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If Losing Your Job To The Pandemic Destroyed Your Identity, Here’s How To Find It

        “If I’m not (insert job title here), then who am I?”

This is the type of question some adults are asking themselves as they struggle through the darkness of losing a job to the pandemic.

Some never realized how tied their identities were to their careers until they lost them. They feel lost mentally and emotionally, as if they’re experiencing a bad breakup. The present is surreal, the future is uncertain, and they’re unsure how to define themselves.

Christa Black, a freelance copywriter from Ashland, Kentucky, said her work shaped her identity.

“I finally felt like a ‘real’ writer, because after several years of trying, I was actually being paid to do what I enjoyed and was good at,” she said. “I started to feel less like an artist and more like ‘a professional.'”

But when the pandemic hit, the work faded away. Black’s income decreased to little to none. She soon felt that she had lost her identity, that she was no longer a professional and that she didn’t fit in with the creative community from which she had come.

That might be because sudden unemployment is a threat to “narrative identity,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology who specializes in identity and narrative psychology at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

“Identity is the story of our lives that weaves together the way we reconstruct our past, make sense of the present and anticipate our future,” he said.

That narrative identity is the confluence of you and the culture in which you live. We grow up in a sea of stories about what a typical life’s journey looks like and what moments we’re supposed to hold onto, Adler said, so we take the templates available to us and tailor our experiences to those master narratives.

“We use our stories as the foundation for everything else that we do,” Adler said. “So when you rock the foundation, everything else on top of that crumbles.”

Through some inner work, however, you can take back your worth.

How our identities influence our jobs

For some, jobs provide merely a paycheck. For others, occupations also supply a sense of meaning that holds weight when they think about their sense of selves.

Our perpetually “on the grind” culture defines who we are by what we do for work.

“The first thing we ask when we meet a new person is, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Nicole Hind, an Australia-based psychotherapist behind the online community, blog and practice Unveiled Stories.

“It’s as though we equate ‘goodness’ with ‘work’ when in fact goodness is so much more than that. It’s important to note that this is particular to our modern industrialized society: the idea that work is all of who we are and that we are not worthy humans if we don’t work.”

Additionally, people who feel motivated and engaged by and passionate about their work might have experienced psychological benefits from finding their calling, Adler said.

In the idealized college-job-promotion-passion trajectory, becoming unemployed isn’t part of the vision. “All of a sudden the end is totally open and uncertain,” Adler said.

Our narrative identities serve two additional functions that make us feel good. They provide a sense of unity, so that we feel we are the same people over time. They also provide a sense of purpose, so we know the meaning of what we’re doing and what our lives are about.

People suddenly faced with job loss are now challenged by a story with a cliffhanger and interrupted senses of unity and purpose — all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and anger.

 

mirror

What to do about it

Finding your identity begins with questioning yourself about three themes that construct life stories and tend to be the strongest predictors of well-being, Adler said.

“It’s not so much what happens to you [that matters]; it’s how you tell the story of what happens to you,” Adler said.

The first is agency, a characteristic of the main character in your story (which is you). Maybe your effectiveness at your job provided your sense of agency. Though no one is in complete control, how much are you in the driver’s seat of your life versus batted around by the whims of external forces?

Give yourself the space to grieve the losses, Hind instructed.

Don’t rush into proclaiming why you’re stronger because of it. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Recall positive moments, too: the times when you advocated for what you believed in or hit a goal.

Summer internships have dried up because of the pandemic. Here’s how to get ahead without one

“People who do what’s called exploratory processing — which means deeply trying to make sense of their experience before creating a redemption sequence at the end — actually do better than the people who just do redemption without exploring the challenge,” Adler said.

Then find something else to prioritize, like a new venture or hobby. Revisit your core values and what really matters: What parts of your job were important to you? What fueled your passion? How can you express those during this period?

You can stay invested in those values whether you’re employed or not, Adler said.

For example, Black, the freelance copywriter, has found her roots again in creative writing. “It has helped me get back in touch with my creativity and given me something enjoyable to focus on while I emotionally recover from everything that came along with the pandemic and its fallout,” she said.

In this way, the underlying value of her job might be fulfilled.

Figure out your own definition of success, Hind said. What do you admire about your role models? Is it their “success” or their skills, compassion, kindness or wisdom?

And our stories aren’t just about ourselves. Communion, secondly, entails a sense of being connected to, nurturing and feeling cared for by quality relationships. Engage with the connections that matter to you.

“Step away from ‘job’ as being the only and step towards appreciating [yourself] and others for everything: the way you take care of someone or the meal you cooked today,” Hind said. “What [do] my everyday life, my interactions and my values say about who I am?”

