How to forgive yourself

We all do things we are not proud of. We wish we could turn back time and change it all. Unfortunately, time travel has not yet been invented (I am still holding out for the future!). Instead, we are stuck with feelings of regret, sadness, and anger that do no one any good. Those feelings won’t fix anything. They just leave you feeling awful about yourself. You need to forgive. 

Forgiving yourself is not an easy thing. You see what you did wrong and it can be hard to look past those moments, those actions. It could be something small or it could be something huge, life-changing, but in order to go on and live a productive, happy, fulfilled life you have to forgive yourself. You have to let go of the past. You have to strive to do better in the future. 

You have to let go of the past

If you are having trouble forgiving yourself, and you are dwelling on the past, here are some tips to help you begin the process: 

1.) Identify the lesson learned — What did you learn from making that mistake? Every moment of regret is a moment to learn from, it is a moment to make positive changes in your life. 

2.) Realize the past is the past — It seems cut and dry, of course, the “past is the past” but it can be hard to come to terms with. Say to yourself you cannot change the past, it is over, what is done is done. Accept it. Look to the future, set positive goals for yourself, strive to not make the same mistake again. 

3.) Give yourself a re-do — So, we have determined you cannot physically go back and change the past but you can think about how you would have done it differently. Write down what you would do if you could go back, and then in the future, you will have that memory to fall back on. 

4.)Change your thinking — Identify your morals and values as they are now. Focus on those and replace your negative thoughts with ones that are in accordance with your current values. 

5.) Do something kind— You may not be able to fix what happened in the past, but you do have control of the now. Make an effort to do something kind for someone else. It will help to boost your self-esteem and show you that you are nowhere near as bad and horrible as you feel like you are. 

6.) Recognize you are doing your best — We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Sometimes the mistakes we feel we made were the result of us doing the very best we thought we could at the moment. Sometimes there are emotions or actions that are affecting the way we react to situations. 

7.) Love yourself — Write down three positive things about yourself. Chances are you are feeling much worse about the person you are than you actually are. Everyone has good in them. Everyone has the ability to be a good person. Recognize the things you have done for others, and the things you are proud of and start loving yourself again. 

If you are still having trouble turning the page on the past, seek help from a licensed mental health professional. They can work with you to identify those positives and help you to dig deep inside and forgive. You deserve to be loved by you. 

It is ok to say “no” :set boundaries from the beginning

Your friend calls and asks you if you are able to help work the table at the school fair next week. You think about it and despite the fact that you will have to rearrange your schedule, and squeeze this event between two others, thus leaving no time for you to make it to your weekly yoga class, you still say “yes.” A few days go by and you are dreading it. On the day of, you start to get really disappointed that you have to miss that yoga class, so you cancel on your friend. You tell your friend something came up, or you aren’t feeling too great, and you back out. 

Reevaluate your boundaries

If situations like this are a common occurrence in your life, you may want to take a step back and reevaluate your boundaries. 

You don’t always have to be a people-pleaser. It is ok to say “no.” It is ok to disappoint a friend or a family member by turning down a request. It is ok to set boundaries. Rather than always saying “yes” just to say “yes” and make everyone happy—while really hurting yourself— set boundaries from the beginning. You don’t need an excuse or a reason to say “no.” If you just don’t feel like it, then don’t do it. Saying “no” from the beginning will save time and stress for everyone later when you inevitably back out or are unhappy for participating. 

While in your head you are disappointing those around you for not doing everything they ask, you are actually displaying strength and confidence. Your ability to understand your needs and to take the steps to set a boundary will most likely be respected by your friends or family. And, so what if it is not. You have to do what is best for you, and the people in your life will eventually understand. Plus, no one wants to be seen as a flake. Rather than always having that appearance, take the right steps from the beginning—and save yourself the stress. No one is perfect, and no one can do it all ALL the time. 

Are you a different leader at home than work?

Learning to be a good leader is one of those things that can be beneficial at home and at work. A good leader knows how to be objective and to work with the people at hand in the current situation. But sometimes we are different people and different leaders, at home than we are at the office.

