Negative Habits of Mind, Perfectionism, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

A beautiful, messy, imperfect life!

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” ~ Alice Walker

The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi suggests that there is beauty within the imperfections of life, of accepting your imperfections and making the most of life. This Buddhist teaching is all about transience and aging gracefully. While I love this sentiment and think it’s definitely worth aspiring for, I can’t help but wonder how we can embrace our beautifully messy imperfect lives when so many of us are plagued with the notion of perfectionism?

In her groundbreaking book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares how “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable”. She suggests that there is “magic in the mess”. Just imagine how liberating this would be!

What is perfectionism and how do we let go of it? Firstly, perfectionism is not about “striving to be your best” or about about “healthy achievement or growth” or self-improvement. Brene’ defines perfectionism as “the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame”. It’s all about attempting to earn approval and acceptance from others. Healthy striving is self-focused (how can I improve?) while perfectionism is other-focused (what will they think?).

Ironically, as I’m researching and writing this post, I find myself spending way too much time attempting to present it “perfectly”. It’s easy to get caught in the perfectionist trap of black/white, all or nothing thinking, being highly self-critical of not getting it perfect, therefore tempted to do nothing at all. I want to be helpful, useful, add value, and have a lot to share but instead of trusting myself and my experience, I get stuck researching, trying to imagine what you need, what it should look like, and how it can best satisfy you. An infinity loop of “analysis paralysis” with all or nothing thinking, focusing on the flaws, and getting stuck in overwhelm where nothing is good enough.

Perfectionism is debilitating and can limit you from trying things. Sometimes when I’m doing or trying something new and I don’t think it’s good enough, I may just stop doing it. I never considered myself a perfectionist because I never thought of myself as “perfect”. Yet, what I’ve learned is that it’s the belief that anything short of perfect is unacceptable and feeling like I wasn’t doing “it” right (whatever “it” was) just isn’t good enough. It also explains my tendency to procrastinate on things that are important to me and that I know I’m capable of. Instead of getting started, analysis paralysis sets in so nothing happens. I didn’t realize how much perfectionism is at the cruxt of procrastination. Often labelled as lazy, what’s really going on inside is the belief that whatever I produce won’t be good enough or that people won’t like it. Underneath is the fear of not being seen as perfect.

It can also hold you back from doing or trying new things until your life is “perfect”. Maybe you tell yourself you’ll be happy and accepting of yourself and your life when you lose a little weight, when you get fit, when you find love, get a particular job, have a family, or obtain financial independence. Or maybe you hold certain expectations of about how those you love should be or should act, and what your relationships with them should look like.

Perfectionism and self-criticism can manifest in many areas of your life, such as in your work or school, and in your relationships. Maybe its a small persistent nagging voice in your head, or maybe its the voice of one of your parents, your partner, or organizational or religious leaders. Do you hold an image or idea of how your life should be and when this expectation is not met, do you have trouble accepting the reality that is your life?

Just imagine if you could give up on wishing things were different from how they actually are. Imagine if you could lessen your sense of striving to get somewhere, to change something, to be more, to have more. Imagine yourself going through your days with a greater sense of acceptance – the type of acceptance that allows a softening within you that reduces the drive of wanting, wishing, or striving.

How do we let go of our perfectionism?

  1. Recognize and acknowledge it. It’s important to simply label the feeling or behaviour as perfectionism, and recognize it for what it is.
  2. Adopt a growth mindset. Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, view them as a critical part of the learning process.
  3. Set more realistic goals. Write down your long term goals, then write down smaller, weekly achievable tasks.
  4. Enjoy the process. With healthy striving, it’s the trying that really matters. Give yourself a mantra such as “done is better than perfect”; “just trying things”; “my best is good enough”; “just do it”, etc.
  5. Decide what level of imperfection you can tolerate. What is good enough? Where is your best good enough? Give yourself and others permission to make mistakes and be human.
  6. Explore your unique strengths and predominant needs. Become more aware of your unique abilities and talents, and seek out situations or opportunities where you can use or apply them.
  7. Practice vulnerability and self-disclosure in safe spaces and with strong relationships. Share your fears, your doubts, and your successes that create your story.

And seriously, who really likes being around those “perfect people” anyway! I don’t know about you, but it’s those “imperfect people” that I think are the most fun or interesting and that I enjoy the most. So why is it that we get this idea in our brains that we need to be “perfect”? Do we think they’ll love us more? Isn’t there something wonderfully bold and liberating in saying yes to our beautiful, imperfect messy lives.

Now, it’s your turn.

Are you plagued with perfectionism? What is your perfectionism stopping you from doing? What tools or strategies do you use to move past perfectionism? Share in the comments.

Photo by Pexels

Dreams, Goals, Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

 “Give yourself permission to live a big life. Step into who you are meant to be. Stop playing small. You’re meant for greater things.”  – unknown

Once upon a time, there was a twenty-something year old woman. She was passionate, charismatic, and fun; she was independent, opinionated, and driven; she was hardworking and ambitious. She was excited and hopeful about all of the possibilities her future held and went after her goals, one by one. Others were drawn to her energy and passion, and as she worked hard to achieve her goals, inspiring others along the way. Without a doubt, she could be too much for some people, but she didn’t worry about them – they weren’t her people.  In fact, she enjoyed being a contrary force and an independent thinker. She had a clear vision for her life, her career, her relationships, and went after it. 

