What to Do When You Feel Invisible

When you find yourself in any situation where you feel invisible, ask yourself what has happened, and what you are really feeling: left out at social gatherings like parties or family get-togethers? Not paid attention to when you speak, or having your opinions discounted? Isolated because of your age? Excluded by your married friends because you are alone? Ignored for gender reasons, particularly if you are a woman?

These are different kinds of invisibility, so try not to let them blend into each other. Only when you understand what you’re feeling, can you find a solution. Here are a few steps that may help.

Step 1: Take responsibility. It’s too easy to blame others, and that never works. Even the people who are closest to you aren’t responsible for how you feel. By taking responsibility, you can completely turn your perspective around. “My kids never call anymore” can be turned into “I’m glad my kids don’t feel burdened by me.”

Step 2: Look at your situation objectively. Most of us get wrapped up in our own emotions, and when you feel resentful, alone or anxious, you are too vulnerable to do what you need to do. Try looking at your situation as if it’s not happening to you but to a friend who has asked you for advice.

Step 3: First, sit down with a pencil and paper and make a list of situations where you feel invisible. At parties? At home? With friends? At restaurants? With younger people? With couples? With your family? At work? Now make three columns. The first column will include things you really want to change. The second will include things you want to change but feel slightly less urgent about. The third is the place for things that it would be nice to change but that aren’t crucial or don’t need to be addressed right this second. Now, insert each of the situations into the proper column.

Step 4: Wait a day or two, and then return to your list to check if you still agree with the priorities you set down. It also helps, at this point, to consult a confidant. Don’t pick a friend or family member who will try to dismiss your problem and tell you that everything’s fine. (They will secretly think you are trying to guilt-trip them). Also, avoid people who are in the habit of telling others what they want to hear. The best choice is someone who has experienced the same situation that you are in and has successfully found a solution.

Step 5: Make an action plan for each of your columns. This is necessary even if column #3 doesn’t feel like a pressing issue. The point of this step is to exercise your imagination. The more ideas you can devise, the freer you can be from getting stuck. Write down as many creative solutions as you can think of. Take your time. There’s no deadline, and you can return to this step over a few days, if that’s what it takes. Feel free to brainstorm with other people, making sure that they realize your intention isn’t to lean on them, but to arrive at your own independent solution.

Here are a few examples that may help jump-start the process. For instance:

Symptom: Neglected at parties.

Solutions: Simple behavioral changes are usually what’s needed, as follows:

Come prepared with topics, such as the most recent news stories.

Keep standing: Sitting down means that you are avoiding contact. Use a tried-and-true tactic: Walk up to someone, introduce yourself and ask them what they do for a living.

Eavesdrop on conversations, and if you hear one that’s interesting, walk up and say, “What you’re talking about really interests me. Can I join you?” Move from room to room, looking around with an interested gaze. When you meet someone’s eyes, smile. If they smile back, walk up and engage. If you feel sorry for yourself as the evening goes on, leave. You have better ways to fill your time, and parties aren’t for you.

Symptom: Not paid attention to by family.

Solutions: A little analysis is needed here. This symptom is frequently a variation of familiarity breeds neglect. You have allowed yourself to be put into a box. Other family members react in one of two ways: They leave you in your box because it’s the easiest thing to do, or they leave you in your box because they assume you like being there. If you complain about feeling neglected, then complaining becomes your box.

The solution is to approach someone in your family whom you trust, tell them how left out you feel and ask how you are viewed by the family. In other words, discover which box you have been placed in. Once you have a reasonable answer, you can begin to change their perception. If you are seen, for example, as quiet, accepting, unobtrusive and useful only when others need something from you, turn the tables. Start talking, speak up for yourself and ask others to help you for a change.

Symptom: Friends no longer seem close.

Solutions: Friendships start to fray for two reasons: The first is that you and your friend are no longer in the same place. One or the other has moved on, which happens. The second is that a hidden grievance has been simmering and eventually created a rupture.

Both of these things can be corrected, but it takes both of you to do that. So you need to have a candid discussion. Choose a comfortable time and place. Don’t bring up your hurt or resentful feelings while you are having them. Once you sit down, state the problem clearly and then immediately ask for feedback: “I don’t think we’re as close as we used to be. How do you feel?” That’s an intimate question, and the other person will usually be startled. But you will be fine as long as you avoid the big turnoffs that kill an honest discussion, which are (1) making a speech right off the bat (2) blaming the other person (3) whining or acting victimized and, (4) showing that you don’t actually care about your friend’s point of view.

