Life is short, keep it simple

If you miss them, should you tell them?

By Jessica Militello

The other day on social media, I saw one of those posts that say something to the effect of “life is short, keep it simple,” followed by a list of things like, “if you miss them, tell them, if you want to talk to them, call them,” etc . And of course, it is the way of social media to prod and poke holes into literally everything a person writes, some of it justified, some of it not. I obviously don’t 100% know the thought or intention behind the original author’s post, but at its core, when it comes to being vulnerable and sharing your feelings, the concept of telling someone you miss them or asking to spend time with them is beautiful. When it comes to healthy, reciprocal relationships in your life, yes this is a great idea. Unfortunately posts like this also fall in front of the eyes of people who are hurting from a loss, struggling to accept what is despite their feelings, and use quotes like this one as a justification to reach out to someone who, deep down they know they shouldn’t but do so because, hey, like the post says, “life is short.”

What I don’t love about this post is the idea it expresses of “keeping it simple” by acting on your emotions just because you feel that way, when feelings are often much more complicated. This is why months after a breakup we wonder, “if they were bad for me, why do I still miss them?” or “they treated me like crap, but I still love them,” and wonder how that could be. The thing is, feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality of the situation, and we end up feeling pathetic, confused, or shame in cases where we still miss and want to talk to someone who we know we are better off staying away from.

Having a feeling about something and reaching out, in many cases, is actually not “keeping it simple.” Sometimes it’s ignoring reality, trying again and again with the same person who already showed us who they are, and not accepting the situation as it is, instead acting based on how we wished it would be. We ignore what is and focus our attention and time in the sunk cost of trying to love someone into magically transforming into the potential of what we see and completely abandon ourselves in the hope that if they keep seeing that we miss them and care for them, then maybe they’ll finally be ready, be the person we need them to be, and we will finally be loved, all while abandoning and not loving ourselves.

In these cases, the fact that life is short is precisely why you should not tell them you miss them or tell them anything. Sometimes keeping it simple means accepting that you miss them and also accepting that it is best to keep them in your past. Sometimes you are actually making it very complicated when you insist on staying in contact with a person that you have already learned staying near is not best for your well-being and peace of mind.

Next time you are struggling and see a post like this, it’s okay to miss someone, but telling someone will not change the circumstance, make them ready, or be able to meet you where you are, and if telling them you miss them is going to cause you to go backwards in your ability to heal and move on, then remember-life is short, keep it simple.

Working out is not your therapy

You still need to do the work

By Jessica Militello

Working out in its many forms has tons of benefits; it boosts your mood, it keeps you in shape, and it keeps your body healthy. Getting moving is a great way to help you cope with anxiety and depression, and it certainly helps to get your mind off of what ever may be troubling you, especially if the workout is intense and fun. It gives you an outlet to relieve stress and so I can see why people believe working out is their therapy.

There’s a saying that the head instructor at my martial arts school likes to say, “come in, train, leave your problems at the door-when you head out, they’ll still be there waiting for you.” And what he has always meant by that is to come to class, have a good time and focus, and enjoy being in the moment so you can train and better yourself.

But the saying actually means a little more in a way he may not have intended. If you work out to forget your problems, then just like my instructor says, they’ll still be waiting at the door for you. Working out is an outlet, and its mental health benefits are proven-but working out is not a substitute for doing the inner work and emotional regulation.

Working out and avoiding the inner work is like having a leaking roof and thinking that because you have a bucket to put under the leak for the water to drip into, that you have everything solved. It may seem like a fix, but it’s a temporary fix.

You can avoid it and pretend you have a solution for as long as you want, but eventually you will need to hire someone to look at your roof and fix what is causing the leak in the first place.

And what always happens when you hire someone to fix a “small” leak or some home repair? The professional looks into it, and not only do you need a whole new roof, but there’s squirrels living in the attic, and there’s a wall that needs to be fixed, too. And after you get a price quote then you wish you never looked into it and just kept the damn bucket for when it rains. What was so bad about a little bucket here and there? You knew there was a problem, but you pretended there wasn’t and you didn’t have to deal with it. But- after you sort through it all, get the repairs, set up a payment plan, and enjoy a nice, safe, home with no leaky roof or pesky squirrels, then you realize it was all worth it.

This is literally what its like to do the inner work, with a therapist, or reading books, learning your patterns, triggers, behaviors, and emotionally regulate. It is hard work, it isn’t always fun- healing is a lifelong journey, and just when you think you’ve reached a mountaintop in your self-journey, you realize it was just a resting spot and get another hurdle to navigate.

Working out is not therapy-punching bags don’t teach you why you got triggered by an off-hand comment someone made, the elliptical won’t help you to learn why you sabotage relationships and push people away, and the weights won’t help you to realize that you internalized the emotional neglect growing up and that’s why you people-please, can’t ask for what you want, say yes to things you hate, or get into codependent relationships. Avoiding this is just putting the bucket under the leak-it works in the meantime, it seems easier, but eventually you have to face what’s really causing your inner turmoil.

