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Tips to completely transform yourself

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Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. Lyndon B. Johnson

Over the years I have become a walking Madonna. I’m a chameleon. I’ve been fat, I’ve been skinny, I’ve been pretty, I’ve been ugly, I’ve been blonde, I’ve been brunette, I’ve been kind, I’ve been mean… I’ve been through about a hundred transformations – but at least three of them have been really noticeable to myself and others. This photo on the left is how it looks – yup, that’s all me! As you may have noticed, I kind of held onto the girl-next-door look over the past few years. So this week, Happiness Weekly looks at how YOU can transform yourself.

1. Set the bar

I don’t advise this often, but look at all your wonderful awesome friends around you and consider what it is about each of them that you love. Imagine life has become PhotoShop and what you can do is copy pieces from each person and put them back onto you. Make a strong mental note about what you like about them. Even go onto your Facebook and have a look at who you admire and work out what it is that you admire about them – how do they portray themselves? (Take a look at their Facebook page if you’re not sure.) What do they have in their life that you don’t? More importantly, what don’t they have in their life that you do? Who do they have in their life? How are they treated? How do they treat people?

2. Set the goal

Fantastic! Now we know what we want, we need to set the goal. Just with any goal-setting, look at yourself in the mirror and decide what you want to change about yourself. Do some deep soul searching – is it just an attitude adjustment? Are you unhappy with your hair? Do you have chipped nails? Do you want to lose weight – how much weight? Work out exactly what you want to change. In one positive sentence, state exactly what you want. Write it down. You can make a collage around your goal statement to remind you what you’re aiming for.

  1. Prepare to change

It’s important to emotionally prepare yourself for what’s to come because change isn’t easy – and it can be frustrating! For example, you won’t lose weight overnight like the Hollywood stars, unless you have their kind of money. Change can be a slow process – and when you’re angling for a full transformation you need to keep your eye on the prize and be realistic. Now you have set the bar and you’ve set your ultimate goal, start looking at the steps you’re going to take to achieve your goal for a full transformation.

  1. Transform yourself!

Now put everything into action. While you’re setting the goals (which is the hard part), also set some rewards (manicures, fake tan, new phone etc) that will be given when you achieve your milestones. As you achieve your goal, you will notice you physically and emotionally upgrade as well, because you start surrounding yourself with nicer things and better things than you currently have. It’s important to change your behaviour as well as aiming to change your physical appearance – this will help to maintain your change.

  1. Keep yourself accountable

A complete transformation is easy to give up on, but if you work hard to keep yourself accountable to the transformation, you’ll notice you also stay motivated and on track. Ways to keep yourself accountable may be to do a before and after photo – or select the photo that best represents everything you want to change at the moment (this is why those Facebook tags are so great) and use that as your before photo. This photo should also be used to remind you what you want to change when you feel you are going off track.

  1. Get coaching

If you get stuck, I highly recommend life coaching to help you achieve your transformation. A coach will work with you to work out what you want and help you find ways to achieve it. I am currently offering one pro bono coaching session valued at AUD$110, in exchange for you to provide a testimonial after the session. Claim this by contact me: sarah@relationshipfree.com – it will be held over Skype and we’ll arrange a time via email. Be quick – I only have one to give away!

Live your dream

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Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Harriet Tubman

Kabbage.com​ is a small business loan company that helps people live their dreams, leading to fulfilling and happy lives. Without much thought – I agreed to be a part of their ‘Live Your Dream’ campaign because it aligns with Happiness Weekly so well! I want to thank Maddie for getting in touch with me and offering this great opportunity and it’s also a fantastic opportunity to tell people about my next chapter – Relationship Free.

On the surface, the task appeared simple – I just need to write a post that talks about my dreams and goals … but when I was ready to start writing, I drew a blank. A tinge of sadness overcame me. I experienced some grief at the loss of the dreams I once had.

I couldn’t help but remember that after a dramatic shift following a traumatic life experience, my dream life has completely changed from what it once was. If I had written this early last year I would’ve been charging with energy and passion, and I’m sure it would have spoken about how I wanted to help people going through adversity … but it was broad. My dream life is a lot more strategic, planned and realistic now and that’s what I want to talk about today. So once I remembered my new direction I was charged with excitement and enthusiasm for writing this blog post – because owning that massive coaching-based company that changes lives all over the world and the way people look at relationship-related issues and traumas is where it’s at for me.

My dream life now focuses on helping people with their relationships. Is it right for you? Is it toxic? Are you coming or going? Are you being abused? Are you hurting so badly from a break up you never think you’ll be the same? None of these are uncommon, but where do you go for help? Friends? Back to your lover? Family? Psychologists? Nowhere – maybe you just deal with it?

My dream is to help people find themselves, understand their current behaviours, set goals for their future and transform their life into what they want to be. During the one-to-one coaching sessions I will be offering, I will be working with these people to help them define what a healthy relationship is and figure out the gaps in their current relationship and how they can fill them or help them to decide how they’re going to attract these healthy relationships (by their definition) into their lives. Part of Relationship Free’s mission statement is that no matter what it is, you can get help for it and it can start today!

Last week, only a few days ago, I was at lunch with my colleagues and one of the ladies asked me about my plans for Relationship Free – and that seems to be the question of everyone’s lips at the moment when they talk to me about what I’m up to – so here it is:

I’m going to help people (all over the world) who have recognised ongoing habits, patterns or cycles in their relationship that they want to break because they are uncomfortable, and I will help anyone who is suffering from any kind of relationship-related trauma – because that’s the area I’m most passionate about. Relationship-related traumas can deeply many aspects affect our lives in an ongoing way that becomes detrimental to our wellbeing.

