self improvement

HIGHLIGHTS: Assertiveness; A journey worth taking; Part Four

 

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Although being assertive may seem quite challenging at first, the benefits of open, honest communication are enormous and well worth the effort. When we learn to behave and communicate in an assertive way we immediately feel empowered and more in control. Most importantly we safeguard ourselves against the aggressive and passive aggressive games others play. After we have practiced assertiveness for a while our self-worth and self-respect improves, leading to greater levels of self-esteem and confidence.

 

Practicing assertiveness then becomes more natural as it reflects the higher value we have placed on ourselves. Eventually this leads to a greater sense of personal freedom. Like anything, the more we practice, the easier it gets.

 

For most of us assertiveness does not come readily. Becoming assertive involves changing the way we normally react to people and this is a new experience for both us and those around us. When I first set out to be assertive I did not get it right all the time, in fact I got it wrong more than I got it right! I knew that if I wanted to become an assertive person I needed to be patient with myself. When we feel like we have tripped up it is important not to give up, after all we are undergoing what can be a massive adjustment.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Assertiveness; A journey worth taking; Part Three

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This week we shall explore what to do when the person you are asserting yourself to persists in being either aggressive, passive aggressive or even by-passes your point altogether.

 

If the person you are speaking to takes the conversation off on a tangent and fails to respond to your remark, the broken record technique is very effective. When used correctly, with a calm and steady tone of voice, it helps the conversation to remain on point and maximizes the likelihood of the person responding to your comment. If this happens simply and calmly repeat your main point until the other person responds.

 

Negative assertion is a powerful assertiveness skill which can allow the person you are speaking with to feel heard and more validated. If the person criticizes you take time to honestly assess whether you agree with any of their points. If you do say so and explain what action you will take to avoid this behavior in future. For example, ‘I agree that at times my concentration is low and I shall endeavor to actively listen to you when you are explaining something to me in future’.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Assertiveness; A journey worth taking; Part Two

 

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Last week we uncovered three boundaries relevant to us using the technique of self-reflection. In order for us to communicate our boundaries effectively we first need to become assertive. When we act assertively we protect our boundaries and prevent others from taking advantage of us.

 

Generally those of us that are passive confuse assertiveness for aggression. In truth, there is a wide gap between assertive and aggressive behavior. Aggressiveness violates others boundaries and, in contrast, assertiveness sets out to respect others boundaries whilst also protecting our own personal needs.

 

There are four essential points to assertive communication. The first is to acknowledge what the other person has said. This helps them feel understood and makes them more receptive to what you have to say. For example, you could start using statements like ‘I understand you think…’ or ‘ I understand you believe…’.

 

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HIGHLIGHTS: Assertiveness; A journey worth taking; Part One

 

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The author Mandy Hale once said “It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.” This really resonated with me as there have been many times in the past I have allowed others to treat me badly in an attempt to be more likable. After taking assertiveness training I am relieved this is now less of an issue in my life, but I continue to learn every day.

 

What struck me most about my training was how common this issue seems to be for so many, and just how deeply it can affect us. If others continually take advantage of us the cost can be devastating. It can lower our self-esteem and confidence and, in some severe cases, even lead to depression. But how others treat us often seems so beyond our control, after all, how can we change other people? Fortunately, the answer actually lies within us. More

Wars of the Mind; How to Effectively Overcome Anxiety Part Four

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Last week we explored the lifestyle changes which serve to reduce anxiety. This week we delve into how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help us to halt thinking traps altogether with just a little practice.

 

Actively Axing Anxiety Through CBT

 

I cannot begin to tell you just how profound an impact CBT has had upon my life and this article would not be complete without my strongly encouraging you to read the free ‘Panic Stations’ CCI InfoPax as featured on my best resources page.

 

Whilst lifestyle choices can certainly lessen anxiety symptoms, if you want to see a vast improvement and learn how to effectively manage and considerably reduce your anxiety I would highly recommend working through this exceptional CBT workbook.

 

Within this workbook I would recommend taking the following modules:

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How to Liberate Yourself by Overcoming the 3 Blocks to Forgiveness Part One

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‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you’ Lewis B Smedes

 

There have been many times in my life when my forgiveness was needed. Times when people hurt me to my core – times that caused me to feel upset, betrayed and angry. In these moments I experienced the pain caused by holding onto my resentment too long, and discovered the intense relief and freedom that followed once I forgave.

 

According to Oxford Dictionaries, forgiveness can be defined as ‘To stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense, flaw or mistake’. What I like about this definition is that it focuses on the psychological process of releasing anger and resentment when forgiving, a profound psychological benefit enjoyed by those offering forgiveness.  More telling still is what the definition omits; at no point does it infer that forgiveness involves forgetting a transgression or condoning it whatsoever, which are both common misconceptions about forgiveness.

