How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

How to Love Yourself, Unconditionally

Can You Love Yourself, No Matter What?

Self-love is much harder for many people than it is for them to be unconditionally loving and compassionate with others. It is much easier to pick yourself apart, ruthlessly, for all your failures and imperfections than it is to be your own ally, your own cheerleader, and your own source of strength and compassion.

Why is it so hard to love yourself? Often, it’s due to a deep and enduring core narrative that is rooted in shame and criticism, particularly early in life. Over the years as a therapist and life coach, and talking with hundreds of people about this issue, (and making this topic a primary focus of The Happiness Class) I have come to the conclusion that difficulty with self-love, and harboring feelings of unworthiness are largely due to the negative automatic thoughts, and the negative “stories” that people started to tell themselves about themselves as children and teens.

Why It’s So Hard To Love Yourself

The proclivity we all have to beat ourselves up is often simply an unhappy byproduct of the psychology of children. Children are, inherently, narcissistic in the sense that they only know their own experience and have limited insight into why other people behave the way they do, or the larger context of situations. Because of this, when kids experience shaming, criticism, rejection or hostility from peers or parents (but especially peers) it boils down to one central takeaway: “I’m bad / wrong / unlovable / unlikeable” and they carry that message into adulthood with them.

Can you relate?

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Life

If you, like many, have a hard time accepting yourself and feeling generally good about who you are, it may negatively impact many areas of your life.  Not being able to love yourself is damaging to your other relationships is because when you struggle with beliefs of low self-worth you don’t feel okay inside of yourself. This makes you look to other people for affirmation and acceptance in order to feel good about you. Or, you might start linking your intrinsic “goodness” to other things, like what you achieve, how you look, how much money you earn, what you weigh, etc.

This can turn into a roller coaster of chasing perfection that you can never quite attain. You might work so hard to do everything “right,” and drive yourself into exhaustion attempting to prove to yourself and others that you really are good enough as evidenced by all the amazing things you’re doing. [For more on this, read “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

The truth is that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. If you strive, you will fail sometimes. As a fellow human, you are just as imperfect as the rest of us. Not everyone will like you, much less love you. A lot of living is not really that fabulous, just the day-to-day slog of adulting, interspersed by peak moments that may feel long in between. You will occasionally make bad decisions. You might even get fired or laid off. Time will come for you, too, changing your body, the way you look, and eventually, your mind.

Life is a mixed bag, and things are going to happen. But when your feelings of self worth hinge upon achievements and how you’re viewed in the eyes of others (because you struggle do it yourself) it puts you in a precarious position, emotionally and psychologically.

How Difficulty Loving Yourself Impacts Your Relationships

While struggling to love yourself seems like it would only impact the primary target (you), it does impact others too. Here’s why: As we have discussed, people who really, fundamentally don’t feel good about themselves on the inside must look to others for affirmation, acceptance, and positive regard to regulate themselves. They often need a constant stream of praise and validation from other people in order to feel okay about themselves.

When their partners turn out to be fellow humans who also have complex needs, rights and feelings, (and complaints! and get upset sometimes too!) people who struggle with low self-worth often feel anxious, criticized, and unloved. When their partner can’t always be kind and patient and overtly loving and approving of them, they tend to fall apart and get pretty anxious and even angry.

Because they are unable to support themselves emotionally from the inside out when their partners are upset with them or needing something from them, their partner not being okay feels very threatening to them. It is not uncommon for people who struggle to love themselves to be emotionally reactive, lashing out at their partners, or withdrawing emotionally from relationships as a form of self protection.

Furthermore, because people with low self-worth will often twist themselves into knots to be pleasing if not perfect, they can struggle with authenticity and vulnerability. Because they struggle to love themselves, and worry they’re not good enough, they fear that if people really get to know them they will be rejected. This can make them withhold their true thoughts and feelings from others, and make them feel like they need to maintain a “perfect” facade that, while helping them feel safer, truthfully deprives them of the ability to connect on a deep level with others.

In other, even sadder situations, people who struggle to love themselves can find themselves in bad relationships with people who do not treat them well at all. People with low self-worth may wind up staying in these toxic relationships for too long, because the criticism, shaming, and bullying they experience with their partner matches the abusive inner dialogue they have inside of themselves. It’s difficult for them to believe that they deserve better, and they have a hard time leaving the toxic relationship they feel stuck in. [More on this: “How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity”]

How to Love Yourself Unconditionally

Healing these wounds and developing authentic self-love and self-worth is a process, not a decision or an event.

