Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

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Being Honest With Yourself

How to Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest with yourself… is, honestly, sometimes harder than it sounds. It’s said that “the truth will set you free.” Sure, we’ve been schooled about being honest, but being honest with oneself is a different story.

Being honest with yourself requires self-awareness and even courage. It can sometimes be challenging to make contact with your truth, and even harder to take action based on that truth.

Honesty is a little threatening because it’s so powerful. It’s also transformational. And (again, if we’re being honest!) sometimes we’re not ready for all the changes that radical self-honesty can bring.

When We’re NOT Being Honest With Ourselves

So what do we do instead of being honest with ourselves? We play little games with ourselves, or minimize away our feelings. We might even convince ourselves of things that are absolutely NOT true, in order to make peace with non-ideal circumstances over which we feel we have little influence or control. (We might even convince ourselves we have less influence or control than we actually, honestly do).

These strategies to avoid being honest with ourselves are especially common when embracing the fullness of our power feels scary. Honesty challenges us to take action and do courageous things in service of our own health and happiness.

Honesty is hard. Honesty is elusive. It can be anxiety-provoking. It can also be exhilarating. Being honest can be quite tricky, in reality — Whether we’re being honest with ourselves, or with others. But above all else: Being self-aware, and being honest with ourselves (whether or not we choose to act on our truth!) is essential to our overall wellbeing, and the quality of our lives and relationships.

Because being honest with yourself is SO important (and SO challenging) I’m devoting this entire episode of the podcast to it. I have invited my colleague, Denver therapist and online life coach Josephine Marin to share her unique, compassionate insight into why being honest with ourselves is crucial for our growth (no matter how uncomfortable it could get), and some real-world, down-to-earth strategies to help you connect with your deepest truth. 

In this episode, Josephine gives us a glimpse of the process of becoming honest and self-aware so that we can live in a way that is congruent with our true selves. Furthermore, she explains why being honest with ourselves is the key to love, happiness, and freedom.

Tune in to the episode to learn more about being honest with yourself to live out your true and authentic self. (Scroll down to listen!)

Here are some of the main takeaways from today’s conversation:

Why Being Honest with Yourself Is So Important

Not being honest with ourselves can be a form of protection, but it is essential to tune in to ourselves. Without self-awareness and a connection to our core truth, you can get involved in situations (jobs, relationships, and more) that are not good for you.

The worst thing is investing years or even decades of your life to something that is not truly meaningful or satisfying to your authentic self. Josephine offers some suggestions to make radical self-honesty part of your daily practice, particularly when it comes to the most important parts of your life. 

Learning how to be honest with yourself ensures that you will make choices and create a reality that is congruent with who you really are, and what you really want. 

"I have tried counseling for about a decade with various counselors and have never been able to connect or grow with them. [My Growing Self Coach] has connected with me genuinely and helped me grow more in two meetings then several counselors have done in a decade.”

— Coaching Client

The First Step in Being Honest with Yourself

The first step is becoming aware of how you feel is to mindfully and non-judgmentally begin observing your inner reactions to the experiences you have. Noticing how you think and feel is the foundational starting point for compiling information about yourself and your truth. Changes may happen later on, but what’s important is to develop the ability to observe how you think and feel first.

Knowing What Is True

One of the tricky things about “truth” is that it can be subjective. What is true for someone else may not be true for you, and it doesn’t have to be. It can be surprisingly easy to have our thoughts and feelings about what feels true for us tangled up with the perspectives and truths of others — especially people who are very important to you. We discuss some ways to identify what’s your truth vs. what’s someone else truth. 

 It’s also true that your truth can change: What was true for you at one point in your life may not be true after you’ve grown and evolved. Remembering that “truth” is not a constant can help you compassionately and mindfully observe, without judgment, what feels true for you now. We discussed some tips for how to keep track of how your truth evolves over time (and how to be okay with that!)

Reasons Why It’s Hard To Be Honest With Yourself 

While we discussed a number of different ideas and strategies for how to be honest with yourself, we also touched on the main things that can block you from being honest with yourself:

  • Invalidating yourself and minimizing your experiences.
  • Judging or criticizing yourself for your truth.  
  • Feeling threatened or challenged by the truth can make us afraid to sit with our emotions and thoughts.
  • Feeling defensive or rejecting of parts of ourselves that make us feel guilty, ashamed or uncomfortable.
  • Feeling pressured to take action on our truth, instead of being patient and thoughtful.
  • Fearing the consequences of our honesty, for ourselves and for others.
  • Fearing our own power and feeling anxious about what might happen if we trust ourselves, and our feelings about what is true for us.

We discuss ways to manage all of the above, and more, so that you can move forward fearlessly into YOUR TRUTH — whatever that may be!

5 Powerful Takeaways from This Episode

“I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like kind of walking around in the world with blinders on or we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer.”

“I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience, that can just be so powerful.”

“There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities…. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.”

“A way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are, that your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into.” 

“The longer that we are dishonest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change.” 

About Josephine

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFT-C is a marriage counselor and relationship coach who provides online therapy, life coaching, and couples counseling here at Growing Self. Josephine is passionate about helping people move forward on a path toward self-discovery and authenticity. 

You can read more about Josephine in her Growing Self page

Enjoy This Podcast?

Learning how you could create love, happiness, and success for yourself has never been this easy. If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: We often use a variety of assessments and questionnaires with our therapy and coaching clients here at Growing Self in order to help provide insight and new self-awareness about subconscious aspects of themselves. One such tool is our “What’s Holding You Back” quiz. It shines a light on different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that may be creating issues in your life — without your even being aware of them. You’re welcome to take it too!

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Being Honest With Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Malyssa Bellarossa, “Pretend”

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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.

 

 

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Being Honest With Yourself

Episode Transcript

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

[Pretend by Malyssa Bellarosa]

Malyssa Bellarosa with the song Pretend, song about coming to terms with who she is, who she’s been trying to be, and how to develop radical honesty with herself. Because that’s what we’re talking about today on the podcast, getting honest with you. 

In my experience, being honest with yourself is a fundamental part of the personal growth process. Without that self-awareness and, you know, being connected to your personal truth, it’s very difficult to even know in what direction you need to grow much less do it. Yet, it can be really hard to be honest with yourself. And it can sometimes even feel threatening to be honest with yourself. And it’s also true that we all have blind spots, things that we don’t know that we don’t even know. So being honest with yourself sounds easy, it’s a little bit more complicated in practice. And that’s why we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself today on this episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 

My guest today is my dear colleague, Josephine Marin. She works with me at Growing Self. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist [candidate] and a Relationship Coach. But she also works with a lot of individual clients as a therapist and coach, and helps her clients move forward on that path of self-discovery and authenticity. And today she’s here to join her wisdom and perspective with us. Thank you, Josephine. 

Josephine Marin: Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me on. Very excited to be here today and to talk about this topic with you. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Me too. Well, it’s an important topic. And I really wanted to talk with you about this because, and we work with so many amazing people, but I think I’ve always viewed you as being just like this, especially just like an authentic person. And I know like in our consultation groups, you talk a lot about working with your clients around how to get connected with their truth and affirm that. And so, I know you know a lot about being honest with yourself. And so, let’s just start there. I mean, from your perspective, personally, professionally, through the work you do with your clients, why do you think it is so important to be honest with yourself in the first place? Like why even try? Why to begin? 

Josephine: Sure, yeah, thank you for saying that. When I think about why it’s important to be honest with yourself, I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like kind of walking around in the world with blinders on. Or like we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer. It makes me think about when people say, “Oh, well, they’re just in denial, right?” It’s like, what is the opposite of being honest? It is when we are actively denying something. And so, if we aren’t being honest with ourselves, we can find ourselves in relationships, jobs, situations to where we are unhappy, or they aren’t serving us. And that’s one of the reasons that I think it’s really important to make sure that we’re living the life that we want to live and have the relationships that we want to have.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, you bring up such a great point. Like without that connection to your authentic truth, you can kind of just wander into situations that you haven’t like intentionally created and something that can be not good for you. And like relationships, in careers, I have talked to people who have like, you know, are 10 years into a career that they hate every day. And when you kind of unpeel the onion and figure out like, “How did this happen?” It’s often because they made those decisions when they were in a lifespace where they were really not connected within themselves. 

