Support is one of the most important aspects of successful relationships. Knowing that our partner will comfort us and be there for us through difficult times enhances the feeling of connection and value of our relationship. However, for different people support can mean different things, and that is where big trouble in paradise may arise.
“I wish he could be more supportive”.
“She complains and then when I try to help her she doesn’t appreciate it”.
Very often, too much of the wrong kind of support and too little of the kind of support we need can lead to misinterpretation, frustration, anger, resentment, and damage of intimate connection.
The most common example is when one partner is reaching out for emotional support while the other is trying to fix the problem without validating their partner’s emotions. Soon they both become frustrated – one for not feeling understood and listened to, and the other because their advice is dismissed and their efforts unappreciated.
But how to break this cycle?
Let’s clarify a couple of things first.
What people who complain actually want?
For some this will come as a surprise, but what people most often seek when talking about their problems is not the solution. It is understanding.
People want to feel like they are not alone in this problem, that someone gets where they’re coming from and what they’re experiencing. It’s not only understanding but also validation of their emotions that they’re looking for. As counterintuitive as it may sound, a person complaining wants to hear how her situation really is hard and how things do suck and how she is right for feeling frustrated, angry, or sad.
Having someone who carefully listens and understands what we’re going through feels cathartic. It takes off the burden of having to deal with the situation alone and tells us that it’s okay to feel the way we feel. Emotional support lessens the pressure, which gives some clarity and, finally, makes space for taking an action toward resolving the problem.
However, what many don’t realize is that, by giving advice, they are rushing a person to this final step, which is counterproductive.
Why offering advice is not the best strategy?
People who offer advice usually have the best intentions. They are moved by the desire to be helpful and want the other person to feel better. And while it can be nice to hear someone else’s perspective, what usually happens with advice without emotional support is exactly the opposite – a person with a problem feels worse.
Part of why receiving advice feels so unfulfilling is that the person didn’t ask for it in the first place. They received something they don’t need and haven’t got what they actually wanted. Some may even understand unsolicited advice as a sign of disrespect to their ability to deal with their own problems.
An additional reason is that the person who receives advice instead of emotional support feels rushed to “stop complaining”. They want to feel understood and heard, but instead, the underlying message they receive is: “I feel uncomfortable listening to your negative emotions and want to make this stop as quickly as possible”. It can feel like the person who gave advice put their needs and wants first – to feel helpful and to end the uncomfortable situation.
The frustration that results from a mismatch in the way partners understand emotional support is mainly a communication problem. Thus, to get on the same page with your partner, you need to talk to each other openly and without judgment, get clear about your needs, and discuss how to overcome differences and give each other the right kind of support.
“This is how I feel, and this is how you can help me”
Often, when we come to our partner with an issue, their automatic reaction is to try to help us fix the issue practically. It makes sense – if we remove a problem, our negative emotions will also stop. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need – a fresh perspective and possible options that will help us solve the problem. But more often than not, we need a much different kind of support, an emotional one.
So, how to get emotional support instead of advice? Ask for it.
Expecting support from your partner is okay. It’s the foundation of a good relationship. But assuming your partner knows what kind of support you need (and even worse, refuses to provide it to you) is the way of thinking guaranteed to lead to bitterness, disappointment, and unhappiness. No partner should be a mind reader. If you feel your partner is not in tune with your need for support, stating clearly how they can help you instead of waiting for them to figure it out could save you both from dissatisfaction and resentment down the road.
Sometimes we don’t even know what we’d like to get from our partner but only that we’re not getting it. Funny enough, it doesn’t prevent us from becoming irritated with our partners. It may be a good idea to ask yourself beforehand what kind of support you need and what your partner could do. This will help you be much more clear and direct in communication.
Learn the right way to ask for support
Stating clearly what kind of support you need is great, but asking for it in the right way is even more important. When our partner keeps offering advice without acknowledging our emotions, it’s easy to follow the same resentful pattern where we think, or even say things like: “You always do this”, “You never listen to me”, “Why can’t you, just for once, understand my feelings?!”.
Criticism most probably won’t lead to a satisfying solution. Instead, a criticized person feels the need to defend themselves and their point of view, which likely won’t end up in changing their behaviour. In their need to protect themselves they may start finding flaws in your behaviour (“I’m trying to help you, can’t you appreciate it?”, “You don’t understand”, “Nothing I do is good enough for you!”), and before you know it, you might end up in an argument. Not the most constructive thing, right?
So, it may be a good idea to ditch the criticism and use I statements. Instead of: “You always do this and never do that”, saying something like: “I feel like this and I would like you to do that. It is what I need and it would really help me to feel better. Would you please?” could be much more productive. It gives your partner a clear idea of how they can ease your pain, which is what they want to do in the first place. Also, it decreases the possibility of them feeling attacked and becoming defensive.
Talk openly and come up with a mutually acceptable solution
As mentioned before, problems that arise from a discrepancy between partners on how they like to give and receive support stems mainly from poor communication on the issue. Your partner and you may be different, and that’s okay. Talk with each other about how you like to give and receive support and in what ways the right kind of support helps you feel better. Find out the differences and commit to finding a mutually acceptable solution. Teach your partner what feels best for you, and learn what kind of support they want.
