Most of us want to be liked by other people. It feels great to know that others think good of us. However, when we believe that being liked depends on how much stuff we do for other people and how helpful we are, that’s when the problems arise. People-pleasers know this issue too well – the inability to say no.
Helping others can be really fulfilling, but if you do it at the expense of yourself, out of fear or anxiety, it becomes an unhealthy pattern of behaviour that can suck all your energy and negatively impact your relationships. You spend so much time on what you think you need to do that there is almost zero time left for what you actually want to do. In the end, you feel exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, and even resentful.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Learning how to say no and not feel awful after is absolutely possible. In fact, knowing how to set boundaries is one of the most important things in sustaining healthy relationships with others and yourself.
Why Saying NO Is So Difficult?
In general, as children, we learn that saying no is inappropriate and rude. If you said no to your parents’, cousins’, or teachers’ requests, you’ve probably been told off for it. Over time, you associated saying yes to requests with getting approval and saying no with criticism. On top of that, early relationships maybe additionally influenced your “people-pleasing” patterns of behaviour.
You may have been raised to be a sweetheart who always took care of other children, especially if you were the oldest child in the family. An influence like this can lead to the formation of beliefs such as: “I am only lovable if I’m accommodating and helpful”. Or maybe you come from a family where providing emotional support was conditional and inconsistent. Thus, in the attempt to secure love from important adults, it’s possible you developed the underlying belief: “If I don’t do everything to make others happy, they might leave or stop caring for me”. Inability to say no can also stem from early experiences with highly-critical parents who severely punished their children, even for small mistakes. Such experiences can lead to beliefs such as: “If I don’t do everything right, I will disappoint others or be punished”.
Whatever the case is, your self-worth may have come to depend on things you do for others. This is a tricky thing because it forms a vicious circle with no satisfying solution. On the one hand, being unable to say NO can make you stressed, exhausted, and resentful toward others. On the other hand, saying NO might be a threat for your self-image and result in you questioning your decision, feeling bad about yourself, or worrying others will get hurt, angry, or disappointed at you. Either way, with this kind of pattern, you can’t win.
But there is a way to actually win, and that is – change the pattern. Here are some steps you can take to help you say no effectively and create space for a more intentional yes.
Step 1: Get To Know Your Priorities
If you don’t know what you want, it’s a high chance you don’t know what you don’t want. Identify what is important to you, and acknowledge what is not. We all have limited energy and time; decide where you want to direct those, and where you definitely don’t. Before you say no, you have to be clear that you want to say no.
There are, of course, things that need to be done, even if we don’t like it, like finishing that important but boring report at work. But there are also things that you are not obliged to do, like spending another two hours at work helping your colleague finish their task while you really wanted to spend that time at the movies with your significant one.
You can’t be all things to all people. Choose what and who the priority is, and invest your limited time and energy there. The rest gets your resources only in case you really decide it’s worth it.
Step 2: Know What Saying NO Is And Is Not
- Saying NO means you’re rejecting a request, not the person. Make clear to yourself (and to the other person) that you’re not rejecting them as a whole person; you’re just turning down their invitation. People will usually understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask for the favor, and that your no doesn’t mean “I don’t like you” but simply: “Sorry, my plate is full/my priorities are elsewhere”.
- Saying NO doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Just because you say no to sacrificing your time and comfort to accommodate others doesn’t mean you’re unlikable, rude, or selfish. It means you’re thinking long term and saying no is a preventative act against self-loathing and resentment in the future.
- Saying NO is not a missed opportunity but a trade-off. Some people hate to say no because they feel like they’re missing out the opportunity. However, saying yes to something unimportant often means saying no to something important. So, instead of looking at NO as a missed opportunity, you can see it as a trade-off. You’re choosing the opportunity to do something you value more than the request. It seems like a fair deal.
