You Can’t Do Everything…So Do What You Can.

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Maybe you can’t do all the things that would be required to bring your life to the level that you’d prefer.

When you make a list of all the things that would need to happen, from the big things— career on track, ideal relationship, body looking and feeling like you’d prefer— down to the little things— living space clean and organized, laundry caught up, daily budget under control— it’s highly probable you’ll feel overwhelmed. Because, if you’re like most people, making such a list brings you face to face with a simple, significant truth: that’s, like, a lot of stuff.

Even more to the point: if your list included a fair number of tasks with which you struggle and projects you’ve been putting off, you’re even MORE likely to feel overwhelmed….for that matter, the fact that those tasks and projects feel overwhelming might be the very reason they wound up on your list in the first place.

The main reason most people don’t get around to doing more practical things to improve their lives isn’t complicated. It just feels like too much.

We look at all those tasks, and we feel…intimidated.

We look at those tasks and we feel…weirdly tired and depleted. Weird, because, c’mon, why should we feel “tired” even before we’ve begun a difficult task?

A lot of personal development teachers talk and teach about how we put off certain life-enhancing tasks because we feel inadequate or unworthy. There’s often truth to this, but in my experience, the problems usually start out on a more basic level: we don’t feel physically, energetically up to the tasks.

We take a look at the tasks, and go, “Unnnffff. There’s…just…no way I can do all of that. There may be no way I can do ANY of that with my current level of energy and resources.”

And the thing is…we may be right about that.

We may very well not be up to tackling the list of things-that-would-need-to-happen-to-substantively-improve-my-life.

Our resources, after all, truly are finite.

I’ve said it before: anybody who tries to tell you you have unlimited resources at your disposal is either hopelessly naive, or selling something.

The real world fact of the matter is that time, as a resource, is limited. Energy, as a resource, is limited. Physical strength, as a resource, is limited.

Some of our resources are renewable, and can be replenished, but it’s silly to pretend that they’re unlimited. We have to work with the resources we have; and we have to be realistic and grown up enough to concede that those resources have limits.

So if our resources truly are finite, and if the tasks we’d need to undertake in order to create the life we’d truly prefer to live really are beyond our means at the moment, what do we do?

It’s pretty simple, though not easy: we do the thing we can do with the resources we have.

Maybe, with the time and energy we have available at this moment, we can’t do everything we’d need to do in order to make our living space completely clean and organized. But of the dozen or so tasks that would need to happen in order to get our living space clean and organized, is it possible to do…one of those things?

Maybe, with the time and energy we have available at the moment, we can’t enter the career of our choice. But of the possibly hundreds of things we’d need to do to enter into that career, can we do…one of those things?

On an even more basic level: if we can’t do the several-to-hundreds of things we’d need to do to accomplish ANY of our important goals, can we even VISUALIZE doing…one of those things?

You’d be truly surprised at how many people reject the idea of taking one, teeny, tiny, step toward a larger goal. Some people really, truly hate the idea. They figure, “this one, teeny, tiny, step really won’t matter; and it’ll only set me up for disappointment because I can’t take ALL the steps I’d need to take to accomplish this goal.”

You really think so?

I’d make a somewhat different argument. I’d argue that our self-esteem is always watching, and it knows when we’re taking even little, teeny, tiny steps toward our important goals…or when we’re copping out of taking those steps simply because we’re scared, discouraged, or overwhelmed.

It’s hard to respect ourselves when we observe ourselves copping out simply because we can’t do EVERYTHING at once.

Teeny, tiny steps add up.

Even if you can’t get the whole house or apartment clean…you can get one corner clean.

Even if you can’t do ALL the laundry…you can do a load.

And your self-esteem will notice if we’re doing the thing we CAN do…or simply throwing in the towel because it’s not everything we WANT to be able to do.

Respect your limits. Be real about your resources. Don’t be in denial about what you can and can’t do with your current level of energy, focus, time, and money.

