Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, you will spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
Whether you are an actor, a musician, a comedian or simply need to give a talk or a presentation at work, sometimes you may feel so nervous about performing or speaking in front of an audience that even the thought produces fear in you and you'd do anything to avoid it. Even the most seasoned performers can experience this, and it is due to the emergency part of our brains (the "amygdala") interpreting your circumstance as a threat and switching on the fight or flight response.
In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean?
It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t.
You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat.
QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?
Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.
EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all — If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?
Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.
If you have answered NO you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?
Character traits (such as shyness for example) are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.
If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.
Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.
Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :
(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome
Also: Intention (to change) + Attention (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.
Here’s a breakdown:
To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.
First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:
In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.
Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.
Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.
More about relationships:
In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:
Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns
You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship, you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.
Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.
Denial is a defense mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others). You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a checklist of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.
When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.
You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled. The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.
This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
If you are impulsive you will just jump into a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively, you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation if you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.
You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or you use other addictive behaviors to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.
Sometimes it is our deeply held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behavior – that are holding you back.
Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :
have someone who will be there no matter what
you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life
you’ll be swept away from the mundane realities of everyday life
If so, you are in for a fall! Inevitably you will realize this relationship, like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed .
If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.
Do you believe you are unlovable?
Do you believe you are helpless?
Do you believe a combination of the two?
You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.
If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.
Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.
And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Do you keep going out with the same kind of man / woman ? Do you feel stuck in a rut where you keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again and end up broken-hearted ? Find out what type of “relationship repeater” you are.
In the next article I shall look at what causes these relationship patterns to come about and what to do to move away from them and discover the love you deserve.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!
So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
For more articles on related topics see
When we are blocked in an area of our lives it often is due to the fact that we feel safer that way. We may feel unhappy but that is easier to deal with than our fear of the unknown. We begin to change when the pain we experience in staying stuck is bigger than the anticipated pain of change.
A lot of fear comes down to our negative core beliefs : deeply held beliefs acquired some time in the past due to painful experiences. Becoming conscious and challenging these beliefs is the first step in the process of change.
For a moment, think about something you would really like to do or be right now but don’t feel able to. When you’ve got that, write it down. Do that now. Maybe you have always wanted to be an artist so write down “I am a capable and talented artist”.
Now, in all probability a voice in your head has just emerged to criticize this statement bringing up all sorts of reasons why this is either impossible or a bad idea. Positive affirmations can give us a sense of safety and hope if we let them but at first you will probably feel they sound fake, embarassing or not right. No surprise there. If you have spent all your life bludgeoning yourself with negative beliefs such as “I am worthless” or “I am not good enough” or “I must be perfect to deserve success” anything else will sound unfamiliar and syrupy or cheesy . So saying to yourself ” I am lovable just as I am” or “I am capable and confident” will surely sound untrue at first.
The problem with not accepting a belief because it doesn’ t sound right though is that feelings are a result of thoughts and if you want to change a feeling you have got to change the thought first. It’s a bit like the idea of “fake it til you make it”. You can’t wait to feel it to believe it, you gotta believe it to feel it! Luckily there are some ways to get around this obstacle, but all of these do involve a certain willingness to suspend judgement and take a leap of faith, as well as engage our rational mind doubting limiting old beliefs.
So what is that critical monster in your head saying when you tell it you already are what you want to be ?( After saying your affirmation: i.e. “I am ok just as I am” )
Listen to the objections that come your way. What s the cruel voice saying inside your head ? “so you’re ok as you are… ah ah sure you are!”, “who are you kidding?”, “You are ugly”, “You will never change”, “You can’t do anything right”, “No-one will ever love you unless you are perfect”, etc etc… You will be amazed at the rotten things you can come up with. Write them down. These are your personal negative core beliefs.
Once you have written them down you can start having a good look at where these beliefs come from: Mom and dad? Your school bully? The boy/girl you were in love with when you were ten? Teachers that pushed you too hard? Your little jealous sister ? Scan your blurts for possible sources. Time travel back into your life in five year increments and list by name who influenced you the most in each block of time.