You must avoid these mistakes, and if your friend resorts to these discussion-killers, walk away as soon as you are able. You’ve tapped into some kind of resentment or defensiveness that is blocking a solution. But, don’t give up. Returning tactfully to the issue will often work, because your friend has had time to think.

Your aim is to establish whether the two of you are moving apart, or if there is an unresolved issue. Once this has been determined, and you both agree, that’s enough progress for one meeting. Now go home and decide if you want to get on the same page and move in a new direction together, or if the underlying issue can be worked through. I’ve only described the start of how to renew a flagging friendship, but it’s these initial steps that are the most important.

Feeling invisible is a condition you can change with time, effort and creativity. You deserve to be noticed, cared for and valued. All you need to do is to learn the tactics that make these expectations become a reality.


Be in the Moment!

It is too easy to get consumed by the daily tasks of being a mom, running a business, taking care of the home, organizing meals, and losing touch with the here and now. It’s easy to find yourself planning out the many other things on your to-do list while you are spending time with your kids. This can cause one to lose the moment. Time goes by so quickly, and in a flash, the many moments that make up “life” are gone. There will always be work to do, always chores to finish, deadlines and responsibilities to live up to. However, moments with your children, friends or family will have a much more lasting impression on everyone if you are fully present. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, so be conscious of the moment you are in, breathe it in and savor the experience for what it is.

TAKE ACTION!

1. Out of sight – out of mind

This week try to be aware of the moment for what it is. Keep work at work, and when you are home, really enjoy the time with your loved ones. Play just for the sake of playing. Realize that your work will get done when you designate time for work, at the office. Schedule time to just “be” and put work issues out of your mind, even if for just a short moment.

2. Be in the moment

Say the phrase “Be in the moment” when you find yourself thinking of other things. When playing with your children, enjoying alone time with a significant other, taking a walk, just “be” and relish what you are doing. The more you practice this week, the more natural it will become in your life.

3. Have fun!

Being in the moment will take on a life of its own. Try to bring fun back into everything you do. The more you balance work and play, the more productive and aware you will be in everything you do.

4. Prioritize

This week focus on prioritizing your time. It is easier to “be in the moment” when you know everything else will get done.  Plan your week so you have enough allotted time for work, work-related issues, and play. That way you can fully enjoy each of them knowing the rest won’t be pushed aside.

Silence Your Fears and Begin Succeeding!!

Most of you live life with certain goals or dreams—whether it’s that big house or getting that promotion or being a good friend—there are things you want to achieve in your lifetime, to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful.

But how many of you are actively pursuing those dreams? Do you let them linger in the back of your mind, hoping that one day you’ll finally go after them? Is fear of failure something that’s holding you back?

Well, it’s time to stop fearing failure. Silence your inner critic and start chasing your dreams!

Here are 5 tips to help you come face-to-face with your fears and tell them, boldly…You will not stand in my way today.

  1. Define your failure. What does it mean for you to “fail?” Never trying? Giving up earlier than you had hoped? Not getting the outcome you expected… in a specific time frame? It may not seem obvious, but until you define specifically what failure means to you, it will stand as a barrier to your success.
  2. Distinguish what is a real vs. a perceived threat. Fear is a response to our body’s need to survive dangerous situations. Real threats are dangerous to our survival. For instance, fear of getting caught in the middle of gang fight, where you could get seriously injured, is a real threat whereas fear of competing in a half marathon is an imagined threat. The feeling of fear may be real, but more often than not, the actual threat is not and it hinders your ability to move forward.
  3. Set “approach” targets vs. “avoidance” targets. Approach targets involve achieving a certain outcome whereas avoidance targets involve avoiding specific end results. For instance, “I am going to the gym to stay strong and fit” vs. “I am going to the gym to avoid heart disease and bone loss.” Approach targets set you up for a positive affirmation, whereas avoidance targets have been shown to lead to anxiety, decreased self-confidence and personal control, and less satisfaction while pursuing targets. Think about this as focusing on what you do want rather than what you don’t.
  4. Be flexible with the outcome. Those who adjust their targets and desired outcome to changing circumstances report better mental health and well-being. You can keep your eye on a positive outcome, but be open to changing your targets as necessary—some just require flexibility.
  5. Believing you will prevail. Our fear of failure is often less about our ability to execute, and more about the consequences if we don’t achieve our targets. Consequences may include feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy, losing influence, or disappointing others. However, we can change this by identifying which consequences we’re most afraid of, and then building skills to help manage those consequences. Ultimately, it’s not about wishing for a specific, positive outcome, but about feeling confident that we can handle the consequences that come along with our actions.

