Category Archives: Inspiration

Do You Feel Like an Underdog?

Underdog

Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. The Chicago Cubs.

These are a few of the underdogs many of us have rooted for. (OK, if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan, you weren’t rooting for the Cubs, but millions of people were!) They are people who seem to have the deck stacked against them, but who persevere anyway.

Why do we love underdogs?  One idea is that we believe life should be fair, which leads us to favor the underdog. Underdogs are also perceived to work harder than their rivals. A team or entity that seems likely to lose is not, however, championed as an underdog if it has a lot of money or other resources. (retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/12/24/why-do-we-root-for-the-underdog/1699.html) That last statement might have thrown the Cubs’ underdog status in doubt, as they clearly had lots of resources at their disposal. Still, 108 years without a World Series win carried a lot of weight! [I will also say, as a side note, that it seems the statement excludes a certain presidential candidate from underdog status.]

I think another reason we root for the underdog is that we can readily identify with him or her. Of course, there are people who are used to success and expect to win, but many of us don’t. In fact, a person can easily feel like an underdog even when she isn’t one, just because she’s used to that mindset. I think experiences of being “one down,” particularly in childhood when we’re at our most impressionable, translate into a lifelong feeling of being an underdog. There is still a part of us that identifies with the powerless child we once were.

It’s no coincidence that characters like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are children fighting adults. This accentuates the seeming futility of their quests. Knowing how these stories go, we expect them to win in the end, but that doesn’t stop us from being afraid that they won’t. In cheering for them, we also cheer for ourselves and our own chances to triumph.

What are some of the challenges that you face? Do you believe that you can prevail, as you believe the novels’ protagonists (or the baseball team) can, or do you feel like you’re not good enough to rise to the challenge?

I’ve written before about Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. These ANTs tell you that you won’t come out on top. For instance, if you own a business, you question the worthiness of your product or service and wonder why anyone would want to pay you for it. If you aren’t self-employed, you feel “less than” other employees and assume someone else will always get the big project, promotion, etc.  If you’re on an online dating site, you figure that your profile will be overlooked by anyone worth dating.

The thing about ANTs is that they’re usually exaggerated or false; if there is some truth to them, there’s often something that can be done about it.

The next time you find yourself assuming you’re going to be the loser in a situation, step back and look again. Look at yourself as if you’re a friend who’s on the outside looking in. What are the chances that you’re right? Is there any truth at all to your belief? If there is, can you do something to improve your chances?

If you’re a business owner, look at your business history. Unless you’ve just started your business, I’ll assume you have succeeded in finding at least one customer or client, probably many of them. What was it that attracted them to you? Is that point of attraction still there? What can you do to make your product or service even more appealing? There’s nothing more empowering than finding specific actions that will help you to improve your chances of success.

If you’re worried that you won’t be assigned a big project or get a promotion at work, remind yourself of what has happened in the past. Have you been assigned projects or gotten promotions in the past? If so, did you rise to the challenge and do a good job? If you did, chances are good that you will continue to succeed and get noticed by your employer. Success breeds success, right? If, on the other hand, you haven’t been assigned big projects or gotten promotions (and there are projects and/or promotions to be had), or they haven’t gone well, look at what you can do to change that. Can you get more training? Can you speak up more on your own behalf? Can you take some initiative to show what you can do? If it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere in your current job, can you consider looking for another job?

And regarding online dating…as I tell my clients, there are lots of potential partners out there, and you only need to find one. What are the chances that there isn’t even one person with whom you are compatible? (Here come the ANTs again…take a moment to stomp on them. Look at this situation from the perspective of one of your friends. Would he or she say that there’s no one out there for you? Probably not!)

How will you rise to the challenge today (or maybe tomorrow)?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

 

Are You For Real?

A Little Girl  In  Women's  High Heel  Shoes

Some of my clients feel like impostors who will be found out at any moment. They feel like they aren’t really as good as other people think they are, and it’s only a matter of time until the illusion is shattered and their lives fall apart. These people are highly competent and are by no means coasting and pretending to be someone they’re not. So why would they feel this way?

The answer comes from childhood. If a child deals with certain kinds of family dysfunction, she is forced to grow up prematurely. Possible sources of this dysfunction include parental alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic mental or physical illness, or narcissism. Having a parent who is absent physically or emotionally can create this dynamic, as well. Having a chronically physically or mentally ill sibling can produce similar results.

So if you’re a kid in a family like this, you realize you’re on your own. Your physical needs for food, clothing, and shelter may be met, but your emotional needs will not. It’s more likely that you’ll find yourself trying to meet a parent’s emotional needs, which is an impossible task.

