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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How to Cope With a Divorce You Didn't Want

I was recently invited to collaborate on an expert panel and share some insights on how cope with divorce. Here are my best tips:

Remain openhearted.

When our hearts are broken, our instinct is to protect ourselves by closing off to prevent further injury. We become angry and fearful, and we may lash out or shut down, which only makes us feel more helpless and more in pain.

This is the opposite of what is needed to maintain connections to people who can support us, grieve as much as needed, and move forward as peacefully as possible.

Discover your wholeness outside the relationship.

Let go of the need cling to the illusion of control by blaming yourself or your spouse. See what aspects of this unwanted situation you can find gratitude in.

For example, there may be places in this relationship where you lost sight of who you are and what you really want out of life.

The ending of the relationship may be an opportunity to rediscover who you are outside the context of the other person.

Give yourself everything you thought you needed from your spouse.

Don’t allow the divorce to lead you to believe you are somehow messed up or unworthy of love.

Don’t use it to come up with examples of all the ways you’re not kind, lovable, and desirable. Use it instead as an opportunity to come to a new understanding with yourself that your essence is innately lovable.

Demonstrate this to yourself on a daily basis by learning to love yourself without condition and engaging in a process of radical non-judgment and self-discovery.

You can read the full article here: How to Cope with Divorce

#Write It Down

My latest publication is in Learn Evolve and Thrive. I was asked to be a contributor for an expert panel on 11 Powerful Techniques and Practices to Cultivate an Abundance Mindset and I wrote about the power of journaling in cultivating abundance in your life. Below is my contribution, and you can click the link above for the full article.

How do you cultivate an abundance mindset?

#Write it down

Putting pen to paper can give us a happier, more intentional, more meaningful life.

Our thoughts create our reality and when we journal, we are able to consciously take control of the power of our thoughts. This helps us to manifest more of what we want in our lives such as abundance, peace, and joy, and to process, heal, and ultimately let go of what we want less of.

Here are some ways to use journaling to bring more abundance into your life:

Write down all the good that you already have.

Starting and/or ending each day with a gratitude practice is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to bring more of what you want into your life. This can be a simple list of what went right during the day, things or people you are glad to have and know, or anything else that feels positive to you.

Tracking the good shows the universe that you acknowledge and appreciate what good it’s flowing to you in the present moment and that you welcome more of it.

Having trouble getting started?

Keep it as simple and as general as you need to to get yourself into a positive mindset about the all the abundance you currently have in your life.

For example:

  • Did you wake up and breathe this morning? Plenty of people would give anything for the opportunity to wake up one more day.

  • When you woke up, did you open your eyes and see the world around you? The gift of sight is a precious one.

  • Do you have a roof over your head? Consider how much more unpleasant your life would be if you didn’t!

CHALLENGE: Spend 5-15 minutes each day for the next week making a gratitude list. At the end of the week, journal on what positive changes you have seen as a result of this simple practice.

Process the things you are having a hard time letting go of.

A journal is a great place to make sense of emotions that are overwhelming us and to become aware of thoughts and feelings that are holding us back from what we want in life.

Writing down the difficult parts of our lives gives us much needed clarity. It helps us heal ourselves as we go within and give loving attention to the places that are hurting and in pain.

In doing this, we become able to let go of the things that once had so much power over our lives and to move forward with a clear mind and a softened heart.

Use your journal to practice nonjudgmental curiosity in order to understand your hurt and pain more deeply and with less inflammatory thinking.

CHALLENGE: Spend an 30 minutes to an hour writing about one situation that has been weighing heavily on you.

  • Who is involved?

  • What about it is triggering for you?

  • What would you like the situation to become?

  • What would need to happen for you to be happy or find peace with the situation?

  • Since you can only change your own thinking and actions, what steps can you take today, independent of any other person or circumstance to start to heal?

Move forward in your life with intention.

Your journal is your place to dream big. You can use it to discover what you really want out of life and what would allow you to be the fullest, freest, highest version of yourself.

But we can’t get from where we are to where we want to be without a plan.

Your journal is the place to let go of the limiting thinking that holds you back. It allows your intuitive mind to explore the places that your rational mind says you can never go.

Note: aim to strike a balance between gratitude and peace in the present moment and the desire to continue to grow and expand. Journaling gives you space to both dream big and love what already exists at the same time. The more you are able to merge both sides of this coin, the more abundance your present and future selves will experience.