Relationships can be extremely traumatic. In general, our relationships generally affect many other areas of our lives. For example, we may introduce our partner to work colleagues at some point. If our relationship causes us stress, our health may become affected. If our partner is abusive we start to view ourselves differently … and the way our relationships interlink with just about every area of our lives goes on and on. This is why it’s so important to have a healthy relationship … particularly with yourself!

Trauma is subjective – it doesn’t have to be a big event for it to be traumatic for somebody, what’s traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another person, and where someone can be greatly traumatised by something, another person may brush it off and get on with things. Dealing with trauma is horrible, you can logically see your behaviours but it’s extremely difficult to stop yourself from carrying them out – whether your actions are protective or not – for example, I couldn’t sleep without checking all locks, closing all doors in my house and putting a pillow under the door to my bedroom. I can’t explain what the pillow was meant to do, or what the significance of having it there was … but I couldn’t sleep without it there. I stopped dating because I assigned the meaning of the event with men being dangerous and I didn’t go out in case my abuser saw me and would have me set up with further legal implications again.

And the trouble with trauma is that it is extremely hard to deal with. So for example, I started doing exposure therapy nine months after my traumatic experience because I was avoiding places. And when I got near the place that I thought was going to trigger me – I blanked out. I came to about 200m past the point and looked back with no recollection of how I got to where I was. I walked by and I couldn’t tell you what I saw, if I was on my phone, what music was playing on my iPod. Just blank. The frustration that my own disassociation was preventing me from dealing with the trauma was overwhelming. It felt as though the task, which I spent months psyching myself up to do, was wasted. And if that’s not hard enough, people outside tend to judge you. If you keep talking about it, if you want to talk about that person, your behaviours, any “special treatment” you may be receiving, as I mentioned in my post My Life After Domestic Violence. Since my traumatic experience – which was detailed again in my post Owning It! Why I’m not ashamed I was served with an AVO, along with how my dream came to be an idea and something I transformed into a reality – I have HUGE lessons in seeking internal validation before you look to the outside world for approval.

So to give an example of how broad this niche topic actually is – I see myself working with someone who had a failed relationship. And the reason for it’s failing may be something that seems simple – for example, a break up because the other person doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, or there was a separation caused by a move overseas (ie. for work or family), or – in more extreme cases – their partner tragically passed away. These traumas are generally the ones there’s an expectation to move on – and the trauma combined with this expectation can be so debilitating to the person that they don’t want to talk about it, or they try to match other’s expectations to their detriment, because they’re afraid of being judged. This is just one of the segments I see myself working with. And the good news for this segmentation is that Relationship Free – including all our partners – prides itself on leaving judgement at the door.

Over the years, through my own experiences and hard life lessons, I have become an expert in toxic relationships. Since moving into this relationship arena, it’s become apparent that many people mistake abuse for a toxic relationship – and I was one of them – a mistake that caused me great consequences as a result of the abuse. But it was during this time that I wrote my most popular blog post of all time: All about Toxic Relationships and How to Let Go. And that lead for me to get one of the most amazing testimonials I have ever read – and I am so honoured that it was written for me, without a request, it was just given:

“This may come really late but I only read your article about “Toxic Relationships” recently. (dated 8/22/2013) Thanks to that article I finally found the courage to leave my (very toxic) boyfriend of 7 years. I’ve known for quite some time that it was over but I just couldn’t find a way out – until your article. I just wished I had read it a lot sooner. Every time I was tempted to contact him after his relentless emails, calls, texts, etc. I read your article and it stopped me from doing so. You have no idea how incredibly grateful I am for helping me find my strength in your words.”

Lani, 12 August 2014.

And that’s it in a nutshell. That’s what I want to do! That is the feedback I want to keep receiving! That testimonial right there cemented the direction I want to take with my life, and for the first time I not only knew my dream life but I had all the direction I needed to get there! I’m sure the tables will turn on my hard days as I go back and read that testimonial to keep me going. Thank you, Lani!

And finally, I want to work with people who are trapped by narcissistic abuse and domestic violence – particularly those who are experiencing great shame because although they know they’re being abused, they still crave their abusive partner – to help them work out what’s happening and figure out some safe options to leave.

Why?

Because I get it! I understand the fear combined with overwhelming desire to leave – but wanting to come out safely. In fact, I know what it’s like to be comfortable with giving up everything to know you’ll be safe, only to know your abuser won’t accept anything you offer – to have all negotiations with your abusive partner rejected to your detriment every time. I know what it feels like to have your sanity tested. I know what it feels like to get set up in really bizarre circumstances. I understand how it feels for someone to have such a power over you feel as though you have no control left. I know what it feels like to be the target of a narcissistic smear campaign, where they’d do anything in their power to destroy your reputation. I know what it’s like to feel like suicide is the only option. And all my understanding has combined to create a very solid foundation for Relationship Free – where wounded healers, people who DO understand, come together to help move others forward. Because there is a life on the other side!

So – there you have it – that’s my over-arching goal.

