How Emotionally Fit Are You?

Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

Our sustained happiness is a sign of th-2emotional fitness just like our blood panel, cholesterol, and blood pressure are signs of our physical fitness.

When we are happy, our emotional needs are met and motivate us to set and achieve goals. So our feelings are indicators of our emotional well being and what we need to work on. Conversely, not meeting our emotional needs and being unhappy or anxious for prolonged periods of time can lead to emotional fatigue and exhaustion and for some, depression and even trauma.

Our happiness is a product of and dependent on the state of our self-esteem. Self-esteem is an implicit judgment that every person has of his or her ability to face life’s challenges and solve problems and of their right to achieve happiness and be given respect. Self-esteem is a conscious decision we make and reflects confidence in our abilities to take risks, love and be loved, protect ourselves and achieve goals that bring us joy and that we know we deserve.

th-1Healthy self-esteem allows us to rely on ourselves for validation of our self-worth because we know what we are capable of doing, know we are worthy of joy, and set goals to bring us joy that we are confident we can achieve. When we do not achieve our goals, we do not hunker down in shame but rather we course correct or get advice or assistance to achieve our goals. The role of other people is not to validate us or rescue us. Their role is to complement us and to share our joy with. We do not routinely depend on others because we rely on ourselves and cues from our internal gauges to define who we are and our level of happiness.

People with low self-esteem, on the other hand, cannot look internally for validation of their self-worth and typically are pain addicted due to abuse or trauma or possibly more severe psychological issues. They also have high tendencies towards codependency. Other people become sources or solutions to their pain.

Here are some characteristics of those with high self-esteem. Which ones do you possess? Which ones do you feel you need to work on to achieve emotional “fitness?”

th-3People with a healthy level of self-esteem:

  • Are self-reliant on themselves to define their self-worth and for affirmation of their thoughts and ideas.
  • Can use their compassion responsibly without routinely self-sacrificing their personal needs, rights and authorities for others.
  • Set joy-seeking goals they know they deserve and are confident in their abilities to achieve them.
  • Understand well what their personal boundaries and authorities are and understand their right to have theirs honored and respected.
  • Practice self-care, kindness, and nurturance including self-compassion when they are in emotional pain or are distressed.
  • Can assertively defend their personal boundaries and respect others’ personal boundaries.
  • Firmly believe in certain values and principles, and are ready to defend them even when finding opposition, feeling secure enough to modify them in light of experience.
  • Are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, trusting their own judgment, and not feeling guilty when others do not like their choice.
  • Do not lose time worrying excessively about what happened in the past, nor about what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely.
  • Fully trust in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. They ask others for help when they need it.
  • Consider themselves equal in dignity to others, rather than inferior or superior, while accepting differences in certain talents, personal prestige or financial standing.
  • Understand how they are an interesting and valuable person for others, at least for those with whom they have a friendship.
  • Routinely set and achieve goals to fulfill their spiritual, financial, career, community, relationship, and health needs.
  • Identify and resist manipulation, collaborate with others only if it seems appropriate and convenient.
  • Admit and accept different internal feelings and drives, either positive or negative, revealing those drives to others only when they choose.
  • Are able to enjoy a great variety of activities.
  • Are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; respect generally accepted social rules, and claim no right or desire to prosper at others’ expense.
  • Use their compassion responsibly to their and others’ benefit.
  • Can work toward finding solutions and voice discontent without belittling themselves or others when challenges arise.
  • Are tolerant of other people’s differences including differences of opinion.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.26.25 PMAnswering these questions can help you gauge your level of emotional fitness and where you need to focus and set some milestones and goals.

Register here for a free 14-page report of self-esteem building tips and exercises that can help you build your self-esteem, become emotionally fit, and improve your overall wellness and happiness.

Empathy: Is It a Gift or a Curse?

Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

imgresHere is a message to empaths referring to their abilities as a curse: “Tsk tsk tsk!” Your abilities truly are gifts but can falsely appear as burdens if you were taught to look at them as oddities or vulnerabilities or weaknesses or reasons to let others use them for their benefit.