At the same time though, she privately battled against debilitating insecurities and automatic negative thoughts and beliefs about herself – she wasn’t “good enough”; “not worthy”; and “who did she think she was anyway” to want success or the life she desired. As she got “bigger”, her deep-rooted fears and beliefs became stronger, pulling her down to keep her in her “place”. Fortunately for her, her clear vision of her life and ambitious nature were strong enough to propel her forward despite those negative beliefs. She especially found her stride in her work and her career flourished.  

Then, over time, she began the habit of shrinking and becoming less of who she was meant to be. Those powerful automatic negative habits of mind provided the ideal rationale and justification for her to begin not partaking in her life path. She compromised her dreams and plans to avoid confrontation so others would feel more comfortable. She put her gifts, innate needs, and desires behind the needs of others, not wanting to upset others or deal with the push back. She became a shadow of her true self.

This isn’t a unique story, especially for women. Women have been socially-conditioned to put the needs and desires of others ahead of their own. Once in a relationship, or when children come along, many women put their dreams, desires, and goals on the backburner, sacrificing their innate needs and desires in the “best interests” of the family, conforming (or contorting) into ideals of being the sacrificial wife and mother.

Such was the case with this woman. Not nurturing ourselves or living authentically can trigger our self-protection system, erode our self-esteem, and cause feelings of unhappiness and psychological distress. If you are someone who has felt like you’ve shrunk yourself to live life for the betterment of others, for the family, then you know how uncomfortable and confining it can be to live such a life. When we aren’t living as the best version of ourselves or living to our full potential, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our loved ones.

So what do we do when we find ourselves in this situation?  How do we go about trying to figure out who we are and what we want?

Here are the five steps in the SSPS* to activate yourself:

  1. Self-awareness.  Learn about your personality, your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. It helps to recognize when you are stressed and how your behaviour changes during such times.
  2. Current state analysis. Reflect on your current state and where your needs are being met, and where they aren’t being met.
  3. Imagine the life you what.  Envision, or re-envision, your future state, your dreams and possibilities. Define what it looks and feels like.
  4. Identify your automatic negative habits of mind. Uncover your dysfunctional patterns of behaviour, and; your fears and underlying beliefs and assumptions.
  5. Create a strategy and plan.  Identify actions and experiences of how you will move from your current state to your desired future state.

We’re all worthy of the amazing journey of finding our purpose, discovering our passions and, living our most fulfilling life. If you, like this woman, would like to start your journey back to finding yourself again and living more authentically, I’d love to help you. Start by completing the SSPS assessment by contacting me.

Now, it’s your turn.

Do you remember your twenty-something dreams? Have you shrunk yourself for “the betterment of others”? Are you currently living to your fullest potential? Share in the comments.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

MBTI, Personality, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

What makes you unique?

 “Always be yourself, retain individuality, listen to the truest part of yourself.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

Do you know what makes you unique? Each of us is born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, to be liked by others slowly erodes our uniqueness and in many ways encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy, and motivation. It also robs us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and comfortable within our own skin.

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”  ~ Brene Brown

Can you think back to a time when you tried to be someone you’re not? Maybe in a new relationship or in a new job you attempted to present yourself in a certain light that didn’t represent who you were. No doubt this left you feeling uncomfortable and unsure. It can also drain your natural energy and draw your awareness away from your grounded self. In contrast, being yourself is the most natural and fulfilling way to walk through your days. It leaves you feeling you energized, inspired, confident, and fulfilled.

3 things you can do to discover what makes you unique

  1. Reflect on yourself as a child. Was there something that you loved or something that you did that in some way has stayed with you? This practice or habit may have changed shape as you’ve become an adult but in its essence, it is still part of who you are. Perhaps it’s a love of drawing, a deep concern for others, or a love of nature. Maybe it’s a sense of adventure, a thirst for knowledge, a love of singing, dancing, or music. Just allow an image idea or feeling to arrive in your mind and heart.
  2. Consider how loved ones describe you.  Another way to get in touch with your uniqueness is to reflect on how others see you. How have loved ones described you? Perhaps in birthday cards, during a speech, or a conversation. If you haven’t experienced this in words, just imagine what friends and family love about you.  
  3. Take a personality/strengths assessment.  They will help you to define yourself more clearly. I happen to love personality assessments of any kind and find them incredibly insightful in understanding what makes us tick, including our behaviour, how we work the best, and what motivates us. There are many available, some of the most common are Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Strengthsfinder, Striving Styles, and many others. I work with the Striving Styles because it helps us understand our brain, our personality traits, as well as drivers of human behaviour, motivations, fears while providing a comprehensive approach to development.

