Seeking Humanitas: 19 ways to become the best version of yourself

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being stuck in life’s quicksand, feeling as if you’ve taken two steps forward and three back? While the experience can be discouraging, know that there are a few ways things you can begin to evaluate to make sure you’re not continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results, which we know is ultimately the definition of insanity. The pattern of trying to change can become futile if we do not take an honest look inwards and evaluate ourselves.

 

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This guy is thinking, “I thought it would be different this time, but everything is the same…”

 

While in my counseling practice, I tend to stay away from life proverbs and instead, adhere to evidence-based practices, sometimes making life changes becomes easier when you acknowledge that there are common experiences, and just plain old down to earth life lessons that apply to all of human kind and will help create a more well-balanced life and increased life satisfaction when you implement them.

And that is why I have created this list of life lessons or life hacks, if you will, that encompass beliefs that I strongly adhere to and have seen to actually WORK in evoking positive change. Some of these beliefs and lessons are absolutely backed by empirical data and research, however, I wanted to create a relatable list for you, not a research article! : ) A list that you can internalize and leave feeling empowered after reading.

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Every person that I work with professionally and know on a personal level, brings valuable contributions to this world, although sometimes being able to realize the valuable contributions you bring can become muddled under depression, feelings of low self-worth, a break-up…or whatever other negative life experiences may have or are occurring.

So let’s get started…

1.       The common denominator in life and in all situations you are in, is you. No matter where you go, who you’re with, or what you’re doing, you are always the consistent person who is present. If you don’t like your current situation or relationship, guess who is the only person that can change it? You guessed it, you. Not anyone else because we have no control over anything or anyone else. Feel empowered knowing that in a world where at times, we feel we have little control, the one constant that always prevails is that you are able to be in control of YOU.

2.       Grow where you are planted. Life continues to move no matter where we are or what we are doing. If you can learn to be happy with wherever you are, then you have unlocked one of the greatest abilities to create life satisfaction. I think specifically of our great military population when writing this life lesson although it could be applied to anyone encountering a move or major life transition. The only way for you to grow where you are planted in your new community is to get out there, make an effort to find your place, and cultivate an environment where you feel supported and are able to actively engage in your interests. Just because you are in a new environment does not mean that life has to be put on hold. Remember who you are and actively seek out activities in your new environment that will help you continue to flourish and nourish the best parts of yourself.

 

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If a flower can survive in a concrete jungle, then so can you.

 

3.       Accept where you are in your life but never become complacent-always seek to actively make positive changes. So maybe you’re working in a dead-end job but have a dream of attending nursing school? Why not set aside a tiny bit of money from each paycheck to put towards school or obtaining a certification that you want? Accept that you’re not exactly where you want to be but NEVER lose sight of your end goal.

4.       Embrace both the good and the bad experiences you encounter in life. Perspective will make or break any situation you encounter and have to overcome. Ever heard the phrase it’s all in your head? Well it’s absolutely true. The way we view a situation that occurs in life will make or break how we handle it. Developing resiliency has been shown to be a contributing factor to life satisfaction and contentment. So if you’re constantly feeling victimized, it’s time to reframe your thinking and view yourself as a survivor, using those negative experiences to help you realize what you are able to overcome. Which brings me to my next life lesson…

5.       Use negative people to propel you forward. Be defiant (in a positive way) and empowered to strive towards reaching your goals even more. Let those naysayer’s negative energy empower you to achieve the goal you’re striving towards.

6.       Let go of all negative temptations, people, and things that are in your life and holding you back from becoming the best version of yourself. Watch how far you’re able to go when you no longer give these negative pitfalls room in your life.

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7.       Allow your life purpose to help define the decisions you make. Have a strong sense of who you are. Life purpose is incredibly important. What do you believe you are here on earth for? Are you a natural helper, an artist, an organizer, or a math wiz? Find out what you excel at and run with it!

8.       Set boundaries. People will take as much as you are willing to give, sometimes by no fault of their own, but because you are willing to give until you feel depleted. Develop a sense of self-awareness, the ability to check in with yourself and evaluate how you feel. If you’re constantly feeling run down and taken advantage of, it’s a pretty clear indication that you may not have proper boundaries in place. Learn to say no.

 

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Think of setting boundaries as a no trespassing sign on what you will not tolerate in your life.

 

9.       Give consideration to the past, whether it’s childhood experiences, bad relationships, etc., but realize that you do not have to be defined by those experiences. Enough said.

10.   People can change. But it takes vast amounts of time, energy, and most importantly, work. Example: if you’re in an abusive relationship and are staying because you are holding out for change, it’s time to take a step back and assess whether or not your partner is actively motivated to change. Are they attending counseling, classes, and accepting responsibility for their poor behavior? If not, it may be time to realize that change is not taking place. All behaviors can be unlearned, so even for yourself, consider what needs to happen for you to start making healthy changes

11.   Know your self-worth. What you accept in life is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself. Allowing people to treat you badly only reinforces negative feelings about self, and gives the other person a pass on treating you poorly. When we believe that we are worthy of all that is wonderful, your tolerance on negative treatment will change. You will be able to see that “I AM deserving of better” and you will not allow for that negative treatment to continue. This is a process, but it can be done

12.   Learn to self-soothe and self-regulate emotions. You are in charge of how you feel, no one else, and nothing else is. Being able to find your center and calm yourself down without having to lean on anyone else or any substance (food, shopping, alcohol, drugs, etc.) is a freeing and empowering experience that will only exponentially increase feelings of self-efficacy and self-confidence.