What do you think? Are you ready to put away that rusty bucket and really do the work to find yourself and your own peace? What are some books that have helped you? What kind of therapy are you trying or have completed? Leave your thoughts below.

What to do after a heartbreak

Some simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference in your healing

By Jessica Militello

When I think about mistakes I made after getting my heartbroken, I was in too much pain to think clearly or make decisions that were healthy for me. And that’s okay. At the time I was too focused on how to soothe my pain, but I tried to make my pain go away by staying near to what caused it in the first place. I wanted to make an article like this for a while but I felt hesitant to be so vulnerable. These are things I learned the hard way after many mistakes. I’m grateful for the lessons and the growth that came from it and I hope this helps whoever needs it.

  1. Find one or two trusted people to share your feelings with

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made right after one breakup in particular was explaining the story to a lot of close friends and acquaintances-it was mostly because the breakup itself was surprising, and it was extremely confusing and painful to me to try to make sense of it. I ended up getting a ton of different opinions-mostly from people who barely even knew him. I ended up hearing things like, “he didn’t really appreciate me, he didn’t think I was “worth” fighting for, his reasons for breaking up weren’t in fact the actual reason and he was just bullshitting me,” things that they had absolutely no way to possibly know unless they were fucking mind-readers or fortune tellers and trust me, these people weren’t experts in anything. In retrospect, thinking of these gem “words of advice” that they decided to share with me sound absolutely ridiculous for anyone to try to guess or assume, but when I was going through the raw pain of this heartbreak and confused, I didn’t know what to believe. It’s important to note that when you are in deep emotional pain, your brain perceives this pain the same as physical pain, your IQ is lower, and the feeling of rejection itself causes pain. It’s also important to note that during a heartbreak you are in the feeling part of your brain-logic does not exist at this point. So let’s add up all of this stuff that’s going on in your mind and heart plus getting shitty opinions from well-meaning people-are you picturing this? Yeah it’s a fucking disaster. The last thing you need when you’re sitting on the floor trying to pick up a million pieces of your heart are people idly standing around telling you that the reason you are in pain is because the person that you just lost didn’t really give a fuck about you and that there’s some “top secret” reason that he broke up with you. To be fair, I truly believe these people were trying*** to be well-meaning. It is hard for us to see other people in pain. We want to make their pain go away, but if you don’t know how, telling someone something that you think will make them magically move on seems like the quick fix in the situation. All it did for me was make me feel ashamed and stupid on top of heartbroken and confused. But thanks to all of the bad advice I got, I can now share a golden piece of advice here. Please- do not do what I did. Part of this was a boundary issue as well, which I did not set at the time, with people insisting I talk about it or pushing me to share my pain by telling their friend/spouse/relative what happened for them to chime in. Your life and pain are not a soap opera to entertain and amuse others and give them the chance to play armchair detective and therapist. Find one person, two people max who you trust, who is a great listener, loving, caring, and validating. State your boundary right away in whether you want to simply vent or if you want advice. You are also allowed to tell someone that what they are saying is hurtful if it is. This time in your grieving is about feeling your loss and simply being where you are. I know-especially if the breakup was surprising in any way that you want answers. Part of this is also that when you are in deep emotional pain, it is your brain that is trying to make sense of why you are in pain so that it can protect you from future threats. But this is not the time to think of and question all of the why’s-this will only hold off your healing. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Stop pretending and performing to yourself, your ex, and your social media followers

For some reason, unbeknownst to my soul, there seems to be some stupid contest right after a breakup of who can appear as if they do not give a fuck. There is no prize for the winner of this contest and yet, we love to play. Unless you are both actors vying for an academy award at the end of the year-do yourself a favor and cut the show and theatrics, especially via social media. How many romance stories have you heard that sounded like, “he broke up with me but once he saw my selfies and how fun, hot, and interesting I was from my IG stories, he came back and now the wedding is next spring in Tuscany.?” Oh wait that’s because things don’t work that way and if someone only changed their mind because of the way you look and how entertaining you are on social media, then good luck trying to keep up that show so that they’ll want to be with you. It would be best at this time to remove him as a follower, stop following him, and make your page private. If he truly wants to reach out-he will call you or text you, he will have a good reason explaining why he is reaching out and be understanding if you are cautious about it because he cares about your feelings instead of playing games and being ambiguous via passive Instagram ‘likes’ and random texts for an ego boost or attention. You will know the difference if that happens. If you feel the need to explain why you are doing this social media removing in order to focus on properly healing then use your own judgement on that. In general, your healing should be the most important thing and going no contact is the best way to begin this process.