We all know that life is full of ups and downs, moments of great joy and great difficulty. Throughout our life we are presented with all sorts of situations that can make it difficult to live our deepest values and share our unique self, to remain awake and aware. Family breakdown, a stressful work situation, health issues, financial troubles, or just a general sense of tiredness and overwhelm all make living our values and sharing our uniqueness hard. We can feel tempted to fall back in a daze of modern-day busyness and old behavioural patterns and habits. During these challenging times, we can draw upon our confidence and sense of self through self-awareness and being mindfully present. Through this connection, we can once again reconnect with our values, our purpose and, our uniqueness.

In this funny and insightful Ted Talk, Brian Little dissects the differences between introverts and extroverts and explains why your personality may be more malleable than you think.

Ted Talk: Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Brian Little

Now, it’s your turn.

What are your unique qualities? Have you completed a personality assessment? What did you learn about yourself? Share in the comments below.

Photo by Alexandru Dinca from Pexels

Brain dominance, Goals, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you stay motivated?

“What is the why behind everything you do? When we know this in life or design it is very empowering and the path is clear.” ~Jack Canfield

Did you set new years’ resolutions for 2020? If you did and you’re still on track, then give yourself a pat on the back because you’re one of the few. By February and March, goals and resolutions are forgotten and many have lost their motivation. Only 8% of people succeed at the goals they set for themselves and 92% of new years’ goals have been abandoned by January 15th. As someone who’s found themselves within that 92% group in previous years, I decided that 2020 was going to be different, so, I’m doing a deeper dive into the key success factors of those in that 8% group.

One of the main reasons people fail at achieving their stated goals is because they set them for the wrong reasons. While you may have been fueled by your temporary enthusiasm, sustaining your motivation and achieving lasting change will be challenging unless you apply the following strategies:

Find your “WHY”.

Finding your WHY is a crucial step when setting goals that you truly want. There is a big difference between doing something you think you should do and something because you truly want to. Your goals should align with your purpose and core values. You need to be clear on WHY you want to achieve a specific goal, and be able to articulate that WHY in simple, clear terms. Your WHY is the thing that will ultimately inspire you to keep going. Why do you want to live a healthier lifestyle? Why do you need to read more? Why do you think getting a new job will bring you happiness?

To find your WHY, take a look at your goal(s) and ask yourself an honest WHY you want it. Keep repeating why 3-5 times until you reach the same answer and finally uncover what’s at the core. For example, your goal is to lose weight. Why? So I can fit into my clothes; Why? Because I want to look and feel good; Why? So I have more energy for my career and family; Why? So I can be a positive role model for my children and others. Once you have a purpose and have asked yourself WHY, think about all of the benefits you’ll get by achieving your goal, and consider who’s counting on you to follow through.

Understand your brain.

Have you ever wondered what motivates each of us to do the things you do in life? Each of us has a built-in predominant need that must be met to achieve our goals and be who we are meant to be. Our predominant need and the priority of our other needs are hardwired at birth. When you understand your nature and needs, it becomes easier to consciously guide your behaviour and move towards your goals. This understanding can help you identify the blind spots that limit your perspective. You can break the longstanding patterns that have been holding you back or preventing you from developing beyond a certain point. For example, for those people with a predominant need that comes from their upper right-brain (like me), will find it natural and easy to envision what they want, however, they’ll likely struggle with breaking down their dreams and goals into small, actionable steps. On the other hand, someone with their predominant need in their lower left-brain, might find sequencing steps and implementation easy but may struggle with envisioning and defining their goals and dreams. When you know and understand the needs of your Predominant Style, you can seek help in the areas that are hardest for you to access. This level of self-awareness is a superpower. 

Shift your mindset.

If you want sustainable motivation then you need to examine your thoughts. One of the biggest shifts in my mindset was realizing that I don’t have to feel like, enjoy, or even like doing something, if it supports my overall goal, and my “why”. However, I suggest that you try to shift your mindset or change your language about a particular activity so you can actually enjoy it more. For example, if your goal is to get healthier, or fitter, instead of saying, “I have to work out today”, try saying, “I get to work out today”, or “I can work out”. Maybe your goal is to read one book per month, you can say “I get to do my reading”. This will help to change your feelings about the activity. You don’t have to want or like doing it but I do believe that the things that you do you should have a purpose why you are doing it. Do it because you have a reason to do it. I work out because it gives me energy, I feel better, and by doing it, I’m building a habit, mental muscles, and grit.  

Break your goal into the smallest, simplest steps.

“Inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard”. Once you’ve defined your purpose or WHY for your goal, learned about your predominant needs, and checked in on your mindset, you’ll need to figure out what activity is required and then break it down into bite-sized simple steps. You want to ask yourself “what is the smallest thing I can do so I can make progress and advance to meet my objective or goal?” For example, if it’s something like working out, ask yourself what’s the smallest step you can take right now. Maybe it’s something simple like putting on your workout clothes when you get up or signing up for a gym membership, or just going for a walk around the block. Figure out what the smallest incremental thing you can do. The benefits of starting small are that you’re more likely to follow through. For example, if it’s reading a book a week, just plan on reading a page, or even a paragraph, a day, and not 45 mins a day. When you chunk your goal into small, doable steps, you can’t fail. It’s less confusing and overwhelming, and when someone is confused, they typically do nothing.When you have a purpose for something, you bring life to it, but when you break it down into very small steps that don’t require a lot of energy, then little by little you can accomplish a lot.  