Taking action and finding community foster the growth leading to redemption — stories that start out bad but end well.

“There’s a lot of research on the theme of redemption. It’s sort of a classic American master narrative,” Adler said. “We have the Puritan settlers finding freedom. We have ex-slaves’ narratives about liberation. We have the rags to riches stories.”

The outcome of finding yourself

Reclaiming your identity requires both a quick shift in mindset and a journey of changing your thought patterns and behaviors — just like setting an intention to lose weight, Adler said.

“That’s something that takes place over time, but it actually happens every moment of every day. You can’t just diet and exercise on the weekends,” he explained. “Changing your narrative identity is like that — it’s a cumulative process that builds up over time, but the intention … is something you do in the here and now every day.”

When we’re focused only on work as a measure of success and what defines us, we lose touch with many other areas, Hind said.

We might devalue our contributions to our families or forget to be present with them, ourselves, pets and other sources of joy. We say we “don’t have time” for leisure and then wonder why we’re so anxious all the time or need a drink to unwind. Then we wonder why we’re unhappy, Hind said.
Just as a threatened identity might have upended every area of your life, a solid identity can also flow into different domains and increase your confidence.

By Kristen Rogers       June 18, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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5 Reasons People Have Low Self-Confidence

Understanding the causes of low self-confidence is a first step in boosting it.

The most important thing to know about low self-confidence is that it is not your fault.

The factors that contribute to low self-confidence combine and interact differently for each person. Your genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, and other life circumstances all play a role. But don’t lose heart — although we can’t change the experiences in our past that shaped us, there is plenty we can do to alter our thoughts and expectations to gain more confidence.

Genes and Temperament

Some of what molds our self-confidence is built into our brains at birth. I mention these factors not to overwhelm you, but to let you know that you shouldn’t blame yourself for your self-image.

Studies have shown our genetic makeup affects the amount of certain confidence-boosting chemicals our brain can access. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can both be inhibited by certain genetic variations. Somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited.

Some aspects of our behavior also stem from our temperament. If you’re naturally more hesitant and watchful, especially in unfamiliar circumstances, you may have a tendency called “behavioral inhibition.” When you’re confronted with a situation, you stop and check to see if everything seems the way you expected it to be. If something appears awry, you’re likely to move away from the situation.

Behavioral inhibition is not all bad. We need some people in the world who don’t impulsively jump into every situation. If you’re a cautious and reserved person, self-confidence may have eluded you. But once you understand yourself and the tools in this book, you’ll be able to work with your temperament and not fight it.

Life Experiences

A number of individual experiences can lead to feeling completely unsure of yourself or even worthless. Here, I’ll discuss a few.

Trauma. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all significantly affect our feelings of self-worth. If you find yourself replaying memories of abuse or otherwise feeling tormented by or ashamed of your experiences, please consider seeking treatment from a licensed clinician.


Parenting style. The way we were treated in our family of origin can affect us long after childhood. For instance, if you had a parent who constantly belittled you, compared you to others, or told you that you would never amount to anything, you likely carry those messages with you today. A parent’s struggles with mental health and substance abuse can also change your relationship with the world.

Bullying, harassment and humiliation. Childhood bullying can leave a mark on your confidence when it comes to looks, intellectual and athletic abilities, and other areas of your life. Humiliating experiences in adulthood, including workplace harassment or a peer group that disrespects or demeans you, can also make you less willing to speak up for yourself or pursue ambitious goals.


Gender, race, and sexual orientation. Scores of studies show women are socialized to worry more about how they’re perceived and, therefore, to take fewer risks. Racial and cultural background and sexual orientation can make a difference, too. If you’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, you may have internalized some negative, untrue messages about your potential and whether you “belong.”

Misinformation

Lack of self-confidence can come from not knowing the “rules” of the confidence game. For example, if we think we have to feel confident in order to act confidently, we set ourselves up for failure.

Perfectionism is another form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If we believe we have to have something all figured out before we take action, those thoughts can keep us from doing the things we value. Even learning and understanding what confidence is and isn’t is a big step toward boosting it.

The World Around Us

Many media messages are designed to make us feel lacking. Companies that want to sell you products usually start by making you feel bad about yourself, often by introducing a “problem” with your body that you would never have noticed otherwise. (The movie Mean Girls memorably skewered this idea: The main character, new to American high-school culture after years of homeschooling in Africa, is bewildered when her new clique stands around a mirror criticizing themselves. “My hairline is so weird,” says one. “My nail beds suck!” proclaims another.)