 3. Don’t try to be friends right away

I get it, you are in pain, trying to accept a loss that you didn’t want, and now you are desperate for some way to be in this person’s life. See point one again about your IQ being lower while you are in pain and being in the feeling part of your mind with logic thrown out the window. I once felt that I was going to be in pain anyway, so the pain of keeping him in my life as a friend immediately after the breakup was better than the pain of letting go. LOL- how wrong I was. Sometimes we just want to find a way to lessen the pain and the loss, it’s our mind again trying to find comfort and not wanting to be in pain. Of course you still want the person in your life, regardless of who ended it-but you can’t keep someone in your life as a friend when you- still have feelings for them, are still attracted to them, still hope to be with them, are actively mourning the loss of them. Do you see why this is not good for you? Any time I thought the pain of holding on was better than the pain of letting go, the universe found ways to slap me back into reality. Hard. Do you really want to find out what they are up to? How would you feel if you saw them hanging out with a girl who might be a friend, but maybe they are hooking up, and going through their social media to compare and assume and put yourself through more pain? I know you don’t want to hear it but no contact is the only way to begin moving on. But I had to learn this the hard way so I’ll let you figure it out after many mistakes, confusion, and more pain. I refused to listen to logic and had to fall on my face more than once before I realized what was good for me.

4. Be where you are

I made this list short and simple on purpose- you’re going through a lot and don’t need to be inundated with tons of advice. Feel what you are feeling-it is normal, it is human. It is not weak or stupid to miss and still care for someone who was a big part of your life. It means the relationship meant something to you, it means that despite all of the heart aches, struggles, and losses throughout your life that you can still feel, you have the ability to love, you trusted yourself enough to let your guard down and be vulnerable enough to risk getting your heart broken in the first place. Understand in a world of apathy and indifference that loving someone and letting them in is the bravest act of all. Take care of yourself, stop judging yourself, blaming yourself, or wondering if you weren’t good enough. Your worth and your happiness is never in anyone else’s hands but your own. Find things that make you happy and small moments that put joy in your heart. You are enough and so worthy and when you are ready, your pain will only help you to grow and become stronger. Please love yourself and be around those who love you and spark joy in your soul. Those moments of joy and laughter will help to soothe you and slowly, over time heal the broken parts of your heart.

On Valentine’s day

 For those that don’t care about this holiday, but kind of do

By Jessica Militello

On Valentine’s day, if you’re in a loving, happy relationship that consists of the things you want and deserve, then good for you. If you’re single and it bothers you a little bit on Valentine’s day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love yourself enough or that you’re trying to fill a void.

Wanting a loving, meaningful relationship doesn’t make you broken or needy, it means you are human and have blood pumping through your veins. That feeling only becomes problematic when you believe that you NEED a romantic relationship in order to feel complete, and/or you settle for less through dating people who you know are not good for you, talking to exes who have hurt you, or settling for hookups because of a scarcity mentality when what you truly want is a loving, committed relationship.

I will also say that this particular Valentine’s day is probably one where I feel most loved, fulfilled, and good about myself and I’m not in a relationship with anyone. In the past, some of my saddest and most loneliest Valentine’s were the ones where I was settling for some non-committed “situation,” purposely getting ignored completely on v-day because we were just “having fun,” or the valentine’s where I was in a committed relationship with the completely wrong person who had some bullshit excuse about refusing to celebrate a “made-up holiday” because at that time in my life it was more important to me to feel chosen by someone, anyone, even in pieces and crumbs than to wait out a few seasons of loneliness in order to wait for the right person for me. And yes, those shitty relationships were in fact because the relationship I had with myself at that time was also shit, complete with little self-worth and even less boundaries.

And sometimes it takes being in these wrong relationships and getting your heart obliterated to finally learn that the things you are looking for in someone else are within you all along. That is why even when I settled for less, got my heart broken into a million pieces, and went through pain, it was all for a purpose because it finally led me to myself.

So- if you are single on Valentine’s day that’s okay, if you wish you weren’t, that’s okay too. Let yourself be where you are. And when that feeling passes write a list of all the things you feel like you would get from a relationship- can you get any of those things from yourself, from meaningful relationships with others like friends and family? Also remember that feelings come and go and loneliness passes. Don’t let your loneliness make you seek out people who cannot love you, or settle for less than what you truly want.

Start with one corner

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Here’s how to get out of that feeling

By Jessica Militello

There was something about this week; maybe the week starting with a massive snowstorm, the cold, dull winter sky, the never-ending pandemic, and the general sense of not wanting to deal with any of it. By mid-week I started feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, stuck, and hopeless. By the time I allowed this barrage of thoughts to get me feeling stuck in a corner with no way out, I realized I had way too much damn clutter going on. When we start to have one bad feeling, we can tend to let it get the best of us and let it multiply, and we end up with a list of all the things we don’t have, the people who aren’t there, and the things we haven’t accomplished, and start to attach these external things to why we feel unhappy in the moment when it’s ourselves who are doing that for us. No wonder I felt so helpless. I knew this feeling of frustration was definitely not something I wanted to sit with for too long.

