Category Archives: Parenthood

Boosting Your Child’s Self-Confidence

Purple Butterfly on HandIt can be hard to watch someone you love struggle.  Whether it’s with a complicated math problem, or a cartwheel, or a difficult friendship, our kids will run into a challenge that tests their mettle.  And at the same time, most parents would put “self-confident” on their list of qualities they hope their children will have.  Since we can’t dictate how our children feel about or respond to a challenge, what can we do to help them feel confident in the face of adversity?

The parenting author Jane Nelsen defines self-esteem as “the belief that I count, I’m capable, and I can control what happens to me, or how I respond.”  This is a fantastic cornerstone to our efforts to boost the self-confidence of our children, and helps us break down this notion of “self-confidence” into practical and manageable ideas.

I Count

All of us need to feel that we matter.  That desire for belonging never goes away; we need it as adults, too.  One of the most important ways to help a child feel that he counts is to really listen when he talks.  This means everything to kids – no one likes to feel as though they aren’t being taken seriously or that their problems aren’t significant enough to warrant time and attention, and it’s easy for us as parents to forget that when we’re preoccupied or when our children are experiencing what we might consider to be minor dramas or quick fixes.  Ask questions more than giving answers or your own observations or solutions.  Being included in decision-making through family meetings is an important way for kids to feel that their voices and opinions matter, and that they are an important, contributing member of your family.

I’m Capable

We gain confidence not by being told that we’re great, but by experiencing the overcoming of obstacles.  Being told “You’re the best!” doesn’t mean much compared to that feeling of actually conquering a challenge.  Kids need opportunities to learn new skills, fall down and get back up again, and then look back and see how far they’ve come.  As tempting as it might be, don’t jump in and get involved right away.  Have faith in them that they can find their own solutions (perhaps with you as a coach) when possible.  If you step in too quickly, your child may get the message that you don’t believe in him, that you don’t think he’s able to handle the situation on his own.  “I believe in you” and “You can do it” are among the most powerful words you can say to a child.

I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond

There are times in life when we can choose the outcome of a situation.  For example,  if we choose to spend the night before a big test or exam out watching a movie, we may very well be choosing not to do well on that test.  Sometimes our actions have a direct relationship to the results we get, and in those times, we need to empower our children to recognize the control they do have.  But sometimes we can’t control what happens to us, that’s very true.  As humans, a feeling of control over ourselves and our surroundings is extremely important to us.  Which is why it’s critical in those moments to remind our kids to recognize that there is something they can always control – regardless of what is happening – which is how they respond to challenges.  They can choose to be angry, resentful, or bitter.  They can choose to be defeated, despondent, or hopeless.  The can choose to be determined, focused, or accepting.  Armed with the understanding that even if they can’t control what happens to them, they can always control how they respond, our kids can learn to look for the elements of a situation that are in their control and take action.  At the end of the day, there are millions of ways to have a positive impact on your children’s self-confidence.  Spending one-on-one time with them, teaching them a skill you have, having a hobby that you share together, showing interest in their school lives and friendships, asking them what they think they should do next, reminding them of their successes, giving unconditional love…the list goes on and on.  Let I Count, I’m Capable and I Can Control What Happens To Me Or How I Respond be the structure of how you think about your child’s self-confidence, and fill in the rest with all of those little moments that happen every day.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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Join Kimberly For An Interactive Twitter Party!

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Are you tired of this freezing weather?! When the the sun is only an occasional visitor and the temperatures have us running for the indoors, we often just want to be at home. Home fills us with those comforting and cozy feelings of welcome and warmth. We can cuddle up on the sofa with a book, light candles and sip tea in front of a crackling fire place; an escape from the harsh real world. Home is where our loved ones gather and together we can feast on home cooked meals in an elegant family dining room. Our bedrooms provide us with a safe haven for rest and sweet dreams. Have you created a “nest” for your family? Need inspiration? Look no further than Urban Barn!

To help everyone create their own perfect nesting space and to celebrate the re-opening of the revamped Urban Barn Leaside which is opening on Saturday, February 21st, Kimberly is having a Twitter Party!!

