Malcolm is a Pleasing Child. He has been pleasing since he was 4. He is now 42 going on 5. He has a lifestyle which appears to be dedicated to the pleasing of others. Beneath this facade there lies a darker reality. As a Pleaser, Malcolm doubts his worth as a person. He deems himself unworthy of being pleased. He sacrifices self-pleasing in favor of pleasing others who are worthier than himself. The Pleaser’s Lifestyle is one long good intention for others. He means well, but he doesn’t do well. He does not do what reality requires, he does what he requires in order to overcompensate for his self-contempt.
We say to ourselves, “He’s just doing that to get approval.” We content ourselves with this surface explanation, and we fail to ask the next obvious question: “Why does he need so much approval in the first place? Why isn’t he cured of this need when he gets it?” The answer is that the Pleaser is trying to solve a problem within himself that he doesn’t know how to solve. His solution cannot work. It does not relieve the pain of his self-contempt. Pleasing is the only trick he knows. He has to keep doing it.
As with most good intentions, pleasing behavior seems positive, but it is not. The Pleaser’s true goal is not to make people happy, it is to keep from displeasing them so that they will not beat him up after school. His sense of himself is so thin that a mere look of disdain is enough to unravel his fragile composure. A “dissatisfied customer” constitutes a threat to his existence. To displease is to court annihilation and that is unacceptable. His true purpose, then, is not positive, it is negative; it is the prevention of the bad things that happen to those who fail to be sufficiently pleasing. He doesn’t care about you, he cares about himself!
The Pleaser deceives himself into thinking that he is only being considerate of his fellow human beings by bringing a ray of sunshine into their lives. He has good intentions for others, without realizing that his good intentions are self-indulgent, counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive.
The Pleaser lacks the adult judgment that it takes to discriminate between appropriate pleasing and over-compensatory, inappropriate pleasing. He solves the problem by being pleasing all the time. It is hard work, but for him it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Pleasing Lifestyle is a carryover of a childhood role into adulthood where it is inappropriate and counter-productive. Pleasers are afraid to give up this role because they do not know what will take its place. To them, this negative, paper thin role is better than no role at all. They do not realize that there is a more gratifying way to go through life than living to please others.
As a consequence of this ungratifying lifestyle, Pleasers are susceptible to feeling impotent, out of control, alienated, insecure, naive, trapped, immature, anxious, and depressed. These are all facets of self-contempt. The harder they try to relieve their distress in counter-productive ways, the worse they feel.
The Pleaser often plays the role of the Clown, the Entertainer. He makes himself the butt of his own jokes to show he “can take it.” People may wonder why he is “on” all the time. They think he’s having a swell time. He doesn’t really have any choice. He feels compelled to behave in accordance with his definition of himself as the Pleaser and his attitudes towards himself, other people and life. He is acting out a role in a script that nobody wrote.
As we have seen, Pleasers are not motivated by a genuine concern for the happiness of others. They have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda of which they are only dimly aware. Their negative purpose in pleasing is to avoid being hurt by others. They prophesy victimization and disaster, and they feel that they can avert these disasters by placating those who have the power to hurt them. It’s the only hope they have. Unfortunately, these counter-productive attempts at pleasing often result in the fulfillment of their prophesies of abuse, rejection, abandonment and other forms of disaster. In the end, they stop trying. They “melt down,” they “burn out.” They have become discouraged.
Some Pleasers think that they can regain their vitality by going to the other extreme. Their motto becomes, “No More Mister Nice Guy.” The irony is that they weren’t a nice guy to begin with. The second wrong is that this phony role won’t work either.
Pleasing as Self-Indulgent Mischief: The Pleaser is convinced that his activities are other-directed and self-less. He is completely unaware of the self-indulgent, over-compensatory nature of his “pleasing” behavior.
The self-serving nature of the Pleaser’s activities becomes apparent when he is prevented from pleasing people his way. When the intended Pleased expresses a preference of his own, the would-be Pleaser experiences unpleasant, sometimes incapacitating conflicts On the one hand, he wants to please in order to avoid the unacceptable consequences of displeasing. On the other hand, he has his own notions as to how the Pleaser should be pleased; and his way is the right way! Thirdly, he dares not express his reservations openly for fear of displeasing his customer, and ruining the whole effect.
He must suppress his anger for fear of rejection or abandonment, which would invalidate his own worth as a person still further. He “solves” his dilemma by complying with the Pleasee’s request, but under silent protest. He does not perceive himself as “giving,” or as cooperating with his fellow human being. To the self-centered Pleaser, this accommodation is perceived as “submission’ to the “unreasonable” whims of his partner.
Mike is a Pleaser, too. He feels that he “knows” how people should be pleased; in fact, he knows how to please them even better than they know themselves! He knows what’s best for them. Since he does not experience himself as valid in his own right, he cannot appreciate the validity of his wife’s legitimate preferences. He discounts Marge’s preferences as “wrongheaded.” His preferences are right, and they are worthy to prevail.
Mike cannot stand to be wrong. He has to be right, even perfectly right. His agenda has nothing to do with his wife’s preferences in the real world. His agenda is to be right and not wrong. In his experience, wrongness is punished, and he has been avoiding wrongness all his life. When he says, “It’s the principle of the thing” to justify his nonsensical insistence, we say that he is just being stubborn. But why is he stubborn? What difference does it make whether they go to his movie pick or hers? The difference is that her pick is the “wrong” one because it isn’t his. His worth as a person is now at stake. If he is wrong, he will take it very personally, as if it were a reflection on his taste in movies. He would lose his shaky self-respect. His stubbornness is his way of maintaining his hidden agenda, which is preventing the invalidation of his worth as a person.
Antidotes To Pleasingness
A. His wife can try saying to him in a firm tone, “Mike, it would make me so happy to go see a movie. Won’t you do it for me?” This ploy distracts him from the phony issue of comparative film judgment. He may see an advantage to himself in making his wife happy for one evening.
B. Or, Mike’s wife might say, “It makes me angry when we always have to do things your way, whether it makes any sense or not. Now, you can go to your movie and I’ll go to mine and I’ll meet you at Barneys for a hot dog afterward.” This approach uses the wife’s legitimate anger to shock Mike out of his childish striving for superiority at her expense. It dispenses with the issue of which movie is “righter” than the other. Often, when Mike comes out of his shock, he goes to the movie with his wife because that wasn’t the issue anyway.
Gilda is a professional Pleaser. She wants to win both ways. She wants to relieve her own distress, and she wants a pat on the back from us for doing it. But because her misguided efforts are usually inappropriate and unrealistic, she very often fails to receive the recognition and approval that she requires to validate her shaky personhood. Instead, she often finds herself excluded from get-togethers, scorned by the very people she tries so hard to please.
