SECRETS OF A SOCIAL WORKER

Find peace.Find happiness.Find yourself

Tag: Social Work (page 1 of 11)

Happiness is Religion

Life is too short.
We say this often in various situations, but how many times do we actually apply it to our lives? How often do we think about what this really means, and if we truly live by these words when we say them?

My mom and I were having a discussion about this recently, and she said something that had a great impact on me. In talking about the life-is-too-short mentality, we focused in on the concept of happiness. Within this conversation, she said, “You should always strive for happiness. What gives you peace, what fills your bucket and brings you joy? Everything flows with that. We get distracted with so much of our life. Happiness should be our top priority, it’s why we are here. This is our biggest calling and it’s how we become our best selves; by putting ourselves first… Live in your happiness, and be happiness. Happiness is my religion.”

First of all, now you see why I tell everyone my mother is my free therapist. I wrote down her words of wisdom that day and have reflected back on them ever since. I reread them, smile (because of how uplifting and true this is), apply this mindset to my day, and focus on happiness being the upmost purpose of my world.

Within this uplifting conversation, my mom and I both expressed our frustration when people, including ourselves, settle in life… We settle in jobs, relationships, situations, lifestyles or locations. We sacrifice our happiness a lot, and after looking back on this conversation, I believe there are two reasons why: fear and pain.

We sit in unhappiness. We wait for it to change, and we avoid what needs to happen to transition into a space that we know and feel will make us happier. We wait for the feelings to dissipate and convince ourselves it isn’t that bad, because being unhappy in our everyday ‘normal’ feels safer than stepping into the unknown. Putting ourselves first and advocating for our own happiness can sometimes come with change. We fear change, we run from it because it feels unsafe and risky. We focus more on the process rather than the end goal of where it leads. We fear the period of growth and prefer sitting in what we know doesn’t bring us the joy we deserve.
We also do not want pain for others. Putting ourselves first sometimes comes at a price of ‘causing’ pain for someone. I have learned a lot recently about not taking on other people’s pain as my own; that my decisions may affect people, but their reaction is not my responsibility.
It is okay to put yourself first, speak your truth, and not take on the pain of someone else who does not approve of your decision to find your happy-place. Your attitude and effort is all you can control, and wrong does not exist here. Unhappiness cannot exist in the space of a great attitude and the effort you put into finding yourself, because you decided to choose happiness. You decided that your joy takes precedent over feeling badly for someone’s reaction to it.

Listen to that little voice that wants more, feels more, and knows that there are things you could change to be happier. And again, isn’t that our ultimate goal? What is really stopping you? Why wouldn’t you want what you can have, if it will bring you the joy you deserve?

There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy…And it’s about being able to let go of what makes you sad. This comes from our own actions and self-accountability. I find that when I strive for happiness, I allow myself to feel the fear and accept that it may be there. I accept the fear, grief, and impact it may have on others. But I also have confidence in that allowing myself to take it on head first has opened up so many more doors of opportunity for me. When I follow my heart, I am never mislead. It can feel scary, and some people have experienced pain from my decisions. But I learned not to let it stop me. I cannot live for other people’s comfort over my own. I cannot control their emotions and reaction to my own personal decisions, and neither can you… You cannot live your entire life for other people.
And you know what else I have learned? It always ends up making sense, and I believe that. We are the best versions of ourselves when we are happy. I view happiness as a spiritual experience that comes with appreciation, love, grace, and patience. Happiness does not mean perfection, it’s a state of mind you choose. And why not choose it? There is no end game, it’s an ongoing journey.
It’s your ongoing journey.

Choosing happiness alters your state of mind. When you view things from the lens of I-am-going-to-be-happy-today, you see things as such. Even on a rough day, you see the beauty and purpose in that knowing happiness is on the other side. Everything we experience has purpose if we let it. If we go through life dreading and complaining, we miss opportunities to see why those tough days exist. Without tough days, we would not experience the highs of happiness. We can still see through the current moment and have faith that our joy is right around the corner, because it is.

