Category Archives: Self-Improvement
If you watch a child you can see that they are constantly learning, mystified by and engaged with even the simplest of things. Whether it’s blowing bubbles or discovering a new hideout, children are extremely curious. Now it may sound silly, but I envy that constant state of curiosity.
Curious- adj. eager to learn; having a desire to know.
So what, we all have to become child-like and become fascinated with the basics? Not exactly. However, holding an attitude of kind curiosity can lead to a sense of openness, deeper understanding, appreciation and diminished boredom. The sheer prospect of discovering something new about oneself or one’s partner can light a spark in us or in our relationships.
The Curious Partner
Take steps to actively listen to your partner. This means being engaged and attuned rather than formulating your response or preparing to showcase your problem solving skills. The ability to be engaged requires us to be present. Yes physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. If we ourselves are distracted, upset, exhausted, it can be difficult for us to be in the moment and truly be attuned to our partner’s experience.
Reflect on what your partner is both telling you (I’m hurt, I’m exhausted, etc.) and needing from you (support, unloading, connectedness etc.)
“Love is three quarters curiosity.” - Giacomo Casanova
While we may not have an innate interest in every topic, story or complaint our partner shares, try to approach the conversation from a curious standpoint.
Curiosity creates a sense of being interested in your partner, like when you were truly new to each other and shared interests, dreams, experiences and hopes. Partners who have been in relationships for years often feel they know everything about someone and the sense of discovery and newness fades and sometimes even leads to disinterest or boredom. However, we know that we can never truly know everything about a person, so in order to maintain some sense of that newness and spark in our relationship, we need to have a continued sense of curiosity. Keeping a curious stance can create feelings of excitement, attunement and intimacy.
Ultimately, if you do something different in your conversations you will have a different experience talking with and relating to your partner.
The Curious Self
As adults, we typically have established our understanding or opinions on how things work in the world, in relationships, in our careers, who we are, what we want etc. Oftentimes, we need to know how to categorize those things in order to function in the adult world. But what happens when we put those things into neat little boxes and tuck them away? We lose our curiosity.
When we stop being curious, whether in a relationship with ourselves or someone else, the fire can burn out. Continue questioning, continue learning and continue growing.
Confidence, confidence, confidence! Women today are told that if they can simply “be confident” then everything will work out for them: men will be attracted to them, they’ll command respect from others, they will achieve success at work, and the list goes on and on. But hearing the words or saying them to ourselves simply doesn’t cut it. So what makes it so challenging for women today to maintain a sense of confidence?
Females are encouraged to be passive, agreeable and polite (yes, there are cultural variances on this). Women typically ask rather than take. “Could I ask you a question?” “Would you do me a favor?” Assertiveness not only gives off an air of confidence, but it also tends to be associated with male qualities. Therefore, women are often taught that being assertive is not lady-like. Not to mention that too much assertiveness can be perceived by men as threatening or unattractive.
According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, women are more likely to be picked apart by the brain and seen as parts rather than a whole, whereas men are processed as a whole. This processing is referred to as “local processing,” which focuses more on the individual parts of an object. Interestingly, both men and women process in this way. Whether this is an evolutionary response or a conditioned response, this kind of objectification is damaging. Studies have linked scrutiny of women’s bodies to lower math scores, self-sexualization, body shame, eating disorders and poor mood.
And we wonder why simply repeating “be confident” in our heads doesn’t get the job done.
While these are only two hindrances on women’s self-confidence, they are quite pervasive in our society and will most likely take years to improve.
However, being a confident female in 2012 is not hopeless. Here are 5 tips to building self-confidence.
1. Take responsibility for yourself- It can be quite easy to place the blame on the media, society or our parents. Building confidence can be especially challenging when women (and men) grow up in households where they are belittled, criticized or even abused, as that negativity becomes internalized. Regardless of the where the critical messages come from, it can be challenging to drown out that negative voice or believe a positive story about ourselves. But you and only you can create change.