She spends much of her life despising the ungrateful wretches upon whom she has had the misfortune to expend her energies and efforts. She finds her relationships to be a succession of such ungrateful wretches, one after the other. She has contempt for them and for the whole human race. But this contempt does not deter her from starting all over again when a new Pleasee moves into the building.
Not only is Gilda angry at the failure of her beneficiaries to recognize and appreciate her “goodness,” she is angry at herself. She is the “stupid” one for doing it over and over. She should “know better” by now. But she doesn’t. Since everything is her responsibility, her unhappiness must be “her fault” in the end. Since her goodness was unappreciated, she feels that it was all for nothing too. She feels worthless, angry at herself, and this anger turns into depression. Instead of relieving the pain of her self-contempt, her counter-productive, self-indulgent pleasing has only made it worse.
he other day I was approached by an acquaintance who was offering me a great opportunity to be a part of a great organization where a lot of money could be made with very little work. He got my name in passing and was good at following up leads. During his call to schedule a time to meet and discuss this opportunity further, I found myself in a dilemma. While this may indeed be a good option to explore further and the guy offering this was a new acquaintance, there was no way I was going to add anything more to my schedule, especially another job. So what to do?
A little into the call I simply told him “no”. I was not interested in adding anything more to my life. A few years ago I would have gone into even more of an explanation and justification of my answer in hopes to not hurt his feelings or our relationship. But I have discovered that the art of saying “no” is often enough in itself. No explanation is usually needed unless it is requested and the relationship is higher on the importance list.
Saying “no” is easy when it is a telephone solicitor or via email. As the degree of contact and the importance of the person rises, saying “no” is more difficult. However, it is important to be able to tell even the important people in life “no” if you hope to have more authority and power over your life. Being able to take charge of your life may mean that everything and everyone will not fit into your dreams and goals. It’s time to face the fact that some things and people are energy drainers. You dread the conversations with them when you meet in the hall at work. You see their name on the caller ID and your insides tighten, but you still answer the phone (even though your voicemail works fine).
Let’s begin to employ the art of saying “no” more frequently. For some of you that may mean this week you only tell two people “no”. Which would double your normal rate. Start small and work your way up. This week, when faced with something you really don’t want to do, say so. When given the wrong order at the restaurant, speak up. This is an easy way to learn how to say “no” which will increase the likelihood that you will be able to say it to more people, even those towards the top of the importance list.
Saying “no” allows you to stay on target with your values and goals. I do not recommend saying “no” just for the sake of saying “no”. Say it to take charge of your time. To take charge of your family. Your marriage. Your job. Your recreation. And say “no” without a long drawn out explanation, which often turns into excuses. Say “no” confidently. It will empower your spirit and your life!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It may seem obvious, but no one is perfect and to be human is to make mistakes. However, many fear that if they are not perfect then they will be at fault, leaving them with guilt and emotional pain. Mistakes can have unknown consequences and the unknown is a threat to your sense of security. This perception of a threatening experience is one that you feel unable to cope with and the threat of unknown consequences from your own mistakes, may trigger you to habitually defend yourself against that perceived threat.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Judgment is the organ of decision making. Our judgment does not operate in a vacuum. We have degrees of judgment and we have attitudes towards ourselves and our judgment. If we respect ourselves, we are likely to trust our judgment and use it constructively for our own behalf. If we hold ourselves as worthless and inferior, we cannot respect or trust our judgment to guide us through life. In fact, we will trust it negatively: whatever it tells us to do, we will do the opposite. The irony is that when it tells us to do something self-destructive and consistent with our self contempt, we will trust it! We lose either way.
Most young people take their cue from their parents and teachers. If they are called “stupid” every time they make a mistake, they come to hold their intelligence and judgment in the same contempt they hold themselves. They take these insults personally, as a reflection on their worth as a person. They don’t know how else to take it. The reverse process does not occur. The child rarely hears himself being commended for his good judgment in solving a problem. The parent may have the attitude that he doesn’t want success to go to this child head. “It will spoil him.” The irony is that he is spoiling the child with his good intention to avoid spoiling.
The child without self respect cannot win for losing. With his judgment knocked out, he is predisposed to fall back on his unconscious attitudes towards himself. He feels he doesn’t deserve to succeed. If his judgment yells him yes, he will outsmart himself and say no in order to avoid the negative outcome he predicts for himself. His good intention to save himself will be counter productive. If his attitude tells him yes, he will do it. But his attitudes have no brains. They cannot steer him in the right direction. They are in the service of his self-destructive self contempt. The child who respects himself does not feel he deserves to fail, does not predict failure, does not over ride his appropriate judgment, does not arrange to fulfill his prophecies of disaster. He does not stand in his own way. He deserves to succeed in life, no more and no less than anyone else.
The child who does not respect himself reaches the point where his self contempt and his self blame for being such a “loser” ferment into depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviors. Here is a conversation with a young man who, like many imperfect human beings, has trouble trusting his in the present. We had been talking about his memories of himself. The things he remembers are consistent with they way he feels about himself.
Client: “I remember my dad catching me and my brother Simon taking money out of his wallet. I ran out the back door, but Simon got caught. He got the crap beat out of him. When I came home, my dad had calmed down, but I felt terrible about what happened to Simon. He was still sobbing.”
Therapist: “You felt guilty for abandoning your brother. You should have stayed and taken your punishment like a man, but you didn’t. Your judgment propelled you out the back door and you have regretted it ever since.”
Client: “I haven’t thought about that for years.”
Therapist: “This escapade also includes the lament of exemption from the consequences of your behavior. Simon was not immune, like you. You got away with it.”
Client: “I was quick on my feet and I could talk my way out of anything.”
Therapist: “That ability gives us a fictitious sense of power and control over the circumstances of life. We end up defining our self worth in terms of this very minor, superficial trait.”
Client: “What’s wrong with that?”
Therapist: “It’s only the gift of gab; it is hardly a prescription for a healthy, gratifying existence. For instance, it does nothing to relieve you of your underlying contempt for the limits of your judgment. You end up being all mouth no brains.”
Client: “I had everybody fooled, didn’t I?”
Therapist: “You even succeeded at fooling yourself. Your weak spot was your judgment. Your great trick was to overcompensate for the unworthiness of your judgment.”
Client: “How did I do that?”
Therapist: “By imagining that your judgment was superior to the judgment of everyone else, that you knew in advance that you could take things and emerge unscathed. By believing that you could talk you way out of anything, you predicted the future and knew that you would be immune to any consequences thrown at you.”
Client: That’s stupid isn’t it?”
Therapist: “There you go again. It is not a matter of stupidity. It’s a matter of learning things about yourself that are not true.”
Client: “What do you mean? What is true?”
Therapist: “That you were a little boy and you made little boy mistakes. You compounded these human childish mistakes by taking them personally, as if they were a reflection on your intelligence and your self worth. When you got through compounding this pain, you didn’t have any self worth left. You grew up feeling worthless and stupid.”