Josephine: Absolutely, I think this, you know, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” These are the kind of questions thatit makes me think of where along the way were we not tuned in. And that’s what really comes to mind when I think about this topic of like tuning in to our thoughts, our emotions, the reactions that we have. We either were not aware of them, and that’s possibly how we got to this point. And sometimes being honest with yourself isn’t intentional. But I think that is, you know, unfortunately that’s part of the problem though if we aren’t tuning in, how are we going to recognize along the way if this isn’t a good fit for us?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s such a great point. And I also love the fact that you brought up that it’s not intentional. I guess out there somewhere but someone who’s like, “No, I will not think that thought.” But really, like, and as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I immediately thought about the kind of, you know, agony that perhaps a gay boy, or a lesbian girl, adolescent living at home with parents they perceive as being unreceptive, you know. They might have some of those thoughts and feelings like, “Nope, that is not okay for me to think about.” You know, and so that’s like survival. 

Josephine: I think you bring up a really important point, though. That sometimes not being honest with ourselves is a protection or something that we need to kind of get through a period of time, situation, and that can be tough. And that in and of itself, I think it’s about weighing what we really need most right then. Is it going to be most helpful or important to sit with those feelings and to think about what that means for us? Or do we not have the time or resources to really think about what being honest with ourselves really means. And sometimes, it’s not always going to be helpful. And that’s an important distinction too.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Thank you so much for giving everyone permission for that to be true. Like it is okay, Like “I do not have the mental, emotional bandwidth or personal resources to cope with that reality right this very second. So we’re just gonna let that one slide until it is the right time.” Because that’s, I think one of the obstacles to being honest with yourself a lot of times is because if you make contact with something that is true, and is important, and your life as it is is not currently congruent with whatever that truth is, then what? Like, do you have to make changes or have hard conversations? And let’s just let that answer be no, you don’t. You don’t have to do anything.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Now, I’m so glad that you say that. Because I think one just noticing or recognizing that this is a thing, whatever it is. That this is like, “I need to be honest with myself, I need to do something or I’m just noticing.” That is the first step of like, okay, and that doesn’t mean that we have to do anything with it right then or ever. It could just be an observation of, “Hmm, okay. I’m gonna take that in. And then we’ll see.” And I think if it does need to be addressed, it doesn’t have to be then. And the important thing is that we do come back to it when the time is right.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s important. So, that honesty, self-honesty, it’s important for, like you said, you know, making sure that you create a life path that is congruent with who you really are. And also, I mean, I don’t know if this has been your experience, but when I think back to the work that I’ve done over the years with clients, and even myself personally, that moment of clarity. Like even if it’s not the right time to act on, it is very difficult to create any change without that experience of honesty, or clarity, or truth. Why is that like, do you think the first step for people and change is really difficult unless they have that first honesty, piece?

Josephine: Yeah, I think why it’s necessary is that otherwise how do we know where to focus? Or like when I think about if we’re trying to create change or you know, looking for treasures, what’s coming to mind for me is that we don’t know where to start if we don’t have a map, or we don’t know where to start digging, right? And so I think it’s this awareness, this noticing, is absolutely the first step in creating any kind of deepening of understanding. It doesn’t always have to be growth, I think. It doesn’t have to necessarily change as a result of being honest with ourselves. It could even just be better understanding ourselves, our partner, or a situation. And that in and of itself can bring healing, or closure, or some kind of positive difference. We don’t have to do something about it all the time in order for that to be meaningful.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That is also a great point that change can be a change in perception or the meaning that you make of something as opposed to an actual, like practical change in the way that you do things. Change happens on so many different levels. That’s a good point. 

And so when it comes to, like strategies that you’ve seen people use. I mean, like, and there are a lot of practical strategies. But like, if first though, we were just to have some discussion around what it even means to be honest with yourself? Like, what is the goal? Okay, here’s the different question. How do you know if you’re being honest with yourself? Or if you’re like, you know, I mean, you can trick yourself into believing all kinds of things and it can be really confusing to sort through, is this like, the bottom? Is this the deepest layer of my authentic truth or isn’t? Am I playing a game with myself right now? How do you begin to like dial in and even know what’s true and what’s not true for you? And I’m aware that that’s kind of too big of a question. But like, do you know what I mean?

Josephine: Yes, absolutely. No, absolutely. And so I think that’s one of the wonderful things about being human is our executive functioning, and how we can, you know, manipulate, and explain, and help ourselves understand all these things. It can also, I think, be our detriment where it makes things harder. Or like, is this even real? We can go really existential. 

But I think what helps for me I mean, even like, personally or with my clients to think about, like, what is the real truth here? And I think it’s helpful to also remember that our truth can change or what our truth is now doesn’t mean that it’s stagnant. It’s not a consistent state. That in itself could change and it likely will, and that’s okay. It’s really kind of finding our truth in the moment. 

And so, I think having that in mind of kind of really looking inward and sitting with what it is that we notice either in our body, what our thoughts are, what we’re feeling as we are exploring whatever the topic at hand is. If we are thinking about where we stand on a particular issue, or what to do about our job, relationship, and can we explain it to ourselves as a way that I think about it. If we say, “Well, you know, I want to get up earlier. I want to start going to bed earlier, and I want to do that.” Okay, well, why is that important to me? Can we explain the why? And if I’m having a hard time thinking about why I want to do that, do I really believe that? Is that really my truth? Or is this something I think I should be doing, or saying, or thinking? And so if we can’t explain it to ourselves, why is this important to me? Why do I want to do this? Then maybe there isn’t really a whole lot there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: You bring up such a good point and it sounds weird to think about. But it can be surprisingly easy to be kind of like living according to someone else’s truth. Like particularly I think for younger people who have inherited the set of messages about who you should be, and then a way to live, and this is what successful happy people do. Like we internalize. Or like messages from, you know, YouTube or social media. Or like, yeah, I was, I can’t rememberI was with, I’m likeit was some podcast I was listening to. But it was about the experience of someone who was going out to dinner with a friend, and the friend was sharing an opinion. But the other person has been trending on Twitter earlier. And I think it was like political news, but the person stopped his friend, “Is that actually your opinion and how you feel? Or is that something that you heard and absorbed without realizing it?” And the friend was like, “I’m not sure.” I think you know what I mean, like an onslaught of all kinds of people with very strong opinions, like beaming into our brain. And it can be really hard to parse apart. But how do I feel? What do I think? Because, like, there’s so much noise from other people’s opinions. Have you found that to be true with your clients?

Josephine: Oh, yes, absolutely. This is something that I talk about with all my clients, whether it’s individuals or couples. Especially when it comes to relationships, when it comes to expectations that we may hold, and where is this coming from. Is this something that we saw in our family that we are just, you know, internalizing? And is that something that’s actually important to you or to parenting? You know, are we doing this because this is what we feel like we should be, this is what I think a good parent should be doing? Or is it actually important to me to do these things?

And I think that is part of where we get lost as a culture or society of what I like to think of is like mindlessness. You know we aren’t actively, or not actively, but kind of like tuning out. Or we’re so busy, and we’re going, and trying to do so much that we are unable to take the time, of course. I mean, it takes intentional efforts and energy to tune in. And check in with ourselves, “Am I happy? Is my life looking the way that I want? Or am I content with my relationships?” And it’s kind of tuning into those emotions and thoughts that we have throughout the day, as we notice things, and it’s a lot of work.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And you bring up such a good point. It’s like usually we’re all, I meanI know me. I’m like, blalalala, you know. And then along the way, like absorbing information generated by other people all day long. And like, stop for long enough to ask yourself some of those questions like, “How do I feel about this? What do I think about this? What is my true opinion?” And I think what can be especially challenging, and not always, I mean, certainly you can have an honest moment when you’re like, “Hey, I’m really having a good time right now. I love this. This experience is what I want to be doing all the time.” You know, that happens. And that also it’s true that many times, you know, that first inclination of like, “Wait a minute, what do I think about this?” can come up as an uncomfortable feeling, like a vague discomfort. Or, “Why am I having this reaction?” And it’s often like, our dark emotions that are that first like, “Hello, something’s going on that you need to pay attention to.” Has this been true for you? I mean, of course, I’m across the spectrum here, but…

Josephine: Oh yes. I feel like all the time. That very much feels like for me personally when I am noticing something, or I need to be honest with myself, or sit with my emotions to where something will happen, and then I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s happening here?” Or like, “What is this that where I’m unable to make sense of it?” And that is a really big clue for me to sit down, and just kind of think, and say, “Okay, what is it that I’m feeling? Why am I maybe feeling this?” And, of course, as a therapist I validate myself, you know, makes sense that I’m having this feeling. And, you know, all the skills that I work with my clients on. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Now you’re out Josephine. Now they all know that you use these same skills on yourself. [laughs] 

Josephine: I try. I mean, I will be honest, I am not always perfect at it. I do not always, you know, practice what I preach, but I try. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: I hear you. 

