Is Social Media a Mirror of Discontent?

social media and the mirror of discontent _ erin's life bites

As an American living abroad during the past two election cycles, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the state of things back home.

To say things are toxic would be an understatement.

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are at odds with each other about everything.

“Things are changing, get over it.”

Before I became a coach, I used to be one of those folks who walked around thinking, “just get over it.”

However, these days it is my opinion, and the belief of many great scholars, thinkers, and leaders before me that love and compassion are necessities for living an honest and substantial life.

And the truth is; I couldn’t do this without being more loving and compassionate to myself.

Self-compassion is something with which the majority of us struggle.

It’s much easier to beat ourselves up about our perceived failures or prop ourselves up for our perceived strengths while comparing ourselves to the faults and advantages of the other people than it is, to be honest with ourselves.

When we evaluate ourselves so stringently, it doesn’t just stay with us.

When we are cutting towards ourselves, we tend to be less kind to others in turn.  I’ve worked with clients who pick apart other people’s lifestyles, partners, and appearances and it is just down to how they feel about themselves.

We all have done this, and it is not helpful, because as the saying goes (and I may be butchering this, so don’t quote me!) “What Sally says about Jane says more about Sally than it does about Jane.”

In other words,we only end up burning ourselves by thinking and saying cruel and judgmental things.

It is not entirely our fault.  Sometimes, the human default setting is not to reassure ourselves that people are doing the best they can.

Sometimes, our default setting is to scrutinise others as harshly as we would ourselves.

When I ask, is social media a mirror of discontent I mean it regarding how we judge success and failure nowadays.  Is everything we scroll and swipe through our way of looking for a source of feedback by comparing what we see in others in ourselves?

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I see this especially on social media over and over again.  And I’ve fallen victim to it myself.  Say you’re having a bad day and are frustrated with your life, all it takes is a scroll through Instagram or Facebook to watch the highlight reels of other people’s lives to set us off into critical mode.

But guess what?  Most of what we see on people’s social media accounts is (at least) slightly fictional.  I have worked with individuals who show how great their relationship or career is online and then tell me things are hanging by a thread in real life.

Our perception of other people’s lives doesn’t obligate us to beat ourselves up for not having the same story as they do any more than it does to judge them for living differently than us.

And truthfully, most people are not very transparent about their true selves, and it keeps them from being able to show their vulnerability.  If you’re as big of a fan of Brene Brown as I am, then you know what the cost of hiding shame and vulnerability is.

Success is not having an expensive car, high paying job, significant other, or  1% body fat.

Failure is not the absence of those things either.

Success and failure are just feedback, and they are what make us more resilient.

This feedback encourages our self-efficacy, as this detailed article on Positive Psychology defines as the “overall belief in our ability to succeed.”

Your resilience is far greater than you give yourself credit.  Just stop and think about all of the things you’ve been through in your life – hell, this month alone.  I assure you that you have picked yourself up and dusted off more times than you even realise. Positive Psychology also states that those with a high level of self-efficacy are not only more likely to succeed, but they are also more likely to bounce back and recover from failure.

So, what if you could be more aware of your resilience?  What if you could constructively comfort and console yourself along the way?

Is social media a 'mirror of discontent'? #comparisontrap #bestlife #selfcompassion #selfefficacy Click To Tweet

Being kind to yourself, when you need it most, is a necessity it is part of what being human is.

As Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion states: there are three main components to self-compassion — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.  It is part of the human experience to feel vulnerable and to experience failure or disappointment, but what we don’t need when this happens is to be our worst enemy.  It is our moral imperative to build a healthy self-support system and realise that we all feel discontent and we all struggle.

Self-compassion will enable us to be less critical of ourselves and others and further develop our resilient spirit.

5 Tips for Handling Constructive Criticism

FIVE TIPS FOR HANDLING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM _ erin's life bites

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

Nobody likes criticism.

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

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

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

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

Even though we each will receive a fair bit of less than desirable feedback in our lives, there is no need to feel threatened, defensive, or ashamed of it. It’s all part of breaking away from our comfort zone.

You may have your own criticism triggers. I know that I still struggle with mine; the question, “Why do you do it that way?”

To which my usual response is something like:

Kristen Schaal Eye Roll GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

5 Tips for Handling Constructive Criticism

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

Learning how to handle criticism constructively is something we all should master.

We can choose to see critiques as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

Do you struggle with receiving feedback? Check out my post: 5 tips for handling constructive criticism. #personaldevelopment #criticism #growthmindset Click To Tweet

As with any behaviour, it’s a choice.

What do you guys think – do you twitch when you hear criticism headed your way?

Why a Revenge Body is Bad Motivation

A Revenge Body Is Bad Motivation _ Erin's Life Bites

As a wellness professional, I encounter various forms of personal motivation when it comes to fitness.

Some people want to be fit enough to run a half-marathon because it is something they have always wanted to do.

Some people have specific health concerns and are advised to start a fitness regimen.

And then some people come to me looking to “make their ex-significant other regret the day they broke up with them” by getting a “revenge body.”

Any tabloid magazine, on any given week, will post a story about the “revenge body” of a celebrity who is going through relationship woes or bad times.

Khloe Kardashian was paid a bunch of money on her E! show aptly titled, Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian to assist people in obtaining a ‘revenge worthy’ physique, and I’m not the only person who thinks this show is bad news.

