Are You Selfish or Selfless?

selfless

For many selfish is a bad word with bad connotations.  For some it is a sin to be selfish.  Unfortunately many have labeled most forms of self-care as selfish and have trouble distinguishing when it is okay to think about their own needs.  Some have swung to the opposite of selfish and tend to be selfless.  These people believe that denial of the self is a good and pure way of living.  Are these our only two options:  Selfish or selfless?

I want to take a moment and create some sort of working definition of these two words.  This will better help you decide if you really are selfish and if you really want to be selfless.

An example of a selfish act would be if you have eaten two pieces of pie already and your coworker has not had any and there is only one piece left.  Do you eat it anyway or let your coworker have it?  Eating your third piece while she has not had one is an example of being selfish.  My I-phone gives me this definition of selfish, “(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”  Is this how you function the majority of time?  We all can be selfish sometimes (it is part of our human nature) however, now that you read this example of selfish you probably aren’t as selfish as you think.

What about being selfless? The word somewhat defines itself.  In short, taking no consideration for yourself; putting others and their needs above your own; denying the self.  Many of us have been taught the importance of thinking of and caring for others.  As a mother I know this well.  There is nothing wrong with considering other’s needs.  The issue with this way of functioning is when one avoids their own self in the name of caring for others.  If this self-avoidance continues over a long period of time it can cause serious emotional, physical and spiritual damage to the person.

What if you we could find a balance; a way that allows you to care for others and still care for yourself?  The word I have been using for this is self-full.

This is a version of you that knows when to say yes to helping others, when to say no, and when to say yes to your needs.  This individual both gives at times and is also able to receive from others.  A person that knows it is okay to fulfill her needs in order to best help others.  This person is aware of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and takes responsibility for meeting them.  She functions from a place of fullness not emptiness.  Her giving is free of obligation and comes from a full heart.

My hope is that those of you who have struggled with prioritizing yourself will learn to be more comfortable thinking of what you think, feel, need and want.  I understand there are people who are very well versed with thinking of themselves.  I am speaking to those who know you have been neglecting yourself for too long.  Learn to believe that you deserve your time and attention.  And know that learning to be more self-full will allow both you and the other to benefit.  In my field we call that a win-win situation!

 

 

 

What’s So Special About Me?

Let your light shine

Can you describe your authentic self?  Do you even know what it means to be your authentic self?  Your authentic self is the real you; the genuine you; the spontaneous and free version of you.  There are many contributing factors from your history that may have prevented you from being your true, authentic self.  So, what do you think?  Do you know your innate, authentic self?

Try listing the qualities of your authentic, true self.  For example, here are some of my authentic qualities:  outgoing, welcoming, encouraging, inviting, open-minded, creative and expressive.  However, in my history I was shamed for many of these qualities.  I was taught that I was too much; that my personality was too big.

Therefore, throughout the years I have struggled to discover who I most authentically am and to learn to accept these parts of myself.  For example, on a scale of outgoingness I am at the very high end.  I have slowly learned to enjoy and embrace this aspect of me.  And, as I have aged I have learned how to monitor my energy by paying attention to social and cultural clues.  Many are intimidated by my strong personality qualities and I am much more accepting of this truth now.

Most important is to identify and take ownership of your authentic self.  If you are not clear, I encourage you to take time to learn about these aspects.  Without this self-awareness I don’t believe you truly can be happy and free.  You may have similarities to others and yet you are uniquely you!  I encourage you to discover and embrace your own special qualities.  Next is to surrounding yourself with close people that accept, embrace and love you for your authentic self.

Examine your most significant relationships.  Is your authentic self encouraged, accepted, appreciated and celebrated by these people? Or do you often feel put down, shamed or judged?  Do you tend to adjust yourself by trying to accommodate the other person so they will accept you?   This person could be your partner, parent, sibling etc.  In effect, you are basically denying and shaming your essence.  If this continues for too long you may forget who you really are.  Burying your authentic self is a form of self-abuse.  This self-denial and neglect often causes one to feel depressed.

 

I encourage you to save yourself.  Start remembering who you really are.  If you don’t know, get some help.  As you dig your true self out from the grave you will come back to life.  Then slowly you can figure out how to be your genuine self in your relationships.  If you find that being who you really are with those closest to you brings great fear, that is normal.  Seek support from wise people who can help you begin to take risks or set boundaries in those relationships.  Never dim your light for someone else.  Your light not only blesses others it ignites your soul!  Shine your brightest!

 

 

Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

drama triangle

Do you feel like you’re always doing all the giving in your relationship and rarely getting anything in return?  Do you ever feel that know matter what you do it will never be good enough.  Are often irritated by people who don’t have much common sense?  Maybe you are living on the Drama Triangle!

One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman.  While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All unhealthy relationships take place on the Drama Triangle.  It describes specific ways one relates to others.  There are three positions on this triangle:  persecutor, rescuer and victim.  While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort.  We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions.  The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most commonly in our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle.  On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the positions of persecutor and rescuer.  On the bottom is victim.  The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions.  Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle.  The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent.  This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc.  The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position.  Helping others is how this person defines who they are.  Rescuers often grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated.  Therefore they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless.  They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them.  Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination.  They have to have someone to blame.  Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on.  Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect.  Persecutors believe they are always right.  Their greatest fear is being out of control.  Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser.  This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies.   Instead they look to others to guide and lead them.  Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer.  Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad.  The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most?  Is it easy to pick your primary position?  The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others.

