Six Simple Mindset Tools to Make Peace With Your Inner-Critic So You Can Thrive

Life With an Inner-Critic

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We all have an inner-critic that if left to its own devices will constantly judge and negatively comment on the way we live our lives. If we pay attention, it's easy to notice that the voice of the inner-critic never shuts up! From the moment we wake up, the voice immediately starts spewing opinions and commentary:

"I'm so tired! Why did I go to bed so late again? Why don't I ever learn that I need to get to bed earlier?!"

"Did I get any comments on my Instagram while I was asleep? Only two likes...I guess people didn't like my post? Or maybe they just didn't care."

"Oh God, I just remembered I have to work late tonight! Ugh! I'm going to be so exhausted! I'll never make it through without coffee! I guess I won't be putting the kids to bed again tonight!"

To make matters worse, the inner voice also criticizes us for every mistake big or small:
"I can't believe I ate all those cookies! I have no self control! No wonder my pants are so tight!"

"I have no idea what to say in this meeting and people keep looking at me! They're probably wondering why I'm even in this position. I'm wondering that myself. Sometimes I'm so incompetent! "

"I'm so awkward! Why do all the other moms seem to get along great together and I never know what to say? They must think I'm so weird!"

And on and on it goes all day. We live our lives and the inner-voice (our inner-critic) criticizes, judges, and puts us down every chance it gets. If you're a highly sensitive woman, you can probably relate to the concept of the inner-critic because highly sensitive women tend to be very hard on themselves, perfectionistic, and also very sensitive to perceived judgment from others.

The Problem With the Inner-Critic

Take some time today to write down some of the thoughts you have that are mean, judgmental, critical, or hurtful toward yourself. You will probably be surprised by the sheer number of negative thoughts you have about yourself as well as what those thoughts are actually saying: things you would never say to your worst enemy, let alone someone you love. 

You might argue that though the thoughts aren't nice, they're true or that you won't make any positive changes in your life if you don't think "realistically" about your shortcomings and flaws.

I beg to differ. I've yet to see a woman shame herself into making a positive change in her life. And that's what the inner-critic is: the voice of shame whose core fear is that there is something wrong and unfixable within us, and if it's found out, we will be will be rejected, unloved, or will (metaphorically) cease to exist at all.

Though the inner-critic tries to convince us that it's just reporting the truth to us and that it's helping us to get to the life we want to live, the reality is just the opposite: the inner-critic robs us of living lives that are in integrity with our most authentic, highest selves.

The inner-critic tries to convince us that it's just telling us the truth, that we should feel bad about whatever it's jabbering on about at any given moment, but that's simply not true. 

We all have painful feelings in life: fear, anger, sadness, guilt, jealousy, and confusion, just to name a few. Those feelings are normal and an important part of the experience of being human. The inner-critic has the power to extend those feelings outside of the moment they occur to any time and any place in our lives. Thinking about an incident of missing a winning goal in 9th grade soccer can be just as painful in the moment as it is 20 years later as it replays in your mind. 

To make matters worse, the inner-critic can cause us to feel pain even on the happiest days of our lives.

For example, the day I graduated from my master's program at NYU, I put on my cap and gown as I got ready to leave for the ceremony only to realize I had ordered the gown too long. It was dragging on the ground and I couldn't walk in it without tripping and so with time running out before I was expected to gather with the rest of the graduates at Lincoln Center, I had to hastily pin it up with safety pins. I immediately felt frumpy and conspicuous in my poorly pinned graduation gown and couldn't stop berating myself for making such a stupid mistake in ordering the wrong length.

The moment I walked on stage to collect my diploma and shake the hands of the highest faculty in my graduate program, I wasn't thinking about the enormity of my achievement, I was thinking about whether the audience could see the safety pins. As I watched other graduates collect their diplomas, I noted that many had gowns that stopped several inches above their ankles and continued to silently obsess and criticize myself for my gown mishap. It got to the point where I realized that I felt jealous of my graduating colleagues who, with correctly sized gowns, could fully enjoy the day.

Though this incident is ridiculous and even comical in retrospect, it is also sad and painful. My graduation ceremony for my master's degree was a moment that should have been filled with pride, joy, and a feeling of great accomplishment. It was the culmination of thirteen years of grade school, four years of college, and two very intense emotionally and academically challenging years of my master's program. And yet here I was obsessing about the length of my graduation gown. My inner-critic had robbed me of a precious moment in my life -- but only because I let it.

I wish I could say that this example is an extreme case but unfortunately, for most women it's the norm. No matter how good our quality of life, no matter how joyful our situation is on paper, all we need to do is listen to our inner-critic for a few second and instantly we're in pain.