Cognitive dissonance causes people to believe and to be emotionally comfortable with only what “makes them right” and with what does not challenge their beliefs or ego or trigger their fears. It also makes people intolerant of people’s differences that, well, make them feel uncomfortable. Cognitive dissonance in others is what makes them uncomfortable with empaths’ differences.  Similarly, empaths can also suffer from cognitive dissonance that can make them uncomfortable with and intolerant of their own unique qualities. While our emotional intelligence and sensitivities cause us naturally to challenge our beliefs and temper our egos which are healthy, we also have to learn to accept, trust, honor and comfortably rely on them and not fear them (as our childhood caretakers should have taught us).

So while being an empath can be demanding, we can learn with self-focused effort and care to manage our natural and divine abilities and acknowledge their value, power, and strength rather than succumb to them. These are gifts and abilities that we need to not only use responsibly but also responsibly honor and protect.

Being an Empath is Rewarding and Challenging

To be born an empath is a gift because you were born with the ability to see truth and beauty in others! However, it can come with many challenges. We are natural energy receivers and have high emotional intelligence so we also can “feel” others’ distresses and insecurities and can have an innate desire to relieve them or expose them (whether we want to or not) and even when it may not be in our best interest to do so. We are born with an overabundance of compassion and energy. We can also become very vulnerable to abusers and have a high tendency towards codependency. Read more here.

14463279_1276822885683757_5551024342412853674_nEmpaths also have a natural ability to see and absorb truth that can be discomforting to them especially when they are around inauthentic and toxic people. Diane Kathrine points out in her enlightening article that empaths can easily see and reveal the sides of people’s personalities they are trying to hide. Empaths can wear other people’s truth like the mask they hide behind; even if they are consciously unaware that they are doing it. They can readily know when others are not being authentic and even when they are lying. Unaware empaths may mistake others’ mirrored insecurities as their own and believe falsely that others’ pain is theirs. They also may have no idea that what they feel, they can then project and reflect back. This ability can bring up intense feelings in others and also cause them to dislike empaths.

Case in point…..even as an adult, my father told me that I was crazy when I told him that the priest at the local Greek Orthodox church I frequented made my skin crawl. I became physically sick in his presence and he would avoid all eye contact with me. Many others told me I “should not feel that way.” This priest made his own rules and, for example, would not allow me to take communion since I was married by a non-orthodox minister. My father told me to ignore him until several years later my father read in the national news that Father Pappas was defrocked for allegedly having sex with men and women (he was Greek Orthodox and married by the way) and claimed in his letter to the bishop (that I read very carefully) that his “zeal for perfection” made him do it.

Empaths Need Focused Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Empaths need to be very mindful of their unique needs and develop and hone their self-care and self-compassion skills lots more than the average person. Empaths can become emotionally fatigued from taking in too much energy and from giving up too much. Some can even become rattled by sleeping in the same bed with another person. We need more down time and alone time to decompress and to recharge our “emotional batteries.”

Help can be a relative term to empaths who typically can have an overabundance of compassion and strong codependent tendencies. Helping others can frequently facilitate exploitation if they are not careful whom and where they focus their help and assess their real motives for doing so. Is it really helping or are you serving a personal need to rescue others and make things that are broken right again? No one can change the ungrateful but empaths can work on their self-esteem and learn to use their compassion more responsibly and focus it on those worthy of and who value your help, compassion, and generosity. When you do, the number of ungrateful people you help goes down immensely and the number of grateful ones increases. So empaths can benefit tremendously with self-esteem work and assertiveness classes that will help them to use their compassion more responsibly, manage personal boundaries, and rely more comfortably on their own selves rather than others for validation of their self-worth and to moderate their compassion.

Sign up here for free self-esteem building tips.

Empaths dealing with codependency issues may also fear being alone that triggers their fear of abandonment. There is a big difference between being single and living alone and being lonely. You can be with someone who invalidates and neglects you and disrespects you and never feel lonelier. So empaths must learn to embrace solitude. Living alone also can support our emotional healing and health.

Learn more how living alone can support emotional healing and health.

