We’ve all faked a smile to get past a rough patch, but there are ways to actually increase our happiness naturally. It’s true that some people may be more prone to having a positive outlook- whether because of their genetics, environment, or upbringing. However, there are still strategies that all people can use in order to train themselves to “look up” a little more. Here are some ways to cultivate optimism in your life:
Allow Yourself To Experience Disappointment
Sometimes optimism can be misunderstood as simply looking on the bright side, but a bigger, perhaps more important side of optimism is going through those painful trials and having hope that things will improve. We need to mentally time travel to the future to see that we’re going to come out okay, and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
For this Valentine’s Day season, I thought it fitting to use this Studio 5 segment to discuss one of my favorite topics: love! We all know the excitement of falling in love, of being completely and totally enamored with someone else. Who doesn’t love roses, chocolates, and candlelit dinners for two? But the truth is that when February is done, when the honeymoon phase of a relationship is over, real love is a lot of work. It can be challenging, painful even, but it can ultimately help us learn and mature, both individually and together. Here are a few ways that love is a growth process:
When it comes to our relationships, we often spend time trying to figure out problems (how can we get a spouse to listen more, how can we get children to be more obedient, etc.). But what if you are the problem? Might be a bit of an uncomfortable idea, but the truth is that often times it’s easier to spot shortcomings in someone else than it is to see them in ourselves. I encourage you to look in the mirror as we explore the following topic: Are you a guilt tripper? This involves using guilt as a form of emotional manipulation to get someone to think or act a certain way. It’s something that we’ve all done at times. Here are some questions to determine whether or not this is something you engage in in your relationships:
Do you have a hard time asking directly for what you want and need?
Do you believe that others won’t do what you’d like them to do?
Do you think other people are responsible for your feelings?
Do you mope, sulk, and use the silent treatment frequently?
Do you often feel powerless to get someone else to take action?
Answering yes to all or most of these questions indicates that you may have a problem with using guilt as a passive-aggressive way to get your needs met. And while you may have some level of success getting what you want through this strategy, long-term it will harm your relationships, as it pushes people away. Now let’s get to the solutions! Here are some ways to stop guilt tripping others for good:
Identify Your Own Needs
The first step is to figure out your own needs before you even open your mouth to speak to someone else. This can be difficult, particularly for women, but you have to know what you’re actually feeling or wanting before you can express it clearly. In my private practice, I’ve often asked women what it is that they want in a specific situation, and they really have to stop and think for a while before they can give an authentic answer. Give yourself permission to have needs and desires, and also don’t shy away from painful emotions; instead learn from them and let them help you determine what it is that you need.
Make Direct Behavior Requests
Next, be brave enough to ask for what you’d like directly. For example, a guilt tripper might say something like, “if you really cared about me, you’d take me to my appointment.” This is an inappropriate statement, and it unfairly puts someone on the spot and makes the relationship conditional. Instead, try something like, “I need a ride to my appointment; would you be willing to take me? I would really appreciate it.” Be straightforward about what you need and what you’re hoping the other person will do.
Build Relationships, Not Expectations
Guilt trippers are usually thinking more about what they want than about who they’re asking. This kind of thinking is self-centered and damages relationships. It’s also not particularly effective in the long run. And you can actually be more successful motivating people to do what you’d like if they are doing it because they want to, not because you are shaming them into it. Others will want to help you! For most people, love is such a better motivator than fear, shame, or guilt.
Own Your Feelings
A person who guilt trips thinks other people are to blame for their negative feelings, and then uses that mindset to attempt to control someone else. For example, in a divorced family situation, a mother might say to her daughter, “if you go with your dad this weekend, I’ll be all alone.” This is unfair to a child, as it’s not her responsibility to alleviate her mom’s loneliness. The woman in this situation should instead own her feelings and seek out companionship in other ways. Remember that your feelings are your own deal; they’re not someone else’s job.
Explore the Emotional Undercurrent
If you find that you’re a chronic guilt tripper, if you do it more than just occasionally, there’s almost certain to be something at the root of it. Are you depressed? Are you trying to control someone in order to compensate for something in your past where you felt powerless? Are you replaying some memory of manipulation that you once experienced at the hands of someone else? Look a little bit deeper into your emotional current.
I’m excited to offer an e-course based on my book “The Burnout Cure” to help women identify and articulate their feelings and needs in order to strengthen their relationships. Stay tuned for it!
Most of us understand that a relationship in which an individual tries to control or manipulate the other person is not a healthy one. And while no relationship is perfect, some have chronic patterns of manipulation that can be damaging to an individual’s emotional wellbeing and can likewise hurt the connection itself. But how can we spot such a relationship? We tend to think of obvious big indications of manipulation, but others are more subtle. Here are 5 signs to watch out for that may be evidence of a manipulative relationship:
1) You Feel Responsible for Your Partner’s Happiness
At the root of all of this is the quest for satisfaction and contentment in relationships. But if you feel personally responsible for your partner’s happiness, you may be experiencing some level of manipulation. There is a difference between being sensitive toward and aware of the needs of your significant other and feeling like it is your job to make that person happy. Do you feel like you have to do things perfectly, look a certain way, and complete certain tasks to please the other person? These are unreasonable expectations and may signify that the other person is (subtly) manipulating you.
Some people joke that women talk in code (and there’s probably some small truth to that!). But what if women owned up to their mixed messages and instead spoke their truth and said what they meant? That’s the topic behind this round of “What To Say Instead.” While it can be tempting to speak somewhat passive-aggressively, it’s much better to be honest and authentic about our feelings.
The following scenarios are ones in which woman mask their true emotions with trite sayings. But doing so is harmful to relationships because it’s deceptive and can limit intimacy. Read about better things to say to communicate and bridge those connections:
Scenario #1: Jane gets a call from her sister. At the time, she is trying to make dinner for her family, take care of her sick baby, and help her recently unemployed husband comb through job applications. Her sister asks how she is doing. Her response: “I’m fine.”
What To Say Instead – If this is a sister with whom she has a close relationship, it’s okay to open up! She doesn’t necessarily have to divulge all personal details, but saying something as simple as, “I’m having a really hard day, honestly” is telling the truth. There’s a pressure as women to appear as if something is going smoothly, but it’s okay to admit we don’t have it all together.
Confidence is one of those characteristics that almost every woman desires for herself. We understand that in many ways, confidence is key to happiness, assertiveness, and success. But how exactly do we acquire it? Here are 5 actionable items to boost your confidence:
1) Recognize the Context
Sometimes, we as women believe that struggling with confidence is a weakness we alone experience. But the truth is that many of us feel insecure and inadequate at times. Remember that although women have come a long way in the rights and opportunities available to us, we still need to continue to advocate for our equality. Feeling self-conscious or unconfident is part of the result of a bigger systemic picture. If you struggle with these feelings, know that you are not alone!