Category Archives: Self-Improvement

Comparing yourself or other people to others can be hurtful

Comparisons can be hurtful and toxic. We are all different people on different paths with different experiences. Don't expect your way to match someone else's The other day, one of Dr. Phil’s guests was a mother of three, (with one child at home and two in school,) who was also running a family business from home. Her problem was that she was completely exhausted and overworked, hadn’t had a break in years, and didn’t have enough time to take care of herself well. Oh boy, I can relate! I’m a single mother of two toddlers. When I had a full-time job, I was working 50-80 hours a week, and I was always exhausted. Between work and commuting, there wasn’t much time during the week. I took my kids home, fed them and put them in bed. I tried to keep up with housework, then start the next day with less than enough sleep. It was rough! Then I lost my job and became a stay-at-home mother. That is even more exhausting! I am older than the average first-time mom, and I feel it. I can’t even imagine how the mother on Dr. Phil was taking care of her toddler AND running a business at the same time. At least when I worked, my kids were in daycare and I was focused on my job. Can you imagine trying to do your professional desk job while jumping up every couple minutes to feed, clean, change, chase your active toddler? So I read that woman’s story and I was nodding. Oh yes, I want a nap sooooo bad.

Here’s the problem: On Dr. Phil’s Facebook page, the majority of the comments about the woman were shaming her for wanting a break, and most people were comparing themselves to her with her being the loser. Dozens of women were claiming that they could do all of that, and more, while looking great, working out, volunteering, and more…and they STILL had tons of energy. It was like a competition with lots of exaggeration and no empathy. Guess what?! Motherhood isn’t a competition. All those superwomen who were comparing that woman to themselves and calling her lazy, and worse weren’t doing anyone a favor. (Plus, I’m guessing most of them have some big problems that they aren’t sharing 😉 )

Who knows what that woman’s story is? She’s doing two full-time jobs–mothering and running a business at the exact same time. We don’t know anything else about her energy, her health, her family dynamics, her temperament, her spouse, her support system, or any of that. And it’s none of our business. Her life is her life. Those other women’s lives are their lives. To make comparisons and act like everyone is exactly the same, and should be doing the exact same things is toxic. It drags people down, and it ignores our individual personalities and strengths.

To compare ourselves to others is just as pointless. Did we all have the same childhood? The same experiences? The same opportunities? Talents? Luck? No! So we shouldn’t expect the same outcomes, and make ourselves feel bad because we aren’t doing what someone else is doing. Nor should we be shaming others who aren’t doing what we are doing. I wrote a while back about my feelings of being a bit of a loser since many of my peers are doing “better” in life than I am. I could compare myself to my former classmates all day, and I’d just feel like crap. Or, I can look at reality–we are just different and different is not bad. It’s just…different. I can keep my eyes off someone else’s path and just work on mine, and find joy in MY life instead of feeling bad about not matching someone else’s.

When we start comparing people’s lives, there isn’t a whole lot of good that’s going to come out of it, because someone is usually going to be on the “bad” side. And when we are comparing ourselves to others…it’s usually going to be us. Have you ever gone through a day feeling worse and worse about yourself as you focus on what someone else did that you didn’t? Or something another person has that you can’t afford? That person has a nicer house, that person has a good-looking spouse, a better job, a more impressive degree, nicer hair, a better figure, more friends…. If you keep going, you can really destroy your mood, and honestly, what’s the point of doing that? Will it get you the things you want? Nope. The things we tell ourselves matter and have a strong effect on our emotions and our energy. Wouldn’t it be much better to forget comparisons and just focus on where you are going? I think so! I’m done comparing myself with others, and if I find myself starting to do it, I’m going to redirect my thoughts to what *I* am doing to reach my own goals!

Learning to look out for myself

Life doesn't happen to me. I make life happen. I'm learning to look out for myself at lifeasyoumakeit.com When I first started writing this blog, I decided I was going to review the self-help books that were helping me. I realized that I was too passive, too fearful, lacked boundaries and just wasn’t getting as much out of life as I should. So, I started reading and learning about a whole bunch of topics that were helping me become the person I wanted to be–happy, fulfilled, successful, productive and a good mom. I picked the title “Life As You Make It,” because I wanted to focus on how we can all MAKE our lives the way WE want them to be instead of just letting life happen to us, because, as I go through life, I’m realizing how true that is, and how many opportunities I’ve missed by being passive.