If you both come from the place of mutuality where you truly care about each other, you can be open to learning ways of supporting your partner the way they need you to. Keep anger or defensiveness aside and stay connected to caring feelings you have for your partner.
Additionally, whenever you notice your partner does something that emotionally supportive, tell them and show your appreciation. Telling your partner what they are doing well will encourage them to keep that behaviour in the future, but also will grow intimacy in your relationship.
Again, open communication and mutual understanding is the key. But if, after all your efforts of asking for emotional support clearly and in a loving way, your partner still doesn’t provide it, then that’s the issue that probably goes beyond this topic.
If you find this post helpful, please leave the comment below and share it on social media – maybe others will find it helpful too!
How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.
Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?
For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.
Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.
“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”
So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?
Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.
✔️ Keep your weekend plans realistic
You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.
If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.
Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.
✔️ Active leisure time
About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.
One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.
One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.
✔️ Schedule something you look forward to for the working week
You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.
However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.
✔️ Ask the right questions
Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.
If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.
If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.
How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below! 👇
Chances are, at least once in your life, you firmly decided that you’re going to get disciplined and change your behaviour or a habit. You’re going to get up at 5AM and go for a run every day, or workout five times a week, or read daily, or quit smoking, or write a book… And chances are, after a few days, you failed. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, it happens most of the time. There are two reasons for this:
1. You relied on your motivation rather than on self-discipline; and
2. Building self-discipline is, simply, difficult. It doesn’t come naturally to us as humans.
Clash of the Titans: Motivation vs. Discipline
But I don’t feel like it!
I know. Me too. Bill Gates also doesn’t feel like it either. Yet, self-discipline is not about how you feel – it’s about what you do despite how you feel.
On the other hand, motivation is emotionally driven – it’s a desire to do something. When you’re motivated, doing the thing comes easy. The problem is, however, that we often expect our motivation to last forever and to be the force that will always draw us toward success – which is unrealistic. When you rely on motivation to change a behaviour or build a habit, you’re standing on the very unstable ground with its chances of collapsing changing by the day. In contrast, self-discipline helps you don’t fall off the path. It is driven by reason and therefore makes you do the right thing for your long-term benefit despite the fact you may want to do something else.
To reach your goals, you need both self-control and motivation. Motivation is your “why” behind the goal, and it is a very powerful engine to keep you going… on a good day. On days this engine is not so active, which happen to everyone, you need self-discipline to continue doing the thing that brings you closer to success. Utilizing only one will get you nowhere.
Why Is Self-Discipline So Hard?
We, as human beings, are evolutionarily built to experience pleasure and avoid discomfort. We are also adapted to respond to immediate events, like a threat or a current problem, or immediate pleasure, and have an emotional reaction to them, which are essential for our survival. But when it comes to long-term planning, we’re not so good, or at least behaviours that follow from it are not as strong because they’re not wired to our emotions. We naturally go towards pleasure and away from pain. That’s why we fall to the temptation of doing the pleasant thing even when we know it’s not the smartest choice for us in the long run – the emotions overpower our reason. So, it’s not you, it’s your brain. 🙂
However, your instant-gratification monkey-mind is not particularly useful in modern society. Learning to do things even when they are boring, hard, or frustrating, is absolutely necessary for success. Now read that again – I said learning. Self-discipline is not a trait but a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned. If practiced on a regular basis, like any skill, it becomes easier and you become better at it. Additionally, research found that people with higher levels of self-control are happier over both short and long run. Sounds like a skill worth developing, right?
How to Push Past Yourself And Get It Done
Okay, let’s equip you with some tricks that will help you become more efficient.
1. Don’t think about it too far ahead.
Thinking about all 15 tasks that need to be done today or this week can be overwhelming. When you think about them all at once, they can seem like a scary mountain you don’t want to climb on. This illusion eventually leads you to give up or, if you don’t, to stress out ahead. What happens here is a cognitive distortion – all those responsibilities piled up all at once in your mind make you believe you’ll have to deal with them altogether at the same time, while in reality you’ll complete these tasks one after another, in small chunks, which is much easier. You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.
So, instead of ruminating about all the things that need to be done, try to concentrate only on the first task in front of you. Just begin the first thing like it’s the only thing you have to do today, and do it mindfully. For example, if you’re in the gym, concentrate only on the movements you’re doing. Don’t think about the report that waits for you when you get home or the sink full of dishes. That will only stress you out and make it seem like a whole lot of work. The report and the sink will be there whether you stress about them or not. So, choose not.
2. “Only 5 minutes” trick
Similar to the previous one, if you think about hours and hours of work you have to put in to achieve something, chances are you’ll procrastinate. A good way to trick your brain is to pick the first task and tell yourself you’ll do it only for 5 minutes. No more, no less. And yes, after these 5 minutes you have to stop. But the magic that happens in most cases after these 5 minutes is that your energy and momentum will start to flow. You might even won’t want to stop and end up getting involved in the activity. The best thing about this 5-minute-trick is that you realize doing the thing isn’t that painful after all. The hardest thing was to start.
