My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list

How to Have that Difficult Conversation: Part 1

Are you avoiding a difficult conversation? Maybe you are afraid of an explosive reaction, or of being minimized or turned down. It is normal to have disagreements and hurt feelings in close relationships. Even the strongest relationships must address painful issues. Difficult subject matter like hurt feelings, broken promises, or dishonest dealings have the potential to ruin a relationship. But skillful communication can help a couple face the difficulty together.

The next two blog posts, I will give you a template on how to have a difficult conversation. I want you to have the SECRET WEAPON to trans-formative conflict resolution so that all your relationships, whether at home, work or school, can benefit.

When you have to set a boundary, challenge a behavior, or get more information in the relationship, you may stress about how to do it with the least amount of discomfort to both parties. If you are in a strong and mutually respectful relationship, this tips and skills may be hard, but doable with practice. If you are in a rocky relationship, these skills are still helpful, although, you may get disappointing results from the other party.

  • The truth can hurt. The honest truth, when presented with love and respect can hurt a little, but it should never harm. Like a flu shot that stings and leaves your arm sore for a day- it hurts, but is protecting you from something much more painful and giving you a gift of immunity. No matter how loving you present the truth during a difficult conversation, it may sting for the other person to hear it. Your goal is to be thoughtful, gentle, and firm.
  • Wait until you’re ready. If you think the conversation could turn volatile, make sure you prepare yourself for the worst case scenario. Take some time to think, journal, pray and research your topic. Pay attention to how you feel, and what you need. Maybe you need a third party to be with you, maybe you need to drive your own “get away” car. Maybe you want to talk by telephone only. Wait until you have these details worked out.
  • Know what you want. It’s one thing to complain about what hurt you, and it’s quite another to identify and verbalize what you need instead. This takes some thought, practice and bravery. Think about what it is that you really want, what would make a difference to you, and why it matters.
  • Find a Good Place and Time. Think about the venue that would make you most comfortable and provide you the most support. Maybe you want to have it over coffee in a public café, or in a private office away from others. Maybe you want to have it when the kids are at grandma’s house. The place and time doesn’t have to be perfect, but preparation is very helpful.
  • Think about your own contribution. It’s good to take a look at your role in the situation and see how you contributed to the break down in communication or unhealthy dynamic. Be able to verbalize that in a way that honors both of you. Something like, “I handled our conversation poorly the last time we talked, and I want another chance to resolve this,” or “I see that I avoid conflict sometimes, and this time, I want us to solve this together.”

Once you have thought about 1) the truth of the situation, 2) what you need and what you want, 3) place and time, you’ll be ready for the next blog post that will tell you the HOW. There is a specific communication formula used to help partners/friends/spouses communicate through difficult situations with the best possible results. See you next week!

 

 

 

How to Recover Your Self Esteem After a Toxic Relationship

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect.

When people come out of a dysfunctional or destructive relationship, they often scrape what’s left of their self-esteem up from off the floor. It has been questioned, put down and even attacked. If this describes you, you may have even lost trust in yourself. Maybe you lived through crazy making, brain washing, and psychological manipulation. Or maybe you were the “last to know” about your partners’ affairs and you feel like the fool.
No matter what, finding yourself in a dysfunctional or destructive relationship causes a major hit to the self-esteem. If you are recovering from a bad relationship, you will need time to heal. Your self esteem requires some care and attention in order for that healing to happen.

What is a healthy self-esteem, and how do you know when you’ve got one?

I really like a quote I read by President Truman defining humility, “Humility is an accurate assessment of yourself.” This means that you are not blind to your faults, but you are not consumed by them either. A healthy ego is able to sustain some course corrections, some negative feedback and some insults without falling apart. A healthy ego is not self obsessed, or aggrandizing, but is able to practice self-respect, self- confidence, and positive view of self. Having a happy sense of self means that you know how to hold on to yourself through the good and the bad, and you count yourself as equal to others.

