All my life I have been extremely empathetic, but for the first half of my life I didn’t even realize that this was a unique character trait that not everyone shares. When I was in close contact with people who were yelling, I would literally shake. When those around me were sad or scared, I would drink in those feelings like a sponge, not realizing that these feelings weren’t my own. It hadn’t dawned on me that feeling other people’s pain wasn’t a “normal” reaction.
Empathy is the ability to tune into and share another person’s emotion from their perspective. It plays a crucial role in bringing people together. It’s the joy you feel at a friend’s wedding or the pain you experience when you see someone suffering. It’s an essential ingredient for building intimacy in relationships.
There are some people who are naturally empathetic. They are more instinctively inclined to step into another person’s shoes. These are the listeners, the feelers, and the ones you turn to in times of trial. People with strong empathy skills can step outside of their own experiences and understand what you’re saying, thinking, and feeling. Empathy is a trait that anyone can learn, but natural empaths have a unique ability to go below the surface and see your soul, accept you where you are and where you are coming from.
You can experience empathy by noticing a person’s body language and voice, but acute sensitivity includes being open to the emotional energy vibrating between you. You might feel this energy in your heart or gut. You sense not only what people feel, but also what they need. You can tell when they need attention, acknowledgment, or an offer of help. You grasp when they want you to back off and give them space or when they want you to quietly stand by. You know when they are impatient to move on or if they want to take more time. With empathy, you will feel their stress, anxiety, and anger in your body. You might feel their pain emotionally and physically. If you let these emotions sit in your body, your body and mind can be emotionally hijacked.
But this seemingly positive emotion can also have a downside, particularly if someone gets so consumed by another’s feelings that they neglect their own feelings and needs. Because I was empathic, I was often sympathetic to the plights and concerns of friends and family. I didn’t mind because I was happy to offer whatever support I could. However, as I entered my thirties, the burden of other people’s emotions, on top of my own unresolved feelings, became too heavy to bear. But I didn’t know that consciously. I wasn’t even aware of what was happening to me. Those who regularly prioritize others’ emotions over their own are more susceptible to experiencing anxiety or low-level depression. I felt a strong need to withdraw, and I could no longer be in the same room or the same house with people who carried intense, often unconscious, emotions. I had to learn ways to manage the emotional energy, both my own feelings as well as the energy others were bringing around me which I was absorbing.
Being empathic and super sensitive to energy is not something that I can just decide to change, but I can become more aware of how it affects me. The empowering thing is the realization that I can change my reactions and my own behaviors, no matter how overwhelming the emotions others and I feel in the moment. Because 90 percent of the behaviors we do are habitual—meaning we are only doing them because we did them yesterday—we can literally re-train the brain to respond in a new way to the exact same stimuli. I used to think my only two choices were to react to negative energy with negativity or to withdraw and detach. Neither option was conducive to building strong, supportive relationships or to my own happiness.
I wouldn’t change my empathic nature even if I could, because it has helped me to understand people and open my heart to them. I realize that we are all on the same human journey together, seeking compassion and love, even if we’re not going about it in the most effective way. Empathy is a powerful tool that allows people to feel connected and understood. Instead of exhausting myself with this gift, I will make sure my life is balanced to be able to offer it without hesitation or resentment. This Suburban Goddess Mom will use it to empower others and take care of myself in the process.
We live in the age of envy. Thanks to social media, we are constantly being exposed to positive, beautiful, successful, photoshopped versions of our friends, families, colleagues, acquaintances, and even strangers’ lives. Social media is taking envy to the extreme, and as much as I don’t love to admit this, I get a bit green with envy (mostly of beautifully designed homes and women who are naturally and effortlessly thin).