3. Remind yourself of your big WHY every day
When things become difficult, we can easily forget our big goal behind all our efforts. It’s human nature – remember how our brains are wired to respond to immediate problems rather than to long-term goals? Because of this, it’s important that you keep your reason easily accessible to your brain. One way to do it is to remind yourself of the end result you want to achieve every day. Morning journaling about your goal and reasons for achieving it might be helpful. Or you can place a photo of your goal result in front of your bed or on your screensaver. This will help your brain not lose sight of the long-term result. Thus, you’ll get a stronger stand against temptation more easily and actually persist in doing what brings you closer to success.
Self-Discipline Through Self-Acceptance
I think the word discipline got a bad reputation over time. We somehow started associating it with punishment when it’s really all about something very different. It’s about self-love and self-respect.
Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A discipline is a student, not a recipient of behavioural consequences. – Dr. Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child.
Self-discipline is a form of self-love. It means you are committed to doing something good for yourself. It shows that you want to build a meaningful and valuable life for yourself. That’s amazing!
When you look at self-discipline from this perspective, as a way of loving and appreciating yourself, it becomes a little easier to do what you know is best for yourself even when you don’t feel like it.
And remember – nobody is disciplined all the time. You’ll make mistakes; it’s completely natural. When this happens, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and not fall to self-criticism. Self-compassion will help you get back on track faster and move forward. This “moving forward” after a failure is a crucial trait for the self-disciplined and one that is required for success.
“Live in the present moment”! How many of us would roll our eyes in annoyance of hearing that overused statement again? We heard it so many times that we often don’t even stop and think about it. But we really, really should.
Although it has become a popular topic in recent years, living in the present is not just a trendy lifestyle tip. Focusing on the present moment is a way of leading a fulfilled, happy, less stressful life that is, in fact, backed up by good science.
But instead of listing all the reasons why mindfulness makes life so much better, which you can read HERE, let’s first focus on what is real.
You Already Know How To Live In The Present
Remember the time when you were a kid. Can you recall how you noticed everything back then? The smell of the grass, cracks on the sidewalk, moving clouds on the sky, smell of new books… You were in the now back then almost all the time. Your mind wasn’t overfilled with worries and plans for the future or regrets from the past. You just existed, paid attention to your surrounding, and fully participated in your life.
So, you already know how living in the now looks and feels like. The goal is to bring back that mindset as often as possible in your daily life.
Of course, you might argue that those were the times when you had fewer responsibilities, and you would be right. As you’re growing up, you are facing more complicated situations, and that requires some advanced planning, learning from your mistakes, making priorities and balancing many different areas of life. However, all this doesn’t nearly mean that experiencing the present moment is less possible. In fact, in reality, it is the only possible time to live in. Literally.
The Only Time That Exists Is NOW – The Eternal Present Moment
You’re reading this text now. You are breathing now. If the future you’re worried or excited about comes, it can do so only in the form of the present moment, just like the one right now. It is not something mysterious that will come in a spectacular way.
Time as we know it (minutes, hours, months, days) is actually an illusion – we only use it for practical purposes. As Albert Einstein said: “The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. Think about it – there is never a time when you are living in anything other than this ongoing moment.
And yet, you often miss it. You’re often going past your own life, trapped in your head. You’re maybe making plans for the next week. Or you’re replaying the same conversation from yesterday over and over in your head, thinking about what you said wrong. Or you’re so excited about some future event that all you can think about is that and you just want it to come as soon as possible. And then you’re parking your car and have no idea how you drove to work; you were so lost in your thoughts that you don’t remember the actual drive. You just missed to experience your life and went through a part of it on autopilot.
Don’t Let Your Wandering Mind Steal Your Time And Joy
According to Harvard University study, we spend about 47% of our waking time thinking about things other than what we’re doing or what’s going on, and most of this daydreaming doesn’t make us happy. Authors of the research say: “Human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”.
A similar conclusion comes from Eckhart Tolle, the author of the best-selling book “The Power of Now”: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence”.
The tricky thing is – in our busy world that demands constant multitasking, it can be difficult to remember to be mindful about what is happening in the present moment. However, it is important for becoming truly connected with yourself and leading a fulfilled life. Present is already here. It is going on while you’re chasing your “ideal” life or beating yourself up for past mistakes. While you’re occupied with how your life could look like, your actual life is happening.
The disappointing thing is – there is no extraordinary event outside of you that will suddenly change you and make you less unfocused and absent. You need to make a conscious decision to pay attention to what is happening in the now and remember to remind yourself to do it every day. It’s that simple. When you notice you wandered off, just gently get back to the now.
The encouraging thing is – it becomes easier with practice. Once you train your mind to operate in the “present mode”, it becomes a habit and you’ll do it almost effortlessly.
Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your past or your future. It’s important to learn from your past experiences and plan for the future in order to reach your goals. But don’t let these two steal the now from you. Know where you want to go, but be present on every step you take toward it.
“Successful relationships master the art of apology”
– The Gottman Institute
There is no such thing as a perfect partnership. However strong and stable your relationship may be, it inevitably stumbles from time to time. Disagreements happen, careless words might be said, anger might be expressed inappropriately, insensitivity manifested, or trust broken. Whatever it is, harm has been done and feelings got hurt.