But also don’t be in denial about the fact that rarely is it the case that we can do NOTHING that inches us a little closer toward our goals.

Show your self-esteem that you’re committed to doing what you CAN do.

Show it that you’re willing to take the teeny, tiny step that you CAN take.

Those steps…they add up.

 

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Itches and Scratches.

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A lot of the advice, feedback, and food for thought we receive won’t fit or work for our specific situation, for whatever reason.

Either we have a situation that makes the advice impossible to enact; or the author is speaking to people with a slightly different set of circumstances and challenges; or the author has made assumptions that don’t hold true for us.

It’s easy to get discouraged when we’re out there actively seeking advice and guidance, and we’re met with an avalanche of content that misses the mark— either by a little, or by a lot. It can get to the point where we might think, in exasperation, “Doesn’t ANYONE understand what I’m struggling with? Doesn’t ANYBODY get it?”

Want to know the truth? No. Nobody gets exactly what it’s like to be you. And anybody who says they do is either mistaken or selling something.

In our quests to discover paths, philosophies, and tools that can realistically help us make the most of the life we have— not the life we wish we had— we often have to take the wisdom to which we’re exposed and adjust its specifics so that we can benefit from its core message.

It’s either that— or we throw out the baby with the bathwater, and we lose the opportunity to benefit from decades upon decades of wisdom, research, and experience that may otherwise be helpful to us…but which doesn’t scratch us exactly where we itch.

We have magnificent minds that are very capable of being flexible in response to the things to which we’re exposed in our journeys toward health and wholeness.

A good example of this approach is the twelve step philosophy of dealing with addiction and other dysfunctional behavior patterns, like codependency.

There is nothing magical or particularly complex about the twelve step tradition. It fundamentally revolves around the concept of radical honesty with oneself and others as the key to abstaining from behaviors that have proven harmful. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous provide a supportive environment in which people are encouraged to be brutally real with themselves and each other about how their behavior has impacted their lives and the lives of the people around them, and to pull no punches about their inability to make that behavior an ongoing part of their worlds.

Do you need to be addicted to a substance to find this approach and philosophy helpful to your life? Absolutely not. Regular readers of my blog know that unrelenting realism and radical honesty about both our strengths and limitations are cornerstones of my own approach to treatment— whether or not someone is an “addict” per se.

Which is to say: because an approach or a piece of advice isn’t designed explicitly for you doesn’t mean you can’t internalize and benefit from it.

Another example is cognitive behavioral therapy, the most empirically validated psychotherapy approach of the last fifty years.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach that investigates the rationality, functionality, and testability of the thoughts that flow through our heads all day, every day. The research that bolsters CBT suggests that when people experience outsized or dysfunctional emotional reactions, it’s often the case that their thinking is distorted— that they’re thinking in patterns that are unnecessarily and unrealistically black and white, exaggerated, or focused on themselves in aggressive and blaming ways.

CBT was explicitly developed as a treatment for depression. As it began to be widely employed and started to show real promise for people who were suffering, its used were modified and expanded to address anxiety as well. As time went on and the research on CBT became even more robust, it’s scope expanded to encompass problems such as addiction, procrastination, and self-harm.

Does one need to be depressed, anxious, or afflicted with any of the challenges for which CBT has been designed and validated in order to benefit from its techniques? Of course not. But some people will nonetheless draw a line in the sand, figuring that because their exact circumstances don’t quite conform to what CBT was designed for, the core message doesn’t have value for them.

It’s an unnecessary waste.

Our brains are designed to be flexible. There is a psychological principle called “accommodation” that allows us to adjust the information we’re exposed to to fit in with our own unique circumstances and challenges. We’re born with this ability— you have it already. I guarantee you’ve used it in the past to take advantage of information and principles that had value for you…but which may not have scratched you exactly where you itched just then.

You don’t have to be from a galaxy far, far away to be moved and motivated by the hero’s journey of Luke Skywalker.