People are damaged by experiences and in relationships with others, and they are healed by experiences and in relationships with others. The first step in being able to love yourself is often to cultivate a supportive, unconditionally positive relationship with a great therapist who is able to be emotionally safe and affirming. This emotionally safe relationship creates the crucible whereby the person who struggles with low self worth can finally feel safe and accepted enough to begin revealing their true selves and the old core beliefs about themselves that they’ve been carrying.

Over the months, sometimes years, this precious, fragile person and their therapist can begin to question some of those beliefs (carefully, so as not to trigger too much self criticism and shame) and explore — from an adult perspective — the fact that there may have been other explanations for their life experiences besides their being inherently bad and unworthy of love. They can begin to create a new narrative about themselves and new core beliefs that include a deep sense of security, rooted in the fact that they are actually good people, worthy of love and respect… and they always have been.

Self Love = Emotional Strength

Over time, healing happens. People working through low self-worth often need to process a great deal of anger and pain in later stages of healing. But in doing so, they begin the process of learning how to validate themselves. They begin unhooking their sense of self-worth from how other people view them, as well as their achievements. They acquire the ability to decide, for themselves, that they deserve to be angry when mistreated, and that they have the right to set boundaries.

Most importantly, they develop the ability to internalize a self-supporting inner dialogue that coaches them through challenging moments and reminds them of their inherent worthiness even when other people are upset with them, when they fail, or are not as perfect as they’d like to be. Through the development of this self-supporting adult core, they become able to finally feel okay about themselves and emotionally stable no matter what is going on around them. They develop self-compassion, the ability to forgive themselves, and often start practicing good self-care. They become able to assertively advocate for themselves, make healthy decisions, and not fall apart when other people aren’t mirroring admiration back at them.

As they become more self-stabilizing, their relationships stabilize. Over time, this creates a positive spiral up where they start feeling good about themselves, and genuinely have a great life and healthy relationships — all of which supports the new narrative they internalize that says, “See? You are worthy of love and respect.”

The path is long and hard, but so, so worth it.

If my sharing this perspective has resonated with you, I sincerely hope that you seek the support of a great therapist who can be a safe person for you as you embark upon this journey of growth and healing. You deserve it.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: When you read this article it may have made you think not of yourself, but of someone else in your life. If so, I hope you share this with them so that these words might provide them with clarity and direction, as well as hope and affirmation. On behalf of them, thank you for supporting their growth and personal evolution…. LMB

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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The Problem With Perfectionism

The Problem With Perfectionism

The Problem With Perfectionism

Keep The First Picture

After a long run in the blistering Texas heat with my friend, she looks at me and says, “Let’s take a picture!” Instinctually I said, “sure!” and smiled for the camera.  Then I saw the photo… After pausing to think about the state of my face (I looked like Sloth from The Goonies), I frantically asked, “Maybe we should take another one?” And then she said something that I found remarkably empowering… She said she was starting a new personal goal to keep the first picture. 

Puzzled, I asked her why. “It seems like everyone takes about ten pictures and funnels through at least five different filters before they’re satisfied with the photo they’ve recreated. Why don’t we just appreciate the raw moment we captured the first time?” she asked. 

Wow, why don’t we?…

The Problem with Perfectionism 

It seems like there is an unspoken expectation that we should always be happy and healthy. We should always be perfect.  Even when we’re going through some of the darkest moments in our lives, there’s an underlying pressure to keep it hidden. “I can’t talk about this. I must appear like I’ve got it all together” we tell ourselves. Whether you’re a single parent, having trouble at work, or dealing with a mental or physical illness, somehow it’s a lot easier to post a photo of you smiling than one that shows what’s really going on… 

The problem with perfectionism is that it’s not only impossible but fleeting. The second we feel like we’ve achieved the slightest perfection in one area of our lives, we’re paranoid about the mess we’re hiding in another corner.  And there we go: around-and-around this cycle of striving, failing (while making the appearance of succeeding), feeling disappointed and ashamed, and then doing it all over again. Even in my own life, this cycle has deceived me into missing out on some pretty great moments, which to me is the most disappointing outcome of perfectionism.