Making mistakes is what makes us humans. But when you’ve hurt your partner, knowing the right way to apologize makes all the difference. True apologizes strengthen, not diminish your relationship.
Obviously, some mistakes are bigger than others, and sometimes saying sorry is not enough. Knowing you’ve hurt the one you love feels awful. You might become frustrated when it seems like whatever you do makes things worse. It is easy to feel hopeless when you simply don’t know what to do to fix things.
Apologizing to your partner and healing your relationship involves more than just saying “I’m sorry”. Let’s see what you can do to effectively start reconnecting again after you’ve hurt your partner.
Offer Sincere Apology
Okay, this sounds like an obvious one, but it’s important to highlight what an honest apology really is.
Genuine apology is directed toward your partner’s hurt and possibly healing the damage your actions have caused, not necessarily on getting forgiveness. If your main reason for saying sorry is to get things back to normal as soon as possible and enjoy the beauty of your relationship again, your apology is not sincere and might even make things worse. Chances are high that your partner will recognize your apology as manipulative, you will get frustrated pretty quickly and things will escalate again, damaging your relationship even further.
So, before you apologize, get honest with yourself about why you want to apologize. What are you genuinely sorry for? Try to see things from your partner’s perspective.
Acknowledge Their Hurt And Don’t Get Defensive
When you finally decide to go to your partner and apologize, prepare to get uncomfortable. Your partner might interrupt your apology by describing how much you’ve hurt them and what they are going through after your actions. In this case, it’s crucial to let them speak and not interrupt them with your view of the situation.
“Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand”
Apologizing can seem scary for some people because it puts them in a vulnerable position. Naturally, following the need to protect themselves from guilt, they get defensive. However, for the offended party, defending your behavior and giving explanations is seen as trying to get excused from the situation and avoiding to take responsibility for your actions.
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”
When someone is hurt, the most important thing for them is to feel understood. You need to show your partner that you are aware of the pain that you have caused and address it in your apology. Take responsibility for hurtful things that you said or did. This means that you won’t blame your partner for how you behaved and that you will resist the temptation to get defensive. Don’t minimize their feelings or question their logic. Remember, your job here is not to be right, but to help your partner feel listened and cared for.
Express Willingness To Do Whatever It Takes
Tell your partner what have you learned from the incident and list the things that you will do or change to avoid repeating the same mistake again. It’s important, however, to really believe in this and to make it realistic. False promises will only damage your relationship even more.
We are all different people with a unique set of traits and different needs. Thus, what you think is helpful might not be what your partner actually wants so to feel better. Instead, find out what your partner needs from you in order to find a resolution. It shows to your partner that you respect them and that their feelings are important to you.
Sometimes, even the one that is hurt doesn’t know what exactly would make things better. That’s okay. As long as you show them that you are there for them, that you might don’t know how to make things better but you are willing to learn, it’s already healing.
Be Patient And Don’t Push For Forgiveness
It’s understandable that you want your relationship to get back on track as soon as possible. But, remember that your main objective was not to get forgiveness and be comfortable again quickly, but to make things easier for your partner and start building trust and connection again. Therefore, give your partner some space and time to process all those unpleasant emotions of anger, frustration, hurt, disappointment etc. Don’t rush them through this process or blame them for taking “too long” to forgive you.
After the apology, it’s important not to act like everything is back to normal and nothing happened. Forgiveness is a process, not an event. Even if things in your relationship seem ok shortly after the apology, wounds are probably still fresh and you need to be patient and gentle with your partner. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your commitment. Actively show through your actions that you are willing to invest your time and energy to make things better for your partner.
Knowing how to apologize properly and meaningfully is one of the keys to successful relationships. However, it’s important to know that apologizing is not about accepting the blame for something. It’s about acknowledging and responding to your partner’s emotional pain that your actions provoked. You can, and should be accountable, but everyone is responsible for their emotional reactions too. It is not acceptable for an upset partner to be abusive, physically or verbally.
It takes an active part from both partners to repair a situation.
You probably heard that self-esteem is one of the most important things for leading a productive, successful, pleasurable life. But the term is a little confusing – does it mean self-worth? Self-respect? How do you know your self-esteem is too low and how much of it is too much? What is the optimal level of self-esteem?
Cambridge English Dictionary defines self-esteem as “belief and confidence in your own ability and value”. Self-esteem is also often defined as “One’s own sense of self-worth or personal value”. What is problematic in this concept is that it refers to “worthiness” and “value” of the human being.
The Illusion of Self-Esteem
Let’s stop for a second and see what value means: “The regard that something is held to deserve”. Indirectly, the term “self-esteem”, therefore, suggests that holding ourselves in high regard is something to be deserved. It suggests that we need to have certain traits or do certain things to earn to be “worth” of respect and love. It inevitably includes self-evaluation. But here is the thing…
You are “worthy”, “valuable” and “deserving”, if you want to use these poor terms, simply because you exist, because you are alive. There is no such thing as “more valuable” or “less valuable” person. Achievements, skills, talents, or some qualities or lack of those can’t determine our human value, because our worthiness is already set simply by our existence.