You don’t have to have Borderline Personality Disorder to take advantage of the techniques of Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

An insight doesn’t need to speak perfectly to your situation in order to be valuable to you— a part of it can speak to a part of you, and that’s all you need.

On your quest, don’t get bogged down in the details. Think big picture. Ask if any part of a core message can apply to any part of your life or struggle.

Keep your magnificent mind open

 

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For information and resources on protecting yourself on your personal development journey, visit the nonprofit organization SEEK Safely

Growth and the Zen of Go-Karting.

 

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The Doc queues up to race at Albuquerque Indoor Karting in Albuquerque, New Mexico

There’s nothing wrong with being new, inexperienced, an “amateur,” or not yet being as skilled in a domain as you’d prefer to be. Everyone starts out from that place.

One of my hobbies is high-speed go-karting. I’ve been doing it for about two years, and the person with whom I do it most frequently is one of my best friends.

Go-kart racing demands a great deal of focus and discipline. It’s easy to get out there on the track and just want to keep the accelerator aggressively jammed to the floor, and to handle the turns as they come up on you. It took me awhile to figure out that if you do that— just keep the accelerator down and don’t think a turn or two ahead— you’re going to skid, slide, lose momentum on the turns, and be frustrated because people who you’d passed on the straightaways are pulling ahead of you on the turns.

My buddy is an objectively better go-karter than I am.

In addition to being a physically smaller guy than I am (which matters, insofar as lighter karts move faster and maneuver more easily), he’s more serious about go-karting, and enjoys competitive go-karting way more than I ever will. Whereas I enjoy just getting out there and improving my own performance race after race, he takes a lot of pleasure in beating other racers on the track.

There was a brief period where our respective temperaments on the track clashed, and I found myself not enjoying karting as much with him. Mostly because, well, he kept beating my brains in on the track.

It took me a bit to realize that, as long as I kept making “which of us was coming in first” the main– or only– criterion of success out there, I would probably only get more and more frustrated. Because, realistically, if we raced ten times, he was probably going to beat me on nine of those occasions.

It didn’t matter that, between the two of us, we were usually mopping the course with every other karter out there.

It didn’t matter that I found the activity fun on a number of levels that had nothing to do with who won the race.

It didn’t matter that I’d gone, within the span of a couple years, from a complete newbie to an experienced, skilled karter who can more or less hold my own on any amateur track in the country.

All that mattered, as long as I was fixated on finish order between me and my buddy, was that one detail. And as long as that was the only thing that mattered, I was robustly unhappy.

Isn’t that insane? Allowing a hobby, something I liked, something I was reasonably good at, something that I paid money to do, to make me unhappy?

The root of a a great deal of unhappiness out there is the thought, “I SHOULD be better at this.” It gives rise to a host of other unhelpful “SHOULD” statements: “I SHOULD be better at this than that guy.” “I SHOULD be better at this BY NOW.” “I SHOULDN’T let that guy beat me.” “It’s NOT FAIR that this guy beats me.” “I CAN’T ENJOY this if I’m not winning all the time.” “It’s EMBARRASSING that I’m not better at this.”

Understand: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be awesome at everything we do. There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure and pride in improving our performance. The desire to be awesome at stuff we do is healthy. It drives us toward upping our game.

Where “SHOULD” statements become a problem is when they become the ONLY thing we’re  focused on.

And they become a BIG problem when we decide— often arbitrarily— that we simply cannot enjoy a thing unless we’re conforming to all the SHOULD’s rattling around in our brains.

Many people get discouraged when they first pick up a hobby or skill, because they’re not yet as good as they’d prefer to be. They get this idea in their heads that they “SHOULD” be awesome at something right away— or at least as good as another person is at that thing— and, if they’re not, well, forget it.

The fact is, we’re as good at something as we are at any given moment. Whether we’re an amateur or a pro; whether we’re awesome at something or not-as-awesome-as-we’d-prefer to be. Beating ourselves up with “SHOULD” statements isn’t gong to help us out— it’s only going to drain our energy and suck the enjoyment out of the project.

