What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You

What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You

Let’s talk a bit more in depth about the correlation between what you’re struggling with and how that struggle is SERVING your basic needs.

Yes, your STRUGGLE is meeting your needs and that’s why you can’t (or won’t) let go of it.

Let’s take a  look at my own struggles with anxiety and bulimia.

How my struggles (bulimia and anxiety) met my needs

  • My bulimia and anxiety were consistent and comfortable.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety provided me with numerous additional problems that left me distracted and kept me busy trying to fix everybody else around me, whilst totally ignoring my own issues.
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel significant! Hooray!  I had to contend with something emotionally, mentally and physically challenging, and believe me, everybody knew it.  All day.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel connected.  When you’re not well, people pay attention to you.  When you’re not well, people worry about you.  Attention and worry made me feel connected to myself as well. 
  • My bulimia and anxiety helped me to grow.  Or at least, I thought those problems helped me grow,  The truth is, I was pedalling like crazy, but not getting anywhere.  I was Sisyphus and these struggles were my rock.   

My struggles felt safe to me because my needs were being met and they gave me a sense of purpose and focus. I was in my comfort zone.

What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You?

We’ve examined some ways in which my struggles with anxiety and bulimia were meeting my needs but let’s now take a look at the expense those needs being met had on my overall well being.

That quote, from the awe-inspiring Brene Brown, really sums up what I’m about to say.  As many of us know (perhaps just deep down rather than readily-available) is this:

  1. Comfort promotes stagnancy.
  2. Stagnancy prohibits change.
  3. Change is necessary to overcome adversity.

Consequently, our adversity cannot be overcome while we’re in a state of comfort.

Don’t believe the previous statement to be true?  Let’s say you’re someone like me, who has struggled with bulimia.

Bulimia is certainly an uncomfortable disease physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  However, even with all of the ways bulimia is uncomfortable, it can also provide a tremendous amount of comfort:

  • Certainty — it’s consistent and reliable — in other words, it’s a crutch.
  • Significance — it’s challenging — in other words, it keeps creating drama to deflect attention from bigger issues.
  • Connection — it provides attention and sympathy — in other words, it creates a “dysfunctional” identity.
  • “Growth” — I placed this word in quotations because it provides coping mechanisms — in other words, it provides ways to allow for adaption without any solution. 

This is the same across many, many struggles.  If what you’re struggling with is a crutch, deflects attention from bigger issues, creates a dysfunctional identity, or enables you to adapt your struggle to your day-to-day life without any solution in sight, it’s costing you.  

No matter how big or small your struggle is, you can be sure of one thing:   It is keeping you from living the life you deserve.

I believe when Brene Brown says, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both,”  she is talking about stepping away from how our struggles are meeting our needs and costing us our dreams, relationships and so much more.  She is talking about embracing our struggles in a way which challenges our comfort zones so that we can find the courage to live a life where our needs are met in productive and progressive ways.

Questions that evoke lasting change

I wish I could say that beyond identifying your struggle and coming to terms with how it’s meeting your needs, it would be easy to make the changes you need to.

Nothing worthwhile comes easily, does it?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t helpful ways to move forward, however.  There are four important questions you can ask yourself and when you answer them with total honesty, I believe, you can get yourself through whatever it is that has been challenging you.

  1. If your struggle disappeared, what would you want next for yourself?  Dig deep.
  2. If this problem belonged to someone you care about, what would you be willing and determined to do to solve it? We often sacrifice our own happiness for others, but if we’ve been sacrificing it for ourselves all along, it’s harder to know how far we will push ourselves.  Give yourself that same effort!
  3. If this problem is impeding your courage, how uncomfortable are you willing to become in order to make your next move?  Make a list of all of the things you have wanted to do that your struggle has kept you from doing and give yourself 30 days to take on one of those things.  Document your discomfort or talk about it with someone you trust, but whatever you do, work through it and get it done!
  4. Who else’s life could be improved by seeing you happy, healthy, and making progress?  Those who love us cannot live without suffering while we suffer.  Think of how you can improve your relationships whilst you improve yourself.  Remember, we are all connected in this universe and our actions affect everything (and everyone) we touch.

