Category Archives: Attitude

Seeking approval:
“Why doesn’t my father appreciate me and all that I have accomplished?”

"Bicicletas para Alquilar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Bicicletas para Alquilar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

In the presence of close family members we often revert back to the way we were when we were children. We may still crave approval that we feel we never received. Siblings may easily trigger us.

The trouble with seeking approval is threefold:

1. The approval we seek may be sought from someone who is incapable of giving it.

2. The more we yearn for that outside approval, the less likely we are to receive it. Often people who are reluctant to give approval are negatively triggered by those who yearn for it.

3. By the time we are adults, the disapproval we sense has become internalized. Therefore, we have to generate the approval we seek within ourselves rather than seeking it from others.

Even if your father finally sees the light and says, “You are amazing! I am so proud of you,” you will probably not feel that magical feeling of self-worth you’ve desired for so long. By the time you’re an adult, the feeling of inadequacy stems from your own inner voice—that internal voice that has been with you so long.

Transforming the internal voice

It is up to you to transform the voice in your head. This may be as difficult as transforming your real father. However, it’s a relief to know that we actually have considerable control over our own thinking.

We can develop new habits of thinking and thereby create that sought-after approval or desired peace of mind. You need to catch yourself every time you have a negative thought and replace it with a positive one.

For instance, when you hear an inner voice saying, “You’ll probably botch the interview,” replace it with, “I will prepare for this interview as well as I can.”

When you say to yourself, “I’m the dumbest person here,” with “Nobody here is perfect; I’ll just do my best.”

Replace the thought, “I’m never good enough for him and he won’t appreciate me,” with a more positive thought: “Too bad for him that he isn’t able to show his appreciation, but I know I did a good job.”

After fifty or a hundred thought replacements, each successive one becomes easier. After a few hundred or thousand replacements, the habit of negative thinking will have changed. It sounds like a lot of effort, but we have many thoughts a day, and it’s better to start changing our thinking now than continue with negative thinking.

Constructive thinking, which is encouraging, useful, and pleasant, will become more automatic, and you will no longer crave or need approval from the outside. Ironically, when people stop craving approval from others, their confidence grows, which makes it more likely that they will gain approval from those closest to them.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Feeling Shame: ‘I’m not worthy to be loved.’”

Read “Rebuilding your Life: ‘How do I silence their abusive voices in my head, stop being hard on myself and start living?’”

The Positive Effects of Cheerfulness.

"Carpe Diem" by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

Cheerfulness is a powerful emotion, which is similar to gratitude but more forward looking. It is a can-do attitude of making the most of what occurs in our life. Research shows that cheerfulness materially changes brain chemistry helping enhance mental and physical health. The positive effects of cheerfulness on the quality of our own life and our relationships cannot be overstated.

Being cheerful does not entail refusal to acknowledge the difficulties that arise in life. There is an important place for painful emotions. Thus, Pollyanna cheerfulness can be false and annoying in its naïveté. However, having a cheerful attitude involves a reasonable willingness to take on life’s challenges instead of sitting back and complaining.

No matter what struggles we face, we can still develop a cheerful attitude. This does not mean that we don’t feel the pain or are not aware of the challenges that exist. It means dealing with life’s difficulties with the positive expectation that we can overcome them, or at least that we will give it our best shot.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Facial expressions: She says I frown all the time. That’s just me.”

One Creative Way to Conquer Fear of Rejection or Failure

“Swing” — Ernie Els by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

I failed my way to success.

~Thomas Edison

People often lack the courage to take initiative because they fear failure or rejection. Yet to pursue friendships, romantic relationships, and work aspirations, we need to face potential failure and rejection without being constricted by the choke-hold of trepidation.

When you go out and pursue something you want, you are going to be rejected and make mistakes. You might as well expect rejection and mistakes and learn to handle them better.

In Coach John Wooden’s second to last game, UCLA was down 2 points with a few seconds to go. After the game, a reporter asked him why he chose to set up a play for Richard Washington. He replied,

Because he’s not afraid to make a mistake. He thinks he’s a pretty good shooter—and he is—but if he misses he’ll think, “Well, you can’t make them all.” He won’t be devastated. Therefore, he’s harnessed his fears. The others might be thinking, “I’ve got to make it.” If that’s their thinking, they’ll be fearful about missing. I didn’t want that.

Rejection Therapy

How do we harness our fear?

In a desire to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection and overcome his fear, entrepreneur Jia Jiang developed his own so-called “Rejection Therapy.” For 100 days, he set forth to make one rejection attempt a day, making sure his requests were legal, ethical, physically safe, and likely to be rejected.

For instance, he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger, he asked for a burger re-fill, he asked to play soccer in someone’s backyard, and he asked to dance with his waitress. Not only did he stop dreading rejection, he learned that if he accepted rejection gracefully or asked “Why” or “Why not?”, often the rejection had nothing to do with him, or it would turn into acceptance. What surprised him most was that he was not rejected 42 times out of 100, despite his weird requests.

