Category: self-help

How to Live With a Narcissist

Does your partners’ every conversation revolve around her/himself, or do they chronically take credit for things they had nothing to do with?  You may be living with a person who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD build a fantastical overinflated image of themselves from which they navigate their lives.  They have a heightened sense of superiority and self-importance. People often describe a narcissist as pompous, arrogant, manipulative, and cocky. Yet, a narcissist can lure you in with their grandiose fantasies and charm.  Needless to say, it is challenging to create healthy intimate relationships with those who have NPD, but not impossible.

People suffering with NPD are often unconscious to, and want to avoid their buried feelings of insecurity, which is the root cause of their narcissistic behavior. They do this by creating delusions of grandeur in order to mask their feelings of inadequacy. Despite their inner hidden feelings of shame and of not being enough, their attitudes and conduct do not get a pass; they are responsible for them.  One of the first things you can do is identify behavior that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Because narcissists lack empathy for others, it is difficult for them to listen. It is hard for them to sympathize with the pain and suffering of others, you included. Rather than explaining bad behavior away, it is essential to set and stand up for your boundaries and needs.

Once you have established boundaries, guard them closely for the narcissist is used to being the one in control and will rebel.  They are extremely resistant to change. They may even resort to name calling or rage, walk away and stand your ground. Don’t tolerate abusive language or behavior, there is never a good excuse for it.  It is not normal or okay for a partner to dominate and demand constant attention and admiration.  Nor is normal for a partner to be overly critical while at the same time never being able to admit their own faults or misconduct. You can alter your response to these narcissistic behaviors by establishing very clear boundaries that you adhere to out of respect for yourself. Write them down and then begin to implement them. Eventually like a well-tended garden, your efforts will yield resolve and self-confidence and perhaps a more balanced relationship.  

Separate reality and fiction.  People with NPD have a tendency to blame their partners for anything that goes wrong and for any of their shortcomings. They distort the truth.  Remember, narcissists often try to defend their inflated self-image and will lie when they deem fit to keep it propped up. They tend to feel entitled to whatever it is they want and when it does not happen, they often lash out and condemn you.  Redirect the truth by pointing out simple realities and facts in a way that does not shame the narcissist. Role model what it looks like to admit failures, pointing out the lessons that can be learned, but don’t expect the narcissist to have an immediate about face.  It will take time and consistency for them to realize that they can safely let go of having to be right all of the time. That in our failures we learn to stretch and evolve into a fuller human being.

In order to preserve your own self-worth while living with a narcissist, it is essential to deflect any projection of who you are as a person.  In other words, a narcissist may make belittling comments slowing chipping away at your self-esteem. “Oh you are so lazy, you’re lucky you have me, no one else would want you. If it wasn’t for you, I would be further along in my career.”  You get the point. Feed your self-esteem by spending time with others that are positive and uplifting. Validate yourself by living the life that you want, follow your dreams and passions. Equally important is to let go of the false stories in your head that the narcissist may have planted.  By knowing who you are as a person, it’s much easier to redirect undeserved blame.

Realize the narcissist’s blame is not really about you at all, it’s about their protecting the image of themselves.  As tough as it is to take unwarranted criticism, remember that you have nothing to do with it. If you imagine holding up a mirror, know that the narcissist is really talking about himself or herself.

Denying the bad behavior of a narcissist will not make it go away.  Ask yourself if being in the relationship is what you really want. If you want to keep this person in your life, start by gently beginning to speak out against their behavior.  Stay focused on how the behavior makes you feel.  Narcissist want admirers, railing over all of their faults and poor conduct will unnerve them.  A kind and gentle approach will have a more powerful and positive impact.

Take time to construct real answers to questions such as how will you enforce your boundaries.  What has not worked in the past? Look at the balance of power in your relationship, how will that be impacted?  What do you want from the relationship? Is your love real or are you in the relationship for other reasons? Sincere reflecting will help you create a realistic plan for the changes you want to make. Be patient with yourself.  Cultivate wholesome relationships with friends (outside of the narcissist’s inner circle) where there is a true ebb and flow of give and take. Notice how that feels.

Narcissists can change, if they want to. They can learn to listen, to follow through with their promises, and to be more engaged with your needs and desires. It would be unhealthy for you to live your life waiting for this if the person suffering from NPD has no interest in working on their behaviors with a psychotherapist or couples counselor.   

Ultimately, deciding how much of your time and energy you want to spend in/on this relationship is paramount. Search within yourself so that you live a happy joyful life.