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The truth about forgiveness (and how it sets you free)

 

When I was younger I firmly believed that forgiveness meant accepting poor treatment from others – I had no real notion of what forgiveness really was. Forgiveness means releasing yourself from the poisonous emotions of pride (or the ego), humiliation, shame, hatred and resentment. It means letting go of all the pain and turmoil the other persons behavior has caused you so you are free and at peace.

 

When I first decided to forgive my bullies that had tormented me all those years ago I couldn’t believe all the hurt, pain and hatred I had been carrying around with me all those years.

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Common misconceptions about forgiveness (and why its so important you know them)

As someone who has struggled with forgiveness in the past, one of the main things that held me back and prevented me from finding peace was the misconceptions I had about forgiveness. I truly believed that forgiveness was akin to reconciling and accepting poor behavior.

 

Below are the most harmful misconceptions held about forgiveness:

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Are your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Here’s how to find out..

When faced with a threat our reptilian brain kicks in and throws us into flight fight or freeze mode. This is an automatic and instinctive response built into us from millennia ago when we had to scavenge for food and fight off lions to survive. The problem today is that this response still exists in us even though we very seldom need it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is mugged in the street it is a very useful reaction – essential for survival even – but often this fight, flight or freeze response is activated when we perceive a threat, regardless whether one exists or not.

 

For example, if I am at a party and I don’t know anyone, a fight, flight or freeze response isn’t really helpful. Likewise if someone makes a joke and I think it’s about me and jump straight into fight mode, what happens if it comes to light the joke was actually nothing to do with me? What happens when the treat that we perceive isn’t real?

 

Below are some questions to help you assess whether your anxieties and fears are based on real threats or not:

 

  • Is it possible that I have misinterpreted the situation?
  • Is it possible that I have misunderstood what has been said?
  • Is it possible that my perceived threat actually doesn’t exist in this circumstance? (E.g. everyone I don’t know at the party is welcoming and friendly)
  • If there is danger have reasonable precautions been taken to limit it? Do I find these precautions acceptable? Are there any facts that will ease my concern? (E.g. rollercoaster ride safety standards)

 

If there is any chance that your anxieties and fears are not based on real threats then you can try to avoid jumping into fight, flight or freeze mode by rationalizing that your fears are probably exaggerated. You can also limit your anxieties and fears by making a contingency plan for how you would react if your anxieties and fears surfaced. To construct such a plan, aim to answer the questions below but remember not to dwell on the contingency plan as this may feed into your fears, simply make one and then refocus on the task at hand.

 

  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How could I deal with this if it happens?
  • What could I do that I haven’t done in the past in response to my fears?
  • How can I limit my anxiety if the worst were to happen? (I.e. bring a friend)

 

How do you usually tell if your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Have you ever thought about it before? What are your anxieties and fears? Will you ask yourself any of the questions above? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

Feeling guilty? How to use guilt to your advantage!

Like anyone I’ve felt guilty from time to time. Interestingly I have a long standing history of confusing guilt for shame. When researching for this month’s series article on self-compassion I had an aha moment when I realized guilt was very different to shame. Shame by its very nature tells us that we are something wrong – a very destructive way of thinking and not helpful at all – whilst guilt signals that we’ve done something wrong, which incentivizes us to make amends and put the situation right. Guilt can also guide us to make better choices, serving as a barometer towards correcting our behavior in future.

 

To tell the difference between guilt and shame ask yourself the following questions, remembering that it is possible to be both guilty and ashamed.

 

  • Am I labeling myself in my head as a direct result of my behavior? (E.g. I’m a failure, I’m horrible, I’m incompetent)
  • Do I feel like I’m a horrible person as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel like a failure / incompetent / worthless as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel fatalistic, as if I will always be this way?

 

  • Do I feel a deep sense that I have behaved in the wrong way?
  • Do I feel as though I have made a mistake?
  • Do I feel as though I have used poor judgment?
  • Do I feel that I want to make amends for my behavior?
  • Do I feel bad for the person my behavior has effected?

 

If you answered yes to any of the top four questions you are likely in a state of shame and need to talk through what happened with a trusted and supportive friend who can reassure you that you are not what you may be labeling yourself to be.

 

As Brene Brown says…

 

“If you put shame in a Petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and you douse it with empathy you create an environment that’s hostile to shame.”

 

If you answered yes to any of the last five questions you are probably experiencing guilt. Although uncomfortable, feeling guilty can be a very good thing because it gives you the opportunity to make amends for and correct your behavior. Think about what you can do to make things right and then act on it, remembering that some people will not be receptive to an apology but that the most important thing by far is that you have done everything you can to say sorry and rectify your behavior so that it isn’t repeated.

 

Have you ever felt guilty and did it serve as a motivator to correct your behavior? Can you relate to feeling ashamed and how destructive an emotion it is? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community.

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