Create energy.

Even if you do all these steps, you need to create energy to stay motivated. Think about it. I know why I need to go to the gym, I understand my predominant need, I’m aware of my mindset, and with support, I’ve broken down my plan into the smallest simple steps. But if I’m really tired because I didn’t get sleep, or I over-ate, I won’t have the energy to work out or to read. I won’t have the energy I need to do the things to take action. It’s very hard to stay motivated if your energy has been sapped.  

So what gives you energy?  

  • Food: Certain foods give you energy, certain foods deplete energy;
  • Sleep: We know when we sleep, we recover and replenish;  
  • Positive thoughts: Negative thoughts deplete energy compared to thinking positively;
  • Exercise: Physical exercise gives you energy;
  • People: The people you spend time with can be energizing; while others are draining to be with and steel your energy;  
  • An Organized Environment: It’s easy to be distracted if your environment needs to be cleaned, or is cluttered and messy;
  • Managing Stress: Being in fight or flight mode can zap your energy. Fear and chronic stress take a lot of energy and will shrink your brain. Practicing deep, conscious breathing and meditation help.

In this Tedx talk, Simon Sinek explains why we need to start with WHY.

Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Now, it’s your turn.

What were your new years resolutions or goals for 2020? Are you still on track or have you lost your motivation? Do you know WHY you want to achieve your specific goal(s)? Share in the comments below.

Photo source: Evgeny Tchebotarev from Pexels.

Personality, Relationships, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

YOU, before Us

“Before anything else, find yourself. Be yourself. Love yourself.” ~ Anonymous

With Valentines in mind, it seemed fitting to talk about love and relationships. What I’ve learned from being married for over 25 years, and absolutely know to be true, is that marriage can be hard, but if we want to have a healthy, satisfying, mutually respectful relationship, both partners really need to know, value, and love themselves first. Without this self-awareness, couples stay stuck in negative relationships patterns of blame and victimhood (see previous post).  If you desire a satisfying, healthly relationship, then you need to be a whole, well-rounded person with a strong sense of who you are.

I’m often asked if certain Striving Styles or Myers-Briggs personality types (click here to learn about your personality) are more compatible as romantic partners. While certain personalities are likely to be more compatible than others, personality is only one factor. Our personality influences all aspects of our life, including career choice, health status, and lifestyle, all of which contribute to our similarities with our partners. However, our upbringing, our values, our self-awareness, and emotional well-being will likely have a greater influence on our overall relationship success and satisfaction.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint a single factor that will make you and partner right for each other, we do know that when both partners are living more from their self-actualized systems, they have a greater chance of relationship satisfaction. Regardless of personality type, your overall happiness stems from the extent to which you truly understand yourself, and whether you regularly live more honestly and authentically in your day-to-day life. In fact, all of your relationships will improve when you focus on improving yourself. Understanding your Striving Styles relationship style (learn about yours here), your innate needs and strengths, your self-protective behaviours, your weaknesses, and managing your triggers, will benefit everyone in your life. 

So, imagine what would happen if BOTH partners invested the time to understand themselves, how they are each uniquely wired! And, what if they learned to appreciate and value each other’s strengths rather than wasting time and energy criticizing their differences! Despite individual personality type, when both partners consciously shift to self-actualizing behaviours, their chance of having a more healthy, satisfying, thus successful relationship, significantly improve.

“The happiest couples never have the same character. They have the best understanding of their differences.”  Anonymous

Relationship satisfaction improves when you understand and learn how to get your needs met through communication, conflict, romance and intimacy. Knowing your Striving Style will:

  • give you much-needed insight into your relationship strengths,
  • help you understand how your inner impulses, attitudes and behaviours influence your relationship style,
  • build awareness of your innate relationship needs that drive your behaviour in relationships,
  • identify what triggers or activates your self-protective behaviours in relationship,
  • help you understand how to create the conditions in your relationships in which you are most likely to thrive.

When you know your relationship style, you will understand how your Striving Style behaves in relationships, not only when self-actualizing, but when being self-protective. You will learn how to consciously shift to self-actualizing behaviours, negotiate to get your needs met and become who you are meant to be. 

Two of my clients, K & G, a couple married now 30 years, completed my This is You workshop and coaching program. Even though the workshop is focused on learning about yourself, my clients decided to participate together during a transitional time in their life and marriage. By participating together, they not only learned about themselves, they gained a deeper appreciation of each other’s differences, needs, and unique gifts. Here’s what they had to say about it:

“we were provided the knowledge and insight of our individual unique personalities and the tools and framework to navigate to be the best versions of ourselves. We have a good awareness of why and what aids in us living a self-actualized state vs. why and what triggers ourselves into an unhealthy self-protective state. Having this knowledge and the tools has deepened our relationship to appreciate our uniqueness in each other and therefore helps build each other up rather than tear down.  I can honestly say, it has been life-changing!” ~ K
“having been married to my wife for 29 years, one would think we would know each other's personalities inside and out, not so. We would argue and set each other off by triggering emotions that could end up being destructive. The striving styles identifies those triggers and how to prevent them. This is huge for the harmony of our relationship. Our 29 year relationship with my wife is back on track.” ~ G

While it can be way easier to observe, notice, judge, and criticize others behaviours, especially our partners, a couple can significantly improve their relationship when they build self-awareness and stay focused on their own behaviours, needs, triggers, and personal improvement. Valuing and appreciating each other, not just your similarities, but also your differences, will strengthen your relationship. We all know how hard it can be to change ourselves, so why do we think we can change our partners!

