counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Approval Seeking Behavior: Do You Need Approval?

It doesn’t take a genius – let alone a therapist – to conclude that the root cause of most approval-seeking behavior is a lack of self-esteem.

If you need other people to sign off on your choices, opinions, etc., you are on a road that leads to nowhere good. It is not healthy to live our lives for other people (as people-pleasers and codependents often do).

The issue that arises with needing approval is a blind submission to others—a form of servitude that can enslave you spiritually, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and physically. It can lead to anxiety about whether or not someone will validate your self-worth by bestowing you with the gift of their approval. To live like this is to give control to others over your life. If you live and breath for others’ approval, this is demoralizing as you surely will not always be given said approval.

Approval seeking also leads down a slippery slope of doing something that is against your better judgment, but to gain said person’s approval. Instead of doing what you think is right you do what the other person wants you to do and feel bad about it in the process. This is not a healthy way to live. Now this does not mean that the opposite of approval seeking is being deliberately rude, difficult, or oppositional. These are polar opposites to avoid. Instead your choices should be driven by your values not your blind need for approval.

If someone doesn’t approve of you and your choices, that is THEIR problem. Not yours. Unless you are an approval seeker that is. I find as a counselor, if people don’t approve of who they are, they tend to seek out the approval of others.

Your life is YOUR life. It’s as simple as that.  At the end of the day you are the only person who needs to approve of your choices. This is what being a mature self-actualized person means. Your friends, family, coworkers have their own things to focus on and worry about. They have their OWN life to LIVE.  You need to focus on your own life while simultaneously allowing others to focus on theirs.

The truth is gaining someone’s approval is a false ego boost. It is getting someone to validate you because you are not capable of validating yourself. A healthy person becomes independent of the good AND bad opinions of others—they know all outside chatter is essentially noise. In becoming self-differentiated and emotionally mature, we live by our own values and principles.

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Listen, all of us care if people like us to some extent. Humans are social animals after all.  We all love validation and approval particularly if it is a person we truly respect. But if you are psychologically and emotionally healthy, you shouldn’t need it. But if you NEED people to like and approve of you, this is a different story. It is time to start reflecting on WHY.

Here’s the thing. You can’t control what other people are thinking. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. Because you CAN control what YOU are thinking. This is where your power lies.

When we constantly and endlessly aim to please other people, we’re seeking approval of self from outside sources. And whenever we reach for something in the external world to give us what we NEED to be giving ourselves, we set ourselves up for disappointment and hurt. We set ourselves up to live a life we don’t necessarily want, but will fit with what other people expect of us. This is an inauthentic way of being.

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If you are doing the best you can with what you have, worrying if people like you or not is a waste of your most precious resource: your energy. If you are struggling with needing other people’s approval, counseling may be a good avenue to pursue. A good clinician can help you be okay without needing other people’s approval.

Ask yourself, “Do I value this person’s opinion?” and “Do they have my best interest at heart?” If the answer to both of those questions isn’t a definitive yes, then don’t worry so much about what they say or do.

At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t understand you or believe in you, it’s their choice—but if you keep waiting for their approval, it’s your choice. Don’t chain yourself, including your self-worth, to someone who does not value you.  You have to be able to accept the fact that some people might never understand you, respect you, or like you—and that’s OK.

If you find you are struggling with approval seeking behavior and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

anxiety, counseling, happiness, psychology, self-help

Why It is Time to Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health

As a mental health counselor, I am a bit biased when it comes to touting the importance of mental health. Yet there still seems to be an ongoing stigma that permeates our society regarding mental health issues and a sense of shame that persists for people who struggle with their mental health. What alarms me is that the stigma can keep people from seeking treatment. If you’re afraid of how your family, friends, or colleagues might react to a psychiatric diagnosis, you’re far less motivated to actually seek out help to get the diagnosis (and the accompanying treatment) in the first place.

Think about it. Would you be comfortable going to work and announcing you are struggling with depression? Or even coming clean to your close friends and family about emotional and psychological struggles–would you be able to share you have panic attacks with your loved ones? Or would you be embarrassed and try to hide this from those you love most? Admitting mental health struggles still seems uncomfortable and threatening for many in our culture. Enormous progress has been made but we still have a way to go.

