Today’s Thought: Dealing With Difference

How do you feel about difference? Comfortable? Welcoming? Accepting? Fearful? Anxious?

Often when we fear difference we forget that we too are different to others who are not like us! It seems that our level of confidence determines how we treat others, so that the worse we feel about ourselves, and he lower our self-esteem, the more we are likely to feel vulnerable and afraid, fearing anything unfamiliar or unlike us.


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Why Some People Hesitate, ‘Fail’, Or Get Stuck in a Rut

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Just before the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, having watched an episode of the latest series of the popular BBC cult drama, Death in Paradise, my partner and I decided we wanted to watch some more. It was a strange decision because I had watched a few episodes when the drama first began a few years before and was not too impressed by its overt nod to colonialism. Any reminder of that oppressive period in any 21st century entertainment was not entirely welcomed.

However, the most recent series seemed better produced in numerous ways, and perhaps with the world beginning to reel from a growing pandemic, the key elements of the programme came in handy at this time: like its humour, escapism, apt multicultural cast, cheerful colourful atmosphere, great setting, police inspectors with their varied emotional issues, and the dastardly convoluted and entertaining plots that only the genius inspectors could solve! We both got hooked on this simple, formulaic programme and decided to watch every one of the 66 episodes from then on.

Halfway through Series 6, the very shy and reticent bachelor, Inspector Humphrey Goodman (played by Kris Marshall), met the lovely Martha who bowled him over. For me, as a relationship guru, it was so simple: boy meets girl, they explore possibilities, and get on with it to see what’s possible! But what followed was excruciating to watch as Humphrey’s bumbling, fearful actions threatened to make a mess of it all! The couple clearly loved each other but were afraid to admit their feelings openly, in case the other person did not reciprocate. His attempts at expressing how he felt to her were repeatedly sabotaged by his own fears, which made me want to tear my hair out in exasperation!

But his situation confirmed a Eureka! moment I had already experienced some time back when I realised why some people succeed at whatever they were trying to do, and others repeatedly hit setbacks. Humphrey Goodman was shy, yes, but that was not the key reason for his frustrating actions. The cause of his shyness, like other shy people in real life, could actually be put into a formula to demonstrate why he was shy – a simple formula that revealed the root of all successes and ‘failures’. So, while I was watching that couple in their painful attempts to meaningfully engage each other, my unique and almost fool proof formula for success gradually came to life!

However, before using The Winning Formula for Your Success! to help you appreciate Humphrey Goodman’s dilemma, let’s look at the whole concept of ‘success’ in more detail.

Problem Point: Why Is My Fiancé Pretending We’re ‘Just Friends’?

Photo by Michael Fenton

Question. We are in relationship for more than a year now and we have already planned to get married. But I was taken back when he introduced me to his friends as his ‘good friend’. Why should he hide our relationship? Why he has not introduced me as his fiancee? It hurt me so much because it’s totally unfair. Any advice from your side?

A. That is not good or appropriate behaviour, if you are getting married. This is the time you would both want to shout your relationship to the world. It shows a great deal of fear or a desire to live a pretend life, especially regarding his friends.

Let’s take the fear first. Sometimes when people fear commitment they will drag out the plans for settling down, like the way the plans for the marriage is going; they will make all kinds of excuses about why the time is never right to settle down, and they will be behaving differently from their partners. People who fear commitment also fear the responsibility of love: the caring, sharing and partnership side, though they love the idea of it, the excitement and the sex that might be attached to it. They do not live in the present and enjoy the moment. Instead they tend to fret about the future, and what effects taking that final step might have on their life. They also dread the consequences of their actions, and any ‘mistakes’ that might come from what they do today. Hence they live in fear of what could happen to pin them down to one person, which then affects everything they do, especially living in a kind of denial.

It means that one partner is having to walk on eggshells to preserve the relationship, always having to go by what the other person desires instead of it being a mutual friendship. One person is always calling the shots, which leaves the other party feeling insecure, vulnerable and often unhappy, yet feeling impotent to do anything about the situation. As the other party is never in control where commitment-phobes are concerned, such a relationship is likely to be fraught with difficulties.