Giving Peace a Chance

When we get stuck or tangled up in what our inner-critic is telling us, we wind up giving them more power and holding on more tightly. This is what happened in my graduation ceremony. The more I thought about my gown, the more power those negative thoughts had and the more they got stuck in the forefront of my mind, keeping me from being present on an important day. Here's what to do instead:

Get Present By Making Contact With the Moment

Making contact with the moment means being psychologically present: consciously engaging with whatever is happening. Our brains tend to find it very difficult to stay present. What happens most of the time instead is that we get caught up in our thoughts and lose touch with the world around us. Our inner-critic causes us to live in the past with our regrets and painful experiences or in the future with our worries and fears. 

We are usually not even aware that this is happening because we are going through our days on mental autopilot, going through the motions of interacting with whatever comes into our world without actually being present with it.

Making contact with the moment means actively engaging with both the world around us and our inner-world with openness, awareness, and non-judgmental presence. When we engage with whatever the present moment is bringing to us without judgment and without trying to change it, we can find peace in any situation and we can operate from a place of trusting that whatever happens, there is nothing we can't handle.

Watch Your Thinking

Making peace with your inner-critic means learning to separate yourself from your thoughts, mental images, and memories. This means that instead of getting caught up in your thoughts or even trying to determine if they're true, we step back and watch them go by like people walking down the street in front of our house or leaves floating down a stream. 

When we do this, we are able to see our negative thoughts for what they really are: just words and pictures in our minds.  This puts the power back in our hands.

Allow

Allowing means opening up and making room for all thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. The inner-critic's power comes from our judgment of parts of ourselves or our experience as bad, wrong, or unbearable. When we stop struggling against the painful or uncomfortable parts of life, running from them, resisting them, or trying to numb them, we can just let them be with openness and even curiosity. 

This doesn't mean we enjoy them or desire them. It just means we accept them so that we can also accept peace into our lives.

Become the Observer

In our everyday experience, we tend to forget that our minds are actually made up of two distinct aspects: the thinking self and the observing self. The inner-critic is part of the thinking self: the part of us that is constantly generating thoughts, beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies, plans, and so on. Think of it like a fire hose of words and images always flooding your brain with information (which may or may not be factual). 

Th observing self, on the other hand, is the part of us that is purely aware of whatever we're thinking, feeling, sensing, or doing in any given moment. The observing self is the only part of us that stays constant throughout our lifetime. 

Think about it: as you go through life, your body changes, your thoughts,behaviors, and feelings change, but the "you" that's able to observe these things has been there your whole life. 

Making peace with your inner-critic requires switching your awareness from your thinking self to your observing self. In doing so, you recognize that your inner-critic is nothing more than words and images, not your true self -- who you really are at a deep, soul level. 

Get Clear on Your Values

Your values are what you deem to be most important in life: the standards of behavior that you believe would be a reflection of living your life as a reflection of your highest, truest self.

Your values are what you want your life to be about, what you want to stand for, and how you want to ideally spend your time here on Earth.

When we sit down and get very clear on our values, we are able to change our behaviors so that they match up with the call of our soul. The words of the inner-critic become less important and less impactful because we are living our lives according to what gives us meaning and fulfillment, not what the voice of fear is demanding or dictating we "should" do.

Take Values-Based Action

It's only when we live a life that's in integrity with our values that we begin to find inner-peace and self-love on a full, rich level. When we take action based on our values, we are likely to experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings both pleasant and unpleasant, both pleasurable and painful. It may require us to do things that are uncomfortable or that our inner-critic tells us we can't or shouldn't do because we won't be successful or because we're not good enough or because we don't deserve it.

Taking values-based action means the inner-critic is allowed to say what it wants about our choices (and it will!), but we stand firm in taking action anyway because we love ourselves enough to gift ourselves with a life that is full of meaning and congruence with our life's purpose(s). 

 

Our inner-critics can be demanding, shaming, hostile, and aggressive. They're there because our brains are designed to protect us and keep us safe from anything that might be painful. After all, for our ancestors, doing things that were difficult or outside their comfort zone had the potential to result in catastrophe. Our inner-critic doesn't want to see us hurt. It wants us to keep our walls up so that we can survive. It does so because it loves us in the only way it knows how -- by keeping us playing small in the game of life.

But connecting with your observing mind and your values allows you to live life in a different, more aligned place. Fear can have a voice, but your heart and your values will always be making the decisions.

 

And now I'd love to hear from you: what tools work for you in making peace with your inner-critic? What have you learned about life with your inner-critic that might help someone else? Feel free to comment below.

If you'd like to learn more about how to apply these tools with individual counseling, my teen group, or my women's group, please reach out and call or text at 973-769-2401 or email me at amy@amybethacker.com

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9 Signs of a Highly Sensitive Woman: Do You See Yourself In This List?

Many of my clients are highly sensitive women. They go through their lives hearing the same cliches: 

"You're too sensitive. Lighten up."

"You always take things the wrong way!"

"Oh, she's just shy!"

"Why can't you go with the flow?"