What does this lead to? It usually leads to a kid who is very mature for her age. She is like an adult in a child’s body. As she grows up, she will probably be seen as someone who has it all together. She will be really good at taking care of problems and of other people; taking care of herself, on the other hand, will feel selfish. And heaven forbid that someone else try to take care of her!

This child grows up physically and takes on more responsibility in the world, but she’s still emotionally a child. Instead of being an adult in a child’s body, she becomes a child in an adult’s body. This is the reason for her feeling like an impostor. While she looks and acts like an adult, she feels like a little kid pretending to be an adult.

If you’re one of these people, the good news is that you’re not actually an impostor. While you are not grown up emotionally, the rest of you is grown up. You actually can do the things that others think you can. What you need to do is to reassure the part of you that is a child (your “inner child”) that you, the adult, are in charge, and she doesn’t need to worry about anything.

It may seem weird to think about a child inside of you, but everyone has an inner child. Treat this inner child like you would an actual physical child. You wouldn’t expect a child to take on adult responsibilities, would you? I hope not! That’s what happened to you when you were growing up, and it wasn’t good for you. You can treat your inner child the way you should have been treated when you were a kid, by making sure she is only responsible for what is reasonable for her. Your adult self can handle the rest.

There are many good books that can teach you more about inner child work, including John Bradshaw’s Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, Charles L. Whitfield, MD’s Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, and Cathryn L. Taylor’s The Inner Child Workbook: What to Do With Your Past When It Just Won’t Go AwayMy book “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself also includes inner child work.

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Choosing Recovery

The hand rejects alcohol

Alcoholism is not a choice. Recovery is.

Alcoholics are not bad people or moral failures. They do not choose to become alcoholics, but they are responsible for their behaviors. While they do deserve empathy and compassion, it is up to them to choose abstinence and, ideally, to seek recovery.

I usually write about the effects of growing up in an alcoholic family; I don’t generally write about the alcoholic’s own struggles. The two are actually very similar. An alcoholic is almost always the product of an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. Those who become alcoholics try to cope with the stresses of their upbringing by drinking. Ironically, an alcoholic drinks to gain some control over her life, only to lose that control to alcohol.

When I worked at Chrysalis House, a residential treatment program for alcoholic and/or drug addicted women, one of the first things a resident did as part of her therapy was to write a goodbye letter to drugs and alcohol. The letters were written as if to abusive boyfriends.

This is quite accurate. Alcohol and other drugs do become an alcoholic or addict’s primary relationship, shutting out sober friends and loved ones. Like relationships with abusive boyfriends, the relationships with alcohol and drugs start out well, but gradually deteriorate into abuse. At that point it becomes very difficult for the abused person to leave because the abuser has such a strong hold on her.

It is difficult to choose sobriety. It is hard to give up that “friend,” that coping mechanism. It’s hard to overcome the habit of drinking. But it can be done, and only the alcoholic can make the choice to do it.

If you suspect you may be an alcoholic, you have a choice of recovery possibilities. Some people just stop drinking and never drink again, although this is often ineffective, in part because it doesn’t address issues that underlie the alcoholism.

A popular choice is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a 12-step program that helps people to become and remain sober. AA meetings can be found anywhere, and at pretty much any time, so it’s not hard to take advantage of this option. For more information on AA and a list of meetings in your area, visit www.AA.org. For those who object to the spiritual aspects of AA, there are other programs such as SMART recovery (www.smartrecovery.org).

Some people may seek individual or group counseling, either as an adjunct to a recovery fellowship or on their own. Both kinds of counseling can help you to identify underlying issues and triggers for drinking. There are advantages to each. With individual counseling, the entire session is focused on you and your particular issues. The advantage to group therapy is that you will be validated by a group of people who have similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences to yours.

If AA and/or individual or group counseling are not enough to help you to keep sober, there are more intensive types of therapies you might explore. One is intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). In an IOP, you attend group sessions several times a week, each session lasting at least a couple of hours, either during the day or in the evening. IOP, as with the group therapy I already mentioned, can help you to see that you’re not alone in your struggles. IOP also offers education about alcoholism and addiction.

The most intensive therapy for alcoholism is inpatient treatment, which involves spending a couple of weeks to a month or more in a residential treatment setting. This, of course, requires time off from work and other daily activities. It can be extremely helpful, though, because the longer you are away from alcohol, the better it is for your recovery. During inpatient treatment, you attend groups (educational and therapeutic), AA meetings, and individual counseling. Depending upon the program, you might also receive acupuncture and/or other adjunctive treatments.