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13.   Be independent and self-sufficient. Learn to stand on your own. Take care of yourself well, because when it’s all said and done, who else will?

14.   Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments, but in all times, remain humble. You may be a bona-fide genius but if you allow this to overtake you, it will alienate others. Accept compliments but continue to acknowledge that you’re human and not above anyone else. We all have wonderful contributions to give, and no one is better than the next—thinking that you are a cut above aids in narcissistic thinking and prevents real relationships to occur

15.   Expand your thinking. Let go of rigidity in your thinking. Nothing is black or white, there is a lot of grey. Research shows that individuals that are rigid in their thinking fair worse in life because often times, there is more than one answer to a question, more than one explanation for behavior, etc.

16.   Communicate your feelings and advocate for yourself. Speak up for how you feel, but learn to do so in a way that is thoughtful, calm, and rational. When we let our emotions overpower us, we can end up saying thing that are hurtful and “off the cuff”. Take a deep breath, wait for a period of time until you are calmer, and then use an approach that is thoughtful and caring to convey your feelings. Coercion elicits resistance so when someone feels backed up into a corner, they will push back. Remember this concept and use basic “I” statements to own how you feel. Not accusatory and hostile communication techniques that may intimidate.

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17.   Show empathy to others. Not sympathy necessarily, but empathy. Put yourself into another person’s shoes for a moment. Seek understanding before making judgments. We are all in this life together. You may have had more advantages in your life than the next person, but allow yourself to seek understanding on why that coworker is so angry, why your partner has difficulty in expressing their feelings, etc. Seek understanding of your fellow humans.

18.   Know thyself. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses you feel that you have. Embrace those strengths and accept the weaknesses while actively acknowledging them in day to day life and attempting to improve. Who are you? What defines you? What roles do you play in life? Discovering the answers to these questions allows you to develop better self-awareness and in return assists you in knowing thyself

19.   Lastly, create a life that you love. Create an existence where you feel empowered, fulfilled, and as if you are contributing to the greater good of both humanity and most importantly, yourself. In a grossly simplistic explanation, creating a life you love can be achieved by doing all of the above listed life lessons.

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Although this list is not exhaustive of self-help, use it as a starting ground for finding your happiness and checking in on yourself. If you are struggling and finding it difficult to deal with life and relationships, it may be time to reach out for help from a therapist.

One of my favorite parts of being a therapist is when I am able to witness the “AHA moments” or the experience of the lightbulb coming on that evokes clarity for a client. These moments, these life epiphanies, as I call them, occur in session when a client and I are able to connect the dots and make a life changing realization about relationships, behavior, drug use, whatever the case may be. Only then, does real understanding and change begin to occur.

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My hope is that by reading these life lessons, you are able to experience an aha moment as well, and develop an understanding of your own self that allows positive change to begin to take place. As cliché as it sounds, the evolution of self should always be occurring. Year after year, we change, we grow, we may slip back into old habits, but no matter what, you can always use these experiences to learn from and develop into the healthiest version of yourself—humanitas.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

—Aristotle

Wishing you clarity, growth, and happiness in your everyday existence,

Rachel Ann

Dealing with the aftermath of a break-up: Steps to mending a broken heart…

The phrase break up is exactly what it implies: the breaking apart of two things, and in the case of this article, two people. But, if you’ve been around and on this planet for several years, then you probably already know what break up means!

Whether your first grade crush checked “no” when you asked them to be your girlfriend or your partner of 10 years has just told you that they are leaving you, break-ups (unfortunately) are very real experiences that can become a part of our lives whether we want them to happen or not. Why is this? Because we are unable to control other people and people are often unpredictable. Of course my hope is that every person finds his or her ever-lasting match, but sadly, sometimes we must encounter disappointments along the way.

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“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

― W. Somerset Maugham

When a relationship ends, the process of recovery and healing can be one of the most difficult experiences to encounter. I’ve heard individuals both professionally and personally referring to the aftermath of breaking up with someone as “feeling like my heart exploded” “feeling sick all over” and ultimately experiencing a deep feeling of loss, or grief.

After all, when a relationship ends, you are ultimately experiencing a loss of sorts. As I have written about many a time before in my blogs, humans are patterned creatures. When a relationship dissolves, we must reset our routines and patterns to not include a person that may have been a part of our lives for months and even years. And when the individual who is no longer a part of your life is truly out of the picture, there can be almost an uncanny feeling of absenteeism, a feeling that something is missing in your life. I liken it to having your right pinky finger being missing, you may be able to function just fine without it, but there’s a strange feeling of knowing that a piece of you is missing.

“i felt her absence. it was like waking up one day with no teeth in your mouth. you wouldn’t need to run to the mirror to know they were gone”
― James Dashner

The process of recovery from a break up takes a different amount of time from person to person. There is no clear-cut formula to when you feel better and often the process is not linear. There may be days where you feel confident and sassy, and others where you don’t want to leave the house and will happily park yourself on the couch for a Netflix binge session of The Office.

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Many people ask me, how do I get through this?

1.      Stay busy reconnecting with yourself.

We are most vulnerable after a relationship ends. Depending on the specifics of your break up, your self-worth and self-confidence can become a little damaged after an end to a relationship and as a result, you feel very fragile. During this vulnerable time, the key to your success is going to be getting to know yourself again. Reconnecting with hobbies and people that empower you. Staying busy engaging in HEALTHY activities.

Always wanted to try stand up paddle board yoga? Now is your time to do it. You see, every time we engage in sometime new, there are little chemical changes that happen in the brain. Typically, a release of dopamine, our “get happy” chemicals are released and on an emotional level, you feel empowered and a sense of confidence or “I did it!” occurs. Very healing for vulnerability and improving self-confidence.

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Speaking to the sense of loss that is often felt after a dissolution of a relationship, a common experience is anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression. Anhedonia is the experience of not feeling interested or deriving a sense of pleasure from activities that once brought you such.

Of course, it is realistic to allow yourself to have “down days” and maybe even a little two-hour pity party every now and again, but ultimately, it is up to you to bring yourself out of those feelings of despair. Remembering that you are in control of yourself and your thoughts is very powerful.

So you signed up for an art class when you were feeling good? Yet today is the day of the class and you feel totally down and depressed? This is the time to push through and engage in something that will bring you out of your current negative state of mind…if you don’t control your mind and your thoughts, then they will control you. Force yourself to get moving, take a shower, and attend that class. You may end up engaging in a creative outlet that inspires you to keep pressing on, giving you purpose throughout this time of discomfort after a break up.

2.      Take a break from dating.

I encourage individuals after a break up to take a time out. To take time to reconnect with themselves and wait a period of time before getting back out there. As stated previously, after a relationship, humans tend to be very vulnerable and this is when we are most often accepting of another relationship that is less than what we deserve—all so that we can avoid feeling lonely.

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The phrase “the best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else” is false! All that you are doing is pacifying yourself, giving yourself a temporary reprieve from the heartache you feel by becoming involved with someone new and opening up your vulnerable self before that sense of confidence and self-worth has been truly reestablished.

While human beings are biologically social creatures, you must be able to stand alone and be happy with yourself before becoming involved with another person. Being independent is probably one of the most empowering experiences you can have. To know that you don’t need anyone else is a testament to your ability to be self-sufficient and okay just “being”. Try it… Remembering that you must learn to look inwards and to your Higher Power for validation instead of relying on other people to give you your sense of self-worth.

“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

3.      Keep your lifestyle healthy.

In order to function at our best capacity, we must eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Refraining from using alcohol is also a necessity when you are already down.

Alcohol is a depressant and what most people do not realize is that when you drink, you are literally depressing your central nervous system! It’s no wonder people become emotional when they are drinking and even feel down the day after, you have just consumed a depressant.

So watch what you are putting in your mouth after a break up. If you’re feeling depressed, alcohol will only compound that feeling. Not too mention that inhibitions become lowered and you are more likely to engage in behaviors that you wouldn’t otherwise engage in if you were sober. i.e. texting/calling your ex to lament your relationship and ask that they come back, sleeping with someone that you wouldn’t otherwise want to sleep with, lashing out at a friend because you already feel sad and drinking just allows those mean comments to come out more easily— these are just a few of the many things that can happen when you’re under the influence.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy life, eating healthy foods that will help nourish your mind and get plenty of rest to allow your brain to heal from the trauma of a break up.

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Bringing it all together…

With all of this information, I encourage you to find what works for you in your life after a relationship ends. Whether you were married and you’re at the divorce stage, or you dated someone for a year and thought they’d be the one, only to find out that they weren’t who you thought they were, take comfort in knowing that the pain you feel will eventually subside.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Recognize your strengths and the pieces of you that you could improve upon but watch out for those negative, self-deprecating thoughts! Seek out a therapist to help you through this time and to gain better perspective of who you are and what you have to offer the world.

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Although the length of recovery time differs from person to person, marked by periods of highs and lows, you will be able to recognize when you truly get your happy back. Practicing reconnecting with yourself, taking a break to stand on your own two feet and be independent, and living a very healthy lifestyle will all aid in your recovery process.

Always remember that no matter what, you are worthy of finding a partner in life that is your other half. A partner who treats you the way that you deserve and encourages you to be the best version of yourself. You are a unique being with plenty of characteristics and positive traits to offer the world.

Focus on the relationship you have with yourself, and the rest will follow.

Wishing you healthy relationships with others and most importantly yourself, today and everyday,

Rachel Ann