Recovering your healthy sense of self after a toxic relationship, requires intentional effort and consistency. You can do it! Here’s how.

Limit Exposure to Toxic People: exposure to toxic people can vary in severity, duration and frequency. If you have brief encounters with a jerk, your self esteem could pretty much stay in tact. However, if you feel powerless to affect change in a jerk’s toxicity toward you, and your exposure to said jerk was enduring, severe and frequent, your self-esteem injury could be deep, infected and scarring.
Enduring toxicity may include psychological game-playing, slander, bullying, abusive control, punishing silence, personal attacks, pathological lying, and intermittent love/abuse cycles. These toxic patterns keeps their victims always guessing, uncertain, and helpless feeling. This relationship poison causes the victim to stop trusting themselves.  Even people who start out confident and self-assured, can sustain a self esteem injury when exposed to persistent, deliberate psychological abuse.

It’s important to get free from the toxic environment/relationship as soon as you can. Your sense of self can not fully heal if you stay in the toxic relationship hoping it will get better.

How to Heal the Wounded Self:
It is hard to know where to start after leaving. If you have children from the relationship, a lot of time will probably be spent making sure they are safe and cared for. But it is important to think how you will keep yourself safe and cared for as well. Here are some steps to recover your lost sense of self.

  • Find what you like to do and do it
  • Decorate your new space
  • Exercise to make your body feel alive, energetic and strong
  • Create by planting, crafting, sketching, cooking, or writing
  • Let Nature Nurture by spending time outdoors or with animals
  • Let Music be a powerful source for reflection, encouragement and outlet
  • Surround yourself with positive, caring people
  • Nurture yourself with things like a bath, candles, massage, long walks, cups of tea
  • Adopt a SELF CARE plan that includes all of these things and a schedule of how and when to do them.

It’s not just WHAT you do to recover your sense of self, it is HOW you do it. People who are able to accomplish these self-care tasks in a spirit of love and gratitude will make them that much more effective.  Since you are in the process of recovering who you were, who you are and who you will be, you will need to do any of these activities with great love and care. Say to yourself, “I love the water feels on my body,” or “I will receive this beautiful music as if it were written just for me,” or “my heart is really pumping and alive today, “ or “I’m grateful for the way my dog shows me attention,” or “the sun is shining through the trees so beautifully right now. I’m glad I am here to experience it.” Receiving these small gifts to our self esteem make them stick.

Once leaving a toxic environment or relationship, you may be tempted to isolate yourself. Instead, make small consistent steps toward openness, acceptance, connection and strength. With slow, consistent self-care exercises, you will recover your sense of self and you will reinvent for your future.

Six Simple Ways to Improve Self-Confidence

Insecurities and self esteem issues can cause a lot of problems in life. You may over extend yourself, say yes when you need to say no, or talk yourself out of goals and dreams. The good news is that Self Esteem is not fixed and inflexible- it can change and improve. With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Whether you’ve suffered with low self esteem you’re entire life, or you’ve recently gone through something hard and you’ve lost your confidence, you can make simple changes that will improve how you feel about yourself.

Why do I struggle with Self Esteem Issues More than Other People?

The development of self esteem over the course of a life time can be complex. A combination of personality type, nurturing experiences, peer influence and skills attainment affect a person’s self esteem. My blog post last week addressed this in detail and is worth the read if you want to understand the development of self esteem better. Once you discover where your Self Esteem may have gotten delayed or off course, you most likely be ready to start practicing ways to improve.

People who struggle with self esteem rarely count that at their only problem. They usually complain that their self esteem affects their performance at work, their  confidence as a parent, who they chose as a spouse, and how satisfying their friendship are. If you feel negatively about yourself, your relationships, career and meaning in life will also suffer. Improving your own sense of self worth is an essential task in life to experience significance and happiness. Here are Six Simple Steps to Improve your Self Esteem and start feeling better!