Josephine: My clients help keep me accountable in that way. And so I try to think, you know, “Okay, makes sense that I’m feeling this way.” And then, okay, “What am I going to do about it? Do I need to do anything about it?” And sometimes just sitting with the emotion, thinking about it is enough. If it is a belief or something, if it’s coming up, you know, “I’m having this emotion, what’s happening here? Why does this make me so upset?” And then it could be just realizing, “Okay, so maybe I actually believe this. Or the next time I have a conversation with somebody, maybe I need to bring this up.” 

Dr. Lisa Marie: And yeah, that’s so good. And you know what I also, though, I want to rewind just a little bit because you sort of fleetingly talked about what I think is a hugely important micro skill when it comes to being honest with yourself. And I think because you’re just so good at this and you sort of like, “Well, I’m a therapist. I validate myself.” But I just want to highlight, I think, how easy and common it is for people, particularly women, but men do it too to have a feeling when they’re like, “I am not having a good time right now. Or I don’t, this is not going…” And they minimize their own experience. They invalidate themselves. Like, “You’re just being hormonal. You can never be happy. And just let this go, don’t be difficult.” Or whatever it is, like, there’s all this, like, mental minimization that sometimes they really have to actively fight through. Because it’s sort of like this running commentary about how they don’t have the right to have their own feelings or how their thoughts aren’t quite as trustworthy as those of others, you know. And so, that can be hard. You know, again, you do it so naturally. But I just wanted to point that out because that can mess people up.

Josephine: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, thank you for saying that. But I will also be honest in that I also can minimize myself. Absolutely, no, and it’s such an important thing. I’m really glad that you said that. Because I think if we, that’s a good clue too if we notice ourselves, like, “Oh, stop. It’s just this. Or it’s not a big deal. Or you’re on your period this week.” Or whatever it is, to maybe stop and say, “Well, hold on. I mean, even if all those things are true, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less important what it is that you’re feeling.” So I think one if we noticenoticing is a big skill here. But “wait a second,” kind of having that loving parent voice within ourselves, I think is a great way to frame it. Or like if you were talking to a small child, I would hope you wouldn’t minimize what it is they’re feeling. We would sit with it. And so I think kind of talking to ourselves the way that we would maybe our inner child or somebody who maybe doesn’t necessarily have the skills yet. How do we talk them through it? And then trying to do that with ourselves can be a really big game changer.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And honestly, I do think that that can be one of the experiences that we have like in therapy or in good coaching that can be difficult. Because I don’t think that therapy and coaching is like the Alpha and the Omega, I think that people can do all kinds of personal growth without that particular experience. But I do think from my own experience and like being with clients, there are two parts of that. I think sometimes when people have the opportunity like that time and space to say out loud how they are really feeling and kind of be invited to dig more deeply into that, is oneit kind of generates that honesty. But the second part just, I can’t tell you how many times I have had a client say something really importantabout who they are and how they feeland then immediately say, “But there are so many people in the world who are suffering with X, Y, Z. So I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. And I haven’t really so good compared to how things could be. I have nothing to complain about. Let’s just move on.” And I need to be like, “No. We’re not moving on. Go back to what you just said. Say that again. Notice how you feel when you say out loud to me right now.” And then, they usually cry. That is the ultimate goal of every therapist. But you know what I mean? Like, I think sometimes it takes that partner to sort of like, validate when it’s hard to do it by yourself. So, yeah.

Josephine: It can be so powerful. And I think part of it is, I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience. And that can just be so powerful. But I think it’s again, it’s what you described is that slowing down, tuning in, and really thinking about what it is that you’re thinking and saying, and how that impacts us emotionally. Yeah, it’s justit can be so powerful. I lost my train of thought.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s all good. You’re being totally honest with me right now. And I really appreciate that. But yeah, that and but also, I think that tendency to minimize can be one thing that makes being honest with yourself hard in addition to sorting out like, “What’s my thought? What somebody else’s thoughts are?” 

But also, um, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this but like, I think being radically honest with yourself can be a little bit threatening sometimes. If you determine that something is true for you that might not be true for people that you care about, where it might go against, you know, cultural beliefs or might potentially create friction in relationships. I’m trying to think of a good example here. Well, I mean, just you know, even with some of recent awareness I think around racial injustice. I mean, for someone who has grown up in a privileged white family who does not discuss such things and who maybe doesn’t recognize that as being an issue at all, to, you know, for a person to begin to have ideas, or feelings, or awarenesses that are against the grain of that. That can feel threatening if they’re no longer in agreement with their culture, even. 

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. And that is one of the hardest parts, if not the hardest part about being honest with ourselves of kind of, “What this means? And what now? This is the way that I lived my life and conducted myself before, now I’m having this thought. It’s challenging my status quo. What does this mean about me and who I have been? What do I do with this? How will it affect going forward? Will it? And this is a lot.” 

And so I think when we do feel threatened or challenged by something, naturally, we’re going to feel afraid. And fear I think, is kind of hard to sit with. And so then we get angry because that’s easier. And so anger can be a little easier to deal with in terms of its activating, you know, “What am I going to do? Am I going to actively push it away? No, that’s not true.” Or if we can kind of sit with that and be curious about anger, “Well, hmm. What about thisis threatening or makes me feel upset?” And as much as possible trying to get to the heart of the matter but a lot of these things can be changes that might need to take place as a result. And if it is an entrenched deep thing. It could impact our relationships, or how we feel about the community, or groups we belong to. That’s no small thing. Yeah,

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that can have a major impact on many different areas of life. And you brought up such a good point Josephine which is like, you know, a big part of being honest is having kind of clarity and like taking responsibility for maybe things that you haven’t done as well as you would like to. Maybe mistakes that you made. I know a lot of white identifying people these days are you know, sort of sitting with, “Oh, I did not realize that that can be perceived as being really like a racist way of being.” Or, you know, to say, “I don’t see color feels extremely offensive to people.” And I think especially when we feel confronted by that honesty or that honesty sort of shines a light on mistakes that we’ve made or things that, you know, let’s not call them mistakes, let’s call them growth opportunities or learning. You’re saying that, that can still feel very threatening. And that the immediate reaction is a tendency to be defensive, or to deny, or to displace blame. 

And, I think it’s like, I don’t know, I think that’s an internal process that happens. You always see it with couples, like if Person A is confronted by Person B about somebody that they’re doing that feels really bad to Person B. They’re like, “No, that’s not true. I don’t do that.” Whatever it is, but like that self-honesty, that can also sort of happen internally where they begin wrestling with themselves a little bit around. I just had this thought about something that might be true, but that made me feel bad. Let’s talk about why that might not be true actually. You know, the back and forth.

Josephine: Definitely, yeah. Oh, absolutely. And when I talk about defensiveness and taking responsibility with my couples, I explained to them just the way that you did. Like, it’s hard to sit with that we either upset, or disappointed, or let down our partner. And so of course, we’re going to be defensive, or we don’t want to accept that as the reality. So we’re going to try to fight against it or explain it away. But if that is somebody’s truth, then we can’t argue that it didn’t happen.

