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Your Happiness Depends on This

If you're like most people, you find yourself saying things like, "Oh, she makes me so mad!" Or "He loves to say things just to hurt me!" Or "I have to do it or they'll be really disappointed!"

Many people go through life believing their feelings are controlled by the words and actions of others when, in fact, this is impossible.

No one can make you feel anything in particular. You are always in control of your own feelings and responses to whatever happens around you. If someone is insulting you and saying hateful things to you, it's up to you to decide whether or not to feel hurt, offended, or disappointed.

You could look at that person and just think, "Wow, that person has a lot of emotional wounds to behave like this. It's not about me and I'm not taking it on as mine."

No one can make you angry. No one can make you sad. No one can make you feel disappointed. Another person's behaviour is that person's choice and responsibility. Not yours.

Let's look at the idea that people "push your buttons." The truth is that you don't have any buttons to push; you have simply taught them that if they say or do a certain "something", you will respond in a specific way. So how do you break that cycle?

If you don't like that dynamic, you are always free to change it by showing a different response. When you do this consistently, eventually the other person will give up attempting to get the desired result. They may step up their efforts to get you to be the way you used to be, but if you refuse to give them the old response, eventually they'll stop trying to get it.

It might not happen overnight but if you continue to honour and respect yourself and not allow yourself to feel hurt by what amounts to a demonstration of another person's emotional wounds, eventually you will see big shifts in the dynamics of your relationship.

You get to choose your responses, and that includes the decision to end a relationship in which you are subjected to a continual or frequent barrage of negativity. I am not suggesting that if you're in relationship that includes verbal and emotional abuse, you should just continue to ignore it and tolerate it.

The point I'm making is the same though: Although an abuser's toxic words and actions are not your fault or responsibility, your reactions are.

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The Most Difficult Journey is Inward

I find it interesting that many people are afraid of any meaningful self-analysis. They don't want to become any more self-aware than they already are, which is often on a fairly superficial level. They don't really know what makes them tick, nor do they care. They're content to just carry on doing whatever it is they do, whether or not they're happy, whether or not their thoughts and behaviour get them into trouble. They live on "leave well enough alone."

I reckon that's okay if it really is "well enough" but quite often, it is not. Quite often, they're wandering through life, dragging their emotional wounds with them, like steamer trunks full of pain, insecurity, fear and feelings of inadequacy.

On the surface, they think they're happy. Or at least they don't notice if they're not.

They don't notice how that steamer trunk is planted right smack in the middle of the road ahead of them, affecting various aspects of their lives. And it's also planted right smack in the middle of the road inward, the one that leads to self-awareness and understanding. The one that leads to healing.

They stare at that steamer trunk with trepidation, fearful of what's inside, as though they'll lift the lid and some horrible, creepy monsters will leap out at them and tear off their heads. "Better left locked up," they decide. They'll just park there, at the side of the road, and be content not to go any further. "Self-awareness? No, thanks. Too scary."

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Beyond the steamer trunk is a big, dark closet. They peer past the trunk but can't see anything and that's okay because they don't really want to know what's hidden in that closet. They're sure it can't be anything good.

And in part, they're right. In part, there will be some bits that aren't nice. All of us have them. But there's also a whole lot of great stuff. There's wisdom in there, there are insights you didn't know you had.

So you bite the bullet; decide to risk it. At least a little. You're not ready to turn on the big, bright bulb that's hanging in that closet. Maybe just shine a flashlight in there as you journey inward. The further you go, the more you discover about who you really are, how you feel about things, honestly and bravely facing the truths about your Self.

Yes, it can be a bit unpleasant in there and you won't always find things you like. But being aware of them can make a monumental difference to how you live your life, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, and whether or not you move forward and progress to places of happiness and fulfillment.

And you can be sure you'll also find lots of wonderful goodies in there, too, places of beauty and strength, wisdom and insight and you will be amazed by how much you didn't know you knew. You'll discover just how far you've really come, just how radiant your spirit really is and you will be more willing and able to let the rest of us see it, too.

The journey inward is one of the most frightening journeys we can ever take, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Personally, I don't fear it. I embrace it. I love it. Muddy bits and all, I'm happy to keep discovering more and more about myself so that I can fix the parts I don't like (or stop letting them interfere with my life, at least), and I can make good use of the best bits.