Psychologists have recently suggested that there are two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy. Malicious envy is proposed as a sick force that ruins a person and his/her mind while causing the envious person to blindly want the “hero” to suffer. On the other hand, benign envy is proposed as a type of positive, motivational force that causes the person to aspire to be as good as the “hero”—but only if benign envy is used in the right way. The only type of envy that can have positive effects is benign envy. According to researchers, benign envy can provide emulation, improve motivation, positive thoughts about the other person, and admiration. This type of envy, if dealt with correctly, can positively affect one’s future by motivating them to be a better person and to succeed.
Often envy involves a motive to “outdo or undo the rival’s advantages”. In part, this type of envy may be based on materialistic possessions rather than psychological states. Basically, people find themselves experiencing an overwhelming emotion due to someone else owning or possessing desirable items that they do not. But envy is more than desire. It begins with the almost frantic sense of emptiness inside oneself, as if the pump of one’s heart was sucking on air. One must be blind to perceive the emptiness, of course, but that’s what envy is, a selective blindness.
The circumstances in which you might be envious will always involve a social comparison or competition between yourself and another person. Such competition and comparison with others are a part of the yardstick by which you measure yourself, your self-evaluation. Since envy is triggered only when you come up short, that’s part of the reason why it is experienced as such an “ugly” emotion.
Envy has held us hostage for far too long. It is time, once and for all, to break free from envy and experience a more fulfilled life. This Suburban Goddess Mom’s life is too good to envy anyone else’s.
Divorce is difficult. I am not trying to minimize that undeniable fact, but I do want you to know that there are benefits to enduring a marital dissolution as well. Divorce is not in its entirety a cause for celebration, even though I did have a divorce party, and I am super happily divorced. It’s the end of a marriage, and no matter how bad the marriage was, the fact that it’s over is sad. The dreams you and your spouse had for your life together are over.
But there are so many benefits. Here’s my list!
I used to be lonely; I’m not anymore.
My happiness and mood used to be entirely dependent on my ex.
My friendships have become much stronger.
I was able to take the time and space to work on myself.
My ex and I have become friends, a real support system for each other and our kids.
I feel better about myself. My self-esteem and self-worth have improved dramatically.
My future is so bright, with so much to look forward to.
My relationship with the kids has solidified and flourished
I found true love.
I no longer feel trapped.
I don’t feel judged all the time.
I get to make all my own decisions and do it my way. Scary but good.
I don’t wait up for my ex to get home from work or have to keep his dinner warm.
I do not need to keep the house clean to his OCD rules.
I do not need his constant approval.
I do not need to dull myself, my clothes, or my personality down to fit his ideal.
I can have my own opinions.
I don’t have to make excuses for him, his behavior, or his lack of being present at events.
No more walking on eggshells.
I can now let go of the love that wasn’t there
One of the best parts for me is the built-in breaks. I have weekends. and weeks where I am not an active, full time mommy. It’s amazing.
Yes, divorce is awful for everyone involved, but if done for the right reasons, it can also be a beautiful beginning. Life is too short to be unhappy. The real best part of being divorced is that I found myself, the Suburban Goddess Mom.
I love a calendar, a list (actually, many lists: to do, grocery, blog ideas, etc.), and a plan. How else can a divorced mom with two kids, an ex-husband, a partner, a stay-at-home business, social life, etc. survive? My life is feast or famine. I am either doing a million things at a hundred miles an hour or bored out of my skull and exhausted.
I am so busy most of the time that I sometimes wonder am busy for busy’s sake. Is it a compulsion? When I focus on doing it all, I rarely take time to do nothing. I often run at an unsustainable pace, multi-tasking my way through the day, and enjoying or being present for very little of it. Because I measure my worth by what I accomplish, doing nothing is a luxury I cannot afford. Or can I?
People wear “busy” like a badge of honor. We spend so much time running around trying to look busy for other people, then we often feel like we must look busy for ourselves, otherwise we might be considered lazy. Doing nothing doesn’t mean sitting on the couch mindlessly watching daytime TV. It means doing something that makes you feel relaxed, gives you mental space, and slows down your heart rate.