Managing fear and accepting the consequences of failure are important to personal growth and transformation. No one succeeds all the time. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Persevering in the face of fear is what it means to be strong. Persevering after success has been achieved, though, is what makes you magical.

Emotional Eating

STOP THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

One of the worst patterns a dieter can fall into is negative self-talk – the inner voice that tells you you’ll never reach your goal, you deserve a chocolate bar because you’ve had a hard day, you’ve already blown your diet so you might as well order the cheesecake, and so on.

If you’re a victim of negative thinking, a little cognitive reordering may be just the ticket for you. This type of intervention involves identifying your sabotaging thoughts, questioning their validity, and then taking positive action to change things.

Maybe you can identify with someone who constantly thinks, “I’ve always been heavy, I’ll always be heavy. I’ve tried a million diets, and they just don’t work for me.” Rather than writing off any possibility of success, you are far better off questioning why past diets have not worked for you and thinking about alternative approaches to weight loss.

First off, you might want to review all the diets you’ve tried to see if they failed because they were unreasonable to begin with. If it turns out that they were extreme (no carbs, no fat, no sugar) or bizarre (cabbage soup morning, noon, and night), you can respond to your inner antagonist by saying, “Maybe if I use a healthy, realistic, and sustainable approach, I will reach my goals.” If you feel you’re already making informed food choices, you might consider focusing on exercise as your primary weight-loss tool, along with sound eating. Or, if emotional eating is standing in your way, perhaps you should redirect your efforts towards working through the issues that lead you to self-medicate with food, so you’re in a better mindset to address your weight issues.

Whatever your situation may be, the important thing is to take those negative thoughts and turn them into positive action. The single most important ingredient for successful weight loss is to believe in yourself and set forth with a can-do attitude. Are you ready to try this new approach?

Ridding Your Life of Baggage

This is by far my favorite time of year. You can feel the chill in the air, see the beauty of the leaves changing color and witness God‘s magic. As the leaves fall from the comfort of the trees, new leaves will be reborn next spring. This is the perfect time to take a look at your own life — which areas need to be buried and reborn with a fresh perspective. Are there aspects of yourself that you would rather move away from? Are there parts of your life that you would like to create a clean slate? What part of your life would you dream of comparing to the falling of the leaves?

You would be able to let go of everything draining and consuming in your life and replace it with fresh, full-of-life energy. Why not let go of all tasks, people and responsibilities that deplete you, and replace them with those things that fill you up and bring you joy. You can, once again, wait until next year, next week, or next month, to get started, or you can begin today. As fall comes and goes every year, you, too, can take advantage once a year of ridding your life of toxic baggage and replacing it with what excites you and fulfills you.

Steps to take action:

1. Let it go

Which parts of your life are taxing and all-consuming? Divide your life into sections if it makes it easier; career, family, relationships, etc…What can you let go of?  If something in your life creates more negativity and stress than feel-good energy, you might want to consider letting it go.

2. Your priorities

What do you value above all else in your life? Family…career…health and well-being? Make a list from the most important to the least important. How is your time currently being spent? Is your time going toward activities and responsibilities that are not high on your priority list? Maybe it is time to take a closer look at where you are putting your energy. Over-extending yourself, due to not prioritizing, only depletes you of the energy you need for the things that fulfill you. Do not be afraid to ask others for help, so you don’t take on more than you can handle. Over-extending yourself affects you and everyone in your life, in a negative way.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have what you need to take care of others.

3. Have fun!

When making changes in your life, it can become all-consuming. It is important to create “fun” time or “me” time amidst all the craziness. Schedule it in like any other appointment or commitment. You need time to relax and wind down. Make this a priority this week. This time is crucial in rejuvenating yourself to continue forward.