Secondly, if he is living two lives – a pretend one with his friends where he probably acts the eligible and available bachelor, while acting the potential groom with you – of course he would introduce you as his ‘good friend’. That is what he probably told his friends when he is with them, that he has no real girlfriends. So when he is with you, he has to keep up the pretence and appearance of being single, otherwise he will lose credibility with his friends. Worse still, he could have another girlfriend/wife already which the friends know about so he has to explain your presence in a non-threatening way.

Either way, his action shows disrespect to you and your feelings. The only answer is to break off with him and let him know that you are prepared to take him back only when he is ready to commit or to acknowledge who you are in public. Otherwise you really should be seeking someone else. 

Relationships that start off badly do not get better on marriage. In fact, they get worse, so you would be better off out of there. If he has so little love and respect for you that he would not be proud to show you off in public, to acknowledge what you means to him, or he is being deceitful, that is no relationship at all, and it does not augur well for your future together.

Do You Tend to Say “Yes” When You Really Want to Say “No”?

Photo by Ikhsan Sugiarto

So many of us find it difficult to be authentic when dealing with others whom we are either trying to impress, or we don’t want to hurt. We readily consent to things we are not happy about, without really recognising the eventual consequences to us. 

So why do we do it?

The two main reasons why we might say ‘Yes’ when we want to say ‘No’ are a lack of confidence and a desire for approval.

When we lack confidence we are deprived of the willpower to be assertive, to be consistent and to actually seek what we want because we fear the consequences of what saying ‘No’ might bring. We don’t want to ‘hurt’ or ‘upset’ anyone, so we hurt ourselves instead. We are not strong enough to stand up for our own rights and thus allow others to dictate the pace, regardless of how unhappy or uncomfortable we might feel.

We also lack the skills to deal with someone who might be more socially adept, or someone we fear, we respect or admire; one who has higher status or influence over us. Hence we are more willing to say ‘Yes’ for a quiet life, even when we instinctively feel that response is wrong. It might please other people, but it is likely to leave us feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with our lives. While saying ‘Yes’ might make someone else happy, if we are yearning to say ‘No’, we do ourselves no service and create a lot of stress and confusion in the process.

Controlling environments
The second reason, a desire for approval, stems from being in controlling environments: either with parents, spouses and even bosses, where one feels a kind of emotional pressure to conform or toe the line. Wherever there is control, there is a desire to please through fear and repression. As we are likely to be expected to do as we are told, the only way we can feel included and valued is by pleasing the significant others around us. That might work for that particular moment in time, or for that situation, but it really keeps us feeling inadequate and unhappy with ourselves. Worse still, it makes us even less empowered each time we go against our own needs and desires.

Every decision we make carries a responsibility to face the consequences of that decision. Only by facing the consequences of our actions can we say what we mean and stick by it, and feel better for it, too. However, the more we seek approval by simply pleasing others the less fulfilled we will feel, and the more frustrating life will appear to be. Most important, we soon lose our own integrity because it is difficult to be honest with others when we are not even being honest with ourselves.

So, do you?

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LISTEN FREE PODCAST: What is The Biggest Sign of Insecurity?

We all have some kind of insecurity in our lives, but when it dogs our footsteps and even overwhelms us, it becomes unbearable and tends to paralyse our actions. Insecurity affects us when we have very low confidence, and are unsure of ourselves. So what is the biggest giveaway that we’re insecure? 

Elaine reveals what this tell-tale sign is.

RELATED BOOK: The New Theory of Confidence 

IF YOU FOUND THIS EPISODE USEFUL….SUBSCRIBE to Lessons in Life podcast on Anchor for more topics that could be of value to your situation or dilemma.

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What to Do if You’re Scared of Losing Your Spouse/Partner

When we love someone and we feel they might not love us as much, that they are attracted to someone else, or they seem distant and detached, it can lead to many anxieties as to how to keep the love intact. It is natural to wonder why a guy or gal might be behaving that way, and whether you might lose them. But the first thing to do is to understand why you feel like that, and then take any remedial steps you believe might apply in your specific case, because every situation is likely to be different.