We hope you can join Kimberly as she will talk all kinds of tips and tricks to making the most of your family time as well as one-on -one time right at home!  Of course, what would a Twitter Party be without prizes!!  So much fun!  Mark your calendar right now – this party is happening this Thursday night and we’d really like to see you there!

Here are all those details again so you don’t miss a thing!

Date: Thursday Feb. 19th at 8 PM EST

Follow: @urban_barn, @KimberlyMoffit & @SassyModernMom

Hashtag: #UrbanBarnLeaside

Please RSVP using the linky below.  See you soon!

*Please be sure to enter your Twitter Handle “@yourTwitterhandle” in the Link/Blog Title field, and your Twitter URL “www.twitter.com/yourtwitterhandle” in the Link Field*



Staying Connected To Your Tween

The-best-top-desktop-purple-wallpapers-purple-wallpaper-purple-background-hd-28If you’re the parent of a tween, you may look at parents of younger kids, out for a walk at the mall or on their way to school, and see the little ones willingly reach for Mom or Dad’s hand…and cry a little on the inside.  You may find yourself butting heads with your 10 year old and think, what happened to the little guy who was easily distracted by a hug and a game of Uno?  Gone are the days when you begged the kids to go play in the other room because you needed some peace and quiet!  Now you’re the one being shooed out of the room.  Sigh.  We know they’re growing up, but did it have to happen so soon??  We typically expect teens to be much more connected to and interested in their friends than in their parents.  But we need to not give up on them, because friends are not a good replacement for parents.  We need to stay connected, even if that connection evolves, so that we can continue parenting and leading our kids.  And that evolution starts well before they actually hit the teen years.

Step one: spend some good time together.  Between homework and racing kids to activities, it can be easy to become disconnected.  Start by making sure that not every interaction you have with them is a negative one!  If the only time you really seem to have their attention is when you’re disciplining them, you’ve got a problem on your hands.  A few kind words in the morning, leaving little love notes for each other, a little chat over tea in the evening, interesting discussions at the dinner table, and turning off the TV and the electronics during all those windows take little time but can pay back big dividends in a relationship.  It doesn’t have to be anything big, but create some good times together. Building in regular time with you and/or as a family – weekly game nights, perhaps lessons in a sport you can do as together – helps to give you all something in common.

Spend time getting to know your kids’ friends.  If you don’t know who your tween’s best friend is, make a point of learning, pronto.  Including friends in some of your fun family outings is generally painless and informative (and may make your tween more interested in participating!).  And as far as that goes, find out more of your tween’s other “favourites”.  Nothing makes a kid sigh in exasperation louder than having his parent go on about his favourite food/tv show/singer/movie, when the kid has already moved on and has a new favourite.  Don’t get hung up on who you think your child is; you might be clinging to an idea that’s outdated, which might lead him to feel that you really don’t get him at all.  Be curious about your kids and their evolving ideas and tastes.  It’s these little things that help kids to feel as though you’re really on their side, and that you’re okay with the independence they’re developing.

Your child is turning into an adult, so don’t be afraid to change the way you relate to him or her.  Share more of yourself; talk about your day, what your “favourites” are, what you’d really like to do over the next year.  I’m not saying you should talk to her like you would your best friend, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the insight and personality that’s developing in your not-so-little one.  And the relationship you cultivate now will keep you closer and more connected in a few years when she’s just that much older.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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10 Relationship Issues That Can Benefit From Professional Counselling

toronto-couples-relationship-counselling.jpgHave you been having relationship problems with your partner, family, friends or someone important in your life lately? In life, complications between the people we love arise and there are ways to solve those complications through many different ways. There are healthy and appropriate ways to solve those complications and two of the options are through counselling or psychotherapy.

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Am I the only one having problems with the people around me?” Everyone has different circumstances throughout life, and its common for most people to go through rough patches as well as periods of joy throughout their life. It is important for us to recognize that no healthy relationship can avoid conflicts! Issues are created while having interaction with people but that shouldn’t stop us from having relationships with others.

There are many different reasons to why we may not be getting along with the people around us. Have you gone through any of the following lately?