Embrace the fact that you’re not as good or experienced at something as you’d prefer to be.

Don’t be embarrassed that you’re not awesome at it yet.

Don’t make comparisons with others your primary “rule” for whether or not you’re “allowed” to enjoy a thing.

The ironic thing about my go-karting? It was only when I quit gnashing my teeth at my inability to beat my buddy, and focused on mastering the fundamentals of racing— slowing down on the straightaways, accelerating and paying attention as I maneuvered through the curves, taking the time to really learn each car and each track— that I began to start to catch up with him.

Acceptance. Focus, Making little, baby-step-level improvements. That’s how we get awesome at a thing in the real world.

See you on the track.

 

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No one gets to tell you what “success” is and isn’t for you.

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No one gets to tell you what “success” is and isn’t for you.

I just watched a reasonably well known teacher in the personal growth field effortfully attempt to shame his audience if they value rest, recreation, and friendship. In this guy’s world, “fun” is a dirty word— he feels that every waking moment, including the weekends, should be devoted to “making an impact” (i.e, working). He excoriates his audience members who “say” they want success in business, but then “take the weekends off” and “hit the snooze button.”

(I’m not exaggerating or taking him out of context, by the way. This guy says things like this all the time— usually in thinly veiled attempts to make his audience feel bad for not being dedicated to their goals…a problem that, obviously, his coaching products and services can fix for them.)

We hear variants of this message a lot in our culture. We’re told that we don’t have to slavishly grind away at a job we hate. We can be entrepreneurs! We can be world-changers!! We can have it all if we “grow a spine” and take the risks necessary to succeed!!!

(Again, I’m not exaggerating— the words “grow a spine” were explicitly uttered in a recent post about how everyone should quit their jobs and chase their dreams.)

I’m all for dreaming. I’m all for audacious goal-setting. Grand, sweeping visions of life can inspire us; can propel us forward; can make our worlds a more colorful and interesting place to live as we march determinedly toward our goals.

The thing is— we also live in a real world.

A world in which we have commitments.

A world in which bills need to be paid.

A world where in which not everybody has the resources on hand to take a leap into the unknown.

Here’s the secret that many personal growth teachers, especially with products and services to sell, don’t want you to focus on: it doesn’t have to be either/or.

We can create our dream life, or at least a life closely approximating our dream life, even as we live our real lives and fulfill our day-to-day responsibilities.

For that matter: not everybody’s “dream life” means giving up those day to day responsibilities.

Some people kind of like those day to day responsibilities.

For that matter, some people even like having a job.

There’s no shame in liking what you do, day to day, even if you’re not an entrepreneur, CEO, world leader, or billionaire.

There’s no shame in liking weekends off. There’s no shame in liking to take care of your family members. There’s no shame in taking pleasure and pride in doing your job, whatever it is, to the best of your ability, and in doing so contributing to the quality of life of others.

Why are there so many people out there who are so keen to tell us what “success”is and isn’t?

Why are there so many people out there who are intent on evoking feelings of inadequacy and shame if we choose a life that doesn’t fit their definition of “successful?”

Sometimes people go this route as a result of a psychological defense called “projective identification.” What this means is that they have some sort of anxiety or fear going on in their own lives, but they don’t feel equipped to emotionally handle it themselves; so instead of handling it, they “project” this feeling onto others, and then behave toward those others in such a way that their “projection” seems justified. In this case, someone might have a staggering amount of insecurity about their own life path, but they can’t quite handle that; so they “project” those feelings onto others (“THEY must be unhappy with their life path!”), They then attempt to affirm their projection by inducing guilt and shame in others regarding their life choices (“Don’t you want MORE out of your life than slaving away at a JOB?!? And if not, WHY NOT?!?”).