Do You Know What’s Important to You?

values 3

Are you living your best life?  There are many aspects that are important in helping you achieve the happiest, healthiest life possible.  Identifying your values and goals is essential to having a more satisfying life.    How can you attain the life you want if you are not clear about what is most important to you?  Fundamentally, that is what values are:  what is important to you.  Just going through the motions of daily life is living passively.   As I state in my book, “one is often so busy doing life that it is easy to avoid evaluating whether you are putting your energy in the directions you value most.”  Taking time to gain clarity about what is important to you is imperative.  As you are more aware of what you value, then you can create goals that will adhere to and reinforce these values.  Goal setting is a way of assuring that you are progressing in a manner that aligns with your values.

One simple way to begin evaluating if you’re living in alignment with what you value most is to write down what you do in your average 24-hour workday, and then again write down how you typically spend a weekend day.  How much of your time and energy is in expended on what is most important to you?  It is easy to get so busy that you don’t realize how little energy you are putting towards what is important to you.  I realize most of us have to work and that takes a large portion of our time.  However, how are you using your time when you’re not working?  I encourage you to use this exercise as a tool to help direct you in ways you can adjust your energies so that you are more in harmony with what is most important to you.

If you recognize areas that need to be adjusted, then make small goals to begin changing them.  Maybe you notice that you spend two-hours from 8-10pm watching TV.  You may make it your goal to spend only one-hour watching TV and the other hour exercising, working on a personal project, spending time with your children or putting your energy into something else that is very important to you.  It is easy to let time get the best of you!  Better to make the best of your time!

 

 

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

Gift giving 6

While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Is It Ever Okay To Interrupt?

interrupting

Interrupting all the time is sure to be one of the top traits of a bad listener. This one is very common and one I am guessing we are all guilty of from time to time.  Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to share something and the person is constantly interrupting?  There are many reasons a person might interrupt you. Some interruptions are valid such as when you are seeking clarification, “Did you say you handed that in ten days ago?”   Interrupting for clarification a time or two can show you are really listening and wanting to make sure you heard the person correctly.  However, even this can be bothersome if the person constantly has to stop and clarify.  If you do this enough the person talking may decide to shut down or may tell you to let them finish their story before you to ask your questions.

However, many interruptions don’t originate from such good intentions.  Often a person interrupts because they are impatient with the story teller, wants to correct them, prefers to argue the point, or they may be so narcissistic that they can’t bear the focus to be on someone else. In working with couples I have witnessed one partner interrupting the other due to impatience. Each of us process information in our own unique way. The one becomes inpatient with the other because he or she isn’t making their point quick enough. Because the other doesn’t communicate as quickly and concisely as you doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong .It just means the person communicates in a more paced and measured way.

Immensely frustrating and even offensive is when you interrupt another because you don’t agree with them and want to get your two cents in before letting that person finish. Being respectful of different viewpoints is imperative for healthy relationships and shows strength of character in the listener.   Debating another’s view when the person is clearly not in need of or interested in a debate is also very rude and inconsiderate. And the “all-consumed with themselves” have little ability to stay present with the others frame of reference any substantial length of time.

If you struggle with interrupting others I encourage you to make a conscious effort to stop or reduce the frequency.  Certainly seeking clarification from time to time is important.  However, try remaining with the person’s story.  Listening is not about agreeing with the person, it’s about respecting their viewpoint.  Remember the person is sharing their perspective, not necessarily yours.  And that is ok!  Also, remain alert to let them finish a thought before you interject.  You can even count to three before you respond to be sure they are done with that part of their sharing. Decreasing interruptions is a good start to becoming a better listener.

Fun listening quote “Of course I’m listening, now what was that you said”?

 

What’s Wrong With My Lover?

romantic love
Life is an interesting journey. It seems the older we get the more twists and turns come along. For many of us finding a partner, a mate, has been our main agenda. In our younger years we assumed we would grow up and meet a wonderful mate, get married and live happily ever after! What has happened?
As we all know from the divorce rate, marriages are not doing well. Couples, whether married or not, are having trouble staying together through the many challenges life brings into their relationships. The story we always imagined for ourselves is not reading the way we had hoped.
What is going on? I want to discuss one significant issue that I believe has a great impact on our relationship’s success or failure. I often say to clients that the two greatest things we do in life are being a partner and/or being parent, yet there is no training required for either. That is amazing! The only preparation we usually have is from our family of origin and our past love relationships. I strongly believe one of the best things we can do for our relationship is to become healthier ourselves prior to getting seriously involved with someone.
So what about those of us who are already in a committed relationship, divorced, or remarried? It is never too late. Often you need to start with yourself. It’s easy to become very discouraged and negative with our significant other. While many of your complaints may be valid, the only person you have control over is you. Check out your expectations. What are they? Where did they come from? Are they realistic? I remember growing up my favorite fairytale was Cinderella! (That really set me up for failure!) Think about the music you listen to and the message it is sending you about love and what it should be like!
Often we have many of our own unmet needs. Maybe you never felt loved as a child. Maybe you never felt you were good enough for one of your parents? Consciously or unconsciously we often expect our partner to fill our voids. Often they do initially, but fall short down the road. Address the parts that are about you. Become clear on what you need to heal within yourself, and what aspects of your relationship need improvement. I understand this is often a fine line but, it is one worth exploring before you make a decision about beginning or ending a relationship. The person you have the most influence over is you! Best to look there first.