I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of a new year but I do seek to improve various areas of my life to ensure that I’m making progress. What I am encouraging for 2018 is that we all take an inventory of how emotionally healthy we are. Emotional health can determine the degree of success that we experience in our lives. Positive emotional health can help propel us forward to success in relationships, our careers and virtually every area of our lives. Emotional dis-ease, on the other hand, can result in failure to meet our full potential. It’s amazing but people often don’t make the connection between the emotional baggage they carry throughout their lives and the repeated failures, hurts or disappointments they experience as a result. The negativity that accompanies our issues attracts more negativity and, like a strong invisible magnetic force, almost repels the positivity away from us that we so long for! Well, it’s time to unpack the baggage and change the trajectory of our lives. The only way for us to do that is to face our issues head-on.
Self-awareness plays a key role in one’s road to emotional health. Honestly, how can problems be fixed if one isn’t aware that they even exist??? I’m sure we all can think of individuals at work or in our families who unknowingly but regularly offend people around them or sabotage their own opportunities due to their poor attitudes or behavior. When approached about either, the perpetrators are often stunned, having had no idea that they were the source of their problems, even going so far as to deny it. Every one of us makes our way through life with some level of dysfunction. That’s just absolute truth. We all have hidden fears/phobias, insecurities and anxieties. What we must strive for, however, is minimizing the impact of those issues and putting in the work to identify and prevent them from being dream killers or, better yet, to learn to use them as motivators to success. The worst thing we can do is drift through life unaware either of our issues or how much of an impediment they are to success in our lives. So how do we ALL move forward with a healthy framework to draw as much success to us as possible? The first step is facing our junk.
Looking in the Mirror
Any addiction recovery program starts with admitting that there is a problem. Plain and simple, we can’t fix what we don’t first face! Many times, it’s “easier” to point the finger at our childhoods, where our parents may have fallen short, or to legitimate hurts we may have experienced because of how others treated or mishandled us. Those things are real and should by no means be discounted. We must know, however, that we can’t undo our history or the things that have happened to us. What we CAN do is use those experiences as good lessons to help us draw healthy boundaries in our current and future relationships. We can also learn how not to treat others. I don’t mean to underestimate the difficulty of facing what are often very painful situations and circumstances, but I can’t stress enough the importance of putting in the work necessary to help us face the pain so it’s not a controlling factor in our lives. Pain unchecked can cause us to operate in fear, leading us to be controlling, defensive, anxious, insecure and a million other negative relationship-busting, life-sabotaging emotions.
Signs of Emotional Dysfunction
What are some indicators that you need to up your emotional health score?The short-term effort to confront the issues, though difficult, scary and potentially gut-wrenching, can produce long-term life-enhancing benefits that are well worth it in the end, to say the least. So how do we begin to take steps toward improving our emotional health?
One of the best things one can do to pursue emotional health is to go to counseling. The right counselor can guide us safely through the pain of our past to a path that helps us to use better judgment, make better decisions and even surround ourselves with better people, all which ultimately help to improve the quality of our lives.
Another step we can take to help become more aware of what could be holding us back is to ask those around us for an honest assessment of their perception of us. How do they see us? Do we have negative habits that they can see that maybe we don’t? Are there things that we do that maybe rub them the wrong way? Don’t just ask good friends or relatives unless you know that they will be honest with you and not excuse things away out of “love.” Ask co-workers or superiors at work and then brace yourself! Be prepared because what they say may not be easy to hear. In the end, though, it’ll be good for you and can help you make some much needed “adjustments” if you are receptive.
A final suggestion is to get a journal. Learn to document your feelings and reactions to situations. There is immense value in regularly capturing thoughts and then over time, looking back at your own words and reading through your own thoughts and feelings. The process can be illuminating and help to make connections between your feelings and resulting reactions. Intentionally seeking what you could do differently (the only person anyone can control is themselves) can hopefully provide an honest self-assessment that leads to gradual changes in your approach to life; changes that lead to better relationships, better decisions and better overall outcomes.
In summary, we are the authors of our own story. Life is certainly not a fairy tale but, with the right focus and determined effort, we can increase the chances of the happy ending that we all look for. Unaddressed issues can occupy so much space in our lives if we let them. If we man up and get to work on the other hand, we can minimize those issues and take control of the areas that have held us back and work toward a level of emotional health and happiness that we all deserve.