You may have already begun taking the steps to see your New Year’s resolutions come to fruition. Perhaps you finally got around to joining that gym, or maybe you were able to confront a friend about something on your mind that’s difficult to talk about. Whatever new you may have initiated so far is a step toward change. And with change comes some degree of risk. Read more
Ambivalence is a feeling that we all have experienced at one time or another in some important aspect of our lives — I know I certainly have. But if you’re ambivalent often or in a lot of areas of your life, the feeling of ambivalence itself can actually destroy your quality of life more than you know. Theoretically, if you had everything you could possibly want going for you, but were ambivalent about the decisions you make — particularly with respect to your life direction — no matter what you did have going for you, no matter what you choose to do, you could be dwelling on the fact that you should be doing something else. Thus, no matter what kind of life you have made for yourself, being chronically ambivalent could ruin the quality of it all!
So let’s first acknowledge that we all have at least some degree of ambivalence. Since life itself is such an extremely complex process, and certain aspects of it often get more complicated as they evolve, a certain amount of ambivalence is actually normal. In fact, a tiny amount of ambivalence might even serve to protect you sometimes from being thoughtless about certain things that need to be reasoned out more carefully. But the problem is with the degree that you allow yourself to operate under the all-too-common myth — that there is one and only one absolutely right answer that will contain no shades of gray. The myth continues when you believe that by being indecisive and holding out long enough, some indisputably certain and absolute answer will come to you. And when it does — you fantasize — it will come with the ironclad guarantee that you will never have any regrets, nor will you ever second guess yourself. Since this standard is so incredibly high (not to mention cartoonishly black and white), it then follows that you will resist making tough decisions at all that you are the least bit ambivalent about.
Some people actually have a fear of making decisions altogether. If that’s you, it is likely you have many regrets about things that may have passed you by, simply because you didn’t act decisively when you had the opportunity to do so. If you think my statement that “ambivalence can ruin your life” is a little too strong, perhaps you may even take comfort in the ambivalence. But my stand on ambivalence is rather unambivalent; to the extent that ambivalence exceeds prudent caution it will generally serve to hold you back, and that can be in any area of your life. Here are a few ways to attack this problem that I have offered for people who have ambivalence about love relationships in my book Can Your Relationship Be Saved, but these simple tips can be applied to absolutely any area in your life.
Remember that just about all of your important decisions are, to one extent or another, educated guesses. And most of them have factors that would pull you in the opposite direction. After all, a decision without conflicting factors — to one degree or another — is simply a no-brainer.
Forget about certainty. The concept of certainty itself is a myth. Instead believe in yourself. Hindsight — as we all know at least intellectually by the cliché — is 20/20. There are many things every one of us would do differently “if only we knew then what we know now.” But that’s never an option. So stop pretending it is! Where do you have unlimited power (even if at times you are not in touch with it) is in making changes that will affect you from today on, and for the rest of your life — beginning right now. By focusing on your power you can start looking upon decisions not as burdens, but as empowering challenges.
Think of some significant important life choices you have made in the past — recently or even a long time ago — of which you are most proud. Make a list of them and continue to expand the list. Make sure to include those choices that may have led to major life changes. Keep this list as a frame of reference that you can refer to for a shot of empowerment, anytime you find yourself thinking that you’re incapable of bypassing that ambivalence.
Regardless of which area of your life where you find yourself most ambivalent, you won’t move forward until you allow yourself to take charge and make the best decision you can with the information you have available to you. So resolve not to waste another moment with the decision to not decide.
When there’s something important in your life you’d like to change, like being less anxious, having better communication in your marriage or coping with a stressful work situation, the process of figuring out where to begin can feel daunting. Sometimes difficult challenges feel like they can’t change; or the thought of achieving long-lasting change seems so overwhelming that you may not even try. Remember, it’s our attitudes and beliefs that power our behaviors and emotions. So whether you are making a major life change, merely working to accept a difficult part of your status quo or anything in between, the task is to hardwire the new attitudes and beliefs that will work for you.
Try this simple exercise for taking charge of your beliefs and attitudes, thereby preventing them from becoming stifling hang-ups:
Think about a situation you want to change. Next, see if you can recognize and write down the belief(s) or attitude(s) that go with it. For example, if you’re unhappy with your job, but feel stuck there, you may believe, “With this economy, I have no choice but to stay here and suffer,” or “I can’t stand going to work anymore.” Making a shift, means changing something within yourself. This means changing an attitude or belief and then the behavior that’s driving your self-defeating negative emotion. For this exercise (and usually in life), changing another person or circumstances outside of yourself is not an option. So instead, focus on your belief that —in this case—you are stuck.
Now ask yourself some questions:
Are any of the beliefs I have identified and written down completely true?
Does the attitude or belief serve any purpose that would make me want to keep that attitude or belief?
Am I open to adopting a new attitude(s) or belief(s) regarding this problem?
Assuming you answered “No” to the first two questions and “Yes” to the third, take a minute to write down how the attitudes and beliefs that underlie your problem might be affecting you. Note how things in your life would be different with a different attitude that you’ve actually chosen. For example, is it possible that you do have talents or skills that could be valuable to another employer? Some people are hired in every economy, and after all, you are only looking for one job. Also, until you do find something new, can a different attitude make this job more bearable?