In November 2014 I hope to achieve my first milestone, a massive step in the direction I want to go with my new business – Relationship Free. This website is a game-changer for anyone needing help following a relationship trauma. It will include resources, dates for my workshops, expert coaches you can work with (if you don’t want to work with me – and I thank these coaches again for coming aboard with me and having such a beautiful faith in Relationship Free), there’ll be a blog with videos and all sorts of material that can help you. Or you can book a session with me as soon as the website goes live– either from 6pm – 9pm in the evenings, or anytime on the weekends (Sydney, Australia time) and I offer sessions via Skype, phone and face-to-face.

I have many goals. Also this year, I hope to complete five different qualifications to help me grow my knowledge and better serve my clients, while working full time and building the business.

In 2015 I’m going to America to meet with some of my associates that have come aboard with Relationship Free, my recovery journey buddy – Susie – who has been my rock, and to see a new part of the world.

By 2017 Relationship Free will have expanded significantly! I’ll be doing TedX talks and will have my own practise.

In 2020 I will be married to the most wonderful man with a family of my own and we’ll be travelling all over the world to share Relationship Free’s key messages – to always be your best self and to be your own hero.

 

I want to thank my wonderful team that is already working with me and coming aboard and all the overwhelming support I have received from the people around me, particularly people I talk to about Relationship Free. I hope this post gave you some insight into where I’m headed and how I intend on leading my dream life – if you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

Or tell me what steps you’re taking to live your dream!

 

Relationship Free is coming soon!

 

In the meantime for updates you can follow me on Twitter – @SarahWebbCoach

And/or like the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/relationshipfreepage

 

I encourage you to live your dream as well. Happiness Weekly will explore how you can do this in coming weeks!

Get celebrity confidence with these simple tips!

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Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. Norman Vincent Peale

Have you ever noticed in celebrity interviews and on the red carpet that these people – human beings, just like us – have this amazing, shine about them? And then we look in the mirror and there we are … just little old us. No shine, no makeup, no glitz and definitely no glamour … just us. It’s magnetic! It makes you want to be around these people. So what is it that makes them glow like that all the time? This week, Happiness Weekly looks at how you can build your own celebrity confidence.

One of my favourite celebrities with the confidence I’m referring to here is Jennifer Hawkins. Even in her no-makeup selfies on Facebook, she looks amazing! Her self-confidence always seems to shine through whenever there’s a camera in sight. Even just her Facebook photos glow better than the average-jo’s.

Watch your wardrobe

Stop looking for external validation in what you decide to wear. Emma Roberts dresses only to please herself because when she feels good nothing else matters.

Sleep well and stay hydrated

Drink approximately 2L of water each day and aim for eight hours of sleep each night. Jessica Alba says stay hydrated and sleep well and what’s on the inside is really what matters.

Be as healthy as you can be

Eat well, exercise regularly and concentrate on the positive things in your life. Jennifer Hawkins says she’s most confident when she’s the healthiest she can be (eating and exercise) or wearing a great outfit that she’s comfortable in.

Be positive and believe in yourself

Maintaining a positive mental attitude is a reoccurring theme among many celebrities. Jennifer Hawkins says she tries to focus on the good things in her life while Katherine Schwarzenegger (Arnold’s oldest daughter) says “Having a positive attitude is a daily effort. Every morning, make a decision to think positively about yourself.”

Be prepared or experienced where possible

Knowing what you’re doing, being prepared or experienced enables us to approach something with confidence. Prepare yourself as much as you can and go forth with confidence.

Let’s hear it straight from the celebrities themselves. This YouTube clip is called This is where celebrities really find their confidence. Do you think you can mirror that?

Now I want to share this very empowering video with you: Meet yourself: a user’s guide to building self-esteem – Niko Everett.

 

How to be confident – without celebrity guidance – according to Nur

Here’s her video and some of the highlights from what she says is below:

Surround yourself with positive people

Reassess your friends. Surround yourself with the people who make you feel good. They’re happy when you’re happy, they’re supportive when you’re discouraged, they’re there when you need them … if someone in your life doesn’t make them happy, clear them out and move on.

Watch your self-talk

Take a look at your self-talk. For example, many of us use internet dating sights to meet our match these days – what are you telling yourself when you log in? Are you putting yourself down? Are you telling yourself negative things about the people you will meet? If you are – stop it or shift your talk.

Be present when you enter a room

Have your chin at least parallel to the floor and be present as you enter. Put your phone away. Sit up straight with your shoulder’s back. Be conscious of your body language.

Get comfortable on your own

Learn to be completely on your own, without your friends and get comfortable with that. Think about the last time you saw someone on their own – did you stare at them and think “What a loser?” No, probably not. So give it a try! This process will also help you in being decisive as you get to know yourself.

Genuinely say nice things

Compliment people when it’s genuine. Being authentic is critical to your confidence. Praising other people shows you’re not insecure. If it’s not genuine, don’t speak. If you have something negative to say – don’t say it, it will actually hurt your confidence.

Rely on self-validation

Accept compliments with confidence – because you already know. Take compliments and criticisms in the same way. This ensures you are responsible for your highest highs and your lowest lows. Take ownership of your happiness.

Speak with confidence

This is from Nur’s follow up video. Speak slowly, expand your vocabulary, be decisive and unashamed in your decision – delete: “I think”, “I don’t know” and “I guess” from your vocabulary, don’t be verbose in your communication – get to the point, be conscious of your tone, keep a consistent volume even when you’re getting towards the end of the point you’re trying to make, think before you speak, fake it til you make it – make a mental commitment and go for it.