What it Means to Be Highly Sensitive

My main goal in working with highly sensitive women is to help them realize they aren't terrible people or tragically flawed. They are simply part of the 15-20% of the population who are genetically predisposed to be more aware of and affected by subtleties in their environment, inclined toward deep reflection and rich inner-experience, and more easily overwhelmed by what's going on around them.

Being highly sensitive is not a personality flaw or a choice. It's in fact a genetically inherited way that the nervous system functions and it affects everything from the most important relationships to how much coffee it takes to become completely wired.

In a world where being outgoing, attractive, easy going, and open to new experiences is considered to be the most desirable of traits for women, highly sensitive women often feel shamed and isolated by their sensitivity.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Woman? 

Highly sensitive women tend to have the following traits:

  • Extremely in-tune and aware of the details and subltleties in her environment, especially those that affect the senses such as the smell of someone's perfume, the sound of a coworker crunching on carrots, or a minor shift in light or temperature in the room.
  • Easily overwhelmed by a lot going on around you.
  • Easily affected by other people's moods or energy.
  • Feel re-energized by withdrawing or isolating yourself when you feel overly stimulated.
  • Worry about making mistakes, being less than perfect, or forgetting things.
  • Seen as sensitive or shy as a child.
  • You are very intuitive.
  • You love to research, think about options, and reflect.
  • Physically sensitive to things like medication, changes in diet, caffeine, or alcohol. 

More Alike Than Different

Being highly sensitive can make you feel like you're completely different than everyone around you, or that you'll never be understood -- by yourself or others. The truth, however, is that being overstimulated doesn't feel good for anyone.

Unrelenting loud noises, impossibly hot rooms or unruly crowds can make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Highly sensitive people just have a different threshold for where that point of discomfort begins.

All people take measures all day every day to maintain a comfortable level of input from the world around us.

We pick up our phones to decrease boredom. We end a conversation when it becomes too upsetting. We take a scratchy sweater off to decrease physical discomfort. We eat ice cream to feel the pleasure of coolness and sweetness in our mouths.

The Positives

Though being a highly sensitive woman can be seen as a negative thing -- especially in today's culture which values hyper-masculinity, rationality, and logic -- being highly sensitive can actually be a huge strength and asset.

Highly sensitive women will fight for what they believe in. They are generally aware of and concerned with issues such as social justice, the environment, and human rights. They want to make the world a better place and put out ideas to make it happen.

They generally make choices and take action based on creativity, imagination, and conviction.

They tend to have a talent for sensitive language and making others feel safe and loved.

Because they like to look at all angles of an issue, they are insightful, able to see the connections between seemingly unconnected things, and able to get to the heart of the matter.

What Highly Sensitive Women Need

Highly sensitive women are like orchids: they can bloom with incredible complexity and beauty given the right conditions. 

If you're a highly sensitive woman, it's crucial to create an environment that works for you and allows you to feel and be your best self. 

Here's What That Looks Like:

  • Learn what makes you feel overstimulated and then take steps to avoid it when possible.

Practice saying no without guilt to events or situations that you know are going to be too much for you. If your friend invites you to a bar and you know it's going to be loud and crowded, suggest another way to spend time together, like going out for coffee or meeting at your house, and let go of the obligation to be all things to all people.

  • Learn to recover from overstimulation when it's over. 

Sometimes overstimulation is unavoidable. If your baby is crying, you're going to stop what you're doing and figure out what's wrong. This may result in minutes or hours of screaming directly in your ear.

When that's over, have a plan already in place to decompress. That may mean sitting alone in a quiet room for a few minutes or calling a friend to vent or watching an episode of your favorite TV show.

Whatever works for you is fine, just know what it is and be ready to go and do it as soon as possible.

  • Get information about your sensitivity.

Most highly sensitive women love information, and love to understand themselves more fully and deeply.

Books like The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive In a World That Overwhelms You by Elaine Aaron and Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain are great places to start.

Talk to friends or family who are sensitive like you, and if you don't know any, look for Facebook groups or even hashtags that will connect you with like-minded women.

  • Look at your past with an understanding of your sensitivity. 

That time you exploded at your partner at the mall: was it because you were being unreasonable or was it because you had been surround by noisy strangers for hours?

That time your teacher called you shy in front of the class: was it because you really didn't like talking to people or was it just that you preferred to spend your energy talking to people you felt a true connection with?

Counseling can help you look at your past actions with fresh eyes and a deeper, more compassionate understanding of who you are.

  • Increase your sensitivity to your own needs and dial down your sensitivity to others.

Remember that our society tends to praise sensitivity in women mainly when it leads to "unselfishly" caring for others. But caring for others all the time while putting your needs second or even last will ultimately end in resentment or burn-out, and then you're of no help to anyone.

Be selective in who you give your time, energy, and attention to. Don't waste it on office gossip or your overbearing mother in law and then have nothing left for the people you really value, or even worse yourself!