I have learned so much, not just from reading the books, but by processing my thoughts, considering my life patterns and writing about what I learn. It’s therapeutic, it opens my mind to change, and it makes me feel like I’m really finding my path in life.

The old me was afraid to speak up about my wants and needs, but the new me looks out for myself.I came at this blog as a survivor of a bad childhood and an incredibly abusive relationship. My mousy ways made me a magnet for predatory people. But, they also kept me from meeting good healthy people, finding and advancing in the right career, and looking out for my own best interests in every day life. I don’t mean looking out for myself in a selfish way, but in an assertive way, where I speak up for my rights and voice my needs and wants. The very qualities that were attracting abusers were also keeping me from being fulfilled.

I’ve just been writing about things that inspire me, good books I read, chapters that are exciting, research that makes me think and tips that help me. There isn’t one single topic because it’s about getting the best from life in all areas that matter to me. And I’ve finally realized what I am doing:

I am learning to look out for myself!

 Through life, I have not done a good job of looking out for myself or standing up for myself. I didn’t know the life skills that come naturally to some people. I’ve just drifted around settling for relationships or jobs that didn’t make me feel good and didn’t make my life better. I was not looking out for myself at all! I would be extra considerate of others, but never myself. That is now changing!

I don’t want to be vulnerable to predators anymore.

I don’t want to be the woman who is looked over for promotions anymore.

I don’t want to be the person who is afraid to speak up anymore.

I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out on the good stuff anymore.

And I am ready to take charge and re-invent my life the way I want it to be!

I am excited about learning from others, learning from my own mistakes, and sharing my journey with others. It’s a great feeling to know that I am in charge of my life and to know that, even when bad things happen to me, I am gaining the knowledge to bounce back and take care of myself better than ever before. Especially for other abuse survivors, I want you to know, it does get better. I didn’t enjoy the trials I experienced, but I realize now that they happened to give me the epiphany I needed to snap out of my passive lifestyle, and change my life for the better. I am a doormat no more, and I want others to know that you can recover and thrive. It all starts with the decision to learn.

Do you really know yourself? The power of being self-aware

I wonder how well we know ourselves? Do we really think about what we are good at, what we believe and how we feel? Or do we go along with what others tell us and not really think much. When I was a kid, I thought I didn’t like math or science. I never really thought about it, but I just “knew” in my mind that I didn’t like those classes. Then, when I was in 8th grade, a math teacher pointed out that I had the highest grade in her class, and told me I seemed like I was gifted. I was surprised. I had no idea I might be good at math. But, then I started thinking about it and realized I really was good at it and…I enjoyed it. I later began realizing the same thing with my science classes. I had just gone along with some stereotype that I didn’t like them, but in reality, I thought they were really interesting. That math teacher, whose name was Mrs. Wilson, really changed my thinking about myself.

Over the years, people have complimented me on parts of my personality that really surprised me. I’ve been told that I’m very strong and that I’m a good leader. I had never, ever considered that about myself. I thought I was a shy, wallflower wimp! But, when someone pointed out the reality to me, I started thinking about it and realized that I was better at some things than I’d known. And that really opens up doors for me, in addition to increasing my confidence to try new things. It reminds me of the time I thought I was a terrible public speaker, then gave a great presentation and uncovered a new talent.

If we really get to thinking about our true selves, would we find that we have talents we’ve been discounting? Types of intelligence we have never thought about? Are we feeling unfulfilled in some areas of our lives because we are trying to fit into the wrong places just because we are doing what we automatically think we should do?

Relationship experts say that self-awareness is a major key to happiness. And this includes, not just knowing your true self, but also recognizing your effect on others. Leadership experts say that all leaders need to be self-aware for success, as well. The writer of the leadership article states, “…the most effective executives I knew had, I believe, realistic assessments of their own abilities – their strengths and weaknesses, their effect on others, the gaps that needed to be filled.”

