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

Are you really happy? 7 ways you can check yourself

When you think of happiness, what comes to mind? We all have experienced hardships in life but when you step back and evaluate yourself, are you truly happy?

True happiness is not just a temporary state of mind, happiness becomes an enduring part of who you are. Happiness is not just being able to laugh once or twice on a daily basis, but being able to face adversity and still feel like your world is a happy place to be in.

        “Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do 

        with struggling and enduring and accomplishing”.

                                                                                                -George Sheehan

Many people question whether or not they are happy on a daily basis. With this list that I have compiled, I’m asking that you evaluate your core level of happiness. The part of you that only you truly have access to, not the part that you show the world…

Happy people:

1. Do not remain stagnant. Happy people realize that whether they want it to or not, life changes. And instead of fighting change, happy people learn that adaptation and mental flexibility are two predictors of success. Something that I tell my clients is no matter what, life is going to keep moving on with or without us. How we handle our hardships and changes that life brings is ultimately up to us. Happy people do not sit still in the face of adversity, instead they choose to move forward and pick up the pieces.

I can’t help but compare the process of picking up the pieces and not remaining stagnant to recovering from the aftermath of a hurricane. Being born and raised by the Gulf Coast of Florida, in certain months, the threat of a hurricane is very real and I have witnessed one that took out a large part of my beautiful hometown. I observed how several people that I know, despite having their homes completely abolished by the storm-simply stated “this is a downfall of living by the water” and slowly began to rebuild. The rebuild certainly didn’t happen overnight and many tears were shed in the process, but ultimately these folks knew what they had to do and did it. They did not stay still. They moved forward with life because no matter what, life was going to move on without them.

2. Do not compare themselves to other people as a measure for what it means to be happy. Happy people have a sense of who they are as individuals, a high level of self-awareness, and they know that the real measure of happiness can be found by looking internally. Not to external measures. Happy people realize that they must be their own barometer when it comes to how they feel. Happy people have the self-awareness to realize what in life makes them feel content. They do not feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses” because they have discovered their own self-worth and inner happiness.

3. Accept themselves for who they are, faults and all, and take responsibility for making things right if they are wrong. Happy people are not perfect people, but they know this. Happy people realize that although they have a lot to contribute to relationships, there will be times that they are wrong or that they unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Happy people love themselves, but they accept their imperfections. And much like #1-they do not remain stagnant, and constantly seek to be a better person. Happy people are still okay with who they are as a person because once you accept your flaws, the societal or self-induced pressure to be perfect is off of you. Instead you can become empowered to work towards becoming a healthier version of yourself.

I think of the person that wants to lose 50 pounds. They acknowledge that they want the weight loss to occur and choose to feel happy and empowered that they have made this decision to be healthy. The unhappy person would just complain about the weight loss and either not make changes, or just settle for being overweight. Do you see the differences here?

Check out this excellent article on the 15 powerful things that happy people do differently:

http://www.deseretnews.com/top/695/2/Acceptance-vs-Resistance-15-powerful-things-happy-people-do-differently.html

4. Are okay being alone. Happy people do not have to receive constant validation from others. They are able to lean on their own inner strength. Even when we have relationships with other people, we are ultimately responsible for how we feel. Friendships and romantic partnerships can benefit our lives in so many ways, but happy people know deep down that if they do not possess that core level of happiness, it will make it more difficult for others to truly be happy with them.

I think about men and women that I have either known personally or worked with clinically that jumped from relationship to relationship. I always sought out to understand this constant need for companionship. There would be a horrible breakup and within a week or so, they were on to the next. Or in the worst-case scenario, they would leave one partner for another thinking that they had found the next best thing.  One, there was never any time to heal, and two, the common denominator in most of these situations is that these were people that were not 100% happy with who they were and literally needed another person to validate them in order to feel okay. The issue with using people to constantly validate ourselves are that people are inconsistent. No one person is able to make you happy all the time, you must be happy with who you are first.

I can speak to this because in my late 20’s there were some things that I was not happy with about myself. I decided to take a hiatus from relationships and dating and did so for 8 solid months. I look back now and realize that that was one of the best things that I have ever done for myself! I read, I exercised, I cultivated healthy friendships, I got to know myself, and I did things that made me happy.  I do not believe that I would have been in the healthy place that I was when I met my husband if I had not had that breathing room.

Happy people can stand alone and realize the value of being alone and not lonely.

5. Make healthy choices because they care about themselves. Talk to a happy person and they’ll tell you. When they have had enough of something, they’ll tap out! Happy people set boundaries with others and maintain those boundaries. Instead of constantly being the “yes” person, happy people are okay with saying no when they know their mental health may be comprised if they add another task to their plate. Truly happy people often times do not abuse substances, engage in risky behaviors, and or anything else that could put them at risk of harm. Why? Because they care about themselves and take pride in staying happy and healthy.

Consider this:  I’ve never met an addict that was truly happy; however, I’ve met a ton of recovering addicts that are exuberantly happy and have found their joy! People in recovery have often times gone to therapy, rehab, or done some intense soul-searching on their own and realized their self-worth. They also realize that true happiness is found (with hard work) through sobriety. The realization that using substances is a masked form of happiness becomes a key turning point in finding happiness.

6. Don’t hide behind a façade. Truly happy people are their real, authentic self. There are no pretenses about them and they realize that true happiness is found when you are being your authentic self. Happy people don’t hide behind their good looks, educational achievements, and or sarcasm. I’ve met plenty a person that was the picture of humility, and yet they were very successful, and highly educated. On the contrary, I’m sure that we could all think of some folks that use their good looks to get ahead in life, perhaps talk of their success incessantly, and or insert whatever pretense you can think of that people use to hide behind!

I think about one of my uncles whose intellect and vocabulary is off the charts. Every time I read something he writes, I have to look up every other word to fully understand! He hob knobs with major art critics in St. Louis and is so knowledgeable [read wise] about art, culture, and social interest issues; yet he is the most down to earth man and makes you feel special in any interaction that you have with him. He is kind, gentle, and totally authentic. And people love him for it. And that, my friends, is a truly happy and secure person.

7. Find meaning in their lives no matter what they do. Happy people understand that no matter what, they will make meaning out of what they do on a daily basis. Whether that person is a surgeon, a janitor, a librarian, whatever! A happy person finds and creates meaning through their work. I know that we all know this person. The happy person that smiles at you despite being overloaded with work to do, the person that cheerfully says “I’m good, just working for the weekend!” and merrily goes about their way—think about someone in your life that is like this. Sometimes the natural inclination is to roll your eyes and think how can they be so happy?! When instead, I think we should ask them-what is the secret to your happiness?

 

Happiness is our choice. There are hardships that a person must overcome, but in the end, the choice in how you handle something is yours. Happiness can become a stable, enduring part of who you are.

 

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln

 

The choice is yours.

 

Empowering you to be happy today and always,

 

Rachel Ann

P.S. I really enjoyed these two articles on happiness-check them out!

http://www.drkenner.com/what_is_happiness.htm

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