Where’s the gap?

There will always be an area of weakness which really affects our confidence. It’s important to acknowledge that everyone has their own insecurities. Instead of focusing on yours as a negative, embrace them and work to strengthen them.

 

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How to be better not bitter

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You change for two reasons: either you learn enough that you want to or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to. Unknown

If anyone has shown how to be better not bitter coming out of an extremely traumatic experience it would be Rosie Batty – she has fast become a role model for me. Rosie took her son to cricket training in Mornington, Victoria where he was seeing his father, who they had a restraining order against, in a supervised public place, when the father turned on their 11-year-old and killed him. By the time police arrived, he charged at them with a knife and they shot and killed him. Every part of what played out was all contrived by the father.

Since this tragic ordeal Rosie has mustered up her inner strength to raise awareness of domestic violence situations, and flung open the doors to that horrible situation that revealed how she was so trapped, tortured and controlled for so many years. In the midst of profound grief, Rosie Batty offered help and hope to others and this week Happiness Weekly pays tribute to that and explores how you can be better not bitter after trauma, just like Rosie.

 

1. Keep your mind open

Rosie maintained dignity and compassion with an open mind when confronting the media on a panel recently over changes to Victorian laws that will see the woman punished with jail time for not leaving a domestic violence situation where children may be at risk. In drawing awareness through her own experiences it enabled others to share their opinion – misguided or not. We can learn a lot from this. To become better not bitter, use your situation to learn and grow rather than letting it hold you back in an overwhelming state of hurt, frustration or anger. Find how you can make positive change around you and just take one step forward – you’ll be one step further away from what happened to you.

 

2. Embrace your freedom

It takes a while and it’s difficult, particularly when you’re coming out of a toxic relationship riddled with abuse and control, but eventually you do overcome your fears and embrace your freedom. This takes time. I don’t think you can fully appreciate freedom until you’ve been in a situation where you’re so controlled that all of it is taken away from you. Rosie’s case is a little different because she’s speaking now that her partner is dead – he’s done the ultimate, he can’t hurt her anymore … though I’m sure he continues to haunt her. Rosie is embracing her new found freedom by educating us about her experiences with this man. Be grateful for your freedom and the supportive friends and family still around you – embrace those people and your freedom during your healing journey by overcoming your fears provided by your traumatic experience and doing what you want to do. If you are struggling with this, some inner child work may be beneficial for you – speak to an alternative mental health professional.

 

3. Rely on role models

Spend some time looking for other people who have made positive improvements from negative situations and experiences and use these people as positive examples and role models for where you can go with your situation. There’s lots out there! There are so many fantastic movies to see, particularly on the topic of domestic violence where people have overcome what happened to them and gone on to bigger and better things – if you want to know some titles, leave comment below and I can make some recommendations, or if you have had another traumatic experience contact me and I’ll see if I can find a movie you can identify with that has a positive outcome for the victim. Let these stories motivate you in your healing journey. Remember these people also felt pain and fear and suffered during their recovery from what happened, but they found the strength within to encourage positive changes. Look to these people for guidance on how you can move forward to better yourself.

 

4. Be thankful

Look at the things you have as a result of surviving your traumatic experience. With every negative, there’s a positive – sometimes you just need to search a little harder to find it, or if you’re struggling ask a friend to help you find it. “What good came out of this?” Make a list. It may include your family and friends, your work, the pleasure nature brings you, or simply that you now know and won’t go back. Also, keep track of all the lessons you’ve learned as a result of your situation so you can share them with others. At minimum be thankful that what you have lived, you have enough power and control that you never have to live it again, so long as you heal fully and learn from what has happened to you. This task may sound frustrating if you’re still in a lot of pain, but think of it this way – anything that gives you gratitude proves you’re better – when you can’t find something to be thankful for you’re stuck being bitter. Be better, not bitter!

 

5. Challenge yourself

Challenge yourself to grow from your experience – don’t stop to dwell, keep going. They always say when you’re going through hell, keep going – let this not be any exception. Think of the new possibilities ahead, remain accountable and optimistic, set some new goals and strive for a positive future. Learn as much about the experience and what happened to you as you possibly can. If you can’t make sense of it, get in touch with me and I’ll try to help piece it together with you. Oprah said it really well though – staying in bad circumstances and trying to mitigate the damage in order to endure our situation is like “taking an air-conditioner into hell, rather than leaving hell and beginning to heal”. As hard as things may be for you – continue on your healing journey, challenge yourself to heal fully and completely from your experience and take your lessons as you move forward. Keep this quote in mind: “Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present towards the future,” Denis Waitley.

 

6. Grow through healing

If you’re recovering from narcissistic abuse or a domestic violence situation you may also be suffering from post-traumatic stress or complex post-traumatic stress from your traumatic event. Instead, I would like to introduce you to a relatively new concept called post-traumatic growth – that’s where you need to shift your focus to be. Some people say what doesn’t kill you tries again (and those who have been in a domestic violence situation will be able to relate to this), but it can also make you stronger, smarter, wiser, braver. Post-traumatic growth describes the positive change occurring in an individual after they’ve experienced a highly stressful life event. This terminology proves that suffering does not have to debilitate a person, in fact, finding a way to endure through significant suffering can actually lead to meaningful development of personal character. More information on Post-Traumatic Growth can be found here.