Now that social media has become ubiquitous, the messages hit closer to home. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you has the perfect marriage, a dream career, and supermodel looks to boot. But remember: What people post online is heavily curated and edited. Everyone has bad days, self-doubt, and physical imperfections. They just don’t trot them out on Facebook!

     “One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steven Furtick

Anxiety and Depression

It’s common for anxiety and depression to go hand-in-hand with self-confidence issues. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression and are working with a therapist, you could bring in your workbook and perhaps go through it together. It’s brave of you to address your self-assurance stumbling blocks, and building confidence will also help you lessen anxiety and depression.

Questions to Consider:

Which of the contributing factors described in this section resonate the most with you?

What specific experiences in your life do you think had the biggest negative effects on your self-confidence?

Next Steps:

1. Take this self-confidence quiz. Self-confidence begins with knowing yourself. You might also enjoy spending some time answering these questions designed to help increase your confidence level.

2. Learn why self-confidence is so important. Start here.

3. Avoid these self-confidence traps (“13 Things the Most Confident People You Know Never Do”).

4. Try these four proven approaches to increase your confidence level.

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem.
Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.
 
About the Authors
Barbara Markway, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience. 
She is the author of four psychology books and has been featured in media nationwide.
 
In Print:
The Self Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem
Online: Dr. Markway online
  
Greg Markway, Ph.D., is a psychologist and has coauthored three books, including Painfully Shy.
In Print:
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
Dec 07, 2018


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10 Ideas to Help With Loneliness

Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts.  We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindness goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Brock Hansen     YourTango     8 Jul 2018

 

loneliness

 

Mindfulness and its proven impact on loneliness: What you should know

(BPT) – Maybe you know someone who stands by taking five minutes each morning to meditate or finds time after lunch to quiet his or her mind and focus on breathing. Whatever the method may be, incorporating “mindfulness” practices into your life can have a wide range of positive health benefits like improving your memory, sleep and immune system; reducing stress and feelings of loneliness and increasing compassion toward others and yourself.

Mindfulness means taking time to pay attention to yourself and your thoughts and feelings. Read on to learn how you can put mindfulness into practice in your life to help improve your overall health.

How to make mindfulness a routine part of your day.

  1. Find five to ten minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath. (Helpful hint: Put your phone on silent or in another room so you can concentrate!) Take the time to notice where your mind goes and how your body is feeling. You just might find that this helps you focus and prioritize your day.
  2. Before you go to bed take time to focus on the good things that happened that day. Write your thoughts down in a journal. Writing them down can help you deliberately recognize the positive, even on a tough day.
  3. Search for “mindfulness apps” on your smartphone or tablet that lead you in a mindfulness exercise. For many people, using an app is an easy way to remain consistent with the practice. And many of these apps are free!

Feeling lonely? Mindfulness can help.

Mindfulness has been shown to help older adults overcome a silent but urgent health issue: loneliness. It is estimated that more than half of adults age 65 and over regularly experience moderate to severe loneliness. Loneliness is characterized by a marked difference between someone’s desired companionship and actual relationships. Through unique studies conducted by UnitedHealthcare and AARP, researchers are applying the techniques of mindfulness to help combat loneliness in older adults.

Loneliness poses a serious threat to the quality of life for older adults. It is linked to negative health outcomes such as higher risk of dementia, mortality and disability.

“The health risk of chronic loneliness, in older adults, is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and has a greater impact on mortality than obesity,” said Dr. Charlotte Yeh, M.D., chief medical officer, AARP Services Inc. “That is why UnitedHealthcare and AARP Services Inc. are collaborating to identify actionable solutions, geared for any individual across the spectrum of loneliness.”

Researchers looked at whether mindfulness interventions, like breath awareness, self-compassion and kindness exercises, could positively impact a person’s optimism and quality of life — all factors that help reduce loneliness.

Conclusions were encouraging: Mindfulness activities were shown to decrease loneliness among older adults. The research demonstrated that mindfulness reduced stress, and improved memory, sleep, the immune system, resiliency and compassion for self and others.

Although loneliness is complex and challenging to address, a mindfulness practice may help you live your best life.

Friday, June 28, 2019                Brandpoint 


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A Simple Way To Boost Social Confidence

An easy self-affirmation exercise helps reduce social insecurities for at least two months.

Sometimes in life we get exactly what we expect.

Nowhere is this more true than in social relations.

When we meet someone new, if we expect to like them—for whatever reason—then they tend to like us.

If we experience apprehension or nascent dislike then things can quickly go wrong.

Psychologists have called it the ‘acceptance prophecy’ and there’s more about it in this article: The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You.