Once you have identified these challenge their opinions. What self serving reason could they have had to have done or said what they did do or say? How did their own worldview influence them ? What did they believe about themselves ? What messages did they grow up with ? Remember this is not about blaming or condoning, just understanding and distinguishing their beliefs from what yours would be if you hadn’t accepted theirs as true. If there is still a lot of emotional energy involved in recalling these memories you might have to release it first so you can forgive them and yourself and move on.
Keep in mind that it is also possible your negative beliefs may come from subtle non direct messages received from your environment or from an experience of something that happened to you where others were not directly involved:
Maybe you felt different because of a situation you found yourself in; maybe you were abandoned by a significant other; maybe you fell ill and became isolated; maybe you were born with something that set you apart from others and you yourself came up with the negative conclusion that you were not Ok just as you were: the possibilities are endless and very personal.
Whatever your monster is, after it has been brought up to the light of day you can start working on challenging its critical voice and changing those negative beliefs that keep you stuck and unhappy. If you would like help with a practical cognitive behavioral approach to this, read this article about “how to get rid of negative core beliefs”.
We all complain about having problems. But what would it be like to wake up in the morning and have absolutely no problems to solve, nothing to worry about, no vexations whatsoever? Having no problems can be a very serious problem and lead to the creation and yearning for any old dumb problem that will shake us from our slumber and generate some excitement.
It seems to me that creating problems in a real human need. It seems we define ourselves by the dilemmas we attract and struggle to solve. Usually it ‘s those who are most creative that ask the biggest and hardest questions and then put together resources to answer them.
It is often said that there is no gain without pain, and nothing of value is gained without effort. While this is mostly true and anxiety can be a valuable spur for getting things done it is also true that putting ourselves under a lot pressure to solve mediocre problems is not going to be useful or make us smarter. If we get too used to allow unimportant problems to fill us with nagging vexations we won t gain much except for a headache.
The other fact to consider is that when we are preoccupied with silly boring or demeaning annoyances we might miss out on asking the bigger questions and getting well into wilder, more interesting problems. These may be of the variety that pushes you out of your comfort zone in the direction of your personal frontier well before life forces you to do so when you are least willing to deal with it.
When we focus on the problems that matter we feel excited about our ability to deal with them because ultimately they will open the door to a better existence rather than dragging us down into the same meandering tunnels of meaninglessness.
So invite the real crisis in : it will be a time of destiny, a turning point, an opportunity to rethink what really matters to you so you take action to bring about the changes necessary to create a better present for yourself.
In other words: stop distracting yourself with minor irritations and ask yourself the question you have been avoiding. Instead bring it on, delve in deep and get it over with : there is no time better than now !
Mindfulness is the art of being aware of your environment, your thoughts, your feelings and your sensations as they happen and becoming their observer.
It is about training your attention to focus on the present moment, on concentrating on a task rather than thinking, and on external rather than internal factors.
So what does all of this got to do with relieving anxiety?
Well, first of all, let’s understand the role of thoughts in anxiety. I find it helpful to think of anxiety not as something we have but something we do, or even better, something we think and imagine and therefore feel. The assumption behind this is that feelings follow thought. So change the way you think and you will change the way you feel. Change the way you feel and your behavior will change. Change your behavior and your life will change.
When we have fearful (anxious ) thoughts, the problem is not necessarily to do with the thoughts themselves but with the importance and meaning we give them. Often we identify our thoughts as facts rather simply thoughts, and that is the problem. When you think ‘something terrible will happen if I get out of the house’ for example, it is the fact that you are viewing this as a fact rather than simply a thought that causes trouble.
In fact, if you distanced yourself from it and treated it as simply another thought among others and refused to assign it more importance than that, you would lessen its impact.
Also, I find it useful to remember that for every negative thought there is always an opposite positive thought. Both are just thoughts, not facts. And their importance depends on how much attention you decide to give them.
You decide what to pay attention to and what to accept or reject. This you can do by challenging negative thoughts as not helpful and asking yourself what would be more helpful for you to think in order to feel better about whatever situation is causing you concern.
First, though, you need to believe that you are not your thoughts. You need to believe that you are more than your thoughts, that you are an awareness aware of itself and that although you have a mind you are not your mind. Another way of understanding this is to imagine that your thoughts are like unruly teenagers in a house where although you have always been the master you have never exercised your authority.