There are different expectations at home than at work— and different co-managers, if you will. And, let’s admit it after a long hard day at the office it can be hard to continue that persona at home. While at the office you might be the one always stepping in to take the lead on projects—or vice versa, you might not need to do as much at the office than you do at home. You might be the one managing a team of employees and providing guidance on the steps they should be taking to be successful. But, as soon as you exit that building and get to your home with your family you might take more of a back seat. You might let your spouse take the lead more, or give your children more freedom to figure things out on their own. 

Each part makes up our whole

At home, you might be introverted. You might keep to yourself. All of this is ok. Each of these parts of ourselves make up our whole. We just have to be careful to not completely let go when we are home or to do the opposite and take on a dictatorship type of role. Effective leadership is different in each family and in each situation, but they all have a few simple traits in common:

1.) The ability to listen and acknowledge what is going on around you— you need to be able to determine if you should step in to take control of a situation, of if you should stand back and let the other people involved figure it out. 

2.) Use of the democratic process — leaders who are dictators are not respected and they are only listened to because of fear. By taking the thoughts and ideas and opinions of the other people around you into consideration when making decisions, you will be making the most-informed and best decision for everyone involved.

3.) Flexibility— no one is right all the time, and having the ability to recognize this and be flexible to change in situations can help things to run more smoothly. Not everything goes as planned at home or at work, so try not to be heart-broken and instead embrace change. 

4.) A level-head — being able to be strict and stern when needed, but also have the ability to find humor in a situation is a great quality. It also helps to have the ability to calm down in situations of high stress. 

Whatever your leadership persona at home or in the office, take a moment each week or month to really look around and evaluate. How are people acting? Are they happy? How productive are things? What can you do to make positive changes? 

A sandwich is just a sandwich: Taking the creative pressure off parenting

If you are a parent, chances are you have witnessed the heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the ants-on-a-log snack, or butterfly-shaped apple slices. There is no doubt this stuff is cute and can probably make lunches a little more fun and exciting, but is it really worth it? 

It is time-consuming and stressful enough to make sure your kids have sunscreen and bug spray applied, a hat, a bottle of water, and a lunch to eat. Do we really need to add the extra stress of making sure our kids’ food looks fun? I mean we want them to eat it, right? It doesn’t need to look cute for that to happen. 

We don’t need to be so kid-centric

There is so much pressure on parents these days to go above and beyond, to be a “Pinterest parent.” The reality is we don’t need to be so kid-centric. Our kids are not going to grow up scarred because we did not make their sandwiches into hearts every day. They are not going to be missing out on anything because their apple slices look like apple slices. Rather, they would benefit more from a nice post-it note in their lunch box, an encouraging sentence, or just a simple “I love you.” 

Instead of taking the extra time, and putting such immense pressure on ourselves to make everything “cute” and “fun,” take that time for you. Your children will benefit from a happy parent way more than a fun lunch. There is also no shame in allowing your children to purchase lunch at school or daycare so that you can have more quality time. That is the stuff that really matters. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself a break, take a deep breath and go give your kid a hug—that small gesture will go so much further than spending a half-hour trying to construct the perfect ants-on-a-log snack. 

What we are really telling our kids when we say “don’t worry”

I catch myself every once in a while telling my children to “not worry” when they are scared. It is almost instinctual. As a parent, of course, I wish my child would never have to worry about a thing, but that is not reality. When we tell our children to “not worry” it is like telling them they should not feel scared. We are telling them feeling scared is a bad thing. 

‘It is ok to be scared’

Instead of telling our children “don’t worry” when they are scared or concerned about something, we can replace it with something more reaffirming like “it is ok to be scared.” Because it is OK to be scared. We all get scared sometimes and we want our children to learn how to deal with those feelings, rather than to think they are wrong to feel that way.

It is also important that our children know what to do when they feel worried, or concerned, about something. If it is an external concern, such as a suspicious person or animal then we want our children to recognize safety—whether that be going to mom or dad, a teacher, or moving to a different location. By talking to them about what they should be doing at times when they are struggling with feelings of worry they will build healthy coping skills, and learn how to better take care of themselves in situations where mom or dad aren’t present. 

Feelings of worry or fear are part of our inner-being. They are important. It is our brain’s way of telling us to be careful, to tread lightly, to watch out. It is a protective mechanism. It is not something to ignore or shut off. 