The problem is that for insecure or socially nervous individuals it becomes the rejection prophecy.

A feeling of apprehension about meeting new people is outwardly expressed as nervous behaviour and this leads to rejection.

But a new paper published in Psychological Science provides a simple exercise that helps boost relational security and should help turn the rejection prophecy back into the acceptance prophecy.

 

Self-affirmation

Stinson et al. (2011) measured the relational security of 117 participants by asking them how much they agreed with statements like: “My friends regard me as very important in their lives” and “My partner loves and accepts me unconditionally”.

Half of them were then asked to do a very simple self-affirmation task.

Participants looked down a list of 11 values including things like spontaneity, creativity, friends and family, personal attractiveness and so on.

They put them in order of importance and wrote a couple of paragraphs saying why their top-ranked item was so important.

The results showed that this simple task boosted the relational security of insecure individuals in comparison with a control group.

Afterwards their behaviour was seen as less nervous and they reported feeling more secure.

And when they were followed up at four and eight weeks later, the benefits were still apparent.

It appears that even a task as simple as this is enough to boost the social confidence of people who feel insecure.

source: PsyBlog


Leave a comment

A Simple Way To Boost Social Confidence

An easy self-affirmation exercise helps reduce social insecurities for at least two months.

Sometimes in life we get exactly what we expect.

Nowhere is this more true than in social relations.

When we meet someone new, if we expect to like them—for whatever reason—then they tend to like us.

If we experience apprehension or nascent dislike then things can quickly go wrong.

Psychologists have called it the ‘acceptance prophecy’ and there’s more about it in this article: The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You.

The problem is that for insecure or socially nervous individuals it becomes the rejection prophecy.

A feeling of apprehension about meeting new people is outwardly expressed as nervous behaviour and this leads to rejection.

But a new paper published in Psychological Science provides a simple exercise that helps boost relational security and should help turn the rejection prophecy back into the acceptance prophecy.

 

Self-affirmation

Stinson et al. (2011) measured the relational security of 117 participants by asking them how much they agreed with statements like: “My friends regard me as very important in their lives” and “My partner loves and accepts me unconditionally”.

Half of them were then asked to do a very simple self-affirmation task.

Participants looked down a list of 11 values including things like spontaneity, creativity, friends and family, personal attractiveness and so on.

They put them in order of importance and wrote a couple of paragraphs saying why their top-ranked item was so important.

The results showed that this simple task boosted the relational security of insecure individuals in comparison with a control group.

Afterwards their behaviour was seen as less nervous and they reported feeling more secure.

And when they were followed up at four and eight weeks later, the benefits were still apparent.

It appears that even a task as simple as this is enough to boost the social confidence of people who feel insecure.

source: PsyBlog


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Fun Fact Friday

  • More than one-third of married couples in Canada sleep in separate bedrooms. 
  • Having a low opinion of yourself is not modesty. It’s self-destruction. 
  • People who eat fish at least once a week have thicker, stronger and more resilient brains.
  • 71% of breakups happen because of mood swings.
  • Every year, about 86,000 people are injured by tripping over their pets. 

 

ingredient_label
Ranch dressing (and many other foods) contain titanium dioxide to keep it white
– Titanium dioxide is also used in most sunscreens and might be a carcinogen.
  • When soft music is playing in the background, people are able to focus better.
  • Kissing can increase your lifespan.
  • Studies have proven that driving in city traffic is just as stressful as participating in extreme sports like skydiving.
  • Ranch dressing contains titanium dioxide to keep it white – Titanium dioxide is also used in most sunscreens and might be a carcinogen.
Happy Friday!

 source: https://twitter.com/faccccct


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Fun Fact Friday

  • You can “rewire” your brain to be happy by simply recalling 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days.
  • Hardest question to answer: “Describe yourself?”
  • People who are exposed to bright light early in the morning tend to be more alert throughout the day.
  • The difference between caramel and butterscotch is butterscotch contains brown sugar instead of white. Toffee is butterscotch cooked longer.

mangoes

  • Most of the problems in your life are due to two reasons: you act without thinking, or think without acting.
  • The mango is the most popular fruit in the world. It also helps against cancer, clears skin and lowers cholesterol.
  • Human bones are 31% water.
  • Happiness is increased when tangible goals like “making someone smile” are made.
  • Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.

 

Happy Friday  🙂

 source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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How To Unlock Meaning In Life: 4 Proven Secrets

There’s no shortage of tips about what brings happiness, but what gives your life meaning?

“Meaning in life” is one of those things everybody insists is vitally important — yet nobody tells you what it really is, and directions to get there never seem to come up on Google Maps.

