Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

tina.jpgI’m delight to have Tina Tessina, Ph.D. back as my guest blogger. Her articles always bring a great response as she has such a great take on life’s ups and downs. Tina is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in California and the author of MANY books, including the best selling, The 10 Smartest Decisions A Woman Can Make Before 40 Money, The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Far Apart, and Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. Tina also writes the “Dr. Romance” column on Yahoo! Personals and MUCH more! Today she provides a lot of food for thought about how humor can improve your life.

The Importance of Humor
by Tina Tessina ©  2009 adapted from: It
Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction
, used with permission

We are such an inventive species. We are also a species with a sense of humor. I think the two are connected. It takes a sense of humor to be able to stumble around in an unfamiliar situation until you figure it out. Current research has indicated that humor, specifically laughter, counteracts the devastations of stress on the body  and  immune system. So, it’s obvious to me that a sense of humor would ease the stress of new situations.

We were given (or develop through natural selection, depending how you see it)  a sense of humor,  the capacity to laugh,  for a purpose. It helps us adapt, learn, grow and survive. Taking yourself and your situation too seriously deprives you of the tool of humor.

Of course, it is possible to take things too lightly. We all know the frustration of having a problem that a loved one won’t take seriously enough. We also know people who handle life like a joke, and never get it together. Actually, this kind of inappropriate lightness usually masks fear; the fear that whatever situation or emotion one doesn’t want to deal with is too heavy to handle.

What I see in my practice more often, however, is the other way around. We strive, we are earnest, we care deeply, and we want to do right. We forget about having fun, relaxing and enjoying, waiting for things to calm down, lightening up about how awful it all is. One of my clients who works in an AIDS hospice told me recently about how surprised he was at how much laughter and humor there was among the seriously ill patients there.

Another client who works in a stressful environment found that although the complaints and frustration expressed by coworkers needed to be listened to, they didn’t need to be taken too seriously. Most of it was drama, to get his attention when calmness had failed. Often couples I counsel find that taking a problem too seriously blows it out of proportion, until it threatens to overwhelm both of them. Putting it back in perspective restores clear thinking, and the problem is then easily solved.

Human beings are learning devices. We are an adaptable species. Put us in a situation we don’t understand, and sooner or later, we figure it out and master it. I invite you to consider making your life as fun and easy as possible.

* Whatever ambition you have, take it lightly.
* When you encounter a problem, take advice from Mary Poppins, and remember, “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
* Find as many opportunities for laughter as you can.
* Always read the funnies when you read the grimmer news.
* Focus as much energy on what is funny or positive in your life as you on the problems. You may be surprised to find that you get even more work done when you take it a little less seriously, when you laugh a little more.

Studies of great human beings who have helped improve the condition  of our lives show most of them have fine senses  of  humor. Groups such as the Jewish people, who have survived great hardships, are known for their humor. Surviving hardship teaches us to laugh.

I believe all our human capacities have meaning in our lives.  The capacity to laugh may be simply to bring us closer together, to help us be social units, but I think its existence says something more powerful. My experience in counseling tells me laughter is one of our great healers. Try laughing more. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!

Devote a little time to watching a funny movie, sharing funny stories of past holidays gone wrong, and trading jokes and cartoons you find in the paper or online. Yes, there are serious spiritual things to consider during the holidays, there are lots of things to get done and obligations to meet, but I think you’ll find it’s all lighter and easier if you see the lighter side too.

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected.

* LOA logo2.jpgThis is post 87 in my series on the Law of Attraction in Action. You CAN use your power to attract all that you need. I do it every day! Read the posts in this series to see how.

A magnet attracts things to it, whether you want it or not. I’ve held one that all of a sudden had a small object, like a paperclip, sticking to it. A good magnet can lift something that’s many times its weight and size. Yet if you put the magnetic ends of 2 magnets together, they will repel each other. And if something happens to the magnet and it loses it’s magnetic abilities, it won’t lift anything at all.

The Law of Attraction works somewhat like a magnet. Negative thoughts repel what you say you want. Positive thoughts attract it.

You can magnetize yourself for individual situations or nurture your inner magnet to become a person who attracts what they want as a lifestyle. Just as a magnet will draw to it something that’s nearby without you consciously putting the magnet against it, you can magnetize your thoughts to attract more of what you want. It takes practice to magnetize thoughts but you can do it if you choose to and don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away.

As you use the tools from my Law of Attraction in Action series in action and raise your consciousness for doing so, being patient and trusting and watching your thoughts and words, etc., will become more automatic. The more they become automatic, the more you’ll become magnetized. Then you can focus on honing your LOA skills to become a stronger magnet for positive things.

You have the capacity to attract all the joy and abundance you would like. But, you must use it and train yourself to monitor your thoughts.

It’s important to practice recognizing where your thoughts go when you want, or don’t want, something. Does doubt come into your head? Fear? Questions about if it could happen? Feelings of not being deserving? Worry about it happening? Any of those negative thoughts demagnetize your ability to attract what you want. Catching them before they do that puts you on your way to being a magnet for great stuff!