1. Trust Issues
2. Difficulty Communicating
3. Personality Differences
4. Money Problems
5. Life Transitions (Minor or Major)
6. Overcoming Grief and Loss
7. Dating/Lack of Intimacy/Ending of a Relationship
8. Parenting/Controlling or Needy Partners
9. Coping with Each Other’s Extended Family/Blended Family
10. Household Responsibilities/Toxic or Judgemental Household Climate

Sometimes, all we need is to chat things over with a friend or family member, or even have some time to think on our own about the issue. Other times, therapy is a great option to explore why we’re having relationship issues and work out skills and coping strategies so we don’t end up in the situation again.

In Counselling and Therapy, we learn to:
1. Recognize the problem, treat it and become stable (emotionally and mentally)
2. Develop skills to work out obstacles in a lively and appropriate way
3. Learn to listen, process, and understand others
4. Establish skills to say what you want in a assertive way without being disoriented by emotions such as anger or resentment
5. Develop full capability to realize how the other person feels and what they want

At KMA Therapy we offer different types of services for Relationship Issues, such as:

– Counselling for Relationships
– Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
– Relationship Therapy
– Relationship Management Counselling

If you’re interested in any of these services, please contact us and we’ll be thrilled to help. Have a great day!

By: Kimberly Moffit

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Professional

 

The “Wow Factor” and The Holiday

Ease Holiday StressThis is the time of year when expectations run high, and it’s easy to fall victim to the thinking that if we don’t do something perfectly, we’ve ruined Christmas. That’s why this is the perfect time to employ the Wow Factor. I didn’t invent this principle – I first heard about it in the book The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn – but I think it’s particularly applicable around the holidays.

What this principle does is allow you to recognize the value in your time (or money, for that matter), and whether or not spending it on a certain activity is worth the amount of “wow” you’ll receive in return for your efforts.

Let’s consider gift wrapping. There is a certain Wow Factor in seeing all those pretty parcels decorating the bottom of the tree. Let’s say your enjoyment of those wrapped gifts rates a 5 out of a possible 10. You may feel as though you need to up the ante by not just wrapping each gift in paper, but by wrapping them a la Martha Stewart. But the amount of effort it will take is significantly increased. Shopping for ribbons and coordinating paper, assembling all the scissors and tape you’ll need to create those fabulous bows, and the work to actually wrap and tie every individual package is also part of the Wow Factor. Is the enjoyment you will receive from perfectly wrapped gifts going to raise the Wow Factor from a 5 enough to justify the time and effort it will take?

If you’re going to spend an additional six hours prepping and wrapping gifts but the Wow Factor is only going to go up to a 5.5 on the scale, is that really worth it? Or could your family do without those extra trimmings and be perfectly content with a 5 out of 10? In fact, will they even notice and appreciate the extra work you’ve put in? Because if they won’t, you’ve misspent energy that could have been put to better use on something else.

The Wow Factor can be used in so many situations – it really is a handy tool. (In fact, I even used it to help me pick my wedding dress!) When shopping for gifts, it’s easy to go overboard. But let’s face it: after the first few gifts, the Wow Factor drops off sharply. Those first two or three gifts are as good as gold to a child, but after that the enjoyment per gift really does decrease. So maybe it’s not worth it to spend your time and money shopping for a dozen perfect gifts when your children will be just as happy with only three or four.

Your time and money are valuable. Don’t waste them on things that don’t really bring you enough satisfaction to justify spending them.

Find some time to savour this holiday season. It goes by so quickly, really, as does the childhood of your children, so resolve not to let another holiday pass with a stressed out and cranky parent. You deserve to recapture some of that childhood enchantment of the holidays, too, so make the effort to slow down, just a bit, and remember why your 10 year old self loves this holiday so much.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers
Andrea Ramsay Speers

Boost Your Happiness With Relationships

toronto-couples-relationship-counselling.jpgStudies show that people with close relationships to family and friends are HAPPIER. That’s right. It doesn’t matter if you have 30 of these close relationships or 3. The point is: you have people in your life who you love. More importantly, you interact with these people regularly.

In relationships where people are experiencing marital distress, both individuals are likely to experience more depressive symptoms. It’s easy to understand how relationships impact our wellbeing so directly, because we’ve all experienced it!

You can become a happier version of yourself by cultivating these key characteristics:

1. Maintain strong relationships

Haven’t heard from your mom in awhile? Give her a call! Haven’t made time to catch up with your BFF in a couple of weeks? Make time for coffee with them then! The greatest gift you can give yourself is time to nurture and preserve the important relationships that you’ve built up over the course of your life.