And I think going back to outside of relationships, that when we feel defensive, or we notice anger about something like “oh” that we’ve done in the past that we don’t like, we can validate that. That we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about that. We don’t want to beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up in a way, you know. And that’s not going to be helpful. So I think one, not being too hard on yourselves is the key thing with being honest. Practicing that patience and compassion, that’s where the validation comes in. That, you know, it’s okay to make growth opportunities or mistakes. You know, that we can say, “I’m not perfect, nobody is. There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities or maybe to be honest with themselves, and that’s okay. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.” And so we’re recognizing this, what is it that we don’t like? Like, I don’t want to be seen as somebody that I’m not. Okay, then what do we need to be different? Or what is it about this that made us upset? And we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We can own it and then move on from there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Completely. And like not beating yourself up, and being like, you just sitting with the truth. And also like, I think being honest enough with yourself to say, “This doesn’t feel good for me right now. I feel embarrassed. I feel guilty. I feel kind of a little bit ashamed. What is this feeling?” And also just this idea that it is absolutely okay for people to feel those feelings sometimes. You don’t have to push away all those dark emotions immediately. It is okay to feel uncomfortable feelings, and healing, and helpful, and important. And a big part of that honesty process, I think.

Josephine: They tell us something. I think it’s uncomfortable, of course. We don’t like them. So that’s why we push away shame, and guilt, and all of that, but let’s listen to them. And like what they are trying to tell us. Like I feel ashamed that I, you know, reacted before thinking about what it is that I wanted to say. Or I feel guilty that I may have accidentally offended someone or something like that. And so, alright, well, what are we gonna do with that information? Do I need to reach out to that person and maybe like, clear the air? Or do I need to think about taking a breath before I respond to what somebody said? So we can meet our learning opportunities too. And so it’s, you know, treat them as such.

And I think also a way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are. That your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into. That we don’t want to be walking around, not thinking about what it is that we’re doing. And then be unhappy one day or be satisfied where you’re at. That you’re worth tuning into yourself, even if it is uncomfortable.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s a good reminder. And I think that experience is so important when it comes to growth, like letting in the possibility that there are opportunities for growth. Even if they are uncomfortable, that you deserve that. 

And I wonder if you could also speak to what is like, I think even a different kind of self-honesty. Maybe not so much around like, this is where I need to grow, or this is maybe mistakes I’ve made. But like, you know, I think some people are in situations that if they are really honest with themselves, they don’t like. And if they are really, really honest with themselves, like might not be sustainable long term. And so like I’m thinking of someone who is in a relationship that they are really unhappy in and that the relationship is very unlikely to change. Like, they get real honest with themselves about like, “Okay, what does that mean?” Or like in a career, “I absolutely hate this and yet here I am.” You know, well maybe you could talk a little bit like what makes coming to terms with that level of honesty feel so uncomfortable and so difficult.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think what comes to mind for me is that we can’t unlearn it, or then we can’t ignore it anymore. It’s like there’s no going back. Like, once we fully recognize or are honest with the scope of the situation. Yeah, it’s like, well I can’t go back to like, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna keep doing this now.” Like, every time that we walk into the office, or do a certain task, or maybe come home from work, and then we’re confronted with that reality and we can’t ignore it, or it’s a lot harder to ignore once we confront it. And so I think that the hardest part about this is, one, that we can’t go back and two, and I’m gonna have to do something about it. And change is really hard and scary for most peopleunderstandably so.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, and it’s uncomfortable. And it creates the psychological term, that cognitive dissonance. If you feel and believe one thing, yet you do another, it creates this internal sense of pressure. And I don’t know if I ever shared this with you but I came across something in research not too long ago that I thought was just fascinating, I think it was an article talking about like, it was related to like goals. It was along the lines of our coaching work, but that cognitive dissonance is so uncomfortable that it is often easier, and you’ll see people willfully changing the way they think or feel, in order to be in alignment with what they’re doing. Because in some ways, it can be harder to change what we do than it can be to change our internal narrative about what we’re doing. And so like you see that all the time if there’s a mismatch between how you feel and what’s actually happening, people will twist themselves into pretzels for like all the 573 reasons why this is actually okay. If you know the reality of making a changequitting a job, leaving a marriage-feels too big. They will sacrifice their truth to make it work, but to their detriment. Because long term, it’s not good for people.

Josephine: I agree. I think at what cost, you know, that we can keep going along. But then at what point? Because the longer that we are honest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change. And when you were talking, it absolutely reminded me of what can happen, how we can devalue our partner in our mind, if we are going to engage or are engaging in an affair. The cognitive dissonance there, “I have this commitment to my partner, but I need to have it make sense as to why I’m able to do this. Because there’s such  X, Y and Z to where it supports what it is that I’m doing.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: And to talk a little more, so you’re talking about, like, if someone is, say, married and is having an affair or an emotional entanglement with another person, then that behavior conflicts with what they think they believe or should believe. That they’re committed that they, you know, this is not what married people do. They need to find a reason to justify having an affair or having romantic feelings for someone else, which will almost always be, “Well, my partner, I found a toenail clipping on the bathroom floor once therefore I can no longer have sex with that human.” Or whatever it is, like there’s some kind of justification.

Josephine: Yeah, it’s a tricky thing, I think. Yeah, it could kind of go back to the first question that you asked about, “Well, how do we know if we’re really being honest with ourselves or not?” Really kind of sitting there and then thinking, well, truly “Is what I am doing, thinking, matching up with my values, or my beliefs? Kind of checking, are we all aligning there?” And if we can explain, well, let’s say that I’m doing does support this value, then okay, maybe we’re being honest with ourselves. But that can also be a good way to kind of check.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, you brought up a greatand this is a hard question. Okay. But we have people in our practice come in and they are in reallyJosephine, sometimes exactly that situation. They are married or partnered, and they have developed an emotional entanglement or they’re having an affair with someone. And they come because they would like our assistance and getting clarity about what to do. And it can be very difficult. And so like, on the one hand is your honest truth. Like, “No, this person makes me happy. I deserve to have this kind of fun and love in my life. And this is what really and truly feels most important to me.” Or, “Is it most important to me to have a stable, long-term, faithful, committed, secure marriage that’s based on friendship, and mutual trust, and respect? And it’s also for the benefit of our children, and I keep my promises.” And like, weighing out those two things.

And you’re totally right. I mean, how uncomfortable is it when someone is like, “No, I’m actually doing this horrible thing to my family because I kind of like the way it makes me feel.” Like it can be the truth. And then people say that and they’re like, “Oh, my God, what does that mean about me?” Right? And that’s not always the outcome, but it can be.

Josephine: Yeah, when I think of what you said, if that was my client that I was talking to, I’d want to slow them down. And say like, “Hold on. Wait a second. Okay, one. Great, you’re having a lot of revelations. But like one, let’s sit with that feeling that makes you feel really good. Okay, it sounds like that’s a need that’s not being met. Do you think you would rather have that need be met by your spouse? This idea of we’re noticing something that we’re not getting and then kind of turning that back to our partner as opposed to the outside person?” And so then I think kind of sitting with that if validating, it sounds like you’ve been wanting that and you haven’t been getting it. That must have been really hard. Of course, it makes sense that you’d want to keep doing that. But what is more important to you? Having fun and feeling good or preserving your relationship with your partner and the family that you have? And if that answer is no, that can be your truth. That’s okay.” 

“No, actually, that is important to me.” 

“But okay, let’s think through what that would mean for you if we were to make that change. And is that your truth, and what you want, honestly? Is that something you think you can be okay with? And is that worth it to you?”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And going into that clarity and the intention around it. That’s a hard one. 

Josephine: Yeah. It is tough stuff. But I think it’s worth doing because then at the end of the day, if we make that choice and say, “No, having fun and feeling good is more important to me.” And then one day down the road, we’re honest and said, “But was it really the most important thing overall, or even at that time?” And if we weren’t honest with ourselves, we didn’t take that time. We can make decisions that we regret.

Dr. Lisa Marie: I want to do an episode at some point on that experience of regret and how to avoid it. Because, I don’t know about you Josephine, but I think that regret for something that happened that is no longer fixable is the absolutely worst of all human emotion. I think it’s worse than shame. You know, because you can work your way through shame but like regret, that something that you can’t fix, is the worst feeling. And really in a roundabout way, we are talking about how to protect yourself from regret, because we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself. And that really is, I think key. Yeah.

