Blog Short #88: How to Get a Handle on Resentment

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by SIphotography, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Resentment is one of those pushy emotions that inserts itself into your psyche whether you like it or not. It’s unkind and stirs up other negative behaviors and emotions like judgment, anger, frustration, superiority, and envy.

Underneath it lies a layer of helplessness because when you feel resentful, you also usually feel paralyzed to do anything to change it. That’s why it’s so scratchy and irritating.

Today I’m going to break it down for you and tell you how to deal with it. Let’s start with causes.

Causes

The causes are varied. Some of the more common ones are:

  1. Unfairness or inequity
  2. Invasion of territory
  3. Feeling dominated or held hostage
  4. Being shunned, dismissed, demeaned, ignored, misunderstood, or belittled
  5. Being taken advantage of

For example:

  • Your co-worker regularly interrupts your train of thought with complaints and gossip.
  • You carry more of the workload than another colleague, yet that person gets more accolades from the boss.
  • You do more of the chores at home while your spouse spends time playing video games.
  • You only hear from a friend when she needs something.
  • You have no voice when it comes to work policies that affect you.

Not only do these situations lead to resentment, but they build over time because they’re repetitive, and you feel helpless to change them.

If we dig a little deeper, two primary issues lead to resentment. These are:

  1. Not being recognized or valued
  2. Envy

Not being recognized or valued

Any time you feel invaded, not taken seriously, taken advantage of, not considered or appreciated, or dismissed – you feel devalued.

There’s a sense of being less than everyone else, as though what you need is irrelevant while everyone else gets what they need.

It’s isolating and hurtful. And if this is an ongoing situation, it’s emotionally draining and damaging.

While resentment often creates anger and dissatisfaction, it can lead to depression when the causes are left unresolved.

Envy

I’ve been reading Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, and she made a great point when talking about resentment. She said that resentment isn’t so much about anger that someone isn’t doing what they should, but rather that they get to do what you can’t.

If you’re working harder, the other person is getting to relax. You would like to be able to do that. You would like to be the one who’s taken care of, who gets the accolades, or whose feelings are considered.

Envy and resentment are best friends!

So what can you do?

Two Options

There are actually three options, but the third one is not advisable. It’s doing nothing and continuing to allow the resentment to build. There are consequences for taking this tact because it eventually damages relationships, job performance, or sometimes even your health.

The viable options are:

  1. Do something to make a change
  2. Let it go and focus elsewhere

Things You Can Do to Make a Change

Evaluate the situation.

What exactly do you resent? You need to name it and understand what’s driving your feelings about the situation before you can tackle it.

  • Are you envious of something or someone?
  • Are you feeling helpless, and if so, about what?
  • Do you have expectations that aren’t being met?

In terms of this last one, you also have to ask whether or not the expectations are reasonable, including expectations of yourself or someone else.

The bottom line is to get clear on what it is you resent.

Set Boundaries

Once you know what’s driving the resentment, you’ll also see what you need to change if you want the feeling to resolve itself.

In most cases, resentment is related to a lack of boundaries.

This is particularly true when you feel taken advantage of, invaded, constantly interrupted, mistreated, or devalued. By not setting boundaries, you allow these behaviors to continue.

It’s hard to set boundaries if you aren’t used to or comfortable with voicing your thoughts and feelings. But there’s no other way, and setting boundaries is necessary at some point in everyone’s life. Once you do it and keep practicing, it will become second nature.

More importantly, when you set boundaries without hesitation, people won’t attempt to take advantage of you nearly as much. They can “feel you,” as the saying goes.

Tips for Setting Boundaries Effectively

To set boundaries doesn’t mean you have to go in trails blazing and erecting steel barriers. It means telling someone how you feel about what’s happening. To do that effectively, use those standard communication rules I’ve mentioned in past blogs:

  • Use “I” messages – “When you do this, I feel this,” or “When this happens, I react with {whatever the emotion}.”
  • Don’t attack – describe. Be specific. Say how you would like things to be. What do you need or want?
  • Stay calm and be kind, yet firm.
  • Ask how the other person feels about what you’re saying.

When you do that last thing, you invite the other person to add their thoughts and feelings to the discourse. It keeps you connected and helps to avoid things becoming adversarial.

You may find out something you didn’t know. Maybe the person doesn’t know they’re stepping on your toes. Not always, but sometimes.

It might take some negotiation or compromise if the subject is ongoing. However, you need to decide what’s negotiable or not and then make that clear.

Either way, just saying how you feel about something and what you need or want is very relieving, even if the response isn’t all you want it to be.

Letting Go

Sometimes you can let go of something without continuing to feel resentful. If so, do it.

In other cases, a situation may arise where there doesn’t seem to be a way to resolve the issue causing the resentment.

For example, you might have a co-worker who slacks on his work, and you take up that slack most of the time. If your boss isn’t willing to deal with the problem, and the co-worker is oblivious to your attempts to set boundaries, you might decide you can’t solve this problem. An alternative would be to let go of this job and find another that’s more suitable.

Sometimes you have to cut your losses because fighting the situation will not be fruitful.

In a case like this, it might take more time to make the changes you need to make, but deciding to begin working on a course of action will help you move away from the resentment and put your energy into your next steps. Taking action is pivotal in breaking through the feelings of helplessness.

The Takeaway

Resentment is an alarm to inform you that there’s a situation requiring some action on your part. When you feel it, don’t let it fester.

Always check first to see if the resentment’s misplaced. Are your conclusions about the situation accurate? Are you projecting some of your issues onto someone else and then resenting them for what’s actually your problem? It may be that there are issues on both sides.

Once you’re clear on that, decide what action you need to take. Write out steps if that helps. Talk to someone you trust if that helps determine how to go about it, but stop venting and do something. You’ll feel better!

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

PS – For more help with setting boundaries, click here to read

Blog Short #87: How to Tamp Down Emotional Reactivity

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by sdominick, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Have you had the experience of conversing with someone, and they make an off-handed comment that quickly heats you up and sends you into a rage?

Or maybe the remark was seemingly innocuous but smacked of criticism. Before you could stop yourself, your eyes filled with tears, and you felt like you needed to be anywhere but where you were right then.

In both cases, your emotions took on a life of their own and had control over you.

This happens to almost everyone at one time or another, but it happens a lot for some. It’s uncomfortable. The bigger problem is that it can lead to an impulsive response you later wish you could take back.

So what do you do when it happens?

There’s not a simplistic solution to this one because there’s usually a lot driving it, but there are some things you can do to tamp down your reactivity.

Let’s start by identifying what those sparks are about.

The Triggers

Most likely, you become reactive in particular situations, and this is because there are specific triggers that set you off.

The first step in handling the problem is figuring out what those triggers are.