Turning your thoughts into positive expectations fuels the magnet in you.

You can’t just monitor the thoughts that are obvious. Focus on your sub-conscious. What messages are you sending to it? Even if you’re saying all the right things, underneath, in your subconscious, you might have different emotions or worries or negative thoughts. I recently had a client (I’ll call her Elena) whose company was laying people off. She assured me she was saying the right words to keep her job but followed most statements with a but. “I trust that I’ll keep my job!” “But, what if my whole department is let go?”

“What if?” and “but” thoughts are strong demagnetizers!

We went over and over and over the importance of staying focused on keeping her job but Elena couldn’t stop questioning what would happen if she lost it. She was devastated when she was laid off. I can give you tools but can’t make you use them. It’s up to YOU to do that! Elena complained that she tried so hard to use her thoughts to keep her job but it didn’t work. She had to leave in a few weeks. I showed her all the ways she let the doubts seep into her thoughts. Elena admitted to not being able to quell them.

I acknowledge it is hard to keep them out. Good things take an effort.

Elena committed to make a bigger attempt to manifest and this time knocked out the negatives with positive affirmations. She was determined to magnetize her thoughts this time, and did. On her last day of work, a manager from another department in her company offered to hire her in his department. Someone was leaving suddenly and Elena was qualified to take over. It was a job she liked even better than the one she lost. Magnetizing her thoughts resulted in Elena getting a better job! I got a dozen roses.

Have you ever seen someone who seems to have all the luck? It’s not luck! They’re magnets.

Lucky people have cleared their manifesting receptors. They keep their thoughts positive and do what they can to control negative ones. The good thing is that anyone can become a manifesting magnet. You have the power to control what the Law of Attraction reads as your expectations. As you practice clearing out negative beliefs that can crop up and replace them with positive expectations, you can become the manifesting magnet that people view as lucky. But it’s not luck. It’s conscious manifesting!

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected. 

I’m delighted to bring my Self-Empowerment blog to the Beliefnet community and show you techniques for being a nice person who CAN finish first. For those of you who followed me here–BIG thanks! For those of you who are new to my blog and have come to get to know me, I’m delighted you’re here! I write Lessons From a Recovering DoorMat because I lived through the pain of being an out of control people pleaser with very low self-eMOnday photo.jpgsteem for many years. It’s my privilege to help others learn what took me ages to grasp about taking control of your life in nice but effective ways to become a very happy person.
When I was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she asked the audience what was more important–being liked or being respected? One person after another described how much they do for others and affirmed that “being liked” was worth the inconvenience of catering to others and being a people pleaser on autopilot, often to the point of self-disgust. Even guys admitted to making an effort to please. Insecurity is a strong motivation to put everyone else’s needs in front of your own. Many of us were raised to give and give to be accepted.

I want to show you how to empower yourself by building your confidence to take control of your life. If I did it, anyone can!

After developing strong spiritual faith and appreciation for my good qualities, I took my first steps out of Doormatville and a lifestyle of letting people take advantage of my inability to say no to requests. Developing self-love was the fuel for learning to take care of me. Those who know me today can’t believe that for a majority of my life I felt worthless, fat, and ugly–all because I wasn’t perfectly thin.

My forehead no longer says welcome and I’m filled with self-love!

Today I’m a self-empowerment counselor, speaker, music industry consultant and author of 12 popular books, with more in the pipeline. I write about self-empowerment, including Nice
Girls Can Finish First
and also try to teach musicians how to empowerment themselves with my music business books for Billboard/Random House, including Start & Run Your Own Record Label. While I’m getting older and my body isn’t thin, I’m VERY happy being me! I’ve learned what’s most important–to accept me as I am and treat myself with as much love as I can give. Beating myself up for my flaws makes me unhappy. Loving myself brings me a glorious sense of joy.

Which would you rather have?

Being conscious of taking care of me gives me a lot more energy to help others, unconditionally, without trying to buy anything but the pleasure of being a good person. I’ve seen too many people who have what you may think will make you happy–a good body, youth, a relationship or lots of money–who are far from happy. I wake up smiling every day since I found the love, joy, and satisfaction of self-acceptance.

This blog explores many reasons, situations, stereotypes and ways of thinking that may hold you back from being more empowered. It includes tips for building confidence, getting taken more seriously at work and play, learning to say “no” in effective ways, developing self-acceptance, increasing self-love and MUCH MORE. And every week I’ll have a post for my Law of Attraction in Action series that I’ve been writing for almost 2 years. You can read the archives.

My confidence began to increase when I was dared to make a rap record by students when I was teaching. They insisted that a white woman couldn’t rap. Not wanting them to grow up believing in stereotypes, I became the first white female rapper and the first women that I know of to start an independent record label. Navigating the All Boy’s Club of the music industry taught me many of the lessons I share in my book, Nice Girls Can Finish First.

Being my nice compliant self with men I did business with didn’t get me taken seriously. So I took the other direction and became tough and overtly assertive. People listened more but nobody like me. Worse, I didn’t like me. Luckily, I figured out ways to softly and nicely let them know I meant business. Think Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada–with a smile and kind intentions! As my confidence increased, people stopped messing with me! Yet I was still a nice person so they liked me too!

