Awareness, Authenticity, and Assertiveness

As I’ve discussed before…

Without becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings, we are little more than a computer program: Life provides input, our brain rapidly calculates the meaning, and the body responds appropriately.

For example, if I see a snake during a moonlit walk, my body will rapidly prepare me for potential crisis – drenching my body in fight-or-flight chemicals. If I then realize it wasn’t a snake at all but just a fallen branch, my sigh of relief arrests the automatic response.

(Worth reading – from Off the Web!)

Being authentically you is perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give, not only to those that mean the world to you, but also to the people in your life in general – and especially to yourself.

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What does it mean to be courageously and authentically you, and why is this a precious gift?

Authenticity is the permission you give yourself to be real, to be who you are, aware of warts and graces. This permission frees you to give and to live in relation to your self and others, especially key others, from a place of love, and not fear.

It’s precious because how you relate – give and receive – directly impacts the balance of your life and relationships.

And, speaking of fears, our deepest fears are not about spiders, snakes or bridges, which are surface fears in comparison. Our deepest fears have to do with intimacy and our deepest yearnings for meaningful connection, contribution, and relationships; they are matters of the heart.

To choose to live authentically is conscious choice to love authentically, a conscious way of feeling safe enough to love and give with your whole heart.

And that means safe enough to set judicious limits, say or accept ‘no’ and ‘yes’ as viable options. Loving authentically with your whole heart means taking essential steps to consciously:

  • Treat others and, at the same time, yourself with dignity and care.
  • Give (to others and self) from a place of love – not fear.
  • Remain open and empathically connected rather than defensive (triggered) when you face what most personally challenges you in relational contexts.

Why set healthy limits on your giving? When you set healthy limits, you  Give and Express yourself from a place inside you that is authentic. It is rooted in your love rather than fear, shame or guilt.

Being an authentic you has a lot to do with getting to know and to fully accept and to love yourself and life in ways that allow you to authentically connect with courage to love with your whole heart.  It is only when you take one hundred percent responsibility for your inner emotional state and responses that you allow yourself to experience emotional fulfillment and personal transformation. It means  Standing up for yourself  from a place that intentionally sends a message that you like and respect yourself enough to treat yourself and the other with dignity even in challenging situations when emotions are pulling at you from another direction.

One of the most important ways to express authenticity is in how you relate to your self. Others know from how you present yourself , what is okay and not okay, in terms of how you want others to treat you.

When you nurture a healthy space inside you, as well as around and between you and others, you send a clear message that you like and respect yourself, that you know what you want and do not want, and, most importantly, that you are aware of what you most need and value in life.

Thus, when you love with your whole heart, a required skill to cultivate, is the capacity to remain open and vulnerable in triggering contexts  without getting triggered.

Nurturing healthy limits in the way you love, give and express yourself is one of the most important ways to improve your relationships and your life, thus, your happiness.

Setting healthy limits simultaneously conveys respect to others as persons, even when you strongly disagree with their viewpoint or feel pain in response to actions they took.

This is impossible to do, if you do not come from a place of deep respect and honor for yourself that is completely not dependent upon whether the other is treating you in the way you most want and deserve to be treated.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that stress does not negatively affect your personal and relational well-being. You can schedule regular fun time. Eat healthful, nutritious meals. Exercise. Stretch. Breathe. Meditate. All of these are essential practices are proven by a substantial body of research to be effective.

A lifestyle of conscious caring for your health helps remove much of the intensity and reactivity, and needless anguish. When you care for your body, you care for your mental health. You are strengthened to withstand the everyday pressures of life and relationships.

Much of the suffering we experience in relationship conflict, however, is related to limiting belief, and old ways we have learned to think and to talk — to ourselves — and to one another. In addition to a healthful lifestyle, your ability to communicate can be your greatest asset if you want to protect your happiness, and to more effectively deal with the challenges you face in relating to those closest to you.

In other words, what you say and, especially, how you say things matters when it comes to your happiness. It sets the tone for your giving and receiving – in other words, how you relate to your self and others.

Do you nurture healthy boundaries and limits in your relationships? Do your actions send a message that you respect and value yourself, your time and contribution? Do your actions similarly convey that you respect and value others and their  contributions? Do you know how to “teach” others to respect you, or how to communicate your respect, especially in moments when you or others are seemingly unlovable?