Client: “That’s how I have always felt; I just didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Therapist: “When we try to conceal our secret stupidity in ways that don’t make any sense, the secret usually comes out one way or another.”
Client: “I’m always screwing up.”
Therapist: “When you do, you mistakenly perceive the screw-up as if it were a confirmation of your stupidity, which is an error in thinking because there was no stupidity in the first place.”
Client: “What other mistakes did I make?”
Therapist: “You made the mistake of perpetually blaming yourself. You imagined that your childhood ignorance was permanent and would last forever, which of course it does not.”
Client: “So I overcompensated by proving myself to others to get their approval. That’s stupid.”
Therapist: “Nope, that wasn’t stupid either. Stupidity has to do with one’s level of intelligence. The efforts you made to prove yourself to relieve the pain of your self-contempt did not arise out of your intellect. They arose out of feeling that you have about yourself. If these emotional conclusions are mistaken and unrealistic, you will have trouble coping with reality.”
Client: “I believed that my judgment couldn’t be trusted.”
Therapist: “That’s right. That was something you have come to accept as ‘fact’. You didn’t question it rationally or objectively when you were a child. And you never went back to check it out.”
Client: “I’ve been struggling ever since.”
Therapist: “That belief of yours is a double edged sword. One side is that you cannot trust your judgment positively. The other side is that you cannot trust it negatively.”
Client: “What does that mean?”
Therapist: “It means you can only trust your judgment to be wrong and let you down.”
Client: “So when I come up with a good decision, I doubt it will work, so I go ahead and do the opposite.”
Therapist: “Exactly. What happens when you doubt your judgment?”
Client: “It’s always a disaster. I could kick myself for not trusting my gut. I was right the first time, but doubted what I was thinking.”
Therapist: “This is how you confirm over and over again that your judgment cannot be trusted. Your self doubt kicks in and overrides your initial approach. It is this doubt that sabotages your happiness and success in the real world. It is entirely consistent with your identity of self-contempt.”
Client: “It proves that I am just being me doesn’t it?”
Therapist: “Yes. This is how you maintain the consistency of your childhood role as the stupid five-year-old that you used to be. It’s a payoff in a way. It is reassuring to know that you haven’t changed, you are still you even if it a stupid, unhappy you.”
Client: “Well it feels awful.”
Therapist: “It is awful. But these choices are not judgments at all. They are negative beliefs. They have nothing to do with your intelligence. They are emotional. They come from the heart, not the head. You keep overriding your mature adult judgment in the present with this childish belief from first grade. This approach makes sure that you don’t get any happiness, which you feel ‘stupid’ people do not deserve.”
Client: “Why don’t I stop?”
Therapist: “People, who feel they are guilty of being stupid, need to be punished for making mistakes. They don’t believe they have earned the right to be happy. Every six-year-old knows that when you are wrong, you deserve to be punished. So by denying yourself happiness you are just righting the wrong. When you fill yourself with doubt, it relates to the potential of being punished, which must be avoided. But since you don’t trust yourself to make a good decision anyway, you end up in painful doubt. This is the closest you come to finding happiness; it’s a painful pleasure in a way.”
Client: “Can I turn this around?”
Therapist: “Not by yourself. You can not be objective about your own mistaken feelings and beliefs. You are just going to agree that what you are thinking is right.”
Client: “I’m tired of this painful pleasure. I want to quit.”
Therapist: “Wanting to quit is nice but it is not enough. People who are drowning in self-contempt do not deserve to get what they want. They deserve to be punished. First you have to feel that you deserve to get something better.”
Client: “How do I do that?”
Therapist: “It’s done by doing your homework.”
Client: “What’s my homework?”
Therapist: “Instead of giving you an assignment for tomorrow, let me see if you have done some homework already.”
Client: “How could I do homework without even know it?”
Therapist: “Well let me see…How do you feel about coming to see a therapist?”
Client: “I feel it was a good decision.”
Therapist: “In what way?”
Client: “I feel like I am learning something about myself.”
Therapist: “That is a feeling of accomplishment. Would you call it a success?”
Client: “Yes, it was hard to come and ask for help, to admit that I couldn’t do it myself.”
Therapist: “Do you feel stupid?”
Client: “No I feel smart.”
Therapist: “How smart is smart enough?”
Client: “I don’t know?”
Therapist: “As smart as you are right now, that is smart enough. Did you have a choice in coming here today?”
Client: “Yes. I could have chosen not to come.”
Therapist: “So how do you feel about the choice you made?”
Client: “It was a good choice.”
Therapist: “In order to make that choice you had to use your judgment didn’t you?”
Client: “I guess.”
Therapist: “How good was your judgment in making the choice to come here today?”
Client: “Good enough”
Therapist: “This ability to recognize how good is good enough speaks to your own standards. By living up to our own standards we have feelings of accomplishment, success, maturity, security and self-respect. By coming here today you already did some homework for your own good, not for your parents, or for me, but for yourself.”
Client: “I always thought it was selfish to do things for me.”
Therapist: “It’s only selfish if it ends with you. Self-preservation means you take care of your self so you can help others. But if you don’t take care of you who will?”
Client: “I don’t know who?”
Therapist: “No one and you will come to resent those who you help since they take away from your ability to care for yourself. You are an equal member of the human race who is equally entitled to care for himself, no more or less important then anyone else. “
Client: “Actually, it was kind of scary to come here.”
Therapist: “But you did it anyways. Do you feel liberated?”
Client: “From who?”
Therapist: “From the old you. You came here and took responsibility for your own happiness. You made an independent choice and you can do it again. It took courage to try something new and do it anyways, that was quite a risk, but you did it anyways. You have earned the confidence and competence that come with courage. You took control by making a choice in the real world, according to your own standards. How do you feel now?”
Client: “You know, I can’t remember the last time I said that and meant it, but I feel happy.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I have some bad news for young people entering the workforce: You’re all a bunch of weenies, and we don’t like you.
LOL! JUST KIDDING!
No, seriously, millennials are great, but we do need to have a talk. So sit down with Old Man Huppke and let me address a generational problem that’s rearing its head — big time — in workplaces across the country.
First off, I’m talking about those of you born between 1982 and 1999. It’s the group that followed Generation X, which is the group that followed the baby boomers.
Every generation has its unique characteristics, of course. Gen Xers are largely the product of two-income households and tend to be independent and self-sufficient. Boomers prefer to work collaboratively and are known to enjoy dreadful folk music.
But the millennials, along with entering the workforce with unrealistic confidence and expectations, seem to have a problem with personal interaction and conflict resolution.
