Truth or Myth: In Order To Be Vulnerable, You Need To Be Courageous

Truth! Society often portrays being vulnerable as the opposite of courage—that if you are vulnerable that you are weak. You need to be invincible and so we seek to try and control as much of the outcomes that we can. However, the truth is that courage and vulnerability work hand in hand and it takes vulnerability to be courageous. The truth is that it takes courage to be the first to say that you are sorry and that takes being vulnerable. It takes courage to bring a child in this world and that means being vulnerable realizing you don’t know how to be a parent. It takes courage to put yourself out there in the dating world and risk rejection and that requires being vulnerable.

Brene Brown, the vulnerability guru, emphasizes this truth about courage and vulnerability describing a visit to Fort Bragg (the largest military base in the world—and where my brother-in-law and his family will be stationed in a few months):

“I was recently at Fort Bragg speaking to soldiers and joint special operations. It’s a hard group to talk about vulnerability with, because in a combat situation vulnerability equals death, and their job is to minimize vulnerability. So I asked them to come up with an example of courage that they’ve witnessed that wasn’t completely defined by a willingness to be vulnerable, a willingness to engage in risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. And no one could come up with an example.”

So take the leap of faith and have the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Vulnerability holds a lot of power. When you risk and reach out, that is where the magic happens, where connections are made and strengthened. As Brene Brown says: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Tell me how vulnerable someone is willing to be, and I’ll tell you how brave they’re willing to be.” Be Brave!

5 Ways Humility Can Help You Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

There is a natural tendency that we all have to compare. Even a two year-old is capable of quickly recognizing if they have less fruit snacks than their siblings. Comparing in of itself is not wrong and can be a valuable skill set—for example– comparison shopping can allow you to get the best deal on your new phone, car or groceries. However, we often have a tendency of comparing apples to oranges. We will look at our weaknesses and compare them to the strengths of others. We will stand in awe of the woman who obviously makes it to the gym in the morning when we are struggling to get our kids to school on time. We will focus on something we are struggling with and then notice the person who seems to excel in that area and this usually does not foster positive feelings towards that person. This usually leads in the direction of self-loathing and being critical of our ourselves and our weaknesses or to feelings of envy and jealousy of the person we view as successful in an area we are lacking in. However, there is one characteristic that everyone can develop that will directly counter these outcomes of our natural tendency to compare: humility.

One: Being humble is a way that you can still recognize your own weaknesses and the strengths of another without the overwhelming negative feelings. Humility allows you to recognize and remember that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses that we can improve. Humility allows us know that there is room for growth in all of us for a reason. We can focus on our own self-improvement and look of ways to work on and get better and allow others the same opportunity.

Two: Being humble also helps us to be kind to ourselves. When my mom is overwhelmed, she often says, “I am only one person.” It is helpful to remember this and that we are not meant to be more than just one person–a person who will make mistakes–a person with flaws but a person who is learning. We are one person but we make a huge difference.

Three: Being humble allows us to create true connections. It does not mean being weak nor that we should allow ourselves to be at the dictates of someone else. Recognizing that we have weaknesses does not mean that we negate our strengths. In fact, it helps us relate and connect more to others realizing that we all have strengths and things that we offer to this world that make a difference. Humility allows for us to reach out for help when we need it and creates connections with others which is the strongest predictor of happiness. (truth-or-myth-connection-is-the-strongest-predictor-of-happiness)

Four: Being humble also allows us to remember that everything we have–our time, our talents and skills, our health and energy, even our very lives come as free gifts from God. When you recognize that you have been given talents and gifts, it makes it much easier to share them.

Five: Being humble means being teachable. We can seek to learn from those that have strengths in areas that we might be lacking. We are not meant to know everything but we are meant be be able to learn. Being humble is what makes the true difference in learning. My daughter was having a difficult time with a particular subject in math. I can remember this feeling as I was in math class in high school. Math had been pretty simple for me growing up and then for some reason geometry happened and I can remember looking around in class thinking I was the only person who just wasn’t getting it. My counsel for my daughter was the same counsel I would have given my 9th grade self–raise your hand. Acknowledge if something is hard for you to understand. Your teacher does understand it and can help you. When you acknowledge what you don’t know, you allow your mind to focus on learning that exact information. Humility is the key to learning.

