Monday, July 30, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Managing Negativity

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Managing Negativity

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make myself painfully transparent.  There are some things that I simply hate.  And there’s no other word for it.  Any other word I could use would be synonymous with hate.  As a child, I was taught to never say that I hate something.  It was considered among the most morally reprehensible of sins.  And I spent a lot of time suppressing and denying my true emotions because I wanted to stay on the list of lambs and not get bumped to the list of goats.  But as I matured and grew, I began to realize that my emotions were actually normal.  That I wasn’t betraying my faith because I share a common characteristic of the almighty.  It finally dawned on me one day that the cancer of hatred, if not acknowledged and aggressively managed, grows into something that will poison not only my emotional health and well-being, but also impede my ability to make decisions.  Let me share with you a few things I’ve learned that have helped me manage negativity.
·         Call it what it is!
The first step I had to take to overcome negativity was to be candid.  I had to rightfully identify that emotion.    Otherwise, how could I ever have learned to move past what I was feeling?  And surprisingly, once I pin-pointed that emotion I wasn’t suddenly stricken down by a bolt of lightning.  What I did feel was relief.  I sighed.  Yes, I hate.  Now go away.
·         Try to understand why.
The next thing I had to do was examine why I had such a strong reaction to whatever or whomever held me captive.  I’m not a person who likes to lose control of my emotions.  So to be so bothered by whatever of whomever that I was moved to feel such abhorrence gave that person or thing power over me.  But the key here was to examine myself, and not focus entirely on that person or thing.  I cannot cure hatred with hatred.  I can’t change another person.  And if there is a thing or idea or system that I detest the same holds true.  I had to dissect the situation to understand why I’m reacting the way that I am.  After I complete my “self assessment,” I usually find that if there is some situation or thing that I have responded to with hatred, it’s usually because I’m reminded of an unpleasant past experience.   If there was a person whose personality was of utter disdain, I reacted to that personality because there were certain characteristics that I struggle with within myself.  Or because there was some conflict with a personally held ideal or belief.  Once I’ve made myself aware of this, I’m on the road to moving past the negativity. 
·         Now, what can I do about it?
Then I have to ask myself, “Is it the system that needs to change, or my thoughts about the system?”  “Is it only me who feels this way?  Or is this system a hindrance to others?”  If there is something that needs to change for the betterment of others as well as myself, then I can begin to call attention to what I perceive the problem to be through the appropriate channels, whether that be having an informed discussion, engaging in community action and awareness or what have you.  If there was something about another person that caused me to react with negativity, once I have identified what it is about that person I can begin to learn to interact with that person by asking myself “If I were that person, what would make a difference?”  “What can I do to turn such negativity into a positive experience?”  That’s where the magic happens!  Instead of reacting with hatred and recreating another bad memory or experience that will be transferred to someone else, I’m actually replacing that negative ripple in time with positive responses! 
Making steps toward change are usually therapeutic and can channel negative energy into something productive, whether that be creating a blog to share what you’ve learned about yourself with others or taking action to mend a broken system.  I had to first learn to confront what I was feeling head on instead of denying or suppressing my emotions.  And although the process is ongoing and becomes more and more challenging, each step I make prepares me for the next as I continue to learn and grow with the hopes of moving from the big girl that I am to the woman I hope to become.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Emotional Maturity

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Emotional Maturity   

We’ve all been in those testy situations.  You know the ones. You’re standing in a long line and the customer service assistant is carrying on an unnecessary conversation.  Or you’re talking with someone to try to get a misunderstanding resolved, but are met with the “it’s-not-my-fault-and-I-really-don’t-care-just-hurry-up-and-get-out-of-my-line-so-I-can-go-to-lunch” attitude.  You’re being spoken to like you’re a child.  Those difficult situations can easily cause one to behave in a way that’s less than desirable, to put it mildly.  And the “you” that you are working towards becoming takes a back seat to an impulse to show that someone what you’re capable of and who you can become.  The next time you find yourself in a situation that challenges your tolerance, try these few suggestions to help you manage your emotions.

Respond rather than react.

I know the two terms are synonymous.  But for the sake of your emotional health, let’s define a reaction as something that is involuntary and not well thought out.  You react with facial expressions or comments that feed more negative energy into the situation.  This only causes an already unpleasant situation to escalate.  Instead of reacting, counter undesirable behavior by modeling what would be more appropriate.  This could include a smile, a pleasant greeting or a compliment to lighten the mood.   Hopefully, this response will cause that other person to be more attentive to their behavior and follow your lead.

Realize that you are only responsible for your own behavior.

No matter what someone else says or does, no matter how offensive, ultimately you are only responsible for you.  Many times in difficult situations we make the other person’s problems our own by meeting them on their level.  And although that can be a useful skill in communicating, it becomes ineffective if you only do so to mimic the ill behavior.  Realize that you don’t have to behave foolishly and seem equally as socially challenged.  Let that person have their limelight.  You rise above it.

Know your triggers.