While it generally brings highly sensitive women great relief to understand and define their way of experiencing the world, understanding is no substitute for therapy in identifying and healing the wounds that can come with it. Highly sensitive women can be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and trauma due to the intensity that they experience both positive and negative events and emotions in their lives.

If you suspect this might be the case for you, email me at amy@amybethacker.com or call 973-769-2401 to set up a free phone consultation.

 

How to Deal With the Difficult Person in Your Life

Dealing with a difficult person in your life? Here are some ways to cope:


1. Realize that you are never going to feel peace when you are in the mindset of needing to justify yourself to someone else.

2. Remember that someone else’s opinion of you is never personal. They’re just treating you as they would anyone who represents whatever it is you happen to represent to them.

3. Be okay with the fact that not everyone will see you for who you authentically are, and you don’t need to spend time worrying about it. Don't waste valuable time and energy explaining yourself to someone who is never going to get it.

4. Use your feelings to guide you to a place of balance. Luckily, unlike the opinions of someone else, our feelings are one thing we can actually control.

If you're looking to feel joy and inner peace, focusing on the part of your life that you're not happy with is never going to help you to reach that goal - no matter how justified you are.

5. Use your thoughts to guide your feelings. Many people think that when they feel better, their thinking about the situation will improve, but the opposite is actually true: your thoughts create your emotions. This is good news because it means you have the power to improve your situation all the time - it’s all a matter of focus.

6. Look at the situation and see if there is any room for gratitude and appreciation. You might not like most of it, but is there any part that is positive? Focusing on the positive aspects doesn't mean you're ignoring the negative. It just means you're choosing peace in the moment!

New Article in Psych Central: Warning Signs of Perfectionism (and How to Fix Them)

Perfectionists believe that there is no such thing as "good enough." There is either "fail" or "don't fail." Perfectionists never feel successful because there is always more to be done, more to be improved, more to "fix". In my latest article, out today in PsychCentral, I discuss the warning signs of perfectionism and how to fix them.
You'll learn:

🔺How to let go of judging yourself and others with compassion and grace.


🔺Why perfectionists often feel disconnected from their feelings and how to get connected on a day to day, moment to moment basis.

🔺Why perfectionists tend to have an all or nothing mentality and how to start living in life's gray areas.


Click the link below for the full article!

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/09/04/warning-signs-of-perfectionism-and-how-to-fix-them/

If you want to learn more about working with me to drop your perfectionist mindset for good, click the button to set up a free consultation:

Going Home, Not Going Big

If you're an entrepreneur, you're most likely familiar with the world of online business coaching. You're probably inundated on a daily basis with concepts like "going big in business," "creating a life you love," "creating a "business you love," or "creating a business that funds your dream life".

We see these promises and hear the stories of those that are living these ideals on a daily basis in social media and in our inboxes.

But this is a different story. This is a story about my friend who invested thousands of dollars on courses and masterminds and hundreds of hours on social media trying to get traction on her business.

This friend is a former nurse who worked her way through college and graduated with honors and two majors. Excellence was a concept she was well acquainted with and that she strived to live every day. She aimed to apply the principle of excellence to her new venture - her coaching business.

She did this because she wanted to feel like she was a person of value. She did it because she wasn't living the life she truly wanted and pouring herself into her business was a way to drown out the barrage of self-criticism that she constantly inflicted on herself.

Deep in her heart, a wish was being carefully nurtured: the wish to be a mother. She and her husband tried for years to get pregnant and still it wasn't happening.

She was feeling stuck.

The months wore on and she continued to pour time and money into developing her business with little to show for it. She struggled on a daily, even hourly basis with feeling useless because her creativity seemed to be stunted on all levels: physical, mental and spiritual.

The harder she pushed in her business, the more stuck she felt on all fronts. She knew that subconsciously, what she really wanted was to be pregnant, to grow a baby, not a business. And to make that happen, she approached it from every angle she could: fertility testing, exercise and yoga regimes, visualizing, praying, special diets and supplements.

But she felt powerless to make it happen. She felt blocked from the flow of creation and she felt like there was nothing she could do about it.

Along the way, she came to an important realization. She needed to have faith that her baby was out there for her but was not ready to come into the world on her timeline and that she needed to have patience.

Using her business to distract her was only causing more frustration and heartache. So, reluctantly and tenuously, she loosened her grip on both her business and her timeline for her baby. She committed herself to honoring her inherent value and letting go of the notion that her value was contingent on making money or creating and caring for another human.

This spring, she applied for a scholarship to a high-end business course. She felt confident that she would get it.

She didn't.

Several weeks later, she took a pregnancy test and it was positive.

And for the first time in her life, she realized that she was exactly where she was meant to be. She decided to put her business on hold while she focuses on being present in this brief stage in her life.

Yes, she is extremely fortunate that she has the option to do this, and she's very aware of that fact. People also have no problem reminding her of it. In fact, her choice is the subject of judgment from strangers and sometimes even family members.