- Your NO might be much less threatening than it seems to you. Research from Columbia University found that, very often, people whom others see as appropriately assertive mistakenly thought others judged them as being over-assertive. This effect is called the line crossing illusion. So, if you feel you might be confrontational, there is a high chance the other party doesn’t see you that way.
- Saying NO is a form of self-care and self-respect. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first if you want to have the energy to help others.
Step 3: Learn To Tolerate The Reactions Of Others
The reality is, with some people, setting boundaries will unleash some unpleasant emotions and reactions. There is a possibility they get angry or disappointed, especially if they’re used to you being always available and accommodating. Some might even try to cross your boundaries and continue to push to change your NO into YES. However, when you know this, you can be prepared to work to firmly maintain the boundaries that you have set.
Remember that you’re an individual to yourself and that everyone is responsible for their own reactions. Sometimes, deep down, negative response and unpleasant emotions of others are simply not about you. But even if they are, don’t overgeneralize and jump to conclusions too fast. If someone is disappointed or angry, it doesn’t automatically mean they will ditch you out of their life or think you’re an awful person. It means they are disappointed or angry in that particular situation.
If someone keeps crossing your boundaries even when you communicate them clearly and gets upset because you’re not ready to sacrifice your happiness for their comfort, it may be a good idea to ask yourself is it the kind of relationship you want to nurture in the long run. In the end, you want to surround yourself with people who respect you for who you are, not only for what you do for them.
Step 4: Learn Some Practical Skills For Saying NO
Here are some tangible tips for practicing saying a polite but effective no.
✔️ Express your appreciation. More often than not, when people make a request, it’s because they trust your capabilities or they like your presence. Thus, even though you’ll refuse the invitation/request, thank them for approaching you.
✔️ Be kind but firm. Being polite doesn’t need to lead to a YES. Simply expressing your NO with a kind tone can help the other person (and you) feel better about the situation. However, some people don’t give up easily and will test your persistence. In this case, it’s important to know that nobody can “make” you change your answer with their repeated requests; the decision is completely yours. It’s your job to set boundaries. You can be as decisive as they are pushy. This is a good opportunity to practice your assertiveness.
✔️ Give some reason if you want but don’t over-apologize. Some people find it easier to say no if they give a reason for it, and that is okay. If you feel more comfortable saying: “I’m sorry, I have something else in my schedule already” instead of: “Sorry, I can’t”, that is completely fine. Just don’t lie about it and don’t make up excuses, because that will make you feel even guiltier and possibly complicate your life further. It’s important to know that you don’t need the good excuse to say no – having your priorities elsewhere is enough. Remember, you’re not asking for anyone’s permission to say no – you already have the right to it.
✔️ You can take time to think about it. Sometimes we just babble out YES and commit to something we don’t want to because we feel pressured to give the answer right away. It’s okay to take some time to think about it. That way, we give ourselves the opportunity to answer from the logical and realistic point of view instead out of anxiety and desire to please. If you’re really not sure about the request, tell the other person you’ll get back to them when you think about it. Just make sure you actually do it in a timely manner.
Saying no is a new thing for many of us, and therefore takes practice and courage. But with time, it becomes easier and brings amazing benefits. You are unique, important, and valuable even when you say no to being everything to everyone and take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to practice it.
What are your experiences with saying no? Share it with us in the comments below! And also, share this post on social media; some people-pleasers you know might be thankful ?
Smith, M. J. (1975). When I say no, I feel guilty: how to cope–using the skills of systematic assertive therapy. Bantam.
Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.
I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.
Frameworks You Live By
From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.
Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.
These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.
Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.
Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.
Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.
This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.
Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.
Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…
Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.
Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.
It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.
One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.
You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?
Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:
- What keeps happening over and over again?
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then what happens?
- How does it end?
- How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)
This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.
It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.
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.
Let’s face it – feeling insecure is draining! Insecurity in a relationship can be the main cause of jealousy, accusing, a constant need for validation, misunderstandings, and fights. In order to make your relationship work, you need to overcome uncertainties about yourself. Enjoying more of life and your partner will empower you with positive feelings.