You can do this by reviewing any situation where you became emotionally reactive and maybe lost your cool – hopefully, one that’s fresh so you can remember details.

Once you have the incident in mind, go through the following steps. I would suggest writing this out so you can see what you have to work with.

1. Identify the words, gestures, or statements that initiated the reaction.

Write out a description with as much detail as you can – what you said, what the other person said, and any behaviors that triggered you, such as body language.

2. Identify and describe your reaction, both outward and inward.

In other words, what did you say or do? What did you think, feel, and say to yourself? What did you feel bodily? For example, did you heat up, get cold, or maybe tremble? Did you close your fists?

3. Next, you want to identify the critical trigger that set you off.

If you’ve done a thorough job of the two above, you likely know what bothered you and how it made you feel. Then again, you may only be at the surface at this point. Keep drilling down until you get to the core feeling or issue that set you off. Where did this trigger originate?

Here’s an example:

You forgot to take out the trash the night before for pickup, and your spouse mentioned it to you in passing. You became enraged and defensive. He mildly commented that he wasn’t criticizing you – he just happened to notice because the trash can was still full, which surprised him. Still, you fretted and began a whole series of conversations in your head like this:

“Why am I the person who has to take out the trash? I make one little mistake, and the whole world teeters on its axle! Who does he think he is anyway? Is he so perfect? I think not! Couldn’t he have just let it go and offered to take over that job for me? I do everything, but does anyone appreciate that?”

So as we drill down into this situation, several things come to light:

  • This woman is the go-to person in her relationship for orchestrating home stuff. She does more of that than does her husband.
  • She also has a history of holding this position in her family. She’s the oldest child, did a lot of caretaking growing up, and had adult responsibilities way before she was old enough to take them on.
  • This pattern continued as she moved into her early adulthood. She became the leader and manager of activities and events for her friends, extended family, and at her job.
  • When she got married, she automatically took on these roles.

Now the trigger becomes clear. It’s not just about taking out the trash. It’s about this woman’s identity as a caretaker and manager, and resentment built up over the years for having to take on these roles.

She’s stuck between expecting herself to be all things to all people and also resenting the expectation. Her husband just lit up the smoldering ashes of the resentment. For her, perceived criticism threatens who she is and who she resents having to be. It’s a Catch-22.

And it’s complex.

What now?

In our example, the woman would need to examine her roles as caretaker and manager and decide what she wants to change. This task isn’t easy because these roles are embedded in how she sees herself.

  1. She may decide, for example, that she doesn’t need to feel responsible for everything, and she can rely on others to take some of those responsibilities off her plate. However, this is a big identity shift and may take some time to get comfortable with.
  2. She can also learn to set boundaries and say no to things that are too much.
  3. She can recognize that she wasn’t upset because her husband noticed what she’d forgotten to do, but because she interpreted that event as a hit to her sense of self. She came down on herself and then projected it back out as her husband criticizing her.

The point of this story is that there is often a lot driving emotional reactivity. Sometimes your triggers are embedded in your identity, and these are harder to see and change. But you can do it. The key is awareness first, and then working through the emotions and beliefs that keep you there. Once you do that, the trigger loses its power and you no longer react to it.

Immediate Things You Can Do

1. Take a break.

If you’re outraged or overwhelmed in a situation, take a break. Don’t think twice about this. Just do it. It takes your brain at least 20 minutes to calm down when you get upset or so heated up that you can’t think objectively. Give yourself as much time as you need. Don’t think of this as a weakness. It’s a smart move!

2. Ask questions.

If you can stay in the conversation, switch from defending to asking questions of the other person. Again in our example, the wife could have said, “Did it bother you that the trash didn’t get taken this week?” If he responded that it did, she could say, “I’m sorry it did, but I’ve got too much going on. Would you be responsible for that next week?” Or if he says no, she could let it go. Either way, asking about it defuses emotional reactivity.

3. Watch your self-talk.

This woman could have just laughed it off and said, “Yep, my brain was too full. Next week I’ll get it.” Or she could say to herself, “Oh well, I can’t always get everything perfect and that’s fine.”

One Last Thing

Emotional reactivity is always related to some preconceived idea about how you should be, how someone else should be, or how things, in general, should be. Identify those expectations, and you’ll know where you need to intervene to be less reactive.

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #86: My Summer Reading List to Up Your Productivity

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by baona, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Summer’s here! And that reminds me of summer reading assignments from school. Most kids hate them because, well, who wants to have homework during the summer? Probably no one, but I haven’t lost the summer reading habit. And when it’s voluntary, it’s not a problem.

Summer’s a good time to take stock of what I call “personal operations.” In other words, how’s your productivity and focus? Are you sticking to good habits and finishing things you start?

If not, this reading list will give you what you need to make changes that stick. I’ve got six titles in all, but I’ll admit I had a hard time limiting my list to just six. I’ve added some others at the end of the blog you can check out if you like.

My first book is all about habits.

1. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is one of the most valuable books I’ve ever read, and I return to it often to remind myself of the steps that lead to creating and instilling new habits permanently. Clear begins with three ideas that run throughout the book:

1) Habits have compounding effects meaning they increase in power over time. These effects apply to negative patterns as well as positive ones.

2) The point of focus needs to be on process rather than outcomes. By building a system of incremental improvements daily, we reach goals.

3) Habits that stick become part of our identity.

He goes on to offer Four Laws to implement building new habits, and he details the specific actions to make that work and overcome obstacles that get in the way. It reads like a handbook for habit-building. And what a great handbook!

2. Finish by Jon Acuff

I’m great at starting but not so great at finishing. If that rings a bell for you, you’ll love this book!

Jon Acuff has a good grasp of the emotional issues that get in the way of finishing things you start, and he outlines all of them in detail. He hits especially hard on perfectionism and does it in a way that even a perfectionist can accept.

The book is full of strategies that are easy to use to keep you under the radar of your resistance. His approach is both powerful and useful. A big plus is that he writes with a lot of humor and is easy to read, so much so that you’ll want to finish this book!

3. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

There are some books everyone should read, and this one falls into that category. Greg McKeown presents a complete system and methodology for cleaning out life’s input and narrowing your focus down to what’s essential. He’s the Marie Kondo for decluttering your emotional home.

He divides the book into four sections: Essence, Explore, Eliminate and Execute. Under each, McKeown offers practical approaches and methods for successfully applying the main concepts. One of my favorites is the 90 Percent Rule. In his words:

“As you evaluate an option think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it.”

His system is thoughtful, proactive, and easy to follow. Most of all, it’s an antidote to the overwhelm resulting from too much coming in from all sides. He shows you how to take charge of that and simplify. A must-read.

4. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work is the book to read if you have work that requires intensive brain power and concentration. Newport starts by making a distinction between “deep work” and “shallow work.”