I don't really understand why we should ever be so afraid of ourselves as to not want to know ourselves intimately. What makes even less sense to me is that in that state, so many people complain that their partners don't understand them.

Well, how could anyone else understand you when you don't understand yourself?

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Most of us wish we had partners who will love and accept us unconditionally, flaws and all. But how can we expect anyone else to accept our imperfections if even we don't want to see them?

To me, that's about as hypocritical as one can get. "I don't love myself, I don't fully accept myself because there's no way I wanna dig around in the murky depths of my psyche, it's scary in there, but my goodness, I'm gonna find Mr/Ms Right to love me perfectly and no matter what, and he/she will always be there for me and will think I'm wonderful and will accept all my quirks and flaws, even if I'm too scared to find out what they are. I don't wanna know but he/she has to love all the miserable stuff that I don't dare look at."


Taking that journey isn't all that bad, when you balance the good with the not-so-good. It's just you in there, so how can it be that bad? Believe me, it's gonna be a lot of the same kind of stuff that everyone else has. We're not that different from one another. Sure, we share a lot of fears and flaws, but we can also be really wonderful.

Come on, be brave. Be willing to shove aside that steamer trunk and turn on that big, bright light in the closet. You're the only one who has to know what you find, unless you choose to share it. So what's to be afraid of?



Living Your Way to Confidence

About a million years ago, I thought affirmations were silly. They were "the latest thing" and I've never been one to follow a trend if I can possibly help it.

Plus I'd been raised in a highly damaging and toxic environment where encouraging words or "confidence boosters" were as common as three-dollar bills. I couldn't relate to hearing anything good said about me, much less say such things to myself. So listening to people sit around and repeat their various "I'm so wonderful" affirmations was beyond foreign to me. It was ridiculous.

But as my own search for healing continued, there came a point when I discovered the value in affirmations. Oh, my, in the early days it was almost physically painful to say them. And of course, that was because I didn't believe one word of them.

For example, I remember growing up immersed in self-loathing and feeling worthless. I hadn't been shown respect and therefore didn't have much of it for myself either, which was easy to see in many of my life choices and in my relationships. Telling myself how valuable I was and that I deserved respect were tough sells.

It wasn't until I understood the reasons for my choices that I began to heal, and to clean up the damage that had been done to me and that I'd done to myself. Push had come to shove. I began acting as if I believed the affirmations I was telling myself every day, even though it felt like I was wearing a gorgeous pair of shoes that were three sizes too small.

The longer I acted as though I believed the words, they more they became my reality. In time, I was living them - because I had lived into them.

I am reminded of the years I spent wishing I could paint a mural on my bedroom wall and lamenting the fact that I didn't know how to paint and I wasn't an artist. Eventually, it occurred to me that I might as well try because if it was rubbish, I could simply paint over it.

This mural was my first painting. Ummm, go big or go home?! LOL!

This mural was my first painting. Ummm, go big or go home?! LOL!

Well, to make a long story short, I ended up doing several murals in various homes. It wasn't long before I was invited to have my first of many art exhibitions. My paintings were hanging in galleries and being sold for hefty sums, even to international buyers. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I started to see myself as an artist.

My first exhibition, Chichele College, Rushden, Northamptonshire, UK - built in the 1400s

My first exhibition, Chichele College, Rushden, Northamptonshire, UK - built in the 1400s

Now I'm tackling another new thing and this is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I've been a musician (keyboards) since I was four years old. I adore music. I have mucked around with composing tunes.

Only now I'm composing songs with lyrics - which means singing them. I'm good for a toddler’s lullaby, the school choir or karaoke but that's the extent of my experience or practice.

It's super scary for me to let anyone hear my untrained voice. But as I've learned from what happened with the affirmations, or becoming an author, an artist, or from many other new and uncomfortable experiences, you're not supposed to wait for confidence to show up before diving into something. It just doesn’t work like that.

Nope. You have to dive in head first to gain the experience that gives you confidence. You don't get good at something by wishing for it, talking about it, repeating affirmations about it. You get good at it by doing it over and over again. It's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to make mistakes, especially while you're learning a new skill.

The most important bit is to enjoy what you do and to be happy. Don't give a rat's @$$ about the judgement of others. They aren't perfect either.

If you can relate to this post, I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments below!