2. Give social support

Happiness doesn’t just come from receiving social support. We are happier when we GIVE social support to others! That’s why careers in social service — social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists often rate their professions as highly rewarding. If you don’t have a career in these fields, consider volunteering at local homeless shelter, a meal program or any other program where you get face-to-face contact with people you’re helping.

Everyone has busy schedules. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the so-called ‘necessities’ and things that HAVE to get done. Over the course of your life, the MOST important necessity is your relationships. They’re who you spend wonderful nights and difficult nights with. They’re who help you through the rough patches and who cheer you on through the wonderful times.

By: Kaya Quinsey

Kaya Quinsey

Three Ways To Be Less Selfish

glass-heart-purple-loveWhen it comes to relationships, is it all about you? You might not realize when you’re only looking out for number one. It can become a habit to think exclusively about yourself. Healthy relationships have a hefty dose of compromise weaved into them on a regular basis. In the context of your relationship, without considering the needs of both your partner and yourself you put your relationship in a dangerous zone. In order to be less selfish, you don’t have to compromise on your needs entirely, or make it all about the other person! There’s a way to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship in which both parties are heard and feel that they share the spotlight.

You might be selfish in your relationship if you:

  1. Like to be in control
  2. Lack the ability to compromise
  3. You turn the attention to yourself
  4. Do you get restless doing the activity your partner wants to do?
  5. Losing an argument makes you feel horrible
  6. You have trouble apologizing
  7. You usually end up getting your way

Here’s what you can do to turn your relationship around, and show what a great partner you can be!

1. Gain Self-Awareness

Try practicing mindfulness meditation, or writing in a journal to reflect on how you feel. What’s going on with you? What emotions are you dealing with today? By figuring out what emotions you are experiencing, you have the option be able to tackle them and deal with them right away. If you need some time to yourself, take an hour or two doing something you love all on your own. That way, you will be less likely to explode at your partner that you need space later on. You get your needs met, and your partner will love seeing you happy. It’s a win-win for everyone!

2. Show Your Gratitude

Remember how you acted at the beginning of your relationship? If you’re like a lot of couples, you were probably amazed when they brought you coffee just the way you like it, or started stocking their fridge with your favourite snacks. You also probably gave your partner a huge “THANK YOU!” for these small, but thoughtful gestures. Over time, we stop noticing these small gestures as they become commonplace in our lives. Start by noting the little things your partner goes out of their way to do, and THANK THEM for it! You don’t have to be elaborate, but a sincere compliment after your partner makes your eggs in the morning can start your day off on the right foot.

3. Listen

In our busy world today, we often come home and while our partners are telling us about their days, we are checking our emails, texting our friends, or watching the latest episode of our favourite show. You might be trying to listen while you’re doing these things, but in reality you’re likely missing a large portion of what they’re saying. You’re missing important cues — body language, facial expressions and even large chunks of what they’re telling you. Your partner might be giving you all the information you need to give them the TLC that they require, but you’re not listening! Take the time to really devote ten minutes to your partner when you get home to hear about their day. It’s a skill that will help relationships in all aspects of your life!

By: Kaya Quinsey

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The Key to Communication

Toronto Psychologist Healthy RelaitonshipsKeys to Effective Communication

Effective communication is the foundation of every successful relationship – whether our friendships, romantic relationships, or professional endeavours. Being able to properly communicate our thoughts and understand another person’s enables us to build strong connections, resolve differences, and work towards common goals. We often think that communication is as simple as: Person A says something to Person B, Person B understands and responds, to which Person A then understands and responds, and so forth.  However, this basic formula hinges on the assumption that what is being communicated is properly understood by the receiver of the information.  Life experience would tell us that this is not always the case and a lot of life’s little (and big!) problems can be traced back to miscommunication. Here are a few simple steps to help you improve your communication and better connect with the important people in your life.

Be Clear

It’s important that you know what you want to say and why you want to say it.  This is especially important for significant conversations.  Before you engage with someone clarify your intention and your message.  Do this by having an inner dialogue with yourself to clarify your points.  Avoid speaking in vague terms or obscuring your points with too many words.

