We are all taught how to have good dental and physical health, as we know involves exercise, brushing regularly, eating right. But few of us are taught the fundamentals of having healthy emotional relationships with self and others. It’s something so fundamentally important, yet they are lessons most of us must learn on our own, the hard way.
I never even knew such a thing existed until recently. Never thought about it much actually, but should’ve. And wished I had.
So I’m sharing here what I wish I knew 35 years ago:
- Be positive – Your perspective of yourself, others and your situation is only one of many truths. Remember, there are 360 possible degrees to every angle and you don’t have to be wedded to your current angle. Choosing a positive, forgiving perspective is healthier than criticism and judgment. Positive people are also more creative and productive than negative people, so nurture peace and joy in your heart. (See Uncover Your Truth and De-Stress in One (Sort of) Easy Step)
- Choose growth – Prioritize growth and improvement over the need to feel perfect or righteous. You’re awesome and amazing as a flawed human. So are those around you. Celebrate that! But we all can grow to become more self-actualized on every level (emotional, physical, intellectual, etc), no matter how together we may think we are/need to feel. (See Healing the Perfectionist)
- Keep your power – Everyone is responsible for their own feelings. You cannot make someone else happy, unhappy, loved or unloved. Likewise, others cannot make you happy or feel loved, and they can only make you unhappy or upset if you allow them to. (See (Not So) Great Expectations)
- Nurture yourself and others – Follow your passion, even if as a hobby, without guilt. Encourage the same in others. Also, you can’t take care of others or your responsibilities if you don’t take care of yourself. Time for your passion, health, rest and relationships is critically important. Don’t begrudge yourself or others for making time for self-care. (See Your Passion is Right Under Your Nose)
- Live your own life – It’s impossible to please everyone. Attempting to do so means you give away your identity, your power, and your adherence to your principles. Consider the opinions of others but make your own decisions about your own life, and let others do the same. Living your own life also means letting others make their own mistakes and learn to fail without critique, blame, or undue interference. Children need guidance, of course, but they should be steered towards age-appropriate independence of thought and action. (See The Darker Side of Nice)
- Have boundaries – Remember that when others criticize you, blame you, or try to control you, it reflects more their own self-judgment and guilt rather than your shortcomings. Do not take it personally but also do not allow them to mistreat you. It’s important to tell others how you should be treated, and to firmly and kindly enforce that behavior. (See I’m Rubber and You’re Glue)
- Take some risks/try something new – Don’t be afraid of failure or trying something different. Having a narrow safety zone makes it harder to be successful or to flourish. Trying and failing is better than failing because you didn’t try… so give it a try!
- Nurture your relationships – Relationships are more important to happiness than righteousness. Accept that truth is almost always subjective and relative, and then you will have nothing to fight about. (See Conflict: Damned If You Do)
“Would you rather be right, or happy?” – Dr. Phil
- Live in the moment – Worrying about the future or harboring resentments from the past creates unhappiness and are counterproductive. Do what you can to prepare for the future, but live in the Now. The Now is the only thing that’s real, since the past is subject to interpretation and the future is unknown. (See Soothing the Child Within)
- Detoxify your unconscious scripts – Our emotional baggage hides deep within, often controlling our view of the world and our behavior with invisible strings. Uncover and challenge those beliefs about yourself and others that are probably so ingrained, you may not even be aware that you have them. What’s worse, what are probably your worst fears (expressed as hot buttons) become your self-fulfilling reality if not managed. (See Your Shadow Self, and My Self-(Un)fulfilling Reality)
- Forgive – First, forgive yourself for being a normal, flawed human being. Then, forgive others. Forgiving others is for your benefit, not for those you are forgiving. Remember, we all have our hot buttons that feel real to us. Explore, forgive and manage your hot buttons, and don’t judge the validity of someone else’s. Forgiveness is healing to yourself and others, so forgive early and often. (See Finding Forgiveness, Moment by Moment)
- You’re not alone – No matter how badly you feel or how badly you believe you’ve screwed up, you’re neither the first nor the last to do so. Nor are you alone. Feeling bad for long periods of time is not normal and is treatable – don’t be afraid to ask for help. Struggle and facing adversity is a normal part of life. It’s what we learn from the struggle that’s important.
We are all on a personal journey. Our lessons come to us when we are ready, and our paths are all unique. As such, there are more lessons ahead of me, so this list is far from complete. What other lessons should be on this list?