joy.
In our society, it often seems unacceptable to express sadness. We can feel we need to put on a happy face and act like we’ve got it all together.
When we do that, our sadness festers and ends up coming out in other ways. It can manifest itself as depression, illness or destructive behavior such as addiction.
Or we could have an outburst and explode when we have reached our limit.
However, by acknowledging and experiencing our emotions and talking to an empathetic person, we will find that sadness or any emotion leaves as fast as it came.
This is what happened to little Reilly. Once she allowed herself to talk to her parents about her sadness, it opened the door to true connection as well as letting Joy once again be a part of her life.
The real lesson here is that emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. We all have them and all they simply want is to be expressed.
What about those positive affirmations? It is unhealthy and unrealistic to expect ourselves to be happy all the time. If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, then we can use positive affirmations or gratitude to reconnect with hope and faith. That way we won’t end up wallowing in negativity.
What emotion are you currently not allowing yourself to experience? Who is your go-to person when you need empathy?
If you are open to it, practice allowing difficult feelings, share with an empathy buddy and see what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at how much happier you will be when you allow your emotions to just be.
How many times have you let yourself be taken advantage of or sucked into someone else’s drama just because you didn’t want to come off as cold or worse, the “b” word?
This was the case with a client who was wondering how to deal with someone in their life who was being self-destructive. She stated that her friend was not only hurting themselves but those around them. Many of their family and friends had gotten so irritated or resentful with how her friend was behaving they stopped having contact with them.
My client didn’t want that to happen to her but she could feel the irritation and resentment beginning to creep in. She did not want to lose the friendship they had built over the years but she also knew she needed to honor herself.
There are two things we can do so that we don’t feel taken advantage of and get sucked into other people’s drama.
- Put a “hedge of protection” around you. In order to not take on the other person’s emotions or negativity, putting up this barrier protects us. But we also have to make it so that our love and compassion can pass through the hedge to them. This is not a physical barrier of any kind it is simply a mental awareness that if we are down in the muck and mire with them then we are no good to anyone.
- Surrender. This does not mean to give up. It means hand them over to their higher power. They are on their path and we are not responsible for the choices they make. Don’t try to change them. If someone is a danger to themselves or others, then by all means, contact the authorities, get them professional help. However, it is not your job to “fix” someone else’s life. You are there to love and support them if they want it but be sure they are driving their life, not you.
A few years ago, I had a friend who often wouldn’t show up when we had made plans. I loved her and I knew this was not her but this was her pattern. Connection was something she struggled with.
This pattern led other people in her life to get angry and stop contacting her. I could feel that beginning with me as well. I realized I could not change her so I knew I had to be the one to change.
I told her that I was not going to show up for any meeting with her unless she confirmed with me the day before. A few times we had a date planned and when I didn’t hear from her, I simply sent her a text telling her that I would not be there and that when she wanted to try again, just let me know.
Because of this, I was able to let go of my resentment and not feel taken advantage of. I chose to honor myself as well as my friend. We now have a great relationship and she lets me know when she can’t make our coffee dates.
What relationships have left you feeling resentful, taken advantage of or gotten sucked into the drama? Right now, how can you practice surrendering and putting up your hedge of protection with those people?
I sat listening to a friend who was recounting a meltdown she had recently. Someone had pushed her buttons and suddenly, she found herself saying things she never thought she was capable of.
Afterwards she felt such regret and said, “This is not who I want to be.”
It became clear that her automatic reaction when triggered was to fight. She had developed that survival instinct as a little girl and it’s still there even though she’s an adult.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means “shameless audacity.” I think of it as having guts, nerve or backbone.
I think this woman has chutzpah. And not all of us do.
There are those whose first reaction is to run away when there is confrontation. I fall into this category.
However, when I avoid the uncomfortable situation or person, I end up feeling defeated. My confidence and self-esteem take a hit.
A few years ago, the leader of an organization was continually putting me down. Even though they stepped over the line, I lacked the chutzpah to say, “I won’t be treated this way.”
Because I am a person who chooses to lead with my heart, I mistakenly viewed standing up for myself as being arrogant. But each time I backed down, I felt weak and like I dishonored myself. This was not who I wanted to be.