CHALLENGE: Take as much time as you need to complete the following exercise:

Imagine that it’s five years from now and you are living the life you were dreaming about today. Describe in detail what an ideal day would will look and feel like for you when this happens.

Some areas to consider:

  • What are the dominant feelings you have throughout this ideal day?

  • Who is in your life and what are your relationships like?

  • How do you spend your time?

  • What are your surroundings? Where are you located?

  • Is your ideal day structured or open-ended? Or a combination of both?

  • What smells, tastes, sights, and sounds do you experience as you move through your ideal day?

  • What is your mindset?

Journal on these questions until you have a very detailed description.

Mark the page in your journal and come back to it periodically. As you review it, allow yourself to experience the day in your mind. Let the feeling-tone of gratitude to be gently present as you do this. Practice feeling and knowing that you already have it. In your mind you already do!

 

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:

New Article in Elephant Journal: "Why Inexperienced Men can make the Best Lovers"

I'm thrilled to have my latest article, "Why Inexperienced Men can Make the Best Lovers" in Elephant Journal!

In the article, I discuss men, women, and some surprising truths that I've discovered in my last decade as a counselor.

Learn how each partner can take responsibility for a satisfying sexual experience and the dos and don'ts of connecting with your partner no matter what his or her level of experience is.

If you would like to learn more about working with me or to set up a free phone consultation, please click the link below.

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:

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Self-Care

When you're already overwhelmed and overloaded and your to do list is a mile long, it's easy to see self care as another source of stress. It becomes another thing you're supposed to be doing, another thing to feel guilty about not doing.

Pretty soon it becomes a source of self-criticism:

"I'm not taking good enough care of myself."

"What's wrong with me?"

"I should meditate or something, but I just don't feel like it."

I used to see self care as something to feel guilty about not doing. It was another thing on my to-do list like laundry and taking out the recycling. But as I've gotten more in touch with my feminine energy, I have come to realize that self care is a gift that only I can give myself.

It's not something that inhibits my freedom by taking up time I don't feel prepared to invest. Self care actually gives me the gift of pleasure, the gift of comfort, the gift of expressing love to myself.

As women, it is our birthright to experience pleasure and joy on a daily basis. I make time to do this by waking up at 4:30 in the morning and taking an hour and a half before the rest of my family wakes up to spend loving time with myself.

Here's how that looks:

::I wake up and wash my face with warm water to help energize me.

::I look up at the moon to see where it is in its monthly cycle

::I honor the gift of my body through stretching and exercise.

::I give myself the gift of clarity through meditation

::Finally, I make myself a quiet cup of (decaf) coffee and spend devoted time with my journal

When I do these, things, I feel filled before the day has even begun for my family. If nothing else gets accomplished that day, if the rest of the day gets away from me, I still carry with me the gifts that my morning routine brought to me.

Of course, I always have the freedom to decide that a 4:30 wake up call just isn't worth it and sleep in. But most days, I truly do see it as a gift to myself, nourishment for my soul that only I can provide for myself.

So experiment with making sacred time for yourself a priority as important as getting to class or paying a bill. Experiment with making it a non-negotiable.

Make your presence with yourself your present to yourself.

 

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

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



 

How to Introduce Spirituality to Your Toddler

"Spirituality" is a term that generally refers to the values and meanings by which people live. It is a connection to something higher and bigger than the individual and also a connection to the deepest, most authentic parts of the individual.

Introducing these concepts to children from a young age is a great way to create a foundation of emotional literacy and self-awareness that will carry them throughout the life cycle.

Here are some ways to introduce spiritual concepts to young children:

We Are All Connected

Our words and actions have the power to effect others both positively and negatively. We live in a world with ecosystems, food chains, seasons, and moon cycles. Connectivity is in every aspect of our lives, and our connections to others and to the world help us to define who we are as individuals.

Notice the small and big ways this is true in your daily life.

For example, in my family, we try to spend as much time in nature as possible. This means heading out to one of several local parks every weekend, trips to the beach in the summer, and time in the grass after dinner.  We also read books and discuss the lessons or morals that we gleaned from them. We discuss how the characters might have felt and imagine how we would feel if we were in the same situation.

Create Family Rituals

Special breakfasts on Sundays, going outside and observing the full moon, and taking a yearly trip to the lake are all simple rituals that give us something to look forward to, ground us, and create a sense of meaning and belonging. They don't have to be fancy or expensive. The important thing is that they have a specific time and/or place and/or activity associated with them.

