You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. John Bunyan
The efficiencies of the internet are moving us towards a more insular world and it is becoming more difficult to be mindful of helping others. According to the Dalai Lama that is our sole purpose in being here on earth – to share our compassion and help others.
The Pay It Forward movement has been particularly active on Facebook this year. You may have noticed several posts that read:
“To start this year off in a caring way I’m participating in this Pay-It-Forward initiative:
I don’t usually buy into these things, but due to a recent act of generosity I have decided to get involved, this is for real.
The first five people who comment on this status with “I’m in”, will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year – anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something home grown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!
There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy.
These five people must make the same offer in their Facebook status and distribute their own joy. Simply copy this text onto your profile (don’t share) so we can form a web of connection and kindness.
Let’s do more nice and loving things for each other in 2014, without any reason other than to make each other smile and to show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, more friendly and love-filled year.”
So while our modern world seems to be encouraging selfishness, greed and isolation – Happiness Weekly looks at some ways that you can help others this week without having an agenda of your own. Truly helping others means there’s nothing in it for you – in fact, the person you may help may never be able to repay you and that’s the ultimate aspiration in truly helping others.
The benefits of helping others includes:
- Connecting you to someone in an otherwise very lonely world
- Enhancing someone else’s life
- Making the world a better place to live
Things you can do to help others
- Teach them something new
- Smile and be friendly
- Volunteer for a charity
- Start your own charity
- Make a donation
- Share your knowledge
- Help someone do something – e.g. cross the street, change a flat tyre, get from A to B
- Donate something you don’t use
- Comfort someone
- Buy food for a homeless person
- Listen to someone
- Do a chore for someone
- Send a nice email
- Share your favourite things (movie, song etc) – if you enjoyed it, someone else may too
- Give a loved-one a massage
- Praise someone publicly
- Be patient with someone
- Tutor a child
- Make a care package for someone
- Speak up for someone – sign a petition, write a letter etc.
- Offer to babysit
- Start a charity
- Share what you have
- Find out what’s valuable to someone and get it for them
- Present an opportunity to someone or make them aware of it
- Give transparent feedback to better performance (without being too critical)
- Introduce people to each other, help people network
- Give someone a gift
- Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return
- Welcome a new neighbour by baking for them
- Use your power to help people around you have a good day
- Only see good in people and treat everyone accordingly
We’re all here together and the only certainty is we have one life and we’re living it now. Help others to be the best they can be where ever you can, because if everyone surrounding you is doing the same, imagine the powerful world we would live in.
Pages that helped inspire this blog:
Don’t be upset if people prefer another to you, it’s difficult to convince a monkey that strawberries are sweeter than bananas. Anonymous
Are you in a relationship that is making you feel bad about yourself? Are you doubting yourself or finding you’re having paranoid thoughts about your actions and their impact? Do you find yourself acting out in ways that you never have before? Are you constantly distressed and not sure if you’re relationship is coming or going? Are you isolated from your loved ones or has your self-esteem plummeted due to continuing this relationship? I bet you can’t recognise yourself anymore too… DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT!
We have all encountered toxic people in our life, but for those of us unlucky enough to experience a toxic relationship, you will understand how these feelings and symptoms mentioned above crept subtly into your relationship and started affecting it, and how painful it is to let the person go – particularly because you will generally love them and care for them that little bit extra because they have needed you and dragged you down at the same time.
Sometimes we need to love someone from a distance and unfortunately this means the process of detoxing yourself from them. If your partner is putting you down, crushing your spirit or you have found out that they are cheating on you, this blog is for you. This week, Happiness Weekly looks at how you can release yourself from a toxic relationship and get on with a happier life – even if it means being alone.
What is a toxic relationship?
According to Canadian Living, a toxic relationship is one that makes you feel consistently bad about yourself. You may find yourself fending off subtle jabs or downright insults, dealing with unreliability or perhaps even deceit. A toxic relationship leaves you feeling anxious, unrewarded and unaccepted.
Still unsure? Check out this blog by Love Panky about the different types of toxic people and toxic-style relationships. In some cases, some of these can overlap, some people may check every box. As Natalie Avdeeva points out, the types of people who are toxic are:
- They put you down
- They cheat on you
- They lie to you (don’t put up with lies!)