We are prone to anxiety from emotional fatigue so we must mindful of our sensitivities, consciously work to minimize toxicity, modulate our need to fix and rescue, and simply rest. Something as simple as hugs or touches or love from animals or the beauty of a painting can help empaths feel safe and assured in their own bodies again. I, for example, have learned to not sit in the middle of movie theaters or restaurants. Doing so brings me angst. I do not defend my position or wants. I just always do so or I will wait for a table or go early to the theatre or book my seats way in advance. I have learned to shut down my energy, sort of like hibernating with my eyes open in the presence of energy vampires and inauthentic people or simply leave the room rather than like in the past, feeling overwhelmed and powerless and defenseless to them. I no longer fear them. They are like annoying mosquitoes to me so I administer psychological insect repellent.

th-17

Learn more here on how to deal with toxic people.

 

images-1We must learn to trust and rely on rather than be reactive to our emotions. We can do this by not rushing to judgment when our emotions are triggered and learn to patiently process them. I, for example, learned to put in extra effort to moderate my overabundance of compassion and empathy. I pay extra attention to my natural drive to fix others and rather than reacting impulsively when I see people or things that are “broken,” I take rational actions by stopping, thinking, and evaluating my options that include “doing nothing.” I focus most of my attention on ensuring I am not making others’ problems my own and help only when someone truly is lost and needs help rather than is not being accountable to his or her own responsibilities or goals.

I learned how to say no and not defend it and own it and follow through when I say yes. Whatever I decide is final and I do not second guess it or criticize myself for my decision or wait for someone to validate it. I simply trained myself not to because I learned to rely and trust on my emotions and my judgment which history has dictated are pretty much spot on.

I have also learned to use simple tools to not be impacted or to feel overwhelmed around toxic and inauthentic people and energy vampires by following the 3 simple steps in the Time – Distance – Shielding rule:

  1. Minimize your time with them.
  2. Maximize the distance between you and them.
  3. And put a shield between you and them.

Learn more here on how to deal with toxic people.

Your Empathy is a Gift – Embrace it!

imagesBeing empaths is who we are and we can’t change it, but we can accept ourselves without judgment and learn how to use our compassion more responsibly as well as tolerance for our own wonderfully unique and beautiful differences and learning how to use them effectively and protect them. There has never been and will never be another person like you in the history of the universe. We have been blessed and need to nourish and respect and honor and embrace our special gifts that not only add to our individual divinity but bring compassion, kindness, and caring to so many others who authentically deserve and need it. They are part of your authenticity and beauty and your unique divine design. So, hang tough in your truth and own, honor, care for, and protect these magnificent gifts you are uniquely worthy to possess!

Tips for Dealing with the Shame of Betrayal

Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

shameThe primary pain that we experience from abuse is shame. Abuse is betrayal of intimate trust. Abuse is abandonment. Unlike guilt, which is the result of feeling bad about what you do in the external world, shame reflects feelings of failure inside, as a person.

Shame is experienced as self-blame. You perceive yourself as flawed, inferior, contemptible, no good. Shame is a normal unconscious human emotion that helps us “put on the brakes” by taking cues from our external environment.

The problem is that you may have too much of it which is the case for victims of abuse.
Shame can become a normal feeling for victims of abuse. We also give up most of our personal power and abandon our own selves.

Shame is the part of you that you can’t face because it is so intolerable. In the words of John Bradshaw, “toxic shame” is an “emotion that gets internalized as a state of being.”

Toxic shame becomes part of a what I refer to as the “Shame Triad” of self-blame, self-loathing, and self-sabotaging behaviors.

Too much shame can make us targets of toxic manipulators and keep us powerless to them and trigger anger at inappropriate times.

Shame can keep us trauma addicted to our abusers.