What Can Help Me to Overcome Insecurity in a Relationship?
Insecurities can happen as a result of a rocky childhood, a relationship that went sour, or people with low self-esteem. No one is perfect, but we really don’t have to be. This article, by uncommonhelp.me, outlines quite nicely how to overcome insecurities in a relationship. Here’s the link to read more: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/overcoming-insecurity-in-relationships/
Insecurities in a relationship can ruin even the happiest moments. Thus, discovering where your insecurities come from is important for resolving some issues you might have with your partner. Maybe your insecurities are coming from the type of attachment you developed throughout your life. Read our article: “How Attached are you?” to find out more.
What do you do to improve your self-esteem? Moreover, did you tell yourself you’re gorgeous today? Because you are!
Jack Kornfield once said: “There is a place in everyone that yearns to love, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fear, old wounds, and pain that we have used to protect ourselves from injury.”
The path to health and inner peace is often not a path of adding to something. It is the path of letting go. This is a main principle of healing – rather than chasing happiness we simply choose to let go of that which makes us unhappy.
Let Go – it means just as it says. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance an idea, a thing, an event or a particular time – it’s an invitation to make room for our future by letting go our past, at least a part of our past. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. We all have ‘baggage’ from our pasts – painful relationships and old beliefs.
How do we let go of such things? Letting go does not mean ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’ or annihilating them. It is more like setting down and letting them be. A close friend to letting go is acceptance. Accepting people and situations for what they are. This means we lay them aside – put them down gently without any kind of aversion.
A breakup of a relationship can crush our joyful disposition and replace it with tearful despair. According to brain scientists, nearly 20 percent of us suffer from ‘complicated grief’; a biological occurrence that is actually rooted in our brain chemistry. It is a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories.
When we break up with someone, words like ‘time heals all wounds’ might ring very hollow.
Losing a relationship can feel like a mini-death. We may find ourselves going through the process of grief:
Denial (‘It can’t be over’) – You are shocked and in denial. You don’t believe it is over and you hold out hope.
Anger (‘How could he/she do this to me?’) – Allowing ourselves to grieve – there is nothing wrong with having a good cry. We are free to express our feelings, but not drown in them.
Depression (‘No one will ever love me.’) – Don’t go down that road, there is nothing good down there! – Replace those thoughts with: ‘All pain passes eventually’. Yes, time will do its part. A cut on your skin will heal in time, but it hurts now. The same is true with an emotional wound. In the beginning, it hurts, but over time the pain passes.
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. There are steps we can take to lessen the pain. At first, we need to stop the bleeding and soothe the pain. Finally, we need to keep our wound from becoming infected with bitterness.
Acceptance (‘I’m going to be all right’) – When this process is over, try to remember: Letting go opens you up to new possibilities. Everything about holding on is torturous and an exercise in suffering. When we let go, we give ourselves peace.
Past Resentments And Hurts
Sometimes our lives are like driving. Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields; we focus on where we are and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we’ve been and what has happened behind us. But, imagine driving our car looking only into that rearview mirror.
What do we think would happen? We can’t see the good things or the bad things that are in front of us. We can’t see where we are going, and finally, it’s not a safe way to drive, and even, seems ridiculous.
It’s the same way in life. Often times we drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or to see what is in front of us.
In our mind’s rearview mirror is where we can feel resentments, mistakes, bad decisions, and hurts. But they are behind us. We need to be aware of our past mistakes, but we can’t dwell on them.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of wrath. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. Constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about others. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others.
Our heart is like an heirloom bowl or vase. What would we do if it became soiled or stained? Would our immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. We would probably put forth the effort to clean it carefully. In like fashion, we can work hard to get rid of any feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us. With our heart cleansed of negative thoughts, we want to enjoy again the close friendship that had seemed lost for good.