Josephine: I agree. Absolutely. It is tough.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And so, I know that we’re probably coming up on our time here. But if we were to just kind of briefly talk through some strategies that people who have been hearing this conversation and like, “Yeah, I really need to get honest with myself.” I mean, we’ve talked about some of the common obstacles. You know, being honest with yourself, that tendency to minimize, or that like, denial of things that make you feel bad. You know, the threatening of like, “Oh, what does this mean about me? Or do I have to do something about this?” But are there other strategies you found that people can use to, like, just facilitate their ability to get more clear and honest with themselves?

Josephine: Absolutely. I mean, I think just even reflecting on the conversation that we’ve had today. I think one, starting with naming and noticing our emotions is probably going to be the most helpful place to start. When can I recognize when I’m feeling something of, “Wow, I feel bad. Is this frustration? Is this anxiety?” So one, even recognizing that you’re feeling something is a good place to start. And then two, naming those emotions. Because then if we notice our emotions, those can be clues to say, “Hmm, what’s happening? Why am I feeling this way?” I think that is a fundamental skill that will get people very far, even just outside of this conversation. It’s so important. And so I think that is a great place to start.

To practice patience, and compassion, and the validation that when we do feel those emotions, that we aren’t shaming ourselves for them because we’re not going to keep doing it if we feel bad every time we think about our emotions. So we want to have some positive reinforcement. So thinking about our emotions, we can validate, and make sense that I feel this way.

And then, alright, we’re going to do what we need to do. “Do I need to do anything about this? Maybe not.” It’s also up to having great friends, great support systems, or people that we can have these kinds of conversations with, that even just talking out loud, listening to ourselves, saying things out loud, can be very helpful. And that requires no participation from anybody else, right?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, yeah. But then being able to say things out loud, but also like having supportive people in your life who when you do say something that feels like a bit of a revelation, they can help you validate that. And so, “Yeah, it makes sense why you would feel that way, anyone will feel that way.”

Josephine: Right. This is an important one, so that our support system is not minimizing our emotions. You know, kind of recognizing who are good people to have these kinds of conversations with than to maybe we want to stick to more surface level kind of conversation. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Anyone who tells you to stop crying because you don’t really have it that bad. I don’t get to hear about this stuff anymore.

Josephine: Yeah, try again. Yeah, I definitely think those are two great starting places.

Dr Lisa Marie: Yeah, good. And I found too, like personally, like journaling, I think can be helpful sometimes in conversations. But journaling can be helpful. And then lastly, I think it was a point that you brought up at the very beginning of our conversation, just to remember that just because you think a thought or that something might be true, no action is required. It’s absolutelyand it might be uncomfortable to be in that space of dissonance, but it also can make it feel safer to be honest with yourself, if you give yourself permission to just, it’s okay. If you’re having a thought, you’re having a feeling, no action is required. Until at some point in the future, maybe you decide to do something about it, but you don’t have to do anything right now. Because there can be consequences for honesty, and those are realistic consequences. And that can lead to changes. And you get to decide whether or not it’s the right time, if at all.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Reminding ourselves we are the expert on ourselves and what we think and belief matters the most. And nobody else gets to tell us what our truth is, or what’s important to us, or what we should be doing. We don’t want to shoot all over ourselves. That just kind of looks like let that go. No more sheds.

Dr. Lisa Marie: What a nice positive note to end the conversation today. I love that, though. So thank you and thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I really appreciate your time today, Josephine. 

Josephine: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s such a pleasure and love just talking with you Lisa. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Have a good time.

 

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How to Love Yourself

++ Note: Learning how to love yourself is such an important, core topic that I decided to post this both as a written article and a podcast so that you can access the info in whichever format is most helpful to you. (Scroll down for the podcast link). I sincerely hope this information helps you cultivate the love and compassion for yourself that you deserve. With love — LMB ++

“You have to love yourself first.”

For many years, I would hear that and wonder — what does that even mean? I would hear the words, and think “Yup, that sounds like a good idea,” but how to actually create this state of self love was a total mystery.

I didn’t feel a lot of love for myself. And on some level I thought that it sounded sort of selfish and weird to think about being deeply in love with one’s self.

I imagined Narcissus cooing at his reflection in the glassy water of the river bank, and think, “People keep telling me I need to love myself. But how exactly is that supposed to improve my life or my relationships?”

I didn’t get it. I do now.

Here’s what I’ve learned on my journey of growth, and what I teach my online therapy and life coaching clients now about what self love is, why it’s important, and how to love yourself.

But first, let’s talk for a moment about what self love is NOT, and the traps people often fall into when they want to love themselves but don’t know how.

Malignant Self Love

This skepticism around “self-love” I originally had was not helped by my journey into becoming a therapist. I’d hear that phrase, “You have to love yourself first” get tossed around by therapy clients using it to  — quite frankly — justify all kinds of unhealthy things in the name of “self-love.”

People can use, “But I have to love myself!” to rationalize the worst kinds of self indulgence, refusal to accept responsibility, breaking of commitments, abandoning of values, displacement of blame, or breathtakingly insensitive actions towards other people. (“Yes, I stole the money and lied about it, but I deserve to be happy! I love myself!”)

This is not healthy self love. Healthy self love does not make your needs, rights or feelings more important than those of other people. Just the opposite: Healthy self love makes you more empathetic and compassionate. More on that in a moment…

Using “Self Love” as Another Way To Judge Yourself

Here’s another thing that self-love is absolutely not: Judgment. Ironically, people will find ways to use the idea of self love against themselves. I can’t tell you how many times in therapy or life coaching sessions I’ve see lovely, beautiful people welling up with tears as they spoke their truth and said things like:

“I don’t love myself. I don’t like myself. The only love that matters is the love I get from other people. But I know I should love myself. And the fact that I don’t love myself is one more reason for me to hate myself.”

Looking at the level of self love you have and using that as just another way to beat yourself up, judge yourself, and feel like you’re failing.

I have therapy and coaching clients with the expectation that they should love themselves,  and that they didn’t feel that way was only more evidence that there was something terribly wrong with them. Is that true for you?

It is okay if you don’t feel like you love yourself. Being able to accept yourself — with compassion, as you are — is self-love. Bashing yourself for not being good enough or because you don’t feel like you love yourself is the opposite of self love.

Understanding Love: Love For Yourself, and Love For Others

But over many years as a therapist, a marriage counselor, a wife, a mother, and a person on her own even-winding journey of growth, I feel that the true nature of love is starting to become clearer to me.

Love does not hurt. Real love is never an excuse to do bad things to other people, and it’s definitely not anything that should result in more self-criticism or self loathing.

What I’m realizing about self love or love for others is that you don’t have to feel love to have love, and you don’t have to feel like you love yourself or that you love others.

Love is much, much bigger than any of the feelings that blow through us on a given day. Striving to have a feeling of love is not how love works.

People who love themselves may not feel the emotion of having love for themselves.

Here’s a secret: Love is not actually a feeling. Love certainly can be a feeling. Love can be a felt emotion. But love is really something that we do. Love is an action. Love is a choice.

Choosing to have tolerance, compassion, and acceptance for yourself as you are — even if you don’t feel like you love yourself — is, paradoxically, what self love actually is. 

Every once in awhile we might have the wonderful treat of feeling self love, but that’s just a warm patch of sunlight on a path that’s dappled with the subtle lights and darks of the emotion we walk though every day.

True Love, real love, is more like a state of grace that we can choose to live in: The energy that prioritizes the well-being of people over everything else. Love is compassion, empathy, support, hope, and help that is extended for the benefit of others… And that includes us, too.

True Love For Others

True love allows us to set our self-focus and ego aside and do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. Have you ever stayed up late to do laundry or gone to the grocery store in the middle of the night because your kid needed clean clothes or lunch for school the next day, even though you were tired? That’s the kind of true love I’m talking about. Simple prioritization for the wellbeing of another.

In that state of everyday grace, it doesn’t really matter what you’re thinking or feeling or wanting: You’re simply understanding what someone else is feeling and needing, and being of service to them.