I’m not suggesting that there may have never been anything positive to come out of the challenges you have faced. Just think about something you have come out to the other side from in your life already.  We all have the power to cultivate a life with meaning and purpose, and in order to do that, we have to be equipped with the right amount of insight and compassion.

Do you know how you’re going to approach your struggles?  Do you believe we cannot have both courage and comfort?  Has this helped you identify an area (or areas) in your life that you want to improve upon?

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How To Identify Toxic Relationships And Attract Healthier Connections

How To Identify Toxic Relationships And Develop Healthy Connections

You know that saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are?”  I used to think that was such a bs thing to say.

Do you want to know why?

For years, I surrounded myself with some very toxic people.

I know how it feels to be on both sides of this issue and, frankly, neither situation is healthy.

This post is going to help you determine if the people you surround yourself with are toxic or uplifting, and how these different types of folks impact your overall happiness.

Identifying a “toxic acquaintance”

First, a toxic relationship doesn’t have to be with somebody who necessarily pushes you to do unhealthy things.  A toxic acquaintance isn’t an entirely toxic person either; it’s their toxic behavior that can be detrimental to your personal growth.

It isn’t easy to determine whether or not an acquaintance is toxic.

For example, I had a toxic boyfriend for nearly two years before I started to realize (with the help of a great psychologist) just how toxic his behavior actually was.

It was nearly another 18 months before I finally broke off all communication with him, moved out, and moved on.

Take a moment now and think about the people you surround yourself with — even family members.

Think about your relationships objectively for the time being.

Is there a person in your life whom you’ve started to dread being around? Or an individual who makes you feel completely drained after you spend time with them?

If either of these sound familiar, it is possible that you’ve got ties to a toxic acquaintance (or relative).

If any of this sounds familiar, it is possible that you’ve got ties to a toxic acquaintance (or relative).

Five traits of “toxic acquaintances.”

  1. They have distinct narcissistic tendencies.  Not sure what I mean by this?  Do they talk more than they listen?  Does everything have to center around them?  Do they interrupt you?  One up you?  Belittle your problems?  If a person in your life is doing this, they are struggling with narcissistic tendencies.
  2. You are directly affected by their drama and behavior.   Toxic people tend to live from crisis to crisis.  There is always something happening to them, and when there isn’t something there, they’ll create it.  When you’re friends with a toxic person, you are expected to nurse their wounds and listen to their carrying on.  Often a solution is offered, and often it will be responded to by a direct refusal of even considering your advice.  Toxic people are full-time victims and view themselves as never at fault for what’s happening in their life.  As such, they are not responsible for trying to make their situation better.  If this sounds like somebody you know, you’re sadly fighting a losing battle.  Until that person acknowledges their victim mentality and narcissistic ways, they will continue to refute any and all of your advice.
  3. They lack empathy and support for others.  Toxic people, though they seem to bounce from crisis to crisis, will find other people’s problems trivial at times.  They will use their experiences as a reference point for the circumstances of others around them.  Not sure what I mean?  Take the following, for example, “I don’t know why she’s complaining about, it’s not as if she was with him as long as I was with my ex.”   For a toxic individual, they cannot separate their experiences (and outcomes) from the experiences of those around them.
  4. They are controlling.   A toxic person is not only controlling in the sense that they want you to be available whenever they need you or they question your loyalty to them.  When you’re with this person, you can’t think for yourself or challenge their opinions without automatically having them discount your opinion or belittle it as being “silly” or “ignorant.”  All of this happens without any consideration of your point of view.  Are they overly critical of you and yet, fail to be able to accept any constructive criticism you have offered them?  Any aspect of an attempt to control the relationship is a sign of narcissistic and toxic behavior.
  5. You’re exhausted after being around them.  Healthy relationships require a certain amount of giving and taking.  Toxic acquaintances tend to be takers and exhibit little give.  If somebody in your life leaves you feeling drained, after you’ve been in their company, ask yourself when the last time was that person asked you how you are feeling.  If you can’t think of one, it’s time to consider the possibility that this person might be toxic for you.

How To Handle Toxic Relationships

If you’re like me, you like to see the good in people before you accept other people’s “warnings” about them.