 

7. Trust your journey

Find positive resources online that will inspire you to grow. I find Trust your journey<http://www.trustyourjourney.com&gt; really helpful. If you’re on Facebook or a social media channel, have a look at some positive forums you can join that will encourage your healing steps to move forward. From these forums or blogs, you may even find a “buddy” – finding others you can identify with will stop you feeling so alone. Look for someone who has experienced something similar to you and you can keep each other strong – where ever you both are in the world. Remain calm through times of trauma and trust your journey. Find ways to educate others with the lessons you have received from your experience. Don’t forget the adage “This too shall pass” as you step forward. Every action has a reaction, every reaction has a consequence – go fourth with confidence and grow to be better, and encourage others to do the same.

 

Someone else I would like to acknowledge in this post is Tom Meagher who I have an overwhelming level of respect for from how he has recovered from his traumatic incident. He recently published this blog, The Danger of the Monster Myth, through White Ribbon (the world’s largest male-led movement to end violence against women), recently spoke with the Late Late Show about the life-changing moment he heard her killer speak in court and he released letters he sent to the parole board as he tries to make Australia a safer place. Tom is another prime example of someone who is becoming better not bitter from his situation as he talks about the message we’re sending in punishing perpetrators and continues to fight to make the Australian justice system actually serve justice – and not just hand down penalties as punishment.

 

With every thought and every action following your traumatic event, always remember before you take a step that your aim is to be better not bitter. Don’t let the situation beat you, challenge yourself to beat the situation. Instead of allowing the event to destroy you, allow yourself to grow.

Be patient – being better takes time.

Acceptance – are you taking it too far?

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My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Michael J. Fox

 

The other day I saw a quote on Facebook I want to share with you:

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What do you think?

I lost it!

This was this exact thought process that encouraged a dangerous level of “acceptance” towards a narcissist I was entangled with, who was abusing me – and it made me angry that they were actively encouraging it.

I used to tell myself: “It will get better, he’s not like this all the time, he loves me most of the time, he cheated – but he came back so he obviously loves me, those flowers are gorgeous – he is really sorry, he won’t do it again…” The excuses and rationalizing were endless. At my lowest point I went to the doctors to try to get medication to toughen my skin “so I wouldn’t bruise so easily”. When I tell people that, they look at me stunned. How can you get to that point? How can you stay? Meanwhile the excuses went on as I “accepted” this ‘man’ and his treatment of me. What I was actually doing was masking the abuse: I wasn’t admitting it to anyone – least of all myself. (By the way: that medication to toughen the skin so it won’t bruise so easily? Doesn’t exist. And since I left that relationship, my “bruising problem” has resolved itself, in fact, I haven’t had one bruise. Magic.)

Now, let’s get real: what was dangerous wasn’t the above quote (though I still don’t believe it’s a healthy way of thinking) – but the risk was that I had mistaken my thought processes for acceptance, when really I had reached a state of “cognitive dissonance” in order to remain in the relationship. While I think my experience was quite extreme, it’s not unusual in domestic violence partnerships or particularly where there is narcissistic abuse for these behaviours and excuses to evolve.

This week Happiness Weekly looks at acceptance – are you taking it too far?

 

What is acceptance?
According to a quick Google search, acceptance is “the process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable”.

We decide what is acceptable and unacceptable to us at a very young age. Each of us has a little voice inside, which tells us if a situation is acceptable or not – generally we can be guided by our intuition. As adults, we have the power to override this inner voice and choose selectively what we want to accept and what we don’t. Unfortunately we can choose this to our detriment – as in my case – and it’s when we choose to accept something against the guidance of our inner voice that we generally start going down a bad path.

When we go through a toxic or abusive relationship, and perhaps even choose to stay in it, we also stop trusting ourselves. Instead of dealing with it we go into denial, we “accept” it for what is, we look for small flickers of love from the abuser and respond with great gratitude in order to hold on.

Hold on to what?!

If this sounds like you and you have in this moment made the decision to get out of what you’re in, please check out All about toxic relationships and how to let go. If your intuition is telling you to get out of your relationship, I urge you to take the steps needed to follow through.

Setting personal boundaries is essential in any relationship but particularly healthy ones. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship you’ll find your boundaries are spongy or just continually fall by the wayside, but your intuition still lets you know if something is happening that you don’t want. Part of setting boundaries is knowing what is acceptable to you and what isn’t and your boundaries are generally put in place according to this. Seems straight forward.

At any time we are able to adjust our beliefs and change what is acceptable to us and what isn’t – it is up to us if we make these adjustments in a positive or negative direction. When you continue overriding this inner voice and your personal boundaries drop off because you’re choosing to accept something deep down you know you shouldn’t, it’s extremely detrimental to your trust in yourself, and believe me when I say it makes the journey to recovery a lot longer and harder than it needs to be. No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with life or relationships – your intuition knows best – not your partner, not your friends, not your family, not your therapist: you! You know best.

I also wanted to share this – there seems to be a cycle for everything these days (a control cycle, an abuse cycle etc) there is also an acceptance cycle, which is very similar to the stages of grief. Every time we accept something, this is what we go through (and in looking at this we can also see how easy it is to fall into the trap of cognitive dissonance):

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What is cognitive dissonance?
According to Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths “cognitive dissonance is a powerful self-preservation mechanism which can completely distort and override the truth, with the victim developing a tolerance for the abuse and ‘normalizing’ the abusers behaviour, despite evidence to the contrary”. Some people break it down to doing the right thing for the wrong reasons or vice versa. In my experience I continued to tell myself that if I just ignored the bad and focused on the good, everything would be alright – right? And he was abusing me, so as long as I stayed I could possibly change him back to being the person I had known at the start (common in narcissistic abuse), then I was the better person – right? NO! WRONG! NOT ALRIGHT!