It is something that frustrates me as I have witnessed firsthand how poor mental health can deteriorate the state of someone’s career, relationships, physical health, and life in general.

The fact remains that when someone comes down with a cold or stomach virus, the vast majority of us don’t hesitate to pop a pill or visit the doctor. But if we can’t seem to shake our endless worries or that nagging sense of worthlessness, we plug along as though nothing is wrong. We don’t care for our mental health with the same regard as our physical health (even though mental health can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, etc). The relationship between mental health and physical health is now evident.

People with mental health problems, especially mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, often fly under the radar of their families, friends, doctors, coworkers — typically at great cost to individuals, families and society in general. Think about what a different world we would live in if people addressed their mental health issues before heading out into the world each and every day. Even if you’re able to work, fulfill family responsibilities and otherwise function in daily life, mental health problems can have serious consequences.

I truly believe mental health is just as important as physical health. Why? Because our mental health impacts every aspect of our life. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Our mental health has a direct IMPACT on how we think, feel, and act. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each and EVERY day. 

Mental health impacts EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BEING. It  determines how you handle conflict, stress & adversity. Your mental health impacts how you relate to others & yourself. Your mental health is central in the way you go about making choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Your mental health is integral to living a healthy, well balanced life. Mental health struggles do NOT discriminate—people from ALL walks of life can struggle with their mental well-being.

Good mental health means you’re able to cope with daily stresses and accomplish personal goals. You are not fearful of new experiences or an uncertain future.

People who are mentally healthy have

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem (www.helpguide.org)

Ask yourself–do you feel that you are as mentally healthy as you could be? There is no shame in struggling.  Having good mental health doesn’t mean you never struggle emotionally or do not experience bad times.

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Help is out there. The health of your mind if just as important as the health of your body. Counseling is a high-value–but temporary–investment in yourself.

Counseling is a proven process that teaches you how your mind works. Behavioral and emotionally interventions can and do help people who are struggling. Counseling helps you navigate your feelings, communicate better, build better behaviors, develop better relationships, build on coping skills, and relate to your thoughts differently so you can live the life you want.

Wouldn’t you like to learn how to handle your emotions better, boost your mood, and build on your resilience? This is YOUR LIFE after all. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, defense mechanisms, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, happiness, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Conflicts and Grudges: How Counseling Can Help You to Move On

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. There is no denying that.

Many people come into counseling because of an ongoing conflict in their life that is causing them great pain.

Are you someone who is able to resolve conflict? When conflict is mismanaged it can cause great harm. If you are not comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them during times of high stress, you will not be able to resolve conflict successfully.

An unresolved conflict can eventually harden to a pathological grudge if you are unable to confront and process your OWN feelings.

I recently worked with someone on processing deep rooted feelings of a long-standing grudge towards her father. Watching someone process through a wide range of emotions–from love to hate and everything in between is fascinating work. It really takes courage to confront the more vulnerable feelings under all the layers of anger and resentment.

If a person is feeling vulnerable the quick fix is just get angry.  Feeling sad, anxious, or vulnerable? Nothing is quicker to restore a false sense of power and control like anger!

Yet there is substantial collateral damage to our anger especially as it relates to our relationships. As a clinician, a grudge signifies to me a person who is not comfortable being vulnerable or losing that false sense of control. 

A little vulnerability is a GOOD thing. Being able to be emotionally open takes great courage. It takes strength to process one’s emotions and come out on the other side with a better understanding of yourself. Good emotional health is just as important as a good physical health. I have always believed releasing emotional toxins is JUST as important as cleansing your body of physical toxins.

I have found when you fail to process your emotions and experiences, you create triggers and emotional wounds within yourself. This can manifest in anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, rage, etc.

As a culture, we place much importance on measurable intelligence through grades, tests, degrees, income. Yet we do not focus enough on building emotional intelligence—being able to recognize your triggers, manage your feelings, or be cognizant of how you treat yourself AND others.

Emotional intelligence is vital to be a well-rounded person.

The truth is some of people’s biggest wounds are from childhood–towards their parents or others who have hurt them. People carry these wounds into adulthood, impacting how they are able to manage their relationships with others. Childhood wounds are easily triggered in adult relationships.

Your level of emotional intelligence comes into play when you eventually get into conflict with others.