Tips for Dealing with Shame

        1. Turn your compassion and tolerance towards yourself to accept yourself, warts and all, as a valuable person.
          • Forgive yourself first. Acknowledge your fallibility as a person and that you were a victim. This will help you release the self-blame and empower yourself to stop thinking falsely that you are weak, powerless, and defenseless.
          • Be consistent and fair with sharing your compassion and tolerance with yourself as well as with others.
          • Go first with your compassion! Learn to be tolerant of yourself first. Know when to quit, rest, say you’ve had enough, and to put yourself first. This is not selfish. This is self preservation and what emotionally healthy people do.
          • Respect your OWN personal boundaries and protect your vulnerabilities. Demonstrate kindness and acceptance to yourself. Do not violate your own personal wishes, body, trust, time, privacy, feelings, and property.
          • Do not let other people violate your personal boundaries. This includes learning how to not say yes when you mean no. It also includes not letting your boundaries down by sharing too much of your personal information with others too soon.
          • Do not violate other people’s boundaries.
          • Stop defending your feelings, preferences, trust, time and choices to 11193380_10153090646497819_7384925641187409522_nabusers. Abusers use this as an opportunity to abuse and exploit you more and expose you to more trauma and shame. If you must respond to their sneaky insults or criticisms, just say, “That’s interesting. Let me think about it.” Then ignore them and turn them into a non-issue.
          • Focus on gratitude for what you have. My mother told me if you have food, a roof over your head, your health and people who love you, you have everything. She was right.
          • Avoid black and white thinking that focuses only on “good” or “bad” outcomes for yourself. Look at your track record.
          • Refrain from complaining about what you disagree with or do not like in yourself. If you have nothing nice to say or think about yourself, don’t say or think it.
          • Welcome and view disagreements from trusted individuals or differences not as criticism but as motivations for you to learn more, for you to become a person of integrity.
          • Give yourself a break. Be careful to understand the difference between rejecting the “sin” and rejecting the “sinner.” Learn to say “who cares?” more.
          • Do not judge a book by its cover. Do not rush to judgment. Refrain from developing an opinion, before you get all the facts. If in doubt, ask a wise trusted friend.
          • Refrain from making yourself the brunt of jokes or laughter.
          • Do not always stand in the back of the line. Allow yourself to go first sometimes.
        2. Educate yourself on shame and its debilitating effects.
        3. Learn to identify the feeling of shame as it occurs in your daily life and write in a journal about situations and relationships that trigger shame.
          • Challenge your emotions. Ask yourself which ones result from lack of compassion and tolerance for yourself. Check the list above.
          • Work on these areas as trigger points of shame and do what you can to avoid them or minimize their harmful effects.
          • Get rid of toxic friends who habitually violate your trust.
        4. Take anger management classes. Shame triggers anger.
        5. Look at your track record from youth. Recall the people in your childhood who had something good to say about you…those who were kind to you. Teachers, clergy, neighbors, a surrogate parent or relative perhaps. What words did they use to describe your best qualities? How did you feel when you were around them? Revive these important people from your past by writing about them in a journal and exploring what their support meant to you, then and now.
        6. If you are religious or spiritual, turn to your Higher Power or Source to cleanse yourself of the shame and unworthiness that you feel so deeply. Religion and spiritual practice can be tremendous sources of inner sustenance and can provide an ideal vision to replace the negative role models and scenarios of the past.
        7. Get honest constructive unbiased feedback. Share your struggles with working this step on support blogs, meetings, a trusted wise friend, and Websites and Facebook pages like Yourlifelifter.
        8. Seek professional therapy if you are not progressing in your healing and recovery. You most likely are trauma addicted. Trauma bonding occurs when you rely on your abuser for your safety, happiness, or security. Here are a few examples:
            • You long for and miss your abusers.
            • You make excuses for them.
            • You replay painful interactions with your abusers over and over again trying to figure out what you did wrong.

In addition, in order to resolve shame addictions, an ongoing reparative relationship with a qualified therapist can help you challenge your internal voice of shame and replace it with a healthier dialogue. A skilled therapist can be an important ally in helping you to transform the shame into self-acceptance.

Talk about your shame with him/her and share how you experienced shame in your childhood and in your life including in your therapy sessions. With your therapist’s help, identify the ways in which you keep yourself from feeling your shame by adopting a role or “false self” that you portray to others based on what you think it acceptable to them rather than yourself. Share this “false self” with your therapist and try to understand what the role gives you that you feel you lack inside. This can help home in on the shame triggers that you can work to acknowledge, challenge, and release and replace with new rational beliefs and emotions that support your emotional health and well being.