- They’re abusive
- They blame you
- They are extremely insecure
- They’re demanding
- They’re over-the-top perfectionists
- They’re narcissistic
- They’re competitive
- They’re manipulative.
Here’s a checklist of symptoms of a toxic relationship:
- It feels as though no matter what you do or how hard you try, you can’t do anything right
- Are they constantly putting you down?
- Everything is about them and never about you, when you make it about you – they quickly manipulate it back to be about them again
- You find yourself unable to enjoy the good times
- Are you so emotionally dependant on each other that you can’t do anything alone?
- You’re uncomfortable being yourself (which is why you lose track of who you are!)
- They refuse to allow you to grow or change
- Is there a constant drama and it always feels so far out of your control?
- They start controlling you until you feel completely lost and confused.
If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these – these are your red flags … GET OUT NOW! GO!
Can you fix a toxic relationship?
Maybe … but at the time it is toxic, definitely not. You need to muster up all your courage and find a place to escape far away from the person. The following steps will hopefully lead you to a path where you’re feeling back on track rapidly. It is better to cut this person completely free from your life, and not consider any point of return, than to consider any kind of future with them. Whatever happens, do not encourage the bad behaviour. You deserve better!
What do I do if I suspect I’m in a toxic relationship but I’m not entirely sure?
Keep a diary – then no matter what they say, you can refer back and see what the reality was for yourself. By keeping a diary you will have a heap of evidence to validate your actions and words and it will help you to rebuild yourself quicker.
Throughout a toxic relationship, you’ll notice your self-esteem will plunge while the level of self-doubt rises so high that you feel like you’re drowning in it. Every time you’re left, you will hate yourself, blame yourself and become overwhelmed by guilt. By keeping a diary of how the person is making you feel, their actions and words, you can look back and go: “Hold up – no, the reality was this! Here’s what you said and did, here’s what I said and did.”
What if I stay?
The hard truth is: generally these relationships lead to the toxic person cheating on you. Talk about adding insult to injury! So after all the pain you’ve suffered as they’ve crushed your spirit, you also have the pain that you never truly had them to begin with. This is why it’s important that you acknowledge you’re in a toxic relationship and leave EARLY – to save yourself any further pain. Look out for the alarm bells and signs of a toxic relationship they come in all forms mentioned above.
So how do you move on?
1. Be honest with yourself
Allow yourself to be entirely disgusted with this person for treating you the way they have. Cry – trust me, you will cry A LOT! Don’t blame yourself – you’ve been through enough pain now and you’re probably feeling quite exhausted. Tell yourself that you’re leaving for your own wellbeing – in order to truly love yourself, realise that self-preservation means severing these ties.
2. Prepare to become super-human
You won’t eat, you won’t sleep, you may take time off work to deal with things, you’ll cry yourself into a world of dehydration. There’s nothing you can do about any of this except ride it out until it’s over with.
3. If you have decided to end the relationship, be clear about it
Stop contacting them COMPLETELY. Cut them off. Do not enable them to contact you again. Block them out of your life completely. Do whatever you have to do. I know I shouldn’t encourage you to fight fire with fire, but sometimes, particularly when we’re hurting, if you do it respectfully it can bring us a sense of power. So, if you can’t be blunt to them about it or you’re having trouble ending it, then turn it around and push it until you have manipulated them into saying it. If they’re toxic and intentionally hurting you, trust me, it won’t take long until they make the threat – and then go with it, stick with it and don’t look back. Hit that accelerator and go go go!
4. DO NOT worry about their feelings
Toxic people don’t HAVE feelings! Well … they do, but as far as you’re concerned from now, they don’t! Think how long they’ve overlooked your feelings. So, trust me – just tell yourself they don’t! Why? Because it’s when we consider their feelings that we continue our self-doubt and we start to go back. If you find yourself with any level of concern for someone who is hurting you, stop yourself right there and tell yourself that you deserve better than your current circumstances. Trust the universe to lead you to a better reality – it may mean sitting with the pain for some time, but it will be worth it. Anything is better than going back and suffering at the hands of the toxic relationship again. In fact, I read a quote recently that said: “Sometimes giving a person a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time” … what about once you have given them a hundred chances? Trust me, if you haven’t made this mistake yourself, it makes you feel as though you handed them a machine gun and it’s not worth it!