If you are traveling a road together, it’s so much better to be pulling in the same direction. The secret is to become really curious about your partner, and as they talk about their needs, or even their frustrations, just listen. And, now that K & G have a deeper understanding of themselves, have a greater awareness of their differences, and are staying focused on their own behaviour, they are living proof that it’s possible to make a relationship work with any combo of personalities and tendencies. And, really, what’s a better motivation to improve and better ourselves than love?

This TedX talk is so good if you’re looking to improve your relationship habits!

In this TedX Talk Dr. Andrea & Jon Taylor-Cummings share their observations of the 4 fundamental habits that all successful relationships exhibit.

Now, it’s your turn.

What are your relationship needs? Do you know what triggers you in your relationships? What conditions are key to making you thrive in your relationship? How are you and your partner different? What differences do you love and appreciate the most in your partner? Which ones annoy you the most? Leave your comments below.

Photo source: Photo by Content Pixie from Pixels

Boundaries, Reacting vs Responding, Self Esteem, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How to set & honor your boundaries

“I allow myself to set healthy boundaries. To say no to what does not align with my values, to say yes to what does. Boundaries assist me to remain healthy, honest and living a life that is true to me.” ~ Lee Horbachewski

In my previous blog post I discussed how healthy boundaries are essential to our overall happiness and well-being. They’re also key to the well-being of those close to us. While we may all agree they’re important, the difficulty is actually establishing and holding others and ourselves accountable to them.

What is a personal boundary?

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.* Boundaries help us feel comfortable and to develop confidence and positive self-esteem.

Why we need boundaries

We need to set boundaries because the way we treat ourselves sets the standards for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into getting clear about what we really want and don’t want, then we can’t expect others to know how to treat us. And if we don’t define them, then someone else will do it for us. Without awareness or consideration of our boundaries, they can be crossed, forgotten, overlooked, or rejected. This, in turn, can make us feel invalidated, confused, hurt, or all of the above. And if this happens long enough, these moments can alter our reality and affect the relationship we not only have with ourselves but with others as well.

Thankfully, with time, you can develop the boundaries that are considered non-negotiables to create a healthy and happy life. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear, you want to set boundaries to create a sense of internal and external security. “Boundaries allow us to be clear on our own needs and preferences, and this helps us maintain clear limits with others,” Manly said. “While some boundaries may be rather flexible in nature, our non-negotiable boundaries are absolutely essential to our sense of being honored and respected.”

Boundaries can be defined for every area of your life. When you have them, you’ll no longer wonder what to say when your friends ask you to go to a place you don’t like, or when your colleagues guilt you into joining another project team that you don’t have the time or energy for. You’ll no longer feel the urge to react to the comments on your life choices or opinions by your well-meaning friend, partner or family member. With clearly defined boundaries you will know what to say without being reactive or impulsive (previous post). How many times have you felt like saying no to a social engagement or a work assignment but instead you heard yourself agreeing because you didn’t know how to get out of it. We are prone to over-committing because we either feel uncomfortable saying no or we’re afraid that we’ll come across as rude or because we don’t want to upset other people. That’s why having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling this way every single time.

3 Steps for Establishing and Honoring your Boundaries

Step 1:  Identify your boundaries

Reflect on the areas in your life where you need to create boundaries the most. Then identify what you want these boundaries to help you with. For example, navigating your work environment better, improving relationships with friends, or feeling more valued at home with your spouse or children. It can be anything really and there are no limits so list as many as you like. You can meditate on this and then write down everything that comes up for you. Once you’ve identified these areas and situations you can move to the next step in the process.

Here are a couple of questions to help you get started:

  • When and where expressing your needs and desires feels most challenging?
  • In which situations do you find it difficult to be fully yourself?
  • When do you hide your voice or opinion the most?
  • When are you putting your needs last?
  • What makes you put other peoples needs first?

Step 2:  Establish your response

Next, write down a sentence or two for each one of your chosen areas. These sentences will be the basis of your boundaries. Now, come up with a response for each of them.

Here are examples for a few areas in your life:

Your friend: Your friend wants you to go out on a Saturday night but you feel really tired but you don’t want to hurt her feelings and say no, so what do you do? You can say something like, I would like to spend some time with you but I’m not feeling well right now and I don’t want to ruin your evening so I’d rather spend it here and take care of myself. I really hope you understand. Keep your language simple expressing gently but firmly your needs and desires, while showing empathy, understanding, and compassion for your friends needs.