Setting Goals

Around this time each year, we’re facing the fact that our New Year’s Resolutions may not be as achievable as we once thought. In fact, nearly 92% of people don’t achieve New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not because people aren’t motivated, and it’s not because the resolutions they set weren’t “good enough.” Most people believe they are motivated, and their resolutions are based in wonderful ideas of self-improvement. We genuinely want to work toward personal growth and to start building the life we want. So why is it so difficult to achieve goals?

The reason we find it so difficult to achieve goals stems from how we set them.

When we set goals, we often are focused on a few things:

  • What we’ve heard works for other people.
  •  An arbitrary threshold to meet.

Usually, we aren’t even aware that we’re doing this. Some examples are:

  • We decide we want to lose 15 pounds, although there is no basis for the number “15” – it’s just one we chose.
  • We set a goal to go to yoga three times a week, although we’re not sure if three times will be enough or too much/too few times to
    practice and gain benefits.
  • We’ve read an article, blog post, or book that’s inspired a goal – like running a certain distance, saying three things we like about our partner each day, etc.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these goals. They’re wonderful! However, if they do not resonate with you or hold meaning for you, then they’ll be significantly harder to achieve.

Focus on the Outcome You Want to Achieve – Then Set a Goal

Instead of setting difficult goals for yourself, and feeling deflated when you find they’re harder to work towards than you thought they’d be, let’s try something different. Focus on the outcome first, then set the goals you’d need to achieve to reach that desired outcome. The “outcome” you’re working toward likely isn’t tangible. Although your goal is to lose weight, the desired outcome is increased self-esteem and better physical and emotional health. Focusing on the life changes you want and setting goals that lead to those changes will help you to stick with them. Once you have decided upon an outcome, set goals that can be measured.

For example, you might want to feel more connected to your partner. A goal that could help you achieve that feeling would be to commit to a once-a-week coffee date outside of the home where you catch each other up on what’s going on in your lives. You may already have these conversations casually but setting aside dedicated time can help you feel connected.

Setting goals does not have to be a stressful process. By focusing on what you want your life to look like as a first step, the goals you want to stick to will fall naturally into place.


All About Feelings

Feelings are a tricky thing. There’s a lot of talk out there about getting in touch with them, understanding where they stem from, and knowing when and how to communicate them effectively. However, this can be hard to do if you’re not sure where to begin your journey toward emotional awareness.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

We live in a world that values positivity. Everywhere you look, you see signs reading “positive vibes only.” There are hundreds of books and articles available to us that focus on how to find happiness, joy, satisfaction in your work, and everlasting love. But we’re rarely armed with the information we need to understand, process, and communicate negative emotions.

As you’re working to be more emotionally aware, it’s important to understand that sometimes you’ll experience negative feelings – and that’s okay. The sooner we acknowledge those feelings, understand where they’re coming from, and talk about them honestly, the sooner we’ll be able to feel “okay” about not feeling “okay.”

Do You Know What You’re Feeling?

Another common thing we do when looking at our feelings is to mis-name them. We may feel content but call it happy. We may feel annoyed and call it angry. Generalizing specific emotions can be harmful, and it puts you at a disadvantage when trying to better understand how you feel (and why you feel that way).

Next time you’re experiencing a feeling (positive or negative), describe it inwardly. Be as specific as possible. For example, if you’re having a rough morning, and feel as though everything’s working against you to get out the door to work, you may think you feel angry. But are you?

More than likely, you’re experiencing many feelings simultaneously. You may feel annoyed that your alarm clock didn’t go off, hurt that your significant other didn’t wake you when they noticed you weren’t out of bed at your usual time, frustrated that you can’t find your keys – there are many different feelings happening all at once, and each are caused by something else.

Communication Is Key

Once you start taking time to truly give a name to each feeling you experience, you’re better prepared to communicate them to the people
around you. When entering these conversations, especially with loved ones, it’s important to remain honest and calm. Know that you are not your feelings. If you feel hurt by a partner, communicate that while you’re not always hurt, you feel that way right now.

Embracing the idea that feelings are moments that come and go can help you to express how you feel without boiling over or pushing others away. You can also be open about why you feel a certain way. This can often help couples reach a sense of understanding with one another and accept each other’s feelings without judgement. It can also help to reduce negative feelings toward one another in the future.