Of course, the first step to do so is to believe that you are the master and that you can exercise your authority successfully because if you don’t the teenagers will act as if they are the masters and they will have power over you. Once you shift your belief it may take some time and practice to learn how to take charge effectively but if you believe you are the one who makes the decisions and train your attention with patience you will succeed.
The first step in training your unruly mind is to practice redirecting your attention away from yourself and what you feel/ think/are imagining, and concentrate by choice on something external: something that is happening outside of yourself or a task you are doing.
Starting with situations that you don’t find particularly scary or challenging this active practice will help you counter balance your tendency to over focus on threats and on yourself when you feel anxious.
For example: rather than worrying about yourself and how you are coming across during a conversation with a new acquaintance focus on the other person and ask them questions about themselves, paying attention to their answers and becoming curious about them.
Later practice in situations that are more challenging and progress gradually from the least to the most anxiety provoking situations, getting out of your comfort zone and facing your fears head on. If you cannot attend to a specific task, for example, if you are sitting in a crowded waiting room, direct your attention to your surroundings, noticing people, the features of the room, sounds an smells.
Finally, bring your attention back to the present. Anxious thoughts are thoughts about an imagined catastrophic future that exists only in your head. It is a big castle in the sky.
It cannot exist in the now. So get back to now, and remember not to take your fearful thoughts seriously.
They might be trying to help, but they aren’t really helping, are they?
So, say no to the negative fears that have only held you back til now and say yes to the voice in your head that says: no matter what I will survive!
Your anxious thoughts are as real as an imaginary friend. It is up to you to make up what that friend says. Make it say encouraging things. Make it work for you.
And most of all, observe how much easier life is when you relax into existence and trust in your abilities to deal with whatever challenge life throws at you, no matter how hard it may seem at first.
The most truly accomplished and successful people in life have a relaxed attitude. Some might have been predisposed to be like that but most of them have honed their talents through practice and dedication. Practice relaxing into existence and learning to expect the best out of situations. And when life throws you something you cannot change accept it and make the best of it.
Worrying is a mostly a learned habit and we can do away with it by becoming aware that we are simply scaring ourselves to death by believing in our fearful thoughts; Instead, we can take a deep breath, focus on the present and remind ourselves that we have all the resources we need to survive.
After all, if you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got. So do something different!
Read more on anxiety
This is what I happen to believe. Read through if you like, and compose your own list.
I believe in giving people a fair chance.
I believe in taking responsibility for my well-being.I believe in being honest and true to myself.
I believe that the most difficult, painful and challenging experiences life throws at us can end up being
the most enlightening rewarding and meaningful.
I believe that being different although not easy is something to celebrate as a blessing.I believe in the power of laughter to help us lift us from tragedy.
I believe that an enormous amount of wealth lies in reading and learning. I believe sometimes the best thing you can do is switch off and have a good night sleep. In the morning new solutions and insight may come.
I believe in learning to let go of the need to always having to “do something”.
I believe that most problems come from tension and not giving ourselves permission to relax.
I believe that believing in myself is the best investment I could ever make.
I believe that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. No success is ever possible without making mistakes. What’s important is to listen to the feedback.
I believe genius is not something we are born with but something we make with practice, dedication and determination.
I believe that not letting people get to me is sometimes hard but essential.
I believe in learning to let go of whatever is bothering me by first expressing my feelings and then examining my thoughts and gaining perspective.
I believe in not paying too much attention to those who do not have other people’s best interest at heart. To do so would impair my faith in humanity.
I believe in choosing to listen to the part of myself that encourages me and not to the part of me that wants to put me down.
I believe in expecting the best and accepting the rest.
I believe there is nothing wrong with people who do not like me. The fact they don’t tell me more about them than it does about me. They might have something to teach me, or they might have something to learn. You cannot please everyone all the time…
I believe in allowing myself to like what I like without shame. I believe in not denying myself the things I feel attracted to, no matter what others may think of me as a result.
I believe in making time for fresh air, social interaction and being creative.
I believe in self-reflection as a path to self-healing.
I believe that focusing on things we are grateful for is the key to happiness.
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