So, the next time you recognize the feelings of envy that are derived from comparing, give yourself a dose of humility. Refocus your energy on ways in which you can use the talents that you have been given and look to learn from those around you. Being humble makes a real difference.

Truth or Myth?: Forgiveness means that you forget. Myth! {Find out how knowing the truth about forgiveness can help you be more successful.}

Forgiveness is not easy. However, there are a few key myths that make it so forgiveness is even harder than it needs to be. One of the most perpetuated myths is that “You Forgive and You Forget.” Forgiveness does not mean amnesia. We are not meant to have a “Skip That Chapter” mindset in order to forgive. In fact, if you forget there were atrocities, we are likely to repeat those atrocities and if we don’t deal with our past adequately, it will return to haunt us. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are wired to remember negative events so that we don’t get bitten by the saber tooth tiger twice.

Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that things happened differently than they did. Forgiveness is knowing and believing that chapters in a book are simply that- chapters and not the end. It is the ability to know that you have the power to move forward and write the next chapter without holding onto the anger and the hurt. Forgiveness is the way for you to have a path to move forward to write your story. It does not mean that restitution or justice should not be required or that in order to completely forgive that they need to be a part of your life. Clear boundaries are an actually an essential part of the forgiveness process.

My favorite way to understand forgiveness is a quote by Paul Coleman, a licensed therapist and contributing author to the book, “Exploring Forgiveness”:

“When you forgive, you do not forget the season of cold completely, but neither do you shiver in its memory.”

Forgiveness does not mean that we need to forget but through the process of forgiveness the emotions and feelings–that at the time were so intense and had the power if left there to fester to write a different ending for ourselves– those feelings will dwindle and diminish. Forgiveness does not mean that anger or hurt vanishes immediately but it will wither in time. Despite genuine efforts to forgive, some remnants of the old hurt may remain but they will remind us of that cold season and how far we now have come and how those feelings do not have the power to continue to be the focus of our lives and write our stories. There is no greater gift that you can give to yourself than forgiveness which allows you to flip the page and begin again.

Truth or Myth: Any Therapist Will Be Able to Help You Where You Need To Go

Myth! The truth is that just like in any profession, there are those that are good at their jobs and there are those that are not. Sadly, therapists are no different and they are not created the same. Just as you wouldn’t want to take your car to just any mechanic but would search out for one that was qualified and able to address the needs of your car, you are going to want to invest in finding a therapist is qualified and will be able to address your needs or the needs (or the needs of a loved one) as well. It is a very difficult road to come to the decision to seek out a therapist and often because it is a hard decision, many enter the search to find a therapist under duress and will often see the first person they can get into. When you are at the crossroads of looking for a therapist, it is important to know that finding the right therapist is essential in order to get the outcome that you are looking for. Here are five tips to finding the right therapist for you.

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/01/how-to-find-a-good-therapist-five-tips-to-finding-the-right-therapist-for-you/

Tuesday Tip: Two Lessons Learned From Flying That Can Change Your Life

The truth is that life is rarely traveled on a well-lit, smooth paved road. Life is bumpy and full of up and downs. Traveling by flying is no different. You can’t predict the wind or the weather and turbulence can happen at any time. It would seem that in life, the “fasten seat belt” sign is almost permanently lit. There are two lessons that I specifically learned from flying that can make a huge difference in how we navigate this life.

The first lesson I learned was actually before boarding the aircraft.
I once dated a guy who was working on getting his pilot license and I watched him complete a flight plan. Mind you, I had traveled by plane many times but I had never considered that creating a flight plan would be any different than mapquesting a destination in a car. You choose where you start and and where you want to end up and then figure out the roads and highways that will get you there. I figured it would be even simpler to do a flight plan since you wouldn’t have to figure out the roads to get there but could literally fly from point A to point B. That flight plan was one of the most intricate things I had ever seen. Using a map which has a million different circles on it that represent airways, you have to figure out all of the circles that you plan on passing through from one airport to your final airport. Then, while navigating in flight, you are constantly using your flight instruments and checking in to make sure you are on your desired path as you pass through those airways. Even with the detailed flight plan, you are constantly veering off course and having to correct your course. This is how life is. It is essential to have a flight plan–to know you are and where you want to go but even more essential that the flight plan is being able to use your ability to check yourself to be able to correct your course. The way to measure how you are doing in life is not how many times you get off course, but how fast you return to the flight path or in other words, how fast you are able to recenter yourself when life becomes unbalanced.