It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept different from self-efficacy, which refers to how well you believe you’ll handle future actions, it represents your belief in your own abilities. Someone can be appreciated by many people, accomplish great things, be successful in several areas, and those are all amazing things that are certainly pleasant. You may achieve greater happiness or more efficiency by achieving your goals or by believing in your abilities, but that doesn’t increase your intrinsic worth, nor do your failures can lower your human value.
Chasing Self-Esteem Won’t Make You Happier – Maybe Even the Opposite
Another problem with the concept of self-esteem, other than the fact that it is based on non-existent, or at least unhealthy, premises of “worthiness” and “value”, is that it also obliquely requires comparison with other people. Evaluation can’t exist without comparison to some “standard” or some external object. Therefore, determining our own worth means we first have to compare ourselves with others. As Albert Ellis, the father of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) claims: “Self-esteem theoretically rests upon an often inaccurate and unstable global rating of the self in comparison to others”. This necessarily means that, to have high self-esteem, we need to feel above-average. You can easily see it in the simple fact that today, in our culture, being seen as average is considered an insult. But for every human being to be special and above average is logically impossible.
Trying to see yourself as better than others all the time is exhausting and can easily lead to self-criticism. To retain superiority, we have to meet very high standards. As soon as our feelings of superiority slip – which is inevitable because there are so many different people in this world and there is always someone better, smarter, prettier etc. – our self-esteem easily goes down.
For a long time, mental health professionals believed that high self-esteem is a predictor of greater happiness and life satisfaction. However, as much as this notion seems like common sense, research shows that there is no scientific evidence of a correlation between higher self-esteem and pleasurable living.
Another study states: “Self-esteem in the West is not based upon an unconditional appreciation of the intrinsic worth of all persons. (…) Research, in fact, demonstrates that high self-esteem displays associations with a broad range of psychosocial dysfunctions, including, for example, narcissism, poor empathy, depreciation of others, prejudice, aggression, and distorted self-knowledge”.
Okay, if not self-esteem, then what? Well, there is actually a healthier alternative to self-esteem that really predicts better mental health, greater life satisfaction, and overall happiness – self-compassion.
What Is Self-Compassion?
“Self-compassion means that the individual fully and unconditionally accepts herself whether or not she behaves intelligently, correctly, or competently and whether or not other people approve, respect or love her” (Ellis 2005, p. 38).
Self-compassion is the way of treating yourself – in a supportive and non-judgmental way, with kindness, understanding, and love. Being self-compassionate mean that you recognize previously mentioned notion about all humans having value simply by the fact they exist in this world, not by the set of traits and abilities they possess. Self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, without forcing yourself to meet some high standards to feel that you are okay as a person. It allows you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view without evaluating or comparing yourself with others.
Why Nurturing Self-Compassion Over Building Self-Esteem?
Opposite to high self-esteem, studies haven’t found any negative effects of self-compassion yet. In fact, self-compassion predicts better psychosocial adjustment and resilience while avoiding the liabilities associated with high self-esteem.
Self-compassion gives us a more stable sense of self-love because it comes from within. On the other hand, as it’s based on comparison with others, self-esteem is unstable because it depends on external circumstances. This often results in having a more negative emotional reaction or protecting behaviours when people evaluate us negatively or even neutrally because we are trying to protect our self-esteem from collapsing. With self-compassion, in contrast, we don’t need to defend or protect ourselves from negative feedback, because we know that it won’t affect how we see ourselves as a person.
Self-compassion provides emotional safety to see ourselves as we really are. Instead of labelling ourselves as good or bad, as of high-value or worthless, we should accept our flaws with an open heart, take responsibility for our behaviour and choices, and still be kind to ourselves. It’s okay that we are imperfect humans leading imperfect lives, and we don’t need to strive to be “better” than others to love ourselves or hold ourselves in high regard.
Today, it would be really difficult to find anyone who’s not using at least one form of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and many more became an inevitable part of our lives. And it can be great – isn’t the quick way to connect with your loved ones and share your experiences with each other in seconds amazing? Isn’t the opportunity to quickly consume any type of information you’re interested in, from educational to entertaining, simply awesome?
Yes, if you have a healthy relationship with social media. But, sometimes, it can be easy to forget what it really means.
Social Media and Mental Health
While some studies claim the relationship between mental health and usage of social media is still vague, others have found that higher social media use could have the negative effect on our mental health in forms of anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, more negative body image, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Which effect social media will have on your mental health depends on numerous different factors, such as the way you use it or the amount of time spent on social media.
You already know that it’s easy to fall into a dark hole of scrolling through your social media feed for hours. You also know how awful you can feel afterward. But you don’t have to give up social media completely to avoid its negative effects. If you use it the right way and have a couple of things in mind, social media can have a positive presence in your life. Here are some tips to stay happy and healthy online.
1. It’s All a Filter – And That’s Okay
We all want to be loved. We also want to leave a good impression on people. It feels great when people see us as fun, smart, pretty, successful (be free to add your own ideal set of characteristics ). That is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with enjoying compliments and wanting people to think good about you – it’s our natural tendency – as long as:
A) …it doesn’t become an obsession for you, where you don’t let people see anything that is, by your standard, less than perfect or socially desirable. If this sounds a little like you, THIS is the article that might be useful.