Over the years, I’ve had people come up to me in a public place and ask me, “why are you friends with ______?”  I would be put off by this, naturally.

There’s nothing wrong with being a compassionate and accepting person — those are terrific qualities. Unfortunately, toxic people (consciously or otherwise) prey on folks with those qualities.

About the ex-boyfriend I mentioned previously, I went on to discover over the ten years before our relationship that he had left relationships with previous partners either on medication or in therapy as a result of his mental abuse.

Unfortunately, some people are master manipulators, and it can take months (even years) for their reign of control over you to show itself.

If you feel that any of the five descriptions I’ve provided are present in any of your current relationships, you don’t have to scrap the relationship just yet.  There is still some hope.

Three steps you can make to try and mend a “toxic relationship”*

  1. Be honest with them about how you’re feeling.  This one is a bitter pill to swallow for most people with toxic behavior issues since they rarely accept responsibility for their role in anything.  However, as an enlightened person with toxic behavior issues, if it weren’t for the people who cared enough to call me out on how my behavior was affecting them, I wouldn’t have been able to change my ways.  The bottom line is:  If they aren’t willing to take your feelings into consideration or make you feel bad about trying to have a rational conversation, you’re better off with them out of your life.  Wish them well, send them love, but move on for your sake.
  2. Use ‘I-statements’.   While studying interpersonal communication, I took a class that centered around conflict resolution.  One of the most memorable things I learned during this course, was the importance of using  ‘I-statements’ when confronting others regarding their behavior.  I-statements are an assertion about the feelings and emotions of the person speaking.  They let the person listening know that this information is about the speaker.  An example of an I-statement would be, “when you tell me I’m oversensitive, I feel belittled.”  In that case, the speaker is owning the feeling of being belittled rather than blaming that feeling on the recipient by saying, “when you tell me I’m oversensitive, you make me feel belittled.”   If taking ownership of your feelings and using I-statements while you attempt to salvage this relationship isn’t given the appropriate consideration then, again, you’re better off without this person.
  3. Seek the help of a professional.  I only advise this personally if the relationship is worth saving.  If you absolutely must try everything to help the toxic person see where you’re coming from in an attempt to save your relationship (this is mostly for spouses and relatives) I would advise seeking out a mental health or personal development professional to see it through. It does require that both parties enter the situation with an open mind and willingness to work things out.  If this approach doesn’t work, this relationship (and individual) are most likely beyond repair.  Protect yourself and wellbeing and move forward.

* I must stress:  If you feel threatened or in danger, never attempt to handle the situation on your own.  

How to attract healthier connections

Now let’s discuss acquaintances and friends who lift us up and make us feel inspired to be the very best version of ourselves we can be.

These are the people we can go to when we’re down, inspired, angry, frustrated, and anything in-between.

It can be difficult as an adult to befriend these types of people, but it’s not impossible.

Five traits of positive people (they’re not always obvious)

  1. They are kind to others.  They don’t have to like everybody they come in contact with, but regardless of their personal feelings, they are always kind and considerate to others. An admirable quality.  If you’re somebody who struggles with separating connection and kindness, this is a type of person you need more of in your life.
  2. They make friends with other people with ease.  As we get older, it becomes more challenging to develop (and maintain) genuine friendships.  When I connect with new people, I often find myself (and the other person) saying, “I feel like I’ve known you for years.”  Discovering people you can connect to in ways that feel unforced and comfortable is an amazing thing.  We all need more people like this in our lives, right?
  3. They are present and listen to others with intention.  Have you ever been out with a friend and realized they’re attached at the hip to their phone?  I mean, we’re all guilty of expecting a call or text that may overlap with a coffee date or get-together, but there’s nothing worse than being with another person who isn’t fully engaged in your quality time together.  Whenever possible, I try to turn my phone off while I’m with others or leave it in my bag.  If I am waiting for a text or call (which, living in a different country than my friends and family is often for me), I will let the person I am with know, “if I’m checking my phone it’s because I’m expecting a text from a family member, I will keep it as brief as possible.”
  4. They don’t take you (or your time) for granted.  Okay, there’s always going to be unexpected things that happen in life, and occasionally plans may have to be broken or rescheduled.  It happens to the best of us.  However, if it’s continuous, that’s another story.  Positive people and acquaintances will not take you or your time for granted.  They will appreciate the time you’re both making to maintain and evolve the relationship.
  5. They encourage you to take (calculated) risks.  We all need to break up with our comfort zone occasionally.  So, it’s best to surround ourselves with people who give us that positive nudge we need to take a plunge into something new.  Not every idea you ever have will be one that a positive thinking friend will back 100%, but you can be sure they will have your best interest at heart when they share their two cents.

That’s a stark contrast, isn’t it?  Some of this information may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people spend years surrounding themselves with people who don’t encourage them without recognizing it.

When you spend any length of time with people, you can tend to not pick up on how the relationship is evolving — or going nowhere.

Being able to see the other side of something gives you a different perspective than you could ever have if you had never challenged it.

Sadly, not all connections we make with others in life meet our (or possibly theirs) needs.  When this happens, it’s best to save what you can and walk away from what you can’t.

Free your life up for those who will support and encourage you.

Can you think of a time you were in a toxic relationship?  Do you consider yourself to be a positive person in your relationships?  Have you ever experienced toxic behavior in yourself?

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What’s A ‘Life Budget’?

 

Often, once we get a grip on our “if only’s” we replace them with “what if’s.”  I know that I have been guilty of doing this.

I have learned to cut myself some slack because moving to a new country has been full of fantastic new beginnings and optimal possibilities, but if I’m not mindful, they can very easily get lost in a sea of what-iffery!

In fact, I’ve discovered that progress can’t be optimal when my past regret is not forfeited, or my desire for control of the future is present.  Much like financing our future, our lives need a budget to keep us aligned with our goals and aspirations. 

In other words, we need to invest in our lives.

 

Evaluating your current life balance, enjoyment, and meaning

So, now that I have defined this, how does one go about planning out a life budget?  Well, if you’re as terrible at finance as I am (which is pretty comical since I worked in finance for over five years) you might find yourself needing a little guidance.

The first step is asking the right questions to get a clearer vision of what exactly it is you want to achieve and how you can align your actions to design your future life’s balance, enjoyment, and meaning.

The easiest (I jest) way to evaluate how much balance, happiness, and meaning is in your current life is to break it up into three categories:

  1. Doing (Your job, hobbies, etc.)
  2. Having (Your possessions, relationships, etc.)
  3. Being (Your true inner self)
  • How balanced is your life right now?  Is your life/work balance healthy?
  • How enjoyable is your life right now?  Do you have time to engage in things you’re passionate about?
  • How meaningful is your life right now?  Do you believe in yourself?  Do you still have things you want to achieve?

How much of yourself are you willing to invest?

For the longest time, I didn’t understand what it meant to “invest” in myself. I figured I went to college, became somewhat active, and had a small 401k going and that was what investing in myself was all about.  While these are ways to financially and physically invest in me, self-investments are much deeper than that.

Like everything else, you need to ask yourself some important questions to properly invest in yourself and accomplish your desires.

  • Where are your strengths?  (There’s a fun test you can take here to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.)
  • Do you value and use your intuition?
  • Do you hope to set an example for others?
  • Do you have a vision of your “ideal self”?

These are just a few of the questions that need to b asked, but important ones all the same.

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Setting Goals

I would recommend setting one small goal at a time as this approach has proven to be the least overwhelming and has the highest long-term success rate.

The nutrition and fitness worlds are all about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, but in the life coaching world, there’s a bit more to this highly useful acronym.

Introducing S.M.A.R.T.E.N.U.P. goals.  

  • S-Specific 
  • M-Measurable 
  • A-Achievable and Appealing 
  • R-Realistic 
  • T-Timed 
  • E-Enthusiastic 
  • N-Natural
  • U-Understood 
  • P-Prepared    

Let’s break apart the following client goal:

“I want to lose 10% of my body weight for my sister’s wedding in July. “

Is it specific?  Yes, she has expressed a specific amount of weight she wishes to lose.  She is 165 pounds and is proposing a weight loss of 16.5 pounds by the month of July.

Is it measurable?  Yes, when she reaches 148.5 pounds she will have met their goal weight.

Is it appealing?   Yes, this goal is achievable and appealing because she can clearly visualize her body at the desired achievable weight.

Is it realistic?  Yes, with a sensible way of eating and the appropriate amount of physical activity this goal can healthfully be achieved with a 1-2 pound per week loss.

Is it timed? Yes, she has expressed the desire to complete this goal by her sister’s wedding in July.

Is she enthusiastic about her goal?  Yes, she has set a realistic and achievable goal which will provide her with the confidence she desires for her sister’s wedding.

Is this goal understood by others? Yes, she has explained to her partner that she has set this goal for herself and that she will need to cook healthy meals and has dedicated herself to fitness classes at the gym over the next six months.

Is she prepared for any obstacles?  Yes, she accepts that her goal is achievable enough that she can afford a weight loss regardless of possible injuries or unforeseen events.  This goal also will allow for her to have a less structured and restrictive eating plan, which will ultimately lead to greater long-term success.  She sees this goal as one that can be done in a balanced, enjoyable, and meaningful way.  

Once you know which goals you want to achieve — and can answer yes to these questions — you can use them as an investment in yourself. Placing your goals into action is when you tie your life budget together.   You must work within the balance of enjoyment and meaningfulness to achieve what you truly desire.

Have you ever thought about a “life budget” for your goals?  Do you use the S.M.A.R.T. goal system?  What’s a goal you’re working towards right now?

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Three Actions To Fight Your Inner Conflicts

In every facet of our lives, we must be in touch with what motivates us.  Without knowing our motivations, we cannot get to the very core of what makes us who we are.

Why is this important?

It’s important because it’s what’s  within us that is our true  self.  Everything else is a result of our  mental conditioning.

We become our thoughts.  And, when our thoughts are not positive or self-fulfilling, they create this alternative self that we believe ourselves to be in place of the person we truly are deep down at our very core.

I know this because I thought I wasn’t good enough for anything or anyone.  I walked around the world not believing in myself and giving others permission not to believe in me either.  It was a hopeless cycle because when others didn’t believe in me, it confirmed my belief that I wasn’t good enough.

Are you dizzy yet?  You probably are, because living like this is like being on an emotional Tilt-A-Whirl.

However, there is a stop button, and you have control over it.  In fact, not only can you stop this dizzying ride but you can get off of it and leave it behind for good.

3 Actions To Fight Your Inner Conflicts

I know it seems pretty simplistic to say that just three steps which can improve your life, but it’s the power of these measures that make them so profound.

Start small with these steps, and you will be on your way to living a less dramatic and more productive, meaningful existence.

Are you ready for them?

Action 1:  Stop

That’s it. Just stop.

For instance, when I started my wellness journey after the death of my father, I was doing these three steps without even realizing it.

I stopped eating poorly.  I started exercising and paying attention to what I was eating.  I let myself be proactive about my health and happiness.  When something isn’t working for you, the very first thing you need to do is figure out what you can take control of and stop.

You must do something to interrupt the addictive emotional patterns.

So, in my case, I was tired of feeling empty and insignificant.  I was sick of using food and alcohol to numb myself while I continued to wonder why nothing in my life was going right.

I was tired of feeling like I had no control over anything; including myself.

I had programmed myself to believe that being a shell of a person was enough for me and that it was all that I deserved.  All the while, inside of me, was that confident, active, and intelligent person hidden under years of conditioning myself to feel otherwise.

I was sick of using food and alcohol to numb myself while I continued to wonder why nothing in my life was going right.

The person I was meant to be was hidden away under all of that self-destructive behavior and unhappiness. The first step I had to take to get back to my real self, was to interrupt the emotional pattern that was limiting me.  By discontinuing the negative behaviors, I did have control over (food choices, overeating, and inactivity).

Action 2:  Start

The beginning of a journey of self-rediscovery and leading a more passionate life is to stop focusing on what you think you can’t do.  If you feel like it’s a hopeless situation, these two steps will help you a) getting out of your comfort zone and b)raising your standards.

It may seem like an impossible task, but even a baby step outside of your comfort zone is an accomplishment, and a will start allowing newer and healthier habits to take hold.  When I decided to eat healthier and exercise five days a week, it was far from comfortable.  I wanted to quit at first, but I just kept reminding myself that if I didn’t make this commitment to myself, I wouldn’t be able to commit to anything else either.  I raised my standards for myself, and it leads to many additional positive changes and opportunities.

Action 3:  Become

Once the negative cycle has stopped and you have started to do things that break you out of your comfort zone, you will see yourself emerge and become the person you have always been meant to be.

The third step is when you come into your “ideal self.”  The self who has been inside of you all of your life. The one who can finally stand up to all of your negative self-talk and claims of incapability

When you finally decide you’ve got to make a change if you stop with the negative and start with the positive your true self will have no choice but to become evident to you and the world around you.

The inner conflict that I felt for so many years was due to the battle that my head waged against my heart.  I finally decided I had to stop letting it continue.  I finally decided I had to start changing my ways.  I finally became who I was always meant to be, and beautiful and positive things began to come into my life.

There are still cloudy days, and there are still struggles, but I know that the Erin I am today can weather all storms.

3 Actions To Fight Inner Conflicts

Are you struggling with inner conflict?  If you are, you’re not alone, and it is clear that the solutions to what you feel conflicted about most are already within you.

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5 Tips For Effectively Handling Constructive Criticism

I can tell you — for a fact — that there is probably nobody who struggles with criticism more than I do.  In fact, if you were to ask any of my former employers, they would all probably say that “being defensive” was the one quality about me they struggled with the most.

Nobody likes criticism.

I used to have a serious problem with acting like a victim.

I always felt like I was being “attacked” for something.  From the biggest to the smallest of things, I did not like to take ownership for my part — or worse — be told how I should have handled things.

I used to become incredibly defensive and angry at anybody who would give me the slightest bit of constructive feedback because I always felt it was unnecessary.

I’ve grown to learn that criticism is a necessity.

Even though we each will receive a fair bit of criticism in our lives, there is no need to feel threatened, defensive, or ashamed of it. It’s all part of breaking away from our comfort zone. In fact, one of the most annoying criticisms I’ve received continuously has been the question, “Why do you do it that way?”

I’m sure you have heard this issue/observation many times also.

For years, this would be my reaction when asked that dreaded question.

“Why did you do it that way?”

Five steps for effective handling constructive criticism

  • Avoid being defensive whenever possible.  I’ve learned to choose not to be defensive when I receive criticism works best for me.  I used to get super defensive whenever I felt criticized.  And the only thing I ever accomplished by becoming defensive was to prove I was incapable of respecting other people’s observations.  We cannot grow from staying inside a bubble.  So, if somebody bursts yours, try and keep calm and hear them out.
  • Avoid being quick to react.  My father used to tell me all the time that I’m a “highly reactive” individual.  As soon as I heard something I didn’t agree with, I would react and typically regret doing so.  Being reactive is similar to being defensive, but the difference is that when we respond quickly, we don’t give ourselves time to process the situation correctly.  Now, I try to step back from the situation and breathe and think about how I’m going to process it.  I may choose to confront or concede, but I will have given myself the opportunity to have a choice.
  • Assume the responsibility when it’s your fault.  When I’m the root of the problem, I owe it to myself, and everybody involved to accept responsibility for it.  Nobody likes the blame game (especially when you’re the one to blame), but it’s a necessary evil sometimes.  Assuming the responsibility for your mistake shows that you are big enough to accept and learn from a situation.
  • Take it as an opportunity to gain some insight.  In every occasion, there is something positive to come out of it and to be at the forefront of criticism is a chance to gain some valuable insight.  For example, after you receive a criticism is a perfect time to ask questions about how you can better handle the situation in the future.
  • Stop taking criticisms as a personal attack.  When objections occur, we often internalize them as an attack on who we are not what we’ve done. You will likely never be able to please everyone.   Just because someone questions your work doesn’t mean they are criticizing who you are.  We all can produce work that disappoints, but that doesn’t mean that we are disappointing.

Learning how to handle criticism constructively is something we all should master.  We can choose to see critiques as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.  As with everything in life, it’s a decision.

Here’s to making the best decisions possible!

How do you handle criticism?

 

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