So I thought of my conversation the other day with Mary Cornetta from Sort and Sweet and something she mentioned; “Start with one corner.” I decided to take her amazing advice and break things down into smaller steps; mentally I was standing in a proverbial version of the cluttered garage that she mentioned, not even knowing where to start. So instead of thinking of everything at once, I simplified it to one thing at a time so I could start moving. What is one thing I can do today? Make myself breakfast-check. Do my laundry-okay done. Compile a list of article ideas for the guest blogging I’m doing for a martial arts site-complete.; you get the idea here. And gradually, the feeling of frustration lessened. I may not be exactly where I want to be- but I think I need to first make myself something to eat and get my laundry finished so I have something to wear, right? After that, I realized I needed to make a list of what it is that I truly want, because I never want to feel like my happiness is with anyone else or anywhere else but right where I am.

What are simple things you can start doing for yourself to get out of your own clutter? Break it down into smaller steps. Make a list of what you can do, save the rest for later. Have you had any similar feelings lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Inspiring and fun interviews coming soon!

By Jessica Militello

When I first started extraeclectic, I wasn’t exactly sure if the site would only include self-improvement editorial types of articles, or if I would also include feature articles and Q&A’s, similar to my published work. Mostly the reason that I was unsure of doing this was because I was afraid that if I was reaching out to different people, business owners, etc. to interview them that because it was going on my own website and not a publication that perhaps it wouldn’t be worth their time.

As a freelance writer of around two years, I was also afraid that by doing feature articles to publish on my own site, that somehow, because my site is fairly new, does not have a ton of traffic (yet), and I’m still in the progress phase of growing my site through traffic and eventually advertisers, that I was a failure to be doing the same work for free that I am used to getting paid for. But if you notice, many of the things that I just mentioned all involve worries, doubts, and negative self-talk which are normal to have and that is okay. What is not okay is allowing those fears to be a reason to not do something that I believe in. With continued dedication, consistency, and research, I do believe my dream of creating a supportive community on my site and helping to inspire others to pursue their dreams can gain traction-but it will not be an overnight thing.

Needless to say, so far 2021 isn’t exactly much different from 2020. And no one really knows exactly when life will go back to “normal,” as we keep talking about since last March. I decided that perhaps now is as good a time as any to put into practice the same thing that I try to inspire people to do when I write articles on whoever I find is pursuing their dream.

And so, most recently I have been speaking different individuals, artists, business owners, anyone that I think has a really interesting story to inspire, help, entertain, and share great information and advice for readers to be informed and inspired to pursue their passion. I can’t wait to share these with you!

What is something you want to do, but feel afraid to try? How did it feel when there was something that you kept putting to the side and when you finally gave it a try? Tell me your experiences in the comments!

Do people treat you how they feel about you?

Do others really show you how much they value you?

By Jessica Militello

I see a lot of quotes floating around social media like, “how they treat you is how they feel about you,” “how much effort they put in is how valuable you are to them,” “you teach people how valuable you are,” and another one that floats around to the effect of, “I’ve seen people who can’t communicate/commit/ whatever for one and do it for another” and once again corelate it to how “valuable” they find you or how “serious” they are about you, and I am here to tell you that this one-dimensional, black and white thinking could not be further from the truth.

Additionally, what is all of this focus on what other people think of you or how much they value you and why do you give a fuck? What do you think of you? How much do you value yourself, because when you think highly of yourself and know your worth and intrinsic value, and when you carefully curate your own thoughts and the people who you allow in your life you will be more focused on whether how they are treating you is meeting your standards, and if they don’t-no sweat, because you know what you want and deserve for your life, and you treat yourself so well that when someone doesn’t measure up there is no wondering of why and how much they really value you. There are no questions period because you value yourself so much that you will not accept behavior that is less than the way you treat and talk to yourself.

Pay more attention to how you feel about you because when you look to others and whether they value you to determine how you should feel about yourself, your cup will always be empty. You will always be waiting for someone, anyone to give you just a drop to roll around in your cup-it will always be empty. Know your value, know your worth-because when you feel good about you, I can guarantee-the people that add to that feeling will be in your life, and the people who drain you and make you question yourself will not even be allowed in your life to begin with. Even if that means being lonely for a while until you find your people, it will be worth it because you know what you deserve.

And as a second point to the whole theory of how others treat you and what it means-change happens on a scale of 5 steps-I actually wrote about it in another article. A person, job, popularity, whatever, can not magically make a person go through the five steps of change especially if it involves undoing a behavior or thought pattern that they have been carrying with them for most of their life.

