I was working with someone recently who was severely limiting their freedom by worrying too much about what other people think. The fear of being judged or criticised was stopping any fun or enjoyment in life.
How quick we are to disregard our own feelings and adopt those of someone else. Perhaps you’ve had experiences of doing this yourself – you might think something looks good when you are buying it, yet will turn against it if someone makes an offhand negative remark. We can be truly happy with our lot, until we find out that someone we don’t even like has more. In the same way, we don’t always feel good about what we have achieved until someone else validates it.
I often discuss with clients seeking help that we can control how we think, but we can’t control what other people think – especially about us. You can see therefore, that putting yourself at the mercy of other people’s opinions and trying to gain the approval of others leads to difficulties.
Much better to not concern yourself with what other people think. Think about what you think!
Years ago I came across this idea and found it enormously helpful when going through difficult times.
Often life isn’t easy, and sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel fair. The goalposts move all the time. So, when life gets you down, remember that you are the product of a very long line of ancestors stretching back through time. They survived the worst adversities, difficulties and struggles. Those ancient battles and plagues you see in documentaries – your ancestors survived them all. It’s their genes and their blood that are part of you right now.
You have inherited all of their courage and resilience. You are their direct descendant and you are capable just as they were. You can do it!
How good are you at recognising when you need to change – and doing it?
Last week I was in the inevitable queue at the supermarket. A great opportunity for people watching!
One man chose to queue in a short line and decided to stay there, despite other lines moving faster and his line remaining very slow. A teenager started in one line, but changed repeatedly, trying to find the fastest way through the checkout without much success. I saw an opportunity and changed once to a faster moving queue, but then stayed with it. Which type are you?
Just because you’ve started down one path doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever, especially if it turns out to be a bad choice. In the same way, chopping and changing incessantly doesn’t necessarily get you a better outcome. In the end I got through the checkout before either of the others.
It’s not that important a choice at the supermarket, but when it comes to the big decisions in life, it takes courage to decide to make a change, and to know when to commit to your choices!
A fledging starling was in my garden this morning. The parent bird was busy collecting bugs, whilst the youngster sat helplessly on the patio unable to fly away if danger arrived. It reminded me of this quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius:
“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?”
Most people expect to always be able to solve the problems life throws at them. I’ve worked with clients who worried about asking for help, believing they should be able to do it all on their own.
When we are born, we are all completely helpless and rely on others to help us grow and learn, just like that fledgling. It is ok to ask for help and you don’t have to face anything on your own. It doesn’t mean you are weak, or stupid or worthless and it is not something shameful. If you need support, then like the soldier who is injured, help is there for the asking.
“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” Nietzsche
When did you last take a really enjoyable walk? This photo was taken at the weekend on a wonderful walk along the river in Berwick-upon-Tweed. I recommend walking to all my clients who are stressed, anxious and overwhelmed.
There’s something about being outside in the open, fresh air that nourishes your mind. Some of my best decisions are made when I’m out walking. The bilateral stimulation of walking seems to help with problem solving. Creativity seems to be boosted, along with motivation. Then, there’s the mindful experience of taking in the sights, sounds and smells that root you in an appreciation of the present moment. On top of that, the body benefits from the physical exercise.
No doubt you’ve heard the old adage – that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
Yet that’s exactly what most people do every day. You might decide that today, you’re not going to eat rubbish food, today you’re not going to get irritated and snappy, today you’re going to be assertive. Then, you don’t actually change your behaviour at all. You stay with the same unsuccessful pattern, but at the same time are hoping for a different result.
Staying the same is the easy option. It doesn’t require any additional effort, so you can see how we fall into routines and patterns of behaviour that become automatic.
What if you consciously choose to change that unsuccessful behaviour or thinking pattern? What if you use the opportunity to adjust, adapt or tweak it to get better results?
If you find this difficult then perhaps I can help you. I’ve helped hundreds of people make the changes they wanted for a better life. You can find out more on my website.
If you’ve never heard of Victor Frankl, then I recommend you look him up. He was an Austrian psychotherapist, neurologist and Holocaust survivor and details his experiences in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
He pioneered a method of working with anxiety-related disorders called ‘paradoxical intention’. Basically, the method encourages people to shift their focus away from the problem, changing unhelpful patterns. So for example, if someone can’t sleep, standard therapies might introduce relaxation techniques. Frankl told his patients to do the opposite – try NOT to fall asleep but to stay awake as long as possible. This deflects attention away from the problem, reducing anxiety about it and eventually allows normal, natural sleep.
Most problems begin from behaviour that was once helpful. It is when our habits get stuck in patterns that are no longer appropriate, that it becomes unhealthy. Exploring the opposite of what your instincts are telling you to do can often help to break old habitual patterns that are no longer serving you well. Today, modern therapies like BWRT are an effective way of changing such responses, quickly and easily.