5. Don’t try to replace the person
They say the fastest way over someone is to find someone new. This is not the case when you’re recovering from a toxic relationship. When you’re recovering from a toxic relationship, unfortunately you are exceptionally vulnerable, more than if you’re just recovering from a standard relationship break up. The chances that you will entice another toxic person into your life are extremely high. Don’t go with it. Take comfort in knowing that if this person has left you for someone else, the chances that they are truly happy or will be happy long-term are exceptionally slim. And you would have left them anyway because the relationship was toxic … so don’t worry!
6. Struggling? Read about it
Spend some time reading about other people’s experiences and advice about leaving a toxic relationship – it will strengthen you. I found the Between Dreams blog written by the gorgeous Allie, and I have to say: it’s absolutely FANTASTIC! If you’re leaving a toxic relationship, you will certainly identify with the things she says, here’s an excerpt from it:
“You want the real, uncensored truth? Because for me, letting go of people is hard. I fight for the people I care about, I want the best for them, and I want to be that person who stuck it out for the long hard battle. Because how can you just give up on the years you’ve known each other? The time invested into that very relationship? The idea of giving up just doesn’t enter my mind.
Then one day, you wake up. You see how unhappy you are. You now see the trance of negativity that’s been placed around you. You begin to wonder which way to turn…
You can write out your feelings, you can list out the pros and cons, justify whatever it is in your mind, give them one more chance, but all it takes it one thought to change everything. For me, it was this:
“Fuck this. I want a life filled with happiness, love, and compassion. And you know what? I deserve it. It’s mine for the taking, so why am I holding myself back?”
Hopefully, even after reading this small passage by Allie – you are starting to feel less alone, more empowered and find comfort in the idea of moving forward.
7. Accept that your time was wasted and the relationship wasn’t real
Realise, no matter what they said, the relationship was not real. If it was, you would have known all the circumstances (including if they cheated, when and who it was with) and been able to have made an informed decision. If it was real and you had recognised that it was toxic for you… well there’s no way any rational person would be in it in the first place. So the person can say what they like, but the entire relationship was fake.
8. Use visualisation techniques
Visualise yourself collecting all the beautiful things you said to this person, all the good times, all the money you spent, the time you spent … and rip it off them! It’s like snatching back everything they have taken from you. Now that you’ve got all these emotions and beautiful words you said to them back and they’re clear of the toxic person, put it straight back on yourself. You deserve all the good you put into the relationship – they do not. So using visualisation you’re collecting all the good stuff back from the relationship (everything that’s yours and nothing they ever deserved), packing up all your hard efforts, boxing every sweet word and good deed you did, and then dumping it right back on yourself. Guess what they have now? Nothing! Empowering, huh?
9. Communicate with them using only visualisation techniques
Use visualisation to scream at the person: “You’re delusional! Everything was FAKE! I could never love you because I never knew you!” It may sound crazy but it’s quite cathartic! Everything you want to do to them or say to them do it in your mind. Play it all out and be done with it. It beats any consequences from actually becoming self-destructive.
10. Detox yourself as much as possible
Be strong! This is where hitting SHIFT DELETE (hard erasing on your computer, beyond any point of return) on your keyboard is your best friend. Go to any photo, any letter, any memory of that person. Select. SHIFT DELETE. Delete their phone number. Delete their email. Lose their address. Rip up every hard-copy photo. Bag up everything you want to return to them and be done with it. Go on a massive, deleting, destructive mission. By the end of it you will feel as though the relationship is just … ERASED! Don’t get me wrong: you won’t feel good, you won’t feel satisfied, you won’t get your smile back for a very, very long time … but it’s less painful stuff to look at and remember.
11. Lean on people around you for support
Make a pact with someone you really trust and love, that you will not be in touch with this person again. This means, while you’re vulnerable, you’ll be able to rely on the strength of others.
12. Quit asking yourself why and trying to figure out what was real
You’ve been stripped of your dignity, you’re hurting to capacity and now you’re finding yourself torturing yourself with a million questions: WHY WHY WHY! These questions are better left unanswered – and sometimes they don’t even come with answers – so instead of asking, accept the situation for what it is.
Don’t try to work out what was real because I can tell you now: it was all fake! If you had known the circumstances – would you really have been with that person in the way you were? Don’t give the toxic person the satisfaction of thinking it would be real had you have known the real scenario. Deep down they know it wasn’t real as well, otherwise they would have come clean about any deceit at the start.