How to Improve Self Esteem

  1. Get free of toxic people: Toxic people are those who are so self-absorbed and/or empty that they use up your energy, your good-natured generosity, or your positivity in exchange for their negativity, criticism, gossip or control. Their dysfunctional behavior patterns do more to bring you down, than up. It is impossible to heal or improve your self-esteem when you’re too close to the poison of toxic, self-centered and vampiric people.
  2. Nurture Positive Relationships: It may be impossible to eradicate toxic people from your life entirely, but maintaining other uplifting relationships is an essential task to improving self-esteem. Once you untangle yourself from negative people, it’s time to find healthier people who will add to your sense of self instead of take away from it. You may find these people while you volunteer in non-profit organizations, or participate in book clubs, writing groups, neighborhood or exercise meet-ups. Many churches have recognized the need for community, and have structured means to connect to support that need.
  3. Self Esteem Exercises: Whether you’re good at bargain hunting, decorating, painting, programming, hosting, training dogs, or hiking, to improve your self-esteem, you’ll need to practice the things you’re good at, and start adopting a few things that you’re not. In the context of doing something you’re good at, add something that you’re not so good at, like surfing, cooking, or art, and start learning. Learning and perfecting a new skill is highly gratifying and confidence boosting. It may require taking a class, going to a workshop, and getting certified at something you’re interested in. Many people who are healing from a broken relationship, will “re-tool” for a fresh start. Maybe they acquire a Pilates certification, or go back to school to change careers, or join a writing critique group. Learning and becoming competent at a new skill energizes all the right areas of brain and soul, and will help boost positivity and hopefulness.
  4. Change the Brain: Negative and critical thinking plague the person with a struggling self-esteem. But the good news is that even an old brain can learn new tricks. The brain likes to streamline and go into auto pilot. It doesn’t like to work hard, so it tries to go the easy way. So if your brain has a habit of thinking overly critical thoughts about yourself or others, or if it jumps to negative conclusions, worst case scenarios, or self-ruin, it can change with the right intervention. If your brain is in auto-pilot-negativity mode, it’s time to take back the controls and train it to respond in a new and better way. Stopping old cognitive patterns and replacing them with more helpful and effective thoughts will re-train the brain to streamline in a more positive way. The more you exercise these new patterns, the more automatic they become.
  5. Trauma Work: Self esteem development can get arrested, detained and imprisoned by traumatic events. Trauma can not only stunt healthy growth, it can also make a person distrusting, hyper-vigilant, and over-reactive. Treating the effects of trauma with proven trauma therapy like EMDR, LifeSpan Integration or Bio Feedback can release the imprisoned energy from the trauma memories and reset it to neutral. Finding a counselor or psychologist who have experience and training treating trauma is a great first step.
  6. Embrace Spirituality: There are many faith persuasions, and each person must decide for themselves about their belief system. I have found a few things that are helpful here. Though some refer to God as a Higher Power or the Universe, I like to see God as not only my benevolent Higher Power, but also someone I can talk with when needing rescue. Sometimes we are unable to muster strength, confidence or faith enough to do the hard things required of us in life. It’s those times that faith in a personal God can add to our sense of connection to Someone and something far greater than ourselves. In that spiritual connection, our sense of feeling loved, seen and cared for rejuvenates our esteem and confidence.

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect. Next week, we will talk about how to build your self esteem after a toxic relationship. See you then!

Improve Your Self Confidence: Key Ingredients to Healthy Self Esteem

Do you ever wish you could be more confident, more self assured? Do you with that you didn’t doubt yourself, your abilities, your value, or your place in the world? We all know that healthy self-esteem is important to healthy relationships and happiness, but if you struggle with self-confidence, you may not know how to improve it.

This, and the next two posts will address:

  1. How Healthy Self Esteem is encouraged in children, and the key ingredeints we all need for healthy psychological development.
  2. How to Improve an injuered sense of self through routine psychological exercises.
  3. How to Recover your self-confidence after a toxic relationship.