To begin with, the fear of losing someone, especially when it is very strong, comes out of a lack of self-love. This makes us terribly insecure and apprehensive. Many people do not really love themselves and expect partners to love them instead, to compensate for that lack of love. They tend to be watchful, anxious, and worried in case they are not loved anymore, because losing the person who loves them would be hard to bear. The object of their love thus becomes the centre of attention, the focus point of their life, which can make it hard for that partner to live up to expectations. That kind of imbalance is what often drives partners away because they tend to find the intense attention hard to deal with and take their attention outside. Understanding that kind of fear will help to put other things in perspective, like what you could do in the situation.

1. The first action you could take is to start valuing yourself. Get rid of the fear and start to live your life in a way that, if your guy/gal goes, it is not the end of the world. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if they left, then face this scenario in your head. What would you do, exactly? By facing the possibility and making contingencies for it, you will find the prospect easier to deal with, even if it doesn’t happen. This is important to do, because if a partner wants to leave, for whatever reason, nothing will stop them. There is really nothing you can do about it, especially if he/she has found someone else. By getting detached from that fear, you also loosen their power over you. Deciding on options that you would have available, should they leave, actually empowers you to deal with the prospect without too much pain.

2. Next, communicate as much as possible. Often relationships begin to fracture because people grow apart, they take each other for granted, or partners have changed in their ambitions and aspirations; they have been too busy to reinforce and affirm each other, or they have just not listened to one another. Talking and listening are essential if you sense something is wrong. If you find out what the problem could be, there might be a chance of saving the situation. However, ironically, this is the time when people dread talking together, because they also fear what they might hear, or they fear upsetting the other party, so they are likely to clam up instead.

3. Third, take the focus off your partner and place it on yourself. The more anxious and worried you are is the more unattractive you become. How do you physically look? Are you as attractive as you used to be, or have you let yourself go? This is the time for a makeover, perhaps; for doing things differently; for getting back to what you both used to be before things became too routine. Time to overcome your fear and anxieties by socialising more, widening your circle of friends and activities, especially taking up new hobbies/hroups, and becoming much more self-loving and independent.

People who have their own life, who are also a little detached in their relationships, and who give enough space to each other to develop and grow, tend to keep their love alive in a more effective way. The best way to keep your gal is to show that you desire that person, you love her being in your life but you don’t ‘need’ her; that you will still be functioning at full capacity if he weren’t there. That’s a very important point to note.

4. Finally, people leave relationships when they are not happy and mainly because they do not feel valued or affirmed. If that is the case, both parties need to begin to appreciate each other, to be expressive, caring, loving and affectionate; to show mutual value and respect. That is not always easy to do, especially if things have been allowed to slide into a rut.

When we truly love we love without conditions. We then acknowledge that we come first, and the love starts within us, not outside of us. If we don’t love, respect and value ourselves, it is difficult for others to love us, too, because they simply cannot love what we ourselves reject. Relationships are meant to aid our development along our journey, and not necessarily to last a lifetime. If the person goes, we will still be wonderful, still be desirable and still be valued. All we have to do is to learn the lesson and move on.

Most important, should he/she go, especially if you have done all you can to encourage them to stay, don’t forget that there is likely to be someone even better waiting for you, if you care to look ahead, instead of just looking back in regret.

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Can I Help My Friend With Her Low Self-Esteem Issues?

Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa

It is difficult to encourage or ‘help’ anyone who has low self-esteem because the very fact that they do not believe in themselves, and think they are unworthy, will make them find it hard to accept anything positive that you might say. Self-esteem grows out of self-love, which starts from how we were treated in childhood, whether we were appreciated or not, or shown real value for just being ourselves. Low self-esteem begins internally because it is rooted in a lack of self-acceptance, a feeling of inadequacy, and being worthless.