2. Fake it until you make it- Perception hugely influences our relationships and human interactions. In therapy we often talk about the relationship between behavior and feelings and more often than not, when we change our behavior we can change our feelings. So simply saying in our heads “be confident” doesn’t have much power; however, if we begin to play the role of what confident looks like, it becomes more believable to ourselves. For example, when a woman is timid and hesitant, people tend to perceive her as insecure and lacking confidence, which increases the likelihood that she will be disrespected or taken advantage of. However when a woman acts firm and self-assured, she is more likely to be believed to be just that. Finding a mentor or someone you look up to can be helpful to emulate these traits.
3. Focus on one area- Building self-confidence involves active participation. Looking at the gym doesn’t make you more fit, you have to actually workout. While it is near impossible for human beings to feel confident in every area of their life at all times, we can take action by focusing on one area. When we dedicate ourselves to be successful at something, the process of failure, recovery, persistence and success creates a sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. The more we develop those beliefs about ourselves, the more they translate to other areas of our life.
4. Model for others- People typically treat you the way you treat yourself. Modeling starts with what we say to ourselves internally. When we label ourselves with low-confidence or tell ourselves “I’m not good enough,” “my body doesn’t look like that” etc, we tend to believe it. These thoughts influence our behavior and people will treat you accordingly.
5. Practice acceptance- Whether it’s through a mindfulness practice or self-affirmations, practice accepting yourself as a whole. Acknowledge the parts of yourself that are more difficult, whether they’re physical, emotional or mental. When we accept ourselves, not only do we feel more whole, but we tend to compare ourselves to other less.
It can be easy to look to others or external things to instill this confidence with immediate gratification, but that will always require someone else’s approval. Today more than ever, women are faced with obstacles to believing they are beautiful, smart and talented. True confidence comes from cultivating a sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. These characteristics require hard work and a close look at ourselves. When we put in the work and become our own biggest cheerleader, the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless.
Quotes on confidence:
“What could you achieve in life if you decided to become totally and blissfully impervious to hostile criticism and rejection?”
“I exist as though I am, that is enough.”- Walt Whitman
“The more you love your decisions, the less you will need others to love them.”
It is no coincidence that National Stress Awareness Month happens to be during tax month. Nevertheless, stress is not necessarily all bad; it is the thing that often motivates us, helps us meet deadlines, sharpens our attention and keeps us out of danger. Many of us face stress in our daily routine and are accustomed to functioning with a high level of stress. While we may be managing and functioning in this state, I’d like to take this month of awareness as an opportunity to help you learn more about stress, it’s effects and ways to combat against it.
Basic Physiology of Stress
In order to understand the effects of stress, we must first understand the role of the Autonomic Nervous System, which has two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in a stressful or threatening situation, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, meaning our brain goes into fight, flight or freeze response. This stress response initiates a series of actions, such as increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure and a flooding of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
However, our bodies are built to adapt and re-balance with the help of the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases our heart rate and relaxes the blood vessels.
While these two branches of the nervous system are built to maintain balance, many of us are living with chronic stress, meaning our sympathetic nervous system remains activated and on guard. Living in a heightened state of stress, whether it’s due to work, school, relationships or other circumstances, can have detrimental and long-term effects on the body’s health and immune system. Read the rest of this entry
Many individuals, families and couples come to therapy because they want to change something, whether it’s a bad habit, a self-
image, or their boyfriend. We then commence on a journey with our clients to thicken our understanding of what this desired change is, where it came from, where they seek to be and how we can help get them there. As a therapist, I believe in change, but what about our clients, friends and family? We might say that those coming to therapy believe in change, even if it’s a 1% belief. But what exactly do our clients believe about change? What do our friends and family believe about change? How does that influence your beliefs about personal change?
Many of my posts talk about change in various forms: altering communication skills, creating personal goals, introducing a new activity into your daily routine, etc. While we live in a constantly changing world, we rarely ever talk about the idea of change in itself.
To be clear, when I say change, I am referring to positive & healthy changes or growth. While both those terms are somewhat objective, I encourage you to be the one to determine what is positive and healthy for you. If the word change feels too drastic for you, think of it as something you’d like to “work on” rather than change.
