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New Year’s Resolutions- Good or Bad Idea?

Every January, I get this question from clients:

Do you think I should do [insert goal] as my new year’s resolution?

My response: It depends.

We all know that goals can be a lovely thing. They help us experience our potential, give us the satisfaction of completion, help us grow and evolve, and often provide the opportunity for a really cool experience and to learn just how capable we can be. Focusing on a goal and working towards it not only helps our self esteem, it gives us meaning. And purpose. And meaning and purpose are a HUGE part of what makes us feel like this whole living life thing worthwhile.

You might be excited to go back to school, or run your first 5K or marathon! Perhaps you just want to read more, or get off of social media. Maybe you want to lose weight or make more money.

If someone comes to me with a desire for a goal — my first questions are to explore the WHY. Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to go back to school? To me, this exploration of the origin of the desire is paramount to discovering whether or not the goal is actually something that will improve your well being and inner peace. Let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds. Your doctor even told you it would be a good idea. Your internal WHY, and how you feel about yourself in relation to what that goal means to you, is not only going to affect your success, it will also affect something deeper- and maybe in not such a good way- something that is much more important than the outcome of the goal itself– your self worth.

The short explanation: Once you attach your self worth to a particular idea about who you should be and what makes you worthy, you become a prisoner to this idea. I’m sure your inner critic would love to argue with me here. But trust me, my clients show up with all different forms of outward success- professionally successful; in amazing shape and health; super organized; super mom capabilities; lots of education, etc. So if you think you’ll be happy, and you’ll be more worthy once you reach X… I hate to tell you this, but those accomplishments are not what make a person happy.

For example, I love to run. It makes me happy. But to set a goal with the idea that if I run 5 days a week I will be a better person, well, that gets a bit tangly. Running makes me happy not because someone else said it’s a good idea and will boost my ego/ sense of worth– but because the actual act of running- especially out there on our beautiful mountain trails, literally is FUN to me. It FEELS good, I can feel stress leaving me, and all kinds of other wonderful cascading consequences because of it. But missing a day of running does not make me a bad person. This might seem obvious saying it like that, but think about the things you think you have to do and be in order to consider yourself worthy of good self esteem.

Stop for a moment and think about a particular goal you have.

Ok, do you have it in your mind? Now, feel for a minute into what that goal feels like. What comes up? Are you excited about it? Does the idea of this experience feel good to you? Like it’s going to add to your life? You feel ready for it? Capable of it? If that’s your feeling response, awesome. However, if when you pause with that goal in your mind, and you feel a sense of urgency, or sadness, or like you NEED this thing, you lack it, and without it you feel bad about yourself, it’s probably a good idea to spend some time first with self compassion. If you have a negative voice in your head telling you “you have to be this, do these things, look this way, etc” in order to be worthy of love and respect, it’s definitely time to put the goal down and address that inner critic first.

A lot of people let their inner critic push them to accomplish things. And most people who do this think they couldn’t accomplish those things without the critic. But I’m going to tell you it’s a big fat lying trick in your head!

I’ll write more about the big fat lying trick of the critic soon, but in the meantime, take a moment for some self reflection on your goals and see if you can identify if they are coming from the negative self judgment voice in your head, or from that place of energy, excited about engaging in the experience of the goal. If you think you’ve got a pretty harsh critic in your head, let’s work together, or find a counselor in your area to get you some relief from that negativity, and in that peace and self compassion you’ll be able to set and reach goals that will add to your life, not define it as the conditions of your worth as a human being.

Sacrifice ≠ Love

“I don’t need to hurt myself in order to be loved.”84444fec3d020bb94448e8b8ab9a8375

One of my clients said this today in session, and this powerful insight is paving the way towards her healing, towards the freedom to feel peace within herself, and to finally allow and demand her own self worth.

I had to write those simple and beautiful words down, because even though most people might assume at first glance the statement as obvious and rational, ironically, it is not what many people, especially women, actually believe deep inside.

As young girls, we are taught to be kind, nurturing, and empathetic. All beautiful virtues to have as a human being. After all, I still believe in my favorite words from the beloved Thoreau- “would not the greatest miracle be to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” These words and my belief in empathy as one of our most powerful tools are actually part of what guided me to become a therapist.

But it took me awhile, even in my own life, to see that it was also important to allow myself that same courtesy of empathy. Just because you can understand another person’s perspective, whether it be your partner, a friend, a family member, a stranger— doesn’t mean that your perspective, your EXPERIENCE of a thing, then has to be brushed aside and dismissed.