If you are an alcoholic, try not to judge yourself too harshly. Remember that you are a person with a problem, not a person who is a problem. You did not choose to become an alcoholic, but you need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions and choose sobriety.

Why not make that choice today?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist and drug and alcohol counselor in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Role Plays

Angry Woman Yelling At Husband

If you think you’ve escaped the role(s) you played growing up in your dysfunctional family, think again! Unless you’ve deliberately worked on escaping these unhealthy patterns, you are no doubt repeating them in adulthood or even taking on new ones.

A quick review from my last post: the roles in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family are the chief enabler (generally a spouse), the family hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to look at it so you know what these roles entail.

Many adult children of alcoholics unintentionally marry alcoholics themselves. They unconsciously see something familiar in their prospective partners. They tend not to notice red flags early in the relationship that indicate that they are involved with someone who is probably an alcoholic. They may eventually find themselves falling into the role their mother or father once played, that of the chief enabler. If you’re in this role, you may make excuses for your partner’s drinking, try to control his/her drinking, do your best to make the family look functional to the outside world, and feel resentful about everything you do because of your partner’s problem.

If, while growing up, you were the family hero, you have probably carried perfectionism and high achievement into adulthood. This gets you praise, promotions, and other kudos, but you probably still feel inadequate. It’s likely you think that if people only knew the real you, they wouldn’t admire and like you so much.

If you were the scapegoat, you may have internalized the idea that you were bad and that you were responsible for everything that went wrong. If you continue that role as an adult, you will still identify yourself as a problem. This may show up in different ways; you might be an alcoholic or drug addict, or you may even get in trouble with the law. But being a scapegoat doesn’t have to be this extreme. You may, for instance, marry someone who constantly criticizes you, triggering those familiar feelings from when you were growing up. You may also attract critical attention at work or elsewhere. This serves to reinforce the negative image you already have of yourself.

If you were the lost child, you probably continue to try to be invisible even as an adult. At work, you may not speak up even when you have good ideas. You may marry someone who is domineering, with you disappearing in his shadow. You probably go along to get along, agreeing with friends, family members, and coworkers in order to avoid making waves. You do your best to maintain peace.

If you were the mascot, you may be very outgoing, someone who is well-liked by many because of your charms. You love being the center of attention and make an excellent party host or hostess. You’re happy to share ideas at work and in personal situations, because you are confident that they will be well-received. You are not likely to be willing to acknowledge the bad or difficult aspects of life.

Which of these roles have you played in adulthood? Are they the same or different than the ones you played growing up? What do you like about your role(s), and what would you like to change?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Allowing Grief

Depressed woman

Right now I’m sitting next to my 15-year-old cat, Willow, who is about to die. This is the worst part of having a pet—having to say goodbye.

You, too, may know that losing a cat or a dog means losing a beloved family member. Even if that’s not true for you, though, it’s likely that you’ve lost at least one person who was important to you. This doesn’t have to be through death. For instance, if another person who has been a regular part of your daily life moves away, it is still a loss. If you get divorced or separated, it is a loss. If your child goes away to college, it’s a loss.

At first people will probably be sympathetic, but after a while, they’ll get on with their lives. At times like this, you may feel separated from the rest of the world. Everyone else’s life has gone back to normal. How can they be so happy when you’re not?

I have had many clients ask how long it’s appropriate to grieve. There’s no easy answer to this. Grief often lasts longer than your family and friends think it should. They may ask you when you’re going to get over it. That doesn’t help—grief is not something you can just decide to get over. It can be hard to know when it’s time to let go. Allowing yourself to feel all of your feelings is one thing; getting stuck in them, unable to return to normal functioning, is another.

You will never fully get over your loss. Life will never be the same as it was before. But there are things you can do to help yourself in the grief process. In the case of a loss through death, of course, there is generally some sort of memorial service that will help you to begin to process your feelings. But other losses need to be processed in some way, as well.

You might write a letter to a person who has left. You may or may not decide to send it to that person; it can be easier to be completely honest about your feelings if you don’t send it. Journaling your feelings can be a great way to work through them. You might remind yourself of significant times you shared with the one who is gone. Even without a funeral service, you may decide to have some sort of ceremony or gathering to mark the change that has happened.

Whatever others say, don’t be afraid to take the time you need to deal with your loss. If you feel stuck in your grief, though, consider the possibility of some counseling. It can help you return to your life, even without things going back to the way they were before.