Deep work is cognitively demanding and pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit, whereas shallow work includes tasks you can perform while dealing with distractions. Think writing a paper versus catching up on emails.

From there, the book offers strategies for setting up an environment and system for engaging in deep work in time blocks when you’re most likely to be able to attend, focus and persevere. Newport’s methods work!

I use them regularly and have seen significant improvement in my output. I especially like scheduling your “deep work” time blocks first and then fitting in shallow work around those. The separation of the two is relieving and frees your mind to concentrate with greater success.

5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

These last two books on my list deal with resistance. The War of Art is one of those must-read books on the list for anyone who is or has tried to pursue a goal requiring sustained, engaged, creative effort.

His premise is that as soon as you decide to pursue a goal like creating a company, writing a book, learning to play an instrument, sticking to a diet, or anything that requires staying power, you’re met with both internal and external resistance that hammers at you throughout the process. It’s inevitable and happens to everyone.

He shows you all the ways this happens, many of which sneak in under your awareness radar, and then he tells you how to outsmart them. If there’s anything you want to accomplish, read this book first! It’s a brilliant book and hits you right between the eyes.

6. Grit by Angela Duckworth

Grit’s been on the New York Times bestseller list forever, and that’s because it’s a textbook for finding and growing passion for work through perseverance and commitment. Duckworth makes an important distinction between talent and grit and focuses on grit as the most necessary ingredient for success in any endeavor.

The book is comprehensive in its inclusion of work done by other researchers and authors including deliberate practice, the experience of “flow,” the growth mindset, and peak performance. Duckworth’s research is stellar, and she uses real-life examples throughout the book to illuminate the material.

“Grit” is the thing that gets us through failures, setbacks, and obstacles. Developing and sustaining it is crucial, and this book provides the steps to do that.

Other Books You Might Like

If you read a couple of books from the list above, you’ll benefit greatly and learn how to create a system that’ll work. However, here are a few other titles you might like.

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman
Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Flow: A Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield (a short version of The War of Art)

All these books are worth reading, and you can read any of them leisurely over time. It depends on how you like to read nonfiction books, how dense the material is, and whether the subject matter targets your interest and needs.

I do know that reading any one of them will give you something you can use and raise your level of productivity and work satisfaction, regardless of what work you’re pursuing.

Happy reading!

I’ll see you next week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #85: How do you “find your passion”?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by sdecoret, Courtesy of iStock Photo

One of the cultural mantras in vogue right now is “Find your passion!” How many times have you heard that? Unless you’re living off the grid, I’m sure you’re familiar with it.

Personally, I’m not a fan, although I appreciate its intention. The idea is to do work that you love and are passionate about. Doing work you love is indeed a wonderful thing! However, the problem with the message is that it includes the unspoken tagline:

“You should be passionate about something, preferably one thing, and be able to discover what that is.”

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was starting out, and even in college, I wasn’t sure. Some people have an obvious gift early on in life and pursue a single track that aligns with their talents and interest. But for most of us, that’s not the case.

You have an interest, you try something, change your mind, do something else, and sometimes stay somewhere for a while because you need the income or have other responsibilities that get in the way. That’s the way it goes for many people.

Today I’m going to give you a different way of looking at the idea of “finding your passion” that will hopefully resonate and give you some strategies you can use to pursue your interests.

My Story

Let me start with this short story to illustrate how this works.

When I was in college, I hated writing. I could only write a paper when the deadline was looming, and my fear of failing was greater than my horror of writing. I was a math person and wanted nothing to do with language arts. I probably should have been an accountant! However, I graduated with a degree in Humanities and Religious Studies, which I loved, but still had no career in mind.

Over the next five or more years, I had several friends who worked in social services, and I became interested in psychology. I went to graduate school when I was 27 and got my Master’s in Clinical Social Work. I didn’t have a burning interest in becoming a therapist at that time, but I had to do something, and it was a career path. Initially, I worked in the child abuse field, which was brutal, and eventually got an administrative job for a social service agency at the University of Florida.

Here’s where things got interesting. As part of my job, I had to write – a lot! Reports, evaluations, assessments, education packets, and grants. I did so much of it that it became easy, and I got better at it. And I got a lot of reinforcement for doing it well, which helped.

I’ll skip all the rest, but that brings me up to today. Writing is the thing I love to do most! Who knew!

Four Necessary Things

I told you that story because I want to point out that finding work you love isn’t a straight path. It’s often winding and rocky. It’s an exercise in faith and keeping yourself open to possibilities.

Four things are involved. These are:

  1. Interest and Exposure
  2. Energization
  3. Competence and Mastery
  4. Purpose

Let’s go through them.

1. Interest and Exposure

Being exposed to an activity or area of interest is necessary before building a passion for it, and exposure often happens accidentally. Or at least it seems accidental. Whether that’s true or not, or there’s some destiny or fate involved, I won’t argue. That would take us way off track. But indeed, exposure allows you to dip your feet into something and explore whether you feel attracted to it or not.

Exposure happens when you’re doing something.

That means that just sitting back and thinking about what you might be passionate about often leaves you feeling strained and defeated because you have no real experience to work with.

A better approach is to engage in something and see where it takes you. You might get a job, take a course, get involved in an extra-curricular activity, or read a book.

Doing something is like a spark plug. It gets the engine going so the car can move forward.

Sometimes you get a job and find out you don’t necessarily like the job overall, but some part of the work holds your interest and spurs you on to get more education or training to develop that interest. Or, as in my case, the job you got required you to engage in an activity you had some talent for but didn’t know it and sparked a new interest.

The trajectory may be something you can’t chart out, but you narrow down your interests as you go through exposing yourself to different activities and work.

2. Energization

As you try out different activities, you’ll find that some energize you while others bore you. Even when you get good at something, you’ll likely let it go or move on to something else if it doesn’t energize you.

So as you begin your exploration of various activities and interests, move towards those that energize and excite you.

3. Competence

Once you have an interest and feel invigorated by the activity, you need to pursue it and become competent. This requires practice and perseverance over time. The pursuit of mastery deepens your passion for something. The better you get at it, the more you like it and want to do it.

One of the benefits is the experience of something called “flow.” Flow happens when you get super focused and lose yourself in an activity. You become one with it, and it feels effortless. You can have this experience with any activity when fully engaged and energized.

Sometimes developing a passion for something comes after you begin to build competence in performing it.

That happened to me with writing. Getting better at it made it attractive and created a desire to do different types of writing and explore new techniques. Exposure and practice occurred before interest and passion in that case.

4. Purpose

For passion to remain and deepen over time, you need to believe that there is purpose in sustaining it. In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth describes it perfectly. She says this:

“What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters. For most people, interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime. It is therefore imperative that you identify your work as both personally interesting and, at the same time, integrally connected to the well-being of others.”

