What to Learn in a Pandemic

     Pandemics are tough to experience. They are able to affect millions of individuals physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Recently, most of the world has been undergoing the COVID-19 pandemic-also known as the Coronavirus. This virus is a more strenuous strain of the flu that attacks respiratory systems of the body, especially those who are elderly and/or who have compromised immune systems.

     Yet, despite the fears, confusions, and hopelessness this pandemic has brought, lessons are still able to be learned from it; hope is able to be cultivated from even the ugliest circumstances. Some lessons I personally learned are: the importance of being hygienic; discernment of real and fake news; being intentional in learning about the affairs of the world; the emphasis of continual self-reflection; and intentional appreciation and communication toward loved ones.

      The first lesson is about hygiene. We all are able to do better with hygiene, for others and ourselves. I’m twenty-five, and I’d still see people my age not wash their hands after using the bathroom; that’s gross. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re able to negatively affect those around us by getting them sick. We are also able to get others sick if we’re sick and we’re going out in public instead of staying at home to rest and recover. Therefore, this pandemic is able to teach us the importance of being hygienic by washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth with your arm or elbow when you cough, and staying at home when you’re not feeling well.

     Secondly, we are able to learn to discern which is real or fake news. Too many people are posting fake articles about this virus, which gives readers either misleading information, more fear, or false hope. Basically, fake news creates more harm, confusion, and hopelessness. Therefore, we need to be careful what articles we read, as well as be careful with what news we watch on television. Go to your state or country’s government websites for updates on what’s happening within each state or country. Diagnose whether or not certain headlines are accurate or misleading. We are all able to work together if we’re well-informed on what’s happening.

    Thirdly, we-including myself-need to become more aware of what’s happening around the world. A lot of countries are in deep disparity and poverty, with extremely corrupt governments. We need to have sound information and compassion for those around us in order to better understand how pandemics such as the COVID-19 are able to spread throughout the world, and how they are able to be stopped in their tracks. We also are able to learn from one another in how each country handled the virus.

    The fourth lesson we are able to acquire is the emphasis of self-reflection. Many of us are unable to go out much due to state lockdowns, lack of employment, and not wanting to potentially pass the virus to others. I know for me personally, I hated being stuck in the house in the beginning of this pandemic. I felt completely trapped and suffocated, and felt unfulfilled in not being able to work and be more social. However, through God and the encouragement of friends via phone or video chat, I’ve been able to self-reflect on myself; I’ve been able to have introspection on how I’m able to use this time wisely, and how I’m still able to be productive and fulfilled. This pandemic is able to be a time to catch up on tasks, spend time with loved ones, and grow as a person for the better.

    Finally, I believe this pandemic is able to teach us to be more appreciative of those around us. Socializing in person has been cut drastically due to this whole pandemic. I know this has created a lot of loneliness for me in the beginning-as I’m sure it has for others. Yet, I was still able to find ways to communicate through the use of video chat, phone calls, and texting. This time period has truly increased my appreciation and love for my friends; and I will be extremely excited and grateful to see them all in person once this whole thing is over. 

   My advice and encouragement is to reach out to the ones you love. Maybe you owe someone an apology. Maybe you lost touch with someone. Life is insanely short-and this pandemic has reminded us all of our mortality. Therefore, we need to be more intentional in how we use our time and energy toward others and ourselves. We need to grow in self-care, compassion, understanding, appreciation, and love. 

   This pandemic may be our temporary “normal,” but the lessons we are able to learn from it are able to be permanent.

Quick Fixes Prolong Problems, Not End Them

     Negative events and emotions aren’t fun to experience. We cringe at the notion of enduring anything humiliating or painful. Yet, as life has good moments, it also has bad moments that are unable to be avoided. Furthermore, quick fixes to negative emotions or events create temporary solutions-and even bigger problems.

     We have moments in life in which we try to numb our pain in order to avoid the problem in front of us. We may rebound into a new relationship in order to not feel the pain of our breakup. We may turn to substances and alcohol as a way to keep negative feelings at bay. We may use supplements and natural remedies in order to put a bandage on a more serious health matter. Yet, when we make these temporary solutions, we’re only prolonging the problems we’re desperately trying to avoid; thus, we end up worsening and lengthening problems that would have been able to end through time, self-reflection, and care. We also deny ourselves the chance to live a fulfilling and loving life.

     Pain is unavoidable in this life. We will face it constantly in any stage of life we have. Yet, pain doesn’t have to be all that bad. It is able to teach us lessons of who we want to be, who we should have around us, and how we’re able to take care of ourselves. It is able to help us see what is good or bad in our lives, and if those things are able to be fixed. When we create quick fixes, we’re denying ourselves the chance to grow and to be better to others and to ourselves.