Be Honest and Tactful

Sometimes we have the tendency to avoid discussing unpleasant topics or engaging in potentially uncomfortable conversations. We use euphemisms to deliver bad news and sugar-coat our criticisms.  It’s important to remember that there are tactful ways to present even the most unpleasant messages.  Remember that integrity is lost when honesty is lost, and ultimately we become hindered when our messages aren’t adequately delivered. So while your best friend may not need to know that her annoying habit drives you absolutely insane to the point you want to pull your hair out, she may benefit from knowing the impact this habit has on you, and possibly others, and how the relationship may be improved if it changed. You should be to be sensitive to the feelings of others without obscuring the truth of what you are trying to say.

Listen to the Words and the Music

This is one of the most important things to remember when it comes to communication.  It means to pay attention to the content of what a person sharing with you (i.e. the words) but also be aware of the context and the process (i.e. the music).  When we move beyond the content we can see that a lot of information about a message is conveyed through the timing, delivery, and emotion that is associated with it.  Tune into your own feelings throughout an interaction.  What you’re feeling is usually a good indicator of what the other person is trying to communicate. 

Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal communication says a lot more than words often can.  Pay attention to body language, eye contact, and facial expressions.  Non-verbal cues typically happen outside of awareness which makes them the most reliable form of communication.  If someone is telling you they are doing just fine but are saying that at a distance from you, with arms crossed, and avoiding eye contact, chances are they aren’t fine.  Be aware of what your body language is communicating and be attuned to the body language of others to better gauge how they are feeling.

Avoid Defensiveness

Even if you don’t like what is being said to you try to respect differences of opinion and keep an open mind.  Hostility and defensiveness are the surest way to end effective communication and start a conflict.  Instead, try to validate other perspectives and share your own opinions respectfully.  This goes back to honesty and tact.  It is perfectly acceptable to disagree and stand by your own views, what’s important is the manner in which you do so.

Try Perspective-Taking

Every time we hear a message it is interpreted through a filter that is based on our personalities, past experiences, current emotional state, and relationship to the other person.  Consider how another person might interpret what you’re saying and the meaning they may be attaching to it.  Also be aware of how your own filter may be affecting your communications with others.

Last but certainly not least…..LISTEN!

Being an effective communicator is not only about what you say but also about how you listen.  Active listening shows that you care, are sincere, and helps build trust in any relationship.  Pay close attention to what is being said so you don’t miss the message.  Show interest through both verbal and non-verbal communication and give your full attention to the speaker.  This means avoiding interruptions and distractions whenever possible (i.e. putting your cellphone away unless it’s urgent!)

By: Catherine Kamel

counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapy

Being A Mother & Having A Successful Career: The Delicate Balance Of Having It All

The-best-top-desktop-purple-wallpapers-purple-wallpaper-purple-background-hd-28I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of having children of my own to love and care for and was thrilled when my children, Madeleine & Nicholas, were born. They are an absolute joy and having them in my life is such a natural fit for me. They have enriched my life in more ways than I could ever adequately express and I love them dearly. But I also knew that I wanted a career. I didn’t always know exactly what it was that I wanted to do, but I never expected not to have to work. The thought of having a job always excited me.

As the years went by, things seemed to fall nicely into place: I was married, owned a home and a business, worked, volunteered, and took care of my children. I had a busy social life, a wide circle of friends, and was very active in my community. But then everything changed. I’ll spare you the details but, needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. My relationship of 20+ years was over. I found myself taking care of 2 children on my own, having to find a job that allowed me to be the mother I wanted to be and the career woman I now needed to be.

I had previously spent many years in the hospitality industry and also worked as a performer. Now, as a single mother, restaurant hours were impossible to keep and a career in the performing arts seemed like a frivolous pursuit. So I did something that many people are terrified of doing: I started over.

I saw this as an opportunity for reinvention and rebirth. I thought about everything that I liked, everything I was good at, everything I wanted, and everything I needed. I made seemingly endless lists. I took a free career planning course. I researched the requirements for every job that sounded even remotely interesting and I conducted informational interviews to help me narrow down the field of possibilities. I did absolutely everything that I could possibly do for free because there was no way that I was going to pay a single cent towards anything, until I was certain that I was making the right decision. I didn’t feel as though I had the luxury of being able to make any more mistakes. I wanted to get this right, even if it took a little longer to get there.