That doesn’t mean what you do has to directly help others, such as working in a service-oriented profession. It means that the work contributes to the overall well-being of all of us. Being an excellent homemaker and parent benefits everyone, as does being a physician who directly works with patients.

Full Circle

So we’ve gone full circle from the spark of interest to a life’s work with deep purpose.

You now understand that finding your passion is “a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening,” (Duckworth, 2016).

And, I might add, it can occur during any stage of your life and at any age. Many very successful and engaged people found that trajectory in their 50s or after. So keep at it!

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara


FOOTNOTES
Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper.

Blog Short #84: The Pros and Cons of Complaining

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by stock_colors, Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Have you had the experience of needing to vent about something and being told you’re complaining too much? Or maybe you need to be more positive and stop being so pessimistic?

Complaining is a natural human activity, yet it gets a bad rap most of the time. The usual characterization is that it’s negative and harmful.

But is it? Is it only bad for you? Are there instances where it’s good?

That’s today’s question, and the answer is: It depends on how and why you’re doing it.

Let’s dive in.

Motives for Complaining

There are two motives for complaining:

  1. Purposeful resolution
  2. Defensive avoidance

Purposeful complaining is hopeful. There’s an intention to solve a problem, get a different perspective, or let something go. The overall motive is to reach a positive outcome.

Defensive complaining is chronic. It’s a means of avoidance, blame, projection, and ultimately inaction. The act of complaining itself is the motive, and the outcome is more complaining.

Keep this in mind as we go through types of complaining and their effects. Let’s start with the “pros” category.

The Pros

There are two main types of complaints that fall into this category: venting and protesting.

Venting

Venting is probably the most common type of complaining, and we all do it. If done correctly, venting allows you to release and crystalize negative feelings hanging you up. There are several positive effects to this.

One, it creates mental space. As you tell someone who listens attentively and with empathy what’s bothering you, you feel your emotions begin to unwind. Some space starts to clear in your mind so you can sort things through.

You transfer your feelings in part to the listener who contains them for you, so you have some relief from feeling overwhelmed.

This gives you some time to get your thinking brain back on board.

Two, it validates your feelings. As the listener responds to what you’re saying and reflects back on your concerns, your feelings are validated.

For example, you might complain about not getting a promotion at work, and you have many reasons why you think it’s unfair. A good listener will validate your feelings, ranging from sadness and loss to anger and frustration. That doesn’t mean they need to validate your reasoning.

If the listener is astute and can hold that line, it might give you time to reassess your thoughts and conclusions.

Last, it clears the way for problem-solving. Once your feelings are heard and validated, you’re able to begin thinking more objectively about the situation.

A good outcome is that the emotions get redirected toward taking action to resolve an issue.

It might be that you think something through, get a new perspective, and decide to let it go or take specific steps to solve a problem.

Protesting

Protesting is objecting to something you feel needs to be corrected or changed. You may vent while protesting, so there’s an overlap between the two, but protesting has a more explicit aim and includes a call to action.

Protesting is one of the primary ways we all have to facilitate change.

These might be small changes like reworking a policy at the office or big sweeping changes like political or social reform. Protesting includes a need to act. Venting can occur with no agenda other than to be heard, validated, and soothed.

The ultimate objective of both constructive venting and protesting is to remove an obstacle and move forward. The goal is resolution.

Now let’s move on to the “cons.”

The Cons

The cons occur with chronic, defensive complaining. Here they are.

It’s habitual.

The more you complain, the more it becomes an automated habit with a life of its own. It becomes the reflexive response to most situations.

It’s contagious.

If you complain to a chronic complainer, they will quickly jump on the bandwagon and inflate your views. This can take the original complaint into another whole realm of negativity in which both complainer and listener get caught up in exaggerated venting. Anger can soar under these circumstances.

It’s depressing.

It creates a pessimistic outlook by narrowing your observations to only what’s wrong. The more you engage in it, the more your negative views are confirmed and the more hopeless you become. Everything looks bleak. Chronic complainers take great advantage of confirmation bias by seeking only information that will corroborate what they already think.

It’s bad for relationships.

When you infuse your relationships with chronic negative complaining that has an angry edge, you’re slowly dripping poison into the connection between you and the other person.

Remember how I explained that when you vent to someone, they hold your emotions for you, so you get mental space? This works well when you vent constructively. But when you complain repetitively without motivation to resolve something, it builds up toxins that erode the connection. It’s too much for the other person to digest.

Hopelessness spreads from one person to the other, and eventually, someone breaks free because it’s too overwhelming and harmful. Or, both people become beacons of negativity and pessimism and shrink their outlook and world.

It shuts down innovation.

When you feel hopeless and perpetually pessimistic, there’s no drive to do anything creative or innovative. What’s the point? Chronic complainers shut out positive input. They refuse to see things that are going well or that offer hope. Their mindset paralyzes them.

So how do I complain the right way?

Here are some quick guidelines:

1. Choose the right person to vent or complain to.

If you need to be heard and understood to work through your feelings, choose someone you trust to remain objective and who will let you talk. This person should be empathetic and have your best interest at heart, and someone who won’t jump on the bandwagon and make things worse.

2. Take notice of repetitive complaints.

If you find yourself repeating the same complaints more than a few times, it’s time to take some action to resolve the issue.

Chronic complaints are signals that you need to do something. Don’t avoid taking action. Seek solutions rather than blame. Target your complaints to people who can help provide answers.

3. Tip the positive/negative scale slightly up.

If you tend to notice what’s wrong more than what’s right, change that. Make a conscious, concerted effort to see what’s going well.

If you watch the news regularly, you know that the focus is on what’s wrong. That’s the nature of news broadcasting. To combat that, you’d have to seek out news about things going well, and in fact, there’s a lot of that news, but you have to search for it.

Do that same thing in your personal life. Keep that balance.

4. Challenge “victim consciousness.”

You may see yourself as a victim. Maybe you were victimized growing up and had reason to feel the way you do. However, as an adult, you can choose to remain a victim or not.

By identifying yourself as a victim, you feel chronically helpless and pessimistic, which you express with chronic complaining.

If you find yourself in this place, seek some therapy to help you work this through. The goal is to break free from “victim consciousness” and take charge of your life.

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #83: Are you afraid to say what you think or how you feel?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by Tharakorn, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Let me start by adding a qualifier to that question:

Are you afraid to say what you think or how you feel when speaking face to face with someone?

Social media or texting doesn’t count. It’s much easier to say anything when you don’t have to face the person on the receiving end. But when you can see, feel, and directly hear someone’s reaction, it’s a whole different story.