     Quick fixes seem like great solutions, but they’re only merely bandaging a problem that will fester and rot if not dealt with immediately. In order to grow and to heal, we need to confront what we experienced and felt. Then, we’ll be able to head toward solutions.

Cultivate an Identity of Self-Worth

     I’ve been learning a lot about myself the past eight months. I’ve learned about negative interpersonal patterns I’ve developed from my childhood. I’ve learned about my limits in different areas of my life. Mostly, I’ve learned about the importance of my self-worth-and why I need to grow in my identity as a person.

     Self-worth is an important concept for us to embody in our identity. Self-worth means to have respect for ourselves; to confidently believe that we have worth in our character and abilities. A lot of us have lost our sense of self-worth from painful experiences in our childhood, heartbreaking relationships, and increasing insecurities. However, our self-worth doesn’t have to disappear from our lives; rather, it is able to be built and cemented into our identities.

     We need to cultivate an identity of self-worth: not just to be healthy in positive platonic and romantic relationships, but to be healthy in our bodies, souls, and spirits. We have so much worth-more than we realize. Therefore, we need to blossom into who we are in order to continue to grow as the healthy people we’re meant to be. 

    I’ve come to accept and to embrace my self-worth, as well as the importance of cultivating a healthy sense of self-worth in who I am. My encouragement and hope are for everyone to learn to see themselves in a positive light-and to see how much worth they truly have.

Find Yourself Before You Find Someone

     We grow up with the notion that we need a significant other in order to be whole; that is, we need to find “the one” in order to feel complete in our lives. However, while having a relationship is a nice component in our lives, we don’t need to place our full identity or worth into it.

     Our identity needs to be in who we are-not in our relationships. Our worth needs to be in our character-not in whether or not a relationship makes or breaks you. So much of our energy goes into trying to find the right person and not be alone that we lose sight of the fact that we need to be right for ourselves before we can find the right person-and also be the right person for someone else.

     I’ve been reflecting a lot on how much I allowed relationships to define my worth. When things would be great, I felt good about myself. When things would be terrible, I felt awful about myself. And when things would fall apart romantically, I was so busy trying to pick up the pieces that I didn’t allow myself to be pieced back together by God and myself. I was so determined to be loved that I lost sight of the need to love myself. 

     Fortunately, I have realized the importance of self-love in the past year (despite it being a garbage year). I began to recognize that my self-worth didn’t stem from who I was dating, how long the relationship was, and whether or not I was alone. I finally have seen, accepted, and embraced that my self-worth comes from me; I am enough for myself to love me. I especially have the love of God to remind me that I’m deserving of and worth that self-love. Even though I’m not with anyone, I don’t necessarily see myself as being single; rather, I see myself as being complete in who I am, and I don’t need a romantic partner to bring wholeness to my identity.

     In learning to love myself, I truly reflected on my response to my heartbreak: would things have not gotten to me like they did if I had that self-love prior to things happening? Would I have rejected  my pain if I didn’t allow the stigma of not being with someone to poison me? Would I have ignored people’s encouragement to jump to the next person if I actually allowed myself to heal in a healthy matter? Honestly, these questions somewhat haunt me, because I’ve come to see how much I let the idea of relationships consume my identity. However, I’m able to apply these lessons for both the present and future.

     My advice-and encouragement-to anyone reading this is to find yourself before you find someone. Don’t allow the desire of a relationship to embody your character. Grow into a unique individual who doesn’t need to have someone to complete them. Grow into someone who will be happy and esteemed in who they are. Grow into the person that, for whenever someone does come along, is able to add to the overflow of a healthy relationship. 

     Don’t become disheartened by the absence of a relationship. Learn to love yourself-for you are enough for yourself.

People Around You Can Make or Break Your Character

     We all have relationships and interactions with people around us. We create friendships, partnerships, or romances with various people who enter our lives. Yet, we need to be cautious in who we allow to influence us-for not everyone is positive.

     We are in charge of our identities at the end of the day; however, those we choose to be around are able to positively or negatively influence our character. They are able to help us grow into more compassionate, motivated, and unique individuals. Or, they are able to hinder us from growth and bring us down a path of apathy, selfishness, and emptiness. The people we choose as friends and lovers are able to make or break our character.

     Perhaps you’ve seen these instances of negative influences dismantling relationships in your life. Maybe your significant other transformed from being a kind and thoughtful person to someone manipulative and mean based on who they had as friends. Maybe your best friend went from being a studious individual to someone who stopped caring about their accomplishments because of who they dated. Maybe you yourself were negatively influenced by those with whom you interacted, and they left you feeling discouraged and numb after you’d spend time with them.