Your spouse: You and your spouse are having a disagreement and the conversation escalates to the point where your spouse becomes condescending and critical of you. This is making you very uncomfortable. Be very strict with your spouse and tell them that, “If you criticize me any further, I’m will not discuss this with you.”

Your work: Your boss asks you to join another team project but you don’t have the time or energy. You are very committed to your job and you don’t want to disappoint your boss by saying no, so what do you do? You can say something like, I really appreciate you thinking about me for this project but I already have a full plate with my current work load and won’t have the time to take on more and do a good job. I really hope you understand. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to negotiate your current workload and take on the new project.

When you set your boundaries you don’t need to explain too much or get into detail of why you are choosing to do something. You want to show that you’re confident in your decisions and that your needs are valid. So make sure you don’t get into saying too much, backtracking or changing your mind. If you have an instinct to start with “I’m sorry, but…” it’s important to get out of this habit because you don’t need to apologize for feeling the way you feel, or for the choices you make. This is especially common for women as we’ve been socialized to put others needs first.

Step 3: Honour your boundaries

Once you’ve identified your areas, and set your boundaries, you’re ready to go. You need to be very consistent and firm with them. This, by far, is the most difficult step because it requires a lot of courage, pushing past fears and developing your self worth.

State the consequences you will enact to create safety for yourself. Pay attention to people’s reactions. If your boundaries make someone mad, then that person is abusing you. Be aware that the urge to slip back into old habits will be strong at first, so you need to show that you are absolutely serious about your boundaries and you’re willing to honor them no matter what. The tough part is when the people in your life don’t want you to change. They will resist and fight it because they simply aren’t used to the new you and your boundaries. They will test you and trigger you and it will be difficult at first but it will pass. As long as you are honoring your boundaries they will eventually get the message and let it go. Until then, stay firm. People will start respecting your boundaries when you really show them that your new boundaries aren’t going anywhere. Be patient with your self, and the people around you. 

It’s important to be aware that you will most likely feel guilty when you exercise your boundaries, and it may take some time to fully release this feeling. This is especially true if you’re used to putting yourself last. This guilt will likely show up in the third step when you are honoring them. The more we remind ourselves that there is nothing wrong or bad about valuing our self-worth and taking care of our overall health and well-being, we will feel less and less guilty. When we define and honor our personal boundaries we show up as authentic and confident, which ultimately improves the lives of all those people around us.

I hope this helps you set your own healthy boundaries, feel more confident, and makes your life easier and more enjoyable.

And if you’re needing a bit of a confidence boost when honoring your boundaries, change your body language by doing a power pose, as described by Amy Cuddy in this Ted Talk video.

In this Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy, an American psychologist, explains how the “power pose” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our changes for success.

Photo source: Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

*Wikipedia

Boundaries, Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Victim mentality, Who are you meant to be?

We’re better with boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brene’ Brown

I struggle with boundaries in certain areas of my life. And I’m quite certain that I’m not alone. I believe that a lack of boundaries is at the center of so many of the issues and relationship struggles I discuss with clients, co-workers, friends and family. Both personally and professionally, having healthy boundaries are essential to our happiness and well-being, and can help transform our lives.

Establishing healthy boundaries can be very difficult. It can feel extremely uncomfortable upsetting or disappointing others. Putting their needs before our own and ensuring their happiness seems like, on the surface anyway, the best way to keep the peace. But taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness while ignoring our own needs doesn’t actually make others happy. Nor does it make us happy. In fact, you’ll actually become very unhappy. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene’ Brown describes that before she established healthy boundaries she was “sweeter on the outside” but “judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside”. I can relate. Can you? Because really, can you truly be happy if you’re always trying to please others? I mean, I’m sure you don’t believe that people are responsible for your happiness, so why would you believe that you are responsible for their happiness? At the end of the day, no matter what we do or don’t do, I know we can’t really control the happiness of others.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.” ~ Brene’ Brown

The way we treat ourselves sets the standard for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into clearly establishing what we want and don’t want, then how can we expect others to know what we want. They can’t read our minds so if we don’t define them, then someone else will. Having healthy boundaries in place will help you realize your self worth, and demonstrate that your needs and feelings are valid and important. You’re worthy of being seen and heard and of putting your needs first. You deserve to have a voice and an opinion. Of course, for some, it may be a bit more difficult to find your inner power and firmly define your boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. There’s no doubt that it’s hard but anyone can do it with time and practice. At first you’ll feel uncertain and a bit scared, and your boundaries will feel a bit shaky, but the more consistent you are, the easier it will feel. In the beginning you’ll likely feel bad or guilty if others aren’t happy, but you can’t please everyone.

Just like other people can’t read our minds, we can’t read theirs. It’s not our business to try and keep them happy or avoid disappointing them. In fact, in doing this, we also kind of take away their power from them by trying to avoid upsetting or disappointing them. We don’t need to filter ourselves for the sake of others. We’re allowed to feel what we feel and it’s not our place to manage other peoples emotions, even if it comes from a caring place. We may think we know what’s best for everyone but sometimes we need to take a step back and allow other people to decide how to feel for themselves. All we can really do is have our own boundaries in place, honor them, and express what we need and how we feel.