Next, choose some healthy alternatives or affirmations to the problematic ones you have just identified. For example, you could choose the affirmation “I am really motivated to find a job where I can use my talents and be appreciated; and until I do, I’ll look for ways to make this job as fulfilling as possible”. Think of as many alternative attitudes and beliefs as you can that apply to your situation.
Now ask yourself these questions:
Are my new affirmations completely true for me?
Do my new affirmation(s) above remove or neutralize my problem (at least for now)?
Keep tweaking them until you can answer yes to both questions.
If you answered yes, think about how your issue or even your life could be different, once you’ve hardwired these new affirmations. And to hardwire them, of course, is simply to live by your new affirmations—unnatural as they may seem, at first— until they are a natural part of you. This generally takes about 30 days. Refer to them as often as necessary until they do become hardwired, and remember to take the necessary action steps (for example, begin your job search!). With this exercise, you can make a shift very quickly!
From the day of your engagement until your walk down the aisle there’s a lot to celebrate as you plan your wedding. There may be an engagement party, bridal shower, or bachelorette party. Maybe you make an event out of buying the perfect dress or choosing the perfect outfit for your engagement photos. While these occasions are meant to be full of joy, they can also cause feelings of dread if you are a body-conscious bride. When the spotlight is on you, it’s easy to let what would normally be minor body insecurities become intensified during all of the wedding events. If your impending nuptials are what you need to jump-start a diet or revamp your exercise routine, it’s a great time to get back on track. But if the stress of wanting look and feel your best on your wedding day begins to consume your thoughts, it could put an unwanted damper on the joy of this special time in your life.
So, really you have three choices. You can do the above and let your focus on your perceived imperfections bring you down. You can elope and not worry about it, or you can turn down the volume on your own self-critique and work towards accepting yourself—and that includes your body— just the way you are. Here are some ways to begin your journey towards that self- acceptance:
Promote consciousness-Many brides look back on their wedding day and think of it as a whirlwind. All of those people from different parts of your life there to celebrate with you, as well as the rest of the dynamics of the day can be intense enough. Now add hyper-focusing on how you look to the mix and enjoying the day will be even more challenging! The trick is to be conscious rather than self-conscious, so that you can savor all that’s special about your wedding. Try to focus on the wonderful feelings in the room as you walk down the aisle, listen carefully to your officiant’s words during the ceremony, and don’t forget to take in the beautiful décor and delicious food you’ve spent months planning
Think about what you can change, and what you’re better off accepting– If you’re not completely satisfied with your body, list what you like and dislike. Circle those features that you’re both willing and able to change, and cross out anything that’s beyond your control or beyond the effort and resources you’re willing to spend. You might want to look like a supermodel, but first consider if it’s realistic to invest the discipline and energy that goal would require. If so, go ahead and hire a trainer or see a nutritionist. If not, let it go. Buy a dress that looks perfect on you as is and resolve to accept your body as it looks today. The person marrying you was able to accept you when he or she made the decision to commit to you, now it’s your turn to give yourself at least that much acceptance.
Who really notices and so what? Quite often, we notice things about ourselves that other people don’t, unless you point it out to them. Chances are when you’re walking down the aisle; your guests are sharing in your joy and happiness, not focusing on a few extra pounds or some other obscure imperfection. And if there’s a guest at your wedding who is focused on your weight, is that really your problem or theirs? And does it really matter in the grand scheme of things, anyway?
Most of all enjoy this special celebration of love and those around you who came to share in this special day for you and your partner. It’s a ceremony and a celebration about spending your life with the person you love. Don’t let self-consciousness cause you to lose sight of the big picture, which is what you wedding is really all really all about.
No one is perfect. And we all have numerous characteristics that comprise our personalities and abilities. But for some, that nagging voice in your head that points out your flaws might be drowning out your ability to truly reflect on and appreciate all you have to offer. The first step toward building a permanently positive self-image is first to recognize, then conquer your self- defeating beliefs.
By creating these three simple lists you have taken a major step toward tapping the self-confidence you need to help you reach your potential in practically any area of your life:
List #1-First, think about some of the ways you undermine your own self-image, and how it costs you that precious self-confidence that you know could help you excel in virtually any aspect of your life. What are some of the things that you do or attitudes that you’re aware of that sabotage the way you think of yourself? Begin with a list of self-defeating beliefs and include all of the ways in which you put yourself down. This list can also include things you don’t like about yourself in virtually any category or part of your life.
List #2-This list is of things about yourself that you are proud of and that you feel good about in any part of your life. What are you successful at? What do you do well? What would you like to brag about if given the opportunity? Include anything you have done in which you have excelled— big or small. For instance, these can be aspects of your job or an avocation, exceptional abilities in your skills as a parent, or even ways in which you are highly valued in your friendships.
When you look at these first two lists together, you can easily see that there is no one word or phrase that can accurately describe or evaluate all of the aspects of who you are. At the very least, list number two will serve as a frame of reference to help you balance your self-image.
List #3-Using your positive List #2 of the things you are most proud of and that you excel at, make a final list of one paragraph success stories. For example, these are things you would most like to be remembered for many years from now.
Finally, take the success stories you’ve created and keep them as positive perspectives, especially during those times that List #1 is vying for your attention. Never forget that no matter who else is in your life, you will always be your most reliable source of support and that you are as worthy of happiness and self-respect as any other human on earth!
Michael S. Broder, Ph.D.
1420 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Toll Free: 800-434-8255