    I’ve seen how the influence of both positive and negative people in my own twenty-five years of life. I’ve had some great relationships and friendships destroyed over the people who were affecting them in all their interpersonal connections and their own introspection. I’ve had disheartening friends and significant others who were often angry, apathetic, manipulative, melancholy, and selfish. I’d find these traits following me in how I interacted with others and how I looked at myself. 

   Yet, I have witnessed how positive people are able to produce such a healthy and light atmosphere for others and me. I’m blessed to have seen how they touched others’ lives in such a profound way; I’m beyond blessed to have experienced how they have touched my life, and have encouraged me in my growth as a person. 

    My encouragement to anyone reading this is to evaluate who you have around you. You don’t want to be around people who will break your character; you want to be around people who will make it.

Finding Trust Again in Relationships

     Trust is a key component in any relationship. It helps create and establish vulnerability, honesty, and loyalty between family members, friends, and lovers. However, trust is easier to break than it is to build. Hence, the process of finding or rebuilding trust after a betrayal or hurt is able to be difficult; but, it is able to be rewarding with the right people.

     The loss of trust in a relationship is hard to experience. Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D from Psychology Today notes that betrayal and hurt in relationships are able to cut us at our emotional core. You feel exposed because you poured your heart out to the individual(s) who hurt you. You feel like you wasted your time and energy. You feel as if you’re not able to trust without getting hurt again. Fortunately, trust is able to be regained or rebuilt, even though the process may take time.

     Recently, I read another book in the “Boundaries” series called “Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships.” The book discusses ways one is able to rebuild trust in an old relationship or build trust in a new relationship after enduring hurt and betrayal. The book also offers tips for evaluating whether or not someone who has hurt you is deserving of your trust again: such as the person’s full or lack of commitment to changing for the better; the person being more aware of and intentional towards your feelings; and the person learning from and implementing relational lessons to not repeat the same past mistakes.

     Rebuilding trust is able to be doable if the person is willing to change and is repentive towards the one they hurt. The author of the book, Dr. John Townsend, writes that authentic transformation in a person is visible when they: confess what they did was wrong and how that wrong negatively affected you; own up to their negative behavior and the actions it caused; experiences genuine remorse for how they treated you and affected you; and changes their behavior to be more adaptive and healthy in their character with others, themselves, and you.

    Another aspect of the book I thought was interesting was that the person with whom you’re reconnecting or connecting should have other healthy and adaptive interpersonal relationships outside of you: relationships that are uplifting, accountable, encouraging, mature, and positive. Dr. Townsend writes that those who interact with toxic, enabling, and unhealthy people are going to embody those personality traits, creating even more negative and maladaptive relationships in their lives. Hence, he emphasizes the importance of being connected to others who have healthy connections outside of you.

     As someone who’s dealt with a lot of relational wounds, I found this book beyond helpful and humbling. Reading it gave me perspective on what to look out for in relationships of which I may give another chance and to build intimate trust, honesty, and vulnerability in new relationships. 

   The book reminded me of the importance of being in relationships with those who have other healthy relationships around them. If they’re surrounded by toxic and unhealthy people, chances are I’m going to be affected by those enabling and draining influences they carry with them.

   I also began to reflect on ways I’m able to improve in interpersonal interactions, such as being more patient and understanding with others, being more objective when things could go right or wrong, and being more willing to address my own issues if I was the one in the wrong.

    However, before trust is able to be rebuilt or gained, the meaning of trust needs to be understood, according to Crystal Raypole from Healthline. Trust in a relationship-platonic or romantic-involves commitment, good communication, vulnerability, safety, honesty, respect, support, and good listening. Raypole also notes that trust is a choice. If two people in a healthy relationship are serious about the relationship, they are able to choose to trust one another with their secrets, their fears, and their desires. If trust is not established with one or both parties, then the relationship will fall apart.

     Rebuilding or gaining trust requires some steps. Melissa Ricker from A Conscious Rethink lists some ways trust is able to be restored or created through forgiveness, caution, and openness. In order to trust, we have to forgive others and ourselves for poor and inappropriate words and actions that were said and done-or we’re going to constantly be stuck in a cycle of bitterness and fear.

     Ricker writes that we are justified in trusting our gut instinct when someone doesn’t seem like they’ve changed or don’t seem like a person worth getting to know; we also have the right to be vulnerable and open about our experiences-without allowing our past to define our present and future relationships and our own character. We also are validated in having time to grieve our losses and hurt-we just shouldn’t remain in a constant state of victimization. 

     Rebuilding or cultivating trust is able to be difficult. But, with the right people, it’s worth the time and energy.