Let’s start by asking yourself these questions:

Do you…

  • Feel less talented, attractive, intelligent, successful than most people?
  • Compare yourself to others often, wondering how you rank?
  • Beat yourself up after simple mistakes, oversites, or embarrassing moments?
  • Talk to yourself like you’re the worst person on earth?
  • Struggle with toxic shame and guilt?
  • Feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • Rehearse to ad nauseam self-criticisms?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a wounded sense of self, or in other words, a poor self-esteem. 

Understanding Self Esteem

Self Esteem is developed in children over a period of time by way of three factors: 1) Positive regard and affirmation from family of origin, 2) Attainment of Skills and Competencies, and 3) Acceptance by Peers. That’s the short answer, but there is actually a lot that goes in to building one’s self-esteem. Here’s the deets.

1)     Positive Regard and Family Affirmation: Esteem deposits drop into a child’s core self through consistent affirmation, guidance, love and discipline from parents. Parents and care-givers don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough- guiding, loving, listening, correcting and encouraging their children. However, if the environment is over bearing, coddling, overly critical, emotionally unsafe or unpredictable, the child could develop some serious ego wounds. If, for example, a mother rarely lets her son do hard things for himself, he will likely grow up believing he is incapable of overcoming challenges. On the other hand, if a father is overly critical of a child who works hard, the child will grow to feel like her best is never good enough. One caveat here: there are some adults who grew up in a loving and supportive home and who developed a positive self-esteem, however during adulthood, encountered something so negative, traumatic or abusive, that over time, their self esteem was injured. People in toxic work, marriage or cult environments who start out confident and self-assured, can be so afflicted by persistent, deliberate psychological abuse that the self-esteem injury can take years to heal. 

2)     Attainment of Skills and Competencies: Just as important to building self-esteem, is consistent mastery of developmental tasks. As the child grows in emotional self-regulation, physical maturation, and attainment of new skills, he/she will be confident to try new things. As the child experiments with music, sports, building things, drama, art, animals, etc, the child will discover natural talents and gain in proficiencies. When a child feels he is good at something, his self-esteem rises. If a child is not encouraged or allowed to become competent in his interests, or is steered toward something he is not good at or interested in, his self-esteem will struggle.

3)     Acceptance by Peers: By ages 10, 11, and 12 the voice of the peer group begins to speak louder than the parents. Children who are generally accepted by their peers will glean self-esteem through the adolescent years from the feedback they are getting from their peers. If they feel excluded, like they don’t fit in, or in the worst case, bullied, then their self esteem can take a big hit. Many teens who didn’t succeed socially, will do so in young adulthood, thereby repairing the damage to their self-esteem. If not, a child could grow up feeling socially inadequate, anxious in social situations, and generally undesirable.

If you are well past your 20s you may think the Self Esteem Ship has sailed, and that if you didn’t develop a healthy self-esteem when you were younger, it’s too late for you. The great news, is that it’s not too late. You can work on your self-esteem at any stage in life and achieve the confidence you need to set boundaries, to resolve conflict, to achieve deeper intimacy, and pursue big goals.

With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Now that we’ve talked about what goes into the development of healthy self- confidence, we are ready to learn the basics of IMPROVING self-confidence. Next week, I will be offering 6 Simple Ways to Improve Self Confidence. Talk to you next week!

 

 

 

Emotional Abuse: 16 Signs that it’s Happening to You

Are you living in an emotionally toxic relationship? Women often know there is something wrong in their relationship because of the fighting and the terrible things that are said, but they want to believe the best about their partners. They don’t want to believe that their partner is actually emotionally abusive. How can they know for sure? Emotional Abuse seems so ambiguous, that many victims feel silly even bringing it up. Since emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical wounds or scars, it is sometimes ignored. But did you know that emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse?

37597988 - young couple not talking after fight in living room

Many couples will have infrequent arguments where both say things they regret. Many couples get into dysfunctional habits and cycles that cause problems in the long run. However, emotional abuse is different. Emotional abuse is pervasive, repeated and a perpetual relational style of keeping a one-up/ one-down status in the relationship. The following are signs of Emotional Abuse.