“One of the primary reasons in this past year or two that I’ve been called in to coach executives or companies around generational differences is to help them leverage the skills and talents of millennials,” said Linda Gravett, a psychologist and senior partner with the Cincinnati-based human resources consulting firm Gravett & Associates. “Many of them have trouble handling conflicts and don’t have confrontational skills or seem able to deal with conflicts in a straightforward way.”
Gravett said that in a recent focus group with 10 millennials, the subjects said they prefer to text someone they’re having a problem with rather than speak by phone or face to face.
“I asked them why they won’t just talk to someone over coffee or something,” she said. “And they said, ‘Oh, that’s too personal.’”
Another millennial told Gravett that the boss had yelled at him. She asked whether the boss raised his voice. The millennial said, “No.”
She asked whether the boss used profanity. The millennial said, “No.”
“So I said, ‘Explain to me what yelling at you means,’ and the young man said, ‘Well, he was really firm and he disagreed with me.’ He took that as being yelled at.”
Oh boy. If having someone disagree with you is akin to yelling, your work life is going to be deafening.
Cynthia Sims, associate professor of workforce education and development at Southern Illinois University, believes companies can best help millennials — and all staffers, for that matter — by treating generational issues as a matter of workplace diversity.
“What we’re describing are dimensions of diversity,” she said. “Folks don’t see generations as a diversity issue. They look at race and gender, but there’s more to it than that. There’s age, education, communication style. These are all dimensions of diversity, and we need to have training that talks about them that way.”
Companies often ignore generational differences, assuming people will just blend into a nice, smooth batter of productivity. But experts such as Sims and Gravett say it’s critical that companies acknowledge that every age group brings its own quirks and advantages to the table.
“I’m not sure the millennials are problematic; I just think there are communication and expectation differences that groups need to talk about,” Sims said. “We don’t have a forum in the workplace to talk about those differences. There may be some skills that millennials don’t have because they’re so used to technology; they may not have the social skills that some of us have. But that’s where boomers and Gen Xers can come in and help.”
Gravett said millennials tend to relate well to baby boomers because they view them more as grandparents, whereas Gen Xers could be seen as hovering, lecturing parents. Companies would be wise to pair millennials with older employees for symbiotic mentoring.
“Boomers can learn how to text, and the millennials can learn to walk down the hall and sit next to someone and look them in the face,” Gravett said. “If they start there, there doesn’t seem to be so much of a gap between them.”
So talk openly about the fact that your workforce is generationally diverse.
“The commonality would be, ‘What’s the mission of our company? What’s the mission of our department? What are our customer needs?’” Gravett said. “Let’s move toward that similar objective. But let’s acknowledge that maybe we have to communicate around those objectives in different ways.”
As with other workplace issues, we tend to clam up about generational issues. The key here is putting the fact that differences exist on the table and fostering some cross-generational understanding.
If millennials are struggling with overconfidence or an inability to handle confrontation, that’s not a sweeping indictment of any individual or the group. It’s just something that needs to be addressed.
And if we learn to address these things now, we’ll be better prepared for the next generation, whatever it may be called and whatever weird issues it has.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We all lament the inconsistencies of everyday life. We are rude to the people we love, yet civil to people we know nothing about. We make the right choice and then over-ride it to our own disadvantage. However, when we consider the complexities of our civilized existence and the complications of the human personality, it’s a wonder we are as consistent as we are.
We need to ask ourselves the right questions: “What determines our consistency in the first place? What are the barriers that keep us from being as consistent and as predictable as we’d like ourselves to be?” Our lives would be smoother and less problematic if we could answer these questions. We wouldn’t have to apologize as much or pay the penalties for deeds we had no conscious intention of achieving. We could stop saying, “I don’t know what got into me.” If we knew, we would not do it all over again next time.
I believe it is our subterranean beliefs from the past that determine how consistent we are. These beliefs keep us on track without the need for our conscious awareness, even if we don’t like the path we are on. In a given situation, our beliefs based on past experiences kick in and draw parallels based on vague similarities. Some people consistently give up heir seat on the subway for a pregnant woman. Others consistently do not. We didn’t have to weigh the merits of the case. We just go along with what is programmed deep down inside of us.
Consistency is not what many people think it is. For example, few of us stop to consider there are two kinds of consistency, just as there are two kinds of success, two kinds of control, and two kinds of communication. There is the healthy kind and the unhealthy kind. We al know people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. You’d think they’d catch a break once in a while, but they never do. They claim it’s a matter of dumb luck, or a bad break, or fate. They blame everything but the silent operation of their consistently unhealthy beliefs from their own past.
In my counseling sessions, I look for the consistencies in a client’s life. They could find them if only they knew where to look. For example, I can understand that a man may date or marry the same kind of woman because they are all consistent with his observations of a female role model growing up. He acquired certain beliefs about what a woman is and does. These beliefs shape his expectations of what his wants and needs are in a compatible marriage partner. If a mother is critical and demanding, he will be attracted to women whom act in similar ways. His agenda is not a happy marriage. His agenda is based on a constellation of underlying beliefs, it is to maintain and perpetuate the continuity of these childhood patterns from the past into the present and future. And it all goes on below the level of conscious awareness.
His friends may say he is “consistently inconsistent,” or that he is “predictably unpredictable.” I would say that when it comes to marriage partners, he is consistently unconscious of his inconsistencies. My approach is to reveal these negative consistencies to the individual who, as an adult, has the power to make new choices using his adult judgment to consciously replace his unhealthy beliefs from the past with healthy one in the present. The same processes determine his beliefs toward work, play, success, trust and many other aspects of adult life.
I define the word lifestyle as one’s way of moving through life. This includes the ways we cope with the tasks of love, work, and friendship. Our lifestyle is our way of solving problems of everyday life as they arise. Some of us have been adequately prepared to cope with life. We learned well from competent, self-respecting role models. We acquired some healthy, constructive beliefs such as, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.” This sort of belief facilitates the functional interactions of a civilized society. But we have learned many things from people and have been given conflicting information. Thus, we have our inconsistencies too.
There is a range of such learning from healthy to unhealthy. There are minor imperfections, which are the fossil remains of minor setbacks in first grade. They are not the problem. The problem is the major imperfections that derive from the never-forgotten events of our childhood. These events taught us lessons about ourselves, about others and about life. These lessons were built into our emerging lifestyle and became the unhealthy beliefs that predispose us to behave in ways that are not consistent with our overall lifestyle today. They are like raisins in oatmeal. Under the stress of a situation in the present similar to ones in our past, these old beliefs come to the surface and predispose us to behave in ways that seem out of character. We have a temper tantrum. But the situation passes and we resume our prevailing lifestyle, our everyday personality re-emerges and our life goes on until the next bump in the road.