Having healthy boundaries can help change our lives. They can help you express your needs and desires without feeling pushy, rude or guilty, and they help you strengthen your relationship with yourself. When you get clearer about what you want, what you are here for, you’ll no longer feel the need to hide or filter yourself. The more self-aware you are (see previous post), and the better you understand your Striving Styles predominant need, fears and triggers, you be able to identify who you’re meant to be and know that you’re worthy of feeling good and honoring yourself. Your well-being doesn’t have to come last.

Signs you lack healthy boundaries

A lack of strong and clear boundaries can result in feeling worthless, weak, or not good enough. Here are some signs that you are lacking healthy boundaries in your life:

  1. you find it diffcult speaking up when you feel mistreated.
  2. you find it difficult making your own goals a priority.
  3. you do things when you don’t want to. You have a hard time saying no.
  4. you go out of your way to please others and seek their approval.
  5. you overcommit and give away too much of your time, making too many sacrifies at your own expense.
  6. you get guilted into doing things for others.
  7. you agree when you actually disagree.
  8. you feel guilty taking care of yourself, and taking time for yourself.
  9. you feel guilty when someone else feels bad, like you are responsible for other peoples thoughts, feelings, and actions. You feel guilty when others aren’t happy.
  10. you feel taken for granted by others.
  11. you give your time away for free.
  12. you do or give away things that you can’t afford.
  13. you feel like you have failed someone or guilty if you say no to them.
  14. you feel resentful and complain even though you agreed to the request or the expectation.
  15. you are what others want or need you to be, and not what YOU need to be.
  16. you are almost always comply with those in superior positions (boss, parent, etc.)
  17. you have toxic relationships or stay in unsatisfying relationships or situation.
  18. you let others describe your reality.
  19. you minimise your own feelings and needs.
  20. you do things out of obligation.
  21. you are consumed with what others think of you.
  22. you over-share details about your life.
  23. you often feel like a victim (refer to previous post)
  24. you attract people who try to control or dominate you.

If you identify with any of these then stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll be discussing strategies and tools you can use to define, develop and honor healthy boundaries in every area of your life. While initially it won’t be easy, having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling guilty or bad every single time. By leaning on the understanding that ultimately everything you do is for the sake of yours and others well-being and that you are always doing your best, you will soon realize that you’re worthy of taking care of yourself and that there is nothing wrong or bad about it, and eventually you’ll feel less and less guilty.

Healthy boundaries* include:

  1. saying no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have the resources to do.
  2. leaving situations that are harmful to you.
  3. telling others how you want to be treated.
  4. being aware of your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel differently than others.
  5. not trying to change, fix, or rescue others from difficult situations or feelings.
  6. allowing others to make their own decisions.
  7. prioritizing self-care.
  8. sharing personal information gradually based on how well you know and trust someone.
  9. recognizing which problems are yours to solve and which problems belong to others.
  10. communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  11. having personal space and privacy.
  12. pursuing your own goals and interests.

in the following video clip, Brene’ Brown explains, in her typical humorous style, how to let go of the person we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we are. And when we have the courage to set boundaries, we engage with our worthiness.

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: LIVING WITH COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION | Excerpt | PBS
•14 Feb 2011 PBS

Book recommendation:

Now, it’s your turn.

What you would really want to do if you knew that it wouldn’t disappoint others? Which area(s) of your life are boundaries the most difficult to maintain? Which of the unhealthy sign(s) did you identify with? I recommend journaling or mediating on them. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (view of Stanley Park from Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)

*Sharon Martin, LCSW

Brain dominance, Dreams, Goals, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

What would you do with an extra 13 years?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

I recently read that the average North American watches between two to four hours of TV per day or 14-29 hours per week. If so, that would means that over the course of an average lifespan it would be equivalent to spending between 7 and 13 years in front of the TV! I also read that the average person spends nearly 2 hours per day on social media or 14 hours per week, which is equivalent to five years and 4 months over their lifetime, and this continues to increase. That’s crazy! I know I need to become way more intentional on how I’m spending my time, especially how much time I’m watching TV and spending on social media. How about you?

Just imagine what you could accomplish within 13 years! You can become a doctor in 11 years, and 13 if you specialize. You could get a PhD in whatever you’re interested in. You could go to university part-time, and complete a four year undergrad. There are endless courses available and you could become an expert in any subject you’re interested in. Or you could learn to play an instrument, become fluent in another language, learn to paint or draw. You could start a new business. Maybe get a black belt in karate, train and run marathons. Get fit, lose weight. Get a second job and pay off debts or save for that amazing vacation you’ve always dreamed of taking. You could take 13 amazing trips if you planned just one per year, in maybe 13 different countries. You could write that book you’ve been thinking about. Volunteer in your community. You could mend a relationship or nurture existing ones. The list is endless and it’s sure got me thinking about what I could do in 13 years!