And still struggles constantly with feeling worthless because she isn't being productive in a quantifiable, measurable way. But this story isn't about who has it harder and why.

This is a story about how my friend came to realize that when she lives life from her most deeply held values, she comes home to herself.

For another woman, the values might look completely different. Living authentically for you might look entirely different. The point is do what your intuition tells you to regardless of what it looks like to others.

So my friend is "going big" with what has meaning to her in this chapter in her life. She's "creating a life she loves" even if it doesn't look like much from the outside. She's modeling true bravery and conviction in the face of massive social pressure to be more and do more.

In doing so, she's contributing to the world and in a way that living from a desire to achieve or please never can.

To learn more about working with me or to set up a free consultation, click the button below or email amy@amybethacker.com 

 

 

Interviews with Equitable Mediation

I, along with a panel of counselors, was recently interviewed by Equitable Mediation divorce mediators located in New Jersey and Chicago.  

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Click on the links to see the full articles.

What advice would you give to an individual whose marriage is clearly beyond repair, yet despite unhappiness and desire to divorce, they take no action to start the process and instead remain miserable for months, or even years, frozen in fear?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/when-to-leave-a-marriage

My response:

It is understandable that it would feel in many ways more comfortable to remain in a broken marriage than to leave and have to deal with the unknown.

Instead of looking at it as a leap into a completely different (and possibly) worse life, it is helpful to see the change as one that can be leaned into deliberately with the goal of transforming that fear into greater freedom and joy in life. 

It is also important to remain clear on the reasons for leaving the marriage and let those lead the person in purposeful, conscious action. Individual therapy may be needed to address issues of self-esteem and self-worth that may be holding the person back.

Writing down all of the fears on paper in order to begin addressing them one by one in tiny, manageable steps can also be helpful.

Finally, getting a solid support system in place is crucial. Making a list of people that are currently supportive as well as those that may be of support, and how, can be extremely reassuring.

What are some signs that progress is being made in marriage counseling and the marriage is back on track?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/how-to-know-if-marriage-counseling-is-working

The greatest barometer for how well couples counseling is working is how the partners are feeling both as individuals and as members of a whole. Can they identify new tools and techniques to communicate their needs effectively? Are they able to hear their partner out without feeling the need to defend or judge? Do they feel greater personal sovereignty and authenticity as a result of the inner work they are doing as a couple?

Oftentimes children are exposed to dysfunction in their parents' marriages and later in their own personal relationships. They enter their marriage without the skills to engage in the relationship in a conscious, just, open-hearted way. Counseling is a way to build the foundation they may never have had in the first place.

How would a couple know if the marriage isn't working and it might be time to end the marriage?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/how-to-know-if-marriage-counseling-is-working

The decision to end a marriage is intensely personal. One needs to look at the benefits of staying in the marriage and how they compare to the benefits of leaving it.  In which scenario would the person feel more whole, more authentic, more free? Are the issues that are leading them to consider leaving the marriage insurmountable?

Many people enter couples counseling hoping to change their partner.  However, it is crucial for each member of the couple to take an honest look at their role in the conflict and the shame/blame cycle.

In other words, is this marriage still serving you? If not, and it is clear there is no way for it to serve you and fulfill you in the way you need to feel whole in the future, it may be time to shift the conversation to how to step away from the marriage.

To learn more about my services or to schedule a free phone consultation, click the button below:

Issues in Clinical Supervision: I'm Not a Parent!

The young-in-their-careers therapists I supervise often come to me with similar fears:

"I have anxiety about being a good therapist. How can I help others with their anxiety when I'm anxious?"

"I'm not a parent. What right do I have to advise parents?"

"I don't want to disappoint or hurt my clients. I'm afraid and I don't like being afraid. It might be easier if I get a job where I know I won't fail like folding shirts at the Gap."

Being a new therapist is overwhelming. We come into the profession to help people live better lives, and the thought that we could somehow cause more harm than good is devastating to us.

The truth is if you enter a career in counseling, helping people is most certainly more than what you do. It's who you are. Here are some tips I give my clinical supervision clients:

Focus on the Big Picture

If you look around, you will see that you help people all the time, and have been doing so your entire life, just not in the capacity of being an Official Therapist. List the times in the past weeks, months, or years when you have been of immense service or help to someone and notice the confidence these memories bring you.

Take the Pressure off

In the same way an oncologist doesn't need to experience cancer to know how to best treat it, we don't need to have the exact same experiences as our clients to be of service to them.

That doesn't mean that we won't develop specialties and areas of expertise over time. As you see more clients, you will learn who you work best with and eventually begin to focus working on those populations as much as possible.

However, it is not a requirement that your journey and your client's journey look exactly the same in order to help them. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, confusion frustration - these are all universal life experiences.