When I’d finally settled upon a few options, I had 3 main criteria:

1) Would I really enjoy it?

2) Would this career be a good fit with my family life?

3) If schooling was required, which program allowed me to obtain the highest academic credentials in as little time as possible?

When all was said and done, I chose to go back to school to become a Certified Image Consultant & Stylist which, ironically, was something I had already done for friends and family over the years anyway. I was always the person that everyone wanted to take shopping with them. People admired my sense of taste and style and I realized that I could actually get paid for doing what I’d always done for free! Imagine that! I definitely had moments of doubt but, for the most part, I was filled with excitement and exhilaration for what the future had in store.

My studies went exceedingly well. I made incredible connections and was presented with wonderful opportunities for growth and personal development. My newfound career path was such a perfect fit that I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t pursued it sooner! Workshop facilitation, speaking engagements, freelance writing assignments, and invitations to countless fashion and beauty events soon followed. Now, whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, the response is usually a version of this: “How exciting! It sounds like you have it all!” I have heard that phrase so often that it has forced me stop and think about what “having it all” really means.

For me, having it all used to mean having everything that money could buy. It was about the acquisition of stuff, about status and bragging rights, in addition to all of the “normal” wants and needs of life, love, and relationships. Now it’s all about choice and compromise.

My life has 4 main components:

1) my private time

2) my life as a mother

3) my business world

4) my social life

Each component is important to me and helps me to be a well-rounded individual. I’ve listed them in that order because that is the order of their importance to me. Some of you have already gasped and said, “Why on earth did she put her private life before her life as a mother?!!!” That’s easy: my private life takes 2 – 3 hours out of every day and happens before my children wake up each morning and after they go to bed at night. It does not detract from the time I spend with them in any way and, in fact, makes me a better mother. During my private time, I plan my day, meditate, exercise, listen to music, read, and unwind. That’s it. Nothing salacious here, so relax. That “me time” just makes me a happier, more grounded person, with the ability to face each day with a smile and to sleep soundly at night.

These are my choices. I own them and they work for me. If and when they stop working for me, I know that I will have the freedom and the opportunity to make other choices and adapt my lifestyle accordingly. That, to me, is the ultimate objective of having it all.

So where does compromise come into play? What gets sacrificed? Everyone who knows me is aware that my children come first. If there is a school event or excursion, a difficult homework assignment, a project to complete, a test to study for, or if a child is sick, my social plans will be cancelled and my business engagements will be rescheduled. It’s as simple as that. No exceptions. Luckily for me, being self-employed allows me to get most of my work done while my children are at school, so they rarely see me working or feel my absence. They’re actually quite happy when I have to go out to a meeting or an event in the evening, as they thoroughly enjoy their time at home alone.

Of course, having it all involves a tremendous amount of hard work! I was not born independently wealthy, nor have I won the lottery. It is a mistake to think that those we perceive as having it all laze about at the beach all day, piña colada in hand. People who have it all are some of the busiest, hardest working people on the planet. What they do with the money they earn is their business and they are free to spend it as they see fit, but they must earn it before they can spend it.

I used to live a life that, to the outside world, appeared as though I had it all. But I didn’t. People just assumed I did and I never disabused them of that notion because I felt as though it would have brought shame to myself, my family, and our business. Now I proudly tell people the truth about my past life. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it did help shape me into the woman I am today. My life now, although much simpler, is so much more fulfilling. I have a home I love, my children are happier than they’ve ever been, I thoroughly enjoy my work, I have meaningful relationships, I laugh and have fun every day, and I do things that I enjoy doing. I have given up a lot, but I don’t miss it. I make better choices for myself and for my children and we are all better for it. So, if you ask me if I have it all, my answer would be an unequivocal, “Yes, I do!”

Your version of having it all and mine might not be the same, but you are free to interpret it however you please and to do whatever it takes for you to achieve your goals. In spite of all of the self-help books lining the shelves of your favourite bookstore, there is no a one-size-fits-all diet, relationship guide, or career-planning manual.  What worked for me might not work for you and that’s okay. Having the choice to do what you want, to try different things, to add a number of life’s experiences to your personal shopping cart, and the ability to compromise as you see fit, that’s having it all.