You should always strive for happiness. What gives you peace, what fills your bucket and brings you joy? Everything flows with that. We get distracted with so much of our life. Happiness should be our top priority, it’s why we are here. This is our biggest calling and it’s how we become our best selves; by putting ourselves first… Live in your happiness, and be happiness. Happiness is my religion.

-keep shining

(If you want more happy things in your world, check out the Happy Things Thursday section of my blog.)

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Running on Empty

Have you ever been afraid of stopping because you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get back up?
Yeah, me too. It’s called distraction, anxiety, fear, avoidance, whatever it is that you are scared to face if you just stop…To stop means to rest, and when we rest we are flooded with the thoughts and responsibilities that we put on the back burner. And once we recognize the thoughts and responsibilities we avoid, we then know we have to either do something about them or let it eat up space in our brains. The busyness allows us to excuse the need to make changes. And conversely, because we are constantly on the go, there is a fear that we may enjoy the stopping and are unsure how to pick back up again once we allow ourselves to come down from all the chaos. We fear enjoying the breather, because what happens when we have to pick back up again and be who everyone expects us to? It can feel terrifying to allow ourselves to be relaxed and happy when we think it is temporary.
COVID has exacerbated this process as it has forced us to stop, which I think is part of the reason we are seeing an increase in people’s deterioration of mental health, and/or breakthroughs and realizations.  COVID has forced us to pause parts of our lives and face the reality of why we kept running on empty for so long…

We have to start seeing our reality for what it is. There is no magic wand that will make what is not working start miraculously working. When we constantly run, we think we are outrunning our reality when we are really just avoiding and prolonging the inevitable. The inevitable may be coming to terms with fears of being alone, or starting over, not yet finding our purpose, knowing we need to stand up for ourselves, or not being happy with our current situation. The inevitable may also be needing to leave a job or a relationship, telling someone no, hurting someone’s feelings, making a decision that impacts others…The list goes on and on.

Recognize and appreciate hopelessness. I know this sounds silly, but once we are honest with ourselves and realize something is hopeless, we start to make changes because we know we have to. We can start becoming the person we know we are and strive to be…Once we release what is hopeless, we can put our focus on what is important now. Do not miss out on current potential because you’re avoiding change and holding onto what is hopeless.

Find balance. This is hard to do. People like to talk about self care as some fluffy term for drinking wine and taking baths. In reality, self care is discipline and coming to terms with your own sh*t. It is creating a work/life balance, and putting your needs first sometimes. It is having honest conversations with yourself, spending time alone with your thoughts, and then dealing with whatever it is you find.
You have to enjoy your life and the fluffy things, but you also need to hold yourself accountable, set boundaries, and take care of your body. Do not underestimate the power of proper exercise, diet, water intake, and sleep.
One exercise I recommend is “what is on your plate”. Draw a big circle and inside of it write down everything that is currently on your plate. On the outside of the plate, write down all of the things you want on your plate that you do not make time for. Then try to figure out how to rearrange it all…What are things you can take off your plate whether letting them go or delegating to someone else? What can you replace those things with that you want on your plate, such as more alone time, going to the gym, picking up a hobby, or focusing on an important relationship you’ve neglected? Just see what little things you can start to incorporate while simultaneously removing some of those hopeless responsibilities or random tasks that someone else can take on.

There are a lot of answers held within our bodies. Aches and pains and constant problem areas are usually telling us to pay attention to our somatic symptoms, as our emotional state directly correlates with our bodies. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body aches/pains and sensations are all connected; they all have influence over each other. The self care piece of this is to take time to do a body scan, discover and pay attention to problem areas, and then work through them. For example, lately I have had several headaches and stomach cramps. I know this is directly related to feeling frustrated and stressed, as I have come to realize that I clench my jaw when I am overwhelmed with things that frustrate me and cause me to feel stuck. Clenching my jaw gives me a headache which is my indicator that I am overwhelmed and distracted with intrusive thoughts. These thoughts give me stomach cramps because they make me anxious.
Moral of the story; do not ignore your body and simply accept the aches/pains, because it is truly trying to tell you something. Also, pay attention to when your body feels relieved and relaxed, and incorporate more of what causes those positive sensations into your life.