Americans are overworked, putting in more hours than at any time since the Depression and more than in any other in western society. In this 24/7, “always on” age, the prospect of doing nothing might sound unrealistic and unreasonable, but it has never been more important. Much research and many spiritual and philosophical systems suggest that detaching from daily concerns and spending time in simple reflection and contemplation are essential to health, sanity, and personal growth. Doing nothing is essential for creativity and innovation, and a person’s seeming inactivity might actually cultivate new insights, inventions, or melodies.
Meditation is the art of doing nothing. Meditation is about acceptance, complete acceptance. It means that whatever is happening and whatever your experience is, you do nothing. You just let it be and accept it as it is. You change nothing and do nothing at all in response to everything. When you sit down in meditation and let everything be as it is, your awareness starts to expand. As you get deeper into this practice, you start to discover an entirely different part of yourself. It’s a place of perfect peace, and it’s untouched by the events and circumstances of your life. You experience a sense of total release. In the end, meditation is really the art of resting in pure awareness.
Meditation has helped awaken me and allowed me to live in harmony with myself and the world around me. It showed me I had to examine who I am, my view of the world, and my place in it. I now appreciate the fullness of life and each moment, and I am more in touch. Our lives unfold moment to moment and if we don’t stop, we miss many of the quiet, good ones. This, to me, is the art of conscious living – the joy of not doing!
So, try a meditation. Watch a sunrise in silence. Listen to the rain. Don’t feel guilty for doing nothing. You must be strong in the face of social conditioning and stare down the people who look disapprovingly. I for one would never judge a fellow Suburban Goddess Mom for taking the time to do nothing. Moments of nothingness or not doing may be the greatest gifts one can give oneself.
My life is full of transitions, at the crossroads of here and now. Every time I think I can’t take any more or I have conquered one, another shows up.
Life transitions can be positive or negative, big or small, planned or unexpected. Transitions (even happy ones) can be stressful and bring up mixed feelings. They all have their own sets of challenges, emotions, and work to be done. Transitions are challenging because they force us to let go of the familiar and face the future with a feeling of vulnerability. In every major transition, you are not only breaking up with a “season” of your life but also a version of yourself. The past two years of my life have been all about transitions.
Transition means change. We are often consciously or subconsciously resistant to change. Most of us like some predictability in our everyday lives, and the unknown does cause a certain amount of fear and stress. Transitions are not just simply a bridge to your next important phase in life, it is where you can choose to thrive rather than just survive. Transitions have three phases: an ending, a neutral zone, and a new beginning.
Usually transitions begin with a loss of some kind. Any significant loss makes people feel fearful and anxious. Our culture is very uncomfortable with uncertainty. Some examples of big transitions are leaving a job, getting separated or divorced, getting married, having a baby, starting a new job, retiring, serious illness or injury, and even the death of a loved one. On the positive side, transitions give us a chance to learn about our strengths and to explore what we really want out of life. This time creates a sense of renewal, stability, and a new norm.
When things are in disarray, you can stop and reflect on the hopes and dreams you once had but somehow lost sight of. Take advantage of this fork in the road. Do the work.
The best way to prepare for major transitions is to take some time for self-reflection. Use the following guide to help you to embrace change and make the most of your new role.
1. Recognize that transitions are hard, because they can shake your sense of identity.
2. Being in transition is a wonderful opportunity for growth.
3. Remind yourself why you chose to make the change.
4. Recall other times in your life when you’ve successfully dealt with transitions.
5. When you’re in transition, it’s easy to become overly focused on yourself.
6. Part of what helps you feel secure in a transition is having a support system.
Change is inevitable, and life is going to happen whether we want it to or not. Your perspective on that realization is the key. While it sounds like a cliché, the next step after an end is a new beginning, a new chapter, and keeping this in mind can give you the sense of a fresh start.
This Suburban Goddess Mom is open and accepting all transitions as they come. To me, transitions mean movement. And I am on the move, always looking forward to better things!!!