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Catching Snowflakes

Happy beautiful woman playing outdoor, trying to catch snowflake

My eight-year-old daughter, April, and I have somewhat different opinions of snow. She, of course, loves it. She loves stomping in it; she loves making snowmen, snowballs, and snow angels; she loves sledding; and she loves catching snowflakes on her tongue. And what’s not to love about a day off from school?

I don’t hate snow, but it doesn’t have quite the same charm it did when I was a kid. Yes, all of the things I mentioned are fun, and snow is beautiful. But it also has to be shoveled, cleared off of cars, and driven through. It turns to ice and it gets dirty very quickly.

What would happen if I tried to see snow as I once did, as April does now? Or what if I tried to experience it as if I had never encountered it before? This is what is called beginner’s mind—approaching something familiar as if it were completely new to you.

The exercise I mentioned in my last post in which you mindfully eat a raisin, exploring it with all of your senses, can be an example of the use of beginner’s mind. If you do that exercise, it is likely that you will experience a raisin as if you had never seen, felt, smelled, or tasted anything quite like it before.

So what’s useful about beginner’s mind? It can clear away your assumptions about an object, experience, or person and allow you to get a fresh perspective.

Beginner’s mind is useful in resolving relationship conflicts. When we know someone well, we have a history with that person. We make assumptions about what he is thinking, feeling, or doing based upon our previous experiences with him (or others like him).

What happens if that person is trying to change? It’s likely that you won’t notice the changes he’s making; you will continue to see and hear what you expect.

The next time you find yourself having that same old argument you always have with someone close to you, try approaching the situation with a beginner’s mind. Pretend that you have never met this person before. Try to take his words and actions at face value. Don’t bring your mutual history into your assessment.

See what you can learn from doing this; do you find that you have more compassion for him than you did before? Are you better able to understand where he’s coming from? Do your resentment and anger towards him decrease?

I invite you to try to use beginner’s mind to re-experience the world and your relationships. And maybe I’ll catch some flakes on my tongue the next time it snows!

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Be Mindful!

Enjoy The Moment sign with clouds and sky background

When was the last time that you ate a meal without doing something else at the same time? Can you remember a time when you drove somewhere familiar and were actually aware of where you were at all times? Have you ever been completely focused on your work while doing a household chore?

Most of us spend a lot of time focusing on the past or the future; we are rarely fully focused on the present moment, which is the basis of the practice called mindfulness.

When you are practicing mindfulness, you are not thinking of something that happened in the past or anticipating something that might happen in the future. You are completely aware of the present moment. You are observing, but you are not judging.

A basic exercise in mindfulness is to mindfully experience a raisin, engaging all of your senses as you do so. Click here for a demonstration of this.

The key to mindfulness as I use it with my clients is to observe without judgment. If you were my client, I would encourage you to develop an observing ego (self) that essentially “steps back” from the rest of your mind and just notices what is going on. This observing ego notices your thoughts, but does not label them as good or bad. It does not label you as good or bad, either.

This is related to what I spoke of in my post on meditation. While meditating, you don’t judge a thought that comes up, nor do you judge yourself for having the thought; you just notice it. Then you let it go.

You can do a similar thing with feelings. There may be times when you experience overwhelming, powerful emotions. It’s easy to be overcome by those feelings and to identify with them completely; they become your reality and you cannot imagine not feeling them.

This is where the observing ego comes in. This part of your mind steps back and notices the emotion without judgment. It knows that the emotion is neither good nor bad and that it’s not permanent; feelings, like ocean tides, ebb and flow.

Imagine yourself on a beach, experiencing the waves. Can you stop them from coming? No. Can you hold on to them and keep them from receding? No again. This is how feelings are. They come and they go. They will always come, but they will always go again. You will never be permanently stuck in a feeling, no matter how it might seem.

What do you think would happen if you ate an entire meal mindfully, or did a chore mindfully? And, more importantly, at least from a therapist’s point of view, what would happen if you experienced your thoughts and feelings mindfully?

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

Tag With Relax

Most of us often feel like we have too much to do and not enough time to do it, but this time of year can be particularly bad. If you want to relieve some of that stress, it’s the perfect time to practice meditation!

“Wait a second,” I can hear you saying, “How am I supposed to add more to my schedule when I’m already too busy? And how is that supposed to make me feel better?”

First of all, forget the stereotypical picture of someone sitting in lotus position for an hour, keeping her mind completely blank. This is not what meditation is for most of us.

You can meditate using any amount of time that you have. In fact, it makes sense to start for a maximum of five minutes while you’re getting used to it. You can gradually work up to a longer amount of time, but there’s no “right” length for a meditation session.