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” ~ Earle Nightingale

From the time I was young, I dreamed of going to university, but four years of university seemed too much of a commitment, too much time, and out of reach mainly because I suffered from debilitating self-doubt (that’s a whole other topic). In spite of this, I was ambitious and keen to work, so I got a job and completed a two year diploma program at night school instead. It took me five years, working a full time job, a part-time job, and going to school, while taking one or two courses per semester. Definitely not an easy or fast path but I was proud of myself for finishing. Of course, the dream of going to university was still there, so as soon as I finished that program, I enrolled in university. Ironically, one of the excuses I had about going to university was too much of a time commitment! So, without boring you with all the details of my life story, I did plod away for 20 years on it, with many stops and starts along the way due to competing priorities from my career, family, moving, home renos, etc., and I’m proud to say I did eventually get my degree. While I don’t recommend that particular long and winding path, the point is, time passed anyway so I’m glad I did it. I absolutely know I would’ve regretted not doing it.

Sometimes our dreams feel so big, overwhelming, or simply out of reach. Getting clear on what you want in your life is essential. Once you have a clear vision, you need to understand why you want it. Your why is your ultimate motivator when it get’s tough, because it will. The key is to break down your vision and goal into a tangible action plan with daily or weekly tasks. A little progress every day will add up over time and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

It will feel slow and tedious, especially if you’re impatient like me, but by continuously and consistently working, practicing, and staying the course, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done. The rap singer Macklemore wrote a song where he says that “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot”. This is a great reminder that there are very few overnight successes. Most success stories we hear about are the result of getting clear about what you want and a commitment to working hard.

For some people, envisioning their future self and figuring out what they really want can be challenging, while for others, it’s the easy part. Those that find it easy to visualize and dream may struggle with putting a plan together or taking action. All of this depends on what part of your brain dominates your personality. To learn how your unique brain is organized, and about your predominant style, complete the Striving Styles Personality Assessment. Helping people discover their dreams, and define a plan of action to achieve it, is what I love to do. Contact me if you want to learn more.

So what dream or dreams aren’t you pursuing because you’re sitting in front of the TV or glued to your phone. Just image what you could do in 13 years!

I think you might enjoy this inspiring and insightful Tedx Talk on the philosophy of time management.

The Philosophy of Time Management | Brad Aeon | TEDxConcord

My book recommendation

Now, it’s your turn.

What ambitions do you have right now that you are not pursuing? What dreams did you have when you were younger but have since given up on? What do you most wish for in your life? What do you want the most for your life? Share in the comments.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (artist in Honfleur, France)

Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you shine?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Do you know who you are? What your unique gifts are? Each of us are born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then, over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, and to be liked by others, slowly erodes our uniqueness, and in many ways, encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy and motivation. It can also rob us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin.

Knowing who you are meant to be starts with knowing what you are born as. Too often people try to figure out what they are meant to do without having any idea about who they really are. This disconnect causes them to look outside of themselves for answers to questions that can only be answered from within. It also causes us to strive to be what others expect of us and to give up on ourselves and instead try to live up to an ideal, to be the person that we think we should be, rather than based on who we authentically are.

We’re are all driven by powerful, instinctual needs that we’ve had since birth – our predominant style or Striving Style (SSPS). These needs are the source of our motivation for our behaviour, social interaction, and influence how we behave and how we feel about ourselves. When our predominant need is met, we are poised for growth and development.

However, when our predominant needs are not being met, we will feel threatened, frightened or anxious, leading to self-protective or survival behaviours. Fear and anxiety override rational thought which will profoundly influence our behaviour, often without our awareness, thus undermining our success and effectiveness.

Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like somehow your day was hijacked? Or maybe you’ve spent to much time reacting, caught up in some drama or just consumed with a sense of busyness. Do you ever feel uneasy, or have a quiet of rumbling deep inside that something isn’t right. This means you are living out of your self-protective systems. When I have a day (or week) like this I’ll reflect on the predominant needs of my striving style and make a plan on how I need to shift out of my self-protective system. If you’re unaware of your predominant needs you will be at the mercy of your unconscious impulses, emotions and negative habits of mind, leading to reactive, non-productive behaviour, increased emotionality, and an inability to focus on your goals.

The SSPS gets to the heart of the human experience and helps you identify what you need to feel secure and psychologically stable so you can grow and develop. As well, it provides you with insight into the consequences when you don’t get your predominant needs met. The SSPS doesn’t provide a laundry list of strengths and weaknesses but rather, it takes into account the complexity of your brain’s functioning and its impact on your personality.

Coming to understand yourself, recognizing and expressing your uniqueness and who you really are will make you feel more creative, confident, energized and inspired. Your personality, your unique history and story is like no one else’s. Living a life with authenticity, meaning and purpose is ultimately what a happy and fulfilled life looks like.

I love this beautiful (and fitting) song that I have currently playing on repeat. Enjoy!

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Now, it’s your turn.

Think about a time recently that you felt really happy and content, like in that moment you had everything you needed. Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel when you were in this moment of happiness?

How about a time that you felt inspired motivated or purposeful. When you felt you were focused, in the zone. How did it feel to be inspired in this way?

What about a time when you felt moved by something more- a beautiful sunset, a night sky, the ocean an overwhelming experience of love or compassion.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels