I don’t know whether it was nature, nurture, or maybe a bit of both that made me a “people pleaser.”
All I know is that deep down, I often felt a sense of responsibility towards other people’s happiness. It’s not a bad thing in itself to be sympathetic and empathetic towards others, but what an exhausting pursuit!
It was only later in life that I realized that the only way to mitigate my disappointment when I wasn’t able to please everyone (since as the adage says, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”) was to develop better boundaries. When I did, not only was I better able to focus my attention where it mattered most, but it helped me to maintain a sense of harmony within myself.
But when I look back at my formative years, what pop culture role models did I have to understand the mechanics of boundary setting? When I think back to some of the TV shows I watched while growing up, boundary setting was certainly not a recurring theme. Continue reading
I’d like to think that I treat people with kindness, class, respect and dignity. The only thing is that being consistent in that regard can become difficult when that treatment is not reciprocated. Similarly, it is hard to be gracious when I am met with negativity and judgement.
As I found out, I seem to be quite sensitive to the energy around me. Negative energy can be pretty contagious.
That being the case, I often found myself stepping back from certain situations and wondering to myself, “Am I being too sensitive”?
Intuitively, to survive in our sometimes not-so-kind world, I managed to develop a thick skin and just enough armour to make my way through life without getting trampled or taken advantage of… most times. And those who did cross the line remained on my “naughty” list for years to follow. Some might call it a grudge, but I prefer to call it a defense mechanism to prevent it from happening again.
As I head into the second half of my life, I realize that being empathetic, kind-hearted and sensitive is my natural way of being, and that’s OK. My challenge is that I tend to be overly sensitive to others’ feelings, and that I worry about it… a lot. And then my resilience pays the price.
Most time, it is not a horrible problem in itself. What a wonderful world it would be if people actually did take a moment to care a little more about others rather than taking people down a peg, giving people a piece of their mind, and losing sight of the fact that we are all human beings. Continue reading
A few months ago, I published a blog post about my anxiety and the signs that it was time to reach out for help. I knew that by speaking with a therapist, someone outside of my immediate circle, I wouldn’t feel like I was dumping or oversharing. In addition, I thought that a professional might be better able to suggest solutions to problems that seemed to come back again and again.
Little did I know how much better I would feel one year later:
I always knew I was a sensitive guy, but I didn’t quite understand to what extent. I learned to strike a happy medium in allowing myself to be the sensitive guy that I am without feeling that I was out of sync with everyone else.
As much as my triggers for anxiety seemed random and unrelated, they really do stem from a few specific events in the distant past. With the help of my therapist, I am working through those and trying to curb the anxiety response.
A pattern of lack of assertiveness emerged. Now that I know, I have been gently nudging myself into being more assertive in specific circumstances.
I learned that saying no (politely, firmly and without getting emotional) was a valid response that should not be feared when I really want to say no.
I learned that setting boundaries and calmly enforcing boundaries that were not respected, are an essential part of living and survival.
Even in the last few weeks, I find myself proactively drawing lines in the sand because once the boundaries are articulated, out in the open and agreed upon, life is a lot easier when uncertainty is removed from the equation. Continue reading
When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.
I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.
Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.
I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.
Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.
But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common. Continue reading