Sometimes people attempt to induce shame in others vis a vis their life choices and priorities because the have something to sell. In this case, some personal growth teachers cannot sell you their services unless you feel bad enough about your current circumstances to want to make a change. It’s not to their advantage if people feel okay, let alone good or great, about their life choices— so they attempt to make you feel lousy about them.

And then, of course, sometimes people just like to put other people down. It’s a bummer— but those people are out there.

The important thing for you to realize is: YOU get to decide what makes for a good life.

YOU get to decide how your time is best spent.

YOU get to decide what “success” means for you.

YOU get to decide whether living a loud, visible, public life, or a quiet, inconspicuous life is best for you.

YOU get to decide what your needs and wants are vis a vis having and keeping a job.

And the good news is: you can absolutely trust YOURSELF to make decisions about what YOU want, what YOU need, and what’s worth spending YOUR time and resources on.

Don’t let anybody tell ya different.

 

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The Art of Intelligent Risk-Taking.

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We’re often told to focus on the reward, rather than the risk.

We’re told that if we focus exclusively on the risk involved in projects, we’ll be disinclined to take the risks needed to really reach our potential. We’re told that risk is necessary in order to evolve, and that to decline to take risks is to stay in our comfort zone and limit ourselves indefinitely.

There’s an element of truth to this, to be sure. If nothing else, it’s an impractical life strategy to only bet on “sure things.” If we only bet on sure things, we’re choosing stability (or maybe even the illusion of stability) over the potential for growth.

In order to grow, there is an extent to which we often need to embrace unfamiliarity, discomfort, and, yes: risk.

That said: not all risks are created equal.

Just because something is scary or outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean it’s a risk worth taking.

There are plenty of people who have taken risks, but been denied the reward they assumed was coming to them for stepping out of their comfort zones.

One of the subjects I write about most often in this blog is the development and maintenance of high, healthy self-esteem. My approach to self-esteem isn’t suddenly, blindingly transformational; rather, it’s grounded in the premise that your brain notices your day-to-day choices, and adjusts its level of self-respect, its appraisal of your worthiness and efficacy, accordingly. Most notably, your brain notices your choices about whether to think or not think; whether you treat yourself with respect and kindness; whether you behave with integrity; and whether you direct your life purposefully.

These consistent decisions— or, maybe more accurately, patterns in decision-making—  form the basis of self-esteem.

One big choice that flows from these broad categories of choices is what risks you decide to take.

Are you risking intelligently?

What makes for an intelligent risk?

It matters whether our risks are intelligent. It goes to the question of whether we’re thinking, or going on autopilot. It goes to whether we’re treating ourselves well. It even goes to the question of whether we’re behaving with integrity— that is, whether we’re behaving in a way that is consistent with our appraisals and values.

It matters, big time, to our self-esteem, in other words.

There is no shortage of risks that are available to take in this world. We take risks every time we step outside our front door. But whether a risk is intelligent or not depends on three things:  whether we understand a reasonable amount about the nature of the risk; the connection between the risk and the reward (i.e., our goals, our very reason for taking that risk); and our ability to be flexible in responding to a risk that turns out to be different than we imagined.

For example: crossing the street is a risk. There are cars and inattentive drivers out there. (Trust me, I live in Chicago— I know this fact better than most.)

Is crossing the street on my way to the office a risk worth taking?

Well, let’s see: what do I understand about the risk?

I understand that there are cars out there. I understand there are inattentive drivers out there. I also understand there are crosswalks and traffic lights out there that many, if not most, of the drivers on the road tend to obey. I understand that there are other pedestrians out there whose behavior I can use to help gauge the advisability of taking a risk (i.e., if I suddenly see people screaming and jumping back from the curb, there might be a less-safe-than-normal driver headed that way).

Okay. Now, how does this risk connect to my eventual goal, i.e., making it in to work?

In this case it’s very direct: I need to physically cross the street in order to get there. The connection couldn’t be much clearer.

All right. Now: if the risk goes wrong, what kind of flexibility do I have in responding to the situation?