Pause for a moment to reflect on the following statements; then use the scale below to rate how true each statement is for you:

0 – Not at all
1 – Occasionally
2 – Somewhat
3 – Moderately
4 – A lot
5 – Nearly Always

____ I find it difficult to stand up for myself.

____ I tolerate hurtful or sarcastic comments out of fear or worry.

____ I say “yes” to things I do not want to do, then resent it.

____ I feel powerless around pushy people and do what they want.

____ I feel others must be shamed or intimidated to do what is right.

____ I avoid ‘rocking the boat’ and go to great lengths to stop conflict.

____ I think “rocking the boat” is the only way to get things done.

____ I feel unsure and hesitant when it comes to handling conflict.

____ I say what I want, when and how I want to say it.

____ I think I must “please” others to feel okay or to not guilty.

____ I take what people say to me or about me personally.

____ I worry about what people are thinking of me.

If your score is higher than 10, you may benefit from developing more courage to be authentic and to set healthier limits. If your score is higher than 20, taking steps to nurture healthy limits and authentic connections with your self and others may need urgent attention. Your personal and relational happiness and well-being depend upon it.

When you are authentic, you love with your whole heart, you feel safe enough to remain open and vulnerable. Authenticity is about fully owning the power you have to make choices at any moment regarding how you will respond, or relate, to yourself and to life around you.

Choose to give the gift of being authentically you, to transform your life and relationships in ways that may surprise and delight you.

Awareness is key when it comes to authenticity.

It takes courage to live and love authentically. Essentially, authenticity is a continuous balancing act. It requires you to be willing to remain empathically connected even when you –  or others – are seemingly unlovable. It’s a conscious way of feeling safe enough to get to know you, and to love – give authentically – with your whole heart.

To live in balance and harmony in your relationships, it helps to become aware of the people and situations that tend to challenge your ability to be true to yourself.

To live in balance and harmony in your relationships, you need to know how to calm your mind and body, to feel safe enough to set judicious limits in your interactions with others, for example, to say or hear the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without getting triggered.

The first step in setting limits is identifying the specific situations that challenge or trigger you when it comes to either standing up for yourself with courage and/or doing so in a way that treats the other (thus also your self) with dignity.

Generally, these are certain situations or actions by others that unnecessarily trigger your body’s survival response. They may result from a missed opportunity to express your feelings, to say what you did or didn’t like, or to make a request. In other cases you may have “stood up” for yourself, however, you did so in an impulsive way that blasted, belittled or demeaned another, thus, it left you feeling worse than before.

The purpose of the exercise below is to identify your triggers, that is, the situations in which you do not set healthy limits at this time.

Exercise: Identifying the Triggers

Instructions: Below are four incomplete sentences followed by examples of possible responses. For each sentence, check all responses that are true for you, and feel free to add any of your own in the margins.

I feel guilty when …

“I see a look of disappointment on a loved one’s face”

“I’m asked to do something and do not want to”

“I say no”

“I notice someone I care about looks angry”

“I get angry and say hurtful things”

“Others do more than I do”

“A loved one looks hurt or unhappy”

I wish I had more courage to ask for …

“Quiet time for myself”

“Someone to stop yelling or making demeaning statements”

“Help around the house”

“Privacy”

“More information before a purchase”

“Someone to listen without judging, giving advice, or trying to “fix” things”

“An apology when someone has acted in a hurtful way”

I get frustrated or resentful when …

“Someone dismisses my opinion”

“I am not included in an important decision that was made”

“Someone takes me for granted”

“I say yes when I want to say no”

“Someone says no to one of my requests”

“I get overwhelmed by too many tasks”

“Someone talks over me or interrupts me when I talk”

I wish I had more courage to ask others to stop …

“Blasting me with their anger”

“Invading my personal space”

“Criticizing or judging me”

“Going through my personal belongings”

“Putting me down, correcting or humiliating me in front of others”

“Avoiding discussions to solve our problems”

“Making off-color jokes or comments in my presence”

“Blaming me or telling me I am responsible for their unhappiness”

Look over the triggers you underlined or added above. Then rank order the triggers from the most challenging to the least, with “1” being the most and “10” the least.

STOP letting your brain go into ‘protective mode,’ and you in a defensive mode.

The “triggers” you identify here are the specific situations you want to work on to develop an action plan for being “authentically you.” By mastering the moments when you need to face core fears that surface, you can do so without triggering your body’s stress response, also known as the “fight or flee” system, which puts your brain in ‘protective mode,’ and you in a defensive mode.

* Edited for readability

Sources – http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/12/a-key-aspect-of-being-authentically-you-identifying-your-triggers/ 
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/06/five-essential-steps-to-authenticity/ 
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/12/the-ultimate-gift-giving-the-gift-being-authentically-you/
 http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/06/the-secret-to-being-authentically-you-part-1/

About Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik shows clients how to break free of anxiety, addictions, and other emotional blocks, to awaken radiantly healthy lives and relationships. Dr. Staik is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, Safe Enough to Love™: Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit  www.drstaik.com, or visit on her Facebook fan page DrAthenaStaik

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