If you have no problem with communicating your thoughts and feelings, keep reading anyway because I’m going to talk some about how to do it in a way that’ll increase your chances of being heard.

But first, let’s start with the obstacles that get in the way of speaking your mind truthfully. If you know what’s holding you back, it’s easier to clear the way to move beyond it.

What Gets in the Way

Fear of Anger or Conflict

You may be afraid of someone’s reactions to your true thoughts or feelings because the person in question has shown an inability to hear something they dislike without becoming volatile or defensive. If that’s the case, the problem is related to just this person.

But if you find yourself worrying that anyone could get angry when you express your feelings candidly, then you likely have a parent who gave you messages to suppress your emotions and reacted negatively or angrily when you did.

Fear of Exposure

You feel too vulnerable when you let someone into your inner world. You might not trust anyone to know you because someone could use this knowledge against you at another time. Maybe you were shamed growing up when you exposed yourself. Or you were hurt by someone you thought you could trust, yet they betrayed you. So you’ve closed down to avoid pain.

Fear of Criticism, Humiliation, or Dismissal

Have you ever said something and felt stupid? It’s that feeling of being in the spotlight and wishing you could evaporate. You feel even worse if the person you’re talking to openly criticizes you or dismisses you without a response. You feel humiliated and demeaned.

Again, this might be a function of the person you’re speaking to, but if you have a general fear of being criticized or scorned, you most likely experienced this growing up.

Chronic criticism and dismissal of your thoughts and feelings, even as a child, can be devastating over time and instill a fear of the same as an adult.

Fear of Not Being Heard or Understood

This fear is related to several possibilities.

  1. You might have difficulty articulating what you want to say. You get tongue-tied or overwhelmed when expressing yourself verbally, and you don’t come off the way you want to.
  2. Secondly, you might feel that the other person can’t relate to what you have to say or isn’t good at listening. Maybe they tend to take over conversations, offer advice before you’re ready, or interrupt too much.
  3. You become self-conscious and uncomfortable when the attention is on you and find it difficult to speak up without feeling intimidated.

What You Can Do

1. Learn to label your feelings succinctly and accurately.

Be specific, use the most accurate feeling words you can, and provide enough information so the listener won’t have to work to understand you. Say something like, “I’m feeling quite guilty about canceling plans with my friend this weekend to go kayaking,” instead of “I feel bad.” It makes a big difference to the listener. You might like reading Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown to help with this exercise.

The other half of this is becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings and allowing them to come up instead of suppressing them. If you know yourself well, it’s easier for others to know you.

2. Start by practicing with people you trust.

Practice talking freely and expressing yourself first with people whom you know are receptive, trustworthy, accepting, and interested.

Take your time honing your ability to articulate your feelings. Begin with casual subjects to get the hang of expressing what you have to say without much stress. As you get better at it, you can move on to more complex subjects that have emotional meaning for you.

A caveat: If you have a partner or someone close to you who loses their temper quickly or regularly shames you, consider talking to them about their behavior when you’re not in the middle of a conflict. If that seems too complicated or dangerous, seek counseling together if they’ll agree. If not, go yourself.

No one should be intimidated by a partner, family member, or friend.

3. Listen at least as much as you speak.

Make sure that you make room for the other person to respond or say whatever’s on their mind in any interchange. Listening is the other side of speaking and significantly impacts how well any conversation goes.

The great thing about asking questions and showing interest in the other person’s point of view is that they feel valued and are more likely to value what you have to say.

Good conversations are reciprocal. Listening with interest will draw people to you, and you’ll find it easier to relax. They’ll enjoy talking to you.

4. Work on desensitizing yourself from anxiety while speaking.

Getting over the fear of criticism, dismissal, or shaming is a process of desensitization. The more you put yourself in situations to have honest conversations where you reveal yourself, the less fear you feel and the more comfortable you become.

You should aim to be open, candid, and direct with people you feel are receptive to you and who you trust. You especially want to be able to speak about things that are important to you or that have an impact on your relationships. You do need to be choosy about who you tell what depending on your level of trust.

Remember that what you have to say is equally important as what anyone else has to say. Your thoughts and feelings are valuable, and you have the right to express them as long as you’re respectful.

Basic rules of conduct to follow:

  • Avoid personal attacks.
  • Use “I” messages.
  • Own your thoughts and feelings without blame or shame.
  • Listen as much as you talk.
  • Show empathy for the other person as well as yourself. Empathizing with someone’s feelings keeps you both on the same side.
  • Agree to disagree when there’s an issue. Respectfully listen to someone else’s ideas without personally denigrating them, yet don’t feel you need to agree.
  • Take your time and speak slowly if you find your thoughts moving too fast. It’s OK to say, “I’m having trouble articulating this. Let me try it a different way.” And then try again.

Last Thing

Try therapy if you have difficulty speaking up because of low self-worth or thinking you’re not good enough. That’s a great place to get used to verbalizing yourself freely and without judgment, while also getting better at recognizing and becoming aware of exactly what you think and feel.

A second way to improve verbal skills and get more comfortable speaking is to take on leadership roles. You can do this at work, engage in community projects, join an organization, or join a book club.

Above all, don’t let fear get in the way of expressing yourself. Verbal communication is the primary way we connect, so it’s worth working on!

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #82: How to Make Important Decisions

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by RapidEye, Courtesy of iStock Photo

You make decisions all day long, from when you rise until drifting off to sleep at night. And even then, you may wrestle with problems while dreaming and pulling information from your subconscious to help out.

Most of the time, the daily decisions go on automatically. However, the big ones that have a more significant impact are the ones that grab your attention and hold it until you finally decide to take a leap and commit to something.

Sometimes this process doesn’t go easily because of anxiety, fear, or too many choices that circulate in your mind and keep you in limbo. Yet, you still have to decide. So how do you get over that hump?

Today I’m giving you some guidelines to help smooth out the process. But first, let’s talk a little about your brain.

A Little Background

Before you get into the actual decision-making process, it helps to understand how your brain works and what conditions are most conducive to helping it function well.

Your brain has a limited capacity.

I was making celery juice this morning, and as I watched the juicer working on the celery, it likened it to how the brain works when we fill it up. It can only process so much celery at a time, and if you try to jam more in, it gets stuck. If you cut the celery into small pieces and feed them in at a slow pace, it processes everything well, and the motor keeps churning smoothly without a hitch. But if you add pieces that are too large or fill the feed with too much at once, it stops working.

Your brain is the same way. You can overload it and bring it to a screeching halt.

Help your brain function better by doing this:

Get a whole night’s sleep.

Your brain goes through a wash and rinse cycle and clears out extraneous material when you sleep. This is an actual neurological process, not just a metaphor. There’s a physical component to it. When you don’t get enough sleep, brain trash accumulates, and you can’t think well.