Let’s be honest. Most (healthy) people do not enjoy conflict. Most of us know it is a part of life and while we may not enjoy it, we can understand why it is necessary. We accept that being alive means sometimes getting hurt and sometimes hurting others. It is best to move on and not waste much of your time OR energy on relationships that at the end of the day do nothing for you.

Grudge holders cannot do that. They believe their is strength in holding a grudge.

There is a reason the saying goes refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to die. Grudges are irrational in their very nature. You hurt yourself thinking you are in actual hurting the other person.

Grudges arise from unresolved conflict. The truth is conflict is inevitable but if the conflict resolution process cannot successfully play out, this can lead to a grudge.

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Holding onto a grudge is essentially holding onto stress. It is also about disempowering yourself. You may be waiting on an apology or for the other person to do right by you. Yet when you are waiting on someone else to act, you are giving them person control over you. You are allowing that person to still effect your well-being long after the initial hurt has passed.

To a grudge holder, they feel holding a grudge gives them power when in actual holding a grudge is disempowering.

The fact is we ALL have been hurt by the actions or words of another.  But if you don’t practice forgiveness you are the one who pays most dearly.

Forgiveness is to embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy for YOU and YOUR mental well-being, not the person who you were hurt by.

In forgiving another person, you are taking away the power the other person wields in your life. It has nothing to do with getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviors, or words.

Unfortunately for a grudge holder forgiveness is not part of their repertoire.

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Just as haters are gonna hate, grudge holders are gonna grudge. Think of the Donald Trumps of the world—not only are they going to be SMUG about it, these personality types have a way of making their outright defiance a central part of their personality, wrapping themselves in self-righteousness. Grudge holders tend to be simplistic thinkers and childish. Remember as a kid, when you saw the world and people as good or evil? A person who can’t let go has never developed past this level of thinking.

To me, nothing was pettier than watching Donald Trump’s grudge against John McCain play out even after the poor man’s death. But at the heart of ALL grudges are pettiness and ego.

No matter how you slice it, it is not a good look. It means you have not developed a better way to cope with a trying life situation. It is an ineffective way of coping. It may be important to get yourself into counseling to process out those feelings and move past the hurt. A good clinician can help you take a more balanced approach in your thinking.

Do you ever ask what makes some people move on and other people hold onto a grudge for dear life?

I find people who hold grudges like the identity it gives them–of victim. Of someone who has been wronged.

I find grudge holders tend to be black and white thinkers—people who see people as ALL good or ALL bad, right/wrong, with them OR against them. Black and white thinkers cannot see people or life in a complex, more nuanced way. Often, they are what therapists refer to as “splitters.”

Grudge holders tend to think they are justified and their mistreatment of another is well-deserved and appropriate. Grudge holding is a very self-righteous state of mind. Grudge holders tend to like to PUNISH. Most times, both the grudge and the anger are disproportioned to the perceived wrong

Grudges tear families apart. Ruin lifetime long friendships. Destroy the people who keep them going because if you are holding a grudge that strongly against someone you are certainly not allowing peace, love, and happiness into your lives.

Grudges are not healthy. Yet being at the end of someone’s grudge is a whole other different beast.

The issue that can arise with being the target of someone’s grudge is that you may begin to think you did something wrong even when you didn’t I have seen this play out in counseling where clients begin to doubt themselves because of someone’s extreme reaction. Experiencing the ire of someone’s grudge can be extremely painful—grudge holders can be no holds barred when they want to release their rage.

If you feel you are in a never ending conflict, I recommend getting yourself into counseling. It can help you process these feelings and perhaps create a new perspective on an old problem.

If you find you are struggling with conflict in your life or are the target of someone’s grudge, here are some ways counseling can help:

-A therapist can help you learn to recognize people who can turn into grudge holders/people who like to manufacture conflict. People who are spiteful, judgmental, bitter towards others tend to be grudge holders (does a certain leader of the free world come to mind?) If they behave like that towards someone else, it will be your turn eventually. Learn to be cognizant of risky people who run in your circle.

-Counseling can help you process painful truths. Remember people who hold grudges may be unable to see their own role in the situation or face the pain they caused. It comes back to being able to be vulnerable. Grudges are typically about harmed egos after all and protecting those fragile egos. Know that a grudge holder will lie, connive, and do anything to protect and elevate their image at your expense.