I think this is right on. How can we maximize our best qualities and take advantage of them if we haven’t even recognized them yet? Or how can we work on our bad habits that turn people off if we aren’t paying attention? Success isn’t based in intelligence alone, or even education, but it is based on our personalities and our personal qualities in many ways. Emotional intelligence–including self-awareness is essential!

One way to start becoming aware of your strong points and your weak points, is to consider Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. He theorized that there are seven types of intelligence, and everyone has different strengths. We need to discover our own strong areas and consider the meaning of our weak areas. When I took a quiz to see what types of intelligence I had, I was a bit surprised by my highest score. Again, I learned there are parts of my personality that I haven’t been recognizing.

As I continue on my journey to expand my life, grow my career and find peace with my relationships, I find that self-reflection and being open to learning from others is life-changing. I really like the idea of becoming more self-aware to improve my life and my connections with the world!

Considering the power of your words to make or break you

Change Your Words, Change Your Life: Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speak

Usually, I wait to finish a book before I review it, but some books have single chapters or sections that just really stand out. I’m about half way through this book and I am very glad I bought it. I’ve blogged a few times about the power of our words to raise or lower or moods, but this book goes beyond that. It is a really in depth analysis of a variety of ways that words–written, spoken or thought–effect our lives–our reputations, our treatment of others, our moods, our futures, and more. Just the first chapter had me underlining a ton of wise points!

The first chapter is an overview of what is coming in the rest of the book, and is titled “The Impact of Words.” One example is a lady who is kind and thoughtful with the “amazing ability to help people feel good about themselves.” Unfortunately, she slips up with her words one day and criticizes her boss publicly, which destroys her career growth. I don’t know how true this story is, but it really got me to thinking. One, the thought of a person who can find the positive and help people feel good is a very good thought! I’d rather be that person than a grump. Two, how true that one poorly thought-out conversation or even one misunderstanding can throw us off track. The example really emphasizes the importance of thinking before speaking, (something I am not too good at doing!) I know, that is a lesson we’ve probably all heard, but I wonder how many of us can truly, truly embrace it to consider how important our words are? The book got me thinking immediately…and made me think about what I want to improve in my own life.

Now a warning…this author is a Christian, and the importance of Godly speech is a recurring theme in this book. I personally do not find it annoying because she works it in so well and there is genuine wisdom in between the Bible verses. She isn’t using the verses to force her ideas; she is giving really good advice and then adding the verses. The things she has to say can be appreciated even if you aren’t religious, but I want to give that notice for people who may not enjoy religious books. I feel like she uses the Bible in a way that is not overpowering, in my opinion.

Another good bit of advice right near the beginning: Meyers talks about a problem in her life that she kept getting stuck on. She’d talk about it and it consumed her thoughts, then she realized that “if I wanted to get over it, I was going to have to stop mentally and verbally going over it again and again.” More good advice! I can’t count how many times I have made myself miserable by dwelling on things I can’t change. It’s pointless. As she says, “where the mind goes, the man follows.”

Another good quote is “We all have challenges in life, but we can make them better or worse by the way we talk about them.” So true! She continues that “speaking negatively could hurt you, but speaking positively never will, so why not go with the positive and see what kind of results you get?” Good point! And I’m even skipping a bunch of underlined quotes because there are so many in the first chapter alone!

I read a lot of books and learn so many good things, but this one honestly has me excited and I’ve been telling friends to read it. It is filled with good ideas and wise advice for being more productive, more positive, happier, more successful and more of a help to others instead of a drag. Plus, this book is almost 300 pages, and so far, none of them are wasted. I look forward to reading more of her books if they are beneficial as this one.

Success in business or relationships isn’t just about hard work or skills

365 Ways to Become a Millionaire: (Without Being Born One)

I’ve blogged before about learning to promote myself to get better jobs, because working really hard but being invisible was not helping me succeed. It’s an important lesson to learn! And it’s reality…often the best workers are not the ones who move up the corporate ladder because our charisma, self-promotion and connections matter more than just working quietly.

I keep this book by my bed and read a few pages every once in a while. There’s a lot of good information, so I try not to overwhelm myself by reading it all at once. I want to really think about the ideas and focus on the ones that speak to me. The book basically has 365 short paragraphs with tips on how to improve your chances of getting rich in business–and a lot of them are more about your personal qualities.