I believe in talking softly and carrying a big stick–an attitude that commands respect.

I was in a lot of pain when I lived in DoorMatville because I didn’t value myself and let people walk all over me. Happiness was an elusive state that I thought I’d get from the people I went out of my way to please. But other that snippets of joy when someone I’d done a lot for threw me a bone of appreciation, happiness eluded me. Anais Nin “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” After many years of unhappiness, I recognized that there comes a time for everyone when you have to make a choice:

•    Do I want to remain stuck in a place that seems secure in because I don’t rock the boat and keep people around me happy at my expense?
•    Do I want to be happy because I stopped being a people pleaser and set boundaries on what I can give others and what I give to me as an act of self-love?

I chose the latter. The more I turned down requests in favors of being more loving to me and being respectful of my needs, the happier I felt. When I helped someone because I wanted to, not to buy their acceptance, my joy increased. It was a process that took years but each small victory over my fears felt delicious! I thoroughly enjoy what I called my Journey Into Self–discovering what a wonderful person I am and recognizing I deserve all the joy and love I can get.

The purpose of this blog is to share all the lessons I integrated into growing into a woman who wakes up happy every day and does much more for others than I did when I was a DoorMat–for the right reasons. The more I give to others, the happier I become. A people pleaser gives at their own expense to make people like them, and always feel drained. True nice people nourish their own souls first, do whatever they can to show themselves love and help others from a place of love and fullness, not a depleted need to buy acceptance. When you love and accept yourself, you have so much more to give honestly.

Now that I love myself, life is perpetual joy. Self-acceptance and love bring much more joy than chasing what the media says you need or should be. Please stick around and subscribe to my blog. It will have practical insight into an old problem that hasn’t gone away–developing good self-esteem in an age of insecurity. You CAN find your way if you CHOOSE to! Good self-esteem is a CHOICE. So is having self-love. Join me in choosing a happier path that makes your life feel satisfying and helps you live your desires.

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected.

I had a client last week who I’ll call Marie. She was focused on issues from her past as she prepared to meet with an old client who she had problems with years ago and was freaking out. Marie has a lot of work to do on the project this client may get involved in but couldn’t focus because her thoughts were overwhelmed with memories of her dealings with this client—10 years ago!

You’re a different person than you were in the past and so is everyone you encounter today.

That’s why it’s so important to only deal each situation when it’s happening. Today is all that matters and your interactions with everyone is contingent on today only. Tomorrow isn’t here yet. Yesterday is over. When I interviewed my inspiration—Louise Hay—she said something that I found profound. I asked how she feels about her career so far and she said she could tell me how she feels right now since she doesn’t look back, or forward, since now is all that’s real. she said she barely remembered what has happened since it’s over and doesn’t know what will happen in the future, no less tomorrow.

Right now is all that matters. And right now, this minute, you’re fine!

You can let old memories bring you down like they did Marie or leave them in the past. If you failed at something before, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail again. But, you have a bigger chance to fail if you focus on your past failure. Remembering negatives fosters insecurity where confidence should be. Marie was spinning old experiences and expecting trouble the next day at the meeting. It made her anxious. I asked if she had any reason to believe that the client would hold a grudge or cause her a problem. She didn’t, but worried about “what ifs”.

What happened in the past is over, unless you keep it alive.

Marie projected things that might happen based on an experience 10 years before. Yet she was in a very different place than she was when she dealt with the client and the client was also in a different place. Instead of looking forward to a good, new interaction, she got worked up with worry—lamenting about the past and expecting negatives in the future based on the past. At that moment she was fine and had no current reason to expect trouble from the client, who might not even remember her.

An Eskimo proverb says, “Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.”

Yesterday is in ashes—gone, history, over. Tomorrow is wood. Not alive or burning, not here yet, a clean slate for you to color on in happy bright experiences or smear it with negatives from the ashes. Your fire is burning brightly right now. I worked with Marie to see the folly of her constant laments about her 10-year old experiences and to focus on where she is right now, how good she is at her job, and why she will be an asset to this client. Slowly she relaxed.

When you feel the past creeping into your present, write down all the good things about you and your life and focus on it.

Marie’s meeting ended up going very well. The client barely remembered her and her proposal impressed enough to wipe out the past. She got the deal signed but more importantly, learned to stop bringing old experiences into her present moment. All that energy stressing over the old memories was wasted and just hurt her. Had she not let go of it before her meeting she might have let it taint what developed.

If you have unhappy memories that haunt you, write them down, read them aloud, forgive yourself for anything you feel you did wrong and forgive others who did you wrong. Then burn the paper and let it go. Keep giving thanks for a wonderful today! I used to worry about what would happen the next day at an important meeting or who would give me a book deal or even would he call? Now I focus on now, and now I’m okay. When I leave the future in God’s hands, I no longer have to worry about it. Faith keeps the positive fires burning brightly!

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