I had to take geometry to graduate high school but knowing what a rhombus is has never helped me. Nobody thought it was important to teach me about meaning. Seriously, my air conditioner came with better instructions than anything that’s important in life.

Thankfully, somebody took it upon themselves to get to the bottom of this by looking at what the research has to say.

Emily Esfahani Smith has written a wonderful new book entitled The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. And it has many of the answers we need.

So what makes for a meaningful life? How does it differ from just being happy? Let’s get to it…

What’s The Difference Between Happy And Meaningful?

People commit suicide because they’re unhappy, right? Wrong. They do it because they lack meaning.

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

When they crunched the numbers, they discovered a surprising trend: happiness and unhappiness did not predict suicide. The variable that did, they found, was meaning — or, more precisely, the lack of it.


So there’s more to life than “pleasure good, pain bad.” (Sorry, Epicurus.) But that ain’t the half of it…
Research shows meaning and happiness can be at odds with one another. People with the most meaningful lives were “givers.” But those with the happiest lives were “takers.”

Best example? Parenthood. Cleaning poopy diapers makes nobody happy. Kids are really expensive. They crash your Mazda. (Sorry, dad.) My MBA friend Vlad loves his kids but also adds, “They’re definitely ROI negative.”

And the research agrees. Kids don’t make you happier:

Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003), and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.


However, I’m guessing you aren’t rushing to schedule a vasectomy or a tube-tying right now, are ya? Why?

Because as Emily points out, research also shows children bring enormous meaning to people’s lives. Getting zero sleep for the first year of your child’s life does not make you happy. But as we saw, happiness isn’t everything. Parenthood is the ultimate form of giving. And givers lead meaningful lives.

So it seems we’re in a real sticky wicket here: do you have to be unhappy to have meaning?
Thankfully, the answer is no.

A life focused exclusively on happiness is like that container of ice cream that quickly brings a huge dose of pleasure — followed by a stomachache, regret and a root canal. A meaningful life does produce good feelings — but it takes a while to catch up.

For a 10-day period, researchers told one group of students to do things that make their life meaningful. They helped people. They studied hard. They cheered up friends.

The researchers told another group of students to just do stuff that made’em happy. They slept in, played video games, and ate candy. (My guess is they probably also did other stuff the study did not discuss but to my knowledge, nobody got pregnant or had their liver explode.)

So what happened at the end of the study? Initially, exactly what you’d expect. The “be happy” group got happier. And the “be meaningful” group got meaningful-er. But three months later, things changed. The happy feelings of the second group faded fast. Meanwhile…

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning actually boosted psychological health.


Parenthood can be a pain in the ass. But it also brings tremendous meaning to life. Don’t sell your kids on the black market just yet. Meaning is the tortoise. Happiness is the hare. You remember who won that race? Exactly.

So over the long haul, meaning beats happy. But how do we get there? Emily’s book covers 4 things that came up time and time again in the research on meaningful lives…

1) Belonging

Remember how it wasn’t unhappiness that led to suicide but lack of meaning? When Emile Durkheim, the father of sociology, looked at suicide demographics the numbers initially seemed all over the place and didn’t make a lot of sense. For instance:

  • Living in a country in the midst of war actually reduced suicide.
  • Being educated increased suicide.
  • Jewish people were more educated — but somehow were less likely to kill themselves.

What the heck was going on?

It was about belonging. War is miserable — but it bonds people together against an enemy. Education often means leaving friends and family to go to school or that fancy job. Jewish people were educated, but they often lived in strong communities.

I am lucky enough to belong to a group that gets together as often as three times a week. Chances are, I’ll see Andy, Justin, and Charlie tomorrow. Bob’s outta town but should be back soon. And we’re still coaxing Drew to move back from Montreal.

What groups do you belong to? Quickest way to add meaning to your life is to see them more often. Not part of a group? Join one. No groups to join? Start one. It’s as easy as texting people to get together regularly around a common interest.

Alright, so you gotta belong. But you can’t just sit around “belonging” all day. What do you actually have to do?

true-meaning-of-life

2) Purpose

The word “purpose” is downright intimidating. Relax — you don’t have to strive to cure cancer. Purpose is less about what you do and more about how you see what you do.

In her book, Emily tells a story I love. It was 1962 and President Kennedy was visiting NASA. He runs into a janitor. The President asks the guy what he’s doing. The janitor replies, “Helping put a man on the moon.”

That’s purpose. He didn’t say “emptying trash cans” (and he didn’t make a Marilyn Monroe joke like a certain blogger who has issues with authority might.)