Physical injuries may range from minor cuts to deep wounds, and not all require the same degree of attention. It is similar to injured feelings—some wounds are deeper than others.
There is a saying that ‘you can measure a man by the size of the things it takes to upset him.’ How do we measure up in this regard?
Do we really need to make an issue over every minor bruise we suffer in our relationships with others? Minor irritations, slights, and annoyances are apart of life and do not necessarily require formal forgiveness.
Forgiveness, it seems, is much like money. It can be spent freely and mercifully on others or can be hoarded stingily for oneself.
Positive Impact of Forgiveness and Letting Go
Scientists have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness and letting go can positively enhance emotional and even physical health. Forgiveness is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!
“In a study of more than 4,600,” says a report in The Gazette, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those of a current smoker!
Dr. David R. Williams, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.”
Negative Impact of Resentment
Resentment is a heavy burden to carry. When we harbor it, it consumes our thoughts, robs us of peace, and stifles our joy. The offender, at the same time, may go his way oblivious to our turmoil!
Dr. Hans Selye pointed out: “It is not the hated person or the frustrating boss who will get ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease. It is the one who hates or the one who permits himself to be frustrated.”
Researchers report that caustic emotions like bitterness and resentment are like rust that slowly corrodes the body of a car. The car’s outside may appear beautiful but under the paint a destructive process is taking place. When a person is unforgiving, the resulting conflict creates stress. Stress can lead to serious illnesses. Statistics indicated that two-thirds of the patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by mental stress.
Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict.”
Forgiveness, on the contrary, brings psychological benefits including less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Forgiving others is not always easy. The pain can be immense, especially when a person has been grievously wronged. ‘How can I forgive someone who viciously betrayed and hurt me?’ some may even wonder.
Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University says that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”
What Forgiveness Really Is
The Toronto Star report defines forgiveness as:
a) “Recognizing we have been wronged“ – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offense what others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behavior or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) “Giving up all resulting resentment“ – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation, realizing that harboring resentment will only add to our burden. Forgiving, though, does mean letting go of any resentment for such wrongs and maintaining our own peace. By dwelling on negative thoughts and mulling over how badly they have been treated, some people let the behavior of others rob them of happiness. Do we harbor feelings of resentment and bitterness when some injustice causes us pain? Do not let such thoughts control us! Refuse to become trapped in a web of bitterness and resentment. This can easily happen. If we allow our emotions to dominate us, the result may prove more damaging to us than the injustice itself. Ask ourselves: Must we remain in severe emotional turmoil, feeling intensely hurt and angry, until the matter is fully resolved?
c) “And eventually responding to the offending person with compassion and even love” – Waiting for an apology that never comes, we may only get more frustrated. In effect, we allow the offending person to control our emotions. So, letting go is not only for their benefit but also for our own, so that we may get on with our life. Forgiveness brings peace – not just peace with fellow humans but inner peace as well.
We may never completely put out of mind what was done, but we can forget in the sense that we do not hold it against the offender or bring the matter up again at some future time.
If someone else made mistakes, we might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. But, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle. That is because it is easier to forgive others. We all make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when we’re in the midst of them.
Perhaps we are overwhelmed by thoughts of past sins or mistakes that we have made. Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. We may feel guilty without really being guilty.
But, guilt is not a ‘useless’ emotion. Psychoanalyst Gaylin says: “Guilt is the emotion that shapes much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed codes of behavior that we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our own ideals.”
Regret is a powerful emotion and our mind has a hard time distinguishing between true mistakes that we can learn from, and little blunders that are really just a part of everyday life. Beside this, forgiveness is often today confused with condoning or lack of accountability.
In order to let the past mistakes go, we must forgive ourselves officially.
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self-discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us.
Dr. Claire Weekes commented: “To let past guilt paralyze present action is destructive living.” Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Healthy psychology is to acknowledge a mistake and cope with it. There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we cannot focus on them.
