Sharing stories over coffee, sharing hopes during walks, sharking secrets in whispers...when we disclose something personal, we wait for our conversation companion to say "me, too!" Be it a nod, a smile, or a verbal affirmation, these things signal that what we just shared resonates with someone else. It normalizes our experience, taking us from our lonely island to the party on the cruise ship. How important is normalizing? Think way back to your elementary and high school days. Do you remember wanting to belong to a group? To have friends who shared your interests, who wanted to spend time with you? Part of normalizing is finding a common thread and gaining a sense of belonging. To know we are not alone in what we experience, how validating! What a confidence booster! The initial "me, too" starts a cycle we are positively rewarded to repeat -- fear of being "the only one," sharing something personal, normalization, and then confidence. We begin to CRAVE the normalization and confidence, and why wouldn't we?! So, share your story with someone and feel the power of "me, too."
Do you find it hard to figure out how to get all your responsibilities -- home and work -- accomplished in a day? Are you someone who wants a career, a family, friends, AND time for yourself? You are not alone. Many people seek the perfect balance that will give them enough time for everything and still a few hours to sleep. Many times when the topic of work-life balance comes up, working mothers are the focus of the discussion. How can women work outside the house while maintaining a warm home, deep friendships, a loving family and a sense of self? What about those women who are not mothers? What about men who may or may not be fathers? Many people struggle to find a balance that makes them happy and it is important to acknowledge that we all can benefit from some help achieving and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle that includes anything we find important, whether it is family, or friendships, or a bicycle club. Kelly Wallace explores the struggle of work-life balance and seeks to expand the discussion of who that struggle affects in her piece "Work-Life Balance Not Just a Women's Issue" on cnn.com.
Susan Cain is a writer and researcher, most recently focusing on introversion. In her book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" as well as her TED Talk, Cain discusses how introversion is an asset in a culture that extols an extrovert ideal. Introversion has been inaccurately believed to be a term describing shy, socially awkward people. In reality, introverted people respond to external stimulation differently than extroverted people (who actually respond differently to internal stimulation). The fact is that the majority of us are somewhere on the scale between introversion and extroversion. The key is to figure out how you process information best, how you communicate best, and how you FEEL best and go from there. A bit of introspection -- and even some sessions with a therapist -- can be incredibly helpful in figuring out your healthiest, most successful self.
Domestic violence has become a hot topic in the media as of late. It's something that deserves our attention and energy to change. Whether the violence is against a woman or a man, whether it is physical, emotional, or verbal...it needs to stop. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust, honesty, love, and affection, not power, greed, and control. Christi Paul of CNN wrote a fascinating piece on why our culture is asking the wrong question when it comes to domestic violence. She says that we should not be asking "Why does she stay?" but ask "Why does he hit her and why is no one stopping it?" When someone you love exerts power and control over you in a supremely negative way, it can change you. It can make you fearful, isolated, and make you begin to doubt yourself. It's moments like these that it becomes incredibly important for someone to step in and stop the negative cycle. To do that, our culture needs to begin by changing its foundation: create a tighter community presence, educate on domestic violence, find healthier anger management techniques, and KNOW that it is not the victim's fault. When it comes to domestic violence, what do you know to think or do? Do you blame or do you help? Do you stare at the "wreck" or help prevent further harm? What do you do?
Empathy is a powerful tool that allows us to relate and grow in our relationships. Through empathetic listening and responding, we are better able to let another person know that we understand them. We've walked in their shoes, or something similar, and are willing to mentally do it again so as to deeply connect. It makes someone feel less alone, more heard, and, again, understood. Having someone in our lives that can pull us out of the isolation we've either created or found ourselves in is profound. It has the potential to help our emotional and mental well-being. It reminds us that our circumstances are not entirely unique. And, maybe most importantly, it shows us that we can and will come out on the other side eventually. Having a support system that is able to effectively empathize is invaluable.
When have you needed to feel understood? Is there someone who consistently is able to reach out and empathize or someone who tends to miss the mark? Life can sometimes feel isolating. It doesn't have to. By practicing empathetic listening and responding we can be better friends, partners, and family to those who are reaching out. We can model true empathy in hopes that those who are good at it continue and those that miss the mark eventually hit it. The tip to remember is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. By being willing to share your dark experience -- as either the one needing empathy or the one communicating empathy -- you are able to connect deeply with someone all while continuing to heal yourself. Each day is an opportunity to gain greater mental health and stability. Reach for it!
"Why don't they just leave?"
This may be a question that you have asked yourself when faced with the sad and fearful situation of a man or woman in a relationship plagued with physical, emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse. You may know someone in a domestic violence relationship or you may have seen media representations in television, movies, or even the news. Either way, for many it can be difficult to understand just why a person would stay in such a destructive relationship. Leslie Morgan Steiner tells her story of finding herself trapped for a time in such a relationship. She breaks down the stereotypes of the type of person thought to succumb to a violent, controlling relationship and explains what it can be like when a person's whole world is manipulated. She provides compelling insight on the domestic violence victim and abuser, and what it can be like when a person is able to leave.
A healthier, happier you.