We’re Missing Out on The Moment!

The pressure we feel to be perfect can cause us to miss out on the moment. Perfectionism convinces us that there’s an even better moment to be fabricated and if we believe it enough, then it’s that fabricated moment that actually happened. 

There are two problems with this lie that Perfectionism tells us: First, believing a moment is perfect doesn’t make it so. Second, who says the moment that actually happened wasn’t worth cherishing even if it wasn’t “perfect?!”

Even messy moments have a purpose. It’s the messy moments that have brought you where you are today. These moments should be celebrated! Not hidden. It’s the failing that teaches us the most, gives us the humility to try again, and ultimately allows us to grow. 

Speaking as a chronic perfectionist myself, I know how hard it is to actually flip the switch and just sit in imperfection.  The truth is, there’s a fine line between being okay with imperfection and being apathetic to personal growth. That’s why “keeping the first picture” can be such an empowering tool for us perfectionists! It’s a simple action that creates change little-by-little, picture-by-picture. 

What “Keeping the First Picture” Can Teach You

  1. It teaches you to appreciate the moment for what it is…sweat and all! Looking at that photo can show you exactly what was happening in your life at that moment that eventually led you to this moment. The candid nature of life can be harsh and daunting, but it is also sweet and transformative. When you look back on that first picture, you can use it as a window to reflect and then grow. 

  2. It empowers you to let go of Perfectionism. Keeping the first picture can give you the courage to slowly let go of the “ideas” of perfect moments you’re chained to. To look at your tired face and say “Man, that was a crazy day”, but know that you hold the power to say “No” to Perfectionism. You don’t have to put on a show or a filter just to appease Perfectionism. You can be authentic! One picture at a time. 

As a therapist, I have seen so many clients who struggle with the desire to have the perfect life (perfect relationships, perfect job, the perfect body), or at least seem perfect on the outside… In their search for perfection though, they’ve missed out on the moment! Although it seems simple, keeping the first picture can help you take one step towards appreciating what you have and letting go of what is unachievable and frankly not as perfect as it seems. 

After I kept that first picture I didn’t see how red and sweaty I was, I saw two friends who hadn’t seen each other in months, after a long run, talking about our lives, our future, and our friendship.

What do you see in your first picture?

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

Let’s  Talk

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Healing After Loss

Healing After Loss

Healing After Loss

Grief: The Price Paid For Love

As a therapist and life coach, I help people through many different forms of loss. One of the most common that I see is “ambiguous loss,” or a loss that happens without closure or understanding such as a breakup, a move/huge transition, a miscarriage, or lost dreams. I also help people mourn the death of a loved one.

Grief can take many different forms and it looks different for different people, but today I hope to give you a strategy to help you work through grief – in all its forms.

Types of Grief

There is no right way to grieve. Sometimes it results in an overwhelming sadness that is accompanied by loss of motivation, difficulty sleeping, or loss of appetite. It can also take the form of irritability, anger, or numbness.

Sometimes it feels scary to face the feelings accompanied with grief. There may be the fear that you will never stop feeling the pain, so it seems easier to ignore it. Choosing to not deal with the sadness, hurt, and anger that often accompanies grief, however, may leave you feeling lost, lonely, and overwhelmed. I often view the grieving experience as “waves”.

When you “ride the wave” by allowing yourself to feel and deal with your emotions, you will experience some relief from the pain faster than if you choose to “fight the wave.”

The Stages of Grief

The stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and acceptance are very true experiences for those who are grieving and are true for ambiguous loss as well. I used to believe that these stages were linear, but they certainly are not.

Typically, when you go through these stages it tends to be “out of order” in the sense that you can be angry and sad at the same time. Or maybe you feel acceptance one day but anger the next.

While these stages are a great reference point, it’s important to give yourself the space to feel your emotions without judgment. Everyone grieves differently and for different periods of time. If you’re working through grief in the aftermath of a loss, here are a few strategies that might be helpful to you:

Strategies for Healing After Loss

  • Talk About It: Finding a safe space, either with friends, family, or a grief and loss group to talk about your loss. If the loss is of a loved one, it can be helpful to share memories about them in a place that you feel emotionally safe.