In our house, the kids are usually up by 5:30 AM and we like to go outside and look at the moon before breakfast. We discuss the weather and what phase the moon is, and it's a small fun way to discuss what's going on in the world around us that day.

To celebrate my family's Jewish cultural roots, I make latkes every year during Hanukkah, and every year, they turn out terribly. When fall hits, we make a family of scarecrows to put on the porch.

We don't do anything big or fancy or Pinterest-worthy, but we do things that reflect us, that are fun, and that remind us of our place in the larger picture.

Set an Evening Per Week Aside for Review, Planning, and Gratitude

As our kids are four years and eleven months, extensive discussion of the previous and upcoming weeks is something we have not really fully implemented at this time, but I look forward to building in the coming years. Here are some ideas I have for what this will look like:

  • Discuss what could have gone better in the previous week and why
  • Discuss what will make next week great
  • Review family goals
  • Review the family calendar and identify upcoming holidays and other things to look forward to
  • Affirm who you are as individuals and as a unit
  • Take time for gratitude and appreciation for the people, places, and things you love in your lives

For more information about how you can integrate more meaning and ritual in your family's life, call me at 973-769-2401 or email amy.beth.acker@gmail.com

 

 

 

The Problem With 'Make Him Love You Forever'

I was recently asked by an old friend for my opinion on companies that run Facebook ads with promises like "make him love you forever" or "how to make a man fall in love with you." She said she thought she was being targeted because her status is "single." She wanted to know my thoughts on the ads and I agreed it would be a great idea for a blog post.

Side note - I love to hear suggestions for blog posts from my readers, so if you have one, don't be shy!

When you're single, it can be almost impossible not to constantly think about the ways your life would be better if you were in a relationship. You may feel lonely and left out and you probably started wondering a long time ago what's wrong with you that you can't find (or keep) a relationship.

If you're mid-20's or older, you've most likely been in at least one "major" relationship and so you know what it feels like to have someone loving and committed in your life which makes the contrast of not having it all the more intense.

We're hard wired to connect with others and seek out intimacy. Of course a company that promises to help you end the feelings of loneliness and isolation would sound intriguing: they are appealing to one of your greatest pain points and offering an easy solution. 

Full disclosure: I've been in a relationship with my husband for 10 years . That being said, one thing I can say for sure is that if you feel lonely, isolated, or stuck as a single person, you will continue to have those feelings as someone in a relationship.

The bottom line is that the areas where you are most unhappy in life are the areas where you are giving away your power.

If you are waiting until you're in a relationship to feel good again, you are giving your power away- in this case to an idealized but imaginary significant other. Inside, your subconscious will resist you getting into a relationship with someone else when at your core, you're not okay with yourself.

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The main objection I take with those ads is the word "make." It implies there is some secret formula to being in a loving, committed relationship and that you don't have it. It also implies you can control someone else's feelings, and of course, you can't. It's as if love is something that can be achieved, when the reality is that love is something that is received.

Here's the truth as I see it: our value as women doesn't come from doing, it comes from self-worth and self-love. When you criticize yourself, when you place your value on external factors like the love of someone else, you disempower yourself.

If you are single and wanting to be in a relationship, here are my suggestions:

  • Continue to put yourself out there but don't attach yourself to the outcome. I know this sounds easier said than done, but enjoy the process of getting to know new people with no expectations or strings attached.
  • Let it come from a place of wanting, not a place of needing. As you put yourself out there, take note of the things you enjoyed about each experience. For example, maybe you met someone who you don't really feel a strong connection with per se, but who you found has a great sense of humor. Put the sense of humor - or more specifically, how you felt around the sense of humor on your list. Use this time to really think about what your preferences for a partner in a future relationship are.
  • Enjoy the process. You cannot have a happy ending to a journey that has not been enjoyable. Though not every interaction with a potential mate will lead to a lasting relationship, the thing you are really seeking is union and connection. Focus on the ways those feelings already exist in your life and the feeling of gratitude and appreciation that they bring to you.
  • Realize that opportunities for connection and intimacy are always there and that it is entirely within your power to focus on them now.

Ultimately, you want a partner who loves you for who you really are, but unless you yourself truly feel that you're enough, your subconscious will never allow it to happen. Heal the parts that are critical, that believe you're flawed and in the meantime, enjoy the process of learning more about what you are looking for in a potential partner.

Paradoxically, as you focus on ways that true, passionate, intimate connection already exists in your life, especially with yourself, you will expand its potential in other areas of your life as well.