Your voice matters. What you feel and desire matters. You have the right to say these things without fear of retribution, judgment or shame. How someone else feels about what YOU feel, is not actually YOUR problem. It’s theirs (and they are allowed to feel what they feel too). You are allowed to feel sick, tired, sad, unmotivated, irritated. You are allowed to want to be alone, or to not want to be sexual when you don’t want to. (I put this in here because the number of women who still have sex just to appease their partners is alarming and sad). You are allowed to be hungry for things that your own body craves. You are allowed to be interested or not interested in something. You are allowed to have an opinion. YOU are just as important as the person/people you are trying to please.

I understand that it feels good to make someone happy. We love that feeling of seeing a smile on a loved one’s face when we go along with what they want. I’m not suggesting you stop being kind. I’m suggesting you stop giving of yourself when you don’t actually have it to give. Especially when the cost is something that chips away at you. And even the kindest, most well meaning resilient souls can’t avoid the holes those chips create. If you’re doing it in a relationship, these chips slowly build into resentment, apathy, or loss of feeling connected to your partner. You might already know exactly what I am talking about.

So look for a minute at your own life. Your own relationships. What do you allow for the sake of your partner’s ease? What do you acquiesce to? The little things you think are harmless, you think are compromises for the sake of the relationship, they add up, and those little bits soon become a wall. Are you not expressing sadness, frustration, or some feeling you think might disrupt the state of things? Sift through your current situation- how do you cause yourself pain for the sake of being loved? Did your critic immediately retaliate with some rationale for this?

The woman who experienced this insight this morning was raised in an environment where appearance, attitude, grace, and handling everything with a smile on your face, never cause a problem or a stir, or bring any sort of negative attention to yourself, were the rules of living that now operate the voice of her inner critic. And just like the “rules” of the critic in your own head, they get in the way and wreak havoc on our self esteem, sense of peace, and even keep us from having authentic relationships, and authentic meaning in life. It is our responsibility to ourselves, to recognize that critical voice when it tries to shame you away from taking care of yourself. It is vital to recognize those moments when the critic tells you this other person’s feelings/ desires are more important than your own, and you acquiesce, hoping your sacrifice will be recognized somehow and will be paid back. The truth is, if you are never voicing your actual truth, the people you are sacrificing for will never actually learn what it is you really want, and will continue to expect this sacrificial behavior of you, not even seeing it as a sacrifice in the first place. Be true in your voice. From little to big. Stop saying you don’t care, and you don’t mind. What you want matters too. Ask yourself this question when faced with a decision— “is doing this thing going to cause me to resent this person? Even a little bit? Is it going to take away from me and make me feel worse, tired, or irritated? But if I just buck it up and stop complaining I’ll be ok?” If the answer is yes, try saying “no” to the thing, and yes to taking care of what you actually need in that moment.

All of this acknowledging your own feelings has a wonderful consequence by the way. You might be fearful that doing so and resisting your inner critic might turn you into a selfish monster, but the irony is, two beautiful things happen instead. One, by recognizing your own worth and valuing yourself, others will too. And two, when you stop hurting yourself in order to love others, you will actually end up feeling full of the love and energy you wanted to give in the first place.

girl-large-yellow-brick-road

Books.

We call it Bibliotherapy in our profession.

I will be continually updating this list with books I have found to be helpful for a variety of issues. If I've mentioned a book in session hopefully you will find a link for it here.  7fef9ea6660a98907dbefa23e62f394d

 

Individual / Self Work

People Pleasing, Emotional Sensitivity

 

This is a small book with a very deep, intense experience. I'm giving it a warning label. I recommend this often for certain people. "Gifted Child" meaning here is not referring to intellectual abilities and education. 

 

 

 

Neuroplasticity

 

 Rick Hanson is easy to read. I really like his ideas and approach. He is currently a leading expert in brain science- aka- the neuroplasticity of our brain's resilience and how we have the ability to change old wiring (old thinking, patterns not serving us, etc). 

Anxiety

 

 

Excellent tools in this book. I use some of them in session. Even if you wouldn't initially identify with having a "self esteem" issue- it addresses the same causing problem- the Inner Critic. 

Couples

Imago Therapy

 

Excellent book!! I recommend this at any stage in your relationship. You also don't need to be in a relationship to read this and have it be very worthwhile. Feel free to check out other books by Harville Hendrix. (Please note- he has recently updated his research findings which have affected some of his tools- I would order books that have been printed in the last 5-10 years)

 

 

 

John Gottman

 

 

 

 

Books with useful tools to immediately apply and try:

 

This sounds simple and it is- but founded in really great research and principles related to our attachment styles, neuroscience, and how to create connection easily- but with a deep impact personally.