Adjust your Expectations of Yourself

Counseling is a skill that strengthens with time. Your schooling is really just the beginning of your journey. If your expectation is that you will never feel overwhelmed with a client, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Remember that our reactions and feelings to clients are valuable information (counter-transference in grad school speak). They give us a window into our client's emotional state. They allow us to know what it is like to be in a relationship with our client. They inform us about areas in our own personal lives where we may still need work.

Remember that the Therapeutic Relationship is a Reciprocal one

Our clients teach us as much as we teach them - if we are open to it. They take the form of the fears and obstacles we have overcome. Clients that challenge us are often a mirror for our own doubts. Your clinical supervision is there to help us identify the parts of ourselves that need healing.

There is no need to try to impress or convince them of your expertise. Use the energy of joining them on their journey, of meeting them where they're at. The pushing or fearful energy is what stops them and makes them not want to enter a therapeutic relationship with you.

 

Try to see these early years in your career with love and gratitude for the gifts they will offer you - gifts that unfold with each new client you see. Also have gratitude for the gifts that your specific life path have brought you thus far - a desire to live your truest, most aligned purpose - helping people live their truest, most aligned purpose, empathy and education to truly help your clients, connection with universal truths of human existence, and so much more!

You Might Find You Get What You Need

There have been times in my life where I felt with every fiber of my being that I would only be happy with a specific outcome to a situation. I prayed for that outcome, visualized it, did everything in my power that I could do on a practical level to manifest that outcome and still it didn't happen.

The result was always anger, guilt, disappointment and shame. I questioned if there was more I could have done. I wondered if there was something wrong with me that made me unable to bring what I believed I needed into my life.  I was pissed at the universe. I was pissed at myself for failing myself. I had made my happiness contingent on an outcome and if that outcome didn't happen, I wasn't happy.

In other words, I was closing my heart at the exact moment I needed it to be open.

These moments of disappointment are as inevitable as our very breath. We are not in this life to have our every desire delivered with a sprig of parsley and an after dinner mint. We are here to grow, to expand, to become the freest, highest, most authentic version of ourselves. Unfortunately, our human brains are woefully inept at predicting how to make that happen.

We believe that the universe operates in simple, easily understood rules, and we believe our internal happiness is contingent on external events.

Basically, we want it all to make sense.

Our highest selves can be found not in thought, but in the experience of love. The more we love, the more we are in tune with our highest selves. The more angry and disappointed we are, the more disconnected we are - not just from the targets of those feelings, but also from ourselves.

The truth is that events can never block us from experiencing love; only our thoughts can do that. Our growth is about understanding this.

Life doesn't always give you what you want, but life always gives you what you really want, which is an abundance of opportunities to connect with unconditional love. No matter what happens, that can never be taken away because unconditional love is the essence of our being. So while we are not protected in our lives from anything bad ever happening to us, we are protected by life when they do happen because life has already infused us with all we need to handle it.

 

If you would like to learn more about infusing your life with unconditional love, call me at

973-769-2401 or email amy.beth.acker@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

An Act of Love

When you're a new mom, it is easy to oscillate- sometimes moment by moment- between complete love and gratitude for the new life you have created and complete overwhelment. It can feel impossible to meet even your most basic needs when all the time and energy you have seems to go directly into meeting the needs of your child. Sometimes it feels like too much to handle.

This was the case for a good friend of mine when her older son was three and her younger son was two months.

Forgetting

She called me one day in tears and told me she had done something that made her question her entire sense of self. I listened as she told me the story of what happened.

She was feeling excited and hopeful that day because she had managed to get some things done around the house while the baby slept peacefully in his swing. Toys that had been out for days were finally put away, laundry sorted and folded, and a load of dishes in the dishwasher. She even got in a shower before it was time to pick her older son up from school.

She arrived at her son's classroom feeling like she might finally have the whole mom of two kids thing under control, but that all came crashing down when his teacher opened the classroom door and asked "Oh, did the baby stay home with dad today?"

Her heart dropped. Panic washed over her. She had forgotten to take the baby into the school! She had left him strapped in his car seat!

A nauseating combination of shame, terror, and humiliation ensued as she pushed past the other parents to fetch the baby from the car where he was sleeping peacefully.

She was in disbelief that she could do something so grossly irresponsible. She never thought she could forget her own child. If she was capable of forgetting him once, she reasoned, it could happen again at any time. Maybe her own child wasn't safe with her. Maybe she didn't have what it took to be a good mom and this proved it.

Remembering

After several solid hours of freaking out, she talked to some friends who all had stories of similar situations happening to them, which reminded her that she, like all other parents in the world was a human being having a human experience.

When you have an experience that threatens your core beliefs about yourself, your ability to forgive yourself is what will determine whether you are able to move forward or remain stuck in a shame spiral. I have found that the quickest way to forgive yourself is to remember yourself.

Remember that you are your own harshest critic but that your deepest core is always love. You just need to allow that love in. Imagine the "flawed" part of you as a small child begging to be treated with love despite her imperfections. See how badly she is hurting.