-Counseling can help you accept the grudge holder’s perspective.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to perspective. Reality is different for all us–our thoughts color our perception and some people think faulty thoughts. As a counselor, I bear witness to this EVERY DAY. To a grudge holder, YOU ARE THE BAD GUY.  That is just how it is–it does not matter how irrational or outlandish another’s perspective is. Knowing this may help you accept the end of the relationship (do you really want relationships with people who view you as a bad person?)

-On the other hand, counseling can help you to be open to a reconciliation. Down the road, a person holding a grudge against you may decide they want you back in their life. Try to keep an open mind—see if this person is truly capable of hitting restart on the relationship. While change is unlikely we should never give up hope people can change for the better.

-Therapy can help you to appreciate this person’s ABSENCE. Move on. At some point, you must accept things will not change. Some relationships are beyond repair. Be honest–do you really want someone in your life who thinks so lowly of you? Life is short. Surround yourself with people who appreciate ALL THE GOOD you have to offer.

-Lastly and most importantly, remember it takes much more energy to hold on to hate than to forgive. Counseling can help you put your energy into positive emotions like love, kindness, openness and not negative toxic emotions like resentment and hate. Focus on all the loving relationships in your life.

Counseling is a great avenue for processing negative emotions and gaining a more balanced perspective. If you are struggling with an ongoing conflict in your life, a good clinician can help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, goals, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Everything Can Change, If YOU Can Change

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Change.

Many people HATE change. They fight it like hell. Resist it at ALL costs.

We all know people who will do ANYTHING to preserve the status quo.

But you can’t avoid change. The problem with hating change is life is FILLED with it.

Everyone, from every walk of life, must deal with change.

Change is always happening, but the way people react to change can be very different. Some people respond with fear, others respond with denial, others RELISH change.

What about you? How do you handle change?

Are you someone who puts off changes that you know need to be made?

Do you resist change to your own detriment?

Are you a person who creates opportunities for change because you view change as growth?

As humans, we are designed as a species that can adapt to all sorts of environments. If we weren’t CAPABLE of coping with change in all likelihood, we would be extinct.

For some people, they are not against change. But they may resist BEING changed.  It is the source of the change that matters to them.  Some people do not like change that is imposed on them—by say a boss, spouse, or some other external source.

Some people don’t mind change...depending how big the change is.  Perhaps they can change a small aspect of their life but anything they deem to big and threatening is out of the question.

The truth is we all HAVE different thresholds when it comes to our ability to adapt to change. What I can handle you may not be able to handle or vice versa. Being averse to change or embracing it is a very subjective experience.

It all comes down to how comfortable you are with uncertainty.. Ask yourself–would you rather be WRONG or UNCERTAIN?

Some people say better the devil they know because the risk of uncertainty is too UNCOMFORTABLE for them to handle. Even when on an intellectual level a person knows uncertainty also comes with the chance of things being BETTER.

Below is a quiz I came across, that takes only a couple minutes, to get a sense of how much change you feel comfortable with:

https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/122984769-quiz-how-do-you-personally-feel-about-change

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If you find you want to change or need to change but have not been able to bring yourself to do so, you may benefit from working with a professional counselor.

Counseling can help you step out of your comfort zone to a more fulfilling, happier life. As you change your behavior, you identity starts to shift.  Our identity is NOT fixed, we are all capable of changing for the better.

The question is are you READY for a change?

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, goals, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology

Get Over Yourself: Why You Need to Free Yourself of Self-Importance to Live a Happy Life

 

I am NOT that important.

The show WILL go on WITH or WITHOUT me….that is fact.

And it liberating to know this. The truth will set you free!

Is it me or do people seem more self-important than ever lately? I feel this plays a role in the high state of anxiety our society lives and breathes in. Being self-important is a sure-fire way to be high-strung and easily triggered. It takes A LOT of energy to keep yourself at the center of the universe (I am exhausted at the mere thought).

The truth is nobody is watching you. Nobody is spending all day thinking about you. Very few people even care about you except for close family, friends, your significant other. Why such a seemingly harsh statement? Because you’re not that important (trust me, nor am I)! It is a tough but important message to hear if you want to be happy and emotionally healthy.