How did I get confused?

Acceptance seems to be the answer to all our questions, everywhere we look. The message we’re given is if we just accept things and people exactly as they are, we will be happier and magically live a stress-free life. The fact is, extreme amounts of acceptance lowers our expectations, and in the process makes us forget what is acceptable to us and what is not – this can then lead us directly into cognitive dissonance.

 

Why can’t you just leave an abusive relationship?
The reason it’s hard to leave an abusive relationship once we reach this state of cognitive dissonance is the way it closely links to trauma bonding. According to Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths “traumatic bonding is strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other. (Dutton & Painter, 1981)”. Generally there is a power imbalance, the abuse is sporadic, and the victim engages in denial for emotional self-protection and one form of this is dissociation – where the victim distances themselves from the abuse as though it’s not happening to them.

“Since the victim feels powerless to change the situation, they rely on emotional strategies to try to make it less dissonant, to try to somehow make it fit. To cope with the contradicting behaviors of the abuser, and to survive the abuse, the person literally has to change how they perceive reality,” Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths said.

Many people will accept abuse by rationalising it away to themselves, staying in denial, or simply because they feel like the better person for staying. It sounds silly – but the thought process is often because the victim is not the one abusing, it makes them feel better about themselves and their situation. This leads into another example of where begins cognitive dissonance in an abusive or toxic relationship.

“Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it severely undermines the victims self-structures, undermining their ability to accurately evaluate danger, and impairs their ability to perceive of alternatives to the situation,” Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths said.

“Once a trauma bond is established it becomes extremely difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship.  The way humans respond to trauma is thought to have a biological basis… Many victims feel the compulsion to tell and retell the events of the trauma in an attempt to come to terms with what happened to them and to try to integrate it, reaching out to others for contact, safety, and stability.  Other victims react in an opposite manner, withdrawing into a shell of self-imposed isolation.  The trauma bond can persist even after the victim leaves the relationship, with it sometimes taking months, or even years, for them to completely break the bond,” the site said.

For more information about cognitive dissonance click here or check out Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths page.

 

Deciding when things are unacceptable
There comes a point when someone is hurting us that we need to WAKE UP and see the situation for what it is. Accepting a scenario that doesn’t align with us, as it plays out over and over again, is really unhealthy and there needs to be a point where we stop accepting a situation as it is and start taking action for our own self-preservation.

Often people in domestic violence situations are under a lot of control and feel their options are limited, it’s not that they don’t want to get out – it’s that they don’t know what steps to take in order to do it safely. If you feel trapped in this sort of situation, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) if you’re in Australia (it’s 24 hours), or contact White Ribbon for assistance (they’re very active and helpful on their Facebook), or refer to How to escape a controlling person in a domestic violence situation.

 

The turning point: how to stop accepting the wrong things
Over the years I have become guilty of being a serial-accepter as I found it easier to accept and say “yes” than to reject: “no”. The more I found myself going along with things, despite my intuition and better judgement, the more I lost sight of what I felt was acceptable and unacceptable. What we need to realise is there does come a time when it’s ok to get angry, take a stand and walk away – as long as you keep going.

It was only recently that I realised we spend so much of our lives being told to show gratitude for every little thing and to accept things for what they are, that we stop expecting the big things to happen. The consequence is our expectations drop dramatically and the wrong people appear in our lives. To find out how you can make yourself happy and avoid this trap you can refer to last week’s blog How to make yourself happy.

In the process of losing our expectations, we forget what behaviour towards us is acceptable – the little signs of kindness feel so much more important than what they actually are, and we clutch to them through adversity, making it easier to draw attachment to another person. This is where we often open the door to the wrong people.

Instead, what we should be doing during times of adversity, trauma and grief is re-learning to depend on ourselves, focusing on how we can make ourselves feel special and empowered – and how we can move ourselves forward. This lifts our expectations, and the higher our expectations are, the more you’ll find the right people are drawn in because they need to work harder to be with us. So, despite what we’ve been taught in recent times, happiness doesn’t come from acceptance and gratitude, it comes from within. Self-belief. Self-love. Self-nurturing. Seeing the pattern here? The turning point all starts and ends with self!

 

Acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude in their place
Many of us would agree with the Michael J Fox quote I selected to accompany today’s blog post.

However, when we choose to accept everything in an attempt to be happy, the irony is that the things we have accepted against our better judgement and intuition, won’t actually make us happy at all. In the short-term we get to go “Yay! I got this!” and maybe we have something to show for it, but longer-term it won’t impact our happiness and if anything, it will more likely make us unhappy because of the way we have acquired it. Anything acquired in a negative way will often be toxic to us. Also, despite cognitive dissonance as a real condition, long-term we can’t fool ourselves into believing something makes us happy when it doesn’t. We can’t lie to ourselves. We can’t hide from what we believe is right or wrong. This is why it’s important to always be authentic when choosing to be accepting, forgiving or put energy into showing gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong: acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude certainly assist us with living a fulfilling life, but as with everything, they have their place. We shouldn’t depend on these for our happiness or use them as a way of gaining short-term happiness. What do I mean? Acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude can often be used as tools for our short-term happiness because it’s more comfortable or easier for us to choose those rather than really soul-searching and knowing what authentically aligns with us: our values, boundaries and generally what we find acceptable.