See that you aren't able to fully love those around you including your children when you don't fully love yourself. After all, you can't give something you don't have.

Turning it Around

I said these things to my friend as she breathed into the phone. When I was done, she replied, "I know I need to work on loving myself and forgiving myself more. But how?"

"You already know," I told her. "Start taking care of yourself and letting the outside and the inside be reflections of love. Start small and all is coming for you in time."


"You mean taking care of my body?" she asked.

"Yes, taking care of your body is an act of love that you want for yourself and that you want to model for your sons. You also need to care for your mind and spirit. You need to treat yourself like the whole person you are. It's not that complicated, I promise. And I promise every mother on the planet has been exactly where you have been. Forgiving yourself for being imperfect is a journey but it's one you don't have to take alone.

My heart went out to my friend whose confidence as a mother was so shaken by her mistake. We have all been there in one way or another as women because as women we are all creators of fragile things, whether it is a child or a piece of art or a new idea. The universe is always expanding and so are we. It's a journey for sure, but it's one we can take together.

 

If you want to learn more about the next steps in your journey, call me for a free phone consultation at (973) 769-2401.

 

To the Woman Who Isn't Getting the Help She Needs

To the Woman Who Isn't Getting the Help She Needs:

I know you have been suffering in silence with anxiety or hopelessness or feeling like you no longer exist in any recognizable form. I know you are feeling so many things right now: shame that you can't seem to get better on your own, sadness that things are this bad despite all you have done to fix it.

I know you feel like your spirituality or meditation or self help studies or exercise or diet changes should have fixed things right now. You feel like if you just tried a little harder you would start to see more progress. But you're tired. You don't know how to get yourself out of this. You feel weak. You think maybe you just need more self control. Maybe that would fix things.

I know you don't want one more day of feeling panicked, helpless, on edge. I know you want the waves of anxiety to stop. I know you've been snapping at the people you love the most and then beating yourself up over it.

The people you have confided in may have been dismissive - even those who supposedly know you the best. They don't see your situation as being as bad as you feel it is. You think you might be overreacting, but you know deep down inside you're not.

I know you wonder: what if this is the way you are and nothing can change that?

To the woman who isn't getting the help she needs, I want you to know this:

What you are going through right now is an exercise and a lesson in self-love and self-compassion, just like everything else in life.

If you love yourself, you are willing to give yourself what you need, even if it goes against what your ego (fear) wants, which is to stay stuck.

If you love yourself, you don't berate yourself for not taking one specific path to get to where your soul needs to be. You do what is necessary and you don't shame yourself for doing what is necessary.

When you love yourself, you follow your intuition. It always knows the right path, even if fear is doing everything it can to talk you out of it.

If you don't love yourself enough to stop judging yourself about this, then think of your love for the women who have come before you and the women who will come after you. Do you want to leave a legacy of silent suffering? Of being a woman who only allows herself a specific kind of help because you have arbitrarily decided that certain kinds of help are acceptable and others aren't?

Your soul knows what you need to do next to get the help you need.

Do what you need to do now. Love yourself now. Be an example now. You are deserving of it now.

To find out how to get the help you need, call me for a free phone consultation 973-769-2401

 

 

 

 

What to do When You Really Don't Want to Stop Being Negative

As humans, we have the gift (and sometimes curse) of a full range of emotions. Though we may believe that it would be easier to live life in a perpetual state of joy, that is not how we are designed, and sometimes when negative emotion strikes, we don’t want to do difficult work to pull ourselves out of it.

Sometimes we get hung up on “the principle of the thing.” Sometimes it just feels good to stand in our self-righteousness and be angry at a person or situation that has caused us to feel attacked or wronged. Sometimes we feel victimized and we want those around us to recognize and appreciate our suffering.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: sometimes we want to stay with the premise that we’re powerless because it’s so much more satisfying than admitting that we’re the cause of our own misery.

I know for me this tends to happen on a fairly regular basis.

 

Recently, a friend and I were going out to lunch and I was circling the crowded parking lot looking for a spot. After a few minutes, I finally located someone pulling out and I pulled up and turned on my signal to show that I would be pulling in.

I was about to start moving into the spot when a dude in a pickup truck cut me off and stole the spot from me.

“What are you doing?” I demanded as I rolled down my window.

“I was here first,” he replied with a shrug.

“No you weren’t, I had my signal on and you almost hit me!”

“No you didn’t,” he said and walked away.

I was furious. The spot was clearly mine and he stole it! When you have your turn signal on, it means the spot is yours! The guy came within inches of my car. He could have caused damage!

These thoughts were running through my head as I began to circle the lot and look for another spot. I angrily replayed the exchange between the guy and myself - this time coming up with wittier ways to chastise him. I thought of writing a clever note and leaving it on his windshield.

“Um, what are you doing?” asked my friend sitting next to me.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re clearly having an angry conversation in your mind. You’re making weird facial expressions.”