An awareness of self is your most effective deterrent in a difficult situation.  If you are aware of how your body responds, you can make the appropriate adjustments to manage your emotions and reactions effectively. When your blood gets to boiling, take some deep breaths.  Make positive affirmations.  Hum a happy tune.  Do whatever is reasonably necessary to keep you from being overtaken by negative energy. 


Putting yourself into someone else’s shoes can do wonders.  Take into consideration that the other person could be having a hard time also. You may start to think more of the person and less of the behavior.  It could even be possible that you responding to that person with empathy will help to improve their mood!  What a natural high to be a catalyst for positive change in someone else’s life just by managing how you respond to an unpleasant situation!

The last thing anyone wants to do when pressed for time or after a long day is have to tolerate an ugly attitude or poor customer service.  However, it rings true that if the behavior you are receiving is unacceptable, it is equally unacceptable for you to reciprocate with ill behavior.  By instead taking this opportunity to manage your emotions and model socially acceptable behavior, you have made an unpleasant experience a positive point of reflection for both you and that diamond in the rough.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Discipline

The “Big Girls” Guide to Discipline                                                                                          

Ah, the journey of parenthood!  You bring your little bundle of joy home and coo and ahh at all the cute little things that make babies so fascinating.  Suddenly, one day parent paradise comes to an alarming halt when your cute little baby has become a toddler who has challenged your authority in a not so cute way.  You realize that the time has come to establish your role as the parent and stand your ground.  Know that parenting and discipline are learning experiences that are ongoing. The key here is age appropriate responses to undesirable behavior that are effective for both you and your child.  And although there is no magical formula that will work for every family, the following are a few pointers to help get you started on your journey. 

·         There are stages of appropriate parenting and discipline. 

What is appropriate for a toddler won’t work for older youth.  And you certainly can’t manage your toddler’s behavior the same as you would your teenager.  Therefore, make sure that as your child grows, your way of discipline is growing to accommodate the child.

·         Never discipline out of anger. 

It could be necessary to take some time to process what has happened and manage your feelings before engaging in disciplining your child.  Many times, discipline out of anger can result in something happening that the parent would later regret.  And the child learns that it’s acceptable to respond out of anger.  Avoid this.  And guess what!  It’s perfectly fine to explain that to your child.  Your dialogue may sound something like, “Mommy is very upset that you did something you were told not to do.  I’m going to take some time to think about how to handle this.  And you take some time to think about what you did also.”

·         Make sure your child understands that (s)he did something wrong. 

It isn’t always necessary to discipline the very first time if your child had no clue (s)he had done  something wrong.  Always take time to explain the undesirable behavior and why that isn’t the best thing to do or say or what have you.  Then, should the behavior reoccur, reinforce what you have already established with action.

·         Give your child credit for being an intelligent human being that is always learning. 

It’s ok to discuss why and consequences of undesirable behavior or bad choices.  The “because I said so” response could be taken as a challenge to rebel, whereas a discussion encourages your child to manage their behavior and responses appropriately.  This places the child on the road to making good decisions when you aren’t around and others could be influencing him or her to do something contrary to what would be considered appropriate behavior.
·         Effective discipline isn’t meant to be punitive, but a learning experience. 

Don’t hesitate to capitalize on the “teachable moments.”  What you are doing isn’t so much punishment as it is preparing your child to become an adult that understands there are consequences for actions.  Desirable behavior warrants positive consequences, while negative consequences await undesirable behavior.  This is a lesson that will follow your child throughout the remainder of his or her life.

Fewer roles are of comparable importance than the role of a parent.  And while there will be many mistakes along the way from both parent and child, enjoy your journey with your child knowing that you are shaping him or her up to be the best and most responsible person he or she is capable of becoming.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The “Big Girl’s” Guide to Overcoming Cheating in a Relationship

You get tingles each time your partner calls your name. You still love their aroma. You’re happy and life is grand as you make plans to build a long, loving relationship together. Then suddenly you’re confronted with the horror that your partner has been unfaithful. What do you do? Most people will say that cheating is an automatic end to the relationship. Once your partner has cheated, there is no trust. Consider the following to make the decision for yourself.

Cheating is an emotional “crime” in a relationship more so than the very act itself. The intimacy and monogamy that existed has been penetrated. You feel inadequate and that you weren’t “enough” to meet the needs of your partner. There is the assumption that if (s)he has done it once, this will be reoccurring behavior. Let’s take this experience and delve deeper into the decisions that the two of you must make. How much time did the two of you spend getting to know each other before committing to a monogamous relationship? The answer could uncover some flaws in your dating and relationship habits. Taking time to learn about your partner is key to gaining insight into who (s)he really is and what (s)he is capable of. Asking the hard questions at the onset of the relationship will also clue you in to if (s)he has cheated in past relationships, how often and his or her definition of what it means to be in a committed, monogamous relationship.