5 Ways to Let Go of Past Hurts

 

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.

Making the decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below).

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

3. Stop being the victim and blaming others.

Being the victim feels good — it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters.” Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy.

In every moment, you have that choice — to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you — in the past — have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

4. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________.”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

5. Forgive them — and yourself.

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did.” Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway.”

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.”

Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?

12 Steps to Relieving Stress

Life could be a lot more manageable if we were to relieve as much stress in our lives as possible.  Allowing stress to take over can result in the inability to concentrate or focus, the inability to think clearly and make good decisions, destructive mood swings, and health conditions that can eventually lead to death. It’s important to take care of YOU so you are able to take care of others and take control over your life. And, if there are major issues that are holding you back from leading a happy life, counseling can be very beneficial. Here are some helpful ways to manage or eliminate stress.

  1. Breathe. Practice long, deep breathing filling your diaphragm with air. “Breathe in calm (through your nose), breathe out tension (through your mouth).” Practice daily.
  2. Be still and quiet, or pray. Learn how to quiet your mind at least once a day.
  3. Exercise. Exercise increases endorphins in our brains for a lot of positive benefits. It is recommended to exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes for the most benefit.
  4. Laugh. Incorporate laughter into your life on a regular basis. It’s impossible to be stressed and laughing at the same time.
  5. Stop. Turn off the negative “stink’n think’n.” Turn all negative thoughts into positive ones.
  6. Affirm. Use positive affirmations to affirm what you want in your life.
  7. Gratitude. Identify what you are grateful for each day.
  8. Balance. Set healthy boundaries with family, friends, colleagues, or other situations in your life.
  9. Splurge. Do things to take care of yourself. Get a massage, a manicure, take a hot bubble bath, etc.
  10. Prioritize. Make a list of your projects and create a realistic time frame for each.
  11. Sleep. Sleep is crucial in managing your stress. Women require no less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
  12. Play. Find fun activities to participate in that bring you joy!

To Love Oneself is the Beginning of a Lifelong Romance

Some have deemed National Boost Your Self-Esteem month as a “weird and unusual” celebration, but, we see it as an excuse to self-reflect and build confidence. The National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE) defines self-esteem as “The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.”  A healthy or high self-esteem will not only allow you to live a happier life, but it will also strengthen your ability to handle challenges, build your tolerance, motivate you to take risks, and encourage a life of love. When participating in self-refection and understanding your own self-esteem, it is important to note that we often see ourselves through the eyes of others, thus, our self-esteem can be built upon or broken down by our surroundings. Charles Taylor author of Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity and Multiculturalism writes, “We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others (our parents, for instance) and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.” Before taking the steps to boost your self-esteem, we encourage you to take a look at the people in and around your life that may be influencing the image of yourself that is being reflected. Don’t look at this task as a profound, life-transitioning challenge. Just a few simple changes can make a difference and can help you live a life of hope, harmony, and happiness with a healthy self-esteem at the core. A few tips:

  • Surround yourself with positive people that will reflect beauty back to you
  • Be positive, even when it seems like a challenge (it takes less muscle in your face to smile than frown)
  • Journal about your daily activities and thoughts – highlight the positive and explore where the negative stems
  • Do an activity that you are good at
  • Celebrate the little things – a productive day at work or getting all the laundry done deserves a celebration every once in awhile
  • Question your negativity or doubt – remember we are sometimes wrong
  • Stop thinking about yourself – do something for someone else
  • Relax – turn off and just breathe
  • Lighten up – Don’t be so hard on yourself!

5 Proven Strategies for Releasing Negative Thoughts

Whether by virtue of our self-imposed stress, propensity for self-blame or the scarcity mentality that keeps us from connecting with our gratitude, negative thinking can be a significant obstacle to our personal development and emotional well-being. Escaping the thrall of our negative thoughts is not simply a matter of putting a brave face on things. Positivity doesn’t just happen — it’s created and as we are the architects of our own reality, that creation is in our hands.

The initial challenge here is to get past the evolutionary and social obstacles that foster our anxiety and fear. The thinking that keeps us rattling around this prison of negativity, however, is the same thinking that can foster our freedom.

