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.

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.