  • Make Space For The Feelings: The emotions often come in waves, so try not to suppress the emotions but allow yourself to “ride the wave” when it comes. Some helpful ways to do this is by journaling what you are feeling or expressing what your feeling to someone you trust.

  • Practice Self Care: Do something that you enjoy. As difficult as it is, engaging in self-care activities like exercising, spending time with friends, or enjoying other hobbies often provides a moment of relief from the heavy emotions that come with grief. This is probably one of the most difficult things to do when you’re grieving, so finding someone to engage in these activities with can be helpful as well!
  • Get Support: Connecting with a caring grief counselor can help you process through all of the emotions that you are feeling in a way that helps to promote healing from the grief and normalize your experience. If you are experiencing grief in any form, it helps to have a caring professional to help you navigate the painful journey of grief.

Light at The End of The Tunnel

In the long run, it is better to go through the grief than to suppress it, although in the moment it is much more difficult to allow yourself to feel it. By going through the grief, you will allow yourself to process in a way that allows you to heal. As difficult as this process is to experience, giving yourself the time and space to work through your emotions helps to alleviate your pain and allow you to feel like yourself again.

Wishing you grace through your healing.

Warmly, 
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C helps her clients create their very best life. She has a warm, compassionate, and gentle yet highly effective approach to personal growth work. She specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts in order to create fulfillment and joy.

Let’s  Talk

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A Self-Care Plan to Cultivate Calm

A Self-Care Plan to Cultivate Calm

A Self-Care Plan to Cultivate Calm

Teena Evert, MA, LMFT, LAC, PC is an intuitive therapist and coach who specializes in helping her clients achieve transformation in their lives both personally and professionally. She is of great help to busy professionals on a quest to have it all: life satisfaction, a meaningful career, sane work/life balance, and healthy relationships.

Teena encourages you to develop your own unique self-care plan and give yourself the gift of deeply caring for and loving yourself, so you can thrive in a forever changing world.

 

Feeling stressed out?

Everyone experiences stress in life, and as a Life and Career Coach, many of my clients come to me wondering how to better manage it. We actually need stress in order to thrive and continue to actualize as human beings. We also need to be okay with getting out of our own comfort zone so we can learn to thrive in a forever changing world.

The problem with stress is that we can often get stuck in a chronic state of stress that doesn’t allow us to thrive. When we are under too much stress for too long we are living in a state of survival that is headed down a path of self-destruction.

When we can manage the stress in our lives on a regular daily basis we learn to reset our nervous system back to a healthy baseline of rest and relaxation. Rest and relaxation is part of our natural state of being, without it we go into overdrive and lose touch with caring for ourselves, those we love, and the planet.

A self-care checklist is an excellent first step in bringing awareness to how you manage the stress in your life. Notice the areas of your life that need extra attention and begin to develop your own self-care plan.

Physical

_I get adequate sleep every night

_I eat healthy meals regularly

_I drink lots of water throughout the day

_I walk or exercise at least 3 times per week

Relationships

_I keep focused on how I can be more loving and kind with people in my life

_I share appreciation with those I love – friends and family throughout the day

_I am open to resolving conflict in a healthy loving way

_I am able to speak my truth and set loving boundaries with others

Fun and Relaxation

_I have fun on a regular basis

_I laugh freely and easily

_I take breaks for fun and relaxation – I don’t work non-stop

_I have things planned in the future that I look forward to

Physical Environment

_My home is well organized and clean

_I live in a home that I love

_My work environment is well organized and inspiring

_I love my lifestyle – the way I live my life

Emotional Health

_I feel peaceful and happy in my life

_I am pursuing my dreams and living my purpose

_I know my own intrinsic worth and feel loved

_I feel my life has balance and I have plenty of time to do all that I want to do

Spirituality

_I know that I am a spiritual being living in a human body

_I feel a deep connection with my spiritual connection

_I have activities I do on a regular basis that nurture my spiritual life

_I have faith that my life is unfolding exactly as it should for my highest good

Learning how to manage stress in your life is an essential part of skillful living and life satisfaction. It takes practice to know what works best on a regular daily basis. A self-care plan also needs to have some flexibility and adaptability, as it will change throughout the different stages in life, as well as with the seasons of nature.

What’s on your self-care checklist? Share with us below in the comments section.