People don’t wake up one day and magically change-change is fucking hard and is a constant commitment. An individual must first observe patterns and behaviors in themselves that are problematic and constantly work on improvement. Another person’s kindness, beauty, success is not a magic wand to create a complete personality transplant in another. People treat you how they feel about themselves. Another person cannot value you if they don’t even value themselves.

Have you ever been that relative/friend/girlfriend/spouse, who was super loyal, loving, and kind to another and no matter how much you gave it was never enough? Yes? Have you also ever in your life had a relative/friend/spouse, whatever at a time in your life when you did not have a good relationship with yourself and no matter what they did or how much they cared it was never enough? And was it ever because THEY were the ones that didn’t have value? No-of course not-maybe you were too guarded, too immature, or were just not introspective enough with yourself to appreciate it or value it. Maybe someone was so good to you but because you felt so badly about yourself you just couldn’t believe it and you questioned every kind word and gesture and pushed them away only to later regret it.

Let’s face it-we’ve all been on both sides of it, but if you think about it objectively it was never because you or they did not have value or because you were not worth the effort-what did it all have to do with? Your thoughts and your relationship with yourself.

Trust me, I have lived in the prison of gauging my value with how others have treated me-it was draining. I held on to unhealthy friendships and relationships that weren’t even meeting my needs but I put them over myself because I did not have any self-worth. If I dated someone and they treated me like gold in the beginning only for the effort and kindness to diminish, I blamed myself or worried that they somehow discovered the “big secret” that I was not worthy of love. Instead of folding, I only tried harder. It makes me sad to think of how hard I would try because I could not see myself clearly. But I am also grateful for it all because had I not gotten to the point of getting hurt over and over because of my lack of self-worth, I would have never learned that there was a different way that involves healing myself and giving myself all of the things that I have spent my life looking outwardly for the answers.

It sounds corny and a little cliché, but everything you’re looking for is already within you. You just have to clear out the bullshit you’ve been taught your whole life about your worthiness and stop looking to others to how valuable you are or why you supposedly weren’t “worth” their time.

You are worthy, you are valuable-but the only person you need to prove that to is yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at others to tell you what you’re worth; no one can do that for you, only you can.

What are some beliefs that you are holding onto about yourself? How are these ideas serving you, how are they holding you back? What would it look like if you always had your back? How can you give yourself some of the things that you are looking for in others? Share some of your thoughts in the comments.

2020 was not the worst year ever

Before my headline turns you off-hear me out.

By Jessica Militello

As the year comes to a draw, most of us have a tendency to reflect on the year as a new year approaches. As we all know, this year was certainly not like any year that we’ve had in our lifetimes. We have survived mass shutdowns of society, a pandemic that is still going on; everything normal that we often take for granted was and for some of us still is just out of our reach as we wait and hope for a return to normal life.

But even among all of this complete upheaval of our lives, many of us still have a tendency to criticize ourselves for what we didn’t accomplish. We still look at others from a completely outside view and compare and despair. Sometimes it feels easier to look at what we don’t have than how far we’ve come. And if you didn’t get where you wanted to be that’s okay- it is normal to strive for more, and to want more-but when does a little healthy self-critique go too far? When you begin to criticize yourself or think of yourself as not as good, or good enough, or less than others, is when it isn’t healthy. Striving for more is amazing; dragging yourself for not getting there yet will do nothing but make you feel bad or get frustrated enough to just throw in the towel.

When you look at your losses, or your incompletes, make sure you also make another few columns to take inventory of what you’ve accomplished, and how you are going to prepare to accomplish what you didn’t get to this year. Some things were completely out of your control, and there’s other things that are a matter of getting a little creative and finding a different way to get to your path.

In the beginning of the year I thought for sure I was going to make more money as a writer, land work in bigger publications, finally make writing my full-time source of income instead of taking second part-time gigs to supplement my income. But March rolled around, and NYC was the epicenter of the pandemic. We had a complete shutdown, I got taken off of a couple of larger projects that I was just starting to work on after publications nixed their freelance budget to allow “remaining” staff writers to finish it off, and then we waited for what we all thought would have been a couple of weeks that turned into over 5 months.

But you know what else happened-I deleted social media for over 8 months to focus on myself, I continued my therapy sessions, I took up meditating, journaling, and spent a lot of time with myself. I healed from a heartbreak that started off my 2020, I raised my standards, developed more self-worth, created boundaries for my relationships with myself and others, and I let go of people who no longer served my growth, happiness, and well-being. In retrospect, I realize this year was not about financial or career success, but about healing myself, decluttering my mind, and building my self-worth.

