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 accepting less than you deserve?: Gaining clarity behind your relationship choices

One of the main reasons that clients enter therapy is often times a dissatisfaction or troubling experience in their romantic relationship.

And it makes perfect sense because the people that we surround ourselves with have the potential to greatly enhance or alternately, negatively affect our lives. So the question often arises, what is causing you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship?
This is absolutely not an easy question to answer because how a person approaches a romantic relationship is largely learned from their own upbringing and then adapted over the years to fit their own individual perspectives.

 

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There are many factors that go into how and why we choose our romantic partners.

 
Generally speaking, assessing a relationship’s longevity and survival rate is slightly different from that of assessing a person on an individual basis. When I work with clients individually, I often assess backgrounds, their own parent’s communication styles, and their self-esteem/ability to set healthy boundaries and maintain those boundaries. Boundaries are often deeply examined because if a person is unable to have a personal set of rules for how they function and the treatment they will accept from others in their lives, it’s a fairly good indication that unhealthy treatment from others may be present. Working with couples in committed relationships is different in that there must be assessment of communication styles between the two, the couple’s ability to turn towards each other in times of stress/sadness/dissatisfaction, and knowledge on each person’s love language and their ability to “speak” it to one another.

So let’s get to the most common reasons that may be causing you to accept less than you deserve in your relationships…

1. An unhealthy self-esteem.

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. It can be painful and even scary to really ask ourselves the question, do I like myself?

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Many folks base the answer to this question on the amount of friendships they have, romantic partners they’ve had, and or their ability to be successful in school or work. The issue with looking to external sources for the answer is that often, these external sources can be unpredictable and fallible.

 
Take this example: You’ve been working at the same company for 8 years. You’ve never received any disciplinary measures and for the most part, have been a very good employee—showing up when you’re expected to and carrying out your daily work load. However, behind the scenes at the company you work for, they have been struggling with bringing in money and decide to downsize with you being the first to go and a slew of coworkers shortly thereafter. While the company is downsizing to try to stay afloat, you become a casualty in the process. While yes, this experience would be difficult for anyone, a person with low self-esteem would immediately jump to the conclusion that “I must be an idiot, worthless, and a horrible employee and that’s why I was laid off”.

 
When you have low self-esteem, you will often measure your self-worth with other’s perceptions of you and what happens to you in life, instead of leaning on your own internal resources of strength to get you through. When we have a high internal reservoir that is built upon self-respect, knowing the valuable contributions that we bring to the world, and high levels of self-efficacy and competency, we are better able to deflect the negative experiences that occur.

Practice looking inwards , building upon your knowledge of self instead of looking outwards for the world to tell you that you’re a smart, good, attractive person. If you can practice loving who you are, this inward beauty shines outwardly and in turn increases our self-confidence…and self-esteem.

2. Negative experiences from our past.

Although controversial and disagreeable to some, I agree that Sigmund Freud knew what he was talking about when he developed his psychoanalytic theory proposing that our childhood experiences impact our thoughts and behaviors in present day. The messages that you received while growing up, and during your precious brain’s development will ultimately impact how you function in today’s world.

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If your family was never affirming, you grew up in an unstable and chaotic home environment and you constantly felt as if you did not matter, chances are highly likely that you still struggle with finding what you need in your current romantic partner. We ultimately choose what we know—familiarity is comforting for people even if it is unhealthy familiarity.

 
Consider this: you meet an amazing man/woman and feel overwhelmed that this awesome being has chosen you as their significant other. You’re conflicted because deep down, there is a tiny voice that reminds you “They’ll soon find out who I really am, it’s only a matter of time before they lose confidence in me like my family did”. And because you do not know how to deal with this new, positive relationship, you sabotage. You cut it off and run because this positive treatment is not what you are used to. There’s a high likelihood you have no idea why you sabotaged this new relationship, you may make excuses like “I just couldn’t get over how he/she dressed, they just seemed too good to be true, etc.” Our past experiences, if not dealt with, have a funny way of resurfacing whether it is on a conscious or unconscious level.

 
If the above rings true for you, it may be time to seek out a therapist to help you process past experiences—to wipe the mental slate clean—and discontinue allowing those negative past experiences to creep up and affect you in the here and now.

3. Not having a clear sense of identity.

Have you ever heard the phrase, if you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for everything?

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In the case of choosing a romantic partner, not knowing your own core values, morals, and ethics can cause you to let someone into your world based on loneliness and confusion instead of a strong foundation that is built upon similar values and beliefs. I’m not saying that you should always agree with your partner on every. little. thing. But for the most part, your ethical and moral compass should align with that of your partner’s.

 
Think about this example: Ever since you can remember, you have been an exceptionally hard worker. You’ve worked since you were 15 years old and have always prided yourself on being able to maintain employment and bring value to the company you work for. All of a sudden, you meet Kara. There’s something about this woman that you can’t explain. She elicits a carefree feeling in you that you haven’t felt since childhood, however there’s one part of her that causes a slight stir in your gut (gut instinct, anyone?!)—she can’t seem to hold a job down and constantly floats from job to job when the going gets too tough. You can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that what if things get tough with us, will she leave? One night you have a disagreement about moving in with each other. Kara wants to move in but not pay rent right now because in her mind “you make plenty of money” and per usual, she is in between employment. You tell her you need some time to think about all this as you’ve only been dating a short while. But the next day, when you reach out to her, she’s gone. Won’t return phone calls until eventually telling you “You should be taking care of me”. You let her go, breathing a sigh of relief that you may have just dodged the proverbial bullet. If you would have stayed with Kara, there’s no doubt that there would have been more disagreements down the road because your ethics were not compatible.

 
If in your mind, you value a hard work ethic and want the same from your partner, then when you meet someone that doesn’t feel the same, it’s a strong sign that the compatibility may be off. Same with having a moral compass. Knowing the morals and ethics that you hold close inadvertently causes your identity to develop. Who are you? What do you value in life and what core belief system do you have? Make a list, talk to a therapist about feeling confusion about your identity—no matter what however, not having a clear sense of identity will interfere with you finding a partner that will meet your needs.

Bringing it all together…

Having a low self-esteem, negative experiences from our pasts, and losing sight of or not having a clear sense of identity are all factors that may cause you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship. The positive outcome in all of this however, is that you have the opportunity to reverse the negative thinking and process the past so that you may move forward. No matter what you may have encountered in previous relationships or childhood, those experiences do not have to define who you are today.

“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”

― Iyanla Vanzant

Accept what you believe you deserve. And you deserve a lot.

 
Please reach out to Humanitas Counseling and Consulting 757-739-6771 if you believe that there is a pattern in your life of accepting less than what your wonderful self deserves and your desire is to start a new pattern of healthy self love and knowledge. It is never too late for self-discovery and change!

 
Wishing you a healthy sense of self today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

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