B) …you’re aware that other people have this desire too, and social media allows them to fulfill it.
When scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook, always remember that social media allows people to show you only the parts of them they want you to see. You usually won’t see the photo of your neighbor brushing their teeth or having a headache. However, you WILL see them enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop bar or receiving an award for something awesome. Your friends on social media have a bunch of amazing and also not-so-great moments in their lives, but it’s such an easy thing to forget. It’s so easy to get caught in a trap of believing that what you see on social media is the whole reality. So, what should you do?
Imagine social media as a filter between you and other people that lets through only positive snapshots of their lives. That is what you see on your feed. It doesn’t mean people are lying or they’re “fake”; it just means they’re showing you only certain, chosen parts of their lives. Always remember to approach social media with this mindset.
2. Comparison is a Strong Weapon Against Your Happiness
If you understand the previous point – how people show us only a filtered picture of their lives on social media – then you realize that comparing yourself to other people online makes no sense. You’re different people with different set of characteristics, abilities, connections, life circumstances and many more! Comparing your whole life, including all its ups and downs, with a polished picture of someone else’s is not a fair battle.
Comparison opens door to envy, loneliness, bitterness and a whole bunch of other unhealthy emotions you don’t want in your life. Why, then, you let the comparison do it when it won’t increase the quality of your life in any way? The answer: because it’s an automatic reaction.
Comparison is pointless – unless you want to destroy your happiness – then it’s a powerful tool.
There are two ways to fight comparison. One is to consciously choose to notice when you start comparing yourself to others and stop. Yes, simply put an end to it right that moment. Log out, tell yourself you’re doing the pointless thing again, unfollow the person.
The other way is to turn this automatism into your advantage by reformatting comparison into an inspiration. Remember that someone else’s happiness does not minimize your own, nor you’re doing something wrong for having a different life than that person. Instead, set your own goals, and let some of the social media posts you see serve as an inspiration and motivation to pursue them. Instead of getting jealous and falling down the rut of self-pity, you can be grateful for the inspiration that moves you towards your goal.
Your only competition is your former self.
3. No, You’re NOT Missing Out
Do you automatically reach out your phone because maybe something interesting or exciting is happening online and you might miss it? What if others are having an amazing time and you’re not there to see it? If this sounds like you, you’re maybe experiencing fear of missing out or, popularly, FOMO.
FOMO is the type of a general anxiety over the idea that others are having more exciting and fun experiences elsewhere while we’re not involved. This term is in use for more than 20 years, but more and more people are experiencing it with the rise of social media. In fact, one study showed that FOMO is the strongest contributing factor to social media addiction among youth.
What is often happening when you’re glued to your phone searching for fun online is that you’re trying to escape the reality around you.
Are you satisfied with what is going on right now in your life? Try to pinpoint the reason why getting lost in social media feed is more interesting than being involved in the present moment. Writing it on a piece of paper might be useful. Now, what can be some possible solutions? Running away from reality is not one of them.
Another thing that might help you combat this unpleasant feeling of missing out is mindfulness. When you’re fully present, when you’re consciously paying attention to every moment of your life without judgment, you are making the active decision to enjoy things and people around you.
Being on social media can create some positive experiences in your life, but it can also become an additional stressor. If you feel that social media is impacting your mood more than it should, or you feel like it’s taking significantly more time of your day than you’d want and you find it hard to control, consider reaching out and speaking with someone. There is always a solution, and you don’t have to search for it alone.
Are you stuck in your head? Do you feel like you are worrying about anything and everything all day long? Repeating the same scenarios in your head over and over and spiraling down the hole of anxious thoughts is tiring!
Sometimes, worry can be a good thing. When there is a realistic possibility of failure or unpleasant thing occurring, worry can motivate us to work harder, prepare and focus on what we can control. However, when it slips into rumination about the things you have no control over, it doesn’t lead to productive or practical solutions. Instead, it triggers unhelpful thought patterns and excessive worry that repeat over and over. It’s completely useless and simply frustrating. But how to stop?
Why Simply Telling Yourself to Stop Worrying is Not Helpful
Your excessive worry isn’t there without a reason. You bother yourself with worst case scenarios and anxious thoughts because they give you a false sense of control. If you worry too hard, bad things might not happen, right? And if they happen, you’d surely be prepared?
Still, you don’t feel any better if the thing you were worried about really occurs, do you? Think about it.
Remember, worrying gives you a FALSE sense of control. We have a tendency to believe that rumination will bring a sense of relief, but it doesn’t because that tailspin has no end or solution, which just intensifies anxiety more.
Simply telling yourself to stop doing something is not enough because, as mentioned above, somewhere deep down you might believe that worry gives you some sense of control and relief. That’s why your subconscious mind doesn’t let go. However, this sense of control is extremely weak, and the damage to your mental health far outweighs that illusion of the “benefit”.
So the first thing you need to do is to consciously decide to give up on trying to control things you can’t control. Second, stop blaming yourself for feeling anxious. It’s enough you feel overwhelmed in the first place; you don’t need additional pressure. Simply telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work. So, what does?