It may not have been the year I expected, but it was what I needed. And now that I continue to do the hard work on my inner-self- I feel like it can only better me for going back after my writing goals, for curating my life and the people I allow in it. Because without self-worth you will accept anyone and anything in your life because you are desperate to belong, to feel validated, and will accept much less than what you want and deserve because without self-worth you will feel like any crumbs thrown your way are a prize. Without self-worth you will believe that you are only “good enough” when others accept you or pay attention to you. I am so impressed with how much I’ve grown-but this was what my year was about; everyone is on a different journey and has different experiences. But had the world not been shut down, I would not have been forced to face myself in such an intense and intimate way.

At the end of this year, I am grateful for it all because it led to this amazing growth that I have achieved- it was often painful as hell, confusing, and seemingly never-ending. I’m proud of myself for going through the storm-sometimes I thought I wouldn’t make it to the other side.

None of it was easy-the loneliness I went through from raising my standards and letting go of certain people in my life was debilitating at times. That loneliness made it tempting to make exceptions for those who could not meet me where I now stand. But I did not go through the storm to go all the way back to where I started.

I know there are some people who feel this was their worst year ever and I cannot speak for others’ experiences, their pain, losses, or disappointments. If this is how you feel-your feelings are valid. But after you do that I would implore you to look at some of what you’ve gained and learned and what you want for your next year; to find a way to face your pain and clear out the thoughts and experiences that are no longer serving you so you can go on. At some point you have to let your pain go or it will continue to weigh you down and keep you stagnant.

So what do you think? How was your 2020- what were some of your losses and gains, and what do you want for your life for the new year? How will you get started? How can you start to heal yourself? Just a few questions to think on- share in the comments below-

How to start setting boundaries

It’s never too late to change your life

By Jessica Militello

Honestly I didn’t even know how to start this article. It’s one I’ve wanted to write for a long time but the brutal honesty of it all made me want to avoid sharing it and I also felt like a fraud doling out advice on something I’m still learning about.

I grew up in a home where there was always so much drama going on involving other people, that I learned my role and the way to be lovable was to keep my feelings and thoughts to myself; that other, way worse things were going on, and I couldn’t possibly ask my primary caretakers for help because it was selfish to “need” anything when there was already so much chaos going on.

I learned to be their caretakers, in a sense, from a young age. They couldn’t even get their own shit together- in my young mind, I needed to learn how to take care of myself. Through observing these relationship dynamics, I learned to stay quiet, put other people’s thoughts and feelings before mine, and to basically be invisible. The few times I did try to speak up in those instances, my feelings were often dismissed or minimized, followed by being shamed for having those feelings.

Throughout my life, before learning about all this and doing the healing work to grow from it, naturally, all of these patterns and behaviors I observed growing up played out in all my relationships. I didn’t trust my instincts because I would often dismiss my own feelings in light of someone else’s, struggled to communicate when I felt uncomfortable or wanted to say no to things, constantly felt guilty if/when I would put my own needs first, settled for poor behavior and careless treatment and justified it by worrying about what they were “going through” at the time, or told myself they probably didn’t mean it or that I was just being too sensitive or some other jedi mental gymnastics reasoning to blame myself for their poor behavior. And because I constantly struggled to communicate my own thoughts and dismissed my own feelings, I landed in relationships and friendships with people who did the exact same thing to me. I would hold onto resentment and in many times get to a point where holding in my thoughts resulted in me getting mad and lashing out at the other person for boundaries and communication that I struggled to convey.

Learning to have boundaries is a multi-step process- but there are steps you can take to get you headed in the right direction that you can totally get started on by yourself. So grab a notebook and a pen and let’s get started.

Observe the origin story of your lack of boundaries by reflecting on what you were taught growing up

I realize this first bullet point may be difficult because it is asking you to honestly look at a portion of your life that you may have spent many, many years minimizing or diluting your true thoughts and feelings on. But this first part is really crucial in realizing why you have certain patterns. This helps for having empathy for yourself and understanding in a non-judgmental way, why you are the way you are up to this point in your life. I really don’t need you to dig super deep on this one. If a lot of feelings are coming up on having to reflect on childhood memories, what could be helpful is recollecting on it from a third-person point of view in order for it to feel less heavy. How did the adults in your family talk to each other, what happened when someone made a mistake, or someone’s feelings got hurt? How did communicating take place or not? How were disagreements and arguments resolved? Was there talking it out, listening to each other’s feelings, any apologizing? Did everyone just pretend it didn’t happen and swept everything under the rug? Whatever you remember, or think may be important-write it down. It’s important to make sense of how your inner critic has been developed from your entire life, so if you minimize and judge your own thoughts and feelings, it is most likely because it is what you observed and eventually learned how to treat yourself/others. Again, I don’t need you getting super deep on this especially if you don’t want to. We don’t need to delve into every memory and feeling from the past, we’re just trying to get an idea of where these ideas originated from.