 

References:

https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Boundaries-Learning-Trust-Relationships/dp/0310330769

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forward/201609/how-rebuild-trust-someone-who-hurt-you

https:/www.healthline.com/health/how-to-rebuild-trust#defining-trust

https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/4204/trust-learning-let-someone-despite-past-hurt/

How Self-Fulfilling Prophecies are Able to Make Us Settle for Less

     All of us want more in life. We may want more employment or academic opportunities. We may want more friends. We may want more out of our romantic aspects of life. We may want more opportunities to travel. We may want a new house, a new car. We may even want a new life period. Yet, we sometimes get stuck in life’s monotonous moments. The question I want to pose is: Why do we settle for less?

     Something I’ve come to see in my field of psychology-as well as reading studies from psychologists-is that self-fulfilling prophecies are able to influence where we are in life. According to Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc, from Positive Psychology, a self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as: “a belief or expectation that an individual holds about a future event that manifests because the individual holds it.” For example, if someone begins their morning being stuck in traffic, they could then make their prediction come true based on their attitude.

     Self-fulfilling prophecies prevent us from seeing the positive, and keep us stuck in a negative mindset; we then dive into a cycle of monotony and unfulfillment and grow to believe that nothing in our lives could change for the better, even if we try. We may also begin to believe that we don’t deserve better for our lives, settling on mediocre things, opportunities, and people to surround us. 

     When we settle for less, we become negatively affected emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jeff Steinmann from Life Hack discusses that when we plant ourselves in mediocrity, we become more tired due to boredom and unfulfillment; we constantly say we’ll do the next big thing “someday” or “after” something else; we blame other people for our lack of success, and rag on those who are successful and joyful in their lives because we’re jealous of them; and we become numb to our own feelings and desires because we become secure in the mundane-when in reality, we should want something more for ourselves.

     Ackerman goes on to note that those who have a negative sense of self will also find their careers or relationships to be failing, non-existent, or mundane. For example, a man may not put in the effort for a job he doesn’t see himself being promoted or succeeding in. Therefore, when he messes up on a project, he’ll believe himself to be correct: that he wasn’t worth promoting. Or, a woman could be stuck in a relationship that hit a bumpy road, and she’ll see it as failing. She’ll want to leave it because her mindset is the relationship is going to continue to get worse, and nothing she’ll do will fix it. These self-fulfilling prophecies forbid us from having the most abundant careers and relationships-and we allow ourselves to ruin our chances of success and joy.

     We are sometimes so frightened of taking chances that we prevent ourselves from living the thriving, successful, and joyful lives we are meant to live. Adi Jaffe, Ph.D, from Psychology Today states that when we start to accept the “okay’s” in our lives, we lose the motivation to make those okay’s into something great. When we believe nothing in our lives will grow, we hinder ourselves from blossoming into the people we were meant to become. We hinder ourselves from entering the most productive career opportunities. We hinder ourselves from entering the most loving relationships we could ever have.

     Fortunately, we are able to step out of mediocrity. We’re able to leave the mindset of deserving less than what we truly deserve. Jill P. Weber, Ph.D, from Psychology Today gives some advice on how we are able to stop settling for less: 

  1. Stop rationalizing the poor behavior of others.

       One of our biggest problems in settling for less is thinking we deserve toxic people. When we surround ourselves with negative, abusive people, we prevent growth in relationships that are able to be healthy for us; we even prevent growth for ourselves because we are so bogged down by their cruelty. Weber writes that when we accept others’ poor behavior, and walk away from them, we are able to have a healthier self-esteem and more energy to create or preserve healthier relationships in our lives.

   2. Recognize that not getting what you want isn’t a personal curse.

        In regards to the example I shared about the man and his career prospects, we need to remember that we will experience some failures in our career. However, not all of those failures are personal; they don’t indicate that we are unable to measure up. Rather, failures are lessons that are able to teach us where we need to be corrected, and where we are able to execute our strengths.

   3. Don’t agree with what you don’t want.

        Oftentimes, when we settle for less, we often say yes to things we don’t necessarily want or desire for ourselves because we fear we may not get other opportunities to be a little happy or lucky. Yet, when we always say yes, we don’t allow our needs to be met. We also don’t allow our identities to be reflected in what we say and do. We’re allowed to say no to certain things, and to say yes to other things. Weber encourages self-reflection: to look inward and to learn more about ourselves, as well as what we need and want from our lives.

     Self-fulfilling prophecies are able to hinder us from the lives we truly deserve and make us settle for less. Yet, when we surround ourselves with positive people and learn more about ourselves, we will realize that we have the potential to do anything we set our minds to do; we will realize that we’re meant for more than mediocrity.

 

References:

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/11-warning-signs-that-youre-settling-for-less-life.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201701/5-ways-stop-settling-less-you-deserve

https://positivepsychology.com/self-fulfilling-prophecy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201806/why-you-should-never-settle-okay