Water it.

Your brain is roughly 73 percent water. It takes only 2 percent dehydration to adversely affect your attention and cognition. Drinking water can prevent that and help your brain work optimally.

Feed it.

In addition to water, your brain needs glucose to function. Glucose supplies the energy for your body, and your brain uses about 20 percent of your total body’s energy needs. You need to feed it properly, especially before working on any brain-intensive problem.

Clear mental clutter.

Get all the little daily decisions out of the way. All decisions use energy, even the small ones. When you decide what to wear and what to eat, whether to look on Facebook or check your email, or what show to watch, etc., you’re using up a limited supply of energy.

Do your best to automate and routinize these decisions, so you aren’t wasting your brain capacity on them. Don’t wait to decide what to wear to the office when you get up. Decide the night before. Clear your mental desk ahead.

To summarize – Before working on a big decision:

  • Get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Drink a full 8-ounce glass of water.
  • Eat a light meal.
  • Clear your mental desk.

A note about food:

Heavy, fat-laden meals will make your brain sluggish. Make sure you eat whole food like fresh fruit, veggies, beans, and whole grains, and if you eat meat, stick to a small piece of fish.

My go-to on thinking days is to have a glass of fresh veggie juice followed by a small fruit bowl, and then work through the morning. I wait to introduce food until lunch.

Most people disagree with that approach, but it works well because your digestive system isn’t pulling energy away from your brain.

You do what works best for you. Just make sure you aren’t overburdening your body with heavy digestive tasks.

Now for the Process

1. Identify the problem with clarity.

Get clear on the decision you need to make. Don’t start weighing options until you’ve defined the problem in detail.

2. Do your research.

Gather all the relevant information you might need to make an educated decision. If you tend to go with your gut on decisions, that’s fine, but don’t do it yet. Wait until you’ve gone through the whole process and gotten your ducks in a row. Then consult your gut.

Getting the information might require consulting someone in the know, reading something, or Googling something. Make a quick list of what you need to find out, then do it or schedule it.

3. Organize your information and analyze it.

Don’t do this in your head. Write it down to get it out of your head and see it visually. This helps your brain with processing and analyzing. It’s like cleaning up as you cook, so counter space is available.

4. Whittle down the choices.

There’s a cool video on Youtube about decision-making by Patrick McGinnis where he talks about FOBO – “Fear of Better Options.” It’s worth watching. The gist is that we can paralyze ourselves when trying to make a decision by continuing to entertain more and more options and never narrowing down our choices. You get into an all-or-nothing mindset, and your decision takes on a life or death feel – “If I make the wrong decision, I can never come back or right it. I’ll be doomed.”

For most decisions, this isn’t at all true. You can make the best decision now and later decide to alter it or go in another direction. There are no perfect decisions, but there may be more than one right one.

Whittle choices down to between 3 and 4 at most. Two options can be a little daunting because it creates an either-or mindset, but sometimes you can’t help that. Don’t try to decide when there are eight or nine+ choices. It’s best to keep it under four.

5. Take a forward and backward look.

If your decision pertains to anything you’ve experienced previously, review what you’ve learned that might help you decide.

Conversely, play out the future consequences of your decision. What could happen as a result of the direction you choose? You’re evaluating risks versus gains. How risky is the decision, and what’s a backup plan if you decide to change your mind down the road? If this is a big decision, how might it look a year from now? How could you pivot if you need to?

6. Sleep on it.

Unless you have to make an immediate decision, don’t ever make it until you’ve slept on it or allowed 24 hours away from thinking about it. When you do that, you allow your subconscious an opportunity to scan your brain’s hard drive for information that might help sway you in the best direction. It will enable you to cool emotions that might be getting in the way.

7. Decision time.

Commit to a decision and go forward. Don’t keep vacillating and going through what-if scenarios. Sometimes decision-making feels like a multiple choice question where two answers seem right, but you have to pick one. Pick one. You can adjust if it doesn’t work just like you thought it would.

That’s all for today!

Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back to you next Monday!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #81: 5 Rituals to Simplify Your Life and Get Things Done

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Life eats up time. You can’t stop that, but you can use it more effectively to enjoy your life and create time for things that are important to you.

Today I’m outlining five weekly rituals that help. They’re not overly time-consuming, and they keep things simple by giving you a way to maintain an overview of what’s happening so that you don’t get swept away by daily details or mind ruts.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Goal Setting

Set no more than three goals for the week ahead.

One goal is fine if that’s all you think you can do. The idea is to set yourself up for success and finish something.

Create a goal that’s small enough to complete and is doable in a week, even if there are interruptions.

The value of doing this is that it focuses you and helps you lay out your week so that you don’t waste a lot of time going from one thing to another with no real plan.

Your mind will be most efficient when it’s:

  • Focused in narrowly on a single goal or task
  • The task in question is doable, spelled out, and planned ahead
  • You know how to do it or have acquired what’s needed to do it

It’s hard to accomplish these things on the fly. Planning ahead is necessary.

It’s best to write your goals down, and I’ll tell you when and how to do that in a minute.

2. Weekly Review

Simplifying and productivity require tracking. The Weekly Review is a great way to track. It keeps things from getting away from you, and it helps you make necessary adjustments to increase your efficiency.

Set aside 30 minutes each week to conduct a weekly review. You don’t need more time than that unless you want it. I do mine Saturday mornings.

Pick any time you want. Just make sure it’s a time that likely won’t get eaten up by other activities or interruptions.

Create a written format for your review.

My layout has four sections and was inspired by a handout I got from a course called Time Genius by Marie Forleo. The four sections are:

  1. Insights: What insights did I gain to help me stay on the path? These are reflections on how things worked. What helped and what didn’t? For example, I found that I accomplished more on the days I got 8 hours of sleep instead of 7. You might discover that a method you used needs some tweaking or your goal was too big for one week. Maybe you need some more information before proceeding further.
  2. Successes: Use this section to document your accomplishments for the week. These can include goals met, processes or strategies that worked, and time saved. Write whatever feels like a success to you. Even partial successes count.
  3. Revisions: What do you need to do differently in the week ahead to make things work more efficiently? This is your chance to learn from your experiences each week and get better and better at forecasting, planning, and scheduling. You’ll use some of your insights from the first section to help you decide what you need to change to get better results in the coming week.
  4. New Goals and Schedule: This is where you create next week’s goal list. Write them out, break them down into tasks, and schedule them on your calendar or to-do list.

I keep my current weekly review on my computer desktop, where I see it every day and can read it every evening to keep it fresh in my mind for the next day.

3. Weekly Declutter

Clutter’s a menace. And unfortunately, there are all kinds of clutter. Usually, you think of house clutter, but other types include emotional and mental, digital, and physical clutter.

