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

Emotional Intelligence, Limiting Beliefs, Negative Habits of Mind, Self-Awareness, Victim mentality

Which one are you – the victim or the heroine/hero?

“Above all, be the heroine of your life. Not the victim.” ~ Nora Ephron

We all play the victim from time to time, however some people do this more often than others. We tend do this because when things aren’t going well in our life, it’s much easier to blame others rather than taking responsibility. By taking responsibility we might actually have to do something to change it, and that can be a giant pain! It’s way easier to rationalize all the reasons why it’s not our fault.

Having a victim mentality keeps you stuck in the problem and less capable of finding a solution. The more you can prove that you’re not at fault, the less responsibility you’ll have to fix it. Whenever I notice myself falling into that victim mentality, I try to shift my perspective and look at my situation from a different point of view. Or, I’ll seek the opinion of a trusted friend for an objective viewpoint. But sometimes this can take a lot of effort. Many people may not even be aware that they have a victim mentality. Seeing a situation from another perspective can be especially difficult if you’re living with a deeply embedded victim mindset.

Early on in our development we learn how power and control over others affects relationships, as well as how surrendering power and control affects relationships. Generally a victim mentality comes from a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or not having the strength to make big life decisions. Some might be afraid of losing control so they allow others to take control. This way if something goes wrong, they can place blame on others and ensure a safe position for themselves. Blaming someone justifies feeling miserable but getting caught in a loop of re-living a negative experience over and over ultimately builds resentment.

Relinquishing power and control by placing our self in someone else’s hand usually results in feeling anger, resentment, and frustration. Most people aren’t even aware that they’re playing the victim, therefore unaware of where these negative emotions are coming from. Being in a state of victim hood can reside deep within our subconscious and is often difficult to see or recognize unless someone tells us. Sadly, some people stay in this victim mentality their whole life.

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

How to recognize if you have a victim mindset & how to break out of it.

Set backs, disappointments and hurts are all part of life.  It’s how you respond to them that will determine your happiness in life.  While you can’t control some circumstances, you can control your responses to them (refer to my post Be mindful respond rather than react).

5 Ways to Recognize if you have a Victim Mindset

  1. Everything is negative. Most things have a negative tone to them. Nothing seems to work out for you, no ones on your side, or you’ve been dealt a bad hand (refer to my previous post on negativity bias.
  2. You ask yourself “why” a lot.  Such as …why does everything in my life have to be hard.  Why can’t people leave me alone? why don’t people understand me?
  3. You ruminate over things a lot. The same negative script can go over and over in your head for hours and nothing seems to work out for you.  I never seem to get  ….  Why bother because  …
  4. You’re your own worst critic. You don’t think very highly of yourself, feel like damaged goods and that you don’t deserve good things.
  5. You’re often angry and resentful of other peoples gains. For example, you resent the fact that your good friend got a great new job and a big pay increase. She already has nice things, why is she always the one who gets these things. These things never seem to happen to me. 

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Sometimes you can slip into the victim mindset only in certain areas of your life. It can be subtle but persuasive enough to hold you back or even lower your self esteem.

5 Ways to Break out a Victim Mentality

“Take full responsibility for your actions, your choices, and your life. You made it this way. If you’re happy, keep going. If not, choose to do something about it.” ~Kyle Francis

  1. Build confidence by creating small but achievable goals. If you’re convinced that good things never happen to you, you need to retrain your mind to see that you can win at something even if it’s small. Then give yourself time to reflect think or ruminate on these small accomplishments before you move onto even bigger accomplishments.
  2. Give to others. Turn your attention to giving to others. Victimization breeds neediness, and the more needy you are the more you’ll be disappointed when your needs aren’t met. Meeting someone else needs allows you to rise above the victim mode and be someone else’s hero. The satisfaction you get from loving or showing love to others gives you a reason to love yourself which guards you from future hurts.
  3. Practice gratitude. When you’re in victim mode, you focus more on what you don’t have and lose sight on what you have. You can change your perspective by spending more on what you do have. If you write them down you can re-read them and remind yourself of them later when you slip back into feeling sorry for yourself.
  4. Get closure on past hurts. This might involve forgiving someone, or forgiving yourself. If you blame yourself for continuing to make the same mistakes over and over, or for trusting the same wrong person, you’ll need understand what draws you to these bad decisions in the first place. This will take some work and you may need the help of a counselor, therapist, or even a good friend who knows you well. Once you get a handle on your patterns you can move on to better decisions in the future.
  5. Take ownership of your decisions. Remember, no one can make you feel a certain way unless you allow it. If you are around people who make you feel bad, are critical of you, etc. then you need to limit your contact with them. Sometimes we don’t have the option of not seeing them, especially if they’re a family member or a parent, so if that’s the case then you’ll need to set up boundaries and create some emotional distance to protect yourself from always being hurt by that person.  Don’t let past hurts define you.

It’s important to identify if you are wallowing in victim mode so you can put it behind you. It’s also important to reflect on your own behaviour (see previous post on emotional intelligence). You have the power to rid yourself of the victim persona but it’ll take ongoing, daily work. It’s been scientifically proven that thinking positive enhances your life and that feeling in control of your life improves your overall sense of well-being. I’d say these make it a worthwhile endeavour.

In the following Ted Talk, Lori Gottlieb shares how you can edit your life story and live more fully by letting go of that one version of your story that you’ve been telling yourself. She explains that in order to be a good editor, we need to offer compassionate truths so we don’t perpetuate the victim mentality, not just to our friends, but to ourselves. This helps us see what we’ve left out of our story so we can come up with an alternative version where we are the heroine or hero of our life story, and not the victim.

How changing your story can change your life | Lori Gottlieb

Now, it’s your turn.

Do you struggle with a victim mentality? How do you shift your mindset? Or perhaps you know someone who often plays the victim. How does this affect your relationship with them? Share in the comments below.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (winter daytime moon, Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)