I had heart and not enough chutzpah. My friend had chutzpah and not enough heart.
Chutzpah by itself can come across as arrogant or mean. Heart alone can be viewed as weakness and a doormat.
The sweet spot lies where we have both heart AND chutzpah (heartzpah?! :). It’s not easy to find that place, it takes practice.
For fighters, it means forcing yourself to take a time out before you start saying things you’ll regret.
For those of us who take flight, it means giving yourself permission to stand your ground.
I think Brené Brown said it best, “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink back. Just stand your sacred ground.”
It can be scary and uncomfortable as we practice something new. But that’s where our growth lies, in those scary, uncomfortable places. And there is great joy and peace of mind knowing that you can handle anything or anyone who crosses your path.
In order to be the person you want to be, what do you need to practice more of, chutzpah or heart?
I am not a feminist. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and came to believe that a feminist was an angry, bra-burning woman who hated men.
I love men. Some of my favorite people in the world are men; my husband, son, dad and brothers are at the top of the list. So I decided long ago that I was not a feminist.
But what is feminism really?
The definition is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
This brings me to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech. She said:
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”
Feminism is not about women being angry and demanding our due.
Patricia Arquette is talking about advocating for ourselves just as vigorously as we do for our loved ones and the causes that we feel so passionately about. It is about us knowing our worth and working toward receiving the same treatment and pay as men.
We have, for too long, gone quietly about our business take caring of everyone else, giving ourselves what’s left, only to find there is nothing left.
It is time to stop being stingy with our compassion and acceptance when it comes to ourselves.
We must give ourselves permission to ask for what we want but first we must know what we want.
It is time we speak up and let our voices be heard without judging ourselves as arrogant or self-centered.
It is time we help lift each other up and stop calling women who assert themselves a bitch.
Go for that thing that may seem out of reach. Celebrate yourself if you get it. Heap yourself with the same compassion you give others if you don’t. Then go out and try again.
If we live our lives modeling feminism then not only will our daughters learn to do the same but our sons will grow up to be feminists too. We owe it to ourselves to do this, we owe it to future generations.
You’ve heard of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? All I can say is it must have been a man who thought this up because no woman in her right mind would ever say anything so stupid.
I agree that the Golden Rule is positive in most situations. In dealing with the people I encounter, I try to be calm, polite and kind. All traits I appreciate in others when interacting with me.
However, recently I took issue with my husband treating ME as HE would want to be treated. Specifically when it came to my birthday.
When my husband and kid’s birthdays roll around, I try very hard to give them a special day. When the kids were younger, we had parties. Now that they’re older, they choose between dinner at their favorite restaurant or dinner at home with me making whatever they choose. And the same goes for my husband.
With my birthday so close to Christmas, it has always seemed to get lost. With all the hoopla over the holidays, everyone is too tired and partied out to have yet another party, including myself. As an adult, I have learned to accept this. Or so I thought.
This year, I felt resentful as I thought about my upcoming birthday. When I looked to see what the cause was, I realized the past few years, my birthday dinner consisted of takeout pizza. I love pizza, don’t get me wrong, but on my birthday?!
When I thought about how my husband wanted to spend his birthdays recently, I noticed he doesn’t care to make a big deal out of it. I realized he was treating my birthday the same way. He didn’t understand that I wanted something more than takeout food.
I knew I needed to have a conversation telling him that I did not want to be treated like he wants to be treated. I wanted to be treated the way I want.
All that meant was either choosing to go out for dinner or having him cook dinner at home, NO TAKEOUT!
In case you’re wondering, he cooked our family a delicious meal of artichokes french, jambalaya and tiramisu. My favorite foods with my favorite people! It was the best birthday ever because I felt heard and honored! Not only by the people I love but by myself as well. (And it was extra special because my husband doesn’t often cook.)
Where are you expecting your partner to treat you as you treat them? A hint: Start by looking at where you’re feeling resentful. Speak up and practice asking to be treated the way you want.
Remember the Golden Rule of Relationships: Do unto your partner as you would have them do unto you, unless they tell you otherwise.