Sometimes that worry or fear is caused by anxiety over something we might not need to be worried about, but acknowledging those feelings and learning how to calm ourselves down is also a very helpful skill. If we can help our children to learn and utilize these skills at a young age, it will help them to be more successful at managing their feelings as an adult. 

Don’t post it if you wouldn’t say it your kids

Social media is fun (and dangerous). All your friends are on there and you can easily get into discussions or debates. You can catch up with people you have not seen in years, and keep tabs on people’s ever-evolving lives. You can post an opinion, thought, or daily happening in a matter of seconds and send it out into the inter-web. It may feel harmless. I mean sure you are sharing with friends, who are they going to tell? 

Nothing is really ‘private’ on the internet

Let’s not forget — this is the internet. Even though it is social media and your profile is set to private, nothing is really private once it has entered the realm of the web. A rule of thumb that I use with my clients is if you won’t say it in front of your kids, then don’t say it on social media. Saying the wrong thing could affect your career years later, and we all know our kids will probably find a way to view all of that stuff at some point. 

Just look at the examples in the news: 

1.) A university professor was fired for tweeting that Hurricane Harvey was karma for Texas, pointing out the GOP connection. 

2.) A 19-year-old daycare worker was fired after snap-chatting a photo of her making an obscene gesture towards one of the children while on the job. 

3.) A zoo employee was fired after tweeting a racist comment about patrons.

Then you have the stories where people didn’t just post obscene, racist, or offensive comments but rather photos. I have heard stories of people not getting their dream job because the employer found photos of them doing drugs or binge drinking on the internet. Similar stories have also been told with people who have posted risqué photos.

It might seem harmless, but once it is posted it is always there. It never leaves. You can never fully delete it. So, here is a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t want your child to hear it, see it, or repeat it then do not post it on social media. It could haunt you years later. 

Three reasons not to pay your children for chores

We have all heard the positive arguments for paying your children to do chores: it teaches them how to manage money, it is motivating, it gives them an allowance to use on things they want, and it teaches them responsibility. 

The other day this very question came up in my home and my therapist brain kicked in and said: “this is a bad idea.” But why is it so bad? Here are three reasons why you don’t need to pay your children for chores, and why it could actually be a bad idea. 

Here is why:

1.)It teaches children that love is transactional. When you pay your children to be helpful and do things they should be doing out of love, you are teaching them they should get money for being a helpful, kind, contributing member of the family. Family members should be stepping in to help each other. It shouldn’t be expected that you will get paid every time you do something for family.

2.)They won’t learn intrinsic motivation. Rather than teaching your children that they will feel good if they help, that it makes other people happy, and all those other internal feelings that should motivate them in life, you are teaching them to do something only if there is an external reward. They are learning to only be motivated by external forces, rather than the internal rewards that build character and shape them as adults. 

3.)They won’t get paid for chores as an adult. Do you get paid every time you clean the toilet or do a load of laundry? I don’t think so. So why set that expectation? Your children will need to take care of the yard, their homes, and their family’s needs without any external rewards. It is just something that needs to get done.

If you do want to give your kids an allowance, pay them for doing things that are out of the routine. Maybe you need help sorting something or working on a home project. Those are great times to “hire” your children. When it comes to the daily routine, leave money out of it. Instead, tell them how appreciative you are of them for helping out. Thank them. Give them a high-five or a hug, but leave the money to the special circumstances.  

Are we teaching our children to be perfectionists?

We have heard it our whole lives and now we are saying it to our children: “practice makes perfect.” In our minds we are encouraging our children to keep trying. We are telling them they will get better at a task the more they give it a shot. We are teaching them to not give up. But our children are hearing they need to be perfect, they should be perfect, there is no room for failure. 

I started thinking about this when my own daughter, at the young age of five, starting showing signs of being a perfectionist. She wanted to do everything perfectly and was highly frustrated when things failed. She saw herself as a failure. As a parent that was hard to witness. I knew she was just learning and through practice she would get better, but as with all things in life there was bound to be some failure along the way. 