Thus low self-esteem is a rejection of the self, a loathing for who we are, and when we don’t like ourselves, it is difficult for us to appreciate that others actually like us, perhaps thinking they are being insincere, and would always be questioning that love. In fact, it becomes hard work after a time trying to convince someone of low esteem how wonderful or amazing they are, because they can only see their perceived ‘faults’, and have no self-belief in their talents or goodness, hence why your friend has to help herself, because whatever you do is likely to be doubted or rejected.

People who have low self-esteem tend to be perfectionists who seldom measure up to their own high expectations in their own eyes. They are constantly comparing themselves to others, constantly beating themselves up for any little perceived error or fault, believing that everyone else is better than they are. In short, their life is dominated by FEAR, which is fed and maintained by the negative experiences they might have had, and a marked absence of trust, which fuel their suspicions, especially a fear of never being good enough. Based on an unrealistic assumption of perfection in others, this fear pushes them to place themselves below others, always comparing themselves in a futile way which makes them seem even more unworthy in their own eyes.

Only the low esteem person can change their situation. What they need is an acceptance of their own fallibility; to give themselves some slack; to stop the impossible expectations, stop beating themselves up for any mistakes, and stop finding constant fault with themselves. All you can do in the meantime is to reinforce any positive thing they say or do, while deliberately ignoring the negative ones.

For example, encourage her to be more positive about her life, especially giving gratitude for the people and blessings she has. Pay her regular compliments, and keep affirming her as a valued and worthwhile friend. But make sure that when you react to anything that is said, you react mainly to positive, enhancing things, and remain deliberately silent on any negative action that maintains the status quo. In that way, she should hopefully welcome the positive attention you give, which should make her want to act in ways that get her even more of it.

But helping people of low self esteem is no easy task, because the responsibility for their feeling and actions lies entirely with them, not with anyone else.

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How Can We Prove We Are Unique?

Photo by Karan Mandre

This question was asked of me, when I said I was unique, by someone who argued that we were all the same because of his past hurt and distrust. This was my answer to him.

Personally, I don’t know what ‘most people’ are like, because the few people I will meet in my lifetime are all unique human beings, each with their individuality, especially if we allow that person to show him/herself to us. Each of us is different in some way and will range on a continuum of behaviour: for example, from very kind and caring to cruel and abusing.

Furthermore, there are over 7 billion of us on the planet. Have you met all of them to know what they are like, and for you to be wary of them being one type or the other? And what, exactly, would I be proving that I’m not? Your desire for people to prove themselves to you has its roots in the FEAR of being hurt again, which then stereotypes others into what they are ASSUMED to be, to make you feel comfortable. Lumping them all together like clones for the benefit of your fears.

When you expect people to ‘prove’ themselves, you are assuming that everyone is alike. You are assigning your hurt by proxy so that everyone is blamed for it. Of course, as all you give off is negativity and disrespect to others with that attitude, people will steer clear of you, or act exactly in the negative way you expect which keeps turning into self-fulling prophecies. That’s a sad and isolated way to live, and it doesn’t make you a very attractive person either, because fear is very paralysing and debilitating.

However, your fear, your search for perfection, living in the past rehashing old pain, and desire to seek approval, have led to your distrust of others, so that unless they act exactly as you expect, you are not interested, because you believe they wouldn’t deserve your friendship. It becomes conditional upon how much they act to please you, or to make you feel comfortable.

But life is not like that. We have to take the rough with the smooth every single day as no one promised us only good things in life. Every hurt shapes us even more to handle the future better. All we need to do is learn the lessons, act how we would like someone else to treat us, trust ourselves and others to make the right friends we desire, and that should attract them to us.

We have all been hurt by someone. But remembering that everyone is a unique person will ensure that every new day allows us to forget the pain, start again, chalk it up to experience, learn from it, and continue on our way, more hopeful, resilient, determined and an even better person for it. In effect, to get over it and move on, expecting to find someone even better on our journey.

As the writer, James Allen, once said: “People don’t attract what they seek. They attract who they are!” In other words, be kind, be trusting, be nice and caring to people, and you’ll attract the same in others by your actions!