In addition to your weekly review, set aside a time for a weekly declutter session. Again, this doesn’t have to be long. Some people do this once a day, but for others, once a week is sufficient. Aim for an hour.

Get rid of any of the following:

  • Phone calls or appointments that need to be made and are hanging over you
  • Emails that are cluttering up your inbox
  • Worries. Write them down and set them aside. If there’s something you need to do, schedule when you can do it and put it on your calendar. If it’s doable in ten minutes or less, do it now.
  • Watch your diet. Bad food creates bad clutter in your body, which affects your mood, energy level, and thinking capacity.
  • Remove any junk from your home, or if you have a lot, remove a small amount each week until you have less. Home clutter is debilitating over time.

All done? You’ll feel better after doing this one.

4. Do one thing at a time.

I read a great blog by Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) in which he said we should live in “full-screen mode.” What a superb metaphor!

When you’re in full-screen mode on your computer, you can’t see anything except what’s right in front of you.

This is the way to approach most tasks. There are some things you can multi-task, like listening to music while you clean, but something that requires focus and mental capacity needs a full-screen approach for best results.

“Full-screen “means silencing phones, turning off social media, turning off the TV, finding a quiet space, and creating a time block for working.

As much as you can, do one thing at a time and dive into it.

5. Create time for self-care.

This is the one that usually takes a back seat, especially if you’re super busy. If you have young kids and work and take care of the house, self-care often doesn’t exist. Try to carve out something no matter how small it is.

Create specific morning and evening routines, and include something that will feed you emotionally. Ten minutes of Yoga, a one-mile walk, a short meditation, reading an inspirational passage or book– whatever you like that both soothes and sustains you.

It’s essential to have daily routinized rituals built in to make sure you attend to yourself.

Sleep is crucial, and sometimes it’s either sleep or exercise. Sleep should win out, and then you can try to add exercise somewhere else in the routine – maybe for just ten minutes. Don’t short yourself on sleep. Everything else will get worse if you do.

Last Note

When you don’t deliberately set up routines, other things crowd in and use up your time. It’s like the tide coming in and filling up every crevice in the sand. You can control the tide with regular rituals that help you keep a big picture view of what’s happening and grab your authority to guide that process. Rituals deepen over time, and the results multiply if you make them regular habits. Without them, you fall prey to the tide.

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!!

All my best,

Barbara

 

Blog Short #80: Are you honest with yourself?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by zsv3207, Courtesy of iStock Photos

How would you answer that question? I think most of us would say either “yes” or “pretty much.” Fewer would say “no.”

Why? Because it’s hard to be completely honest with yourself. Our egos have a built-in need to self-protect, and honest assessments of ourselves often clash with that need.

A second reason is that once you admit to something, you can’t put it back in the box. It’s out there. It begs for attention and keeps nagging you to do something about it.

Let’s face it, being completely honest with ourselves is hard! So we’ve come up with ways to get around it.

The Defenses

We deny truths even when they stare us down. We use some of the ego’s favorite defenses to get around it:

  • Rationalization. You come up with reasons why you can’t do what you should or why circumstances keep you where you are. The favorite statement here is “I can’t.” Or “I don’t know how.” Or “No one will help me.”
  • Projection. It’s not me – it’s you! Someone else has that problem. I don’t.
  • Blame. You made me do it. Circumstances made me do it. It’s not my fault. It’s my parents’ fault. My boss’s fault. My husband’s fault. It’s the President’s fault!
  • Denial. It’s simply not true. ”What, are you nuts? I’m not like that!”
  • Magical thinking. If I think positive, it’ll go away on its own.

Those are just some, but I think those cover the main ones we use. To boil it down to a single idea, it’s this:

When you don’t want to look at something or be honest with yourself about something you need to fix or change, the response is:

“I can’t.” – which means “I don’t want to.” – which means “I won’t.”

The problem, of course, is that you can’t hold down or put away forever what’s true. By ignoring, denying, or putting off being honest with yourself, you risk creating an insurmountable stack of problems that will cause you much more pain than the effort to face up.

But, here’s what you get if you do face up and decide to be honest – brutally honest – with yourself.

The Benefits

1. You become your authentic self.

There’s a congruency between who you are and how you perceive yourself. In other words, your perception reflects reality. You have a core identity and a solid sense of self, and you can get comfortable with who you are.

Instead of having different parts of yourself warring with each other, you can bring them all together to approach your problems, deal with what is, and accept yourself as a worthy person, warts and all.

Most importantly, it feels good to tell yourself the truth. It’s relieving to not have to hide from you or anyone else for that matter.

2. You preserve your emotional energy.

It takes a lot of emotional and mental energy to hang on to defensive untruths about who you are, what you think, and how you feel and act. When you fess up to what’s true, you free up your energy to focus on how to conduct your life and explore new possibilities.

3. You develop self-compassion.

If you can be honest with yourself, you can develop self-compassion as you hold yourself accountable for your actions. If you hide out, you maintain a persistent critical voice that threatens to demolish you when you fall.

4. You have improved relationships

Dishonesty creates distance from others. Either they see what you don’t want them to see and know you’re denying or ignoring it, or they’re confused about who you are and can’t get as close to you as they might hope to.

When you practice honesty, you’re more capable of engaging in close, intimate relationships because you can present the real you. You can love and receive love with greater capacity.

5. You build confidence.

Being honest and befriending yourself makes you less receptive to those who are overly critical. You’re able to assess your strengths and weaknesses realistically. You can build on your assets without fear of recrimination and use yourself as the yardstick for measuring progress rather than comparing yourself to others. You gain confidence in yourself.

How to Do It

I have two suggestions.

1. Conduct an inventory.

The first is to do an inventory right now of things you’re aware of that you’ve been pushing down or skirting around. These would include issues that keep coming back to haunt you and cause distress – things you don’t want to face.

Write it out.

  • Describe the problem.
  • List actions you need to take to see the problem in its entirety.
  • List things you can do to make changes or resolve these issues.

2. Cultivate these practices.

Seek help.

Realize that you don’t know everything and seek information or help from a knowledgeable source. This could be a person, book, forum, course, program, etc. Getting help makes it easier to stay on track and follow through.

Don’t suppress your feelings.

Allow your feelings to surface. Feel them, listen, and sort them through. What can you learn from them?

Own up to mistakes.

Own up to your mistakes without beating yourself up. Admit, analyze, learn, and repair.

Create a craving for reality.

You can do this by actively observing your thoughts, behavior, and defenses as they arise. At first, just practice correcting ideas that aren’t accurate. If you’re used to lying to yourself, it’s an ingrained habit, and as you know already, it takes time to subdue a pattern and create a replacement.