The second essential life skill I learned from flying is given during those long and monotonous emergency instructions you listen to once you are boarded on the flight. (I realize that I should probably pay more attention to safety instructions that are there for my own benefit but man it is rough to listen to sometimes!) During those lovely instructions though, they give one of the most insightful rules that is an absolute mental health game changer. In case of loss of air cabin pressure, they tell you that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling above you. Then they give you this admonition: Before you assist someone else, you need to put your own oxygen mask first. This is an essential skill that many caregivers or parents often overlook. They, (many times out of concern and love) attempt to address the needs of those they care for without having addressed their own. This can lead to burnout. The skill is to identify and provide self-care for yourself and then to be able to provide assistance to those in your life who may need it. What does self-care look like? Self care is simple acts that show that you are taking care of yourself and recognizing your own needs. Below I included a list of a few self-care items, but in reality your list will be just as unique are you are and may not include the stash of chocolate in the pantry. 😉 It is not selfish, but in fact will allow you to show more love to those around you just like putting your oxygen mask on first before you assist others to put on theirs.

So, take a moment to create your own flight plan for yourself. Who are you, and where are you headed? Write out that goal and then you can check yourself periodically to see what course changes you may need to make in order to stay on your path.

Second, create a self-care plan for you. What would be on your list of self-care items? Create that list. Check in and monitor yourself and if you know that you are going to be needed whether it is emotionally or physically– start by making sure you have first put on your own oxygen mask. Taking care of yourself matters and allows you to then assist others which in turn brings joy to your life.

While these tips will not change the turbulence that we experience in this life, it will help you to more successfully navigate your flight and reach your desired destination. Have a safe flight!

Tuesday Tip: The Importance of Distinguishing Between Shame and Guilt.

There are few words and feelings that make such a profound difference as the difference between these two five-letter words: Shame and Guilt. While you might think they are synonyms, you will be surprised to know that psychologically speaking, they are more distinct than you might think and understanding their differences can be life altering.

So, what’s the difference? According to renowned researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown, PhD, LCSW, the difference is huge. Brown has been researching shame for over ten years and her TED talks have garnered over 10 million views. She defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame focuses on yourself: “I am a bad person… I am stupid…I am a failure.”

She defines guilt on the other hand as “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” She view guilt as adaptive and helpful and focuses instead on the behavior: “This behavior is bad…that was a really stupid thing to do…that outcome was a failure.”

According to Brown, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.” What does that mean? That means the ability to change the way in which you talk to yourself (guilt vs. shame) or your internal dialogue can dramatically change the outcome.

Guilt serves as a motivating factor to change whereas shame becomes the catalyst to the downward spiral of self loathing that has been correlated with depression and addiction. For example, I could do really poorly on a test and say to myself: “Dang it. That was a mistake. I should have studied differently.” Now, I still feel bad and the event didn’t change-I still did poorly, but I am motivated to fix that mistake.

Check out the difference with shame: “Dang it. I am such a loser. I am so stupid. I don’t know why I bothered to think that I would ever be good at taking a test.” Shame cuts at your self identity and does not inspire you to move forward but rather stay in a downward spiral of negative thoughts.
The ability to change the self-talk — and believe it — can dramatically change the outcome.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: examine your internal dialogue. Is it more inline with shame or guilt? When you or someone you love make a mistake, allow your feelings of guilt to inspire a course correction. As I lovingly repeat to my kids on a daily basis: “Peirce’s make mistakes and Peirce’s fix mistakes.” They might have the same number of letters but feeling shame and guilt are extremely different and distinguishing between them is an absolute game changer.

Making Things ‘Slightly Smaller’: A Functional Tip When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Who hasn’t felt the feeling of being overwhelmed? You know that feeling when things were already pretty stressful and then one more thing happens and threatens to capsize the whole boat. When you are in the midst of the storm it can be difficult to be able to come up with a plan that will deal with the storm and rightly so. When your brain is flooded, it no longer processes things the same way as many functions are ‘offline’ not allowing you to process thoughts as you usually would. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed there is a tip that will help jumpstart your mind into staying engaged and being able to assist in coming up with a plan to address your state of mind. It’s called “Slightly Smaller”.