The interaction with the guy had ended but I had let it drag on in my mind. After all, I was right and he was wrong! He did something unfair and then didn’t apologize!

But really who was tormenting who now? I was tormenting myself. I was ignoring my friend next to me and letting the guy take up valuable time and brain space. I was robbing myself of my own peace and enjoyment of the time I had with my friend.

Here are some ways to deal when you really don’t want to stop being negative:

Stop judging yourself for being human. It’s ok to be mad at the world sometimes. Love yourself anyway and tell yourself that you love and accept all your human emotions.

That being said, don’t lose sight of the fact that no one creates your reality but you.

Journal. Write a letter to the universe in which you outline all of your grievances. Then pause and get still. Breathe deeply and listen to the universe’s response and then scribe what you hear. Chances are it will be unconditionally loving and chances are it will be exactly what you need to hear.

Call a trusted friend. Tell them you need a sympathetic ear and then unleash the beast. Sometimes validation is all we need to be able to let it go.

Ground yourself. Take your socks and shoes off and stand in the grass. Visualize yourself growing roots deep into the earth and remember that we are all connected and that is a good thing. Contemplate this truth as applied to the situation where you feel wronged.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to apply these mindset shifts to your own life, call  973-769-2401 to schedule an initial consultation or email at amy.beth.acker@gmail.com



 

"My Life Would Be So Much Better if She Got Fired!"

Years ago, I had a job that I dreaded going to. I had a colleague who was hostile, aggressive and antagonistic to everyone around her, and it caused me a huge amount of stress. When we were working together, I felt defensive and vulnerable, sometimes finding my heart pounding at the thought of having to ask her a question or communicate an issue to her.

Her outrageous behavior was well known at the agency where I was working at the time. Everyone was afraid of her, and no one wanted to do anything about it.  As time went on, I began to feel trapped and helpless. I loved my job, but she was making me miserable!

It came to a point where I dreaded every interaction with her. I felt that if only she would get fired or quit, my life would improve dramatically and everything would be good again.

I didn’t realize at the time, but I was putting my sense of joy, freedom, and power in a very unpleasant and unstable person. No wonder I was miserable!

If you are in a situation like this, here are some ways to turn your thinking around, reconnect with your authentic self, and eventually get yourself unstuck from the situation.

  1. Stop feeling the need to defend yourself.

Realize that you are never going to feel or be free when you are in the mindset of needing to justify yourself to someone else.

As executive coach Stewart Emory says, “you’re just an extra from central casting,” meaning that someone else’s opinion of you is never personal. They’re just treating you as they would anyone who represents whatever it is you happen to represent to them.

Be okay with the fact that not everyone will see you for who you authentically are, and you don’t need to spend time worrying about it. By feeling the need to explain myself to my colleague when she was giving me a hard time, I was wasting valuable time and energy. The bottom line was she was never going to be a reasonable person, and I needed to stop wanting her to be.

2.  Use your feelings to guide you to a place of balance.

How do you know when you’re not being authentic? You feel like shit! Luckily, unlike the opinions of a crazy person, our feelings are one thing we can actually control.

As Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from man except one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist whose entire family was killed and his life’s work destroyed in the Holocaust. Yet through it all, he maintained that we always have the choice of a better feeling thought.

If my younger self read that quote, I might have said that it was impossible to feel good with that woman in my life. In fact, there was a certain satisfaction and camaraderie in bitching about her with coworkers and to my husband. But that did nothing to improve my situation and in fact, it only made it worse.

If I was looking to feel joy and inner peace, focusing on the part of my job that sucked was never going to help me reach that goal - no matter how justified I was.

3. Use your thoughts to guide your feelings.

Many people think that when they feel better, their thinking about the situation will improve, but the opposite is actually true: your thoughts create your emotions. This is good news because it means you have the power to improve your situation all the time - it’s all a matter of focus.

When you’re focused on thoughts that you’re being treated unfairly, you’ll be stuck in a shitty situation until someone else gets fired or quits. If you’re honest with yourself, there is always going to be someone treating you unfairly in life. If you’re waiting until you are treated well by everyone in the world to be happy, you’ll be waiting a long time.

So how do you use your freedom to choose better feeling thoughts? By focusing only on the parts of the job you enjoy. Make a list every day of the parts of your job that are awesome and that make you feel great.

Here are some examples:

  • I’m great at my job and I love how I’ve been asked to head the new project. It feels good to know that my hard work is being recognized.

  • I love that I have friends at work. It’s great that we connect and support each other throughout the day.

  • My job gives me a daily opportunity to be creative in new ways.

  • I love that I’m taking care of my family with my income.

Look at the situation with a sense of gratitude and appreciation and then think about the feelings. The great part is that the more you use these tools, the more they’ll work for you!

             

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to learn more about how to use your thoughts to guide your feelings and find a place of balance, get in touch with me. You can call me at 973-769-2401 or email at amy.beth.acker@gmail.com.