Some important questions to answer for yourself:
Is change possible? If so, under what circumstances?
Is change good, bad, neither?
How does change happen? Is it the same for everyone?
What do you lose/gain by changing?
Who/what do you change for?
What motivates you to change?
Are you someone who adjusts/adapts easily or is it more difficult for you? Read the rest of this entry
January 1, 2013 was just a few days ago and millions of people have been tweeting, Facebooking, sharing and journaling about their resolutions. Although I am going to take advantage of the mad rush to talk about setting goals, let’s remember that a goal can be set or modified anytime of year.
Now that the New Year celebrations have passed and we have finished going around the table sharing our “resolutions” with everyone else, let’s explore our goals a bit. How many of us set complicated or lofty goals that we either forget about, get too busy to tend to or simply fail at? How many of us feel guilty when we don’t follow through with what we set for ourselves?
Well, if change were easy, we would all do it.
January 1 does not necessarily mean a new year a new you. January 1 is more of an opportunity for you to evaluate, assess and adjust. “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal Continue Reading!
There are many reasons people come to therapy: relationship troubles, traumatic experiences, depression or even self-improvement. Though the presenting reason may vary person to person, the underlying goal is to heal. There are many ideas on how to heal people that range from medical models to holistic approaches. My personal interest is healing that tends to the whole person: mind, body and soul.
An important piece of healing involves exploration. The majority of us have a neatly pre-packaged story of our lives: what our childhood was like, how we decided on our major, and the problems we have endured and overcome. Our story often becomes so airtight that no other possible perspectives or meanings can seep in. This story becomes so routine that when people ask us about our lives we simply reach into our pockets and recite it from memory without batting and eye. We generally believe that with age, cultivated experience and wisdom, we develop expanded perspectives and ideas on life. However, when these stories of our lives go unexamined for so long, we can cut off the opportunity to make new meaning, re-story our plotline and ultimately deepen the understanding of our experience. CONTINUE READING!
Having been recently diagnosed with my second ever herniated disc while recovering from a footy surgery, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between the mind and body. Growing up dancing and playing sports, I was so accustomed to a number of aches and pains in my body that I became very in tune with it and what it was telling me. However, after having to cut out my weekly routine of going to the gym, dance classes and yoga for the past 7 months, something changed. Not only did I lose my source of exercise, but also I lost my routine that was my release and kept me centered and sane! Needless to say, the effects of various thoughts and events had been lingering the last 7th months. Not only is this a lesson in self-care for therapists, but also a reminder to everyone that allowing such things to linger in the mind eventually affects the body. As goes the Buddhist saying, “holding onto anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
These back to back injuries have been a jolting reminder for me to practice what I preach to my clients and others around me about reducing stress and being aware and connected with your body. So many of us eat healthy or exercise to tend to our body’s health and do things like listen to music or watch TV to relax our minds. But what kind of routine do we have that tends to our overall well-being? CONTINUE READING!
With Thanksgiving just behind us, we are well into holiday season. As many of us were recently surrounded by family, we are thinking about how to get through the rest of these upcoming gatherings unscathed. It is truly magical how as young adults and even full grown adults we can walk into our parents home and suddenly we are fourteen again. How’s that for time travel?
For the majority of the year, we are consumed with creating the life we want, focusing on our careers, friendships, love lives and social outings. Aside from a few rough patches here and there, we generally think of ourselves as mature and functional adults. However, much of that goes by the wayside when we come face to face with the people and surroundings that molded us into the individuals we are today. Suddenly, we have picked up right where we left off; resuming the same role in our family as we did in adolescence, arguing over the same issues with our parents and siblings, and of course, resorting to the same old coping mechanisms and habits that we were so sure we left behind once we moved out.
It never ceases to amaze me how prominent this topic of conversation is not only in my professional life, but also in my personal life. For some it is dreading the helicopter mom who prods for all the details, for others it’s avoiding getting sucked into the screw up sibling’s latest saga and for others it’s a struggle to achieve that delicate balance of parental validation and independence. Regardless of what flavor your family cocktail is, here are five pointers to guide you through! CONTINUE READING!