Living on Your Own

More and more lately I see and hear about people who are choosing to live on their own. Some of these people have never been in a long-term
relationship (or married). They have elected to live on their own – and not engage in a romantic relationship, or even the kind of friendship that could evolve into a living situation. They often have a significant person in their life and choose not to live together. While others have ‘friends with benefits’ to satisfy their sexual desires. There are many options.

Living on your own can be a time of immense self-discovery, self-love, and positive independence. Conversely, living with a significant other can be a time of deep connection, learning, and growing while becoming closer to someone you care about. Imago relationship theory is based on the premise that we grow best by being in a relationship. That only in a relationship with a significant other can we heal any childhood wounds that we may have and grow fully.

There are positives in both situations, and only you can determine what living situation is healthiest for you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Exploring the positive and negative elements of living alone will help you decide what is best for you.

Living alone has some significantly positive psychological benefits.

  • It encourages independence and self-sufficiency.
  • It promotes interior solitude.
  • It helps to reduce your feelings of loneliness by building up your capacity to be alone.
  • Solitude can help to restore and reenergize you.
  • There is less chance for uncomfortable conflict when you can keep your home anyway you like.

While living alone can be peaceful (and you’ll never argue over what you’re having for dinner, or what music you listen to), it has a few negative aspects to consider.

  • You may miss the companionship of sharing a space with another
    individual.
  • When you are in a relationship, you can either be in the relationship
    or you can be right – you cannot be both. Living alone allows you to
    be – and always stay – “right.” There is nobody in your space to
    challenge your beliefs.
  • The kind of sharing, that comes from living with and building
    relationships with people we care about is something that comes with
    practice. Living with a significant other can help us build these
    internal connections.

There comes a time in all our lives when living on our own is appealing, usually when we graduate high school. It may even be necessary for a time while we grow to be comfortable on our own, and in our own skin. It can be helpful in developing a sense of independence, or it can help us find joy in simply being.

On the other hand: conflict and compromise often are what help us stretch and grow into the very best version of ourselves. The truth is, there is no right answer as to whether you want to live with a roommate or partner, or on your own. Both situations come with drawbacks, but both present you with opportunities to grow and learn more about who you are as an individual.

So, what do you do? My suggestion: embrace where you are in life. Listen to your own heart, and confidently go in the direction that will provide you with what you need right now. You deserve to be joyful and to find a deeper, truer version of you – find a living situation that allows you space to do just that.


Age is Just a Number

I was meditating recently when I had an incredible realization – I am ten years younger than I actually am. Of course, this realization was unusual. It’s not as though I have the ability to turn back time, or to jump back ten years to relive the past decade. But still, the thought came over me and I couldn’t shake it. And you know what? The oddest thing happened.

I felt amazing for the rest of the day. There was a renewed energy in my thoughts and actions. I felt physically and emotionally better. It almost felt like, well, I was ten years younger.

That’s when it occurred to me – lately I have been dwelling on the idea of my best years being behind me. During my meditation, I realized this doesn’t have to be true. Age is just a number.

Society often assigns negative or positive connotations to our age. We take
these societal ideas to heart – feeling hurt or somehow less than we once were as the years go by. As this isn’t a positive way of looking at things, realize that; you are as youthful, joyful, and content as you believe you are. You are in full control of how you feel – both about your body, your mind, and your life. Your physical age doesn’t need to have an impact on how you view yourself.

Many people use their age to measure themselves, or their success in life. Instead, we should reframe how we view ourselves (and our win’s – big and small). If we are content with ourselves, with where we’re at in life, our age has no bearing on that. If we’re not content with where we’re at – whether we’re young or old – we have the power to change things.

No matter how many years we have behind or ahead of us, they’re all equally wonderful. Let’s celebrate each one.


Hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.            

                                                                             ….Martin Luther King Jr.

As 2017 is coming to a close, you may recall the highs and lows of the year and wonder where on earth the time went.  During the hectic holiday season, it is easy to get swooped up by the current of celebrations that can at times feel overwhelming, but perhaps take a moment to step back to the banks of what this all represents.  What do all of the ceremonies and traditions mean to you?  Obviously, that answer is unique and personal, but regardless of different perspectives the current of hope connects us all.  

Whether you participate in Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or simply enjoy the seasonal lights, trees and decorations, the concept of hope resounds. One of the reasons many people participate in traditions is because they believe they’re important for renewing a sense of belonging and restoring hope for the future.  Many traditions are meant to be a respite for the modern world, to step back and reconnect with loved ones.  But what if you don’t feel hopeful despite the festivities?  Maybe you are burned out from a stressful career, a break up, or an aging parent who now needs you? It is possible to renew your sense of hope amid despair or challenges.

First of all, hope is essential to human beings for survival.  Hope is blind to difference it is not dependent on social status or income, it is not reserved for the few–it is a birthright.  One-way to jumpstart your hope is to set simple achievable goals.   Rather than laboring over a grandiose list, take baby steps.  Maybe you want to take the holiday celebrations down a notch or two, you want to switch out the pressure of gift giving for volunteering or getting together for a pot luck and a silly gift exchange or you want to reemphasize the spiritual.  Find a step-by-step way to achieve the goal. Invite friends, keep it simple and let others contribute.  You will probably be surprised how many people are happy and grateful, this in turn gives you hope that change is always possible.  You can revise the status quo.

Perhaps you want to go back to college in the next year or find a new job.  Begin to talk to the counselors or department heads, learn everything you can about different programs that appeal to you and set a date to start the application process.  If change in career is what you’re after, take a step in that direction, talk to others find out what you need to get started.  Hope will revive when you picture your possibilities, then as you begin to do things towards that goal, hope like oxygen to a fire, will fuel itself.  

In the book “The Anatomy of Hope.” Dr. Jerome Groopman, found that researchers discovered the power of hope to change the chemistry of your brain. “Belief and expectation are the key elements of hope. When people experience hope, they can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins.”

Surround yourself with people that believe in you, that give you hope and sincere positive reinforcement. Stay clear of chronic naysayers, particularly if you are on the mend to building your hope back up. Repeat hope mantras such as, “I can” daily.  Post sticky notes that restate your right to hope, to become, to believe in whatever you want.  Words and thoughts are powerful, by surrounding your psyche with positive people and mental images, hope will bloom and cheer you to the finish line.

As the holiday season continues, take a moment to remember that with each setting sun comes a sunrise and we are reminded that with hope, all things are possible.   


Small Acts of Self-Care

Starting to incorporate self-care into your routine can positively impact your outlook, productivity, self-perception, and interactions with others. But during busy seasons of life it may feel like a challenge to set aside time in your days to practice self-care. Luckily, there are many small ways to weave self-care into your schedule – some of which you may not have considered before!

#1: Read a Book

Turn off your phone, step away from your laptop, and crack a book you’ve been wanting to read for a while.

#2: Take Yourself to a Show

Whether you prefer live music, or you want to see the latest movie in theaters, take yourself out on the town. Work can always wait – and you’ll appreciate getting out of the house to decompress.

#3: Take a 5-Minute Break

Short on time? Try a 5-minute meditation break. Take deep breaths, clear your mind, and pull yourself out of stress and into the present moment.

#4: Eat Well

When you’re in a busy season of life, eating habits can slip. Try to prepare healthy snacks and meals for yourself ahead of time or at the beginning of the week. You deserve to eat healthy, filling food to fuel you through your day.

#5: Dance

Relaxed breaks can be calming, but the endorphins released during movement can be equally beneficial. Take a few minutes at the end of your day and sway to your favorite song.

Self-care doesn’t have to be the stereotyped examples you read about in magazines. You can find a system that works for you – whatever that looks like. Care for yourself in a way that brings joy and peace to your mind, body, and soul.


How to Unplug

In today’s world, we often get caught in a social media comparison trap. No matter how engaged we are with our own lives, or how content we are in our day-to-day, we see the highlight reel that friends and family share online and feel inadequate. This comparison can lead to increased anxiety, frustration, and overwhelming dissatisfaction.

Though social media can be beneficial when it comes to reconnecting with distant friends or family members and staying up-to-date, it can be beneficial to unplug.

“Unplugging” may be harder than it sounds. We tend to develop a reliance on technology, and our social media feeds are no exception. If it helps you, start small.

Start by leaving your phone in your bag or pocket while you go on a walk. Or turn it off before you go to bed – filling your pre-sleep time with book reading or listening to music instead of scrolling through Facebook.

As time goes on, challenge yourself to let go even more. Enjoy an event without taking photos to post online. Or take a weekend away – and send all social media apps to ‘the cloud’ for that weekend; to truly connect with your experiences. After the weekend you can download them from ‘the cloud’ as you wish.

Unplugging can be a healthy practice that has a colossal positive impact on your life. When you do choose to “plug in” you’ll be much more likely to enjoy social media the way it was intended – to appreciate and celebrate the highlights of life and to connect with those you love.  