It’s a matter of degree. Some of us have healthy self-respect. We have good judgment and we use it to our advantage. Some of us have a mixture of self-respect and self-doubt to a degree that makes our lives more problematic and difficult. We get in our own way without realizing our mistaken beliefs are kicking in and doing the damage. Some of us have still higher degrees of self-doubt and self-contempt, leaving us with mostly raisins and very little oatmeal. We consistently behave in ways that are self-destructive.
Our unhealthy beliefs are stronger then our healthy ones. We make useless mischief instead of living useful, productive lives. We don’t trust our judgment, it’s not good enough, so we merely react to stimuli and provocation. We do not seek happiness, only unhealthy excitement. We are not equipped to identify and evaluate the appropriateness of our unhealthy, dominant beliefs. We do not even question their validity. We just follow where they lead. An impulsive act of kindness, for example, would be inconsistent with our overall lifestyle. It would be a healthy drop of oatmeal in our unhealthy raisins.
Our unhealthy beliefs do not exist in a vacuum. They are not chaotic. They are in the service of our self-doubt. If the beliefs are so intense, they will overthrow the self-respecting part of our nature and bring about the self-destruction that the insecure part of us believes we deserve. So the pressure to succumb crushes the worthwhile part. It is a battle between two aspects of our personality. Our adult, civilized, mature thought processes are in direct opposition to our childish, immature beliefs from our personal development.
Our beliefs have dimensions. In addition to the healthy-unhealthy dimension, there is also the intensity dimension ranging from weaken to powerful. When we say we have a strong impulse to hit someone, that is a belief kicking in and trying to control our behavior. When we say we are fighting a strong temptation, we are talking about an intense belief that is predisposing us to behave in ways we know we should not behave. The conflict is between our emotional beliefs and our rational thought processes. The intensity of the belief is directly proportional to the intensity of the early recollection in which it is embedded.
My approach to personal problem solving is to help clients identify the sources of their unhealthy beliefs, which arise from their load of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that give rise to the complaints they want to resolve. In my view, the issue is not the complaint, and I do not give advice. The real issue is the constellation of old beliefs that are creating the problem in the present. My task is to find out what these old beliefs are and where they came from. To do this, I ask: “What is the first thing you remember when you think of your childhood?” and a treasure chest of buried beliefs rises to the surface.
Once I see where these beliefs are coming from, half of the mystery of the unwanted behavior is solved. The rest of the solution consists in helping clients find out what they can choose to do instead of what they have been doing. We solve that part of the mystery together by giving people small tasks to do in their everyday lives. This is called doing your homework. Each time they do their homework, they learn a little more about themselves. They experience themselves as competent to take life as it comes. Each success gives rise to stronger, healthier beliefs that crowd out and replaces the negative ones. As a result, the person becomes more consistently consistent.
I have a system of identifying current beliefs from the client’s behavior in the present. For example, Kate wanted to know why she is afraid to be happy. She had been to a party with people she liked, but she couldn’t enjoy herself. She isolated herself and found something to fret about the whole evening. It didn’t make sense to her and she wanted to know where her feelings were coming from. I didn’t tell her, my theories of why she felt they way she did. I didn’t say, “It’s just a case of nerves” or “You were just being self-conscious” or “I was something you ate”. It had to come from her. To identify Jane’s current feelings in the present, I asked her “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your childhood?” Jane thought for a moment and said, “I don’t remember anything. I guess what comes to mind is being on the playground, playing alone.”
(Therapist) “How do you feel thinking about being alone on the playground, playing by yourself?”
(Client) “Ok, I guess.”
(T) “Could you have felt all alone and lonely, maybe abandoned?”
(C) “No I enjoyed playing by myself, doing what I wanted to do, no one to get into my way.”
(T) “Would you say you felt happy?”
(C) “Yes, I was happy.”
(T) “What else come to mind when you think of playing on the playground?”
(C) “Getting beat up. I was in second grade and playing alone until two boys came pushed me down to the ground and the some other kids started to hit me.”
(T) “How did that make you feel?”
(C) “I felt awful.”
(T) “It probably ruined the happiness you had, wouldn’t you say?”
(C) “Yes, I guess there is a pattern here, whenever I’m happy something bad happens.”
(T) “How do you think this relates to what happened at the party?”
(C) “At the party I must have had the fear that something would happen to spoil my happiness.”
When Jane came to me for help with her confusion, I didn’t just say, “You are allergic to happiness”, which may have saved a lot of time. But she wouldn’t see the connection between the present and the past. Instead, we were able to ask her to reflect, which evoked a constellation of experiences and feelings that were waiting just below the level of her conscious awareness. It’s like pushing a button on a computer. Talking about the problem stimulates the buried recollection to pop to the surface and she can print it out and look at it. Jane was able to make the connection between these two situations for herself. She could see that there was a clear distinction in her experience between playing happily all alone on one hand and the experience she had with others. They caused her pain and hurt. They made happiness very difficulty for her.
To this day she is happier alone doing her own thing, such as gardening, then she is in the presence of fellow human beings, who are unpredictable, potentially dangerous and totally outside her control. It is hard for her to be happy under this fog from the past.
However, once these connections are made, Jane can break them. She can put her early recollection of happiness being followed by disaster in a more mature perspective. She can see the mistake in her conviction that the happiness in her memory was somehow responsible for the disaster that followed. There was a relationship in her memory of the two events, but not based in reality. The earlier happiness in being alone did not cause the disaster, as she has come to believe. We all have ups and downs in life. The ups do not cause the downs. We cannot prevent downs by stifling the ups. The mistake is to draw inappropriate conclusions. As adults, we can see these mistaken beliefs for what they are and correct them.
I said to Jane, “At the party, you were sabotaging your happiness by living in the future and trying to predict what was going to happen, so you could prevent it from happening. You wanted to control the future, but you couldn’t figure out how. You had an anxiety attack. You didn’t know what was going to happen or when. Not knowing what was going to happen was scary and you felt helpless and out of control. Your old beliefs were used to predict a possible scenario and this expectation predisposed you to feel, think, and act the way you did in the past. You brought something into the present from the past without knowing it was happening or how to deal with it. This reaction was automatic, it just kicked in and spoiled your happiness.”
Almost every time we have an insolvable, emotional problem in the present, we can predict that the answer lies in beliefs buried in early experiences. We can predict that after examining the problem that is occurring today, the client’s internal consistencies can be counted on to bring forth a relevant memory or sequence of recollections that put the problem in a useful perspective. This is how our human consistency works. How we make sense out of events from the past is consistent with how we make sense out of events in the present.
We can also predict that once we make these unconscious beliefs conscious, they lose their grip on the individual. Once they can understand where they are coming from, they can choose to replace self-doubt with new beliefs in the context of mature self-respect. “I’m not a vulnerable child anymore, I’m not a victim. I’m a grownup. I’m a worthwhile human being now and deserve to be happy.”