Taking an honest look at your own relationships

Now that you’ve objectively looked at what patterns you observed growing up, it’s time to look at your own friendships/relationships. Are there any that immediately stand out? Dynamics of past/present relationships where you hold resentment for things you did for a person, or feel depleted and used? Any kind of relationship that you look back on where you felt your voice was not heard, your feelings didn’t matter, or where the other person just took and took and then left you on the side of the proverbial highway? As life and relationship coach Mark Groves says, “you are part of the dance.” And as I like to say-the only way someone can waste your time is if you give them your time in the first place. Any relationships where I’ve held resentment of all I did or sacrificed without getting equal effort and consideration in return was because I chose to put that person and their feelings above my own or I chose to constantly give in order to “prove” my value. If I felt I constantly gave and they mostly took, it is because I lacked the self-worth at the time to realize there is never anything you need to do to prove your value or necessity in their life. It can also reflect overcompensating for your abandonment issues by trying to prove how useful you are. This is a self-worth issue which plays into boundary setting, because if you have no self-worth then you can’t set boundaries, but when you have no boundaries, you’re going to have a hell of a time building any self-worth. It’s a vicious cycle. Realize the roles you both played in these friendships/relationships-forgive yourself, forgive them. Look at it as a learning experience and then realize how dynamics you learned growing up played out in these adult relationships of yours. It’s always good to look at any relationships, past or present, reflect on what was good and bad about it, what you did best, and what you would like to work on about yourself. Your relationships with others can only get better when the relationship with yourself improves. If you don’t like yourself, you will constantly be flattered by any validation or attention you get from others. You will accept any relationships/friendships because when you have no self-worth you have minimal standards for the way others treat you because you are desperate for any kind of belonging. But now that you know this, you totally have the chance to turn it around.

Build your self-worth

As I wrote just a few sentences ago, when you have low self-worth you will struggle to have boundaries. When it’s more important to be liked, you will settle for a lot of nonsense. Speak your truth, communicate how you really feel without worrying about scaring a person away, stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do. Stop being afraid of what will happen when you show your true self to others-you know what will happen? The people meant for your life will stay, and the others will fall away. You have to learn to like yourself and enjoy your own company so that you don’t even allow people in your life who cannot meet simple standards of respect and consideration.

Learn what your standards and non-negotiables are for your relationships

A lot of this is all inter-connected and I don’t really see it as a matter of consecutive steps, which is why I didn’t number any of these points. You do need to first realize your intrinsic value to even be able to set standards, but having standards and sticking to them builds self-worth, so it all builds together. What are the standards that you have for yourself? Write them down. Sometimes it just goes back to the golden rule; treat others the way you would like to be treated, but also don’t allow yourself to be treated in any way that you would not treat others.

People are not mind readers-you still need to communicate

In the early stages of learning about boundaries, there can be a tendency to go to extremes in order to make up for a boundary-less past. You may know what you want and deserve, but struggle with feeling defensiveness and forecasting of your feelings being minimized. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean everyone will magically fall in line. This is the hard part because sometimes people who you really want to meet your standards may falter. Communication is extremely important. Everything is not personal, and we can’t just assume what we think others should know. This is the time to have a conversation in a very objective, fact-based way by noting a pattern and how it makes you feel, an openness for discourse, as well as a suggestion or solution. But if they completely dismiss and invalidate your feelings then that is more so where the red flag lies. Adjust accordingly. You might have the best of times with someone but they are just unable to meet you where you are. They may not be in the phase of change to even acknowledge it or do something about it. You have to know your worth and when others act or fail to act in a way that is hurtful and just not okay to you. Sometimes you have to distance yourself, and in some cases if things are unhealthy, end the friendship/relationship. It’s not always easy, but you have to know your worth and your non-negotiables as well as stick to them.

Are you learning more about setting boundaries? What has worked for you so far? Share some of your experiences in boundary setting in the comments.

Can People Change?

 When they want to, have a plan to, and a discipline to stick to it

By Jessica Militello

We try to implement new habits and hobbies, or see a motivational quote that inspires us only temporarily, or we see statements about others, suggesting what they didn’t do for you, they easily will do for the next person, or if they took you seriously enough, they would have changed, and if they didn’t change for you and they did with someone else it’s because of how they felt about you. With such one-dimensional quotes out there about our relationships and overly simplified advice on change it’s no wonder we judge ourselves for not being able to improve overnight, or why we think others can just magically change for us based on our own expectations and projections.

Well first of all, people treat you how they feel about themselves, not how they feel about you. And secondly you are not magical- not to change yourself quickly and simply, or for your worth or perceived lack of it to make someone go through the five steps of change all the way to the maintenance phase and continue it.

Wait- five steps? Don’t people just easily and magically transform for a job or a person like these stupid quotes say? Well who am I to tell anyone what to believe, but the next time you wonder why you can’t simply change your thoughts and habits almost overnight, or if your worth can magically transform someone else’s, let’s go over the five steps to change to even see what it takes for change to occur.