A Hard Road

The life of a perfectionist is not an easy one. It is a hard road full of feelings of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. The reality is that nothing is perfect so to task ourselves with such lofty expectations is exhausting.

So rather than continuing to tell our children that “practice makes perfect,” perhaps we may want to change it to “practice makes easy.” I mean that is really what we are trying to say anyway, right?

If you have a child who is showing signs of being a perfectionist there are some things you can do to help:

  • Provide your child with unconditional care and respect.
  • Try to keep their environment calm and structured.
  • Give lots of praise.
  • Avoid comparing your child to others.
  • Stay away from words like genius, brilliant, or perfect.
  • Help them to understand everything cannot be perfect.
  • Listen to them, talk to them.
  • Help them set realistic standards.
  • Let them know they are loved.
  • Provide them with opportunities to succeed and improve self-confidence. 
  • Explain to them that failure is an opportunity for growth.

The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know you are proud of them for trying their best, that is really the only thing we have control over, right?

Do you say sorry too much?

When disagreements occur, are you quick to jump in and say “I am sorry”? Even when you might not really be sorry. Maybe you don’t even think you did anything wrong, or maybe you were upset by something the other person said or did but rather than addressing it, you say “sorry.”

It is possible to say “sorry” too much. It can be a quick way to get out of conflict, to avoid the disagreement from extending into another. It is avoidant and it is not healthy. 

Conflict isn’t bad.

Every relationship has some kind of conflict. It is healthy and helps your relationship to grow and strengthen when handled in a constructive way. By constantly apologizing, even when you don’t really mean it, you are creating unhealthy boundaries. You are not addressing things that might be a problem for you. You are not airing your grievances and in turn are likely building resentment. And, you are showing the person you are in conflict with that you can be walked on because you won’t stand up for yourself.

By immediately saying “sorry” you are closing the door to the discussion. You are eliminating the space to make changes that could help you feel happier and help your relationship. 

It is common for people who are not confident in conflict-resolution skills to apologize too much. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction. But, the best way to improve those skills is to try them out and gain confidence. Not only will discussion help to strengthen and grow your relationships, but it will also help you to feel better about yourself.

The first step to ending the cycle of the chronic apologizer is to first recognize and acknowledge it is a problem. Then next time you are faced with conflict don’t jump to the apology, instead take the time to share your side, express your needs and your feelings. You won’t regret it, and even if it doesn’t go as well as you would have hoped at least you are making strides in the right direction. 

Keeping private things private

John (a fictional client) speaks up during a couples therapy session, saying Maria (a fictional client) is not respecting him. He says he feels exposed, embarrassed. I ask him why he has such feelings. He explains to me that he found out Maria was talking to her girlfriends about his sexual issues. 

Unfortunately, John is not the first client that has expressed concern over his, or her, significant other talking about sexual issues to friends or family. The bottom line when it comes to maintaining integrity, respect, trust in a relationship is you have to keep the private stuff private. There is an intimacy in relationships—that is what makes them so special—and as the partner in that relationship it is important to keep whatever happens in the bedroom to yourself.

Sexual issues go to the core of our being. They have the ability to unravel us. They are sensitive, and so very personal. Respect that. If something is happening in the bedroom that you feel is a problem, speak to a counselor about it. They will keep it a secret. They will maintain that integrity and keep that information safe. They will help you process it without the backlash. When you talk to friends of family about sexual issues it completely exposes that person in a way they may never come back. It is almost like walking into a room completely naked. How would you feel?

We expect our friends and family to keep a secret, but the truth is we are all human. Things come up. We talk about things that we find “juicy” or revealing. Maybe we do it in a way where we think no one is harmed but usually, eventually, that information goes full circle. And the result can be a lot of pain. It is hurtful to feel like someone you don’t want to know, knows some of your most private information. It makes the person feel judged. It makes them feel just plain awful. 

When John told me his story, I asked Maria how she felt. She told me she didn’t think he would find out, that she was just gabbing with the girls. There is information that is ok to gab about —like that argument over how his clothes were folded or him staying out with his friends late — but the stuff that happens sexually needs to stay personal, private, and hold the upmost respect. While it can be hard to do in a social situation, I encourage clients to always think about how the other person might feel if they found out before they share the information.