Throwing someone else over the wall is the height of heroism. Good parents do that for their children without even thinking of it. And through our relationships we all get the chance to practice softening ourselves, choosing compassion over criticism, and showing others that their feelings are as important to use as our own.

That is how we love others. We may or may not have the feeling of love as we do what love requires. The fact that we do it anyway is evidence of the power of the love we have. It’s easy to do what you feel like doing. True love does the hard stuff, even when you don’t feel like it. That is the definition of love.

True Love For Yourself

But how do you love yourself? It’s easier to see how you can be compassionate, and tolerant, and generous with other people – but towards yourself? “Isn’t that the opposite of True Love?” You might be thinking. Or, “If love is about doing things for the benefit of others, and to help, support and lift up others, isn’t it taking away from them if I turn that compassionate energy towards ME? Isn’t that SELFISH???”

Loving yourself is not selfish. Loving yourself is the foundation of wellbeing that supports you in your ability to love others. Loving yourself means treating yourself with the same kind of compassion, support, encouragement and devotion to your health and genuine best interests that you give to other people.

What I’m learning is that being a healthy person who is able to give love to others means that you are having a “true love” kind of relationship with yourself first. Because if you refuse to love yourself you will be too unwell physically, mentally, and emotionally to be of benefit for others.

Note that I just said, “If you refuse to love yourself,” rather than, “If you can’t love yourself.” Remember, love is not something you have to feel. You cannot actually make yourself feel like you love yourself (or anyone else for that matter.) And you don’t have to feel that. You just have to do it. And that is 100% within your ability, all the time.

Here’s how it works:

Think of loving yourself is treating yourself as you would parent a cherished child:

1) You can choose to be an emotionally safe person, and speak to yourself kindly, compassionately, and wisely. You can offer yourself guidance, reassurance and emotional support instead of criticizing yourself, scaring yourself, or being negative towards yourself.

If you wouldn’t say it to a small child who needs help and support, it’s not good enough for you either.

2) Setting firm limits that support your health and wellness. Good parents who love their children help them stay healthy by going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating nutritious foods, getting some exercise, and and taking care of their health. Even when they don’t  feel like it.

You paying attention to what you need in order to be physically safe and healthy, and then making sure you get that, is self love in action.

3) Directing yourself to make choices that demonstrate your commitment to your own well being. Self love is self protection. Pay attention to what feels hurtful or toxic to you, and take steps to protect yourself. This might involve setting boundaries with others, listening to your inner wisdom, and avoiding harmful situations. Self love is also shown by taking positive action to create positive things for yourself, and going after things that you know will bring out the best in you (and staying away from the things that will harm you in the long run).

Loving yourself isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment.

The key here is that, just like you don’t have to be overwhelmed with feelings of love in order to be a good parent, you don’t have to feel “love” in order to love yourself.

Your commitment to loving others is much bigger than anything you feel.

  • You can feel totally frustrated with your kid and still be kind and responsible.
  • You can be annoyed with your partner and still control yourself and be generous.
  • And you can not feel like exercising, or like beating yourself up mercilessly, and still decide to act lovingly towards yourself: Taking yourself for a walk, or shifting into more compassionate, self supporting language.

Why Loving Yourself Matters

Think about a child who is being mistreated by their parents: Verbally and emotionally abused (or worse), given junk food, encouraged to watch TV, chaotic or overly strict routines, no support with academics or friendships….

What would you expect from that kid in terms of his ability to maintain emotional stability and be a good partner or friend to someone else? Not a lot? Yeah. When you’re not loving yourself, not giving yourself what you need, not meeting your basic needs for health, self-care, nurturing, acceptance and compassion, you are basically abusing yourself from the inside out. When any of us are being abused, we are simply not going to be well. If you are abusing and neglecting yourself, you won’t have much to offer others either. How could you?

If you’re reading the above line and it resonates, let’s use this moment as one of self-compassion and self-acceptance instead of self-recrimination and another way to make yourself feel bad. Try this instead:

“Of course I haven’t been well and have not been at my best. How could I possibly be? I have not been treating myself with the love and respect I deserve. I’d like to do a better job of that, and I’m committed to learning how.” 

That language is accepting. It’s compassionate. It’s understanding. It’s also hopeful, and leading you towards something better.

Choosing to have a good, nurturing, responsible and compassionate relationship with yourself is what it means to love yourself. To behave in the way that supports your highest and best… even when you don’t feel like it.

Figure out what kind of support you really need, and then decide to give it to yourself. No matter what.

Also, know that learning how to love yourself is a process, and one that takes a long time. It’s also very hard to do alone. An enormous act of self love can be reaching out for help and guidance to learn how to treat yourself better. Everyone needs support, and sometimes before you can support yourself from the inside, you need to be supported and build up from the outside through a healing relationship with a compassionate therapist or coach who is devoted to your personal growth.

I hope these ideas help you find your way forward. For even more on the important subject of how to love yourself, I hope you listen to this podcast episode too.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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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.

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How to Practice Self-Love

Self-love for a lot of us tends to end up in the lower priority pile – but the truth is, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t have anything to give to others! Online therapist and Texas Life-Coach, Kaily Moore, M.S., LMFTA is sharing How to Practice Self-Love on the blog!

Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships

Do you feel like you and your partner get stuck in a power struggle where you feel one way, they feel another, and you just cannot compromise? Today’s podcast brings real-world relationship advice to help you communicate differently, so that you can break through the gridlock and get back on the same page.

Types of Intimacy

Types of Intimacy

There’s more to intimacy than sex. Looking to reconnect, strengthen, or build a better bond with your partner? Online Marriage Counselor and Relationship Coach, Tomauro Veasley discusses the 4 types of intimacy that are imperative to a lasting, healthy relationship.

Six Strategies To A Thriving Relationship During Chaos

Six Strategies To A Thriving Relationship During Chaos

Six Strategies To A Thriving Relationship During Chaos

Creating a Thriving Relationship

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We are no strangers to change here at Growing Self. In fact, personal growth is our specialty, and with personal growth comes A LOT of change from time to time. However, these past couple of months have introduced a completely new level of change. This change has been rapid, unwarranted, and left many heartbroken, confused, and scared. 

With the ever-changing climate of our economy, health, and lifestyles this “new normal” settling in has many of my couples clients facing new and uncharted stress and anxiety around work, household obligations, family responsibilities, and the health of their relationship. 

As an online marriage counselor, couples therapist, husband, and father – I’ve witnessed this stress firsthand. In the midst of this uncertainty, however, we still are all responsible for making our relationships work the best they can, despite the stress and upheaval we are all enduring.  

To help make your situation feel a bit more manageable, I wanted to share with you the same advice I share with my couples clients in sessions. Here are my top six strategies to a thriving relationship during chaos that will help your relationship stay strong, healthy, and thrive during this challenging time.

You Can Have A Thriving Relationship Through Challenging Change

Before I jump right into my six strategies to a thriving relationship during chaos, I want to first encourage you to take a couple of minutes to quiet your thoughts, to focus on your breathing, and to center yourself. I’m not saying that you need to go into full meditation mode, but take a couple of minutes to just slow down. Slow down your thoughts, center your feelings, and find gratitude in where you are at. 

When we start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and uneasy in our current situation we can start to scramble and lose sight of what is truly important. I want to encourage you in where you are at and I want you to know that there is support for you here.

If you are facing challenges in your relationship that feel too big, unfamiliar, or distressing – you’re not alone in this. Many couples right now are struggling to balance this “new normal” with their household, children, work, finances, and each other. 

My hope for you is that these strategies can help implement new routines and support systems between you and your partner. Now, let’s get started!

Strategy No. 1 | For the Couple Working From Home with Children: Plan and Communicate

Like many couples out there with children, my wife and I are dealing with conflicting schedules and raising a 22-month old daughter who is suddenly home all the time! One way we and other couples can pull together through this is to plan our work schedules around each other, as someone must watch the baby at all times. 

As partners, you are both there to help and protect one another. That doesn’t mean that you walk all over each other or take advantage of the “more-chill” or “more-giving” partner. But that you work together to be successful as a unit. 

Successfully navigating through working from home with children requires proactive planning and communication. The two of you will need to plan around each other’s schedules and check on them daily together to avoid any misunderstandings and added stress. 