Self-importance can become a source of tremendous angst and unhappiness. Self-consciousness can create an obsession with how we appear to others, what they think of us, and with our image.

I have counseled people who are paralyzed by their self-consciousness and pervaded by self-important cognitions. When a person is self-conscious, they think as though they are on stage, and the audience (ie other people) are scrutinizing their every step.

Being self-conscious can limit our ability to enjoy the moment and express ourselves fully.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is really helpful in overcoming such a faulty thinking pattern.

Moreover, a colleague of mine recently shared a TED talk with me on freeing yourself of self-importance as a precursor for living a happy life. I copied the link to the TED talk above and found it to be an interesting talk to invest the 17 some odd minutes in.

Basically, the bottom line is you need to “get over yourself” if you want to be a happy person.

Usually when we hear the expression get over yourself we think of a self-absorbed jerk who is being inconsiderate of everyone around them–acting as if they are MORE important than others.

Yet we have ALL seen self-importance in action. It is the mother at the airport standing with all her and her children’s bags in the middle of the moving sidewalk, oblivious to those behind them who may need to pass. It is the person in the waiting room loudly chatting on their cell phone completely ignoring the NO CELLPHONES IN WAITING ROOM sign. The driver leaning on her horn because someone in front of her remains stopped when the light turns green—to allow a pedestrian to finish crossing. The colleague who takes credit for all apparent successes and blames others for all failures. It is the friend who talks twenty minutes nonstop about themselves without asking you how YOU are.

These scenarios are increasingly common in our day-to-day life. Yet can you recognize when you are in fact the offending party in said scenarios?

Getting along and getting ahead requires playing well with others, either in cooperation as friends, family, spouses, teammates, and coworkers. Yet many people struggle with doing just that. Our day-to-day life is filled with thoughts about what others may be thinking, what others may be doing, trying to figure out WHY someone said this or did that.

Yet how often do you ask yourself what effect YOUR words and actions are having on those around you? Healthy relationships require that you do just that. We are, by default, the center of our world.  Yet self-importance leads us to focus on how other people’s words and actions affect US, but fail to pay mind to when we are in fact the offending party.

Ask yourself how often do you:

~Worry about what other people are saying/thinking about you?

~Feel stressed that your problems are unique and NO ONE else struggles like you do?

~Obsess about your perceived shortcomings–looks, financial, success, grades, etc.?

~Induldge in over thinking—on a variety of topics?

Ask yourself honestly. How much of your day is spent focusing on YOU?

The thing is about self-importance, in its many different forms of expressing itself, is toxic. It pollutes the energy of those who need to feel self-important, as well as anyone and anything they interact with. Most other people, don’t appreciate being made to feel less than, will become defensive or take offense at the energy spewing out at them.

Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t take care of yourself or look out for your best interests—of course you must. But you do this with an attitude of grace and softness rather than aggression or antagonism.

Empathy is at the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, but so is the ability to regulate our thoughts and behavior so as to have a positive effect on our own lives AND on the lives of the people we love and care for.

Daniel Goleman said, when we focus on ourselves, our world contracts, as our problems and preoccupations loom larger. But when we focus on others, our world expands.

We all have moments of  frustration, anxiety, and angst. But did you ever notice that all those situations have one thing in common? You.

At extreme levels, self-important thinking can lead to paranoia, a belief that others are thinking about you, talking about you, and paying attention to you when they are not. I often gently point out to clients that MOST people are worried about their own daily to do lists, families, obligations, etc. The truth is most people’s thinking is centered around them, not you. Most people are busy living their own lives–they neither the time nor the energy to devote to people who have little effect on them including you.

Ask yourself often what it is you want to contribute while you’re here, what impact you want to have on others and the legacy you want to leave behind.

If you want to be happy, don’t dwell on yourself so much.  Self-importance reduces our ability to go with the flow, while putting stress on our relationships. Viewing everything through a “how does this reflect on me” lens is unfair to others. People may begin to avoid us or keep conversations short with us.

If you really want to “get over yourself” once and for all, practice a daily gratitude practice. Embrace humility and being humble.

Take yourself LESS seriously. LIGHTEN UP.

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If you find yourself relating to this video or blog post, counseling might be a great place to process these emotions and figure out a better way to live and let live.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com