“Helping put a man on the moon” has both of the qualities that Stanford developmental psychologist William Dawson says we need for purpose:

First, it’s a stable and far-reaching goal. “Make it to the end of the workday without getting fired” doesn’t cut it. You need something that motivates you and that you can organize your actions around.
Second, it involves a contribution to the world. It makes a difference in the lives of people who don’t happen to be you.

Wharton’s Adam Grant did a study that looked at over 200 million people in 500 different jobs to figure out which careers are the most meaningful. All of the ones at the top (surgeons, clergy, educators) were roles that helped other people.

So how can you redefine your role at work to find more meaning? What’s a bigger goal it contributes to? How does it better the lives of others?

In school I hated writing term papers. Now, one could argue, I write them for a living. But I don’t see it that way; I’m helping people learn.

Alright. You feel like you belong. You’ve got a purpose to what you do. But that doesn’t seem to sum up a deep “meaning” in life that you could explain to others. And, as it turns out, that’s vital…

3) Storytelling

No, you don’t have to write a novel or anything. But you need to remember that your brain is wired for stories. It’s how you make sense of the world. And you have a story you tell yourself about your life — whether you realize it or not.

My story is that I was a nerd who got picked on in high school but after being bitten by a radioactive spider I… Oops, that’s not my story, that’s Spider-Man’s. But there is something we can learn from Spider-Man’s story…

Dan McAdams is a professor at Northwestern who studies “narrative identity.” And he found a trend in the stories that people with meaningful lives tell themselves. Their lives are a “redemption story.”
From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

In these stories, the tellers move from suffering to salvation — they experience a negative event followed by a positive event that resulted from the negative event and therefore gives their suffering some meaning.


Peter Parker gains superpowers from the radioactive spider bite. But filled with hubris, he refuses to help stop a criminal. The criminal later kills Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben, the man that raised him. Wracked by guilt and loss, he realizes that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter resolves to use his superpowers to fight crime and becomes Spider-Man.

It’s a redemption story. But people who lack meaning in their lives usually tell a very different kind of story: a “contamination story.” In these stories, tragedy doesn’t produce growth. No good comes from the bad. Is this you?

If so, the good news is you can change your internal story. You get to decide what scenes it contains, and whether it ends with the death of your uncle, or in your decision to snare evildoers with your webs.

Professor James Pennebaker has shown that just 20 minutes of writing your story for 4 days has the power to dramatically improve your life. It helps people overcome anxiety, tragedy and heartache. Those who wrote about their problems felt happier, slept better, and even got better grades.

You rarely get to change the world, Peter Parker. But you can change your story, Spider-Man.

So we’ve talked about friends, purpose and stories but what gives that real whammo-bammo visceral feeling of meaning?

4) Transcendence

Another intimidating word. Don’t worry. It doesn’t involve any heavy lifting or math. You don’t need to know what a rhombus is.

Sometimes life feels so small. You’re heavily focused on a few things or maybe just one thing, like your career or your romantic relationship. And then that bubble pops. You lose the job. You get dumped.

You’re all-in on that one thing and now that thing is gone. It’s absolutely crushing. There’s a whole big world out there overflowing with opportunities and potential but right now it doesn’t feel that way. It feels meaningless.

But there are experiences that provide that feeling of just how big and amazing life is. The secret is a little word with big impact: awe.

Astronauts have reported seeing the Earth from a distance has these sorts of life-changing transcendent effects — but let’s focus on a slightly more practical option, shall we?

Get out in nature. Researchers had one group of students stare at 200 foot trees. Another group looked at tall buildings. Afterward, those who had looked at the trees became far more helpful when tested. Why?

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The awe-inspired people, researchers found, felt a diminished sense of their own importance compared to others, and that likely led them to be more generous… They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.


You don’t need a spaceship to find meaning. But a trip to the Grand Canyon might not be a bad idea.
Alright, we’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it all up…

Sum Up

Here’s how to find meaning in life:

  • Belong to a group: I’ll be at lunch with Andy and the guys. Where will you be?
  • Give your work purpose: You’re not emptying trash cans. You’re helping get a man on the moon.
  • Craft your story: End it with redemption, not contamination, and become the superhero of your life.
  • Transcendence: Nature is big. Your problems are small.

Life can be hard. But remember, while the difficult moments may decrease happiness, they’re essential for building meaning. And that’s what matters in the long run.

We flourish around friends. Unbearable stress becomes yet another challenge when you have purpose. A superhero origin story gives you hope and redemption. And nature makes your big problems seem tiny.

Collect all four and you’re on your way to learning the meaning of your life.