Schedule Worry Time
It may sound counterproductive, but forcing yourself to worry during a specific time of the day may actually help you worry less. Studies consistently show that dedicating 15 to 20 minutes during the day to purposely obsess over things that worry you actually decreases the number of worrying thoughts during the day and helps to ease anxiety.
Rules are simple: schedule 15 minutes at a specific time every day to worry about your problems. Pick a time when you know you’ll be able to focus all your attention to worry without interruptions. However, try to make this time at least 2 hours away from your bedtime to avoid possible difficulties falling asleep.
Okay, now that you made your appointment with worry, spend some time with it. Dedicate your full attention to your anxious thoughts during those 15 minutes, without fighting them or trying to make them go away. Don’t try to think positive or to convince yourself these thoughts are unnecessary. Exactly the opposite – strive to come up with as many worries as you can, and try to be as uncomfortable as possible in reviewing them. If you run out of ideas in those 15 minutes, it’s important to not walk away. The goal is to fill the whole 15 minutes with worry, not a minute more or less. If you spent all your anxious ideas in the first 10 minutes, repeat the ones you already thought over.
When your scheduled date with worry passes, get up and go on with your day. You’ll meet your worry at the same time the next day, but not until then. Anxious thoughts will, of course, try to sneak in and occupy space in your head during the day. Just politely tell them that now is not the time, and they will have to wait until the appointment when you’ll listen to all of them. If they are persistent, instead of getting stuck in your head with them, try some of the mindfulness techniques like focusing on the outside sensations or on your breathing.
How And Why Worry Time Works
There is a little mind twist here. You’re probably frustrated with not being able to run away or combat all those worrying and uncomfortable thoughts; it just seems there are too many of them all the time. However, when you turn tables around and purposefully try to find as many of them as possible, you realize three things:
- There are not so many of them after all,
- Facing your worries and letting unpleasant feelings those obsessing thoughts evoke is not so terrible or unboreable,
- In the end, worrying becomes boring.
These three things change the way you approach your worry and gradually ease your anxiety over anxiety. Instead of becoming all tense on the first thought of worry, you become to experience other emotional responses, like boredom for example. That creates space for making a distance from unhelpful thought patterns and for taking a more realistic perspective.
In the end, one important note: be persistent. Give time for change. When you start practicing this technique, it’s possible that your worry will intensify in the first few days, and it will be more difficult to resist rumination between worry times. That is frustrating, but also totally natural. Just keep up the practice. Emotional changes need time. However, if this technique stirs up extremely strong emotions in you after a week, stop practicing it. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for additional support. Your therapist will work with you to discover what lies behind your anxious thoughts and feelings, and find techniques and tools that suit you best.
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” the clichéd saying goes. However, is it really true?
There is a widespread notion in our society that following your passion is the key to a fulfilled and happy life. Well, it turns out this kind of belief is not only a myth but can be very limiting and even dysfunctional.
Your Idea about What Passion is is Probably Wrong
If someone would ask you what your passion is, what would you say? What are you wholeheartedly passionate about? *tick-tock* *tick-tock*…
The truth is, this question is triggering! The majority of people feel pressured to come up with a good answer, and if they don’t, they feel like something is wrong with them. Considering everything society and media constantly feed us, that’s no surprise. We’ve been told that finding our true passion is a secret to a purposeful and joyful life, and if we don’t discover what it is, well… we’re destined to misery. But that’s completely wrong. Actually, the whole concept of passion you can often see in many self-help books, motivational speeches, movies, magazines, and other sources is inaccurate.
The thing with passion is that it’s not something you do; passion is something you feel.
Passion is a full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you.
– Terri Trespicio
Passion is a feeling you find within yourself.
Yes, it’s true that with some things we’re able to find this feeling more easily than with some others. Cooking or writing can be extremely joyful while doing paperwork in the office can be painfully boring. However, it’s not paperwork itself that makes you feel bored; it’s the way you look at it. If you approach it with curiosity and shift your attention on finding interesting things in paperwork, it becomes so much more enjoyable. Actually, if you focus on becoming better at paperwork over time, it may lead you to becoming passionate about it in the end. That’s because passion is not a destination; it’s developing over time and through life experiences.
Looking for One and Only Passion = Fixed Mindset and Limited Experiences
One research found that, compared to people who see passion as a developing feeling through activity, individuals who believe people have a relatively fixed passion that just waits to be discovered have a tendency to quit more often when things become difficult or less interesting. That’s because they believe that, when you’re passionate about something, it becomes a boundless source of motivation and, as already mentioned, “you won’t have to work a day in your life anymore”. But that is not true; in any job, even the best one, there are certain things that are not so pleasant or fun. So, when things become difficult, and they will with anything you do at one point, a belief that it must mean “it’s not your true passion” gives you an easy way out.
As the authors of the research say: “Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry”.
Really, being obsessed with finding your passion can limit your experiences and prevent you from exploring some areas you might be really good at. Moreover, if you believe that once you find your passion it will all be sunshine and rainbows and that you’ll feel motivated all the time, it will almost certainly lead to disappointment after disappointment.
Instead of searching for your passion, be passionate!