Communication with someone you trust is key. There is nothing more revitalizing than staying connected to others. Tell people how you feel, and use your support system when you need it. When we run on empty, typically the relationships we want the most suffer because we prioritize work and life stressors over them, thus becoming additionally stressed because we know we are neglecting those people. Do not let yourself lose those that mean the most to you because you prioritize the things that overwhelm you. Even if all you have time for that day is a phone call while driving to/from the gym or for five minutes before bed, find time for the people who make you feel good.
Also be sure you are choosing positive connections for communication. If we reach out to someone who is typically negative or toxic, this will not help uplift us when we are overwhelmed. Find people who are a positive impact on you, hold you accountable, are trustworthy, and support your life.

Silence is eye opening. I have said it before and I will say it again, add more silence to your life! We use noise as a filler to further distract ourselves when running on empty. Drive to/from work in silence, turn off the tv when you aren’t watching it, don’t listen to music when you shower…add in small bits of silence every day. This is when we can start to come to terms with what is draining us, what we are avoiding, what we are missing out on, and what it is we want for our lives. This is also where we get to know ourselves, and ensure we are checking in to put our happiness and goals at the forefront of our decisions. And doesn’t that sound nice?

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to chose, to respond, to change.” 

-keep shining

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Shame.

One of the worst moments of my life was winning the grand and oh-so-important title of Homecoming Queen. I know this sounds ridiculous, however there are two main reasons why this day sucked so royally…For starters, I had no idea until that moment how truly mean people could be. Even friends that I was used to having in my corner were not, and I was blindsided by this. It was a time in my life of being very hurt, confused, and emotionally drained. I knew back then that homecoming was not something people remembered or that even mattered after high school. And frankly, I did not care whether or not I ‘won’ anything like that. But winning was the best thing that could have happened to me, because experiencing this kind of hate made me realize how important friendship is. I recall telling myself that I would never make anyone feel the way I felt. I decided in that moment if I am anything in this life, it’s that I will be remembered as a damn good friend.
The second reason this day sucked was because people I was not close with at all or spoke to much were the ones that were there for me. I was so grateful for them, but immediately felt an intense amount of guilt for not noticing or spending more time with these people throughout high school. That guilt has carried into adulthood, and I sometimes find that the guilt starts trickling into the most damaging feeling of all; Shame.

One thing we know about guilt is that it co-exists with shame. I still have small, random moments of feeling shame over that experience in my life. My thoughts go something like this, “what kind of person was I that I did not thank them more for being so nice, or that I didn’t spend time with them? I wonder what type of person they think I am. Did I hurt their feelings? Did they regret being so nice to me?” …Isn’t this absolutely ridiculous? The shame I still hold onto for something so small and irrelevant upsets me.

We all do this. We feel badly for so many things we did or did not do, or messed up, or regret (guilt), and then start to allow that guilt to define the type of person that we are (shame). Guilt is the feelings associated with I did something bad (the behavior), whereas shame is the thought that I am bad (self worth). Often times our guilt turns into shame…But it is so important to separate our behavior from who we are as a person.

It’s also important to understand that guilt is how we feel we have affected others, whereas shame relates directly with our feelings/beliefs about ourselves. Guilt is where we feel responsible for something we did, and shame is the painful awareness we are flooded with when we feel we are ‘improper’ or are now damaged in some way. The feelings we get from chalking ourselves up to being ‘damaged’ can be so overpowering and painful that it fogs our ability to further develop our sense of purpose, confidence, and worthiness. Once we move past the healthy feelings of guilt (empathy and recognizing that we feel badly for hurting someone) and into this feeling of being less-than (shame) is when we stunt our ability to grow. It’s when we listen to the internal beliefs we have about ourselves…The little voice that says, “I knew you couldn’t do it”, “I knew you’d fail”, or, “no one will ever love you”.