The first of several practices for getting past our negative thoughts is to simply not believe what we think. If we identify, or over-identify, with our thoughts, they start having us, rather than us having them. Holding fast to a particular negative belief or belief system, we not only limit ourselves, but mire ourselves in that negativity. For example, should we operate with a poverty mentality, we paralyze ourselves into thinking we will never have enough. Taking a moment to recognize what we do have and then acting to further cultivate that breaks us out of this cycle of negativity. Knowledge is in the thinking; wisdom is in the doing.

It can also serve us to question our reality. When confronted with a negative thought we can take time to ask ourselves three things: “Is it reasonable? Is it rational? Is it reliable?”

Establishing the reasonableness of a thought helps us get some perspective. There is such a thing as a reasonable level of anxiety. When that anxiety blooms into a full-fledged panic simply because we don’t know what’s going to happen, then we’ve likely stepped outside the bounds of that reasonableness.

Next, we need to establish if our thinking is rational. If, for example, we are struggling to make ends meet every month, but the bills are still getting paid, it’s probably not rational to be sitting up for the better part of the night fretting over losing the house or having the car repossessed. If, however, we find ourselves in a place where the bills really aren’t getting paid and our concerns are reasonable, we need to point our rational response at what comes next, rather than creating more internal conflict by fretting over something we may not be able to control.

Finally, we can explore if the thought is reliable. Has it happened before with any degree of consistency? If the answer is no, then it’s quite likely we’re making up a story, rather than responding to a potential.

Another helpful means for sorting out our negative thinking is unpacking our feelings. When our psychophysiological response to a situation passes through the filter of our worldview — our subjective assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works — we experience a conscious feeling. The quality of that feeling is determined by what we are thinking about the situation. For example, if two people are standing at the top of a roller coaster one may be feeling excited, while the other is feeling fearful. Both are experiencing a relatively similar physiological response, but for one that translates into a feeling of anticipation, while for the other it translates into a feeling of apprehension. The difference between the two is how each person is thinking about the experience before them.

Unpacking our feelings can lead us back to the source of our experience and, once we identify what we’re thinking about that experience, we can ask a very simple question: “Why?” What is it about roller coasters that make me fearful or excited? What is it about the envelopes with the little windows or the phone ringing that makes me anxious? Once we find the source, we can label it and then, release it because in identifying the thought, we now control it. It no longer controls us.

An additional technique for releasing negative thinking is to ask ourselves, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” This kind of extreme perspective serves as a foil, giving us a more realistic view of what’s actually in front of us. Scripting a scenario that plays to our greatest anxieties, fears and negativities allow us a certain relativism that can take the charge out of our experience, making it more manageable.

Once we’ve employed these various techniques for shepherding our thoughts, we need to find a means for keeping them corralled. Journaling prompts us to slow down and develop a more balanced sensibility around our larger picture, engaging all of our faculties and senses in organizing our thoughts. Exercise releases endorphins, calming and centering us, which allows us to think more clearly and with greater acuity. Praying (asking God to change our thoughts) is a highly-effective way to release the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Whichever of these techniques we may choose, our primary focus is on creating a shift of mind that takes us out of our negative headspace and into one that is more positive, or, at least, balanced. We create our experience by virtue of how we are thinking about a particular situation, good, bad or indifferent. What’s important to bear in mind is that if we can think ourselves in, we can always think ourselves out.

An A-to-Z Guide to Achieving Your Dreams

As a therapist/life coach, people often ask me, “What are the success principles you see that work?” Obviously, there are many. The following list is a start:

  • Avoid negative sources, people, things, and habits
  • Believe in yourself
  • Consider things from every angle
  • Don’t give up and don’t give in
  • Enjoy life today; yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come
  • Family and friends are hidden treasures; seek them and enjoy their riches
  • Give more than you planned to give
  • Hang onto your dreams
  • Ignore those who try to discourage you
  • Just do it!
  • Keep on trying, no matter how hard it seems; it will get better
  • Love yourself first and foremost
  • Make it happen
  • Never lie, cheat, or steal; always strike a fair deal
  • Open your eyes and see things as they really are
  • Perfect practice makes perfect
  • Quitters never win and winners never quit
  • Read, study, and learn about everything important in your life
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Take control of your own destiny
  • Understand yourself in order to better understand others
  • Visualize it
  • Want it more than anything
  • Accelerate your efforts
  • You are unique, nothing can replace you
  • Zero in on your target and go for it!!