And that’s a lot more important than learning what a rhombus is.


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Start Accepting Yourself, You’re Worth It

Do you ever feel like you are simply never good enough? As a serial perfectionist, I’ve struggled for years with self-acceptance. On the one hand, never settling keeps me striving to continuously better myself. But, as many of you know too well, the thirst for self-improvement is nearly always companioned by a shadow of self-deprecation and self-loathing. There is nearly always that cruel inner voice behind every small triumph, whispering with critical malevolence, making you feel horrible in even the best of circumstances.

Many of us are overly self-critical. A lot of adults, young or old, men or women, struggle with self-acceptance. Something so theoretically simple as loving, forgiving and nurturing yourself eludes so many of us. Why? Because we are taught to be perfect. We are taught to strive for the perfect bodies, the perfect wrinkle-less face, the perfect grades, the perfect house, the perfect lover, the perfect life.

We have made the ultimate goal of living perfection rather than joy and self-fulfillment, which is such a mind-wrecker. Know this: true perfection is impossible. It’s time to accept it. But, to be the happiest, best version of yourself, self-acceptance will make your imperfectly perfect life so much more beautiful. Here are a few tips I’ve learned on my journey to encourage your own self-acceptance:

Accept your successes.

I have the tendency to undervalue the work I’ve done and any progress I’ve made. A lot of people, especially women, I know have this tendency. Yeah, it sounds like I did something awesome, but when you think about it, it really isn’t THAT impressive. Stop belittling your success. Be proud of what you have accomplished and take full credit for it. You deserve to feel proud. Pride in your work is one of the first steps to being comfortable with who you are.

Self-acceptance is not arrogance.

I never want to appear arrogant. I find it a distasteful quality. However, in my quest to avoid arrogance, I sometimes practice so much humility that I become incapable of accepting the compliments and niceties of others. I martyr myself in my humility, boosting others up while pushing myself further and further down. But it’s not doing anyone any favors to dismiss compliments or positivity. We should all accept more positivity into our lives. Allow yourself to receive what you’ve earned and know that you truly deserve it.

mirror

Forget about the past.

Many of the self-acceptance issues I have struggled with arise from the ghosts of my past—namely the body dysmorphia I suffered as a professional dancer. Self-acceptance means being content with yourself in the present. Forget about your past. Stop defining your present by the ghosts behind you. You, in this very moment, are enough. You are worthy. Accept yourself as you are, not as you were.

Stop seeking the approval of others.

The only approval that matters, in the end, is your own. In the wise words of Chance the Rapper: “I don’t wanna be cool. I just wanna be me.” Be who you want to be. Stop focusing on what others want. Sure, you can try to please others. But in order to accept yourself, you have to make yourself a priority. Screw what everyone else thinks. As long as you are happy and no one else is being caused any pain, putting yourself first should be something we all strive for.

Spend time alone.

It’s easy to fill your schedule with dinners, drinks, work, family functions, et cetera. But, without some alone time, you are effectively hiding your true self from yourself. Everyone needs alone time to check in with themselves—to see how you feel, to process any new or outdated beliefs, to reassess how you are generally doing as a modern human. By avoiding alone time, you are perpetuating the fear that you are not enough on your own. Know that you are enough. Take yourself out to dinner and enjoy it. Go solo on a movie date. You’ll soon learn that when you’re solo, you’re more awesome than you could ever begin to imagine.

The key to self-acceptance is knowing that you, as you are right now, are enough. Yes, it takes a little bit of courage to begin to truly accept yourself for who you are, but every step brings you a little more self-empowerment, bit by bit. Self-acceptance can be a slow process. With every two steps of gain, it can sometimes feel like you are dragged a step and a half backwards by those mean voices inside your mind. But remember, even if you go backwards, you are still moving forward—steadily, steadily. Keep on, because the journey to you is so worth it.

By: Jordyn Cormier         October 17, 2016
source: www.care2.com


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How to Stop Being a Victim and Start Creating Your Life

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die.  And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“They” say things happen at the “right” time. For me hearing a presentation, live, by Jack Canfield, came at the perfect time.

I was in San Diego, the traveling babysitter for my precious 5-month old granddaughter, while my daughter attended a nutrition conference. It was an all around win-win situation—a new place to sightsee and of course spend quality (alone) time with baby Rachel and daughter Penina.

When I found out Jack Canfield was the final key speaker, I jumped at the chance to attend. And the topic certainly resonated with me—“getting from where you are to where you want to be.” Now how’s that for someone in transition working to carve out a new path!