Wishing you all the best,
Teena

 

How to Balance Your Career and Relationship

How to Balance Your Career and Relationship

How to Balance Your Career and Relationship

Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C is a positive, solution-focused “change agent” with a fun, empowering approach to personal growth and couples therapy. Rachel helps couples achieve a more balanced life both in their personal and professional lives.

Working it out

As a relationship counselor and life coach, I have had the opportunity to work with couples who both value their career and their relationship, yet do not know how to properly balance the two. Understanding this work/life balance is essential for not only individuals looking to cultivate a happier life, but especially for couples in long-term committed relationships.

For many of us, we become aware of how off balance our priorities are in unexpected moments. For me, I was typing furiously on my computer one evening, multi-tasking (or more attempting to multi-task). I was trying to carry on a conversation with my partner and tie up loose ends from the work-day when my partner said, “Work isn’t our whole lives.” I often revisit his words during moments of overwhelming stress or when I struggle to find balance. This little statement took me by surprise. Mainly, because this really hadn’t occurred to me.

I’d spent years in school to foster a career I could be proud of. In fact, many components of my life have revolved around the idea of creating success. In living this way, I had fallen into the trap of working long hours and forgetting to devote quality time to my other values. I was treating work like it was my whole life.

Now perhaps you’ve had a moment like this, where you’ve noticed you derive a sense of worth, value, or even freedom by focusing on your career. Perhaps, you’ve done this at what might feel like a cost (your social life, time with loved ones, less time doing hobbies, etc.).

What if I told you that you didn’t have to pick between a successful career or successful relationships?  In working with clients (and based on personal experience), I’ve found a few tips to be very helpful in creating balance.

Take Stock of Where You Spend Your Time

Dr. John and Julie Gottman describe this conundrum (balancing work and relationships) as a “simple” numbers game. If you and your partner both work 60-70 hours per week, this means there are simply fewer hours available to devote to your relationships. In these situations, they recommend maximizing the time you do have together (make that 10-minute break count) and to also evaluate what is sustainable for your relationship, long-term.

Crunch the Numbers!

Look at how much time you and your partner actually have together and discuss if this will be workable over the long haul. If the answer is no, this is an opportunity to really evaluate your goals as a couple (which I’ll talk more about next).

In the meantime, establish routines and rituals that allow for you to create meaning with the limited amount of time you do have together. For example, if you have 10 minutes together before heading to work, try putting your phones away and take the first few sips of your morning coffee together.

Identify What’s Truly Important

Certainly, it’s positive to derive satisfaction from your work, but what are your priorities in the “big picture?” Typically, most people don’t wish they’d spent more hours at the office…but we do often remember and, maybe even regret, the missed moments with loved ones or doing the things we love.

So, what’s important to you and your relationship? Take a moment to write out a list and prioritize it according to what YOU feel is best and then discuss it with your partner. How do your priorities line up? Are there opportunities for growth both in your personal priorities and the priorities of your relationship?

Discuss With Your Partner Your Long-term Goals & Values


Talk openly about what you have in common (and what you don’t have in common). From there, you can identify ways to support one another as well as longer-term plans that will allow both you, your partner (AND your relationship) to have their respective needs met.

Often our relationship to work is rooted in what our work represents to us. For some it might symbolize a paycheck, a means to an end. For others, it might represent self-worth and validation. Understanding what work means to you will be a critical component in not only communicating with your partner or loved ones but also better understanding yourself.

Find Other Outlets That Assist You With the Same Goal


What I mean by this is, if you rely on work as your primary outlet to feel validated or accomplished, it may be helpful to find other avenues that meet these same needs. In doing this, you will have more flexibility to set healthy boundaries around work and you won’t need to rely so heavily on work in and of itself. Put bluntly, you’ll start feeling better!

My hope for you is that in evaluating these different pieces, you’re able to put your career into context (what’s the big picture and what matters most to you?). In doing this, it doesn’t mean that you value your job any less but instead, you may find you’re able to let go of unnecessary pressure and devote time to the relationships you truly value.

To sum it all up, by fostering open communication with your loved ones and by being clear in your values and goals, you certainly can have a satisfying career and satisfying relationships. You might even be able to find that tricky “balance” everyone is talking about.

Wishing you success,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFTC

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