Well…if I’m crossing the street, and suddenly one or more cars come barreling toward me, disobeying speed limits and disregarding stop signs, I can always jump or dive out the way. Do I feel able to actually respond like this if this risk goes wrong? Yes, I do.

All right, then: risk worth taking.

Remember the three part formula for determining whether a risk is worth taking:

1) What do I know or understand about this risk?

2) How does this risk connect to the goal I’m pursuing?

3) How flexible am I willing and able to be to respond if this risk turns out to be not what I was expecting or prepared for?

It’s true that there are no guarantees in life, and risks are absolutely necessary in order to grow. But our “style” of risk-taking can have significant consequences for our self-esteem— not to mention practical consequences for the lives we’re trying to create.

Risk.

But use your magnificent mind to risk intelligently.

 

To learn more about intelligent risk-taking in your personal development journey, check out the nonprofit organization SEEK Safely, which seeks to educate the consumers of self-help on how to make their journeys safe and effective. 

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The “You” of tomorrow; the “You” of the past; and the “You” of right now.

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The you of tomorrow needs things from you.

The you of tomorrow needs you to take care of yourself today, because what you do today is going to fuel the you of tomorrow.

The things you read today are going to inform the perspectives and expand the toolbox of the you of tomorrow.

The things you eat today are going to physically fuel the you of tomorrow.

The kind of exercise you get today is going to determine whether the you of tomorrow is strong and flexible or not.

The care you take of yourself AFTER you exercise is going to determine whether the you of tomorrow is sore and stiff or limber and loose.

What you focus on today is going to determine whether the you of tomorrow is going to start out from a position of strength, calm, and confidence, or if the you of tomorrow is going to start out from a position of anxiety, trepidation, and doubt.

The choices you make— what you say “yes” to, what you say “no” to— today are going to determine what the you of tomorrow is going to have to work with…or work against.

The you of tomorrow is counting on you to make some good choices.

The you of the past needs things from you, too.

The you of the past needs you to remember that you were younger then than you are now. Less experienced. Less knowledgable. Less tired. Less wounded.

The you of the past needs you to remember that you are no longer the you of the past. That no matter how hard you try, you can’t go back and be the you of the past ever again.

You can’t go back and un-make decisions or mistakes you once made.

You can’t go back and delete things you said and other people heard.

The you of the past needs you to know that they understand you only did the best you could with the tools you had at the moment.

The you of the past needs you to forgive yourself for those old mistakes.

The you of the past needs you to know that every minute you spend trying to un-make old mistakes— mistakes that can never be un-made— is a minute you rob from the you of tomorrow.

The you of the past needs you to remember where you were coming from at times in the past when you felt certain ways and behaved in certain ways.

The you of the past needs assurance from you that they weren’t dumb or bad for not having been perfect— they were just young.

What the you of the past might need more than anything else, however, is assurance that you’ll pay attention to the lessons of the past. That you won’t let sadness or fear convince you to shove the past in a closet or under a bed. That, no matter how painful it might be, you’ll take the past for what it was— a series of events that, while they were very meaningful at the time, happened once upon a time.

The you of the past needs you to know the difference between the you of the past and the you of now.

What both the you of the past and the you of tomorrow need from you is your patience.

The you of the past and the you of tomorrow need your respect.

The you of the past and the you of tomorrow need your attention.

The you of the past and the you of tomorrow need your best effort.

What does the you of right now need?

That, only you can answer, right now, in this moment.

Maybe the you of now needs rest.

Maybe the you of now needs to take a few long, deep breaths— and to not be shamed or guilted for taking those long, deep breaths.

The you of now needs to know that there are people who care about them. Maybe not all the people you WANT to care about you, and maybe not in the WAY you wish they cared— but there ARE people out there to whom you matter. Even if you don’t know it.

The you of now needs to know that this moment, right here, right now, reading these words— this moment can be a fresh start.