It is imperative that couples work together to make this transition as smooth as possible or to salvage what feels like an overwhelming pattern already taking place. The challenge here is that you are both dealing with the same discomfort and stress around balancing work responsibilities, home, and family care. 

Schedules can change very quickly – couples who successfully work together, accept the fluidity of the situation, and work on keeping grounded and as calm as possible will come out the other side stronger. 

Until this crisis ends, your day-to-day balance between work and home life will constantly change – you and your partner will need to work together to help one another succeed, and this will require good communication and strategic planning if you want a thriving relationship.

If you are like many of my couples clients though, you and your partner may struggle to effectively communicate. If you are looking for tips on building healthy communication between you and your partner, check out this podcast: Couples Communication Strategies for Stressful Times and this article: How to Improve Communication – Fast for tips you can start implementing today. 

Strategy No. 2 | For the Couple with One Partner Out-of-Work with Children at Home

If you or your partner are temporarily out-of-work or have been laid-off, it’s likely that partner will be with their child(ren) constantly, a role many of us are not used to.

The sole childcare provider will need a break and time to decompress when their working partner comes home or ends their workday. Likewise, the working partner will need time to rest and decompress too.

How do you both respect each other’s needs while also taking care of your own?

Circling back around to the importance of healthy and effective communication, couples in a thriving relationship will need to communicate their needs clearly. With a good understanding of what you need and what your partner needs, you can strategically plan your after work hours. 

This lifestyle change will require adaptability and empathy. We are all expending more energy than we are used to spending, and we will all need breaks from time-to-time.

Keep in mind that your partner (whether taking care of the children or working their regular job) is just as tired, stressed, and in desperate need of self-care as you are. If you can look out for one another, you’ll both get your needs met. 

Strategy No. 3 | For the Partners in Desperate Need of Self-Care and Individual Time Alone

Self-care is crucial to a thriving relationship, and that does not change now. Many self-care options, especially those including gyms and socializing, are not permitted right now. 

For those in need of some gym time, be open to socially distanced walking, jogging, or hiking outside. You don’t need to purchase a full in-house gym system – unless you really want to.

Instead, you can either subscribe to free workout videos on YouTube or purchase a subscription to a fitness app or virtual wellness program. 

For those in need of some social time (apart from your partner), engage in calls and video chats with friends and family. You can virtually go on walks together, attend virtual in-house happy hours, just catch up, or even make a meal together (in your own kitchens of course).

It’s important to maintain friendships even when you’re required to be apart. 

For those feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and emotionally drained: meditate, eat better, get some rest, and do what you can to keep yourself grounded.

This may mean spending time alone, reading your favorite book, getting some sunshine by yourself, listening to music, or simply drinking more water. 

For those in need of a distraction, this may be a perfect time to start a new hobby to keep your mind occupied and not overburdened with stress.

Taking care of yourself will allow you to show up for your partner and your family when they need you most. 

Helpful Tip: Don’t assume your way of self-care is right for your partner! 

Do you have a great workout regiment that you can do from home? Great! That being said, your self-care options are right for YOU, and not necessarily anyone else. Allow your partner to practice their own self-care, as they know better than anyone what makes them feel better.  

Work on accepting your partner’s way of self-care and try to calm any thoughts of your partner’s self-care being wrong (as long as those methods are not harmful). Remember, if you let them take care of themselves, they can show up better for you when you need them most.

Strategy No. 4 | For the “Informed” Couple Needing to Focus On Each Other

It is crucial that we remain as informed as possible during these difficult times but it can be so easy to go down the proverbial wormhole of different news articles, especially on the internet, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic.

Stay informed, but limit your own exposure to articles that can dysregulate your emotions and stress. It may be best to stick to official sources like the World Health Organization and your own state’s official guidelines and act through them rather than reading numerous other articles that might inflame your fear and lead to disconnection from loved ones.

Instead of consuming hours of news, schedule a time during the day that you briefly “catch up” on what is new in your state or area of residence. Be strict and put your phone away, close your computer, and turn off the TV when your “news time” is up. Then mindfully use the rest of your day to fully show up for your partner, your family, your friends, and your job.

If you and your partner are both working from home, you may be spending quite a bit more time around one another. Remember, this does not mean that you are spending time “together” – you will still need to find time throughout your week to focus on each other. 

We can get in the habit of forgetting to ask our partner “How are you doing today?” when we see them constantly. Our partner is working through difficult emotions and feelings just as we are – it’s good to recognize that for each other and if needed, schedule time together away from the hectic headlines. 

I encourage you to use the uncomfortableness you may be experiencing in your relationship to highlight areas of growth for you and your partner. Instead of spending extra time in front of the TV or on your phones, engage in conversation. Use this time to rebuild “weak” areas or vulnerabilities that could ultimately breakdown your partnership. 

If you find you are struggling to get the conversation started, check out this article: How to Fall Back in Love with Your Spouse for conversation starters when things start to feel a little stagnant.  

Strategy No. 5 | For the Couple Looking to Regulate Emotions and Get Back on Track Together

Yes, these are historically difficult times – that cannot be denied. However, you can take steps to feel calmer emotionally about the situation so you can be a better partner and parent.

One of the best ways to get out of the funk of flooding emotions and disconnection from your partner is to practice gratitude. Actively practicing gratitude will look different for everyone, but finding the silver lining through this situation will strengthen your relationship and make you and your partnership more resilient to change.

Many couples with children I know are having amazing experiences with their kids right now that they were not having prior. They are now able to spend quality time with their families instead of being caught up in the hustle of shuttling from event to event, being busied by daily obligations that are currently on hold or greatly reduced, and having to stick to a strict schedule that inhibits learning together, game nights, picnics in the yard, or leaving living room forts up for days instead of just hours. 

Similarly, many couples are finding that they are actually finding rest and relief in this season. Where they were previously overworked and stuck in a cycle that they didn’t even recognize as draining, they are now building better self-care and relationship-care habits that in return are making them better people, partners, and parents. Ultimately creating a thriving relationship that they didn’t realize they were previously missing.

I even have some couples clients that are working as a team for the first time in their relationships – never having known previously the impact that this type of support can have on your relationship and household productivity. 

And yet others are rethinking their priorities during this time of pause. Finding out what truly matters to them individually and as a couple. Dreaming, creating, and planning for a better future that they had not had time to envision previously. 

So much of what is happening right now is frightening, and it is absolutely so, but we can keep ourselves calm in the moment by accessing the positives and good that are sometimes hard to notice amidst all the change and chaos. 

Daily gratitude not only calms your emotions down in the moment, but it also helps buffer against the difficult times. By practicing daily gratitude, you and your relationship can begin to thrive during difficult times. 

Strategy No. 6 | For the Overwhelmed Partners Looking for Answers

The stress and anxiety that you may feel right now are completely understandable. These changes and uncertainties can become too much for any of us at any moment and that’s normal and okay. 

The truth is, no relationship is perfect. We all handle stress differently, individually and as couples. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate these changes or challenges on our own – especially if you and your partner react to stress in drastically different ways. 

It’s not abnormal that one of you may be in fix-it mode while the other is looking for a place to retreat to…alone. It’s not uncommon that you may find that your communication skills aren’t as strong as you once thought they were. It’s not out of the ordinary that you may be questioning your foundation or wondering what’s next for your relationship. 

These are all valid responses and normal, especially in stressful situations.

The good news is that many couples therapists and marriage counselors, including us at Growing Self, are increasingly offering flexible online options to adapt to COVID-19. This means you can find help from the comfort of your own home.

There is never any shame for reaching out for professional help if it is needed – if you’re feeling overwhelmed and it seems like there’s no way out, please reach out and call a professional.

This situation is extremely stressful, and the timeframe for an end to this crisis is unfortunately indefinite. That being said, we are still in relationships and marriages, and those still need to be nurtured. You have the power to manage this stress and to be the most understanding partner you can be during this difficult time.