 

 

 

 

Codependence

 

A definite read for those with a partner dealing with addiction. But it isn't necessarily just for them. The definition of codependence we might first think is simple to explain, and - "not me"- but the insights and relief you may find in this book could be amazingly helpful. 

8 Week Challenge

After spending some time looking over the results of my own clients’ lives I can confidently and personally confirm that the research is true.

Counseling works.a year from now yellow bricks

I am continually impressed by each person’s unique story and growth as they work through their stuff and figure out what it is that they need and how to feel good in their lives.

There is a caveat to the consistency of seeing this growth across the board. Or rather a common denominator. What all of these people have in common- no matter their outward differences are several qualities:

  1. Continued hope. Even in dark times when it may be hard to feel hope- something still makes them show up. You don’t have to feel good or know what you need to show up. You just show up. They just show up.
  2. Curiosity about themselves. So they show up.
  3. They keep showing up. It starts with the initial decision to commit and invest in themselves. The decision that they know they want to feel better- even if they aren’t always motivated to really change behaviors (or feel like they CAN)- they at least show up for the talk therapy. To sit in the room with me for an hour each week and begin to explore and process.
  4. They learn to understand it takes time sometimes for real, true, deep change. Especially when you are undoing patterns that you rationally don’t like, but happen over and again throughout your life- they begin to understand that it takes patience and compassion with themselves to rewrite this stuff. (Our brain neuroplasticity is fascinating!)
  5. Did I mention they show up? For at least a few months. In the span of your life time- one hour a week for a little while is not that much to commit – especially when it has the ability to make your life yours.

So. After 6 years of private practice work, I can agree first hand with the multitude of research claiming that psychotherapy works. It explains that a few sessions can make you feel a little better, and that at least 8-12 weeks of consistent sessions is the minimum sweet spot for significant life change.

One of the things psychologists and peers have been talking about lately amongst themselves, is that we need to make a bigger emphasis on this notion to our potential clients. Some are saying we need to be encouraging people to commit to 12 weeks. Definitely!

But I’m going to start a bit gentler. Because by Week 8 you will feel it for yourself. I’m also going to give you an incentive. (Because feeling better and having better relationships and meaning isn’t incentive enough! ha!) For a brief time, I’m going to challenge new clients (don’t worry- you don’t have to do this- I won’t be mad at you if you don’t)- to commit to 8 weeks of consecutive counseling. Come for 7 weeks, and your 8th week I’ll give you your session for free. Remember, you don’t have to be in crisis or be feeling bad to need to come in. Those clients I mentioned above came in and sometimes said- “I feel pretty great. Not sure what to talk about”. And it often turned into one of their best sessions.

I recommend paying your 7 sessions up front to encourage your commitment. You are welcome to pay as you go each week too. But it only works for 8 consecutive weeks. Don’t forget- if you have insurance- they will most likely pay you back 60-80% of this. BCBS usually sends my clients refund checks in 2-3 weeks.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Or go ahead and commit right now!

 

Start Your 8 Week Challenge Now

Thanksgiving Therapy Humor

Here’s a little video that brings humor to family dysfunction and what it might look like if we spoke the truth about what we are feeling and where we are. – Although I wouldn’t call this family enlightened! Ha!

 

Families that KEEP Trying

For years I worked with adolescents and their families, helping them learn how to understand each other in a way that would make everyone feel validated and life improved. To me the rules for this seemed simple enough. That was of course, until I had my own family! 

Learning how to navigate the tricky waters of being a parent, a partner, AND take care of yourself can be difficult. So how do we do this? How do you empower your children without feeling like you are powerless? The consequences of military style discipline without regard to individual feelings and personality have filled our therapy offices as well as the opposite- over indulgent fearful parenting styles with too much freedom leading to entitlement and lack of responsibility. So where is the balance? And how do we create that? How do we have a happy family?

The answer is- to keep trying

I really enjoyed this TED talk addressing just that. How to be ever flexible in your family. How to keep trying, how to give your children voice, while still remaining in the parental role. 

(On a side note, I also find it a bit humorous that he makes a crack at us therapists and “shrinks”- because ironically, the “agile” programming he speaks of is pretty interchangeable with the stuff we’re talking about too!) 

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

New Year’s Resolutions- Good or Bad Idea?

Every January, I get this question from clients: Do you think I should do [insert goal] as my new year’s resolution? …

Sacrifice ≠ Love

“I don’t need to hurt myself in order to be loved.” One of my clients said this today in session, and this powerful …

8 Week Challenge

EARN A FREE (FULL) SESSION!!!