If you are going to ask questions, ask them of yourself as a way of moving forward – this will empower you. Kris Carr wrote a really good blog about “How to identify and release toxic relationships”. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself to realise you were in a toxic relationship and start accepting the situation, come from her blog:
- Is the pain too great to stay the same?
- Do I constantly picture an alternate reality?
- Is it impossible to make boundaries?
- Is getting an apology (when it’s truly deserved) like pulling teeth?
- Does the relationship take more energy than it gives?
- Is blaming and complaining (coming from the toxic person) becoming really boring?
- Am I completely fatigued when I’m with that person and energetic when they’re gone?
- Am I afraid of what people will think of me if this relationship fails?
- Does the person make you feel as though you’ll be lost without them?
- Do I miss the old me?
I’ve walked away – now what?
Unfortunately there is no way to fast-track your way through dealing with the pain. There’s no potion to take it all away. Take every positive distraction possible. See a good psychologist if you need to. Chat to people – you’ll be surprised about how much support you receive. You need to sit with this incredible feeling of loneliness – it’s hurtful if they’ve left for someone else because your thoughts tell you they’re cosy, warm and feeling loved, while you’re left out in the cold – but don’t forget the truth: long-term, this relationship will not last either – and if it does, it’ll never be the same. There will always be discomfort, pain and mistrust. Consider your situation the lucky escape – well done, you’ve dodged a bullet!
Are you recovering from a toxic relationship? Please share your experience below.
The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behaviour affect the rights and wellbeing of others. Sharon Anthony Bower
Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes. Eleanor Roosevelt
Assertive communication helps us express our feelings, thoughts and wants in a way that allows us to stand up for our rights without infringing on the rights of other people. Like any social behaviour, assertiveness skills have to be learned and practiced.
Assertive communication involves the following steps:
Identify your communication style
Passive – I talk softly and rarely stand up for my rights. I usually try to avoid conflict and arguments. I don’t usually get rejected directly, but people take advantage of me because I am afraid to say no – then I get angry and resentful when my needs are not met.
Aggressive – I always get my way, even if I have to hurt or offend people to get it. People never push me around. I use my position, power, and harsh or manipulative words. I speak in a loud voice. I can be abusive and enjoy getting even with people.
Passive Aggressive – I’m sly, sarcastic and subtly insulting. I protect myself by avoiding problems and risks. I deliberately ruin other people’s plan or projects. I talk about others in negative ways. I dress however I want, regardless of the situation.
Assertive – I often get what I want without offending other people. I am clear and direct when I communicate and am able to express my thoughts, feelings and wants easily. I am honest and show my confidence without being aggressive about it.
Identify your solutions style
Usually you may have no problem being assertive, but when it comes to solving a problem tend to become passive or aggressive. Use the examples above to identify what communication style you use when solving a problem.
Know your values and beliefs
Your beliefs and values were moulded during childhood and include rules about “good” and “bad” ways to act as taught by our parents and other role models.
Learn the responsibilities that come with effective communication
* Assess your true feelings without exaggeration or minimising. Express your feelings appropriately without insulting anyone
* Reply as soon as possible without taking an unreasonable amount of time
* Thinking through your opinions and realising others can disagree
* Learn from mistakes rather than punishing yourself or others for them
* Act responsibly
* Feel appropriate anger and happiness, and share those feelings with the people involved
* Don’t impose your personal beliefs or standards on others
* Think through your responses before answering a question
* Respect your commitments and allow enough time to fulfil promises
* Talk about your needs and learn to compromise
* Express your feelings without infringing on the rights and responsibilities of others
* Avoid labelling or making unfair judgements on yourself or others.
Learn to use assertive communication
Express yourself in a way that doesn’t violate the legitimate right of others by using “I” statements, thinking through responses and using correct assertive body language. Remember, there are four parts to a message:
Feelings – by sharing your feelings it allows others to have more understanding. Sharing the way you feel will give others the opportunity to behave in a way that meets your needs. For example: “When you are condescending, I feel disrespected” or “When you hug me, I feel loved”.
Observations – sharing what your senses tell you: it should always be factual. For example: “I heard you call me an idiot” or “I saw you break the door”.