All this, of course, doesn’t mean that if you know exactly what you’re passionate about, and you’re pursuing it, something is not right. No, if you’re happy with what you do, that’s awesome! That inner sense of excitement is something many people are searching for, and you’ve found it – we’re glad for you! J
For those of you with panical inner screaming: “I don’t know what I’m passionate about!”, know that it’s okay. Nothing is wrong with you. It’s great you don’t know, actually – that gives you the opportunity to explore and see how you can develop your passion. If something you do, let’s say a new job, doesn’t click right away – give it time. Try to become better at it and approach it with an inner sense of enthusiasm and interest.
Pursue your whole life with passion. Give special attention to everyday things, from paying your bills to doing your laundry or working out. Become fascinated by little, ordinary things that surround you. That, and not one special thing that you’re trying to discover, will make for an enjoyable and freeing life you strive for.
Holidays are here! Yay…? While everyone around you seems joyful and excited, you’re maybe wondering why you’re feeling so blue.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious during this time of the year, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, holiday season triggers feelings of sadness, irritability, loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, and a bunch of other unpleasant emotions for more people than you think.
For some of us, holidays bring pleasant memories. For others, on the other hand, holidays have that sneaky nature of bringing some painful memories to the surface. Add financial pressure, tight deadlines, social obligations, or meeting with family members that you know will say or do something that stresses you out… Now it’s not so surprising that you’re not all that cheerful and excited for holidays, is it? However, there are ways to turn things around and feel different than this.
So, let’s try to make it a little easier this year. Here are 4 strategies for handling this end-of-the-year situation and coping with holiday depression:
*** 1. Let yourself feel. ***
Suppressing emotions is a road to depression. Emotional avoidance is one of the main causes of not only depression, but a wide range of psychological problems. Don’t be afraid of your feelings – they are already there in you. If you’re trying to avoid grief, loneliness, sadness or any other unpleasant emotion because you think it’s intolerable or dangerous or inappropriate, you’ll soon feel anxious about such emotion arising. Before you know it, you’ll invest so much energy in trying to suppress unpleasant feelings surfacing, that it will drain all your energy and become a negative experience itself.
It’s OK to cry and feel sad or lonely. Give yourself some time to sit with your painful feelings and to accept them. Acceptance can feel relieving – it means you don’t have to spend a tremendous amount of energy anymore on pushing your feelings away. So, let yourself feel. THEN, and don’t forget this step, do something nice for yourself and socialize.
*** 2. Create new traditions. ***
Putting on a brave face for others can be especially difficult when the world is blasting us with images of group hugs and the memory of your final hug with someone you love is all that you can think about.
– Suzanne Deges-White, Ph.D., Psychology Today
Holidays have a way of opening old wounds that we may try to forget about during the year. Also, sometimes, there is pressure to perform rituals and traditions that we may not necessarily feel connected to or comfortable doing. Some people even feel that, by changing the same old holiday traditions, they will somehow betray their loved ones who are no longer with them.
Instead of focusing on what once was, why don’t you try and create a new tradition? There are no hard rules on how your holiday should look like. It’s completely OK to get creative and do something out of the ordinary. This doesn’t mean you have to erase all the rituals that were once a part of your holidays; instead, you can reinvent them in a way that feels fun and comfortable for you and your loved ones, or even create a special new ritual that honors the person that is no longer there. Starting a new tradition can help create fresh memories of holidays, no longer overshadowed by the past.
*** 3. Keep Your Expectations in Check ***
These days, fairy-tailish photos and videos of happy people enjoying the holidays with their loved ones seem to be everywhere. Movies, TV shows and social media set great expectations of how this time of the year “should” feel. What is important to have in mind is that reality is often different.
Everyone have their own version of the perfect holiday. However, when reality doesn’t live up to the dream, stress and disappointment kick in. It’s nice to have a plan on how you’d like to spend your holidays, including details about people, decoration, food, gifts, etc. It’s a whole another story if everything MUST be the way you planned it. Instead of losing your mind over a burnt tray of cookies or your cousin being late to the family gathering again, stop for a moment and change your perspective. Look at these missteps as opportunities to exercise your resilience and flexibility.
When you throw away all “musts” and “shoulds”, you’ll view things more realistically, and remove the pressure that’s causing you stress and negativity. Set your expectations aside and remind yourself to enjoy the moment.
*** 4. Go Outside and Give. ***
Whatever you do, it’s best not to withdraw yourself completely from social activities and holiday festivities. Isolation will almost certainly make holiday blues worse. Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer to the world. If you feel lonely, or like you don’t have anybody to spend holidays with, it doesn’t mean you have to stay alone. There are people out there that will enjoy your company much more than you think. So, get outside and do what you can to make their (and your) holidays more pleasant and less lonely. Kindness is such an incredible tool to combat sadness – yours or other peoples’.
Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home or homeless shelter or wherever it’s possible in your city. Go outside and explore what new nice things holidays have for you.
And for the end, the most important thing of all: don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you’re having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. There is a difference between holiday blues, which lasts only around the holiday time, and more severe depression. If the holiday season passes and you still feel the same, it’s best to consult a professional.
We know you got this.
Enjoy the holidays 🙂