How has the relationship been apart from the “crime?” Have things been good? Had this not happened, would you continue with the relationship? Is this the first time (s)he has cheated? Depending upon how you answer the questions, you may want to weigh your options and mend the relationship. Is it really worth it to throw away an otherwise potentially fulfilling relationship due to one mistake? The trust will have to be rebuilt whether with your current partner or another, honestly. And with the proper counseling, this experience could draw the two of you closer.

Consider how long you’ve been together. Is this someone you’ve dated since high school? One year? Five years? More? There are many changes that young people go through transitioning from high school to young adulthood. Joining new social circles can also introduce temptations that (s)he simply weren’t prepared to handle. Should you continue to grow with this person? Or is it time to cut the ties that have held you together up until this act? Give your partner credit for being human, realizing that your experiences dating other people have been limited. There is no perfect person. Millions of people have been cheated on. Millions have cheated. You are no exception.

Seek advice from others who have cheated and who have been cheated on to help you make the best decision for your circumstances. This could help you not make an emotional decision that you may regret once the tears subside. Don’t be ashamed to seek the assistance of a relationship coach, therapist, counselor or other behavioral health professional that can help you sort through what you’re feeling and assist in the process of rebuilding self esteem and trust.

Most importantly, whether you choose to remain with your partner or move on, grow from this experience.  Don't allow it to make you bitter or limit your ability to be and remain a loving partner in your relationship.  If you remain with your partner, work towards forgiveness without bringing it up with each disagreement.  Should you decided to move on, be careful not to project the hurt, disappointment and mistrust you have for your former partner onto your new love interest.  Take things at a pace comfortable for you, making sure you make your stand on the subject clear before the two of you agree to a monogamous relationship.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Big Girl Chronicles: The Big Girl's Guide to Overcoming Divorce

The “Big Girl’s” Guide to Overcoming Divorce

Relationships are seldom easy. And there are few things comparable to the pain of moving on from a broken relationship, especially after marriage. If you find yourself having to pick up the pieces from divorce, begin to minimize the emotional turbulence immediately. The following are a few suggestions to make the transition.

1) Think of the divorce as a beginning rather than an end. Chances are that your situation didn’t happen overnight. Your partner may have just shocked you with the big “I want a divorce,” announcement, but that wasn’t really the beginning. If you do a little soul searching and review of your dynamics throughout the marriage, you may uncover where little things weren’t addressed but continually tolerated. Those little things kept growing and growing and growing until they became “the problem.” That problem was continually ignored or yelled at or nagged or argued with until it became “the divorce.” You can then understand how you got to where you are now. Grieving the divorce can mimic the grieving process as applies to death and dying. But it doesn’t have to. Sure you’ll cry. There’ll definitely be some heartache. However, if you take charge of your thinking as soon as possible, you can shave months from the rebounding phase and begin rebuilding asap. Think more of the divorce as the beginning of a brand new chapter in your life. Take some time to remember all that you have learned about yourself and how you respond in relationships. Focus on your positive attributes and begin to bury the negative with the dissolution of the marriage.

2) Gather support from friends and family. Remember that divorcee that you once gossiped about with your other married friends? Now you’re that person. And chances are that your married friends may respond similarly to you. After all, the marriage was also an intertwining social circle. Expect friends to begin to “choose sides.” But immediately gravitate towards those “tried and true” friends whom you’ve known before the marriage. Talk with family members who have been through divorce and get tips from them on what would be helpful.

3) Consider becoming a part of other social networks. Focus on rebuilding you and becoming a better person from this process. If there are hobbies and interests you have developed, consider taking enrichment classes online or at your local institution of higher learning. Become more actively involved in social networks or causes that you perhaps had less time for previously. Join a church ministry or organize one that will help you meet your needs in reemerging into society a divorcee. Increase your social circle by joining a support group for other divorcees, but make certain that you aren’t participating in a pity party. That’s only going to prolong the process. What would be most helpful are people surrounding you with encouragement and optimism.

4) Throw yourself a party! You had a beautiful, lavish and elaborate ceremony introducing you and your former partner as one. Then you had a wonderful reception where everyone danced and ate and drank to help you celebrate your union. Why not recreate that feeling? Many divorcees are opting to have a “divorce party,” which can be an excellent idea to kick off your brand new life. You may choose to make mention of your former partner, or make the event all about you and your reintroduction to single life. Take it a step a further and host your party on a special date that you would want to celebrate and be reminded of annually. Or you can even do a destination party! You make the rules!

5) Make it a movie night! Theme nights with your friends can help make what would be a lonely, sad evening an opportunity to poke fun at your divorce. Host a movie night and choose movies that put a comical spin on divorce. Le Divorce, Waiting to Exhale, The First Wives Club, She-Devil andWar of the Roses are just a few that can add some humor to an otherwise unpleasant topic. Like to read? Why not get together with a few friends and have a book party discussing your favorite books on the subject! Make your process what you want it to be!

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees where relationships are concerned. Sometimes reality crushes our wishes for “happily ever after.” But with a healthy attitude and some creativity, you can lessen the trauma and join the club!