Thoughts – sharing your beliefs and theories shows others that you have attempted to make sense of the situation. For example: “I think it’s hurtful to call me an idiot” or “I think I’m ready to do this course because it will challenge me”.
Needs – It is important to express your needs with other people because they can’t read your mind. For example: “I need some time to think about this” or “I want some quiet so I can concentrate on reassessing my goals”.
Now to put the whole message together
“I feel _______(emotion)_______ when ______(situation)______, because _____(reason)_____, and I need ______(request)________.”
“I feel disappointed when you tell me I can’t do something because you haven’t given me a chance to try it and I need that chance to be disproved before I feel you can make your judgement.”
It may feel unnatural at first, but it just takes practice. The more natural it becomes, the more you will begin to see an improvement in the amount of successful resolutions in your daily situations.
Mind your (body) language
How you express yourself is just as important as what is said. If your body language is assertive, you will:
* Maintain eye contact: don’t stare, but avoid looking down or away
* Keep good posture (stand or sit up straight) and remain at a good distance from the other person – don’t stand too close
* Avoid fidgeting
*Keep your posture open and relaxed, relax your shoulders
* Naturally and briefly open your arms and use other hand gestures to emphasise your words
* Maintain a level tone of voice, and speak clearly at a volume that can easily be heard
* Concentrate on breathing normally speaking at a normal volume
* Keep facial expressions that fit the message you are trying to convey.
Diplomacy is taking responsibility for getting your own needs met in a way that preserves the dignity of the other people involved. Like tact, diplomacy involves careful consideration of the feelings and values of another so as to create harmonious relationships with a reduced potential for offence. It is the ability to communicate hurtful information without offending through the use of consideration, compassion, kindness and reason. Characteristics of diplomatic communication include open, inoffensive communication that is clear, flexible, with specific wording, a positive approach, non-judgemental and demonstrates a relaxed manner both verbally and non-verbally.
How to act diplomatically
- Make a conscious decision to act assertively. Avoid aggressive words and behaviours
- Be decisive when saying no. Explain your reasons without being apologetic
- Approach conflicts diplomatically
- Practice talking assertively with a friend
- Respect the wants, needs and feelings of others and accept their perspective may differ from yours
- Use active listening to ensure people know you have heard them. Ask questions to clarify
- Take a problem-solving approach to conflict and see the other person as your collaborator
- Concentrate on facts
- Use direct language “I think” or “It looks like” rather than “You do this or that”
- Don’t interrupt people when they are talking. Understand what people are saying
- Resist interruptions until you have finished your thoughts. Don’t be scared to say “Just a moment, I haven’t finished…” and continue
- Be conscious of your body language: stop smiling too much, nodding too much, tilting your head or dropping your eyes in response to another person’s gaze.
How to diffuse an argument assertively
- Organise to have the conversation at another time and leave
- If you stay, remain calm, steer the conversation back to the original point, try to understand the other person’s perspective and try to find a common ground
- Accept that other issues may be motivating the person’s behaviour and don’t take it personally
- Avoid taking heat-of-the-moment criticism to heart
- Learn from mistakes and try to negotiate positive scenarios in future with a better outcome. Move the discussion to talk about how you will behave differently in future to get a desired outcome.
Benefits of assertive communication
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Better problem solving ability and less conflicts to manage
- Increased resilience
- Reduced stress/anxiety
- Learning the clearest, most productive and effective way to communicate honestly and openly
- The “feel good” feeling we get when we do it correctly – like teamwork!
- Improves relationships and leads to the development of mutual respect
- Assisting us to achieve our goals
- Minimising hurting and alienating people
- Protecting us from being taken advantage of by others
- Making better choices and good decisions
- Expressing ourselves (verbally and non-verbally) about positive and negative topics.
Quick Tips: Being assertive
- Be clear about your objectives: specify what you want and your needs, but be opening to listen to other people’s perspectives and criticisms
- Show respect: stay calm, be kind, maintain an even tone of voice
- Acknowledge the other person’s perspective
- Meet someone at their eye level – sit down or stand up with someone to equalise the balance of power
- Choose your words wisely – put yourself in the picture by using “I” statements, don’t get personal
- Ask questions to clarify the speaker’s intent
- Allow others to assert themselves – don’t interrupt
- Compromise where you can: meet people half way to get more win-win situations.