16 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. Blame: They tend to blame you for their own mistakes. Even if you had nothing to do with it or weren’t even around, somehow it becomes your fault.
  2. Fights Are Huge: Every couple has arguments, and may even say hurtful things they regret later. However, emotionally abusive partners escalate arguments into cutting, explosive fights where he emerges from the wreckage without a care.
  3. Name Calling: Cruel put downs like “Stupid Ass, Crazy Bitch, Jesus Freak” and others I won’t even write, are used to make you feel stupid, crazy, and ridiculous. You may be called these names in front of others, your kids or when you are all alone.
  4. Yelling, Cussing, Vulgarity: Using volume, profanity and vulgar slurs takes what could be a normal activity or conflict, and makes it scary, threatening and mean-spirited.
  5. Excessive Teasing: Every relationship can endure, and may even be enhanced by some good natured teasing, especially when both can laugh at themselves easily. However, teasing becomes emotionally abusive when it crosses a line from good natured to cruel and excessive. Teasing can be used to control, threaten and over-power.
  6. Threatening: Feedback, suggestions, and constructive criticism are met quickly with ultimatums, threats and terrorizing antics. Threats are usually carefully crafted weapons aimed right where they will hurt you most.
  7. Badgering: once you’ve expressed your boundaries, your partner aggressively pesters you in order to get you to change your mind. This tactic is used to wear you down until you give in.
  8. Punishing Silence: a partner who habitually withdraws from the relationship in order to prove a point or get back at you is emotionally abusive.
  9. Constant Criticism or Judgment: Emotionally abusive people use criticism and judgment to keep you in “your place” or keep you feeling bad about yourself so you won’t assert your need for better treatment.
  10. Disregard: Emotionally Abusive people will disregard your opinions, needs, or ideas. You may feel like you are not seen as a whole and equal person in the relationship because your partner minimizes you.
  11. Gas-Lighting: Accuse you of being crazy or too sensitive. When you complain about this treatment, you are disregarded. You are lead to believe that you are the problem, not the emotional abuse.
  12. Control of Finances: It’s normal for partners to have different roles in the relationship, like for one to handle the finances and the other to handle house maintenance. But when finances are controlled or kept from the other partner, the imbalance of power is abusive and wrong.
  13. Contempt: Contemptuous body language, facial expression, implying disgust toward you. This may seem very covert, and maybe even small. However, its impact damages self esteem, feelings of safety, and trust.
  14. Ignoring Boundaries: Repeated disregard for your boundaries, limits, space or requests. We only truly know how someone will respect us once we say no. If your partner repeatedly dismisses your expressed needs or requests, this is a violation of your person.
  15. The Pot Calling the Kettle Black: This sneaky tactic is when your partner accuses you of the thing he/she is really guilty of. For example, he/she will give examples of you being emotionally abusive in attempt at convincing you that you are the problem. Psychologists call this projection.
  16. Excessive Anger: Anger may be loud and overt, or silent and seething. Their anger is used to intimidate and control. You may feel yourself avoiding difficult conversations, walking on eggshells, and trying not to upset your partner.

24322548 - lonely girl in the city in danger

If you are finding yourself sadly nodding your head as you read this list, you are not alone. You may be coming to the realization that your relationship is not only unhappy, but down right abusive. Emotional abuse is important to identify and stop. Emotional abuse may seem easier to overlook, than to confront. You probably intuitively know that the abuse may get worse after confronting it. This seems risky and scary. But the abuse doesn’t get better or go away over time. Without intervention, emotional abuse only gets more severe and more frequent. Taking steps to be safe can be a long process, but worth it for you, your children and the people around you. For more information on setting boundaries and staying safe, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list

Take the Relationship Quiz!

Find out what kind of relationship you’re in,
and how to get the Love you want!

I want to take the quiz!