We are all human. So rather than worrying about being perfect, we can embrace the opportunity to learn from our blunders and miscalculations. Accepting that we are going to get rejected and make mistakes can free us to move forward in a more relaxed and confident way and to live our journey more fully rather than agonize about reaching or failing to reach the destination.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Reference: Jia Jiang’s Tedtalk

Handling Criticism:
“Don’t criticize me. This is the way I’ve always done it!”

"Why Not?" — Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If you do anything interesting in life, you are bound to be criticized. It is best to handle criticism without becoming defensive or taking it personally.

Consider the Critic’s Underlying Motivation

When you understand the motivation behind the criticism, it is easier to respond appropriately without becoming defensive. People criticize for various reasons, positive and negative:

1. To help you avoid making a mistake.
2. To connect with you.
3. To share a good idea that may improve on what you are doing.
4. To feel worthwhile.
5. To feel superior because they are jealous or feel inadequate.
6. To find fault because they feel threatened.
7. To vent irritability.

Depending on the motivation, you can handle the criticism differently. For example, if someone wants to share a good idea, it might be worthwhile to engage in a conversation with that person about his or her ideas.

For those who want to connect with you or to feel worthwhile, you don’t need a long discussion on why their criticism is not helpful. A simple “Thanks for your idea” may be adequate, and then change the subject to something of more interest to you.

If someone feels jealous or threatened by you, you can thank the critic and disengage.

You might respond to someone who is simply irritable by asking, “You seem upset. Is there something going one in your life?”

Consider the Criticism

Regardless of the critic’s motivation, the criticism itself might carry some validity. So ask yourself if there is something to be learned by it. Focus only on what is helpful. Disregard the rest. You show confidence when you consider other people’s ideas.

Surprise the critic by thanking him or her for the criticism. If you agree with the criticism, let the critic know how helpful he or she has been. If not, respond honestly with your reasoning. Critical people are often grateful that they are listened to. They may be accustomed to people becoming defensive and ignoring their ideas.

The man who is anybody and who does anything is surely going to be criticized, vilified, and misunderstood. This is part of the penalty for greatness, and every man understands, too, that it is no proof of greatness.

~Elbert Hubbard

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Defensiveness: “What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!””

Is life a drag?
Living the Moment

"Enlightenment" Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Enlightenment” — Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

The extraordinary moments of life are outbalanced by the more frequent ordinary moments, such as working at the computer, going to the store, or sitting in traffic. The good news is that brain research shows that happiness is related more to your state of mind than the state of your current external circumstances.

One way to improve every moment is by learning to have a relaxed, mindful attitude, even when you might be bored or under stress. So there is no need to wait for the next time you go on vacation, go to a yoga class, or have a couple of drinks to improve your state of mind.

When you relax while focusing on the present moment, you can learn to be at ease, quick and on task without rushing. If you learn to be “in the zone” even in ordinary moments, life will flow more easily and your feelings of fulfillment will be enhanced.

We can consider life as a precious gift or a strenuous chore. To a large degree, it is our choice because we filter life through our mind. Here are some ways in which we can improve our state of mind, make the ordinary extraordinary, and be more enjoyable to be around:

1. Notice sensations, the air, the view, and the environment around you. This puts you in the present moment and mitigates anxiety and fear.

2. Observe your own energy and that of those around you. Intentionally transform your energy, whether you decide to focus on being peaceful, excited, appreciative, or ready for action.

3. Be mindful of your body. Correct your posture and reposition yourself to feel strong and relaxed.

4. Notice your facial expression and decide if you you’d like to change a frown into a more pleasant expression. Smiling alone will improve your day.

5. Focus on your breath. Breathe more slowly and deeply.

6. Be ready to handle anything that comes your way in a positive way. View every challenge as an opportunity for growth.

7. Focus on others, that is, engage others with wit, intellect, or a compassionate attitude. This takes the focus off of one’s own complaints. And most important,

8. Be happy to be alive.

If things get rough, then breathe deeply, think about what you can be grateful for, and if possible, look for the irony, humor, or philosophical insight that many situations present.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I want to enjoy life and not just think about money.”

Read “Fear and Panic: ‘If I don’t keep on top of everything, I don’t know what will happen.’”

“My life feels out of control.”

 "Peace - Buddha" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Peace – Buddha” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If you are facing life challenges, such as a break up, illness, tragic choices made by family members, or financial distress, your life can feel out of control. As a result, you can feel helpless and powerless, and become anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed.

There are many things we don’t have control over in our lives and many more that we have very little control over. While we may not be able to change our external circumstances, what we can change is our internal perspective, and this can make all the difference in the world.

It may be difficult to change negative thought patterns, let go of grudges, and stop complaining about our circumstances, all of which bring us a certain comfort. Yet with practice, we can control our thoughts and change our perspective. We can admit to our negative thinking, understand it, and then move on.

Viktor Frankl, who survived the most dire circumstances in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Therefore, we should focus on what we usually do have control over. We often can determine the following:

1. how we spend our time,
2. whom we spend our time with,
3. what we read,
4. what we think about,
5. how to view the events in our lives,
6. what we learn from our relationships,
7. how to respond to other people—their love, their anger, their expectations,
8. the words and tone we use,
9. where we spend our time.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

by Alison Poulsen, PhD