There were a lot of takeaways, fabulous ideas to hold onto; so much so that I’ve been carrying around his book, The Success Principles, and studying it since I got home.

One thing that really speaks to me is this idea of taking 100% responsibility for one’s life.

As a society, we are so quick to assign blame and pull out all the excuses as to why something did or did not happen.

All the “He made me, she made me….” finger pointing. There’s a reason why “the dog ate it” became such a classic excuse.

We relinquish all power when we go there. Where are we in this? I know that by nature many of us are passive recipients of life and are at the mercy of what befalls us.

In my workshops with parents on teaching responsibility, many are stuck or love acting in their role as helicopter parents, swooping down to save, rescue, and do all for their kids—all under the guise of, “The more I do for my child, the better parent I am.”
And therefore what are we teaching our kids when they come in to class and tell the teacher, “My mom forgot to pack my lunch”?

Then there’s the parent who comes ranting to school, “Don’t suspend my little Stevie for calling Andy names and hitting him in the playground; his sister does that to him at home, it’s no big deal.”

We are facilitating the perpetuation of an entitled breed of human beings.

In my practice as a therapist, clients would talk for years about being stuck because of what their dysfunctional nuclear families did to them.  “My mother did this, my father that…”

And then of course there’s me. What comes all too naturally for me is my quick ability to find fault with others, to pass judgment and criticize.

Who is to blame—why, my mother of course, queen of “judgmentalism.” I fight against these tendencies constantly.  But they do rear their ugly head often enough.  I guess it’s in my bloodstream. I’m aware of it; I work at it. I know where it comes from; therefore that explains it but it certainly does not excuse it.

 

This is my problem, my issue. What matters is how I handle it and work to respond differently—to catch myself while it’s doing its internal dance before it parts from my lips.

Not owning up to our actions—this takes away our part in doing anything different. We simply remain stuck while we continue to complain and feel miserable in our status quo of negativity.

We don’t have to worry about any discomfort of stepping out and trying on any new responses in this place.

There is no disqualifying the hurts and pain of the past. Our past, along with its inevitable issues and problems, contribute to who we are.

But we can go beyond the pain of our “stuff” and create new and good lives despite….

But we first must take charge of ourselves and decide we are capable of doing, being, and acting differently. We have to decide it’s up to us and not pass along our power to the blame and excuse game.

Assigning blame and making excuses keeps us victimized. We don’t have to do anything different because it’s not about us; it’s about someone or something else. We’re simply the recipient.

We may in fact be the recipient of external forces outside our control, but we have the control over our reactions and responses in what we do and how we handle it.  

Ah, but beginning to look at ourselves and our responses might shake us up a bit. It means we might have to make a move, do something different, or try something new. That can be scary.

Steps to take to begin taking responsibility for our life:

1. Decide you’re going to take on this new way of thinking. It is a different mind-set.

2. Make the conscious decision that it’s up to you.

3. Read some great books (or audio tapes) out there on this idea—by Wayne Dyer, of course Jack Canfield, and Eckhart Tolle. I recommend Madeline Levine’s The Price of Privilege.

4. Pick one thing and decide you’re going to respond differently—for example, when you’re stuck in traffic, decide you’re going to have a different response. Instead of getting all worked up, take some deep breaths and relax back into your seat with some good music on.

5. Put a visual Stop sign up in your mind when you feel yourself becoming defensive and ready to blame.

6. Apologize for something sincerely without attaching any “and” or “but” to it. “I’m sorry I raised my voice, but I couldn’t help it.” The “but” disqualifies the apology. Take responsibility for the reaction of yelling.

7. Take an action step, however small or inconsequential it may seem, toward something you want to attain.

8.  Empower yourself with “I can” and “I will” statements. “I can give this talk.” “I will write this paper.” Then the juices start flowing and we rev ourselves up with positive energy.  (Possibly some fear, too, but we will push through that.)

The internal stop sign goes up with the “I won’t” and “I can’t,” and we cut ourselves off from any creative or out-of-the-box thinking that might yield some unexpected, “Yeah, I can do this.”

9. Adopt the attitude, “change begins with me.”

10. Step outside your comfort zone. Try a different behavior or response to a familiar scenario. If you’re always running late in the morning madness and snapping at everyone in frustration, you can try getting most things ready the night before; try getting up earlier to get ready first; or decide to infuse yourself with some quiet time while everyone else is still sleeping.

This type of thinking and acting isn’t always easy, and it can feel like it’s too much effort, but becoming proactive in creating the life you want will yield tremendous results. You don’t need that big new happening to occur; you’ll see and feel it in the small changes. Those will be the stepping stones to continue onward.