I am surrounded by shame, not only because as a female it’s unfortunately such a societal norm to feel shame, but also working with victims who are often blamed for the abuse they have experienced…Being told countless times by society that they had a choice or ‘asked’ for it, or are questioned for their decisions. Through these victims, I continually see how much shame interferes with personal growth. It is devastating to watch shame take over someone’s whole being and sense of self, and cause them to continually face the downward spiral of self hate. This is where people feel unworthy, self-loathing, and a sense of not belonging. There is nothing productive about shame because it’s where we become self destructive, careless, and defeated.

Take-Aways:

  • It is so important to separate person from behavior. Labels lead to developing a sense of shame.
  • Surround yourself with people who do not judge, blame, or label.
  • Tell yourself you love yourself, daily, and why. If this is hard or awkward for you, I would challenge you to have an honest conversation with yourself and unpack that. Find where the why is and start to explore reasons to love who you are and what you bring to the table.
  • Be more aware of positive/negative self talk. When you mess up, do you say, “I should not have done that”(guilt), or, “I am not a good person” (shame)? Focus on your behavior and how to change/learn from that, but you do not need to correlate that with the kind of person you are.
  • Think about all of your positive qualities, and then think of your flaws. If it’s uncomfortable or difficult to think of your positive traits, and/or your flaws list is larger and easier to talk about, work on changing that. Life is too short not to love who you are and celebrate that each and every day.
  • Talk about it. We cheer on people around us when they are vulnerable, yet we don’t want to do it ourselves. It feels scary, foreign, or like people will judge us. But talking about it helps us recognize and work through it, gives the shame less power in our brains, and provides some relief. We continue to go down the rabbit hole in our heads when we stay silent.
  • Accept that you are going to mess up, hurt people, embarrass yourself…These are normal experiences and we will never outrun them.
  • Learn what your triggers are…What are some environments where that little voice likes to chime in? Prepare yourself for this and be vigilant about identifying the feeling before it expands.
  • Quit apologizing for everything. We say sorry for being who we are, or for things we have no control over. Focus on and work towards letting go of this habit.
  • Do not give shame space in your head. You are lovely, just the way you are, but the key is that you believe it too.

Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change~

-keep shining

Blogs about guilt:
Guilty Conscious
Free Yourself From Guilt
Color Outside The Lines

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When you love yourself…

  • You smile more often
  • Your taste in people will change
  • You say no
  • You do not listen to outside opinions
  • Your confidence is your best friend
  • Your success matters more than how much you weigh
  • You are less stressed
  • You focus on your purpose
  • You understand your passions
  • You see the world through a positive lens
  • You are less judgmental
  • You gain self awareness
  • You leave toxic relationships behind
  • You are grateful for the little things
  • You trust the process
  • You do not let the expectations of others define you
  • You put yourself first
  • Your mindset evolves
  • Your values and goals begin to change
  • You are able to be vulnerable
  • You set boundaries
  • Your self care becomes a priority
  • You see yourself for you who are
  • You seek more opportunities
  • You learn to accept helpful criticism and apply it
  • You prioritize the health of your body and soul
  • You love unconditionally
  • You are living

-keep shining
(Click here to learn how to celebrate yourself)

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You might assume…

That you don’t matter much to this world. But someone wears that favorite sweater you gave to them.
Someone hears a song that reminds them of you, or quotes something you said. Someone watched the Netflix documentary you recommended.
Someone laughs when they remember the joke you told them.
Someone feels loved because of your encouraging words.
Someone gained a new hobby you taught them.
Someone came to you for advice.
Someone tried the recipe you recommended.
Even in the seemingly smallest moments, you have an impact that cannot be removed or forgotten. Within each moment of positivity you share, remember that you make a difference in this world.

-keep shining

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