There are many kinds of meditation, but one of the easiest is a breathing meditation. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, preferably somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. It often helps to turn off the lights. Close your eyes or look at a neutral spot ahead of you.

Take deep, slow breaths, inhaling to the count of five, pausing, then exhaling to the count of five. You can either continue counting or just say “in” during your inhale and “out” during your exhale. Don’t expect to be able to keep your mind completely blank; thoughts will pop up. When you do have a thought, just notice it and let it go, like a cloud floating across the sky; then return to your breath.

Continue this for whatever period of time works for you. The more you do it, the more relaxed you are likely to feel, not only while meditating, but during the rest of your day, as well. At times when you feel stress coming on but you can’t meditate, just take some deep, slow breaths. This will help restore you to calm.

No matter how daunting meditation seems to you, it is a doable practice. You don’t have to be a Zen master to benefit from it. Why not give it a try?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

When Facebook Isn’t Your Friend

I have several clients who are considering deleting their Facebook accounts. Shocking, isn’t it?

You know the benefits of Facebook. You can reconnect with friends from the past. (For instance, how many of you, like me, are now connected to people you hadn’t heard from since high school?) You can also keep up with the goings-on of people who are closer to you. And don’t forget all of those cute pictures of children and pets!

If you want to be outraged, there’s usually at least one link to an article about something really bad someone did to someone else. There are article links you may find funny or helpful, as well. There are posts that make statements you agree with, and ones you don’t (which you can critique, of course). There are as many quizzes as you have time for (“Which ‘Big Bang Theory’ character are you?” “What color best represents you?” etc.)

So what’s not to love? One thing is the amount of potentially productive time that is swallowed up by Facebook. You know you’ve done it—spent time on Facebook when you could have been doing something that actually needed to be done, or even something that you wanted to do. Sometimes, if you’re like some of my clients, part of that time is spent “cyber-stalking” old boyfriends or girlfriends, even though the “stalker” knows it’s best to just move on. It’s so tempting, though, and so easy to do…

The main complaint that I have heard from clients, though, is that Facebook doesn’t represent reality. People post their triumphs, their happy photos, and their “Aren’t I silly?” moments. They post things they’re doing that no one would have asked about. Sometimes they post updates about their health or that of their loved ones.

But where are the posts about their failures? How many people have you seen admitting to having wronged someone? How many people say, “I have a drinking problem and I’m afraid I can’t stop” or “I treat my spouse and children badly on a daily basis” or “I’m lost and don’t know what to do with my life”?

We know that Facebook generally isn’t the place for really deep self-revelation. For someone with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or a history of trauma, though, reading Facebook posts can make it seem as though she’s the only one who doesn’t have it all together. Everyone else leads a successful, happy life; she’s the only one who doesn’t get it. What is she doing wrong? Where’s the missing rulebook for life? These thoughts can make a lonely person even lonelier, or a person who feels broken feel even more so.

I’m not saying that you should abandon Facebook, but take some time to think about it and what it represents. Remember that if you base your opinion of others’ lives on their Facebook posts, you will get a very distorted picture. And, as always, remember not to compare your insides to someone else’s outside!

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

What’s Your Superpower?

My daughter loves the PBS show “Wild Kratts,” in which the Kratt brothers explore the amazing powers of various creatures in the wild. Often, the brothers point out that humans have so far been unable to replicate those powers. One example is the gecko’s ability to walk on walls and ceilings. (I won’t attempt an explanation of that ability here!)

Does this make you envious of geckos? It is a pretty cool ability, and it might be useful at times, but would it be worth trading all of our uniquely human abilities to get it? Of course not.

You may not envy geckos, but I’ll bet you’ve envied another person at some point in your life. You might be surprised at what or whom they envy, though—it might be you! As they say in 12-step programs, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outside.” In other words, other people, even if they seem self-confident, may have more insecurities than you think.

For instance, consider Suzanne, who was at her daughter’s dance class. She noticed, as she had in the past, a couple of the other mothers who were considerably thinner than she was; she found herself envying them for this. This was put into perspective, though, when their conversation made it obvious that they felt self-conscious about their bodies compared to certain other women they’d seen recently.

I sometimes see other people and wish I had some quality of theirs—physical appearance, athletic ability, cooking or craft-making skills, etc. But then I realize that I wouldn’t want to trade all of who I am for whatever that quality might be. Would I want to give up the job and the family that I love so that I could be that person? Would I want to give up my unique strengths and abilities? No, I wouldn’t.

Take some time to think about the qualities you wish you had. Then take some more time and think about all of the positive qualities and abilities that you already have. You may discover that you have superpowers after all!

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.