The you of now needs to know that you can never have a better past, but you’ve arrived right here, right now, with the tools you have, with the talent you have, with the challenges you have, with the baggage you have.

THIS IS IT. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. THIS IS YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE.

The you of now needs to know that as long as you can read and internalize these words, you have gas left in the tank.

The you of now needs to know there’s hope.

The you of now needs to know it’s not over yet.

The you of now needs to know, with absolute certainty: the best is yet to come.

 

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To Forgive, or Not To Forgive?

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Ever notice how quickly, and emphatically, other people are to chime in about how we “should” relate to people who have hurt us?

“You should forgive them.” “You should cut them out.” “You should understand their side of the story.” “You should report them to the police.”

When people offer us advice, of course, they usually have our best interests in mind, or at least they think they do. The people who tell us how to handle it when we’ve been hurt range from family members, to friends, to professional colleagues, to strangers on the Internet.

Make no mistake: I’m personally extremely grateful that so many of us have people in our lives who care about our well-being. The fact that people care about us enough to offer us recommendations on how to manage our lives in such a way that minimizes the chances of future pain? That’s extraordinary. Many of these peoples’ hearts are in the right places.

But the fact remains, however: none of those people is you.

None of those people have to live with the decisions you make every day in quite the same way you have to live with them. (They may have to live with some of the attendant consequences, but only you have to wake up with and go to sleep with yourself every morning and night.)

For that matter, many of the people who are offering us advice on how to respond when someone has hurt us, are responding to their own history, their own truths, and their own fears.

I, personally, don’t know how you should relate to the specific people in your unique life who have hurt you. Because I’m not you.

I pretty much know one thing when it comes to this: whatever you choose to do, your health and protection have to be your top priority.

The only decision that is “wrong” when it comes to relating to people who have hurt you, is a decision that invites and allows that hurt to continue.

Beyond that, the issue of what “should” you do in relationships that have a pattern of having been hurtful in the past is complicated. Don’t let anyone try to tell you differently, either— while we wish things were easily sorted into black and white categories for easy decision-making, as we’ve discussed many times on this blog, reality tends to be a little more complex than that.

Should you “forgive” someone who has hurt you?

That’s not a question that has a blanket answer. Not many people can even agree on what “forgiveness” entails. Many people associate religious overtones and teachings with the concept of “forgiveness.” Many people reject the concept altogether as giving a “free pass” to people who have behave unacceptably.

The thing is: if you’re committed to building healthy self-esteem, it’s up to you to thoughtfully, deliberately determine what YOUR best choice is when it comes to forgiveness.

Your self-esteem absolutely notices when you forfeit the obligation to think, and substitute other peoples’ views and values in place of your own.

Your self-esteem also notices when you stay in the fight, and continue to take on the burden of thinking and making decisions, even when the subject matter is hard, uncomfortable, or awkward.

Your self-esteem definitely notices when you’re making decisions that either allow you to continue to get hurt, as part of a predictable pattern; or when you make decisions that protect you.

It’s hard to “esteem” yourself when you’re not protecting yourself.

It’s hard to “esteem” yourself when you turn a blind eye to the reality of relationships.

Many people feel very strongly about “forgiveness.” So much so that they’ll go out of their way to convince you that their view is not only correct, but essential to you living a good life.

Their view of “forgiveness” may or may not be consistent with your own view; and “forgiving” someone may or may not be the thing to do in any given situation. But the point is, whatever you end up doing, it’s incredibly important to your emotional well-being that the decision be one that YOU made— not one you were pressured into, even with the best intentions.

Some questions I find useful include: what does “forgiveness” mean to me, specifically?

What would it be like if I chose to “forgive” this person?

Can I, personally, move on without “forgiving” this person?

Does “forgiving” this person feel right?

Does “forgiving” this person feel safe?

Does “forgiving” this person create any kind of “loophole” that might allow them to hurt me again?

Those aren’t easy questions. For anyone, really.

But it’s by asking the tough questions that we build self-esteem in the real world.

 

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