There is nothing unusual about the process of transferring a whole constellation of feelings and beliefs from one person in the past to a similar circumstance in the present. Our emotional system is consistent. We tend to remember painful emotional events and unresolved problems. They nag at us and cause painful discomfort. We strive for resolution to release the tension. When these problems remain unsolved emotions linger. Our memories of unresolved anger, private guilt, secret shame or paralyzing fear do not go away just because they are not expressed. They lay dormant and are triggered when a situation while a similar feeling occurs in the present. However, we can use this consistency to our advantage in our efforts to solve the mystery of where our problems in the present came from and how they can be resolved by using our adult judgment, which we did not have back then.
Donna Talarico sat at her computer one morning, stared at the screen and realized she had forgotten—again!—her password.
She was having financial difficulties at the time, and was reading self-help books to boost her mood and self-confidence. The books talked about the power of positive affirmation—which gave her an idea: She changed her various passwords to private messages to herself, like “imawe$some1″ or “dogoodworktoday.”
“It’s something so simple,” says the 34-year-old marketing manager at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania. “It just reinforces that you’re a good person. You can do a good job at whatever you are trying to talk yourself into.”
In times of stress, even people with close social networks can feel utterly alone. We’re often advised to “buck up,” “talk to someone” (who is often paid to listen) or take a pill. Wouldn’t it also make sense to learn ways to comfort and be supportive of ourselves?
Think of it as becoming our own best friend, or our own personal coach, ready with the kind of encouragement and tough love that works best for us. After all, who else knows us better than ourselves? If that sounds crazy, bear in mind it sure beats turning to chocolate, alcohol or your Pekingese for support.
Experts say that to feel better you need to treat yourself kindly—this is called “self-compassion”—and focus on the positive, by being optimistic. Research shows self-compassionate people cope better with everything from a major relationship breakup to the loss of their car keys. They don’t compound their misery by beating themselves up over every unfortunate accident or mistake. Car broke down? Sure, it’s a drag, but it doesn’t make you an idiot.
“They are treating themselves like a kind friend,” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “When bad things happen to a friend, you wouldn’t yell at him.”
In 15 studies conducted over the past seven years, Dr. Leary has found that self-compassionate people are happier. Three of the studies, soon to be published, examine how self-compassion affects people over age 65. The studies found that people who accepted memory lapses, arthritis and other difficulties of getting older, and who treated themselves extra nicely on tough days, reported more positive emotions and were coping better with the aging process.
Self-compassion helps people overcome life’s little, and not-so-little, stressors, such as public speaking. In another study, Dr. Leary asked people to stand in front of a videocamera and make up a story starting with the phrase, “Once there was a little bear…” Then he asked them to critique their performance, captured on videotape.
People whom the study had identified as being high in self-compassion admitted they looked silly, recognized the task wasn’t easy and joked about it. People low in self-compassion gave harsh self-criticism.
Experts say you can learn self-compassion in real time. You can train your brain to focus on the positive—even if you’re wired to see the glass as half empty. A person’s perspective, or outlook, is influenced by factors including genetic makeup (is he prone to depression?), experiences (what happened to him?) and “cognitive bias” (how does he interpret his experiences?). We can’t change our genes or our experiences, but experts say we can change the way we interpret what has happened in the past.
Everyone has an optimistic and a pessimistic circuit in their brain, says Elaine Fox, visiting research professor at the University of Oxford, England, and director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. Fear, rooted in the amygdala, helps us identify and respond to threats and is at the root of pessimism. Optimism, in contrast, is rooted in the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center, which responds to food, sex and other healthy, good things in life.
“The most resilient people experience a wide range of emotions, both negative and positive,” says Dr. Fox, author of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain.” To enjoy life and feel good, people need roughly four positive emotions to counteract the effect of one negative emotion, she says. People who experience life as drudgery had two or even one positive emotion for every negative one, Dr. Fox has found.
It’s possible to change your cognitive bias by training the brain to focus more on the positive than on the negative. In the lab, Dr. Fox showed subjects pairs of images, one negative (the aftermath of a bomb blast, say) and one either positive (a cute child) or neutral (an office). Participants were asked to point out, as quickly as possible, a small target that appeared immediately after each positive or neutral image—subliminally requiring them to pay less attention to the negative images, which had no target.
Want to try this at home? Write down, in a journal, the positive and negative things that happen to you each day, whether running into an old friend or missing your bus. Try for four positives for each negative. You’ll be training your brain to look for the good even as you acknowledge the bad, Dr. Fox says.
When I asked, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of ways people said they treat themselves with compassion, care and kindness. Anittah Patrick, a 35-year-old online marketing consultant in Philadelphia, celebrated her emergence from a long depression by making herself a valentine. She covered an old picture frame with lace and corks from special bottles of wine, and drew a big heart inside. Using old computer keys, she spelled out the message “Welc*me Back.” Then she put it on her dressing table, where she sees it every morning. “It’s a nice reminder that I’ll get through whatever challenge I’m facing,” she says.
If Kris Wittenberg, a 45-year-old entrepreneur from Vail, Colo., starts to feel bad, she tells herself “Stop,” and jots down something she is grateful for. She writes down at least five things at the end of each day. “You start to see how many negative thoughts you have,” she says.
Kevin Kilpatrick, 55, a college professor and children’s author in San Diego, talks to himself—silently, unless he is in the car—going over everything positive he has accomplished recently. “It helps me to hear it out loud, especially from the voice that’s usually screaming at me to do better, work harder and whatever else it wants to berate me about,” he says.
Adam Urbanski, 42, who owns a marketing firm and lives in Irvine, Calif., keeps a binder labeled “My Raving Fans” in his office. Filling it are more than 100 cards and letters from clients and business contacts thanking him for his help. “All it takes is reading a couple of them to realize that I do make a difference,” Mr. Urbanski says.
He has something he calls his “1-800-DE-FUNK line.” It’s not a real number, but a strategy he uses when he is upset. He calls a friend, vents for 60 seconds, then asks her about her problems. “It’s amazing how five minutes of working on someone else’s problems makes my own disappear,” he says. Sometimes, as a reality check, he asks himself, “What Would John Nash Think?” in honor of the mathematician, Nobel laureate and subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Are things really as dire as he thinks? Is he overreacting? “It always turns out that whatever keeps me down isn’t really as bad as I thought,” Mr. Urbanski says.
Here are ways to be your own best friend in stressful times.
- Instead of “pushing through” a bad day, look for ways to actively improve it. Take a small break. Get an ice-cream cone. Invite a friend out to dinner.
- Resist the urge to make your problems worse. “Ask yourself, How much of my distress is the real problem, and how much is stuff I am heaping on myself unnecessarily?” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
- Boost your daily ratio of positive-to-negative emotions, says Elaine Fox, a cognitive psychologist. What do you enjoy doing? Seeing your best buddy, watching a funny movie, walking in the park? Make a list and do one a day.