Choose Your Best Self

Do you ever feel as if your life has come to a grinding halt, as if stuck in the mud with no idea how to get out?  Are you working a job you dislike but are afraid to leave, or in a dead end relationship? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.  Even in these modern times where choices abound, many of us are too fearful or complacent to bust a move, to take a risk.  The good news is you don’t have to stay stuck; by taking a few steps at a time you can begin living the life you envision.

First, get very clear what you want to let go of and what you want to take on.  Ignore listening to the nagging thoughts that say, “you can’t”. Simply write down all of your ideas regardless of obstacles that you perceive    Pauline Kael, a film critic who wrote for the New Yorker magazine once said, “If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it.  Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door to keep it open.”  In other words, don’t allow limiting thoughts to stop you from achieving, and moving forward.  Often the obstacles we imagine are simply self-imposed restrictions.

Start where you’re at, challenges and all.  If traveling is your goal, save money work a little extra, if it’s going back to college, start with perquisites online, if it’s a new job, make a new resume and send out five a week.  Invest in yourself, human beings are dynamic, our cells are in constant movement, we can create change and free ourselves from those habits and thoughts or behaviors that limit our life.  Take scissor and cut the cords that keep you stuck.  Perhaps that means letting go of perfectionism by allowing yourself to stop being afraid of making a mistake.  Mistakes can be our greatest teachers.

Post positive encouragement around you, make “I can do this” sticky notes and put them everywhere.  We all need positive feedback, but when there’s no one there to give it, seek it out for yourself.  Listen to guided meditations and read articles that inspire you. And most important, protect yourself from naysayers.  Family and friends can unintentionally sabotage our desires by expressing their own fears and judgements, but they have nothing to do with you. Find like-minded folks who have made the trek from fear to freedom.  Share your doubts and ask for advice, not that you have to take it, but useful insight is fantastic for it can fuel you when you’re feeling low or depleted.

Even if you take baby steps, they are steps towards changing your life.  Do an inquiry on yourself, ask why is it difficult to take risks, what in your life taught you to play it safe?  Once we become aware of the source of patterns, we can begin to revise the script.  Put the old tapes in the garage and see yourselves as the writer, doctor, mother, that you want to be.  Dare to dream, and make your dreams come true.  Face the fear head on, shake hands with it and bid it on its way.  When fear sneaks back at your mind’s doorstep, remind yourself that you no longer have to let it in.  Acknowledge it, then dismiss it.

Live your way into life, sitting around thinking about change doesn’t bring it on action does, whether it’s about exercise, eating healthy, or finding a new career.  You deserve to be the person that you are meant to be.  Everyone has gifts to share and once you acknowledge yours, put pursuing your dreams on top of your priority list.


The Positive Psychological Effects of Exercise

Exercise, or simply movement, has a wide range of positive effects. Physically, moving your body throughout the day, rather than sitting sedentary, can help you tremendously. Movement increases blood flow, improves breathing, supplements heart health, and more. But what about the psychological effects of exercise?

Studies have shown that exercise, or low-impact movement, can improve your mental health as well as your physical. Exercise can be used to supplement treatment of mild to moderate depression. It can be used to counteract anxiety, and it can greatly reduce stress.

Additionally, regular movement can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD and PTSD. Even if your life isn’t greatly impacted by any of these things, exercise can still result in stronger emotional resilience, sharper memory, higher self-worth, a better night’s sleep, and more energy throughout your day.

I don’t want you to think that I’m advocating that you set out to run a marathon tomorrow! If you’re just getting started incorporating exercise into your life – start small. Twenty to thirty minutes of movement a day is often enough to reap the physical benefits of exercise and release the endorphins that help you sleep better, overcome feelings of anxiety or depression, build emotional resilience, and more.

Most importantly, I encourage you to find a form of movement that brings you joy. The easiest way to incorporate movement into your life is to look forward to the activity. Schedule time out of your busy day for a bike ride to the park, or walk to work in the morning and enjoy the sunrise. If you enjoy cardio work, try signing up for a 5k that benefits a charity that’s near and dear to your heart. If you prefer low-impact exercise, consider yoga or tai chi.

The exercise you choose needs to speak to you and fill you with a sense of accomplishment and joy. Your options are endless, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Take a class, practice a new form of exercise in your home, or simply have a dance in your kitchen while you cook yourself dinner. You never know when you’ll stumble upon a form of movement that positively impacts your life and your mental health! Embrace the experience!