 

A lesson for the abused
“When a simpleton abused him, Lord Buddha listened to him in silence, but when the man had finished, the Buddha asked him, ‘Son, if a man declined to accept a present offered to him, to whom would it belong?’ The man answered ‘To him who offered it.’ ‘My son’, Buddha said, ‘I decline to accept your abuse. Keep it for yourself.’” The Buddha (as told by Will Durant).

 

Challenge: Find your authentic self
This week I challenge you not be accepting, forgiving or spend energy showing gratitude unless it’s absolutely genuine. The theory is in doing this we will stop inviting lower-expectations into our lives and suffer the consequences.

So dig deep and find your authentic self. Have you been accepting people and behaviours simply because it’s easier for you? Be honest.

This week be selective about what you accept, who you forgive and when you show your gratitude to people because there are people out there who will take advantage of it.

Note how you feel as a result.

 

Moving forward by relying on yourself
The way forward from being overly accepting of things or surrendering yourself to cognitive dissonance is looking to yourself for validation. Instead of looking to others for signs of love and kindness, know what makes you feel special and validated. This varies for everyone, but start with dating yourself – inspiration provided by Ashley here, learning what you like and dislike and offer yourself ongoing unconditional self-love.

If you are going through something traumatic caused by another person (particularly a partner, spouse or lover), you may go in search of someone else because instead of dealing with something uncomfortable and traumatic, we try attach ourselves to someone as a way of coping. It can almost be instinctive because we’re looking for a knight in shining armor to save us and make us feel better during this horrible time. I urge you to resist this temptation because looking outward for happiness during troubled times in our relationships is simply a way of trying to comfort yourself and it is also how love addiction can start which will see you jumping from partner to partner. Also, your new relationship won’t last, and remember what I said about acquiring something negatively, it may also never make you happy.

Challenge yourself to stand on your own two feet. Wait until your emotions subside and you resolve the situation before you decide to take any steps with the person you’re feeling drawn to because sometimes you’re in such bad condition from the troubled relationship you have that what you’re accepting in your life is also less than you deserve. Stay true to yourself and always remember what is meant to be will be. Have faith that what you want exists and it will come to you in perfect time.

Meanwhile, if you feel that you are taking acceptance too far or even suffering from cognitive dissonance in an attempt to comprehend and/or remain in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help with a psychologist, counsellor or life coach (such as Melanie Tonia Evans) to help you through your healing journey.

Happiness Weekly’s best tips for helping others

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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
–          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:
http://www.zenhabits.net/25-ways-to-help-a-fellow-human-being-today
http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2013/05/26/10-ways-to-help-others-that-will-lead-you-to-success
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-help-someone-who-wont-help-themselves
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/outside-the-classroom/volunteering-how-helping-others-helps-you

Welcome to another year at Happiness Weekly

imagesWe were so fortunate this year to have a complete fresh start with the new moon on New Years Eve! I hope you all enjoyed your celebrations as much as I did.

There are many exciting things ahead for all of us this year, great memories to be made, and I’m sure you’re all busy trying to check off your New Year Resolutions.

I will be posting more inspirational quotes on Facebook and Twitter this year which are sure to keep you motivated and entertained. So if you aren’t on those, please join up!

Otherwise, I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2014!

Best wishes, Sarah.

8 ways to avoid the negatives in life – or at least not make them worse

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I think it’s important to get your surroundings as well as yourself into a positive state – meaning surround yourself with positive people, not the kind who are negative and jealous of everything you do. Heidi Klum

Sometimes life can seem full of negatives with an abundance of obstacles and challenges and it can become quite overwhelming. In these situations, a lot of people subconsciously spread the stress and burden into other areas of their lives unnecessarily. For example, after a tough day at work you may return home tired and feeling pressure when you pick a fight with your partner or children because they haven’t done something exactly as you asked. This week, Happiness Weekly looks as how you can avoid the negatives in your life or at least not make them worse.

It’s undeniable that negativity is toxic – whether it’s a person who is negative or a situation in your life that is negative and causing you to respond and feel negative. It’s important to desensitise from the world’s negatives and try to isolate these events, people or areas of your life so they don’t infect the positive areas. It is when we repeatedly fall in the trap of letting one negative that could have been isolated affect every other part of our lives that we become consumed with darkness, loneliness and fall into a rut as all the positive and beautiful things and people around us fall away. By identifying and isolating the negative area or person in ourselves, we are empowered to change what happens to us next.

1. Identify the area that is causing upset, hurt or concern
If you sense darkness is upon you, your instinct is probably right. It may be a misunderstanding with someone that doesn’t feel right or a situation that is bringing you down – whatever it is, it’s important to stop and identify what it is. Once you know what it is, while you are on your own, consider what you will do to fix the situation to ensure you feel better as quickly as possible. Use this negative you wish to avoid to set goals to change your focus, empower yourself to move forward and start achieving the things you want.

2. If they seem bad, they probably are
Unfortunately toxic people do exist and they can be male or female. These are the people who add stress to your life unnecessarily: maybe they’re conniving, they can’t keep confidences, they lie, they backstab, they cheat and ask you to cover for them… it’s best to cut these people from your life right now – delete their number, block them on Facebook, avoid them where ever possible. You don’t need these people in your life and without them you will feel significantly lighter.