- Then list things you really don’t enjoy. Are there people who bring you down? Hobbies that no longer interest you? Errands you can delegate? Some of this stuff can be avoided.
- If you don’t feel happy, fake it. You wouldn’t constantly burden a friend with your bad mood, so don’t burden yourself. Try holding a pencil horizontally in your mouth. “This activates the same muscles that create a smile, and our brain interprets this as happiness,”
Common self-defeating attitudes
1. “It would be terrible to be rejected, abandoned, or alone. I must have love and approval before I can feel good about myself.”
2. “If someone criticizes me, it means there’s something wrong with me.”
3. “1 must always please people and live up to everyone’s expectations.”
4. “I am basically defective and inferior to other people.”
5. “Older people are to blame for my problems.”
6. “The world should always meet my expectations.”
7. ‘Other people should always meet my expectations.”
8. “If I worry or feel bad about a situation, it will somehow make things better. lt’s not really safe to feel happy and optimistic.”
9. “I’m hopeless and bound to feel depressed forever because the problems in my life are impossible to solve.”
10. “I must always be perfect.” There are several kinds of perfectionism that can make you unhappy.
Common forms of Perfectionism
Moralistic perfectionism: ‘I must not forgive myself if I have fallen short of any goal or personal standard.”
Performance perfectionism: To be a worthwhile person. I must be a great success at everything I do.”
Identity perfectionism: “People will never accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being.”
Emotional perfectionism: “I must always try to be happy. I must control my negative emotions and never feel anxious or depressed.”
Romantic perfectionism: “People who love each other should never fight or feel angry with each other.”
Appearance perfectionism: ‘l look ugly because I’m slightly overweight (or have heavy thighs or a facial blemish).”
Keep some persepctive;
1. Rating your self or your you- ness is an overgeneralization and is virtually impossible to do accurately. You are (consist of) literally millions of acts, deeds, and traits during your lifetime. Even if you were fully aware of all these performances and characteristics (which you never will be) and were able to give each of them a rating (say, from zero to one hundred) how would you rate each one?; for what purpose?; and under what conditions? Even if you could accurately rate all your millions of acts, how could you get a mean or global rating of the you who performs them? Not very easily!
2. Just as your deeds and characteristics constantly change (today you play tennis or chess or the stock market very well and tomorrow quite badly), so does your self change. Even if you could, at any one second, somehow give your totality a legitimate rating, this rating would keep changing constantly as you did new things and had more experiences. Only after your death could you give your self a final and stable rating.
3. Although rating your performances and comparing them to those of others has real value because it will help you improve your efficacy and presumably increase your happiness, rating your self and insisting that you must be a good and adequate person will (unless you, again, are perfect!) almost inevitably result in your being anxious when you may do any important thing badly, depressed when you do behave poorly, hostile when others out-perform you, and self-pitying when conditions interfere with your doing as well as you think you should.
Change what you tell yourself:
You are not worthless even if important people in your life reject you.
Doing badly never makes you a bad person — only imperfect. You have a right to be wrong.
Separate the rating of your behavior from the rating of your self.
You have put up with disappointments all your life; you can tolerate this one too.
Not getting your way is only disappointing or sad—not the end of the world.
You don’t have to have everything you want. The world was not made just for you.
In order to achieve pleasant results, I often have to do unpleasant things.
Yes, it is a pain to do this now, but I’d better. Yet it will be much harder and I’ll get worse, results if I do it later.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
So many of my clients, friends, family and colleagues find themselves unhappy dealing with expectations placed on them by family, friends, and society as a whole. Many of them have high-paying jobs, gorgeous families and seemingly nothing to be depressed about and yet they feel unsuccessful. The problem is that many people typically do not live their lives according to their own definition of success. Instead they are governed by external influences that include family, especially parents and spouses; friends, culture and society. People make decisions based more upon what they believe is expected of them, rather than what they truly want and desire. This brings upon stress and imbalance because when you live to meet other’s expectations, rather than your own, you begin to move your own happiness down on the list of priorities.
To feel successful, you must first define what success means to you. Everyone has a very different definition of success. Success is not like my car, I can’t point to it. Success is abstract and subjective. To some, success may mean a six-figure income. Others are successful just by living the American dream: a house with a white picket fence, a spouse, 2.5 kids and a dog. Still others feel successful even in the midst of daily financial trials and tribulations. The secret to success is determining what your priorities are and then to make every decision based upon these priorities. The key to maintaining your priorities and your success is to balance them out. Not ranking them with lesser or greater importance, but by making them all equally important. Success really equates to what pleases you? What makes you happy and fulfilled.
I was recently asked the following question: At the end of your life, how do you know if you’ve succeeded? I wasn’t sure how to answer. Before you can achieve success, you need to define what success means to you. Without a clear vision of what success means to you, you cannot work towards it.
Success means different things to different people. If you ask 100 people what their definition of success is, you may get 100 different answers. It’s common to have multiple definitions of success. Success is measured in many areas, such as career, academic, health, spiritual, emotional, and financial.
To find your own personal definition of success, you need to dig deep within yourself and question your values in life. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is important to you? Answering questions like this brings you closer to your own definition of success. This process can be a long one. You may not get the answers quickly. Let’s take your career as an example. What would your definition of success be in regards to your career? To make a certain managerial level by a specified time? To make a specified amount of money? To experience great job satisfaction? You then need to dig deep to see how these goals fit with your own strengths and weaknesses. Which strengths would help you achieve your goal? Which of your weaknesses could be a barrier? Do your goals go against any of your values? Sometimes you will adjust your definition of success based on your answers.
When defining success, remember one important thing – Success is a journey. It has multiple peaks and valleys and not one ultimate pinnacle. One success builds on another. Setbacks and mistake also help you build success – don’t be afraid of them.
You will define success differently depending on what is happening in your life. Success is defined differently for a new college graduate than for a new father. It really depends on the perspective of life you have.
There is a difference between accomplishment and success. Accomplishment is where you have engaged in an action and have obtained the desired results. It is based on what was expected and the end result. This is a daily happening in the world. People accomplish things all day long, but success is not always achieved in these actions.
Success is something different. Success involves an ongoing string of accomplishments that when put together, add up to a major obtainment in life. The addition of all the accomplishments in a person’s career or life can be viewed as success. Success can then be partially defined as an ongoing realization and obtainment of worthy desired results, concerning actions, life, business, wealth, or a worthy ideal. True success occurs when your heart is deeply connected to an ideal. It is passion. It is what people die for. It is why some people explode out of the gates and create success easily, and others struggle all their life. These people are often operating on a whole different realm of success and action.
The true definition of success is not the one held by society. You do not have to become a gazillionaire or a celebrity. Having material possessions and career accomplishments should only be a means to a goal – It shouldn’t be the goal. Some people equate the word “success” with recognition. Recognition may be a sign of success, but it is not the end result. Success is also not comparative and dependent on being better than others.