I have a policy that I won’t work with individuals with body revenge goals.

Instead, I ask clients to focus on the power of a growth mindset; to have them take their desire for revenge and turn it into an exercise in self-compassion and forgiveness.

Why having a revenge body is a lousy motivator

Simply put, working towards a revenge body infringes upon your innate ability to embrace healing.

Kevin Carlsmith, in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, discussed that by seeking revenge we inflate the event or issue to a level of obsession, where it’s no longer something that can be “laughed about later.”

You’re willing to sacrifice your well-being to seek punishment towards somebody else.

When a client comes to me with a goal not based on self-care, my concern is that the individual runs the risk of possible long-term consequences.

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I am not making this claim based on speculation. I once sought out to change my physical appearance after being called fat. Before it was a buzzword (I’m ageing myself here), when I was fifteen years old, I started a revenge body diet and exercise regimen, and it turned into a fifteen year battle with bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder.

We see this scenario all of the time in the movies.  An individual gets rejected and, soon after, their mission is to rise from the ashes and make this person regret their decision to abandon or hurt them.  So, they falsely believe the best way to go about this is to become more physically desirable.

But what tends to happen in the end to our protagonists? They realise that they do not need nor desire to change for that person, and in sacrificing so much to ‘improve’ themselves, they understand that the individual wasn’t worthy of their affection and, ultimately, they are the better off without them.

Why do these characters finally realise, within a 90-minute time frame, that they need to accept who they are and be okay with it?

Because revenge inevitably brings us down to the level of the very thing we are fighting and compromises our integrity.

As humans, one of our most compelling traits is our ability to forgive ourselves and others.

So, when we apply our actions with the intentions of proving our worth or getting one over on others, we keep the pain associated with it alive and well.

We cannot heal and grow to our full potential if we are doing things for the benefit of needing to prove our worth to others.

For this reason, when I meet a new client now, and it is clear that they are in a vulnerable and transitional point in their life, I ask them to reassess what is upsetting them and the areas of their life they should focus on strengthening.

There are not many things that we as humans have control over in our lives.

Revenge dieting and bodies, as well as the entire concept of improvement based on outside justification and approval, limits what control you do have over your present and future well-being.

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.

-Tony Robbins

We cannot control how people treat us or the decisions they make about who we are.

That’s on them.

However, we can control how we respond to things and grow from the experience.

Breakups, for the most part, tend to be multi-dimensional events and, upon reflection, there is much more to their demise than how our partners feel about our bodies.

Why a 'revenge body' is bad motivation. @beetsperminute Click To Tweet

So my advice is this:   Focus on living the best life possible on your terms because you’ll be living well and if it still matters enough, living well truly is the best “revenge”.

This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

3 Ways Being An Expat Is Like Being 15 Again

three ways being an expat is like being fifteen again _ erin's life bites

It’s been almost four years since I moved over to Glasgow from America, which is cah-ray-zee. 

Living in a new country is exciting and terrifying at the same time.  Being an expat has its ups and downs as well.  I moved to Scotland for love, and there’s plenty of that in my life, but I still have many days when I wonder if I’ll ever really feel at home over here.

It’s the little things that make being an expat so tough.  Like, you know, everyday things that you learn to take for granted as part of your life that are missed once you are without them.  The other day I got to thinking after having to add 90 minutes to my travels  — because I had missed the train I needed by one fucking minute — that being an expat is pretty much like being 15 years old again.

I don’t know how being 15 worked out for you, but I’d have to say, without ANY hesitation, that my version of 15 sucked pretty hard.

Am I dramatic?  Of course, I am.  That’s what I sometimes do, though.  It’s how I cope.  So, you might be wondering specifically in what ways being an expat is like being 15 years old again.  

Three Ways Being an Expat is Like Being 15 Again

You have to learn how to drive, take lessons, and pass a test and shit.  I have to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road.  Every time I’m even a passenger in a car over here, I find myself in a panic about how ass-backwards the whole Scottish driving experience is.  This country is full of rotaries (roundabouts) and chaos.

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 Also, and this could be a category of its own, I am at the mercy of train schedules and other people who own cars.  Either that or I walk everywhere; which is fine, but, not always the most convenient option when it comes to the weather.

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You have no credit history.  Trying to get anything that requires any credit reference without having a viable credit history doesn’t happen.  The computer will say no.  Always.

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You have to make new friends, and it’s super tough as an adult.  Remember your first day of school?  How much easier it was to make friends amongst your peers?  Being in your thirties and moving to a new country makes it super challenging to meet people.

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Call me a crybaby, but feeling like I’m 15 again can mess with my head.  At least I don’t have to worry about dating.

 If I had to worry about dating in a new country, I would be a whole other level of mess.  Dating sucks enough on your home turf, am I right?

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Don’t get me wrong, being an expat is super fun in many ways, but it’s not exactly all rainbows and unicorns (despite the national animal of Scotland being a unicorn, yes, not joking.)

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Somedays you feel like a lost 15-year-old, and sometimes you even need the  Clearasil to go with it.  Also, remember when Mark Ruffalo was the face of acne-free skin? 

Now I am showing my age.  

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Ever wondered what moving to a new country really feels like? Read my post on the three ways being an expat is like being 15 again. Click To Tweet

Would you move to another country for love, work, or just for the hell of it?  

Am I the only adult who finds it difficult making friends later in life?