Tip number 233 stood out to me today. It says:

In a personal service business, our fees will usually rise in accordance with your self-esteem and not necessarily in accordance with your level of skill or results.

I know this is true, because I’ve lived it! We have to sell ourselves in business or careers to get people to believe in us. How can they have faith in our abilities if we don’t have faith in them ourselves? And how can they notice us if we don’t show off a little? I wrote in that previous blog about how I tried that, and got noticed by my department’s director. It worked and it was surprisingly easy!

But I also want to think about this in terms of relationships–not just with bosses or clients, but with others. For those of us looking to date, do men really want a woman who puts herself down and minimizes her good points? Or do they want a woman who isn’t afraid to shine? I’m not talking about bragging, but about being confident. How many of us single ladies have wonderful, loving qualities to share, but keep missing out on good relationships because no one knows what we have to offer? Or how about friendships? If we hide our strengths and put ourselves down, are we going to find good, healthy friends? Or within our families…do our relatives respect us less than they do our cousins because we don’t love ourselves? This book may relate to the business world, but I consistently find that the tips relate to living a fuller, happier life in general.

All of the parts of our lives work together to create a whole person–a person who is fulfilled and confident…but always learning how to improve. That’s what Life as You Make It is about–reaching our potential and our best lives!

Recognizing that you are an introvert and making the most of it

“I restore myself when I’m alone.” Marilyn MonroeI’ve been thinking a lot lately about introversion, and how normal careers and life can be difficult for people who get overstimulated and need a lot of “me time” to recharge and replenish their emotional energy reserves. I used to say at my last few jobs that I felt emotionally drained and exhausted at the end of the day. The jobs were not physically challenging, but they demanded a lot of interaction and included frequent conflict. I would come home at the end of the day feeling like I’d been giving everything I had all day and I needed time to be alone. I am an introvert.

People who are introverted aren’t necessarily shy or anti-social. But we are people who “recharge” and gain our personal energy by being alone instead of being part of a group. I often enjoy socializing, but after a while, I need some quiet time to think and relax. There’s nothing wrong with that, but introversion is often considered a bit of a handicap when it comes to making friends,  climbing a career ladder, and networking.

Since I have become self-employed, I am spending my days home with my young children instead of in an office with adults, but I still recognize that need to have some quiet time alone at the end of the day. My doctor even encouraged me to take a part of a day every week to do something for myself because parents need to recuperate too. So today, I am doing that and reading some about introversion, because I want to learn to use it to my advantage.

I’ve come across some good links that are worth sharing:
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World

I can relate to so many points in this article! For example, the writer points out that introverts can feel overwhelmed in a crowd, but might feel energized by a one-on-one conversation. Or, we are very good at giving public speeches, but we stumble when it’s time to converse with strangers. We are more likely to screen and/or avoid taking phone calls–partly because it pulls us away from other things we are doing. I think it is noteworthy that each of these comparisons has a strong point for introverts. We are different from extroverts, but our differences can work for good. The introvert can have long, stimulating conversations, can really focus on putting together a public speech and can stay on task with a current project. I think if we can focus on the positive aspects of introversion, we can thrive even in a primarily extroverted environment. It’s important to pay attention to your feelings and needs so you can nurture them.

And here’s another good article:
Introverts’ secrets of success

This writer discusses the reality that Western culture rewards extroversion, and that the large majority of managers and bosses are extroverts. So where does that leave us introverts?! Fortunately, the article gives some ideas! I really like this quote from a reporter/news correspondent named Tazeen Ahmad: “”The secret to any success I’ve had has been embracing my introversion….” That is an excellent point! One quality of introverts is that we are more likely to observe and think about things, so we can use that to our advantage by fostering good intrapersonal skills. As I mentioned before, if you get to know yourself, what energizes and relaxes you and how you react, you can learn to use your personal qualities to your advantage. There are more practical career tips for introverts in this article.

And here is another great article:
The Best Job for Introverts Is No Job (In Particular)

When you first see this title, you might think you are going to read a list of jobs that are best for introverts, but when you read on, it’s really about making the most of being an introvert no matter what job you are in. I think I like that idea better–thrive with your differences and use them instead of trying to hide them. The article also recommends a book that sounds pretty helpful. I just ordered it, so I’ll have to report back!

Are you really “behind” your peers? Or just on a different track?

laymileaf1Some of us take longer than others to get on the right track in life. We don’t know what we want to do when we grow up, we are hampered by rough beginnings, we make dumb choices…and we end up far behind out peers when it comes to our careers, education, families and other areas of our lives. We see people our own ages who are doing so much better and we see younger people who are surpassing us as well. Not going to lie…it’s depressing!

I have had that problem. And I think, even though I now know my life purpose, I’m a good 15 or 20 years behind. My much younger sister makes more money than I do with hardly any work experience! I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time and I’m going to have to work hard to get back on track. But can I catch up when I’m this far “behind?”

And does it really matter? Am I truly behind? Or just different? Many of my former classmates have good paying careers, nice homes and established marriages. I’m not too far from where I started when I was leaving high school. And at the same time, since I’m not a fresh college graduate, I am watching much younger people get promoted ahead of me because I was not on the right track to begin with.

Sometimes I worry about this. But, then I start thinking and remembering that I have had some really unusual life experiences and have learned some lessons that most people will never have the opportunity to experience or learn. For one, I was once on an album cover. Who out of my peers can say that?! But on the other hand, I am twice-divorced–both times from abusive men with the second being an actual sociopath. Oh yeah, I learned something there! Let me say, I did NOT like that lesson. But, I have learned the power of introspection as I’ve uncovered why I attracted and was attracted to narcissistic men. And I am no longer naive to false charm; I know to look at actions instead of just hearing words. Plus, I learned how to help my children avoid ending up in the same position. I married abusers because I was raised in an abusive home, but it has made me alert to understanding how children and personalities develop…as well as what we all need to feel secure and not fall prey to pretty charmers. There are a whole slew of life lessons and there is a whole book’s worth of wisdom in my head. As a bonus, I’m aware that I need to learn more and I am open to doing so.

Does that really leave me “behind” my peers? Maybe in some areas, but perhaps not in the life areas that truly matter.

I think my life’s trials have given me a lot of understanding and critical thinking skills I might never have learned without having endured bad things. They helped me find some of my life goals, and they have prepared me to fulfill my plans. Most importantly, they have given me fire and inspiration to succeed!

And it’s okay to play “catch up.” There are plenty of admirable people who didn’t find their way until later in life. Did you know that the renowned wedding dress designer Vera Wang didn’t begin her design career until she was 40? Now she’s a HUGE name in her industry! Or how about comic book creator Stan Lee? He was almost 39 when he found success. Now his creations are legendary. Famous actor Samuel Jackson didn’t hit it big until he was 43 and comedian Rodney Dangerfield was 46. Charles Darwin didn’t write “Origin of the Species” until he was 50–the same age Julia Child was when she wrote her first cookbook. Now both of them are known as visionaries in their fields. And one of my heroes–Laura Ingalls Wilder–didn’t publish her first “Little House” book until she was 65.

I finally have a life goal and a plan that has been growing for the past few years. I’m closing in on 40 and I’m not doing as well as my peers, but that’s okay. I am in good company….

For more stories and information about people who found their success later in life….

20 People Who Became Highly Successful After Age 40

When others are counting on you, take time to replenish your emotional strength


Click here to purchase 365 Ways to Become a Millionaire: (Without Being Born One)

I read a chapter of tips out of this book every few days or weeks, whenever I have time. It’s just a book with 365 short ideas, (usually a sentence or two,) about how to improve yourself and your actions to make more money. The tips also relate well to life and emotional intelligence in general, so I often find them inspiring in more ways that one.

Today the quote that got me thinking is:

Remember to regularly nurture yourself. You cannot sustain or increase your productivity without replenishing yourself. Otherwise, you will run on empty and your productivity will suffer.

This is good advice for business, but life in general–relationships, parenting, chores, hobbies, and more.

My last job was extremely demanding, but I had so many options to work overtime and make more money. Every time I was offered the opportunity to work extra, I took it. How could I turn down work that would double my normal paycheck? Pretty soon, I was working 50-80 hour weeks. I kept telling myself “I can do this,” and I was excited about the financial benefits, but I was burned out. I burned out so badly, I finally quit the job. If I had worked in moderation, I might not have had all the extra pay, but I wouldn’t have become unemployed, so I probably would have made more in the long run. I pushed myself so hard for months and never took a bit of time to nurture myself. Since I am a single mom, I came home from my long days of work and then devoted every thing I had to two little toddlers. There was absolutely nothing for me. And yet I felt selfish for even considering doing something for myself.

Specifically when it comes to parenting, many of us have been trained to believe that the kids are a 24/7 commitment and we are selfish to take a break from them. I’ve had people tell me this, and I’ve seen people berate others for wanting a break. That is not helpful at all. As women and mothers, we should not feel guilty for needing to replenish ourselves–physically, mentally and emotionally! Of course you don’t want to leave your children with a baby-sitter every day, but it is not wrong to take a break even for a few hours a week. In fact, it’s the best way to be a good mother. When we devote so much of our time to nurturing others, we need to recuperate a little to build up our own reserves so we can give some more.

What about sick or aging family members or marriages or friendships that need a little extra TLC? When we give everything we have to meet our obligations, we often wear ourselves down so that we aren’t really able to give our best any longer. It’s important not to let work or life take so much of you that you lose the energy and stamina to keep going. Take the time to rest and recover so you can go after your commitments, goals and life with renewed energy!

The importance of your thoughts and how they affect your moods

Sunflower Field with setting Sun in Background, nice Sunburst and SunbeamsI’ve read so many books that talk about the power of your thoughts, and I’ve blogged about the importance of positive thoughts. What you think and what you dwell on can really affect your day, your mood, your attitude and your emotions. Still, when something bad happens, it is so easy to get caught up in thinking negative thoughts, which then generate more negative thoughts over and over until you are in a horrible mood. I am seeing that in action now.

I’ve had a few disappointments lately–the worst being that I was turned down for a job I really, really wanted after going to a second interview. It left me feeling pretty depressed and the thoughts started swirling around in my head–I was an idiot in the interview, I didn’t dress well, I didn’t look professional, I answered the questions stupidly, I am so far behind my peers, I’m an underachiever, I’m never going to get a job now…. But it’s time for me to get real about what is really going on. None of those things are true. In reality, what happened was someone else was a better match for that job. It doesn’t mean I’m a loser. It just means that wasn’t the place for me.

It’s so important to look at our situations realistically instead of letting the bad thoughts take over. And I’m reversing that negative course now. What is the truth? I did dress nicely, I got along well with the interviewers, I wasn’t nervous, I’m not stupid, I have qualifications to get a good job. But, there were possibly hundreds of other well-qualified applicants. And one day, I’m going to apply for a job where *I* am the perfect fit!

How having meaning in your life is more important than happiness

I read an article in Reader’s Digest today about happiness and having meaning in your life. The title was “Happiness: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Ouch! The moral of the article is that happiness is fleeting and there are other qualities in life that are more important in the long run. At first I was not completely convinced, but I did find some interesting information. After reading the short article, I agree that the writers do have some good points.

The article was based on a 1946 book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who was a well-known psychiatrist. I just ordered a copy after reading the article, so I’ll report back on it! It sounded interesting.

Click here to purchase Man’s Search for Meaning

Frankl wrote the book about his experiences in a concentration camp after his pregnant wife and most of his family died, but he did not. He noticed some patterns in those who managed to live through the ordeal. To quote Reader’s Digest, “those who found meaning in even the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not.” For example, Frankl counseled two men out of committing suicide by helping them realize they still had purpose in life. He stated “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

As for happiness, RD refers to research that shows having a purpose in life increases well-being and satisfaction, and decreases depression, while chasing just happiness decreases one’s level of happiness! They theorize that simply looking for happiness leads to shallow feelings while pursuing meaning gives more lasting and deeper joy in the long run.

This could be because happiness is related on momentary feelings that will end, while finding and pursuing meaning in your life is a lasting goal. To quote, “people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rated their satisfaction with life higher–even when they were feeling bad–than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose.”

It seems that happiness comes and goes in bursts while meaning and purpose lead to ongoing, steady satisfaction. Something to think about!

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