Wishing you the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., MFTC

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Seth Bender, M.A., LMFT - denver marriage counseling, online marriage counseling, relationship coach, breakup recovery

Seth Bender, M.A., MFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Attachment Style Quiz

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Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Sometimes life just throws you a major curve ball…

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You know that feeling? Your jaw just metaphorically drops, the days seem to run together like one long, surreal dream. Making decisions or taking action can feel like walking through mud. There is understandable shock and disbelief. It rocks your foundation, leaving you with questions like, “When will this end?” and “HOW will this end?,” which can be really scary. 

Understandably, the COVID-19 outbreak has left many of us feeling shell-shocked in this way. 

Whether a pandemic, natural disaster, or something smaller in scale but no less devastating (like a death, divorce, or job loss), these major life curveballs have something in common: 

The impact is felt throughout every area of your life. 

The coronavirus concern has created instability in our homes, work, financially, at our schools and hospitals, even in our simplest of daily routines. 

While there is a lot of information available about how to be responsible, stop the spread, and take care of physical health, we also desperately need resources and support around how to take care emotionally for our mental health. 

Not only as an online therapist and life coach, but also as a New Orleans native and “survivor” of hurricane Katrina, I have an intimate understanding of what it’s like to have your life fall apart.

The good news is: it doesn’t last forever. 

The other good news is: there are very real things you can do to make it feel less catastrophic while reducing stress.

Here are eight steps to emotional self care when your life is falling apart.

Know This Pain Is Temporary

I put this one first because it is so important. Every day, several times a day if needed, it’s good to remind yourself that what is NOW is NOT FOREVER. This will be over. And that means you can ride it out. You can make it through. Knowing it will end helps ease the anxiety of not knowing exactly when. It helps with the unknowns. 

Envision Life In The Future

Since you know that what is now is not forever, you can imagine what you want your life to look like after it’s all over. It gives you something to look forward to and to focus on. 

A lot of helpful people will tell you to stay in the present when coping with your life falling apart (and they’re not wrong – I’ll get back to that later). This is because future thinking can create a lot of anxiety over things you can’t even control

But if you are thinking of the future from an empowered, hopeful place planning ahead and looking at what you may be able to do now to work toward it, or even just to get excited about what it could be – will feel better. 

Envisioning your future when you can rebuild your life creates motivation, hope, optimism, and a sense of productivity and purpose.

Remember What You Do Have (Practice Gratitude)

Okay, here’s where we get back to present versus future thinking. If you find yourself obsessing over the what-if’s of an unclear future, bring your mind back to the now. 

In fact, focus on what is GOOD about what IS, right NOW. You can make a gratitude list. You can take a few minutes each day to appreciate your blessings. But you can also gratefully embrace any present moment by mindfully tuning in to the right now with your five senses [also see: Living in a Beautiful State for more on mindfulness]. Let’s give it a try…

Take a minute after reading this paragraph to close your eyes.

Take a deep breath. Listen to your breath. Feel it fill your lungs.

Notice what you hear around you.

What do you smell? 

What emotions come up as you notice?

What can you feel right now with your body? 

What are you grateful for in this moment?

Focus On What Is In Your Control

Part of making through what is out of your control is focusing on what is in your control. The meaning and the why you choose to make out of what is happening to you can dramatically shift its impact on you emotionally and mentally. 

Maybe you would never choose to lose a job you love, to struggle financially, or have your life turned upside down. But why are you going through this?

It’s an odd question to ask about something forced upon you, I know. But bare with me. If you could choose a why, what would it be? Because you can. You can create the “why” you want. What you are going to take away from this experience is yours to decide.

Be Nice To Yourself (Practice Self-Compassion)

Someone recently said to me, “You are your own best friend for life. Be nice to yourself.”

Would you kick a friend when he’s down? Of course not. So be nice to yourself when going through a tough time. Remember you aren’t the only one struggling when life falls apart. You are not alone.

Give yourself grace and space to make mistakes, to struggle, and to hurt. You’re human. We all are.

Ride Those Emotional Waves (Until They Pass)

When we fight our feelings with criticism or denial, they tend to grow stronger (or we just add more negative emotions on top of what we’re already experiencing). 

It’s okay to feel all the feelings right now; they aren’t YOU and they pass. Observe them without self-judgement (“Wow, I’m really sad right now”). Ground yourself by practicing that mindfulness exercise above; close your eyes and tune into your five senses. Breathe. It will pass on its own. Repeat as needed.

Self-Care, Keep It Simple

It’s tempting to let everything go when you are overwhelmed, routine is out the window, and resources are limited. So keep it simple. What are your top three self-care needs? 

Sleep, nutrition, physical exertion, creativity, social connection…these are just some examples. 

Don’t worry too much about what you get done or don’t when it comes to self-care; just focus on the top three things that help you most. And, when working on those, stay simple. 

Not motivated? Start with one small step (as small as needed). For example, if you know you need exercise to stay mentally and emotionally well but aren’t motivated to run five miles on your treadmill, you could start with 10 jumping jacks, 15 minutes of yoga, or vigorous house cleaning. 

Check in with yourself at the end of this step and ask yourself if you want more.

Reach Out

Even the most introverted of us need someone to talk to, even just to chat. Check in with your friends, family, and loved ones. If texting with them still leaves you feeling isolated, go old-school and make a phone call! Or take advantage of modern technology and video chat. 

And remember it’s okay to ask for exactly what you need most, and not for what you don’t need. So if you’re yearning for normalcy and want small talk with a friend, it’s okay to say “Hey, can we skip the coronavirus conversations right now? I miss our girl talk.”  

Give yourself permission to be vulnerable, ask for help, and just generally share how you’re feeling with a fellow human!

Online Emotional Support

Sometimes friends and family can’t support us in the way we need (which is okay, too), especially when they are going through something themselves. If you are unsure of where to turn for help and stuck in self-quarantine, know that there are many online resources available, such as online therapy, virtual couple’s counseling, and online support groups. [And for more on building community while social distancing read “CommUNITY during social distancing and self-quarantine“]

When your life is falling apart around you, know you can get through it and it will pass. Even if the old normal isn’t quite the same again, take comfort in the knowledge that a new, positive normal will eventually fall into place.

In the meantime, keep emotional self-care simple and be gentle with and kind to yourself.


We’re in this together! 

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC

 

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Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

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Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

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Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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The Path to Wellness

The Path to Wellness

The Path to Wellness

Relationship Help

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Regaining Your Health Begins With Listening To Yourself….

The path to wellness can be a long and challenging one, if you or someone you love is dealing with a chronic health condition — particularly one with no simple cause or obvious solution. More and more frequently it seems people are grappling with health issues that impact many areas of their lives, but for which traditional western medicine offers few answers or support.

While more and more is being known about things like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, metabolic issues, toxic mold, allergies and other sensitivities and chronic health conditions, they often remain shrouded in mystery and misconception.

People dealing with these issues often feel alone and unsupported, on top of feeling extremely unwell physically.

In these cases, the path to wellness begins with an enormous amount of strength, courage, and self-awareness. It requires the ability to advocate for yourself, and the persistence to continue pressing on to find the solutions that will help you feel healthy, well, and whole again — often in the face of minimizing or disempowering (but well meaning) medical professionals, friends, and even family.

The Path to Wellness

If you can relate to this experience (or love someone who is going through this) I hope you listen to the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. In it, I’m joined by my colleague, therapist and life coach Amy-Noelle Shih, M.A., LPC. Amy has always had an empowering and supportive approach to therapy and life coaching, but over the last few years, she has developed a specialty in helping people find a path to wellness from challenging, and often complex, chronic health conditions.

She’s here today to share her insights into things like:

  • How to muster up the emotional strength to advocate for yourself and communicate your needs…. when you’re at a low point physically.
  • What the path to wellness often looks like, twists, turns, dead-ends and all.
  • How to shift your mindset into one that brings you strength, peace, and gratitude during challenging times.
  • How to use “radical mindfulness” to avoid feeling afraid and hopeless.
  • The lifestyle changes and new priorities that can help you focus on your health.
  • How to create a meaningful support system that supports you on your path to wellness.

If you’ve been dealing with the challenging realities of a chronic health condition, we’re glad you’re here. We hope this episode provides you with support and guidance on your path back to wellness.

With love,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and Amy-Noelle Shih, M.A., LPC

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The Path to Wellness

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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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

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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