By: Elizabeth Friesen

Elizabeth Friesen

Why You Have To Forgive Yourself

keep-an-open-mind-101-happy-quotes-and-tipsSelf-Forgiveness

Mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  Some big, some small.  They lead us down various paths and there is always something to be learned from them.  Above all else there is one thing they all have in common, regardless of repercussions and regrets, and that is that they are (self) forgivable.

It is important to acknowledge our mistakes, reflect upon them, and learn from them in order to prevent them from happening again.  However, what often tends to happen is we get trapped in a vicious cycle of self-criticalness, judgment, and guilt.  While these feelings are sometimes the natural product of poor decisions and missteps, we tend to indulge them past the point of usefulness.   We punish ourselves over and over without considering the fact that we cannot change what has been done.  This self-punishment keeps us stuck in the past with our mistakes while preventing us from moving forward.  On the other hand, we have forgiveness.  The ability to forgive ourselves is quite possibly the hardest, yet most wonderful gift we can give to ourselves.  It sets us free and helps to move beyond our mistakes to a place where lessons can be learned and changes can be made.  Let me clarify by saying that self-forgiveness does not mean condoning mistakes we’ve made.  It is not justifying undesirable behaviors. And it’s not rationalizing away pain we may have caused.  Instead, it is acknowledging the basic fact that we are all human, we make mistakes, but they do not define us.  Self-forgiveness is about reflecting on our misdeeds, taking responsibility for them, and coming to peace with them.  How? Read on…

Reflect

Take the time to reflect upon whatever it is that you’re beating yourself up about. While it can be painful to be introspective, it’s important to be honest with ourselves and the choices we have made.  It’s only when we take the time to truly understand ourselves and what has happened that we can then learn and grow from our experiences.  Acknowledge your feelings and be open to them. Try to understand the context and history in which something happened and use this as information to better know who you are and how your choices came about.  When we reflect in this way we may uncover parts of ourselves that need healing and begin the growth process.

Take Responsibility

Avoid the temptation of making excuses for yourself. Do not try to justify or rationalize away what has happened.  This prevents us from truly healing and increases the likelihood that we will “re-offend”.  Instead, be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your words or your actions and allow yourself to feel whatever comes up as a result.  It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run. Taking responsibility forces us to own every part of ourselves – the good, the bad, and the proverbial ugly – and when we stop disowning the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we can begin to be more self-accepting, self-loving, and self-forgiving.

Surround yourself with those that love and care about you

Having a solid support system is necessary through all of the trials and tribulations of life, but can be especially when you are struggling with feelings of self-blame and guilt.  Your friends, family, and loved ones know you best and will help you to remember that you are not defined solely by the mistakes you make.  This doesn’t mean that they will unequivocally accept everything you do – and they shouldn’t.  We need the important people in our lives to remind us of our good qualities but also to help us face the darkest parts of ourselves with honesty.

Try to make amends BUT don’t let self-forgiveness be dependent on somebody else

If you have somehow hurt or wronged another person, take action to make amends.  Extend sincere apologies where they are appropriate but understand that they may not be accepted.

When we hurt others, we often tell ourselves that we will move on and forgive ourselves once the other party has done the same.  The first issue with that is that it may take days, weeks, or years.  In fact, it may not ever happen.  The second is that if your own forgiveness is dependent on someone else, the capacity for growth is minimal.  You’ll skip the reflective process which is ultimately the most important. Respect that each person has their own process when it comes to forgiveness.  We cannot rush others or change their minds. Do what you can to make amends but don’t try force anything.  Respect their process and trust your own.

Find the silver lining

With every mistake we make there is the opportunity for something good to happen.  Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious and sometimes it’s hard to find.  When it happens to be less clear, remind yourself that at the very least there is always the opportunity to learn something new and that in and of itself is a good thing.  Take the opportunity to acknowledge what you have done to learn from this experience and how it has the potential to change you for the better.  Use these lessons to make better choices, foster stronger relationships, and be more self-loving in the future.

“Forgiveness is the experience of peace in the present moment.  Forgiveness does not change the past but it changes the present and the future” –  Frederic Luskin

By: Catherine Kamel

counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapy