When It Feels Like No One Knows You

Some of us, to some extent, have felt like no one really knows us. Maybe it is persistent, or it comes in intense waves. It could come after losing someone important to you or when you sit down alone surrounded by yourself. Regardless, when it surfaces, it is painful, better yet, excruciating. Maybe you have tons of friends and a wonderful family, but it still seems like no one really knows you. You are not alone. Other people feel the same way, and there is hope. There is a great depiction of this feeling in the show Mad Men.

The scene happens when Don breaks down after losing Anna. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Don Draper is the main character who plays a brilliant adman on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. He remains distant and shows very little emotional vulnerability throughout the show. He continues to shove people away that care for him and keep them at arm’s length.

Anna plays the wife who was married to the man that Don steals the identity of before the show takes place. She allows him to take the identity of her dead husband, knowing that he didn’t want to go back to war and wanted to start over from a past of being raised poor and brought up in a brothel. Through Anna’s kindness and support, Don is able to start over. Don doesn’t share this with anyone for several seasons of the show, so Anna is one of the only people that knows about that part of Don’s life.

The scene takes place in Don’s office when he receives a phone call while with arguably one of the closest people he knows post identity swap. During the phone call, the person on the phone tells him that Anna has died from cancer. It takes him a few moments, but after the phone call, he breaks into tears. You see the pain, grief, agony, and loneliness sweep across his face. He realizes that he has lost someone who knew of his past and loved him regardless. He knew that she hadn’t been drawn to him because of his current prosperity and status; rather, she supported him before he had accomplished anything. He hadn’t lost everything, but it felt like it. After being asked what was wrong, Don says, “Someone very important to me died…The only person in the world who really knew me.”

You may not have lost someone, but maybe you are acquainted with that feeling. Sometimes it doesn’t seem obvious as to why you feel that way. You might have plenty of friends and great family members but still feel alone and unknown. After a while it can build, and the usual conversations and relationships may not seem like enough. You want more and don’t know where to find it or how to get it. Other times it is obvious why you feel that way. Maybe you don’t have many people to talk to, and you feel forgotten.

The antidote to this feeling is genuine deep connection. Tim Keller, a public speaker and retired NYC-based pastor, describes this well:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is…. what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

The pain is real and the satisfaction from connection runs deep. There can be a strong temptation to keep pieces of yourself hidden from everyone. If you hide the bullying you went through in school, the bad divorce you experienced, or the guilt from the way you have treated people in the past, people can’t judge you or treat you differently for it. You can keep things from people and, in fact, sometimes you should. However, the feeling of loneliness and being unknown can start to creep in the more that you hold painful things in.

Don is an excellent example of this. He keeps his identity and past a secret from most people throughout the show. No one knows of his painful and ugly past except for Anna. She was the one person he could turn to that knew and cared for him unconditionally. There is a strong sense of relief that comes from showing someone everything and then having them love and care for you despite your ugliness.

Make time to share with people that you know are trustworthy. A supportive and encouraging ear can be transformative. This isn’t something that will go away overnight, but with the right people and willingness to share, it won’t hold as much power.

If this feeling persists more often than not and doesn’t seem to go away, then seek professional help from a local counselor or psychiatrist. This could be a symptom of depression. With the right care you can move forward and find healing.

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Working Through Stress at Work

All of us know that work can be stressful, even hardly bearable at times. For most of us, our jobs are our livelihoods. Not only that, a lot of us are there for at least 40 hours a week. We spend a ton of time completing tasks, talking with coworkers, and dealing with our bosses throughout the week. Work is a large part of our lives, and once you add stress to your work, it can become difficult to manage and carry over into our personal lives. If you feel like your stress leaves work with you, then this is for you.

One reason you may be experiencing stress at work is that there are a lack of boundaries between yourself and work. You want to be the best employee you can and sometimes you will do more than you have the capacity to. When your boss asks you to stay late several times a week or asks you to do 5 extra tasks that you don’t have the time for things can get stressful real fast. You don’t have to be the office superhero. All of us have limitations.

I’m not saying that you should say no to going the extra mile. Instead I’m saying to say no to going an extra 10 miles every day. If you notice your stress levels getting out of control and affecting your relationships, then it might be time to say no and practice self-care. If you are too bogged down, you aren’t just affecting your relationships, but your work performance will suffer too. The best thing for you and your company can be to cut back on what you can and invest time on other things that are important to you.

That leads us to the next part, practice self-care. I’ve written on this topic before, but it is very important when discussing workplace stress. This is where the saying “You shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket” comes into play. If you don’t have any hobbies, friendships, or time with your family set aside, then your mental health can suffer. There is more to you than your ability to accomplish things at work. Engaging in hobbies and spending time with friends and family is crucial to abating stress and finding fulfillment.

Lastly, take your vacation! Over half of US employees did not use all of their vacation days last year. Whatever vacation time you have, use it. There is a reason that you have vacation days. It is exhausting to go for a whole year without taking time off regardless of whether or not you love your job. You don’t have to take an extravagant vacation; you can just relax at home or with family. Regardless, you deserve time off. You put in a lot of time to make your company or business better, the least you can do is give yourself a couple of weeks a year.

Working hard is great. Working yourself too much isn’t. In order to take a breath of air from work, set some boundaries, say no, and practice self-care. If you continue to feel stuck and unable to break free from your anxiety at work, and possibly outside of work, then seek professional help. Professionals are trained to help people through things like anxiety and workplace stress. Take some time to re-calibrate so that you can re-focus and work through workplace stress and anxiety.

7 Ways to Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety can be crippling. It can be constant and last all day, playing in the background or constantly nagging. It can also come up at unexpected times, with great intensity, and keep you from being productive, or even leaving the house. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, it can significantly affect relationships and the ability to accomplish simple tasks throughout the day. Hanging out with friends and getting through the day at work can seem like impossible tasks. If you struggle with general anxiety or an anxiety disorder, here are a few ways to regain control and cope with your anxiety.

  1. Accept Your Anxiety –One of the worst ways to deal with anxiety is to try and avoid it. Denying the feeling does not help, it actually exacerbates it. Instead of denying and avoiding, one way to cope with anxiety is to accept it. Anxiety is not a completely unhelpful emotion. It can help us accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, and avoid risky situations. Anxiety also signals that we need help. The next time your anxiety bothers you remember “It is okay to feel this way.”

 

  1. Breathe – This is the MOST IMPORTANT tip to deal with anxiety. When you get anxious, your body is in a heightened state of arousal known as fight or flight. When you are in this state, it is difficult to think clearly about what’s going on because the portion of your brain responsible for decision making and planning is partially offline. One way to get that part of your brain back up and running is to BREATHE. Wherever you are take some time to inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Do this at least ten times or until you notice your anxiety level become manageable.

 

  1. Evaluate – Another way is to evaluate the situation that caused your anxiety to get out of control. Sometimes the amount of anxiety we experience can be out of proportion to the situation that caused it. A lot of the times simply observing what caused your anxiety and seeing if your response is justified can be helpful.

 

  1. Find an Outlet – Do you have any planned activities throughout the week that you enjoy? If not, planning ways to relieve stress through doing things that you enjoy can be extremely helpful. Engaging in an activity that you enjoy is like adding money to your mental-health bank. If you have added to your mental-health bank, then you can make a withdrawal when you are going through stressful situations throughout the week.

 

  1. Talk About It– You are not alone in feeling anxious. Talking to friends or finding a support group can be incredibly helpful when dealing with anxiety. Knowing that other people experience anxiety and feeling understood is crucial to the healing process.

 

  1. Anchor in Truth – If your anxiety tells you lies like “I’m never good enough” “If I don’t do this, then that must mean I’m a failure” or “I’m going crazy” then fight back. One way is to write down truths that oppose the lies anxiety tends to tell you. If you struggle to find positive truths about yourself, then ask people who you know and trust. You can write them down on a note in your phone or keep them on a notecard in your back pocket. Regardless, keep them somewhere close by.

 

  1. If Stuck, Find a Professional – Sometimes dealing with anxiety may seem like an impossible task and you can get stuck. Maybe you think that no one will understand or you are embarrassed to share your experience with anxiety. If that is the case, then find a mental health professional in your area. Licensed Counselors are trained to help people fight anxiety and find healing.

 

Anxiety is not easy to manage, but these tips can help. If it helps, print this blog off and put it on the fridge, in the car, or somewhere at work. Keeping this around might help to create insight as to when your anxiety is starting to surface. The first part to managing your anxiety is to realize when you are being controlled by it.

If you feel like counseling might be the right fit for you, then schedule an appointment. If you have any questions about anxiety, then reach out to a local mental health professional!

Importance of Self-Care: Why Caring for Yourself is Caring for All

You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse.

It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.

Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul and, let’s face it, your overall health. Without self-care, your relationships with others can suffer tremendously. Neglecting ourselves and focusing too much on work or other people can be like trying to write a 50-page paper, the night before it’s due, working on 2 hours of sleep. You need to get the paper done, and you might finish it. However, it won’t be published in any journal or selected as a New York Times Best Seller.

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Why?

No matter how unimportant you may think it is, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. You shouldn’t neglect self-care and here’s why:

It increases your sense of respect and care for yourself, allowing you to appreciate and accept yourself for who you are. Self-care is only possible after you come to the realization that you are important and need to be cared for. Also, it helps with productivity. When you learn how to say “no” to things that over-extend you and start making time for things that matter more, you slow life down in a wonderful way. This brings your goals into sharper focus and helps you to concentrate on what you’re doing. It also promotes feelings of peace and relaxation, serving as a way to refocus and come back to your daily life refreshed and ready to take on anything. It also enhances self-esteem like when you regularly carve out time that’s only about being good to yourself and meeting your own needs; you send a positive message to your subconscious. Specifically, you treat yourself like you matter and have intrinsic value. This can go a long way toward discouraging negative self-talk and your critical inner voice.

At the same time, it improves both physical and mental health by reducing the effects of prolonged stress on your mind and body. Lastly, when you’re good to yourself, you might think you’re being selfish. In truth, self-care gives you the resources you need to be compassionate to others as well. Giving compassion is a bit like filling a bucket; you can’t fill someone else’s if you haven’t filled your own!

Four Pathways to Self-Care

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can care for yourself:

1. Physical: care for your body (everything from sleep to seeing the dentist)

Your body needs what it needs. Getting enough sleep, food, and exercise is critical to your mental health and stability. The more you neglect your biological imperatives, the less energy, motivation, and will-power you’ll be left with throughout the day to deal with intense feelings like anxiety, anger, or depression when they come up.

2. Emotional: care for your feelings (acknowledging & processing feelings, changing distressing situations)

Take time to notice and process your feelings. For example, if you start to notice anxiety come up, then take some time to cool down and think through what might be causing it. A lot of times what feels like life or death in the moment turns out to be less severe once we have time to calm down and think through it. Other times you may need to reach out for support from people you trust.

3. Spiritual: care for your spirit (a worship community, a cause greater than you, nature)

Whatever your religious background may be, connecting to a cause greater than yourself can provide deep fulfillment and satisfaction.

4. Social: care for your relationships (friends who get you, family time, lunch with your coworkers)

Significant, healthy relationships are incredibly important. Connecting with others provides stability and support. When people notice you for who you are, and appreciate you, then it helps you to notice how important and worthwhile you are. Relationships help us to see the pieces of us that sometimes go unnoticed.

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Some practical tips for self-care include: living healthy, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid drugs and excessive alcohol. Manage stress and go for regular medical check-ups, exercise by taking classes with others for motivation, and spend time doing things that help you relax. Practice good hygiene which is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons in that it not only reduces the risk of illness, but it also improves the way others view you and how you view yourself. Also, see friends to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends. You may also try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading. Lastly, find ways to relax, like meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath or walking in the woods.

With so many types of self-care, it can often be difficult to find a good balance. Having a self-care routine can be incredibly helpful. It’s so important to take time for yourself and shed the stress. An hour a day can make a huge difference. It’s a great way to stay motivated and take time for yourself every day!

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Dealing With Your Anger (Part Two)

Despite the fact that anger can be destructive, it can also be a useful and a healthy emotion when expressed appropriately. Anger is a signal that you have a need that hasn’t been met. Anger has been used in healthy ways to motivate people to change themselves and the world.

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Without lashing out and hurting others, anger can be a central piece in motivating people to make life-changing decisions for themselves and others. One example is the feeling that comes from experiencing social injustice. When a particular group or class of people is being treated poorly based on things such as their race or socioeconomic status, it is useful for anger to motivate a response to the injustice. This doesn’t mean saying hurtful things or physically harming others. Rather, it means speaking up for what is true and right and pushing for change. This motivation and action accompanied with an audience that is ready to listen and respond provide a space to be understood and cared for by others.

Since anger itself isn’t a bad emotion and instead is a healthy and useful one, what is next? Knowing that anger can be destructive on the one hand and useful on the other only gets us so far.

Getting control over the anger throttle, for those of us who struggle with its overwhelming forces at times, is the next step in harnessing its usefulness. Here are some useful tips for dealing with anger’s strong and powerful grip:

Be On Guard

Be on alert for anger’s warning signs. This comes from understanding what your body’s usual response is to anger. Pay attention to whether or not you feel that burning sensation in your chest, ball in your throat, or the tensing of your arms or hands. If you are attempting to be alert regarding when anger is about to show up, it gives you the advantage to prepare and respond appropriately.

 

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STOP!

Once you realize it is coming or is already here, stop! If you are in a heated argument with your significant other, then table the discussion if you can or walk away and take a minute to return. This is especially important early on when you are trying to gain control of your anger. Continuing to fight or argue has the potential to leave you spinning your wheels without gaining any traction. The more you leave your wheels spinning, the more your tread wears down leaving you unable to move forward.

 

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Breathe

This is one of the most important steps. To put the brakes on your anger, you need to breathe. If you do not activate your parasympathetic nervous system, by breathing, it is like trying to fight a war with a Swiss Army Knife. Pulling out those small scissors won’t get you very far here. There are several different structures for parasympathetic breathing, but one that I have found to work is to start inhaling and begin to count to 4 slowly. Once you get to 4, start to exhale and begin to count to 4 again. After you finish, start the process over again until you begin to notice your body relax and your anger level significantly drop. Respond. Now that you have executed steps 1 through 3 you are ready to respond to whatever made you angry. You should now have the ability to think clearly and respond with a better and more thoughtful response. The boss who was angry at his employees doesn’t need to yell every time now. Instead, he can pitch to his employees what he expects of them without losing it and why he has such expectations. Now if he decides to correct his employees or even let them go, it is from a place of clarity and understanding instead of from a place of unbridled rage in the heat of the moment. Things would be similar to the now calm spouse. When their significant other doesn’t do something they ask, they now don’t have to jump to the conclusion that it is because they don’t care or think that their needs are unimportant.

 

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Seek Help

If you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward from constant irritation or anger, seek professional help. Therapists go through extensive training in understanding and treating issues such as anger. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the gift of counseling from someone who understands and can help.

These tips are a few ways to manage and control anger. Anger can be a cumbersome problem, but there is hope to overcome its sometimes powerful grip. If you find yourself continuing to be stuck even after going through these tips, reaching out and getting professional help is something you can do for yourself and those around you. It may seem far out of reach, but there is hope. If you have any questions about counseling feel free to send me an email or if you would like to schedule an appointment you can click on the link below.

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Dealing With Your Anger (Part One)

Getting angry is easy, but dealing with its effects can be anything but that. When you get angry your breathing becomes more rapid, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense up, and you narrow in on whatever provoked your anger. Whether you were cut off in traffic, yelled at by your boss, or talked down to by your spouse or friend, the effects of one episode of anger can last for a long period of time even after the situation is over that caused the anger to surface.

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If you deal with frequent anger, you know what it is like to lose control. It feels good in the moment and it seems as if you have to get it out or it will continue to build until you lose it. People around you, whether they be close friends or family, all know too well what you are like when you get pissed off. Maybe some people walk on eggshells around you because they have been hurt by your outbursts in the past while other less familiar people may know you as the over-passionate person who always seems to be irritated or worked up about something. If you are a boss, there is almost a guarantee your employees are atrophying from your constant frustration, and if you are in a relationship, your significant other is bound to be hurt by your lack of control and painful remarks.

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Anger in Relationships

Uncontrolled anger puts you in an ironic predicament of attempting to gain control by losing it. At times, it can seem to be working, but over time, after consistent outbursts, it does just the opposite. Yelling at your employees to get things done works at first. Soon though, they will either shrivel from fear of your temper, which can cripple their ability to get things done, or leave the company hoping to find a boss who doesn’t blow up on them every chance they get. Within the context of a relationship with a significant other, things aren’t much different. Depending upon the spouse, they may shrivel in fear or match your anger with their own. Regardless, over time, there will be a lack of intimacy and connection, leading to drifting apart, which can feel like living with a stranger.

Relevant Reading:

https://revivecounsel.com/making-marriage-last/

Anger Underneath The Surface

Anger isn’t what it seems on the surface. Underneath the raised voice and red face is oftentimes a lack of support and fulfillment. The angry boss and spouse long for support and connection, and when they don’t get it, they lash out, attempting to control people or situations to get that support. Whether that’s projects done on time or the chores done around the house, it is all an attempt at connection and support. The angry boss has his own boss, who demands results, and he needs his employees to perform or he will get into serious trouble. So when he asks his employees to get things done, and they don’t, it seems like a personal attack and he becomes angry. The same goes for the angry spouse. They ask for the chores to be done because when they weren’t done before mom or dad got home growing up, they were punished or ridiculed.

So now a messy house brings up feelings of anxiety and whenever their significant other refuses to do chores, it seems like they don’t care about them or how they feel.

What Now?

Anger is not simple. It is layered and can exist on the surface of deep hurt and pain. Usually, the stronger and more pervasive the anger, the deeper and more complex the hurt and pain is right below it. We long for connection and support, and the more we continue to face rejection and unmet needs, the more we become defensive to protect ourselves from the vulnerable place of being hurt over and over. That protection and defense can be anger.

Luckily, there is hope. Anger does not have to be something that overpowers you in the moment. Instead, if you make some adjustments, it becomes a great ally. Part two of this blog explores some tips for dealing with your anger and harness its usefulness as your great ally.

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The Cost Of Perfection

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When life gives a perfectionist lemon, they make lemonade alright. In fact, they make lemonade muddled with mint, mixed with pure cane sugar, stirred but not shaken, served over seven ice cubes, and garnished with a lemon twist and one lemon wedge on the edge of the glass.

The good news is that it will probably be a great glass of lemonade. The bad news is that if someone points out that they missed a step or added too much sugar, it could lead to intense stress and maybe even thoughts of “I’m not good enough” or “Everyone thinks I’m a failure”.

 

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Making the best glass of lemonade probably is not the largest concern for most of us. It is more likely that we are worried about being the best employee, student, spouse, or parent. For the perfectionist, it can be all of these. Wanting to be a great employee, student, spouse, or parent is a wonderful thing.

The problem comes whenever the perfectionist makes a mistake, such as making a B on a paper, forgetting to grab an item at the grocery store, missing an error on a report at work, or forgetting that your kid was supposed to be at basketball practice yesterday, which can be enough to cause significant stress, fear of failure, or anxiety for the perfectionist.

The anxiety can spiral into thoughts like “I’m such a failure”, “I’m useless,” or “I can’t do anything right.” Sometimes these thoughts do not go away and stick around for a while. When they do, it is not surprising to see more anxiety or depression begin to surface.

The cost of being perfect is not limited to the perfectionist. Not only is perfectionism responsible for suffering in their life, but others, such as their spouse, friends, family, co-workers, or subordinates can experience similar struggles. Since a perfectionist is very critical of their own performance, they can be equally critical of others. Therefore, they expect perfection not only from themselves but from most people around them. If they have to put so much work into everything that they do, why should anyone else be off the hook? Unfortunately, holding others to this impossible level of performance can lead to the same intense stress that the perfectionist deals with on a daily basis. This stress can create wedges in their relationships, which can either drain the other person or push them away. This is unfortunate because a huge factor in relieving the perfectionist’s stress is positive and supporting relationships. When the very support they need is taken away, they are left to deal with their feelings of anxiety or depression all on their own.

The cost of being perfect adds up, and the bill only gets more costly with time. If you have suffered from the perils that come with having to be perfect, I hope that you find healing. The good news is that there are ways to deal with these impossible expectations and the feelings that come along with them. An important one is to extend grace to yourself and accept yourself for who you are, mistakes and all. The road to self-acceptance can be a long and windy one, but the reward is well worth the travel.

Recommended Reading:

https://revivecounsel.com/importance-of-self-care-why-caring-for-yourself-is-caring-for-all/

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