We can try to do our best, but we will never be perfect – We live in a world with high-performance standards. People think they need to be perfect. To err is human. We’re always going to make mistakes. Accept that we may have made a wrong choice and then forgive ourselves.
Joretta L. Marshall, PhD points out that people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things. According to Marshall, “people don’t have to forgive themselves for being who they are – for being human and making human mistakes. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving.”
Letting go our mistakes is like a technique we use to correct a problem with our computer. It is as close as we come to a system-reset button – we lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory.
Many people have little sense of what it means to have love and acceptance for one’s self. This is not the self-centered love of the mythological Narcissus. It’s not being selfish – it’s being selfish not to love yourself. It is necessary to love yourself before you can love others.
Loving yourself is all about accepting your strengths and weaknesses and even going a step further by loving yourself the way you are. Modern psychology knows this. The great psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.“
Can we look in a mirror and love ourselves unconditionally? People often learn to love themselves based on the feedback they receive from others. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love; self -acceptance based upon external achievements.
But unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in you. Learn to be kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from criticism to self-compassion.
Yes, we can find inner peace. Rather than turning our attention to the past, we must keep our eyes focused on what is yet ahead. Life is a choice – the bad experiences in our rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons. Although it is not wrong to meditate on the lessons we have learned from past experiences, we need to maintain a balanced, realistic view of the past.
Letting go is never complete unless people and relationships are transformed in the process. At some point, we reach a turning point. Something shifts – we feel less burdened, we have more energy. We live longer and have better health.
We live in exciting times. Wonderful events are happening now and more lie just ahead.
Jack Kornfiel: Meditation for Beginners, 2004, 2008, p.61
Six Keys to Personal Success – Awake!— 11/2008, p.7
www.ns.umich.edu/Releases/2001/Dec01/r121101a.html (Dr. David R. Williams)
www.seekingwellnesstogether.com/does-your-attitude-affect-your-wellness/ (Dr. Hans Selye)
forthright.antville.org/stories/782226/ (Dr. WilliamSadler)
forgivenessfoundationinternational.org/what-you-need-to-know/latest-discoveries/ (Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University)
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000488 (The Toronto Star)
nytimes.com/1983/11/29/science/guilt-or-why-it-s-good-to-feel-bad.html (Psychoanalyst Gaylin)
www.scribd.com/doc/168686686/Claire-weekes-hopeAndHelpForYourNerves-by-Kuryuka (Dr. Claire Weekes)
www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself (Joretta L. Marshall, PhD) Donald Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, p.148
Making headlines today was the release that Jennifer Lawrence, from X-Men and more recently, the Hunger Games, suffered from Social Anxiety. Although our society is becoming more understanding of mental health issues, stigma still exists. When it comes to discussing mental health issues and getting treatment, there is still not enough openness regarding this topic.
For a celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence, to publicly share her challenges is inspiring for us all. It helps to reduce stigma and increases awareness about mental well-being.
Social Anxiety And It’s Prevalence
According to Statistics Canada, social anxiety, is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Social anxiety is
“a disorder characterized by a fear of situations in which there is potential for embarrassment or humiliation in front of others. There are generally two subtypes of social phobia: one involves a fear of speaking in front of people, whether it be public speaking or simply talking with a person of authority; the other subtype involves more generalized anxiety and complex fears, such as eating in public or using public washrooms, and in these cases individuals may experience anxiety around anyone other than family”.
In Canada, anywhere between 8-13% of Canadian’s will be influenced by social anxiety. The disorder is more common in women than in men. Also, there appears to be an environmental and familial link to the disorder.
Jennifer Lawrence’s story of facing her fear of social scrutiny head-on teaches us all one important thing. Facing the things that cause us anxiety is the best form of treatment. Hence, the best example is exposure therapy combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
If you’d like to inquire about social anxiety treatment in Mississauga or Bradford Ontario at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze