I created this activity for young girls to reflect on their abilities, to increase their sense of self-efficacy, aid in identity formation, and support healthy self-esteem following reading “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. I use this activity often with my psychotherapy clients and have seen so much growth. Reflect on the activity with your child after they have completed the question prompts. All they’ll need is some paper and something to draw with.
No matter if you’re trying to gain or to maintain a sense of calm and peace, this video is for you. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, and we internalize messages that aren’t good for us, like that we may be a failure, or that we may not be as worthy as we could be if we were doing more. Sometimes our energy can just be all over the place. This gentle practice is all about self-worth, calm energy, and release in the crazy world we live in. All you need is two pillows and two blankets.
Going to college, I had stepped out of a life where I felt like I was drowning and into a world where I could explore how I could be someone that would help other people. While it was refreshing, I was still silently suffering. I thought that when I moved off and started a new life, I could escape my past. That didn’t work. I constantly ruminated on things I wish I could change – things I felt we’re fair or were unjust, or times when I felt like I had messed up ran through my mind at the worst of times. No matter how far I had gotten away or how long I worked on creating a new life for myself, I was stuck there in those painful moments.
Early on in my Master’s program, I learned about radical acceptance. I loved school, and personally tried everything I learned in and outside of school for myself. I remember the exact moment that I practiced radical acceptance. It was like a flood gate had opened (in a good way) and released everything that had been dragging me under. For the first time since I could remember, I felt like I could breathe. The weight of those really awful things was lifted off of my shoulders. That didn’t mean that those things weren’t painful still, though – it just meant that I had released myself from their tight grip.
I often hear clients tell me that they can’t accept it – that if they accept it, they feel like they’re approving of it; they feel like approval for a traumatic or bad situation is an injustice. This is particularly true for the clients I see that have dealt with sexual assault or traumatic loss. They become stuck in their pain with this notion that they have to remain underwater, unable to breathe – that holding their breath honors what they lost. Raising your head above water and letting out that exhale, though, doesn’t have to mean that you’re leaving your loss behind. It can mean that you’re moving forward, carrying your pain with you instead of allowing it to be the anchor that holds you down.
Approval means believing something is good, agreeing with it, or in some sense feeling content with it. Approval does not allow for negative or painful emotions. When we place the misconception on ourselves that we should approve of things or be OK with things that happen in life, we deny ourselves the necessary self-validation of our feelings that are in direct conflict with that notion.
Radical acceptance is acknowledging reality for what it is – pleasant and unpleasant, wholly. In this case, acceptance is not synonymous with approval. This means that I can be fully aware that a situation is extremely upsetting, while also making peace with the fact that it happened/is happening.
Here’s what it does for us –
Radical acceptance removes judgment from every aspect of the situation. It removes the feeling that the situation isn’t fair, that you should have done something differently or the situation shouldn’t be that way, and that you have anything to be ashamed of. It clears you of guilt anchors, allowing you to move forward without the extra weight.
Radical acceptance facilitates honesty. We often subconsciously deny pieces of what’s happening around – or more often – within us. It means that we can look at the situation and say “you know what, this just sucks, and that’s what we have to work with right now in the present moment”. When you’re able to be honest with yourself, you’re able to integrate the situation into your overall experience rather than holding it in a separate container of your mind.
Radical acceptance ends suffering. When we fight our reality, we’re constantly treading water; when we stop, we’re able to relax and simply float. Suffering is exhausting, overwhelming, and optional, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Think about how much time you spend wishing things were different. Now, imagine if you put all of that time toward simply working with what you do have.
Radical acceptance is a form of self-love. We’ve talked about radical acceptance toward outside situations, but it’s also absolutely necessary to grant yourself radical acceptance, as well. Having an acceptance for yourself means an awareness of what you’re capable of in the moment, and an openness to helping yourself grow for the future. We often hear “wow, if I knew then what I knew now…” – it’s the truth; we’d absolutely handle our past differently if we had all of the information we gained since then, but the reality is that we didn’t and COULDN’T have had that at the time. We obviously learned from the situation, and couldn’t have known otherwise. We’re on a constant trajectory of growth and understanding – accepting where you’re at on your journey in the current moment allows you to give yourself room to be human.
Radical acceptance does NOT mean passivity or giving up. It isn’t giving up to acknowledge your reality for what it is in the moment – you are always able to monitor the situation and take action when you’re able to. It doesn’t mean that you sit back and say “wow this is just terrible, I’m going to do nothing about it” – it means that you see the tools you have, and you work on yourself to gain more. You aren’t able to change the situation, but you are able to improve on yourself, and to work with what’s within your control.
I recently got over the flu. It was one week of literal hell with my consistent 103 degree fever, and another week of feeling like I got hit by a truck. I’m normally very independent and a huge go-getter, so when I was unable to go to work and physically couldn’t get out of bed, in a fever daze with tears coming out of my eyes because I felt THAT TERRIBLE, my fiance was like “who are you right now?” He’s seen a couple of sinus infections and a cold here and there, but never that.
The sniffles start, then comes the sneezing, and then the fever. The head fog and body aches follow shortly behind. You wash your hands a little bit longer than usual, noticing the quick onset of your partner’s sickness. Whether it’s a cold, the flu, strep throat, or anything else that would knock you out of work for a couple of days, you want NO PART in getting what they have, right?! It’s easy to put some distance between yourself and your spouse in an effort to stay healthy, but you’re also supposed to be their rock – in sickness and in health. While it may feel tough to balance giving your partner what they need while sick while also keeping yourself healthy and managing all of your own daily life tasks, it is possible. Your partner isn’t asking you to move mountains – they just need you to take some of the load off and help them get better.
Here are a few tips to help –
- No matter if you’re mad at them or irritated at helping for some reason, pick up the slack, anyway. They’re out of commission, and their job is to rest when they’re sick. If you’ve gotten in an argument the night before they got sick or you’re irritated with their attitude, help anyway. You can talk about your feelings when they aren’t sick anymore. Try putting your stuff on the shelf, and pick it back up when it’s the appropriate time.
- Practice patience and understanding. They’re doing the best they can. Whether it’s day 2, day 5, or day 8 of being sick, stick with them. If they aren’t able to follow through with date plans or aren’t able to manage their responsibilities, simply step up (eagerly!!) to help them out. Remind them that you want what is best for them, and in this case, it is to rest.
- Stay home with them. It may feel tempting to go have fun with the friends when your spouse wouldn’t be able to go, anyway. However, they will feel your support even if they’re sleeping and you’re in the other room. It reminds them that you’re there for them through it. They’ll be able to feel your presence, even if they don’t have the energy to express that appreciation.
- Get them their favorite things. They may not be able to eat very much. Getting any food or drink in them is better than nothing. Bring them a variety of things to try to eat, and don’t get frustrated if some (or all) of it goes to waste. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and will know that their favorite foods are sitting in the fridge for when they’re feeling better.
- Don’t stop doing all these things if they get sick often. Remember that they didn’t choose this. Nobody likes being sick! Chronic illness is much more exhausting for them as the person experiencing it than it is for you as the spouse.
No matter your partner’s love language, it will be easy for them to feel loved by you when you take that step up. Remember – it’s the little things!
I see a lot of teens, and it’s been VERY standard that we work on healthy relationship identification. While my adult clients tend to be less focused on friendships, I make sure to explore that with them as well. We’re a society that LOVES romantic love and we get so hyped up on those relationships specifically, but in my office, I really like to emphasize awareness of healthy friendships. It’s so easy to dismiss red flags when it’s a friend, but it really shouldn’t be.
Thinking back to when we were younger and life was a little easier, we can think of that one friend we could only take in doses, the friend that changed their personality based on who they’re around, the friend that talked bad about people behind their backs, or the friend that wasn’t a great influence but you loved them anyway. The signs of a healthy platonic friendship were a little bit easier to spot, and they were detrimental in a completely different way.
As adults, we’re stretched pretty thin. I thought that graduating and stepping into the adult world would make life easier. HA! I could manage some unhealthy friendships in my past (completely subconsciously) and simply implement some self-care to fill myself back up. Now, though, my time is so precious that I have to carefully consider where I place it. We definitely do not need friends who contribute to the chaos that comes with adulting.
We’re growing older and building our lives over here. If someone is a threat to that in any way, they aren’t worth our time because we simply don’t have it.
Here’s how to know if your friendship is slowly sucking the life force out of you –
- If it’s draining – If you feel like your friendship takes an enormous amount of energy, it probably isn’t good for you. We’re stretched so thin, and we need people that help us feel more full rather than more empty. We balance work, kids, spouses, family crises, financial concerns, self-care, and everything else that pops up. We can’t possibly pour our entire selves into a single friendship because we simply don’t have enough to give. Of course all relationships take work and effort, but they should also be relatively easy and natural.
- If it’s one-sided – One sided friendships can feel so defeating, yet they’re so common. If you feel like you’re the one carrying the relationship, it may be best to set it down. Someone once mentioned to me that in relationships, there’s a gardener and a flower. They take turns. If you’re always the gardener, you’re eventually going to run out of water.
- If it makes you feel like you’re a burden – When you’re concerned that you’re a bother to your friend because they take days to respond to you, it’s easy to feel anxious. A healthy friendship consists of communication. That communication may be to let you know that they can’t talk much, but communication, nonetheless. We don’t need to talk every day, week, or even month, but we can’t feel consistently ignored.
- If there isn’t trust – As we grow in life, our struggles, past and present, evolve with us. We need to be able to process these things with our friends, knowing that we won’t be judged, that it won’t be repeated, and that they have our best interest in mind. We have to know that they are truly on our side. When we build our lives up and up and up, the betrayals can be much bigger than they used to.
- If it hurts your self-esteem – I used to have a friend that would send me pictures of girls on Instagram and would ask me “why can’t we look like that” or “wow we should go on a diet and exercise together”. It killed my confidence. This same friend was overly competitive, making me feel like I needed to shrink myself down to fit into her world. If your friend isn’t 100% genuinely happy for you when you succeed, if they tear you down, or give you the impression that they’re somehow more deserving than you are, it is NOT healthy.
Prioritize yourself – it isn’t selfish. Re-evaluate your friendships. Do they still fit in to your adult life?
While death and loss are completely inevitable, being the most natural aspects of life, we seem to clam up when we see a loved one grieving. If you’ve lost someone, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard some of the same phrases over and over again from people who want to help, but some of those well intended statements can be pretty ignorant and pretty damaging. Grief is a heavy and confusing aspect of loss, and people seem to walk around the grieving as if on egg shells. What your grieving friend absolutely does not want is for you to pity them. They don’t want to hear the same statement you say to anyone who has lost someone, they don’t want you to try to find a silver lining, and they don’t want you to become awkward as you search for the perfect thing to say. Here’s the thing – NOTHING you say will take that loss away or fill the void that they’re likely feeling. What they DO want is for you to be genuine and real with them. You may not know what to say, and that’s okay. Depending on how deeply that loss cuts, their grief may live within them like a wound that will never fully heal for the rest of their lives. Grief isn’t some clean process with easy to follow stages – it’s never-ending. An amazing analogy went viral not long ago that perfectly explains grief – imagine a room with a pain button and a ball. The pain button never changes. The ball may grow bigger and smaller, ebbing and flowing over time, hitting that button more of less depending. No matter how much time has passed, though, the amount of pain felt when that ball hits the button does not change. That’s grief. We may feel less often, but we do not feel less. To offer support, you HAVE to get comfortable addressing the gaping hole they will always feel from this point forward.
Here’s a guide of sorts to help –
What not to say:
They’re in a better place. Yes, you believe that to be true. The person you’re speaking with may possibly also believe it’s true, maybe not. However, no matter the circumstances of the loss, hearing that may be invalidating to their feeling of emptiness. They’d rather their loved one with them, happy and healthy and may not be ready to hear this yet. Let them come to this conclusion on their own at their own pace.
You must feel….(insert anything). No matter what their feelings are, those feelings are valid and acceptable. Slapping a label on what they should be feeling can promote shame and guilt if they aren’t feeling said emotion.
Stay home until the funeral and then come back to work/school afterward – you’ll feel better then and can get back to normal. Grief isn’t like getting a cold – you don’t stay home and then come back to work or school all better in a few days. Some people feel like they need to throw themselves into work or school in those first beginning days – they’re in shock. They may feel like if they stay home, they will become consumed by their pain and need to stick to their routine to survive it. They may need to stay home with family for several days and process what has happened. Neither is wrong. Either way, though, they will absolutely NOT simply feel better in a few days. Remember – grief is a pain that doesn’t end. Their normal doesn’t exist anymore – there isn’t anything to get back to. They have to create an entirely new normal.
Look on the bright side. There actually isn’t a silver lining to everything. Sometimes, things just suck. Attempting to put a positive spin on what they may perceive as an utter tragedy can be extremely invalidating.
Oh wow, I’m so sorry. You may be sorry to hear that – that’s okay to feel. What can they really say to that, though? It’s okay? It really isn’t okay. Thank you? There’s not a right answer and can potentially make them feel uncomfortable as they don’t know what to say. They may feel pitied by you. We’re all guilty of this one, but it isn’t an empathic response.
What to say:
I really don’t know what to say right now. If you don’t know what to say (because, remember, nothing you say can really change anything for them) tell them that. Have that upfront honesty with them – they’ll appreciate it.
Ask them what they need at that moment. There are a lot of mixed emotions with loss. We want to remember them fondly. We also feel pain when we are reminded of the loss. Sometimes they need to laugh, other times they need to cry. Sometimes they may even need to feel angry. They may need a distraction away from it completely, or they may need to let it all out. Your support can change based on their needs at that moment.
However you’re feeling is alright. Assure them that all of their feelings (or lack of feelings) is acceptable. They aren’t supposed to feel anything in particular. It can feel wrong to be experiencing anything but sorrow – it can feel like a dishonor to their lost loved one. Having some validation that none of their feelings of wrong can provide comfort.
I know this is hard. Let me know if you need anything. I’m here. This way, you can open that door of communication, and they can simply walk through at their own pace.
Sit in silence with them. Literally…don’t say anything. You can offer the support without contributing to the chaos. With so many people rushing to their rescue, it can feel pretty overwhelming. It may feel nice to have that friend or family member that gives them their space until they’re ready.
Your job isn’t to solve the problem – it’s simply to be there. Engage in some vulnerability, and open that dialogue. Together, we can #endthestigma