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

Is jealously the root of all evil? The how and why of the green eyed monster, and tips to work through it

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”
William Shakespeare, Othello

Have you ever met a person that just oozed unhappiness?

Maybe you have never heard said person say a kind thing, maybe they scrunch their face up into a pensive mess when you talk about something positive in your life. Maybe you always feel uncomfortable around them because you can feel the happy energy in the room being sucked out when they are present.

Chances are, this unhappy person has feelings of inadequacy that ultimately are related to the green-eyed monster, jealousy. Jealousy occurs when a person believes themselves to be inferior to others whether on a conscious or subconscious level.

A jealous person becomes threatened when someone else is doing well, or has a positive life occurrence. Jealousy can also occur when a person feels threatened by another’s appearance—the person believes the other person to be more handsome or beautiful than them, thus the “claws” come out. I’m sure that we have all experienced it firsthand from someone else, or maybe you recognize jealous tendencies within yourself from time to time.

“Beware of those who criticize you when you deserve some praise for an achievement, for it is they who secretly desire to be worshiped.”
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

When a person is unable to feel happy for someone else that is doing well in life, I believe this to be a blatant inferiority issue. I have worked (in and out of the therapy session!) with enough people who have very low self-esteem to realize that when a person is insecure, they are at such a fragile place that anyone else’s successes may just put them over the edge, and cause them to lash out disproportionately to what the situation may call for. Inadvertently causing distress and feelings that they are incompetent or ‘a loser’.

Typically, when someone is jealous, this emotion gets the better of them and they lash out, projecting those feelings of uncertainty and self-dislike on those around them.

If you identify that you are in a situation where you are experiencing unhappiness and jealousy towards others—the time has come to perform some heavy introspection.

I’m a major list person. I believe that writing something down, reading it, and visually seeing the issues in front of you is healing and can logically help you organize your thoughts. Make a list of the inadequacies you believe that you have as well as the things that you most often feel jealous of.

The list can be as general or specific that you want it to be. Just by making the list, you are defining the insecurities within yourself. Through definition comes clarity. In order to understand why we behave the way that we do, we have to understand the root cause.

Awhile back, I met a woman who was nice enough. She was one of those people who appeared friendly on the onset of meeting her yet the more you got to know her, you realized that there was a definite “putting on the best behavior act” occurring. There was a shiftiness about her, and I realized that in order to protect myself, I would have to remain guarded—keep her at arm’s length as the saying goes. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m upbeat and positive. I’ve always had a positive disposition, it’s both learned and who I am.

With this woman, however, I could literally tell that just by being myself, I was not liked by her. That’s fine, I can accept when someone is not a fan. And this lady was not someone who I necessarily wanted to embrace as a friend. I did my best to steer clear unless interactions had to happen. Her disdain was apparent each time we interacted until finally I received her unsolicited feedback that solidified my suspicion that she felt threatened. “You just have it all together don’t you. Your perfect life” she managed to choke out in anger. I looked at her puzzled. “Where did that come from?” I wondered. At that moment, her phone rang and I quietly left her office. The green-eyed monster that is jealousy and contempt was so strong it left me a bit rattled on the inside.

The strange thing about jealousy is that it will rear its ugly head at different times and with different people. You could be having a benign, neutral conversation with someone  and out comes a comment like the one above.

When a person is so unhappy with themselves, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, this unhappy energy literally radiates from them. When you’re on the receiving end of an outburst, it can actually cause a visceral reaction—usually the pit of my stomach gets a bit knotted after having an interaction like that. If you have a case of jealousy, then I urge you to work on it. Not just for others that are around you, but for your own mental and physical health.

Research has shown time after time, that poor mental health will inevitably end up manifesting itself in physical ways, especially when left unattended. High blood pressure, intestinal issues, poor sleep, and even heart arrhythmia to name a few. The sooner that you work through some of these negative emotions you’re experiencing, the better for you both physically and mentally.

Make your list of the things that you most often feel threatened by and then begin to work through them, focusing on developing a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Bringing the point to life: maybe you want to lose 25 pounds and your fit coworker causes you to grit your teeth every time she is near. Why not work on yourself instead of radiating all of that anger and resentment?

Or maybe your friend is an excellent public speaker and everyone seems fascinated by her when she speaks. Instead of harping on the fact that she gets all of the positive attention, read up on developing public speaking skills and get to work!

“Maybe that was the root of my dislike for her: she had what I wanted, which earned her my jealousy, and since I was ashamed of myself for wanting it, my scorn, as well.”
Nenia Campbell, Bleeds My Desire

Jealousy is a toxic, life-sucking emotion. Negative outcomes occur when you exhibit jealousy. Jealousy is fairly transparent and can be recognized by others, only furthering feelings of insecurity in the one that already feels afflicted. If you are experiencing feelings of inadequacy, examine where those inadequacies are coming from and make positive changes in life.

We are only able to be in control of ourselves. So much of life can be missed out on if we get too caught up in our negative emotions and insecurities. Work towards growing, developing a healthy self-esteem, and being the best version of yourself that you can be.

 

I leave you with this quote that sums everything up nicely:

“If you can channel the best part of you that is bigger than yourself, where it’s not about your ego and not about getting ahead, then you can have fun and you aren’t jealous of others. You see other people’s talent as another branch of your own. You can keep it rooted in joy. Life is long and there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. The point of it all is to learn.”
Ethan Hawke

 

Exploit your insecurities and use them to learn more about yourself. Be empowered to make decisions that benefit you and leave you treating others with kindness…

 

Wishing you a healthy life full of introspection and advancement today and every day,

Rachel Ann

 

For more information on jealousy, please take a look at two great articles:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/jealousy

https://psychcentral.com/lib/envy-jealousy-and-shame/