After taking a deep breath, you can tell your brain to assign your current state into a number. For instance, if I am really stressed out I might assign myself an 8. Instead of trying to solve and figure out the whole amount of stressful 8, I would make it slightly smaller by subtracting it by 1. Then, I would ask my mind, “What would make it a 7?” This allows your mind to be able to stay engaged and come up with a plan to address your stress in a smaller, more manageable portion. You don’t need to try and solve everything at the moment. Storms will come and go as they do, but the ‘Slightly Smaller’ tip will allow you to be able to use your mind to be able to stay in and process, problem solve and survive the state of feeling overwhelmed. Don’t let the simpleness of the tip fool you–try this the next time you recognize feeling overwhelmed and see for yourself if your mind doesn’t play a more active role in being able to get your ship to the shore. Happy Sailing!

Looking for more ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed? Check out:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/9-proven-strategies-to-change-your-thoughts-and-change-your-world/

Three Tips on Love From Mister Rogers {Including a One Minute Tip That Will Enhance Your Life}

For over 30 years, starting in 1968, Fred Rogers entertained and enlightened millions of viewers on his popular PBS television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even now, 50 years later, PBS still airs an animated show created and produced by the Fred Rogers productions called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” The impact of Mister Rogers is undeniable and difficult to measure. Here are three tips from Mister Rogers specifically about love.

Tip #1: “You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”

This is a quote from Mister Roger’s commencement address at Dartmouth College in 2002. He was explaining the meaning behind a song from his popular PBS television program:
“It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear.
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like.
The way you are right now
The way down deep inside you.
Not the things that hide you.
Not your caps and gowns,
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like.
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you remember
Even when you’re feeling blue.
That it’s you I like,
It’s you, yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.”

Knowing that we are inherently loved–not because of anything that we have done or accomplished but simply because we are, is one of the most crucial concepts that we learn.

Tip #2: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It’s an active noun- like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

I like you just the way you are does not imply that there is no room for change or growth. In fact, as Mister Roger explains, “I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.” Love is the ingredient which allows for any and all positive attributes to flourish and grow.

Tip #3: “When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”

Recognizing and accepting our own strengths and shortcomings allows us to appreciate and accept that the humanness of everyone else and to truly love them. Mister Rogers noted, “What interests me so much about the characters of the Bible is that they make mistakes but God uses them anyways, in important ways. Nobody is perfect, but God can even use our imperfections.”

Mister Rogers’ wisdom about love cannot be understated. Today’s Tuesday Tip is an exercise developed by Mister Rogers that within one minute will enhance your gratitude and cultivate the love that you feel.

Mister Rogers was an advocate for what he called the silent minute. During this minute he would ask that you think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Whether they were near or far away or even in heaven, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you he asked that you honor them and devote some thoughts to them during one silent minute. Imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you.

Try the silent minute exercise and see if your gratitude and love increase. Those 60 seconds can easily end up being your favorite part of your day. In the words of the infamous guru of childhood programing:

 

Balance Is Not Something You Just Find, But Something You Can Create.

Whether you are seeking small changes or searching for big miracles, the proven tips and strategies you find here can help you improve the way you think and feel about yourself and help create the quality relationships that we all want and need.

“Tuesday Tips” are designed to be practical, shareable tips with explanations to how they can impact and improve your emotional health and relationships.

Truth or Myth? These posts shared on Thursdays are designed to provide practical points to ponder and help provide psychoeducation to truths and myths about all aspects of emotional health.

Do you have a question that you would like answered by a licensed marriage and family therapist? Feel free to contact me with your question. Your question may provide the answers that will benefit others as well and all responses will be posted without any identifying information. Answers to questions asked can be found here.

Regardless of where you are in your personal journey, welcome! I hope that the practical, proven tips, strategies and answers you find here will help you on your journey to create the balance we all need. Practically speaking, “What you do today can improve all of your tomorrows.” (Ralph Marston)

-Brita