There are several levels to success. At one level you must overcome your own personal demons, such as losing weight, forgiving your parents, ceasing to worry about how others judge you. We all have these issues to overcome in one form or another. The next level is when you to try to prove yourself to the world. You compete, you win and you grow. True success is about using your power, position and all your resources to make a positive difference in this world. Realizing and internalizing this should wake one up from blindly accepting the world’s definition of success, and make them focus more on true success.
Some people keep after success for as long as they live. Until the day they die they keep a sense of wonder, of curiosity, of zest. They care about things. They reach out. They enjoy. They risk failure. They discover new things about themselves. This is in direct correlation to how they define success.
I’d like to leave you with two ideas about success. The first is part of a commencement address at San Jose State College by John W. Gardner in 1969. It goes like this: “The conventional thing for me to do in closing would be to wish you success. But success as the world measures it is too easy. I would like to wish you something that is harder to come by. So I am going to wish you meaning in your life. And meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life, starting fairly early and working at it fairly hard. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of mankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the yardstick by which the world measures success will hardly be relevant.”
The other is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “The definition of success – To laugh much; to win respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”
Both of these address the measurement of success in intangible ways. The next time you feel pressure to think of success in terms of stature or money, think about these words. They may very well change your definition of success.
How do you define success? Is it working hard and attaining wealth or is it doing something good for someone else or for mankind in general? Can you be successful without truly being happy? To achieve success, you must define it for yourself. Find out how. Plus: Take our quiz to test your manners.
“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” Anna Quindlen
There is no one, all-encompassing definition of success because success is a relative concept. Success, in the action sense, is achieving something you have set out to do and wanted to do. But what about the connection between success and happiness? What if what you’ve accomplished doesn’t bring you true happiness and satisfaction? Are you still successful simply because you completed something?
Some people define success as acquiring great wealth, holding a high-level position in a career, receiving good grades or winning the game. When you read a dating profile of someone in the personal ads or on the Internet, ever wonder what it means when someone says their looking for a “successful person”? What does that success entail?
The only true way to define success is to define it for yourself instead of letting the expectations for success be determined by your family, your culture, society, or anyone else. You can’t think of yourself as successful if you’re unable to define it. And even if others see you as successful, but you don’t, then this idea of success is simply a façade. So to be successful, define it for yourself.
Here is an exercise to determine what your definition of success is. Take out a piece of paper and write at the top “What is my definition of success?” Then take a good, long moment to think about this question before writing anything down.
To help guide you through the process, ask yourself some questions: Who from the past or who in my life would I consider successful? What exactly is it about them that I consider successful? What is the one ingredient that must be present in order for me to consider myself successful? What am I most proud of in my life?
Think interms of career, family, health, love, money, values, giving, etc. You can further divide your list within these categories and write down what it is about these things that will make you truly successful. For example, in your career, will you consider yourself successful when you come up with the big idea, when you make a six figure salary or when you are able to balance your career and home life effectively? Your list can be as long or short as you want, but make sure your list is realistic and as relevant to your life as possible. Once you are aware of what will concretely make you successful by truly feeling successful, you’ll be that much closer to achieving it. Having trouble getting started?
Let Ralph Waldo Emerson inspire you with his success list:
“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people, and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics, and endure the betrayal of
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
Success is ultimately interwoven with happiness. Being successful and feeling successful are also interwoven but often independent of each other. Your fancy clothes or wall of trophies may project a level of success to any outsider, but if you aren’t happy and fulfilled by wearing those clothes or displaying that trophy, what’s the point? If happiness is your ultimate goal, and you are doing whatever it is that makes you genuinely happy, then you can consider yourself successful.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Human beings are gifted with the ability to imagine the ideal. You can envision a happier world. You can envision a better version of yourself. And you are given the gift of self-knowledge, the ability to evaluate yourself compared to your ideals. This ability to imagine something better is your blessing and your curse. Your ideals give you knowledge that you and the world around you are not as good as it could be. As you are presented with this knowledge, you may strive to change yourself and the world, to be a better place. When you envision something better, you try to create it. Sometimes you succeed in creating something new and amazing. You need these ideals, these ideals of perfection are functional. They bring out the best in you. They give your life direction and purpose.
So what is wrong with trying to better yourself? We all want to be better than we are. America is the Self-Improvement Capital of the Galaxy! You may want to be smarter, happier, thinner, richer, wittier, more popular, more lovable, more successful than you are right now. You can’t see why you should settle for being less than all you can be. However, you know that your reality does not always measure up to your ideals. Perfectionists can really beat up on themselves. As unreasonable as it is, perfectionists blame themselves for not being perfect.
People who strive for unachievable ideals wind up feeling inferior, inadequate, worthless and guilty. To relieve these painful feelings, they resolve to do better next time, still not knowing how good is good enough. They try to motivate themselves by comparing themselves to their more successful friends and relatives, only to find that this unfavorable comparison confirms their underlying feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. By trying to motivate someone to succeed by criticizing them, only confirms their painful feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and worthlessness. Their emotional thoughts appear in statements like: “Why didn’t I…? I can’t believe I forgot to…This is just awful…” You may know people like this. You may live with them, you may work with them, it may be you. Why do people torture themselves like this? Why is it that you cannot be satisfied with yourself as you are? Why are you constantly striving to be better? You know that you’ll never be perfect, so why do you set yourself up for inevitable disappointment?
How would you even go about defining perfection? Each human has a different vision of what perfection is. I think that perfection implies that I get my way. If I get my way, it can imply that my preferred taste is the best. How can you really argue taste? You make choices that suit your preferred taste. The problem arises when you seek to control others to suit your preferences. You do not really know what is best, but may feel that your way is the only way to solve the problem.
It seems so unfair! You are given the ability to imagine perfection, but not the means to attain it. Everything always falls short of what you imagine it could be. You can envision it, but you can’t do it. You get no points in your own eyes, for coming in second place. Like an Olympian who wins a Silver Medal, you are left with the endless striving for the Holy Grail of Betterness.
You begin to have a dominating critical voice in your head that says you are awful and unworthy of respect since you cannot solve problems perfectly. This internal critic comes from the lifetime of put-downs from siblings, parents, extended family member, teachers, friends or anyone else who you trusted when you were a child. This may show up as emotional thoughts like, “I must be better than I am.” Unfortunately, this emotional thought cannot tell you when to stop bettering yourself. It cannot tell you how good is good enough. So you push, push, push, to be better and better, until you go over the edge. In an attempt to create you ideal, you may even try to control people, which lead to hurt when they don’t cooperate to bring about the outcome you see as the best. So, you end up frustrated because, despite your best efforts, many things in life are always beyond your command.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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