  1. Precontemplation- Before you even begin trying to change something you need to have some kind of thoughts that recognize that your behaviors are somehow not conducive to your best self. Let’s start with something simple- Every time you go out with your friends on a Friday night for dinner, you end up ordering drinks, staying out until 3 in the morning, and you realize that every time you do this, the next day when you wake up for work, you feel tired, hung over, sick, moody, and it feels like the longest day ever. That is as far as precontemplation goes. And the next week despite knowing all this, you do it again anyway because you’ve only got as far as pondering that perhaps this isn’t working for you, but you aren’t ready to change. Notice this all has to do with you, how you feel, what you think, what choices that you are making, and what’s comfortable and familiar. Okay-great, now for the next step.

2. Contemplation- This step involves considering different options or ways to go about what you were in precontemplation over. These phases do not necessarily go on any kind of trajectory either. You can be in precontemplation over something for years and never go further. But staying with our Friday night example, you may recognize you are not 21 years old anymore, your hangovers take a bit longer to recover from, you look and feel like complete shit the next day, and you realize that this kind of living is not working for you. In this step, you may consider having this kind of outing on a Saturday night instead since you are off from work on Sundays. You may consider drinking less or going home earlier, or perhaps not doing something like this every single weekend, but again you still have not acted upon it, these are all just thoughts that are beginning to swirl around in your mind.

3. Preparation- Okay so Saturday morning you woke up late, hung over, got to work late, fell asleep at your desk, and your boss caught you and you got in a lot of trouble. Your bad habits are affecting more than your beauty sleep; now it’s affecting your work. Something that affects you in a serious way, like getting in trouble at work for example, may make you take your ideas to change a bit more seriously. It could also be an experience that you add to the contemplation box and still do absolutely nothing about because you are just not ready to change your habits. You’ve met up with these friends every Friday for the past 10 years and for whatever reason you just aren’t in a place to make changes. Sometimes what is comfortable and what you’re used to takes precedent over making a change even if you know that the change is for the better. But, for the sake of explaining preparation-you getting in trouble was finally your wake up call, so you decide that next Friday you are definitely going to only have two drinks and go home by midnight.

4. Action- It’s time to follow through on your plan. You told all your friends and yourself the new rules- two drinks max and home by midnight. Your friends say okay, but they give you a hard time about it. But for the first two Fridays you totally stuck with the plan. You woke up on Saturday morning feeling way better and you’re super proud of yourself. But you’re in a group chat and your friends are talking about stories and sharing jokes about things that happened after you left! You feel a little left out and annoyed that your “new rules” are ruining your fun. Well- next Friday you aren’t going to miss out again, plus you’ll just make sure not to put your alarm clock on snooze, so you at least get to work on time. You stay out late, you still hit snooze the next morning, and you still show up to work super late and hung over. So much for step 4- you know this change is good for you but you’re not liking the results so far- back into step 2 of change. See how easy it is to go back on the steps? Imagine something harder like beliefs you were taught your whole life about love, relationships, eating habits, or maintaining a healthy weight. These steps, similar to grieving are not at all linear and can start, stop, restart, and stop again depending on the difficulty of the change and how long you’ve been maintaining the kinds of life or mindset that you are trying to reform.

5. Maintenance- As it would appear from my example, you went through with all the steps, but you were not yet in a place to maintain it. A big part of maintenance is recognizing that what’s best for you is not usually going to have the instant gratification or reward we are generally seeking for making a change. In the Friday night example, you knew what you were doing was not conducive to how you felt and it affected your life, but you had a hard time breaking a habit, and doing what was best for your situation by maintaining the changes, and accepting that missing out on some fun was a bit of a sacrifice for your job, health and happiness. Some models of the steps of change actually consider it a six-part process including relapse because it is completely normal to struggle with maintaining a change.

I wanted to keep my example simple by using the Friday night story, but you can take it and change it to anything. These five steps are not so simple, not only for how others choose to or fail to show up for us, but also for us to have compassion for ourselves for when we struggle with changes we want to make and stagger forward and backward at times. What I like about knowing these five steps is it helps me to be mindful not only with myself, but with others. If changes are this hard to make when we recognize there’s a problem, it would be impossible for someone who has not even started the precontemplation step. On the other side of it, while it’s nice to have empathy for someone else’s struggles to do better as a person, we also need to recognize when their inability to address their own habits and behaviors becomes a detriment to our own well-being. So the next time you are struggling, have compassion for yourself and others, but also recognize if someone is unable to change. People don’t just change when they want to change. Not for a job, a relationship, or anything else. We change when we want to, are ready to, have a plan to, and a dedication and discipline to stick to said plan- save this as a note to self and anyone else too.