So for a while, you’ll need to “identify and replace” repeatedly until you get to the point where telling the truth is your first impulse rather than shading it.

Be accountable.

Consult someone you trust and who’s compassionate and has your best interest at heart to call you out or help you review your process.

Examine your motivations.

There’s always a perceived gain to lying. What is it? Are you avoiding someone else’s reaction to you? Is there a bad habit you don’t want to let go of? Would facing something interfere with the narrative you’ve created and pretend is real?

Get very serious about this one, and give yourself free rein to delve into what you’re protecting with your dishonesty. Motives have a lot of power. You have to dismantle them.

Look at the “big three” and ask yourself if they apply:

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Overthinking
  3. “Not Good Enough Syndrome”

If any of these are primary influences on how you think about yourself, then being dishonest is wrapped up in them. All three threaten your sense of worth. Who wouldn’t try and avoid them?

Keep an eye on avoidance.

Avoidance and dishonesty with yourself go hand in hand. They’re partners in crime. When you curb one, you restrain the other. If you’re more honest, you can’t avoid as much. And when you stop avoiding and look at things, you’re more honest.

Last Note

Truth is ultimately relieving, even though human beings work hard to avoid it. That avoidance is fear, and the silly thing is, the fear’s unfounded because the more honest you are, the less afraid you are, and the better you feel. Keep working at it.

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #79: 10 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by francescoch, Courtesy of iStock Photo

I subscribe to one of my favorite business/writing mentors whose courses I regularly take. I got an email from her this morning, but unlike her usual emails, it was more personal.

She had recently attended a social event with many friends who are in the same business as her and with whom she’s close. She began comparing her success to some of these friends and got caught in a tailwind of self-doubt. As the evening continued, her thoughts became more distorted – she decided her work was in decline and concluded that she didn’t have anything new or exciting to offer, as did her friends.

In short, she plummeted into the deep hole of comparison and couldn’t get out.

I was surprised, but I wasn’t. Even though this person is incredibly talented and engaging, as well as ridiculously successful, she fell victim to self-doubt.

As she recognized, this type of comparison is deadly.

It’s distorted, destructive, and sly. It sneaks in and winds its way around your mind, squeezing out every semblance of rationality. It pours acid on tiny openings of self-doubt and turns them into gaping craters.

We’re all susceptible.

So how do you handle it?

Here are my top ten strategies I use when I get ensnared by that ugly seductress.

1. Hang up those distorted thoughts.

Self-doubt comparisons are almost always based on distorted and exaggerated thoughts.

You select the most significant accomplishments belonging to someone else and measure them against your most notable failures.

And, to make it worse, you exaggerate both ends of that spectrum and selectively choose the details to make that comparison as wide as possible. There are two problems here:

  1. You can always find someone who’s further along in their progress in a particular activity than you are.
  2. You’re narrowing your perspective to create the picture you’re painting.

Comparisons use a hierarchical perspective, meaning we all sit on a vertical ladder of accomplishment. You’re above someone and below someone.

In reality, creativity and achievement are more horizontal. Every person’s approach is different and, I might add, valuable. We’re not all apples.

That gets to the second thing.

2. Appreciate your unique contribution.

No one else is exactly like you, and you’re not exactly like anyone else – nor should you be! Appreciate your lane and make all you can of it. Don’t try to be everything. Just be you.

3. Be your own yardstick.

Make comparisons to yourself. Improve your performance, develop new ideas, try different strategies, and create better habits. Embrace yourself and what you have to offer and refine it.

4. Play to your strengths.

What do you do well? What are some of your natural talents?

These can be anything. You don’t have to restrict yourself to things that result in public affirmations, like being a best-selling author.

Maybe one of your strengths is being kind and making others feel comfortable and accepted. I would wager that strength is as important and perhaps more important than creating a successful corporation.

Use what you have and let others benefit from it.

5. Keep envy in check.

Envy is painful. And it’s useless. It’s good to admire what someone else has or contributes, but envy is competitive. One’s up, and one’s down.

Appreciate someone else’s success. Be inspired by it! But don’t taint that with envy. If someone else can be successful, so can you. However, you won’t do that if you’re trying to be just like the other person.

6. Take a break from social media.

Social media is a petri dish for narcissistic one-upmanship. It feels like being back in high school in a big tank of people who are all vying for popularity or the most elevated position in the crowd.

It’s amazing what happens to adults when they jockey on social media for position. I’m not saying there aren’t positive aspects of social media, but it is a platform for competition, comparison, and misrepresentation. A lot of what people present is exaggerated.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into comparing yourself to anything or anyone you see on social media.

7. Mind your company.

Like hanging out on social media, who you spend time with can increase your competitiveness and envy. If you hang out with people who need to be on top or complain about what other people have that they don’t have, you can find yourself jumping on the bandwagon and mirroring that mindset.

You might have friends who compare themselves with you or who have subtly or not so subtly put you down. They might do this by bragging about their successes, although not so overtly that you recognize the put-down. Or maybe they give you a lot of unsought advice with an undertow of “I know more than you do.”

Good friends make you feel good about yourself and share your successes without envy or competition.

Stick to those friends and let the others go.

8. Focus on progress.

Everyone is equal because we’re all valuable and worthy of love. At the same time, we’re all in different places in our growth. We’re in various stages of development and on our own paths.

When you keep that in mind, it’s easier to focus on your path and measure where you are in terms of your progress. There’s not an endpoint. I suppose death is an endpoint, but maybe not. Until death, you’re developing. Hopefully not de-evolving.

Focus on your progress more than your outcomes, and keep going.

9. Never let what you accomplish mean more than who you are.

Pursue whatever work you like, use your talents, and accomplish all you can, but never at the expense of who you are.

Be the kind of person who sticks to their values and principles. Be the kind of person who’s more concerned about treating people the right way, doing the right thing, and behaving civilly.

Those internal qualities are most important and help you rise above petty comparison and competitiveness. They embrace others rather than separate, isolate, and distance. Make that your priority, and let the rest follow.

10. Be grateful.

The last one on my list is gratitude. You hear this idea a lot and find it in every self-help book, blog, and inspirational speech. That’s because it’s true.

When you’re grateful for what you have, it’s hard to focus on what you don’t have. It will shift you out of that competitive, complaining, woeful mindset. Start your day with gratitude.

We get so inundated with bad news, that focusing on things that are going right is a worthwhile pursuit and helps balance the view.

I write ten things I’m grateful for every morning. I’m always shocked at how it can shift my mood. I can wake up grumpy or moody, and after getting halfway through my list, my mood’s lifted.

Last Note

I’ve written a more extended version of this blog that you can find here if you’d like to read it. It covers most of the same items with a little more explanation.

That’s all for today!

Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

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