3. Make a positive friend or lover
Invite someone into your life who will support you and encourage you to grow. Ensure they have your best intentions at heart. Whenever you’re in doubt, turn to this person and let them shower you with their positive affirmations and offer some solutions and guidance towards your problems. In every situation you always have choices, sometimes when we’re bogged down with negatives we can be blind to see them and it’s these people who can point out the alternatives for us.

4. Be true to yourself
When everything is getting you down, focus on the things you can do and the goals you can achieve, don’t assume things you don’t know. Separate yourself from the negatives by accepting them and isolating them in that space. My thought patterns tend to go “Ahhh, that’s bad – but at least I have this or that!” Focus on what you do have and be grateful for that.

5. Watch your communication with others
Don’t give anyone ammunition against you. Watch how you treat others and always communicate with kindness. Verbal communication such as tone and choice of words combined with non-verbal communication such as body language and the way we do things are a key component for this. If you don’t want to upset anyone, be careful what you say and how you do things – if it’s not kind, then don’t speak or act.

6. Do something nice for yourself
After a hard day in the office, do something nice for yourself. Self-soothing exercises will ensure you feel valued and will also help you unwind from spreading any negativity for others. Be strong in your direction, know your values and goals and go forward with confidence. If your nice to yourself, inwards, generally you will also be nice to others, outwards.

7. Go forward with acceptance and confidence
When someone treats you unfairly – accept that you have no control over what they have said or done, but go forward with confidence in what you are doing and the goals you have set for yourself. Realise there is more ahead in your life plan than the current scenario and keep on your path, don’t let others and their circumstances throw you off.

8. Assess your options and take control
We always have choices. When something negative happens or someone is negative to us, we can either take control of the situation and change it or we can assess our options and change ourselves or our circumstances to move us away from the negativity. It’s important to acknowledge that we always have some level of control that we can empower ourselves with.

How do you avoid the negatives in your life?

How to sincerely show your gratitude

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Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

Some people get awkward when it comes to saying thank you. It may be that you don’t know how to approach the person, you may feel your gratitude will come across as insincere, or maybe you’re just one of those people who is too busy to acknowledge others. There’s no time like the present to turn over a new leaf! This week, Happiness Weekly looks at how you can say thank you and sincerely show your gratitude to someone.

How to say thank you

Choosing the words can be as challenging as finding the best method to say thank you. Let’s keep it simple – don’t think too deeply on it. The key to thanking someone is to say it at the time of the event or as close to it as possible.

Say what they have done: “Thank you for…”

Then tell them why: “You helped me to…” this will show them you have put thought into it, you have seen the results of what they have done and this will also make the person feel rewarded for helping you – and encourage them to help you again!

Now you can work out the most appropriate way to say it to the person:

Say it
A lot of people don’t say thank you out loud. Maybe it’s because they forgot to say thank you, maybe because they don’t think of it or maybe because they don’t realise the impact the person has had. Don’t be one of these people! Stop for a moment and show the person some gratitude by thanking them for what they have done.

Send an email or text
Often we think about our friends and something they have done for us, but when living in such a fast-paced world, we struggle to get around to acknowledging out loud what they have done for us. It only takes a moment while you are at your desk at work or playing with your telephone to send that person an email or text to thank them for what they have done for you.

Write a letter
It’s not often that we receive hand-written letters these days. Take some time to get some nice notepaper and write a beautiful thank you letter. Then take the time to buy a stamp, find out the person’s address and post it to them in the mail. This shows that time and care has been taken to show your gratitude. By going the extra mile, you are showing the person their importance to you.

Write a card
Whether you make it (by hand or on the computer) or buy it, giving a card to say thank you to someone is recommended when someone has gone the extra mile. They can then keep this card and refer back to it. Last year I sent a card to all my close friends, just simply thanking them for being a friend – it brought me a lot closer to many of them.

Draw it
Get creative! You don’t have to say it or write it, you could simply draw them a picture illustrating your gratitude. It could just be a stick figure picture of you giving them a flower … or a bunch of flowers. Sometimes, it’s the thought that counts and something as simple as this could go a long way!

Give it
If the person has really gone above and beyond, you could show your gratitude by buying them a present. It could be something as simple as a coffee, to flowers or chocolates, to a lunch or something bigger like a gift certificate or present. The beauty of giving is that it shows that thought and time has gone into it.

Send an E-Card
There are hundreds of e-cards on the internet that you can choose from. Have a look through them – some come with animation and sound – select one that’s appropriate for your friend and simply email it over. It’s a little more effort than just a standard written email.

Write on their wall
If you both have Facebook, why not say it loudly? Write a message on their wall. Or if you’re truly grateful and want the world to know, why not say it in a status update, tag them in it and say what they have helped you achieve. This will then be visible to all their friends and all your friends!

Return the favour
Do something for them. You may even make them a cake. Keep an eye out for any way that you can help them in the immediate future and return the favour as best you can. Sometimes we can only help in little ways, but what appears small to us may be big for other people.

How have you showed someone your gratitude lately?

For more tips on how to show your gratitude, check out the following blogs:

50 ways to show gratitude for the people in your life by Tiny Buddha

20 simple ways to show appreciation by Zen Family Habits

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